HEY EVERYONE, GLAD you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving, next up… Christmas and that jolly ole fat man I wrote about in my 2013 debut novel, The Santa Claus Killer. Have you been naughty or nice? He’s making that list and checking it twice… well, that’s the story we’re told.
But the real story of Saint Nick is anything but a happy tale.
Don’t tell the kids, but everyone had got Santa Claus all wrong.
Every Christmas songs tell us that Santa is basically the judge of juveniles. He decides who’s naughty & nice, and gives out his presents… or punishments accordingly. But historians say Mr. Kris Kringle was originally created to keep adults, not children, off the naughty list. Being crafty codgers, we ducked Santa’s surveillance, turning the spotlight on kids and dramatically changing Christmas celebrations. How did we achieve this very important historical victory?
Picture this: It’s the early 1800s, and America’s Christian leaders — most of whom were Protestant Reformation-types — had banned religious celebrations of Christmas as unscriptural and paganish. But people still wanted to party. Because, why not? It was midwinter, the crops were harvested and sailors were waiting for better weather to disembark. So, on December 25, working-class stiffs got fall-down drunk and stumbled around cities looking for stuff to loot. Imagine Black Friday, spring break and New Year’s Eve — then smash them together like sumo wrestlers full of saki. That was Christmas in the early 1800s. A bunch of blue-blood New Yorkers decided all this fun must stop.
“They wanted to domesticate Christmas, bring it indoors, and focus it on children,” says Gerry Bowler, author of “Santa Claus: A History,” and professor of history at the University of Manitoba in Canada. These grinches, who formed the Saint Nicholas Society of New York, would change the world with two little poems. Yep… that’s right, Poems.
But let’s back up for a minute.
When the Dutch came to the New World in the 1600s, they brought a fellow from folklore named Sinterklaas with them, Bowler says. Sinterklaas, who wore a red bishop’s miter and a snowy white beard, was based on St. Nicholas, a 3rd century Greek who lived in modern-day Turkey. Despite being a bishop, this Nick was a bit of a bad boy.
An archaeologist who dug up his bones in 2005 found that Nicholas had a broken nose, perhaps a result of the persistent persecution of Christians around that time, said Adam C. English, author of “The Saint Who Would be Santa Claus.” Or could it have been Christian-on-Christian violence? According to one medieval legend, Nicholas punched a heretic in the nose at the Council of Nicea — the meeting in 325 that formed the first consensus on Christian doctrine. Early icons of Nicholas depict him without bishop’s garb, a subtle suggestion that he had been demoted, possibly for fisticuffs.
Alas, the Nick at Nicea rumor is not true, said English. But people seem to love the story, which pops up like poinsettias on the Internet this time of year. Thankfully, St. Nicholas, was known for more than brawling. He also had a reputation for giving gifts and protecting children.
The first quality comes from a story about a poor man with three young daughters. Without a dowry to offer suitors, the man worried that his daughters would fall into prostitution. Legend has it that Nicholas dropped three bags of gold through an open window in the man’s house, saving the women from the streets.
The second story is a bit macabre: While staying at an inn, Nicholas discovered three dismembered children in pickle barrels. He reassembled and resurrected the briny kids and punished the guilty innkeeper. These deeds, along with his everyman persona, (he wasn’t a martyr or hermit like so many other model Christians of the time), made Nicholas the greatest male saint of the Middle Ages, said Bowler. One measure of his popularity is the looong list of people, places, churches and Christian groups that list St. Nick as their patron.
Bowler, Santa’s biographer, says that St. Nick’s feast day, December 6, (the day he supposedly died) was celebrated across Europe for hundreds of years, often by giving gifts to children. But, beginning in the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation swept away the cult of Christian saints, denouncing them as unbiblical and idolatrous. Christmas, too, went pretty much by the wayside for much of Protestant Europe during this time. Some countries, though, such as the Netherlands, kept alive traditions associated with Sinterklaas. And it was these customs that 19th century New Yorkers wanted to revive.
As they sought to make Christmas more family friendly, the Saint Nicholas Society found the perfect front man in their namesake, who, after all, was known for being nice to children. It was a genius move. The real goal was getting drunks off the street, remember? Now they could do that by turning Christmas into a family event when children — who had it pretty rough back then — would receive gifts for good behavior.
But the Knickerbockers needed more than good cheer to change Christmas. They needed stories.
Drawing on the Dutch legends about Sinterklaas, the American author Washington Irving wrote a series of sketches featuring St. Nicholas soaring high above New York houses, smoking a pipe and delivering presents to well-behaved children.About a decade later, in 1821, an anonymous poem called “The Children’s Friend,” featured a magical figure called “Santeclaus,” who drove a reindeer-led sleigh full of “rewards” and filled obedient children’s stockings with little presents.
Building on that, an Episcopalian scholar named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem for his big brood called “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” Now better known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
Strangely for a seminary professor, Moore’s poem strips St. Nick of religious rhyme and reasons. Nicholas wears a fur suit, clambers down chimneys and gives presents to good children. But he says nothing about the “reason for the season,” as contemporary Christmas warriors like to say. Still, Moore’s St. Nick story went viral, spreading across the northeastern United States faster than reindeer on Ritalin. In some early depictions, Santa Claus looks like an overgrown elf; in others, he looks kind of scary, as American artists merged St. Nicholas with European traditions such as the German Krampus, who punishes bad children. By the early 1900s, Bowler says, Santa became standardized as the white-bearded, red-suited, twinkle-eyed benevolent grandfather that we all know and love. And we’re not the only ones. “Merchants seized on this guy right away,” Bowler says. “They immediately saw the possibility that this personification could be useful in their selling.” In other words, Santa was pitching products almost as soon as he hitched up his sleigh.
But before you blame Kris Kringle for commercializing Christmas, think back to what it was like before he came to town, when kids — and many adults — really had something to pout about. There were no cellphones, computers, no nothing. Unless Santa gave you a gift!
Now that’s one hell of a story, and nobody could create this one. Well, there are few sickos like me and other horror novelists who could probably write something scarier for the little ones parents. With sleighbells ringing, and blood spilling, have a Happy Christmas everyone! — by Daniel Burke & RJ Smith
Do you ever consider, for even a moment, where your Thanksgiving Bird comes from? I think about the poor Tom Turkey running around a farm before he is grabbed and his throat slashed.
Makes me ill just thinking about it. And yet, when the dinner bell rings and there is a nice plump Rib Eye Roast on the table, many never even consider that the meat came from a living animal slaughtered in horrible ways.
Even on Christmas, when the Honey Roasted Ham hit’s the table I pause thinking about the poor pig that never had a real chance at life… it’s sad, isn’t it? Can any of you imagine what pigs go through stuck in a cage where they can’t even turn around…..until they are pulled from their confinement, hung by their rear legs, and slaughtered by the slashing of their throats?
The same is true for so called Veal Cutlets. This meat comes from the flesh of baby cows that are also stuck in a cage; standing for the entirety of their short lives before the knives arrive.
It all seems somewhat insane, how badly we treat animals on this planet.
Saying all that… when you eat your Turkey this year, remember the life it surrendered for your meal.
As a Horror Novelist, these types of things interest me. by RJ November 2017
FOLKS, FRIENDS AND FANS, I am glad to finally be able to sit here at my 27″ iMac and ponder the last four years with you all. As many of my fans are aware, the last 48 months since my bicycle accident have been filled with surgery after surgery. I have suffered through 8 surgeries with another shoulder surgery coming up. Five of the nine surgeries have been horribly intrusive and serious, all of which required months and months of physical rehabilitation sessions. I am in awe of the surgeons who put my body back together and I am thankful to Orthopedic Surgeons, Dr. Scott Webb, Dr. Scott Wisotsky and laser surgeon, Dr. StephenWatson; all of whom worked tirelessly putting me back together. So, the repairs continue.
Recently, I traveled to Tampa to be deposed by the opposing council in my civil lawsuit. I don’t know what I expected as I have never been involved with something like a civil deposition in my past. Although I knew I had the facts and truth on my side, precognitions toyed with my brain and I was sure the three defense attorneys were going to be mean spirited people who didn’t care about what happened to me. AND, I guess that may be true. BUT, the TONE of the opposition was respectful … at least while in the depo. The three lawyers representing The City of Belleair Bluffs, The Town of Belleair and the Ajax Corporation were professional and dignified people who made the hearing bearable. I had to ask for numerous breaks because of back and shoulder pain, but they were very accommodating. I had expected them to lie and try to downplay and put words in my mouth as to what had happened to me. But at least in the hearing… the opposing counsel made me comfortable. The next steps in this terrible experience are things called “Case Management” and “Mitigation” before a trial happens sometime next year. I am not sure what case management or mitigation is, but I can’t wait for this all to be over.
NOW, onto the reason why you’re all here. MONSTERS IN THE WOODS has been a four year struggle to write because of all my injuries. BUT finally, I can announce that the manuscript is complete and has just returned from my editor, Glenda Findley. At long last, I managed to send the 350 page YA horror work to my New York City and England Literary Agents, Joyce Keating, and Robert Snow. Unfortunately, due to the financial strain these injuries have caused, I can no longer publish through my company, Storyteller Entertainment, LLC, and I cannot enjoy watching my novel splashed across the pages of the New York Times, LA Times, USA Today or the Times of London. Because the accident and injuries prevented me from attending book signings and appearances, I have not had the opportunity to go out on my last two world tours. No tours, no sales and no income.
SO, that leaves Monsters and me in the hands of Joyce and Robert. They will have to do the heavy lifting of placing my manuscript before senior editors at the traditional publishing houses in order to try and sell the work as apposed to putting it out there myself. Now, when someone picks up the novel, I will get 19 to 28 percent royalties as opposed to 70 percent when published through my company. But, my publishing machine is now near bankruptcy and will not even be able to publish other authors manuscripts, which was the company’s charter.
