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Pieces of Nine: Part V – A Serialized Story

Pieces of Nine

Part V

Jerry reached into the box for the key. I smacked his hand and said, “NO!”

“What d’ya’ mean ‘no’?” he said.

“I mean that we can’t go in there, Jerry.” I answered.

“But we have to, Kev. We’ve come this far.”

“I don’t care. You read what the Captain wrote in that book. We don’t know how to work whatever’s behind that door.” I told him.

I closed the lid on the box and started pulling Jerry by the arm back into the tunnel. We had to leave. We had to get out of that house. I could feel the talisman pulling me toward the door. I could actually feel it. It felt like falling down into a deep pit… like being sucked into a whirlwind. The walls the tunnel started moving in and out, like they were breathing or something. My vision was blurring, all the time Jerry was fighting with me and pulling back downward toward the door.

His arm slipped through my sweaty hand. I fell down and bumped my head. I must have passed out for a short time. I heard Jerry screaming from further down the tunnel.

“NO! NO! No, please… Help me, Kevin! ARRRGGGH!”

Silence… then a loud CLANG!, as the iron door slammed back into its jamb. There was total darkness. The walls no longer glowed as they had before, or had we just imagined that? I had to take flash light out and turn it on. I pointed it down the tunnel toward the room that I knew was just a few yards down there.

“Jerry?” I whispered into the gloom. “JERRY!?” I yelled.

My voice seemed to be absorbed by the granite walls of the tunnel, seemingly carrying no further than a foot or so. I had never been so scared in all my life. I ran back down into the room. I had to. I had to help my friend. When I entered the room with the granite podium and the great iron door, I realized that it was empty… deathly still. The tool bag that Jerry had been carrying was on the floor by the door. The key from the box was in the lock.

I could not bring myself to open the door. I just couldn’t. I realized then that I had peed my pants. There were tears streaming down my face. I was breathing in huge gasps. I took the key from the lock and put it back in the box on the podium. I grabbed the tool bag and ran back up the tunnel. I took the granite steps three at a time till I reached the part of the tunnel where the floor and walls were dirt. I ran on till I ran straight into the wall. I fell back on my butt and shined the light ahead of me. The wall in the basement had closed!

I screamed, “HELP!”

I stood up and began banging on the wall with my fists and the flashlight. The light went out. I screamed again.

“Please! Please open!”

The wall made the grinding noise as it slid back about three feet into the basement. I stopped breathing. I could just make out the dim moonlight illuminating the basement floor. I ran into the basement as quickly as I could, fearing that the wall would change its mind and not let me leave. Almost as soon as I cleared the opening, the wall began to grind back into place. I fell down on the floor under the window and just shivered and shook.

Once I calmed myself just a bit so that I could think, I began to wonder how many people the talisman had lured to their doom over the years. Avery’s Point and surrounding areas had their share of disappearances. I wonder how many were led here, to this basement, in this unholy house. How many? I vowed right then that my friend Jerry would be the last. I opened the tool bag and took out Jerry’s flash light and the box of kitchen matches.

I ran up the stairs into the kitchen. On the center counter there was an old glass oil lamp. It still had a full reservoir. I grabbed it, removed the globe, and lighted the wick with one of my matches. It lit up at once, with a smell of stale fuel oil. I took the lamp into the dining room where there were two other similar lamps. I lighted them with the one from the kitchen. I took one in each hand, leaving one burning on the dining room table, and went into the den/library.

I threw one against the glass covered shelves on the left side of the room. It shattered the glass doors and itself exploded as it impacted with them. The oil in the reservoir splattered onto the old, dry books within. They blazed up immediately. I turned and threw the other lamp against the shelves on the opposite wall, with the same effect. I ran back into the dining room. I took the lamp that I had left in there and smashed it down onto the dining room table. The old, dry tablecloth flamed up.

With everything beginning to burn hot, I ran back down into the basement. I grabbed the tool bag and my lunch pail, which we had left there earlier, and stood on the stool under the window. I shimmied my butt back over the casement and out in the hedges along side of the house. I stood up and ran. I ran all the way back down the street as fast as I could. I ran all the way till I got to the clubhouse in the woods. I didn’t see anyone on the streets. I hoped no one had seen me.

