Monthly Archives: October 2013

Boys – Part VII

Tears would have been easy. They were building to the brink of release as a sob hung in his throat waiting for permission to go. But Taddy held firm, dropping the doorknob and fiercely wiping his eyes clear with his now dusty sleeve.

For the moment, Gunther was gone, but his words hung with him. “Do you want to be the crier?”

Even at his young age, the catalogue of monster flicks and horror movies the two devoured gave him a substantial amount of data to work from. Real or imaginary, didn’t much matter.

He knew that nothing good comes to the ones that lose their cool. The hero stays focused. The “crier” just ends up being the next on the list. Every movie they saw seemed to have one. Someone so freaked out that all they can do is sob and yell about their impeding doom as if it were some sort of self–fulfilling prophecy. They got in the way of the ultimate resolution and you were relieved to see them go. The boys suspected even the producers were happy to get rid of those annoying characters for they often suffered some of the more excruciating deaths.

He would not be the crier. Cliff from The Cult of the Bleeding Eye might have said it best, when it all starts to crumble and things seems dire, there are always two things to focus on. One – survival. Two – rescue.

Taddy found the flashlight and clicked in on, grateful for even the dim light that it offered. He stepped through the shattered pantry door and into the kitchen. Crouching low to the ground, he moved the small puff of light over the tiles. The markings settled into the crushed ceramics looked like giant – hooves.

“Crap.”

Standing, he made his way to the island, now set askew by whatever invaded their kitchen and began to paw through the utility drawer until his hand brushed against an opened pack of batteries near the back.

He shuddered through a breath of relief and quickly replaced the batteries in the flashlight. Clicking the button, a newly revived and strong beam of white light filled the room. Taddy smiled. Success!

He then ran to the counter and grabbed a large knife from the block of wood on the counter. The sounds that engulfed him were the now familiar sounds of the storm. No more heavy asthmatic breathing. No more stomping and growling.

Taddy burst from the kitchen, ran down the foyer and into the front sitting room. Everything was in shambles. The couch and table were crushed, the front bay window, smashed. Shards of glass and debris were everywhere. The cold autumn wind and sheets of rain whipped at the open space as if trying to climb in.

Taddy dropped back to the front door and slid his feet into his sneakers. He had to remember to tell his mom that this was exactly why he never untied them. He swung open the front door and stepped out onto porch. The fierce storm welcomed him to its realm by nearly blowing him over. The rain was hitting him so fast it was hard to keep his eyes open.

“Gunther!” he yelled, trying to brush the rain from his face while working to shield himself from stinging, cold, wind-charged droplets.

“Gunther!”

A bolt of lightning crashed hard and bright nearby and the following thunder marked the strike with an earth-shattering rumble. Through the wind and rain it was difficult to define, but out back, or along the side of the house, there was a substantial crack and a crash.

Taddy ran to the far end of the porch, leaping over a couple of the giant hoof prints that had crushed their way into the wood. Even with a renewed life, his small flashlight just didn’t have the power to give him enough beam to see down to the back of the house.

“Gunther!”

He waved the flashlight urging it to go farther, but it was at its limit.

“Graww!”

The now familiar growl fought its way through the storm to Taddy’s ears from the backyard.

Shoving the knife through his belt loop, he grabbed the porch rail as he had done hundreds of times and vaulted over the edge to the increasingly soft, rain-soaked ground. After the initial cold and uncomfortable shock of the icy water draining into his shoes, Taddy tore out for the backyard.

Boys – Part VI

The boys huddled close in the kitchen, surrounded by darkness, save for the dim light pushing out from the small flashlight Taddy held tight in his hand.

Down the hall and in the front sitting room, someone or something apparently crashed through the large bay window.

With their faces softly lit by the glowing bulb, they looked at each other as they listened carefully, closely, trying to discern what might be sounds foreign from the ever-present whistling of the angry winds, the splashing waves of rain and rolling thunder.

“He’s got asthma,” Gunther dared to whisper, almost mouthing the words.

