[Here's a short story I wrote for Halloween. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you are walking by a cranberry bog at night and you hear something strange... run.]
By Michael Gibbons
Andy didn't want to be out in the woods so early. He didn't want to be in the woods at all. It was still dark out, around 4 a.m. on a crisp October morning. The sky was clear of clouds, the air was dry. His breath wafted up into the still morning air like he was an industrial smokestack, up like smog towards the brilliant ceiling of stars and out of sight. He felt out of place in the pre-dawn stillness, an interloper in a strange and foreign natural world. In these woods, however, the time to jack a deer was early in the morning. It wasn't yet shotgun season, but seasons and licenses meant little to Andy. He had to kill something large as soon as possible or...
Or what? He thought. The old lady, if the wrinkled thing in the rags was in fact female, had told him that he absolutely HAD to kill something big and fresh. His life depended on it. More than his life, she had said, he guessed she meant his soul. He had never really been religious, he went to church because it made his mom happy and he basically stopped going once the alcohol and weed kicked in around his Junior year of high school. He never had reason to believe in such things as souls and spirits and God and The Devil, but that was before it happened.
Before it happened. His entire perception of the world and his place in it, everything from the big guy in the sky down to the dirt below his feet was altered after the events of last Saturday night. What he had seen with his own eyes made his worst collegiate acid trips look like a G-Rated family film. He almost wished he had been on drugs so that he could chalk what he saw up to them. He had been a little tipsy beforehand, but as soon as he saw the Blue Man emerge out of the mist in the cranberry bog, he was rendered sober.
The Blue Man, he thought. The name had already taken on the air of a legend in his mind. Capital letters. Big, Important. The mere thought of what he had seen had driven him into a quagmire of fear and anxiety, and ever since that night, he thought of it constantly. He hadn't been doing much sleeping since last Saturday night. His immediate reaction to this trauma was to drink enough whiskey to drown a horse. For all those country songs about drinking to forget and dull the pain, Andy found it didn't work. Even in a besotted state, his mind played the scene over and over like some perverted highlight reel. Like ESPN Sporscenter in the 9th ring of Hell.
Thick mist down in the bog. Andy walking back from the bar, marvelling at how creepy it looked in the moonlight, like something from an old horror movie. Then, the sounds. Gasping. Grunting. Water splashing. He thought maybe it was a deer in rut acting crazy out there. He didn't hear yips and barks, so he ruled out coyotes. He had to see what was making this noise. He creeped down the embankment a bit, hoping that he wasn't making enough noise to alert whatever was out there to his presence. The sounds changed then, the sound of heavy footsteps sloshing through the bog. Towards him. Whatever was out there had two feet. That's when he started to get scared. He ran back up the embankment and looked down. The vague shape of a man, only it wasn't quite right. Drooped over, with long arms swaying by its sides. With each approaching step it became a little bit clearer. More nightmare details to behold. He could tell that it wasn't an ordinary person. He knew that even before it had fully broken through the mist. It had to be at least seven feet tall, even in its drooped over state. Its skin was a shade of grayish blue. Its eyes, those were the worst part of it. It looked right at him and its eyes burned through him, heavy lidded obsidian orbs that twinkled in the moonlight. That's when he screamed. He ran as fast as he could in the direction of his house. He could hear other voices out in the bog, yelling in some bizarre foreign tongue, in cracked, gravelly voices. Their voices seemed to bounce around the inside of his head. No matter how far he ran, they were just as loud. He lost his mind right then...
