Happy Holidays everyone! I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more. I never became a professional writer for the money. It’s damn near impossible to make a living in the internet age as a novelist or journalist. I do it because I love it. Plain and simple. That being said, I’m going to give you all six stories between now and Christmas absolutely free. All of these appear in my short story collection “Six From Five Seven”. You can purchase a copy if you feel froggy, but I refuse to beg. I’m not starting up a clothing line either. No rules, just write. Enjoy!
The Carnival’s Diary
(Originally submitted to the MBLA Literary Agency for a Stephen King short story contest. It’s rumored that he read it. I refuse to question the validity of that statement.)
Welcome to Victorian Gardens! If you’re reading this, then you’ve managed to survive the carnage which will probably be taking place over the next few hours. I am leaving this diary to explain things. A confession if you will. I seriously doubt I will live long enough to explain it in person. My name is Baxter, and I am a werewolf. This is my story.
I figured Central Park would be the best place to finish this entry. When the time comes, there won’t be too many people around for my killing spree, but in this “city that never sleeps,” it’ll be just enough to get the attention of the New York Police Department. I wasn’t even aware there was a carnival inside of Central Park, but I can’t imagine too many will be lingering after hours of darkness. Do you blame them? It’s a good way to get yourself killed or accused of the killing. I remember the Central Park Five fiasco all too well! Anyway, the cops should put an end to this once and for all. Let’s just think of those few, helpless victims as casualties of war. That is the perfect way to describe this curse. The inner beast is winning the battle over my humanity and it’s time to bring in some outside help. I’m sorry this is the way it must be. I’ve found no other solution.
I always wanted to see New York City before I died. It’s everything I ever imagined. Getting off the bus at Port Authority in Times Square was breathtaking. Brought me back to the moment I first saw Axl Rose step into Hollywood in the Welcome to The Jungle music video. The sounds, the smells, and the fast-paced lives of people fighting for position on the sidewalk were enough to make me want to cry. After diving down the closest subway tunnel, I stood there amongst the locals and observed their frantic way of life from a distance. The ancient scents coming from the tunnels were overpowering, especially to me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t explore them without drawing attention to myself. Instead, I hopped the train two stations down and landed at the gateway of Columbus Circle. If there was a way of avoiding this plan, I could see myself living here forever.
I’m skipping a bit due to excitement and overwhelming awe, not to mention the nostalgia from every television show and movie I’ve seen since childhood. If you, kind reader, are a New Yorker, I’m sure you no longer get this sensation daily. I weep for you. I’m sitting on a bench next to what would be the Wollman Ice Rink. Even though it’s summer, I am excited by the past energies of children’s laughter as they glide over the frozen surface. There is a cool breeze blowing from the pond nearby and a dozen remote-controlled boats are riding the choppy waters. The scent of money on Park Avenue is what brought me to this exact spot, though. When it all comes to a head, I can only hope I take a few of them out before I’m gunned down like an old west outlaw. They’re evil people, more so than I, and a shake-up of their lifestyle is long overdue. Oh, my dearest reader, I pray one of those destined victims isn’t someone near and dear to you. If so, you have my sincerest sympathies.
This all began exactly a year ago just before I separated myself from military service. Still a little on edge from an extensive tour in Afghanistan, I was ordered to live out the remainder of my Army days in the quiet confines of Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Not being the type of person who frequents the bars or malls of the nearby city, I would take long journeys into the Huachuca Mountains to explore ancient caves and abandoned mineshafts. For the sake of my sanity, I would go alone to quiet the nightmares of battle which still haunt me to this day.
A month passed and my wife and two daughters finally arrived at our new home. They were staying with her family in Texas. During my deployment, they preferred the familiarity and comfort of her parent’s home over living alone on the military base and hearing horror stories from returning soldiers. Seeing the truckloads of flag-draped caskets unloaded from cargo planes daily was something my wife and I didn’t want our children to witness. If I hadn’t been so desensitized by the military brainwashing I received during my initial training, it would’ve shaken me as well. In my opinion, the battles of those misguided souls had ended. When their energy reached the unknown of the great beyond, they no longer had to fight against an enemy hidden around every corner. It is a tough life but I somehow survived. God bless those men and women who endure the haunts of battle. It never seems to end, and you can’t run from it. Energy is everywhere. Energy is life.
The more I tried to play the role of ‘father of the year’ while bouncing children on my knees and keeping the lawn looking green, the more I wished for solitude. My thrashing around from night terrors and waking up in pools of sweat was causing a wedge between me and my beloved. There was no way for her to understand what I’d been through, and I wasn’t willing to take the time to explain every gory detail. She was better off not knowing. Besides, most of those experiences can’t be put into words easily comprehendible to someone who’s never witnessed a child being blown to pieces by the bomb strapped to his back. How do you tell an angel about the time you forced a bullet into a beautiful, young woman’s head just because your superior officer ordered it? The fact that Heaven will detain me at its gates due to what I’m about to do in this park doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Heaven barred me from entrance long ago because of my wartime actions, I’m certain. No big loss, right? There are familiar faces in Hell, or so I imagine. Reunions are long overdue.
