Dirtnaps and Mind Traps

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I hate the summer. It’s too hot, there’re too many bugs, and every time I look out the window an overwhelming sense of dread comes over me. Anyone who actually likes this time of year should be shot because they’re obviously already shooting something.

“Devon,” my dad called as he walked towards the front door. “Stop brooding over the weather and do something productive. You don’t have much of summer left…why don’t you go do something with that neighbor girl? She’s somehow able to stand you for more then five minutes-”

“Dad,” I groaned, “I’ll do something after the power outage starts and there’s no more air conditioning compelling me to stay indoors.” Because of the heat wave rolling through Reverie this summer, the generators at the local power company keep overheating. So the geniuses running the company have set up rolling power outages, which means that for an hour, every three hours as long as the sun is up, there’s no power to keep my cozy home cozy.

“Just do something while I’m gone to get your mother, we won’t be back until late tonight.”

“I know, I know.”

“I’ll see you later…and stop staring out the window!” he yelled right before slamming the front door. I watched through the window as he got into the car, turned up the a/c to max (I could see him at first uncomfortable from the initially hot air then enjoying it as the cooling kicked in from the way his face relaxed and his hair was blown up by the air stream) and drive towards the exit of our subdivision. Forty-two minutes later the power went out. I sighed in annoyance, and then walked outside to see if there was anything to do.

 

I wasn’t outside ten minutes before the sleazy guy walked up to me, “Hey kiddo, wacha doin’ there?”

I looked up from where I was pretending to pull weeds. I had planned on pulling them up so I could goad my dad out of some money when he got back, but after pulling nineteen or so I got bored and started just doodling in the dirt, under that burning sun, and then I saw him. I don’t know why I called him the sleazy guy. It was probably because of his beady little eyes, slicked-back hair, and lecherous yellow smile…oh, and the rustic suitcase he carried in the grip of his boney fingers was a little odd too. “I’m pulling weeds,” I replied while turning back to my ‘work.’

“Really? So that’s wha’cha doin’? I couldn’t quite tell since I haven’t seen ya move very much at all since I came down ya street here.”

“I like to pace myself,” I replied while reaching for another weed, but before I could even get a hold of it I became bored with the task again and let my arm fall back to my side. “What can I do for you?” I asked in measured lengths, really wishing the sleazy guy would just walk away as silently as he had come.

“Ya dad or mom home?” the sleazy guy asked, not catching my subtle hint.

“They’ve stepped out,” I said snidely. “Did one of them have an appointment with you and forget about it? They do that sometimes.”

“No, nothin’ likes that,” said the sleazy man as looked about our front yard, surveying it one could say. “I’m just out promotin’ my new lawn care compn’y. I just moved to this area and since it’s been ever so hot this summer I thought some might like it if others were to preside over their lawn care. Here’s my card.”

I took the card, glanced at it without really looking at it at all, and then stuffed it into my pocket. I suppose actually reading it might have been a good idea, I probably would have had a better name to think of him as then just “sleazy guy. “I’ll let them know when they get back.”

“Thanks,” he said graciously. “Say, you look kind of hot-” have I mentioned how much I hate the summer and the sweat it induces “-wanna have a sip?” he asked as he handed out a black, almost velvety flask.

“What’s in it?” I asked while reaching out for the flask. “I’m still something of an underage citizen.”

“Jus’ flavered water, it’s too hot to drink anything but water. I just can’t stand the pure, bland taste of normal water.” He kinda hissed the word pure, as if it were painful for him to do so. Of course anyone who incites the name sleazy guy to a random stranger after one sentence (even if that stranger was someone as pessimistic as me) can’t be too pure himself.

I took a gulp of his “flavored water,” it felt like it had sand in it, and it tasted weird; not like sand and not like anything I’d ever tasted before. An odd sensation came over me as I stared at the flask’s opening, the flask itself seemed to grow far away. I didn’t even notice that I was actually falling on my back as the sleazy man skillfully pried the flask from my grip.

