by Tonya L. Turknett
|part 2 of 4|
Lightning split the sky, and the storm growled as it raced along the river. The storm grew louder as it approached, bringing with it a wind that made the walls of Johnny’s room contract and expand as if they were breathing. An impenetrable darkness filled the room, making the air heavy.
The dense fog rolled along the river spilling over the banks and creeping up to the doors and windows. Johnny felt it draw upon him. Cowering in the shadows, he found he could not fight it and stumbled outside wide-eyed with terror. Something wicked travelled with the fog. He could hear it screaming out in the distance as if it were calling to him, “Johnneeeee!”
Johnny felt his way along the riverbank grasping at saplings to keep from losing his footing. He saw the light emerge from the boiling fog. The same white light that came from the snake’s mouth ensnared him now. Johnny snapped to and ran to the trailer. Clackety-clack, clackety-clack it came. Johnny tried to push himself into the corner, hiding himself in the shadows.
Johnny sat in the corner. He feared the train might overtake him, and he would no longer be himself. He crawled out of his room and felt his way along the hallway in search of his mother. Just as he put a hand upon the flashlight in his pocket, he heard the hushed voices and froze.
“Now is the time. He is old enough.”
“How are we gonna get away with this?”
“People get hit by trains all the time.”
“They won’t believe it. I ain’t got many friends in this town. They’ll know I did it.”
“The master says do it when they’re twelve. We’ve waited long enough and soon it’ll be too late.”
“Shh! It’s comin’ now, can’t you hear it?”
It was his mother’s voice he heard plotting against him. Johnny felt a thousand fingers touching him pushing him to get up and run. The flashlight fell and rolled across the hallway tapping the wall. The small sound was enough to alert his mother and her new friends. The hard sting of a hand coming down across his face both hurt and frightened him. “He’s here!”
Johnny fought the hands that held him but more came to control him. The burn of tightly bound rope sank into his flesh, restraining his hands and feet. Soon, there was a gag in his mouth and someone was sprinkling a foul-smelling liquid over his head and heart.
A dull pain came when they dragged him out the door to the tracks. With each thump of his head against the ground, Johnny began to realize that his mother was planning to sacrifice him just like that old witch in Phelps’ story. Anger and hatred drowned the fear that had consumed him moments ago.
As the group placed Johnny on the tracks, they began to mumble words that were foreign to him. Three figures hidden behind dark cloaks whirred around him. An array of dolls made in his mother’s image was placed around him. One of the strangers moved what looked like bones tied with a lock of hair — Johnny’s hair — over his head and down the length of his body.
Johnny began to cry as the rumbling grew louder. It was coming. And this time, it would get him.
There was no more than a muffled thud when the collision came. Did it hit me? Oh, my God, this is how I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die!
Then the darkness came but not silence.
“It’s done! Rejoice in your new power, priestess!” The voices were celebrating Johnny’s death. His mother laughed and chanted with them.
“You must wait till dawn to take a part of him. Keep it in your possession or your powers will be weak.”
“I find a finger is sufficient.”
* * *
Johnny’s mother sat alone beside the tracks. When sunlight at last broke over the trees she arose to complete her wicked work. Alongside the tracks was a patch of flattened grass where something lay waiting to be found. She hoped it would be so easy as to find something right away. It would all be for nothing if she could not find what she needed.
Taking a tentative step, she saw a nest of brown hair and knew that it was Johnny. She prepared herself for what she must do. The stir of a hand gripped her heart with terror as she kneeled beside the body.
No, it wasn’t possible. No one could have survived being hit by a train. She was just hallucinating from the ceremony. Maybe it was part of her new strength. Maybe gaining these types of powers made you see things sometimes. Maybe it was her new master showing her the way.
The boy rose. Standing over her, staring at her with black endless pools of merciless evil, was the child she knew she’d slain. “Did you really think I would just show up, willing to award you power?” he growled.
The boy laughed. “Not just Johnny. You could say I’m the new and improved Johnny.” Catching her by the throat, he hissed through clenched teeth, “I’ve been waiting so long for someone to come along and present me with this opportunity. I could stay for such a short while the first time. This time, make no mistake, I will remain.”
Her face pulsed blue. Choking, she spit and clawed at the hand that was pulling the life from her.
“My friends didn’t tell you that you were simply opening the door for me, did they? Only one thing remains: to be baptized in black water on the third day.”
* * *
Voices rose above the trailer fading in and out as they approached. Johnny looked back to see that the sheriff’s car was parked alongside the road. Eyes darted through the fescue until they finally lit on Johnny standing beside his mother’s corpse.
“Young man! Stay right there!” The sheriff’s deputy called. Johnny obeyed and did not move. He knew why they were there.
“Someone hurt here, young man?” The deputy searched the grass where his mother lay dead. “Jesus, kid! What happened?”
“M-my mom, I mean, she wandered out here last night. I didn’t know she got hit till just this morning.”
The sheriff, a large man with kind eyes, appeared from behind the deputy. “I’m Sheriff Ridley. This is Deputy Randall. This where you live, son?”
The sheriff stuck out his hand and shook Johnny’s then removed his cap and rubbed his forehead. “I think you’d better just come on along with me, alright?”
“Yes, sir,” Johnny said.
Johnny looked back to make sure the eyes weren’t following him. He wondered if it was laughing at him there in the shadows.
