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Family Lore

by Kat Nove 3 months ago in halloween

Foggy Waters

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Is there no way out of the mind? – Sylvia Plath

The man covered in blood smiled at the busty blonde zombie. “What scares you?”

The light cast by the campfire appeared to devour Jo Jo’s ravaged face. She giggled. “Getting drunk and forgetting I’m wearing granny panties.” She winked at Lore, who sat directly across from her. He grinned.

Clappie groaned. “Ho Jo, do you ever think about anything but sex?”

“Sometimes I think about astrophysics and what shade of nail polish to wear.”

Clappie sniffed and took a swig of beer.

Dusty said, “Answer Lore’s question, Jo Jo. If you dare.” He gave his best mad scientist laugh.

“Okay. I’ll answer his question if everyone else does. But first he has to answer a question for me.”

“That’s fair. What’s the question?”

“How old are you, do you have a girlfriend, how did you end up running a haunted hayride, why are you named Lore and did you know you have the sexiest green eyes I’ve ever seen?”

Clappie snorted. “Why don’t you ask him the results of his last herpes test while you’re at it?”

Dusty sprayed a mouthful of beer into the flames and started choking. Lore pounded him on the back. When Dusty could breathe again he said, “Damn it, Clap, you almost killed me.”

She shrugged and turned back to Jo Jo. “Seriously. I can’t figure how you make such good grades when you act like a stereotypical blonde bimbo.” She looked at the older man and said, “She’s been my roommate for nearly four years and being circumspect isn’t in her DNA.”

“It’s cool. I don’t mind sharing. I’m thirty-two and single. I wonder if having the sexiest green eyes Jo Jo has ever seen has a monetary value?” Lore waited for the half-drunken laughter to die down before continuing.

We are wild and have no laws. That’s one translation of a line from Aleksandr Pushkin’s poem The Gypsies. Those words could have been written about my mother Serena. I grew up in carnivals.”

Jo Jo whispered, “A carnie.”

“Yeah, Serena gave birth to me on the Falling Star ride.”

“Holy shit, dude. That’s the ride shaped like a tube which swings back and forth,” Dusty said.

“Give that man another beer. He knows his carnival rides. According to Serena, I was also conceived on the Falling Star.”

Dusty shook his head. “Man, don’t take this the wrong way, but your parents must have been insane. The only time I ever caught the Falling Star, the last thing on my mind was sex. I did consider pissing myself though.”

“If you knew how unsafe some of those rides are, you’d have done more than consider it. Serena’s quite a character. She claims to be descended from a long line of gypsies and does seem to have some psychic abilities. She’s still telling fortunes and putting curses on the marks. Usually the ones who don’t give her a tip.

“While I’m not as psychic as my mother, sometimes I can predict things. Since you three are the most realistic zombies I’ve ever employed, I have a feeling your stars are on the rise.”

“That gives me goose bumps,” said Jo Jo, as she batted her eyelashes at Lore. The firelight played on her gruesome face, but even fake rotting zombie flesh couldn’t stop the college senior from flirting with an attractive man. “Now finish answering my questions. Please.”

“Life as a carnie gave me a severe case of wanderlust. I couldn’t stand being tied down working a regular job. I saved up until I could afford the RV over there. Every Halloween I lease a few acres in the woods of whatever state I happen to be in. Ticket sales pay for advertising, renting the flatbed trailer and actors’ salaries. What’s left over usually lasts long enough to get me through until the next Halloween. If it doesn’t, I take on odd jobs wherever the road takes me. It’s not the life for everyone, but it suits me.”

“So, what’s with your name, dude?” asked Dusty.

“Serena wanted a girl and her favorite name was Lorelei. The German legend fascinated her.”

“What German legend?” asked Jo Jo.

“There’s a gigantic rock located at a dangerous curve of the Rhine River. A siren named Lorelei waits there until a boat approaches. Then her singing lures the sailors to their deaths.”

Clappie said, “Your mother named you after a psychotic killer siren?”

A gust of wind stirred the flames and a mournful howl from deep in the woods highlighted the long pause following her question. Lore gave Clappie a piercing look which sent shivers down her spine. She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, the congenial man she’d worked with for the past month smiled at her and said, “Apparently. But remember Serena claims to be a gypsy. Things like that intrigue her. She wanted a mythical daughter and got me instead.”

“That takes care of me. Now back to the original question. Jo Jo, what scares you? And not something silly. It’s Halloween and time to probe the terror deep within us all.”

“Speaking of terror, nice special effects, Lore.” Dusty pointed his long neck at the fog drifting across the lake toward their campfire.

Lore gave Dusty a mock salute.

Jo Jo’s giggle came off as nervous and strained. “I’m afraid of stalkers.”

“Oh, give me a break, you narcissistic piece of work,” Clappie said. “Nobody’s stalking you.”

