|2020-11-24T13:34||[age/university writing/homework writing/story]|
About 2400 words.
“Well, the way I see it, the dead harbor all sorts of feelings for the living. I mean, friendship, anger, nostalgia—”
He snorted, “Yeah, lust. Good one.”
I sat up and leaned in to overcome the passenger’s seat, straining on my seat belt, “No, really. The dead could have all sorts of sexual desires. Just look at vampires— they sex up everything.”
“So, you think that sex is the greatest, uh, motive force for the dead to manifest, Mr. Milton?”
“Ummm, sounds like it, Mr. Steve.” I rolled down the window enough to toss my Taco Bell wrappers to the wind. I’m so going to regret having that for dinner.
“So…” Steve watched the wrappers, “…necrophilia?”
“Let’s just put it this way— Do you know what the best part of a dead baby joke is?”
“The huge erection I always get.”
We started laughing, and I totally won the conversation. I was working on getting that one in all day. Unlike some guys, I don’t drop dead baby jokes into a conversation out of context; they have to be finessed.
“Hey, guys, come on!” Ted got into scold mode, “We’re on a serious mission here. When we get to the School, we have to get right to work. I’m not going to allow for too much tomfoolery, y’understand?”
“Yes, dad.” Steve readjusted his ball cap to make the bill just touch the tops of his eyebrows. Nervous habit.
I gave Ted a pirate salute, “Aye, aye, Captain Wieman, sir!”
“Okay then. Now, to answer your question,” he changed his tone, from lord to scholar, “lust is a motive for humans, yes, but only for the living. Because the dead are no longer trapped in their mortal bodies, those purely biological factors that control us are no longer applicable to them. Now, for your mention of nostalgia, Steve, that perfectly explains it. One that lusted in life could haunt their lovers, and seeing that it happens all of the time, I’d say there’s enough evidence to make it true.”
A pause. Time to let this earth-shattering revelation sink in. Then I said, “Wouldn’t that ghost be lusting after that person, then?”
“No,” he said as he turned on the station wagon’s headlights. Who turns their headlights on this early? Just because the sun is hitting the horizon doesn’t mean it’s dark. “You see, Mil, nostalgia alone would be the motive.”
“But, what’s your reasoning? Isn’t that desire part of the definition of lust?”
“Lust is chemically based, physically-based, life-based. Feelings are not.”
God, the drive sucked so bad, I wished that I had Mad Libs, or something. I looked over at Steve to guess what he was thinking about. He looked out the window, and I could see his face in the side mirror—serious, poker-faced, but then he squeezed out a smirk. No doubt about it, he was thinking about dead baby vampires with giant wangs.
Cornfields passed us by. My ass was asleep. Only now did the dimming of the sky merit the dash’s glow. We filled up the wood-striped ghetto grocery getter at a Circle K before this long stretch of highway, but the odometer kept a running total of our distance— 156.7 miles and counting. I looked to the fields again, and I could see in the semi-dusk the Children of the Corn, all clutching Steven King paperbacks to return to the Borders from back in town.
We finally got to the exit, and we were in for an exciting 12 miles of back-roads. At this point, Steve and I had run out of things to talk about, so I just stared at the scenery. At least the trees were nice to look at. They screamed fall. If I cared enough, I might wax poetic about how the changing of the colors on the trees of the forest filled my heart with joy, sadness, and an intense respect for God, Nature, or whatever, but I’m not that into poetry or wax.
I did get chills from the spiderweb trees; sore thumbs, even in autumn, for not having any leaves. They died, and then claimed by local spiders, probably hundreds of them. The lifeless trunks enveloped in thick spiderwebs. I didn’t even look real to me; it was like somebody was getting paid to Halloweenize the forest. But I saw it again and again. It freaked my shit out.
It looked like this Seekers trip was going to end up being entertaining, after all. With all those spiderweb trees hanging around and the coming of the night, I half expected to be completely wrong, and I was going to witness a specter or apparition that very night. I’ll leave my skepticism behind if the universe turns out to be more awesome that I thought it could be.
