a lot of things, adulterer, barroom brawler, and -- if you count the war -- killer.
But Iím no liar, and it rubbed me wrong to have to fib to my
granddaughter when she asked me who was the strangest person to ever come into
my shop. Telling her the truth would
have been kindred to a sin. No
twelve-year-old needs to know that the things going bump in the night aren't
always products of a youngster's imagination.
My granddaughter doesnít need to know that monsters are real.
Iím in my fifties, and I wish I didnít know.
But there is no going back -- not after that night.
started out like any other. The sun
fell out of the sky fast, plunging the 6th Street club district in
own the Ink Spot Tattoo and Piercing Parlor on the south end of
this particular August evening, I had just walked into the shop after my
semi-nightly viewing of the Mexican free-tailed bats leaving the Congress
Avenue Bridge. I had seen it a thousand times,
but it never ceased to fill me with wonder, watching that black cloud of just
over a million bats leaving all at once in search for food.
were the bats?" my assistant Chloe asked.
It was my standard reply.
checked out early that night leaving me alone to pierce and tattoo the dozen or
so college kids that would eventually stagger in.
a little past eleven, there were three girls in the waiting room and one in my
chair. I was doing a quick touch up
of a rose that had faded from too much exposure to spring break, when out of the
corner of my eye I saw a very tall black woman speaking with the girls in the
waiting area. Didnít notice her
come in, but the hum of the needle draws most of my focus.
I had a second to look up, she was handing out money.
Each girl quickly snatched an unknown amount of cash from the stranger
and promptly left my establishment. Then
the women had the gall to turn my open sign to closed.
this point, my blood pressure was about ready to do a Mt. St. Helens.
casually walked to the back of the store, as if what she had done was the most
natural thing in the world. Without
addressing me, she looked down at the girl in my chair. "Sweetie.
How 'bout you come back some other evenin' and it'll be on me."
girl in the chair looked at the two hundred-dollar bills the tall woman was
holding out to her Ė then back at me. With
a sigh, I held up my hands in surrender, and she jumped out of the chair.
the span of a moment, I was alone with this tall, gaunt woman.
Her hair was cut so tight around her scalp I swear it was painted on.
She wore a black leather mini-skirt, patent black boots, a tight fitting
blouse with a macabre array of zippers and a long scarf, completely concealing
her slender neck. She looked
Caribbean or Creole -- probably from New Orleans
pretty pissed, I gazed into her brown eyes. "You just sent about a thousand
dollars worth of business out the door, honey.
Can you give me one good reason why I donít bounce your butt outta
reached into her coffin-shaped purse and pulled out two thousand-dollar bills.
I had never seen a thousand-dollar bill, let alone two.
tried to get my bug eyes under control as she said, "I need a piercing
done. I heard you were quite good."
the greedy glare of all those zeros, my anger evaporated. "So
you need a piercing, do ya," I said as I grabbed the bills, tucking them
into my shirt pocket.
First things first, though. The
security cameras, they feed into a VCR?"
She pointed to the three cameras mounted around the shop.
Wonít be much help to the cops catchin' the guy who blows my brains out
if they werenít." I pointed
to the VCR strapped under my worktable.
stepped forward bent over and popped the tape out.
"If you donít mind?" Fact
was I did mind, but there was two thousand dollars in my pocket that seemed to
scream, No ya donít, dummy! The
bills won out.
kind of piercing do you have in mind?"
me." She grinned showing teeth. "Him." She gestured to the front
of the shop.
in my waiting room was a dead man. That
was my first thought anyway, but when it started walking toward me, I thought
Ė- okay, itís a walking dead man.
the man approached, it was painfully clear he was very ill.
His skin was snow white and dripping with sweat.
It was a hot August night, but not that hot, not by a long ways.
When he was about halfway to us, his body went into some kind of
convulsion, slumping against the wall.
Lady rushed forward, and put his arm over her shoulder, then dragged him to the
chair. Strong gal.
Stronger than she looked.
the matter with him?"
travel well. Heíll be fine."
face was pale and ghostly. I could
see dark veins just under translucent skin, as if the blood inside of them had
stopped flowing a while ago. I
wanted to say this boy needs a mortician, not a piercing, but I settled for,
"I think he needs a doctor."
canít help him," she countered. "Now
let's get this done." I looked
into the manís eyes. They were
hauntingly gray and old. Very old.
realized at that point that I wanted Creole Lady and Zombie Man out of my shop
as fast as I could get them gone. "All
right, I have a selection of stainless steel posts, studs, and hoops over here.
What did -"
I have one," she interrupted. From
inside her purse she pulled out a small leather box.
Embroidered on the top was an Ankh -- big and ancient looking.
It wasnít an uncommon symbol, especially after that movie with David
Bowie that I never got around to seeing. Itís
supposed to be Egyptian or some such thing -- means everlasting life.
the lid back, she revealed a chrome metallic-looking post of a very thick
gauge. "Thatís a bit big for
a new piercing," I offered.
doesn't matter. Just do it,"
put on some rubber gloves and retrieved the thing from the creepy little box.
"I need to sterilize it."
need. Itís taken care of."
She snapped the box closed as the dead man in my chair started to
convulse again. "Besides, there
writhed in his seat and leaned forward almost with his head between his knees
until the spasms stopped. As he sat
back, his eyes seemed to fixate on my throat.
His mouth dropped open and released a soft sigh.
