Authors: Bryant Delafosse
Copyright 2012 by Bryant Delafosse
All rights reserved.
Electronic edition: October 2012
Published in the United States of America
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events of locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
Crimson and Clover
Words and Music by Tommy James and Peter Lucia
(c) 1968 (Renewed 1996) EMI LONGITUDE MUSIC
All Rights Reserved International Copyright Secured Used by Permission
Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard Corporation
Cover design by The Design Office
Kindle formatting and layout by Geraldine Delafosse
For John and Ivan.
Through the fresh eyes of my own son, I have
gained a richer understanding of my father.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
--Edmund Burke (attributed)
In the dream, I clear the tall grass and, for the first time, see the House-- a three story Victorian monstrosity that stands in the hills overlooking my town.
As I step awkwardly onto the porch of the house, I realize for the first time that I am not who I should be. My legs are short and stubby and I realize that I am five or six years old again, making the present situation even more overwhelming.
I climb onto the porch and gaze at the walls of the house. The color of the house is a black so completely dark, so all-consuming that it disorients me to the point that I’m not sure if I’m stumbling toward it or the house itself is advancing.
There are no doors. No windows. The porch leads nowhere.
I’ve had the dream so often now that I’ve taken to calling it the House Without Doors.
Over the railing, I look down into the valley below where I live.
The world below is in flames. I see the homes of my neighbors in smoking ruins. Tiny figures flee in mobs through the streets cluttered with abandoned vehicles. Just to the northeast, the town water tower erupts in an explosion of boiling water. Flames on all sides color the sky around me an eerie crimson like the sky of an alien planet.
And then there’s the moon.
Above, a full moon swollen, like the belly of a mosquito that has just fed, glows the color of blood. As I watch, the moon shudders and breaks apart, its pieces floating slowly apart, the veins of darkness that separate them growing larger and larger.
Then I realize. This is the End. The End with a capital “E.”
What is the word my Uncle Hank would use?
I hear the screams in the distance and wonder if they are the screams of my mother, my father. No, somehow I know that everyone I care about is in there. Inside the House Without Doors. At that moment, I realize: I have come to rescue them.
But I’m only five years old.
Suddenly, it is all too much for me. The stark terror. The overwhelming sense of death.
It waits for me inside. Patiently. It knows I am here. Centuries, it has prepared for me.
My hearts races, pumping adrenaline, and my instincts warn me to get away from this unholy place. No matter what the consequences, no matter who I might leave behind, I must flee. It is the need of an animal trapped in a forest fire, a compulsion beyond rational thought.
I look down and see the orange plastic pumpkin in my hand and recognize that it must be Halloween and from the amount of candy in the bucket, I must have been at it a good, long while.
There is an aroma of fresh apples, a smell so overpowering that in my mind it becomes the aroma of the season: apple bobbing, candied apples, apple cider. When I was five years old, it had been everything. The dark magic. The candy.
But tonight those silly childhood fantasies wouldn’t be enough to save my family.
That’s when I awaken. Sweaty. My heart pounding in my chest.
Have I told anyone about the dreams? Never.
I’m sure Mom would try to get me counseling. Dad would shrug and tell me to stop eating so late.
And Uncle Hank… I believe he would try and read something into it.
There is one thing that has helped me cope. The overwhelming opinion of the interpretations I’ve read is that dreams featuring end of the world scenarios generally mean the exact opposite of what we might believe. It usually symbolizes new beginnings. A re-ordering of the world we know.
Some say that dreaming of an old house signifies an impending reunion or a renewal of an old association.
It was Monday afternoon the first day of my junior year of high school when Claudia came back into my life.
Halfway through fifth period band practice, I noticed the small dark shape up in the bleachers, sitting in the shade of the announcer’s box. At first, I thought it was just a random couple giving each other CPR, but the closer we got to the stands, the more the shape looked like an individual. Just before the end of class, the shape strode down the stands, a baggy black shirt flapping in the wind, long black hair flowing out behind from beneath ear-buds. The girl carried a notebook and a wadded up brown lunch sack that she hooked into a trash barrel from several yards away.
I stared up at this spectral creature with fascination, as did most of the trumpet section around me. The girl reached out behind her, snagged her hair with practiced precision, and wound it into a loose knot. She flipped it back and disappeared into the shadows like a ghoul.
Greg Hebert sidled over to me, lowering his cornet. “What was that?”
My mouth opened and I started to tell them it was Claudia, when suddenly I wondered how I could be so sure given the fact that I hadn’t seen her for seven years (which, to a teenager, translates to an eternity). If it was Claudia, she had morphed into a completely different creature than the one I remembered.
“New girl. Had her for second period English,” Sonny Bertrand responded, clearing out the spit valve of his cornet.
“Sonny, you were here back in third and fourth grade, weren’t you?”
I got a blank stare in return.
“That’s Claudia Wicke. Remember?”
His eyes glazed over. Finally, he asked, “Oh, is that Hallow?”
A chill passed through me.
There it was. It had been seven years and already the old label had been re-attached.
