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Authors: Andersen Prunty

Sunruined: Horror Stories

BOOK: Sunruined: Horror Stories
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Sunruined

Horror Stories

 

Andersen Prunty

Sunruined: Horror Stories copyright © 2011 by Andersen Prunty

www.andersenprunty.com

Cover photograph copyright © Michel Omar Berrospé

michelomar.tumblr.com

Cover design copyright © 2011 by Brandon Duncan

www.corporatedemon.com

 

 

Also by Andersen Prunty

 

The Driver’s Guide to Hitting Pedestrians

 

Hi I’m a Social Disease

 

Fuckness

 

The Sorrow King

 

The Sex Beast of Scurvy Island

 

Slag Attack

 

My Fake War

 

Morning is Dead

 

The Beard

 

Zerostrata

 

Jack and Mr. Grin

 

The Overwhelming Urge

 

The Jackthief

 

Oletta Goom woke up on the morning of October 31st and went into the baby’s room, knowing exactly what she would find.

Emptiness.

The crib stood in the middle of the room, white cotton blankets piled up against one side. Outside, the wind, turned cold with the season, spat at the house and invaded the open window. Oletta grabbed the worn wooden rail of the crib with a bony hand and cried, her tears running down her wrinkled face and falling onto the cotton sheet that still smelled faintly of Jacquelyn. “Jack,” Oletta had called her.

But now Jack was gone.

Just like all of the girls that had come before her. And it was always on this day, the first birthday, Halloween, that the Jackthief came and took them away. Now she would have to wait another year before going into the haunted woods to claim her prize.

Unless she could find out where the Jackthief took the babies. Unless she could get this one back.

 

Oletta had been several years younger when she had retreated to her house in the woods. Perhaps it was more of a shack, but it served the purposes of shelter and warmth just fine and that was all she needed now. Shelter and warmth. Maybe it wasn’t all she
wanted
, but it was all she needed, along with a little food every now and then.

What Oletta wanted more than anything was a baby. She was not a young woman anymore, twenty years past childbearing age, but that desire had never left her. It was only since the death of her husband that she realized it was an impossibility. Before, she had always prayed for a miracle. Maybe, she had thought, God would fix whatever was broken inside of her and she would finally get pregnant. But it was never meant to be.

So her husband had died and she had moved to the woods feeling like, if she was going to be alone, she was going to do it right.

But moving to the woods proved to be the source of more joy and sorrow than she would ever know.

It was there she met the Jackthief. There, during the strangest of circumstances.

Summer was buried, Halloween standing atop it like a cold gray tombstone, and Oletta didn’t see how she was going to spend a winter alone in the tiny shack. She figured her best days were well behind her and there weren’t going to be any good ones ahead. She found a length of strong rope in the old woodshed. She was going to take the rope out into the woods, find a good sturdy branch, and hang herself. She didn’t plan on learning how to do it proper. If she had to dangle for a while, choking on her own windpipe, then she just figured that would be penance for the awesome sin she was about to undertake.

After a brief survey, she found a branch that would do the trick. The rope was slung around her neck to give her frail arms the strength to carry an old wooden ladder. It was a gray day. The clouds were bloated black-gray, threatening rain. Maybe, if it rained, it would help weigh down her body.

It took about a half an hour to make sure everything was in place. She figured the knot was strong enough to do the trick. Climbing to the top of the ladder, the fiber of the rope scratchy around her neck, the sky rumbled a hungry growl and she hoped it would drown out the sound of her strangling to death.

Standing at the top of the ladder, she wondered if she was doing the right thing. But this wasn’t a spontaneous decision. It was something she had thought about for a very long time. This was the only way out. The lonely days had become unendurable and she was too proud to be stuck in this constant state of self-pity.

The sky screamed.

Oletta took a deep breath and kicked the ladder away.

She dropped. The rope tightened around her neck.

And then broke.

