Camp F

Photo c/o Microsoft Office Free Clipart

Been waiting on my appeal for thirteen years. Thirteen years of cold steel toilets, lumpy thin mattresses, and eating slop from metal trays probably made from recycled toilets. I been sitting here waiting to know if I’m going to die. It’ll probably happen before they ever give me the chair, me dying I mean. But they don’t give you the chair no more. Supposed to be more humane, but they can hang me for all I care. I’m dying either way, so who gives a shit.

They got a guy just came in last week, Clyde Burser. He’s probably twenty-five, about five-eight, curly blonde hair and bright green eyes. He’s the whitest person I ever seen. You can see blue veins at his temples and on his hands and by his eyes. He cries so much his eyes remind me of when Mallory got the conjunctivitis once. Her eyes were green like Clyde’s.

Clyde’s cell is next to mine. He prays real loud all night asking God for forgiveness. It makes me laugh. “God’s forgiveness ain’t going to help you,” I say to him. Because God don’t forgive you ‘til you die anyway, right? He better pray his appeal goes in front a sympathetic jury, I tell him. One that believes he killed his own momma in self-defense. His own momma. I ain’t even that sick.

Frank Aucoin’s cell is on the other side. He’s been waiting on his appeal for twenty years. He’s sixty-two, got prostate cancer. One night he woke us all up hollering and screaming his cum was bloody. Doctors gave him six months. That was two years ago. He’s six-two, weighs about a buck ten, can’t barely hold himself up some days, and he shits himself. He’s got a sister who comes once a week after Sunday services. She says it’s a miracle he’s still alive. I say it’s karma.

I was twenty-one when I came to The Farm. Since then I only known one man been sent to Camp F, and that was Howard Saucier-The Crescent City Cutter. Murdered twenty-two prostitutes by slicing them down the middle. He carved each one starting right at her diseased hatchet slash and ending at her chin. He used the same serrated knife for all of them.

Howard wasn’t scared to die, or he pretended not to be. But he sure never let on if he was because he was one jovial motherfucker, that’s the truth. I used to think if Howard wasn’t so deranged he’d be a cool guy to hang with. But he was lofty as a loon, and that’s the truth, too. He had clear blue eyes, the kind you think belong to the Devil. There wasn’t no repentance in them eyes. Not like the petunia next door with his crying and begging for God’s mercy all the time.

Howard wasn’t no dumb ass, either. When he got his book allowance he always picked the real long ones. I used to think of Mallory telling me I should read more. “If you read more you’d broaden your vocabulary,” she said. I didn’t need to broaden my vocabulary. I did just fine with the one I got, I said. Mallory was always making like I was a dipshit. Well maybe I am a dipshit. But her reading didn’t do nothing to save her, so fuck her and her vocabulary.

Howard’s people had money, and they sent him to some rich kid private boys’ school until he was sixteen, he said, and then he was kicked out for assaulting the school nurse. “She had tits this big,” Howard said holding his arms out from his chest. “I just wanted a taste.”

He went to juvenile but they had to let him go when he was twenty-one. While he was locked up he got his G.E.D., and he went to college when he got out. Then he went to medical school, because he liked to dissect things, he said. He told me a story once about the first time his class cut open a cadaver. “I came in my pants,” he said.

I’m not too sure about Howard’s religion, but he read the Bible a lot. He always liked the stories where God smote mankind because He got pissed off for one reason or another. Some of them I remembered from Bible study, sitting in the rectory with twelve other kids and my thighs sticking to the plastic chairs in the summer. It was hot as hell because they only had one of them window air condition units. In the winter we would fight over who was going to sit closest to the space heater.  “I can get behind a God who tortures His own creations,” Howard said. “Divine retribution.” He smiled.

Howard liked to screw with the guards. They ignored him most of the time. Sometimes he went too far, and they had to handle up on him. They don’t like to do that too much because it riles everybody up. Like this once when he was let out for gate time, Howard attacked the guard and bit him on the neck just like Dracula. Five guards jumped him, and they threw him in isolation. We was all on lock down afterwards.

Howard was in there a while, and he was a little calmer when he came out. That wasn’t too long before he moved to Camp F. We didn’t know because they don’t tell us that kind of stuff. Only the warden knows, but one day Howard was taken out for his shower time and never came back. They could’ve plugged him and threw him out in the cotton field to the crows for all I know. But I figure he went to the chamber. We all got a little quieter after that. I guess it sounds weird to say somebody would miss a guy like Howard, but I did a little. He never done me nothing.

Every Sunday the chaplain comes to give Communion and for confession.  I don’t trust him. Looks like he probably jerks off to kiddy porn. I don’t got nothing to confess, anyway. I already gave my confession to the cops. And when the judge asked me how I plead, I said guilty. So I don’t got nothing to say to no stupid chaplain. I tell him to go see Clyde.

After the chaplain leaves we’re let out in the yard for an hour. I don’t keep a calendar, but sometimes I can tell what time of year it is by the weather. Sometimes. But down here it can be eighty in the winter, so I don’t never know. I don’t want to know. I just know three times a week I get to go outside, and sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it ain’t. If it’s raining we got to wait for the next day. And if the sky is clear and the sun is beating us down, we sit there holding our hands over our eyes until the guards say it’s time to go back in. Some guys exercise or jog around the yard, but I rather just sit by Frank and breathe the fresh air. What I got to be in shape for?

