As the Dead Goats Writhed
How do you know if you’re insane? This may sound weird, but I really hope I am. I might be the first person to ever write those words. Maybe it was just the phantasmagorical imaginings of a diseased mind because what I believe I experienced was horrific beyond measure. This is very difficult for me, to write this, putting what happened into words. But I will try before I slip off into peaceful oblivion, a departure which will be brought about by my own hand. Where do I begin? How do I relate the details of a memory that still claws and tears at my psyche? I guess I’ll begin with its location, set the stage if you will, because understanding the town of Hudspeth would be the best means to understanding the horror.
Nestled near the Redwood Forest in a pastoral valley by the mouth of the Eel River, Ferndale is a town proud of its heritage with its well-preserved Victorian-era architecture. But just a few short miles west of Ferndale, off of Centerville Road, lies the seaside village of Hudspeth, a bleak, gray town trapped under a perpetual layer of dense fog. Unlike Ferndale, this small community, with a population of about 500, has weather-beaten, ramshackle Victorian homes that line its wide streets like headstones in an Old World graveyard. Curled and peeling blue/gray paint, flakes off and falls from the exterior walls of the houses like dry autumn leaves from deciduous trees. Flapping in the raw, salty air, large blue tarps, tied down with ropes and bungee cords, adorn the steepled multi-faceted roofs. There’s only one small general store in Hudspeth, located near the center of town, a run-down motel near the beach, a dive bar (that even Charles Bukowski wouldn’t frequent) and an old single-pump gas station, like something out of the 1950s, on its eastside. The crude inhabitants of this dreary town seem not to own cars or tucks but instead ride around on three or four-wheel all-terrain vehicles, some with shotguns strapped to their backs. These are hard folk, known for their illegal pot grows in the hills to the southeast of town, and meth labs in shacks in their backyards. The California Highway Patrol and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department tend to avoid Hudspeth, only daring to venture within its limits when a meth lab explodes, or a murder goes public.
Truth be told Hudspeth wasn’t always a depressing shithole. Early in its history, it was a prosperous seaside town, named after its founder, Jacob Hudspeth, and populated by those elites of Humboldt County who obtained their fortune from logging. In the 1870s and ’80s, using local wood, they built elegant, asymmetrical homes, two or three stories tall, with steeply pitched, octagonal towers, and large wrap-around porches. Where the other coastal towns in the county, such as Eureka and Arcata, were known for being notoriously rowdy ports, Hudspeth retained a quaint, genteel reputation. That was until 1885 when Absolom Gibbous came to town.
Little is known of the origins of Absolom Gibbous. Some said he was an English lord because of his accent, while others claimed he was simply a fraud and/or a mad man. One thing is clear, though, after his arrival, the town would never be the same for he infected Hudspeth like a slow fatal virus. At first, the townsfolk were intrigued by the British gentleman with the intense blue eyes, large dark mustache, fine tweed suit, and bowler hat, who purchased a newly built Queen Anne style home on the northwest corner of Whipple and Phillips streets. But that soon changed when rumors arose that he was performing strange, malevolent rituals in his basement. How the rumors started, no one is sure, but they grew after he was seen bringing poor local Wiyot Indians into his home, people no one ever saw leave. Then, over the period of six months, six limbless bodies of adult male Indians were discovered east of town at different points along the banks of Russ Creek. It was just a matter of time before the Humboldt County sheriff arrested Gibbous, but he was soon released after a thorough search of his home revealed no incriminating evidence. The only thing the authorities took of any note was a book, an ancient leather-bound tome of dark, clandestine knowledge called The Arcana Diabolicus, which the outraged Gibbous instituted legal proceedings to recover. A case which he won.
