Janie Saw It Too

Johnnie and Janie became the fastest of friends.  They became almost inseparable.  They watched television.  They wandered the streets, the parks, the cemeteries.  They went to movies, the mall, the library.  When the next autumn came, they began to attend the same school and from there, the friendship went beyond the norm.

But they never spoke of The Dark

They shared secrets, loves, sorrow, pain and happiness.  Their families became close and they all shared vacations.  They shared dinners as one, picnics as one, birthdays and Christmases as one.  The two families became inseparable, which suited them fine as none of them truly felt welcome in the town they lived..

But they never spoke of The Dark.

Johnnie spoke of his insecurities; his odd likes and dislikes the things he liked and the things he feared.

Except for the dark.

Janie spoke of her anxious ways, her esoteric preferences and her lack of friendship among the other girls at school. She spoke of the fire that claimed the lives that she was blamed for.

She did not speak of The Dark.

Yes. Janie had too seen The Dark.

Janie was at summer camp, three years previous, standing by a lake, avoiding the jeering of the other girls.  Janie was watching a fog bankrolls across the water, a wall of white, glowing in the morning sun.  Janie watched as a shape, a deep black shape, pointed, sleek, swimming shark like through the fog.  As the mist hit the shore, Janie dove to one side, her catatonic state broken by a sound from behind.  As she dove, the shape turned her way.  The sound that broke the spell was one of her many tormentors attempting to push her into the waters.  The shape took the other girl and with a snap, was gone.

She lay panting. She lay sore from striking the roots of a nearby tree.  She lay quiet, still, as the shape circled then slid off back to the lake.  She rose and headed to the cabin, unaware that the girl who slept above her would not be returning.  Unaware that the girl had even been behind her.  Unaware that she had escaped death.

But she had seen The Dark for the first time.

It would not be the last.

For she or Johnnie.

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Janie Didn’t Do It

Janie sat in her mish-mash decorated room reading.  Pink frou frou little-girl décor clashed with black and gray goth-ish scarves and assorted ornamentation.  It was, she knew even at fourteen, a thinly veiled attempt at self-expression, distancing herself, her “self” from that of the girl her parents raised.  She sat, her back against the huge pile of frilly pillows and the stuffed bear with its black button eyes in the corner of her room.  She sat with the telephone placed strategically within arms reach just in case Johnnie called.

It had been four days.

She looked at his phone number both fading on her all too unwashed palm and at where she just wrote it inside the cover of her copy of The Great God Pan (and Other Tales) as she really thought it was about time to wash her hand.  She stood.  She paced.  She noted her mother calling her to dinner (“Janice” as opposed to Janie which she preferred).  Janie looked out the window upon the moonlit copse of trees in the field beyond her back fence.. A fog was developing.

She closed her curtains, flicked off the light, replaced the phone on the bedside table, sighed heavily and began to slink downstairs to the awaiting meal with questions about “that boy” that she should never have mentioned, for dessert.

Janie’s parents brought her to this town so they could have a new start, they, her, together.  They wanted to be far, far away from the controversy.  They wanted to be free of the looks, the whispers, the silent accusations at the checkout.  She did not start the fire.  She is the one that didn’t run away.  It was the others, the “friends”, the very ones whose parents vociferously blamed her for the event, for the fire, for the death.

She was cleared of all wrongdoing, but as usual, the court of the public mind was a jury of blind fools.

So they moved.

And they were happy.

Janie was happy. She was happier when she met Johnnie. 

Janie ate in silence. Janie answered “no” when asked if “the boy” had called but did not elaborate.  There was no elaboration to add.  Janie cleaned off her plate and placed it into the dishwasher and took her pie upstairs (with a “thank you” and a kiss for both on their cheeks as they chatted about their days to one another).

Janie looked at her phone.  She opened the curtains and looked out upon the foggy field. 

It rang.

It was Johnnie.

Janie answered with a stammered “hi.. hi Jonnie!” and danced silently in her room as he spoke, equally nervously, as boys are apt to do.  She shut her door and chatted and became less awkward and discussed school and television and books and eventually they planned to get together again the next day after school, after dinner.  They talked till both received notifications from their respective parents that it was time for bed.

Laying in the dark, gazing out into the mist beyond the curtains lit up by moonlight like a dim fluorescent bulb, Janie thought long into the night.  She woke, she wrote in her little book, she lay back down, she slept for the first time in ages with contentment. Her last thought before passing on into the expanse of dreams was that yes, he would be the one to tell.