She fell to the ground, lightning streaked across the sky, fat cold drops of rain hammered down, and her life changed forever.

On the other side of the tree she had tried to use to kill herself, she heard a baby crying. Oletta unfastened the rope from around her neck, not believing what it was she thought she heard. Nursing a twisted ankle, she trudged through the dead leaves, turned soggy, until she found the source of the crying.

When she saw the baby, swaddled in black cloth, at the base of the tree, her face split and her tears mingled with the beating rain. Stooping down, she picked up the baby and took it back to the house, wanting to get it out of the rain, wanting to get it into the warmth.

Sometimes, Oletta knew, when a person wanted something so much, it was not necessary to question the source. It was not necessary to question the truth or validity behind that desire. A Christian wanted a God to save her and an afterlife to house her soul when she dies. The Christian does not question these things, she believes them and calls that belief faith. So Oletta believed in her new baby maybe not so much as born but given to her on this Halloween day.

She took it home with her. First she named her Jacquelyn and called her Jack. She loved Jack. She fed her and sang to her and talked to her and cared for her and took her everywhere she went. She even took her into the town to buy food and clothes, not caring if the folk talked and wondered. They would, Oletta knew, come up with their own reasons why she now had a baby and those reasons could not come even remotely close to the fantastic truth.

For exactly one year, Oletta was the mother of a beautiful baby.

On Jack’s first birthday, Oletta opened the door to her room and discovered the baby gone, the bedroom window open, a cold wind blowing in. The following year, she searched for baby Jack. Searched and mourned because she knew the baby was gone.

That was the worst year of Oletta’s life, having had something and then lost it. Each day was worse than the one before. Her life had become a spiraling black nightmare as she wondered about who would steal the only thing she had ever wanted. She never found the Jackthief but she had a picture of him in her mind.

The Jackthief was carved from wood and bone. He traveled by moonlight and drank the sorrow of others. He was drawn to this sorrow and, drunk off it, had to create more. Oletta knew the Jackthief had always been there. He was the one who had snapped the rope when the only thing she wanted to do was snap her neck. He did it because she had not suffered enough. She was a well of suffering and the Jackthief had not drunk the last of that well. So he had let her love the baby for a year. And just as quickly, he had taken it away. Now he surrounded her in the woods, watching her, mocking her silently as she searched and searched.

A year later, she found baby Jack in the same place she had found her two years earlier. The baby was the same size as the very first time Oletta found her and she had a distinct feeling of falling back two years in time. But, once again, the sorrow had lifted. She had her baby. Maybe the circumstances were not normal. Maybe they weren’t even believable, but it was nice to hold Jack in her arms once again and feel a year of sadness melt away.

Over the next two years, the cycle repeated itself.

Always from Halloween to Halloween. One year of joy. One of sorrow. One a trick. The other, of course, a treat.

After losing Jack again, Oletta did not search for her.

She sat in her house and waited, her mind expanding out into that depressed madness, knowing her time would come again. Yet knowing that did not make it easier. The only thing she could think of was the year after that, when she would have to go without the baby again. The Trickyear. And, after all, wasn’t the point of having a baby to watch it grow? To shape it and give it a good life? To see what kind of adult it became?

That year, Oletta decided she was not going to go without Jack again.

 

On October 31st, when she found Jack under the tree, Oletta said to her, “I’m never letting you go. If he takes you again, I will find you.” And she took the baby back home and they had another good year—the Treatyear—but now the time had come again and Oletta stood in an empty room, surrounded by nightmares.

That morning, she left the house in search of the Jackthief, knowing he was out there, somewhere. She was not going to go back home until she found the baby. For days, she wandered deeper into the woods, the noose of cold and hunger wrapping around her neck.

Madness rats nibbled at her brain. She followed the Jackthief. She followed his scent. He smelled like wax and fallen leaves. He smelled like memories. Some nights, she thought she heard the baby crying. Some nights, she thought she heard the Jackthief laughing.