Soon after the hubbub of the murdered Indians died down — which didn’t last long for Humboldt county has a long sordid history when it comes to relations with its indigenous peoples — Gibbous had his relatively new home torn down and in its place, a massive estate was erected of a similar Queen Anne design, the largest in the county. With its decorative woodwork, steep, gabled roofed towers and turrets, and shapely bay windows of stained glass, it was not unlike other mansions of its day. Except for the fact it was painted black, entirely black. But how Gibbous acquired his sudden wealth, no one could say. It was whispered in some circles that it came about with the aid of The Arcana Diabolicus and its black magical rites.
Five years after Gibbous Manor was completed, on May 1st, 1894, the remains of Absolom Gibbous were found, torn to pieces, in the empty basement of his home. It was said that there were hundreds of bloody chunks, the largest pieces weighing no more than a pound, strewn about the floor, walls, and ceiling. The only way they knew that it was truly Gibbous was the fact they found his upper lip and his mustache. And from that day forward a strange fog blanketed the town, never to subside.
And this brings us to why we dared to venture to the town of Hudspeth on that late April morning of 2019.
“What the fuck is he doing on this trip?” said Olivia for about the tenth time as she stared back at me from the passenger’s side front seat.
“How many fuckin’ times are you gonna say that?” Evan said.
“I’m serious. Why’s he with us?” Her almost black eyes shot ebony beams of cold hate.
“You’ve been saying that ever since he got into the car . . . four fuckin’ hours ago!” Evan said as he took the Fernbridge/Ferndale exit off of Highway 101. “I already told you why, and I’m not saying it again! I should’ve left your ass back home.”
I looked out the window to my left to avoid Olivia’s glare. Those cold eyes were beautiful, though, even while they seethed with hatred. Trust me, I would never have gone anywhere with these two together. Evan alone, yeah, but with her? No. I was on this little excursion because . . . it was my fucking idea! Evan and I shared a common love of the arcane and nobody knew the story of Absolom Gibbous better than I did. I even wrote a book about him titled The Redwood Mangler: The Story of Absolom Gibbous. But even though I wrote that book, I never bothered to go to Hudspeth, all my research was done online (You know, there’s just something about tweaker rednecks with shotguns). But after getting a private message from an anonymous admin on a Facebook page dedicated to the Gibbous Manor (yes, it’s still standing) stating that they were starting private tours of the house, well that was just too good to resist. So I let Evan know and he was just about as excited as I was.
My history with Evan goes way back, almost twenty-five years, since grade school. I think our shared love of the occult began with horror films and literature, which did, in a not-so-strange way, lead us to an interest in magic and magical books and grimoires. Between us, we bought The Book of the Law, The Grand Grimoire, The Lesser Key of Solomon, The Book of Abramelin the Mage, The Hermetica, The Grimoire of Pope Honorius, and the many volumes by modern Black Magician, Michael W. Ford. Then came the items: pendants, crystals, candles, sculptures, and statuettes (Baphomet was popular with us) along with animal and human skulls. Originally the human skulls we ceramic, but that wasn’t enough for us. We wanted the real thing, so we went out to the old run-down pioneer cemeteries in the foothills east of Sacramento and, in the dark of night, went digging. Besides skulls, we took other items from the moldering graves such as old pocket watches, cufflinks, and such. It got to the point where we had nine human skulls between us, some painted, some polished, and some with the skullcaps sawed off to be used as ritualistic drinking vessels.
It was during this enthusiastic search for all things sinister that I met Olivia. She worked at Lilith’s Grotto Bookstore in San Francisco. She sold me my copy of The Lesser Key of Solomon. Damn, she was hot. Black hair in a short bob cut, big dark brown eyes, Satanic pendants, and she always wore an oversized biker leather jacket no matter what the weather was like. I was smitten. I asked her out on the spot, which failed, but I wasn’t about to give up. Every time I went into that store I asked her for a date until finally — I think it was the fifth time — she said yes. We became an item, and it was perfect for about six months. Then I fucked her sister. That’s why she ended up with Evan, to get back at me. Evan never really had much luck with the women. It wasn’t that he was ugly or anything like that. The fact is he can be a bit awkward at times. He asked me if it was okay that he date her. I said sure (because I deserved it) and the rest is history.