Taddy looked back at him with his face curled in confusion.

“He sounds like my Uncle Rory. He has asthma.” Gunther started to pantomime the heavy, labored breathing of his uncle with the added emphasis of his tongue hanging out. Taddy nudged him with his elbow and mouthed, “Shhh!”

The sound of labored breathing faded into the sound of rain attacking the windows. For a moment, they could almost believe they imagined the sound of what they believed was smashing of the front window. Then another crash from the room reached them. Of course he had no point of reference having never heard it before, still, Taddy knew it was his mother’s coffee table.

“Graww!”

The noise, a growl or moan, or whatever it was that they had yet to name, forced Gunther to grab on to Taddy’s shoulder tight enough to make the Taddy wince.

Their eyes grew wide. A large, pounding step, or what they believed was a step, sounded from down the hall, then another and maybe a third. It was hard to tell through the thunder, but when a definite fourth step moved from the muffled softness of the front room carpet to the hardwood of the foyer, the game changed. Whatever was in the house was coming their way.

Gunther held on tighter as the boys looked at each other. Their expressions were clear. The message, concise – run – but neither of them could move.

Taddy broke the stare first whipping his head side to side. He doused the dimming glow of the flashlight and pulled Gunther across the kitchen floor to the pantry.

“Thud! Thud!”

At the door, Taddy consciously slowed down enough to hold the panic at bay at least long enough to purposefully get his hand on the knob, turn it as quietly as possible, swing the door open enough to push Gunther inside, step in next to him and close the door softly.

“Thud! Thud! Thud!”

The heavy steps that tread the span of the front hallway in only a few steps, moved into the kitchen, and whatever hit the tile was heavy and sounded like metal on stone.

Taddy kept his hands on the handle of the pantry door holding it tight, just in case. Gunther pressed himself back against the shelves loaded up with canned goods and plastic bags of dried noodles and rice.

“Thud! Thud”

The weight of whatever made its way to the kitchen was enough to grind and splinter the tiles beneath it.

“Graww!”

The roar of the thing gave way to a heavy, rasping breath. Each gasp came long and slow, pulling with it a rumble like waves moving pebbles and sand with each pull.

There was a sniff and a snort and then … nothing.

Taddy waited for a long moment and before he dare take a breath. The only sounds that came to him were the winds, the rain and the low rumbles of thunder.  Almost believing he might have let that which was Video Hell get the better of him, He turned back to where Gunther was. Even in the dark, he smiled as he turned.

Long seconds drifted into minutes and in the absence of any noise in the kitchen, Gunther pulled himself from the shelves. He inched forward slowly and deliberately to find Taddy. He reached forward…

The top half of the door exploded into a shower of splinters. Taddy wrapped his tired hand around the door handle with renewed enthusiasm and a full-fledged panic. He screamed.

Above his head and through the hole, a large hand or claw reached into the pantry, wrapped itself around Gunther. Gunther screamed. The arm quickly pulled back, but Gunther was too big to fit through … on the first try. On the second try, one with clearly more force, the rest of the door and most of the jam exploded into splinters. Gunther’s scream ended immediately on impact.

The heavy feet turned on the kitchen floor, the metal sound on tile creating a high-pitched screech. The thudding sound of the foot falls traveled back up the hallway, into the front room and out through the large bay window.

Taddy stood in the dark. The remnants of the door, the handle he held on so tightly to, shook in his hands. The rain outside grew fiercer as the lightning flashed.

In the fleeting seconds of bright light, Taddy saw the debris littered all around him. In the debris, Taddy saw blood.

Boys – Part V

“Taddy?” Gunther said, in a whisper just loud enough to be heard over the rain attacking the attic roof.

“Yeah?”

“How long are you going to hold my hand?”

“Shut up,” Taddy said quickly letting go. “Just shut up and give me your flashlight.”

Gunther felt around him. “Wait,” he said. “”I thought you had a flashlight.”

“Mine’s dead, remember?”

“Well, I don’t have one,” Gunther said, trying to force any sign of a whimper from his voice.