That's the funny thing about losing your mind, Andy thought later. If you've never lost it, you never know what its like. The comforting blanket of reality that we keep ourselves comfy in ripped away in a second. There was a literal feeling of falling, like the floor below him had given out. The forest became an infinite carnival funhouse, with horrors of unimaginable pain tucked in every shadow. He ran, and screamed until his lungs burned and his eyes shed tears. He didn't feel the pain, however. He was in the cradling arms of extreme shock. His mind still echoed with the voices in that unfamiliar language. Beyond the indescribable nature of the words, the voices themselves did not sound human. They sounded older and stranger than any person he'd ever heard. They sounded mad, too. He got to his house, locked the doors and windows, loaded his shotgun with slugs and proceeded to sit in the dark in the second floor bathroom, which provided the best view of the woods and drank whiskey while staring out the window. He sat there all night, and was only able to get about an hour of sleep once the sun came out the next day. Even in his drunken stupor, he could not relax enough to sleep until the sun was shining. He knew somehow, that whatever The Blue Man was, and whatever was shouting out in the bog, would not come out in the sunshine. Somebody else would have seen it by now, he reckoned.
His life in the ensuing week took a painfully predictable plunge into hell. He couldn't sleep, so he drank. He couldn't go to work drunk, so he was fired. His ex-wife and his two children wondered what had happened to him. She informed him to stop calling her after about the 200th drunken phone call. She threatened to go to the police. She was scared of him already. The marriage had ended badly, he had slapped her and swore at her as she left with the kids to stay at Jeff's house, the man she had been cheating on him with. Andy had a booze problem, and an anger problem. Jeff was a laid back artist, the decision was clear. The kids had been sad, they loved their father, at ages 4 and 6, they were a little too young to have such low opinions of him as their mother did. So when he started calling her, leaving frantic voicemails at 4 a.m. about voices in his head and things he saw in the bog, she was justifiably terrified. He had gone off the deep end. She felt sorry for the children. They might not see their father for a long time.
The worst part of it for him, more than losing his job, his family and his sanity, were the voices. They rattled around in his head all day and night. He blasted music, but they were still there. Even heavy metal couldn't dislodge them. The neighbors were scared, as he looked just as out of control as he was. The cops were called after one drunken night where he had started screaming and breaking things in the house. It was the voices. They made him very mad. The cop that arrived was an old acquantance of Andy's. They had gone to school together. So he went easy on Andy, figuring that it must be living alone in his house and shelling out tons of money in alimony and child support that was driving him to such behavior. That and the fact that he was visibly intoxicated. So he told Andy to drink some water, get some rest and quite down. The cop, Jim Nickerson, was frightened by what he saw in Andy's eyes. He wouldn't be surprised if he had to come out here some night and help clean up Andy's brains after the poor bastard blew them out of his own head.
Around the 7th day of Andy's self-imposed exile and ever strengthening insanity, the old woman arrived at his doorstep. A hunched over thing, dressed in rags, holding itself up with a cane. He peered through the window at it, unable to decide whether to answer the rapping of its cane on the door, or tell it to get lost or to simply hide and pretend that it wasn't there. What the hell, things can't get much worse, he thought as he opened the door.
One milky cataract covered eye glared up at him, and even though it looked blind, he could tell that it was looking at him.
"You need my help," the rag covered thing said in a ragged, dry whisper.
"Uh, excuse me?" He asked.
"I know that you saw them. I can hear their voices in your head."
Andy's face cracked, and his eyes welled up with tears.
"Come in," he said.
The rag thing shambled into his kitchen and sat at the table. Andy poured himself a bourbon, neat, and offered some to it. It obliged and revealed its mouth full of rotten, yellow teeth when it took its first sip.
"I know things. I see things. Not everyone can see me. I have been a part of this town for longer than most people here have been alive. I know about the bog, and about the Kraggs."
"Who are the Kraggs? Are those the.... things I saw?" He asked the question like it pained him.
"No, the things you saw, those things have no name. The Kraggs worship them. The Kraggs are all dead in a sense, but they worship those things still. They are held by a pact stronger than life and death. Nobody but the Kraggs is allowed to see those things from the bog. You are dead, already."
"What the hell do you mean? I'm talking to you, aren't I?"
"Yes, but they have talked to you. The white man was never meant to hear them. They are talking to you right now, I can hear them in your head. They will drive you to your death. It is far worse than a spell, you would never be able to fathom such a thing."
"So, you show up to tell me that these voices of these things with no name will make me kill myself, eh?" His voice rose and slammed his fist as hard as he could into the table, making their whiskey glasses jump.
"TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW! I've wanted to blow my brains out ever since these VOICES got inside my head! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!"
It was silent for a moment as it watched Andy stare at the table, his whole body moving up and down with the rhythm of his quick breaths. His eyes burned with pain and were bright red and glossed over.
"There is only one way to reverse this curse. I am not sure that it will work, but it is the only chance you have. First, you must kill something large. A deer might work..."
Then it told him all the strange and foreign words he was supposed to say, words that sounded oddly familiar to him, where to put the entrails and where to sprinkle the blood and what to do with the heart. He couldn't believe what he was hearing, but he knew that this was his last chance. If he had to go one more day with the damn voices bouncing around in his head, he would end his life. After the thing finished with its speech, he went to get the bottle of whiskey. When he returned to the kitchen, the thing was gone.
He stayed up all night studying his notes, preparing for what he had to do. And here he was, out in the woods, trying to find a nice big deer. He thought for a second about the insane blind corner his life had taken. One minute you're walking home from the bar with a 5 beer buzz, thinking about the hot British woman you had been talking to over your Sam Adams, feeling like an idiot for not getting her number, and the next you are running screaming from seeing something that simply couldn't and shouldn't exist, your head full of voices that belonged not on this planet, let alone in the confines of your skull. It was like getting the floor pulled out from under you, falling into an abyss of madness and confusion.
And there it was. Silent as a ghost, a large 6 point buck seemed to appear in a small clearing not even 30 feet from where he stood. It looked around, snorted, and seemed completely and totally comfortable with itself and its domain. Andy silently offered a prayer of thanks to the deer, raised his shotgun and aimed. The strange and foreign voices in his head seemed to raise in volume and become more excited. As if they could tell that he was about to kill something. His head felt like it was going to explode. His eyes watered and he tried not to cry out in pain. He bit his tongue and pulled the trigger. Time seemed to stop as the voices crescendoed into a wave of evil noise in his head. The buck's eye exploded as the 12 gauge slug tore through its head, spraying brains, blood, eyes and bone fragments for ten feet into the forest. It immediately fell, as did Andy. The voices then faded to a whisper, and even though he could not understand the words, he knew they were commanding him. His conscious thought stopped as he rose up like a marionette puppet, jerky and stiff. He stumbled through the brush, not pushing branches and prickers out of his way. He had cuts all over his face by the time he reached the deer.
His eyes were glazed over as he reached to his waistline and pulled his knife from its scabbard. He held the knife above his head for a moment, then bent down and thrust the knife into the deers belly, ripping downward, towards its crotch. Foul smelling gases rose from the deer, and it made an obscene farting sound as a revolting mixture of food remnants, stomach acids and black blood poured from the jagged incision. Specks of blood spattered Andy's face as he worked, but his expression remained neutral. He pulled the intestines out and they lay steaming in a coil at his feet. He cut out the heart, held it in front of his face for a moment. The voices sounded very excited. He scooped up the entrails and walked toward the bog, leaving the carcass and his shotgun behind.
He walked down the embankment, the entrails dragging behind him through the brush. At one point a coil of intestine snagged itself on a small pine tree sapling. Andy still shuffling ahead, looking very much like a zombie, what with the glazed over eyes, slack expression and gore soaked face. He almost fell as the intestine pulled back on his arm. He grunted and tugged on the rope of intestine until it came free, then continued his perverse morning stroll to the bog.
He stepped into the foot high water and started arranging the intestines atop the cranberry bushes. Once he was finished, he had a circle of about 6 foot circumference made out of the bloody entrails. He stepped into the circle, held the heart above his face and looked toward the sky. Blood dripped from the heart onto his face as he began to chant in a voice that sounded disembodied and nothing like his own. The words were in the same tongue of the voices in his head. But now, it seemed, that those voices had become his voice.
