I was running for my life. A mad dash through the forest, which only minutes ago was intended to be my grave. I escaped my captors after a vicious and desperate brawl. Did not even find out why those goons wanted to kick me into a grave I had to shovel for myself.
I spat an acidic, brown slime every rest, as I paid the price for years of smoking. Nicotine is a nerve-soother and ego-booster, but as well one toxin to be careful with.
My instinct made me take the path less traveled, avoiding the easy routes, as any pursuer would catch someone like me. Right now the fatal accident of my wife and the loss of my job soon thereafter, during the 'depression' I still knew as traditional mourning-phase, seemed the least of a problem.
Still they had taken their toll on a rough and humble dude, spoiled much of the sports I did in better years, too.
I ran for my life, coughed-up a toxic juice I had myself to blame for, and didn't even know into which direction I was running. But at least I was still alive enough to try.
A felt eternity I progressed with no pursuer showing up or gunning for me. I felt so reminded of the movie 'Wrong Turn' that I lack the words to describe it.
But this was real life. Pain, sweat, and coughing reminded me fiercely enough. A two-lane road split the forest ahead of me and I spotted a car. The joy within arising only until I could see that it was a wrecked car, collided with a tree.
But hope is persistent as oft, as it is treacherous or futile. Maybe some clothing, food, drink, or a mobile phone could be salvaged from the wreckage? I had no hope for a handgun, as I was already lucky to still exist.
I hopped down the little hill which I was sure had been erected artificially, one of those state-projects which make prison-inmates do physical labors for the greater public good. Dunno, if it was true though.
The nausea arose due my foolish lack of logic. A wrecked car spoke of an accident, and one possible result was a dead driver or even worse, an entire family leaving only their corpses behind. Flies buzzed around me, as I searched the car.
It was the lack of time which made me overlook the first hint. In retrospective I should have seen that the solitary driver, now a corpse in early stage of decay, had a weird, though vague, resemblance to me. Lucky me, an identity I could use to keep a low profile and get rid of my past troubles.
I switched the identity cards and snatched the drivers license and wallet without any hesitation, though not without speaking a prayer for the deceased, for I was a Catholic in the good years. Disturbing the Peace of the Dead was one of those crimes against the soul we may be held accountable for on judgment day.
I took a soft-case bag reminding me of the notebook-bags which became trendy shortly after the year 2K bullshit had calmed down. I stuffed all from the car into it, or into my pockets, as I was in a real hurry. And last but not least I got a small plastic-bottle of water, a French brand I never had before.
Deciding not to risk more I didn't walk along the road, but instead through the woods on the other roadside. I didn't want to make it extra-easy for whoever lusted for my funeral.
Mortgages and loans temporarily dissolved due the fact that my identity was now a corpse in a car did somehow make me smile. For now I was Arnold Brice, and, wondering about more info about my new self, I went through the loot I had snatched from a dead man.
The first thing I got was a cell-phone, one of those mini-computers of the modern age, I hate 'em. The logo was so weird that I fail humor it. The eye above a pyramid, faint memories of a TV documentary came back into my mind.
Yeah! A private investigator license and ID plastic. Oh, not a sane one though, paranormal investigations. Like that drug-crazed freak on You-Tube, or wtf? Dammit, the modern age really had it with the opening of psychiatry doors. Yes, how rude of me to value my sanity.
Needing a rest anyway I decided to sort through the loot now, preparing myself to function like a citizen, if need of it arose.
I had a rolled-up 'rain-jacket', one of those company-giveaways which were soaked through after 5 minutes of downpour. Its logo was once more that accursed eye above a pyramid. Damn, God sure wants me to look like the one fool on the run.
I got the cell-phone plus paraphernalia, like a loading station, a mini-keyboard, and papers. Documents about the work my deceased benefactor had on his schedule. Too much to read, but I already knew it was Witches and Haunted Houses or Ritual Spots, two decades of TV had not failed to hammer the basics into public awareness.
Whoa, a mini-flashlight compatible with the loading station of the phone? Sure as consequence such wasn't the cost-aware way to gear-up. But for me the next 72 hours would mean life or death, as anything beyond failed to make my mind consider it at all.
Continuing my walk parallel to the road I hoped for a Diner or Gas-Station in the vicinity. I could need a Coffee or at least a Cola to get my blood-sugar level up again. And soon after food there would be shelter to worry about.
Assured that I had just lost my mind, as dimension travel was scientifically impossible, I stared open-mouthed unto the neon-sign. It read: ''Trudy's Diner, 10 Miles to Mercy's Sake''.
I sat down, focusing on the most crucial task at hand. Signature faking. I copy-catted the signatures of the ID, and from both credit cards. After a while I found myself satisfied with the spontaneous results, three out of three clearly resembling the originals, and mustered my confidence.
Long Tale made short: I cleaned my shoes and pant, rejoiced in that Ghosthunter-Jacket suiting me decently, and made my way to the Diner. My only real worry was that certain goons could lurk for me or arrive shortly after me.
But I could feel that trouble was not yet brewing. And neither was the County Sheriff the Diner's most frequent customer. Not like the movies, often a good sign! Though I remembered 'Fahrenheit – The Indigo Prophecy Demo' with a Diner Experience of a darker sort... Could oneself get away with murder? In that game I did.
With a dead man paying for my expenses I enjoyed my rest, not without a streak of guilt, as I minded one more silent prayer. Catholic Imprinting is weird, but no the worst either.
With vegetables unavailable I had to content myself with a Coffee and a pancake. Not much of a problem, when falling face-first into a grave was the most recent offer I had in comparison.
