Winston pulled up to Cecilia’s cabin. The location was nestled in a region of the Appalachian mountains in Northern South Carolina. He hopped out of his car and shut his door.
A gun fired at the same time from inside the cabin.
Concerned, he rushed inside.
The cabin was small, dark, and dank. Opposite the entrance was a furnace with a small stove, a bed, fold-able chairs, books, and a desk. To Winston’s right was a small pantry area with a sink. It was a square with a tiny bathroom behind a thin door.
Blood and gray matter were splattered on the couch, walls, ceiling, and walls–skull fragments and eyeball chunks scattered in between.
There was no body, nor any sign of Cecilia.
Winston walked over to a pair of sunglasses on top of a note.
A letter from a friend in a distant land reads:
Novi nihil sub sol, I guess. Sorry.
The curiosity got to me.
I needed to see how it worked.
I didn’t do the sealing ritual correctly, trapping the alp and myself. I don’t know how to explain what I saw.
Use the trifecta every time.
Ç’est la vie y todo eso. わかりまーか?
Comienza en Sul, allez vous au nord, そして東, and then back to the origin.
The alps can’t see the color silver, so use a silver marker.
Forgive the mess, if you find one. I struck a deal with my shadow to make amends. She said we’d be square if I did it with her as a sign of trust.
If I failed, I am where the shadows converge and the skeletons sing symphonies in whispers and shrieks.
Kalcyphir, the Hand of Caleb, warned me. Three times, actually. He said shadows are not like people despite our adjacent and parallel existences. Their flesh is their soul.
If you find a mess, it’s no one’s fault. I mean it.
I got her bit for my own curiosity. I needed to know how and why the alps turn.
If my head isn’t intact, my shadow lied to me and it’s a moot point. Just wanted to make sure you didn’t hate me. I waited until you pulled up to say goodbye. I couldn’t do it to your face without debating if it would work.
You would have talked me out of it.
See ya later, Alligator.
I’ll miss your face and your way with words. Bury my shades if you find them. You were the best and my favorite.
Winston crumbled the note and shoved it into his coat pocket. He took off his detective hat and bowed his head in a moment of silence. Winston kept his shades on. “Goodbye, Cecilia,” he said, solemn and crestfallen. He inhaled his despair, and cried with a straight face.
No body left behind, only Cecilia’s exploded skull remained.
Her shades lay pristine in the middle of a nearby coffee table.
“Babby,” as it was known was a grotesque entity that the locals said patrolled a nearby abandoned construction site.
“We done been tryina’ build there for a hot minute. Damn. Place is spooked. Spooky, boy,” Mr. Emerson declared to Winston, a curious traveller. “Why the interest? Place is a dump, man. Boy, I tell ya, ain’t nuffin’ of interest up in ‘at. Ain’t diddly squat, boy.” He rubbed his glasses with an embroidered cloth from his vest’s breast pocket. Mr. Emerson lowered his straw hat and stared at the half built complex. A breeze flapped some tarp and hissed through some of the iron beams lattices as the sun continued setting.
Faint whispers carried in the wind. There were no homes or people for 120 miles. They were in the mountains between Arkansas and northern Texas.
The apartment complex was to be built over a sprawling shops. The Tex-Arkana towns and cities needed additional funding. Rather than building more and increasing crime in their own towns, the municipalities bound tax dollars together, improved their schools and cities collectively while building a city that would serve as the additional tax stream. The economics made sense to the locals. They were educated yet sensible and very practical despite their drawals and differing dialects.
Winston pulled out a notepad. “I’m a reporter for the National Beach Cities Tribune,” Winston declared, indifferent.
Mr. Emerson’s demeanor changed. “Look, son, you ain’t no reporter anymore ‘en I’m han’some to my wife of 40 years. We ain’t kissed in ten years,” he said, spitting on the dirt. His brown and inflamed gums receded and exposed the yellow, gray and brown roots of his remaining teeth. The gaps in his teeth were so wide he didn’t need to floss. Food never got stuck between his teeth. “You military? Government? A spook? Contractor?”
Winston’s glasses reflected the red sun as he turned to Mr. Emerson. He removed his sun glasses. The silver frame glistened in the sunset as crows cawed in the distance and flapped into the reddening sky.
Winston put his notepad in his breast pocket. “You want the truth? Or you want what I believe you will be most comfortable with. Some knowledge you can’t take back, Mr. Emerson,” Winston said, indifferent, unreadable yet confident in some clearly horrific information. The remaining life in his eyes held a foreboding melancholy as he waited for Mr. Emerson’s response.