Then what does that mean to the consumers and fans awaiting publication of the novel? It’s going to be a while LONGER before the cogs of the publishing industry work a deal, hopefully, in 2018. So, be patient kiddies and know that this novel is a Harry Potter like comet streaking through the night skies. The reviewers have all given the manuscript high marks, and for those of you who know the business, that’s a damn miracle even though The Santa Claus Killer is a 4 3/4 star novel and Emmy Award Swag selection and Cataclysm is a 4 star piece of literary genius. (hahahhahahaha)
That’s all I have as to the progression of Monsters in the Woods. The
work will, of course, be entered into the Edgar Awards, The Book Awards, The Beverly Hills Book Awards, Book Pipeline and the World
Horror Convention. In the end, the book’s success lies in the hands of the fans and pundits. I have complete confidence in their comments.
On another note: I’d like to thank Saint Chris’ CEO, Bob Maher, who made this 3-day visit possible. My goal from the start was to study the campus’ layout (bringing back memories) for inclusion into my YA horror novel – which takes place at the 300-year-old institution.
That thank you is also for Mr. Aaron Falk, the recreational supervisor who helped me tremendously, walking me through the cottages, pool and administration building; all spurring 40-year old memories springing from my own teenage years residing at the McQuade Campus (1977-1981).
AS to what comes next after Monsters in the Woods is published? I am researching scenes for BEACH BODIES – Book#2 in the FBI Serial Killer Task Force which follows in the wake of The Santa Claus Killer… and many of the main characters are back ( Rico, Mike, Mei, Stefan and a few new characters) and they will all be kicking ass in this sequel.
BUT remember, I am still undergoing surgeries and rehab, so I hope this novel does not take four years like MONSTERS did because of the injuries sustained on 10 June 2013. Ultimately, it is up to the progression of my heath and ability to sit at my iMac to write this 500 page story.
That’s all folks, so as we sweat through summer, I wish you all Godspeed.
Updated by the author on 8/05/2017
Hey folks, here is a five chapter review of MONSTERS.
Publication date: Summer 2018
Global Retail Distributor Contract: Ingram Distribution
An RJ Smith Production
SETTING THE PACE
THIS STORY is about monsters.
I’m not writing gobbledygook… for time is of the essence, my bones are getting on in age, the knees are creaking and popping. My vision is beginning to blur… and no, there’s no time to slide into pajamas.
The party is almost over.
Grandfather time is moving, his hands are sweeping ‘round the clock-face like a ticking bomb; stealing my lifetime, eroding those future decades of hope and opportunities, yet realizing my days are whittling away to the ultimate prize that is sure to come thumping at the door of life.
Knock, knock, knock…
I think, we all know who that might be.
Considering whether or not to open that perplexing door, the minutes slow, the blackness surrounds me, and the dice I roll hits snake eyes. I’m a goner, with only these words left behind to remind the world I lived, cried and laughed in the face of despair. My flesh will soon be consumed by flames, the ashes sprinkled on some sugar sand beach, the preacher speaking hyped up memories.
That’ll be it for The Master of Suspense; goodbye, sayonara, turn the dog-eared page and hope to read me again. So, I don’t have time for fables, yet I need a bit to nibble at the bone for as long as my flesh is capable of withstanding that unbearable sound…
Knock, knock, knock…
Do I open the door and accept my inevitable slog to the headstone?
However, none of that has anything to do with our purpose here; this is something entirely different, and that being the case… I say screw any thought of lullabies and tape pulled over my eyes.
Let’s not answer the door just yet.
So, here we go. If you’re looking for rainbows and cotton candy, go browse the fairytale isle; we don’t need you here whittling down the time of your own death clock. I wonder… can you hear the seconds passing by?
The tick-tock, tick-tocking… the sound of it is deafening. That echo of finality is rambling down the highway of life, a head on collision is imminent, the grave waits for nobody.
In my younger years, I couldn’t hear the ticking of the clock.
In the end, time chases us all to that lonely, dark grave. So, let us get to this novel and its warning of the things that stalk the darkness; the telling of the ones who snatch the flesh from the living and the demons that consume the body until the blood is sucked dry.
That’s why we’re here.
THE GOD’S HONEST TRUTH
I have a story to tell you.
Monsters in the Woods isn’t just a work of scared shirtless fiction.
It’s real, it happened, and the reptilians I speak of still infest Earth!
I know this will scare you, maybe cause a nightmare or two… but for me that is success, I want you uncomfortable, biting the tips of your fingernails down to their bloody nubs, perchance grinding your teeth in a fit of vicious nerves. That’s bliss for me, watching you in libraries and bookstores, shifting your eyeballs from side to side, a nervous glance my way, a terrified expression planted squarely on your face. That’s where I need you… horrified of that unexplainable thud beneath your bed, a movement behind your Sunday shirts… way back in the closet.
Maybe there is a thump out in the darkness just beyond the darkened window. Haven’t you always suspected a butchering madman waiting out there in the dark?
Having eyeballed firsthand that type of butchery and coming to know those types of killers, I’ve come to prefer the chaos of my monsters.
It seems safer here somehow.
After all, Monsters In The Woods has roots in reality. It’s about a Reptilian race of beasts randomly documented and then… erased from our historical records.
This tale speaks of what if and oh, my!
Not long ago I happened across a Hopi Legend that spoke of the Reptilians who existed below the streets of downtown Hollywood.
Many claimed it was the stuff of science fiction.
And yet… as outlandish as the myth may seem for this modern age, let me remind you that humanity can’t even trace its own beginnings, other than to point to an ancient female hominid skeleton named Lucy who scientists believe existed 3.2 million years ago in the Awash Valley of the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia.
They say this thing started humanity.
That makes me laugh.
How does a virtual ape evolve into an intelligent race like Humankind without divine intervention? Dare I propose it’s unlikely we evolved from that thing?
Would you have me dragged out back and flogged at the suggestion?
It’s not like I’m proposing anything new. There is an abundance of evidence to prove other animals in the natural world don’t evolve, so why should we? Why aren’t we still evolving? As far as I’m concerned, evolution is an unnatural theory.
Dogs haven’t developed reasoning; they haven’t begun speaking,
Bears haven’t crawled out of the woods and become intelligent.
Did we miss something? Or is every species in nature the same as they’ve been from the beginning of time? Except Humanity.
The schemers want you to believe the ridiculous notion that birds and elephants developed from dinosaurs. If that’s true, why are alligators & crocodiles still just alligators and crocodiles?
Haven’t they been here from the beginning of time?
That brings me back to this story.
When I first heard about the existence of the Reptilians during a trip to the UFO Congress’ annual symposium in Arizona, I had to wonder… could there really be something to this tale? With billions of planets in the universe, isn’t it probable alien life is out there in space? And if that is true, why is it so fundamentally impractical to suppose creatures have come to hunt us? We hunt animals every day, after all… so, wouldn’t a species from another realm come here to hunt us?
There was only one way to tell for sure.
I had to uncover the tale.
Researching the reptilian story, I stumbled onto an interesting story.
In the summer of 1933, Los Angeles excavating engineer, G. Warren Shufelt, was busily surveying the earth below Hollywood for potential deposits of oil and gold using a new device he’d invented. Shufelt designed and built his radio-directed apparatus, which was able to locate gold and other precious resources at great depths. One day, while taking his readings near downtown, his instruments suddenly displayed a huge pattern of tunnels below the streets. Drawing a map, he was stunned at the enormity of such a well-planned underground labyrinth.
While his men dug the site, Warren rushed down to city hall and demanded he be allowed to excavate deeper into the newfound tunnels. But, Los Angeles city officials stopped the venture, thus begging the question… why stop the search?
What were they afraid of finding?
Why not either confirm or rule out the caverns?
What were THEY hiding down there?
Intrigued, I began researching other tales of reptilians. Pretty quickly, I discovered reports of the creatures witnessed elsewhere.
In 1955 Indiana, an encounter with The Green Clawed Beast got traction. The story went… that two friends were swimming in the Ohio River when they encountered a creature that pulled one of them under the waterline. With her friend looking on, Miss Darwin Johnson struggled back to the surface, kicking and thrashing for dear life. She claimed to have escaped a green and hairy claw.
Back on shore, a green handprint was discovered on her leg that she couldn’t wash off for days.
What the heck… you might say?
I know, I know, it sounded crazy to me, too… but the story would not end there.
Within a few days, the girls were visited by peculiar looking men who were dressed in solid black suits. Storming into their house, the agents ordered the girls to renounce all knowledge of the incident.
Does this all sound a tad familiar?
These Men in Black have been fictionalized by Hollywood for decades, with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones making a joke of the entire subject.
But the reality is this: the agents of secrecy really do exist.
And, yet, if you type Men in Black into your Google browser the official Wikipedia page is all about the fictional Men in Black movie franchise. That’s how the ruling powers want it. They want you believing none of it is real. Have you ever heard the expression that if you want to hide something, then putting the secret in plain sight will make most people overlook the obvious?
You see, there is a systematic machine in place to hide, manipulate and cover up the facts. And yet, the stories of the Reptilians have been whispered everywhere…and for a long time.
In 1955, the Sutton family was entertaining a guest when ‘creatures from outer space’ invaded their home. The story went that a guest stepped outside to fetch water from a pump and saw strange lights in the sky. Shortly after the farmhouse was attacked by green creatures with skinny legs and large clawed hands.
Now, don’t laugh, these good people believed their encounter was real.
The Green Goblins attacked the house and had to be fought off with guns. You can look it all up. It’s out there waiting to be exposed.
Similar tales continue across America.
Massachusetts was also invaded.
The Dover Demon was alleged to have had a large spherical head with bright orange eyes. It had no mouth or nose and its limbs were long and thin which ended in long fingers. Witnesses said the skin was sandpaper-textured and green.
The legends flourish worldwide.
Although at first glance, Monsters In The Woods may seem like a tale woven from the active imagination of a novelist… I assure you, these monstrosities have been reported around the globe in various forms and descriptions. However I may describe them, they’ve been said to be the worst creatures conceivable.
