JJ AWOKE—ALIVE—drenched in hot sweat on his bedroom floor, gasping for precious oxygen. Cold, hard steel pressed painfully against his chest. Still struggling to breathe, he gingerly rolled onto his side, relieved to see that he still possessed Boogeyman’s hatchet. Screw that shit, he thought, picking the hatchet up and carefully hugging it to his chest. MY hatchet! Crawling back into bed, JJ placed HIS hatchet on his pillow next to his head and attempted to go back to sleep. However, sleep was not an option as images of terrible tentacles; founts of blood, and, worst of all, Boogeyman’s horrible face flooded his mind. Nope. Sleep was definitely not an option.
JJ stared at his hatchet-buddy. He didn’t quite know when he started thinking of the hatchet as his buddy, but it felt good; it felt right. Gawking serenely at his hatchet-buddy, he traced the etching of the winged tree with his index finger. Instantly, JJ remembered the epiphany he had in his dream: He could, with great skill and much luck, kill Boogeyman. The thought seemed utterly ridiculous, but it was the truth. He wouldn’t have believed it himself, if he hadn’t just stood toe-to-toe with the monstrous ass-clown and lived. Clown? Clown! Oh, no. JJ thought frantically.
“Oh shit,” JJ pronounced to his hatchet-buddy. “Oh man!”
JJ exploded out of bed and hurried to his desk where his ancient Gateway laptop computer rested quietly. After switching it on, he waited impatiently for it to boot-up. With the start-up process complete, JJ quickly brought up his media player and rapidly scrolled through his song library. Why hadn’t I realized this before? JJ admonished himself. Finally locating the jam he was looking for, JJ plugged in his ear buds and clicked “PLAY”. After a moment of loading, the music began to flow into JJ’s head. Ashamed of himself for not making the connection sooner, JJ sat and listened to a musical Boogeyman biography. When the lyric he was waiting for bounced off of his eardrums, JJ spun in his desk chair to stare at his favorite poster. A pair of wicked clowns, looking highly-amused over some unknown oddity or another, grinned back at JJ as if to say, “Duh dumbass. Sure took you long enough, ninja!”
Of course this jam wasn’t just a catchy tune with a great hook; it was a warning—as most of THEIR songs are—foreshadowing the coming of a terrible, seemingly unstoppable entity. However, because they sang of “the Boogeyman,” nobody took them seriously. Though the Boogeyman is exactly who they were trying to warn everyone about, not just some metaphor for some unknown terror. While staring at the Duke of the Wicked and the Southwest Strangler, JJ’s next move cascaded through his abashed mind. He needed to go check out the old Johnson house in the really real world. A.S.A.P! Today even. As soon as the sun comes up that is, and after a nice hot shower.
Just over twenty minutes later, JJ stepped dripping from the shower. Steam hung thick in the air, fogging up the bathroom mirror. He opened the door a crack to help disperse the mist. He vigorously toweled his hair dry as he waited for the mirror to clear. Soon, an area on the mirror defogged enough for JJ to gander at his reflection.
“Damn,” JJ said to his battered reflection.
The left side of his face was terribly swollen, bruised, and his lip was slightly cut. JJ looked like he called Roy Jones, Jr. a wussy and then couldn’t run away fast enough. This thought made JJ laugh, much to the chagrin of his split lip. Grimacing in pain, he swiftly ran a comb through his hair to his satisfaction. Barefoot, he padded down the hall and into his bedroom. Thinking of breakfast, JJ quickly threw on a pair of jeans that had seen better days, and his favorite Dark Lotus t-shirt, and went downstairs.
The kitchen was deserted. His mother was still in bed it seemed. It was Saturday after all, and she always slept in on Saturdays. A half-pot of cold, day-old coffee sat in the coffeepot. JJ nuked a large mug of the inky brew in the microwave and toasted an English muffin to complete his meal. Breakfast, after all, is the most important meal of the day! JJ thought to himself as he creamed and sugared his beverage to oblivion.
By the time JJ gulped down the last of his coffee, it was only 7:30 A.M. It was still relatively early, which suited him just fine. Besides, he didn’t want to be seen checking out the old Johnson place—nor did he wish to scope it out after dark. Suddenly, JJ wondered if he shouldn’t call Curt to come with him on his scouting expedition. Feeling this was the right move, JJ went back upstairs to make the call from his bedroom, so not to disturb his mother’s slumber.
JJ plopped down on his bed and stared at the telephone for several minutes before reaching for it. He pressed the TALK button and stared at the green glow of the numbers until the phone bleated its off-the-hook alarm in his face. He poked the END button quickly, pressed the TALK button once more, and then slowly and meticulously, punched in Curt’s number. The connection rang pleasantly in JJ’s ear.
