AT TIMES, DON’T FEED THE DARK CONTAINS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, GORE, EXPLICIT SEXUAL CONTENT AND HARSH LANGUAGE THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNGER READERS OR THE SQUEAMISH. DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
The October harvest moon ascended above the tree line; its ominous, orange lit lower half sporadically penetrated the dark clouds that slowly consumed the night sky. Like an alien eye staring down upon the dark and silent village of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, that fiery orb held its gaze upon the small downtown streets below, sensing an unsettling presence that did not belong.
Elongated shadows shifted beneath the moonlight, giving them an eerie life-like quality as they slowly paraded along Route 306 and through the heart of downtown. First, past the public hall and police station on the left, and then the small post office to the right; past the library, the dollar store, the local bank, and then beyond the public schools all nestled together across the street from Kirtland’s only apartment complex. They continued on past the small antique shops, the gas station, the family owned ice cream shop, until finally reaching the edge of downtown and passing through the Mormon historical district. A modern church and a visitor center surrounded the tallest structure, the Mormon Temple—its tall spire pointing defiantly toward that roaming eye above, like a needle hoping to pierce the moon. The shadow parade continued cautiously past the local town cemetery where horrors imagined would soon merge with tangible nightmares disguised in darkness and the illusion of eternal rest.
Beyond the sheepish downtown, the shadow parade dispersed into the darker streets that wound the spacious hillside areas of Kirtland where dim street lights gave way to dark countryside, farm lands, and long private drives, which hid the luxurious homes of Kirtland’s more fortuitous citizens… and an evil which began to stir.
The crisp night air invigorated the man dressed in black as he watched the moon flicker between the waving boughs of two enormous willow trees that hid him and the Chevy van. The narrow dirt road, covered with overgrowth, ran the entire perimeter of the old abandoned farm, providing the perfect place to approach the Schuler residence undetected from the back of the property.
He continued to lie patiently in the tall grass beneath the willow, arms folded behind his head and listening to the wind brush against the night.
“I see you,” he whispered to the moon.
The moon remained silent.
Half-an-hour later, the celestial watchman retreated behind the clouds.
Russell got up, crossed the dirt road, and jumped over a decrepit wooden fence that separated both properties.
He walked silently but purposefully through a small wooded area for ten minutes before seeing the rear porch light on the wraparound veranda, a tell-tale of the two-story Victorian Schuler residence that dominated the property.
Before exiting the wood line, he knelt behind a tall oak tree, letting his eyes readjust to the unwelcome light while he watched for anything out of the ordinary.
At the center of a well-manicured yard sat a small pond with a fountain, guarded by a tall angelic stone statue and surrounded by a luxurious garden of several types of seasonal flowers.
If nothing else, Janet loves her flowers, Russell thought.
With the exception of the rear porch light and the kitchen light on the first floor that illuminated part of the garden, the remainder of the yard had given up to darkness. Russell knew that the only other light to contend with once he was inside would be the hallway light at the top of the curved stairwell that spilled out into the foyer at the front of the house.
Satisfied, he took a moment to reflect. He often felt a mixture of excitement and sadness knowing that the end had finally come. There had been so much time invested in all the details—everything concerning the lives of Gerald and Janet Schuler. He felt like he knew them intimately.
Gerald was a big-shot defense attorney who worked out of Cleveland. He often traveled to accommodate an ever-increasing list of infamous clients. This week he was out in San Francisco interviewing the latest pond scum, or at least, that’s the story he told his gullible wife.
But we know better, don’t we, boss?
“Yes,” Russell whispered in response, slightly annoyed. “We certainly do.”
Gerald’s new client was actually the young and voluptuous Miss Sarah Turner, Gerald’s secretary and secret mistress.
Gone off to ‘Frisco for their quarterly fuck-fest. That dumb whore bitch of his thinks Gerald’s gonna divorce Mrs. Pathetic any day now. Thinks she’s next in line for the great Schuler fortune, I’d wager. What ‘cha think, boss?
Russell ignored him. What mattered was that Gerald would not be home.