Writing this in 2016, and following a close call with death, I feel a renewed obligation to spin you this tale. Maybe you should take it as a warning of things to come. You see, not long after the Dover Demon appeared, something similar arrived in New Windsor, New York. It had all the hallmarks of a b-list horror movie make-up job, and yet, there was something quite unsettling to the story… thus, I decided to write it all down.
Traveling to The McQuade Campus of Saint Christopher’s, Inc., a residential home for troubled kids, I went back to the scene of the war for control of this planet we call home.
I’m dying to tell you all about it.
But first, I have to state how it all began; otherwise you’ll not have the soggiest idea of where we’re headed. Are you ready? Can you handle the possibility that monsters are real?
They’ve always watched from the shadows, even when you think your safe, snuggled in the warmth of your quilted beds. They hide in the closet, stare through the windows, and sometimes wait under your bed.
The Monsters in the Woods have been here since the beginning of time.
FORTY MINUTES north of The United States Military Academy at West Point sat a small riverfront town.
There wasn’t anything special about New Windsor, New York. It was just one of those small town favorite summer getaways. Tourists arrived from the five boroughs of the Big Apple, spent a week or two fishing the Hudson River, enjoyed camping at Bear Mountain Park, and adored the laid-back life browsing the eclectic shops situated just off the beaten path.
Nothing compared to that down home vibe when you hailed from a huge metropolis like Manhattan. There, rushing through that concrete jungle, the pulse of the city grinds down people while devouring their souls.
Usually, the tiurists arrived in Mid-June, walked the sun-drenched streets occupied by squealing children… jumping through open fire hydrants. Yes indeed, this was a place where memories were born and digitized for the remainder of life.
But, during winter, nothing moved in town.
The tourists were long gone, the shops all closed, and the economy dove into the dumps. That was especially true on this blustering evening, as snow tumbled from huge black clouds in large, moist, magnificent flakes.
It was a perfect winter-wonderland postcard.
However, because of the storm, visibility on the roads was severely reduced and the horizon disappeared in a blinding blur of white. The squall was blowing in on the Siberian Express, a swath of cold air from Russia.
Pushing though three inches of snow covering a long stretch of road dubbed Blooming Grove Turnpike, a new red-hot Mustang fought for control, its rear tires working… digging for the asphalt. On either side of the thoroughfare were tall, deep patches of pine trees stretching for miles in every direction.
But, inside the Mustang, it was warm as heated air blew through the dashboard vents. Stretched out on the leather passenger seat, a slim seventeen-year-old blonde bombshell giggled at something snappy her boyfriend had just mumbled. Unzipping her sheepskin jacket, she blew him a bursting kiss and pointed out the window.
“Peter, isn’t this storm amazing?”
“It’s all good, baby-girl,” the star seventeen-year-old high school quarterback answered pushing long blonde locks from his chiseled face, a long mischievous grin stretching out the corners of pink pouty lips. Winking, he reached for the radio and punched in the local Hip-Hop station playing a weather report.
“If you’re out on the roads this evening, a reporter stated, the New Windsor Police Department is asking drivers to be careful out there. “If you don’t have to go out,” an on air officer pitched in, “the Department is asking residents to please remain inside until the blizzard has passed through our area. Orange County and running through Dutchess, we’re expecting more than six inches of snow just tonight.”
“We’ll be okay,” Peter assured, glancing through the wipers that were struggling to push the heavy wet flakes hitting the windshield.
“Are we close to the motel?” Jen wondered.
That fine roadside accommodation served tourists well. But with business slogging through winter, the owner, Mr. Patel, skirted occupancy rules and rented rooms to anyone. That made the place popular with the high school crowd. Often they’d plan to meet up at the motel, smuggle in their cases of beer and cozying up to their partners for something of a slumber party.
But, tonight, Jenny booked the Windsor Suite, a cozy, large space with a living room, bathroom and a queen-sized bed shaped in the form of a heart.
Peter thought it was lame, but Jen thought it romantic.
“It’s a pretty good deal at $59.00 a night,” Pete offered with a devilish grin.
“Oh, baby, you know I have daddy credit card, no prob.”
Yes, Peter knew all to well.
Jennifer was a wealthy child the moment she was born. In fact, the quarterback thought her dad was worth millions since he worked 12-hour days at the stock market in Manhattan. They lived on the riverfront, on Hewitt Lane, inside a half a million-dollar estate with a stunning, unobstructed Hudson River View.
But the biggest attraction for Peter was her dad’s brand new 2017 Ford GT, as an American mid-engine two-seater sports car that was completely redesigned. It was the ultimate expression of money, with Its teardrop-shape body, a carbon-fiber body and more than 600-plus horsepower purring from the 3.5L EcoBoost® V6.
“Hey, Mister,” Jen interrupted his thoughts, “What’re ya thinking about?”
“Your dad’s red muscle car.”
“You’ll get one someday.”
Yeah right, he thought, where I come from we’re lucky to have feet!
Then, after a moment of silence.
“You know I love you, right?” Jen purred into his ear, unbuckling her seatbelt and snuggling closer to the boy she’d loved since middle school. Kissing his pale white neck peppered with tan freckles, her lips left bright red lipstick on his throat.
“Hey, stop that,” Peter chuckled, glancing into the rear-view and wiping the lipstick smudges to nothingness. Turning his dark almond shaped eyes her way, he stared at her with squinted eyes that said… I love you, too.
She knew all right. They had big plans for the future.
Then, Kevin Garrett’s 2015 song Control blurted from the speakers and Peter sang along. He liked indie artists and thought they usually had something to say. That and the fact he hated rap Music, with the artists prancing around the stage their asses hanging out, their pants pulled down in some sort of fashion madness’ that displayed their underwear to the world.
Stupid is as stupid does, Pete thought. He wouldn’t be caught dead with this pants hanging below his ass. Besides, he’d read somewhere that the whole pants thing had begun in prison as a way for homosexuals to announce they were open for business. Whatever that business was, Peter could care less.
He was a straight red blooded American with raging hormones.
Yet he probably could guess, because one of his best friends at school was Charlie Anderson, a flamer for sure… but loyal to the bone when it came to friendship. He didn’t gossip or share secrets. Charles was a good guy, and if that is what gay people were like, hell… Pete had no problem making friends and helping when they were bullied by the idiots at school.
Peter and Jen were in their senior year at Central High out on Dragon Drive, just off old Route 94. Last fall, Peter led the Green Dragons to the State Championships. That Friday night, he threw for two hundred yards, and soon, the Ivy League schools began courting him for their football programs.
A longtime resident of The McQuade Campus of Saint Christopher’s Inc., a residential school for special kids, Pete was accustomed to the hyped-up visits.
But things were different when a rigidly standing recruiter from the U.S. Army offered him a tryout down at The Point.
They’d do anything to beat the Navy, he thought.
Yet, that was all a faded memory now.
Snapping back to the present Peter glanced at Jen leaning into his ribs. Lost in the distraction of her inviting mouth and bright green eyes, the moment would have been like a thousand times before… had it not been for a flash of bright thunder snow lightning that briefly illuminated something huge stepping into the middle of the road.
“What’s the heck is that, Jenny?”
“What?” she asked, glaring through the windshield at the massive shadow caught in the car’s headlights and stomping through the wall of white tumbling from the sky. “Maybe it’s a bear?”
It seemed too big, Peter thought, but whatever that thing was, it suddenly turned and charged straight for the mustang. “Whoa,” he panicked, forgetting his Driver’s Ed course and slamming his foot onto the brake while pulling the wheel hard right. Suddenly, he realized the chains weren’t stretched over the tires to prevent the car from sliding on the black ice hidden beneath the snow.
Jen screamed, “oh, my God!” as the car rocketed toward the wall of giant pines. Watching the scene play out in slomo, she was locked in fear. Maybe because she sensed something horrible was about to happen, or perhaps her fright came from the knowledge that this was exactly what father had warned about…
Don’t play around in the car, and tell Peter to keep his eyes on the road.
Dad always said there was death out on the dark lonely roads.
At that exact moment, and almost instantly upon Jen’s memory, the mustang crashed headlong into the woods. On impact, her body soared out of the seat, crashed through the windshield, and landed in a spray of glass on the hood.
Peter would’ve seen all this if his own head hadn’t slammed onto the steering wheel and knocked him out cold. For minutes as the clock ticks, silence overtook the scene before Peter jerked awake with a gasp and found a familiar ringing deep inside his skull. It was just like the terrible concussions he’d received out on the football field when the defensive ends broke the line of scrimmage and sent him tumbling to the grass. Groggily reaching to his forehead, his long fingers touched a large flap of skin that had unbuckled itself from the impact. Blood gushed over his eyebrows and into his frightened eyes… leaving a red sheen to his vision.
It was almost like looking through a red piece of plastic held up to light.
Then, he remembered something.
“Jenny?” he pled peering at her body. “Jen!” he screamed shaking with terror. Suddenly, he began to sob at the vision of her sightless eyes. But he didn’t have time to think, because the instant everything became clear in his mind, something slammed into the car.
What’s the hell?
His head on a swivel, he pulled the door handle but found it jammed from the impact. Struggling with the handgrip, he glimpsed a gigantic dark shadow circling the car. Reaching for the backseat, he flipped open a red toolbox, grabbed a yellow flashlight and pressed on the light before swinging it into the darkness.
“Hello? Is anyone out there?”
Turning 360 degrees and lighting the windows, he again saw his girlfriend’s body. This time, the light exposed her skull that was cracked wide open. Grey brain matter and bright red blood was quickly pooling on the hood.
Then, the shadow returned.
Peter didn’t know what it was, but he had an overwhelming sense of being stalked. Like those nature shows, where ferocious lions circled old safari jeeps, hoping a human would open a window or climb out the door.
Here… Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!
Shaking the horrible voice from his mind, he leaned over and peered out the passenger window at a trail of bloody claw marks trailing through the snow.
Is it an animal?
Unbuckling the seatbelt, he climbed from his seat, crawled over the dashboard and inched out onto the warm hood. There, confronted by a close-up from hell, he took in the terrifying sight of his lifeless girlfriend.
