Wednesday, October 28, 2015

James Cree Part Two

After rearranging the room into an orderly fashion, Katrina donned her thick black hoodie and left, walking off into the night. Mikey followed after her a few minutes later, leaving Thomas alone in his attic room, lit by flickering candlelight of black wax candles (they’d never extinguished them). As Thomas walked around his room, fetching his school books needed for his homework, he would occasionally look over at the jawless pulpy red skull, the blue eyes following his every movement.

“Nothing else to look at?” Thomas asked after he caught the skull staring at him for the fifth time as he was settling at his desk with his Algebra textbook.
“No,” James wheezed, his voice deflating slowly likes air escaping a balloon. “Just waiting for you to tell me who to kill so that I can return to the grave, where I belong.”
“You’d rather be in Hell than here on earth? I mean, I know you’re just a skull, but it must be better than burning for your sins,” Thomas asked, opening his textbook to the assigned page.
The skull rolled its eyes, the flaps of ragged flesh over its nasal slits fluttering as if he were snorting, James let out a low whine. “Death is hardly so black and white. Heaven or Hell, there are many places in between; I was in a place I had found to be quite comfortable.”
“Interesting,” Thomas said as he scanned the page. He began to silently work out the simple problems presented on the page. A comfortable silence descended between the two, with the sound of wind flowing through the room as the shutters did little to keep out the breeze that filtered in through the broken glass of the window. After solving his tenth question, Thomas looked up to lock eyes with James.
“You want to get started soon?” Thomas asked, a half-smile gracing his narrow features.
“Do you dream of women you’ll never have? Of course I want to get started!” James hissed, eyes narrowed to diamond slits. “To get me to kill, all you need is to write their name on a slip of paper and burn it in the flames of a black wax candle. Then take the burning crisp and gather the ashes and sprinkle them onto my brow.”
“You want me to smear ashes on your forehead?” Thomas asked as he tore a long strip of paper from a blank page in his notebook.
“It’s a mockery of ‘Ash Wednesday’, a Catholic tradition that I’m sure has persevered to this day,” James explained. “I assume you are not a Christian?”
“No, I am. Was?” Thomas said before following up his affirmation with a far quieter question.
“Identity crisis, eh?” James asked, clearly enjoying Thomas’s turmoil, however minor it may be. “I had one myself when I was a young man. It was what eventually led me to be hanged, actually.”
“Not really interested,” Thomas replied as he wrote down the name of the one of the most popular boys in school, a basketball player that mercilessly teased Thomas for his studious habits while simultaneously cheating off of him to pass his own tests. Brad White would pay for his years of abuse… and nobody would be able to pin the crime on Thomas!
Holding up the scrap, Thomas reached out and grabbed one of the flickering black candles from its holder. Holding it above his desk, he held the paper out until the dancing flames found purchase on the crinkled white paper. Quickly putting the candle back, Thomas held the scrap over his other hand, catching the fluttering pieces of ash is it drifted from the fire. After a minute he had a small crumbling of black granules resting in the palm of his hand.
Pressing his thumb into the ash, Thomas smeared the char before taking a step towards James. Looking down into the cold blue eyes, Thomas shivered. He really hoped this was what was needed… reaching down, he rubbed the grainy ash over the gelatinized blood that encapsulated the skull, watching as the ash sizzled wherever it touched, sinking into the gel, only to leave behind a tarry residue.
James’s  eyes fluttered shut, a low groan coming from his inert skull. Thomas almost asked what was wrong with the abomination before he yelped, jumping back. The once blue eyes were now jet black, cloudy and roiling. Thomas wondered what was wrong with the undead, unaware of how James was fulfilling the request that’d been made of him through the ancient magics.
Miles away, through the darkened night a graveyard sat undisturbed, dead leaves blowing over the long forgotten graves due to a bitter wind that seemed to coil around the caretaker’s rickety frame. Grumbling about his aching hip and knee, Angus ran a knotty hand over his unkempt beard as he held his electric lantern higher. Ever since the grave robbery a few nights ago, the city had been hassling him to make nightly rounds.
“Can’t have people making off with the dead, now can we?” He snorted to himself, the very idea ludicrous. The only thing missing had been a skull from an old grave, a hole having been dug near the old headstone deep into the earth, breaking into the rotting wood of an ancient coffin; the grave robber had made off with the skull alone and the hole was easy enough to fill, but the preachers and priests of the town had cried out. Angus sneered as he remembered being called into the Church’s office, the parish priest telling him he would be charged with patrolling the graveyard until they could hire some security to watch over the old plot of graves.
A plopping of what sounded like wet cement made Angus raise his lantern higher, hand drifting to his belt where a holster for a .9 mm pistol rested. Pulling it, he held it up with the barrel raised to the sky.
“Hello?” Angus called out as the plopping noise continued the sound of wet suction and the wet plops of thick material falling to the damp earth. “Who’s there? I’m armed, so just step out into the light and we’ll get this over with! You make it easy for me I’ll just send you on your way and not bother calling the police!”
The plopping continued, ins a shaky torrent as flecks of dark mud flew into the circle of light that Angus’s lantern cast. Aiming his gun in front of him, he shakily eyed the blanket of darkness shrouding his brightly lit section of the graveyard. Angus heard the spin of a rusty spur as someone took a tentative step towards the light. Angus felt a cold chill run down his spine as he watched a man with skin like pockmarked leather, great wood roaches climbing along the man’s muddy clothing from hole to hole. Angus gulped and aimed his pistol at the heart of the man… until he noticed something even more off about the dirty figure.
He had no head.
That thought barely registered in his head before the body rushed him, a gleam of dirty iron flashing in an arc. Angus grunted as he felt something hard collide with the bridge of his nose, knocking him back several steps as his eyes tried to focus on whatever it was that was sticking out of his face. Warm blood rushed from his forehead and nose, dribbling down his face as he reached up with a shaky hand to grasp the handle of the rusty hatchet lodged in his skull. His other hand, now paralyzed from a combination of pain and fear, dropped the pistol and raced to join his other hand in trying to pull the hatchet free from his skull, tugging hard at the blade sunk deep into bone.
The headless man sauntered up as Angus panicked, whimpering from the grievous wound he’d suffered. A worn hand, calloused and dirty, reached up and gripped the handle and, with a savage tug, tore the hatchet away from Angus’s skull, taking with it a section of forehead and left temple, exposing the pink-grey gel that was the man’s throbbing brain, bright red blood spurting from the wound in great torrents.
Angus’s last thoughts were, as he scratched at his exposed brain and attempted to hold his blood in that he should have insisted on the security guards to come and watch over the land when they finally got on site. Hopefully they’d have better luck than he had…
The rest of his thoughts were cut short by a heavy hack into the side of his skull, the rusty hatchet cutting three inches into exposed skull and soft brain tissue. The mud covered suit, tattered from years of having worms crawling through it, gained a fresh coat of red as the hatchet was torn free from the skull, errantly wiped on the dirty pant leg of the cadaver’s shredded slacks.
James Cree was on his feet for the first time in centuries.

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