My lawyer, Art, usually comes once every couple weeks. It depends on how much he’s got court. He said he can’t get me off but he can get me out of the death penalty. He thinks. But I been here thirteen years, and I don’t want to be put in population. I don’t share my cell with nobody, and I get to shower by myself, except for the guards watching me.

I ain’t going to lie. I was real scared at first when I got here. Especially because they was giving me death, and I didn’t want to die. But I figure ain’t nothing to live for anyway. What I got to look forward to? Prostate cancer and bloody cum? I might as well die here. Got to die some place.

“Vince, I’m working hard on your appeal,” Art always says. “I’m not giving up on you. I think I can get your charges reduced to manslaughter. With time served you might only be looking at ten or twelve more years.”

Ten or twelve more years, like it’s a consolation. Not that I wouldn’t want to be free to walk right out of here and go home. If I had a home. But I ain’t. And I don’t think Art’s going to get me out, but my momma keeps paying him with my daddy’s social security, and he keeps taking her money. I don’t have the heart to tell my momma I’m going to die here. So I don’t say nothing.

I went to court about six months ago. It was the middle of summer, and so hot that most times we asked to stay inside when it was time to go out. One day the needle on the outdoor thermometer the guards hung by the door was wobbling between one-ten and one-twenty. We went out for about fifteen minutes, but Frank fell out and we came back in. Nobody complained though. My balls was wet and hot as cotton panties on a virgin at a Bourbon Street sex show, and sticking to my thighs.

My momma bought me a new suit because my old one didn’t fit no more seeing as all the weight I lost. It was a tan color and the tag said it was seersucker. It probably cost more than my momma could afford. I got cleaned up and dressed and brushed my hair and shaved and waited for Art.

The courtroom was real cold compared to outside. My fingers felt like frozen fish sticks. Art was talking to the jury, and my momma was sitting behind me. I could hear her sniffling the whole time. I wanted to turn around, but I wasn’t supposed to. Art gave me a yellow legal pad and a rubbery, bendy pen. They make them like that for safety reasons, to make sure you ain’t going to jab it in somebody’s neck or nothing. I didn’t have nothing to write so I scribbled some drawings like you do when you’re bored in school and the teacher won’t shut up. Plus I wanted to look busy and not like I was just sitting there doing nothing like a psychopath. Because I ain’t one.

I thought of Mallory. I drew her face, the way it was when we met. I colored in her dark hair. She kept it long back then. I bet that asshole Nate is the one told her to cut it. “He stimulates my mind,” she said. It wasn’t the only thing he was stimulating. He might’ve had a broad vocabulary too, but it shrunk up real good when I put my Beretta between his teeth.

“Your honor, members of the jury,” said Art, “I think we can all agree that what my client Mr. LeRoche-a man with no prior criminal record-experienced on the date of June seventeenth nineteen-ninety-eight was an unconscious rage, a type of temporary madness if you will, brought on by blind fury and passion.”

I scratched out Mallory’s face. I didn’t want to see it no more. I was still mad at her for running around on me, and for being such a bitch about it, and on our anniversary. “What do you expect, Vincent?” She always called me Vincent even though most everybody else calls me Vince. “Nate makes me feel . . . sexy.”

“And what I don’t?”

“No. You make me feel like I’m being pawed by an inexperienced prepubescent.”

I didn’t know what she meant exactly, but I knew it wasn’t no compliment. Something thumped against the closet door. “No,” Mallory gasped when I swung the door open. Some dude was kneeling right between my Dickies and my Levis. I figured he was Nate. The shoebox where I kept my pistol was open on the floor. I looked at Nate again. Maybe he was hoping it was in there. Maybe he was going to shoot me. But it wasn’t in there. It was in my hand, and then his brains was all over my Levis and my Dickies. I felt calm in a strange way.

Mallory screamed and tried to run out the room, but I caught her by the hair and threw her in the closet right next to her boyfriend. Her mouth was stuck open like it froze that way. It reminded me of when my grandma died and we didn’t find her for five days after. Her mouth was opened like that. Mallory lifted her left hand to cover her face, and I seen she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring. “You dirty slut,” I said. Mallory’s eyes was wide and tears was flowing out of them like a busted spigot.

I reached down and grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her out the closet. I threw her on the bed and held one hand over her mouth. The other hand held my Beretta. I crushed her body against the mattress with my body.

“Psychopath!” She was crying, curled up in a ball in the middle of the bed. She was staring at her boyfriend in the closet. I grinned and raised my gun again. Mallory tried to run but I was quicker. Maroon slime and something that looked like oatmeal splattered against the wall. Long streams ran down to the sand colored carpet. I thought of Mallory always complaining how she hated them white walls. “These walls are so bland. You need to paint them.”

I heard sirens and guessed the neighbors called the cops. They pulled up while I was sitting on the porch smoking my Camels. They had their guns on me while I finished my cigarette and threw it in the grass. Two of them snuck me and tackled me out my chair. One of them crushed my face into the cement with his boot while another one cuffed me. Cops were crawling all over the house. There was about twenty cop cars in the street it seemed like. I just sat there until they put me in the car. I didn’t say nothing. Wasn’t nothing to say.

Mallory and Nate’s family members got to talk to the jury after Art was finished his speech. Nate’s momma showed them pictures from when he was a baby and pictures of him when he was in school. I thought about how much she loved him, and my momma sitting behind me in the courtroom crying, and of Clyde killing his own momma.

