Posts Tagged ‘Alternate History’

Part Seventeen: These are the Days

August 5th, 1998 Wisconsin

“Boy they sure murder you on this popcorn!’ Bernice said as she put her change back in her purse. Her grandson carried a large tray towards her great grandkids; Tommy and Lindsey, along with their friends. The teenagers eagerly snatched the bags of popcorn and paper cups filled with soda. Bernice remembered when she could see movies for a whole year on the amount of money she’d just spent, and these were matinee prices!

No matter though, these were her golden years, her platinum years even, in which she not only enjoyed grandchildren, but great-grandchildren, both of whom she spoiled rotten. She’d long sold her hardware store, and she and Ronald, her second husband of over 30 years, now enjoyed all of their free time. 

The screen lit up the darkened theater as the previews began. Bernice smiled as the trailer began with a familiar tune. She figured the kids wouldn’t recognize the song Mr. Sandman by the Chordettes, but to her it brought back fond memories. Then the mood of the trailer shifted as that familiar 90’s preview voice spoke. “It’s 1998, in a California beach side town.” It then cut to a group of kids boasting about having a Halloween party. 

Bernice blushed as the characters joked about having a roaming orgy. “What the hell is this?” her husband Ronald complained, probably not wishing to explain the word “orgy” to the youngins. Bernice just laughed, figuring the kids heard much worse than this, given the kinds of things they put on TV these days.

On screen characters also took issue with the teen’s behavior. An attractive teacher says “No booze, no drugs, no kidding.” Bernice thought she recognized this actress; it was a Jamie something. She’d soon forgotten this as the trailer cut to the action. In the nature of trailers these days which gave away half the movie, the kids in the theater laughed and cheered as one by one the horny movie teens were dispatched by a mysterious shape.

That familiar trailer voice returned saying “The face of evil, will meet the face of good.” Some in the audience laughed, and others groaned, as a familiar, but long forgotten face appeared on the cue of “the face of good.” Ronald smiled as he recognized the face of Sylvester Stallone, whose career had fallen far from the heights of the 1980s. Ronald remembered when a few years back the actor even tried a few comedies. Hopefully, Ronald thought, a horror movie would be his ticket back over to the top of the movie business.

 “This time,” the voice over said, while images of what looked to be a sea creature floated across the screen, “it’s going to be a fight to the finish.”  

It looked like the eighties all over again as Stallone faced the screen, his wet muscles bulging as his hands gripped a shotgun. In his trademark deep voice he said “Hey yo,” then pumping the shotgun, ‘this monster’s gotta go!”  Like the action films of old, bullets were flying and boats exploded on the water, while Stallone spouted out lines like, “I shot it six times!” and “You don’t know what death is!” 

The trailer’s narrator concluded with, “At this beach, terror won’t be taking a vacation.”

The words “Halloween: H20” then appeared onscreen.  

“Cool.” One of Tommy’s friends blurted out. “I hope it’s better than Halloween: Resurrection of the Vampire!” 

“Be quite Franklin!” Tommy said, shushing his friend. Ronald was also annoyed but Bernice just smiled. She presumed the kids would want to see this once it came out in a couple months.

Finally, the feature presentation started. Bernice liked it already, it had the credits upfront the way movies used to, with a shrieking violin orchestrating the soundtrack. One credit got Ronald’s attention “Based on the novel by Robert Bloch.” 

“He was a local author,” he whispered to his wife. Ronald knew Bloch wasn’t from Plainfield of course, but he did graduate high school in Milwaukee. As the movie Psycho properly began, Ronald remembered hearing about the book. It was the author’s last work before he died about four years back. He said nothing as another familiar credit lit the screen. “Directed by George Kohler. He remembered the Kohler family from his home up the road in Amherst.

Not long into the movie the teens hooted and hollered at the sight of a beautiful blonde woman taking off her clothes and getting in the shower. “Yeah let’s see some titties!” Franklin yelled, but much to his disappointment, there were no naked female breasts to be seen.

Ronald didn’t like the outburst, but he did enjoy the sight of the woman in the shower. She reminded him of Janet Leigh, who was an actress he enjoyed back in the 1960’s. Thought’s of this starlet vanished once he felt his wife’s soft skin squeezing his hand as she whispered “I remember when I looked like that.”

The elderly couple had seen their share of horror movies, and sitting near the front of the dark theater, they were not frightened, but both were a little disturbed. Not at the murder scene on screen, as what looked like a female form pulled back the shower curtain and stabbed the young beauty to death, but that the kids laughed and cheered while it happened. Franklin particularly took delight at this scene, mimicking the stabbing motions while the violin music played. 

After the movie they all went to the skating rink in Hancock, Bernice and her husband sat down at a table with the teenagers. Pizza pies and soda were spread out ready to be consumed while the jukebox played a mix of current pop music and songs of the recently passed decade.

“How did you like the movie? Bernice asked her great grandson Tommy.

“It was great! Tommy said. “It was so scary, and that ending was crazy!”

