Monday, June 9, 2014

A work in development....

The Fateful Fable of Ragged Grin

The village of Hopeful Smile was a happy place, to be named in such a manner and to be otherwise, well it just wouldn’t be right. There was a bustling town square where neighbors could see and be seen, swap recipes or baby photos, discuss the local scholastic sporting event of the time, or the nearest big city professionals latest attempt to bag another championship. There were summer dances, live bands filling the hot summer nights with buoyant tunes, graceful harmonies and hopeful love serenades while the willing trotted around the ample gazebo center, glances across the floor from would be suitors, more mature "I love you" from those long together, hand holding and lingering kisses at the car door. The holidays were lit elegantly and warm from November to February, carols sung in beautiful cadence, a tradition dating back generations, lighting of trees, sitting on Santa’s knee, Easter egg hunts and the occasional scream, all was shared with your neighbors, family and friends, everyone was included. Hopeful smile was that idyllic place where you could lay back in the grass on a summer night sipping a soda and feel the loving, protective embrace of a community that was there to support and protect you from tooth decay, danger and the world beyond, no matter what.

But nothing this beautiful and pure was without it’s unspoken of flaws. There were whispers of course, childish fantasies sworn to be gospel, there always are. Tales of treachery and black magic spun to startle that girl who finally agreed to an evening under the stars, a sudden scare followed by laughter and hugs. Ghost stories, “dead among us” sworn testimony while passing by Restful Gables Cemetery, causing the hair to raise and rendering quick glances through the stones and totems. There were these and many others spoken among the children through the years and decades, pin pricks at the ironclad umbrella of happiness floating atop the happy landscape, there was also the old house on the outer slope of Caressing Hill a few miles outside of town central, another story altogether.

Lightness and darkness, good and bad, happiness and sorrow, there cannot be one without the other, this jarring truth is that each helps us choose our path in life. Those of us who love ourselves and our fellow man, love our world and all of its creatures, we strive to follow the righteous path, to be and do good while we are here. But there are some who choose the jagged path, treachery and harm is their reason for being, they do not fear retribution in the afterlife and by contrast embrace the notion, hoping the fabled inferno below will chew them up, reshape gristle and bone and spit them back just to begin again. Reycliff Lamond Maisatin was believed to be of that most horrible sort, he was spoken of for years and occasionally forgotten between sightings and yet in each account following, his dark description never changed. He was said to have been born dead after only a week’s gestation, a miracle birth to an estranged and disgraced daughter who hitched her way into town to steal family money but was instead interrupted by her loving father.

 Clive Andrew Maisatin was wealthy beyond measure but refused to use his inherited wealth for creature or familial comfort, instead housing his wife, their two acknowledged daughters and a handful of cheaply waged servants in a ramshackle half mansion. A once beautiful estate, fronted of pillars and wrought iron gates, it had been allowed to fall into disrepair by a master so cold it was routinely questioned whether heart beat and blood flowed within his bloated yet gangly body. It was often spoken that upon confronting the would be robber, the blonde wisp Christina, that he welcomed her into a collapsing root cellar under the barn, far beyond heat and light for three days. She had left in the night long ago, disgusted by her father’s treatment of herself and others, both disavowing any further relation with the other. When finally removed from the dank hole she was near death and strangely enough, with child. Whispering sobs indicated she was unaware of and deeply distressed by her delicate condition and pleaded the creature be removed immediately. Three days later a lifeless, ill shaped male child was removed from her while she relinquished her final breaths, her body and that of her child dumped in the family plot in an unmarked grave surrounded by thorny bush behind the barn. C.A. Maisatin was said to have never seen the child, never shed a tear, never said goodbye.

Of all the organic sounds known to man, perhaps none is more unsettling, more disturbing or conflicting than that of a bound sow in the midst of slaughter. It was that sound that was said to have rung through the Maisatin home on the early morning hours of that cold November First. Servants were dispatched to the back grounds to investigate the sound and swore that after reluctantly tugging at the back barn doors, the shrill, pathetic bleating ceased. What was said to have been discovered in its wake was unimaginable. A circle of 30 some piglets, throats cut ear to ear, their blood pooling together in the center of the carnal arrangement and a bundle of rags crumpled there, seemingly to sop up the blackish red spill. The head female servant, so distressed, turned and left frantically to report the findings but slowed, becoming engaged in a trail of blood, leading away from the barn, as if something had been drug away from the horror within, a hungry wolf perhaps, a bear, her fear filled eyes scanned the surrounding grounds. It was then that fear overwhelmed and the good woman tripped over something jagged and wet, cold yet alive, lacerating her knee in two places and staring through welling tears into the face of the damned. She was the first human to see the eventual heir to the Maisatin fortune, they were the last moments she would spend among the living.

