From the Slushpile: The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen (Final Installment)

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In the end, we dragged the dead into Luke’s tent and then burned them along with the pine forest. If we were fortunate, fire would cleanse the bodies and the crime scene. The lazy local police would write it up as a tragic accident: two druggies passed out, and their untended campfire burned them and the woods to ash. Case closed.

Klaus, Turtle, and I made a pact that night, one sealed with the blood of our friend. We resolved to never talk about it to anyone, even each other. It started as a dream, a nightmare to be honest, and it would end that way. We lived in the waking world after all and things like that didn’t happen here. Denial became our creed, our code.

For a time, it worked. As the years passed, we drifted apart. And like all college friends, we went our separate ways after leaving school.

I finished before both of them and got a job with a private archaeology firm putting my degree and my experience with shovels to use every day. I faced my dark times and moved past them; I enjoyed the woods around me, especially the grainy feel of the wooden handle in my calloused hands. For me, my work experience was cathartic.

Klaus finished his double majors and took a position with a rigidly structured, family-owned corporation that didn’t mesh well with his selfish satanic views and rock ‘n roll lifestyle. After his short-lived, volatile career in the private sector, he retreated from public life too. Instead of partying with friends or playing heavy metal music at local bars, he hid away from the world at his grandmother’s expansive farm in the southern part of the county. The last I’d heard he was delivering pizza to make ends meet.

Turtle, surprisingly enough, went into law enforcement. Or at least as close as they’d let him with bad eyes, bum knees, and a pronounced beer belly. He worked as a radio dispatcher for the county sheriff’s office and would always let me know if someone we knew got robbed, arrested, or even pulled over for that matter. Turtle provided better gossip than my grandmother, beloved family snoop and infamous community busybody.

Since he monitored other people’s communications as part of his job, Turtle avoided relaying anything to me through digital channels such as phones and Facebook. So I’d gotten used to the occasional handwritten letter from him stuffed into the tiny mailbox at the apartment building near my home office. But the overstuffed manila envelope from him took me by surprise. I found its grisly contents even more shocking.

Turtle enclosed a long, rambling letter along with newspaper clippings and what appeared to be photocopies of police files and crime scene photos. The clippings detailed the accidental discovery of human remains. As they are wont to do when replacing or installing a new water line, county workers had dug a trench across a county road that had been paved several years before. Only on this occasion, they had trenched across the femur bones of a local woman who’d gone missing shortly before the road was redone.

The newspaper articles were short on details, but the letter informed me that the police had withheld information until a proper forensic analysis of the body could be conducted. According to the photos and reports, they’d learned that she’d been a victim of a heinous but familiar crime. Her ribs had been cracked open and her heart removed. The county medical examiner called the killing ritualistic, perhaps the work of a Satanist. In his letter, Turtle appealed to me for answers. Did I think it was Luke’s handiwork? Could Klaus have been possessed by it when he killed Luke? Should he talk to the cops?

My blood ran cold as my breathing hitched, almost causing me to toss my lunch. I fought down the growing sense of alarm and the feeling of betrayal. I checked the postmark. It was dated almost a week ago, the newspaper clippings two weeks earlier.

I called Turtle’s cell phone several times but received no answer. Alarm turned to panic and paranoia. Perhaps he was at work. Perhaps he was at work telling his buddies in blue all about a similar murder he’d witnessed once upon a time. Or maybe he was dead already. After all, if this killing had come to light, so could the others. A smart killer threatened with possible exposure wouldn’t leave loose ends. And there were only three living souls who knew the truth about heartless victims in the rolling hills of Bama.

One call to Turtle’s mother confirmed my suspicions. Through the sound of tears and a snot-filled nose, she told me how her baby boy had eaten a big meal, drank most of a bottle of the wine I’d sent him from a winery in Tennessee, and then gone to bed for the last time. She’d found him the next morning. He’d been dead for hours. The paramedics had taken one look at the bloated body surrounded by crumpled pizza boxes, fast food wrappers, and empty beer and wine bottles and called it a cardiac event. The doctors at the for-profit regional medical center had confirmed it without so much as an autopsy. By the time my conversation ended with Turtle’s mom, I’d agreed to be a pallbearer. After all, I had to come home to deal with some unfinished business anyway.

I didn’t bother to unpack my work clothes or equipment as this trip was liable to involve some digging. I hung my black suit above my dress shoes in the backseat of the truck and headed for home. I dreaded going back there, even if only for a little while, so I took my sweet time. Alone with my thoughts, I hardened myself for the task to come.

