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in this damn void: Poem by J. J. Campbell
in the back of my brain: Poem by J. J. Campbell
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Jon Park: A Christmas Collection

95_ym_christmascollection_mdavis.jpg
Art by Michael D. Davis 2022

A Christmas Collection

by Jon Park


Brian pointed the house out. It was set back from the main road. Hidden by two giant redwood trees that grew on either side. Colin swung the white van, affectionally known as the “meat wagon,” onto the narrow drive and killed the engine. The house was a single-storey, wooden structure. Shrouded in darkness of the trees that towered above it. The garden was overgrown. He could see parts of a pick-up truck scattered amongst the undergrowth.

Brian sat slumped in the passenger seat. He tapped away at the screen of an iPad that sat in his lap. Even the collection of the dead had moved with the times. Gone were the clipboard and forms. All the deceased’s data was now held in a cloud somewhere. Which amused Colin to no end, as every time he heard this, he had the image of the recently deceased sat on this cloud, strumming away on a harp while surrounded by filing cabinets.

“Bet they didn’t tell you who the stiff is we’re here to collect?” said Brian, his face illuminated by the screen of the iPad.

“I’m guessing if he lives here, he ain’t no A-list celebrity.” Colin replied.

“Adam Croft is his name. Or was, should I say. Quite the celeb round here when I was a kid. I used to live just down the street from here, on Beech Lane. This fella was the main suspect in some pretty heavy shit back in the noughties. Me and my buddies watched the police haul his sorry arse out of this very house. He came out kicking and a hollering like a stuck pig.”

“Really?” Colin said, suddenly interested. “What kind of shit we talking?”

“He was only the main suspect in the disappearance of seven local women. “

“How come he’s not lying dead in a prison cell, then?”

Brian opened the passenger door and jumped from the van. Colin took another look at the house and followed him, wanting to hear the rest of the story. Brian was already hauling the gurney from the back of the van, lowering it onto the driveway.

“Go on then,” Colin urged.

“Well, the cops had him in custody. But then they picked up this homeless guy down at the church shelter. He had one of the women’s purses on him. Reckoned he had found it down some storm drain. And with no bodies, the cops released our stiff and the homeless dude went down for life. The cops were under pressure to solve the case, I guess.”

“Fuck. Don’t you just love a happy ending on Christmas Eve? You haul the gurney and I’ll get the door. If we get sorted quick enough, we can join the rest of the crew at Reds for a festive beer or two.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Colin ripped the police tape off the door and opened it. He stood back and allowed Brian to pass with the gurney. The darkness swallowed his partner in one gulp. Even stood here on the porch, with the door open, Colin could smell the decaying flesh.

Brian found the light switch and lit up the hallway. Colin let the door close behind him.  The hallway ran the length of the house down into the kitchen. It was empty except for a small table set back against the wall. A black dial telephone rested on the table. A phone book lay open next to it.

Brian manoeuvred the gurney into the living area that opened off to the left.  Colin followed. Brian found the light switch. They both stopped and looked up at the large Christmas tree that seemed to fill the room. It was so tall; the tree’s crown was crushed against the ceiling.

“Now that’s what I call a tree, “Brian said.

“How the fuck did he manage to get that in here?” Colin asked.

“Well, why don’t you ask him” Brian said, pointing to the frail body that lay slumped in a battered armchair.

“Adam Croft, I presume?” said Colin, laughing at his own joke. “Let’s get him out of here and then we can get to Red’s for that beer.”

Brian pushed the gurney to the left of the armchair and began to unfurl the body bag. Colin brushed past the tree. A large, red bauble began to swing on its branch. He instinctively grabbed the bauble to steady it. The bauble was the size of a small football. It looked handmade, the kind of thing a child would bring home from school. The weight of it surprised him.

“Stop admiring the tree, Colin, and get your arse over here.”

Colin gently released the bauble and joined Brian at the gurney. They both pulled on masks and surgical gloves.

“Legs or head?” Brain asked.

Colin reached down and took hold of the body’s thin legs. Brian took hold of the torso and together they peeled the body away from the fabric of the armchair and laid it down gently into the body bag. Brian gave the body a final adjustment, then sealed the bag.

“We’ve got seepage,” Brian said, pointing to the dark stains on the cushions of the armchair. “I’ll grab a couple more bags off the van.”

Colin moved to the tree. Another bauble had attracted his attention. This one was green. Similar in size to the red bauble. Again handmade. But it was the shape of this one that attracted him. He reached into the tree and removed it. It was heavy. He tapped it with his finger. Turned it in a couple of times. Then dropped it to the floor.

The bauble hit the floor with a satisfying thud and broke open. Colin reached down and lifted part of it from the floor. His stomach dropped. He counted another six baubles of similar shape and size hanging from the tree.

Brian returned from the van. He began to pack the stained cushions into a bag with “Surgical Waste” written on its side. He then noticed Colin, staring back at him from across the room

“You okay, Colin? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

“I think I have,” he replied, holding up the jawbone he had removed from the remnants of the green bauble. He turned and reached into the tree again. Grasped the red bauble this time and threw it down onto the floor, already knowing what he would find.

 

Jon Park lives in the North East of England.



If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Willy Wonka sired a bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped by dear friends and a freak by passing strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when he was ten, and his skill has improved with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He is for the most part self-taught, only ever crediting the help of one great high school art teacher. His art has been shown at his local library for multiple years only during October due to its macabre nature. If you want to see more of Michael’s strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him on Instagram at mad_hatters_mania.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022