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Tales From The Oddside(9)

By:Al Bruno III


TALES FROM THEODDSIDERoadside BurialsbyAl Bruno IIIKnox saw them twiceevery day; once on drive to work, once on the way back. Gravestones,pale weathered gravestones sitting just a few feet off from the sideof the road surrounded on each side by a worn looking fence. Itseemed like each day he forgot about them until he passed them andhis mind set to wondering. Had they run the interstate through anentire cemetery? Or worse yet over one? And how old were thosepitiful headstones? What names and dates might each one hold.



One day on the way backfrom work Knox decided to find out. He pulled his car well off thesoft shoulder, set the hazard lights blinking and made his way to theobject of his fascination. The day was overcast, the air heavy withthe promise of a downpour. The roadside was thick with litter and thescraps of old tires that blown out and come apart. The old fence waswaist high with posts that sagged this way and that. Seen up closethe headstones were blunted and the color of ivory; they jutted outof the earth like a mouthful of rotten teeth.

Eager for a closer lookKnox hopped the fence- after taking a cautious look around. None ofthe cars zooming past in their rush hour frenzy noticed. The groundwas brittle and dusty beneath his feet, it cracked and crunched withevery footstep. He knelt before one of the headstones, erosion hadrendered the names unreadable and the angels faceless but he couldjust make out the dates.

1793? He smiled tohimself and ran his hand over the stone, how many other drivers outthere knew that they passed a sliver of history every day? Knox vowedto return here with some wax paper and some charcoal. He wondered howsuch a thing might look framed on a wall. Would guests take it asarcheological keepsake or a morbid conversation piece? Was therereally a difference?

Such plans however werefor a different day. Knox started to stand up only to have a strangebone-deep weariness wash over him. He waited for it to pass but hejust knelt there listening to the blood roar in his ears. He laughedto himself thinking he might have stood up to fast or that he mightbe coming down with something. Knox tried to raise himself up again,his legs wobbled beneath him and he pitched face first into the dirt.He tried to raise himself up only to find the weakness spreading tohis arms. His panicked breaths spat and inhaled dust. This was noordinary paralysis, he could feel it starting to rain, thick colddrops pelting him everywhere. He tried to move again but he barelyhad the strength to move his fingers and all they could do was tracepathetic patterns in the dust.



He wondered what waswrong with him, was it a stroke or some other strange illness? Therainfall grew heaver, the wind driving the precipitation in waveafter bruising wave. With nothing else to do Knox wondered grimly howlong it would be before a police officer spied his car and came toinvestigate. Not long surely.

The rain turned theground into a mud, he felt it congealing around him, drawing himdown. It sucked greedily at him like quicksand. Again he tried tomove, hoping fear might give him strength but what little movement hemade just made him sink faster. He didn't even dare cry out for fearof choking on a mouthful of mud. His face began to sink below thesurface, half his head was swallowed up in a matter of moments.

And in those lastmoments before he was lost forever Knox realized that while thebodies been buried here so long ago might have turned to dust thesegraves were still hungry.

So very hungry...TALES FROM THEODDSIDE</ol>


The Girl Can’tHelp ItbyAl Bruno III<I>For LMP</I><I>Every morning shepromises herself she’s not going to kill anyone but by midnight,somewhere, somehow she has another corpse on her hands.</I><I>And most nights it’smore than one.</I>*Lora Cusack ended hershift at the offices of Midon Incorporated, she worked in the HumanResources department and irony of that never failed to irritate her.</ol>


None of the men workingin the office ever gave her a second glance so she was able to leavewithout questions about how she was going to spend her weekend orworse yet some clumsy gallant offering to walk her out to her car.She hid her beauty beneath plain looking skirts, blouses and glassesthat completed a look the other office girls called ‘librarianchic’. Of course they only said things like that behind her backbut Lora heard them anyway.All around her weredecorations; orange streamers, rubber spiders and gaudy pumpkins.Alone in the hallway she paused to tear a particularly festivelooking cardboard skeleton from the wall.*<I>Holidays are theworst; no matter how much she tries to incapacitate herself witheggnog every Christmas is marked with a home invasion, Arbor dayisn’t so bad but the less said about Friday the thirteenth thebetter.</I><I>And Halloween?Halloween was the worst of all.</I></ol>


