A man of my word
Jackson was starting to shiver, as the cold night air had seeped in through his thick leather jacket. He had already smoked three cigarettes, and was reaching into his pocket to get another one, when he saw the lights on the first floor of the house flicker on and then off. His heart beat instantly increased, as his mouth suddenly became extra dry. He did a quick mental check. The screwdriver was in his back pocket. The hammer was in a belt loop on the side of his jeans, and the revolver was in the inside pocket of his jacket. He reached down and picked up the bolt cutters. The metal was cold to the touch, and stung the skin of his hand, but he sucked it up and moved out from the safety of the cornfield.
He reached the left side of the house, which was the side opposite the garage, and tried to lift the first window he came to. When it wouldn’t budge, he cursed under his breath, and moved to the next one, which didn’t open either. “Fuck.”
The curtains to both windows were closed, but Jackson found that there was a crack in the ones of the first window. He put one eye up to the tiny crevice and peeked into the house. He could tell that he was looking into the living room. The lights were off, but the stairway light was on, casting its faint illumination over the first-floor room. Jackson could make out an old TV, with an even older leather recliner situated in front of it. The glare of the light reflected off numerous pictures that hung on the walls. Jackson moved his head slightly, so that he could get a better look on the other side of the room, and saw a body lying on the shag carpeted floor, off to the side of the recliner.
The body looked like that of a woman, but Jackson couldn’t make out any features given the faint light of the room, and the small crack he was peering in through. He couldn’t even tell if she was breathing or not. Was it Norma Jean? Or did Mark Karle kill her already, and go out and find himself another victim? It didn’t matter, Jackson told himself, he needed to get into the house.
Jackson lightly tapped on the window with his finger, but the body did not move. Taking out the flathead screwdriver, he placed it in the crack between the lower and upper frames of the window, just under the old metal swivel latch, that was used to lock the window. He gave the end of the handle a solid whack with the hammer. The screwdriver separated the two window frames slightly, but not enough. He peered back in through the crack of the curtains. The body was still lying on the floor, and it didn’t look like anyone else in the house had heard him.
He gave the end of the handle another whack, this time a little harder. A dog began to bark from behind the house. The necessity for Jackson to gain entry into the house took over all other plans he had. “Fuck it,” he said, smashing the window with the hammer. The sound of breaking glass echoed through the living room, as he reached in and undid the latch, and pushed the window open.
* * *
Mark Karle stepped out of the shower and dried off. He slipped on a pair of comfortable sweat pants, and a plain white tee shirt. Wiping the condensation from the mirror, he gazed upon his reflection. His mother had finally fallen asleep, with a little help from her medication. Mark had spent a better part of an hour cleaning up the caked-on shit from her diapers. He knew that he brought this punishment upon himself, by not changing her more often, but he could only clean up so much feces from a grown adult in one day.
He had given her a little extra medicine tonight, because he was planning on staying up late, and wanted to sleep in. Norma Jean had put up a good fight the last time he had visited her, he thought, looking over the new bruises on his knuckles. He was looking forward to relieving some more stress. His head snapped toward the bathroom door, when he heard the sound of breaking glass from downstairs. Thoughts of his plaything escaping rushed through his mind. He started to move toward the door, when the sight of his breath becoming visible in the air in front of him. The temperature of the bathroom took a dramatic change, as ice began to gather around the edges of the mirror. He stared at the ice in utter confusion. What the hell was going on, he wondered? Then, something in the reflection of the mirror made him stop dead in his tracks. Standing behind him was Tracy Lafond.
Mark stared at the reflection of the first life he had ever taken. His heart began to beat so hard that it felt like it was going to explode from his chest. “What are you…How are you…” he stammered. This wasn’t possible he told himself. There was no way in hell that she was standing behind him. She was right where he had put her all those years ago. Buried in the back yard, under the bird bath. This was just some kind of weird hallucination, he thought, but the sound of breaking glass had been real. “Get a hold of yourself,” he said out loud. “Stay strong.”
Tracy lunged forward, and placed both of her hands on both sides of Mark’s head. “But you’re so weak,” Mark’s reflection said, as the image of the young girl was nowhere to be found.
“Stop saying that!” Mark yelled at his reflection.
“But it’s true.”
