We interrupt this posting to tell you about upcoming posts.

It’s Halloween! Yay!

Usually (as in, the past 3 years), I do Halloween/horror/serial killer-themed posts. Since the latest “The Werewolf and . . .” story stretched out waaaaaaaaaay longer than I expected (thanks, Life!), I’ve been a bit behind. I do have a couple of posts, and I’ll put them up later, but I have to unfortunately run repeats as well to meet my personal quota of 10 Halloween posts.

First off, The Buddy Holly Curse, which proved to be one of my more popular posts. It even got me Freshly Pressed.

I actually already posted it, before writing this.

Guess I should have done that differently . . . oh well. Enjoy.

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The Buddy Holly Curse

Originally posted on grafiklit:

I don’t think you could definitely say that there is a curse associated with 1950s rock-n-roller Buddy Holly; you could probably safely karaoke “Peggy Sue” or “That’ll Be the Day” and not wind up dead the next day. (Note the  definitely and probably. Those adverbs clear me of any liability if you sing any of his songs and get stabbed by a crazed karaoke hater.) However, there have been a number of unfortunate incidents associated with Holly, so let’s sprinkle a ring of salt around us and get started, shall we?

I suppose some background is in order. Buddy Holly was born Charles Holley, on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. I spent almost two years in Lubbock. It’s dusty, windy, and full of dirt. There’s a Buddy Holly statue in a park, and you can see his grave in, uh, a graveyard. Buddy was his longtime nickname; Decca Records, who first…

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pizzahut

The Werewolf and the Pizza Hut – 15

Around midnight, we ventured into the back of Pizza Hut to check for water and food. We hoped that the staff hadn’t cleared out the walk-in freezer prior to the evacuation, and that the product inside it would still be edible. David had visions of pepperoni slices sandwiched between more pepperoni slices; I was hoping that the hamburger meat they used was raw and not the pre-cooked, flash frozen variety.

David found a gallon jug of spring water on top of the pizza oven. The cap was still sealed. We drained half of it, then tucked it away for later. Until the water hit my tongue, I hadn’t realized how thirsty I’d been.

We sloshed on to the freezer. I was in the lead with the flashlight while David stayed close behind me with the gun, keeping a hand on my shoulder. The flashlight threw crazy shadows everywhere; by the time I put a hand on the freezer door, I’d spotted the man-shark crouching on top of a rack of pizza pans, inside the pizza oven, and beside a shelving unit full of keep-warm delivery pouches.

The door was ajar. There was also a sadly familiar smell radiating from inside the freezer. I knew what was inside, but I forced open the door anyway, and sighed when David squeezed my shoulder.

“Safer than the roof, huh?” I said.

We’d found Marco the Man-Shark’s food cache. He’d stashed the torn remnants of the clowns from the pharmacy, and the two cryptozoologists on the freezer’s shelves. The boxes of pizza dough and meat products that had been on the shelves now bobbed in the water.

BJ the firefighter and Evan Jarrett were missing. He’d eaten them already, I guessed.

“We need to get out of here,” David whispered.

“We can’t go outside,” I said. “He knows we’re in here.”

“We can’t stay, Elizabeth.”

I rubbed my eyes. “I feel safer inside. Let’s stick to the plan and make it to morning.”

We made it back to the front counter. The water had receded a little; by the time morning came, the tabletops in the dining area would be visible.

We hopped up on the counter and sat back-to-back. David took the first watch over my protests, but I was asleep a few minutes after griping.

- – – – – – – – – -

Meanwhile, Bobby Beggs, having checked that his place was relatively undamaged, made his way to first David’s house and then mine. Finding us at neither residence, he decided that maybe, just maybe, we really were still on-duty, although in Bridge City and not Riverside.

He drove to Bridge City, a trip that took almost two hours. He reached the collection of RVs, canopies, and tents that housed the first responders assigned to the town, along with a few news crews, around three in the morning. They were spread out across the high school baseball field; it was one of the higher areas in the town. The rest of Bridge City was underwater.

Beggs spent another hour looking for us, and eventually discovered we weren’t there, that we had never been there, but there was a male and female deputy duo from Orange County with a TCNN crew. In a rare moment of clarity, he deduced there had been a mix-up, and that we might be in trouble.

- – – – – – – – – -

Around the time Beggs found the ball field, I came to and found I was inside the freezer, holding some guy’s arm.