We drove into Ferndale and stopped off at a diner for lunch. The cold stares from Olivia continued. Ferndale is a beautiful town. It’s amazing how they keep those old Victorians looking like new. Hudspeth is the complete opposite. Only a few miles away, but worlds apart.
When we got back into the car I sat behind Olivia so that way it was harder for her to stare at me, and we headed west on Centerville Road. Soon we drove into a fogbank, thick and billowy. Evan slowed down and put on the headlights. I felt an excitement well up from deep in my gut. It was true, but how could it be? It made no sense. Sure, the Northern California coast was known for its fog, but a never dissipating fogbank? A few short minutes later we spotted a road sign: Hudspeth, pop. 500. Soon we passed the old gas station before making a right, heading north on Barlow Road. I noticed that the fog wasn’t as thick in town, thus allowing us to get a better look at the homes and their dilapidated condition. This is also when we encountered our first ATV and armed redneck. He came up on our left. He was bearded, gray, with a thick brown coat, hoodie, and camo pants, but without the shotgun on his back. Instead, he had what appeared to be a .45 on his hip. He made a gesture with a gloved hand to pull over. Evan did and put down his window.
“Where you folks headed?” said the man in a friendly tone, a stark contrast from his rough attire.
“We’re here for a tour of the Gibbous Manor,” said Evan.
The man looked into the car to get a better view of its occupants before pulling a flip phone from his coat pocket.
“Deb, we got three folks here for a tour of the Gibbous house . . . ” He paused, listening, then, “Two guys and a girl.” A pause, then, “Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Talk at’cha later.” He closed the phone and put it back in his pocket. “Go up here and make a right on Whipple,” he said pointing. “You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks,” said Evan.
“My pleasure,” the man said with a nod, then drove off.
“That was . . . interesting,” I said. “Not what I would have expected.”
“Yeah,” said Evan. “I guess they want tourists. A few extra bucks for the town’s coffers.”
As we headed down Barlow, I noticed something about the town — there were no trees, no bushes, no kind of flora but old dried grass about a foot high. Two blocks up we made a right turn and instantly we spotted the house, about fifty yards up and on our left. It was huge, it was black, and it looked like new. With its well-trimmed green hedges, it was quite a contrast from the rest of the town. It was as if the Gibbous Manor had sucked all the vital energy out of its surroundings in order to retain its pristine condition.
“Wow . . . ” said Olivia, something else had finally got her attention beside her hatred for me. She pulled out her phone and began taking pictures.
Evan pulled up and parked. There were no other vehicles around. After getting a good look at the place, I noticed that it wasn’t as creepy as one might imagine.
We got out of the car and as we walked up to the black, wrought-iron gate that surrounded the place, a woman came out the front door.
“Greetings!” she shouted as she hurried down the steps. She was small, thin, and blond, wearing a thick blue coat, and a pair of tight designer jeans (that were probably popular back in 1985) tucked into a pair of white cowboy boots. “Hi, I’m Deb!” she said with a smile as she opened the gate. I couldn’t tell how old she was. She could have been anywhere between forty and seventy, she just had one of those faces with its creased, weathered skin and thin lips with those vertical wrinkles women tend to get around the mouth from smoking too much. We gave her our names as she shook our hands, then she graciously escorted us up the steps, across the wide, covered porch, and into the Gibbous Manor.
As we entered the foyer, the first thing I noticed was how airy and wide open it was. It had none of that gothic “haunted house” vibe to it. Also, the interior was fully furnished with items that looked to be from the 19th century but were in meticulous condition. The ceilings were high, with hunter-green and burgundy wallpaper of vibrant decorative patterns covering the walls. Before us and to the right was a staircase made of intricately carved dark hardwood, highly polished, and beyond the stairs and to the left could be seen the entrance to what had to be the Great Room, scarlet curtains gracing its wide entrance.
“This place is amazing,” I said. “Do you have many tourists?”
