By Leilani Raven Katen
Johnny Roe (Present)
Teresa seemed to know a lot more than she gave off now. She was more cautious than most Federal officers I’ve met and known, who’ve been assigned multiple homicide cases. The one trait I noticed after the bodies were dragged out was that she looked worried, some would say, scared. Like she had seen it before and hoped to never see it again. But as my mother would say, “hope was for the privileged. You’re better off doing more than hoping… Johnny boy”.
My mother had a strange way of viewing things. She grew up on a farm in Tennessee. She was rebellious. Her mother, my grandmother Juliet wanted her to pursue a man who rode horses and cared for cattle. Like her father, my grandfather Ron. I remember visiting my grandparents three years before the death of my father. Ron stayed in the barn and worked on his projects while Juliet gushed over how big I was getting. Harriette sat on the dining table staring out at the barn, hoping she would see her father poke his head out. But he did not. I pretended not to notice these things. I played with the over-cooked eggs and tossed around the burnt sausage on my plate. Then, when she saw me looking at her, she would put on this fake smile as if I didn’t see what was happening.
When my mother turned 18, she moved to California to pursue an acting career. By age 21, she had starred in an indie film, two commercials for hairspray and one for breast enlargement pills. She starred as the before effects. A couple people recognized her on the streets. It boosted my mother’s confidence. It made her feel alive when someone would ask her to sign her autograph on a pill bottle box. When she began not receiving any acting parts, she was ridiculed and picked apart by each director who said she was too fat or tall. Not sexy enough…Even requests from directors who thought she would be “great” in a porno. Harriette was forced to work minimum wage at a diner, working fifty hours a week. My father was a regular who ordered the same meal every day; Chicken pot pie, grape soda, and a piece of” the pie of the day.” Harriette saw my father drive up with the flashy green mustang daily. Once a day, she would put a little perfume on and flash a smile at him. Time passed, and Harriette’s efforts to catch my father’s attention became tedious. Then, one night, while closing up the diner. He showed up, parked under the only street light in the diner’s parking lot, sitting on the hood of his car smoking a cigarette. I’ve only received snippets of that night and the beginnings of their relationship; As an adult, I realized it’s a lot more complicated than it seems when it comes to love. DR. Anderson was right about one thing; I hated having a real relationship because I was afraid I’d end up in a rotten hole with someone and a child that I resented until I died of some disease or drunk driving. I instead do that alone than mess up a kid that came out of my sack. I didn’t hate myself that much, that I can say.
Teresa Paragani (A Year Ago)
The allegations against Detective Roe seemed artificially made up by an outsider. It was as if they had no intentions of really investigating the whole story. It wasn’t surprising. I remember reading the newspaper that morning of the headlines of the case of Camp Eve. I wasn’t anticipating being assigned but given my older brother’s involvement, I was sure I would be excluded. In the beginning, I had been torn away from the sight of viewing Joey’s body when I got the call. They said he was drained of all blood from his body, his left arm was torn off, and his neck was broken. There were claw markings scattered around his body like he was attacked by a bear. I was grateful that our parents had passed. Seeing his body in the state, he was left in would have devastated them.
Joey was one of the camp leader attendees at Camp Eve. He was in charge of driving the children to and from places, managing the other attendees, and ensuring that everyone knew the precautions of the trails and wildlife. He knew Camp Eve like he knew himself. Joey called me the night before the attack; I was on a case that night, so he left a message on my machine, “I wanted to check-in. Things are going well…I mean, there are weird things…I feel like I’m going crazy. There were these weird markings on the walls… We have a missing camper…We are still looking for him. I’m going to take a group with me to hike up the trail to find him this evening. He must have been hiking and lost his way…Anyway… I’ll call you next week…I love you…”, When I arrived home, after viewing his body at the morgue. The sadness that seeped into my bones after consumed me. I spiraled down a dark hole with no one to catch me. I hid away from the world for an entire week.
After our parents died, Joey held me tightly as we watched our parents enter the ground. They poured the dirt on them, and I felt the warmth and tightly squeezed hug from Joey. We were so young back then…Joey left college in his last year at Harvard to take care of me. I was 16 years old. I was at soccer practice when I spotted him in the crowd. He smiled, but the sadness in his eyes was clear as day. When the words drifted from Joey’s mouth, “plane crash”…” No survivors.” They were coming back from a week trip to Florida. I felt my world crumble before me. I felt abandoned, alone. Joey reminded me every day that I wasn’t. I called Joey’s cell phone many times until the battery died. I watched it ring over and over in the plastic bag in the box I received from the attendant at the morgue after they declared his and the others were inconclusive pending further study.