Once back at the clubhouse, I changed back into my costume and tucked the tool bag and lunch pail under it. I tried to act as normal as possible. My heart was beating a 1000 beats a minute, it seemed. I calmly walked back home. When I got there, I emptied the tool bag and carefully put everything back where I had found it in dad’s workshop. I went up the back steps and into the house. Mom and dad were sitting in the living room. Dad was snoozing in his chair and mom was reading a magazine.

“Well, there you are.” Mom said. “You look flushed. You didn’t get sick eating all that candy, did you?”

“Uh… yes, ma’am. I might have eaten too much. May I be excused?” I asked.

“Yes, dear. You go upstairs and wash up. I’ll be up in a bit to check on you.” she said.

I went upstairs and cleaned up and got ready for bed. It was already after 8PM. I’m glad my dad was sleeping. If he’d been awake, he probably would have whipped me for coming home that late. Mom was not quite as strict. She would cover for me, as usual. I doused the lights and climbed into the upper bunk above George. His bed was empty. He was staying over at a friend’s that night. Mom came in a little while latter and made sure I was OK, then she left me alone.

In a little while, I could hear sirens and bells ringing. They were the bells down at the old fire station on Nantucket Drive. I knew why they were ringing. The house burned into the ground that night. The firemen couldn’t even begin to battle that blaze. All those old books and dried wooden furniture and framing went up like so much tender. The fire was determined to be accidental, but no one ever tried to explain what caused it. The town had a bulldozer crew out there a few days later leveling the property.

And Jerry? I was awoken early the next morning by my mother and a crying Mrs. Keene, Jerry’s mom.

“Kevin?” my mom asked, “Weren’t you with Jerry last night?”

“Yes’m” I answered.

“Where did you go?” she asked.

“We went only as far as Indigo, like you said, mom, and then we came back to the clubhouse and ate our candy.”

“Did you walk home with Jerry, Kevin?” Mrs. Keene asked me in between sniffles.

“No’m. We split up at the clubhouse. I came straight home.” I was lying for my life here.

There was a thorough investigation. The State Police were called in. I was grilled like a suspect for a little while. They finally chalked it up to an abduction a year or so later when Harry Dean Carson, the “Kiddie Killer”, was caught and confessed to Jerry’s murder and the murder of 19 other children in the New England area over the past ten years. They never found Jerry’s body. Carson claimed he could not remember where he’d dumped it. In November of 1958, I went to Jerry’s funeral. I cried. I cried many times in that last year and the years after that.

©2008 V. T. Eric Layton (excluding images)

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Next Tuesday, the conclusion of Pieces of Nine. Thanks for reading.

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DusT

By T. Nelson Taylor, Self-published, ISBN-13 978-0-578-02932-0

Available at Createspace.com (paperback) and Lulu.com (hardcover and ebook)

T. Nelson Taylor’s foray into story telling has culminated in this interesting first offering. It’s an intriguing thoughtful story of a possible future, a future where computer hardware and software make a leap into a realm where your Linux system hasn’t been before.

The protagonist of the piece is a young Dr. Chris Miller, a scientist working with cutting edge nanotech. Dr. Miller is attempting to create a new and unique advance in computer memory… or so he thinks. Through wonderfully serendipitous circumstances, Dr. Miller ends up creating so much more.

Sadly, that AHA! moment is going to cost dearly; not just the young doctor, but many people on the periphery of this event. Taylor effectively shifts gears from a science fiction plot to a Ludlum-esque run-for-your-life thriller. With the help of a friend or two and lots of luck, Dr. Miller goes cross country… and eventually around the world to evade, escape, and illuminate.

The prototype machine he’s carrying with him is wanted by different groups for differing reasons. Dr. Miller must learn the motivations behind these groups and determine whose side he’s on; all the while fleeing for his life with his young daughter Emily. It’s intense.

Taylor tells the story well. He packages the whole thing in a high quality paperback (the version I read) for your reading pleasure. This is a great first effort by a new author. I commend him for his perseverance in getting his idea from his head to the publisher. As a long time writer-wannabe, I respect the effort required to do this.