Deb smiled. “Nope. You’re the first. All ’cause of that book you wrote.” She nudged me with a bony elbow.
“Really? You’ve read my book?” I said, taken aback.
“Of course! Everyone in town has!” she said with a smile that seemed somewhat forced.
“Mind if I take some pics?” Olivia said, holding up her phone.
“We prefer you didn’t,” Deb said as she shook her head. “Truth is I would like it if you gave them phones to me and
I’ll return them after the tour.” She held out her hand.
Olivia’s brow furrowed. “Okay,” she said as she slowly handed over her phone.
“It’s no big deal,” Evan said as he did the same.
“Why can’t we take pictures?” I said as I, too, handed over my phone.
“It’s on account we haven’t ‘officially’ started tours of the place yet and we kinda wanna keep up the mystique,” Deb said.
I shrugged. “Okay.”
Deb smiled. “Good. Now, folks, let the tour . . . begin!”
We followed the small, bony woman with the stringy dyed-blond hair through the mansion as she related information in a very flat, rote manner. Something was off, weird. Maybe it was because we were the first to take the tour, I don’t know.
Soon we found ourselves in the library: massive hard-wood desk, bookshelves with leather-bound volumes lining the walls, purple curtains on high, stately bay windows, and before one of those windows, a podium. And on that podium sat a book, a large book, and it lay open.
I pointed. “Is that what I think it is?” I said.
Deb nodded slowly, her eyes wide. “You can get a closer look, just don’t touch it.”
I stepped up to the podium. The Arcana Diabolicus, in all its glory. Originally hand-written in Latin by the mad Celtic monk, Peregrinus in the 9th century, this volume appeared to be a copy of the first printed edition, circa 1620. Evan came up beside me.
“Holy shit,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“We had a copy at the bookstore,” Olivia said as she too walked up to where we stood.
“You did?” said Evan. “You never mentioned that.”
“You never asked,” Olivia said. “I don’t know what the hell happened to it after . . . after the storeowner went nuts.”
The book was opened to the written content on the right-hand page, and an image on the left. The image was a 17th-century woodcut of a battered wooden cart amongst jagged boulders. It was being pulled by a team of six dead goats, re-animated, rotted flesh hanging, eyes glazed, mouths stretched tight in a perpetual grin of malice. And in the back of the cart stood a tall figure in a pale robe. Protruding from within the robe where a neck should be was instead a wrist, and at the end of the wrist was a large claw-like hand, or talon, clutching a head, the claws like a hood around that head. And upon that head was a face, neither male nor female, blank and serene, its eyes and mouth closed. Beneath the image was a strange sigil, one I wasn’t familiar with, and around the perimeter of the sigil were letters spelling the word SOTER.
“That’s not from the Goatia,” Evan said.
I shook my head. “No, it most certainly isn’t.”
“That’s Soter,” said Deb in a reverent tone as she came over to us. “A demon that’s been known to visit folks in their dreams. It’s said that Soter visited Sir Gibbous many times in his nightmares.” She smiled, her pale blue eyes wide.
“Would you like to meet Sir Gibbous?”
I looked at Evan, then back at Deb. “What do you mean?” I said.
“The basement,” Deb said. “Sir Gibbous is in the basement.”
“What are you talking about?” I said. Was this woman bat-shit?
“We got Sir Gibbous’ ashes in an urn in the basement where he died.”
“Oh,” I said with a slight chuckle.
“Yeah, after he was found in the manner he was, and the fact he done what they say he done, the town’s folk didn’t wanna bury him in no holy ground, so they just up and burned the pieces. Somebody who kinda liked him gathered up the ashes.”
“I have a question,” Evan said. “If he was so horrible, why is this place still standing and in such great shape?”
“It’s because whole lotta folks respected him, thought the shit said and wrote about him was nonsense. Thought he got a raw deal. And that it were old Preacher Davis was the one, along with his sons, that chopped up Sir Gibbous.”