And Janet… alone.
Russell first encountered Janet Schuler at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. His flight had been delayed so he’d gone for a drink at the airport bar. While sitting several stools away, he’d overheard her talking to a friend on her cell phone.
“I know I should confront him but- No, Marge, it’s not like that!” Janet had looked flustered. “We’ve just been having some issues- No, I will not! That would be just as wrong! Whatever, I don’t believe in… divorce.” She’d whispered the last word as though it were taboo to even speak it. “Look, we’ll talk later. I’ve got to go.”
The conversation had been an amusing distraction at best, until Russell turned to watch her go. From the moment he looked deep into the abyss of her sad eyes, he knew that she needed him. Janet was another prisoner of a cold and lonesome world and he was her lighthouse in the storm. She just didn’t know it yet.
For two weeks, Russell had learned all he could about Janet and her shady husband. He’d studied their routines, their habits and behaviors. He’d followed them separately, listening in on their conversations in public places at lunch time and the rare instances they went out together.
When he needed more, Russell broke into their home and tampered with the security system, modifying it to appear functional, though inactive. He read their discarded mail, birthday cards, and old high school letters. He found Janet’s diary, which she kept hidden in the back of her walk-in closet (next to that funny pink hat she loved). He hacked into their home computer and read Janet’s Facebook page (Gerald didn’t care for that crap). He read all their private email correspondence, tapped into their personal files, pictures, and anything else that might be relevant to piece together their history.
The more Russell discovered about Janet Schuler, the more he realized how much she needed him. In a few words: she was a sad and lonely soul, locked up in a dungeon of societal status and expectations. She’d given up her dreams of being an artist to pursue a family that Gerald did not want. Trapped in a bad marriage with the hope that Gerald would come around, Janet turned to gardening to ease the pain of a misspent life while Gerald pursued his own ambitions—primarily, the rest of the female species that would spread their legs for him.
“I am Deliverance,” Russell declared from behind the oak tree.
You sure are, boss. Fuckin’ FedEx can’t touch your rapid delivery time to the other side. Question is… how many pieces are we shipping?
Russell felt the old annoyance rising up within him.
You gonna place that mean ole’ knife right up against her throat and take all the pain away, aren’t you, boss?
“Yes,” he whispered. He hated acknowledging what he generically called, ‘the other one’, but sometimes it was persistent. The other one always tried to cheapen what he did and turn his cause into something perverse and primal. But Russell knew better—he was better than that.
And right before you slit her throat and watch the light go out in those ‘too good for this fucking world’ eyes, you gonna stick something else to her, right, boss? Give her all the lovin’ Gerald’s been holding out on her.
“Shut up.” Russell dismissed the savage. He turned to look back at where the moon had once been, removed his large hunting knife from the sheath he wore on his belt, and then held it up like a twisted talisman and proclaimed, “I am the angel of freedom, here to save the just from the darkness that comes. For the sake of the righteous ones suppressed by this perishing world, I will deliver them from the long night-”
And spill their fucking blood until we’re swimmin’ in it! Split ‘em right down the center and turn ‘em inside out! Can you say fucking hall-e-lu-hah. Amen!
The thought rose up in Russell like a violent storm:
SHUT THE FUCK UP!
And the other one fell silent. Can you say, Amen.
Russell placed the six-inch blade, the instrument of his calling, back into his sheath. He looked toward the quiet house. It was time.
After putting on his black leather gloves, Russell moved cautiously from shadow to shadow until he reached the veranda steps. He quickly unscrewed the porch light bulb, bringing back some of the familiar darkness he craved.
Russell let his eyes adjust and then moved toward the sliding glass door that led into the den. He knew the door would be unlocked. Russell also knew that Janet never ventured into the den, for that was Gerald’s private place and off-limits to lowly housewives. Of course, Russell knew all about Gerald’s online porn collection. His office computer was loaded with the filth, making Russell want to wash his hands after he’d discovered it.
Are you sure you don’t wanna come back and gut this pig too, boss?
