It was ten thirty at night and things were pretty still at the Casey’s gas station in Brookston, Indiana. Jordan had gone to the men’s bathroom to clean up urine. Someone had peed in the corner instead of in the toilet. Gross, she sang. Super gross, she sang and laughed and cleaned it up any way. She was just like that. But Casey’s fired her for it. “Inappropriate singing” they were cited to say. She got along famously with anyone and everyone. Except Gladyss. Jordan walked out when she found Gladyss had been hired. She came back to work and it wasn’t soon after that Gladyss was fired for stealing Lottery tickets. But ole’ Jordan got the shaft even so. Casey’s fired their most valuable employee in my opinion. I wrote her into this story because people like her deserve more than corporations give them. Good old Jordan. I hope she’s well. I’d have her back in a knife fight.
Blood of the Pecos
“Hit her again,” I said, gripping my beer until the perspiration around the bottle dripped over my fingers to the ground. “Hit her harder.”
Drake had been drinking for a couple of hours now and the way things were headed, it was going to either be “jail or ditch,” as he liked to say. Hopefully not jail. Jail was the worst. When Sheriff Thomas had been elected, things had calmed down somewhat, but the beat of life had caught up and things had returned back to where they had begun. Except for the Drazi. They were new, and nobody liked them.
“Hit her real hard.” I told Drake. “Hit her until she stops puking.”
I had seen my first Drazi about a month ago and she had been real pretty. I had been half lit and she had lured me into an alley near the bar and we had started making out. I was glad that I hadn’t gone into the bar earlier and started my usual round, because I wouldn’t have had such quick reflexes. She had tried biting me on the arm but I had shook her off. Screaming she had fallen to the ground, writhing. It was early on and we didn’t know anything about the Drazi then so I tried talking to her and that had been, in retrospect, a huge mistake.
Now, a month later, whenever they came wandering out from the desert, we just killed them. It was no fun sober though. They whined and cried and screamed but, really, if you let them have their way, you’d end up like Chalmers. Near the beginning, Old Sea (as we all called Chalmers) had shacked up with one for about a week. He didn’t show up for work, didn’t come out to the bar… Just stayed in his house. After four days of that nonsense, Drake and I went over to his house to see if he had picked up that nasty flu that had been going around. He didn’t answer the door but she did and invited us inside with pleading hands.
We found Old Sea in his bed crying and moaning and the Drazi was trying to get us to fuck her. She was taking off her clothes, whining and everything, thinking that we would do a three-way, but Drake had gotten real mad at her when she didn’t answer us about what Old Sea was doing lying on the bed like that and not moving. He was naked and whiter than his sheets and he had bite marks all over him. She didn’t even seem to notice he was there, just started taking off her clothes, getting all in the mood or whatever. Drake pushed her up against a wall, real mad like and then she snapped and came for us, all claws and teeth and Drake had killed her with a baseball bat.
And now here I was, in an alley with Drake, commiserating with the devil-woman this savage act. The Drazi seemed to come in packs, or swarms, or litters… Whatever you want to call it. Really beautiful girls that you could smell the sex on. They looked like big city girls with nice faces, but were dressed in hand-me-downs from anywhere and everywhere. Did they raid a Salvation Army Store? The clothes were years out of date and always dirty. But, who cared – they all died the same. Screaming and puking and then eventually turning into a blackened goo that sank into the ground and stank like skunk.
Drake hit her again, this time right in the jaw, and it fell off, clattering.
“Aww fuck this!” He said, and stood up over her and continued with his boot into her skull until she gurgled and stopped moving. Her head sort of exploded and splattered. She quivered once and then disintegrated.
“That’ll show her.” I said, kinda drunkenly. My vision was still alright but the old lady teddy that she had been wearing was now just a dark blue bulge in a black puddle. It was a perfect time for the sheriff to pull up. Almost like someone had phoned him.
“Cheryl gave me a call.” He said as he got out. His big frame made the car creak, sighing relief as he exited. He wasn’t overly fat, but he was really tall. Maybe six feet four.
