8Fold: The Haunted Man #1
jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Wed Oct 3 18:44:56 PDT 2007
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created and written by ... ... .. .. ... .. |
Jamie Rosen ....... ....... ...... |
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#1 "The Day Jimmy Jeff Rayburn Drove .. .. .. .. .. .. |
Clear to Harrisonville for the Papers" .. .. .. .. .. .. |
The man who answers the door when you knock is gaunt, his eyes sunken,
his flesh pale.
"Welcome to my home," he says. "Enter freely and of your own will."
You step across the threshold and a chill crawls down your spine.
Seeing this, he smiles.
"It is so nice to have company," he remarks. "We rarely have any BODY
visit us any more. Isn't that right, Dante?" The dog at his side
growls, and he pets it lovingly. "Don't mind him," he assures you.
"He's just nervous around strangers. Please, do sit down."
As you take your seat, your host glances up towards the door. "Ah, I
see one of my other guests has come to entertain us. Please, do come
in." You look over, but all you can see is Victorian furniture. As you
watch, though, you think you can see a form outlined in the chair, and
the creaking floor boards start to sound like a voice, speaking.
The story I'm about to tell you is a true one, and don't let anybody
tell otherwise. I was there, and I know the participants, and what I
wasn't there for I heard straight from the mouths of those that were.
So listen to me and pay me heed, for I know what I say is the truth.
It all started on a cool night in late July. Now, what I mean by cool
of course is cool for July, not cold like a November or a February. We
were all gathered at Juliet's Diner -- me, my sister Willemina, the
Hawkesbury boys, and old Doc Sammeday -- and we were discussing the
various odd happenings with respect to the weather -- how cold it was,
how it had hardly rained since the first of them month, and other
things of that nature -- when Jimmy Jeff Rayburn pulled up in his beat
up blue pick-up and came inside. We all said hi and he tipped his cap
in response and went to the counter to order himself some dinner.
I was just about to remark to Doc Sammeday that I couldn't remember a
month this dry since the drought of '79 when Jimmy Jeff cleared his
throat like he was gonna make an announcement.
"Sorry to interrupt, folks," he said. "But I've got something that's
been on my mind most of the day and if I don't 'talk about it I feel
like I may explode." He picked up his coffee and came over the table
where we all sat. "Mind if I join you?"
"Pull up a chair," Doc said, stroking his white moustache. "What's on
your mind, son?"
Jimmy Jeff took a drink of his coffee and sat down. "It's a long
story, now, Doc, and you'll probably all think I'm crazy by the time
"Nonsense, my boy. We all know you like a brother. Just tell us what
it is that's troubling you."
Jimmy Jeff took another drink of coffee, and then he seemed to focus.
"As you all know, it has been my custom for some time now to pick up
the morning papers on my way to work. Fact is, I've gotten so used to
it I can't seem to concentrate until I've read them. I get too worried
about what might be going on that I don't know about. Well, today when
I went to the General Store to pick them up, Mr. Harper told me in no
uncertain terms that the papers had not been delivered during the
night, as they are supposed to be. Fact of the matter is, he said, he
hadn't even been able to get ahold of the paper on the telephone to
enquire as to the whereabouts of his delivery."
"That must have been frustrating," I remarked.
"Frustrating doesn't even come close. As I mentioned, I've gotten so
used to reading the papers that I knew I could not concentrate on my
work without them. So I asked Mr. Harper where else I might be able to
purchase them, and he told me that to the best of his knowledge, the
closest place was Harrisonville, some seventy-five miles west."
"Harrisonville, hm?" Doc said. "Can't say I've ever been there
"Surely you didn't drive all the way over there for the papers,"
Willemina said. She's always had a crush on Jimmy Jeff, though he
hasn't ever noticed. "It's awful far."
"I know it is, and I knew it then, but like I said, without them I
wouldn't be able to concentrate. So I figured, better to miss out on
two hours work and catch up when I get back than go the whole day
fuzzier than a mule in a fur coat, and I decided to drive down to
"What was it like?" I asked.