Nate’s sister wrote a poem she read to the jury. His dad stood up and told me I deserved to be murdered, and he wished he could be the one to do it. My momma started crying real hard then, and Art went to calm her down.

Mallory’s parents stood up together and asked me why I did it. Her best friend that I always hated told the jury I condemned Mallory and Nate to death for their adulterous misdeeds, and asked them if they didn’t feel I deserved to be condemned to death, too. She had pictures and articles with headlines from the papers blown up to poster-size. She showed them to the jury. “Vidalia Love Triangle Ends in Murder,” read one of them. It had a picture of Mallory and me on our wedding day with a separate picture of Nate. “Concordia Sheriff Describes Scene as the Most Disturbing He’s Seen in Years,” read another. That one had a picture of our house taped off by the cops. “Small Town La. Man Charged with Rape, Murder,” read the last one, and it had my mug shot under it. Art objected but it was too late because they already seen it.

The jury came back after about an hour. Art kept handing Kleenex to my momma while the judge read the verdict. I was afraid Momma was going to choke to death because she wasn’t breathing right. Mallory and Nate’s families was clapping and hugging each other.

I turned around and said sorry to my momma. She grabbed me by my suit jacket and pressed her face into my chest. A dark, imperfect circle expanded outward from where her tears wet my shirt.

“I’m real sorry, Momma,” I whispered.

“We’ll get you another appeal, Vince. They can’t do anything as long as we keep appealing,” said Art.

My momma looked up at me. Make-up ran down her cheeks. I placed a hand on either side of her face, holding her small head in my hands. I used my thumbs to wipe the black streaks off her face. I thought about how much she probably paid for my suit, and I hoped the stain would come out. Because I don’t want her buying another one just to bury me.

 

Copyright Donnell Jeansonne. All rights reserved. Reproduction or duplication whole or in part not permitted without permission and credit to the author.

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Affected

Photo c/o Microsoft Office Free Clipart

Little Joey found a bag in his back yard. Its contents were a book of matches, some rags, lighter fluid, and a Mickey Mouse hat. The air smelled like barbecue and burning plastic. Joey looked to his left. A plume of black smoke rose from behind the fence that separated his yard from his neighbors’. Particles of an unknown substance whirled in the haze, tumbling and performing somersaults as the fire below drove them upwards.

Joey didn’t trust Mr. Woodsburrow. He thought it was strange Mr. Woodsburrow hardly left the house, and no one in the neighborhood could remember how long since they’d seen Mrs. Woodsburrow. She’d stopped showing up at bingo over a month before, and she wasn’t at mass to help with the collections on Sundays, either. Mr. Woodsburrow told the pastor he’d had to sell her red 1977 Buick Century. Couldn’t afford the gas, he said. Joey was suspicious.

His mom said Mr. Woodsburrow wasn’t weird. She said he was still grieving over his missing grandkids. She said he was affected by their disappearance. She said the same about Mrs. Woodsburrow, and that’s why no one saw her anymore. “She’s in mourning,” Joey’s mom said. Joey still thought Mr. Woodsburrow was weird.

Joey was startled by a loud snapping sound; it sounded like the Black Cats he lit on New Year’s Eve. One time he threw them over Mr. Woodsburrow’s fence, and Mr. Woodsburrow came into the backyard. He stormed through the gate and grabbed Joey by the throat. He screamed and shook Joey until his mom and dad came out. Mr. Woodsburrow stopped shaking Joey then and put him down. Joey slumped against the fence, trying to catch his breath. He coughed and swallowed his spit to wet his throat. Joey’s parents talked to Mr. Woodsburrow; he lied and told them Joey threw the firecrackers at him. Joey protested and told them he’d just thrown the Black Cats over the fence, but he still got grounded for a week. Joey thought it was bullshit nobody even told Mr. Woodsburrow not to grab or shake him.

The snapping sounds made Joey curious, and he felt compelled to peek over the fence. He was afraid, because Mr. Woodsburrow was probably outside. He was always outside. If he saw Joey, there was no telling what he’d do. He’d probably come grab him again, and Joey’s parents weren’t home from work. Joey looked back at the bag he’d found laying in the grass. He looked to the fence and the plume of smoke and the particles doing acrobats in it.

Joey decided to look. He decided if he were quiet enough and didn’t stand over the fence by much, Mr. Woodsburrow might not notice. He went and took the white pool ladder from the garage. He didn’t notice his bike leaning against the ladder, and it fell onto its side with the sound of metal against concrete. Joey held his breath and hoped it wasn’t loud enough for Mr. Woodsburrow to hear. He replaced the bike and walked out of the garage with the ladder. The ladder wasn’t heavy, but it was long and bulky, and Joey had difficulty carrying it. The bottom of its legs almost touched the top of Joey’s sneakers, and he was preoccupied watching his feet as he walked. He ran headlong into something hard yet pliable. It wasn’t the fence, or the house.

Having released the ladder, Joey stumbled backward and landed on his behind. He looked up to see the hard yet pliable thing, but what he saw were Mr. Woodsburrow’s large, thick hands right before they grabbed him by the throat. Joey kicked Mr. Woodsburrow’s legs and knees, but he didn’t release the boy. He held Joey by the neck; his hands were covered in soot; his shirt smelled like barbecue and burning plastic. Mr. Woodsburrow shook Joey. He held him by the throat, and he shook him like a chicken thigh inside a bag of Shake ‘N Bake. Because no one ever told him not to shake Joey.

