Author Topic: The Stickermen  (Read 461 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Abysmii

  • Proxy
  • Status:
    Offline
    Posts:
    53
  • Ia!
    • View Profile
    • Apeiropillar Productions
  • Favorite Pasta: The Chanting in the Woods
on: 10:35 PM, 01/ 3/20
    My name is Celeste, and I would like to share with you a story about my husband.  Maybe you all can help me.  We live in a small town in Vermont, an hour outside of Burlington.  Last year, in the first week of January, a Stickerman appeared on our lawn.

     I know that name sounds silly, and it certainly is, but it does require some brief explanation.  Even before I was born, our town had the tradition of creating slightly non-traditional snowmen.  They possess the typical three orb body and head, but instead of just sticks for arms, sticks and twigs would be placed in random and poignant places; eyes, toes, spine, scalp, pretty much anywhere.  The more elaborate the branches, with surviving pine needles or other dead leaves, the better.  The more grotesque you could make it, the better still.

     Like I said, this was a tradition long before I was born.  However, I do like to take credit for its namesake.  When I was a preteen, the Wicker Man movie had been in theatres in the early 70s.  It frightened my friends and me, but it also left a lasting impression with its imagery.  My friend Jennifer and I talked it about it a lot that year, mostly because we had snuck into multiple showings.  One day when we were building our weird snowmen, it struck me that the abundance of sticks and twigs somewhat resembled the Wicker Man.  In a wholly unoriginal portmanteau, I said we should call then Stickermen. It stuck, no pun intended, and soon enough all the kids at school were using the sobriquet.  Eventually, it was being used by the entire town.

    I realize it sounds as if I’m getting off track as this us supposed to be about my husband, so let’s pivot back.  I won’t waste your time with how we met and where we’ve been, but suffice it to say we wake up each day quickly approaching retirement.  Our kids are in college far out of state and we both have fairly lucrative jobs.  Any reasonable person would see that we live comfortably.  My husband Fred, however, is not always reasonable.

     Fred loves his lawn.  He loves his trees, his hedges, and his lawnmower.  As anyone who lives in a region that gets regular snow knows, in winter you have to abandon your lawn. By the transitive property, Fred hates Winter.  Last winter was especially snowy.  For any winter sports enthusiast, it was ideal.  Fred was, of course, less than enthused.

    One innocuous morning, we woke up and started our day as any typical Saturday.  We showered, threw on basic pajamas, and sat by our TV with some coffee.  Fred stood up to get more coffee, but lingered at the window facing our lawn.

     “What the hell is that?”, he said in a tone low enough it was if he said it to himself.  I stood up and joined him by the window, peering out to the lawn and street beyond.  To my bemusement, I saw a singular Stickerman.  Not the most creative piece, but it checked all the boxes: Three orbs, sticks for hands, and twigs jutting out of peculiar places.

“You know exactly what that is, Fred.” I replied.

“But what’s it doing on my lawn?  Did you make that?” he said in a half-accusatory tone.

“Yes, Fred.  I got up in the middle of the night, turned on all the outside lights, marched to the edge of our lawn, and made a Stickerman.  You caught me.”  My tone was half-retaliatory in kind.  I assured Fred it was some kid playing a prank as was our town’s tradition.  I reminded him of the Stickermen we set up on old people’s lawns back in the day.  Fred, seemingly assuaged, went back to his coffee gathering and that was the end of it.  Until Sunday.

     Against the peels of distant church bells, Fred exclaimed again by the front window.  Again, I joined him, and this time was slightly astonished.  In total, four Stickermen stood upright on our lawn. Each was different than the next, indicating different sculptors.

“Now what the hell is this?” Fred was no longer annoyed, he was incensed.  “This is vandalism, Cel.  You can’t just wander onto someone else’s property and do this.”

“Vandalism?  Really, Fred.  It’s a bunch of snow on more snow.  Calm down and help me with the dishes.”  Fred wasn’t the only one who was incensed as I was growing impatient with his delusions.  We spent the rest of the day doing light chores and trying to enjoy the remainder of the weekend.  Fred kept pausing at the window for a glance at the Stickermen, as if they would start moving.  When we got into bed he chuckled and even said it was cute that the four sculptures could almost resemble a family.  I chuckled back, but remarked to myself that they weren’t arranged in a familial pose, they were scattered randomly on the lawn.