She’d never get her sexy back; makeup would never again hide her pimples. Her face had been stripped from her skull, and the sight reminded him of a Christmas Turkey he’d helped carve in the dining hall with fifteen other boys from Fulton cottage at McQuade.
It was bad; nothing could have ever prepared him for this.
Forgetting the danger of the imagined wild animal stalking the darkness, he pulled Jen’s limp body into his arms and sobbed. But, then, he sensed something from the treeline. Turning his gaze, he saw a pair of glowing, red eyes. Unexpectedly a shriek echoed through the silence of the night and pieced his ears.
Leaping from the hood, he scrambled onto the roadway just as something emerged from the treeline. “Aw, nooooooooo!” he shouted, running out of his sneakers. Moving a fast as he could through the snow, he frightfully glanced over his shoulder and saw the thing gaining on him. It brought back the terrible thought of that lion stalking a jeep… except this time, the lion was something evil and he was sure it would chase him to his death.
Yet, this was no lion, of course; it was something very different that now hunted his youth… maybe it’s a demon… or a maniac killer dressed in a monster suit? It’s no bear! The quarterback knew. But from this distance, he really couldn’t make out what exactly it was… because the blizzard shielded whatever it was.
Then, staring over his right shoulder, he watched as another mammoth shadow leapt from the woods and joined the chase.
That was all the quarterback needed to motivate his feet.
Running for his life into the woods, he hoped he’d be able to lose whatever it was that chased him into the darkness. Sprinting as if a lion really was on his heels, his screams broke the stillness of night.
“Somebody help me!”
Of course, nobody heard him; there wasn’t a human soul within hearing distance of the frightened boy. If he were going to survive, he’d have to use his own wits and courage to find safety.
Behind him, the things from Hell gained on their prey.
Suddenly, Peter wasn’t sure if he’d live to tell this tale.
He only had one hope of escaping the hunt.
Maybe someone on the other side of the deep woods would happen to be driving along Route 9W when I burst from the timbers.
But that was quite a stretch far ahead and into the pitch-blackness.
Before safety could be found, the teenager knew he’d have to navigate the thick, dark and freezing timbers. Recalling the horrid vision of Jenny… he grasped the possibility that she might already be food for those things sure to be pouncing on her flesh back at the car. Trying desperately to push that vision from mind, he scanned the woods ahead, noticing the path was littered with downed trees and thick branches. Slogging through knee deep snow, he thought for the first time that this might be it for his life, there might not be an escape from the grave.
It’ll take an act of God; a voice pounded his considerations, to outrun the demons chasing you into the woodlands.
God has nothing to do with these things, Peter thought. Those creatures are something straight out of hell.
ACROSS THE RIVER in the Village of Ossining, a drunken fool had just burst through a woman’s front door. Knocking it from the hinges, the lumber exploded in a spray of splintering toothpicks.
“I’m going to kill you, Patty,” he grumbled, grabbing his girlfriend and violently slapping the woman through a sparsely decorated living room. In an outburst of antagonism he propelled her onto a ratty pleather sofa that had seen better days.
“Ronnie, stop!” she begged, escaping the sofa and scrambling across the room, a river of streaking tears rolling down her red, swelling, cheeks. With panic set in her terrified stare, death was toying with her weakened soul. It was like the reaper could’ve taken her life right then… and although it was true death might’ve offered some relief from the agony of life; she wasn’t about to back down from this abuser. However, she might’ve considered releasing her desperate clutch on life, and throw in her lousy hand… cashing in her chips… if it wasn’t for her teenage son, Lars.
I can’t give up, not to this drunken idiot.
“Get off of me, Ronnie, or I’ll call the freaking police!”
“Go ahead! Until they arrive I’ll show you who the boss is!”
“What’s that? Slavery to your kingdom… and the non-stop cleaning of this crappy apartment, and preparing your dinner every single night?”
“You no good witch,” the drunk growled. “Now you’ve done it!”
“No!” Lars yelled from the doorway of his bedroom. Glancing to the corner of the room, he saw something invisible to the others.
“What should I do, Prince?”
Beside the boy, a five-year-old black Labrador retriever barked angrily at the drunken man. Its ears pinned slap behind its head, the tongue hanging out of its mouth that were stacked with sharp, pointy teeth.
“Shut up you mongrel or I’ll snap your neck!”
“Prince, please do something!” Lars yelled to something unseen. It was almost like he was speaking to a ghost.
“Hey, boy!” Ronnie spat. “Can’t you see there is nobody there? It’s just you, your mommy and me. What are you, still talking to invisible, make-believe friends?” He hated the kid’s absolute insistence that since the day he was born, an invisible little alien named Prince had abducted Lars to a planet in outer space.
Said to stand three-feet-tall, with one emerald green eye, the boy asserted the creature was the One of Knowledge from a planet called Xylanthia located in the Sirius Star System, which was comprised of three stars; Sirius A, B and C.
It sounded ridiculous to Ronnie.
Nevertheless, the thirteen year old knew it was true and insisted the alien was real. “Prince is not make-believe!”
He could prove it, too, had anyone asked for such verification.
But that was beside the point right now, because at this very instant, Lars had retreated into his bedroom to reach under his bed grabbing a small round crystal globe that looked eerily similar to the planet Earth.
“Leave my Mom alone!”
“Ha-ha-ha-Ha!” Ronnie laughed and stomped into the bedroom, his fists balled into large round hammers of hate. He knew how to use those weapons, too, as both Lars and his mother had found out over the years.
Pulling the globe into view, Lars watched as the crystal began to pulse with a broad spectrum of brilliant blue colors. There was no reason for it to be vibrating in his hand, as there were no batteries inserted into the rock.
To the average observer, it appeared much like any cheap little globe of glass that might’ve been purchased from the Amazon store or a neighborhood garage sale. But this was no ordinary toy.
The fact was, there really was an invisible alien watching from the corner of the room and he had given the globe to Lars years earlier.
Focusing all his concentration on the crystal, the boy willed its power and waited for something to happen. “Please, Prince, help me!”
“Ha-ha-ha-Ha!” the King of All Lowlifes chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Put away your pathetic, stupid rock! What are you doing, trying to scare me off?”
He was attempting a tone of calm, cool and collected while trying not to display the absolute ferocity coursing through his swelling veins.
Yet, Lars knew there was fear deep in Ronnie’s weak, alcoholic heart. The pointy-eared alien had told him everything about the drunk’s true nature.
The bloke is a coward, the invisible extraterrestrial suddenly whispered in Lars’ frightened thoughts. He’s hiding behind the liquid courage of Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker Black. Don’t be afraid of him, Young Blue Eyes, find that burning courage deep in your pure heart and stand tall with bravery!
Blue Eyes was what the alien had baptized Lars. The name stuck, too, because of the boy’s blazing bright blue eyes. They seemed to blaze when he focused his attention onto the globe.
“Mom sure can pick the winners!”
“What did you say?” Ronnie yelled stomping towards the boy. “Are you talking to that damn make-believe friend of yours again? You think he can save your momma from this ass whipping I’m about to hand out?”
Harness the power of the stone, the alien’s voice urged Lars’ mind. You have the will and ability to make this terrible man disappear!
Staring into the crystal, Lars believed Prince yet questioned where the globe’s true power came from. It seemed like a smaller version of a bowling ball without the finger holes. However, unlike a lane thrower, this little crystal had true supernatural powers.
Lars marveled at his reflection glowing in the globe and the bright blue lights exploding from the crystal.
Nice and cool now, just invoke the words!
Maybe Lars had read too many novels. Perhaps he really did have an active imagination like his mom always said. He was, after all, an addict when it came to reading fiction novels.
The blue crystal had been a 5th birthday gift from Prince, the One of Knowledge. “It’s a tool for the future,” the bald red skinned alien said many years prior. “The day will come when all its energy will be at your fingertips!”
Ronnie hated the thing. There was something unsettling about the way it glowed. Once, when he was alone in the apartment and was searching through Lars bedroom, the sphere erupted in an unexpected blinding brilliant light. Attempting to grab it from its cradle on a bedside dresser, it burned his hand. It was so hot, it caused his entire palm to swell for days.
“Well, are you going to put that silly, little girl, sissy marble away?”
At that moment, the room disappeared and it seemed like only the alien and Lars were standing there in the brilliant light of the crystal.
Staring at the glowing round rock, Lars was spellbound by its magnificence.
Every creature through the dimensions depends on the universe, the alien told the boy, for their powers in the great expanse of life.
Staring into the glow of the rock, Lars felt its power.
Then, suddenly, the room re-appeared and Ronnie turned to where Lars stood. But he’d be dammed if he saw anything except a wall covered with movie posters, a Gibson guitar and a PlayStation 3 controller sitting on a chair facing the television. Shaking his head in anger, he turned toward Lars and raised his hand.
“I swear I’ll beat that fantasy out of your head if you don’t stop talking to things that aren’t there!”
“Please, Ronnie,” Patty begged, “Just leave my boy alone!”
“Look at this brat you raised! He listens to rap music, does nothing but watch superhero movies and talks to invisible freaks like some idiot in a Hobbit film!”
How dare he mumble such damnation, The Prince fumed, insulting the Land of the Hobbits! Invisibly running across the room he touched the side of his nose with a finger and focused his bright emerald eye on Ronnie’s legs.
Instantly, the drunk to tripped to the floor.
That’ll teach you! A voice pushed into Ron’s head. “What the hell?” he yelled stumbling to his feet. Staring at Lars, he wanted nothing better than to slap him into adulthood. “Yes, that’s what I’ll do to you!”
“Ha-ha-ha-Ha!” the boy laughed hysterically; his sides splitting after watching the entire event unfold the moment the alien ran towards the idiot. “Are you talking to your own invisible friend now?”
“I’ll kill you,” the man promised.
No, you won’t the alien knowingly nodded. At that instant, he turned to the Boy Wonder and pushed this thought into the teenager.
It is time, Lars; the moment has arrived to begin our journey and harness the powers of the Stone of Destiny!