“No, it’s not!”
“If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t even have anyone to play with,” his reflection said, with a mocking smirk. “Who do you think it was egging you on for all these years? Pushing you. Prodding you. Gentle nudges here and there. Bending your will to mine, so that you would to do all of those horrible. It has always been me.”
“You’re lying,” Mark told his reflection. “I wanted to do those things! I did those things! Me, not you!”
“You wanted to do those things, but you didn’t have the balls to really follow through, now did you?”
“I killed you, didn’t I?” Mark asked. “Buried you right in my own backyard.”
Mark’s reflection gave him a smirk. “That was different, and in a way, I made you do that too. And what happened after that? Nothing. Nothing for twenty years, until you came back home. Came back to her.”
Mark’s eyes widened in the realization of the words being spoke to him.
“I followed you, you know. I was with you when you left home. When you moved into that piss poor studio apartment in Los Angeles. I was there watching all your failed attempts at love. Heather, Joellen, Mary. I was there when you trolled all those high schools, looking for your next precious rape fantasy to jerk off to.”
“It wasn’t until we actually returned home, to take care of your dear old mother, that I finally discovered how I could end my never-ending hell. I truly believe that if you would have never returned, you wouldn’t have ever killed again. But upon seeing my unmarked grave, I concocted a scheme to bring about your downfall.”
“I found that the more anger I had, the more persuasive I could be, and the more persuasive I could be the more I influence I had on you. It was actually rather easy once you started to loath your mother.”
“I still remember the night I finally pushed you over the edge. Remember? We were watching that stupid romantic comedy movie? She sat down in the row in front of us, and the smell of her flowery perfume almost chocked me out, when she walked by with her friends. She had that long blonde hair, just like mine. Just like your mother’s. I kept catching you looking at her. I began to whisper things into your ear. Things that I wanted you to do to her. I knew I had you when I saw that hard on you had going on in your pants.”
“Get out of my head!” Mark screamed, slapping himself on the side of his head.
“You want to say hello?” his reflection asked. “She’s here with us.” Jessica took the place of Mark’s reflection. Her dead eyes glaring at him with such hatred. “And let’s not forgot about Allison Murphey.” The image in the mirror changed to that of Mark’s third victim. “Laura’s here too.” The image of Allison changed to Laura Elliott.
Mark closed his eyes, as his breathing became erratic. “This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening,” he told himself out loud. “This isn’t real. Get a hold of yourself.”
“You did everything I suggested.” His reflection was back in the mirror, but Mark wasn’t looking. But for some reason he couldn’t pull himself away from the mirror. He remembered that the sound of breaking glass, but his feet wouldn’t move, no matter how hard he tried.
“Everything, except for the one thing I wanted you to do the most. The one thing that would bring me the most joy in my afterlife. The one thing that would make you mine forever. Why won’t you kill your fucking mother! You hate her with every fiber of your being, but you just won’t do it. I have pushed you and pushed you. I’ve even pushed her.”
“Don’t talk about her!”
“Her fragile mind was so easy to manipulate. I barely even had to try. She was putty in my hands. I had no idea that someone could even produce that much shit, and yet you cleaned it up. Every fucking time. You even give her her special bath time. You really are a sick, demented pervert. Mommy really does get your rocks off, doesn’t she?”
“No, no, no,” Mark said to himself. “This isn’t happening.”
“Oh, it’s happening. You took everything from me that night. I only turned you into the man you are now, because I honestly thought that you weren’t smart enough to have made it this far, without being caught. I wanted to take your life away from you, just like you did to me, and I have ensured that now, haven’t I? You will spend the rest of your life in a small cell because of me. But I’ve decided that that alone won’t satisfy me. Now, I’m going to take away the only purpose you have left in your pathetic life, and I’m going to make you be the one who does it.”
Mark’s reflection took the form of Tracy once again. Her blue, hate filled, eyes glared at him from the other side of the mirror. She blew him a kiss before running through the door and disappearing from the bathroom. Mark rushed out into the hall, just in time to hear his mother scream his name.
* * *
Jackson lifted himself up through the open window, being careful not to cut himself on any of the broken glass that littered the window sill. His feet crunched against the broken glass on the floor as he made his way to the side of the body lying on the shag carpet. Due to the darkness of the room, he only found out that it was Lilly, when his hand passed through her side, when he tried to shake the body to see if it was still alive.
