Author Topic: Fleming Unit #71: Unlucky Urgency  (Read 888 times)

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awmwrites

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on: 02:01 AM, 11/ 5/17
I held my jacket over my nose as I rolled the sheet metal door up and into its place overhead. The storage unit didn’t smell too bad, but the dust had built up over the last three years, and I didn’t want to sneeze all over everything before I had a chance to move it. I was also in the unlucky position of being right next to unit where the corpse had been found. The e-mail didn’t state what had killed the man, or how long he’d been dead, but I wasn’t thrilled about breathing corpse air.

“Well,” the overweight officer next to me said, handing my uncle’s leasing paperwork and my ID card back to me. “Looks like everything’s in order. You’re sure you don’t want any help?”

“No, thank you,” I said. I would have loved help, to be honest, but I’d never liked police. The legacy of Mark Fuhrman and the Rodney King tape still resonated in Los Angeles. The overweight man seemed like a nice enough guy, and I was a long way from LA, but the feeling of distrust still remained. “My uncle was overprotective about his antiques. He wouldn’t like a stranger handling them,” I explained.

“Well, let me know if you need anything,” the officer said. “Officer Scherker.”

“Will do,” I said, pushing my dolly into the unit.

I unloaded the bubble wrap, packing paper and boxes into the ground and spent twenty minutes getting everything set up how I wanted it. It would have been nice of Uncle Gerald to pack up everything before he disappeared, but I supposed it was too late for that now.

I’d intended to start packing mechanically, but the first artifact I touched, an aging radio, sent my mind back to the past. I remembered the radio sitting in the corner of his antique shop, playing some old country song. I remembered him sitting in his chair, feet up on the desk in front of him, reading the paper. I was bored, and I didn’t have any friends in Havre, so I had walked to his bookshelf and started flipping through the books.

I packed the radio, the glasses and vases, and everything else fragile into the first couple of boxes, setting them aside. Then I went to the books, looking for the one I had found on that day.

I guess I must have been around fifteen at the time. Too young to drive, too old to play pretend. The perfect time to get into fiction. Science and horror were my favorites. Philip K Dick and HP Lovecraft. Probably not the best things to read in your formative years.

I found an encyclopedia of mythological creatures and started flipping through it. It was illustrated, and the prints were beautiful. You could count the strands of fur running up the werewolf’s back, and the yearly rings grown in a club wielded by the grisly troll. The fairy king looked as though he was born from the mushroom that was his thrown.

The vampire caught my eye though. She was beautiful and seductive, but also ghastly and unnerving. Her right leg was curled under her on a four post bed, her left stretched out, foot on the floor in front of her. She was wearing a white nightgown that hung down over her knee. Her long black hair shining in candle light contrasted brilliantly with the white of her gown. From her bottom lip fell a single drop of red. The most captivating part of the picture was her eyes. Bright brown and green mixed in them into a captivating hazel. She stared forward at the viewer, beckoning them to come closer despite the danger.

Thirteen years later, I still loved the illustration, running my thumb over the heavy lines of ink in the paper that combined to form her hair. But I understood now the beautiful danger she represented.

I pulled the encyclopedia to the side, packed the rest of the books and placed them on the opposite side of the door from the glasses.

I’d been hoping that I could pack everything in one day, but it had been more than an hour and there were still so many artifacts, and it was so cold out. I took a break, closed the unit, and walked out to my car. The heat of the car felt good.

My mom had called while I’d been packing, so I called her back.

“How is it?” she asked.

“Dusty,” I told her.

“Nobody’s been out there in three years,” she said.

“That explains the dust,” I joked.

“How are you?”

“Fine,” I told her.

“Be careful. Take care of yourself.”

In college I would learn the term emotional vampire. They were people who drained other’s energy. I would now say toxic, but the term vampire has a poetic element to it. Emotional vampires don’t just drain you, or else they’d have nobody to feed on. They pump you up first, giving you their time, their admiration, even their love. Then, when you’re connected, when you don’t want to leave, that’s when they start to feed, draining you slowly over months, years, until everything that made you you is gone, and replaced with something dark, hollow, and rotten inside. Beauty and danger.

