Black Petals Issue #102, Winter, 2023

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Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Betterment Day: Fiction by Malik Mandeville
Bridget Magnus: Fiction by Dean Patrick
Cemetery Road: Fiction by Richard Brown
I Quit: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Ivory Tower: Fiction by Aron Reinhold
Letter from a Poison Pen Pal: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Neck of the Woods: Fiction by Harris Coverley
No Angels: Fiction by Kilmo
It's A Dry Heat: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Requited Love: Fiction by Travis Mushanski
Stuck in Transit: Fiction by Michael Woods
Cold Yearning: Flash Fiction by Kat Sandefer
I Married a Zombie: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Snack Time: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
The Boy Who Loved Bolt: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Cutting Room: Flash Fiction by Karen Schauber
Dirty Blue Bandana: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Bidee Bodee, Bidee Beaux: Poem by Thomas Fischer
Blood of Whitechapel: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Rotten to the Core: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Seque into Shadows: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Sensitivity to Light: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Boo Hag: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Paranormal Parasites: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Huggin Molly: Poem by Richard Stevenson
In the Morgue of Memory: Poem by Hillary Lyon
Unexpected Culinary Opportunity: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
OI (Oo-ee): Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Plant Eater Gone Carnivorous: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
They Shouldn't Be There: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Needle Spins: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Cold: Poem by Rp Verlaine
The Sleepwalker: Poem by Rp Verlaine

Dean Patrick: Bridget Magnus

102_bp_bridgetmagnus_lthomas.jpg
Art by Londyyn Thomas 2023

“Bridget Magnus”

By Dean Patrick 2022

 

 

 

Marion was driving past a sign that advertised a local event in Utah called The Duncan Maze. He was driving up to Duncan from the Odessa hospital still trying to wrap his head around coming out of a coma and waking from it in the most awful state of fear he’d never known. His brain felt like it was lobbing around in his skull, sloppily hitting the sides of the walls of his head like a heavy, deflating floaty toy. The dream of the demon woman lecturing to the demon children that ended in the violent finale of the Caesarean man birth in that dreadful arena was still so vivid and so alive inside his every thought, he believed the entire ghastly scene was somehow attached to his brother’s death and all the dread his brother went through.

His cop spirit was determined to find out everything possible. He knew the last time he’d seen his brother, the two of them had gone on a late-night hike deep in the mountains past Snow Crest City when the two of them found the woman who had been tormenting Steve all during the previous year. Marion could vaguely remember he and his brother tunneling through the woman’s freakish place where they’d seen her and her freakish partner doing awful deeds. But that is all he could remember when he awakened in the hospital four months later and was then driving up to Duncan where his brother had lived.

He blasted the stereo two octaves too high as the live version of Kiss’ “She” was the cut. Of all things, Kiss. How were their songs the backdrop of that fucked-up dream and now here they are on the radio. Good song at least.

Marion then noticed a bludgeoned carcass on the side of the road that was fresh enough in its gore that he thanked God someone else hit it. Must have been hit by someone going a hundred miles an hour to do that kind of damage. Christ.

When he approached Duncan and the sign itself, he noticed something odd on it – or odd about it – odd enough that it caused him to go back and take a closer look. When he did, he still drove too fast, missing the chance to stop, then angrily turned around yet again by driving up the road where he thought there was plenty of space to get the look he needed, only to miss it one more time because some reckless driver almost hit him. His anger now intense, he drove a mile or so down to the local convenience store. Local Exon to be exact. Full-service diner included.

It was dusk then. Beginning of May. Still cold.  

Once inside the station, after Marion had given up trying to decipher what was on the Duncan Maze event sign that caused him such confusion - and for whatever reason, he immediately decided he needed a smoke. A vape at the very least. The only time in his entire life when he’d ever smoked was some twenty years ago while a college freshman when he decided it sounded like a fine thing to do while he was getting drunk, also his first and only. Marion had always played the strait-laced kid who refused to go down the family path of addiction that had ruined so many in his extended family. Including his own brother, Steven.

I wonder how many countless times Steve had been in this place. And Christ, here I am.

The station had such a feeling of abandonment, he also disturbingly wondered if anyone would ever come to the place again for snacks or gas. It was far too dimly-lit in Marion’s opinion. Far darker on the inside than any convenience store he’d ever visited, come to think of it. In the middle of the cash register area stood a rather fragile-looking man or woman (he had no clue which) on a small step ladder, restocking the cigarette case. Marion watched the night shift attendant long enough to where he eventually cleared his throat in irritation to capture simple acknowledgment.