“I know, but there’s a reason they scare me. When I was six a man driving a van pulled up in front of my house while I played hopscotch on the sidewalk. He leaned over, opened the passenger door and said he lost his puppy and asked if I would help him find it. He seemed nice and so sad. I really wanted to help him, but remembered the “stranger danger” phrase.

“When I told him I couldn’t help, he jumped out of the van and came for me. I ran screaming to the house and as he grabbed my ponytail my dad opened the door. The man turned and ran. They never caught him.”

“You never told me that story. I’m sorry about being such a bitch. That’s awful.”

Jo Jo gave her roommate a shaky smile. “I’ve never told anyone that story. It freaks me out to even think about it. I don’t know why I told you guys. I should have said I’m afraid of spiders.” She looked into Lore’s eyes and shivered. He’s not smiling, but he still looks positively gleeful. She turned away and said, “Who’s next?”

The remaining two college students looked at each other.

Lore said, “Maybe we should quit this. I had no idea it would be so upsetting to you. It’s always been a fun tradition at the end of the hayrides. I feel terrible.”

Clappie looked up and said, “No. That’s not fair to Jo Jo. It’s my turn. I’m afraid of fire.” She stared into the flames dancing in the campfire.

“Well, maybe not so much fire as being burned alive. I also had a traumatic experience when I was young. My sister, brother and I stole some candles and matches from the house and snuck out to an old panel truck that belonged to my grandfather. The seats were ripped up with some kind of white stuffing sticking out like bloated, half-melted marshmallows. We kept lighting and blowing out the candles, pretending it was our birthdays.

“We had so much fun until I held a match too long and it burned my finger. I dropped the match onto the stuffing and it immediately flared up. We all turned to run. I remember thinking if we could get to the hose and spray the fire we wouldn’t get in trouble. But I was in bigger trouble than getting a spanking.

“The flames caught my hair on fire. My brother turned back and saw what happened. He tackled me into the dirt. Poor little guy. He burned the palms of his hands trying to put out the flames. It only took a few seconds for most of my hair to burn off and the back of my neck got burned.”

She lifted her hair and leaned over for her friends to look at the puckered skin. “I never put my hair up and this is why.”

Clappie took a deep breath and said, “So, Lore, that’s why Smoky the Bear is my bestest friend in the whole wide world.”

After the somewhat hysterical laughter died down, Dusty said, “I guess it’s my turn. I’m afraid of love. Yeah, I know. Sounds lame, but my mom used to drink – a lot. My dad finally couldn’t take it and left us.

“The night he left was horrible. My mother howled, cried and pleaded with him. It became a segment from a bad reality show. She even fell to the ground and threw her arms around his legs. He had to drag her along the floor to get out the front door.

“The entire time she kept screaming how much she loved him. After that she was always drunk. Dad never forgot to send child support, but he did forget to come see me. Two years later he remarried and the day after we heard the news, I came home from school to find my mother dead. She hung herself from a light fixture in the living room. I was fourteen.

“I went to live with my father and his wife who was pregnant. They had a daughter and I could tell they resented me intruding on their happy little lives. Dad couldn’t stand me being around because I looked like my mother. My stepmother seemed to think insanity is catching and avoided me. I couldn’t wait to leave for college.”

Dustys' laugh contradicted the bitterness in his eyes. “Love’s not for me. Love will fucking kill you.”

Everyone stared into the flames until Clappie couldn’t take the silence. She looked at Lore and said, “You were absolutely right. That was a fun tradition!” She held up her bottle of beer in a toast.

“To fear!”

As one, all three friends rose and clinked their bottles together. “To fear!”

Jo Jo looked at Lore, who remained seated.

“What scares you?”

“You do. All of you.” He smiled and said, “Now get out of here and go break a leg, or whatever you’re supposed to say to theatrical types. It’s been a pleasure working with you. I imagine I’ll see you on the big screen someday.”

* *

Clappie examined her naked body in the full-length mirror, leaned in and peered at her face.

Damn. Look at those crow’s feet. I really should quit smoking. And my boobs seem to sag more every day. My agent’s right. I’m going to have to make an appointment with a plastic surgeon if I want to keep working. That sucks. I’ll bet Bette Davis never had to get a boob job.

She pulled on the robe provided by the luxury hotel, walked back into the room and picked up the script she’d tossed on the bed. She had time to memorize a few more lines before the driver would arrive to pick her up for the premiere.

She propped four pillows up against the headboard and got comfortable. She grabbed the pack of smokes sitting on the bedside table, lit one and took a satisfying drag. Opening the script to a page marked with a post-it, she began to read the words out loud, but after a few minutes her thoughts began to wander to the upcoming event.

The Halloween release of Global Swarming was being hailed as one of the few fall blockbusters. She hated the hoopla associated with movie releases, but tonight would be special because her two co-stars – her family – would be joining her at the Halloween bash after the premiere.

