Authors: David Greske
"This isn't right,” Jarvis croaked as he stared at Diane's soft nakedness. “This isn't right at all."
Madness, this was. Jarvis knew he should turn away. Diane was another man's wife, and he had no business seeing her like this, but he could no more look away than he could jab hot pokers in his eyes.
"This may not be right,” Diane cooed, “but it's what I want.” She unbuttoned his shirt and pressed her bare breasts against his hairy chest. “And I know you want it, too. I saw it in your eyes at the carnival."
Ignoring reason, Jarvis ran his hand through Diane's hair, tilted her head back, and kissed her on the lips.
Diane pressed herself closer to his now naked body and probed her tongue deep into his welcoming mouth. Her eyelashes tickled his cheek. The air that puffed from her nostrils was hot and full of passion.
Jarvis let his hands wander down the center of her back, tracing the vertebrae beneath her honey skin with gentle brushes of his fingertips. He grabbed her buttocks and squeezed.
Diane moaned and Jarvis...
...awoke bathed in sweat. He threw the covers back, sat up in bed, and ran his hand through his tangled hair as he waited for his heart to slow to a steady pounding.
He hadn't had a dream like that since he was a clumsy, acne-cursed, high-school senior with a crush on Carol Tibbetts, head cheerleader of the Prairie Rest Ravens.
Jarvis yawned, snapped on the bedside lamp, waited for his eyes to adjust to the glare, and then got out of bed. He wandered to the kitchen for a glass of water and tried to erase the vision of Diane from his mind.
( ... I know you wanted it, too.)
Honestly, he had entertained such thoughts after he met Jim's wife. He wondered what she was like in bed. Was she a screamer, or a groaner? Did she like to be on top, or was she strictly missionary? Maybe she was an oral kind of gal, or maybe not. But weren't these thoughts just fantasies every man had when they saw a beautiful woman? Diane was married to a man who was quickly becoming his best friend. Jarvis couldn't imagine doing anything other than giving her a friendly peck on the cheek. Why, then, such an erotic dream?
I think you know why,
a voice whispered in his ear.
Startled, the water glass slipped from his hand and shattered in the stainless steel sink. A thick, hot, passionate stink rose from the drain. On the counter was a swatch of white lace.
Jarvis picked it up. Examined it. Smelled it.
Disgusted, he tossed it in the garbage can.
"Fuck you,” he hissed as he padded back into the bedroom where, for the first time in years, he closed and locked the door.
The phone rang and he nearly whacked his head on the night table as he scrambled to answer it. He'd been pulled from his sleep again, but this time, it was by a bleating phone rather than a perverse nightmare about his best friend's wife.
"Hello?” he grumbled into the phone. He looked at the clock, but without his contacts, the numerals were just a fuzzy blue blob. He leaned forward until the numbers came into focus. Half past three. Who in the world was calling him at this hour?
"Jarvis, this is Timothy. Pastor Timothy."
There was a temporary silence as Jarvis's still sleeping brain registered the caller. “Oh, Tim. Why are you calling in the middle of the night?"
"I'm sorry I woke you, but I need you to come to the church."
"Now? At this hour? Can't this wait until the sun comes up?"
"No, it can't.” The clergyman sounded desperate. “Please, come now."
Jarvis flopped back on the bed. “All right. I'll be there in about ten minutes."
"Thanks.” Timothy sighed. “Thanks a lot."
Timothy waited for Jarvis on the front steps of the church. The night air was laden with moisture, and every breath he drew felt like it was pulled through a wet rag. A dense fog hung near the ground. It swirled around the marble steps and circled the tombstones in the adjacent cemetery, shrouding the granite markers in a fine mist. In the distance, the silent carnival rides were skeletons against the dark sky. Black on black.
Pastor Timothy shivered. Despite the temperature and stifling humidity, there was an underlying chill in the night. A chill, Timothy suspected, that only he felt.
Timothy met Jarvis at the driver's door. “I'm so glad you came.” His voice trembled.
"Geez, Tim, you look terrible,” Jarvis said, stepping onto the graveled lot. “Have you been to sleep at all?"
