The Sundowners #2
As Billy watched a terrified Joshua tremble down his second beer he wondered how much of his crazy story was true. Given Billy’s line of work, the work of igniting people’s fear, he had seen some shit in his time. Pius men committing the most atrocious acts, seemingly loving mothers sacrificing their own young for a chance at a dream, flames licking the feet angles, the hot red tongues of hellfire burning the mount, but even Billy had to admit that space alien goblins would be a new one to him.
But, Billy wasn’t asked to go anywhere that there wasn’t a bomb to set off. When Billy was asked to show up, it’s expected that he will deliver in doing the only thing he’s good at, setting off a fear bomb and watching the fear as it spread like liquid across a flat surface, like a fire through a dry forest. It’s not dissimilar to a pyromaniac’s love of fire. When one burns the paper which do they love more? The spreading flame eating up everything in its path or the ashen hole in the middle, the nothing that is left, the results of the chaos they helped ignite? Both, and like a pyro, Billy loved them both. The creation of the chaos and the void left in its wake.
“I went out there to take a look. I saw them for myself,” Joshua heavily breathed out through aggressive sips at the overly full pint glass.
“Yeah man, tell me about it, but stay calm. Let’s figure this out before you go off sounding like a loon in here,” Billy said to him, a patronization disguised as protection. Joshua nodded and quickly returned to his beer. Billy continued, “Now, tell me what happened.”
A blues band jangled on in the background, some Professor Theodor, but Billy was focused on Joshua’s lips. He didn’t want to miss a single frightening word.
“I heard Father Moses talking to another priest and Buddy at the church,” Joshua started. “I thought that it all sounded so crazy. I mean, Buddy, he’s a good guy, but old as dirt. Father Moses didn’t seem to take it too seriously, but I have assisted him with tending his flock for so long. I know when he is hiding concern, and then there was the other priest. The one who told the story.”
Billy cut him off at that point, “and you didn’t know him?”
“Did you catch his name?”
“Cotton somebody. He had an unassuming face but you could tell he was tough. Kinda like the face of a dad or a grampa on the body of a con.”
“Well, that sounds pleasant. Go on, you decided to check it out?”
“I finished up my day. Walking Mrs. Shrewsbury’s Dog, doing some shopping for the upcoming fundraiser for the Midwich Marmots, the local semipro baseball team the church has been sponsoring…”
Billy stopped him with his name, “Joshua.”
Joshua looked up from the beer that had been mesmerizing him, “What?”
“No offense man but I don’t need the play-by-play,” Billy was getting irritated but collected himself, and slowly, with heavy over articulation, asked, “What… Happened..?”
“Night was falling, just about an hour ago, I finally got some free time and decided to go out there and look for myself, I mean, if there are monsters in my town is it not the church’s responsibility to save the people?”
“Sure. I guess so.”
“So I get out there. It’s dark. I mean, like darker than,” Joshua stopped and looked around.
Billy knew that look. The look of “I’m about to say something bad and I want to make sure no one hears.” In this case, it was probably something racist. Billy thought to himself, “Man, this guy is gonna be great, a raised racist trying to leave it all behind when his Chathloc church gets a black man as a priest. It’d be nice if was gay too, but even if he ain’t gay he sure as fuck doesn’t know it. This guy is one hell of a ball of confusion and shit and nothing leaves a splash like a bomb of a man full of confusion and shit.” Billy made eye contact with the server over by the bar and held up two fingers and a smile. She gave him a nod.
“But they had said it was in the old mine at the edge of Billington’s Wood so I knew to bring a flashlight. I walked into the old mines. At first, all was normal, quiet, calm, some water drips, but that was it. But, as I got closer I started to hear a hum. Tinny at first, but as I got closer a low bassy growl, like a sustained rev of one of those rice burners. I turned off the light. As I moved closer in the darkness there were shadows and an orange light down the tunnel. It flickered like it was coming from a fire, but I couldn’t smell any smoke.”
Joshua swigged the final swig from his pint and continued, “The mineshaft opened into a cave and that’s where I saw them. There were like a hundred of them. Small green monsters, like goblin monsters. They were hunched, like half the size of a man, but there were hundreds of them… and they all worked on a machine, the machine in the middle of the cave. It was making that sound, to repetitive rumbling sound.”
“Gosh, man. That all sounds a little absurd, you have to admit,” Billy didn’t care if it was real or not. Billy just knew the dance. Question his sanity, give him a bone, reel in a bit and then lean out a carrot, then drop the hammer. Billy didn’t know if he should believe Joshua that there were space goblins, he did know that there was something out there that had scared him to death and Billy wanted to see it too.
“I’m telling you it’s real! We have to get people together. We have to go out there and burn them all!”
“Woah man, nobody’s gonna follow you nowhere ‘lest you calm down.”
“We have to stop them,” Joshua said with that look that Billy knew. The look of being about to go off. But, not yet, Billy didn’t feel like it was time just yet. He knew nobody sent him nowhere just to bear witness to a situation that probably would have already happened. Bill was not the player, Joshua was the player. Billy was the amplifier and fear was the rock n’ roll.
Billy put his hands on Joshua’s hands, pulling just a little fear from his body, “Listen, we are going to go out there, but it ain’t gonna happen with that story.” Joshua went to argue with him about his use of the word “story” but Billy stopped him with an understanding nod and continued, “Here’s what we do. You tell them that someone attacked you. Say, maybe a black guy, right? So a black guy attacked you while you were doing some bullshit day task you were going off about earlier. You were able to get away from this murderous black and when that happened, he ran into the old mine and you ran here to get some help from these nicely toasted blue-collar tough guys with guns. Seems legit, right?”
Joshua just looked at him. Billy could tell the look was somewhere between understanding and shock, but that was good enough for him. With lightning speed, Billy flew his fist out and with the single punch busted Joshua’s nose.
Joshua grabbed his face while rocking, “What the hell did you do that for?”
“I’m helping you. Don’t you wanna be helped, Joshua?”
“It sure doesn’t feel like your helping me,” Joshua was starting to collect himself and staring down Billy with a vengeance.
“Now be cool and count to five there, Joshua. All will reveal itself, my young student.”
“Yes, thank you darlin’,” Billy responded took the two beers as she handed them over. He handed one to Joshua giving him an undercover wink in the process.
The waitress noticed Joshua, “What happened to you, Josh?”
Joshua looked up at her confused, his eyes watering and blood coming from his nose.
“My god,” she responded.
“Say Darlin’?” Billy cut in, “I’m new to town here, but we could use some help. You see my friend here, Joshua says he was attacked tonight. Out by some old mine?”
There was a pause as the waitress was still staring at Joshua who stared at Billy who stared back at the waitress.
Billy turned to Joshua, his eyebrows up, “Some old mine or cave around here right?”
“Right,” Joshua responded after collecting himself. “The old mine at the edge of Billington’s Wood. I was attacked… by a black man.” Joshua got louder, yelling over the music, “I was attacked by a black man at the old mines!”
Billy put his face in his palm to hide his smile.
Next on Of Eons and Stars: The Library #4
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