“What’s your opinion?” I said to Deb.
“I think he was fucked over — pardon my French. Sure, he was into the occult, a lot of people were back then, but it’s really because he was an outsider with more money, and more class, than those tree-cuttin’ bastards that built this town,” Deb said. “So, wanna go downstairs?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I don’t,” Olivia said.
“C’mon,” Deb said with a wide smile. “You won’t regret it!”
Deb brought us to a door in the rotunda behind the staircase, entered, hit a light switch and we followed her down some narrow steps that hugged the south wall.
The basement was large, stretching the full length of the house. The walls, floor, and ceiling were made from long, hardwood planks, polished, with both ends of the room lost in the shadows. It kind of reminded me of the empty hull of an old wooden ship. There were none of those small windows near the ceiling you sometimes see in basements, and the very large room was lit by a single bulb hanging near its center. Under the bulb was drawn, in chalk, a sigil on the floor, the same one from the “Soter” woodcut in The Arcana Diabolicus. Nine unlit candles were placed around the sigil, with a large gold-colored urn, standing about a foot high, in the center. A black-handled dagger lay next to the urn. I then heard heavy footsteps on the floor above us.
“What’s all this for?” Olivia said.
Deb smiled then reached out and gently touched Olivia’s cheek. “For you.”
“What . . . ?” Olivia said, her brow heavy.
Then came a noise from the top of the stairs. Men were coming down the steps, quickly, five of them, armed, shotguns and pistols pointed at us. One of them was carrying The Arcana Diabolicus.
I instantly raised my hands, as did Evan and Olivia.
“You don’t have to do this,” I said, feeling squeezed by fear.
Deb smiled. “Yes, we do,” she said.
By this time all five men were down the steps, the one we met on the street had his .45 pressed up against the right side of my head.
“Did we do something wrong?” Evan said, his voice cracking.
“Oh no, of course not,” said Deb as she lit the candles. “This will all make sense in a very short while.”
I watched as that emaciated creature called “Deb” stepped into the circle and begin to undress, removing her boots, then her pants, and panties, then her coat, top, and bra, her breasts fell and hung. They were like two pink socks taped to her wrinkled pale hide. Even though I was scared shitless, I was also angry, angry at these lunatics, and angry at myself for being suckered.
“It’s all about the Sacred,” Deb said with a smile as she opened the urn and began to rub the ashes of Absolom Gibbous on her flesh. “And the connection between sex and death. Power is found at the cusp of ecstasy and oblivion. It is said that many who are tortured to death, cum at the very moment they die.” After her entire body was covered in the gray ash, Deb took up the dagger and sliced her hand, then, moving counter-clockwise, squeezed her fist, dripping blood at all four main points of the compass, mumbling something I could not make out.
“Whatever you’re going to do . . . please don’t,” Olivia said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Oh, please don’t be sad,” Deb said, a look of genuine concern on her face. “By the way, is either one of these gentlemen your beau?”
Olivia swallowed hard and nodded toward Evan. “Him,” she whispered.
“Good,” said Deb with a smile. “Now, I want the two of you to strip.”
“I can’t,” said Olivia, shaking her head.
“But you must,” said Deb. “It’s all part of the rite. It’s all about the Sacred.” Deb looked at one of the men, short, bearded, crazed watery eyes under a heavy, dark brow. He placed the end of the barrel of his shotgun on Olivia’s spine.
“The two ya gotta strip, Honey,” said Deb.
Slowly, and fumbling, they both did as they were told.
“Good,” said Deb when they were done. “Now get over here and step into the circle. Be careful you don’t knock over any candles.” She smiled. “And you, Writer Man,” she said, addressing me. “You are to be the witness.”
Evan and Olivia stood, trembling, their hands covering their nakedness the best they could.
“Now,” Deb said. “Get on the floor and fuck. It don’t matter if you mess up the sigil. Oh, and you are to choke her to death as you do so,” she said to Evan.