"I'll get to that in due time, Terry. I told you it was a long story."
"So I decided to drive down to Harrisonville to get the papers, as I
said. But first I had to get my truck back from my cousin Harold, who
had it out at the other edge of town after I lent it to him to help
him bring that new refrigerator home. I went by his place but he
wasn't home. Luckily I had my keys to the truck, so I figured I'd just
take it back and explain to him when I got back into to town. Well, no
sooner am I in the truck than I hear some shouting and then someone
starts taking shots at me. I duck behind the dashboard and the
passenger side window breaks and all this glass falls onto the seat
beside me, and then a few minutes later the door opens and it's
Harold, the dumb son of a gun. Turns out he didn't recognize me when
he saw me from a distance, and he thought someone was trying to steal
"You're lucky you weren't shot," Willemina said.
"Wait and hear the rest of my story before you call me lucky.
"Harold offered to replace the window he shot out, but I told him no,
he couldn't really have afforded it and I always keep it down anyways
in the summer. Why, if he hadn't rolled it up himself it never would
have been shot out in the first place! Once I convinced him I wouldn't
let him pay for it, I finally got on the road heading out to
Harrisonville, about a half an hour after I'd intended to.
"Boy let me tell you I've never had such a hard time driving for an
hour as I did then. I could barely keep my eyes on the road what with
all the distractions running through my head, and I knew for sure I'd
made the right decision to go get the papers because I'd never have
been able to get anything done with the state I was in.
"Now when I did finally get to Harrisonville I was still in one piece,
thank the good Lord above. But I'd managed to get a piece of glass
from the shot out window stuck in an unmentionable area, and I was
having a hard time sitting still in the truck. So I reckoned I ought
to find myself a rest room where I could remove it."
Jimmy Jeff paused and had some more coffee, and Doc Sammeday stopped
stroking his moustache. "Do you want me to take a look at the cut?" he
"No thank you, Doc. I believe it's been taken care of." He finished
the coffee and started up with his story again.
"It took me ten minutes just to find a restaurant open at that time in
the morning, and when I did it was nowhere near as nice as this here
place." We could hear Juliet laughing in the kitchen. "But they had a
washroom, and in that washroom I did succeed in removing the glass
from my ass." He looked at my sister. "Sorry, ma'am.
"Now, Like I said, this here restaurant that I was in was not too
pleasant, and the washroom itself was downright dirty and I did not
want to spend any more time in there than I had to. But when I turned
the handle on the door, it came off in my hand!"
Just then, Juliet came over with a hamburger and fries for Jimmy Jeff,
who thanked her and took a bite from the burger.
"So there I stood with the doorknob in my hand, and I didn't quite
know what to do. All I knew was that I was going to be a lot later
than I had thought. So I tried fitting the knob back in the door, and
I was hollering for someone on the other side to come and help me, but
neither of them was working. I went down on one knee, thinking maybe I
could see if there was anyone out there and not really worrying about
getting my pants dirty because I was more concerned with getting out
of that there bathroom. I'd even almost forgotten about the papers.
"Well, when I was down on one knee, looking through the hole where the
handle used to be, I saw the da--" He glanced at Willemina. "I saw the
strangest thing I ever did see in my life. I thought for certain I was
seeing things, but when I looked away and then looked back I could
still see it. And I swear on the good book itself this is the truth,
even though y'all will think I'm either crazy or a liar."
"What was it?" I asked.
"I swear to you the diner had been half full of locals when I went
into that bathroom, but when I looked outside there wasn't a soul to
"At least that explains why there wasn't anyone to help you," one of
the Hawkesbury boys said. Damned if I could tell them apart just then.