“Lilly,” he said, as loud as he dared, looking up toward the light of the stairs. He blew out a sigh of relief, when the ghost of the young girl began to stir. “What the hell is going on?”
Lilly slowly got to her feet, and looked anxiously around the room. “Tracy…she absorbed the others. I tried to stop her, but she’s strong now. Really strong. I think she’s going to try to kill Mark.”
“Good,” Jackson replied. “Let her do the work for us.”
“No,” Lilly replied. “You said it before. You just can’t murder someone. That will mark your soul forever. If Jessica, Allison, and Laura are still inside of her when she does it, I don’t think that any of them will be able to cross over. Doing something like that will change them, and not for the better.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Stick to the plan,” Lilly answered, heading toward the stairs. “Get Norma Jean out of here first. I’ll try to stop Tracy the best I can,” she added, not giving Jackson time to argue with her. She rushed up the stairs and disappeared from sight.
Jackson found the door to the basement, and flicked on the lights, as he made his descent. At the bottom of the steps, he found himself looking at the door on the other side of the basement, and he knew what lay beyond it. He opened the door and was instantly overwhelmed by the bright lights, and the smell of shit and urine.
Norma Jean was tucked up into the corner as far as she could. She was curled up in a ball on the mattress, and was visible shivering, although the temperature in the room was rather warm from the bright lights. Her blonde hair was a tangled mess of dried blood and dirt, and was covering her face, while her naked body was smeared with blood and shit, and was covered with small cuts and large bruises.
Jackson spotted the heavy chain attached to the thick eyebolt in the cement floor. He followed the chain to the metal cuff wrapped around Norma Jean’s ankle. “Norma Jean?” Jackson called out to her from the doorway. He couldn’t imagine the hell this poor girl had been through, and the last thing he wanted to do was overwhelm her by rushing into the room, but time was of the essence, and he knew that it was also something which he was running out of. “Can you hear me? My name is Jackson, and I’m going to get you out of here.”
Norma Jean slowly lifted her head, and looked at Jackson through her tangled hair. Upon seeing that it wasn’t Mark, she rushed toward Jackson with open arms, only to be knocked to the ground when she reached the end of the chain.
“Hold on,” Jackson told her, rushing to her side and taking a better look at what was keeping Norma Jean a prisoner. “The links of the chain are too thick to cut through,” he said to himself out loud, grabbing the chain and feeling its weight. He ran his hand up the chain to the metal cuff around Norma Jean’s ankle. He turned it slightly, a spotted a pad lock keeping the whole thing together. “Now this is something I can work with,” he said, placing the metal shank of the lock into the open jaws of the bolt cutters. He pushed the handle together with all of his might, and watched as the cutters bit into the metal ever so slightly. He pulled them apart and pushed them back together again. “Come on,” he said, his arms shaking with exertion.
“Again!” Norma Jean yelled, placing her hands upon Jackson’s and adding her strength to his. They did this again and again, over and over, until they heard a snapping sound, immediately followed by the sound of something metal bouncing off of the cement floor. “You did it,” she squealed, hugging his tightly around his neck and hanging on for dear life.
“We need to go,” Jackson told her, pulling the young girl to her feet. “Now! Can you walk?”
“No, I can run.”
* * *
Mark turned the door knob of his mother’s bedroom, and panicked when it wouldn’t open. “Mom!” he yelled, pounding on the door.
“Marky! Help me!”
Adrenaline surged through the large man’s veins, as he took a few steps back and kicked the door hard, right under the door knob. The wood of the door frame splintered, and cracked, as the door flew open from the force of the kick. Mark couldn’t believe his eyes, as he found himself staring at his mother, who was on her feet and standing in the middle of the room. She was completely naked. Shit stained her hairy vagina, and flabby inner thighs. Her chin was tucked into her chest, with her hair covering the majority of her face. Her shoulders hung low, as her body swayed slightly back and forth. “Mom?” he asked, cautiously stepping into the doorway. “Are you okay?”