Russell had to admit, it was awfully tempting.
The glass door slid open with ease. He was about to enter the dark den, but stopped when he heard an unknown sound.
Something’s changed. Something felt… different.
He quickly spun on the ball of his left foot, performing an ‘about face’ while drawing the hunting knife simultaneously. Russell crouched before the open glass door with his weapon retracted like a viper ready to strike.
It’s the fuckin’ wind, boss. Something’s sittin’ foul on it.
Not only that, but Russell was certain he heard something in the darkness, something muffled by the wind.
A strong gust had blown by, causing the dark curtains within the den to dance before the open door. Russell reached behind and slowly closed it. He scanned the dark yard for movement but all he saw were the waving skeletal remains of trees stripped of their fall garments.
That was a scream, boss. You know it. I know it. We be experts in that regard, don’t you think?
Russell ignored him. Even if the other one was correct, the scream was coming from elsewhere. Sound did funny things when it met the wind. “Could have been a coyote or a raccoon,” he reasoned.
Anything you say, boss. I still don’t like it.
For once they were in agreement.
Russell decided to proceed. He opened the sliding glass door and entered the darkness of the den.
Fear was not a sensation Russell was capable of anymore, but he was still relieved to be indoors and out of the strange night. Once within the den, he forgot all else, turning his attention to the task. The digital clock in the den displayed 3:15 in bright, blood-red.
She would be asleep by now; Janet was seldom up past midnight. She often retired early and woke up before dawn. Janet loved to sit out back on the porch swing with her morning coffee and enjoy the solace her gardening efforts provided. Russell had watched her on three different occasions in this way and was convinced that at these times, Janet was the most herself, which also meant, the most vulnerable.
He remembered the last morning he’d watched her from the woods—her unkempt, long, blond hair dancing in a soft breeze over the shoulders of her long, white nightgown. He remembered the way she folded her legs up toward her chest, resting her arms and coffee cup between her knees as she seemed to savor each sip and just absorb the morning with those sharp, blue eyes. Those eyes—it was always the eyes—that told him everything he needed to know. And then there was her secret smile, only released in moments such as these when both woman and child surfaced to fuse as one while the illusion of life renewed had not yet faded to the harsh realities of the pending day.
Russell had almost screwed up that final morning as he’d nearly stepped out from the cover of the trees, wanting to take her then, before the day could become cruel and steal that perfect moment from them.
It had been his reflection in the knife blade that he’d unconsciously drawn that brought him back to his senses. One look into those two black holes upon a face made stone by years of calculated coldness made Russell aware that he had overstayed his welcome, and that the morning would reveal too much if he didn’t depart and retreat back into the dark, where everyone was equally ugly and shadows were no respecter of persons.
Are you still there, boss?
“Yes,” he whispered, returning from the time machine of memory.
Russell moved quickly to the right and slowly opened the door. The expected kitchen light poured in through the crack, momentarily exposing Gerald’s ‘I love me’ room of walls littered with certificates and treasured sports memorabilia. Gerald’s sacred world of porn and pompous man were soon forgotten as Russell entered the kitchen, closed the den door behind him, and quickly turned off the kitchen light.
He paused a few moments to ensure there were no sounds coming from the house (not even a mouse), and then he followed the last of the light coming from his left, which led into the massive foyer. He flipped both light switches off near the foot of the large curved staircase and one more by the elaborately decorated oak double front doors, which killed the remaining light coming from the front porch and upper hallway.
The moon had returned. Ambient light poured in through the large stained-glass window overlooking the foyer, but not enough light to expose Russell in the darkness.
From his vantage point near the front door, Russell looked up at Janet’s bedroom on the second floor. The door was open. If she’d been awake, there would’ve been movement when he’d turned out the foyer light. All remained quiet, as expected.
Russell waited ten more minutes, preparing his mind for the dark deed of deliverance, and then began to ascend the curved staircase.
The other one could no longer remain silent:
Here piggy, piggy, piggy… it’s time for a bloodbath.
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“Chapter 1-1: Demon Night” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.