I'll be posting a series of landscapes this weekend, so keep your eye out. Places you can go and relax, relax, relax.
Lurker in the Locker Room
"A Samuel Light Junior Story"
By John Pirillo
"It hid in the depths of the shadows, its eager eyes haunted by what it had become. It was hungry. Hungry for what it had never dared to taste before. Its hunger was not satisfied by mortal food anymore, but by something much darker in substance."
Jimbo stood in front of a campfire, his hulking form looming over the Cub Scouts arrayed in a circle about the fire. The nearest child's eyes were as wide as moons as Jimbo spoke, and if one were close enough, they would see that he peed his pants. And he wasn't the only one. Jimbo was nothing if not a great story teller.
"What happened next, Scout Master?" A Cub to his right asked, his eyes pleading for the rest of the story, even as he strove to keep his body from shaking from fear.
In the forest they were in the middle of some bushes shook. The Cubs ignored it at first, and then a pair of glowing red eyes appeared in the shadows of one of the largest trees and a growling sound. The Cubs jumped to their feet, ready to take flight.
"Whoa! Whoa, little fellows. It's only my friend and buddy, Sammie trying to put a little terror into your hearts."
At that precise moment as he finished his soothing words and the Cubs started sitting down again, Sammie walked into the light. "Hey Jimbo, where's the flashlight you left for me?"
The Cubs all jumped back up, and screaming ran off into the woods.
"Now why'd you have to go and do that for?" Jimbo asked, perplexed at how Samuel had gotten from the trees to there so fast.
"Scare the kids before I finished my story, that's what?"
Samuel gave him a blank stare.
Jimbo looked back over to the trees and the glowing red eyes were still there and then the growling grew louder. "Oh Holy Mother!" Jimbo cried out, and then ran after the kids.
Samuel watched his friend run off, then sat down next to the fire and began to whistle as if nothing unusual had happened. The eyes continued to glow, but the growling had stopped. Samuel pulled out a remote control and flicked off the simple machine he had set up earlier in the day, and then reached for the nearest hot dog strung on a limb across the campfire. He tossed it from hand to hand until it cooled off, and then began eating it.
Samuel and the other kids all watched the clock as Mister Marvel, his real name, finished telling them their homework for the night, and then the bell rang and everyone scrambled for the door. Samuel stayed back. He went to Mister Marvel, who deftly dodged a rushing kid who almost struck him from behind.
"That device you gave me for the weekend worked like a charm."
"You're welcome, Sam. Did they all run?" He asked with a smirk.
"Every one of them, including Jimbo."
Mister Marvel laughed. "Glad I could accommodate you, your friend's been disrupting classes for years now."
"Revenge is sweet." Samuel said with a grin.
"Indeed it is. Indeed it is." But when Mister Marvel said it, Samuel didn't get the feeling he really meant it, but gave it no second thought. Adults were weird anyway.
They both felt, rather than saw a movement from the corner of their eyes, but when they turned to look, no one was there.
"See you later, Mister Marvel."
"You got it."
Samuel exited the room and threaded his way between the rows of students talking and looking at their cells as they did, or high fiving, fist bumping or whatever exotic moves they had come up with for that week or year. A couple who sat next to him, gave him strange looks as he passed them and began talking in low voices to each other, while glancing at him.
He had gone along with the weekend fright, but thought most of it childish. The only reason why he had gone along with the scare tactics that weekend had been to get Jimbo's attention. His friend was getting too cocky. And that worried him. They had been through so much now that he worried Jimbo was going to take that kind of life as normal and lose his edge. He couldn't afford to. Not and stay alive if he was going to be with Samuel.
A locker slammed with a bang behind him and he turned around. Jimbo stood there, a strange look on his face for a moment, which he quickly dissolved into a smile. "P.E. Time."
He and Samuel hurried down the corridors, until they reached the quad, and then the front gate of the gymnasium. They were practicing basketball along with the other class members. Some for the team they hoped to get on and some just because there was nothing else to do.