“Marky!” her voice cackled, before a wicked laugh began to bellow forth from her mouth. She raised her head, and Mark could see that his mother’s eyes had turned as black as the night. Black veins stretched themselves across the skin of her face, neck, and chest. “Time for mama’s bath,” she said, smiling, revealing a mouth full of sharpened fangs.
“Leave my mother alone you bitch!” Mark screamed, surging into the room. His mother lunged at him. Acting on pure instinct, the large man punched her as hard as he could, square in the face, snapping his mother’s head back, and halting her charge.
“Marky, you ungrateful little shit. How dare you hit your mother,” she laughed, lunging forward again, her sharp fangs aiming for the soft skin of her son’s throat.
Mark brought his hands up and grabbed both of his mother’s shoulders, in an attempt to hold her at bay, as her razor-sharp teeth came within inches of his neck. He couldn’t believe how much strength his mother now possessed. He felt himself being slowly overpowered, leading him to the only course of action he could think of. He tilted his head back, and then snapped it forehead, head butting his mother right in her nose.
The world around Mark became fuzzy. A sharp pain shot through his brain. The room began to spin, followed by the sensation of flight, as he found himself being thrown across the room. He slammed in the wall hard, and felt the air purge itself from his lungs, before falling to the floor. He fought to get to his feet, but found that his heavy head kept him pinned to the floor. “You can’t stop me,” she said, and Mark knew that she was right. He looked up and saw her facing the empty doorway. “Join us,” she said, and Mark wondered who she was talking to.
“Don’t do this,” Lilly pleaded. “If you kill him, none of you will be able to cross over. Murder is a mortal sin.”
“I’m not worried about that,” Tracy replied. “Once I’m finished with him, there’s no golden ray of light keeping me here.”
“They can’t hear you.”
“No one here by that name.”
“Laura can you hear me?”
“That schizophrenic twit was the easiest to consume. So much raw anger in that one.”
“I’ll stop you,” Lilly promised. “Jackson will stop you.”
“I almost forgot about your living boy toy. Where is he? Ah, you sent him to the basement, didn’t you? Clever, but I can read their thoughts. I know all of their deepest, darkest, twisted little secrets.” Tracy lashed out and wrapped a hand around Lilly’s throat, and lifted her easily into the air. “I’m going to make you watch, as I tear your little boyfriend limb from limb, and feast upon his heart,” she told Lilly, rushing from the room and literally flying down the stairs.
* * *
“We need to move,” Jackson said, with a sense of urgency in his voice that Norma Jean could clearly hear. He put a strong arm around Norma Jean’s waist, as he began to lead her toward the door. They had just crossed the threshold, when an old, naked woman, with long gray hair and black eyes, came storming down the stairs. And if the eyes didn’t freak him out, the fact that the old woman had a hand wrapped around Lilly’s throat did.
“Lilly!” Jackson yelled, watching his friend try her hardest to break free from Norma Karle’s grip.
Tracy flashed a fang filled smile at Jackson. “She not the one you should be worrying about,” she hissed. “Mama’s hungry, and has a craving for fresh meat.” She threw Lilly to the ground and leapt toward Jackson.
Jackson swung the bolt cutters through the air, and kept the swing going, when the metal tool made contact with old lady’s face. The blow did little to stop the woman, who just shrugged off the attack and punched Jackson hard in the chest. The force of the blow knocked him off of his feet and sending him flying back into Mark’s pleasure room.
Jackson hit the floor hard, and skidded all the way to the back wall. Tracy was on the move before he could get back to his feet, as the possessed body of the old woman breached the doorway. He only had seconds to act, before his throat would be ripped out. He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and drew forth the pistol he had found under Harold Woodruff’s bed. He didn’t have time to aim, so he just pointed the gun in the direction of the charging woman and pulled the trigger two times as fast as he could.
Both shots hit the woman in the chest, but did little to slow her down, blood gushing over her saggy bare breasts. Jackson raised the barrel of the revolver just a bit, and pulled the trigger for a third time. The old woman’s head snapped back, causing her charge to slow to a crawl. A single bullet hole was visible in her forehead, as a line of blood trickled down her face. Black eyes glared at Jackson, as the old woman showed him her mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
“Nice try,” she said, taking a step forward. A strange, rapid, clicking sound filled the room, as the old woman stood up on her tippy toes, and arced her back. A scream of agony escaped her lips. The clicking sound stopped, and the old woman collapsed to the ground, leaving only the form of Tracy Lafond, who was visibly stunned.