I started, uttered something that sounded like “Gurrk!” and dropped the arm into the water. Ker-splash.

I backed out of the freezer, desperately trying to decide if the taste in my mouth was from sleeping or from scavenging. I had never had the urge to snack on a corpse before, but I had also never gone so long without eating, and what were those rib-eyes and pork chops I enjoyed so much but corpses of animals, really, when you came down to it?

“Not the same thing,” I muttered. I tried to spit, but my mouth was too dry. I thought about poking a finger down my throat, but then I heard David call my name. He sounded scared.

I splashed back to him, found him crouched on the counter, the gun and flashlight pointed at the empty buffet table. The water had dropped down a bit more. I climbed on the counter next to him.

“He’s here,” David whispered.

“Shit. Where?”

“I saw his fin. Right over there. I don’t know how he got in here, I’ve been watching the front.”

We watched the salad bar for a few minutes. Nothing. Finally, David said, “Where did you go? You never told me.”

“I . . . I think I was sleepwalking. I just woke up in the freezer.”

“The freezer? What were you doing–“

Saved by the man-shark. He chose that moment to pop out of the water in front of David, like Jaws in that old Universal Studios ride. David flung himself backward, which saved his face, but put him into the water. I managed to grab Marco’s arm, but wound up in the water too.

I bounced to my feet; the water barely reached my chest now. I couldn’t see shit in the water. The windows in the restaurant let a little light in, but the water was black.

Something bumped my leg.

“Elizabeth!” David had climbed atop the counter again.

Another bump against the other leg.

Enough of this.

I snarled, dropped under the water, grabbed where I thought the man-shark might be. My fingers touched something rough that was vaguely arm-shaped, and wrapped around it, squeezed hard.

Marco thrashed and sank his teeth into my shoulder, but I held on, managed to stand and haul him out of the water.

“Shoot!” I screamed at David. “Shoot!”

“You’re in the way!” he yelled back.

I tried to shift the man-shark around and got a chunk torn out of my shoulder. I punched him in the jaw and got my knuckles scraped down nearly to bone.

The white membranes on his eyes blinked back, revealing those human brown eyes. “You hit hard,” he whispered.

I swung again. He ducked. I lost my grip on his arm. He stayed low and tackled me, went for my stomach while we both went down into the drink.

I felt his teeth press against my belly, and I went for his eyes. My right thumb punched through his left eye.

He let me go, and I clumsily backed away and broke the surface. My back hit the counter. I saw his fin head for the front of the restaurant and then disappear.

pizzahut

The Werewolf and the Pizza Hut – 14

My back scraped against the Pizza Hut’s parking lot. Marco had wrapped his arms around my legs. I tried kicking him off, and he sank his teeth into my right side. I swear I felt his teeth scrape against a rib.

He shook his head, ripped free a chunk, and let me go.

The pain was intense, spiraling from my side down to my legs. Adrenaline took over and got me standing, hands clasped to the ragged hole just below my rib cage. I gasped once I breached the surface. I was standing in water clouded with my blood, barely hearing David screaming my name. I was healing, but way slower than was normal. Lack of food and water, I guessed, right before Marco took me down again.

He had me around the legs again, and this time he went for my stomach. I felt his head dart forward, and managed to sock him on the fleshy bump that passed for his ear. His grip loosened a little, but not long enough for me to do anything with it. My lungs burned. I’d gotten jack shit for air before he’d pulled me under the water.

Then he was back at me, his teeth finding my arm. He crunched down, breaking my forearm. I hit him again with my left fist, got him to let go of my arm. Not my legs though, and I realized that in addition to bleeding to death, I was drowning.

Then he did let go, and I bolted up, sucked in air. My legs were weak and shaky. They lasted long enough for two lungfuls of precious O2 before giving way.

Something grabbed my uninjured arm before I plunged all the way under. Not Marco again. I couldn’t take another round. I tried a roundhouse with my broken arm, despite the burst of agony. I totally missed what ended up being David’s head.

“Whoa,” he said. He changed his grip, wrapping his arms around me and hugging my back to his chest. “Come on, I got you.”

“You’re in danger,” I panted. We moved closer to the restaurant; during the attacks, Marco and I had ended up almost at the trailer.

“Then move faster,” he said.