“Then we’ve got to go get the one my mom has in the kitchen,” said Taddy, still whispering as if the darkness demanded it. “And we’re going together.”

“Right,” Gunther said. “I mean you’re not leaving me up here by myself.”

“Let’s go then.”

Taddy started to inch his way toward the hole in the floor and stuck a foot down through to find the ladder. Gunther inched with him, keeping a hand near Taddy’s shoulder so he wouldn’t lose touch as much for the connection to comfort, as it was a way to accidentally fall down the hole.

“Don’t push,” Taddy said.

“I’m not,” Gunther insisted.

Once on the ladder, Taddy’s instincts took over. He made the climb and descent in the dark thousands of times and was able to slip down into his bedroom in seconds. Gunther followed with a little more caution, but made it to the floor safe and sound.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Gunther. “This is crazy! I mean, look how dark it is. Where are you?”

“I’m over here.” Taddy clapped his hands and reached out for his friend. Gunther found him and the two began to slip their feet along the floor, inching their way to the door.

“Gah!”

A large flash of lightning filled the house, trailing off into the flicker of tiny strobes of light. Any progress the boys made toward adjusting their sight to the darkness was dashed in those seconds of brilliance.

“Boom!”

The thunder followed as they were still rubbing the brightness of the flash from their eyes.

“This sucks!” Gunther shouted. “I can’t see. Now I can’t hear. Really … this sucks!”

“Come on,” Taddy said. “There’s a flashlight in the kitchen. We’ll be there in a hot second.”

They continued their careful movements across the floor, to the stairs and down to the foyer. They inched their way to the kitchen, running their fingers lightly across the wall as a way to stay clear on their path.

Taddy reached the cold tile first. He stepped forward and reached out for the chopping block top of the island in the middle of the room. Finding it, he walked himself around to the second drawer where his mom kept the flashlight and any other number of assorted and likely useless odds and ends. He pulled the drawer and pawed around inside until he found it.

Click.

“That’s it?” Gunther asked, still standing on the edge of kitchen.

A pathetic, whimper of a glow lazily forced itself from the small light. Bringing recognition to Taddy’s face. He smirked and shook the light. It went dark. He hit it a couple of times and the light came back a little stronger, but not much.

“This is all we have unless I can find some more batteries,” Taddy said. “Or, until the power comes back.

“What about candles?” Gunther asked. “Do you have any candles?”

“Yeah,” Taddy said. My mom has a bunch in the…”

Any word Taddy might have said was murdered by another glaring flash of light. The boys had just enough time to look at each other before the thunder followed.

BOOM!

“Ahhhh!” The boys screamed.

“I wish it would stop doing that!” Gunther pounded on the wall next to him.

CRASH!

“What was that?” Taddy yelled. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” said Gunther, running into the kitchen. “I … nothing. It sounded like window in the front room. You saw me. I was right there. I swear I didn’t…”

“Shhhh! Shush! Hush! Shut up!” Taddy said, trying to cover Gunther’s mouth.

The boys stood in the faded yellow glow of the sad flashlight, listening hard for whatever it was Taddy thought he heard. After a moment, they turned slowly to face each other.

“Footsteps.”

“Breathing.”

While they spoke at exactly the same time, it was clear, they each heard something different.

Boys – Part IV

Video Hell spewed gore, blood, screams and horror down upon the boys from the large flashing screen. 

The two stared, wide-eyed and unblinking. The knots in their stomachs, visceral responses to images they had never seen, and could never imagine before. The vivid colors and sounds raised the level of their education, by exposing them to the broader notion that true evil may actually lurk behind close doors and in thick shadows, and that true evil was angry and merciless.

The flickering lights and sounds from the screen joined with the brilliant flashes of lighting from the raging storm that began its romp through Cardington. Waves of rain raked the roof, at times making the television hard to hear.

Unknowingly, the boys had inched closer to each other and enlisted the potential protective powers of their sleeping bags by having them at the ready, should the need to pull them over their heads arise. The converted attic seemed smaller somehow. Close.