 

Copyright Donnell Jeansonne. All rights reserved. Reproduction or duplication whole or in part not permitted without permission and credit to the author.

Terror-ific Tales


Happy Halloween! The most wonderful day of the year. It’s almost sad the Halloween season has come to an end. (Well, it doesn’t really have to end, does it? Some of us prefer to be delightfully frightful all the time.)

Started the afternoon with the original shock rocker, the wonderfully horrifying and deliciously frightening Mr. Alice Cooper on the iPod. So glad he’s still touring because maybe one day I’ll get to see him live. I’m keeping the nightmare alive.

Unfortunately, we’re confined to the hospital room today, but we’re satisfying the spirits with some Tim Burton classics and enjoying the decorations.

I’m working on another scary story to share tonight. You can read more about it here. (P.S. The frightful fun isn’t going to end just because Halloween has passed. I’m going to continue to share my own and accept your stories. >;8} )

But aside from sharing my scary stories with everyone, I’d like to share some unnerving Halloween entertainment with you. Some of my favorite books and haunting tales.

1) Anything by Poe. Really. Just anything. But if you’d like something more specific, some of my favorites:

– Premature Burial. I had this story on tape (yes, tape), and hearing it read was way more terrifying than reading it. This story is scary stuff.

– Masque of the Red Death. “There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.” Enough said.

-The Tell Tale Heart. In case you’re not familiar with this story, it involves murder, severe anxiety, and pulling up a few floor boards.

-The Black Cat. One of my favorites as a kid. I’ve always loved cats. Apparently, Poe’s characters didn’t, but they loved walling or holing people inside of things.

-The Pit and the Pendulum. What’s scarier than the Spanish Inquisition?

-The Raven. A classic. Needs no explanation.

2) Stephen King. Same as Poe. Just about anything the King of Horror has produced will induce fear. But again, I’ll share some of my favorites.

-Salem’s Lot. What? Vampires are really nightmarish creatures that want you to die in a horrible manner or else turn you into a demon-like monster like themselves? No sparkles here. Scary as hell.

-Pet Sematary. If Fluffy or Boo Boo kicks the bucket, just let them go. Seriously. You don’t want to know the alternative.

-Misery. Because being a writer isn’t terrifying enough.

-Gerald’s Game. A good example of why bondage is not a good idea in a secluded setting.

-Night Shift. Collection of short stories including The Lawnmower Man, Jerusalem’s Lot, Trucks, and Children of the Corn.

I could go on forever . . . Or at least for several hours or maybe a day.

3) Samuel Taylor Coleridge

-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If you think this tale is just a bunch of hooey you learned in 12th grade lit class, think again. This poem involves sailors lost at sea, death, a curse, a ghostly vessel manned by a nightmarish woman (“Life-in-Death, was she”) and Death, and living corpses.

“They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools –
We were a ghastly crew.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

4) Mary Shelley

-Frankenstein. I love this story. Forget everything you saw in a Universal Movie when you read it. It’s chilling, sinister, and moving.

There are so many more wonderfully chilling stories and novels available. This is a terribly short list. But it’s a start. Happy haunting boys and ghouls!

The Spinet

Image courtesy of [Maple] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

It was cold. Colder than usual for a fall night. Carl looked upward. The stars were like far away diamond specks against the sky’s sapphire backdrop. The first quarter moon was bright and cast a smoky glare. Carl thought it looked like rain.
It’d been six months since Carl last walked the trail through the woods to the old house, his grandparents’ house. There was no reason to since grandma’s funeral. But his mother had asked him and his brothers to remove the old spinet. Once his great-great-great-grandmother’s, the instrument had literally been in the family for centuries. His brothers were supposed to be meeting him there with the truck. Carl thought they should have gone earlier in the day, but Geof didn’t get out of work until after five. And Brian couldn’t make it until eight for some reason. He didn’t have an explanation, like usual. We always do things on their schedules, thought Carl.
Carl’s foot came down on something long and narrow. It was hard, harder than a small fallen branch or brush. The thing rolled as Carl’s shoe made contact with it, and Carl’s foot slid before him for about a foot before he caught himself on an extended tree limb. He knelt down to examine this long, narrow, and hard thing.
It was difficult to see at first because Carl’s eyes hadn’t adjusted to the level of light under the canopy of trees. He held the thing, holding it in both hands, his palms open. He lifted it with care, like an infant at a baptism.
Carl squinted to see in the dimly lit woods. He brought the thing closer to his face, and when he realized what he held, he threw it down and wiped his palms against his clothes-as if he would cleanse them that way. His breath was heavy; he placed a hand on his chest. He stared at the thing. Carl turned around, looking in all directions, as if he would find an explanation as to why such a thing was laying on the path.
He contemplated turning back, but he decided it was best to walk to the house. Geof and Brian would be there. He would tell them. Maybe they would call the police.
Carl swallowed hard, but his mouth and throat were dry. He could feel his pulse in his head and in his throat.
Suddenly, Carl was aware of the sounds of the woods. Sticks cracked under the foot of some unseen animal. The bushes’ leaves thrashed and whipped, the victims of some unknown commotion. A cat shrieked.
Carl broke into a run, nearly tripping down the path as his feet attempted to outrun his body. Neither Geof nor Brian were there when he arrived at his grandparents’ dark and abandoned house. He wanted to go inside, but he didn’t have a key. He wished he’d brought the thing with him. He didn’t remember where it was. He was so frightened by his discovery that he couldn’t remember where on the path the thing was located.
Ten minutes passed as Carl stood with his back against the house. With his leg crooked, he tapped his shoe against the wooden slats. They were neglected and needed painting. Carl’s mother had sent him and his brothers to paint the house, but their grandmother refused to allow it saying she’d rather spend the afternoon with her boys. She took them all in from the heat and made them lunch and dessert. Five days later, she suffered the stroke. Carl thought of his grandmother and wished she were there now, to take him inside.
After fifteen more minutes, the headlights of Brian’s Chevy appeared on the long driveway. Carl stood in front of the house waiting for his brothers, squinting against the light. Geof exited the truck first, then Brian’s door swung open. He groaned, and he stepped out.
“Let’s get this done,” he said as he pulled up the waist of his jeans. “What’s wrong with you?” Brian asked when he saw Carl’s anxious expression.
Carl explained to his brothers about his discovery. He told them how he’d fled and didn’t exactly remember where to find it. His hands were shaking, and he crossed his arms and stuffed his hands into his armpits.
“It’s probably from some animal,” scoffed Geof.
“I’m telling you, it isn’t,” insisted Carl. “I’m in my third year of biology. I know the difference.”
Geof and Brian looked at one another then back at Carl. They decided to call the police.
“If it’s some kind of dog or something, I’m going to kick your ass, Carl,” swore Brian as Geof made the call.
“It’s not,” Carl said. “I swear to you; it’s not.”