“That’s about wha’ I expected, although I am impressed that ya still conscious. Most folks get knocked out with just one sip of my speciality drink,” he said calmly as he picked me up by the shoulder so I was standing, or at least felt like I was standing, with the argument the tree and the fish that was swimming in the sky around it were having it was hard to tell exactly how I felt. “Les get ya inside so ya might relax until ya get used to the sensation.”

“O…kay…” I mumbled as I watched one of our flowers eat a blazing meteor right out of the sky and the sleazy man led me to the front door. “I like this chair,” I said happily when we were inside.

“I hate to tell ya this, but ya ain’t sittin’ yet,” the sleazy man chuckled.

“That’s right…” I said, humored by my own blunder as I tried to watch my cat and the monkey from the closet duke it out. The monkey had thumbs, but my cat had claws.

“Here ya go,” the sleazy man said as he set me down on the big recliner in our den. “Now don’t worry about the woozy feeling in ya legs,” he said as he leaned against the wall opposite me, I noticed that there was a snake crawling between the wall an the wall paper, I could see the outline it made as it slithered behind that tacky yellow wallpaper mom had made dad take down years ago, the red paper that was up now was much better. “Ya’ll get used to the feeling soon enough, although ya might see things for awhile.”

“Ha,” I snorted, “you’re crazy.”

“Maybe, I have been accused of that before, not always by ones in your current condition though.”

“Devon,” my dad called from the front door. He walked into the den, didn’t even glance at the sleazy man, and sighed, “Are you still inside? I told you to do something productive while I was gone.”

I felt bad for my dad, it had gotten so hot outside that his hair had caught fire, but since it didn’t seem to be bothering him or the sleazy man (who was now rooting through his suitcase) I didn’t say anything to the effect. “I pulled some weeds…I think,” I was having a hard time remembering why I was even back inside. But before dad could even retort to my less than satisfying response, the sleazy man brought a nice sized shovel down on his head. I watched as he fell to the ground, a tiny splotch of red painting his bald spot.

“Why’d you do that?” I inquired.

“Did what?” the sleazy man asked as he bent down and picked dad up by the collar. The sleazy man looked from one corner of the room to another and then finally tossed dad down on one of the sofas. He took his shovel, which I guess he must have pulled from his suitcase, and struck the floor in the very center of the room. I watched in amazement as carpet, wood, and concrete came up with such ease with just the simple scoop of the sleazy man’s shovel, nothing seemed un-diggable before the awesome might of that shovel.

“I love diggin’,” the sleazy man sighed when the hole was finished being dug. He picked up dad by the collar again, turned back to his masterpiece, and then tossed dad into it. He fell with a dull thud. The sleazy man gave his hole one last almost caring glance, and then began putting the concrete, wood, and carpet back in place. When he was done there was almost no trace that the floor had been disturbed, only a dirty swatch of carpet.

“Why’d you do that?” I asked again. I didn’t know what was going on, none of it felt real. Should I have felt bad about what the sleazy man had just done, should I have tried to stop him? I couldn’t understand, couldn’t…feel anything…couldn’t even tell that the sleazy man had already walked out of the room.

 

“I wonder where Devon is,” Kat thought as she walked out of her room towards the kitchen. She had fallen asleep while waiting for Devon, who had promised to come and ‘play’ while her parents were away. As she felt the heat that had consumed most of her house she realized that the one of those damned blackouts had kicked in while she’d been asleep, and that now she was covered in sweat that she’d gained from extremely strenuous sleeping habits. I think I know why he hates the summer so much­ she thought as she looked to the bathroom, unsure if she should shower before Devon showed up, if he showed up. Before she could decide however, the doorbell rang.

“Hello ma’am,” a sleazy looking man beckoned when she opened the door.

“Hello…” she replied apprehensively as she saw his yellow grin, slick hair, beady eyes…and that shovel. “How can I help you?”