“She said another one came in, trying to stir up trouble.” He looked at us, at the black blob, and then back to us.
“But… No more trouble I reckon?” He said more than asked. He walked over to the black blob and pulled out his phone, snapped a couple of pictures then put it away, taking a look at us again.
“You boys been drinkin?” He asked, knowing the answer. Of course this is what a cop is going to ask, after he already knew better enough to ask. Usually you get this question on a DUI, but under the circumstances, it seemed a bit odd. Obviously we had been. I had a bottle in my hand and we were behind the only bar in town.
“Well hell, Jeremy,” Drake began, “of course we’ve been drinking. Whatchu think?” Drake sassed everyone, even his own mother. The Sheriff, whose name was indeed Jeremy Thompson, gave a little chuckle.
“How many is that this week?” I asked.
“Four, if you count the one Jorge’ Garcia caught out on his farm near 302. He thinks he knows where they’re coming from so I gave one of the Rangers out of Odessa a ring and he wants to try to track ‘em down and bury ‘em at the source. You fellas wanna ride along?”
This was news. And I thought the Rangers didn’t believe any of it. I said so.
“Well yes, and no.” Sheriff Thompson said. “Seems they do and don’t believe us, even though the tox reports tell ‘em they should. They’re gonna let one of their boys come along just to humor me.”
“Just to humor you?” Drake almost spat.
“Well, Ranger Gibson from Odessa believes me, so that’s who’s coming.” he said, looking us over. “You boys go home and get some rest ‘cause we’re starting pretty early in the morning.”
Around seven I pulled into the station. I could see the Ranger and the Sheriff were already waiting. I brought my .38 Smith and Wesson and my .22 mag Winchester Chuckster. Drake was already waiting with his long-term girlfriend Jordan. She was there in full army gear, borrowed from her brother. Drake had his .44 H&K and she had a .20 gauge Browning shotgun.
“Pumped and ready! Let’s fuck those fuckers!” she said, then added a “Yehaaa!” She always had a way with words. The Sheriff and Ranger sort of laughed and then we loaded up into the Sheriff’s Suburban.
As we drove along, the tension was thicker than a redneck’s pride. The Sheriff decided to try to break it.
“Ranger Gibson’s been real quiet on this whole thing.” Sheriff Thompson said, looking back at us, winking.
“Because none of the good folk of Midland-Odessa want to believe me. And there’s no way I would ever talk to the Army boys down in Stockton…” He said sourly. “Look, I believed you when you sent me those pictures. Don’t say I’ve never been on your side.” He looked out the window and continued: “Look, whatever we find, we’re gonna kill. From everything you’ve told me and what I’ve seen, you can’t seem to reason with ‘em, you can’t talk to ‘em, and they’re just gonna try to kill you. Right?”
“Exactamundo.” I said. “They’re horrible and wonderful, beautiful and deadly.”
Sheriff Thompson laughed. “Somebody’s a poet.”
“You seen ‘em?!” Jordan asked the Ranger, almost jumping into the front seat.
“Woah girl.” Drake said, pulling her back. “She’s just mad cause one of em tried to do the nasty to me.”
“Hell yeah,” Jordan said. “Nobody touchin’ my man, except me,” she said with a pouty lip, leaning back.
“Yeah we took one in to the jail last week,” the Sheriff said. “I called our Ranger friend out here to give it a good look-see.” The Sheriff laughed. “One look at him, and her clothes were off and she started grinding on the cell bars.” He laughed again.
“What did you do with her?” Jeff asked.
“Well, we tried to draw blood for a sample, but the thing got really weird. She started clawing her whole arm open where we had put in the needle.” He turned to look at us for effect. “It got real bad after that, we couldn’t sedate her… And we had to put her down. There was nothing else to do.”
He didn’t elaborate. We didn’t ask. Real Texas hospitality.