“S’up,” Curt slurred sleepily.
“Curt! Curt, it’s JJ. Curt! Wake the hell up man, I need your help.”
“JJ! Shit, homie. Are you okay?” Curt inquired, mostly awake now. “What do you need, ninja?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. My face is all messed-up though. Listen man,” JJ said, barreling forward, “I need you to get up right now, get dressed, and come over to my house quicker than snot. Come on foot and bring a weapon. No wait, don’t waste the time. Just get dressed and run over here. Now, please!”
“Yeah, sure man, whatever. Give me fifteen minutes. I just woke up. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Why do I have to come on foot, why can’t I drive?”
“No questions right now, man! Just get over here. I’m giving you ten minutes. Tops.” JJ hung up on Curt, before another question could emerge.
Nine-and-a-half minutes later, Curt was up in JJ’s room staring at an arsenal of weapons.
“So, you’re seriously telling me you pulled all of this crap out of your dreams, like Freddy-Krueger style ’n shit?” Curt asked, with total disbelief saturating every word.
“No, not like Freddy. Well, kind of like Freddy. Only, this is really happening to me, homie. I don’t always dream about Boogeyman, or maybe I do. Just different manifestations of him. I—”
“Whoa! Now you’re telling me that you’re a-scared of the Boogeyman!” Curt exploded, incredulous at his best friend’s B.S. “JJ, hoime, I love you dawg. But I will kill you. Ya know what I’m sayin’? You know better than to fuck with me this early in the morning, and on a Saturday?”
“Lower your fucking voice,” JJ hushed frantically. “Yes homie, yes. I am pulling these weapons from my nightmares. I am dreaming of Boogeyman and yes, I am scared shitless of him. Just look at what he did to my face last night.”
“Oh don’t give me that crap, homie; you got all that shit from smashing your face against my windshield. Which I am sorry about, by the way. I really am. Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
“Look closer man. Look at my lip. Was it split and swollen when they carted me off to the hospital yesterday?”
“No, dawg, but—”
“But nothing, homie! It wasn’t split when I went to sleep last night and when I woke up this morning, I’ve got the on my lip. It happened in my nightmare when the fucking Boogeyman almost took my head off!”
“So you’re telling me that this shit is real?” Curt asked, flopping heavily on JJ’s bed. “It’s really happening, and it’s happening to you?”
“Yes, homie, but not just to me. Have you read the newspaper lately?” JJ asked, fetching the paper the mean old nurse flipped her wig over the previous night.
“No. You know I don’t read the newspaper, homie.”
“Well, you should start!” Frustrated, JJ thrusted the front page of The Driftwood Gazette into his homie’s face.
JJ paced his bedroom like a caged beast, while waiting for his best friend to finish reading the newspaper article. It took Curt several minutes to accomplish this task, as he was no great bibliophile. It was the longest few minutes of JJ’s life. It took every ounce of self-control not to snatch the paper out of Curt’s grasp and read it aloud to the room at large. As Curt finished reading, he stared up at his best friend, utterly abashed.
“No fucking way, ninja,” Curt whispered. Now suddenly worried about being overheard.
“Yes fucking way, ninja. Yes, way. And like I was trying to tell you, I think I’ve been chosen by maybe God or something. And I, no—we have a chance to stop all of this. This carnage,” JJ stammered; the words like impatient kindergarteners, all wanting to be the first in line.
“Man, JJ. Now I know you’re messing with me. You stopped believing in G-O-D the day your pops sho… oh shit, ninja. I’m sorry, homie. Ya know what I’m sayin’? I didn’t mea—”
“No homie, no. It’s okay,” JJ assured his best friend. “I did stop believing in God when my dad ventilated his melon with mom’s .38 special. The very same revolver he insisted she carry around in her purse. I know that you’ve always been down enough, not to push me to talk about it.”
“And you don’t have to start now if you don’t want to, homie.”
“No, I’m straight dawg. And I think I’m ready to talk about it. It’s just that my dad was so ultra-religious and stuff, I never thought in a gazillion years that he’d ever take his own life like that—and in such a violent, bloody fashion. But I did stop bro. I straight-up stopped believing in God, but now—”
“You can tell me, homie. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Now what’s on your mind?”
“I’m not sure. If there is something otherworldly out there—in our case, the Boogeyman—that is so powerfully evil and vilely powerful that it preys on little kids for their souls through their sweet, pleasant dreams. Then, there must be something otherworldly out there, equally as powerful—if not more so—that is just as virtuous as Boogeyman is malevolent. Maybe that being is God,” JJ reasoned.
“Okay, homie,” Curt sighed, “I believe you. So, what are we, what can we do about it? Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
“You know all those wicked weapons I’ve got stashed in my closet? Boogeyman called them his “toys” and accused me of jackin’ them from him.”