As the blood dripped into his face, he didn't flinch. Great streams of it covered his face as he began squeezing the heart. The incantations began to rise in volume and urgency. A thick fog rose from the bog with incredible speed, billowing and filling the area within seconds. As he continued to shout, or rather, as the voices continued to shout, figures began to approach Andy and his circle from all different directions. The voices finished their bizarre chant and Andy lowered the heart to his mouth, which opened and proceeded to bite into the tissue. Black arterial blood poured down his throat and overflowed from his lips and down his neck. And there it was. The Blue Man. Standing right outside the circle. The voices in his head went silent as its bizarre, oversized eyes cored into Andy's, burning into his brain. It was as if the eyes bored into his consciousness and saw everything in his head. The thing's face remained expressionless, but its eyes glimmered with a hint of a smile.
Andy's consciousness returned and the fear was all encompassing. But he found he could not cry out, he couldn't run, though every impulse in his body told him to flee. He was completely under the control of the Blue Man. It showed him things that were unimaginable, visions of suffering and desperation, evil images of men, women and children dying at its feet, and of other things that no mortal human being could even begin to comprehend. Visions of a void worse than hell, that extended for infinity. Andy began to shake and foam at the mouth, the foam red with deer blood. The things eyes glimmered with a hint of glee as it saw the extreme pain these visions gave Andy. Somehow it spoke to Andy in his mind with words not in human tongue. But Andy could understand.
You will serve. You will join. You will never leave.
The other figures approached the circle, and they all were the same grayish blue color. They looked like they had been human once, natives of this soil from hundreds and thousands of years before. Their black eyes, also oversized and endless, gazed into him, through him.
They all began to speak inside his head in their strange, soulless tongue.
You will serve. You will join. You will never leave.
Andy's mind, which now occupied some small corner of his consciousness realized that this was what the voices had been saying all along, since the night he first saw the Blue Man.
As he shook and gyrated in a frenzy, the old woman who had visited him appeared out of the mist. She cackled and pointed at him. He realized that he was damned, that somehow that woman was in league with these things. As he watched, she changed, her nose, brow and ears growing longer and distended. She became not an old woman, but an old thing, eyes aglow with shimmering yellow light. Her cackling became a roar as the circle of intestines began to glow with white light.
The circle dropped out below Andy, and he stood in air, over a black tunnel that appeared endless and without walls. It was like a hole into another dimension, like someone had just bored through everything in creation with some cosmic drill. The things repeated their chant over and over.
You will serve. You will join. You will never leave.
Then Andy fell. He fell forever, his screams were soundless as air did not exist in his new home. Nor did time, gravity or light, but he still felt like he was falling. The hole into the world closed above him. The only thing that existed still was his soul, his mind was gone, as was vision and hearing. But in that endless blackness, the life that flowed through his veins existed, as did the knowledge that he was a servant, that his energy was feeding something foul and evil against his will. They had shown themselves to him and spoken to him for it was his fate to serve them. And his energy flowed through the Blue Man, and the Old Woman Thing and the Natives, which were members of a lost tribe named the Kraggs, as did the energy of thousands of other beings, all lost spirits serving an endless master, a force more powerful than death.
Orleans Man Missing
Andy MacGowan, an Orleans man who was recently fired from his job at Cape Cod Academy, has been reported missing. His estranged wife, Deborah Hill, told the Times that she has not heard from him for weeks, since he called her and complained to her of "hearing voices." The Orleans Police had been called to his residence on Child's Homestead Road several times recently for noise complaints from his neighbors. One neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous says, "He was getting really crazy. Breaking stuff in his house, drinking all the time, screaming and yelling. It was almost like he was speaking in tongues."
Police are asking for any tips leading to MacGowan's whereabouts and they have not ruled out suicide.
"Andy was a friend of mine, and he was a good guy, if somewhat troubled. If you are reading this, Andy, please contact us and let us know that you are okay so we can stop our search for you," says Officer Jim Nickerson.
MacGowan is 6 feet tall with dark brown hair and sometimes wears a goatee. If you think you have seen him or have any information on his location, please contact the Orleans Police at 508-555-0110.
-Cape Cod Times, October 31st, 2010.