“Did you like it? Her great grand-daugther Lindsey asked.

“Yeah I liked it, it was a scary one.” 

Tommy agreed, “Yeah it was, and that ending was nuts!”

As Bernice thought about that ending, with a twist she was sure no one saw coming, she had a strange moment of reflection. “That Norman Bates sure was an odd fellow,” she said, “he kind of reminded me of old Eddie Gein.”

“Who’s Eddie Gein? Lyndsey asked.        

“He could have been your great grandfather!” Ronald teased.

“Oh stop it!” Bernice swatted him on the arm.

“Oh it’s true,” Ronald persisted, “he used to hit on Bernice all the time.” He then excitedly leaned toward the children, as if about to tell a secret. “He even asked her to come roller skating right here!” His old wrinkled finger pointed down to the ground as he spoke.

“Oh you!” Bernice’s cheeks were glowing red.

“What happened to him?” Tommy asked.

“Oh he died in a fire way way back.” Bernice thought hard about exactly when it was but couldn’t recall anymore. “Shame really, poor guy.”

“Well why did he remind you of Norman Bates?” Franklin inserted himself into the conversation.

“Well the poor man was dominated by his mother all his life, kind of like that Norman.” Bernice noted. “Wouldn’t let him have any friends, I don’t think he ever even had a girlfriend.”

“Did he kill anybody?” Franklin asked excitedly.

“Franklin you’re never gonna have a girlfriend either if you don’t stop talking about serial killers all the time.” Tommy objected.

Bernice laughed, “Oh goodness no, no no no, but he lived all alone in a spooky farmhouse, kind of like the house in the movie. All the kids in town thought it was haunted. Especially after he died, we would all tell stories about seeing his ghost at night and all such things haha. Most people remember him as a good man though. Always willing to help people out, he was harmless,” Bernice remembered, “if not a little odd.” 

“What kind of stories?” Franklin pressed, anxious to hear further details.

“Oh god, we got Franklin started on killers again.” One of the teens said in annoyance. 

“Come on let’s go play some Mortal Kombat.” Tommy said as he and his friends ran to the skating rink’s arcade section.

Franklin remained, still pushing to hear more. “What kind of stories, did you ever see any ghosts?”

“You go run along now.” Ronald said, waving his hand at Franklin in irritation. “Go play with your friends.” 

The kids then spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games and roller skating as the music continued to play. After a while, they all gathered back at the table to sing happy birthday to Tommy. Bernice Worden didn’t know the band Burn Victims, but their lyrics echoed through the skating rink. “These are the days to remember,” with the word “days” drawn out by the female singer. Bernice smiled as the song played. These were the days for her to remember, enjoying the love and the company of four generations of family and friends. As her great grandson blew out the candles on his Michael Jordan birthday cake, she thought about how next year she would be one hundred years old. Regardless of if she even made it that far, she sure felt lucky for what she had.

The End

Happy Halloween! Hope you all are safe and taking care of yourselves, and I hope you enjoyed this experiment in horror and alternate history. How many pop culture deviations did you find? What was the first one you noticed? Feel free to comment below. If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for No Gein Two: A Second Helping! 

Part Sixteen: Course Correction

August 5th, 1991. Plainfield Wisconsin

While Henry ordered two drinks at the local bar, George felt like he was in a daze, and couldn’t imagine what his father was feeling. After learning about what happened to his Aunt, his father’s sister, George thought aloud. “I don’t know what to say dad.”

Looking up at the TV, Henry replied “Let’s just talk about something else.” George nodded before his father then asked “So what do you want to do son?’

“What do you mean?” 

“You still got your whole life ahead of you.” Henry pointed out, still looking at the TV. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.” was all George could say.

“I think you do.” The bartender then brought two bottles of beer. After taking a sip Henry asked “Ever read Joseph Cambell?”

“Isn’t he that philosopher that inspired Star Wars?”

“Yeah, Franki introduced me to some of his books. He says this thing about following your bliss. It’s like, you gotta do what makes you happy. So seriously son, what do you want to do more than anything else.”

George took a drink and then thought for what felt like a long time. Finally he answered. “I guess I still want to do movies.”

“Well alright then.” Henry raised his bottle to his son then realized out loud, “You know we never had a beer together.”

“You’re right, we never did.” George said with some surprise.

“Two shots!” The father immediately ordered.

Two shots were delivered. George watched his father take his shot without hesitation. He could then see Henry’s eyes on him as he raised the tiny glass to his mouth. George could feel his whole face grimace as he barely got the liquid down his throat. He then heard Henry burst into a much needed laugh.

“That your first shot son!” A local patron asked.

“First shot with me!” The proud papa proclaimed.

“Well let’s make it a second,” the man said. “Bartender, three more shots.”

“Oh god.” George’s eyes rolled while everyone at the bar laughed.

“Tonight son,” Henry announced while looking across the bar, “you’re gonna learn the true meaning of horror. I see they’ve got some vodka over there.”