The men moved their family’s spinet into the truck while they waited for the police to arrive. Carl thought he would feel more comfortable inside the house, but he didn’t. The electricity had been turned off, but everything else was the same. The furniture was all there, the television. All of the doors in the house were open. It was as if his grandparents simply vanished leaving everything in place. Carl thought it was creepy.
The police arrived just as Geof was locking-up. Carl explained to them about his find, and that he wasn’t sure where on the trail he’d found the thing. Another police car manned by two officers pulled into the long driveway. The seven men started on the path, walking away from the house. The officers held flashlights, and their beams joined to create one uniform glow over the path. They were almost to the end when Carl stopped them.
“It wasn’t this close to the street,” Carl explained.
“We walked the whole path, Carl,” sighed Geof.
“I know but . . .” Carl was interrupted by the sound of brush crackling and more chaos in the tall grass between the trees. The officers shone their lights in the direction of the noise. It stopped, and they walked into the woods to investigate. Brian and Geof followed, and finally so did Carl.
Carl stood several feet behind his brothers and the officers, not wanting to be left alone but not wanting to head into the danger. The officers moved the leaves of the bushes around while Geof and Brian watched. It seemed they were satisfied they hadn’t found anything significant, and all seven men turned back to the path.
“Good job, jackwad,” sneered Brian as he passed Carl and gave him a hard push.
“It was there. It was somewhere,” said Carl. It really was, he thought. Wasn’t it?
The others walked back toward the house while Carl followed, staring at the dirt the whole time. He hoped to see his thing. He didn’t imagine it.
Brian and Geof were far ahead of Carl, talking to the officers and offering apologies for their brother. Carl heard something to his left, like shoes shuffling in the dirt. Before he could turn to look, four hands were on him, forcing him into the brush. Someone pressed a long, narrow, hard thing against his throat.
“Seems you found something don’t belong to you,” a man breathed into Carl’s ear. Carl could smell his rancid breath. He tried to scream, but the thing was pressed hard against his throat. Someone else took hold of him, and then he was off his feet.
Carl struggled and writhed, but the men were too strong for him. He was losing oxygen and losing strength. When they reached their destination, the man holding Carl’s legs let go of them so that his feet struck the ground hard.The first man with the rancid breath was still holding the thing against Carl’s throat. Carl looked up at the man through his half-opened eyelids. The man realized this and spat in Carl’s face. Carl tried to turn his head, but the thing was pressed too tight against him.
The second man had Carl’s legs again, and the first man abandoned the thing he used to crush Carl’s trachea. He took Carl by the shoulders, and both men heaved him into a sort of pit. Carl was dizzy, but having his oxygen renewed, he scrambled to his feet. He looked at the high earthen walls surrounding him. Helpless, he looked up at the men. They grinned at him and turned away for a moment. Carl clawed at the dirt, but it was useless. The more he tried to climb out, the more the soft clay came apart in his hands and crumbled to the floor of the pit. With his back pressed against the cool, damp earth, Carl peered at a form crouched in the corner. His heart rate increased, and his breathing was again heavy. He swallowed, but his mouth was full of dirt. Carl knelt down beside the figure in the corner. Mud struck Carl’s head as the men shoveled dirt on top of him. Carl’s hand shook as he reached out to touch the figure. It tumbled to its side when Carl’s trembling hand felt it. He could then see it was a female skeleton, its left femur missing. Carl knew. He was in his third year of biology.

 

Copyright Donnell Jeansonne. All rights reserved. Reproduction or duplication whole or in part not permitted without permission and credit to the author.

Ladybug Ladybug

Having a baby in one’s home is a life changing experience. Our son Ansel’s birth altered ours. Every day brought new experiences.

Ansel was born on the first of November. My grandmother, Anita, reminded me often that day was celebrated in her native country as the Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. November the first is actually Dia de los Angelito, a day reserved for the reverence of deceased infants and children. The souls of deceased adults are honored on November the second.