“My God, Brock,” said the soon to be unraveled character Sally Moon. “What are they? What are those things?”

“I’m not sure,” said Brock Addams, or hero for the moment. “I remember Spoons saying something about the mouth of Hell or whatever, before … well, all Hell broke loose. He said something about the creatures who guard it or something. I’m thinking these might be whatever those are.”

“Riiight,” said Sally, “But they didn’t guard it. I remember him saying something like, should the mouth of Hell open, the first wave of terror to descend upon humanity would be the, the…ugh. I can’t remember.”

“Corgoons, Corgons, Corlons …” Brock said quickly, as he tried to jumpstart his memory.

“Cordallits!” said Sally. “Should the mouth of Hell open, the first wave of terror to descend upon humanity would be the Cordallits, a mindless army of Hell bound beasts that kill without compassion and without remorse. They have one goal and that is to rid the world of those who stand the path of the Master’s return.”

“Cordallits,” said Brock. “That’s it.”

“How many of them are there do you think? What do we do?” asked Sally.

“Pull it together, Sally,” Brock snapped. “I remember now.” He walked to a giant closet and swung open the doors. “Spoons said there’s only one way to kill a Cordallit, and that is…”

BOOM!

The blinding flash of light and explosive thunder happened virtually simultaneously. It was loud enough and strong enough that it shook the whole house beneath them.

The blast took everything, but the thrashing sound of the relentless rain attacking the attic roof. Brock and Sally evaporated into the darkness. The attic went from close to claustrophobic.

Two hands reached blindly for each other in the darkness. A minor dash of relief pulsed through them as they touched, quickly replaced by panic as they clenched.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Boys – Part III

“No!”

“No, wait!”

“NO!” After yelling in unison the boys fell backwards onto their sleeping bags. The television screen turned from blood red to black, followed by the slow silent scroll of the credits to the 1957 terror classic, The Cult of the Bleeding Eye.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Taddy said. “What a rip job!”

“Dumbest movie ending ever,” said Gunther, as he popped the last bit of his pizza crust into his mouth. “I’m officially removing that movie from the ‘classic’ list. I mean … you can’t kill everyone at the end with a giant explosion.”

“Right,” said Taddy.

“And, what the heck happened to the eye?”

“I dunno. I’ll bet it hid in that cast iron stove,” Taddy said.

“What for?” asked Gunther.

“Duh, to not explode.”

“How would it close the door?” asked Gunther. “It was just an eye.”

“It was just stupid,” Taddy said, sitting up. “Except that part where the eye attacked that those people in the park.”

“That was classic,” said Gunther, jumping to his feet to playact the scene. “Tell me Julia, what’s wrong? You look … scared.” As quickly as he got to his feet to recite the line, Gunther jumped to his left to take the form of the worried heroine, his voice high and his pose demure. “Oh, it’s nothing Cliff. I just … I just … can’t shake the feeling that we’re being … watched!”

“Ah – ha, ha, ha, ha!”

The boys both tumbled down to the floor, laughing hysterically.

“Aaaaah,” said Gunther, “And, there was the bleeding eye trying to hided behind that one little pine tree! Ha!”

They laughed until a couple of deep and hearty sighs brought them to base. While easy to make fun of, the movie did provide them with a few jumps and “eeews,” that set a perfect tone for the evening. In the hour and forty-three minute running time, they laid waste to the pizza and corn chips, had dug deep into the bag of popcorn and finished off two Gremlin colas apiece.

“So, what’s next,” asked Gunther.

“Well …,” said Taddy, as he reached under his sleeping bag. “I found this in my dad’s office.”

“What is it?”

Taddy held up the box.

“No, waaaaay,” said Gunther, pulling the box from Taddy’s hand and pulling it close to read. “Video Hell – Unrated. Featuring twelve shocking minutes not allowed in the theatrical release!” He looked at Taddy. “Tell me we are watching this.”

“We are watching this!”

