Authors: Tim Curran
“Something black and of the night had come
crawling out of the Middle Ages.”
There was a blizzard waiting in the wings threatening to dump another three to four feet of snow, but Morris was unconcerned because he figured they could outrun it. He was a TV producer for godsake. The sort of guy that squeezed extra dollars from emaciated budgets and fought scheduling and uppity suits from the front office. He and deadlines were old enemies: they had met on the field of battle again and again and he’d always come out victorious
. This time would be no different. To him, the blizzard was just another deadline and he would beat it.
“I don’t like the looks of this,” Wenda told him, studying the frozen white world through the windows.
Now that it was night it looked even more threatening than it had an hour before.
“Just a quick shoot,” Morris told her, “and we’re out of here.”
From the front of the bus, Burt said, “She’s getting rough out there, people. This keeps up we’re going to need skis.”
“More driving, less commentary,” Morris told him.
But he was right and Wenda knew it.
The snow was flying thick in the headlights of the bus. It was piling up heavy on the road before them in snaking currents of white. Drifts were pushing in from both sides and they hadn’t seen anything resembling a town in well over an hour now since they’d cut off the main highway and onto the secondary road. A city girl born and bred, Wenda did not like the idea of being trapped in a blizzard out here in this godawful desolation. Hell, there wasn’t even a Starbucks within sixty miles, she joked to the others, and she wasn’t much without a hot Caffè Misto. But, all kidding aside, if they got stuck out here with that blizzard raging they’d be buried alive.
“Are we lost?” Bailey said from the back.
There was an aggravated sigh from Megga. “Nobody gets lost these days, princess. They call it OnStar…
Mole and Reg ignored it all, both of them obsessively toying about with their equipment: the DAT unit, HD video, light meters, laptops, and peripherals. They were in their own techie fantasy zone and oblivious to the world around them. Doc was snoozing.
Wenda knew the logical, practical thing was to call this off and make for the main highway while they still could, but there was no way Morris would admit defeat. The ghost town shoot was too important to him. More so, it was important for the network and the sponsors who’d already paid big bucks.
Burt had the radio on and the National Weather Service wa
s still broadcasting its alerts, which had become warnings and traveler’s advisories now. They were calling for an unprecedented 36 inches of snow in the next twenty-four hours with gale force winds blowing at fifty-miles-an-hour which would push the wind chill down into the single digits. Back in the city, Manhattan was already getting nailed with blowing and drifting snow and they were closing Fifth Avenue, which was pretty much like cutting the throat of Midtown.
Yeah, great day for a fucking location shoot,
“We’re getting close now,” Burt announced as the shadows grew long. “About five minutes we should see it.”
“This is the shits,” Mole said. “No service on my cell, no internet for my laptop. Damn, it’s like the Middle Ages here.”
“So you’ll be porn-free for a couple hours. Do you some good,” Morris said.
That got laughs from Reg and Bailey.
Megga saw it as an opportunity. “He’s right, Mole-Man. Maybe if you gently wean yourself from chickswithdicks.com you might learn to appreciate the real thing.”
“Oh, I know all about the real thing,” he told her.
She chuckled. “As if.”
Wenda sighed. On your average day of shooting, she knew, things could get a little tense with this crew…but out here, in the confined spaces of the bus, there would be blood in the offing. Although Bailey was sweet-natured and vacuous, Megga had an evil streak in her a mile wide and was not above putting it to work against Reg and Mole, particularly Mole. There was nothing she enjoyed better than demeaning his maleness at every opportunity with a constant string of barbs concerning his sexual preference or lack thereof. She would keep at him until he got pissed and then Reg would come to his defense and Bailey would get upset and Doc would try to counsel them with sage advice until Morris lost it and yelled at all of them.
It was coming,
could sense the venom welling up inside Megga and it was only a matter of time before she sank her fangs in someone. This group was almost comically dysfunctional on the best of days, but trapped in the bus with that storm descending on them, things were more tense than usual.
“We gotta almost be on top of your ghost town right now,” Burt said over his shoulder to Morris. The bus lurched as it moved up a hill. The road was zigzagging and Burt slowed, cut to the left then to the right. Everyone seemed to be holding on tight. The snow in the headlights was thick as drifting silt in the belly of a sunken ship. As he banked another turn, the headlights swept over a hilltop crowded with leaning monuments and old tombs jutting from the snowpack. For one brief second, Wenda thought she saw someone standing in the darkness just inside the stone wall that encircled it. Someone whose eyes shined yellow in the bus lights.
“Hey…did you see that?” Burt said. “Now that was weird.”
“What?” Megga said, always in search of the weird wherever she could find it.
“I saw someone standing there by the graves,” Burt told her.
“Out here?” Morris said. “In the storm?”
“Maybe I just imagined it,” Burt admitted, but from the tone of his voice it was obvious he did not believe that at all.
“I saw it, too,” Wenda said. “Its eyes were yellow.”
Morris swallowed. “Now listen, kid, this horror-thing is our bread-and-butter, but let’s not go believing it ourselves. C’mon already. Remember, Cobton, our ghost town, is damn old. What you saw was probably one of them statues people used to put up. You know, an angel or something.”