The woman was short but thick in some areas and her screams sounded almost manly and quite pitiful, but pity was not in attendance here and as he split her bleeding thigh open further and bit down, he paused in the chewing, considered her face and snapped her neck. Her sounds were annoying, certain they made his cold blood flow and a smile to fix upon his gnarled features, but they would attract attention and he was still weak. He needed to finish, he needed to rest, his eyes were not focused yet and he couldn't completely stand, so he crawled away from the dead husk of Ms. Whimmsly and moved to the edge of the woods. The trees, shadowy and foreboding, they called to him, beckoning him to the dank darkness inside of their embrace. As he passed through their outer edges he found himself staring into a footprint sized puddle and the pale, blood soaked being that looked back. He looked human but decaying and he wondered if he was dying and who he was in life. Frustrated and feeling the welling burst on anger inside he plunged his pale, elongated fist into the liquid and screamed.

They didn't know what the second was but the first scream was undoubtedly Mary Whimmsly, the head housemaid who considered herself above the rest of them and a few minutes later, they confirmed this when their light fell upon her 100 yards or so from the barn. Her leg was split open at the thigh in two places and there appeared to be unusual bite and tear marks around the larger wound. They went back to back and scanned for wolves or other beasties of the night, aware that the blood smell would attract others. They shone their lamp rays into Briar Woods edge but saw nothing, though the second sound clearly came from that direction. Better to wait until morning light with the safety of numbers and loaded rifles. Whatever made that sound wasn't something that needed to be plunged after in the dark without knowing what they were facing...whatever it was couldn't be human and wasn't gonna be facing a trial of any sort, aside from the business end of a few dozen rifles.

Make them see, make them feel, make them believe, make them deal...
Make them see, make them feel, make them believe, make them deal...
Make them see, make them feel, make them believe, make them deal...
Make them see, make them feel, make them believe, make them deal...

The words...what did they mean, they whispered to him as he slept, dirty in the mud. Louder it came to him, till his head throbbed and his eyes burst open, wildly...searching for their source. He curled into a ball and sobbed, eventually whimpering as if a child. "They won shtop you knows", purred a thick, accented voice from above and he raised his head slightly to meet feet and ankles, wrapped in heavy cloth and animal skin, "You are the child of death, don you know this? You were sent back to give choice to those who would igno the otha world, the world of rek'ning". He looked further upwards to a round, dark face and bright blue/gray eyes in pools of white. The speaker smiled and white teeth blinded his still blurred vision. The woman knelt to see him face to face and embraced his in her hands, he felt a knawing hunger welling inside and she spoke again. "Ahhhhh you best putcha dark needs away dead boy, you do not want whatcha kneels befo ya, I am not ere foya, you don want what flows ere." She closed her eyes, pulled his head to her chest and beckoned him to listen without speaking. His was a tale of anger, avarice, hate and regret, of minds unclean and unwell that should never have brought forth ancestry and he was to be their undoing, he would be the reckoning of ALL of them, each that would come would choose to walk through his gates, or to move on, perhaps to never meet again, or to cross paths repeatedly over time and space, to choose to play, perhaps to stay, to win, to.......win, or to never go home, never ever, again.