She became hungry and confused, knowing she was too far from her house to ever get back. The sorrow was black and swollen in her mind. She let it grow, knowing that the greater the sorrow, the more likely she was to see the Jackthief. And then she could take her baby back.

On the night of her death, before the Jackthief came and took the sorrow away for good, Oletta couldn’t open her eyes. She couldn’t see the Jackthief. But she thought she could open her eyes far enough to see the little black bundle he held in his arms. She pawed at the blankets, wanting to touch Jack’s soft baby skin one last time but the thing inside the blankets was not Jack.

It was carved from wood and bone.

It smelled like burning wax and dead leaves.

And when it opened its mouth, it didn’t want milk, it wanted to drink sorrow and a whole life filled with longing. And when it satiated itself on those things, it laughed, and moved onto the next person in the next town.

The Screaming Orchard

 

“You know, we could just walk,” Nie said. Her real name was Stephanie, but she hated that name and all of its usual derivatives.

Chris, lying on top of the ancient baby blue Escort said, “I’m way too high to walk. Probably fall down.”

“That was your idea.”

“Maybe somebody’ll come along and pick us up.”

“Look around you, Chris. This road probably sees like two cars a day and we’re one of them. Besides, you have blood all over you.”

“And that, sweetie, was
your
idea.”

“I thought it would be fun to get out of the house. There
are
other things to do besides messing around in your parents’ basement, you know.”

“Maybe for you. You’re all
I
need. Besides, I promised them I’d stay and pass out candy.”

“You left the bowl out, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. But you know how that is. One of those punks’ll come along and take all the candy, probably the bowl with it, and then some other punks will egg the house or something because they think we’re
those people
who are too cheap to give out candy.”

“Christ, you think too much.”

“I
think
we should have stayed there.”

Nie looked around them, the endless fields of golden brown corn divided only by the narrow strip of the gray road.
At least it’s warm
, she told herself. A perfect day to go trick-or-treating, if she were like four years younger. She had been looking forward to going to Donna’s party and Chris’s indifference was really starting to irritate her.

“What the fuck are you supposed to
be
, anyway?” she asked him.

“I’m a butcher,” he said, staring up at the clear blue sky.

“And that’s scary how?”

“I don’t know. I just thought it looked grisly.” He sat up, brought his feet around the side of the car and scooted off.

“You look like a murdering soda jerk.”

“Do they still have those?”

“I don’t know.”

“Butchers wear hats, don’t they?”

“I don’t know
what
butchers wear.”

“And what are you supposed to be?”

“I’m a ghoul.”

“I think this is just your excuse to look goth.”

“Well, I don’t know what a ghoul looks like.”

“That’s okay. You look hot. I mean it.”

“Didn’t you get enough last night?” She pulled her black shawl over the cleavage showing above the black corset.

“Enough of you? Never.”

“But you’re too high to walk?”

“Completely different muscles.”

“Pervert. Besides, I couldn’t possibly fuck anyone who has their hands in animal parts all day.”

“Jeez, vegetarians.”

“And my boyfriend’s vegetarian. He wouldn’t like that.”

Chris walked up to her and put his hands on her hips. “Have I told you how much I like role playing?”

He leaned down to kiss her black lips and she pulled away.

“Car,” she said.

Chris turned and squinted down the road.

“Van,” he said. “A white, unmarked van. We should hide rather than trying to bum a ride from them.”

Nie watched the van come toward them from the darkening eastern horizon.

“But,” she said. “If we can get them to take us back to your house then I can call a tow truck and we can take your car to the party. I’ll make it worth your while.”

She reached down and cupped his stiff penis with her palm and whispered into his ear, “Don’t you want to know what it feels like to fuck the dead?”

Chris smiled and said, “Okay, okay. You win.”

Men are such suckers
, Nie thought.

They both edged up to the side of the road and waved their hands.

The van, all white with tinted windows wrapping around the side and back, pulled to a stop just past them.