I never believed in superstitions, but as I lay in my bed after surrendering to the truth that I was alone. I was under the covers, my curtains closed. I lay around old pizza boxes and empty bottles of wine from the week. I had cried so much that week, sleep-deprived and malnourished. Finally, I was restored to the present by the bedsheets moving around like someone crawling in. It was Joey…
“Am I dreaming? Please tell me I am…That I will wake up from this horrible nightmare….” I asked Joey, tears flowing down my eyes. Joey looked at me with caring eyes, cupping my face in his hands.
“You can’t hide forever, pterodactyl…”, Said joey combing a strand of loose hair behind my ear. Joey was then dragged out from under the covers. I pulled the covers from my face watching Joey dangle from the hands of a black hooded monster with two razored teeth. The air smelled of moss and dirt. Joey struggled to get free, but the beast was too strong. I tried to reach for Joey, but my body was paralyzed. As Joey began to lose consciousness,” Help…me…”. Joey says as if snapping a twig; a cracking sound from Joey’s neck echoed. The monster ripped his arm off and began feeding from Joey’s neck. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t move. I watched the life drain from Joey’s face. Thrown into the wall, hitting the floor. Blood splattered on my bed and on my face. The hooded monster began to move closer to me. I managed to gain some movement in my hands. I reached for my gun hidden under my pillow, pushing the safety button. I pointed the gun at it, hands shaking. Suddenly the darkness dissipated, and the sunlight from the morning rise hit my face. I was aiming my gun at nothing. Drenched in sweat, I pushed the safety back on my rifle and threw it down on my bed. Throwing myself back onto my pillow.
Later that day, I got the call that I was assigned the case and to assist the person in charge of missing person reports. I watched the footage of Detective Roe pushing a couple reports out of the way as he jumped into his green mustang. Candace Evergreen shoved her way in front of the camera, placing the microphone at Detective Roe, “Detective! Detective! Do you have anything to say about the bodies found?! Is it true there are speculations that more than just one person is involved! “Candace shouts, looking back at the camera and then back at Roe. Detective Roe immediately rolls up his windows and signals for the crowd to move out of the way.
Driving away from the obnoxious group of reporters. Candace then proceeds to interview a group of teens that saw cult activities; They explored the Factory a few nights before the bodies were found. The teens each took a turn, saying what they thought they saw. “They were wearing black coats and lighting candles!” Shouted a delinquent with Green hair. “There were pentagrams scattered everywhere!” Screamed another. “They were flying around on brooms and sucking the blood out of old man Anges!”. Candace became annoyed and requested that the camera guy turn off the camera before it became a conspiracy piece causing her career to end with a group of heavy weed and beer-smelling teens. Candace was determined to get an interview with someone on the inside. Her job depended on it.
Detective Roe ( Present Day 7:00 Pm)
Teresa and I walked into the Factory. We traveled through a few hallways and down a few stairs. That was an understatement. A lot of staircases until we reached the basement. It had a couple rusted-out generators. Marked areas were tapped off, showing the outline of the piles of bodies and body parts where they were found. A few forensic teams were already taking pictures of the splatters along the walls. I looked around, trying to spot anything familiar that was found at Camp Eve. I saw Victoria swing upside down on a bar above the building, whistling. Teresa was talking to one of the Forensic technicians for any information they found. In the back corner was a giant cemented flat platform with bolted chains with ankle attachments. The surface was covered in blood and some sort of black residue. I shined my flashlight on the surface of where the blood and black residue were and noticed the black residue was separating from the blood in a weird vein-like pattern.
Teresa came up behind me.
“This is where they found Rebecca’s body…Were you guys close?” Teresa said, looking down at the chains dangling off the platform. I could tell she was curious about what was going on in my head while looking at the place Rebecca’s tortured body lay. I was glad I was here when they were dragging her out of here. I didn’t feel an immediate connection with her, even after we had sex. But I didn’t want anything wrong to happen to her either. She was a nice girl.
“We weren’t that close…Did we ID a woman named Trudy?” I held on to the hopes that they didn’t, but she was one of the missing people in my file.