“What . . . ?” muttered Evan. “No!” He shook his head violently.
“You have to.”
“You better try or all three of you die!” Deb said. “Die slowly, painfully! Now, which is it?”
Evan was crying at this point. “I . . . can’t,” he sobbed.
“What do you think, Barry?” Deb said to the short man with the watery eyes.
He stared at Olivia for a few moments, his head cocked to the side. “No problem,” he muttered.
“Good,” said Deb.
“Stand back,” Barry said to his comrades as he turned toward Evan. He placed the barrel under Evan’s chin and squeezed the trigger.
There came a sound like nothing I have ever heard as all that Evan ever was ended in an explosion of skull, blood, and brain matter. His body fell back, arms out wide as it hit the floor.
Olivia screamed as she sank to her knees. My eyes went wide, as did my mouth, but only a lame choking sound came out.
“Barry . . . ” Deb said as she pointed down at Olivia.
The small man removed his clothes, stroked himself a bit, then reached down, pushing Olivia onto her back. I closed my eyes.
“Open them eyes, Writer Man! You are a part of this! You are the witness!” Deb shouted, her voice booming throughout the room. I felt the barrel of the .45 press harder against my skull.
I opened my eyes, but I will not document what I saw. I can not for the sake of my sanity and out of respect for Olivia’s loved ones. But I will say this, though, Deb read verses aloud from The Arcana Diabolicus as the dreadful act was perpetrated. And just as Barry came, and Olivia died, Deb’s voice rose to a crescendo.
Then the light-bulb exploded and the candles blew out.
“What the fuck?” muttered one of the rednecks from within the sudden blackness.
I heard a sound, a creaking sound, like the creaking of an old wooden cart, maybe. Then came a faint light from about halfway up the south wall, sparks, really. Violet sparks. They spattered out the wall like a weak piss stream. And, as the smell of ozone filled my nostrils, the sparks became greater, spraying, as if someone were trying to break into the room with a blowtorch. Next, a hole formed, spinning, but not a hole in the wall, but a hole in reality, small at first, then it grew wider as the glow swirled. Then I spotted something moving in the opening, a hoof, rotted, then another, then a goat, or the reanimated carcass of a goat, then another goat, and four more after that, the sound they made was like the cries of tortured children. The hole opened wider still and then I could see rocky crags and a cart, broken and battered. In the back of the cart stood a figure, gray-robed, the robe flapping in the breeze of whatever world it was in, and a talon, like that of a great bird of prey, protruded from the top of the robe clutching a human head, a head with a blank, serene face that appeared to be sleeping. This was the thing from the book. This was Soter! It was here, yet not here, like a hologram, suspended before us, bright, lighting the room. The demon noble in all its glory as the dead goats writhed.
“Everyone get on your knees!” cried Deb. “Drop your weapons and get on your knees!”
I felt a rough hand force me down to the floor as I marveled at what was before me.
“Welcome, Great Lord! Welcome!” Deb said, weeping.
“I have received . . . the invitation,” came a soft, plaintive voice that had to be that of the demon’s even though it did not open its mouth, or its eyes. “I have come but know not why. Why am I here? What is the want so grave that I am beckoned like a dog? Why?”
“It was me, my Lord!” Deb said as she bowed down to the thing like a Muslim at prayer.
“Why is this? Why does the whore beckon me?”
Deb sat up slowly, wiping tears that streaked down her ash-covered cheeks. “Lord . . . ?”
“And what is this I see before me? Death? Rape? You ask me to come and offer me . . . this? What is your reason, whore? Ah, and the Legacy is here with you, five of them. Why do they follow you? Is it the scent of your cunt? Like mongrels they follow you, void of thought, void of will, the Legacy follows like blind retarded children on a tether. Blind. Why?”
“I . . . I don’t understand, Lord,” muttered Deb.