I swear he was watching the blood flow in my neck.
my attention captivated by Zombie Man, I failed to notice from where Creole Lady
had pulled a set of handcuffs. By
the time I noticed what the gal was doing, she had just finished cuffing her
friend's hands to the chair. The
clinking sound of the cuffs closing reminded me how much I wanted them out of my
now. I donít know what you two are
into, but I donít do anything weird. Look,
maybe we should do this some other time. Your
friend here seems real sick, and to be honest, a little creepy.
my mama has told me once, she told me a thousand times, if it donít feel
right, it ainít right. The
small 22-caliber pistol Creole Lady was now pointing at my nose seemed to echo
Mamaís sentiment. Damn, I really
should have listened to her more.
more screwing around. Get it done.
Now!" demanded Creole lady.
wasnít the first time a gun had been thrust in my face, but it was the first
time I didnít ever for even a minute question the gun owner's willingness to
right. Where does it go?" I
tried to sound cool. Not sure if I
eyebrow will do," she snapped then pointed with the gun.
leaned forward to mark the spot with a pen when he suddenly lurched outward with
his mouth and snapped at my throat like a rabid dog.
I canít do anything with him bouncing around like that."
Lady seemed to have a moment of indecision, but just a moment.
In an obviously practiced move, she took up a position behind the chair
and swiftly wrapped her free arm around Zombie Manís neck.
Her other hand kept the gun waving in my face.
get on with it," she snarled with locked teeth.
I tossed the pen to the ground and took up my piercing blade. As I pinched the skin above the manís eyebrow I heard a soft fracturing sound. I glanced down at the manís open mouth and watched in horror as his canine teeth grew a full inch.
"What the hell is
he?" I screamed and recoiled.
you got less than a minute to get this done or we're both real dead!"
Her eyes met mine, and I could see that I wasnít the only one about to
piss their pants.
I heard the splintering sounds again I tried not to look, but couldnít help
myself. His mouth was open wider
than was possible and the rest of his jagged ivory was growing. His teeth looked
like inmates during a prison break, scattering in all directions Ė escaping
the confinement in the once human mouth.
it!" I heard someone scream.
reached up for his eyebrow again and my fingers slipped off.
First, I thought it was the manís sweat that was making him slippery,
but as I took a harder look, my jaw dropped open with a gasp.
was hair growing out of his forehead. Thin
at first but in seconds it merged with his hairline and became as thick as
the real noise started. Bone
cracking sounds came from his whole body as he started to reconstruct from the
inside out. His mouth started to
push forward, becoming a snout barely able to restrain its teeth.
The skin covering his convulsing fingers splintered and cracked as claws
forced their way out of the tips, like new-born reptiles bursting through
it!" came the voice again.
"I canít even see his eyebrow any more! Lord, have mercy!"
Diving in, I made a
hole somewhere about the eyebrow Ė or where the eyebrow used to be.
As fast as I could, I shoved the unsterilized post in the hole as a set
of teeth snapped at my arm.
heard the sound of breaking metal and I saw one of his clawed hands, now free,
flailing wildly. The torn half of
the handcuff still encircled the wrist, which was covered with thick and still
growing fur. I fell out of my chair,
hoping to stay out of the monsterís grasp.
Lady dropped the gun and used her other arm to try to restrain the flailing hair
covered hand. As she grasped at it,
the claws and hair started to retract. After
several more violent moments, filled with thrashing and God help me, howling,
their hands finally met in the air and their fingers intertwined, like long-lost
beastís face began to fade away and in its place was one that started to look
human. I got a few seconds glance at
what a Neanderthal might have looked like as the inhuman snout and teeth
retracted, leaving large hairy cheekbones and brow, framing the man's face.
In a moment more, even those disappeared, sinking back into the normal
folds of human expression.
pulled my butt off the ground as Creole Lady uncuffed her companionís other
stretched like someone waking from a long nap, looking much better than he did
when he came in. He looked alive.
"Was I a bother?" he said to Creole Lady.
sweetie." She kissed his forehead. "We were running a bit late,
thatís all. Wonít happen again.
spun in the chair and looked at himself in the mirror.
"Very nice," he said, touching the new pierced eyebrow.
Lady must have read the confusion on my face.
"He doesnít have it under control yet.
The silver helps." She smiled, turned to her companion. "Lets
go. You're on stage in a half hour." She
dropped a couple of tickets in the chair and said, "Come check out the
thanks. Iím a Crosby, Stills and
yourself." As I watched the two exit my shop, arm-in-arm, Creole Lady
stopped at the entrance and changed my closed sign back to open.
Then as quickly as they had come, they were gone.
stared at the reflection of the full moon in the glass of my front window just
listening to my heart pound. After
my circulatory system returned to its normal rhythm, or as close as I would ever
get to it again, I looked down at the tickets.
They read Ė One night only at The Bone Yard Ė The musical stylings
of THE LON CHANEY JUNIORS.
Yes sir, I'll tell you what, that is one tale I won't be telling my grandbabies.
Copyright © Kevin Anderson 2004
About the Author (updated 8/5/05):
Anderson got a late start in fiction writing but in the last three years his
work has been published more than forty times appearing in such publications as
Surreal Magazine, The Book of Dark Wisdom, Deathgrip: Exit
Laughing, Darkness Rising 2005, Farthing,
Vacant Funhouse. Anderson has been published alongside notable authors such
as Ramsey Campbell, William F. Nolan, Tim Lebbon, F. Paul Wilson, Nancy
Kilpatrick, Thomas Deja and Mort Castle. Anderson earned a B.A. in Mass
Communication with a minor in Media Production from CSUF and attended graduate
courses at Texas A&M in the field of Marketing Management. As an advertising
and marketing professional for the last thirteen years, Anderson has written
award winning copy for TV and radio. He currently lives and writes in Menifee,
California, sharing a humble residence with his beautiful wife, Hope, and three
year-old daughter, Avalon Rain. For more on Anderson, please visit his
Lone Star Stories * Fiction and Poetry with a Texas Twist * Webzine Copyright © 2003-2004
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