The desert sun was starting to creep higher into the horizon, it was twenty five minutes from Pecos to Mentone and another thirty five to Angeles, up by the New Mexico border… We were heading west, with the sun behind us, out to the Garcia shrimp farm. It might seem weird, growing shrimp in the desert, but the key issue was land… And land was cheap around here. You wouldn’t find the Garcia farm on any map, however. Out here, when you bought the land, you never got any of the mineral or water rights. Oh, sure, everyone drilled for oil, but that was only after you had the mineral rights. It was a separate purchase. The proof that everyone drilled for oil was all around you. Hundreds of thousands of pump-jacks littered the horizon. It was all Pecos had come to be known for – Black Texas Tea.
So the Garcia farm ran on stolen water, even though they had drilled the well themselves, they couldn’t legally pump from it. That didn’t stop them from filling up a thousand and fifty gallons per unit, and making a killing on profit. The Sheriff knew, but since the farm spent their money in Reeves County, he didn’t have any problems with it. Reeves was one of those counties out in the panhandle of Texas, where the lines were drawn by a drunk man. We headed west down one of a thousand dirt roads, this one leading to our destination.
The sky was clouding up already behind the never ending sea of pump-jacks. See ya later sun. Late April had that effect on the sky, torrential rains could cause havoc with their flash floods. So far, things looked good – just clouds. We pulled up to one of the shrimp pools and got out. Jorge’ and his son, Manuel, were there to greet us. They told the Sheriff where they had found two other “woman” and then they hopped on their little ATV to take us there. Following that thing for what seemed like hours, we came on a pretty large gully that lead down into some caves. Right then, we felt the first drops of rain.
“Lord Almighty. We’re gonna get wet,” Jordan said. No one else said anything.
We followed Manuel down into the ravine. Jorge’ stayed up with the ATV. The click-clack of his Mossberg 30 aught 6 echoed like a corpse knocking on the inside of his coffin. It was slick going, as the rain was merely bouncing off the dust. We scrambled down, gear on our backs and made it to the bottom. Little streams had already begun to form as we reached the mouth of the cave. There were suitcases strewn about and random articles of clothing here and there, and it stank like hell.
“What in tarnation?” the Sheriff said, and made a show of waving the stench away.
“It’s coming from the cave,” Drake said, echoing all of our thoughts.
“Course it is dummy,” Jordan elbowed him in the side, “what else could it be?”
The wind and the rain were picking up but it wasn’t stopping the smell. Manuel shouted something to the Ranger who nodded and Manuel started back up the slope.
“He had to go back to his dad!” The Ranger yelled to us. “Something about making sure the shrimp are alright in the rain.”
I laughed. That seemed like it would maybe never be a problem, but then I stopped when I realized that they were supposed to be in saltwater, not rainwater.
“Oh.” I said. Jordan laughed at me. I don’t think anyone else got the logic. She was quick… or I was just slow.
The rain was really coming down and the Ranger put his hand on his holster.
“Well? Are we doing this thing or not? We ain’t got much time!” he almost shouted.
“I think we need to come back after the rain!” I said. “It might get too bad to go in!”
The Sheriff chewed the inside of his lip, thinking things over. He spoke as he turned to us.
“Yeah I reckon we ought to come back after… “ But he didn’t finish his sentence, he was looking behind us.
“Git… Outta… Here!” he said, but it was too late. From over the top of the lip, Jorge’ had gone insane. He was racing his ATV down in on us, Manuel holding on for dear life.
“Inudar! Inudar! Está viniendo!” he screamed to us in Spanish. Flash flood, and it’s coming this way.
We scrambled towards the side of the cave. No one was suicidal enough to go in, it would be a death trap, but we all knew we could out-run it if we got higher than it wanted to go. See, the trick is to find the break in the water. If you’re lucky enough to see it before it hits you, you can get away from it and get on a high spot just out of its reach. You couldn’t get around it, you couldn’t go through it, you couldn’t race it, but you could out-think it. The only goal was: “up.”
