A story for those who love mystery and imaginary
Trees cast long reaching shadows on the grass carpet on
the north side of the park in the dimming day. Standing like sentry
in the distance near the park's entrance was playground equipment,
a large structure that consisted of snaking monkey bars that
connected to a low straight slide, and a high slide that twisted as
it went down.
The last few rays of sunlight glittered on the metal of
the monkey bars, giving the silhouette of the equipment a feel of
glowing. The wind breathed a small little gasp, as if in sobbing,
and she heard the laughter of children on the equipment. She looked
in that direction and saw their scurrying black shapes bold against
the red of the sinking sun on the horizon.
The "ting", of an aluminum bat striking a ball was loud
across the parking lot. A late practice coming to an end. The
muffled sound of rubber sneaker souls scrubbing asphalt approached
her from behind as she spread the brown and black checkered quilt
on the ground. She stood, and looked over her shoulder. An elderly
couple arm in arm. In the darkness they seemed to be melted
together as they moved along the track under the veil of elongated
They waved in an eerie unison that made a hint of
paranoia tiptoe in. The man said something low and inaudible in
passing. She watched as the blackness of their bodies disappeared
into the gloom.
She picked up a plastic bag, with Wal-Mart inked in
yellow across its belly. She opened the bag and pulled out a
candle. She flicked her lighter and moved the dancing flame to the
wick. Then she sat the candle down about five inches from the
corner of the quilt.
A car came through the park's entrance, its lights on
high beam. Her heart started to sink. It's him, he's early, she
thought. Then knelt down to look at her watch in the circle of
light that the candle was throwing. Ten minutes till eight. She
stood back up hoping that it wasn't him, fearful that it was. The
car pulled over seeming to lean toward the ball field. Loud rock
music poured out of the car. A boy opened the back door of the
Intrepid, tossed in a glove then climbed in the front
As the car sped away she watched the red tail lights and
lit a Marlboro before setting back to work. She was almost
finished, but wanted it to be complete when he arrived, to be
perfect. She lit three more candles and placed them in the grass at
the other corners of the quilt. Then lit four more and placed them
midway in between the four sides of the quilt.
She walked down to her car, a green little Neon. She
opened the trunk and got out a little plastic bag that said Ingles,
lunch for two, and a pastel multi-colored teddy bear. Car lights
again at the entrance, and she knew that it was him.
"What are you up to, Jessie": He asked as he
got out of the car and looked up toward the low lights under the
trees. Jessie Lowery, giggled a little, then said,
"Nothing." He didn't believe her. Sometimes the guy on
trial was innocent, sometimes the monsters didn't get you, but
Jessie Lowery was always up to something. The look of disbelief on
his face warranted an answer. "Mike, I'm not up to
anything……..much". She giggled again. "I love you."
"I love you too."
Mike stepped toward her. She started to turn and run in
a lover's game of tag, but he had her by the arm. He pulled, and
they were chest to chest. They stood there in the dark neither one
of them all that good looking to anybody else other then
themselves. She was tall and lanky, with straight brown hair, and
not even a hint of breasts. He was also tall, almost seven feet.
His hair was black and course, and his face was an etched with the
memory of teenage acne.
They walked up to the quilt. They passed through the
light and sat down. The sun went down. The world was dark. "Do
you like it?" Jessie asked. "Yes". Mike smiled oddly.
"Really?" "Yes." "Then what's that smile
for?" Jessie asked sounding near tears. "I'm just thinking
about how nobody has ever done anything like this for me. And, how
much I love you." Mike leaned across the quilt and pressed his
lips to hers. As they pulled away from the kiss, Mike laughed a
bit. "You don't like it." "Yes I do, I was just
thinking that I should stop kissing you." Jessie's face
registered confusion. "What? What are you talking
Mike smiled and looked into her hurt eyes, they sparkled
in the candle light. "I love you," she whispered. "I
love you too." Then they were silent. The sky was clear, and
the stars danced. Crickets sang a happy little ditty all around
And something watched with wretched lustful eyes. Jessie
turned and looked at Mike, and he toward her. The light from the
candle lit up one side of his face in yellow. Understanding that it
was possible that they were being watched, she looked around the
quilt for her cigarettes. "I don't think that there's anybody
out here." As he was talking she spotted the pack of Marlboros
and got on her hands and knees to pick them up. They lay in the
grass with her lighter beside one of the corner
Just as Mike got the word "here" out of his mouth, a
twig snapped in the darkness just out of the reach of Jessie's poor
vision. She jumped back beside Mike holding her cigarettes with a
shaking hand. A gust of wind rushed through the park. Leaves
skittered across the parking lot. The flames danced, and Jessie
silently begged them not to go out.
