Epilogue: The Brother of the Beast
SNOWFLAKES, MASSIVE AND pendulous, plummeted from the slate-colored sky at an intense pace; as if each one raced the other to the earth. The gaily decorated houses along , begrudgingly accepted every ponderous flurry the sky had to offer. Children, bundled in their warmest winter duds, squealed wildly as they lobbed the last snowballs of the day at one another before retiring for the night.
Sergeant Joseph Douglas Jr., back early from his second tour in, stood at ease on his porch. Decked out in his dress blues, JJ paused to listen to the sounds of his home at the holidays. He was all smiles as he watched his beautiful wife Millie and their five year old son, Curtis through the front window, decorating sugar cookies for the church Christmas party. Just as he was about to enter his happy home a group of carolers came wassailing down the sidewalk. Enjoying their harmony, JJ placed his duffle on the porch swing and turned to listen to their next song. To JJ’s delight, the familiar tune was one of his favorites.
Revenge will fall in time of Yule,
You’ll be left a visceral pool,
As the carolers continued with their disconcerting tune, JJ mulled over the idea of pulling his hatchet-buddy out of his duffle and putting an end to this nonsense. Some of what they were saying made no sense, while other verses caused the hair on the back of his neck to prickle. Fighting the urge to vomit, JJ listened on in horror as the carolers finished their grim hymn—the final lines of which turned JJ’s terror into white, hot rage.
When your boy’s eye bulge from his skull,
Know his brother has come to call,
The carolers bowed and departed in a wave of raucous, sinister laughter. Hatchet-buddy in hand, JJ advanced on the callous carolers with murderous intent in his eyes. He may be a God-fearing man, he may have made certain promises to Millie and to himself as they watched their infant son fight for his life, but no one threatened to harm his son. Just as he closed the distance between him and his targets, a familiar cry caught JJ attention.
“Look, mommy: Daddy’s home, daddy’s home!”
As JJ turned to face his son, he caught a true glimpse of one of the male carolers. It seemed the man was no man at all, but a hideous scaled beast, the sickly color of verdigris. A long, thick tail protruded erroneously from its hindquarters. Tipped and equipped with a fully functional humanoid hand no less, which gave JJ the most fundamental of all dirty hand gestures at the moment. The eerie clicking noises the beasts claws made as it fled caused JJ’s flesh to prickle with goose bumps. Not wanting to frighten his young son, JJ ignored the departing creatures, quickly stowed HB inside his jacket, plastered a warm smile on his face, and trotted back toward his home for a proper greeting.
Just as he neared the stoop, JJ’s world violently, nauseatingly shifted. JJ steadied himself only to discover that he was no longer standing in front of his beautiful home and wonderful family. Instead, he stood facing the one structure he prayed nightly he would never see again—the Old Johnson place. What the f—JJ thought, but his focus was shattered by a baby’s clamorous cries emanating from within the horror house. This is no place for a wee babe, JJ thought oddly in a Scottish accent.
“JJ…” A disembodied, though familiarly sweet voice called JJ from the ether.
The cries intensified, becoming more and more urgent. However, so did the insistency of the ethereal voice:
“JJ, sugar. The baby…” That was all the prompting JJ needed.
Like something out of an 80’s action movie, JJ and his trusty military issue combat boots rendered the door to splinters with one powerfully-placed kick. The crying abruptly ceased and to his surprise JJ stood face-to-face with his best friend holding a precious sleeping baby. Curtis Olsen smiled at his friend though his eyes seemed strained and sad. JJ began to say how happy he was to see his friend, but was quieted by Curt sharply gesturing for silence. Don’t want to wake him, Curt mouthed dramatically. JJ shrugged and nodded his head in acknowledgement. Curt stepped aside and motioned for JJ to enter. Against his better judgment, JJ crossed the threshold into a new nightmare.