“You’ve gone and gotten yourself into all kinds of trouble, haven’t you,” Carol asked, holding her Taser out in front of her. The Reaper walked up behind Tracy and grabbed a fistful of her hair, before slamming her hard onto the concrete floor.
Jackson picked himself up from the floor, and let the revolver slip from his fingers, as it clanked hard against the cement ground. He stared down at Norma Karle’s dead body, and knew that he had been the one responsible for her death.
“Don’t do that to yourself,” Carol told him, knowing what the young man was thinking. “That was not your fault. Hold this,” she said, handing the Taser to Jackson. “If she tries anything funny, make her ride the lightning.” She took out a pair of handcuffs and yanked Tracy’s hands behind her back, and put the cuffs on her wrists. “Now, let’s get the hell out of here,” she ordered, pulling out the iron prongs from Tracy’s back, and taking her Taser back.
Jackson took off his jacket and wrapped it around Norma Jean, before helping her feet, as Carol dragged the now compliant ghost of Tracy toward the basement stairs. “Lilly!” Jackson called out to his friend.
“I’m ok,” she responded, getting to her feet, and following them up the stairs and out the front door.
Jackson led Norma Jean to a large tree near the road, and sat her down. “You’re safe now. I’ll be right back. I promise.”
Carol’s black, windowless, van was parked in the driveway. The Reaper led Tracy to the back of the van and opened the doors. Lilly began to tell Carol what Tracy had done, but before she could open her mouth, the Reaper reached into Tracy’s chest and pulled out the spirits of the others, one by one. When the girls were free, Carol pushed Tracy into the iron cage and slammed the doors shut.
“How?” Jackson asked, joining the others.
“I traced your call, duh. Figured you might be in some kind of trouble, even though you didn’t say so. You really should have said so.”
“Sorry,” Jackson offered. “I didn’t want to bother you. Figured you had more important things to do.”
“Rookie mistake,” Carol said, placing her Taser back into her holster. “After I found out where you were, I had Kenny cross reference this area with any outstanding Bouncers, and Tracy Lafond’s name popped up.”
“I thought she was a Purg like us,” Lilly said, confused.
“Did she ever say that she was? Or that she had unfinished business like you?”
“Now that you mention it, no.”
“I thought something was off, when that guy told us about Tracy and that cat,” Jackson said. “I guess I just didn’t know enough to put all the pieces together.”
“Lucky for you, I did.”
“What about us?” Jessica asked. “Is it over?”
Carol checked her watch. “Almost.”
* * *
Mark got to his feet. His head was still spinning, but he had to find his mother, or whatever it was pretending to be his mother. He made his way down the stairs, bouncing hard off of the walls, then through the kitchen, and finally down to the basement. He saw that the door to his private sanctum was open. From where he was standing he could see a pair of bare feet lying on the cold concrete floor, but that was all he could see. He made his way to the doorway, and fell to his knees, when he gazed upon his mother dead on the floor, lying in a pool of blood. It took several minutes for his mind to register that Norma Jean was even gone, but when it did, he started to sob uncontrollably. Tracy was right. His life was over. He was going to spend the rest of his life in a tiny cell.
He got to his feet and moved to his mother’s side, and stroked her hair. He had failed to keep his mother safe. He had failed to keep his word. The word he had given his father. The reflection of something metallic on the floor caught his eye. He crawled over to it and picked up the revolver Jackson had dropped. The revolver he was sure had killed his mother. A tear fell down his check, as he put the barrel of the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger, splattering his brains all over the wall behind him.
* * *
The spirits of Jessica Watkins, Allison Murphey, and Laura Elliott began to glow with a bright golden aura. The golden rays of light that had once been their unfinished business, blinked out of existence, as the souls of the dead turned into a swarm of glowing embers, which were quickly carried upward.
“You did it,” Lilly told Jackson, a smile of pure joy forming upon her lips.
“We did it,” Jackson corrected her. “But why are you still here? I mean, I don’t mind you being here, but with your unfinished business being complete, it’s your turn to cross over.”
“I think I might have one more piece of unfinished business to attend to.”