12:10 AM. October 31, 1969, Hopeful Smile, USA.
A can kicked along a neglected road stops to rest. "Ringo, I like Ringo", a young voice chimes defiantly, "that's cause you got a big honker like him dipwad, honk, honk", offered another, "actually Reggie, it's because I like to HIT things, asshole, you might wanna 'member that!" retorted Eric, "Oh I'm so scared E....seriously, pffffffffffffffffft." said Reginald F. Mapheter III, oldest son of  R. Thomas Mapheter, esteemed mayor of Hopeful Smile. "Quiet you guys, its just around this bend and Benny is gonna do the deed tonight!" stated Tony Scalfone, noted tough guy of Huey Junior High and the A number one dude to have in your corner. Benjamin Tattin, a year younger than his thirteen year old cohorts said nothing, trudging grudgingly along one step behind the others, visions of his fate to come swirling in his all too vivid imagination. Streetlamps flickered on this end of Caressing Lane, an area largely left to the wild where abandoned homes popped up between yards and yards of thickest forest imaginable, the houses were either ramshackle shacks long in neglect or very new developments, just beyond having broken ground a couple miles after the hill to come. They hadn't come for those however, their destination was far more exiting. "Miser Town", as the kids called it, was a large pillared home with a sizable barn, stables, slaughter house and ivy cinched stone perimeter fence. It was said to be owned by what was the richest man in town, but also the meanest. It was never confirmed how he died, rumors were rampant. he sank with the Titanic, that he was abducted by headhunters while on safari. or that years of ruthless slave ownership eventually caught up and the black folks finally raided his home and chopped off his every appendage after he spent one too many nights in the wrong slave cabin and swung one too many leather straps at the wrong brown skinned teenage girl. The grounds were famously haunted by a member of his family, a lost son or something, come home to claim his family fortune. To make it to the front door meant you were pretty damn brave, to spend 10 minutes inside meant you had balls of solid steel and to stay the night, well.....nobody ever did that. There was a rumor about the Ickles kid, old '47 he was referred to, apparently he went inside and fell asleep, years of butt whoopins had hardened his nerves, his friends outside called for him but eventually left and were too scared to tell anyone. He was at school the following Monday but wouldn't speak to anyone, claiming to his parents he had "made a deal" and "Raggatin was watching". He was eventually committed to Slocum Asylum after trying to cut his own ears off on Halloween, '47. Tonight however was all about Benny, "10 minutes inside, I'll get you ten minutes with Molly Wilkins in my basement closet at our Christmas party." Reg had promised and Molly was smoking...and developed.

The wrought iron gates were closed, but unlocked, lion heads on adjoining pillars and a giant "M" on each gate door decorated them. They each swallowed hard and pushed the left one open enough to slide through, Benny, skinny enough and hoping to gain a laugh, slid between bars and asked the others what was taking so long before they could gain entry. "In a minute we'll be asking you the same, smart guy." said Reggie, his voice trailing off as he gazed ahead through twisted trees and the house beyond. "Lets go." said Tony, grimly. Tiny attempts at humor, not too late to turn back, and Molly in her bathing suit were topics strewn along the way to the front step, but everyone had the same thing in mind, save for Benny who was just trying to avoid pooping himself. "Up you go buddy." said Reggie as Benny surveyed the stairwell, seemingly a mile high now. But up he went, taking the last four of six two at a time and with a turn and a wave he was in the front door. "Shit," said Tony, "you wimps stood there for ten minutes each, don't even deny it." The three made their way back towards the gate, considering for a moment checking out the back buildings but deciding to do so early in the coming evening. "How long has it been?" asked Eric. "Holy crap, 15 minutes already," said Reggie "what do we do?" "Just wait," stated Tony "I'll kick your ass if you run, we ain't leaving Benny!" "Um...guys, what the hell is this?" asked Eric, walking towards what appeared to be a small tree in shadow but was actually something...else. "that's a face dude, that's a God damn face," he said, answering his own inquiry, "what the shit is that?" "Man....what the f dude, there's another one, there's another, this one has freakin horns, what the hell man, what the hell?!!" "They're all around us Tony, lets get the Hell outta here!" said Reg. "They're just, like, sticks and shit guys...relax." said Tony, his voice quivering a bit. "They are shadows...," said a voice from the dark "shadows of the past come back to share your present. They are here for your enjoyment, look upon them in wonderment as they spin their tales of mystery...." It was around this time that Reggie, pooped himself, upon realizing he could no longer see where the gate was. Dim, unnatural lights started to shine upon strange faces and totems, a dull music faded into consciousness and a figure stepped from the shadows, black, stringy rags adorning its arms, what appeared to be a ragged coat and a crooked top hat upon its head, stringy black hair spilling out from beneath, face...stark white and blackened holes where eyes should be. Wielding a long cane and extending an unnaturally long, black hand the creature spoke, "HELLO children... please...don't be frightened, my name is Raggatin, I am your humble host and caretaker and this, he gestured to around them, is Ragged Grin, where your dreams become reality...and your nightmares....come to play. Myself and the inhabitants of Ragged Grin, those here now and the others yet to come, bid you welcome! Now then children...without further rambling, choose wisely....are you in with Ragged Grin?
2 b cont.