In the darkness another twig snapped. "There's
somebody there," Jessie said fumbling a cigarette into her
mouth. "Where?" Mike asked. He looked at her, she seemed
to be suffocating in raw horror. Another twig snapped. This time
the sound found Mike's ears. He looked in that direction, but all
he saw past the candle's flame was night. "See, you heard it
too, didn't you?" The smoke from her cigarette blew back in
Mike's face. It was thick, and fowl. He crawled away from the smell
and over to the edge of the quilt.
Mike peered out into the darkness, and saw nothing.
"Probably just some kid, heard us. That's all," Mike said
sitting on the edge of the quilt. "Are you sure?" The
question sounded stupid, and she felt immature, like when she was a
little girl and her father would look in the closet or under the
bed for the boogie man after a nightmare. "No, I'm not sure. It
could be a dog, or just our imagination." "But what if
it's not? What if its something else?" "Like what."
Then he caught her vibes.
Mike could be a real nut at times but she loved him.
"Oh, you mean like a ghouly or ghosty. Or something like
that." She didn't answer. She wished that they had just stayed
at home. Now he would make fun, and her fear would be something
that would follow her from this night as a joke for a long time,
like a pesky younger sibling. Mike stood up, smiling. He was on the
verge of laughter.
He turned toward the night. "Hey if you are out
there, you can't come inside our candle light quilt house. You'll
just simply have to wait till we leave to gobble us
"Stop it. That's not funny." Jessie was crying.
She flung the smoked butt out into the darkness. "Made me
laugh," Mike said then realized that her tears were real.
"I'm sorry." He walked back over to her and sat down. He
put his arms around her, and kissed her on the forehead. She looked
at him and smiled as the last few tears ran down her face. Mike
"Say, what's in the bag?"
"Some sandwiches and some chips, and a couple of
"I'm hungry; wanta eat?" Mike asked. Then his
stomach growled as if to verify his statement. A mosquito landed on
the wick of a candle. It popped with the heat and lay dead in the
hot wax. Behind the candle was the plastic bag that contained the
food. She reluctantly said, "Yes." The thought of getting
the bag made her uneasy as she saw Mike reach for it.
The light from the candle was bright and his face was
bathed in yellow. He reached beyond the candle, and broke the plane
of the candle's light. He reached out into the darkness and felt
its unholy kiss.
Mike was looking back at Jessie as he reached, and he
never saw what had him for that she was thankful. To look into that
face as it came for you was to embrace madness. Jessie however,
She saw the pale hungry face of a corpse. Its long,
gnarled fingers close around Mike's wrist. She saw the terror clasp
hold of Mike's heart as he felt the coldness of the hand. She saw
glowing red coals that sat below the creature's brow where the eyes
should be housed. And worst of all she saw the too long to believe
canines in the things open mouth dripping with shimmering saliva in
the moonlight. It pulled Mike out into the darkness.
Just before she became unconscious, the sound of a baby
sucking on a pacifier filled her ears. She could feel herself
coming back. There was a voice, loud but mouthing. "Come to me
Jessie. I know that your frightened, but I can take all that away.
Trust me. Come to me."
Jessie was crawling on her hands and knees toward the
edge of the quilt without realization.
A mosquito landed on her neck.
She opened her eyes and smacked at the bug. The fingers
of her other hand were in the grass. Just out of the light from the
candle's reach was the white face that she had seen. The one that
had taken Mike. "Jessie, come to me," it said in a
soothing urgency laced with Godless hunger. And she started to
close her eyes back and crawl out into the dark. "No," she
said out loud.
The sound of her own voice scared her. She bounced away
from the corner of the quilt. A hiss of disgust came from the
darkness. She looked back into the night. The face was
A moment passed and still that sickening feeling of
dread insulated the inside curve of her stomach. Something batted
her blonde bangs, and she looked up. It hung there in mid air above
her batting at her head, batting like a cat at a catnip mouse.
