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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

ym_76_oct19_starofvengeance.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

STAR OF VENGEANCE

 

1967

  

by

 

Cindy Rosmus

 

 

 

          “At night?” Pop said, like it was unheard-of, on Halloween. “You crazy?”

 

          “A party . . .” Mary left out the “slumber” part. “At Greta’s. Please, Pop? Just me, Noreen, and Deb’re going.”

 

          “Deb?” Mom said. “Whose mother drinks in bars?”

 

          Please, God, Mary begged.

 

          “OK,” Pop said. “But stay away from that bastard next door.”

 

          To the Fornells, he meant. Greta’s family. That mean, old guy Mr. Baum-something. Baumgartner?

 

          “Fucking Nazi,” Pop said. “Don’t believe me, ask Lenny.”

 

          Lenny, the bar owner, would know. He was a Polish Jew. Over twenty years ago, he’d lost half his family, thanks to Nazis.

 

          “That camp,” Mary overheard Lenny tell Pop, “The horrors. No food. Raw potatoes, my little cousin begged for. They kicked his teeth in. Then the ovens. . . .”

 

          In school, Sister Michael taught them about World War 2, but not much about Nazis. Maybe ‘cos they were only in sixth grade.

 

          “My Pop,” Mary told Greta later, “Said stay away from . . .”

 

          Greta sighed. “We know.”

 

          “Shit,” Dizzy Deb said. “That old creep. Let’s trick-or-treat there, first.”

 

          When Noreen gasped, Deb added, “Before it gets dark.”

 

          They got changed, fast. In a pale green nightgown, Greta looked like a Greek goddess, especially with her hair up. Noreen’s Pilgrim costume looked itchy. In last year’s Fairy Princess dress, Mary’s stomach felt tight. Deb’s hobo outfit looked thrown together.

 

“Stuff her men left behind,” Mom would’ve said, about Deb’s mom.

 

          Mr. Baumgartner’s place looked like a haunted house. The other trick-or-treaters avoided it, like poison.

 

          As Deb marched up to his door, Mary’s heart pounded. Noreen and Greta stayed back, too.

 

“Come on!” Deb said. As she swung around, the door opened behind her.

 

In beat-up clothes, the old guy looked more like a hobo than Deb. Mary had expected a Nazi uniform.

 

Deb faced him. “Trick or treat!”

 

“Get out!” Snarling, he had sharp, yellow teeth. “All of you!”

 

Mary froze, as the others ran. His eyes were cold, like a monster’s. Super-tall, she pictured him stomping on kids’ heads.

 

Kicked his teeth in, Lenny had said.

 

          When Deb grabbed her arm, Mary jumped. They all ran to Greta’s.

 

          “Back already?” Mrs. Fornell said. Mary was still shivering. “Well, we can start the party early.”

 

          At Greta’s, they always drank Tang, and ate chocolate chip cookies. Homemade, chewy cookies, so Mary’s stomach would growl, just thinking of them.

 

But tonight she could still feel those Nazi eyes on her.

 

“What’ll we do, next?” Deb said, much later. They’d already listened to Sgt. Pepper, twice, and watched a movie. From the living room, more creepy music played on TV.

 

Greta beckoned them closer. “My sister Missy’s away, at school,” she whispered. “Let’s use her Ouija board.”

 

Mary squeezed her arm. “No.”

 

But Greta broke free. They all went upstairs, Mary last.

 

Missy’s room was pitch-black, smelling vaguely of hairspray. “We don’t have candles,” Greta said, “Just flashlights.” She handed one to Mary.

 

In the bright light, the Ouija board stood out on the bed. Like it was waiting for them.

 

“You put it there!” Mary said.

 

“No!” Greta said. “I . . . don’t come in here.”

 

She trained the flashlight around the room, so they saw Missy’s things: antique dolls with pearly teeth, a lab skeleton, and a vanity dressing table, with a multi-sided mirror.

 

“I’m not playing,” Mary said. The flashlight shook in her hand.

 

“Hold it still!” they all yelled at her. She felt like crying. Plus, she was so scared, she felt sick.