Johnnie, blankets pulled up to his ears, a thin pillow half over his head to block out the streetlights that always fought their way through and past his blinds also slept.  His last thought of the night was of what he saw in the park. What kept him from sleeping well these past four nights.

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Where Johnnie Encounters The Dark Again and Discovers Janie

At thirteen, Johnnie was bought a bicycle.  Johnnie explored his town with vigor and vim and the joy of the newfound freedom afforded by speed and transport.  He rode to his friends home, few though they were and often reluctant to greet him openly on his unannounced visits.  He visited his grandmother in her harbor view home, drinking tea and watching boats slide by as cats slunk about their feet.  Johnnie explode the streets till the streetlights came on and it was time to be home, cool dry summer air whipping through his golden blond locks as he sped toward his awaiting meal.

Autumn arrived and he was pleased as he flew through fallen dry leaves which lifted into the air and twisted in his wake one late October night.  No friends were available to play.  No relatives had time to visit.  The library was closed as were the shops and the streets were bereft of traffic, yet he sped onward, grasping at the last few hours of the weekend before bath and bed and reading the strange weird tales he was drawn to especially given the time of the year.  He decided to visit the Courtyard.

The Courtyard had another name.  No children knew this other name, and only ever referred to it as The Courtyard.  The proper name was “Courtland Park” and its original benefactor was a god-fearing evangelist. This was why it was festooned with crosses and phrases on the gates and walls, only detectable if one pulled aside the decades of ivy and bushes that had grown up and over the protective iconography. 

From his position at the corner a block away, Johnnie could see that the gate was open.  He knew this was not the norm.  It was a Sunday.  The Courtyard was never to be open on Sundays. Johnnie was never one to do things that were not allowed. He could see a figure, a small figure, his size, walking among the decaying rose bushes and memorial benches. Johnnie decided to go to The Courtyard to investigate.

Then he met Janie.

Janie was like Johnnie in many ways. Janie was new to town. Janie’s parents were doctors and Janie lived in the east end. Johnnie and Janie had much in common and a bond was forged within a short period of time. They sat and talked and planned to meet again and finally noticed that the streetlights were on and that it was beyond the time to go home. They exchanged phone numbers by writing them on each other’s arm with a pen she kept in her bag along with a notepad she made little sketches on and wrote little weird poems. She left and he waved goodbye as he paused to but the chain back on his wheel sprocket that he noticed had come off when he dropped his bike on the ground to say hello.

He walked his bike to the gate. He noticed a fog beginning to form down Victoria Street toward the harbor. He paused thinking that he would have to ride through that fog home and hoped it wasn’t so thick he would need to dismount, but Johnnie wasn’t all that concerned as he had a new friend, a friend just like him.

Janie. Janie of the dark clothes and the long brown hair and smiling brown eyes.

He exited the park and could smell a faint smoky smell in the air. Someone had started up their woodstove about a month early. He smiled. He would open his window a crack tonight to let in the autumn smells, leaves, wind and a bit of the wood smoke. He would sleep well and content.

The smell was stronger now. He heard a swish behind him, in the Courtyard. Johnnie turned slowly, memory fighting through, memory of four years past.

He could see a dark fog, a thickish, swirling, moving fog. It swung between the flower beds. Grey, shadow but not shadow, more a lack of light than a blockage of light.

Johnnie saw the dark and the dark saw him and hung still.

He rode home, all the way home, through the thick cold fog.

In Which Johnnie First Sees The Dark

Johnnie was nine when he first saw “The Dark”.  It was a warm summer night, years before blessed air conditioning was brought into the home and his mother had allowed him to keep his bedroom window open.  Normally, it was not to be and he slept in sweat wetted sheets because she was afraid he would sleepwalk out the window and crash down to the street below. She relented this evening because it was stifling.  No wind.  No escape from the heat.

Johnnie dreamt of small men with ladders climbing up onto his desk and dresser and chair.  Small men with tools and hardhats.  Small men that when they saw him watching, turned his way, dropped their tools and began to head toward him.  He panicked.  He yelled for his mother.  He hid under the sheets and wished she would come so he yelled again.  Johnnie peeked out and could see the men climbing up onto the foot of the bed and he kicked and screamed and could hear the words “night terror” from somewhere in the distance.