Instantly, Lars knew how to end the danger. He understood, many years ago, this moment would arrive. Having been abducted since childhood, he knew all too well the destiny heading for humankind in the near future.
Do it! The alien assured. Focus your thoughts on the stone and send his bones to the underworld! He has nothing over you unless you give him the power!
Lars knew Prince hated this particular boyfriend. The alien had been here from the beginning, watching the beatings, the drunken rages, the leather belt whipping the boy and his mother. Grimacing, the teenager felt a bead of sweat trailing down his brow and fought the urge to wipe an arm across his face.
“You no good, lazy, good for nothing brat,” the man spat, “you might as well pull a dress over your head, because you’re a little girl.”
“Please, Ron,” Lars mother again pleaded. “Don’t hurt him!” Tears streaked black eyeliner down her cheeks while helpless sobs of desperation reverberated through the small room.
“Get away from her,” Lars ordered with renewed courage, a scowl of hatred creasing his brow. “I’ll send you to hell if you don’t leave!”
Ronnie turned to him, and in a few quick steps, swung for Lars head.
That’s when the Labrador charged and chomped down on Ron’s ankle.
“Damn mongrel,” he yelled, kicking Man’s Best Friend across the room.
“Leave Oscar alone!” the boy yelled.
Glancing to the alien, Lars saw Prince place a finger to his large nose. Then, suddenly, the crystal in the boy’s hand blinded everyone in the room with a blast of sapphire shaded energy. Blinking back all fear, Lars opened his eyes and sent his thoughts and anger into the globe.
It was like pulling the trigger of a revolver, because right then, a bursting lightning bolt of white light exploded from the crystal and hit Ronnie square in the chest. Suddenly, his body convulsed wildly, his flesh turning a deep red and his veins turning to a black web that ran down his face and arms. In a moment, the clothes fell to the ground, and Ron’s body collapsed to a pile of black ashes.
Prince smiled, winked at Lars and disappeared with these words whispering into Lars’ mind. I’ll see you soon, Dear Boy; there is much work to do and so little time to prepare for the Battle of Redemption!
“Lars!” Patty screamed, staring in shock at the mound of ashes that had once been her boyfriend. Not understanding what happened, she knew her primary concern right now was to protect her son.
You did well, Boy. Prince’s voice assured from somewhere beyond.
“Come on, Son,” Patty cried, pushing the teenager from the apartment with Oscar the Dog trotting beside them. Once outside, she left her son on the concrete stoop and hurried to the neighbor’s front door. “Ethel! Ethel! Open the door!”
A moment later, a grey-haired housewife emerged with a hair net covering a fresh perm. “What is it, Patty?” she probed, pulling a cheap, pink robe about her plump frame. “Why are you banging on the door? What has happened?”
“What about him?”
“He fell dead onto the floor in a pile of ashes!”
“What?” The expression lining her face displayed disbelief. “Have you flipped your wig, Patty? What are you talking about?”
Patty understood how it must have sounded. Placing her trembling hands to her face she sobbed hysterically, “Oh, my Lord! Please help me, Ethel!”
“What is going on?” Ethel’s husband asked arriving at the door.
“Herbert, Patty says Ronnie is dead!”
Understanding she had to come up with something more believable, Patty glanced into Ethel’s face and made up her story. “I lit him on fire, Ethel. I poured gasoline over his head and threw on the matches!”
“Jesus of Nazareth!” Herbert shrieked. “Ethel, honey, call the police!”
Lars, however, could care less about the commotion. He was sitting in shocked silence on the cracked concrete steps stroking his best friend behind the ears. Mentally, his mind was a chaotic jumble of ashes and questions of what really happened back in that room. Glancing to an enormous Weeping Willow tree, he was lost in its seventy-foot height, spread by hundreds of barren branches and weighted by heavy, wet, snow and long icicles stretching to the ground.
“There’s nothing but ashes!” Herbert’s voice yelled from inside the apartment. “Holy mackerel, Patty, you torched this poor man to death!”
Lars was oblivious to the words. The beauty of that old Willow occupied his mind. There was something about the tree that captured his attention during all the years he’d lived here. Since a very young boy, he attempted to sketch the colossal tree into pages of an old brown leather journal the One of Knowledge had given him for thinking time. Had anyone looked inside the pages, they’d only see thick blank pages. But when Lars stared at those same pages, they held detailed plans, genetic code and survival information written in black ink.
Everyone needs thinking time, Prince always stated. It builds character, allows for us all to plot the future and find our paths of purpose! Those plans will help humanity one day.
“Why me?” Lars had asked the alien at the age of seven, finally able to articulate the questions saved up over his development years. “Why not pick some other boy from another place? How am I supposed to save the world?”
During his years of being abducted in the dead of night, and having travelled on a disc shaped spacecraft with the alien to outer space, he had been one of many hybrid children selected to rebuild the human race after the coming destruction.
In every realm there is someone blessed with The Gift of Life. You were Earth’s chosen one long before you came into the world!
“I don’t know what you mean!”
You will, Blue Eyes, one day, time will make it all clear for you!
Pushing that old conversation from mind, the teenager stared back at the century-old Weeping Willow and thought it never looked more beautiful than it did just then… pure as the snowstorm blowing around it. There might’ve been a universal meaning in that realization, but somehow its definition escaped his sensibility at this exact instant, so he just stared at its frozen magnificence.
Things will never be the same, he thought. Everything has changed.
Life and death always does, Prince’s voice reminded from another dimension. Life… Death… Eternity!
Watching the snow falling from dark, thick clouds, Lars realized it would be a white Christmas. However, the scene inside the apartment would forever stain the holiday. And, yet, he didn’t feel remorse. In fact, he didn’t feel anything at all, except maybe a pinch of glee that Ronnie the Drunk was a goner.
“So long, partner. Bang, bang, you’re dead.”
As approaching sirens pierced the uncanny silence, and neighbors huddled around his mother, Lars was happy to have accomplished one simple little task. He had freed the world of a horrible, despicable man. Not many kids did that.
And soon, he’d be the hero of abused teenagers everywhere. There was only one thing he wished… that somehow the adults would get things together.
With the polar ice melting and the planet warming, the storms on Earth were worsening and the disasters were getting bigger.
That meant something to Lars.
It was a sign that the end was near.
THE ACCIDENT SCENE
BACK IN NEW WINDSOR, Police Chief Marty McBride had overseen thousands of accident scenes like the one on Blooming Grove Turnpike.
Now, sitting in an oversized leather chair situated at an L shaped desk in his office that he’d been elected to fifteen years prior. Located at 555 Union Avenue, the one story, red-bricked Municipal Center housed the jail, Town Hall, Ambulance Corps… and the Justice Court.
“This snowstorm is going to become a blizzard,” the Chief realized while staring at a computer screen’s live radar image from Weather Channel online. “Not much will be happening in the crime business; we only booked one perp today for breaking and entering out at Blooming Grove’s Medicine Chest Pharmacy.”
“Pill Popper Bill,” Sergeant Stanley Stump noted, “a crime of opportunity, walking right in the door Mr. Jensen forgot to lock before he left for the night.”
Chief Marty nodded. “Too bad, he actually treats people with kindness and concern… makes it his business to be on hand to answer customer’s questions. Hardly anyone around here fills their prescriptions at Walgreens or CVS.”
“There is something to be said for small Mom and Pop businesses,” Stanley agreed. “We’re small town USA.” Yawning, he glanced to the chief’s wife Delores doubling as the town’s 911 dispatcher. She had been doing such since the mayor cut back the department’s annual operating budget.
Now, she was gathering details of the vehicle accident.
Grabbing a coffee mug, Stanley turned back to the chief and sighed in absolute boredom. Nothing happened in town. It was the kind of place where residents could leave their homes without locking the doors. Yet, things were changing and nobody was really safe anymore.
All the school shootings were proof of that.
“We’re dead in winter, Marty. You know nothing moves after the fall exodus of Manhattans who climb back aboard their Metro North trains for the ride back.”
It’s true, Chief Marty knew, Stanley is right, nothing ever goes on here, except the occasional missing person, like last summer, when the whispers started circulating again.
That’s when old man Steeply and his wife disappeared during an evening walk in San Giacomo Park. It was one of the strangest parks in the area, confirmed by a wooden sign at its entrance that restricted just about every activity conceivable in a normal park.
No Pets in Park.
No Open Fires.
No Alcohol or Drugs.
No Vending or Peddling.
No Vehicles Including ATVs, Snow Mobiles on Fields.
The park Closes at Dusk unless at Scheduled Activity.
Please Pick Up Your Trash.
Permit Required For Use of Fields.
Town Residents only!
Pushing the nonsensical sign from mind, the chief thought of Mr. Steeply’s kids, Matthew and Susan, who didn’t notice their parents, had slipped away during the annual summer festival, the Nancy Pullar Summer Concert Series. The event was held at the Town Hall Band Stand and brought out almost every tourist in town. The concerts occurred Wednesday evenings … and every Tom, Dick, and Harry came out for the free refreshments and hot dogs provided by the town’s slush fund. The happening had always been held here… unless it rained. If that happened, the inebriated mayor would judiciously stumble onto the old wooden stage, grab a twenty-year-old microphone, and usher everyone inside.
But it didn’t rain last year. No, last year was somewhat different.
The chief understood almost immediately that something horrible had happened, because… sixty-year-old residents just didn’t disappear from a public park without a trace.
“Marty,” Delores interrupted her husband’s thoughts. “Henry says there’s something you really need to see out at his accident scene.”
“What is it?”
“A dead girl and signs of a missing driver who ran into the woods!”
“Driving in this weather?” Marty huffed, glancing to his longtime sergeant and the pained expression planted squarely on his face. A silent understanding passed between the two that stated said this wasn’t good, and something stunk.
“What makes Henry think that?” the chief asked.
“He found a pair of boy’s sneakers abandoned in the snow and bloody footprints leading into the woods.”
“Jeez,” Marty grunted and nodded to his sergeant. “Bloody footprints leading into the pines, why the hell would someone do that in this storm?”