The attendant stopped moving instantly and dropped all his packs of cigarettes on the floor with as much irritated defiance as was Marion’s attention seeking.

Stepping down and around rather quickly…too quickly…stood perhaps the most ragged and torched-looking woman he’d ever seen over the years he’d spent scouring the underbelly shit holes of Houston. The woman stood no more than five feet. Her skin rampant in deeply-aged crevices that looked more like gashes, caked in filth, so raw and weathered it looked like an ancient cowhide suit had been stretched and sewn onto her rickety bones. Something far worse than years of meth or crack had taken a fierce scourging to her. Her nose was massive enough that it matched the entire size of her face and head; eyes sunk deeply in sockets that looked like they’d been bored through with a rusted one-inch drill bit. Her hair a ratted mess of straw.

Her appearance was so strikingly hideous Marion found himself struggling to not give away his instant repugnance. With as many times throughout his career he had faced the most awful creatures of the streets, he found it alarming that he felt such unease.

“Evening,” Marion said, careful not to say more until he could hear the hag’s voice.

“Is it?” she replied.

Marion looked over his shoulder back toward the rental truck, making sure it was still parked right up front. Truth was he knew the sun had just been going down when he wanted to catch a better look at the maze event sign. But when he saw it was so dark out, he wondered if the ragged woman had been at it long enough she’d lost track of time.

He sure had.

“Yeah. It’s gotten late, that’s for sure,” Marion said as he stared back at the woman’s black eyeballs, so black he couldn’t see any movement that all sets of eyes make during any conversation. Just two large shiny black globular slugs stuck in place. He knew he was staring into something he’d never seen before during any interrogation.

“Day just dipped right outta sight, hmm, hmm. Just dipped away into that awful pit of nighty night nighttime.” When she spoke, Marion wondered if she’d ever had a look that resembled anything normal or decent, “whatever the fuck that means,” he whispered.

“What waz dat?” she spewed out in a broken mouth that displayed in full horror glory rotted teeth that were spaced apart at least an inch protruding from both gum lines that had turned to charcoal rubber. Marion had seen more than enough crack whores and vagrants over the years, but the hag’s mouth over matched any of them. Her voice was clogged in phlegm, as ragged as her ancient skin. Marion wondered if her lungs had drowned in the shit long ago.

“Nothing. It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. Just here for some gas and such –”

“Gas outside Copper! And your truck’s up front! In here is other nifty knacks and saddle cracks and gimmicky kicks and such!” She spewed out again, in glee, walking up to one of the two cash registers. She walked with a such a painful limp Marion thought she’d topple over. Her service station attire was almost as tattered as the rest of her. Sickly blue rayon shirt with the top two or three buttons missing that exposed a veiny, shocking white chest. Frayed rayon black slacks. Black walking shoes that had walked across a million service station floors. Marion could see no name tag but did notice the background music so familiar is most places, suddenly change to a cryptic and acidy folk sound he’d never heard.

“What did you say to me?” Marion said as he took a step closer. No matter his caution, he still knew stepping up would show immediate authority, and it was indeed authority he was suddenly needing to display, not just feelings. “I said nifty knacks –”

“Before that,” Marion interrupted, certain the hag had coughed up a few inches of the shit that was buried inside her when she spoke.

The woman closed her mouth and frowned such an upside-down crevice her beak of a chin crimped upward as if some opening in her face could swallow it up. “No matter. You’re the Coming One. Coming on in with all your questions and concerns and all your whatnots. Thinking about all those landscape dreams of horror? You sure got the deeper looks of one came out of dreamscapes Eh? Ehhhh?! Here to talk about all the gremlins and ghouls and – ”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s not what I asked?” Marion shot back, not giving her a second chance to keep ranting, looking up and down the hag as well as scoping all the surroundings. He picked out the corners of the store, the restroom sign, the back area of the station where the diner area was closed, the empty chairs, the sunglass rack, the stained foam ceilings. All of it in his camera-eye peripheral. His decades-long and wisdom-deep cop senses immediately kicked in, homing in his laser sharp caution as well as discernment. Still, how sweet Jesus does she know of any of this?

No response. The hag just stood there, halfcocked as if she’d never had an inkling of understanding of anything, much less the frightening prophecy she just vented. Just a ruined smile that formed up and around her entire torn face, so precise in its etching it had to have caused even more torment the ancient woman had somehow escaped during all the years that had come down upon her. A ruined smile to mask the life that was hanging around her decrepit neck like a final helpless thread.