“Well, last night in my dream, I was freaked. I didn’t know what to think or what to do, and then it just came to me.”
“What did homie?”
“I thought to myself: ‘I wish I had my hatchet.’, Then this hatchet appeared in my hand a millisecond later,” JJ announced, as he pulled his buddy out from its resting place under his pillow.
“Whoa, that’s fuckin’ fresh ninja. So you somehow jacked all that crap in your closet from Boogeyman, via your dreams? AND then, you can call what you want, back into your dreams at will to fight his ass. This IS some Freddy-Krueger shit! Ya know what I’m sayin’?!” Curt exclaimed with irrational excitement.
“No! Yes, no. Don’t think of it like that, ninja. This isn’t a movie, this is really happening. We have to find out everything we can find out about the Boogeyman: Strengths, weaknesses, desires. All that shit. And we already have a reference to draw from.” JJ said proudly taking a seat at his desk.
“What? You’ve been doing homework, nerd?” Curt taunted.
“Fuck off. Is it my fault that I’m the smartest guy in the room?” JJ inquired, giving Curt the middle-finger salute.
“Yup, it sure is geek. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Now what is this ‘Reference’ that you’re all hard over?”
“We’ve only listened to it, got stoned to it, and cruised to it a million times,” JJ informed his friend. “Listen to this, homie.”
JJ played the same song for Curt that got all of his own cerebral juices flowing. The same song that they had indeed jammed to, smoked to, and rolled to a million times. Hoping his friend would comprehend the enormity of the situation and have the same epiphany that he himself had experienced. Halfway through the track, JJ could tell by his friend’s pale, slack-jawed mug, that Curt got it alright. Also, he looked like he didn’t appreciate it one little bit: When the song came to an end, Curt bowed his head and stared at his hands. JJ thought now was as a good a time as any to get down to the brass tacks, and handle some bizness. Besides, he did call Curt over here so early on a Saturday morning. Before he could though, Curt beat him to the punch.
“How did they know JJ? How did they know that the B-man was real and not just some fairytale? Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
“I don’t know, homie. It could be that they are tapped into some other-world-type shit or—”
“Or, it could be just a fluke of their imagination, JJ. Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
“No! It’s like I’m always sayin’, homie: They’re prophets.” JJ interceded with a confident earnestness. “Put aside the paint, the backwards talk, the merchandise; it’s all window dressing, dawg. It’s all a gimmick to sell CDs, in order to get out the next-level messages they’re constantly receiving. They know because they’re supposed to know, so we could decipher it right now when we need it the most.”
“You know, JJ—I think you’re right, homie.”
“I know I’m right.”
“So, when did you get all this confidence n’ shit, homie? Never mind. Just tell me one thing, ninja. And be honest, because me staying in this room one more second depends upon your answer.”
“Ask away, homie.” JJ responded warily.
“Why’d you drag me into all this horseshit, JJ? Ya know what I’m sayin’? This is some scary shit.”
“You want the truth, Curt?”
“Hell yeah, I want the truth. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Shit JJ, your face looks like—”
“I called Roy Jones, Jr. a pussy?”
“Well, I was gonna say Mike Tyson, ya’ know what I’m sayin’? But yeah, that works too. Now tell me truthfully: Why me?”
“Why do you even have to ask me that, Curt? It’s because you’re my best homie in the universe. I thought that if there is anyone on earth that would believe and help me, it would be you.”
“Okay, homie. Good answer, but don’t go all ‘chick-flick’ on me. I don’t think I could take that shit. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Now let’s get to the heart of why you rousted me out of bed for this shit, so damn early on a Saturday. Couldn’t this have waited a few hours?”
“No, it couldn’t wait a few hours. I didn’t want the asking and explaining to take this long. I was hoping to be there and back again by now.” JJ gave his alarm clock a frustrated glance. 8:20am.
“Quit your bitchin’, homie. And just spit it out.”
“Curt, my homie, I need you to go with me right now to the old Johnson place, so I can scope it out. I think we may find, I don’t know, like a clue or something extremely useful for our cause.”
“Okay, homie. I’m game for an adventure, but what’s all this ‘Our Cause’ shit? Ya know what I’m sayin’? What’s our cause? What’s the plan?”
“Our cause is to end Boogeyman’s reign of terror, Curtis. The plan is to ride on him full force, guns blazing right down his throat to—if humanly possible—put an end to his evil existence.”
“Fuck me. I should’ve stayed in bed. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Come on. Let’s do this before I change my stupid mind.” Curt headed for the door.
“Hold on, homie,” JJ hesitated, “I gotta grab my hatchet.”
