By Aaron Wilson | March, 2020
Artwork by Jose Baetas.
As Jack swerved the Hemicuda to a stop, its back tires kicked up a cloud of dust signalling that they had now arrived at the cabin. Jack glanced over at Sam, who was looking right back at him. Her eyes were saying it all. Right then, Jack knew, that this trip to the cabin was his final chance. Sam had stood by him during his three tours in Vietnam-- and all the Jim Beam fueled nightmares that had accompanied them. But the Jack that, Sam loved, and shared a beautiful five year old son with, had still not returned home from his last tour of duty. Suddenly, from the backseat, Johnny pushed Jack's seat forward and squeezed his way through the opening, bolting from the car. As Johnny took off running towards the cabin, Sam leaned in towards Jack and whispered in his ear "I hope you can find your way out of the darkness and return home to us Jack, because me and Johnny are here waiting for you. And we love you." Her words were pulsating through Jack's body, as she kissed his cheek and exited the car. Jack sat frozen behind the Hemicuda's steering wheel, watching, as Sam picked Johnny up on the cabin's front porch before turning around to flash, Jack, a broken smile.
As Jack climbed out of the Hemicuda, he took a glance over his shoulder: there was something he first had to do before joining his family. He made his way towards the wooden shed behind the cabin. As Jack reached into his pocket for the padlock key, he could see that the shed's door had been pried open. Jack took a hard look around before peering into the dark and musty room. As his eyes adjusted, they locked onto what had been waiting for his return after all these years. Jack slid open the shed's door and walked over to it. With one powerful swipe of his hand, Jack unveiled his prized possession: his Triumph motorcycle. And as if the star-spangled banner began playing overhead, Jack stood in complete silence over her, admiring his worn beauty.
As Jack exited the shed, his eyes caught the fog that had begun rolling off the mountain. The mountain had always drawn the fog off the lake; which probably led to term the mountain, "Death's Curtain". Jack still remembered the first time he rode the Triumph through Death's Curtain. He was 18, and his dad had just given him the Triumph for his birthday. The higher Jack ascended up the mountain, the more the stench that expelled from it, began to burn through his nostrils and cause his eyes to burn; finally to the point that he couldn't see what was three feet in front of him. Jack wouldn't be able to identify that scent until his first tour in Vietnam: it was the smell of death.
As Jack entered the cabin, he saw that nothing had changed. And Jack liked it that way. The cabin was the only place that felt like home, to Jack. As Jack stood, taking it in, Sam walked into the room. Johnny was now down for the count. The drive had worn him out. As numb as Jack's mind was to the world, images of his son were always able to push through and remind him of how lucky he was to have such a great kid. Jack wanted to be there for him. When he was able. As Jack's emotions started to break through the wall, he rushed into the kitchen and began rummaging through the cabinets-- seeking-out the emergency Jim Beam bottle that he always kept on hand. As Jack located his safeguard and clasped the bottleneck, the room went dark. The Jukebox lit up with its lights emanating off the wood panelling; as "Long Cool Woman/in a Black Dress" began echoing from the machine. With red, white and blue now streaming across her body, Sam began shimmering towards him. She knew Jack so well. Where his mind would go every time that Hollies song came on. It was the song that was playing when Jack first set eyes on Sam; she had popped a quarter in the jukebox at the local drinking hole before dancing towards him like she was doing now. Luring him in. Within three weeks of that first night, Sam was pregnant. And within two months, they were married. But the timing of events didn't matter to Jack. He knew that very first time he had set eyes on her that she was the one. And that no other woman would ever be able to reach that depth of him. As Sam continued to sway closer, she began grinding her body against his. Jack could feel her breaking through. Jack slammed down the Jim Beam bottle and grabbed Sam by the waist: it was time to re-live happier times.