The hour went pretty fast and after running defense for each other most of the time, and tossing a few hoops to the dismay of their team mates, they went back into the locker room and began undressing for their showers.
"Sammie, you'd never lie to me, would you?" Jimbo suddenly said, a look of concern on his face.
"No reason to."
Jimbo leaned closer and in a conspiratorial voice whispered. "There's a lurker in the locker room."
Samuel started to look and Jimbo caught him with a light blow on his knee. "Don't look, give you away."
Samuel gave Jimbo a closer look. Jimbo looked frightened, even more so than the other night. What was going on?
"You see something?"
Samuel shook his head.
"If you do, whatever you do, don't tell anyone."
Samuel began to get annoyed. "Is this some kind of trick?"
"Look, Sammie, we're best friends, we'd never stoop to anything as stupid as that, would we?" He asked in his thick Texan accent.
Samuel felt a twinge of guilt. He had done something as stupid as that.
"Look, I've been doing some research and remember Mister Fielding?"
"The teacher that killed all those kids?"
"Yeah. That one."
"What about him?"
"Someone saw him in the locker room last night."
"Not possible. He's dead." Samuel said, and then did a double take. "You're serious!"
Samuel began a sly surveillance of the locker room. "I don't see any ghosts."
"Not this one. He only comes out at night."
Samuel sighed. "Jimbo, no way you're getting me to come back here tonight. No way in heaven...or hell!" He added for emphasis.
Samuel and Jimbo watched the Night Watchman checking doors, and then they slipped from behind the bleachers and made a dash for the locker room. Their Nikes squeaked loudly as they ran, but not loud enough to alarm the Night Watchman. Mister Reed was deaf in one ear and they were running on that side of him, as he made his way across the dark gym floor, the stark beam of his flash lancing ahead of h im.
They made it into the locker room and carefully shut the door.
"I'll keep watch." Jimbo whispered by the door. "You see if you can, you know...see..."
Samuel shook his head. His Mom was going to kill him if she found out he hadn't gone over to Jimbo's as he had phoned to her. There would be hell to pay.
He brushed his mop of hair back out of his eyes and peered about the locker room. Nothing more than deep shadows and even steeper darkness. His eyes were more attuned to the dark than others. He had a special vision that allowed him to see in the dark, when others couldn't. But not only that, he could see things. Jimbo called them ghosts. Most ignorant people did. But they weren't ghosts, they were people who had died and lost their way.
Samuel did his best to help them when he could. Sometimes they didn't want to be helped; they were stubborn and incorrigible, like hardened criminals. Once he had seen one plucked right out of the body of an innocent person and hauled off into a searing bright light. Not to hell. There was no hell, but he knew that soul was going to have to go somewhere and make up for the wrong he had been doing to that child.
"See anything?" Jimbo whispered.
"Keep alert. I was told it appears about nine o'clock every night. Time it was executed."
"Yeah. So's flying saucers and auras and little men who can walk through walls and climb up your nostrils, but we've seen them. Or least you have."
"Look, Sammie, if you want to chicken out."
Samuel turned around. His eyes flashed with anger. "I'm no..."
"Chicken." Jimbo taunted him, and then made clucking sounds.
Samuel wanted to punch his friend at that moment, but he wasn't the sort to do that kind of thing. Wasn't in his blood. Jimbo had no such problem. He had seen him take on three kids a foot taller than him and three grades older with one hand and win.
"Next time you say that I'm going to throw my dirty gym shorts at you."
"Mercy!" Jimbo cried out.
Samuel grinned and turned back the way he had been looking, and just as he did, something moved in the distance. At the right upper corner of the lockers. It was dark and streamlined, moving like smoke.
"Jimbo." He hissed.
Jimbo ran over and crouched beside him. "See it?"
"Something. Look!" He pointed.
Jimbo looked, but he didn't see anything.
