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Old Sammy's Island

by Timothy James Turnipseed 8 months ago in Horror · updated 8 months ago
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Punishing the Traitor

“Gurk!”

How he despised that wretched sound.

Lying abed in the dark next to his loudly snoring wife, he’d discovered the one sound he just couldn’t get used to. The lapping waves, the splashing… fish? Alligators? Even the relentless chorus of crickets and frogs he’d learned to endure.

But each time he drifted off to sleep – “gurk!” – and he was wide awake. That terrible sound of someone… something choking on water. For the life of him, the frustrated sleeper could not imagine what creature made that infernal noise.

Then there was the smell; the potent, fruity stench of death that progressively overpowered the human musk in the bed covers, the lingering aroma of his wife’s shampoo, and the ever-present scent of freshwater lake. No doubt, some creature had the audacity to die close to his cabin, or perhaps some predator had most inconsiderately dragged its kill to his place. Obviously, he’d have to dispose of the animal’s rotting carcass, but in the morning. No way he was getting out of bed in the middle of the night to take care of that now.

The man stared up at the blackness, sighing in exasperation. He reflected on his old-fashioned little shack beside the lake, with its woefully dated wallpaper and furnishings. He also noted how the wooden planks in the floors and walls creaked faintly, but continuously.

At last, he surrendered. He’d been weening himself off his prescribed sleep medication, but the “gurk!” was just too much. Clearly, he needed drugs, or he would not sleep at all.

Sighing, he slipped out of bed, careful not to wake his wife, his weight squeaking the old floorboards underfoot. He held his probing hands out before him in the velvety darkness and moved slowly, determined not to hurt himself in an unfamiliar bedroom.

His hands soon found the wall, the bedroom door, the hall beyond the door, and then the entrance to another room soon after. He pawed at the air till he found the metal pull chain and gave it a tug. Click!

Light flared from a single bulb above, and the little bathroom winked into existence around him. Sighing, the man beheld his weary, sleep-deprived visage in the cracked mirror that fronted the medicine cabinet, and then opened said cabinet to retrieve a bottle of pills.

“Gurk!”

He snapped his head toward the bathroom window and saw a burned, soggy, rotted… face?

“Gah!” the man cried, and he jumped back as if he’d been shot, hurling the plastic pill bottle at the window, falling, slamming his back on the floor out in the hall. All he could see now was the ceiling…

From the nearby bedroom, his wife’s heavy snoring truncated with a snort and a loud gasp.

“Adolph?” she called, “Adolph honey, are you okay?”

Adolph sat up to get another look at the bathroom window. Nothing. He scrambled to his feet, rushed to the window, and looked out into the blackness. There was nothing out there, but he did notice that the impact of the thrown pill bottle had left a noticeable crack in one of the tiny, brittle old glass panes. Great.

Adolph returned to the bedroom to discover that light from the nearby bathroom turned a space that had been black as a cave into a shadowy chamber he could safely navigate without pawing at the air.

He strode by his wife sitting up in bed and threw open the heavy curtains that blocked one of the room’s two windows. Beyond the wooden porch and balcony lay a vast black plain. The same stars bedazzling the sky above littered the ebon mirror below.

“It’s one of those idiot college kids, isn’t it?” his wife continued, anxiety saturating her voice. Then she shouted, “Leave us alone you bully! We bought this place fair and square!”

“Calm down, Greta,” Adolph ordered as he marched to the other window. Here was a stand of large, very old trees. He narrowed his eyes, focused on the shadows that flit amongst the trunks, looking for anything human-shaped…

Greta shrieked like a banshee. A banshee set on fire. When Adolph whirled to face her, she was still sitting up in bed, now pointing at the lakeview window.

“He’s on the balcony!” she wailed. “Get your gun honey! Get him!”

Adolph stepped back from the forest window to the dresser and snatched the top drawer open with such force, it flew out, throwing its contents all over the place. One of those contents thumped heavily to the aged floorboards with far more heft than the underwear and socks.