Rain drizzled on the somber assembly around the grave of my friend. The Turtle’s law enforcement friends and co-workers had come out in force. Pardon the pun. But funerals always help me find the humor in life.

I stared across the thin blue line, an odd euphemism since most of the cops made Turtle look svelte by comparison. Klaus glared back at me. His cold black eyes seemed lifeless, his skin pale as a corpse, a stark contrast to his black-on-black wardrobe. As always, he punctuated his severe gothic punk look with his silvery pentagram pendant. In short, little about him had changed in those years since the bad old days.

I decided on my course of action as the preacher hemmed and hawed about the glory of the Lord or some other such nonsense. Like most ministers in the South, he’d chosen the forum of a funeral to harangue people into attending church rather than celebrating the life and times of our fallen friend.

Typical, I thought. Turtle must be rolling in his coffin. His parents might have found Jesus in their later years, but their gifted gypsy boy had remained an outspoken pagan and amateur psychic as an adult. Of the three of us, I considered him the least likely to set foot in a church and that was saying quite a bit. Klaus adhered to LeVayan Satanism as opposed to theistic Luciferianism, but he was still an ardent anti-Christian. And I’d probably burst into flames by walking through the doors of any church.

After the rainy, gray funeral ended and the army of men in blue dispersed, Klaus approached me. As always, he looked grave and serious. He’d been born and would die a walking stereotype. Too bad the people around him tended to judge a book by its cover, including his friends and family. He looked dejected, lonely, and a shadow of himself.

“We have to talk,” he said, adjusting the waistband of his Victorian dress pants. As he did so, the handle of his pistol became visible. Carrying a concealed weapon at a funeral, I thought. He must be scared, stupid, or serious, deadly serious. I bet on all three.

“There’s nothing to talk about, remember?” I reminded Klaus and turned away.

He grabbed me by the arm, and I locked eyes with him. My gaze bore into his vacant eyes, and he withered like a sunflower deprived of sunshine under its intensity. Klaus let go and stepped away from me.

“For what it’s worth,” he said, “I’m sorry for everything that went wrong back in the day. I wanted to tell Turtle that too. I didn’t think…he was still so young. But I guess we’re not guaranteed any day beyond this one, right?”

“That’s a truer statement for some than it is for others.”

Klaus shivered in his oversized suit and pulled the long-tailed jacket tighter around him. Raising his dark eyes to my own, he tried to smile and failed. He averted his gaze and shuffled his feet. I couldn’t admit to being any more comfortable around him.

“Let’s talk about this indoors,” he said. “I’m freezing my balls off out here.”

“Can’t do it at the moment. I have to visit family while I’m here.”

“How about after I get off work tonight? I’ll be there till around 11 o’clock.”

“Are you still delivering pizzas?”

“Yeah,” he shuffled his feet in the wet grass around the open grave. “It’s hard to find a job around these parts with degrees in psychology and sociology.”

“Imagine that,” I chuckled. “The way I keep work is by staying on the road. Speaking of the road, I need to be hitting it soon. Thanks by the way.”

“Thanks for what? The apology?”

“That and the gift.”

Klaus looked confused. After a moment, he asked, “The gift of friendship?”

“You could say that,” I winked. “It’s something I wouldn’t have without you.”

“Uh, give me a call at work later.” He added, “If you want to, that is.”

I smiled and said, “Neither heaven nor hell could stop me.”

I left Klaus standing in the rain. By the time, I saw him that evening it had ceased. The temperature was hot and muggy as it tended to be in the Deep South. He stepped onto the ill lit porch of the rundown house. One of many foreclosures in the avenues on the eastside of town, I’d taken the real estate sign out of the yard and made it my own for the night. There was one thing left to do here in the Hellmouth and then I could go.

“Ever seen the back of a shovel?” I asked my prey as he stood framed in the pale moonlight. Though I wore the skin of his former friend, I considered him to be one thing, a loose end. He might have brought me into this world, but I was taking him out of it.

The answer I sought came a moment later when the shovel blade made contact with an all-too-familiar face. His eyes rolled back into the sunken sockets as he groaned in pain. Unwilling to give my enemy any quarter, I swung again…and again. The shovel rang like a badly forged bell.

KLANG! KLANG! KLANG!

My heart raced; my breathing grew ragged and shallow. I needed to lose weight.

KLANG! KLANG! KLANG!

I didn’t stop until the bloody mess that lay below the blade of the spade was no longer recognizable as the man I’d once called friend. Klaus twitched spastically and tried to reach for the pistol in his belt holster. So I hit him once more for good measure.