Once inside JJ couldn’t believe his eyes. The once dirty and dilapidated décor had been entirely repaired and replaced. The whole place was as clean as a surgeon’s operating room and even seemed, dare he think it, homey. He turned an astonished look upon his friend only to find him closing a completely intact front door. It was Curt’s turn to shrug, the look on JJ’s face causing him to chuckle in spite of the sleeping babe. Slowly Curt glided smoothly from the foyer into the sitting room and motioned for JJ to follow.
Once again against every fiber of his being, JJ acquiesced to his best friend’s request. Taking a seat on a duvet covered davenport; JJ watched as Curt gingerly delicately placed the snoozing baby into a crimson colored bassinet. Curt took a long loving look at the child before taking a seat himself in an armchair facing his friend, hands folded in his lap. The two old buddies sat in silence for a moment, motionless, staring at one another and listening to the babe’s soft little snores. JJ finally had to break the quiescence.
“It’s good to see you again, homie.”
Curt nodded: “Ditto.”
“W-why am I here?” JJ inquired.
Curt unfolded his hands to gesture at the bassinet: “Because of him. Because I live here now, JJ, and I needed to warn you of the impending danger to my namesake.”
“That’s not my son slumbering in that cradle, it can’t be. CJ is five going on fifteen.” JJ replied slightly abashed.
“Yes and no, JJ; realize where you are, my ninja. That boy you saw decorating cookies with his mommy is a future version of your son, just as that napping nipper is also. Your true, newborn son is safely nested between his dreaming daddy and dozing mother nursing hungrily from Millie’s breast.”
“JJ, that’s enough of your futile questions. Listen closely.” Curt demanded, clipping off JJ’s words. “Time is a precious commodity, homie. Of which we have little. Your son is in danger. He is squarely in the sights of a very powerful, extremely malignant spirit. This creature—”
“JJ, sugar. The baby…” The ethereal voice drowned out the important information Curt was delivering.
“Didn’t you hear me, homie. Aren’t you listening? Pay attention JJ, this next bit is the most vital. If you don’t wish your child to spend his eternity here—”
“Come on JJ, please sugar…”
“—is the only way you can save your son.” Curt finished.
The baby, a supposed future version of CJ Douglas, cooed. Curt stood and walked over to the bassinet to check on his charge. When JJ tried to follow suit he found he was slowing sinking, seeming being consumed into the loveseat. The more he struggled the more mired he became. Curt seemed to take no notice of JJ’s plight as he plucked the babe from the bassinet to cradle him. The last thing he saw before being swallowed whole was Curt making baby CJ wave bye-bye, then JJ was plummeting through darkness.
Corporal Joseph Douglas Jr. awoke violently, drenched in a stinking clammy sweat. His wife Millie, who was carefully and quietly trying to place their infant son back into his cradle, almost dropped the babe, because JJ gave her such a fright. Panting like a pound puppy, JJ took in his surroundings, sighed with relief then flopped back over in bed. Silent as a ghost, Millie returned to her side of the bed and deftly hopped in.
Snuggling close, Millie whispered into JJ’s ear: “What was that all about? You okay, sugar?”
Not knowing any words to say that wouldn’t wind up his beloved wife in some way, JJ opted for the truth.
“Millie, honey, I was just visited by what I can only call the spirit of Curtis Olsen. He came to warn me of an impending danger to our CJ.”
“What JJ, what is it?” Millie demanded, visibly shaken.
“It’s just as we’ve feared and speculated, Millie. It’s not over. He’s coming back for vengeance and he wants our son!” JJ finished with a sob.
Over the highest peaks and through the gloomiest hollows; past the darkest, fathomless recesses of existence, it squat observing, rattling his diabolical chains absentmindedly. From his haunted hideaway, beyond the noxious stony hearts of men, the closest creature that could be considered kin to Boogeyman ravenously drank in the ’ despair with fiendish glee. One thought weighed on his malevolent nyctophilic mind: Retribution.