“You said ‘Copper’ is what you said. That’s what I was referring to.”

“Ah! Eh, eh, eh. You a cop, ain’t ye?”

“It’s that obvious?”

“You got the look for sure,” her head then nodding up and down far too rapidly.

“Quit that! Christ, you’ll snap something. You hadn’t even seen me while you were stocking the cancer sticks.”

“Didn’t have to see. Don’t ever have to see. It’s my good sense that’s always so keen. So keen from the ages and ages of –”

“Stop. Doesn’t matter. Yes, I am. Never mind that you seem out of your mind. Look…listen for sec, can you? I was wondering about that sign is the actual reason I came in. Sign about the Duncan Maze. Thought for sure anyone working here would know about it. Local event, is it?”

“Don’t have to whisper. Cain’t hear much, Christ knows. And he does. Rest assured.”

Marion hadn’t realized he was whispering. Was I? Why?

“Speak up!” The woman croaked.

“Jesus! Sorry. I wanted to ask you about the maze sign and the event.”

The hag tilted her body to the other side, halfcocked again, sporting the same sick frown. “Hmmmm. Clearly new to these parts. But maybe not so new, eh? Ha! Hmmmmm…what about that sign got you so peaked? What it said? Or how it was said? It’s design? What!?” she continued; her tongue then slithered out from the corner of her crevice in a bleak attempt to lick the dry corners of her decayed mouth. Her tongue itself looked more like the butt of a whip that had been cut off and sewn inside her throat. “What is it you need to know so desperately?”

“I’m not desperate, lady. Just curious is all.”

“Hmmmm. ‘Bout everything I just said, that’s a certainty. Curiosity killed the cat. Slit its throat, it did –”

“I see where this is going, Miss…I’m sure your name tag fell off your shirt during all your restocking –”

“Bridget Magnus. That’s me. Bridget Magnus. Hmmmm. ” she said, rubbing her knuckled hands across a scarred neck so ripped in overgrown tissue Marion wondered what she could have possibly gone through that had destroyed her body, yet kept it alive, if just barely. Looks like you’ve been hanged a hundred times over, he thought with a sick grin.

Name sounds familiar for some reason…

Always keep things comical when shit got real was one of Marion’s mottos that he’d lived by throughout the years of facing murderers, rapists, butchers of any kind. And for as frail and decrepit as Bridget appeared, every honed sixth sense Marion possessed thought she fit such a bill to a T.

“Don’t run off so quickly Scare Dee Cat. No, no, no. You came all this way to seek what you seek, may as well seek it here and ye shall find with me as I tell you a tale. You’ve got no place else to run run away to, Copper, eh? Time for a tale or two?”

Marion took a deep breath and let it out with complete control and patience. Of course, he had no place to go, no place to be. No place he belonged, in fact. He’d awakened from a coma in the Odessa hospital some four months after his brother’s death. Had roamed that empty hospital in horror of that emptiness. Had been given the title to his brother’s truck and the deed to his property soon after. All he wanted was answers to his brother’s death. All he was receiving was an opening of perpetual insanity where Queen Hag Magnus wanted to talk tales of deeper madness.

“Sure. I can stick around for a chat. Why not?”

“Mercy me, oh mercy My! That’s the spirit, Copper. Let me grab a few stools.” Which she did. She also came back with a half-empty bottle of whiskey that she began pulling on the moment she sat down; her bony legs crossed and so razor thin that it looked like her frayed black trousers were kinked down the center of her rangy frame.

“Want some, Copper?”

“No thanks,” Marion said in irritation. “And stop calling me Copper. You’ve got a name, so do I.”

“Hmmm. Hmmm. Give it up, then,” Bridget said while dry-licking her upper lip.

“Marion Paul.”

“Paul, you say? Hmmm. Tad familiar to be fair.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve probably been here long enough to have heard of my brother, Steven Paul.”

The hag said nothing, but her sickly coughed giggles said everything.

“What do you want to talk about, Bridget? I’m committed to listen. You knew my brother, fine. Or of him. Whatever it was. That’s why I’m here.”

“That’s why any of us are here, Mister Paul. Here just looking for others we’ve loved. Others we’ve lost. And doesn’t it stink up ripe like in small towns, eh? But it’s also the small towns where all the answers lie if ye just listen deep enough. And long enough, too. That sign had your attention straight up with your hairs nailing into your backside, eh? So let me tell you little bits and pieces about it. How its operated mostly. But more than that, who operates it. The whore of Babylon who ripped through your comatose!”

