• ERIC BUTLER

House of the Dark One: Donn, TX -1969 Part 4

The next installment in the tales of the Donn, TX Motel focuses on 4 travelers in the year 1969. Part 4 has our 4 travelers separated - Jane and Frank are searching for Cindy and Mary. This is a mature series - you've been warned.






***

Jerry stood behind the counter. He wanted to enjoy the summer heat since it was the last day before he sank back into the darkness. Oh, he might make an appearance in a few months when the barrier was weaker, but that was never guaranteed. Plus it lacked the punch of summer. Nothing like the sweet kiss of Texas in July.


Of course, if they missed their quota, he and the others would be visited with what seemed an eternity of pain. Better to make it. He worked hard to ensure that didn't happen again. After the debacle of '53, he finally learned exactly what the price of failure was; more importantly, Jerry learned exactly what they expected from him.


The door opened and closed. A man dressed in a uniform stood in the lobby and glanced around, before stepping to the counter and popping his hand down on the bell. Ding. The sound resonated through Jerry who closed his eyes. Ding. He wasn't sure, but the sensation was much worse when he was in the light. Ding. A bird flew into the window with a crunch, drawing the attention of the uniformed man.


"This can't be good, Sheriff Smite," Jerry said to the man's back.


"Jesus," he said with a jolt. "How'd you get up front so quick? Never mind, I think it's good news. There are four people on the property."


Jerry raised an eyebrow, staring silently at the man who pulled his hat off his head, running the brim through his fingers as he rocked back and forth a bit.


"Well, heading this way at least. We lost sight of two of them, but there's a couple walking on the blacktop. Can't be more than ten...fifteen minutes away from the border."


"We can only pray, but remember what happened the last time we fell short..." Jerry trailed off, his eyes locked with the Sheriff's who, after a moment, swallowed.


"No call for that," he whispered. "If these four don't work, I'll bring you more. We still have until midnight?"


Jerry nodded before offering a grin, "Best bet for you and yours is completing this job earlier than later. I can't always call the monsters back once they've been released."


The Sheriff stepped away from the counter, walking backward his eyes glued on Jerry the whole time. He stopped before running into the wall and reached over to open the door.


"Good luck Harold," Jerry called out as the man stepped through the doorway. "I'll be rooting for ya."


***


"You'd think we'd have come across them by now," Frank said breaking the silence.

Jane nodded, her thoughts still on the last thing he said. What followed him home? A burst of darkness flashed before her as she let out a cry of surprise and stumbled backward. Frank pulled her closer, using his body as a shield as the darkness swooped back towards them.


"What is wrong with this crow?" Frank asked as he swung his free arm at the bird.


Jane whimpered her eyes locked onto the bird as if fluttered to the ground. The left side of its head caved in with bits of brain and blood exposed against the dark feathers. How is it alive, let alone flying? She shuddered as the bird opened its beak wide, issuing a number of ear-piercing cries.


They watched the bird as it stumbled around, one eye always facing their direction, until it slumped to the ground with a final cry of frustration. A stiff breeze flowed over the corn, blowing dust into their faces. Frank sputtered as he turned to shield Jane as more of the grime blew towards them.


The wind howled like a beast, growing in volume until forcing them to cover their ears. The cornstalks rocked back and forth, as the wind came together in a funnel of dirt and crud spinning over the crow's carcass. Jane cracked her eyes, mesmerized by the twirling muck as it swirled over the dead bird. The funnel grew tighter as it drew closer to the blacktop.


A hush fell over Jane and Frank, the wind's cry no longer audible. The wind continued to blow as the funnel spun faster and faster. Jane's eyes popped open as she struggled to understand what she was witnessing. The tunnel began to expand, pushing outward while its tip stayed tight over the motionless bird. The shape of a man took form in the swirling madness, first kneeling but soon standing.


An unheard gasp slipped from her lips as she clung tightly to Frank as waves of fear washed over her body. The man turned his attention to them, lifting his arm until he pointed a single finger at Frank. The funnel suddenly drew in, blurring its grime with the shadowy form within. Jane realized she was holding her breath, but her body refused to respond to her mental cries as she stood frozen. The twirling mess slowed for a single moment and allowed Jane to see the man clearly. He wore deerskin pants and a shirt with long thin fringe while black feathers hung loosely from his long dark hair.


Before she could make sense of what her eyes were viewing, an explosion tore the funnel apart. Sand tore across their bodies, scouring their skin. Frank spun, scooped Jane into his arms, and rushed towards the cornfield. He staggered from the force of the wind which now seemed to follow their every step, and Jane worried they would fall before finding some cover.


Frank stepped from the road, slipping on the uneven earth. With an exclamation of surprise, he stumbled forward before losing his balance and dropping Jane to the ground. She rolled to the edge of the corn and curled up, hoping to gain some protection. She lost her breath as a sudden jerk pulled her from the ground. Opening her eyes a crack, she realized Frank carried her by her belt as the ground rushed by.


They crashed into the corn stalks, tumbling down to packed dirt. The howl of the wind increased once more until deafening. Jane watched the cloudless blue sky grow dark as the dust storm settled above the cornfield. Frank sat up, his eyes toward the sky, when the storm once again began to form a funnel. The tip stretched down past the tops of the stalks, growing thinner until slamming into Frank's face. His lips parted with a scream of terror that quickly cut short as it slipped into his mouth. The funnel spun faster until the whole thing disappeared into Frank.


After experiencing the howling winds, an unsettling quiet fell upon the cornfield. Jane kept her eyes on Frank, who now was on all fours, gasping for breath. She crawled to him. He rocked back, resting on his knees as his fingers clawed at his throat. A strangled gurgle slipped past his lips as their eyes locked. Frank's eyes shined with unshed tears, but his face took on an expression of calm. His hands slipped to his lap as he mouthed I love you.


"No," she whispered, tears streaming down her face as grit streamed from his mouth.

It poured from him, scouring his insides until blood flowed from his open mouth to pool on the earth before him. The air rushed from him with a pop, a splattering of blood sprayed out onto Jane. Frank teetered a moment, his eyes blank, before tumbling face-first into the bloody mud.


Jane stared at the body, her mouth agape as she tried to process what just happened. Her hand stretched toward Frank but froze when a breeze blew through the stalks bringing dry wheezing laughter to her ears.


"Best run," a voice suggested.


The stalks began to shudder and sway toward her. She crawled to Frank, checked his pulse. Deep sobs ripped from her chest as she moved her fingers around, hoping to find any signs of life. She wiped at her eyes and gasped. Standing a few feet away was the largest man she'd ever seen.


Besides being tall, the man was so wide he could almost be a square. She wouldn't describe the man as fat, for he carried the bulk well. Yet she wondered if it would be qualified as muscle. His overalls were torn and filthy from God knows what. His feet were bare, as were his shoulders, but upon his head, he wore a loose burlap sack.


Upon the face, someone had stitched a broad mouth and cut two eye holes. But Jane saw nothing but darkness reflected there. She scrambled to her feet and stared at the stranger.


"I said run," the man said as he pulled a hatchet from his belt loop, "A'int no fun if you don't."


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