My grandmother believed that having been born on that day allowed Ansel certain supernatural experiences of which most of us are unaware. On his first birthday, she bought him an elaborate crucifix to hang over his crib. She often brought novena candles to light and she set them on the shelves in his room. I didn’t feel the practice necessary, but as long as she was safe about the open flame, I didn’t feel it was harmful. And it pleased my grandmother.

Some months before Ansel’s second birthday, my grandmother passed away. It was sudden. She was up in age, but her health was good, and no one was aware of the aneurysm waiting in her brain like a forgotten land mine.

My grandmother’s passing also brought the passing of lit novena candles and religious ceremonies meant to keep away the creepies. We forgot about her superstitions, involved in our day-to-day activities, and went on with life. No more rosaries. No more holy water sprinkled in Ansel’s crib. No more praying to the Lord our souls to keep.

When Ansel was about nineteen months his babysitter, Grace, became pregnant. As her belly grew, she and her husband taught Ansel there was a baby inside it. Ansel’s new favorite word was baby, cute at first. He rubbed her belly and said, “Baby! Baby!” He would even recognize other pregnant women and point to them saying, “Baby! Baby!” Sometimes they weren’t pregnant, and we pretended he was talking about something else.

Ansel was starting to talk well around the same time as my grandmother’s passing. His random words became phrases, and eventually he was using whole sentences. In the mornings as I got ready for work, I would listen to him in his bed talking over the baby monitor. He would say “Hi!” to his toys, or he would talk to the cat, or he would call for “Mama” when he was ready to come out.

As the weeks passed, he would wake up and go into what for him was conversation. I would go into his room and ask him with whom he was speaking. Ansel would answer, “Baby!” When I asked him where baby was, he would point to his bedroom door. The behavior was eerie, but I reminded myself he was a toddler.

Ansel began to talk and run around the house more and more. He would run up and down the hallway laughing and playing. He would say “Hi!” and “Bye!” to invisible persons, and when asked, he would always answer that he was talking to Baby. If we asked where Baby was, he would point to the end of the hallway or toward the front door. My husband and I would look at one another, and then dismiss the thoughts we were sharing. I convinced myself that Baby was Ansel’s shadow, as I’d seen him running down the hallway with his shadow following on the wall. It seemed logical. The shadow looked like a baby. And it was almost always present.

One morning Ansel woke in his bed as usual and started talking. He was babbling, and mixed in the gibberish was a “Baby!” here and there. I went to take him from his bed and get him ready for Grace. When I opened the door, a flash of light darted across the room and toward the open door. I stopped. The hair on my arms raised like I’d touched one of those lightening balls at the Sharper Image.

“Ansel,” I said. “Who are you talking to?”

“Baby!” Ansel answered.

“Where is Baby?” I asked.

And like always, Ansel pointed to his bedroom door. I took a deep breath and rationalized that I’d imagined the flash of light and that Ansel was still referring to his shadow when he said he was talking to Baby.

Not long after the incident, Ansel would wake during the night screaming. His pediatrician advised it was common for toddlers to be prone to night terrors. When he would scream, I would always wait a moment, because sometimes he wasn’t actually awake, and he would stop and continue his sleep. Other times when he screamed for more than a few seconds, I would go into his room.

We kept two small night-lights in Ansel’s room, the kind that plug into the outlet and shed dim blue light. Sometimes when I would open Ansel’s door, it appeared a shadow would recede across the floor and ceiling. My eyes adjusting to the absence of light in the room, I thought.

During one of these nightly screaming fits, as I was listening to Ansel waiting to see if he would stop and go back to sleep, I heard something other than Ansel over the baby monitor. I sat straight up in bed and grabbed my husband, shaking him . He turned over and mumbled. I told him what I’d heard, but by then Ansel’s was the only voice. My husband rolled his eyes at me and told me to go back to sleep. After a few more seconds, Ansel calmed down and I lay back down, but I wasn’t able to sleep. I knew what I’d heard was not my son.

Another night when Ansel did wake from his sleep, I sat with him in the rocking chair in our living room. The room was fairly dark, and I didn’t have the television. It was about two o’clock in the morning, and my husband was asleep. As I rocked Ansel, he sat straight up in my lap and looked to the side lifting his arms as he might to someone he wanted to pick him up. I asked him who was there, and he said, “Man.” I asked him who the man was, and he said, “Papa.” The response concerned me because Ansel didn’t refer to anyone in our family as Papa.

“Whose Papa is it, Ansel?” I asked.

“Baby,” he said.

By then I was becoming genuinely freaked out. I told my husband everything that was going on, but he dismissed it as superstition. I started saying prayers with Ansel as I put him to bed. Over his crib, under the crucifix my grandmother had bought, I put a picture of an angel, a little girl. It was one of those ones that resemble a bookmark with a prayer on the back. It was a prayer for the protection of children.

The night terrors continued, and I started to cross myself when I entered Ansel’s room at night. I would cross him as well. Sometimes I would say a prayer out loud for God to protect my son from all things, living and dead. Natural and supernatural. One night when I said the prayer, a loud bang came from somewhere in the room. I never did find the cause of it.

As more unusual occurrences took place, I started to notice odd things happening even when Ansel wasn’t home. If I brought him to my mother’s for the night, and I was a home alone, doors I’d sworn were left open would be closed. Or lights I’d turned on would be turned off. I would hear strange noises all over the house.