“You don’t? You don’t understand? How can that be? What is your want? Is it vengeance? Vengeance over the world? Ah, it’s because of memories, isn’t it? Is that it, whore? Is it because of ‘Daddy’? Is it because of the quarters he left on your dresser after his late-night visits? The quarters he left after he put his fingers in your tight little holes and then left the white stains? Or was it the boys on the beach? Nights. Bonfires. Drunk, you fucked them all until your cunt felt as though it had been rubbed with sand-paper.”
“Please stop . . . ” sobbed Deb.
“Why is it, whore? Is it because of the man you married, the man that raped your sweet son with mongolism? The sweet child that died in a fire that you started while cooking drugs? Why, whore? Why? For power? You think I will bestow upon you great power? But why should I? Because you invited me here? Would you fuck a stranger simply because he invited you into his home? Most would not. You might, though. Leave the circle, whore, and come to me.”
Deb shook her head. “No.”
“Why not? Do you not trust me? Ah, I have no want for this. I do not want to be here. I was here before and even then I did not want to be here. Now, even less so. But since it is death you offer me, then it is death I shall return in kind. Thus . . . I open the Book of Wrath.”
Deb screamed as she jumped out of the circle. It was Olivia’s body! All eyes now fell upon the body of Olivia. It was moving! It thrashed, convulsed, contorted, Olivia’s head shook violently as her hands and feet smacked the floor. Then parts of her torso began to swell and bulge, up and down, up and down, before something burst out of her chest, then something out her stomach, her sides, her neck, her groin. They were arms! Legs! Bony and decaying. A dozen or so additional limbs emerged out of her corpse like a time-lapse video of a flower blooming. But there was no blood. Not a drop. This thing that was once Olivia then began to crawl, quickly, before grabbing Deb. Gunfire sounded as a couple of the rednecks shot at the thing, but to no effect. In the matter of a few short seconds, it tore off Deb’s arms, legs, tits, then head. Now came the blood! And more blood sprayed, gushed, and splashed as the thing seized Barry and tore him to bloody chunks. There came the sound of screams and the ripping of wet flesh, along with the splat of meat hitting the walls, the ceiling. Then another redneck was seized. The remaining three, in a mad panic, bottlenecked at the foot of the stairs. The thing tore through them, ripping rending. As I huddled on the floor, soaked in warm blood, I covered my ears, closed my eyes, and waited for my turn which I knew had to come. I wanted it to come. I wanted to be removed from this horror. I tried not to scream, I didn’t want to scream. I tried to clench my jaw but a scream still, gradually, broke forth, loud, long, until my throat became raw. And when I was done I opened my eyes.
All was quiet and still. So fast! It happened so fast! I looked about, wide-eyed, staring between my bloody, trembling fingers that still grasped my face. There were gallons of blood everywhere, walls, floor, and ceiling, with scraps of clothing and chunks of red meat, and white bone, some of the muscle still quivering, while bits of intestines, livers, lungs, brains steamed in the cool air of the basement. And there in the sigil lay Olivia once more, her body as it was at the moment of her death. Perfect.
“The whore called you the witness, “ said the thing called Soter in its tranquil voice. “And witness you have. Now . . . you may go.”
I got to my feet, my legs weak, and I headed for the steps, slipping in the wet remains of human beings. My head was in a fog as I went up the stairs, then through the house, and out the front door. I was muttering to myself, I think I was muttering to myself because I heard a voice that sounded like my own, but it was distant. The fog in my mind grew thicker. I was in shock. It had to be shock. I walked, quickly, my head down, covered in blood, muttering. Did people see me? They must have seen me. I even think someone on one of those ATVs came up beside me and tried to speak to me, but it was like a dream, or like it had happened to someone else. I kept walking. I found myself on Centerville Road and kept walking, walking toward Ferndale.
But wait! Now that I reflect upon the horror, I can recall something that did not dawn on me at the time. Something most relevant. Something that now makes me rethink the inevitable.
Before I got to Centerville Road, as I walked through that dreaded town muttering, it . . . it was the sky. The sky above Hudspeth.
It was blue. It had cleared.