The chief had a suspicion, and possibly what this meant, but God help the people of New Windsor if reality was anything close to his thoughts.
“Stanley, let’s get out there and see what Henry is talking about.”
“I think you better,” Delores agreed. “The scene is a quarter mile north of 623 Blooming Grove Highway and Henry has closed the entire roadway.”
“That’s by Saint Christopher’s McQuade campus,” Stanley knew. “Is this a missing kid one of theirs, maybe out for a ride in the snow?”
Saint Christopher’s Inc., was a privately run residential institution for abused and neglected kids aged eight to eighteen. Most had been placed there from agencies in New York City. They came from predominantly poor families with incapable parents who didn’t know anything about raising adolescents. Being a parent took guts; it meant teaching values and instilling a code of conduct in impressionable kids who needed all the help possible in this day and age. The organization did a good job at doing just that on a campus that resembled a well-tended college campus that housed both boys and girls in four separate cottages on a big parcel of land. The kids who lived in the cottages commonly ended up there after being orphaned at a young age by irresponsible parents. But, the campus was also home to the Kaplan Career Academy, and there were more than sixty teens from the surrounding community who attended the special needs school.
“I doubt it is one of their kids,” Marty mirrored his sergeant’s belief. Standing from his chair, he shuffled over to his wife and kissed her on the cheek before heading for the door. “Call over there, Delores, and see if they’re missing anybody.”
“I’m on it,” she said reaching for a multi-lined telephone.
Could it be one of their boys running in the woods? The chief wondered. He knew most of them had it made at the school. They formed great friendships, learned well in their classes and had adapted very well to New Windsor life. Hell, some of the kids even helped at the town car wash every summer raising funds for the Fourth of July cookout sponsored by Town Hall.
Hurrying through the squadroom, Marty and his sergeant pushed out dual glass doors and slogged through the storm before climbing into a white and blue patrol car with POLICE CHIEF painted on the doors. Sliding the key into the ignition, the chief started the engine, flipped on the heater and glanced to Stanley sitting in the passenger seat.
“You know what this sounds like, Stan?”
“Case number 201608?”
Just a month prior, a McQuade kid had come up missing along Blooming Grove Turnpike. His bloody tracks had also been discovered tracing into the timbers, but the body was never recovered. The most interesting aspect of that case for everyone concerned was an abandoned car that sat idling on the roadway.
It was eerily similar to this current accident call.
Recalling that case, the chief recalled that following two days of penetrating the deep woods with more than a hundred law enforcement personnel, the bloody footprints ended in a pool of dark red blood at the banks of Moodna Creek. That was the end of it, and the case never went anywhere.
“If this accident is near McQuade,” Marty grumbled with concern cracking his voice, “and we’re dealing with one of their missing boys, we’ll have to reopen that unsolved case from last year. This incident sounds similar to the Tommy Smith disappearance, doesn’t it?”
When Stanley answered in the affirmative, Marty shook his head and hit the siren, navigating along Union Avenue; he turned onto New York’s Route 32 to Willow Avenue.
“The plows are working overtime,” the Chief of Police noticed, eyeballing a huge, yellow truck pushing mounds of snow to the side of the road. Turning onto Blooming Grove Turnpike, he saw the flashing emergency lights. Then, just off to the side, he glanced at the abandoned Mustang that was crashed into a swath of pines.
“Jeez, what the heck caused someone to veer off the road like that?”
“Not sure,” the sergeant answered.
Pulling alongside the scene, the men climbed from the car and rushed over to Patrolman Henry Tomlinson… a lanky, under nourished, five-year veteran of the New Windsor Police Department.
“What do you have?” Marty asked.
“I found the scene like this,” Henry answered, swinging a heavy black service flashlight across the vehicle. “The dead girl on the hood was DOA when I arrived, the engine is still idling, and I found these.” Walking along a bloody trail, he led the chief and sergeant to the bloody footprints tracking into the woods. Pushing his light along their trajectory into the timbers, he shrugged and grunted in disbelief. “It doesn’t add up, Chief. I don’t like this for one minute!”
“What do you make of it?”
“Darned if I know, but I have a bad feeling about it.”
Grabbing a flashlight from his gunbelt, the chief followed the trail a few yards into the woods with his men close behind. “It’s dark as a haunted house on Halloween.” Glancing at the night sky he noticing the moonlight was entirely blocked out by the storm and swung his light back through the trees. “My light is barely punching through this heavy darkness.”
“Darn,” Patrolman Tomlinson griped, a look of concern furrowing his brow. “I hope we aren’t going further into these woods.” As soon as he said it, he was sorry. He was somewhat of a yellow belly, as strange as that sounds for a law-enforcement officer. Henry also couldn’t stand the sight of blood, and hated the thought that someday having to pull his sidearm, aim its barrel at another human being and pull the trigger. He suffered terrible nightmares about this, and at one point actually saw a psychiatrist to help him deal with the stress of the job.
Then, suddenly, from somewhere back up on the road, an ambulance siren wailed in the distance. Everyone knew its blare; there was a distinct sound to it. Police sirens all had a whoop-whoop-whooping sound, whereas an ambulance screeched a solitary non-stop teeth-grinding wail.
“Go back up there,” Marty ordered Henry, “and get the paperwork going.”
The patrolman hated the form-filling more than anything; he spent more than half his shift filling out tickets, forms and incident reports. Often, those reports contained information about cattle that were mutilated, loud music from a neighbor’s house, or pulling over a speeding motorist and filling out moving violations that drove in revenue for town.
“You want me to list this as an accident and missing person?”
Shaking his head, Marty wasn’t sure yet. He knew he had an accident to deal with, but those bloody footprints leading into the treeline… that was something entirely different. It was possible they’d find whom they belonged to… possibly shivering and hypothermic and pushed up against a tree trunk near death, frightened out of their mind. That being the case, it was also possible they’d find a dead body out in the woods with wolves nibbling at the feast.
“We can start searching the timbers,” Sergeant Stump suggested. “Or, maybe, we should just call out a search party and wait until everyone gets out here to the scene, have somewhat of a backup in case something goes bad?”
Thrusting his hands onto his hips, Chief Marty McBride wasn’t sure what he wanted to do just yet. He supposed his first instinct was to follow the bloodied footprints, track through the building storm and find out exactly what had transpired. He didn’t think waiting was a good idea; it wouldn’t take long for somebody to die out here with these frigid conditions.
Pushing his flashlight through the timbers, the sergeant glanced to his boss. “Want to track the prints or call backup?”
Grunting, the chief decided to lead the way. “Let’s get a move on, every minute counts here, there is no time to waste on waiting for surrounding departments to show up and help us in the search. We don’t know how long this person has been out here in the dark.” His hope was… that each step would lead them to the owner of the abandoned sneakers up on the roadway. With his flashlight illuminating the bloody tracks, he led his sergeant into the unknown dangers waiting in the darkness. With his flashlight barely punching through the blackness, a solitary howl of a wolf broke the silence of the night. The animal could be miles away, or be shadowing their track laterally just out of sight. Whatever the case, neither of the men cherished the thought of the mission that lay ahead. Many first responders had died in conditions just like this, some having been attacked by wild animals, others tripping over an unseen log or rock that littered the path.
Staring through the timbers the chief recognized one thing. This is not going to be good. Something nagged at the back of his neck. “They are back, Stump, I can feel it in my bones!”
“Jeez, Chief, let’s hope you are wrong,” the sergeant answered. “We can’t keep this a secret much longer, people are becoming interested.”
That secret had to do with missing people.
Dozens of them.
And there was something evil lurking in town.
THE THINGS were chasing Peter.
He heard them flanking his movements through the cold, dark woods. Tripping over a downed tree branch covered with snow, he fell to the ground with a thump.
Nervously scanning the treeline, he observed the old pines were tremendously large and sprouted more than a hundred feet into the air.
“Hello? Is anybody out there?”
Of course they are, and they’re coming for you.
Dad’s ghostly voice scared the crap outta him and fear ran the length of his backbone causing a subsequent shiver.
“I have to get myself moving,” he urged, lifting from the frozen earth. That’s when he noticed the shiver had become an uncontrollable shudder and that he’d quickly become disoriented and drowsy.
This of course was a result of his core body temperature falling below ninety-five degrees. When that happened, hypothermia set in. Soon, his flesh would start freezing as frostbite advanced and paralyzed his fingers, toes, earlobes, and the tip of the nose. It would all be over… a dead boy walking.
They’d find his skeleton in the spring thaw; the joints disconnected and the bones bleached white from a blazing sun hanging low in the sky. The bones would be scattered over a great distance, remnants of what the wild things had left from the carcass after chewing away scraps of flesh.
“Dammit, I have to keep moving!”
Abruptly, a snarl erupted from somewhere out in the darkness.
“Gak mach ich noch!”
That’s not an animal that I’ve ever heard.
Behind the teenager, from someplace out in the impenetrable darkness, there was a quick, frantic movement. It reminded him of what a pack of wolves might sound like charging through the timbers and hunting their prey.
“I have to move!” he urged his freezing body while crawling from his freezing, unprotected feet and stumbling through the snow. I’m going to die out here!
These things chasing Peter had ben a long whispered joke. Everyone in high school had heard the dreaded stories of the things that stalked the woods, yet none of his friends had solid proof they existed. Some supposed they were demons from middle earth, others said the creatures lived in the waters of Moodna Creek.
The Maniacs were legend in New Windsor.
That’s what the high school kids called the monsters around campfires on windswept midsummer evenings. With beer coursing through their underage veins, most thought the stories were hysterical… just something insane to entertain.
Nobody honestly thought they were real.
Not so funny now… huh, Petey Boy?
Recalling every story he’d heard about The Maniacs, he wondered why all his friends hadn’t paid closer attention to the possibility of their dreaded existence. It certainly seemed plausible that creatures could live out here in the woods, maybe sheltering somewhere beneath a lean-to, or pushing into the back of a cave. There was plenty of freshwater fish and wild animals for them hunt.