Feeling his face flush, Adolph dropped the loose drawer, bent to pick up the loaded pistol, and then rushed to the lakeview window. But again, no one was there.

“Leave us alone!” the man howled. “We didn’t kill any slaves! Hell, my family never even owned any slaves. My grandfather emigrated from Germany after World War II, you Communist freak!”

A tense moment followed. Adolf looked at his wife and prayed to God he didn’t look near as terrified to her as she did to him. The man’s heart pounded in his ears and crawled up into his throat, making it hard to swallow. Adolph strained his ears to the utmost, listening for the trespasser. The waves still lapped, the frogs and crickets yet sang, but there were no more human sounds, unless… unless the splashing…

“Gurk!”

“Where are you!” Adolph raged, lifting his pistol, spinning a full three-sixty.

Crash! The sound of shattering glass!

“He’s in the bathroom!” Greta yowled, pointing. “Get him Adolph, get him!”

Adolph raced out of the room and into the fully lit bathroom, straight into a deathly stench so potent it stung his nostrils and watered his eyes. A humanoid, skull-faced figure slathered with slimy filth was already slithering through the shattered window. Paralyzed by sheer horror, the man with the gun let the intruder, “gurking” continuously, thump down into the floor. And there it stood, towering over him. Then the horrifically burned, muddy, waterlogged, decayed, slime-dripping… thing raised a rusty hatchet, howling…

Adolph heard a man screaming. He could also hear continuous truck backfires banging off the narrow walls, synchronized with flashes of light. The acrid tang of gunsmoke filled the room.

*

A bright sunny day. The trees and the grass were a vibrant green, the sky a clear, crystal blue defying the weatherman’s promise of thunderstorms by evening.

A powerful, rumbling, candy-apple red sportscar approached the town square. Out the windshield to his right, the driver could see about two dozen protestors picketing the county courthouse across the street from a restaurant. The picketers seem to be mostly college-aged men and women, and almost all Black. A young Black man was haranguing the crowd, and when he paused, they would cheer, clapping their hands or bouncing their signs.

Soon after, the driver parked his car and entered the restaurant, where he was immediately greeted by a young, aproned waitress.

“Good afternoon, sir!” she chirped. “Would you like a table or a booth?”

The man looked around the dim interior. There were only six other diners, leaving the place almost empty.

“Not much of a lunch crowd, is it?”

“The protestors keep harassing our customers,” the waitress spat, face twisted. “We called the Sheriff, but it’s been an hour and so far, nothing!”

By this time, the driver had spotted a White man at a corner booth in a blue three-piece suit.

“My party’s already here. Thank you, miss.”

At that, the driver made his way to the man in the blue suit and asked, “Adolph Reichman?”

“Speaking. Jamal Carter?”

“None other,” and Jamal took the seat opposite Adolph.

He was barely seated when the same waitress who greeted him at the entrance appeared as if by magic.

“What can I get you gentlemen?” she asked, handing each man a one-page laminated menu.

“Water and a coffee please?” Jamal asked.

“I’ll have a beer.” Adolph added.

As the waitress flounced off to fetch their drinks, Adolph spoke, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m glad you’re Black. At least they can’t accuse you of White supremacy!”

“You’d be surprised.”

“What?”

Jamal lifted the laminated menu and began scanning it.

“I take it that owning Old Sammy’s Island hasn’t made you popular ‘round these parts?”

“Nope. And my first name doesn’t help.”

There was more cheering from outside, causing both men to turn their heads to the protest.

“Those kids sure do love their hero,” Jamal noted.

“Bah!” huffed Adolph. “I’ve browsed what official records exist, and believe me, Old Sammy was no hero.”

“No?”

“Samuel Blessing grew up as a playmate and best friend to the son of his master. When his master died, his best buddy became the new master, and Sammy was his right-hand man. Turns out the new master had little interest in running the day-to-day business of the plantation and loved to travel. That pretty much made Old Sammy the de facto master.”

“Hmm. Sounds like the ultimate House Negro.”