She put the script down, lit another cigarette and thought about Jo Jo and Dusty. They’d all made it, just as Lore predicted. None of them even had to struggle. In the spring after they worked together as zombies at the haunted hayride, they collected their diplomas, marched off the stage and into successful film careers. She considered it downright spooky how easy it had been for them. And now they’d made a zombie movie together.

Closing her eyes, she mumbled, “Art imitates life.”

Clappie softly snored as the lit cigarette held between her fingers dropped onto the script on her lap. A dirty brown circle began to form and within seconds flames engulfed the pages.

* *

Naked, Jo Jo dove into the pool and swam underwater to the shallow end. She burst out of the water, still as lovely as a Greek goddess thanks to studio money and plastic surgery. With her arms balanced on the edge of the pool, she treaded water and gazed into the woods which bordered her property. She closed her eyes and thought about the upcoming premiere.

They’ll be shocked when I show up wearing the Vera Wang zombie wedding dress. Screw the majority vote. This is Halloween. We’re supposed to dress up. I suppose Clappie will give me shit, but after all these years I can take it. This is going to be fun!

She opened her eyes and screamed. An enormous man stood above her. In her vulnerable position he seemed to be ten feet tall. He wore black pants and a gray silk shirt. His slicked back dark hair glistened with gel.

Mindful of her nudity, Jo Jo quit treading water and placed the balls of her feet firmly on the side of the pool.

Maybe he can’t swim. If I have to, I can stay in the middle of the pool.

Trying to sound authoritative she shouted, “Get off my property! I’m calling the police right now!”

The man slowly brought his right hand from behind his back. In it he held what looked like a machete. “Diablo,” he whispered.

Jo Jo didn’t wait around for further introductions. She bent her knees, shoved off from the side of the pool and twisted her body to be face down in the water.

I can get away. I have to.

Her head snapped back out of the water, her hair tangled between his massive fingers.

This time I don’t think my father is going to open the door and save me. This time…

* *

Smiling, Dusty opened the door, halfway expecting to see Jo Jo and Clappie even though they weren’t supposed to meet until the red carpet walk before the premiere. A young woman with a bruise on her face stood behind the rolling cart.

“Room service.”

“I didn’t order room service.”

She looked around the room in confusion. It finally dawned on Dusty she wasn’t wearing a hotel uniform.

“You don’t work here, do you?”

“No, but I…”

He sighed and said, “Please don’t say anything else. Just leave.”

“But I need to tell you…”

“No you don’t. This kind of thing has happened before. I want you out of my room right now or I’ll call hotel security.”

“Cops,” she sneered. “Did they help me with this?” She pointed at the bruise on her face. “Or this?”

She ripped open her blouse with such violence one of the buttons flew right at Dusty. He reflexively ducked.

Aww, shit. Here we go. I can see the tabloids tomorrow. I wonder what scenario she’ll feed them and how much her payoff will be?

“You never paid any attention to me!” she screamed. “I loved you and you didn’t do anything to stop him!”

Dusty looked in horror at the woman’s breasts. Not only were they mottled with fist-sized patches of purple and yellow, he could see open wounds and scabs which could only have come from the embers of a lit cigarette. His stomach churned and bile began to rise in his throat.

“Listen, lady. I don’t know what you’re talking about, but let me get you some help. I’m going to call the front desk and ask them to send up a medic for you.”

“Stop!” She leaned over and fumbled underneath the white tablecloth on the rolling cart.

I wonder how she got that cart? Where’s the real server?

She straightened up and pointed a gun at him. “Suicide pacts are romantic, don’t you think? I love you.”

Love will fucking kill you. Where did I hear that?

* *

“…and Officer Brady told me there were no signs of foul play. Just three dead students around a smoldering campfire down by the lake. Brady’s a regular here, just like Arnie over there. Right Arnie?” she asked the man wearing a grubby shirt with a patch above the pocket identifying him as Arnold.

“Right as rain, Suzy Q.” Arnie continued cramming fries into his mouth with one hand, while the other kept brushing away the dangling construction paper spider attached to a fake cobweb left over from Halloween.

“I’m telling ya, I never saw Brady shook up about anything, but he was shook up today. I told him they should test those kids for drugs. That’s what I think happened. All the kids up at the university use drugs. That’s a fact.”

Suzy poured the customer seated in front of her another cup of coffee as she wiped down the counter. “It’s a shame though. I heard all three of them planned on being actors.” She shook her head. “So sad.”

Despite the melancholy pronouncement, the green-eyed man observed her face was flushed with excitement. He raised the cup of coffee to his lips. As he gently blew to cool the scalding liquid, the corner of his mouth twitched in what might have been a smile.


Kat Nove

I'm a native Texan who would rather pour a colony of fire ants down my ear canal than listen to country & western music. Willie Nelson is the exception to this rule.

My website is https://babblethenbite.com/

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