The minutes clicked by slower than the odometer, and with Ted’s cautious grandma driving, I half expected to haunt the car by the time we got there, my smelly corpse already decayed into mulch.
“Hey,” I leaned as closely as I could to the captain’s chair, “Uh, Ted, my ass is going to have to be amputated soon, so when do we—”
“—Look, a sign!” Steve pointed, and sure enough, there it was. It was the first one we’d seen since the highway. It had planks, reflectors, and big, hand-painted letters:
For GIRLS. 5 mi.
As we passed really close, I was suddenly glad Ted drove slow. The wood was warped the way that it should be— the same as the tracings of a mad-man as he diagrams his dreams in chalk and blood. Crap-and-a-half, now I wanted pen and paper. People make big bucks off of this. I continually stared at the sign, even as it glided off into the darkness, only the tail lights distinguishing it from the rapidly fading world.
“Mil, did you see the back?” Steve lifted up his ball cap’s bill, as if it were obstructing his view, “I saw letters— what did it say?”
Slowly I turned, inch by inch—not really, that’s dumb to say, what’s wrong with me— I said, in a steady Richard Price voice, “May God bless those that repent!”
Steve whistled through his teeth, “Yeesh, uber-Gothic, man.”
“—Amazing?” I put a hand on Ted’s shoulder, “You got the books on this place, right?”
“Yes, I always bring my homework to class.”
What? Why does he say that stuff? “Okay, so anyway— do you know if they did exorcisms here? Anything like that?”
He sighed, readjusting his ball cap, “And I suppose you want to know if this place has any affiliation with voodoo dolls.”
“No really, I’m curious, no foolin’!” I held up my hands, toddler style.
“Fine. From our preliminary research, we’ve found a sad lack of even the most basic of secondary sources. So, I brought all of our library’s related history texts with this on this trip.”
I turned to Steve, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“Tell you what? It just means that this place isn’t in any of the books.”
“Dude, I would’ve dumped my girlfriend if I knew I was going to be, like, the Gothic Magellan, here.”
Ted raised his eyebrow, “You have a girlfriend?”
“No…” I shielded my face, “…but that doesn’t matter— it’s the principle that counts.”
Mercifully changing the subject, Steve turned to his dad, “Didn’t Brother Jacob think that there’s an Order out here, ‘hidden from the laity,’ as it were?”
“Well, yes, but that isn’t proven as of yet. Plus,” he began to steer hard right, into the main parking lot, “We’re not looking for secretive Orders or the occult. We’re here to investigate the paranormal.”
The old gravel road widened into the full scope of the station wagon’s high beams.
As we rolled on, my hands away from my face, I unbuckled and practically crawled onto the center console. The outline of a building suggested itself, a loomy mass. A fire hydrant was to the far left.
“Okay, nearly departure time. Make sure you’ve got your black on.” Oh yeah, the uniform: black denim pants, black sneakers, black t-shirt, black jacket and a black ball cap. If we had put black mascara on, we’d just make the cutesiest emo-boy-backdoor-anal-sex band you’d ever seen. It’s okay—I brought a black scarf, so I’d stand out.
Martin parked the station wagon in front of the hydrant, and I was out as soon as the door was unlocked—I needed out. I started doing squats just my numb ass stumbled out.
Ted came up to me, “Okay, do you have a flashlight?”
“Uh, no.” Wow, it got a lot darker out here, with no public lightng.
“I suggest you grab your gear. We’re going to be in the dark— no lights.”
“Got it.” I grabbed, or at least, tried to grab my backpack, “Woah, this’s way heavier than I thought I packed it.”
“That’s because I put some stuff in there that you might need: matches, flares, a compass, and your EMF. Now,” he put his hand on my shoulder, “remember this spot. This is our meet up point in case something happens, ’kay?”
“Yep, no, wait a minute. Just in case something — happens?”
Steve cut in, with his backpack, and patted my face in an affectionate manner, “It’s okay, sweetheart,” doing the worst Humphrey Bogart voice, “The world is a tough thing.”