"Well, that's true enough. But where did they all go? And why? Those
are the questions I started to ask myself -- along with how on Earth
was I going to get out of that there washroom. I tried banging on the
door and shouting some more, but it wasn't any use. Nobody was out
there." He put a couple of fries in his mouth. "By now, I was starting
to get tired of all that standing, so I went over and got myself a
seat on the toilet, to get the weight off my feet. Anyway, I wasn't
seated more than two minutes when the light bulb burned out and left
me in the dark! Great, I figured. As if being trapped wasn't bad
enough, now I was trapped and there weren't any lights on.
"Well, I'd just about had enough and so I got back up, checked with my
hand to make sure I knew where the door was, and took a run at it.
Hurt my shoulder something fierce, but I did it again and the door
plum fell right off its hinges. Made one hell of a racket when it hit
the floor but there wasn't anybody around to hear it except for
myself. The diner was just as empty as it had looked through that
Doc leaned back in his chair, folding his arms and putting a hand to
his chin. "That does seem rather curious," he said.
"That's not the half of it. You see, now that I'd finally gotten
myself free of the commode, I decided I may as well go find my papers
so that the whole trip wouldn't have been for nothing. I was a little
puzzled about where all the people had gone, but I figured I wasn't
going to figure that out by myself anyway. So I got back into my truck
and headed out to look for a general store or somewhere else that
might have the papers.
"Except the whole town was empty, just like the diner. There wasn't a
soul to be found. I even got out of my truck and started walking
around, looking for someone who might tell me what exactly was going
on. There wasn't anything. Not a single person. I gave up eventually
and went to go back to my truck, when I saw a little movement about
two blocks down, like someone turning a corner. Well, I hadn't quite
given up hope completely, so I started running after them, shouting
things like 'Hey.' and 'Hold up for a minute.' But they didn't seem to
"When I got to the corner she was only a block away -- I noticed she
was a girl, then, maybe a teenager -- and she was turning another
corner. So I started running again, and shouting again, but she still
didn't act like she could hear me. When I got to the second corner
she'd somehow managed to get further away from me even though she
didn't look like she'd been moving that fast at all. She was headed
for this river that runs right through Harrisonville, there, and right
while I was watching she just up and walked on into the water. No,
it's no hotter in Harrisonville than it is here, I tell you, so she
sure wasn't trying to cool off. So I figured to myself, this girl's
trying to kill herself and there's nobody here except me, so I've got
to stop her. And I start running again and yelling at her but by now
she's already in the river, and I'm taking off my shoes, my socks, my
shirt, getting ready to go in after her, all while I'm still running
full speed. Then I get to the river and I'm about to just dive in when
I look in to see how deep it is and if there's any rocks I ought to
avoid. And what I see stops me cold in my tracks right there. 'Cause I
don't see any drowning girl. I see the girl alright, and I see a whole
bunch of other folk, but none of them are drowning. They're all just
standing there, still as statues. I swear it must have been the whole
town, all lined up like twin soldiers in a department store window."
One of the Hawkesbury boys -- the other one -- started to say
something, but Doc put a hand on his arm.
"And then the girl, she smiled at me. And I just know the smile was
saying, 'Come on in, Jimmy Jeff. Join us.' Hell, I ain't ashamed to
say I ran like a scalded dog all the way back to my truck and just
started driving until I got here.
Jimmy Jeff took a big bite out of his burger, and while he chewed it a
stranger we'd never seen before came into the diner and sat himself at
"I'll tell you one thing, though," Jimmy Jeff said, swallowing. "I
don't care whether the papers come or not. I'm never going back to
"Why would you want to, since their plant closed down?" asked the
stranger, turning around on his stool. "Nobody's lived there in almost
You are as uncertain of the figure's departure as you were of its
arrival, but your host certainly feels as though his visit is at an
"Thank you so much for coming," he says, getting to his feet and
walking you to the door. "It can get DEATHLY quiet around here on my
own. I hope you can return again soon. I shall be waiting for you."
You step out onto the porch and the door shuts behind you. As you look
back, you're struck by how much the sagging facade of the house looks
like a human face, lifeless and abandoned.
The Haunted Man copyright (c) 2007, all rights reserved, etc. and so
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