Worse than that, I started to see things. If I were in my computer room with the door open, I would see figures moving down the hallway toward Ansel’s room. If I were in my bathroom, I would see images in the mirror, behind me, moving around in my darkened bedroom.

Hardly anything occurred when my husband was home, but once or twice, a toy moved or turned-on on its own. He always dismissed it and didn’t seem concerned. I couldn’t convince him there were unexplainable things going on. I’m sure he started to think I’d finally lost my mind.

He didn’t think so the day I shot a photo of Ansel playing in the hallway and something – or I should say someone – else appeared in the photo. I used my phone to take the photograph, as I always did, so that pictures of Ansel could be forwarded to my mother and other relatives. My son was sitting on the floor with his plastic toy dinosaurs playing with them just as he would any other time. He was talking and babbling and making dinosaur sounds. I stood at the entrance to the hallway and told him to look at the camera. He turned and smiled, such a ham.

The phone automatically went back to camera mode after the picture was snapped, and I navigated to the photo book to see the photo. I screamed and nearly threw the phone. My husband rushed to my side, and my son looked up at me, frightened by my scream. I couldn’t speak, but I thrust the phone toward my husband. His mouth hung open as he looked at the photo of my son playing with his toys and another unknown boy. The boy was glaring at the camera; his luminescent blue eyes stared at the camera.

I snatched Ansel up off of the floor. I held him close to me with a deluge of tears streaming down my cheeks.

“Get out!” I shouted. “Get out! Leave him alone!”

Ansel squirmed in my arms and whined to get away. I let him down and he went back into the hallway, sitting down by his dinosaurs again. My husband took me in his arms.

“Take another picture,” I urged my husband.

“Daniella, darling, I don’t think we should . . .”

“Do it, Erik!” I shouted.

He held the phone up with reluctance to take another photo. The flash brightened the dim hallway for a second, and Ansel made a noise at the unwanted flare of light. Erik navigated through the phone to the photo book and looked at the second picture. He was tense, holding his breath. When he looked at the picture, he relaxed and smiled an uneasy smile. He handed the phone to me. The boy was gone.

“Ansel, where’s Baby?” I asked.

He pointed to his room. My husband and I looked at each other. I urged Erik to take a photo of Ansel’s room. He did, but nothing abnormal appeared. I felt relief, and I thought our days of Baby were over. I deleted the photo from my phone. Weeks passed without incident. Normality returned, and my husband and I tried to forget about Baby.

Keeping Ansel became too difficult for Grace when her own daughter developed numerous medical problems, so we enrolled him in nursery school. He was anxious in the beginning, but he grew to like it. If I heard him sing a new nursery rhyme or a song I knew he didn’t learn from us, I assumed he learned it in school.

While playing in the yard one Saturday, my son started to sing a nursery rhyme I’d never heard. I was disturbed by it, and I decided to ask the nursery school teacher about it on Monday. It went, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children will burn.”

“Ansel,” I called to him from my seat on the patio.

Ansel came running to me with a smile.

“Where did you learn that song?” I asked.

“Papa,” he said.

“Who is Papa?” I asked.

Ansel pointed toward the empty yard.

“I don’t see anyone,” I said.

Ansel turned back to me, raised his hands and shrugged.

Where is Papa?” I asked.

Ansel turned and pointed to the yard again.

“Honey, whose Papa is it?” I asked with trepidation. I didn’t want the answer.

“Baby,” he said.

“Where is Baby?” I asked.

Ansel pointed toward the yard again.

“Okay, sweetie,” I said. “Go play.”

He ran back into the yard running and playing as if nothing out of the ordinary occured. When my husband came home from work that evening, I told him Baby was back. He shrugged it off as usual and said maybe Ansel was just playing. I explained about Papa and the nursery rhyme.

“Ask the school about it,” my husband said.

That night I had disturbed sleep. I dreamt of Baby. In my dream, the boy from the photograph was standing beside a man in my bedroom. They were both dressed in old-fashioned turn of the century clothing. I woke, tossing and sweating. I looked toward where they stood in my dream. Nothing was there. I lay back down and closed my eyes, but every time I dozed off, I saw Baby and the man.

I woke once to the smell of smoke. I leapt from bed and shouted for my husband to wake up. He opened his eyes and asked why I’d gotten out of bed.

“I smell smoke!” I shouted.

“There is no smoke. If there were smoke, the smoke detectors would be going off,” he said before closing his eyes again.

The next day I sat in my living room looking out of the windows. I saw what looked like steam rolling off the roof. It wafted down and dissipated. Then the thought occurred to me there could be a fire in the attic, and I was seeing smoke. I ran to find my husband  who was working in the yard while Ansel played on his swing set.

“I don’t see anything,” my husband said looking toward the house.

“There’s smoke or something,” I insisted.

“Maybe it was coming from somewhere else. You know people burn a lot out here,” he said.

It was true. We’d moved to the rural area just a year before Ansel was born, and all of our neighbors burned their grass, tree stumps, branches, leaves, or just plain trash. There was no explanation as to why I saw it coming down from the roof and nowhere else.

Ansel got down from his swing and skipped around in a circle singing, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children will burn.”

“Stop singing that!” I shouted frightening him.

“Hey, calm down,” said my husband. “Why don’t you go lie down?”

“Okay,” I said. “I didn’t really sleep well last night. I’m sorry, sweetie. I love you.” I gave my son a big hug and went into the house hoping to rest.