Drool glistened on those long teeth then fell splattering on her
She flung herself down flat against the ground out of
its reach. The hands still came, with dirty brown fingernails where
it had clawed its way out of a grave. The reddened corners of the
thing's mouth turned down in an unpleasant grimace. A droplet of
drool fell into her mouth. The taste reminded her of a busted lip.
She turned her face in the direction of Mike and all that she could
see of him was the white soles of his socked feet.
She started crying again. She thought of the crucifix
medallion around her neck. She pulled the chain from around her
neck slowly, praying that it would work just like in the movies. It
took all the courage that she possessed to sit up and press the
cross against the things palm. It screamed a scream that sounded
animal, as its flesh exploded in flames.
It disappeared up into the darkness like a spider on a
thread, leaving behind only the smell of charred flesh. It was
gone, she thought. There was no way to be sure. The thought of
sprinting madly to her car entered her mind. She felt inside her
pockets. No keys. She didn't know if her keys were in the switch,
or locked in the trunk. She was bad for that.
Jessie had bought the local locksmith a steak and backed
potato dinner one or two or five times in her life. That was too
big of a chance. She was safe on the quilt inside the candle light.
But what if they burned out? Then what?
She surveyed the candles one by one. They seemed to be
in good order, but the night was long and she had no idea what time
it was. Then Jessie remembered that Mike had also driven. His keys
would be in his front left pocket, but that would mean turning his
body over an looking through his pockets. She shuddered at that
though. She looked over to his body. It was gone.
She sat in the center of the quilt clutching the cross
and chain tightly to her breast. Crickets chirped. An owl sounded
off in the night. There was no sign that there was anything still
there. Maybe it just took his body and left, she tried to tell
herself. But now she knew things.
She knew that there were unspeakable things lurking in
the darkness for you. She knew that vampires were real. She knew
that crucifixes really worked like in the movies, and she knew what
happened in those same movies when a vampire…took you.
"Help me Jessie. Please come help me." She
recognized the voice even though it was different, changed somehow.
It was Mike. She stood up and almost left the safety of the light
once again, thinking about what happened when a vampire took you
and it seemed inviting in a weird way. She felt intoxicated as she
moved toward the darkness, toward the voice that was Mike's but was
Another mosquito landed on her and she smashed it under
the weight of her palm. Jessie fell and realized the fate that had
almost become hers. She looked at her hand, and saw the spot of
God created mosquitoes to keep people from being eaten
by vampires, she thought then laughed at the idiocy of the idea.
The moon was high in the sky and she wondered what time it was. How
much night was left? She longed for her watch that stayed around
the Neon's turn signal lever. "Go get it. Go…….get your watch
"Yes," she said answering the voice that seemed
inside her head. Jessie started toward the darkness then yelled,
"NO!" The hours of night passed slowly. She spent most of
them pretending not to hear the sweat, soothing animalistic voice
of the urging a thing that walked with Mike's legs. She watched the
candle's flame dance, and tried not to look at the ghostly white
that had taken Mike's face as he came in and out of her
The candles did well, until the last few hours of night
approached. The sky in the east was deep blue with approaching
morning. The candle on the corner pointing toward the ball field
died while the last stars were still visible. She moved quickly and
placed and lit the only other spare candle she had.
He got up and came for her with blinding speed. His hand
reached through the barrier and closed on hers. It sizzled and
burned the way that the other had when she had pressed the cross to
it. Mike let go howling. Jessie stumbled backward and fell. She
struck her head on a stone beneath the quilt. Her eyes felt heavy.
A bird sang a happy morning song. She felt blood tickle down the
curve of the back of her head. Then she was gone hoping that the
rest of the candles would last.
The autumn sun sat high in the sky. Jessie sat up. All
of the candles were lifeless. She stood up and almost fell back to
her knees. She left everything like it was and went to her car. The
keys hung from the trunk lock. Jessie started the engine. Then she
jumped in her seat and inspected her throat in the rear view
mirror, no puncture wounds.
Jessie went home and packed some clothes in an overnight
bag. She did this as stealthily as she could. She could picture the
new Mike sleeping under the trailer amongst the cobwebs in the
darkness. She had family in Polk County she could stay with, her
mother, till she figured out what to do. She didn't want to be at
home later-after dark- because she wouldn't have to invite Mike
This was his home as well.