“I’m all ears.” Marion knew had whispered that time.

“Eh ye, eh ye, ye old gadget of sloppy crow bait! Sure, it’s true!” cackled the hag with such ferocity that Marion thought she’d just been surged into an adrenaline plug any athlete would envy. She took another deep pull on the bottle, easily draining it an inch lower. “Before I get to the maze, let me go back a few seasons long long ago it was. Long enough to where the winds I heard whisper that night seem like a long slow whine from Father Time. He fixes all things, you know.”

“It was deep in the mountains. Pitch deep. Miles past Snow Crest City, ‘bout seventy miles north of here, when I was up and around with one of me partners. Saintly man, mind you. Hard for you to believe, ain’t it?”

Marion just looked at her with his cop eyes laser-focused on her every breath.

          “His name were Dan, and we had one of those rare moments of getaway time, for time was no longer Dan’s friend. Friends of his gave us keys to a cabin deep in those mountains. Little time for privacy and silence. Telling stories. Cooking dogs by a fire. Cold as my goddamn nipples it was out but ain’t stop us from enjoying the vast beauty of nowhere nights.

          “Rumor had it back then some giant wolf had been killing not only the locals’ animals, but even some locals themselves. Look it up, Peace Officer. Looky, looky, you’ll see. But no goddamned wolf was to take away our last moments in time.

          “One night…think it was just the night before our last…hmmmm…” Bridget then looked up to the ceiling as if caught in a sudden trance, her globby black eyeballs wobbly in the deep bony sockets.

“I’m still listening, Bridget,” Marion said to get her back on track.  

“Anyway, one night we were out on the patio deck of the cabin. Deck faced directly into the eastside of the mountains. Could see up to the tips of the mountain tops as if they’d be tickling the bottoms of the stars themselves. The quiet? The quiet? It was that of death. Could hear the soul of death leave the body by Cain. Hmmmm.”

          Marion cleared his throat loud enough for Bridget to pause. She remained in the trance-like focus, so focused that a bit of actual life seemed to breathe back into her skeleton body.

          “What do you mean ‘by Cain,’” he said as he leaned forward a foot or so.

          “Eh! Don’t ye stop my tale you pee-pee boy! You seek answers, don’t ever stop the flow! Seek and find, seek and find!”

          She was right. Whatever she said and whatever she meant made no difference at that moment.

          “I won’t interrupt again,” he said in apology.

          “Be best you don’t,” she hissed back with such a force that Marion felt the kind of dizziness that sometimes came over him during severe distress. He nodded as she continued.

          “We’d all heard of that wolf.

“We’d all known the stories of its size and ravenous hunger.

“What it had slaughtered.

“But Dan…bless his innocence. And his ignorance. I’d be the protector over him but he didn’t know no better. Still…he had his rifle on him and that made him feel safe. That plus the safety of the deck. We turned to go back inside for the night when a wolfs’ howl – the wolf this I was certain – tore across the silence as if space itself had been ripped asunder. In the haunted, blue-colored filters of the mountain realm, I could see all color drain from Dan’s entire being. I held his hand firmly as we both looked out toward the howl. It was so close the wolf had to be within the perimeter of the cabin’s backyard area…”

Bridget paused again in trance but instead of saying anything or clearing his throat to keep her on track, Marion felt himself in similar trance wondering why the hag’s voice and speech sounded so eloquent when telling the tale.

          “My eyes were far sharper than Dan’s so I scoured all around not dare asking Dan to find any binoculars that could have been inside. Then I saw it. A ghastly phantom shadow that looked as much a giant human as it did wolf. Maybe it were both…I looked at Dan to silence him further when I saw his own eyes had fastened onto something to the right of the wolf’s shapeshifting shadow. Dan’s eyes were more horror struck than had been triggered by the wolf. I followed his eyes.