Jack was awakened by the sound of the window's shutters slamming into the side of the cabin. He staggered out of bed and walked over to the window. Still half asleep, Jack looked out into the thickened fog but saw nothing. He reached out the window and pulled the shutters in, locking them. As he walked back towards the bed, the shrieking sound of Johnny's voice crying out "DAADDYYYY!!!' raced through the hallway and penetrated Jack's ears. Jack took off sprinting for Johnny's room and burst through the door. Climbing through the shattered window was something soulless, with only rotting flesh clinging to its skeletal shell. Instinctually, Jack reached down for his boot knife; but it wasn't there. Jack had disarmed himself before leaving for the cabin. Jack quickly grabbed Johnny from the bed and ran out of the bedroom. As he made his way into the hallway, the shrill of Sam's voice screaming "Jaaackk!!!" made him momentarily stumble to his knees and almost drop Johnny. As Jack entered their bedroom, he saw another one of the flesh rotting bastards, this time pulling Sam by her hair across the hardwood floor while leaving a trail of her blood following behind them. It then started to pull Sam's thrashing body up and over the window frame. Jack rushed towards the window to save her, but it was too late. All Jack could then do was shield Johnny's eyes as his mother was dragged screaming into the fog, before disappearing.
Clutching Johnny, Jack ran for the front door. Jack didn't care how many of these Necrobastards he was going to have to go through - he was getting his wife back. As Jack sprinted into the living room, a Necrobastard-- standing at least seven feet tall-- blocked his path. Jack, knew right then, that he was going to have to send this giant flesh rotting bastard right back to whatever ungodly place it had come from, if he stood any chance of rescuing his wife. Cautiously, Jack took a step forward and plopped Johnny down on the couch before rolling up his sleeves-- it was time for Jack to take this ugly, soul-less, 'son of a bitch' down. As they charged toward each other, Jack swung first, hitting the Necrobastard right in the eye socket causing black puss-like liquid to start oozing out from the gaping hole. But the Necrobastard kept moving forward until it got a hold of Jack's arm. While Jack wrestled with the giant leaking carcass, he managed to free his arm and shoved it hard across the room and into the Jukebox-- igniting sparks and the song "Don't Fear the Reaper" to emit from the machine. While the Necrobastard struggled to regain its movement, Jack quickly picked up Johnny, and bolted out the Cabin's door.
As Jack trekked further into the fog, the music radiating from the jukebox faded further into the night. Suddenly, the sound of Sam's sinking voice carried through the mountain's forest. Jack began sprinting with Johnny hanging at his side. The forest went silent. Jack slowed to a standstill and started pivoting his feet in the earth's soil looking for any trace of his wife. But nothing. Jack started yelling "SAMANTHA!!!" over and over again, just hoping that she could still hear him, and know that he was there. But the more Jack yelled, the more the deafness of the mountain confirmed his deepest fear. Jack let out one final scream: "SAMANTHAAA!!!" before turning his attention back to Johnny - who was now in shock. A different sound began to grow and rattle Jack's ears-- load moans that were ricocheting of the mountain's trees. Johnny's body started to spasm in cadence to the moans. As Jack fought to keep his grip on Johnny, Necrobastards began appearing through the fog - descending from higher up the mountain. Jack knew what they were after. As they got closer, they started reaching for Johnny. One of the Necrobastards swiped at Johnny's arm sending him sprawling to the ground. Jack started violently swinging his fists at the flesh-rotting bastards that were in his vicinity. But as Jack swung to ward off the onslaught of Death's necro-army, one of the Necrobastards snatched Johnny up from the ground by the collar of his shirt. It turned, and started retreating back into the fog from which it appeared dragging Johnny by its side like a dog. In unison, the rest of Death's necro-army began plodding backwards up the mountain. As the adrenaline started to flee from Jack's body, he managed to only stagger behind them - before collapsing to his knees. As tears streamed down the sides of Jack face, he mustered up every last ounce of energy to let out one final cry that only a father could make for his son "JOHNNYYYY!!!" The only two people that Jack returned home for had been taken from him. As Jack slowly rose from the muddy earth and looked up towards the peak of the mountain, he saw Death looking down at him. In that moment, Jack realized his new life's purpose-- revenge.