Timothy's eyes were bloodshot, sunken deep into his skull. His hair shot out on all angles. His face was puffy and flushed.
"Sleep?” Timothy chuckled in a voice that neared madness. “How can I?” He tugged at Jarvis's arm. “Come, come with me."
Every light in the church was on, and the stark brightness made the interior look like a watercolor picture. Colors were washed out; edges were crisp and sharp; the stained glass looked muted and blurred.
Timothy led Jarvis up the center aisle to the baptismal font. “Look.” He lifted the silver dome.
Jarvis looked inside.
And saw water.
"You don't see it, do you?” Timothy realized.
Jarvis pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. He shook his head. “Sorry."
"What do you see, there?” Timothy asked, pointing to the window above the sanctuary.
"The Crucifixion of Jesus."
"No. But what do you see, Tim?"
"Nothing, now. But less than a half hour ago, I thought I saw them. Like the last time. And I thought the Blessed Water had soured. That's why I called you. I had to be sure. Sometimes, I don't trust what I see."
"Maybe it was just a dream,” Jarvis suggested as they walked down the aisle. “Running two parishes, the one here and the one in Tanner's Falls, is stressing you out. You told me last week you've hardly had time to sleep."
"Yeah, maybe you're right. Maybe I fell asleep in my office and dreamt the whole thing,” Timothy said. But he couldn't convince himself the words he spoke were true.
"Go home. Get some rest. You'll feel better in the morning.” Jarvis clapped Timothy on the shoulder and stepped into the pick-up. “The mind can play some pretty cruel tricks on a person when they're tired."
"Right,” Timothy forced a smile and backed away as Jarvis drove out of the parking lot.
Under the light of the moon, the clergyman looked at the church. The grand steeple sliced into the night sky, pointing the way to eternal peace. He left the lights on in the church and decided he would leave it lit for the rest of the night. Maybe with the lights on, the holy illumination would keep away an unholy evil.
In the woods behind the Anderson's house, a green glow seeped up through the ground and spread toward the cave's entrance. It was still too weak to leave the damp cavern, but very soon all that would change and it would be strong enough to claim Prairie Rest as its own.
Unlike yesterday, there was no breakfast waiting when Jim woke up. Instead, he found a note on the kitchen counter. It read:
Gone to town. Be back later.
Enjoy your day!
Hugs and Kisses, Diane.
Jim poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot Diane brewed before she left, then he stepped out onto the back porch. It was going to be another hot day. Jim already saw heat shimmers rising off the driveway. But he didn't mind the warmth. The air still smelled fresh even on the hottest of days. In the city, when temperatures warmed, the air stank of garbage, asphalt, and car exhaust. Some days, the taste coated your tongue.
Travis stopped playing with Rufus when he heard the screen door creak open. He rushed across the yard and wrapped his arms around his father's leg.
"Daddy!” He was dressed only in a pair of blue shorts and his slender body glistened with a fine sheen of sweat.
"Easy, Sport,” Jim said, moving his arm to one side to prevent coffee from splashing over the rim and burning his son's head. “Where's your sister?"
"I dunno,” he shrugged. “I guess she's still in bed."
Then Travis stretched his arms out at his sides and ran across the yard making airplane noises. Rufus followed at his heels, barking and snapping at the air. The boy had tied an old blanket around the dog's neck and as the animal gaily jumped through the tall grass, the cape fluttered in the air. Rufus, the super dog to the rescue.
Jim smiled at his boy. He'd done the same thing with his dog when he was growing up.
Taking a sip of coffee, Jim looked up at Molly's bedroom window. Still asleep. Usually, she was up with the chickens. The carnival last night must've worn her out.
So, at least for the time being, he had the whole house to himself. This would be the perfect time for him to organize his office and start his new novel. He already had an idea bouncing around in his head. It was time to commit the thought to paper.
Jim walked into the house, refreshed his coffee, and padded up the stairs. On his way to the office, he peeked in on Molly.
She lay in bed, the covers gathered between her legs, sleeping like a newborn. There was a gentle kind of peace etched in her face.
Jim closed the door and walked into the office. He was beginning to feel as if they'd lived in Prairie Rest all their lives.