Turtle, the facilitator, had been easier, an accident had sufficed. He sent me letters on a regular basis; and I mailed him unique wines and liquors encountered in my travels. When my grandmother, a faster but less reliable source of gossip from the county grapevine, had told me about the body found in a stretch of highway, I knew I had to act. Enough pure nicotine injected through the cork of a wine bottle had done the trick. An overweight smoker having a heart attack seemed as natural to the corner as the majesty of the secluded hilltop where I now stood over the hole I’d dug for Klaus Kristiansen.

On another fateful morning near the Hellmouth, I buried my conduit, the final witness to my unwelcome, unceremonious birth into the world of humankind, deep in the Alabama clay.

But not before I ate his heart.

THE END

This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works. 

Any resemblance to persons living or dead, events real or imagined, etc. is entirely intentional. This is a work of fiction but draws on real events and references the real world at times. Any reference, product placement, or pop culture quote is not intended to impinge on any trademark, patent, and/or copyright; rather it is flavor text for the dialogue of characters raised within the context of our pop culture.

 If you don’t like these terms of agreement, go check yourself. You’re complaining about a #FREE story.

From the Slushpile: The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen (Part I)

Let’s start October off on the right foot with a new blog feature, “From the Slushpile.” I’ve decided on this title as many of the stories that I will share in serial form here were either too extreme for the publishers (as in the case of our first story), did not work for the publishers/editors, or simply did not find a home in print for one reason or another.

I’ve held onto these for some time, even though they continue to get good reviews from select people who have read them. And I cannot afford to pay a cover artist for each story so I can place them on Kindle. As a result of being a broke guy with dark, eclectic, and often whimsical tastes in fiction, you will have the opportunity to read these on my blog in serialized form. All for free. Well, mostly free. I will ask for a small sacrifice of your time, attention, and if you’re being constructive or complementary, input while these tales reel out for your perusal. But be forewarned, not all of these stories made it to final formatting. There may be a few errors hiding in the text.

This story was written for Seventh Star Press’s Southern Haunts 2, although it was deemed too extreme for their PG-13 rating. I was asked to cut my drug references, sexual situations, adult language, and graphic violence. I doubt there would have been much of a story left at that point, so I pulled the submission. The submission guidelines called for a story about demons, based on a real life event in a real place. So I chose to fictionalize a story about an occurrence in Jacksonville, Alabama that I cannot fully explain to this day. Without further adieu, I bring you the beginning of “The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen.”

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The college party at the Wind Song Apartments, located in a real Hellmouth, a rather picturesque college town called Jacksonville, Alabama, stretched into the early hours of the morning. Until the flabby arm of Johnny Law saw fit to end it. As with so many events in my life, it started with revelry and ended in tragedy.

A few others and I sought the nearby refuge of our friend Klaus Kristiansen.  We clustered into his cluttered, cramped apartment to smoke the kindest of the kind and drink the stoutest of the stout. But most of all we talked.

As we became comfortably numb, time like topic became relative. Quite relative indeed. Our numbers dwindled as the sun crept toward the horizon outside of Klaus’s smoky den until only he and I remained. As we sat on the edge of consciousness, the conversation turned to the ephemeral, the heady stuff of dreams. We each shared our disparate visions for the future of humanity before discussing our own personal versions.

We saw ourselves as crafting our reality based on something we’d seen with our sleeping minds’ eyes. As a result of his dreams, King Klaus Kristiansen sought a path of conquest, using his inborn abilities to create a modern version of a medieval fiefdom that would allow him to reign supreme over lesser men. As an extropian and staunch believer in the power of the human spirit, I sought to help my fellow humans cast off the shackles of pyramidal control structures and evolve past the limited thinking produced by a society based on the specter of scarcity. He called me a fool. And I called him a fascist.

One might ask why I was friends with such a person, someone I knew to be diametrically opposed to most everything I believed. I’d listened to my medicine father’s songs and stories as he taught me the indigenous ways of my people, the ways of the pipe. Though I heard his cautionary tales of all the mysteries of creation, both great and small, I didn’t believe them at the time. It took confronting the forces of darkness and losing the battle for someone’s soul to make me a believer.

I’d met Klaus Kristiansen when he’d come to attend school in my hometown, a sleepy but sinful town nestled among the foothills of the Appalachians. The self-described Rock ‘n Roll Satanist claimed to be the grandson of an SS Colonel who helped Hitler develop the world’s first flying saucers. In short, Klaus was larger than life, an id, an ego, and superego wedged into leather pants two sizes too small. A man most would call crazy, or comical, if it wasn’t for the .40 caliber Glock stuck into his waistband.