Chris ran up to the driver’s side door. The tinted window rolled down and Chris struggled not to laugh at the man in front of him. The man had curly brown hair that looked like it was either a bad perm or a wig, cut in half by a white headband with a red stripe running along the middle. His face was full and round, outdated aviator sunglasses covering his eyes. A brown mustache occluded his top lip. The same exact-looking man sat in the passenger seat.

“Anything we can do for you?” the driver asked.

Chris stammered and then said, “Yeah, my girlfriend’s car broke down and we were wondering if you could possibly give us a lift back into town.”

“Well, we was kinda headed the other way.”

“We could pay you for gas and time. Just tell me what you need.” Chris thought about Nie’s promise and realized how desperately he wanted to get home.

“No, that ain’t necessary. We can probably just go through town and get where we was goin just the same.” Then he turned to his partner. “You think?”

His partner bobbed his white man’s afro in agreement.

“Great.” Chris smiled broadly. “Thanks a lot, you guys.”

“Yeah, no problem. Y’all can just climb in back there.”

Chris walked around behind the van and jerked his head at Nie. He let her get up close to him and said, “These guys are kind of strange,” before yanking back the van’s sliding door.

“Hey there,” the guy in the driver’s seat said when he saw Nie.

“Hi. Thanks guys,” she said, pulling the van door shut.

“Looks like you guys are ready for Halloween.”

“Yeah,” Nie said. “What are you guys supposed to be?” She asked that because she was convinced they were both wearing wigs and, once inside the van, she noticed they were also dressed the same. They wore matching, outdated track uniforms, white tanktops stretched over their doughy skin and old red running shorts that were way too short. Without seeing them, Nie could imagine the knee-high tube socks, red stripes at the top.

“Whaddya mean?” the driver asked.

“For Halloween?” Nie said.

“Oh,” the driver chuckled. “We ain’t dressed for Halloween. We’re twins. Name’s Vincent. Both of us. Our parents way of a sick joke, I guess.”

“I’m Chris,” Chris volunteered, since Nie was still choking on her foot. “This is my girlfriend, Nie.”


Knee?

“Yeah, spelled different, but said just like those things in the middle of your legs.”

The van slowly pulled away from the curb. The driver shook his head and said, “Fraid you’re not right about that. We was born without knees. Turn around n show em there, Vince.”

The passenger swiveled around in his seat and straightened out his legs to show them how the expansive lower thigh joined almost evenly with the calf. He rapped his knuckles on the flesh and it made a doughy patter sound.

“That bone there,” he said. “For those that’s got em anyway, is called the patella. That’s what we was born without—the patella. I guess we still got the muscles and everything.”

Chris and Nie gaped in awe.

After riding silently for a few minutes, Nie noticed they weren’t going in the direction of town. She didn’t think anything was strange at first because she thought maybe the twins were planning on taking one of the side roads farther up.

She looked at Chris and mouthed, “Where the hell are we going?”

To allay her suspicions, Chris asked, “So, you guys from around here?”

“Huh-uh,” the driver said. “We’re from over in Preston.”

“Never heard of it,” Chris said. “You know how to get back to town from here?”

“Now, we’re not going there just yet. We got some stuff to do. Might could use your help.”

“We kind of needed to get back in a hurry,” Nie said, icy fingers of fear spreading through her.

“Well, now your boyfriend here, he was willin to pay us, said anything you want... I reckon we need us some help.”

Nie leaned forward in her seat and said, “That’s not part of the deal. If you want cash, that’s fine, whatever you want, but we’ve got places to be and... parents that are expecting us.”

“Just ease up, honey. We ain’t a couple of sickies. We just need your help, that’s all.”

Nie clenched her jaws, ready to lash out at them. Chris reached over and put his hand on her knee and spoke in her place.

“What, exactly, will we be helping you with?”

“Just a little, uh...” the driver looked at the passenger and they both chuckled, “Horticulture.”