Father and son proceeded to drink and mingle with the locals. Neither revealing much regarding the purpose of their visit. Over beer and pool they mentioned they were originally from a town up north, and were just passing through. George watched a side of his father he’d never seen before,  boisterous and social, and George found himself being rather reserved, not gaudy and demanding of attention. Perhaps, he thought, because he knew he wasn’t around people that would carry a conversation about splatter movies, video games, or Dungeons and Dragons. He was around regular people, the kind he’d usually look down on.

“He’s going to be a movie director!” His father announced to his new best friends. George looked on in confusion, not knowing how to respond. 

“Oh really!” an older woman said. “What do you think of that psycho in Milwaukee, you could make a movie about him?” His father looked at him with drunk eyes smiling while the woman waited for his response.

Looking back at his father, George soon blurted out, “Nah that guy was sick.”

As the night died down, father and son back at the bar. On the television the Brewers were tied with the Baltimore Orioles, that is until Milwuakee’s Robin Yount hit a double to bring Darryl Hamilton home to a 6-5 lead. Pointing to the boxed television set, Henry said “When you were first born I imagined taking you to a game in Milwaukee.” 

George turned to his father and said “We did see the Brewers, remember?”

“We did?”

“Yeah we went to a Phillies game when they played them. You were mad because I was cheering on Mike Schmidt.” George recalled, suddenly remembering his childhood when he actually had sports heroes.

“Well he was the best third baseman to ever play the game.” His father happily pointed out. “Damn, I forgot all about that.” The two then looked up at the TV to watch the rest of the game. Not too long after, the last Baltimore batter struck out, and Milwaukee won the night. Once it was wrapped up Henry said “Thanks for coming out here with me.”

“No problem.” Struggling to find what to say next, he said “I’m sorry dad, I’m sorry about, I don’t know,…” he looked back at the TV hoping to find some inspiration.

He felt his father’s hand on his back while hearing the words “It’s alright son. You were so little, you probably don’t remember her much.”

“I remember her a bit.” George recalled. “I remember when she stayed with us. We went to the store one day and I wanted a magazine.”

“You always were a reader.”

“Yeah, and mom didn’t want me to get this monster magazine but Sally got it for me.”

“Really? I don’t remember that.”

“You don’t?” George was surprised. “That’s what got me into horror movies.”

Henry’s eyes widened “Wow, really?” He shook his head, took a big gulp of his drink, then stared off into nothing.

“I remember when I was a kid,” Henry said after a while, “we had this teacher who brought in a guest speaker. Jewish guy. I’d never even known anyone Jewish before.”

“What did he talk about?” George asked, not realizing when this story would have taken place.

“He’d lived through all the shit.” Henry answered. “It was god awful. He was right there in Auschwitz.”

“Oh my god.”

“What he saw was unbelievable, stacks of bodies, and that awful smell. We were just kids though, we should have known better. We had to stay after school that day.”

“What happened?”

Henry looked almost too embarrassed to admit it, even decades later. He explained “Me and my friends, we were laughing at the guy. We were just dumb kids, but still, we should have known better.” Henry shook his head in disbelief  “I guess when it doesn’t happen to you, it’s almost like it’s not even real. With my sister, it was always real to me.”

Local news now came on the television. The Dhamer story was still hot, and the gory details of his crimes were once again the lead. George took another sip of his drink and thought out loud. “That son of a bitch.” Soon the bartender changed the channel and announced last call. Father and son closed the bar that night.

Waking up the next morning, Henry decided they should go to the cemetary to see Fred one more time. George felt odd attending the burial of someone neither he nor his father ever knew. However, it was likely no one noticed, as it seemed all of Plainfield was out. George and his father had to park their rental car down the road from the cemetery gate, as so many cars were already there. Walking on the dirt path, they passed an old couple, “That’s where I’ll be Ronald.” The elderly woman said, passing an empty plot amongst the tombstones. 

“Well don’t rush!” Her elderly companion said, squeezing her arm playfully.

The weather was pleasant that day at the Plainfield cemetery. The crowd gathered around as the priest read the words of Psalm 23, which was common for such occasions.

“The Lord is my shepard; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul, he leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you have annointed my head with oil, my cup runs over. 

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all of the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

After the service most of the crowd dispersed. George and Henry kept to themselves as Fred made small talk with a few of the locals. After a few minutes, Fred appeared surprised when he saw George and Henry. “Thanks for coming.” he said, to which the two nodded. “Come on over here.” Fred then motioned. George and Henry followed him across the cemetery to a series of graves. “These were his parents.” Fred whispered, pointing to two tombstones on the right which read Henry and Augusta respectively. “This was his brother Henry.” he said pointing to the left. Then, pointing to a smooth grey tombstone between Henry and Augusta, Fred said ‘“and here he is.” George and his father looked down, and there was the tombstone of one Ed Gein. Here lay the Ghoul of Plainfield, and no one ever knew.