*Once she arrived at hermirrorless apartment on Lark Street she busied herself with laundryand fixing dinner. She kept the radio tuned to the news channel andpaused occasionally to savor a particularly grisly story.Soon enough herdoorbell was ringing away with early trick or treaters, the young andthe timid. She kept candy on hand to be neighborly but never answeredthe door on the first ring.*<I>It was generationsago, a story of witchcraft and betrayal, a story a sisterhood andloss. In the story she had a different name, a sacred name that shehad loved. She had carried herself with such pride but she had beenbrought down, her beauty and her skin peeled away.</I><I>And though herfingers had been broken and her tongue torn away the daemon lordGesichtschatten heard her call.</I></ol>


*By sundown thebutterflies in her stomach had become a full fledged anxiety. “Howmany?” she asked herself, “Why didn’t I keep count from thestart?”All theself-reassurances and justifications can’t relax her, the sixglasses of wine didn’t help either- she’s still sober and afraid.Lora always kept a boxof knives under the sink, she selected one and changed into an outfitas dark as it was simple; she took her car keys but left her uselessglasses behind. Once she was on the interstate she pulled off herwig; the gray locks that fell to her shoulders were a sharp contrastto her youthful features.An hour or so away fromAlbany she parked the car in an unfamiliar town and began.*<I>The daemon lordGesichtschatten is tall with skin the color of smoke and eyes likewinter starlight. He’s more than happy to hear her plea and granther request for one more day, one more day of life and strength toavenge her coven and herself.</I></ol>


<I>In fact he offersher even more than that and like a fool she accepts.</I>*On a quiet street aLora asked a man for directions and as he answered she stabbed him inthe throat.That’s one and thistime she’s kept count, for all the good it will do her.In an alley she stompeda vagrant to death as he begged first for change, then for mercy.There’s something familiar and satisfying about the way each crackof bone seems to travel like a shiver up her leg.Then it’s off to theWal Mart…*</ol>


<I>One day.</I><I>One day for every 13lives.</I><I>And that was morethan enough.</I><I>More than enough tostrike down the so-called forces of decency; more than enough tovisit horror upon their loved ones and burn the entire town to theground.</I><I>And then?</I><I>And she waited forthe end.</I>*The security guard wasjust showing off, just daring someone to stop her but as always luck,skill and the gifts of her patron protected her from prying eyes. Shestowed his body in a bathroom stall and avoided her reflection as sheheaded back out into the night.</ol>


A little while laterand a few streets away Lora strangled a woman at a secluded bus stopwith her own purse strap; then she disemboweled a convenient manstanding in a convenient doorway.All the while familieswent door to door with costumes and bags of candy never knowing therewas a nightmare in their midst.*<I>She had never had ahead for numbers and never bothered to keep track of how many she hadsnuffed out and as the first week of her restoration wore on thoughtsof her death and its aftermath began to trouble her. Would the daemonlord make a meal of her or a concubine? And which fate would be moreterrible?</I><I>Soon enough shestarts killing again, piling body upon body but this time out of fearinstead of rage.</I><I>If only she had keptcount…</I></ol>


*By midnight she’sleft a house party in ruins; blood clots in the sink, bits of skullcling to the fireplace poker and the fireplace itself is clogged withbubbling flesh. Red stained the carpets and ran in symmetricalrivulets along the kitchen tiles, there are body parts in the washingmachine, pets in the dryer and the microwave door hung open lettingthe remains of what she had found in the bassinet seep out.The festive costumesher victims are wearing make the scene all the more surreal.If anyone saw the womanleaving the darkened house on Kings Road all they would remember washer red hair bright as fire.*<I>And now she livescentury after century in fear, weary of living but afraid to die,giving herself over to bloodlust in the night only to curse herselfin the morning.</I></ol>


<I>She sometimeswonders if this is what the daemon lord wanted all along- a legacy ofdeath and fear. She had never wanted to be a monster or worse yet alegend.. </I>*Home again by morning,she left her bloodstained clothes in the doorway and climbed intobed. It was just a few hours before she had to get ready for work.Soon enough she wouldhave to move on again before someone realized the circle of bodiescentered on her, on the woman children called Hell Mary.But she hadn’t calledherself Mary for generations and every night she paid the price forher life rather than pay the cost of her sins.</ol>