THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part Twelve
Hank set a small electric fan onto the coffee table, plugged it into the closest wall outlet and turned it on. Lucas sat down on the sofa, pulling off his shoes. Hank went around to all the windows and closed the blinds, drew the curtains.
“That’s not a psychiatrist’s couch,” Hank said. “But it’s pretty damn comfortable, just the same. I slept on it many a night before Ellen and I separated.”
Lucas lay back, putting a throw-pillow behind his head. Hank began to wind up an alarm clock.
“I always try to use something for background noise,” Hank said. “Something repetitious.” He set the clock next to the fan, ticking.
“Are we ready?” Lucas asked.
“Need a bathroom break?”
“Then we’re ready.” Hank sat down, sliding his recliner closer to the couch. “Okay, Lucas. I want you to concentrate on relaxing. Get as comfortable as possible.”
“I am.” Lucas lay on his back, hands clasped over his belly.
“Good,” Hank said. He lowered his voice, began to speak in monotone, without inflection. “Close your eyes.” Hank paused. “Good. You should feel your body relaxing. All your muscles are relaxing. Your legs, your arms, abdominal muscles, shoulders. Nothing tight, nothing tense. Your entire body feels like rubber. You couldn’t lift your arms or legs if you tried, you are so relaxed. Even the blood flowing through your body is slow and calm, like a gentle stream.”
Another pause. “Now, Lucas, I want you to concentrate on my voice. Your mind is clear. The only thing you can hear is my voice. You don’t even have to think. Just listen to my voice. Now I want you to imagine a beautiful meadow. Gentle and rolling, with lush green grass as far as you can see in every direction. Tall grass and wildflowers. Everywhere are wildflowers. In every color, red and blue and yellow and orange and violet. There are butterflies and honeybees fluttering around from flower to flower. They don’t notice you at all.
“There’s the faintest of breezes,” Hank continued, now himself feeling relaxed. “And the air smells sweet from all the flowers. It’s not too warm and not too cool. The weather is perfect. There are a few little clouds, like cotton balls in the sky. Otherwise it’s a perfect blue sky, and the sun is bright and yellow above you. Can you see it, Lucas?”
“Yes,” Lucas replied, voice low and subdued.
“Good,” Hank said. “This meadow is where we’re going to stay, Lucas. You may think about other things, or we may talk about other things, but they can’t upset you or hurt you in any way, because we’re going to stay in the meadow.”
Hank swallowed, wetting his throat. “You are lying in the soft grass. It fells cool and good, and so soft beneath you. The grass smells sweet, and the breeze feels so good on your face. Everything is so calm and peaceful. You just want to stay in the meadow and lay in the grass. There’s nothing here to bother you or upset you. Here in the meadow, everything is safe.”
“But what about that other guy?” Lucas asked.
Hank stopped. Other guy? What the hell was that? Is he under already?
“What ‘ guy,’ Lucas?” Hank asked. “What do you see?”
“There’s a guy over there by the woods,” Lucas said, his voice calm. “Hey, is that Marcus? He looks like Marcus–and me, too, I guess–but something about him isn’t the same.”
“And, um, where did this person come from?” Hank asked. This isn’t right.
“Wait, he’s saying something,” Lucas said. “He says he wants to talk to you.”
It was obvious that Lucas was under. Hank could tell that much. But he’d never had a session go like this before. Hank hesitated, then spoke.
“Alright, Lucas,” Hank said. “Let me talk to this other individual.”
What the hell is going on here?
Lucas’ eyes opened. He sat up. He looked at Hank.
“Hello.” Lucas spoke, but the voice that issued from his lips did not sound like Lucas. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”
“Jesus Christ!” Hank stammered.
“You are?” Lucas cocked his head. “I always figured you’d have darker skin, and be wearing a beard.”
Hank shook his head in disbelief.
“At least I don’t see any pigs around for you to cast me into.”
Hank couldn’t reply.
Lucas threw back his head and laughed. “I’m just fucking with you. I know who you are–Hank.”
Hank stood. “My God.”
“Again with the theological exclamations. And here I thought you were an atheist.”
Hank’s mind ran like a ticker-tape machine, rattling off words and phrases. Dissociative Identity Disorder. Alternate Personality. Even the names of various medications, various physicians expert in this specific area, familiar with the disorder and its treatments.