“The Sheriff ‘found the body’ Fred spoke using air quotes “the next day. We couldn’t bring ourselves to go to the funeral. My wife went; said a lot of people came out. Everyone saw him as this odd guy, but they all remembered him working hard. Kids liked it when he babysat them. In the winter he would have snowball fights with them, in the summer he would buy them ice cream. We figured it was better no one knew.” 

Then he teared up. “I’m sorry.” he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose. “I’m sorry, he was my friend. We just had no idea.”

“It’s ok.” Henry said. “There was no way you could have known. It’s a good thing you came along that night when you did.” 

Putting his handkerchief away Fred revealed, “Except for your friend Robert I never told a soul. I mean my wife knew a little I guess, but me and Arthur, we never told anyone.” Looking at Henry he continued. “I don’t blame you for being mad about what we did, but I’m glad you know. You deserved to know. To tell you the truth it feels good to tell someone, as awful as it is.”

Henry gratefully put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said “Thank you for helping my sister, and, and for everything.”

The two embraced, then Fred pulled away and shook George’s hand before saying “You two take care now.” and left the father and son to themselves. Henry turned to his son and fell into his arms. George held his sobbing father while looking down at the grave. 

There was a time when George would have revelled in the story of Ed Gein. At one time, had he the opportunity, he would have ripped this tombstone right out of the ground and sold it for notoriety and fame, but here it lay, perfectly intact. It’s smooth stone reflecting the sunlight. Only a few people in the whole world ever knew of what the corpse that lay beneath had done in life.

There will be one more chapter of this tale of horrific alternate history tomorrow, just in time for Halloween. In the meantime, be safe.

Part Fifteen: Point of Divergence

Reader advisory, this chapter is graphic.

8/5/1991 Wisconsin

Henry and George were not about to drive all the way to Wisconsin. Flying out of the Lehigh Valley airport, after a short layover they landed in Green Bay. It was late when they landed, and they didn’t talk much as they spent the night at a hotel. The next day they rented a car and headed west. George had forgotten how flat it was out there, its pink soiled fields stretched for miles. Later, looking at the road map, George noticed Henry turned on 76 North at the town of Shiocton. He was expecting them to still follow 54 west.

“Why are we going north?” George asked.

Henry’s eyes still kept on the road. “We’re going home,” he answered. “we’re going to see my sister.”

Not long after they rolled into their old home of Amherst and found themselves at the gates of the Greenwood Cemetery. George followed as Henry slowly walked through the graveyard. He still remembered right where Sally was. He knelt down and touched his sister’s tombstone with his hand. George stayed a few feet behind, and after a few quiet minutes Henry rose back up. Together they looked down at Sally’s final resting place. Henry remembered how all those years when nobody believed her. Well, that wasn’t true, he believed her. Somehow he knew she was telling the truth, and he always stood by her. Whatever really did happen, he wished it wouldn’t have. He wished she was there with him now. “She would have liked you.” he said to his son.

“You think?” George asked quietly.

 “Yeah,” Henry nodded, still looking at the stone. “She was, well, she always did her own thing, like she really didn’t know how to do any different.” Finally, he looked away from the stone and said  “Well, let’s go find what this shit’s all about.”

Now heading south to Plainfield, Henry was surprised at what good time they were making. He didn’t remember the roads being this good when he was a kid. George kept looking out over the plains, still amazed how you could see so far off into the horizon. “I wouldn’t have been able to grow up here.” he observed.

“It’s where I grew up.” Henry said matter of factly, still looking at the empty road ahead.

“Why did you leave?”

“Hmm, once Sally was gone,” Henry reflected, “well, people were teasing Helen in school about it, and your mom always wanted to get out of Wisconsin.” He laughed and looked at George to say “I guess you can see why.” Looking back at the open sky he said “Bethlehem Steel was always hiring, so off we went.”

George looked back at Henry and added “I think mom wanted out of everything.”

Remembering how she ran around as soon as they settled into their new home, Henry replied “Yeah I think you’re right George, I think you’re right.”

Later that afternoon they pulled into a motel in Plainfield. George’s eyes scanned the small main street of another identical Wisconsin town and asked. “Did you ever come out here before?” 

“No never.” Henry said looking around.

They checked into the room. Henry previously informed Fred, a local resident, how Bloch got a hold of him and the former Sheriff. Henry had told the man he would call him once he got to town. In the hotel room he got Fred on the phone. “Get me a paper and pen.” he instructed George, who handed him the stationary. “Ok, empty lot on Archer and Second, about 6 miles out of town. You can see me in about an hour? Ok great, thank you.”

About an hour later Henry and George pulled into an empty lot on the outskirts of Plainfield. Before making this trip, George asked why they didn’t just call these people on the phone. Whatever the truth was, Henry wanted to find out face to face. 