Five minutes later, JJ and Curtis were standing on the sidewalk in front of the oldest—and only condemned—house in the neighborhood, trying to look inconspicuous. Built after the Civil War on the bones of a burned down mortuary, the Johnson house was condemned more than seventeen years prior for various undisclosed reasons. The boys couldn’t help but notice that an eerie silence permeated the air. No birds were chirping, nor was there any traffic buzzing. Simple, unnerving silence pervaded the atmosphere.
The Heights, which own the deed to this once-proud structure, have sold the Johnson house numerous times to one family or another. But no one, oddly, ever begins renovations. Something always convinces the new owner to sell the place back to the City at a huge loss, and then move to for some strange reason. As it stood, the City was currently in possession of this property and if caught trespassing or breaking and entering, the perpetrators would find their sorry selves in front of the toughest district court judge, next to Judge Small over in Bloomfield Hills: Judge Bruce Richards. It is with this thought in mind that JJ and Curt cautiously advanced upon the premises.
They had both concluded on the walk over, that the best place to enter would be through the basement window, around the back of the house. Less chance of being seen, they agreed. Standing before said window, JJ couldn’t help but break the crypt-like silence that engulfed them.
“Did you really see a bloody boy out in the street?”
“Damn, JJ. Don’t do that shit! Jeez!” Curt exclaimed, startled. “You scared the shit outta me, killa. Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
“Sorry, homie,” JJ chuckled, “I didn’t mean to make you crap your Huggies. I just asked you a question.”
“Hey, dawg. Don’t be a dick. I can always go home and crawl back in bed. Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
“I said I was sorry, ninja.” JJ offered, extending his clenched fist for a friendly dap of forgiveness.
“It’s cool, homie. You’re forgiven,” Curt responded, bumping his best friend’s fist harder than necessary.
“So,” JJ prodded, “did you?”
Curt stood in silence staring at JJ. An odd look graced his chiseled features. JJ couldn’t quite read his friend’s expression. Curt had never looked at him this way before: Ominous. And the silence was more than a bit awkward. Curt shattered the silence with six sinisterly spoken words.
“I said I did, didn’t I?”
“You did, homie, you did.” JJ conceded.
“Well then there you go. I said I saw a bloody kid, I saw a bloody kid.”
“Just what JJ,” Curt seethed.
“Nobody else saw a bloody boy Curt. Nobody,” JJ almost whispered the last word.
“Maybe he bounced JJ; you know what I’m sayin’? Maybe he was fucking around with some old Halloween make-up. Thought he’d play a prank, and then took off when he realized he actually caused an accident.”
The more Curt spoke the more he seemed to become himself again. The person JJ loved like a brother. This relieved JJ beyond belief. What he didn’t need right now was Curt mad at him.
“You know homie, you’re right.” JJ interjected when Curt took a breath. “I don’t know why I brought it up.”
“Neither do I ninja.”
Silence ensued. JJ didn’t know why he wasn’t telling Curt about the creepy pale kids from his nightmares. The kids that so resembled Curt’s mysterious bloody boy. He wanted to, however something screamed at him to keep that part a secret. He didn’t know what to call this feeling, sixth sense or whatever, but JJ took the hint and kept his trap shut.
The basement widow lay before them resembling an empty eye socket: Gaping and dark. Neither boy moved. They simply stood and stared into the abyss. Thoughts cascaded across JJ’s mind, like shards of broken glass. Hate filled, insidious images danced at the fringes of his imagination. Suddenly a question came forward with such velocity JJ had to give voice to his query.
“What do you think the three ways are?”
“Shit JJ, what did I just tell you about scaring me homie? Damn, what were you quizzing me about now?
“I was trying to pick your brain about the three ways to stop Boogeyman. You know the ways that the song talks about. What do you think they are?”
“Don’t know ninja. Your harlequin prophets don’t divulge that info, do they? But you can bet it’s either something terrible, crazy, or both. Ya know what I’m sayin’?” Curt reasoned, crouching down to finagle the window open.
“‘Harlequin?’ ‘Divulge?’ Curt, have you actually been paying attention in class?” JJ teased.
“Nope,” Curt grunted as he continued to get the window open. “I just watched a Law and Order marathon last night before I crashed. Some stuff must have stuck with me. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Hey, homie. We’re in!”
JJ cut a stout stick from a fallen tree branch with his hatchet-buddy, and handed it to Curt so the window could be propped open. Curt had a small amount of trouble. And there was a moment there when JJ thought for sure they would be seen, but the coast was still clear. So, he chalked it up to simple paranoia. With the window securely open, the trespassers took one last, careful look around for prying eyes, then slipped stealthily into the last basement on earth JJ thought they should have been sneaking into.