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Authors: A.R. Wise

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314

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314

 

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Aaron Wise

 

Smashwords Edition, License
Notes

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314

 

PART ONE : THE SERPENT’S
COIL

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

It Begins Again

 

Widowsfield

March 14th, 1996

 

“It’s going to happen in three minutes.”

Mark Tapper sat on the edge of his son’s bed
and tried to comfort the eight-year-old. He considered calling an
ambulance, but he didn’t know if what Jeremy was suffering from
qualified as an emergency. He decided to wait for his wife to get
home, since she’d be there in just a few minutes anyhow. She’d left
work early when the school called, but Mark was able to get to
Widowsfield Elementary to pick Jeremy up first.

“What’s going to happen in three minutes?”
Mark glanced at the clock on the nightstand that displayed 3:11 on
the stomach of a Batman figurine.

“I told you,” said Jeremy. The desperation
in his voice terrified Mark. “The Skeleton Man’s coming.”

“I don’t know what that means, kiddo. Help
me out here.” Mark tried to wipe sweat from his boy’s brow, but
Jeremy jerked away as if frightened by contact. “Who’s this
Skeleton Man you keep talking about?”

“He’s coming, and then everyone’s going to
go crazy. Dad, I don’t want to kill you again.”

The statement was more than a little
disconcerting. Mark stood up and put his hands on his head in
exasperation as he stared down at his quivering child. He’d tried
to stay calm through all of his son’s outbursts, but he couldn’t
take it anymore. “That does it. Mom can meet us at the hospital. Do
you think you can walk, or do you want me to call an ambulance?”
This manic episode confounded the school nurse, and it was getting
worse the longer it went on. When Mark picked his son up from
school, Jeremy had simply been crying, but now his mania had gone
from concerning to disturbing.

“There’s no time. I can already hear his
teeth.” Jeremy looked at his father and chattered his teeth, as if
he was freezing cold. Then he looked at the clock and they both saw
the time change.

3:12

Jeremy put his hands under his pillow and
bunched it up so the sides covered his ears. He clenched his eyes
shut and continued to weep. “You should just kill yourself. Make it
easy. Just shoot yourself in the head and get it over with. You
can’t handle what’s coming. No one can.”

Mark was frantic now. His hands were shaking
and he rushed out of the room to compose himself. The last thing
Jeremy needed to see was his father breaking down. Mark felt
helpless and terrified. Something was happening to his son, and he
had no idea how to fix it. When he’d been called in by the school
he expected to hear that his son had thrown up, or got in a fight,
or anything other than this. Jeremy had never shown signs of a
mental disorder and Mark was utterly unprepared for what was
happening. He broke down after he closed his son’s door, but there
was no time to weep. He rushed down the stairs to get the phone and
call 911.

The cord on the kitchen phone stretched long
enough to accommodate his pacing as he listened to the automated
voice tell him that his call would be taken in the order it was
received. He glanced at the green numbers displayed on the
microwave’s clock.

3:13

“Widowsfield County 911,” said a woman’s
voice on the phone. “What is your emergency?” She sounded elderly,
and kind, immediately affable.

Mark didn’t know where to start. “Hi, my
name’s Mark Tapper.”

“Howdy, Mark,” said the operator. “What’s
your emergency?”

He’d been struggling to answer that question
himself, and had trouble relaying it to her. “It’s my son, Jeremy.
I got a call from his school because he was having a, like, I guess
a mental breakdown or something. I don’t really know. I had to pick
him up early from school because he was crying and talking about
how someone named The Skeleton Man is coming.” He chuckled out of
nervousness and felt embarrassed for it.

The clock held steady at 3:13, seconds from
the time that Jeremy had been panicked about.

“It’s okay, sir. We can get someone out
there if you’d like.”

Mark stared at the clock, dreading the
coming change.

“Sir?” she asked after he didn’t respond.
“What’s your address?”

It changed.

3:14

Nothing happened and Mark breathed a sigh of
relief. He didn’t know why he was so scared. “Sorry, what was
that?”

The operator didn’t respond.

“Hello?” asked Mark.

She gurgled on the other line, a wet,
throaty expulsion of sound, as if the woman had started to choke.
Then he heard a shrill scream. Someone else in the operator’s
office had become frightened. The gurgling continued.

“Hello?” Mark asked again and looked at the
phone as if expecting to be able to see what was wrong. He pushed
in the wire that connected the phone to the base on the wall to
make sure it hadn’t fallen loose.

He was in the kitchen when he caught sight
of the green fog outside. It had been a gorgeous Spring day just
moments earlier, but there was no sign of sunlight now. The town
had been blanketed in fog that glowed as if illuminated deep within
by a pulsing green light. Mark took tremulous steps toward the
window above the sink. The phone went dead, and he let it drop to
the floor where the cord pulled it skittering backward across the
tile.

“Holy fuck,” said Mark as he leaned over the
sink.

The fog was thick enough to cloud his view
of the houses across the street. Even the Oak tree in the front
yard was hazed. Waves of green light flashed within the fog, as if
he were watching electricity roll out from some machine within. It
crackled and coursed along metallic objects, giving shape to things
lost in the mist.

Then he saw a man lean out from behind the
tree. The fog was too thick to see any details, but the stranger
was very tall and thin, and he retreated back behind the tree as
soon as Mark saw him.

“Dad,” said Jeremy from upstairs. He didn’t
sound panicked anymore.

“Yeah, Jeremy,” said Mark as he backed away
from the window. He wanted to go out and confront the stranger, but
was afraid of the mist and still concerned for his son. “Are you
okay?”