A blue pickup truck waited for them on the side of the road. The sun was beginning to set when Henry and George arrived, They saw an old man get out of the pickup. Henry was expecting to meet two people. This sole figure had a long grey beard and denim overalls. He was probably a farmer, as Henry’s father had been. Henry pondered how, had George grown up here, they both would have ended up looking like this guy. George probably wouldn’t have liked that. As the man approached, Henry couldn’t help but think he looked familiar, but he couldn’t imagine where he could have seen him before. The man gave him a glance of recognition as well, before pointing at the two of them saying “Henry and George Kohler?” 

“That’s correct sir.” Henry said. 

“Fred.” the man stuck his hand out. “Pleasure to meet you.” He shook hands with both of them. Looking around at the near empty land, Henry could see a house off in the distance. “So is this where you live?”

“Down the road a bit.” Fred then pointed to the ground to explain, “This was Eddie Gein’s property.”

Henry asked “Who’s Eddie Gein?”

The night was slowly creeping in while the trio walked down the road by the empty field. Then the man began his tale. “It would have been around this spot where I found the car.” The father and son followed behind as they heard Fred say “I was driving home that night when I saw it,” turning back to look at Henry he said “what would have been your sister’s car, pulled over on the side of the road. Figured it was outta gas or something. Got out to take a look, that’s when I heard the gunshots. Wasn’t hunting season yet.” Pointing to a pile of rubble he said “I knew this property was right down the road. I figured someone was pulling a prank on poor Ed.”

“A prank?” Henry asked.

“People took advantage of Ed.” Fred explained. “He was a simple fellow, people borrowed money from him and didn’t pay him back, borrowed shit from him and kept it. One time somebody put a smoke bomb under the hood of his truck.” He shook his head, taking no pleasure in recounting this story. “Boy he was mad at that one. He was so mad he could have, could’ve….”

“Could have killed somebody?” George finished the sentence.

“Yeah.” Fred shook his head before speaking again. “Anyway, I head on down the road, next thing I know this girl is jumping up and down waving her arms around right in front of me. Almost ran her over honestly, but I just barely managed to spin the truck around without getting into a damn wreck. She hopped in the cab and screamed ‘Go go go!” Fred motioned with his arm. “I heard another gunshot and hit the gas. Couldn’t see anybody else out here, but I could have sworn I heard some squealing sound, like a hog got loose or something. You know,” he stopped and shook his head, “I never thought much of that sound until just now. Too much going on at the time for me to think of it, but Ed hadn’t had livestock for years.”

“So the girl you picked up,” Henry asked, “this was my sister?” 

“That would be her,” Fred answered, “she was hysterical. Got her back to my place, the wife made her some tea and tried to get her to calm down. She was babbling all this stuff about bodies and what not.” He looked at Henry to say “I’m sorry to say this sir, but I thought she was whacked out on dope.”

“It’s ok.” Henry assured him.

“Anyway,” Fred continued, “hearing those gunshots I was worried someone was harassing Eddie. So I called the Sheriff and told him to meet me at the Gein property.”

Now walking off the road onto the former Gein property, he pointed to the ground and noted that Eddie had a woodshed right around this spot. “I pulled my truck up and looked around. It was all dark, but that was to be expected, Ed didn’t have no electricity. I called out to him a few times but there was no answer. I couldn’t make heads or tales out of most of what your sister was saying, but she insisted there was a body in the woodshed. I was half afraid somebody killed Ed and put his body in there! So I went in.” Fred was now getting visibly upset. He lit a cigarette, took a puff, then looked at George and Henry and asked, “Do you hunt?” 

George nodded no but his father said “Sure I do.” 

“So you’ve gutted a deer?” 

Henry nodded and George asked, “So there was a deer inside?”

“No it was a person!” Fred nearly shouted as both George and Henry gasped. “She was hanging upside down off a crossbar, it was shoved right through her ankles, naked as the day she was born.” Fred sniffled as he took a drag of his cigarette. “Gutted like a damn animal, big gashing hole in her, her…”

“Jesus.” Henry said. He now understood how his sister suffered for what she had seen, and he knew this man also lived through his life with this memory.

“I ran out the shed and puked right then and there, probably right where he’s standing.” Fred pointed to George, who calmly took a step back. “The Sheriff, Arthur his name was, he arrived by that point,” Fred managed a smirk while he took time to wipe his eyes. “Bastard was laughing at me for puking, but his laughing scared the shit out of me. He comes up behind me and puts his hands on my shoulder asking if I was OK.” Now laughing himself he recalled “I almost shot him. He wasn’t laughing then, but he must have noticed the shed door open, so he went in and took a look. Next thing I know he comes running out and now he’s puking right next to me.”

“Jesus, I’m so sorry.” Henry said, astonished. 

“Who was in the shed?” George asked.

“You know,” Fred remembered, “I don’t think I even noticed her head was taken off, but he told me her head was laying in the shed. Told me later it was someone we knew, someone who had just died. Arthur and I were both at her funeral just the week before.”

“Wait, so her grave was robbed?” George said in disgust.