I recommend this book. It’s an entertaining read.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Book image courtesy of https://www.createspace.com/3389138

Drood

By Dan Simmons, Little Brown & Co., ISBN: 0316007021

Available at Borders

A while back I read this excellent and uniquely told tale from the intricate mind of Dan Simmons. It’s a tale about… well, it’s hard to say, really. If you’re at all familiar with late 19th English novels by authors such as Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins, you’ll find comfortable familiarity with the setting of this book. It takes place mostly in London or surrounding areas. The story itself is twisted and intricately plotted. Readers of Dickens, the outstanding biography written by Peter Ackroyd, will be able to see where Simmons did a lot of his research.

The tale is narrated by Charles Dickens‘ real life friend and fellow author, Wilkie Collins. Collins was a relatively successful suspense author during the same era that Dickens was turning his tales. You may have heard some of Wilkie’s stories… The Woman in White, Moonstone, Armadale, etc. If you like 19th Century Gothic novels, give ol’ Wilkie a try sometime.

Anyway, in Drood, Wilkie is an opium smoker with some serious mental stability issues. He tells the story of friend Dickens’ last few years among the living; specifically how a train wreck that Dickens survived affected the rest of his days. Dickens had a fleeting interaction with a strange man that day. His name was Drood. Collins obsesses over Dickens supposed obsession with Mr. Drood. In reality, by the way, the last book the Dickens was writing at the time of his death was to be called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was never completed by Dickens. A couple versions completed by other authors were published, though.

Mr. Drood is not, to say the least, a very wholesome character. He’s allegedly a master magician from Egypt currently living in underground London. I’m talking the old, old underground London here folks; sewers, canals, underground rivers, secret passages in old churchyards, etc. You get the picture. Oh, did I mention rats? Yes, rats. Ain’t it great. Drood is a rather large tome; approaching 800 pages, yet it read very fast for me. Different folks are different when it comes to the pace of a book, though.

Visit your local library and pick up a copy for a nice rainy Sunday evening. I think you’ll like it.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well

By David R. Hough, BowTie Press, ISBN: 1933958359

Available at Amazon.com

I’ve been riding motorcycles for over thirty years now. Yeah… I’m a biker. I’m the guy you pull up next to at the light and then tell your kids to lock their doors. Don’t lie. I’ve seen you do it. That’s cool. You folks in them cages (automobiles) scare us bikers all to hell, too.

Anyway, as I was saying… I’ve been riding motorcycles for quite some time. I am a self-taught rider. What does that mean? It means that sometime back in my youth I just got on a motorcycle and started riding. When you learn to ride like that, all those bad habits become seriously ingrained. It’s not a good thing.

Nowadays, there are some excellent motorcycle riding courses and workshops being taught in most cities. If you can’t get to one of them, I highly recommend this publication that we’re discussing here today. The courses and/or this book could very well save your life one day. I’m not kidding.

Back in 2002, while out riding with my brother one afternoon here in Florida, we got caught in one of those summertime frog strangling thunderstorms. On the way home on those wet roads, I had a boo-boo. A light changed and I tapped those rear brakes just a wee bit too much. The ass end slid one way, I tried to compensate the other. I ended up high-siding (falling in the same direction as the bike is sliding) off the bike in the middle of a busy intersection. My brother saw all this in his mirror. It scared the hell out of him. He thought I was dead for sure.

I did a flip, roll, and a bounce or two on the pavement. I ended up with a couple broken ribs, a pulled groin muscle, and miscellaneous contusions and abrasions. It wasn’t fun at all. It took me about 13 weeks to heal up to near normal. Don’t believe that shit you see in the movies where the action hero gets his ribs kicked in and then continues to rock and roll through the rest of the movie. That is PURE Hollywood, folks. The pain from my ribs was about a 15 on a scale of 1-10. I didn’t do any super-hero shit for a while after that.

My ’03 H-D Heritage Softail Classic

I no longer have this ol’ girl. Financial difficulties forced me to sell her back in ’09.

Ironically, the day after this happened, my copy of David Hough’s book showed up in the mailbox. I had ordered it a few days previously. Anyway, since I was pretty much immobile, I figured it’d be a great time to read the book. It wasn’t like I was going out to play rag-tag football or anything like that. A sneeze would have made me pass out. I got as comfortable as was possible at the time and opened Proficient Motorcycling.

