- Note: This is a sequel to Far Liath Weather
Sometimes, you may have really horrible days descending upon you without any hint of warning. You wake up with a strong sense of foreboding, and you know that things will turn sour the moment you step outside. And yet, on other days, everything seems to be going great, until a sinkhole suddenly opens up while you are rollerblading or an elfin air ship crash-lands into your backyard, taking out your tree house.
As was typically the case, this particular descent into the abyss started out as a pretty decent day. I had just turned fourteen that July and had also hit a growth spurt, going from a measly four-foot-eight to a petite five-foot-three. Next fall was high school where, hopefully, I wouldn't get dumped in the special self-esteem class for sufferers of extreme shyness and other awkward geekiness. But I wasn't thinking about that at that moment. I was more concerned with the upcoming camping trip and how I was going to spend it.
As my dad pulled the station wagon over into a spot onto the main street, I looked over. Through the bug-flecked wind shield, I could see a crowd of fidgety parents. Piles of luggage were haphazardly stacked in the broad college parking lot, and still people were streaming in all directions. Pushing open the door, I got out, while Dad opened the back and began unloading the essential stuff I needed for my two week stay at Camp Kim-Tu: plenty of light summer clothes, sun lotion, DEET bug and fire witch repellent and books and sketch pads for when I wasn’t doing entries and writing exercises.
Picking up my sleeping bag and backpack, I hurried after my dad across the street, just as the first of the college Geology buses pulled up near the excited crowd.
It was a fine weekday morning and a cool breeze was blowing from the Pacific. It felt good, but I knew this refreshing breeze wasn't going to last once we reached the mountains and, by the time we get to the Willow Creek Writer’s Camp, it was going to be stifling hot and muggy.
A few minutes later, I was aboard, my gear secured in the metal rack above my seat. Up in the front, kids were already seated, chatting away, reading while listening on some iPod or jabbing away at some noisy handheld game. I, on the other hand, sat quietly, feeling a bit miffed that I missed out on the good seats. However, my glumness died away as soon I started perusing my newly purchased paper, all a while trying to ignore the heavy thumps of suitcases being heaved into the lower compartments. I was just glad I stowed my delicate camera and binoculars in my backpack and not in my suitcase, which had already been buried into the massive collection of baggage.
Leafing absentmindedly through the pages of the usual weighty, multi-verse matters and elven/celebrity scandals, I found myself wondering about what the two weeks at Camp Kim-Tu would be like.
My three older, triplet sisters, being the wicked witches that they were, teased me for weeks before my trip saying that the woods were full of hungry bears, sasquatches and wendigos and that the cabins were nothing but old trapper shacks with hardly any intact doors and tattered screen windows, with the only ‘furniture’ being several grimy, urine-stained, mouse-infested mattresses. Naturally, I didn’t believe them upon seeing the photos they took of their enjoyable stay there. Even though they were right about the cabins being a bit rustic and outdated, they were fairly clean and well-kept, plus there wasn't an animal pest in sight—big or minuscule. But it was what they told me afterwards that scared me even more than any horror movie or scary campfire story out there… because it happened to be true and the incident actually occurred in my hometown.
I grew up in Curtisville, by the way, and it wasn't much of a tourist Mecca, despite having some coastal hiking trails and the World’s Tallest Totem Pole right behind the Safeway; although there were a few historical buildings such as the A&L Feed store and the former creamery, much of the architecture was blue-collar bland and generically suburban. If you wanted to experience supernatural horror here, you had to go see it at the movie theater or go to the nearest video rental.
Before the Infamous Gray Man Incident(s) of 2003, nobody in the wider world(s) gave a flying rodent’s arse about this unincorporated, folksy community. There were no strange storms nor killer freezing fog or high otherworldly carnage, just the latest bureaucratic and environmental protest stuff.
Six years ago, the year was 1999. I was eight years old, while my sisters were ten and were mischievous as hell (which wasn't at all surprising, seeing as they were half chickcharnie). While most of my interest revolved around the TV and playing with my secondhand toys, my sisters’ interests revolved around playing amateur detectives and trying to figure out who or what was responsible for all of those disappearances among the local animal population. Lately, there had been a rash of missing pets and poultry; whether it was one of theft or just typical running off during the July 4th fireworks, nobody had a clue. They were just simply gone; there was no trace of any fur, feather or blood even, nor were there any footprints or signs of a struggle you typically find with a varmint raid.
Of course, there were the usual complaints to the police, various residents pointing their fingers at the usual suspects--the teenage pranksters and budding criminal masterminds (my sisters included), the local hard-rock garage band (particularly the one my albino cousin, Yukiko, started), the vampires, ghouls, trolls, and werewolves as well as any foreign (hualau) humans, especially the Chalmers.
