The Parker Brothers: Nos Galan Gaeaf (Part II of IV)
A preternatural fog slithered through the trees, a faint whisper of untold horrors held within the advancing brume. Allen Parker looked about, his skull pounding with a thunderous rhythm, but saw no sign of his older brother or the beast that had sent them tumbling down Lovecraft Hill. His hand went to the back of his head and came away wet and red. His vision blurred, he struggled up and stumbled forward.
“Dale,” he called into the night. An owl, distant, responded.
“Dale!” More forcefully this time. His stomach lurched and it was all he could do to keep from retching into the leaves clumped along the creek bank.
Something was rustling in the woods ahead. He moved toward the sound. Animal? Most likely, but he hoped it wasn’t the bloodthirsty sow. Stooping painfully, he lifted a sturdy staff of elm, roughly four feet in length, from the underbrush. Giving it a test swing, he felt better about moving forward.
The rustling grew louder.
By now the pale effluvium had enveloped the wood and Allen Parker was lost within the ghostly obfuscate. He ceased using his elm staff as a walking aid, instead holding it forth like a spear, tapping trees and feeling his way, blind to the world around him save for the smothering murk.
The boys ears prickled at every sound: a crunch of leaf, a snap of twig, the flap of a wing. He shuddered with each noise, trembled with every sonance.
Descending into a wet bowl, he fell beneath the canopy of fog. A large rock lay straight ahead, an ancient willow leaning over it like a protective mother sheltering her shivering child. Plops of moisture echoed within the depression, falling like tears from the willow and pooling in a recess on the jutting stone.
The rustle again.
Once more the club was raised, like a sword this time, cocked and ready to strike.
A hare darted from the underbrush, bounding into the soup above.
Allen crept forward. He sank into the muck and grimaced as he pulled his right foot free with a disgusting sucking slurdge, thankful for the heavy hiking boots he was wearing. Then he caught a reflection ahead, in the crook of the twisting roots exposed by erosion, the dark bower shielding an even darker shape within.
Fumbling for his cell phone, he directed it toward the obscured shape ahead, and with gnawing trepidation called upon the flashlight app to illuminate what lie before him.
Staring out from within the root burrow was a child’s toy, a stuffed clown with a white plastic head, the red painted hair, lips, and nose now faded to all but a ghostly reminder. He wrestled it free from with the confines of its willow nest. A yellow bib around its neck read ‘Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus’.
He was about to toss the doll to the ground when a large crack split the night. Spinning about he raised his cell light and it fell upon a white face with a bulbous red nose and tufts of red hair on either side of its bald head. It had a big clown smile painted around a mouth that looked like a bear trap ready to strike.
The clown fell upon the boy, claws tearing into his flesh, teeth gnashing inches from Allen’s throat. The youngest Parker struggled against the weight of his attacker, using his legs to keep the thing at bay. Tears streamed down his face as he desperately tried to keep the thing from his throat, the snap of its feral jaws echoing with a sick and metallic sound.
Allen wanted to scream but he couldn’t find his voice and his arms and legs were aching and he felt exhaustion consuming him even as the clown became more ferocious. It’s over, Allen thought. I’m done.
Then the clown just stopped and wet drops of thick black blood began to drip off of it, splattering onto Allen’s cheeks. The clown fell away, pulled by an unseen force, but Allen had his eyes clenched shut now, expecting the worst…
“Come, child,” a soft voice spoke, “before the black swine rises again.“
Allen opened his eyes and screamed.
Beside him lay the enormous sow covered in blood.
Above him stood a woman in a long black dress, her pale arm stretching out toward him. But upon her shoulders, no head did rest…
Darkness took him then as he tumbled once more into the great black abyss of unconsciousness…
to be continued