When I reached the point when I could no longer take any more, I packed a week’s supply of food, a lightweight tent, and disappeared into the wilderness. I told my family it was the only way I could cure myself before I chased them all away forever. My darling wife agreed without argument. It was almost like she was pushing me out of the house. I didn’t pick up on the red flag. I took off into the darkness without a second thought. This journey would soon become the undoing of all I held precious.
Did you know that Native American folk tales are actually words of warning to the weakened souls of white men? There are things lurking in the dark corners of the world that can only be understood by ancient minds and passed to future generations by tongues believed to be long dead. Hollywood has taken these warnings and softened our brains to accept them as laughable fiction. Modern humanity does a fine job of fearing nothing when you install the buffer of a keyboard and computer screen. Face to face, though? You’d saturate your khaki pants while stumbling over your own feet to get away from the terrors I’ve faced.
On the third night of my sabbatical, a famous Arizona monsoon swept through the mountains. As the trodden pathways became waterfalls, my tent and gear were washed away, and I was forced to seek shelter in one of the abandoned mineshafts which litter the mountainside. That was when our paths first crossed
The largest wolf I’d ever encountered in the wild stood before me in the shaft. He’d obviously had the same idea regarding shelter. He stood his ground at the entrance of the tunnel allowing me no escape. As the seconds ticked by like hours, I mentally pleaded for him to flee in the opposite direction. It was all I could do because I was too frightened to speak. The wolf proved quickly that he couldn’t read minds. With the same velocity of the lightning which struck the rain-soaked mountainside, he attacked me. As I fought for my life, I began to realize that I was losing the battle. He soon overpowered me, and my struggle and troubles of this world would be nothing but memories in the minds of those unfortunate enough to remember my presence. Suddenly, the fighting stopped. He stared at me with a satisfied grin across his canine face and left the tunnel. As I braved the storm, I bled profusely on the ground, mixing red into the collected puddles of rainwater along the mountain pathway. My vision faded in and out, but I could see his eyes in the darkened distance. I wasn’t sure if he was following to finish the job or escorting me toward my oblivion. Regardless, I lost consciousness near my vehicle parked on a nearby road. I was certain it was the end.
I awoke the next morning in the Huachuca soldiers’ hospital attached to machines forcing life into my tattered body. To the amazement of the medical professionals surrounding me, my wounds had mysteriously healed in the night. There were no signs of the attack or the struggle with the wolf I’d met in the tunnel making the experience seem more like a bad dream than an actual event. I was treated for exposure to the elements and released to return to duty. I headed home.
Over the next few days, I spent every spare moment visiting the campsite but never found any signs of my belongings, blood, or the wolf. Not believing I had imagined it all, I accepted the fact the monsoon had washed it all downhill and I would never receive the answers I sought regarding our fateful meeting. I returned to my home earlier than expected and witnessed what is possibly the worst vision a man can endure. Much more so than what I’m destined to create in this carnival. It made the experience of war seem trivial in my already troubled mind.
I stood in the doorway of my bedroom for an eternity before I realized I was no longer a mere human being. I never saw his face as I patiently waited for him to finish what he was doing. With each thrust of his lower body hidden by the blankets, the sanctity of my marriage was erased. Although I couldn’t be seen in the darkness, my vision was becoming clearer as my anger intensified. She gripped the unknown man tighter as her eyes rolled slowly upward into her head. That was the moment when everything disappeared. I have no recollection of the events which followed on that evening other than what I discovered the next morning. The pieces of the puzzle I’d left for myself were easy enough to put together.
I slaughtered the two of them before either knew what happened. The blood-spattered walls led me to believe it wasn’t a gentle passing. Although the man had been mutilated beyond recognition, my wife’s face was still intact. Oddly enough, her frozen expression was one of surprise and it showed none of the pleasure she emoted prior to my initial transformation. I was blanketed with an odd sort of satisfaction until I discovered both my daughters in the next room. Their lifeless bodies showed no signs of struggle as though they’d been taken while sleeping. A single slash to each of their throats and a spray of blood on their pillows was all the evidence I needed. My life was forever changed. I grabbed what little clothing and food I could carry and headed once again into the mountains on foot. I knew once the military discovered the horror on Jeffords Street, everyone would be on the lookout. A supernatural fit of rage had reduced me from a decorated soldier to a murderer over the course of one evening. I didn’t even have time to shed a tear for the loss of my loved ones on that fateful day. Almost a year later, I still haven’t.
For weeks, I searched for the wolf who introduced me to this hell and didn’t bother leaving me a copy of the rule book. Changing night after night in the forest, I knew I’d perfected the art of hunting because I never woke feeling hunger. As a matter of fact, I never felt hunger for traditional foods again. My basic human needs were being met upon the arrival of the moon by a monster I couldn’t control. It wasn’t long before the taste of wild game could no longer satisfy the animal who controlled my destiny.
I began waking morning after morning closer to the gates of the military base. Finally, I came to my senses in the living room of an officer’s house surrounded by a horror similar to the one I’d experienced in my own home. Luckily, this man was single and lived alone. He was the only human casualty on that visit, but his rank and stature within the military would bring the authorities down hard and my chances of survival were slim against their numbers and power. For the sake of survival, I ran as far away as I could. I knew my wooded sanctuary would soon be crawling with soldiers in search of the cold-blooded killer who brutally murdered one of their own. I took to the highways, changing my appearance and mannerisms with each town I visited.