“Well ya see ma’am,” he began with the most honorable of tones, “I’m in the lawn care business.”

“Did my parents call you? Cause they didn’t tell me anything about a-”

“No, unfortunately I’ve yet to have the pleasure of meeting your parents, its Devon and his parents around the corner that I have an appointment with. But unfortunately I can’t seem to get anyone to answer me at his house, or any other house except for yours.”

“Well, I could call his house for you I suppose,” Kat said, she wanted the sleazy man to leave or for Devon to show up, either would have been fine, but she really felt nervous with him around.

“Would ya please?”

“Sure…just give me a minute,” Kat said as she turned back into her house to get the phone. As she turned away from the sleazy man, he brought his shovel down upon her head.

 

How’d I get outside? I wondered as I watched the sleazy man from afar. He was digging in the woods that our subdivision was built around, he was almost done to from the looks of it, he was already filling in the hole. This was one was big, huge might be a better word for it, but even for its size there was so much dirt already packed back into it that Devon could only just make out the body parts that were still somehow managing to defiantly stick out of the loose earth. These bodies looked old, bare and decomposed. Some had barely a scrap of flesh left to their bones and the single head I was able to see had the most fear-inspiring expression of terror on its face. Frozen forever with its mouth hung wide open, wider then it seemed possible in life or death, black gaping eyes looking upwards for help but never finding any, and a nearly fleshless hand reaching out of the dirt but would never grasp what it was going for.

“Yes, I jus’ finished hiding them,” I could hear the sleazy man say into his ancient cell phone. “Witnesses? Don’t be foolish. There were only two kids in the entire neighborhood, the boy won’t remember anything and the girl, well we’ll jus’ call her a bonus. So don’t worry yaself, as long as I get my pay no one’ll ever find out about ya little secret.”

There was more but I didn’t listen, if I did I don’t remember it because the next thing I knew I was back in my house, the power was still out and it was still blistering hot, and I was staring at myself in the mirror. Except I wasn’t staring at myself, I was watching an egg that was floating behind me. A transparent egg with a large metal stake stuck through it. But that wasn’t what was really interesting to my addled mind, what I though was interesting was what I could see through the cracked eggshell; a lizard…with wings, and a tail that became a snake.

The strange creature had, just like the egg around it, been stabbed clean through by the stake, it was quite clearly dead. Its eventual life on this world, or whatever world I was in, cut short by that metal stake, just like my dad’s had been by the sleazy man’s metal shovel, just like all those people who he just buried. But no! I won’t let my life or anyone else’s be cut short by that bastard’s shovel, I won’t let myself become like that lizard, killed before it even had a chance to spread its wings, I’ll do something about it.

I walked out of my house, two things in my hand, one eclipsed by the other. The bigger one was a shovel.

I didn’t have to even guess where to go; I just followed the sounds of the digging. I found him back in the woods, over a hundred yards from his last hole, and digging a new one. He looked up as I approached; his wicked little grin vanished to a doubtful glare as he spied the shovel I gripped in my hand. “What can I do for ya kiddo?” he asked with his usual tone of voice.

“I thought…” I began with more of mumble then actual words, “since you seem to like digging so much I could give it a try.”

“Okay,” he said, his grin returning with my idiotic words. “How ‘bout I finish diggin’ this one, and ya can fill it in. That should be simple for ya since we have a little something more then dirt to fill it in with.” He shifted to his side and that when I saw her, Kat lay on the ground beside the ever deepening hole, unconscious and with a little blood in her hair, but I could see she was alive from the way her chest lifted up and down so subtly.

My eyes narrowed in hatred and disgust for the sleazy man as he turned back to his precious hole. Her clothes were skewed; buttons were buttoned in the wrong places, her gig line was off, I might not always have agreed on the clothes she wore, but I knew her. Knew that even now, in the blistering summer heat, would never allow herself to be seen with even a shirt sleeve rolled the wrong way. There was a new reason for me to do what I did, maybe the best reason of all, and I’ll never be ashamed of that.