Then they heard something breathing heavily and it was moving down the other side of the lockers towards them.
"Holy Mother!" Jimbo cried out, starting to sweat.
Then it stopped at the exit from the lockers and turned to look at them with bright, burning red eyes.
A groan came from it.
"I can't see any aura." Samuel squeaked. "It's not human."
"Is it dead?"
Then the thing, whatever it was, rushed them.
Both Samuel and Jimbo dashed out the locker room door and into the gym, then outside, screaming at the top of their lungs.
The lights came on in the locker room and Samuel's Mom and Mister Marvel stood there where the thing had been, a long gossamer cloth lowered between them, with a pair of led lights attached to it.
They both broke into laughter. "That should solve both their problems." Mister Marvel said.
"I hope so. My son can be a bit cocky sometimes."
"But I think Jim is going to be a mite angry at me in the morning when I talk to the two of them with you."
"Better they should hear the truth. They need it."
Mister Marvel nodded, and then began to dissolve into the air.
"Thanks for the opportunity to work off some karma with them kids."
"You're welcome." She said, then picked up the other side of the cloth and exited the locker room, wondering how she was going to explain to Samuel how he had been listening to a ghost teacher all these weeks. She laughed. Ghost person.
The Man with the Empty Face
"A Cartoon Story"
By John Pirillo
Johnnie went into the comic book store, his eyes hungry for the first edition of X-Ray Man, an old golden but oldies comic book written by Jacob Bentley, an unknown artist and writer, who funded the book on his own. He was the forefather of modern comic book graphic artists, who own and do it all. But back then in the thirties, such types didn't always end up on top, but sometimes on the bottom, especially if it was the Great Depression.
X-Ray Man was a very strange hombre. He could see through walls and also walk through them. He could transport himself at the speed of light from one point to the other. The only problem was that sometimes he would exit inside a wall or bridge, or car, or whatever. Being an X-Ray Man, it wasn't devastating, but it was always funny...to others anyway...when he'd materialize in a toilet bowl basin, with only his had poking out of it. Made for some frightened people, as well as jokers who thought it funny to get stuck inside a toilet.
Johnnie had no illusions that he could pull off such a stunt, nor would he want to. Toilets just weren't his thing.
"And they better never be." Cartoon said into his right ear, whispering so softly she made every hair on his body stand up. She never failed to get him excited at her touch, or voice. She was a comic book queen...literally...who glowed in the dark, could see in the dark...and had magical powers, many of which she wouldn't tell him about, such as reading his mind.
"Hey!" He complained, gently pushing her back from him. She made a pouting look with her lips, and then giggled like a little girl and went to search comic books in the Wonder Woman section of DC Comics.
"See you in ten." He told her.
She nodded, already lost in the fifteenth edition of Wonder Woman and her exploits with her invisible jet.
Johnnie surveyed the comic shop's interior, looking for the Oldies, But Goodies section he'd seen advertised on the Internet, then spied a tall man with a hood over his head, thumbing through a stack in the corner. Above him it read. "Oldies, But Goodies."
Johnnie went over there, ignoring the man's rudeness at blocking most of the stacks. Instead, he reached around him and began sorting through stacks too.
The man bumped into him roughly, almost knocking him down.
"Hey, cut that out!" Johnnie shouted at him.
The man turned around. Beneath the hood was a pair of glowing red eyes, but nothing else. "Mortal!' Was all the face, if you could call it that, said.
Johnnie wasn't about to get into a fight in a comic book store, instead he backed away, the red eyes following him as he did so. He had forgotten he had a comic book in his hand as he did. Suddenly, he felt the shelving behind him, but instead of stopping there, he found himself looking out from inside the shelving, part of him immersed in the stacks of comics, and part looking out.
Several female customers and one man turned to look at him, thinking it was some kind of stunt. They giggled, laughed and pointed. "That's really emo!" One said, and then they went to the cash register to check out.
The man with the empty face stared at Johnnie. "You're the one."