“Kids, this is an investigation, not a prom date. Let’s move and get this show on the road.”
We went through a quick checklist, one including all sorts of high tech equipment, like EMF meters and digital thermometers, to more simple things like a pen, a notebook, and heavy suspension of disbelief. And the most important, namely the three million types of snack food. Star Crunch was always a particular favorite of mine.
When Steve and Ted started talking “tactics,” I decided I was going to beat feet, and investigate our surroundings. The School looked like is supposed to. In that edifice I felt like I saw every haunted house, every slasher movie, every Gothic tale. I could almost hear the Pendulum, could almost see the presence of Cthulhu. Visions of blue-skinned walking dead lumbered toward me.
“Do we have any shotguns?”
Ted cut in, “I remember saying ‘No firearms.’ We have flares for that.”
“Oh, come on, you can’t fight the undead with flares—that would so lame!”
“Sorry to disappoint, Mil. I mean, we’re here on the edge of knowledge, on the the cusp of the new, and you’re worrying about the cinematic effect of how we kill fictional things?”
“Whatev, Ted.” As I turned to look at the creepy building some more, I noticed my hand got lazy with the flashlight, so now the beam focused on, well, a clearing, a moat of lawn that separated School and forest. I said ‘lawn’ but I think that ‘low jungle’ would be better.
Inexplicably, my sight seemed to be filled with girls; all different ages, yet all the same age. Their school uniform skirts flapped in the breeze as they ventured out to the woods to form little covens that did everything the nuns told them no to do. One of the girls, she had long, flowing, blonde hair—wait, that’s not blonde, that’s white…
“What are you doing?” Steve came up, looked over my shoulder into the open field. Before I could respond, and before I could find some way of pouring out my soul, Ted came up too.
“Look alive, gentlemen. We’ve got equipment to set up.” A pause. “What’re we looking at?”
“I was just thinking about Catholic school girls. Let’s boogie.”
The main doors were locked, no, bolted shut. I’m positive they didn’t build the main entrance of a school that broke all sorts of fire safety codes, or at least, the ones from the universe I came from. But maybe, because this building was so old, they had to treat it like a senior citizen— give ’em fifty locks on their door, medication, and bingo! they’re fine
As we were groping the door for a knocker or something, a thin man in a stained tux sauntered over. I had to tilt my head up to make eye contact.
“Good evening, sirs. If my mistress has informed me correctly, you are— the Seekers?”
“Yessir, we are indeed.” Ted extended his hand, “Theodore Wieman, at your service.”
The thin man still kept his hands at his sides, “The Seekers Paranormal Investigative Team?”
“Yes, that’s us,” Ted still held his hand out, but that man didn’t want to shake. You’ll get his dirt cleaner.
The thin man continued talking, “Aren’t there others?”He was staring at his hand, like someone who ate sushi would look upon cooked meat.
Defeated, Ted lowered his hand, “The others of SPIT weren’t able to attend. Mrs. Campbell and daughter were detained by malevolent ley lines, and Brother Jacob had to attend a pro-life meeting in the church for the next three days.”
The thin man still looked on. I’d have to remember to tell them how I’ve never seen a douche that was so dry. He was the driest douche ever made. He— Okay, people started moving just then. I followed them to a small side door,one probably used by those girls from my vision. The thin man undid three locks and knocked on the door in a peculiar way. The door opened, and the thin man turned to us,
I hope I never have to see another butler fellow like that again. And if I do, he either needs all of his teeth or none of them so he can wear dentures.
We make it past the threshold, and Brenton says “Jackets and hats, gentlemen?”
“Umm, I’m fine with them on,” Steve aligns his cap again.
Brenton leans in more closely, “Jacket and hat, sir?”
Steve was perceptively leaning back. So before anyone fell over, “Brenton my good chap, here are my articles.” He took them, and perhaps some offense. I couldn’t tell, I was busy avoiding eye contact.Once he had secured all of our “peronal effects,” he gestured and smiled, “Welcome to St. Clandestine’s. My name is Brenton, please join us for dinner.”