Her name was Evelyn. We met at the theater here in Havre. She had sat down next to me, seemingly at random. I would later suspect that she had picked me out of the crowd. We struck up a conversation about science fiction movies before Super 8 started running. We continued the conversation as we walked out. We ended up at a bar nearby, before heading back to her apartment.

I went back to the storage unit and started packing all the small things. I finished a little before one in the afternoon and looked at all I had left. The place would close at six. Could I get everything out in five hours?

Uncle Gerald had hated Evelyn, but not for the reason he should have. He hated her because she was Jewish. He thought that she was after our family’s money. He wanted me to break things off with her and date a nice protestant girl. To placate him, I told him she was just a fling. I said I’d break it off with her when I went back to Los Angeles. When she followed me to LA, I didn’t tell him.

I walked over to the Lantern Buffet. An asian woman, Mina, showed me to a table and took my drink order. I worked at a plate of buffet food and sipped on my Coke. Twin girls, presumably the daughters of the restaurant’s owners, played in the corner. The Grady twins from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining flashed into my head.

Over the years, Uncle Gerald got more and more conservative. He was brainwashed by Fox News and Breitbart into thinking that the next civil war was immanent. He’d put all of his antiques into storage here, and moved out to a ranch house in the plains of Saddle Butte. Less than a year later he would go missing.

He began to tell my mom that his house was haunted. He’d seen the form of a woman in the dark one night, walking down his hallway. She had dark hair and wore a white nightgown.

As I sat in the Lantern buffet, picking at my food with chopsticks, it occurred to me that the woman he described was similar to the illustration of the vampire in his book. It was probably a coincidence, I thought. But the realization bugged me.

I had told my mom at the time that he may be suffering from dementia. He wasn’t nearly old enough for it yet, but sometimes it came on young. Our family didn’t have a history of it, either, but it was more likely than a ghost woman walking his halls.

I paid for my food and walked back to the storage unit. I decided to empty and move the gun safe next. I unlocked it and pulled out the antique pistols and rifles one by one, making sure to keep them pointed at the floor with my finger off the trigger.

After the ghost woman, it was the creature in the high grass. He said when he sat by his office window in the evening, he could watch the grass split in two as something moved through it. He could never see anything making the grass move like that, but the effect left him shaken. There was something out there, he told my mom.

My mom decided that we should do Thanksgiving at his house that year. I pleaded with her to invite him out to my place in LA, but she felt like us being in the house would make him feel safer. I dreaded how he would react to Evelyn, though, and told her as much. My mom said that he was a grown man, and he’d just have to deal with it.

Things with me and Evelyn had begun to sour. I was working full time to afford our apartment, as well as driving her everywhere since she couldn’t afford her own car. I ran the errands: groceries, laundry, paying bills; She worked part-time doing data entry from home. She was there all the time, and I was tired all the time. I felt myself start to change, becoming angrier and less patient as time went on. I wasn't the same idealistic student she had met in a theater in Havre.

I placed the guns in their cases and stacked them up next to the small items. Then I started on the swords and knives.

After the creature in the tall grass, but before Thanksgiving came the lights in the Sky. He said he saw them out his window, floating around at night. They moved in a way no plane could move, and emitted a light that kept him up at night.

“Please call someone,” I begged my mom. “He’s not well.”

“You know he wouldn’t see anyone even if I called,” she said. "Maybe seeing us at Thanksgiving will help him process the change he's going through."

After two hours, I had managed to get all of the swords and knives out. I thought about what to do with the replica samurai sword with a golden dragon head handle that was missing its sheathe. I decided to wrap it in an old quilt, then wrapped the slack of the quilt around the the rest of the stack of weapons.

All that was left then was the antique furniture.

Evelyn and I argued the entire way to Havre. Then my mom and I argued all the way to my uncle’s house. I was tired of arguing by the time we got there. We put on our customer service smiles and tried to nod our heads through dinner. But then my uncle made a comment about the black president. Then another about the globalists. Finally one about Evelyn personally.

