I suspect you’re all going for the element of surprise and catching me when I least expect it! Don’t forget: the contest deadline has been extended to NOVEMBER 7TH, 2016! In the meantime, light one up–a cigarette, a jack-o-lantern, the bowl that was previously full of candy (no judgment; I’m saving the peanut butter cups for myself! Ha!), and prepare yourselves for Michael Stang’s:
No kid dared to touch the door of Crenshaw’s shack.
The ruined man stole away from the back door for the last cigarette of the night. He lived alone near the woods. There was no need to be silent, but it was his way to make no sound like his father taught him when they hunted deer over a lifetime ago. The path led to a stump hidden at the back of a garden of broken weeds. There he pulled from his pockets the crumbled pack and matches. Withered hands shook violently as he wasted several sticks to get the thing to light. Festered lungs rumbled with the first intake. Lonely hoots from an owl who sat in the ancient oak, just before the fence, made him think of the barns from his youth.
Out there, smoking in pre-dawn hours, he thought a lot about when he was young. Back before all the pain and the memories of a woman long dead bent him in ways he would never understand.
Lately, the old cruder confused the sounds to the haunts of Lillie, Hoo, hoo … hoo. They had been married six years when her last blood-spattered cough soaked through her deathsheets. Those were the years when his back was straight and his eyes pure when nothing could stop him, and his love for Lillie was everlasting.
Now the man hated his wife for leaving him, and their future, so soon. The forsaken bird called out to him. Forty years in the ground, her rotted carcass taunted guilt from her tomb. She pounded his heart and pulled his hair, she tore away his skin and hooked his eyes out of their sockets, she cut off his ears and wrists. Tears trapped the smoke to his face when he ran from the stump, fleeing blindly in the direction of the massive oak. Panic crashed his forehead into the knife-edged bark, which left an open gash in the middle of his forehead. The taste of blood and tobacco in his mouth dropped him to his knees, and he vomited a unholy offering to the tree.
Hoo, hoo … hoo, the owl mocked from a lower limb, over again and again until the old man’s world was washed by a sea of madness. If he could just get his hands around the owl’s throat and crush the sound out of his mind, out of his life, he could ban the old hag from haunting him forever.
He started to climb, pushed his fingers into the bark displacing hidden dark Beatles who swarmed over his hands and bit into his flesh, his feet could find no purchase, and he lost his grip to find himself on the ground again. He roared at the owl like a rabid bear whose only purpose was to eliminate that which caused so much pain. Another attempt by sheer force of the will to kill found himself straddling the first of the limbs. Blood ran from a dozen cuts but never had he felt so alive with a vengeance. The owl sat ten feet higher, out next to the end where things got feathery. Eyes more huge than round taunted him with an internal orange fire; candles in service for the damned.
All the while Lillie screamed Hoo, hoo … hoo.
Years of holding up, drinking his sorrows, smoking away his body did nothing to help what he needed from himself tonight, but it didn’t matter. Depraved strength from hell itself surged through every muscle. Hands and feet evolved into claws and hooves, shoulders bulged forward. Where the tree had cut him, his forehead split apart forming two hemispheres. His eyes looked in different directions. Fueled by hate from a thousand tortures, he climbed the limbs and looked level with the devil’s bird.
Hoo, hoo … hoo. The owl did not move, did not fly away but stayed and watched him crawl. Yes, come to me my darling husband. Have you come to deal death to one already in the grave? Do you see what I have done to you … come closer to know death for yourself.
The freak tore at his chest and screamed at the wind. Just a few more feet … just a few more, his claw reaching for those fiery eyes.
The owl sprang as the branch gave way, and sent the beast back to his mortal earth broken, dead.
Hoo, hoo … hoo.