“Apparently. Samuel enjoyed all the luxuries of a rich Southern planter and could have any woman on the plantation he wanted, including his master’s sister if certain stories are to be believed.”

“Not too hard to believe, really. I mean, if he grew up playing with his master, it stands to reason he grew up with the man’s sister as well. It would hardly be the first time two childhood playmates got involved once puberty hit.”

“Indeed. Anyway, as the story goes, Samuel’s friend died. The plantation was sold, and the new owner wasn’t about to let a mere slave run the place. Sammy got demoted, though he remained in the house as a highly prized cook. But then one day, the new master raped one of Samuel’s granddaughters. The man also murdered the child’s mother – Sammy’s daughter – when she tried to intervene.

“Oh boy,” Jamal crowed. “Revolution time?”

“Revolution time,” Adolph nodded. “The Master, his family, the Overseers and their families? All slaughtered. Sammy and the newly freed slaves headed out into the woods till they made it to my island in the lake. State Militia surrounded them and they fought to the last, at least according to legend. Most of the reports I saw claim at least some of the fugitives were re-enslaved while Sammy himself was tortured with hot irons, hung, and then his body weighted and tossed into the lake. Thus to all traitors.”

“Traitor?” Jamal asked, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t you think you’re being a bit too hard on Old Sammy? Considering the times, sounds to me like the brother did the best with what he had.”

“The point is that Sammy had no problem with slavery until it hurt him personally."

"I wouldn't say he had no problem..."

"What is your offer for the island?”

Jamal took a deep breath and turned the menu over to read the other side.

“The house on the island. Do you think it can be remodeled?"

“Well, it’s in pretty bad shape. From a purely financial perspective, it would be cheaper to demolish that place and start all over, but… the house has been there for over a century. It’s historic.”

By this time, their drinks arrived, so the men made their lunch orders. As the waitress left, Jamal took a sip of coffee and set the ceramic mug back down in its saucer.

“Look, Adolph,” he mused. “If I buy this island, will those protestors out there bother me?”

“I don’t know about you, Jamal. Perhaps they would consider you one of their own. I know they bothered me. Me and my wife.”

“Oh?”

“Yep. They sent some maniac in a Halloween costume to terrorize us the one and only night we spent out there. Crazy bastard actually bashed his way through our bathroom window!”

“Seriously?!” Jamal cried. “What did you do?”

“What else could I do? I pulled out my pistol and dumped a mag into the guy. But he must have been wearing body armor under his costume, because he jumped back out the way he came in. Which reminds me; I suggest you carry something a bit nastier than my nine-millimeter if you plan on spending the night out there.”

“Thanks for the advice.”

“You’re welcome. Now what is your offer?”

Jamal wrote on a paper napkin and handed it to Adolph, who barked a laugh when he saw it. That made the Black man frown.

“That’s a serious offer,” he insisted.

“Save it, pal, I know a ridiculous lowball when I see it. But jokes on you my friend, I’d have let you have the place for nothing!”

“Thanks! I think?”

“What are you going to do with it, anyway?”

“Remodel and rent it out as a vacation home. I know folks who will spend a truckload of money for this kind of thing.”

“And if the government caves to the protestors’ demands and makes it their ridiculous ‘Samuel Blessing Memorial Park’?”

“Then they can buy the island from me, duh. Even if they seize it through Eminent Domain, with what I’m paying you I’ll still make a profit. I can’t lose!”

*

“Gurk!”

How Jamal despised that wretched sound.

Lying abed in the dark, he’d discovered the one noise he just couldn’t get used to. The lapping waves, the splashing… fish? Bears? Even the relentless chorus of crickets and frogs he’d learned to endure.

But each time he drifted off to sleep – “gurk!” – and he was wide awake. Plus, some animal must have died close, because the awful stench of its rotting carcass reached even into his bedroom.

Booking a local hotel when he had a cabin on his own private island had seemed like a waste of money. But now that he was alone in the dark, continuously tormented by whatever was making the gurk sound, Jamal began to regret his decision.