Monday’s routine grumblings about starting the work week were compounded with a fresh shout from downstairs.  Fred had apparently woken up before me and was already surveying the front yard.  My patience was wearing thin at this point as I ambled downstairs.  I found Fred with his face pressed up against the glass of the window, his face wearing a look of disbelief.  Not bothering to ask, I approached a different window with the same view.  No fewer than ten Stickermen adorned our lawn.  Each was more elaborate than the last with its stick and twig ornamentation.  Fred cursed under his breath and went for the landline.

“Fred, at least wait until tonight to call the cops.” I said in a pleading tone.  “Why?  So they can start vandalising the front of the house?  Look how close they are, Cel!”  To his credit, the latest round of sculptures was halfway up the lawn to our front door, much closer than before.  “Honey, it’s probably some kids skipping class for some pranks.  We can ask around the neighborhood to see if anyone else is having the same problem.  This is nothing to call the police about.”  It wasn’t what Fred wanted to hear, but he relented in the end.  Upon returning after work, we saw no additional Stickermen.  This calmed Fred a bit, allowing us to drive around and look at our neighbor’s yards.  All we saw were the usual Christmas lights, Santa figures and large candy canes.  There was an occasional Stickerman, but nothing as elaborate as what was invading our lawn.

“Nothing has really changed, huh?” Fred said aloud.  “We’re all a bit older now, but that’s about it.” I replied.  Fred had been dreading his upcoming birthday and had been concerned about how much time had gotten away from him.  He didn’t say much, but I noticed him checking his hair and waistline, stretching his back as it ached more, trying to keep up with his kids on the phone.  Talking with our friends didn’t help anything.  They were constant reminders of how old we were getting, and they had seen nothing that would shed light on our Stickerman problem.  We returned home for a terse dinner and went to bed early as it was already dark out.  The conversation was minimal as I could tell Fred was not pleased with how things were going.  I promised him it would all make sense soon and by next week he would forget all about it.  Fred grumbled and turned the last light out.  That night I could tell he was restless and didn’t fall asleep into the early hours, waiting for some noise outside, but it never came.

Tuesday morning’s calm was broken by a shattering of glass.  I awoke with a start and ran to the kitchen, thinking Fred had injured himself or someone had broken in.  His paranoia had started rubbing off on me, though I never admitted that to him. When I reached the kitchen, I saw his favorite beer mug laying in jagged pieces across the floor.  He had crafted it himself on our honeymoon twenty years ago in Austria.  It meant so much to him, and to see it broken made my heart sink.  Before I could ask what happened, he started to yell.

Fred was standing in our doorway, fuming and screaming at the scene in front of us.  I peered around him and saw that the number of Stickermen had doubled.  I’ll admit, there has always been a disturbing aspect to this little town tradition. But what I saw in those figures just three feet from our door was nothing short of grotesque.  These were not the silly sculptures we made as kids.  These were horrific.  Faces made from rotten food, distorted in scenes of agony.  Strange carvings I didn’t recognize traced along their bodies.  The twigs and sticks arranged in complex patterns, strung together with twine and ornamented with what looked like animal bones and teeth.    Some were portrayed in haunting poses parodying human activities.  One was carrying skies, another holding a football.  This was no longer cute, and Fred had lost his grip.

As I wandered in between the Stickermen trying to make sense of their obscene depictions, I could hear my husband from our kitchen.  He was screaming on the phone to the Sheriff’s office, demanding that they send someone right away.  I went back inside when I heard Fred threatening to sue the precinct, something he’s never even dreamed of in the past.  I convinced Fred to put the dispatcher on speakerphone so the three of us could discuss what was happening.

The dispatcher was patient if not flustered with Fred.  There isn’t much crime where we live and I’m willing to bet she had forgotten exactly what to do when vandalism is reported to her.  She explained that without firm proof and a lead, the best they could do was to send a patrol car around six.  I explained that we thought these pranks were being orchestrated late at night so a patrol at six wouldn’t achieve anything.  The dispatcher, named Patricia, elaborated that with the construction on route 100, there wasn’t much manpower to spare.  I calmly asked that we speak to her manager as we weren’t getting anywhere in the conversation.  Patricia hesitated, but then put us on hold.  This is what I remember of the rest of the call when the Sheriff picked up:

“This is Sheriff Roberts, is that you Fred?”