Teresa got on her radio, asking if Trudy was identified in one of the many bodies found. Finally, officer Charles responded after a few moments,” A California identification card of a Trudy Bouse was found with a bag of what was presumed as Ms. Bouse’s belongings, but no corpse was matched.” Said Officer Charles.
I looked around to see if there were any potholes or hidden exits. I noticed a large amount of black residue spread throughout the basement. I saw a forensic team member wiping some off the basement door entrance. “What is that stuff?” I asked as Teresa trailed behind me.
“Looks like mold….” Teresa says, flashing a light on the strange black tar on the walls. The forensic team member, Amber, had a full-on hazardous suit on. It was hard to hear her, but we managed.
“It’s hard to tell. It’s an old building. It could be mold or some sort of fungus build-up from the open pockets of the roof where moisture could have seeped in. But the patterns don’t match up like fungus. They seem to extract and separate from the erythrocyte. The mold test as well came back negative. I will need to do further investigation to determine what this is….” Said Amber as she gathered her sample and sealed it in a tube. Leaving Teresa and me to think amongst ourselves.
A memory of the investigation at Camp Eve surfaced in my mind,” I saw these along the trails and on the trees at the campsite,” I said, looking at Teresa. Victoria was running her fingers along the edges of my spine.
“I’m starving….” Whispered Victoria in my ear. I shook my head, brushing off the images of her.
“If these were at the campsite, then there’s a connection. I think we need a more reliable source familiar with fungus or unusual residue…Are you okay?. This stuff getting to your head?”. She asked, confused by the shaking of my head. “Let’s get you some fresh air, and on the way to the hospital, I will contact Yuuri Andreyev, a Russian fungus specialist I know,” Teresa said, leading us back up. I didn’t fight Teresa. I felt nauseated. Exhausted from the events of the day. The smell of what was left over from the bodies made me sick.
Teresa and I left the Factory and headed to the nearest hospital.
Teresa and I were requested to view the bodies found in the basement by the assigned pathologist of the name of; Gregory Raymond Thomason. We arrived at the coroner’s office around noon. I was thirty minutes late. I didn’t sleep very well the night before.
As we walked through the doors of the hospital morgue, it smelled of a chemical smell made of strong cleaning products and preservatives. It was chilly, but the warmth from my wound helped keep the chill away. Teresa didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold. Victoria was lying next to a decomposing body that was in the process of being examined; The person’s chest was exposed, skin pulled back. The internal organs were in numerous tin bowls. Victoria caressed the bones and muscles like she was petting a kitten. She smiled at me amusingly.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t prepared in time for your visit, but we are currently understaffed,” Gregory says, referring to the numerous body bags lying around. He smiled as if we were relatives visiting him at his home. His profession must have something to do with his casual approach. Underneath his white polished lab coat was a suit and tie, looking tailored. There was a chain dangling from his lab pocket. It looked like the chain of a pocket watch. Gregory had a slim face, and his hair was brushed back neatly. He had a way of pronouncing words, emphasizing the beginning of the terms to the last letters. As Gregory explained to him, “expert opinion” of the cause of death. Victoria walked her pointer finger and middle finger up his arm, sniffing him slowly. “I’m hungry, Johnny, and he smells delicious…”, Victoria says, licking her lips and continuing to inhale Gregory as he explains what was found on the bodies.
“You were the examiner of the cor…bodies found in the woods at Camp Eve, correct?” So asked Teresa looking over her notes.
“That is correct,” Said Gregory, pausing. “The victims from Camp Eve and the basement location of the Factory had the same, ‘hole-and – a – Tear puncture wounds around their neck… I believe they were attacked by an animal, but there are multiples, so perhaps a pack of dogs…I also…” He said, pointing at the wounds of the victim lying in front of us.
“You think a dog or pack of dogs did all this?!” Teresa said, shocked by Gregory’s statement.
I looked at Teresa and nudged her to calm down. Gregory continued.
“Is there something that you know that I don’t? If so, please let me in on it. I’m only going off what was in the report and my examination of the bodies.” Gregory was soft-spoken and professional. I give the guy credit for the patience and composure he held for Teresa. As Teresa listened and Gregory explained. I began to feel lightheaded.
“Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?” Asked Teresa, catching me from falling over.
“I’m okay. I think I’ll go to the bathroom and pop another pain med….” I said, walking out into the hall, slowly taking breaths in and out.