Mr. Emerson inhaled, held his breath asecond and shook his head. “I’d rather not know,” he declared, exhaling heavy. He nodded while biting his lips and glaring at the ground. Then, Mr. Emerson shivered as he shook his head slowly. “Yeah, I reckon I don’t wanna know nothin’, son,” he said, empathetically terrified. He looked at the silver glasses in Winston’s hands. Old Mr. Emerson’s stomach sank when he noticed the lenses were too black to see through from either side despite being reflective head on. He glanced at symbols and tiny letters inscribed in the otherwise generic frame.
Winston put the glasses back on. “Is there anything I should know about the most recent construction attempt that wasn’t published in the papers?” He asked, cutting to the chase. Then watched dust swirl. Shadows scurried past exposed windows. “When was the most recent death and how did it happen?”
Mr. Emerson gulped and looked at his car. “Had a feelin’ you’d ask sooner or later,” he said, walking to his sedan. The car beeped when he pulled the front passenger’s door handle. Lights flickered. Mr. Emerson reached into the car, grabbed a manilla envelope and shut the door. SLAM! echoed through the construction site and into the surrounding woods, drowining out the whispers in the wind.
The manilla envolpe had the word “BABBY” in red caps. There was a large stamp that read “Confidential. Property of the Tex-Arkana Interstate PD.”
“I don’t know what you brings you here. This is where I get going. You came with a lot of pull. Whatever is going on here, ain’t my business. NSA done called. Tol’ me you was comin’. Also said the reporter bit.
Winston put the manilla envelope in his detective coat’s inner pocket. “Sir,” he responded.
The men concluded their interaction with a firm handshake handshake. Mr. Emerson avoided Winston’s lenses, and shuffled to his car, uneasy, unsettled and more Christian than he was a few hours ago.
Winston pulled the manilla envelope out and leaned over a chainlink fence surrounding the massive site.
He pulled out a packet of papers stapled together. “This report confirms the existence of a rogue Mantlean entity calling itself “Babby.” Babby’s composition is unknown. The only thing we know is that it covets jewels. We do know that Babby is an Earthen Resonance Entity. It only forms where atrocities occur. It survives on the flesh of ghosts and living humans when no spirits remain,” Winston read, examining sketches. He skimmed through a several pages with pictures and names of the deaths in the area surrounding the dig site. “This was milita battle site. A skirmish that wasn’t reported in the history books because the unit was reported as MIA,” he whispered as he skimmed. “There was a Tex-Arkana Militia fighting the US government way back when. The milita was blown to shreds. They didn’t stand a chance. What feds didn’t count on was Babby had been coming out of a nearby cavern connected to the Mantle. It had been surviving on Caddo and Kickapoo Indian souls until the civil war. When Bowie County was formed, according to the sources referenced in the appendix, Babby lulled the souls born of macabre tragedy to a near by shrine it created for itself. Journal entries and certain native peoples have claimed that talismans kept the spirits trapped within a certain radius. It is presumed that, Babby kept itself amused by returning home to the Mantle and popping up to “hunt” his ghostly prey at random. It likes intense human emotions. Negative emotions are the strongest and easiest to reproduce. Based on what we have available, it is believed that Babby kills for sport. Several clairvoyants at our employ, suggest to proceed with caution. They were unable to see Babby’s face clearly.m and were unable to see what it is truly capable of. Our assertions are based on the attached findings. Report as instructed. If you cannot drive Babby out, do not return. We will neutralize you on site to maintain the integrity of our operation and keep the public at large from attracting these entities to them unknowingly.” Winston continued reading the papers and looking at the attached photos. He walked to his coupe and tossed the manilla envelope on his seat. He locked the vehicle, adjusted his noir detective hat and unlocked several padlocks. He yanked a rusted metal door open. It scraped and screeched loud, sharp and eerie as it swung.
Winston crossed the threshold of the complex’s entrance. Shadows looked at him from the windows. Some waved him in as others appeared to pound on the glass seeking escape. A chill ran down Winston’s spine.
The sun set completely on the horizon. Winston passed powerless generators and flood lights sprawled about. He crossed two fully asphalted blocks and completed sidewalks before reaching the completed portion of the apartment complex.
Darkness swallowed the night as he opened the door and walked inside.