“I don’t understand,” Chris said.

“You ever hear tale of the June tree?”

“No,” Chris said.

“Don’t rightly know why they call it the June tree, since it blooms in October.”

“I’ve never
heard
of a tree blooming in October,” Nie sneered.

“Well, this’n does. At least it’s rumored to. I guess the tree must’ve been named June or something before.”

“Before what?” Chris asked.

“The way the story goes, a number of years back, prob’ly before any of us was even born, there’s this girl named June who got raped and killed out by some woods. But that ain’t the really strange part. I mean, that shit happens every day. But now they say that, if you was to be standin and lookin at this old dead tree that happens to be bout round where they say the girl was murdered, and it was a full moon on Halloween, you’d see the tree become that girl. You’d see it bloom.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Nie said.

The passenger turned around and looked at her and, for the first time, she saw that he had a red number two on his tank top. It made her think of Thing One and Thing Two, from
The Cat in the Hat
. “It’s nothin to be afraid of. It’s not like the tree’s gonna jump out and
getcha
.”

And then he shot his arms out and squeezed the inside of Nie’s thighs, a little too close to her crotch for Chris’s liking. But Nie took care of herself. After jumping nearly to the roof of the van, she roped out her right arm and punched the guy in the face.

The man retreated back into his seat holding his mouth and Nie was pretty sure he was sobbing. She was surprised when the van didn’t stop and they weren’t asked to leave.

Then she heard the passenger say, “She hit me, Vin.”

The driver reached out and patted his brother’s quivering shoulder. “That’s all right, buddy. She didn’t mean it. Did you, sweetie?”

“Yeah, I did, shitface.” She wasn’t looking at the driver. She was turned in her seat, scanning the back of the van, looking for some means of escape. On the floor in front of the backseat, she spotted a shovel, a bag of dirt, and a large plastic pot. She looked at Chris and motioned toward the shovel.

He reached back for it as the driver said, “You know, you kids got a funny way of showing gratitude.”

Chris quickly grabbed the shovel and, with his hands somewhere around the middle, wielded it in front of him.

“Okay, guys,” he said. “Stop the van. We wanna get out.”

Chris met the driver’s shaded eyes in the rearview mirror as the man said, “I think you might wanna put the shovel down,” and then nodded to Thing Two in the passenger seat.

Thing Two held a gun on Chris.

The driver said, “We’re gonna go find the June tree. We know right where it’s at and we need you to help us dig it up. There’s a fella back in Preston that’s gonna pay us big bucks for this and you guys are comin along to tell em it’s real. That is, if it’s even there. If it
is
real.”

Nie sensed Chris’s powerlessness as he lowered the shovel.

The sun had all but left the sky and the van seemed way too dark, charging toward the gold powder harvest moon.

“We ain’t got long to go,” the driver said. “You two better just sit back n relax.”

Nie shot Chris a look that said, “We’re in deep shit.”

Chris nodded, reached over and put his hand on her knee. The touch didn’t comfort Nie nearly as much as she would have liked.

The van slowed down to turn right and Nie pulled the handle of the sliding door. It was locked even though the lock switch itself said it wasn’t.

Damn child safety
, Nie thought.

The van turned into a heavily wooded area, making it seem even darker than it actually was. Thing One pulled the van into a gravel turn-off and cut the ignition.

“You all wanna grab that shovel and pot and shit from back there?”

Nie grabbed the shovel and the empty black plastic pot. Chris grabbed the bag of soil. It was heavy and warm. Thing One and Thing Two got out of the van, came around and unlocked the door.

If the twins didn’t have the gun, Nie was sure they would be able to outrun them. They were so short and plump, Thing Two looking pitiful with the trickle of blood oozing down from his mustache.

“Now, we’re gonna take this here trail. You guys don’t wanna try nothin, ya hear?” Thing One said.

BOOK: Sunruined: Horror Stories
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