Which is why Jorge’ was driving down the canyon instead of the other direction. He had been fortunate enough to see it before it took him out. The only option left to him was to go downhill and then up the next hill, away and out of reach. All this went through my head in maybe one or two seconds as I was scrambling up the side of the hill behind the cave.
I’ve read enough books to know that they say: “It all happened in slow motion.” Well that’s complete bullcrap. It all happened fast and hard. The water didn’t come down the sides of the canyon as much as jump off like some sort of insane stampede. It was probably going eighty miles an hour and flew at us like God had opened the floodgates over Noah.
The Sheriff, The Ranger, Jordan, and Drake were all ahead of me. Drake and Jordan on the right and the law on the left. Jorge’ and his son were rocketing up the far right side on the ATV and I was stuck behind the Sheriff. Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a worse person to follow. He was slow for a big fella and took up a lot of room. The water hit my leg and snapped me up like a croc taking down a poodle. I went down.
I don’t know how long I held my breath, but it was knocked out of me before I knew enough to appreciate my Navy drowning training. I bumped, hit my knee and I think I cracked a rib before I came on something hard that wouldn’t move. It was a hammer on my back. The strength drained out of me. Nothing I did would let me get away and the small amount of air I had was burning in my lungs. I was going to die.
I didn’t die, obviously. All I did was black out like a sissy. I opened my eyes to Drake hovering over me in the back of Jorge’s house, on what must have been his bed. I was out for only a couple of hours, but they must have been action packed ‘cause Drake wouldn’t stop talking.
I had gone down into the cave alright, just like you probably thought I did. Didn’t go very far though, I had gotten hung up on a ledge. Drake kept telling me over and over how lucky I was, how lucky everything was.
“You don’t know how lucky you are man!” he said. “You don’t know how lucky all of us were!”
“I know, I know.” I told him, rolling my eyes. “You keep telling me. What happened next?”
He kinda paused, looking at me with hard eyes, like he was trying to see if I was messing with him.
“Just tell me already.” I said deadpan.
“Well, hell man. I don’t really know if I can describe it myself. I mean, for real describe it. Kinda like, it was like… Well… It was kinda like hell.” He was fidgeting with his hands, so I knew he was having a hard time with it all.
“There was kinda this huge cliff. And you were stuck on the very edge man. The lip. You don’t know how lucky you are man. You were stuck on the very lip of the edge of hell man. Hell!” He paused, scrunched up his brow then kept going.
“So… Okay, we get in there when the water is done moving around and we see you stuck like a fish in a net on the edge of this thing. Manuel and Jorge’ and everybody was in there and the water had gone down into the hole. But that wasn’t the thing man. That wasn’t the thing!” He was standing, arms waving.
“There were like, demons or something crawling up the sides man! Like, Succubus Vampire Demons crawling up the rocks to the top! Hundreds of em! And the farther we looked down, the more there were! Dude! I’m telling you! It was a portal to hell!” He waved his arms up in the air like a Sunday morning preacher.
And, as if God decided to emphasize the point right then and there, a huge KAWHUMP shook the room.
“What was that?” I yelled, grabbing the sides of the bed.
Drake looked out the window.
“Oh that’s The Sheriff, The Ranger, and Jordan. They decided to go back to her place and unload five hundred pounds of Tannerite into the hole… Judging from the explosion, that ought to take care of the problem. I sure hoped it did.
Pauly Hart is a public speaker, actor, painter, singer, poet, and story-teller. His main focus today is writing. His latest works have involved novellas in the vein of “Classical Horror” from the Christ-centered world-view. The Horror story is the story where the character has to survive until the end. What better chance for survival than in Christ? Pauly writes not for the churchy types, but for those who would pick up a Stephen King book, giving them an alternative to the spirits. Pauly writes so that the Holy Spirit will have room made for him in modern day literature. He runs several websites all bent on leaving the mind of the atheist awash with the glory of heaven. You can find him at PaulyHart.com