“What’re you doin’ out here, son?” The sheriff helped Johnny into the backseat.
“Just lookin’ for my m-mom,” Johnny stuttered.
The sheriff watched Johnny in the rearview mirror and smiled. Johnny only stared blankly. “I’ll need you to tell me just what happened out there. Alright, boy?”
“It was the train, sir.”
“You tellin’ me that a train hit your mom?”
Johnny didn’t answer. Would he say that he was battling a demon that was trying to possess him and that it had killed his mother? He thought it best to remain silent.
Johnny was escorted into the police station where he listened as the men whispered. He could hear Randall’s boisterous voice as he spoke with the sheriff. “Sheriff Ridley, I have double checked and triple checked. They have no record of it.”
“That’s bull, Randall. Make them check it again.” The sheriff paced as he tried to piece together this new puzzle. Randall started to speak but hesitated. “What is it Randall?”
Randall pulled the sheriff to the far side of the office and whispered, “We found all kinds of voodoo paraphernalia in the kid’s trailer. Mom’s bedroom is full of it.”
“Yeah, no wonder the kid’s weird.”
Johnny watched and waited while sitting sluggishly in the corner of the sheriff’s pale blue office. The desk was covered with paperwork that was ringed with coffee stains. He noticed the pictures of toddlers that could only have been the man’s grandchildren.
A few minutes later the sheriff returned. “You want something to eat? Maybe a soda or something?”
“N-no. I just wanna go home.”
“Son, I’m afraid that we haven’t been able to locate any of your relatives. You might be spending the night with us. Tomorrow we’ll find a suitable place for you.”
Johnny knew that no one would want to take him in.
Randall returned and pulled the sheriff aside. Johnny picked at his fingers, trying to act as if he weren’t listening. “Sir, I have checked with every line that runs. No train has been on those tracks in thirty years.”
The sheriff stared at his deputy incredulously. He sat behind his desk and muttered, “But didn’t we all see her? What else could’ve done that?” He mumbled while biting his lower lip.
“What now, sir? We gotta talk to the coroner soon.”
“I know, I know. Alright, kid. Time to talk. Me and you have got some things we need to square away.” Sheriff Ridley rolled his desk chair out in front of Johnny and sat down to face him. “I need to get exactly what happened straight from you.”
“Straight? You w-won’t believe the truth, how can you get it straight?” Johnny looked directly into the sheriff’s eyes as he spoke. “You already think I’m lyin’.”
The sheriff searched Johnny’s eyes. “Boy?”
“I’ve got all night and I’m willin’ to listen to whatever you wanna tell me. Nothin’ you say will go any farther than me.”
Johnny believed him. Something in his eyes, in the honesty that they revealed, made Johnny want to warn him. Nobody had ever been straight with Johnny. He liked it.
“It’s just like Mr. Phelps said.” Johnny felt a chill slip up his spine and suddenly knew he was running out of time.
“Do you know what happened to Mr. Phelps, Johnny?”
“Same as her. Only it c-came as the boy for him. Or maybe lookin’ like m-me.”
“Why would it wanna look like you, son?” The sheriff listened intently, studying the boy. “Was it you?”
“It can look like whatever it wants. It’s a d-demon, I think. The soul of that kid whose momma tied him to the tracks.” Johnny told the sheriff what old man Phelps had said about the snakes in the Moon River.
“I’ve seen some big snakes down there myself but nothing like what you’re talkin’. You sure that you didn’t do something to hurt Phelps? Maybe you’re tellin’ one to keep anybody from blaming you?”
“I’ve seen it. And I hope I’m wrong but I think it’s c-comin for you too, sheriff.”
The sheriff laughed a little. This kid was either trying to threaten him or he was totally insane; Ridley wasn’t sure which was worse. He saw that his laughter made Johnny uncomfortable and silenced himself. It was obvious the boy had been worn down by the recent happenings and, more likely, by abuse for the better part of his life. And now he’d snapped.
A wave of pity came over the sheriff. What a shame that now he was probably going to have to arrest Johnny for murder. “You should get some sleep if you can. You’re welcome to take a shower. We’ll scrape you up some clean clothes. Sound alright?”
“D-do you believe me?” Johnny’s worst fear was that this man who had shown him nothing but mercy would ignore his warnings. “Ya gotta b-believe me, sheriff. Shouldn’t anything bad happen to somebody like you.”
“Do you think something bad’s gonna happen to me?”
“I’d just hate to see it happen, that’s all. Maybe now you’re the only thing standin’ in its way.”
“We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
“Yeah? You won’t believe me tomorrow, either.” Johnny looked around with a cold blank stare. “Where’s the john?”
Johnny, who had never before in his life been offered a shower, climbed into the tiny stall in the washroom. His gratitude for it was mingled with desperation. Nothing he could say would make the sheriff believe him.
The hissing sound of the rushing water jarred him. It seemed to be whispering to him. Just a little while longer, Johnneee. It was the breathy, slurred voice of the demon. Come to the river. Just once, Johneee.
“Hey, kid, hurry up in there!” Randall’s booming voice broke the spell.
Johnny let the hot water flow over him. He scrubbed his skin until it was raw, hoping that his days of bathing in the black water of Moon River were over.
* * *
Copyright © 2012 by Tonya L. Turknett