          “There was another cabin to the southeast of where we stayed. Never thought much of it as we hadn’t seen so much of a candle lit at the place during our entire stay. As I looked where Dan was focused, I stopped in terror as I saw what would surely stop Dan’s heart. Maybe my own. Walking from the cabin toward the giant wolf’s shadow was a woman. Fearless in her approach. A shapely, striking woman dressed in such stark black that she seemed to glow in the blue night. Her walk then turned to panther-like strides as she pounced into the wolf’s immediate space. There were trees lined up and down the area, and with an effortless leap, she jumped onto the tree closest to the wolf, anchored herself with both her legs and left arm, then outstretched her right arm and screamed at the beast in such a ferocious ear-splitting pitch I thought my own ear drums would burst. The scream sounded…alien. If an alien had sound that is. Hmmmm. And her eyes. I could see them. Two frightening pinpoints of lavender that could be seen from the howling moon. This woman had attacked the wolf in such a way that I believed I was watching something otherworldly. Something far more powerful than the wolf itself had ever known, for when the moment her scream blasted forth, it jolted back in its own high pitch whimper and ran off into the night in as much terror that had overtaken my Dan and me.

          “Never seen such a sight. In all my ages on earth – a lot. It’s a lot. Never seen such a sight.”

          Bridget leaned back on her stool as if to crack all the bones in her spine as she took another long, deep pull on the bottle, swallowing just as long and deep. The silence she spoke about in the mountains began to lengthen in the service station as they both stared at each other.

          “That’s quite a story,” Marion said. He was as genuine as he was creeped out.

          “Eh! It is that! Eh! Now what’s it to do with that maze you want to know?”

          “Yeah. I don’t see the relation yet.”

          “Course you do! All those dreams you had in the comatose! Those endless days of dreams where she came on in through the other side to scream at ye! By the likes of Cain and God in hell, what do you think I was preaching at ye! Did you not hear a lick from my ticker?! Ye head into that maze…she’ll be there. She’ll be there.” It was Magnus who was then whispering.

          With that, Bridget bumped herself from the stool so effortlessly she had become an entirely different creature. For she looked like a creature. Hobbled and rickety and in shambles, yes, but also with a newfound strength that alarmed Marion as he, too, stood off his stool to face her. Boxing style as he’d trained so many years in the sport, and all the street brawls any Houston cop must face. Yet he kept his hands down as to keep things as neutral as possible.

          Bridget circled Marion even more hunched over, with her hands out as if to claw him in defense, but rather than striking she just circled around slowly, Marion following her lead, but all the while focused on her every move. In front of the cash registers, they had just enough room for a close-range sparring match.

          “In all my days on this godforsaken earth I have lived never before have I seen such wickedness, such ghastly power and furious anger, and in walks you, Mister Paul The Cop, in walks the likes of you just out of your comatose bleach seeking the answers to all your loss! Doubting me! Yes! I knew your brother. I knew his demise. He let her in and she took it all as she has done so endlessly before. But you! You! You saw her in your dreams of the horror children! Didn’t you?! Didn’t you!?” Bridget hissed in fury.

          Marion couldn’t grasp how she knew what she knew. But that didn’t matter. He’d heard a hundred thousand tales in his career that never made much sense but always contained some piece of truth in them if he dug in deep enough. His first rule had always been to ask the obvious.

          “Why don’t we stop this face off, Bridget, if that’s what this is. Sound like a plan?”

          “I’ve already given you the plan smack in the middle of your own tickler!”

          “Okay then why don’t we settle down anyway. Because I know you don’t want me coming in on you, and I sure as Christ don’t want you any closer.”

          “Ha! Gotta keep that comic flare up, eh?” and with that she stopped moving as did Marion following her lead.

          “How is it you know about me so much? My dreams? Coming out of a coma?”

          “You ain’t been listening, pee-pee boy. No matter you listened or not. Tale I told is truth. Now…all of a sudden I’m feeling too weary to carry on. At least for now. Make no never mind I’ll be back at it soon enough! But you better scurry on out now ‘fore you end up as your brother. Scurry on now, Mary -Mary. Scurry on before things in here get a lot more than you’d ever want to handle. You’ll need to have a deep trust in that.”

          Marion had no reason not to believe her story. It chilled him more than he let on, of course. Especially the lavender eyes Bridget saw on the demon woman who screamed down the big bad wolf. True or not, all of it began to resonate within him strong enough that he had grown just as exhausted as the hag said she was. He may have looked it, too, for all he knew.

          He walked back a few steps from Bridget, turned to the station’s glass doors and left. Just as he was about to shut the driver’s door, he looked up to see the hag standing right in front of the truck. She was a shocking sight no matter how much he thought he’d gotten used to her.

          “You’ll see me again, Mister Comatose! Best you know that! And sooner than you expect!”

          With that, Marion slammed the driver’s door shut and off he drove, back toward Odessa as the sound of the Odessa Hotel sounded a lot better than fumbling his way around his brother’s place in Duncan. Deed or no deed.