Fred nodded before continuing. “The Sheriff stormed to the porch. I don’t think even then I realized what Ed had done. I think in that moment, I was still thinking somebody else did it. But the Sheriff was pounding on the door, he was hot. ‘Eddie! Eddie!” Fred mimicked knocking on an invisible door. “Get your ass out here now!’ He didn’t wait for an answer and just kicked his damn door in. I followed behind. I was still worried about Ed. I remember yelling ‘Ed it’s Fredrick, are you ok?”

Pointing to an area in the now empty field, Fred continued, “It would have been right around here where we went in. The first thing we noticed was the smell. It was awful. There was no electricity in the house but we both had our flashlights. Apparently Ed lit his house with kerosene lamps, so a few of those were around. Eddie’s mom died years before, he was really close to her. I think once she died he just fell apart. His place was a wreck. We could see coffee cans stuffed with chewing gum, cracked yellow dentures laying around. There was a washtub filled with sand, piles of these old mystery magazines. It was a mess, and we didn’t even see the worst of it yet.”

“So was Ed in the house then?” Henry wondered aloud.

Fred nodded slowly. “We heard that sound, that squealing sound, almost like an animal crying.  We went in the next room, which looked like a bedroom, that’s where the sound was coming from. There it was, sitting on the bed, it was rocking back and forth, cradling a rifle in its hands.”

“Was it Ed?” George asked.

By now it was dark, the only light they had was from the moon, and the burning red glow of the cigarette. “I don’t know what made me say it.” Fred thought back to that horrible moment. “I didn’t think it could be Ed, I just didn’t think it could be. It had long grey hair like a woman’s, and its skin was old and wrinkled. I don’t know what made me say it, but I looked at this thing and said his name, ‘Ed?”

“Oh my god” Henry shuddered at the realization.

“It wasn’t Eddie’s face, but it was his eyes, Ed had this fleshy growth under his left eye, and I could see it. Those familiar eyes looked at me, but they had a hate in them I’d never known. It let out this horrible shriek and charged at me. Now Eddie was always a small man, but he was farmer strong, knocked me down and got right on top of me. His hands flailed at me. I reached up and pushed the face away, that face, it felt so strange, really oily and unnatural.” Pushing his hands in an upwards motion he said “the whole face pushed to the side, but his head stayed still like his skin was sliding on his skull. Then I saw his whole body get ripped off of me. Sheriff grabbed him by the collar and threw him hard into the wall. Then Arthur smashed the thing’s skull with the butt of his rifle. Now it just lay there, perfectly still on the ground. By then I knew what it was, but I didn’t want to admit it. Only when I got back to my feet, and the Sheriff pulled the mask off, did I face the fact that underneath was Ed Gein.”

George asked, “Wait, what was this mask he was wearing?” 

Fred took another long puff of his cigarette and said “It was the face of the woman we found in the shed.”

“Jesus christ are you fucking serious?” George exclaimed.

“So what happened to Ed then?” Henry asked. “He didn’t go to jail?

“Jail, huh, it was too late for that.” 

“Don’t tell me,” Henry said,  “don’t tell me you…”

Thinking back to his former friend laying face down in a pool of blood, remembering this accidental death, this awful homicide, Fred explained, “Sheriff checked his pulse, he was gone.” Fred stated. “He then asked me if I was alright. I sat down on the bed to catch my breath. I put my hand on the bedpost,” holding up his hand, palm down he said “I noticed it felt weird, then my hand jerked back, like it knew before I did. Jesus.” He took another puff of his cigarette.

“What was it?” Henry asked.

He then stated the horrible truth. “There were human skulls on his bed posts.”

“What?” George was astonished.

“Yeah. And while this was scaring the shit out of me the Sheriff examined the body. It wasn’t just the face he was wearing.”

Henry asked “What do you mean?”

“He was wearing a whole torso of human skin. It was a woman’s skin, the breasts were intact.” George and Henry listened in shock. “We didn’t even notice till later, but he was also wearing leggings made of human skin.”

“And you were his friend and you never knew!” Henry began to grow angry.

“Nobody knew!” Fred insisted. “Nobody was at his house for years, he didn’t even let people hunt on his property.” 

Then George asked “How many bodies do you think were in there?”

“We think ten.” 

“Why ten?” George asked.

“Because between the two rooms, there were eight other skin masks hanging from the walls, Some of them were preserved with oil and still looked lifelike. Some were stuffed with paper, some even had lipstick on them.” Fred wiped the tears from his eyes as he recalled “we could actually recognize some of the faces. Also pinned to the walls were nine obituaries from the newspaper. We think he dug graves of women that reminded him of his mother.”

“Why would he do that?” Henry asked.

“I’m not a shrink.” Fred answered. “I don’t know. Maybe he thought he could bring her back.”

“Wait, you said there were nine obituaries,” George observed, “but you think there were ten bodies?”

“In the kitchen, the Sheriff found a brown paper bag.” Fred explained. “I don’t know what made him reach in it, just instinct I guess, but he reached his hand in and grabbed a clump of hair. He pulled out another skin mask, and we both recognized the face.”