 

 “It’s good we’re all here. ‘Cos you can’t play alone. And you can’t insult it. Or it can possess you.” Somehow, Greta knew all the rules. “You first, Noreen. Put your hands lightly on the planchette.”

 

For someone who doesn’t come in here, Mary thought, she knows way too much.

 

In the beam from Mary’s flashlight, Noreen’s face looked white. She pressed down on the planchette.

 

“Lightly!” Greta said.

 

“Will I go to college?” was Noreen’s question.

 

Mary almost groaned. Noreen was the smartest kid in school. Even the eighth-graders hated her.

 

She kept the beam on Noreen’s hands, as steadily as she could. The planchette slid right to “Yes.”

 

“Cheater!” Deb said.

“I am not!”

 

“I saw you push it!”

 

“Quiet!” Greta said. “My parents’ll hear.’’ Then, “Deb, your turn.”

 

Deb was crazy about Danny Feely, that kid who called her “Scuzz Bucket.” Mary bet she would cheat.

 

When Deb said, “Will I marry Dan--?”, the planchette almost flew off the board.

 

Mary squealed. “You’re the cheater!” Noreen said, taking the flashlight from Greta.

 

“The spirits,” Greta said, in a superior voice, “think you’re laughing at them.”

She took Deb’s place at the board.

 

          “Mr. Baumgartner next door,” Mary said, suddenly. “Who is he? Really?”

 

“It’s not your. . .” Deb began, but then the planchette was wildly dragging Greta around the board.

 

Mary felt fearless. “What is he?”

 

In her hands, the flashlight leapt, almost by itself. Noreen’s and her lights beamed all over: in Greta’s goddess hair, in a doll’s toothy mouth, up and down the skeleton’s ribcage.

 

Then, into the mirror. All over the mirror, striking each side, in turn.

 

When the six-pointed star appeared, they all screamed.

 

This can’t, Mary thought, be real!

 

The star disappeared, then reappeared.

 

“He’s evil!” a strange voice said. Boy’s, or girl’s, Mary wasn’t sure. But it now it was hers. “He . . . killed us all!”

 

In her mind, she saw it, happening, now: a man, on a wood floor, eyes wide in terror. Shuffling backwards, crab-like. As small figures hurried toward him.

 

“Now,” Mary’s new voice said, “We’ll kill him!’

 

From all sides, the man was attacked. Screaming, as tiny feet kicked his face, and head. Over, and over. Screams dying in his throat, as so many small hands grabbed and squeezed it, as hard as they could.

 

When the room went black, the girls’ screams were deafening.

 

Then footsteps, as Greta’s parents ran, and burst, into the room.

 

“Calm down,” Mr. Fornell said. Like a mother hen, Mrs. Fornell held all the girls at once. Mary’s mind was a blur.

 

Soon, Tang and cookies appeared. Everyone but Mary ate.

 

“It was how you two held the flashlights,” Mr. Fornell explained. A scientist, he was, so they kept quiet. He demonstrated his theory. “The mirrors are at right angles to each other. When the flashlights hit the mirrors, the star effect appeared. When you moved . . .”

 

Mary stopped watching.

 

“So it looked like a Star of David.”

 

She didn’t believe him. She knew what she saw. She could almost taste those dead, gritty words. Was it even English, she heard?

 

Next day, when Pop went to Lenny’s, Mary followed him.

 

As he set a Shirley Temple before her, Lenny mouthed to Pop, “He’s dead.”

 

In dribs and drabs, for hours, she heard the news: how Baumgartner was found dead. Eyes wide open, cold and glassy, like one of Missy’s dolls. Hands clutching his own throat, like invisible hands—lots of invisible hands—had reached it, first.

 

Small ones, Mary thought.

 

And small feet she knew kept kicking  . . .

 

Till he swallowed all his teeth.

 

 

THE END


Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife & talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out 5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she wants. She’s been published in the usual places, such as Shotgun Honey, Hardboiled, A Twist of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E, Dark Dossier, and Twisted Sister. She is the editor/art director of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights activist.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/                                             

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019