          He fired up the radio again to the same rock station. Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” filled the truck’s cabin with exactly the recipe he needed. The darkness was so dense he kept the brights on constant, didn’t matter if he pissed off drivers in the other lanes. No one’s on the road anyway so who gives a good goddamn, I’ve gotta see.

          In fact, Marion was far righter than he realized when thinking to himself as he saw no signs of life in his own lanes behind him or ahead leading the way, none on the opposite lanes heading back to Duncan. Bruce Dickinson’s full-throttle operatic tenor wailed on into the deep night drive as Marion wished the brights of the truck had another 50 lumens so he could see more than what was immediately in front of him.

          Just as the song about The Beast ended, Marion suddenly could make out something about 40 yards ahead on the opposite lane twitching about on the side of the freeway. More than twitching. He knew enough about roadkill that whatever it was, wasn’t small game. Within the seconds it took for the truck’s headlamps to shine on enough for Marion to see what it was, Marion hit the brakes and turned into the median strip to position the truck and headlamps as to get the best view possible of what Marion had to see.

          He knew how horrible it truly was before the horror had a chance to creep in enough to cause Marion’s keen reactions to slow. Remarkably, yet also a perfect marriage to what he was seeing, the freeway lanes remained completely abandoned. Whatever gruesome savagery he was about to face, the frightful night had left him deeply alone.

He opened the driver’s door ever so slowly and carefully. Knew he had no gun, nor a knife. Only his fabulous hands to take on whatever could come his way.

          Across the way to the opposite lanes’ shoulder, fully lit up from the truck’s headlamps was a hideous creature of obscene movement devouring the shredded gore of the dead carcass Marion had seen on his way into town just hours ago. The creature’s back was distorted and twisted in such a perversion of normalcy, Marion wondered if the thing was somehow insect in nature. Its legs were much thinner and smaller – with just as much distortion as its back – than its front legs, which where were not legs at all, but jagged and metallic arms. Arms that tore into the dead carcass, shoveling the chunks of ruined decay into the creature’s face. A face Marion couldn’t quite make out.

          Then he could.

          Fuck is that…What the fuck is that?

          Marion’s thoughts were so loud he believed he spoke, but instantly knew he was too stunned to speak just yet.

He never did speak.

It wasn’t the creature’s mangled features that terrified Marion to his marrow. It was what the creature was wearing.

          Shredded as badly as the carcass’s remains, but still hanging enough around its neck, shoulders, and waist to be perfectly recognized (at least to Marion) was the Exon service station attire Bridget had worn. Same sickly blue top; same rayon black pants; same cheap faux black leather walking shoes. Only the shoes had been torn through by the creature’s massive feet that looked more like the talons of an ostrich.

          In a split moment the creature stopped eating the carcass gore, stood up on its wiry legs, turned directly to Marion and the truck lights. The moment then turned much slower in motion, as the creature’s limbs and feet and head sunk in as if something was being poured on its entire frame causing it to melt into Bridget Magnus herself.

          “Ha! What of it now, Copper?! You think you’ve seen it all but now I see you’ve not seen anything at all! Who are you to pass judgement! For I’ve been judged the centuries long since Salem ye God fearing wretch! Hung until the maggots ate into my eye sockets, skull- fucking me long before you were in ye’s pappy’s sack! Never forget this night, Mary-Mary Paul Paul. Never forget what ye seek and what I’ve shown during our show and tell. I do only her bidding. Only her bidding! The lavender-eyed demoness!” Bridget screamed in a voice so ragged and graveled only a witch’s throat could bear the burden. “The lavender-eyed demoness! And ye shall fall to her feet, too!”

          Marion had had enough for one night. Long known for his patience of Job, Marion’s final patient knob was turned as far right as it would go. He jumped back into the truck and raced down the freeway with both the truck’s front windows down hoping the fresh air could snap him back to sanity. Back to the canyons that led back to Odessa as he swore to his own God he could hear Bridget Magnus cackle like a monster hyena long after she had disappeared from his rearview mirror.

         

Dean Patrick was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Educated at The University of Houston with Masters’ Degrees in Professional Writing and Literature, he writes professionally for a major software technology in the Salt Lake City area. This story will be included in his sequel to his first novel, The Lady Mephistopheles. He lives in Morgan, Utah, on a small ranch with his wife, Lisa. To this day, he considers his sobriety his greatest victory.