Johnnie woke in the living room, where his parents and guests were staring in concern and horror as he stood in the middle of the room, still screaming at the top of his lungs.  Johnnie muttered and murmured as they consoled him and the words “night terror” were spoken behind his back and into ears.  He was given coke that tasted of mouthwash and crackers and cheese and was eventually ushered back to bed.

His blinds drawn to let light in, a nightlight moved from the bathroom to his room, Johnnie tried to sleep.  He scanned the room.  He searched for the men, the ladders, the tools.  Johnnie saw nothing.  He shuffled up to the edge of his bed, against the wall.  No feet or hands allowed to slide down between the bed and wall and an extra pillow placed behind him, he watched and began to doze.

As his eyes grew heavy and blinks became longer and drawn out, he saw The Dark slide out from under his desk and chair and dresser and across his feet and slowly out the window, into the night night air.

The Dark smelled like smoke.

Johnnie screamed.

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He twisted his head, and moved to the side
And he peered in the cupboard door crack
There in it he saw a brown blinking eye
Angrily staring right back

He flung open the door, expecting a child,
Perhaps his small dog or his cat
But nothing was there ‘cept boxes and cans
So he shut it and straightened the mat

Turned off the lights, he grabbed his warm milk
He thought to bring his walking stick
Made it to the landing, flicked off the last switch
Then heard the cupboard door go click…

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Scrabble (for Michael)

Whiskers twitched and noses, cut, scarred and half frozen, lifted upward. Yet another gust of salty cold air whistled loudly as it thrust through a thousand cracked panes of glass and leaky door frames. The ship rose and sank upon the merciless sea as the smell of land wafted along the abandoned halls, through banquet halls and across the mountains of filth and half eaten carcasses of the occupant’s conveniently nutritious comrades. As one, they began to scurry about sniffing, ignoring the ravenous hunger that set them upon one another when they weren’t hiding or mating.

The long slender ship turned sideways to the reef as the dark moonlit surf slowly pushed it ashore. A bang, a crash, a dragging and shuddering could be heard for miles about had anyone ventured into the wintrous night air but none did. This was rural Devon.  It was unnatural and considered unsafe to wander at night even in summer. Things lived in the dark, things whose motion was hidden by the roar if the sea. Things half believed like werewolves, black cats of immense size and appetite, vengeful spirits of Celts, Romans, Gauls.  People slept unaware.

At precisely three in the morning, en masse, the hungry horde dove overboard as the ship, their home for most all of their lives, tore apart and sank below the waves. On shore, a few fought, a few lay down and died from exertion and most washed themselves, as rats do, before moving farther inland toward a nearby field encapsulated by rough hewn fencing and loose barbed wire. Stray cobs of corn were ignored as they walked, jogged, ran as one shiny black mob of death toward the nearby barn.

Dobson had not heard the shipwreck but his ears.  Mmperked up at the soul wrenching sound of cattle being slaughtered by gnashing, tearing, burrowing rats.  He strode into the darkness, flashlight in hand, as his wife stood at the doorway to their small home, frightened as her husband of oh so many years vanished into the night.

His screams rivalled those of the cattle.

It had begun.

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Rudy sought out roadkill
Wandered to and fro
Trundled with his poking stick
O’er time hopes would grow
Found a ‘possum, found a cat
Found a husky dog
Never found what he yearned to find
Just multitudes of frog
Watched the beetles dig inside
Made the hot flesh quiver
Shoeless, took his quarry off
Down beside the river
Took the jacknife out and then
Excavated in
Washed the evil all away
Minnows ate the sin
Summers came and summers went
Turtle, gator, deer
Never did he find his prey
Once, a full grown steer
Late one night he stumbled ‘pon
Hippies camping deep
In the wood the drank and mated
Slowly he did creep
First was easy, second too
Third let out a yell
Fourth and fifth came running blind
One by one they fell
Down the river they all went
Feeding fish and bug
Rudy changed, he found his call
Murder was a drug

Take THAT Stephen King…

Had a nightmare last night that we bought a haunted rental property that had infinite rooms and odd creepy tenants.  My youngest and I were exploring it when we both woke up within a few minute of each other with nosebleeds.

I’m too lazy to turn it into a book or even a story today. Pretend I did by adding lots of descriptive words, sub-stories and plot. See, just like a real story.

Take THAT Stephen King…

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