• ERIC BUTLER

House of the Dark One: Donn, TX -1969 Part 8

The final installment in this tale of the Donn, TX Motel wraps up the 1969 year with a bang.

At the bottom, you can find part 1 if you want to go back to the beginning of the story and part 7 if you want to just reread last week's installment.


This is a mature series - you've been warned.



***


The corn stalks whipped against them as they ran blindly. Jane held up her free hand, hoping to protect her face. Loud cries sounded overhead as the crows flew above them. They ran towards the sinking sun, the light striking Jane in the eyes and stealing her sight.

Mary cried out as she pulled free of Jane's grip. The crows' caws grew in intensity as they circled overhead. Jane slid to a stop, spinning to scramble back. Mary lay on her stomach, her face in the dirt.


"Come on," Jane said as she pulled on her sister's arms.


Mary stayed limp, shaking as soundless sobs wracked through her body. The crows' circle tightened, pulling closer to the tops of the corn stalks. Their cries coming so quickly, they began to sound like taunting laughter. Jane glanced up as she continued to tug on her sister.


"Fuck off," she howled to the birds, tears of frustration streaking down her face. "Damn it Mary, get up."


The stalks began to sway as a stiff wind blew through the cornfield. A path formed between the corn, crossing over the rows already there and allowing her to view straight to the road. The scarecrow stood with the pitchfork in hand. She froze suddenly struggling to breathe.


The scarecrow reared back and flung the pitchfork down the newly formed path. Her eyes followed the projectile as it grew closer. Move! The thought echoed in her head but she stayed rooted to the spot. A soft moan slipped out as the blood-covered prongs filled her vision.


The sun slipped lower in the sky casting shadows like a net over the cornfield. Dusk in Texas...a good time to die. The thought sent a shiver down her spine and she closed her eyes. Jane stumbled back from the force of the blow before tumbling to the ground with a grunt. Surprised filled her at the lack of pain, but there was a weight that while at first strange had a sense of familiarity that forced her to open her eyes.


"No," she whispered as Mary lay on top of her, crushing her with her dead weight.


She wore a smile on her lips, but her sparkling green eyes were flat and empty as they stared up at Jane. The shaft of the pitchfork swayed in the breeze as it stood out from Mary's back. A thin trickle of blood ran from the corner of her mouth, a drop hanging from her chin.


Jane's throat tightened as her eyes began to blur with tears but not before she realized the scarecrow was hurrying towards them and a sudden burst of panic pushed Jane to her feet. She gripped Mary by the wrist and began to drag her sister's limp body away from the approaching strawman. The crows resumed their cries, no longer sounding like laughter but screeches filled with frustration and distress.


The shadows deepened as the sun was all but gone, and Jane wondered what exactly she thought she was doing. The scarecrow was closing ground and with her sister's added weight, Jane knew there was no escape. Yet she refused to stop moving back, and the thought of letting go was unimaginable.


Her ears ached from the racket the crows were producing as they flew closer and closer to her head. She hunched down, hoping to provide a smaller target but it slowed down her backward shuffle even more. The scarecrow slowed to a walk, so close now she could see the stitched-on smile that gave its face a devilish quality. Her breaths came in large huffs as she struggled to pull faster.


"The harvest is at an end and you two will be pristine additions," the scarecrow said in a raspy whisper.


The last bit of sunlight flittered away, plunging the cornfield into darkness. Jane stumbled back as Mary's weight simply disappeared. She landed on her back, driving the air from her lungs and striking her head against a rock jutting up from the hard-packed earth. Stars filled her vision before blurring away to nothingness.


***


Jane woke to bright sunlight filtering in between slots in a set of cheap plastic blinds. Her head ached. She moved to rub at her temple, startled to discover her arms handcuffed to the bars that ran the length of the bed.


"Hello?" she called out, blinking to clear her vision.


A door opened. A man in a uniform stepped into the room. He studied Jane with a flat expression before closing the door behind him. He stepped over to the far wall, grabbed the chair there, and dragged it a few feet away before sitting down.


Jane moved to ask a question but closed her mouth when he held up a finger. He scooted to the end of the chair and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees and his hands pressed together in front of his face. Jane found herself growing uncomfortable under the stranger's gaze but kept quiet.


"What do you remember Mrs. Lipman?"


Fragments of memories flashed through her head: the hooded man, the scarecrow, Frank and Mary's deaths. Tears ran down her cheeks as her throat tightened, cutting off any attempt at speech.


"Ah, well then we have a problem...you and I," he said softly. "The harvest is over and yet...here you are."


Jane continued to stare at the man, hoping her confusion reflected clearly on her face.


"Where is Mary?"


The man leaned back in the chair, crossed his arms, and sighed. "Mrs. Lipman...Jane, you know they are all gone. What you need to focus on right now is what role you'll play from this point forward."


Jane shook her head, a low wail slipping from her lips as a memory replayed. She woke up, holding her sister's arm by the wrist; a clean slice right through the forearm, and a pool of blood off to the side. She hugged the arm to her chest.


When she stood, Jane spotted the scarecrow on his perch. She turned and ran, cradling the last bit of her sister tight as she crashed through the corn stalks. The cries of the crows following after her like laughter.


"I found you walking down the center of the road holding a woman's arm and babbling about a scarecrow," the man said with a sigh. "No one is going to believe you. I know what's going on and I don't believe it. So here are your choices. You can tell your story about monsters killing everyone out there and wind up in the loony bin with your sister's murder pinned to your chest. Won't be the first person put away to stop the truth from being heard."


Jane grunted her skin crawled at the thought of being locked away in a madhouse. And yet how will I avoid it?


"Or, and this one will be hard, those with you will go down as missing persons and you will never speak about what happened. You promise to do that and I'll let you go. Do you understand?"


Jane locked eyes with the man. They were a clear deep blue, and while she might have described them as gentle or kindly if seeing them under different circumstances, today she saw only cruelty and fear. Ain't a damned thing you can do in a crazy house.


She offered the man a nod. Like he said, harvest season is over. There's time enough to figure out all this man knew about the cornfield and its inhabitants. But first I need to get out of here.


The man studied her a moment in silence before releasing a sigh. He stood and stepped closer. His hand shot out to grip her jaw tightly. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a pocket knife, pausing a moment to click it open with his thumb. A look of disappointment bloomed across his face as his fingers slipped into her mouth to grip her tongue, "I wish I could believe you, but in the end...better safe than sorry."

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