I’d started yelling at him, but Evelyn wasn’t yelling. She was just sitting and staring.

My mom tried to get me to calm down. “He didn’t mean it,” she said.

“Like hell I didn’t!” Uncle Gerald shouted at her.

“He’s from a different time,” she said.

“Stop acting like I don’t know what I’m saying!” he shouted at her. “I didn’t fight for this country to have a woman undermine me in front of children.”

Evelyn, silent as the night, took the carving knife from the table and stood up.

We all stopped talking, all stared at her.

“What do you plan to do with that?” Uncle Gerald asked.

She shot around the table almost before he’d finished his sentence, holding the knife to his throat.

I’d expected Uncle Gerald to be afraid, but he looked angry. “Do it, demon,” he said.

She grabbed his short black hair and pulled his head forward, pressing the blade against his throat, and whispered something into his ear. His face went white and he started to shake uncontrollably.

“No,” he said. “No, it’s not true.”

Evelyn pulled the knife from his neck and put it back on the table. I expected Uncle Gerald to fight her, to swing on her, something. But instead he backed away from her, collapsing against the wall, tears running down his face.

“Come on,” Evelyn told me and my mom. “Let’s go back to Havre.”

It was an hour before closing when I finally got everything into the truck.

My uncle disappeared that night. The police went out and searched the plains, but they never found anything. They brought out dogs, but the trail ended at the property line. His sedan was still in the driveway. Nobody came forward to say that they had seen him. He was simply gone. It was like he had vanished into thin air.

I told my mom that I thought that whatever Evelyn had said to him had triggered some kind of dissociative state, and he had simply started walking. I asked her what she’d whispered in his ear, but she wouldn’t tell me until the night we broke up.

“I told him that his wife is in hell,” she said. “And soon, he would be too.”

I walked back to the plaza and went to the Mexican restaurant, Marg Madness. I ordered a steak burrito and a margarita, and texted my mom that I was done.

“Good love you,” she texted back.

I’d had a dream the night that Evelyn left. I dreamed that I walked into the old antique shop, and Uncle Gerald was sitting at his desk, feet on the desk, the newspaper in front of his face as the aged radio played some old country song. I greeted him, but he didn’t answer. I took a few steps forward and said his name. But he didn’t move. Cautiously crossing the floor of the shop, I’d taken the newspaper and folded it down so I could see his face. His bloodless face and empty dead eyes stared back at me.

I walked back to the now empty storage unit and raised the sheet metal door until it settled into place overhead. In the darkness at the back of the unit, I saw the shape of a man. It seemed to stand in the far corner of the unit, facing me. It didn’t move, but I had the feeling that it was waiting, ready to strike out at me. I pulled my phone out and pressed the button for the flashlight. In the second before the light activated, I heard something in the darkness in front of me, like the sound of whispers. But the light shone into the unit, and there was nothing there.

Oddly, the emptiness of the unit left me more disturbed.

That night I would go back to my hotel room, and drink a bottle from Sommerville wine, and flip through the encyclopedia of mythological creatures, and I would find a page that I didn’t remember from when I was young. A photo-realistic illustration of the lich, an undead man striving for eternal life. And in the lifeless face of the lich I would see my uncle.

I rolled the door of the unit back down, and replaced the padlock. With the finality of the lock’s click, I thought that I might be done with my uncle and his things forever. The police still hadn’t found where Evelyn and I had buried him. My mom didn’t suspect a thing. And once I sold his antiques, I would never have to think of him again.
« Last Edit: 02:12 AM, 11/ 5/17 by awmwrites »



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on: 11:36 AM, 11/11/17
I like this one quite a bit. It's got a lot going on and lots of little details. The non-linear narrative is interesting and keeps a reader on their toes without being too confusing. I think it makes good use of its short length, though I tend to personally prefer slower pacing and more detail. Good grammar and dialogue formatting as well! I think this one is going to be a contender! Good job :)
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