I lay in bed for a while watching television, unable to relax. Finally, my weariness overcame my anxiety, and I started to doze. Just as I was falling into a good sleep, I felt a hand push me on my back. I opened my eyes and turned over, expecting to see my son standing there. No one was there. I thought maybe I’d dreamt it. Again I closed my eyes and started to doze when I heard a voice shout, “Hey!”

I bolted upright in the bed. It sounded like my husband’s voice. I got out of bed and went to the kitchen and looked out into the yard. Erik and Ansel were still outside. I decided I’d dreamt it as well, and I went back to bed. I sat down on the bed and tried to change the channel on the television. The screen went to black. Great, I thought, now the satellite’s out.

With the remote in hand, I walked toward the television stand trying to press buttons to reset the satellite receiver. Nothing seemed to happen, but when I reached the television, the screen made a popping sound as if something were trying to come through. I aimed the remote at the receiver and pressed the reset button. The television screen made another popping sound, and then I heard a voice coming through the speakers.

“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children will burn,” sang the child’s voice.

I tossed the remote and ran from the room as if it were burning. I raced down the hallway and nearly ran into my husband. He put his arms out to grab me before we collided. I rambled on about the voice and the television and the song. He looked at me as though I needed psychological help.

“Honey, you need to relax,” he said.

“I’m not crazy,” I said, sounding crazy as ever.

“You’re ranting,” he said. “Why don’t you take something to help you sleep?”

“No. No,” I said. “I don’t need it.”

“Come on,” he said in a soothing voice. “Let’s get you a couple of sleeping pills and you can rest.”

“I’m not crazy,” I repeated.

I took the sleeping pills. Erik brought me into our bedroom and tucked me into bed. He even sat with me until I fell asleep.

My dreams were afflicted by Baby, Papa, and that terrible nursery rhyme. I smelled smoke, in my sleep imagined choking on it, losing oxygen. In my dream, I fled from the burning house. Standing on the front lawn, I looked back. Through the window I saw a child standing there, engulfed in flames.

I woke with a start when my cell phone chimed. Rubbing my eyes, I picked up the phone to see who was texting me. It wasn’t a number I recognized. On the screen were just a series of random numbers. I clicked the text message icon to read the message.

“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children will burn.”

“Who is doing this to me!” I screamed and threw the phone.

It landed hard against the wall and hit the floor, screen side up. It chimed again. And again. And again. From where I sat, I could see the text message box on the screen.

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby

baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby.”

“Leave me alone!” I screamed.

My husband came rushing into the room. I started to cry, pointing to my cell phone on the floor. My husband picked it up.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “I don’t see anything.”

I leapt from the bed and snatched the phone from his hand.

“Where is it?” I cried. “Where is it?”

“Where is what?” He asked.

“They were right here,” I said thrusting the phone toward him. “The text messages!”

“He’s angry because you told him to leave me alone,” Ansel said coming into the room.

My phone chimed again, and on the screen was the photo of Ansel with the ghost boy, a photo I’d previously deleted from my phone.

“What does he want?” I wept kneeling before my son. “What does Baby want?”

“To play,” Ansel said with a shrug then he left the room.

I wanted to move away. I wanted to take everything and leave, but my husband refused. He decided it was better to learn the origins of Baby, and of Papa. I agreed because my husband is a levelheaded man. He is a lot more reasonable than I.

I searched the Internet and found a local historian. We called him and made an appointment to meet. He was excited to speak with us as he considered himself somewhat of an amateur paranormal investigator.

The historian came to our residence, and he informed us through his research he’d learned that although our home was newly built, early in the previous century there was another house on the property. It belonged to a young family that had inherited the home from relatives.

The members of this family were a man, Jacob Peterson, his wife, Annette, and their three young sons, Henry, Samuel, and Sebastian. Sebastian was the youngest. He was just three when there was a tragic fire in the home. Annette was sleeping in her bedroom with her two sons Henry and Samuel, and Jacob was sleeping with his son Sebastian because the boy was suffering with scarlet fever.

The fire started in Sebastian’s room when Jacob failed to extinguish an oil lamp that was knocked to the floor by Sebastian when he got up from his bed during the night. According to reports, Sebastian was engulfed in flames when the oil lamp shattered on the floor and the burning oil doused his small body. Jacob died trying to save his son while Annette and her other sons fled from the house. The entire house was razed to the ground.

Annette died in a sanitarium. Her remaining sons, Henry and Samuel, were raised by their grandparents. The historian produced many letters written by Annette and later preserved by her family members. Some of the letters were written to her mother and father, but most of the letters were written to Sebastian. She began each letter, “To my dear baby . . .” And she ended each letter, “May you find a playmate in Heaven, and may God unite us once again.”

The historian showed us an old photograph of the original house; it was faded and worn. He pointed out the room Sebastian’s room. It was in the same place as Ansel’s. I couldn’t contain my tears knowing the poor child, sick with scarlet fever, suffered such a horrific death. I imagined his father, exhausted from caring for his sick child, falling asleep without putting out the lamp. I imagined Sebastian getting out of bed, hoping not to wake his father, and knocking over the lamp by accident. I wept imagining the child’s screams as he burned, his father trying to extinguish the flames in vain.

I went into Ansel’s room and knelt on the floor.

“Sebastian, you and your Papa need to go to your Mama,” I whispered. “She’s waiting for you. She said so in her letters.”

I looked up and Ansel was beside me waving to an invisible person or persons.

“Bye Baby,” he said.