“Who was it?” George wondered.

“It was a woman named Mary, she ran a tavern up the road in Pine Grove, a middle aged woman. She disappeared a few years prior. Rumor had it she was mixed up with the mob, all we knew was she disappeared one day. A cartridge was found on the floor of her tavern along with a pool of blood. We always figured someone from her days in Chicago caught up with her, but there she was. The Sheriff put her face down in a bowl, then he realized that bowl was made of a human skull.”

George’s father broke down weeping, almost falling into his son’s arms. “My god my god!” he wailed, fully comprehending both the horror his poor sister suffered, and the madness she escaped. 

George was tearing up himself. “Ok we’ve heard enough” he held his hand up toward Fred.

“No, no,” Henry looked back up. “No tell us everything, we came all this way to hear this.” Wiping his eyes he insisted “Go on. I wanna know everything you saw.”

Having already begun his grotesque story, and knowing his audience fully accepted its insanity, Fred recounted the rest of the facts as if he were merely reading from an encyclopedia. “In the kitchen there were four chairs that were covered in human skin.” he recounted. “We also found human skin lampshades, bracelets, human skin covering a wastebasket, and on the sheath of a hunting knife. There was a belt made of nipples, and on the shade pull to the curtains was a pair of human lips.”

George fell to his knees, no longer able to contain the bile in his stomach, he leaned over and vomited on the ground, just as Fred and the Sheriff had all those years ago. His father wrapped his son in his arms and helped him back to his feet. Wiping his mouth with his son’s handkerchief George looked up and said “Go on.”

“We found a box with nine vulva’s inside,” Fred stated, still in a monotone voice, “one was dabbed with silver paint and trimmed with red ribbon, the one on top seemed the freshest. Art noticed they were covered in small crystals, then we realized they were sprinkled with salt. In another box were four noses, and in a cardboard Quaker Oates container were scraps of human innards.”

Having recounted the last of the gruesome details Fred apologized to Henry. ” I’m really sorry sir, but I have no doubt that whatever your sister said was absolutely true.”

George wondered. “What about the rest of the house?”

“The other rooms were boarded up,” Fred recalled. “so naturally we thought ‘Jesus Christ what are we gonna find next?’ I didn’t want to know, but we had to find out. I closed my eyes as Arthur kicked down a locked door to a room downstairs.” 

“What did you find? George asked in dreaded anticipation.

“It was nothing. Apparently he only used the kitchen and the adjacent bedroom, all the other rooms in the house were abandoned. There were five whole rooms upstairs that went completely unused. His mother’s upstairs bedroom was like a shrine to her. He had her Bible sitting on the nightstand, and this painting of Christ looking up at an angel was still hanging on the wall. The room was perfectly preserved, he didn’t even go in there to dust. It was downright creepy how untouched those rooms were. So that was it,” Fred concluded, “that was everything we found.”

Looking at the empty space where the house once stood, Henry asked, “So what happened to the house?”

“Arthur was pretty adamant, if word ever got out about this, every freak show in a thousand miles would come take a look.” George nodded in perfect understanding as Fred explained. “Carnies would be showing off his car and would have turned the home into a spook house.” Randomly pointing to a few spots around the land he revealed “We gathered up what remains we could and buried them in a few spots around the property. Not deep enough, as your buddy Robert found out last time, but we buried them. Gein’s house was lit by kerosene lamps, and luckily there was plenty of kerosene lying around. So we left Ed’s body in there and burned the place to the ground.” 

“And nobody ever found out? Henry said.

“Arthur made sure nothing turned up.” Fred then dropped his cigarette and stomped it out.

“How do you know he didn’t kill anyone else?” Henry asked angrily. “There could be someone else out there just like me with relation that ran across this maniac and maybe got killed and the family never knew!”

“You think I never wrestled with that?” Fred answered back. “Mary was the only suspected murder case in the area. I mean sometimes a hunter would go missing or something like that. I remember this teenage girl disappeared years before, but that was nowhere near here. The Sheriff insisted this be kept quiet, and I wasn’t gonna disobey him.” Raising his hands up he said “I’m not saying what we did was right, but we did what we did, it’s done. I’m really sorry about what happened to your sister.” 

Henry was still angered at what had just been revealed, but he kept quiet while George asked “So what did you tell Sally then?” 

“She was still pretty upset when we went back,” Fred answered. “but I think it was some relief to her once she saw us again. I told my wife to go upstairs while we talked to her in the kitchen. We assured her the man was dead, and told her about the fire.” He puffed his cigarette again. “I’m sorry to say it, but the Sheriff got a little hard on her. Made her swear she’d never tell anyone, told her to never come to this town again. He threatened to plant dope on her and throw her in jail. I didn’t like that he did that, but she promised. We let her sleep in our spare room that night. The Sheriff slept on my couch, though I don’t know if he did much sleeping. The next day we got her some gas and took her home. I actually drove her car back, and she rode with the Sheriff.” 