Just about everyone in town thought the missionary couple was especially strange because they had themselves as well as their seven kids all genetically modified to closely resemble the elves they were trying to convert.
Seven? You must be thinking to yourself as you read this blog. But didn't the police find the remains of only six kids along with their parents in their burnt-out mansion? Yeah, those were the ones that people knew about, the ones that were officially registered as full citizens despite our government's long-standing aversion toward hualau colonists.
As my "weird sisters" gleefully explained to me as they helped me pack, according to local gossips--there had been a seventh child--a girl to be exact. Very little was known of her except that she was supposed to be an identical sibling to the Chalmer Triplets, thus making them quadruplets. However, this now illegal procedure was not without risks, and what eventually resulted was a creature-- grotesque in appearance and ravenous in appetite.
Instead of doing the most sensible thing—destroying the beast and alerting the authorities—they decided to lock up the fourth sibling in a nearby bomb shelter and feed her a platter of raw meat once a week. Maybe they were hoping to starve the monster or, at least, keep it to a manageable size.
However, their efforts were to no avail, for within months, the creature began growing at an incredible rate. It also sprouted antlers from the top of its bestial head and long black talons burst from its spidery fingers. Leathery bat-like wings unfurled from its gnarled back while bristly, spiky hair and feathers sprouted all over its hunched body. Its eyes grew huge and red as it broke out of its prison. It made good its escape into the dark forest area around town. It ventured forth to devour domestic animals before eventually turning its murderous attention to various townsfolk, including its entire family.
At this point of the story, I was rolling my eyes. It was sounding so much like that of another infamous mutant misanthrope who was currently terrorizing local residents in the Southern New Jersey area. Not surprising, considering my sisters’ story coincided with a Jersey Devil documentary on Animal Planet. As was often the case in monster sightings, people were either exaggerating about what they saw due to panic and shock, or they were either strung out on drugs or drunk at the time…or like my sisters, possessed with an overactive imagination.
“So what you’re saying… all those mysterious deaths and disappearances two years ago were caused by a monster?” I looked at them skeptically with folded arms.
“Actually, two monsters to be exact,” Mizaki the Know-it-All explained. “The Far Liath who caused the freak storms and thick fog…”
“And the Chalmers’ mutated seventh daughter who ate all those animals, then all those Jehovah’s Witnesses before ripping her family to shreds and then setting the house on fire. And they say she’s still out there.”
“Yeah, sure. Uh-huh,” I said with a suspicious frown. “And I suppose this Frankenstein kid also killed those two girls on Azalea Ave. as well?”
“Yeah, well…that was due to lightning,” said Izumi, frowning. “Said so in the paper.”
“Weird though,” said Mizaki, shaking her head, “how that Woodley kid got half-melted into the ground while Constance wound up in the power lines… and they never did find that Constance girl’s left hand.”
“Maybe the Chalmers’ Monster took it,” Kyoto chuckled. “Probably using it as a Glory Hand Lamp right now.”
I groaned loudly. “Oh, Gods! Let’s not go into this crap again! The Chalmers never had a seventh kid—mutated or otherwise, and whoever whacked them and every other missionary in town was probably motivated by anti-hualau propaganda.”
“Okay, Smartass,” said Kyoto testily. “How do you explain all the shredded human remains they all found in the backyard bunker?”
“Huh?” I said, startled. “What ‘shredded human remains?’”
Apparently, the grown-ups (my parents included) thought it was best to avoid telling their kids all the sickening details about what exactly occurred on that tumultuously stormy night. Just that the Chalmers were all part of a radical religious cult that had committed mass murder/suicide and that was it. End of story. However, secrets were hard to keep in this small town, and some people were quite willing to spill the beans, even when they signed a secrecy oath with the FBI.
Without even answering my question, my sisters started pulling out sheaves of newspaper from underneath the sofa cushions and dumping them onto the living room table. All of them were copies of various California newspapers. I looked at the Union Town: Times-Standard lying on top: BLOODY MASS MURDER SCENE NEAR ARSON HOMICIDE SITE. My mouth dropped open as I flipped to the next paper and read REAL LIFE SAWYER FAMILY? Then another: VICTIMS DESCRIBED AS “PUREED”. Still another: GRISLY CURTISVILLE SLAYINGS RAISES QUESTIONS—WAS ONE OR MORE OF THE CHALMERS INVOLVED? The next one made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and I was chilled to the bone. UNKNOWN CURTISVILLE “MONSTER” MENACES NEIGHBORING COMMUNITIES—CONNECTION WITH RECENT OCT. KILLINGS? Then this one from May of last year: MYSTERY DEEPENS OVER DISAPPEARANES OF FIVE LOCAL GIRLS AT FAIRE HAVEN MIDSUMMER PARTY—RESIDENTS BLAME CURTISVILLE MONSTER AS CULPRIT.