As a keen observer of human behavior, Klaus fascinated and infuriated me, in the fashion of a noisome bee, unsure if it’s simply annoying or actually dangerous. He could be elegant, chivalrous, and noble one moment and selfish, sadistic, and cruel the very next. He vexed most people. But I took his offer of friendship as a challenge.

We had reached a philosophical impasse, as we often did in our debates. The conversation hit a lull. Blue smoke swirled in the stale air between us. And then a knock at the door cut the tension with the ease of a razor’s edge. Paranoia replaced my concern for my troubled friend’s post-apocalyptic vision for humanity’s future. Who could be knocking this time of the morning? Was it the police again? If so, we were going to jail.

Klaus shifted his black eyes from me to the door. As one hand slid his tray under the lip of the sofa, the other edged the semiautomatic pistol from its holster. Before he could draw the pistol, the Turtle entered in spectacular fashion. His Krameresque entry startled us more than his sudden rapping on the apartment door.

The Turtle–nicknamed for his smooth head and hunched back–made wild claims to various abilities, including but not limited to psychical and martial prowess. To us, he was simply a talkative, imaginative friend who happened to resemble a pink-skinned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And this morning he provided the catalyst to jumpstart our flagging conversation. But Turtle became a catalyst of a different sort, for he too had been led by his dreams…to us.

“Guys, you won’t believe what happened to me last night,” he blustered, plopping down onto the sofa. Slender, almost waifish Klaus toppled over onto his side as the weight of Turtle’s bulky frame jarred the couch’s sensitive springs.

“You got laid,” I guessed, taking the sheen of sweat on his bald head as evidence of an evening of pleasant exertion. And as a virginal male, sex was always on my mind.

Recovering, Klaus quipped, “Only in his dreams.”

I laughed madly, and he joined me. The tension between Klaus and I evaporated as we shared a joke at Turtle’s expense.

“How’d you know it had to do with a dream?” Turtle shook his head in disbelief, his eyes bulging as he stared at us. “Creepy.”

“You’re creepy,” Klaus jibed.

“What had to do with a dream?” I inquired, too tired and too stoned to follow a madman’s riddles.

“What I came to tell you guys about. Though showing you might be easier.”

“Show us? What the hell are you talking about?” Klaus demanded.

“Exactly.” Turtle replied.

“Exactly?” I asked, flummoxed. Putting on my best British accent, I said, “That’s a bollocks answer, old chap. Spit it out before the Zulu overrun the bloody perimeter.”

“Hell!” Turtle exclaimed, almost shouting. “Well, a dream about hell anyway. And you guys were there. We were all there.”

“Thanks, man.” I retorted, sounding annoyed. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m going to hell but didn’t expect it from the acid-dipped spawn of Flower Children.”

Turtle’s gypsy parents had travelled the length and breadth of the country during the Counterculture Movement.  His aunt and maternal grandmother had joined them, touring the nation from shore to shore on a tie-dyed school bus converted into a camper. The Turtle’s clan finally settled in the piney hills of Alabama before giving birth to our fantastic, if fanciful friend.

“And I’ve seen the Wizard of Oz, so suck it, Turtle,” Klaus added.

“You don’t believe in Hell?” Turtle asked. “But you’re a Satanist.”

“I believe in Hell as a metaphorical construct not a geophysical reality.”

“Yeah, what he said,” I seconded. “It’s a philosophy that involves not creating your own hell on earth. And the idea that you can only believe in yourself and your own power. It’s really an extreme form of humanism, a selfish, self-aggrandized one at that.”

“Damn right,” Klaus said. “It’s all about me. I create my own heaven or hell wherever I go, with whatever I do.”

“Something like that,” I said, “only you could be using that energy for the good of all mankind, instead of wasting it on pursuits that benefit no one but yourself.”

“Hippie.” Klaus hissed.

“Devil worshipper,” I quipped.

“Guys! Do you want to see what I was talking about? I can show you.”

Sighing, Klaus said with disgust, “Fine. Show me your version of hell, Turtle.”

And then he did.

*** TO BE CONTINUED ***

This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works. 

Any resemblance to persons living or dead, events real or imagined, etc. is entirely intentional. This is a work of fiction but draws on real events and references the real world at times. Any reference, product placement, or pop culture quote is not intended to impinge on any trademark, patent, and/or copyright; rather it is flavor text for the dialogue of characters raised within the context of our pop culture.

 If you don’t like these terms of agreement, go check yourself. You’re complaining about a #FREE story.