I discovered that truck stops were an easy place to obtain what was needed to continue my freedom. During daylight, I made the money necessary for survival by changing tires and other things weary drivers didn’t care to deal with. By night, I preyed on the prostitutes who gathered in the truck yards to make a quick buck from the road barons. These ‘lot lizards’ were easy pickings. Most of them were drifters with little or no family to search for them or provide identification. It was enough to keep me going. No one missed them or inquired regarding their disappearances.
It was the ‘pop,’ I believe, which kept me wanting more. There’s really no better way to explain it. The puncture of teeth through skin and into flesh as the majestic, coppery tasting fluid sprays into your awaiting throat…that’s the true joy of murder. I’m not sure if it’s an animalistic pleasure known only to cursed individuals like myself or perhaps repressed, childhood memories of simpler times. I would sit and do the same with fruit from my grandfather’s knife on balmy, summer evenings. Neither of us would speak a word as the unforgiving sun set along the western bank of his favorite fishing spot. No, we would just sit motionless in the near darkness atop a rotting log, devouring apples, and praying for submerged bobbers. I can’t help but wonder if my family ‘popped’ on the night their lives ceased to be. Deep down, I know the true answer but refuse to acknowledge. They all ‘pop.’ Every single one.
As the months passed fifty or so miles at a time, I began to realize it was a statistical probability that I would leave a loose end at some point. It was a statistical certainty. How long did I really think I could carry on that way without being caught? Were there only so many lucky breaks one man is allowed in a single lifetime? If so, I knew my supply was running dangerously low. I began to tire of hiding and nightly struggles to stay alive. Ultimately, though, was THIS truly living? Never again would I have the comforts of home. Never again would I kiss someone goodnight or hug sleeping children in their warm beds without fear of killing them when the beast turned off sanity’s switch.
As I was sitting in a Flying J waiting room with a dozen or so sleepy truckers, I became overwhelmed by my intense sense of smell. The harsh scent of the road was something I could no longer stomach. The smell of greased wheels and hard days without time for showering was making me weary of my newly adopted lifestyle. My first instinct was to linger in the room until after dark and attempt to take them all on at once. With any luck, one would reveal a hidden weapon and send me down my eternal path to redemption. Snapping out of it, I realized I was selling myself short. I was too good of a person to be remembered as a truck stop psychopath. No. If I were to go out by assisted suicide, I had to do it in the most epic way imaginable. As the tired theme song of an overplayed, syndicated television show penetrated the muffled speaker of the flickering black and white television set, I began to devise my plan for the ending of this story. That is what brought me here. I may not be remembered as someone nice, but I’ll forever be remembered.
The usual fever has begun to set in as the sun disappears behind the apartment buildings of Park Avenue. The steady stream of taxi cabs is slowing as the residents of this great city find their way home to catch tonight’s episode of whatever. Most broadcasts will be interrupted by reports of the terror I’ll cause. Soon, this diary will end and be left for discovery upon this very bench. The lycanthropic curse won’t allow me to write after the transformation. Hell, why would I? The only thing the beast cares for is flesh. The frightened, unarmed victims of Central Park will have no way of stopping me once the moon has risen. Those poor, unfortunate souls. Still, they are necessary – necessary for me to live another day or for my death if the authorities arrive on scene in time to end me. I can only hope the parents of these children playing nearby are responsible enough to take them home soon. If not, they wouldn’t be the first child casualties of this curse. A harsh lesson to learn but one to be forever remembered.
With any luck, they’ll all scream in fear causing my retreat deeper into the park. Like I said earlier, most people don’t linger here after hours of darkness. Decades of negative media propaganda have stirred fear among the locals regarding the demeanor of Central Park when the sun goes down. I find it calming. Lovers at the beginning of their relationships walking hand in hand without a care to what lies just beyond the tree line will soon find out what really happens when you throw caution carelessly into the wind. Their deaths will be a public service aimed at future victims of purse snatchers and rapists who prey on the weak. Maybe I’ll get lucky and take a few of the criminals out in the process.
I can feel the beast coming forth as I write these final words. To you, the unsuspecting discoverer of this journal, I wish you well. Don’t keep this find to yourself. May you never take for granted your friends and family, for companionship is humanity’s only true treasure. May you cherish each breath entering your body and exhale with renewed life into this unforgiving world. Every sunrise is a new beginning, but each awakening of the moon summons the evil which hides within us all. I’m certain to not be the only one who’s ever possessed this curse. I’m sure I’m not the only person who looks upon the moon with both satisfaction and fear. Take those you consider dearest and hold them tightly. You never know when another one like me will come along. You, too, could unexpectedly become the victim of the beast’s hunger. One never knows…
Besides, anyone who can afford to live near Central Park deserves to be eaten, don’t they?
Eat the rich.
I can feel it drawing nearer…
I can’t control it…
Good luck, you trust fund bastards…
Happy Independence Day…