Well, that’s great, I thought, flipping through after page after page of fear and intrigue. Not only is it expanding its range, it’s not even waiting for the people to step outside. Let’s hope it’s not smart enough to use public transport, or us campers are majorly toast.
I glanced up, half-expecting to see my sisters grinning maliciously or hearing a snide warning along the lines of ‘Have a good time and don’t let any bears or bogeymen bite you on your way to the pot!’ Instead, I noticed their demeanor had suddenly changed. Normally jaunty and joking, they had become serious and solemn.
I heaved a deep sigh and rolled my eyes ceilingward. “Let me guess,” I groaned. “Several people have disappeared in the Willow Creek area, and there’s talk that the Curtisville monster got them too?”
My sisters looked at each other.
Finally Izumi spoke. “Well, no… there’s no other monster in Willow Creek to worry about… other than Big Foot. We didn’t quite tell you everything about those two girls that got hit by lightning last October—”
“Yeah, you told me that police couldn’t find Constance Greene’s left hand,” I said, interrupting, “so I figured you either have the hand squirreled away in a pickle jar somewhere or you know someone else who has it… most likely Yukiko, since he’s into that Goth-Metal, Dark stuff.”
“Well, we didn’t actually find the hand,” said Mizaki quietly.
I considered this. “Oo-kay, you saw a dog or a crow carry it off… so you decided to follow it?”
“No, we didn’t go anywhere that night,” said Kyoto severely, “because it was rainy, dark and we had to be all in bed by nine…”
“And it was also a school night,” Izumi quickly chimed in. “Thursday it was… the 22nd.”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Kyoto flung her hands up in frustration. “What difference does it make what specific god’s name for that day/night of the week? Everyone was in bed fast asleep… when it all happened!”
“Well, what did happen?” I asked desperately, “Besides, all that weird crap that was going on Azalea and Hewitt Rd.?”
"Izumi heard it first,” Kyoto went on, plunking herself down in a chair. “Woke us up, saying that one of the cats was outside the window wanting to come in… which didn’t make a whole lot of sense since the window's pretty high off the ground and there wasn’t anything for a cat to climb up on. Even though me and Mizaki knew both cats were in the laundry room asleep, we still got up to check it out—”
“And that’s when you saw the thing crawling around?” I exclaimed, interrupting again.
Izumi shook her head. “We didn’t find nothin’. No prints, scratches. Nothin’. Her tone turned to indignation as she eyed the other two. “I’m surprised I heard anything at all with all the hippopotamus snoring that was going on.”
“Hippopotamus, my butt!” snapped Kyoko. “I’ll have you know--!”
Mizaki sighed wearily. “Augh… just finish the damn story already.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Kyoto resignedly, “Eventually we decided it was just the wind blowing some twigs and other rubbish against the glass. Yet, as soon as we all hit the sack and turned out the light, we all heard it—tapping. Not random tapping, but tapping with a pattern to it.” She took a pen from her jean pocket and rapped on the arm of the chair: Two—Four. Four—Three.
Tensely, I watched.
Kyoto rapped again: Two—Four. Four—Three.
I turned and noted the blanched faces of Izumi and Mizaki; then turned back to look at Kyoto’s tense expression. I was floored—they were absolutely not making this ghost stuff up. They were actually scared. My adventurous, tomboy, critter-catching, devil-may-care sisters were now a bunch of lily-livered ninnies. It was shocking, absolutely shocking!
Before I could say another word, Kyoto tapped out the signal a third and fortunately final time: Two—Four. FOUR—THREE.
“Three times we heard it,” she went on, “and when we pulled open the curtain and looked out a second time, there was something looking back. A face was pressed up against the glass. It was pitch-black, but we could see still see enough because it was pale-gray and luminous-looking, but I knew who it was—it was Jane Woodley’s face, no one else in town had a big-eyed, pudgy baby face with a curly, cropped really short hairdo.”
Kyoto’s intense dislike of Jane Woodley was quite understandable. She was a dwarfish, rather unpleasant hualau twit of a seventh-grader with a fanatical streak. Most her time was spent snooping around, trying to find out secrets about her fellow classmates and close neighbors, and trying to browbeat and blackmail people to join her tiny strait-laced, fun-stifling alliance, even going as far as to spread malicious gossip. Fortunately, no one believed her since she was a well-known trouble-maker with various behavioral problems. Recently, she got expelled for trying to use a brassbound copy of the Holy Lamb Book as a deadly weapon against some students who had disagreed with her views. She also reeked badly of BO and also had a severe case of acne. Not pretty, especially when she was invading your personal space, trying to convince you were in desperate need of a Dose of the Lamb God’s Good Wholesome Lovin’. Oh yeah, and she was constantly trying to speak to us in really horrible Japanese. Eventually, it got so bad that we didn’t bother trying to correct her anymore. We all decided to ignore her completely, hoping that maybe she would just get bored and bother someone for a change.