I was actually quite amazed at all the things I had been doing wrong on a motorcycle all those past years. I’m serious here, folks. I could count numerous mistakes that I made every time I sat on a bike. Being a self-taught rider is not the best way to be. Don’t be proud, you ol’ grizzled bikers out there. Pick up this book at the store or go out and take one of those courses available in your area. In the years since this happened my riding skills have improved tremendously.

Ride safely!

~Eric

The Road

By Cormac McCarthy, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0307265439

Available new or used at barnesandnoble.com

A friend mentioned the movie based on this book in conversation today, so I thought I’d post a short review of this Pulitzer Prize winning (2007) novel here for your reading enjoyment. I read this book last fall, just before the movie was released. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of post-apocalyptic literature, and this baby fit right into that category just fine.

It’s dark. It’s raw. It’s also a grammarian and English teacher’s worst nightmare. McCarthy wrote this book in some new age texting inspired style with no quotes, no commas, sentence fragments, etc. Still, it’s an enjoyable read. Being a bit anal about punctuation, grammar, and the imminent demise of the English language (whole ‘nother article needed for that topic), it was a wee bit disconcerting to read a book written in this style… at least for the first few minutes. Once the story grabbed me, forget it. I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the story after that. He could have written it in crayon and I wouldn’t have noticed.

It’s a simple story of a man and a boy trying to survive some hinted at, but not quite explicitly stated, extinction level event. My guess was a limited nuclear exchange of some sort, which nevertheless breached the minimum required to trigger a nuclear winter event. The story follows father and son in their trek to find the seashore; and the daily miseries of dealing with slow starvation, sickness, and roving bands of cannibals. As I said above, it’s dark. It’s raw. Don’t expect “once upon a time” storybook happy endings here, folks.

This is the only book he’s written that I’ve read. While I’m not much on his writing style (mechanics), I like the story. There’s something Virginia Woolf-ish about his stream-of-consciousness writing, except Woolf actually used punctuation. It was a haunting story. Despite McCarthy’s non-traditional writing style, I would definitely recommend this book. I’m not sure it was Pulitzer Prize worthy, but it really was a good story. Give it a go if you get the chance. It read really fast for me, but that often depends on each reader’s preferences. One person’s page turner is another’s sleeping pill. I think you’ll like it, though.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

By James Bradley, Little-Brown, ISBN 978-0316105842

Available at Amazon.com

I just finished this remarkable book by James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers. It’s the true story of the events in the lives of a handful of very young flyboys (WWII pilots and airmen) in the waning days of WWII in their march toward Japan’s home islands; the prices paid and the lives forever lost or changed. One of those flyboys was a 19 year old future President of the United States, George H. W. Bush.

From Wikipedia:

Bush piloted one of four Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima.[6] His crew for the mission, which occurred on September 2, 1944, included Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White.[1] During their attack, the Avengers encountered intense anti-aircraft fire; Bush’s aircraft was hit by flak[7] and his engine caught on fire.[1] Despite his plane being on fire, Bush completed his attack and released bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits.[1] With his engine afire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft;[7] the other man’s parachute did not open.[1] It has not been determined which man bailed out with Bush[1] as both Delaney and White were killed as a result of the battle.[7] Bush waited for four hours in an inflated raft, while several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine USS Finback.[1]

Future President Bush (41) flew 58 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and a Presidential Unit Citation (U.S.S. San Jacinto). While you may not have agreed with his politics, you have to give the man credit for his remarkable bravery and dedication to duty. President Bush’s adventures were only a small part of this interesting book, yet an impressive part.

The rest of the book tells the stories of the ordeals of other young flyboys who weren’t as fortunate as Lt. (jg) Bush. They were captured, systematically tortured, eventually executed, then suffered the ultimate indignity… they were butchered and eaten by a handful of sick, misguided Japanese officers.

If you get the chance, read this sometimes horrifying account of what these young flyboys went through and didn’t survive. This book is a keeper. It’s a great read for anyone interested, as I am, in WWII history.

Until next time, folks…

~Eric