“Yes, a Death Angel. Sometimes they’re statues and sometimes they’re not,” Megga said, notching things up as she always did.
Wenda did not bother defending her position. She had seen it. The gooseflesh that spread over her arms and up her spine was testament to that, and statues did not have eyes. Shining eyes.
It seemed like at that moment everyone tapped into what she was feeling. They went silent and the atmosphere was thick and ominous. The only sounds were the rumble of the bus’s engine, the frantic
of the wipers, and the sound of the wind throwing snow against the windows.
Burt lit a cigarette, breaking the anxiety. “What a drive,” he said.
“Hey!” Morris said. “No smoking. This a rental for chrissake.”
“My union contract clearly states that I get a fifteen minute break for every three hours I work,” Burt
explained, the cigarette smoldering in the corner of his mouth. “I been driving for closer to four. Besides, my nerves ain’t for shit right now. I been staring through this windshield for too fucking long. I’m seeing shit.”
“What sort of shit?” Megga asked him.
“The sort of shit that ain’t there, honey.”
Bailey was getting scared and Megga held her hand. Reg and Mole had completely forgotten about their gadgets. Morris was staring at the windshield, clicking his pen. The snow seemed heavier, the wind making a low moaning sound like death exhaled from the belly of the graveyard they had just passed. More twists and turns in the road. The bus bumped over drifts and potholes.
“There…” Burt said, blowing smoke out his nose. “Your ghost town is down in the hollow below, Morris. I just saw it. Looks pitch black. Ain’t a light to be seen.”
“The caretakers should be there,” Morris said. “They better be: I’m paying them.”
“Well, if they are,” Burt offered, “then they sure as hell ain’t afraid of the dark.”
As Burt moved the bus carefully down towards Cobton, Doc Blood came awake, yawned and stretched, then smiled. “Ah, a refreshing little
he said. “It does a body good.”
“You can sleep anywhere,” Reg said.
“It’s a gift he has,” Morris said.
“More than a gift,” Doc
told them, “it’s a matter of discipline. When I was in ‘Nam we barely got any sleep. Dexies to get you going and Bennies to take you down. We’d come in off patrol and three hours later we were going back out again. We were lucky if we got in a solid eight hours of rack-time a week. That’s when I learned to turn all my down time into refreshing sleep. I nodded off between firefights, on choppers, during briefings. I became a master of slumber. I practice it to this day.”
“You should teach me,” Megga said. “Most nights I wander from one end of my apartment to the other in daze.”
“Kinda like she does all day,” Mole said.
“Piss off,” Megga told him.
“You should eat more fruits and vegetables,” Bailey suggested. “I sleep like a baby every night.”
Megga rolled her eyes.
Doc reached in his coat for a pack of Marlboros and lit up much to Morris’s chagrin. “Do you have troubling dreams?” he asked her, running a hand through his thick white locks. “Often dreams are the seat of trouble. Look at me. For years I had a continuing nightmare that I was going about my day clad only in underwear. It’s true. I stopped wearing them and the dreams faded. Often, when I’m alone, I go about my day entirely unclothed. There’s nothing like a nice fire, a good book, and your own nakedness.”
It was Wenda’s turn to roll her eyes.
Before anyone could comment on what he’d said, Megga began telling him in detail about her own reoccurring dreams which involved rusty sawblades, impaled kittens, and plastic baby doll heads in her closet that could be heard licking their lips in the dead of night. Doc listened, then searched for a root cause.
“Hmm, most un
usual,” he said, pulling off his cigarette. “Baby doll heads.”
“Her closet’s probably full of them,” Mole said.
“It is. She collects them,” Bailey put in.
They’re all fucking whackos,
Playing the horror bit was one thing, but Megga lived it. Wenda had gone to her place once for dinner and it was absolutely disturbing…much like Megga herself who slept in a room painted black with two beds—one for her and one for the mannequin she called Missy Creep. Wenda was pretty sure Doc wasn’t going to be able to do a three-minute analysis on this girl; it would take months to sift through her shocking array of psychological baggage.
Megga, Megga, Megga.
Wenda could never be a hundred percent sure whether Megga was just the consummate actress or the real thing. On set, she was professional. Incredibly professional. She never missed a cue, never dropped a line. But what about the real Megga? That was hard to know. She was so good at role-playing that it was nearly impossible to get a glimpse of the real her. Wenda was never sure whether she was just an unbelievably good, natural actress or a thing that sucked blood by night.
Don’t put it past her. Don’t put anything past her.
In the headlights, Wenda could just make out bits of the town below—a steeple, a jagged roofline, a crooked chimney. The sight of it made something move in her belly with a slow crawl.
“Lots of drifts over the road going in,” Burt said. “Hang on tight, I’m going to have to give her some speed to punch our way through.”
“I wonder why the caretakers have all the lights off,” Bailey mused, mostly to herself.
Megga laughed wickedly.
“That,” Doc said, “is what we’ll find out very soon now, for better or worse.”
Chamber of Horrors. Fridays at Midnight