Well, she did eventually leave, but not on her own accord and now she was haunting my sisters, although at the time, they probably didn’t know she had just had her mortal coil severed in a rather dramatic and violent fashion.
“It remained me of raw bread dough,” Kyoto continued on, “soft and pale as a mushroom and then these two hands appeared below this thing’s face. The right one was definitely Jane’s being all puffy with short, stubby fingers, but the left didn’t belong at all… it was long with slim fingers and I recognized it immediately as belonging to that Constance chick.”
I was stunned. “What? How?”
“Because she had syndactyly,” Mizaki blurted out, causing me to jump. “She showed me both her hands when I was at the dog park once. The last two fingers were fused together on each hand.”
“Well, she was probably embarrassed,” said Izumi quietly. “Plus Jane was trying to be all chummy and nicey-nice with you at the time, and you know how really judgmental and gossipy she was.”
“Yeah, I remember,” I muttered, before quickly changing the subject. “So what happened next?”
Izumi immediately took over from Kyoto. “So there she was, her weird, ugly mug starting at us like one of those Oiwa ghost lanterns. Then Kyoto shot at it with a Leipzig flare gun, shattering the pane, and then in a wink it was gone.”
My mouth dropped open as I looked back at Kyoto. “Leipzig flare gun? Where the hell did you get a Steampunker flare gun at?”
Kyoto smiled smugly as she gave a slight shrug. “Won it off a raffle at the Goblin Market in Terrapin Station.”
I snorted disgustedly with a roll of eyes (a typical Satoui family characteristic).
I knew about the flare gun incident, since I was awakened from a deep sleep by the whistling bang of the flare bursting the window, followed shortly by both my parents yelling, and then the sudden burst of sirens as a couple of police cruisers pulled up.
My sister nearly got arrested that night for firing off an illegal firearm and for arson/murder charges. But she got let go with a citation when witnesses came forward saying that she wasn’t anywhere near the Chalmers mansion when the blaze took place.
Up until now, I thought it was just a regular, run-of-the-mill flare gun, and the burglar was one of the Jane’s skank toadies snooping around, trying to come up with some dirt on us.
As usual, I was always the last one to know because I was too busy focusing on my goals on being a geeky overachiever, and trying to distance myself from my sisters’ mischievous and prankish nature.
Well, going back to Izumi’s account of that infamous night.
“Kyoto decided she was going to thrash that Jane or whoever that freak was for giving us a scare like that. So she told Mizaki to keep watch and handed her the Leipzig. Then she took a baseball bat while I took a fire poker and then we hurried outside.
“There were a whole bunch of dogs in our yard.”
“What... you mean like hellhounds?” I had been watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer around that time, and the fifty-fourth episode involved hellhounds attacking a senior prom.
“Nah,” Izumi shook her head. “Just regular dogs. Here a dog, there a dog. Everywhere a dog, dog… and they were all chasing something around the house. We just caught a glimpse of it as the dogs were mobbing and chewing at it. It was like a fat, headless human made out of soiled rags and jellyfish slime… really gross-looking. Well, we were so peeved by this creepiness in what we thought was just a costume that we decided to make a citizen’s arrest. We must have run around that house like six or seven times. It was like something out a Looney Tunes cartoon, and by then Mom, Dad and most of the neighbors were out, wondering if we had finally gone off the deep end…”
“So did the dogs finally get the Thing?” I asked anxiously.
Kyoto’s eyes narrowed as she shrugged. “I don’t know. They all ran off into the bushes just as the cops were showing up.”
Damn, I thought sullenly. Missed the whole thing because I was so snail-slow at getting out of bed!
“But we did we find something interesting,” said Izumi brightly.
With a tense frown, Mizaki dug her hand into her sweater pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. After carefully smoothing it out, she handed it to me.
“Kyoto found this stuck to the bottom of her shoes. Don’t know what it is exactly, but it looks like something related to hoodoo.”
I sat rigid and still, looking at the heavily creased and crumpled photo showing five teenage girls hovering mid-air in front of a ruined wall, their faces just blurry smears; just as I was sitting dead still, right now on that crowded noisy bus, staring at that damn photo that had just slid out of the comic section of my newspaper into my lap. I felt cold chills creeping over me like hoarfrost, because I knew Mizaki had locked up that photo up in her desk after she had shown it to me. I saw her put the key in her pants pocket, and she never once took it out while my luggage was packed up—ready to go.
And you know what I found most frightening about the picture now. Something that caused me to get that chilling feeling that something was very wrong and it was only going to get a whole hell of a lot worse.
There were now only four girls in that photo.
Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart
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