I tried. The pain in my side had lessened, and I could feel the bones in my arm knitting back together. It was a sensation that I still hadn’t gotten used to, the way my skin and bones felt like they were being physically pulled together.

“Where are we going?” We’d passed the air conditioning unit that led up to the roof.

“Inside,” he said.

“What? No–“

“Well, you know, the roof turned out to be not so safe.”

We reached a side door marked EMPLOYEES ENTRANCE ONLY. David asked me if I was okay to stand on my own. I nodded. He tugged, then pushed, on the door’s metal handle. “Locked, come on,” he muttered.

“High-value pizza dough inside,” I said. “Try shooting the lock. It works on TV.”

“Yes, let’s check injury by ricochet off our bucket lists,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, I’d just kick the door open, but I knew I was too weak. I leaned against the brick. Marco could come back at any second, and we’d never know it until we were under the water. “Try the front,” I said. “The windows.”

We splashed our way around the restaurant. David broke one of the large panes of glass with the butt of his gun, and after clearing a path, we climbed inside. It was just as wet inside, but I felt a little safer with four walls around us.

We made our way to the ordering counter at the front of the dining room. It was the only surface that would keep us out of the water, not that that had proven to do any good.

“How are you?” David asked. My undershirt was bloody and torn, but that really wasn’t an uncommon occurrence with me. He clicked on his flashlight and pointed its beam at my side.

I lifted my shirt. Most of the blood had washed away, and the skin was whole and bright pink. There was a faint pale outline of Marco’s jaws, but that would fade in time. My arm was sore, but it too was healed. “I’m okay,” I said. I dropped my shirt. “Just really tired.” And hungry, I wanted to add, but I knew he was too. It was just that my hunger was dangerous.

We sat in the dark, back to back. We were soaked, filthy, and shoeless. It was quiet, save for crickets and the occasional bullfrog.

Then there was a splash, and I jumped. David said, “That was a fish.”

“You sure?”

“Nope.”

“I hate this.”

“It’ll be light soon. I think it’s brighter already, actually.”

I looked at my watch. “I have ten at night. Brighter, my ass.”

He sighed. “I tried. Get some sleep. I’ll keep watch.”

“I can’t sleep. David, what are we going to do?”

“Make it until morning. The S.O. has to have noticed we’re not back by then. They’ll send help. And BJ, remember him? So the fire department will be looking. And CNN will be missing their crew. It’ll be okay.”

“I hope you’re right.” I scrubbed my face with my hands.

Outside, there was another splash. Fish, I told myself. The man-shark doesn’t splash.

The thought was not comforting.

The Werewolf and the Pizza Hut – 13

bloodywater

That evening, while David took first watch and I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep (and tried to ignore my increasing hunger), Bobby Beggs stormed around the Oak Forest Middle School gym. He was convinced that David and I were holed up at either David’s place or mine, enjoying the comforts of home via a generator and generally being derelict in our duties.

But since as far as Lieutenant Harris knew, we’d ended up in Bridge City instead of Riverside, she refused to send anyone to check on us, at least until morning. And maybe not even then, since the sheriffs of the affected counties, plus all the mayors and other lesser bigwigs, were on their way back from their safe haven in Nacogdoches. As it turned out, she would be too tied up with them to do that, leaving Beggs to take matters into his own hands, and leading to the only time in my life when I would be happy to see that redneck, racist, misogynistic dipshit.

Until that time, I fake-slept curled on my right side, my back to David. I had my arms pressed against my stomach, and I could feel it rumbling against them. This was not optimum. I had never gone so long without food. I’d always had the feeling that do so would be bad. I didn’t have these razor-sharp choppers to eat Pop-Tarts.

My stomach bellowed. David touched my arm. “Are you okay?”

I rolled on my back. “No. I’m hungry.” I sat up. “Starving.” I still had the protein bar in a pouch on my gun belt; I’d taken it off shortly after climbing back onto the roof, along with my boots and socks. I had a feeling that my feet would never be dry again. I reached for the belt, unsnapped the pouch, and took it out. “This is stupid,” I muttered. “I was right there. I could’ve gone into that meat place. Hell, I could’ve snagged us some water from inside the pharmacy.”

“Stop,” David said. “It’s not your fault. Come on, eat up.” He pulled his legs up to his chest and hugged them.