Diane parked the car in the lot across from the Stumble Inn and had been waiting for Jarvis for well over two hours. She'd been thinking about the barkeep since the sun turned the horizon blood red. In fact, ever since she'd met him at the carnival, she'd been unable to keep her mind off Jarvis. When she finally fell asleep, her dreams took her to the Stumble Inn where she found herself entwined in Jarvis's arms. When she awoke, his image was burned into the back of her brain like a woodcarving.
On the passenger seat was a flashlight she'd taken from the garage and a jar of Vaseline from the bathroom.
Diane sat behind the wheel, her slacks pulled down to her ankles. She wore no underwear. The inside of her thighs were puffy and red, but it wasn't because of any infection. The rawness was due to an unabashed desire that had yet to be fulfilled. There was a glazed, faraway look in her eyes and even though the sun was high enough that its rays shined directly into her eyes, Diane seemed not to notice.
She ran her tongue across her lips and the fire between her legs grew more intense. She shifted on the seat, trying to cool herself on the cold vinyl. But the effort failed. This was not the kind of heat that could be satisfied like that.
At last, Jarvis's brown pick-up pulled up to the curb outside the tavern. He got out, and Diane watched him stroll up the sidewalk toward the Gas-n-Go.
Diane's body felt like a blast furnace. Raw tendrils of heat coursed through her legs, thighs, and stomach. She picked up the flashlight and smeared the handle with the petroleum jelly. As she did this, the vehicle filled with the smell of dust and graveyard mold. Diane looked in the rearview mirror.
In the back seat sat the three dead whores. They nodded their approval and smiled.
Diane smiled back.
Travis ... Travis.
When the boy first heard his name, he thought he was being called by his father. But when he looked toward the porch, no one was there.
Travis ... Over here.
He stopped roughhousing with the dog, sat in the grass, and listened. Rufus cocked his head to one side. A growl vibrated deep in his throat. Rufus heard it, too. Someone was calling him. And it sounded like it came from the woods.
Travis had almost forgotten about the woods. After he nearly drowned in the pond, he had been able to put it and all its wondrous mysteries out of his mind. He vowed he'd never set foot in that dark place again. But now, it was calling him—beckoning for him. The trees quivered with anticipation of his arrival. The branches seemed to bow down before him. He was a king, and this was his kingdom.
Travis stood and walked toward the woods. Rufus walked along side his master. The dog's hackles were raised, and the vibration in his throat had turned into a rumble.
The boy reached down to reassure his pet. Rufus growled and snapped at the air. There was a stink around his master he didn't like.
Six children stood on the path. The trees behind them were distorted through their androgynous, translucent bodies. They had pale blue eyes and lips like golden sunshine.
Come play with us
, the strange children spoke without moving their thin lips.
The oldest child of the group raised a thin, crooked arm and coaxed Travis.
Travis felt a strange pull in his stomach, and even though he didn't want to, took a step forward.
That was when Travis noticed the children really weren't standing on the ground at all; they floated about an inch above it.
"I don't wanna go,” Travis whispered.
The child with the outstretched arm rolled his hand into a fist. He brought his arm back and reeled Travis in like a fish.
The tickle in his gut increased, and Travis took another step forward.
"Please, I want to go home,” Travis pleaded, but the children only smiled.
The group turned and hovered down the path. Travis followed as if he were being pulled on a string. Rufus trotted faithfully by his side.
The trees closed behind them.
Diane pulled the Suburban into the garage, killed the engine, and dropped her forehead to the steering wheel. The headache was so bad, she thought the top of her skull would explode at any minute. But even worse than the headache was the knowledge that she couldn't remember the last few hours of her life.
She awoke in the Suburban with her pants around her ankles and the inside of her thighs sticky with blood. There was a bloodied flashlight on the seat next to her and an open jar of Vaseline. The petroleum jelly was streaked with ribbons of pink gore.
Embarrassed and ashamed, she hurriedly pulled up her slacks, screwed the lid on the Vaseline, and put the jar and soiled flashlight in her purse. She started the Suburban and tore out of the parking lot, spewing gravel and dust into the air as she went.