“Could ya grab her kiddo?” the sleazy man asked as he lifted one last scoop of dirt out of the hole. “I’ll show ya how to lay them so they don’t disturb the ground too much.”

“Okay,” I said blankly as I stepped behind him. When I was ready I dropped the shovel. He was surprised when the flimsy thing I’d found in our garage fell into the hole beside him. He looked up, began to say something but stopped as his face clenched in fear. I could see my reflection in his beady little eyes, see the blazing sun glinting off the hatchet I’d found beside the shovel, and even my own demented smile as I brought the hatchet down on the sleazy man’s head.

Again and again I brought the hatchet down, but there was no sound after the first strike, the strike that killed him. But I couldn’t stop, I needed to keep going, needed to keep hacking until there was nothing left of that sleazy bastard’s grin, needed to let him die in one of his holes just like so many other had, just like he was about to have Kat do for his own amusement. Even his shadow seemed to writhe in pain each time I struck down, it no longer mirrored the actions of its dead master, now it was feeling the pain he had felt and I could only feel good about that. I didn’t stop until I was covered in his murdering blood, until there wasn’t any head left to cut, until only a stump of a neck remained.

 

“Your son has experienced a rather traumatizing event,” the doctor told Devon’s dad as they approached Kat in the waiting room. “We’ve yet to discover what narcotic the suspect gave him, but what he described in his delusions might be even worse then what he’s telling us, the mass grave he described and what he did to suspect to protect the girl might not even approach what he saw after the suspect drugged him, or they might have been worse. It will take a lot of therapy before he can return to normal life.”

While Kat was worried for Devon, she couldn’t help but feel that the man sitting across from her just didn’t belong. She couldn’t see his face under the black hood of his cloak, but she could see his pale turquoise eyes. But the reason Kat felt he didn’t belong wasn’t because of his odd choice of clothing or eyes, but because the cloaked man had been following Devon, his father, and even the doctor with his pale turquoise eyes until they had left their sight. And even now he was pointedly watching the doctor and Devon’s father approach. But when they did get close Kat forgot all about the cloaked man and jumped up to meet the two approaching men.

“But that means he’ll go back to normal?” Kat asked immediately before the doctor actually finished speaking.

“Well,” the doctor said as he looked from Devon’s father to Kat, torn as to whom he should be speaking to. He chose the middle ground and looked at the space between them. “There’s a chance.”

“Then can I see him now?” she asked hopefully.

Devon’s father answered for the doctor, “Kat, the doctor said that we won’t be able to see Devon for a few weeks at best, he doesn’t recognize his surroundings right now-”

“He doesn’t recognize his surroundings because they’ve got him locked up in a padded room!”

 

I hate this room, I thought as I stared at the endless white padding. It makes me miss the summer sun. But even given this mess, I did what I needed to do, and now that sleazy man can never hurt me, or Kat, or anyone else again.

“Ya’re part right,” a hiss echoed through the room. “I can’t hurt anyone else ever again!” the sleazy man laughed as the padded floor burst open and I saw…a hole where there should have been none. And out of that hole the bastard rose, except he wasn’t the same sleazy man that I’d hacked at till there wasn’t anything left; his skin was as black and smooth as velvet, as if he were wearing the shadow I’d tormented even after his death, his beady little eyes glowed a savage yellow. And his grin, his grin was wider, brighter, and sharper. “I can still hurt you!” he yelled with immense joy as he grabbed my leg and pulled me towards the hole.

I tried to fight back, but the jacket they had strapped me in so I couldn’t hurt myself got in the way and I just got closer and closer to that hole. So I did the only thing that I could think of, I screamed. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I like to think that people came rushing to help me, but I don’t know. The last thing I remember is being pulled into the darkness of that hole.

 

 

 

REVERIE TIMES

7-19-2007

Local Hero Disappears From Hospital

A local boy, who saved his neighbor from death at the hands of known hitman disappeared today…