A hand tugged at his trench coat. Children giggled in the darkness. “Boys!” A disembodied whisper echoed, deep, slow, and drained of life. Winston ignored stomping, erratic and abrupt footsteps, walking down the hall underneath an elegant staircase.
No flashlight in hand, Winston navigated over piles of debris, cinderblocks, wood, and folded tarp adorning his shades.
Cackling echoed from a dark corner. He ignored it.
The ghostly figure of a woman ran past the doorway ahead.
Winston lit a joint and tipped his detective hat. He inhaled, trying to keep his hands steady. The air froze. Winston trembled, then sighed. His exhale echoed in the open concrete floor plan. The entire first floor was like the entrance to an abandoned luxury hotel. The ornate ceiling was tall — at least 12 feet. Exposed wires stuck out from half-installed light fixtures. Elevators lined a long hall with empty shops and shopettes.
The lobby had no furniture except for a large, concrete, partly-finished security counter. Buckets rolled on their sides when a breeze kicked up if they were not filled with construction materials or wires. Picnic chairs were left leaning against the wall. Thick dust covered the tops of clusters of three to five picnic chairs in separate areas of the lobby.
“Don’t look up,” a voice whispered.
Winston kept walking until he reached the far end of the lobby. The supporting walls were intact, and the bones of an industrial kitchen were visible, or so Winston thought. He took out a marker and a hand towel. Winston wiped the ground and etched an equilateral triangle around himself. Each 60-degree angle was inscribed with a letter and a number.
From inside the large triangle, Winston made specific gestures a certain number of times, then walked over the triangle. From outside the triangle, he did the gestures in reverse order. Then, Winston sat against a wall, smoking his joint, and waited as orbs gathered within the triangle’s area. He blew smoke into the triangle and captured glimpses of warped faces screaming in fear and agony. He shivered when he saw a face in the smoke grin. Winston thought about another assignment. He cringed and continued blowing smoke into the mass of orbs accumulating in the center of his symbol.
Dozens of orbs gathered over several hours.
They moved at various speeds, oscillations, and trajectories.
BAM! SLAM! WHAM! BAM! SLAM!
All the installed windows and doors slammed open and shut out of sync by a fraction of a second, converging into a maddening cacophony. Winston tried to contain the forming pit in his stomach.
The air was still. Suffocating.
His stomach tensed. He sat up against the wall.
The slamming continued.
The orbs moved faster within the trap, as faces continued shrieking in the smoke.
“BAH!” a shriek wailed from a small grotesque creature at the other end of the long, narrow hall.
Winston’s lenses flashed.
Winston froze in horror.
Babby was a little man with a stick figure face. Beady black eyes and curly mustache. He wore an old-timey tuxedo and had a cane.
Babby grinned exposing a row of sharp, glowing teeth.
“My, my, what luck, you should so happen to drop by. Alive and fresh. Lean flesh. Muscles and tendons to the sinew. Rest assured, I will in fact kill you,” Babby whispered into the darkness. He hovered toward Winston, chuckling. Babby’s small hands rested over his cane as the building seemed to move around Babby, bringing Winston close to him rather than the other way around.
Winston exhaled smoke, revealing several ghosts standing around him. Their faces were distorted and smeared. The clear faces were stuck in half shrieks and snarling, vengeful poses.
Babby cackled as Winston let out a loud, “Nope!”
He jumped to his feet. His joints weak and his stomach upset, he stood in place. Panicking. Cold sweat trickled down his forehead. Babby hovered closer. Then, Babby stopped.
Hovering over the center of the triangle, Babby turned into a stone figurine and dropped to the ground. It was a garden gnome with a big white beard and round spectacles over a bulbous nose.
Winston trembled as he set his shades down between hordes of spirits. He took several steps away from the glasses and held his shaking right hand.
Winston began convulsing as his shades hovered up from the ground.
His eyes turned black as he folded over from the pain in his stomach.
Winston’s shadow left his body and wore his sunglasses in the darkness. It turned to Winston and said, “You’ve done well. A few more and they’ll return us to normal, Winston.”
“Until then, we will continue to see our worlds through each other’s eyes. Forced to correct those who draw power from their shadows as you once did,” Winston’s shadow declared, devoid of emotion. Winston’s shadow towered over the creature called Babby. Babby’s tunic had a patch that read, “Tighearnach.”
Thanks for reading!
Like my character Lars, Tighearnach, is a Mantlean. Read my first book. It’s a collection of short stories.