I overheard Gregory asking what happened to me. Teresa was friendly enough to be brief and say,” he was injured at the Factory. Please continue”.
There was slight tingling pain and an itchy feeling forming. I tried to focus on the noise coming from my footsteps down the empty hallway, but it was unbearable. Victoria hummed gleefully in one of the stalls next to me. I peeled back the gauze and tape carefully off my shoulder, exposing the wound. A black vine-like residue crawled up my shoulder and out my arm causing the stitches to come undone. I felt the vines move under my skin. A nauseating feeling overtook my senses, and I began to cough excessively. Blood splashed the sink’s walls and the mirror in front of me. I wiped up the blood from the mirror; then, the lights from above began to flicker and slowly burn out. I pulled out my pocket flashlight and turned it on. The flashes of the light blinded me a little. I realized I was no longer at the coroner’s office but back at one of the bathrooms in the abandoned Factory. I looked out the corner of my eyes and saw a child, a girl, arms covered in bite marks and black vine-like patterns crawling up and around her face and ears. I turned around to face her, causing her to run away. “Hey, wait!” I shouted, running after her.
“Shhh…Or he’ll find us…”,said the girl, echoing whispers from the young girl. Her clothes were stained in red and black. A necklace with a locket reading “Emily” hung from her half-eaten neck.
I shined my flashlight on her as she led us through each dark hallway until we reached the entrance of the staircase to the basement. I walked down, following behind, watching her black-tipped fingers twitch and jerk as we climbed down to the bottom of the steps. Finally, we reached the bottom, and lay on the bottom of the steps was a long extended flashlight. Its light shined on the basement door. A trail of bright red blood stains led directly into the basement.
Emily stopped at the door and stood there quietly. The entrance to the basement was cracked an inch open; slashing and bone-cracking noises continued. Suddenly Victoria whips the door open, grabbing Emily’s arm and ripping it off her body. Emily cries out in a high-pitched shriek. Like a savaged wolf, Victoria then began to chew and eat Emily’s arm. I stood at the entryway of the basement door, watching Victoria devour and eat. Sitting in the corner dark, feeding from Rebecca’s neck, the hooded man I have been chasing stops feeding and looks up at me, smiling. Victoria then sees me looking and drops the carcass on the ground. She transported in front of me, instantly devouring me with darkness I had never felt before. Blackness surrounded me; I felt like I was floating, weightless in the dark. Finally, the blackness dissolved, and I appeared in the middle of a forest. The sun was still high. It must have been 11@M. Owls from above watched silently. Eyes of bright golds and browns. I walked down the dirt path of shrubs on the ground from the Eucalyptus trees that shaded me from the bright sun. A group of preteen campers walked by, I waited for them to say something, but they walked past me as if I wasn’t even there. I followed behind them to see where the dream or hallucination was taking me. One of the campers asked the other,” I don’t think we should be out without one of the leaders. Joey told us these caves weren’t safe….” She says, crossing her arms and checking her wristwatch.
The group continued to tell the worried girl to quiet down and stop being a” wuss.” Finally, we reached the top of the hill, where you could access an elevator to explore the levels of the cave; There were three levels of the cave. Level one was reserved for tourist attractions of stuffed bats and other rock collections found on the walls of the cave on display. Level two was for the gift shop and food stand for operating hours; level three was closed off due to Eardippers and unexpected pits from the unstabilized breakdown of the area. They each stood in front of the entryway of the elevator doors.
“I dare you to go down to level three….” So whispered the chubby preteen boy with wide black glasses. He had a candy bar sticking out of his back pocket.
“Stop it!” Shouted the girl, pushing him away.
“I double dog dare you to go down there, Tommy,” Said the tanned blonde girl, eating a lollipop.
Tommy stood near the two preteen girls. The redhead had her hand in his left back pants pocket. He had a jersey jacket on, with green and red school colors. His dark-brown hair was pulled back with a shiny jell. “Jenny, you know I can’t pass up on the double like that… Bec’s wanna join? We could…You know…”. Tommy says, smirking down at the redhead hugging him tightly.
“Gross…” says Jenny, popping her lollipop out of her mouth.