“Hi Sheriff, this is Celeste, Fred is here too.”

“Good morning Celeste.   I gotta say, you two are the last folks I would expect to make a call like this.  What’s this about some demon snowmen?”

Fred spoke in a measured but tense voice, “Bill, you know me, we were on the varsity team together.  Have I ever been unreasonable?”

“No Fred, I suppose not.”

“Then please, just hear us out.  I’m going to say some things that aren’t going to sound quite right, but I need you to believe us.”  I had never heard Fred so desperate.

“Alright, I don’t know what much I can do, but go ahead.”  Sheriff sounded sincere but I could tell he was more concerned about Fred than anything.

“It’s like we told your deputy, someone is sneaking onto my lawn every night and putting more and more of these things up.  They’re getting more ballsy each night.  Soon they’ll be breaking into our house and who knows what!”

“Fred, has anything been damaged?  Have any notes or threats been left?  Do you have any enemies that could have done this?  I know a man’s house is his castle, but this really isn’t something I would call a cause for alarm.”

“Damnit, Bill.  Have I ever so much as run a red light in this town?  I pay my taxes.  I’m a good citizen.  I keep my head down.  All I’m asking for is some basic diligence here!”

“Well Jesus, Fred, why haven’t you just taken the snowblower to them all and cleared the lawn?  It’s just a bunch of snow and twigs.”

“And erase all the evidence?  How stupid do you think I am?”

I decided it was time to chime in.  “Sheriff, this is Celeste.  We don’t want to raise a fuss but we just don’t feel safe right now.  I know Barbara had that scare with the black bears a couple years ago.  I’m not saying its bears, but we wouldn’t be calling if things weren’t out of the ordinary.”

The Sheriff was quiet for several long seconds.  “Okay, Celeste.  For Barbara’s sake, I’ll put something together.  But, to do this by the book, I’m going to need you both to sign and file a 5-707 form first thing tomorrow.  Give this some time in case the pranksters decide they’ve had their fun.  I’ll get a deputy to do a stakeout in a couple days.”

We thanked the Sheriff and did some catching up to lighten the mood before hanging up.  The truth is, while Bill and Fred were friends from long ago, none of us had spoken much since Barbara’s passing.  Fred knew how much he was asking of Bill, and having to rely on someone else was only further hurting his pride.  I tried to calm him down, but he stormed off to the study to fill out the forms on the spot.  He then set off for work without a word.  I called in sick and went about taking pictures of the Stickerman to include with our forms.  The rest of the day was spent preparing for his birthday breakfast to take place the next day.  When Fred got home, he placed his hand on mine and went directly to bed, mentioning that he wasn’t hungry and had a long day.  I sat by the TV for a bit trying to distract myself, eventually nodding off.

My Wednesday started with a violent shock.  Shouts and screams from the yard shook me awake.  I stumbled to the front door and saw my husband raving like a lunatic.  He was bashing the Stickermen with a baseball bat, yelling at them and spitting on their remains.  They stood still, taking every hit and insult with morbid defiance.  I called out to Fred, begging him to come inside.  He largely ignored me except to yell the word “Sixty!” over and over again.  I acknowledged that and still begged for him to just come inside where we could talk.  I started to get too cold and shut the door.  I called 911 and explained frantically that my husband wasn’t well.  I was afraid he would freeze outdoors or hurt himself.  The dispatcher put me on hold while connecting to the police.  I looked back outside just in time to see Fred driving off in his car, speeding away recklessly.  I stayed on the phone until the came.  Through crying eyes I recounted everything that happened to Sheriff Bill.  He said they already out an alert to find him and would keep me updated.

Later that night, I sat alone at my table by the phone.  It finally rang and I answered it quickly.  Bill somberly informed me that they found Fred’s car abandoned by the woods.  They would continue searching the next day but had nothing else to report.  I cried into my hands, unsure of what to do.  I picked at the birthday cake that sat on the kitchen table, a big “60” in chocolate frosting sitting motionless.

They never found my husband, and though it pains me I’m sure he’s gone.  I just want answers.  I want to know why he ran off,  why someone tormented us with those Stickermen.  Even if we could find his remains, I could at least put some aspect of this to rest,  If anyone in Vermont can tell me anything, I would be so grateful.