You’ve always known they were real, Peter, daddy’s voice suggested. Deep down in your soul, underneath all your Doubting Thomas questions, at the very center of your being… you’ve always felt their existence was true!
And maybe that was true.
Perhaps every boy growing up across the globe had an undeniable certainty pounding in his chest. Maybe it was a rite of passage for children everywhere to sit around a campfire and listen to monster stories with the nervous understanding that going into the woods alone at night was not a good thing.
It was outright foolhardy to light a match without expecting consequences, especially if you knew what those fiery penalties carried.
Now, Peter knew for sure The Maniacs existed.
But it is too late, Sonny Boy! A nickel shy and a dollar short!
“Gak mach ich noch,” another terrifying snarl erupted from the thickets. “Mach ich noch! Mach ich noch!”
Scared out of his mind, Peter scrambled backward through the brush until he collapsed onto his rump. The large gash on his forehead was persistently dripping blood now; the bright red stains leaving a red track in the snow.
They smell your stink, Petey, and they’re coming for you, Sonny!
Desperately trying to catch his breath, the quarterback scanned the blackness for the source of the terrifying, growling agony.
At that moment, another snarl bounded through the dark… but this time, the boy saw something large, maybe eight feet tall, hiding behind the trees. With fear lining his horrified face, he leapt to his feet and ran for dear life through the knee deep snow. “Oh, man, oh, man!” he cried swiveling his blonde headed skull on his thick white neck. Glancing over his shoulders, and seeing nothing but towering saplings, every second seemed like hours, because he knew at any moment, the perturbing, stinking creatures trailing close behind would soon catch his sorry ass and carry him… kicking and screaming, back to their lair where they’d probably rip apart his youthful flesh.
A fine meal… that milky-white flesh of yours will taste like a porterhouse steak.
That voice of dad had stalked him since the day pop died.
“Shut the hell up!” Peter shouted punching through the treeline and running onto deserted Route 74. The narrow snaking thoroughfare was covered with half a foot of snow. The vision caused him to realize that he’d have to cut a path through the drifts. Glancing down the road that divided the thickets, he saw pine and maple trees for as far as his eyes could see. Breathing heavily and totally exhausted, a piercing throbbing pain shot up his legs. Grabbing his aching hamstrings, he realized for the first time that it was possible he’d die right here, surrounded by the woodlands, bloody and lost in the dense coppices he knew so well.
Glancing along the roadway, his memories recalled prior Saturday nights when his classmates ventured out here to make out with their girlfriends.
Route 74 was one of those secluded, unpatrolled areas that kids always liked, where the darkness invaded everything and the thrill of making it to first base outweighed the risks of personal danger.
“Man,” he huffed, realizing there was nowhere to run. The plow never ventured out here because moving snow from isolated roads was low on the town’s priority list. With this awareness taunting his fear stricken mind, he knew the only way to safety was to run more than two miles down this road or risk a one-mile trek through the woods.
Both choices terrified him.
At this instant, from somewhere behind, the things moved through the darkness. Pete heard the were footfalls, or claws, or something… crunching through the ice-covered snow, moving through the woods more rapidly than anything he’d ever heard. Unexpectedly, and without warning, a large, flat limestone rock landed in a spray of snow at his feet.
It looked like a water skipping rock, but this one was fifty times larger.
It’s Bigfoot, Petey Boy, Daddy’s voice suggested. Forget all those stories you have heard, this is the sickest Mammy Jammy of them all.
“Damn it!” Peter griped in terror. The thing is stalking me.
Glancing to the rock forced the quarterback to consider the things following him were something like a Sasquatch. They were known to traverse the woods of the Hudson Valley taunting humans who had dared hike through the forest.
Scanning the area he considered his options.
I have to keep moving… If I want to survive, I’ll have to make it through the woods to Route 9W where a car or truck might pass.
First, he’d have to navigate Murderers Creek.
It got its name in 1813 when a girl named Sally Hamilton came up missing. Later, her head was found half a mile north of where Peter now stood.
The rest of her body was never found.
Nowadays, if someone, such as a reporter or investigator wanted to locate Sally’s weathered gravestone sprouting from the Earth in Mount Hope Cemetery, they’d find the tombstone detached from its base and leaning against another monument. The lettering on the stone had been worn down, and it looked like somebody took a grindstone to it. But if you looked real close, pushing your nose up against the headstone, the date of death was barely visible. Yet, if anyone excavated that tomb, they’d find an empty casket with rocks weighing it down.
Of course, nobody was looking.
Sally’s suspicious demise had been intentionally wiped from the town’s vital statistics records.
But Pete knew now she was one of the first to be taken.
However, when newly discovered bodies were found out here, the stories came rushing back. Horror legends always crept back and found their way into the dark bedrooms of teenaged boys. That was especially true when every few years a cadaver was found near the creek. Some townsfolk claimed a serial killer was stalking New Windsor and had dumped remains along the creek bed for a quick discovery by the police; others told more sinister tales of creatures.
Big snarling monsters drooling through razor sharp teeth.
Peter didn’t want to think of that right now.
“Hell,” he spat through chattering, brilliantly white teeth. The braces of his youth had done him well, and darn it to hell… they wouldn’t much matter now, anyway. Except, maybe, in a few years, when the bugs had eaten his lifeless body and his skeleton worked its way into the soil. If he was lucky, a hiker might find the teeth, like shiny pebbles, littering the ground.
They’d be fossils by then and all evidence of his life would’ve been covered over by the town’s foul secrets. The township knew how to hide the truth.
Snapping back to the present, he peered across the frozen landscape and saw Murderers Creek had frozen over. Sprinting across the abandoned roadway, he swiveled his head and glanced back into the dark treeline.
But it wasn’t dark enough… because just then, he saw dozens of the monstrosity creatures crouching across the road, just behind a patch of tall pines.
Dinner, boy; they want your flesh!
“You’re miserable, Dad!”
Then, the biggest of the monster clan leapt onto the road and tramped towards the boy. Stepping in large swinging paces, its movements appeared like it was crawling on all fours, but advancing with just a few large strides.
“Gak mach ich noch,” the lead huge reptile creature snarled through rows of large, triangular, jagged teeth that protruded from exceptionally thin, grey lips. Its skin resembled football leather, except it was scaly and green in appearance… much like a lizard or snake. The beast was horrendous.
Making it harder to describe… was the fact it seemed to morph in and out of reality, like it was suddenly disappearing and reappearing every ten feet or so. If Peter didn’t know any better, he would’ve believed that the monsters were appearing through some type of wormhole, a portal, like on Star Trek Enterprise where the body materialized out of nothing after being beamed down.
Here comes the gravy train, boy!
It scared Peter so much, he felt like passing out.
But he didn’t do that because to fall down and close his eyes at this moment would mean certain death. Instinctively he turned and sprinted for the world record in the Olympic Games… stumbling repeatedly, not caring whether the creek’s ice bed was frozen all the way through or not. Today there was only one thing Peter Massey cared about.
He wanted to live.
DEAD ON ARRIVAL
Clifford Webb knew the girl.
And, he immediately recognized she was dead.
An Emergency Medical Technician with New Windsor’s Volunteer Ambulance Corps, he’d been with the department for ten years and had seen every conceivable cause of death.
And, most recently… strange mutilations of corpses.
Cliff was so used to seeing the deceased, it didn’t affect him anymore; he was numb to the sight of them… it didn’t matter if they were riddled with bullet holes, had their skulls cracked opened or were burned alive.
Once victims were dead, there was nothing he could do about it.
His job was to save lives, not worry about the departed.
“Wow,” Clifford whispered to his longtime partner who was pulling sticky cardiac leads from the girl’s cold chest. “She didn’t have a chance, killed the instant her skull struck the windshield.”
“Yup, a very unlucky girl; you want me to jingle up the county morgue?”
Pushing the heart monitor back into a red mobile life bag, Cliff shook his head and turned his eyes to the dark overcast skies.
“Nah, it’ll take them an hour to get here in this weather.”
Pulling a stretcher from the ambulance, he had an idea. “Why don’t we transport her over to Harry’s place? Let him clean up the loose ends with a big red bow and his shiny sharpened instruments.”
That meant the horror of an autopsy.
Harry Mortinson was Orange County’s Medical Examiner and what some people termed the Tender of the Dead. Working from the morgue on Wells Farm Road in the county seat of Goshen, he lived in town and often accepted a random, unlucky stiff at his custom basement morgue constructed within his old mansion.
That frightened the bejesus out of the kids in town who named him Scary Harry. It’s not like he didn’t deserve the designation… he understood the moniker, surfacing when he left the basement windows open in summer on purpose… knowing that the stench of decomposing flesh filtering through the neighborhood alerted everyone in town… that if they dared to find the courage to peek into Harry’s cellar windows, they’d see a pale white cadaver stretched out for all its glory on a stainless steel postmortem slab, the rib cage ripped open by bolt cutters, the chest cavity visible for everybody to see; the intestines and organs lying out in plain sight beside the body. Sometimes the kids saw an un-beating heart situated in the middle of a stainless steel scale hanging over the table.
It was scary stuff to regular folks, and old Harry knew it.
That cellar of his, and the cold lifeless bodies held captive inside the Mortech Morgue Stainless Steel Refrigerator didn’t help the old man on Halloween either. He bought the icebox for the price of $14,000.00 from an online morgue supplier MortuaryMall.com. They sold just about everything a mortuary needed to operate.
On Halloween, the neighborhood kids showed their displeasure by paying Harry visits he didn’t appreciate. While goblins and costumed monsters knocked on doors with demands of tricks and treats, teens would also toss toilet paper across maple trees that peppered Harry’s lawn.
The next morning, when he walked the brick driveway to retrieve his New York Times, he’d stare in heated anger at the branches covered by the paper.
This year, just months prior, and because of the papering, Harry demanded the Mayor and Town Council pass an ordinance banning the kids from possessing Silly String and toilet paper from October 31st to the morning of November 1st.