“I read that this movie was so scary, people died while watching it in the theaters,” said Gunther slowly as Taddy pulled the disc from the box and slide it into the player tray.

“I don’t know if they died, but Boosh Tompkins said his older brother totally crapped his pants he was so scared.”

“Crap,” Gunther whispered in awe.

“Exactly,” said Taddy. With great flare he pointed the remote down at the machine and hit play. This time, the large screen faded from black to blood red.

Outside, the storm was building strength and anger.

 

Boys – Part II

The boys waved from the window as the Reef “Caddywagon,” or “Beef,” as Gunther’s dad called it, drove down Lystrick Street then turned onto Barting Road and drifted out of sight. The growing winds outside marked the event by skittering a small flood of leaves across the road. The crackle and scrape of the dry leaves reached up to them. Their mutual grins spread ear to ear.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

Taddy started the chant off slow and low, as if almost a whisper. Gunther joined in while still waving.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

The instant the van disappeared the click of freedom was nearly audible. The night was theirs.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

The chant grew louder and faster as the boys began to stomp around the coffee table near the center of the room.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

Hoots and hollers embellished the base sentiment until the boys were hopping and dancing their way around the room. Their arms shot up and down as they stomped and posed, stomped and posed to the rhythm of their words.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

Eventually, in a manic and crazed release of energy, they ran and jumped and hopped and skipped and laughed until they collapsed on the small couch, breathing heavy in the afterglow and the wonder of their youth.

“Oh yeah,” Gunther said. “Monster night at last.”

While this was the sixth monster night for the boys, it was their first where they would be left entirely on their own. At least until their parents worked their way through a “ double date night” out in Beaumont. That would give them at least until midnight, and of course, Gunther would stay over anyway so it was really the best of all possible worlds.

Pulling themselves up from the couch they headed to the kitchen for supplies before settling in up in the attic. Debi Markum had ordered the boys a pizza for dinner and made sure it arrived just prior to their leaving so that the boys would not have let the pizza man know that they were there alone. Taddy tried to protest, saying they might want the pizza later in the night and that they could handle paying the pizza man and making sure the lock was set, but Debi stood firm. It was early pizza or no pizza. The boys agreed that monster night required pizza, period.

In the kitchen, Taddy gave Gunther the pizza and gently stacked a bag of potato chips, a bag of pretzels, a bag of corn chips and a large bag of popped corn on top. He then grabbed the six-pack of Gremlin cola from the counter, a special Halloween-themed brew from Capri Beverages, and perfect for and evening like this, along with a package of Jelli-Strings cherry licorice, a bag of chocolate-caramel Knots, the gum, and, at his mother’s insistence, a large roll of paper towels.

Loaded for bear, they trudged carefully down the foyer an up the two sets of stairs to their new lair in the converted attic.

Taddy’s dad practically made the space specifically for them as his bedroom was so small. The attic space was small too, but provided plenty of room for them to spread out sleeping bags and pillows in front of a large old television that sat under a small round window, place to stash the food, two large benches that converted to boxes for toys and games.

The boys had gathered their potential movie selections after trimming back the list of about 35 possibilities from a list they developed over the last week to about twelve sure to be scary winners.

“Ok, we have to kick off this thing right,” Taddy said.

“There’s only one choice then,” said Gunther, pulling the pizza box to him and flipping open the lid. A grin spread across his face as the pizza was revealed. “Bog Man’s Revenge.”

“We can’t watch Bog Man’s Revenge before we watch Bog Man’s Attack.”

“We’ve already seen Bog Man’s Attack.”

“Then why did it make the list? You said it would be great to watch them both back to back. You said that.”

“Oh, yeah,” Gunther said through a mouthful of pizza. “Then how about The Gore Creature from Nicronus?”

Taddy flipped through the discs. “That works,” he said, but not convinced. “There’s this.” He held up a movie case for Gunther to see.

“The Cult of the Bleeding Eye,” Gunther said in his go to spooky voice. As he pondered the title, he stopped chewing and looked up at Taddy. Without a moment’s pause, they both drew slow breaths.