"Maybe." Johnnie said, as he stepped back out of the shelving.
"You're the one." The man with the empty face insisted.
"Cartoon!" He said loudly. "I think it's time to check out."
"I'm still reading about Princess Diana and the Amazons." Cartoon said, ignoring his pleas.
"You're the one and you must come with me." The man with the empty face said in such a tone that it made his blood freeze.
Johnnie side stepped the stranger and headed for the front. He slapped down a twenty. The man at the checkout eyed the bill. "You'll need eighty more."
Johnnie slapped down a hundred. "Keep the change."
"Thanks! " The employee said. "I will."
The man with the empty face came up and grabbed the employee. "You will come with me too."
The employee grabbed the arms to break free, thinking it was some kind of nerd joke, but when he looked up into the empty face, he screamed and then his entire body turned to a ruby red smoke and was sucked into the man with the empty face.
"Johnnie!" Cartoon shrieked from behind him.
He turned and saw a second man with an empty face gripping her. She was kneeing him in the crotch, but he didn't budge. His grip held her like a vise.
Johnnie stuck the comic book he had just paid for in his back pocket and rushed the second man with an empty face. As he was about to strike into him, his body shivered with a weird energy and he actually passed through the creature. It shuddered violently a moment, then its entire body deflated like a balloon, allowing a glowing red dust like substance to flow into the shop.
Cartoon hurriedly backed away and Johnnie rushed to her, but when he tried to touch her, his hand passed through her. She gave him a surprised look. "I'm X Ray Man." He told her grinning, and then turned to face the first man without a face. "You got two choices."
Johnnie held up one finger. "Actually, only one."
He rushed the man without a face and passed through it. The man without a face roared like a dying lion, a fine red mist exploding from its body and vanished as it deflated, leaving just a smoldering pile of red ashes on the hardwood floor of the shop.
"You all right?" He asked Cartoon, as he turned.
She nodded. "What manner of creatures are these?"
He pulled out his comic book, flicked through some pages, and then stopped, pointing a finger at a drawn figure there. She leaned over and took a look. "It's the man without a face."
"Afraid so." He uttered, glancing nervously about them.
"Let's get out of here while we can." He suggested, concerned for her safety.
"But what if there's more. We can't just let them loose in the world!"
"You're right." He answered, making a hard decision as he spoke.
He ripped out the page from his comic book with the man without a face, and then several more, until no more pages of the creatures existed. As he did so, the back of the shop made a loud sound, like small cannon shots, then a horde of men without faces erupted into the shop.
Johnnie glanced around, not sure if he could handle all of them, and then spotted a Bic on the employee's counter. He grabbed it, flicked it, and then lit the ripped pages. The men without faces closed in on them from all directions. "You're the one. You will come with us!" They all spoke in unison as they closed in.
"Not likely." Johnnie said.
She took the burning pages and tossed them into the horde. They all screamed horribly as they caught fire, burning as furiously as the comic book pages.
In moments there was nothing left, but piles of smoking red ash.
Then the fire alarm blasted and water began pouring from above.
Later as he and Cartoon walked home to his apartment, she stopped him, alarmed at his silence. "You were hurt, weren't you?"
He looked at her and wiped a tear from one of his eyes. "Yeah. Big time."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"Only if you can replace the Number One copy of Batman, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and a ton of other oldies but goodies that got washed into oblivion by the sprinklers.
They continued towards his apartment, she in amazement at how such trivial things could wound him, and he trying to figure out why he was cursed with bringing pain and suffering to all comic book lovers and death and dying to real people at the same time, while he transformed into various Comic Book heroes or with their powers. It didn't make any sense, and then he relaxed as Cartoon pulled him around and leaned into him, fixing a bright kiss on his lips. "Cheer up, Johnnie, its only paper."
"So were you once." He said.
She smiled. "Was I?" She asked and got in the last word, leaving him stunned and amused at his good fortune to be in love with such a cool girl.