Becca held Tommy even tighter, giggling at the thoughts of what they were planning to do when they were alone. Tommy and Becca smiled at the others as the elevator slowly creaked at the chains rolled out of the wheel that pulled the platform under their feet down to level three. I stood behind them quietly, watching them pinch each other or kiss passionately. We reached level three. Tommy pulled up the wooden door, then the lever for the lights. The floor lit up a path, with signs saying caution. There were few areas with drop-off cliffs with lines of hanging lights nailed to the walls. Tommy, Becca, and I walked along carefully. Our footsteps echoed, giggling, oohs, and ahhs as we came to a wood bridge leading to another level compartment. There was only a gas lamp and a few hanging lights above us. Every corner looked deeper due to the lack of light.
It started to become harder to breathe. Like the air was disappearing from my lungs. As we crossed the wooden bridge, it swung left and right. Suddenly I heard a snapping noise from behind me. The bridge’s rope gives out, flinging us down the dark cliff. Tommy and Becca’s screams echoed in the darkness. Then a thump, darkness was the only thing I saw for a few seconds. Tommy lights his lighter, “Becca?! Becca! Can you hear me?!.” He shouts, trying to lean into the darkness with the tiny flame. Suddenly shuffling noises, presumed to be from Becca, a few feet away.
“Yeah, I think I broke my leg….” Becca says, attempting to get up, noticing a bone sticking out, letting out an agonizing groan. Pain shot up and down her leg and back. Tommy moved closer to her, grabbing her up from the ground and carrying her over his back.
“Can you see a way out?” Tommy asked Becca, grunting from the weight shuffling on his back. Tommy was scraped up from the fall, but it was as destructive as the damages Becca was dealing with. I trailed behind them, trying to follow them as best as possible with his light. Suddenly the ground gave out, and we fell through the floor. A stench of rotten meat entered my nostrils as I got up from the ground.
“Becca! Can you hear me?! Wake up! Becca! Ugh, what is that smell?” Tommy asks, covering his nose and holding Becca in his arms.
“Becca! Can you hear me?! Wake up! Becca! Ugh, what is that smell?” Tommy asks, covering his nose and holding Becca in his arms. Trying to shake Becca to wake up, She laid there limp on the ground, unconscious. Tommy began to look for his lighter, finding it under a pile of rock and soil from the fall. He struggled to get the lighter to start but managed after a few frustrating tries. The smell was overpowering. I couldn’t focus. The air was dry and harsh.
Tommy continued to explore, keeping an eye on Becca. Becca didn’t look good. I followed Tommy as he looked around. I noticed the blood spilling out from under Becca. We were in what looked like an underground tunnel. Tommy managed to find a couple of old crates with an oil lamp sitting on them. Its glass chimney was cracked a little, but it still had oil to work for a few minutes. Tommy lit the lamp, lighting up his youthful chiseled face. Suddenly Tommy saw the red puddle under Becca, and he immediately ran to her side. “Becca! Wake up! Shit!” he shouted. Tommy started to cry and pound the ground. Sounds of water dripping from afar meant there was a chance of an existing sinkhole or sinkholes nearby. Tommy knew he wouldn’t be able to get Becca out of the cave in time to save her. So he held on to her as long as he could until the last beat in her heart gave its last breath, and her body turned cold. I watched Tommy kiss Becca, on the cheeks before grabbing the oil lamp.
We walked for what felt like an hour down the dusty tunnel. At this point, I was convinced I was as crazy as people were saying. I had convinced everyone a long time ago when I experienced these episodes as a teenager. The only way to stop it was to drown myself in booze and other distractions to keep these experiences at bay.
I lifted up my gauze, keeping up with Tommy as much as possible. I lifted the black and red wet patch and saw a spiral of endless black-like roots growing out of my arm and under my skin. The vines reached to the ends of my fingers and up my neck. The closer we got to the sounds, the louder this humming noise became. It was like they were calling me.
We got to the end of the tunnel, an opening with black vines and strange glowing blue flowers growing all around each vine. Tommy looked as intrigued as I was. The flowers lit the way, and we stepped inside and walked the path until we reached the end. I noticed that the humming sounds were coming from the blue flowers. I looked closer to see the flowers were vibrating in slow motion. Tommy touched one of the flowers, setting it off to spray a blue mist. Suddenly, Tommy appeared zombified. Eyes dilated. He looked directly at me and then began to walk emotionlessly, entering a doorway made of thick black roots. As we entered, I was surprised to find a dense forest with strange tangled vegetation. The hums I heard before were now whispering…Calling me.
To Be Continued…
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