The vote quickly passed as the councilmen were sick and tired of paying sanitation workers $18.00 an hour to clean the annual mess in Harry’s yard. Sending out letters to residents, the ordinance notification warned fines of $1,000.00 would be issued to property owners if their kids were caught in possession of the banned items.
You know what the teens did?
They papered Harry’s trees anyway… a reason why passing new laws didn’t work; there was always a work around.
Returning from his thoughts of the old coroner, Clifford shook his head and stared back to Jen’s corpse. “She’s in a better place,” he convinced himself repacking his EMT Trauma Bag. “Besides, had she survived the crash, her cranial injuries would’ve left her paralyzed from the neck down.”
Nobody wanted to live like that!
Glancing to the ground, he stared at the pair of sneakers lying in the snow. They appeared as if a kid had just pulled them off and left them to be found.
“Is there someone else on the scene?”
Patrolman Tomlinson walked up and shook his head pointing into the woods. “The chief and Stan are out searching for Peter Massey right now.” Having run the Mustang’s license plate he discovered the registered owner’s name.
But, that was just routine, the car, like its owner, was well known in town.
“Peter… my quarterback?” Cliff grunted in disbelief, “is he out there in the cold, dark, woods?”
“Yup,” Tomlinson answered nodding at the footprints and clawmarks, “looks like he ran for six points into the woodlands with something chasing close behind.”
“What could that be?”
“Not sure right now.”
Clifford stared at the clawed impression pushed deep into the snow. Bending to inspect the tracks, he was familiar with the pattern because similar trajectories had been discovered in the woodlands around town. From Bear Mountain through the Hudson Valley Region, every winter, the tracks appeared everywhere.
The last time he’d seen them was last year, when a cadet from West Point disappeared during the dreaded school’s plebe Marchback hike. Later, when an Army search party fanned out to hunt for the soldier in training, these tracks were found leading deep into the woods.
That disappearance made the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
West Point Cadets just didn’t go missing from the academy. When that happened, the woods were packed with an army of young plebes. But, the missing cadet was never found. The only thing anyone discovered was a torn United States Military Academy ACU Patch. The green helmet and spear imprint was stained with blood, an undeniable clue that something horrendous had happened.
The resultant inquiry went nowhere.
Without a body, there was no murder investigation.
Of course, everyone in town knew the student must’ve been murdered and his body hidden away somewhere.
But what could have killed him?
And where was his body?
The search party must’ve spent a week out in the woods looking for that teenager, probing every abandoned building, pulling up every old piece of plywood littering the ground with rusted nails punched through.
Recalling the search, Clifford pulled his coat collar tight around his thick neck to ward off the freezing gust of artic wind. Glancing from the tracks, he looked to the patrolman. “Hey, Henry, don’t they resemble the giant lizard impressions? How can that be again this year?”
“They’re certainly bizarre, all right.”
Then, Chief Marty and Sergeant Stump suddenly turned from the woods and emerged at the terrible crash sight.
“Hey, Marty,” Clifford called. “Did you happen to see these tracks?”
Nodding, Marty marched past the scene and over to his patrol car thinking he needed time to round up a search party to comb through the pines.
Damn, what if they are back? What am I gonna do if we start getting calls that people are being pulled out of their beds in the middle of the night by giant lizards? Who am I gonna call for help?
The fact was, he was scared out of his wits, and knew two years ago something wasn’t right in town, that perhaps the things people spoke of out in the woods had returned to wreak havoc on humanity. He didn’t know where they came from, or what their objective was, but the eyewitness calling 911 all spoke of terrifying creatures they observed moving through their yards… and that was alarming.
“Chief?” Cliff interjected. “Why’d Peter run into the woods without shoes in the middle of a snowstorm like this? This kid is one of my best and brightest students. We’ve never had a problem with him on campus.”
Marty pulled off his thick winter gloves, reached into the cruiser and grabbed the dashboard radio hanging on its stainless steel clip. Pressing the transmit button, he held up a finger for Cliff to hang on a second.
“Delores, ya got your little ole ears on?”
“Go ahead, Martin.”
Glancing through the windshield at the bloody tracks, he hoped he was wrong about what might’ve left them behind. But the chief was rarely wrong when it came to his gut feelings. He had a sense about things, and like most cops, he could tell you what might be happening around the corner and down the street.
He had an extra sense most people didn’t.
“Marty, are you still on the air?”
Watching Cliff and Steve loading the dead girl’s body into the ambulance, the Chief of Police questioned his thoughts as the radio crackled to life again.
“I’m here, Delores.”
“What do you need, Sweetie?”
Scanning the desperate scene, the Chief knew exactly what had to be done. “Pony up surrounding departments and get the Mayor out of bed… we have a missing teenager, Peter Massey, with a predator stalking him.”
“You’ve confirmed its Peter?”
“Yes, Cliff is here, we know its Peter’s car, but his girlfriend is DOA and remains atop the hood.”
“I’ll notify surrounding departments and get them up there soon as possible.”
That backup is going to be needed, too, Marty knew. Because…if he had what he thought he did… there was a hunt out there in the darkness. From everything he knew about the demons of hell, the creatures would stalk the blackness of nightfall, snatch people from their houses, and… those people would never seen again.
“Did you roger that, Marty?”
Grunting, the chief answered in the affirmative and turned back to the men. “Clifford, we really don’t know its Peter right now, right? All we have is his car and dead girlfriend, and although it’s likely those are his tracks leading into the woods, we can’t prove it until we go find him.”
“It’s his sneakers, Marty!”
Staring into the blackness of the timbers, the chief decided he was going to track those footpaths into the woods, find the monsters and fill them with lead. He didn’t care if they used every bullet the town had in the department’s ammo safe.
“We’re gonna go into the timbers and find that kid,” he finally decided, “if it’s Peter, and he’s still alive… we’ll find him!”
It was going to be a long, cold night.
But none of them knew what was waiting out in the darkness..
They might just find their own deaths out there.
END PREVIEW – 12, 973 WORDS offered OF 126,363 words for publication
The Santa Claus Killer by RJ Smith Printed Book A 2013 Emmy Awards Swag Bag Book You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry, You Better Not Pout, I’m Telling You Why… Santa Claus Is Comin… Click Here.
Here we are again, creeping up to that happy time of year, where kids find themselves happily jumping through opened fire hydrants, or hiking along hard packed dirt trails twisting through the woods.
Summer Camp… ah yes, a boy’s birthright of passage, it was and remains pure bliss… a time of hanging out with friends for ten straight weeks, no mom or dad, no math and english. Just pimply faced kids and their counselors.
Camp was cool, and I can still recall the aroma of burgers and hotdogs sizzling on the charcoal fueled grill… the soft white buns, waiting their turn to be eaten.
Ah, summer… no more early alarms, no more giant yellow busses plowing through the streets and packing its seats with giggling girls, many of whom had a thing for Tommy Hinsdale, the most popular boy in school.
These are the times in kid’s lives when memories are made, when a boy meets that girl who cuts her eyes a certain way, swiped a loch of hair from her brow, maybe she throws a wink or offers that first kiss to the boy she has been eyeing all year in middle school.
That’s the stuff of memories making, those moments we never forget.
When I was fourteen, I found myself living at a boys home for abandoned kids. You all know the story by now, the slivers of memories are splashed throughout my books and screenplays. But the McQuade Foundation for Boys is long gone, relegated to the past and replaced by Saint Christopher’s, Inc.
About a year ago, I had the pleasure of making a pilgrimage back to my youth and that tree encased campus which still fills my dreams and memories. I suppose it was the best time of my life, back then… where friends were made and moments of joy filled the heart.
Though the staff I knew had disappeared, I found myself again when stepping onto campus. That old willow we played under still stood at the end of a driveway and down by the pool. The cottages and bedrooms were just as I had left them back in 1979. Suddenly, I wasn’t half a century on into the future, but felt like that child I had been, with all those memories and stories.
Except that 14 year old boy’s young flesh had been replaced by my fifty year old body, a wiser intellect now fills my skull and my immature thoughts have been flushed out with the struggle and strife that life presents.
But for those few days I spent wandering the woods, entering my old bedroom and meeting the new age of kids bopping around with rap music blaring form their lips… things had not changed, and that included the things out in the woods.The Monsters in the Woods is not just the title of a book I was working on before I got hurt. Back in 1975 through 1979, those monsters were real. The stories we uttered around the campfire had a life of their own, attached with a sure as heck possibility that if we ventured too deep into the wood-line, we may not come back out alive. For some reason, those creatures were more prevalent in summer and during the dead of winter. Recalling the tales on my trip last year, I remember glancing over my shoulder when marching through the trees last year, a watchful eye for shadows, a certain stench and their howl of hell.
Yes, summer is a magical time for kids, and oh how I miss it… don’t you?
*** this article was written over a week long period as RJ cannot sit for more than thirty minutes due to pain***
In Early April, 2016, The Master of Suspense, RJ Smith, was invited to appear on Live News with Channel 10. He appeared with Dr. Ashram Hanna and the orthopedic surgeon, Scott Webb, DO, of the Florida Spine Institute. Fans will remember that on the evening of June 10th, 2013, RJ fell into an un-barricaded and unlighted hole while riding his bicycle at night on a sidewalk. The excavation was done by a company named Ajax Paving, Inc, a Michigan Company that has multiple Florida plants and locations. That accident broke RJ’s shoulder, paralyzed his left arm and fingers and caused serious injuries to the writer’s lumbar and cervical spine. RJ now suffers daily from pain and has titanium plates, screws and artificial materials implanted in his neck, back and shoulder. Here is the news segment where doctors speak about the innovative surgeries that put RJ back together.
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- 2021The South Beach KillerMay 15, 2021 - 12:01 PM
- A DANGEROUS TIMEJuly 2, 2020 - 10:32 AM
It’s been months since I’ve posted anything here. The reasons are many. In February, I lost my beloved pointer terrier, Destiny, whom I saved from death row at the shelter more than eight years ago. Then, in March, mom passed away from lung cancer. This post was supposed to outline my retirement from the entertainment […]