I unwrapped the bar and offered it to him. “Half,” I said. He shook his head. I hesitated a second, then ate it. I could almost feel it hit the bottom of my stomach. It didn’t help. I might as well have swallowed air.

“Fuck this,” I said, a bit louder than I intended. I glanced over at the other end of the roof, where the cryptozoologists had bedded down. They were vague dark shapes in the gloom. They didn’t stir. I sighed and scrubbed my face with both hands. “I can’t take this, Mercy. I need to get to that meat.”

“Wait until daylight.”

“No. No, I . . . I’m scared what will happen if I wait much longer.”

“It should be light in four or five hours, just wait.”

“You’re not listening–“

Screams. Then a splash. David and I shot to our feet. He aimed his gun and flashlight at the cryptozoologists’s end of the roof. The cameraman, Luther, was gone. Todd was on his hands and knees, bent over the edge of the roof. When David’s flashlight beam hit him, he turned his head toward us. “He’s gone! Marko took him!”

“Get away from the edge!” I shouted. I took a step to him, then the man-shark grabbed him around the head.

David fired his gun in their general direction, in an attempt to scare the shark away. It didn’t work. Todd was pulled down. I ran, skidding to my knees when I neared the edge. I kept sliding.

“Shit!” My legs went off the edge. I twisted, got my fingers in the metal of the roof, and prayed for purchase. No go. I continued to slide.

My hips, then stomach, left the roof. Of all the times not to be religious . . .

I heard the screeching of metal. I began to slow. My fingertips ached, and that ache was familiar. My claws had come out.

Way to go, werewolf, I thought. Way to go

I landed in the water. Sploosh.

It was too warm and too dark. I shot for the surface, gasped while my head whipped around for Marco the Man-Shark’s stubby fin.

“Elizabeth!” David hit me with the flashlight beam. “Hold on! Give me your hand!” The light left me. I looked up. He was on his belly, his arms outstretched. His hand was in easy reach. I lifted mine.

Then Marco pulled me under.

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The Werewolf and the Pizza Hut – 12

6a00d8341bf67c53ef0167678f4aaf970b-800wi-3 As I’ve stated before, I’m scared of sharks. It strikes me as a much more reasonable phobia than a fear of the number 13 or of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

What I was facing right then was every selachophobic’s nightmare: a real damn landshark in–I had to pop my head up twice to make sure–a silver Speedo.

My third peek over the aisle shelves, the man-land-shark tossed Jaxson Abshire over the pharmacy counter. After splashdown, he hopped onto the counter, and I decided to split while his finned back was turned.

I tried to be quiet, but I also had to be quick, so I made noise. Still, I kept going, my ears pricked for the splash that meant Jabber Jaws was coming for me. I was in arm’s reach of the shutter door when he spoke.

“Goodbye.”

I expected a raspy gravel voice, but what I got was a pleasant tenor. I turned. His back was still to me. Had he even spoken to me? “I’ll see you and your friends later tonight,” he said.

I drew my gun. My hands shook. I doubted I could hit him, but I felt better with it in my hands. He dove forward. At his splash, I made for the exit.

I slipped under the door and popped up on the other side, nearly banging into David. “Shit!” I grabbed his shirt. “What are you doing here? Go! GO!”

He talked while I shoved him. “We heard gunshots, then I saw those two guys leave the pharmacy–where are the others? What were those shots? Sounded like a shotgun–“

“Yes, yes, all that, just go Mercy please, here, get up on this car, come on–“

He let me boost him up onto the car closest to the trailer. Once I’d climbed aboard, he resumed his questions. Finally, I raised my hands. “All right, okay, just be quiet a second, okay?”

He gave me exactly a second before asking me, “Did you kill those two guys?”

“No. It was the man-shark.”

He looked over my shoulder, at the pharmacy. “Is it still in there?”

“I don’t know. Look, I’ll tell you more once we’re back at the Pizza Hut, all right?”

So back we went. Once we’d sat our dripping asses on the hot metal roof, I told David and the cryptozoologists what happened inside the drug store. I expected questions, but all I got were grunts and the occasional head shake. The crypto guys already knew the man-shark talked, and they seemed excited by the prospect of a visit from him.

By the time I finished, it was late evening, and it didn’t seem like help was coming. We were thirsty, sunburned, and, most important to me, hungry. I had no idea what would happen if I went much longer without food, but I didn’t think it would be good.