But he shouldn’t be up and moving around…
“Okay, Hank. Enough shooting the shit. Let’s get this over with.”
Hank started to reply, but the words never made it past his lips. Faster than Hank could blink, the fraction of second between the opening and closing of his eyes, Lucas sprang to his feet. He backhanded Hank out of his chair. The recliner toppled backwards into the coffee table. Hank rolled in a reverse tumble onto his knees. Lucas was on him before he could get up.
“I heard every word you said, you know,” Lucas hissed in his ear, pulling Hank to his feet by the hair. Hank groaned. “You told him I didn’t exist.”
Hank’s mind refused to function. Jumbled images refused to gel into cohesive thought. As Lucas grasped him and lifted him off his feet, hurled him across the room, the figment that flashed in his head was of a cat, torturing a mouse before the inevitable kill. Hank struck the wall halfway up, caving in the drywall and rebounding off a stud. The impact drove the thought from his mind as it drove the breath from his lungs.
“What else was it you told him?” Lucas walked towards him across the room. “Something about a razor? ‘The simplest explanation is most often the right one.'”
Hank tried to get up. His side throbbed, like someone driving the jagged, heated blade of a knife into him. Broken ribs, his mind said.
“That’s where you fucked up, Hank,” Lucas said. Lucas? No. No. Lucas could never do this. No. Not Lucas.
“You see, Hank, I am the simplest explanation.” He kicked Hank in the side, sent him rolling. The dull knife blade, heated with a blowtorch until it glowed red hot. God, it hurt. Hank yelped like a dog.
The stranger with Lucas’ face stared down at him. Hank realized he’d started to hallucinate. Now Lucas had long, yellow, sharp fangs, eyes the color of blood. Hank’s mind, projecting the image of a monster onto his friend.
“Anyway, thanks for letting me come out to play, Hank.” He smiled, grinning razors. “But now it’s time to say goodnight.”
A fresh thought. A cohesive impulse.
“Lucas!” Hank forced breath into words. The knife twisted in his side. “Lucas, I don’t w-want to talk to him anymore!”
“Lucas!” Hank cried. “Come back, Lucas!”
“You sneaky little bastard,” the stranger growled. He reached down for Hank’s throat.
“Come back, Lucas!”
The hands hesitated. Another hallucination? Long yellow claws poking out through the tips of Lucas’ fingers? He grimaced, hissed. “I want to talk to Lucas!”
And then the other had gone. Lucas Vale stood in a stupor, looking down at Hank.
“Get back, Lucas.” Hank made it to his knees.
“Hank? He wants out.”
“Don’t!” Hank managed. “Don’t let him out, Lucas!”
“I’m scared, Hank.”
He’s still hypnotized. Hank stood with a groan. “Sit down , Lucas.”
More bursts of thought. He needed rope. I don’t have any rope. What else? Medicine. A sedative. Put him down. Call the police.
“Hank,” Lucas said, staring. “He says it doesn’t matter. He says he’ll get free soon enough.”
Don’t have anything here. Just get to the phone. Call for help.
“He says he’s going to kill you, Hank.”
“Sleep now, Lucas. Just go to sleep now.”
Lucas closed his eyes. Hank hobbled across the room, made it to the telephone where it had been knocked off the coffee table, receiver off the hook. The fan had stopped when it hit the floor. Nearby, the alarm clock still ticked away, winding down. Counting down, Hank realized in another fragment of thought.
Running out of time.
Easy as pie.
Leland took a big gulp of his beer, smacked his lip with satisfaction.
Nicest house on Randolph Street. Only one with a wall around it. Common sense said it had to be Gordon Kidde’s.
Leland drained the can and crushed it in his grip. He tossed it over his shoulder and it clanged against the floor of the van.
Most of these fancy old houses didn’t have driveways in the front. Cars lined both sides of the street. No parking meters at the curb, not in a residential zone. Leland had even found a nice oak tree to park under. Inconspicuous, and plenty of shade. Quite pleasant with the windows rolled down.
Just watch the place long enough, Kidde’s daughter’s bound to show up, sooner or later.
Leland dug another beer out of the cooler in the passenger-side floorboard, shook off the ice chips and water. He popped the top and took a sip.
He had plenty of vacation days saved up. Leland had nothing but time.
All the time in the world.
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!