“WINNER!”

Taddy popped the disk into the machine and hit play. The room filled with the dancing blue light from the large screen. Tiny bits of debris tapped against the small window as if the wind was trying to get their attention.

Boys

Gunther Reef and Taddy Markum might have been Cardington’s most likely pair of best friends. They met, unofficially, in Cardington Memorial’s maternity ward, when fate placed them side by side in the viewing room after being born a day a part from each other.

They met officially in kindergarten. Due to Gunther’s preoccupation with tiny metal robot toys and Taddy’s incessant drawing, it was three days in before they actually connected. It could also be said that fate played a strong hand in their association, for the occasion of their connection, the spark as it were, was a shared deep, rolling on the floor type belly laugh generated when Cassidy Lombeck dropped her glasses in the class fish tank.

All the elements were there. Both Gunther and Taddy had independently come to the conclusion that Cassidy Lombeck was a snob. She hovered over that fish tank like she owned it. She took great pride in telling everyone everything she knew about aquariums and fish and such because her Daddy told her it was so when they got a fish tank at home. Which, of course, was much bigger and better than this.

Cassidy was holding court at the tank on the morning of that third day. It so happened that the boys were in proximity to each other, not by design, but by happenstance.

First, Cassidy explained the proper way to feed the fish to prevent them from over eating, getting sick and possibly exploding. It was a delicate balance she liked to say and her hands moved with a fluid grace as she demonstrated her technique.

After the feeding lesson, Cassidy explained to her curious onlookers that if you wanted the fish to like you, you needed to talk to them. The best time to talk to the fish of course is when they’re eating because it brings them closer to the surface and they can hear you better. Duh.

Despite the grace she displayed while feeding the fish, her method of establishing communication was less so. The table on which the aquarium sat was sturdy but high and Cassidy needed to step up on a chair to look up and over the edge so that she might share her wisdom with the lesser creatures. When the eager to watch and wanting learn Orlan Phibbs stepped a little too close, a little too fast, he jostled Cassidy, forcing her to jerk in a way that saved her balance and avoided toppling the aquarium, but launched her glasses into the air.

It was enough of a commotion that the boys turned from their respective hobbies to watch as the pair of glasses lifted off the girl’s grimacing face. They floated and spun in mid-air for what seemed like a long slow motion movie shot before descending with a plop into the water. The moment of hilarity was not so much the glasses hitting the water, their long slow, swirling decent to the bottom of the tank, or the look of complete terror and rage that contorted Cassidy’s face.

Rather, the glasses landed in such a way that, from the boy’s perspective, when Rascal, a Black Demecin swam into the lens, it made his already large and bulbous eye appear cartoonishly enormous and somewhat expressive.

After watching the action unfold before them, they turned to face each other, as sometimes people do, they caught each other’s gaze and burst into speechless laughter. The fact that the first outburst forced a glob of snot from Gunther’s nose, which landed squarely on the toe of Mary Hasting’s shoe, bumped the laughter level up from holding your sides funny to silent, hard to catch a breath, tears dripping from your eyes hysteria.

Once they figured out that they lived three slight blocks away from each other, they became virtually inseparable. Not in a “peas in a pod” or a “two sides of the same coin” kind of way. There were definable differences between them. But, their friendship grew from the basis on which it started, a silent common understanding, a way of communicating beyond the standard surface chat, and in many ways, unknown to them at the time, a certain admiration and respect.

On the night of the storm, when it was still just large weather pattern far off to the west, the boys were setting up for a night of monsters and snacks in the converted attic of the Markum house. Both sets of parents were set to be out for the night and agreed, that if they boys could be responsible they could stay alone together without someone to watch them.

Of course they could. They were in the seventh grade now and practically invincible. Plus, as Taddy’s mother pointed out only about fifteen times, the number for Mrs. Krepp’s from next door was on the fridge if they needed anything.

It was all they could do to contain themselves as the cars drove off in the night, with the boys waving vigorously from the large bay window in the Markum’s front room.

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