Jack Wilson was afraid to be alone.|
The streetlight outside his rented cracker box sized house flickered before going black for the last time. The seemingly empty street outside his window, which before was illuminated in pale amber light, was now in deep shadow.
Jack squeezed his eyelids together, forming slits through which focused images could enter; he needed to see what was outside that made him afraid. Lines radiated from the corners of his eyes. Once the creases only appeared when he squinted but not anymore. Jack had spent too many nights, over too many years, sitting in too many empty cars in the dim light of too many motel signs, watching too many lying husbands show up in the neon light with girls half their age. Peering into the darkness had taken a toll on his face and his soul. The lines on both were permanent.
Jack saw that the oddly shaped figures, which before had seemed to dance in the downpour like many limbed creatures from another world, had stopped now that the rain had ended, They were gone, morphing into simple harmless rows of trees which lined the hill behind his house bending and twisting in the wind. Jack smiled. The real things, whatever they were, are bad enough without making things up. They always seemed to come at you from the corner of your eye. Flitting back and forth between shadows.
Jack looked away from the window and down at the kitchen table in front of him. The table, scratched and discolored, had like Jack, seen better days. On the table was a gun, a mini-voice recorder and a number of well thumbed books.
The table legs wobbled when he reached down to pick up one of the books piled high on the table. This one was by a guy who said the aliens were coming back when the moon and planets aligned again which according to the writer was soon.
Jack picked up another book, this one an old Gideon Bible that he had walked off with after a stakeout in a seedy motel in Jacksonville, Florida. Now whole paragraphs telling about the end of the world were underlined in red with a shaky hand. Jack did not need to read what was underlined; he remembered.
The gun was a Smith & Wesson .357 snubby, a powerful, double action revolver with a short three-inch barrel. It was Jack's favorite gun, short enough in the barrel that he could hide the gun under one of his ever-present over-sized Hawaiian shirts but big enough to do the job - big enough until now.
Lastly Jack picked up the mini-voice recorder, pushed back his chair away from the table, leaving black marks on the tile, clicked forward the On-Off switch with his thumb, watched as the indicator light changed from red to green, took a deep breath and began to speak.
"It's quiet tonight, now that the rain and wind have stopped. I guess this could be called the quiet before the storm. What did they call the storm in that movie? What was the name of that movie? You know -- the movie where everyone on the boat dies -- Oh yeah, I remember, the name of the movie and the storm were the same. The Perfect Storm. That may be what we got going on here -- the perfect storm."
"You have that Mayan calendar thing about the world ending soon. All the preachers say the same thing on television and maybe they are right. Strange things going on all the time. People seeing aliens, demons, monsters everywhere that nobody used to believe in but now they do. No work, no money, no help anywhere. The whole world seems to be crashing down. Maybe it is all true."
Jack smiled and shook his head.
"On the other hand, maybe not, what does an old ex-cop know about the things that are happening to me now? In my line of work you see a lot but it all has a name or a label. Homicide, robbery, vice, everything has a name but not this. This is new. A new what? I don't know its name."
"Maybe the storm is all in my mind and it's quiet because it's supposed to be quiet when you are alone and it's three o'clock in the morning. Maybe everything is the same as it always was. But why kid myself. Nothing is the same."
Jack pauses to listen then sticks his head out the door, looking first to the left and then to the right, seeing nothing.
"Thought I heard something -- guess not. This stuff has me spooked. I feel that something bad is going to happen if I keep talking, telling my story, but in my business you can't let anyone or anything push you around or you're out of business."
"A shadow appeared on the wall and the glass in the kitchen window behind his back began to shake and then crack. Jack switched the recorder to his left hand, picked up the .357 nubby in his right hand and faced the window; waiting for something bad to crash through the glass."
Nothing happened. No sound of the cracked glass breaking. No sound of his own voice screaming. Nothing ever happened until it did and then was too late. That was how the others were taken. Talking late into the night. Huddled in a single room. Safe from it. Talking about the shadows. Jack looked down at the recorder in his hand thought about turning it off and running away but didn't, he just kept talking.
"This is how it began."
"Jace, where are you?" yelled Jan.
"This place is small, how can he not hear me?" muttered Jan to herself.
The old house wasn't much to look at but Jan and Jace didn't care. Married at eighteen with Jan three months pregnant and Jace working at a local fast food joint made both of them happy to be anywhere. This was their first time seeing the place. Jace had rented it a week ago sight unseen from a sad old woman in a black dress at an unusually low monthly rate. The same sad old woman who had rented the house to Jack Wilson a little over a month ago.
Jan ran her fingers over the small kitchen table, "It wobbles, just great." Sitting down on one of the three folding chairs surrounding the table Jan looked down and under the corner of an ancient refrigerator she saw either an old calculator or a cell phone. Stretching out her foot she snagged it, pulled it to her chair and picked it up.
"A tape recorder," said Jan, "Jace! You gotta come see this thing."
"Jace, answer me please!"
The rain had stopped but Jan could still hear the sound of the wind moaning through the trees and see from the cracked kitchen window tree branches swaying back and forth like some voodoo priestess from an old 30s black and white movie on late night television.
For some reason Jan felt suddenly alone and afraid. She began running through each room looking for Jace. First the living room tiled in gray with white walls. Then to the bathroom with it's ripped plastic green curtain hiding a stained tub and finally into the only bedroom which with its of Edvard Munch's Scream hanging at a forty-five degree angle over the only piece of furniture, a single bed with an old stained mattress.
"Jace, where are you?" Jan whispered.
The recorder slipped through her fingers, fell to the worn shag carpet, the red indicator light changed to green and began to play. Screams and then silence from the recorder followed by screams and then silence from the now empty house.