Claudia had gotten the nickname “Hallow” back in fourth grade when the kids were assigned to write a poem about their favorite holiday. Claudia chose Halloween. One by one, the kids were required, in the typical sadistic fashion of public schools, to stand up in front of the class and recite their work.
We had most of our classes together that year, so I was there the day Claudia read the poem in question, but I was so completely focused on my own impending doom that I didn’t realize who was next on the chopping block until I heard her voice.
“‘Hallow,’ by Claudia Wicke.” She stared down at her single page of college-ruled paper, hiding behind the long black bangs that obscured her eyes, seemingly oblivious to the snickers that had already begun.
“When the season transforms the weather,
When leaves fall and nights grow long,
That’s the time when the spirits gather,
They might scare
, but I never fear.
I walk past the graveyard and sing a song,
Cuz things aren’t always as they appear.”
The class began to titter and elbow anyone next to them who wasn’t paying complete attention. The vicious ones knew this would be good fodder for later and if their audience couldn’t recognize their insightful references to the source material, their puns would be wasted.
Claudia continued undaunted into the second stanza.
“They want to be heard but sometimes are unable.
On this night of nights you can hear.
Loud and clear.
For this is their time of year.
The season of the shadow people.”
Clearly, I remember that she looked up, and in the face of the blatant laughter from her classmates, she looked only at me… and caught me with a smirk. She shot me a glare as dark as ink--as if I alone had laughed at her instead of the others--and slunk back to her seat.
Then there was another time that same year when the rest of the class was reading books like
, Claudia asked Mrs. Sommers if she could read Truman Capote’s
In Cold Blood
. When Mrs. Sommers, told her that the novel wasn’t appropriate for her age level, she went to the principal, Mr. Smalls, who of course, told her that he didn’t care what she did on her own time, but the school district could get in real legal trouble for approving a book for a ten-year-old about a quadruple homicide. Claudia responded by reading the book, writing the book report, and handing copies out to whoever was curious about it. Since it was outside of the school grounds, she would have gotten away with it, if some of the students hadn’t—maliciously, I suspected-- brought the reports with them to school the next day.
She ended up getting two days detention for it.
That was the Claudia Wicke I remember, and it was also the one I found later that day leaving the senior hallway pursued by several large senior girls led by Trudy Simmons, student council and cheerleading captain (a label that seemed to be required immediately following her name whenever and wherever her name might be printed).
I turned at the sound of a loud voice proclaiming: “Excuse me, but there are no Juniors allowed in the Senior bathroom.”
With the uncanny speed of the world we inhabit as teenagers, a crowd gathered expectantly around Trudy and Claudia. Much to Claudia’s credit, she had stopped and turned to face Trudy, who was a good foot taller than her and almost as broad-shouldered as Brad Fuller, the Varsity tackle.
“You’re new here so maybe someone needs to explain the facts of life to you, newbie.” Trudy got chest-to-chest with Claudia and adopted a loud, slow-paced delivery as if speaking to one of the mentally challenged. “This is the See-nior hallway. The hallway for See-niors. You are a Jun-ior. Not a See-noir. Am I making any sense to you yet?”
From my vantage point, I could see Claudia, though I could not reach her, if I had wanted--which I particularly didn’t. After all, why was this any of my business? I hardly knew this person anymore.
Without as much as a glance at the gathering throng of people around her, Claudia stared calmly back at Trudy. Her demeanor never changing, she said the most bizarre and non-sequential thing I had ever heard in the course of an angry confrontation.
“You’re so beautiful.”
The expression on Trudy’s face was an odd combination of confusion and satisfaction. Should she be offended or gratified? Wasn’t this supposed to be a fight or did someone change the rules?
Claudia continued, oblivious to the rising murmurs of the crowd all around her. “But… you’re going to die someday, because everything in life passes away.”
Trudy’s jaw dropped. I mean, actually dropped. I’ve read about this sort of stuff happening and seen it in cartoons, but I’ve never actually witnessed it with my own eyes.
This cheerleading captain and student council member tried to recover by looking at her nearest minion and laughing. “Can you believe this little freak?”
It was about this time that the crowd started to break up because Principal Smalls (who was once Lieutenant Smalls in the U. S. Army and stood an intimidating six-foot-five) had caught the foul scent of a fight on the wind and was soaring down the steps of senior hall like an eagle.
Trudy’s cohorts abandoned her at the approach of Smalls. Now, Trudy and Claudia stood alone with a few of us hardcore bystanders seeking closure.
From a distance, the two of them made an interesting couple: the statuesque blond in a fluorescent green blouse with a tight canary yellow skirt; and the other, short, dark in a baggy black shirt and jeans. It looked like a Rat Terrier facing off against a Golden Lab.
Claudia reached up and actually grasped a lock of Trudy’s blond hair. “Y’see, this silky hair will fall out and your tanned flesh will rot, so you better enjoy it while you can.”
Then Principal Smalls was between them and the rest of us suddenly remembered something important we needed to do. He led them both to his office. I’m not sure what transpired in there but by Tuesday both of them were back on the streets.