And then I heard the heralds of my future course. Once more not my pursuers, but the waitress. She had recognized my Jacket, and concluded that I must be one of those 'Investigator-Types'. From that to the old woman waiting for one took just twenty minutes.
Not too eager too blow my own cover I paid my bill, signing the fluid signature I had practiced, and went to work. Down a small road which was hard to see from the roadside.
I made the acquaintance of Donna Pearson, a granny vehemently insisting that there is urgency in investigating the witch-house. The Witch-House being the last outskirt of civilized folks, found at the other end of a downtrodden forest-path in that no-men's-land.
The old woman had told me that something had changed recently, and that the locals didn't dare to go there, as the priest scolded them in public. Luckily the Granny still knew what business meant, as she had shown my that she can pay, too.
With some effort I could rent myself a car, and take a dive, before anyone traced down the deceased investigator's whereabouts!
It was afternoon, when I made way on the forest-path. It took its turns, surprisingly often so, but in an estimated twenty minutes I found myself outside a house, not a mere ruin.
My eyesight fell unto the door-bell, which was triggered by an electronic mechanism and a classic button to press.
The woman who opened the door a short while later was black-haired and green-eyed. Her stature what I would call a typical female of medium size.
'Ma'am, I am Arnold Brice, and I came to see, if everything is well out here in the woods.' I showed my investigator ID in a foolish notion of mimicking TV.
'Nice to meet you, I am Aileen Blackthorn.' she gestured me to follow her into the house, casual and unafraid I would say.
What followed was the most comforting chat since my wife had died. And neither did a black cat lurk around us. An adult woman doing some academic study in the field of Herbalist history. My host was far from a Satanic Priestess or Ghostly Apparition, about that I was certain.
'Mr. Brice, did you arrange lodgings, or may I offer you my guest room for the night, and my company for the evening meal?' asked Aileen Blackthorn.
'Mrs. Blackthorn, I never meant to cause you any inconvenience. I was merely so enervated from my day that I lost my sense of time. And I would gladly accept your offer, yes.' But I felt like the Eunuch-King of Morons that moment.
I had totally forgotten my manners, and any care for those around me. My body needed rest, and had tricked my brain into a naivety I found a notch too anti-social.
The evening went on while I befriended my host with all the sympathy she so easily made possible. Occasionally I felt the sting of emotional scars which I still had to endure aplenty. Still Aileen was an individual I found much less erratic than the city folk I was used to.
Before we both withdrew for the nighttime she gave my a slight hug. Without a kiss or telltale touch that usually meant sympathy and being close, no sexual advance. Once more assured I went into the guestroom, my last question for the evening about where to find the toilet.
We wished each other a good night and went into the solitude of our rooms. I had my first chance to think through all which had happened, and I already felt the treacherous insomnia shaking-off the leaden lethargy which had slowed me throughout the evening.
Luckily I had not made the worst kind of impression unto my host, as Aileen was blameless in the charade I pulled off and, so far, in the worries of Donna Pearson.
Unaccustomed to the room I decided to take the mini-flashlight with me into bed, and positioned the cell-phone in its station to serve as a night-lamp within reach. I had abandoned the thought of crafting an improvised baton, as my host had given me no suspicion which could legitimate it.
Sleep caught me, and I awoke in cold sweat, lucid images of killers, my grave, witches and nightly terrors (Latin: timor noctis, as even the old Romans and Barbarians already knew such) were still fresh on my mind.
It was short after midnight, and I needed a smoke. No egomaniac I readied myself, got dressed and sneaked downstairs, intent to smoke in the open doorway before tainting the room of my host. I guess I was comparably silent, as I made it to the stairs.
Inhaling from the cigarette I felt the chosen poison kick in, nicotine comforting my nerves, though impairing my body in other ways, too. A weird feeling seemed to force a connection between my dreams and reality unto me, but I had read Milton and that H.P. Lovecraft guy, and was done with it.
Dissociate Personality Disorder and Drug Abuse were the truisms TV taught us about all that occult hogwash and need for the paranormal. Spirituality wasn't good enough for spoiled-city-people who considered smartphone Apps to be anything but archaic remnants of the urge to commit slavery!
But, in another silent prayer, I thanked God for the shelter, the pleasure of Aileen's benevolence, and prayed for protection of the house and its inhabitants nonetheless.
'Could I have one of those cigarettes?' asked Aileen.
'Sure' came my reply, even though Faith and Pain took one instant to struggle within me.
While handing my lighter back to me she inquired: ' Since when did you know?'
'The moment I felt you behind me, for it felt too good to be true'. I answered.
'How sad'. Noted Aileen.
'Maybe, somehow depends on your next decision, doesn't it?' I stammered.
Her body pressed against my backside, as she slung her arms around my chest and belly. I knew the Beast I had disturbed in its lair. And I had no need of a Curse of the Wendigo, nor of any Black Widow Mystery. I knew my own dark side, and the moment prayer made me sensitive enough to feel her presence it was clear.
I had fallen to the one Evil I hadn't expected, the one Evil I had always harbored within myself, the best-known Evil of all. Two killers, each with a minor cannibalistic streak, shook their bodies in a rhythm only their proverbial hearts could perceive.
Both caught between their belief and their urges, both uncertain how to decide now. No God interfered, and no Gate of Hell opened to devour either of us. We stood there, knowing that our feelings, even if mutual, would wax and wane for a while, only to falter while our urges still remained.
It was the Death and Rebirth of Love and Faith, but it was, too, more than mortals were able to handle. It was too close to perfection to allow us being satisfied with normal life ever again. Killing each other or a suicide pact were all which remained an option. And which it was is meaningless, as in both cases I can't tell you more of it, right? ;-)