Then came the storm; crashing thunder and brilliant flashes of blue-white as a relentless cascade hammered the shack’s tin roof. Howling winds made the aged, wooden structure creak and groan. Some people find the dance of rain on a tin roof relaxing. Jamal was not one of those people.

The room was dark, but not quite as dark as the Reichmans had it, for the current owner had opened the curtains on both windows. That’s how Jamal noticed the face…

He shouted a curse as he sat bolt upright in bed, heart pounding. Had he dreamt it, or was it real? A… face? A burned, soggy, rotted… face in the forest view window? A long series of lightning flashed, illuminating the trees – and just the trees – like day, before inevitable darkness amid cacophonous thunder.

Nothing else was out there. Was it?

Jamal reached down, plucked his trusty 12-gauge from the floor, and strode toward the forest window. He peered into darkness lit by occasional lightning but could see nothing untoward beyond the slashing curtain of steel-grey rain.

Jamal turned – and spied a hunching figure in the lakeview window. He raised his shotgun and, “AAHH!” charged with a mighty battle cry, only to find no one and nothing on the balcony when he got there.

“Screw this!”

The shack’s new owner hastily threw on some clothes and stuffed everything in a suitcase. And then, with one hand dragging the wheeled suitcase, and the other on his shotgun, he strode toward the front door…

“Gurk!”

That horrid, choking, gargling sound. Right on the other side of the front door!

Jamal dropped the angled-up suitcase, causing it to land heavily on the floor. Now he could use both hands on his 12-gauge…

Bam! Someone pounded on the shabby, paint-peeled front door. The aged wooden portal rattled in its frame with every blow.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

“Go away!” Jamal wailed, staggering backward, raising the trembling barrel of his shotgun to the door. “Get out of here or I’ll shoot, I swear!”

BAM!! The door burst in, slivers flying everywhere, and it slammed to the floor with a splintering crash. Rain burst into the room like ocean spray. Lightning flashed, revealing a humanoid, skull-faced figure slathered with slimy filth; a horrifically burned, muddy, waterlogged, decayed, slime-dripping… thing entered to the light of the cabin on a wave of eye-watering corpse stench.

Roaring his defiance, Jamal felt the brutal kick in his shoulder as he fired a magnum load of double-ought buck into the reeking intruder. The thing staggered back, howling in otherworldly pain, but did not fall. Jamal pumped the action and shot it a second time, and a third, splattering gobbets of putrid muck with each impact. Finally, the creature fell on its knees and then to its face, where it gibbered and convulsed. Jamal walked forward, put the barrel of his shogun to the back of the thing’s head, and – KABOOM! The now headless abomination gave one more violent twitch, but then lay still.

Jack staggered, letting out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. He hardly dared believe it… the nightmare was over! He fell to his knees and wept in pure relief.

“Oh, thank God!” he sobbed.

“Gurk!”

Jamal looked aghast at the fallen monster. Had it just…?

Crash! Stomping. A figure like the felled monster emerged from the hall, into the living room…

Crash! A figure like the monster smashed its way into the room through a side window…

Crash! A figure like the monster smashed its way into the room through another window…

Jamal screamed and fired, taking off half the face of one of the creatures closing in on him. That thing fell, but others grabbed him, pinning him to the floor, biting…

*

Jamal woke from the nightmare in the morning, finding himself deep underwater for some reason. He effortlessly swam up out of the lake, pulling himself onto land next to the cabin on the island he’d purchased. The sun, despite the early morning hour, was painfully hot on his skin, and so bright he could hardly see.

Thankfully, he did see a car marked with the Sheriff’s Office drive up to the cabin. As an officer opened the cruiser’s door and stepped out, Jamal tried to call out to him. He coughed and coughed to clear the mucus from his throat, but to no avail. And when he tried to speak, all that came out was…

“Gurk!”

Horror

About the author

Timothy James Turnipseed

Timothy was raised on a farm in rural Mississippi. His experiences have since taken him all around the world. He now teaches at local university, where he urges his Students to Run the Race, Keep the faith, and Endure to the End

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