Jeremy didn’t answer.

He heard small, light footsteps running
across the floor upstairs, headed down the hall from the bathroom
to Jeremy’s room.

Mark stopped staring out the window and ran
to reach Jeremy. He bounded up the stairs and was confronted by his
son at the threshold of his room.

“Jeremy,” said Mark as he paused at the top
of the stairs. “Do you know what’s going on?” He asked as if afraid
his son was somehow responsible for what had happened outside.

“I tried to warn you.”

Jeremy held a straight razor to his own
throat.

“Buddy, put that down.” Mark took a
tentative step, like a cop approaching a suicidal man.

Jeremy looked at the blade and smiled. “This
isn’t for me, Dad. It’s for you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Skeleton Man’s here, and he taught me
how to hate.”

“Put the razor down, Jeremy.” Mark’s
authoritative tone was beleaguered by fear.

The razor reflected green light from a
nearby window. “We’re going to try something new this time. The
Skeleton Man saw something that he wants to try on you.” Jeremy
giggled, as if talking about something cute a puppy had done. “He’s
so excited. He doesn’t want to hurt me, but if you take another
step then we won’t have a choice. He’ll slit my throat just to
watch you cry.”

“What’s going on, Jeremy? Who’s the Skeleton
Man? How did you know that something was going to happen at
3:14?”

“I think we’ve done this before,” said
Jeremy. “I think we’ve been doing it for years.” He seemed
confused, but then shrugged off his uncertainty. “We’ll keep doing
it until we get it right, I suppose. Do you want to hear what we’re
planning for you?”

“I just want you to put the razor down.”

Jeremy looked down at his father’s feet and
pressed the razor harder against his own throat. “Don’t do it,
Daddy.”

Mark retreated a step and held his hands
out. “Okay, Jeremy. Okay, I’m backing up. Now just put the razor
down. Can you do that for me?”

“Dad, I told you, this isn’t for me. It’s
for you. He’s only going to hurt me if you don’t do what he says.
Don’t you get it?”

“No!” Mark’s terror overwhelmed him. “I
don’t get it, Jeremy. Please tell me what’s going on.”

Jeremy nodded, his cherub visage turned
wicked by the blade he held to his own throat. “The Skeleton Man
wants me to put you in the bathtub, and then we’re going to pour
boiling water over you until we can peel your skin off.”

“What?” Mark’s question escaped as a
whimpering whisper.

“And if you can stay awake, then we’ll pour
the chemicals on you.” Jeremy grinned. “It’s going to be a lot of
fun, Dad. And you want to know the best part?” He didn’t wait for
an answer before continuing. “You’re going to let us do it. You
know why?”

Mark didn’t know what to do other than
comply with his son’s insanity. “Why?”

“Because if you don’t then I’ll slit my
throat. You can either die like we want you to, or watch me kill
myself. Daddy, I don’t want to die; I know how much it hurts. So
you’re going to have to do what we tell you. Okay?”

The front door opened. Mark didn’t want to
turn and look, fearing that if he took his eyes off Jeremy then his
son might hurt himself. He hoped that his wife had come home, or
that the 911 dispatcher had been able to track the location of the
call and send police. Instead, he heard several light footsteps
running through the house, followed by the happy chatter of
children.

“My friends are here,” said Jeremy. “They’ll
start boiling the water. Are you ready for your bath?”

“What the hell is going on?”

“My best guess,” said Jeremy as he glanced
up. “God gave up on us.”

Mark thought about rushing his son to steal
the razor from him, but Jeremy seemed to anticipate this and
pressed it harder to his throat. The blade sliced the boy’s skin
and Jeremy winced as blood coursed down the black handle.

Jeremy’s eyes welled with tears. “Please
don’t kill me, Dad! I told you, I don’t want to die. All the
Daddies hate their babies!”

“Put the razor down!”

“Don’t come any closer,” said Jeremy. Blood
dripped off his knuckles. “This hurts! I’m scared.” It was as if it
were someone else holding the knife to Jeremy’s throat.

“Okay! Okay!” Mark backed up a step.

Jeremy relaxed the blade, but the small cut
continued to bleed as the boy cried. “You need to go get in the
bathtub. Please? Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”

“This is insane,” said Mark. “I don’t
understand what’s going on. Why are you doing this?”

“Because it’s what The Skeleton Man
wants.”

“Who the hell is The Skeleton Man?”

Pots and pans rattled as they were taken out
of the cabinets downstairs. Mark could hear the children laugh as
they filled them with water. He heard them trying to work the
microwave as well.

“He’s the man in the mist,” said Jeremy.
“He’s the one that keeps the children safe. He’s our only friend.
Without him, we’d be as lost as you, and none of us want that.”

“Safe from what?” Mark was in the bathroom
now, edging backward as his son stayed out of arm’s reach.

“All the ones that came with him. The ones
that will poison you unless we stop it from happening. You’ll turn
evil, like you did all the other times. We can’t let that happen.
The Skeleton Man showed us what the Daddies do.”

“What other times?” The bathroom was small,
with a porcelain tub that took up the opposite side. The toilet and
sink sat between the tub and the door where Jeremy stood with the
razor still pressed against his neck. Mark backed into the tub and
staggered. He grabbed the plastic shower curtain to steady himself
and two of the rings that held it up snapped loose. He fell to a
seated position on the edge of the tub.

Jeremy shook his head as if he felt sorry
for his father’s ignorance. “All the other times we tried to save
you. You’re one of the dead ones. There’s no saving you, but you
can still save me.”

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