“I remember you now!” Henry recalled. “I remember the Sheriff bringing her home that day. I was wondering why someone else was driving my dad’s car.” Henry said, remembering his childhood innocence. 

“Shit that was your dad’s car!” Fred exclaimed almost laughing.

“My sister and him got into an argument that night and she took off with it.”

“Well god damn!” Fred exclaimed, shaking his head. “I guess you would have been just a little kid then huh?”

“Yeah” Henry said sternly, still upset about the secret he’d just learned.

George interjected, “You said the sheriff is still here?” Both George and Henry anticipated talking to him as well.

Fred looked down. “Well, he was. He just passed away actually. Funeral is tomorrow.” He thought for a minute, then said “You should come by the cemetery. I’d, I’d like to show you something.” 

“We’ll be out of here in the morning.” Henry quickly said. George put his hand on his father’s shoulder and interjected.

“We’ll see how we feel tomorrow.” George said.

Fred breathed a deep sigh and nodded his head. “Alright, you two take care now.” He then went back to his truck, and soon both vehicles drove away from the empty field. 

It was eerily quiet in the rental car as it rode by the empty fields. Henry didnt even turn the radio on. George stared blankly out the window, he didn’t dare touch the dial. As they approached what few lights shined in the town ahead he finally looked at his father and said “We ought to go to the cemetary tomorrow. His father remained silent. “Well don’t you want to know what he wanted to show us?” There was no answer as George turned and looked back out the window just in time to watch the sign for their hotel pass by. Continuing down the road, looked back at his father, who was eyeing a neon sign down the street. “Dad where are we going?”

Parking the rental car near a tavern he looked to George and said “Son, I think we both need a drink.”

Part Thirteen: Mother

July 23rd, 1991. Plainfield Wisconsin

“Just a little odd.” Bloch pondered to himself how people probably thought that about him. He now sat down in his hotel room and looked over his notes. Every town has their own local weirdo, but something about this Eddie character drew him, as if they were meant to be inextricably linked. Shrunken heads, was it possible they were from the Philippines? Could the residents of Plainfield have had a ghoul in their midst that was never discovered? Quite a story it would make, a domineering religiously fanatical mother, a quiet, unassuming, isolated fellow who lived with a terrible secret. Quite a story indeed. 

The light stayed on as Robert lay in the hotel bed. He couldn’t get Gein out of his mind. He also wondered if anyone else was even staying in this hotel. Looking at the old flimsy door to the outer hallway, he was reminded of his long deceased friend H.P. Lovecraft, and his story Shadow of Innsmouth, in which the main character stumbled across a strange New England town, and, after staying in a cheap hotel, is almost kidnapped, before narrowly escaping and learning the town’s deadly secrets. The author wished for no parallels to his current experience.

In the morning he planned to drive out to what was the Gein property, just to take a look. In the library he made note of the fire that took Gein’s life back in 1957 and of its location. If anyone questioned him he could just say he got lost. That sheriff that saw him at the bar looked long retired, and he didn’t expect any trouble from the proper authorities. He would check it out in the morning, yeah in the morning. As his head rested on the pillow, he looked at the shower through the open door of the small dingy bathroom. Funny thing, the shower curtain was missing. He needed a good shower. As his eyes grew heavy he thought he would wash up then get a good night sleep, then in the morning go check out that property.

The walls were glowing white, and laying there in the hospital bed his mother’s skin looked a pale yellow, almost like she was already to… no, don’t even think it. She’s still there, he’s holding her weak hand in his own. He can’t believe how much smaller she looks, almost as if the cancer actually shrunk her. He’s crying again. He hates this part. She’s looking at him now, but only with her eyes as her face remains a deathlike in its motionless. He can only bring himself to say one word in that boyish voice he had so long ago. “Mother.” 

Robert hated that dream. He hadn’t had it in a long time, but tonight hit with extra potency. His whole body shook when he woke up. It’s never like in the movies where you sit straight up after a nightmare. He was still laying in his bed, but his chest heaved rapidly as he looked up at the light in his room. 

He couldn’t wait anymore. The shower remained dry as he rushed out the door. The clerk was fast asleep as he walked out to the vacant streets that were soon filled with the sound of the engine of his rental car. 

Robert guessed that back in Ed’s time this drive must have taken longer, but now in the 90’s even godforsaken places like this had paved roads. So it didn’t take him long to reach his destination, especially since he felt pulled by some synchronistic force, as if the whole universe conspired to have him drive down this particular road on this particular night.

The former Gein property looked to be an unassuming empty field. Still, as he turned the engine key but left the car light shining he felt an eerie sensation, as if he had found some long missing link in the chain of madness that was this soon to be ending century.

Stepping out of the car, the headlights revealed nothing special for him to see, but then he heard the sound. It was the sound or dirt flying through the air and hitting the earth. Had some ghoul still lurked in this place, was a spirit haunting these woods? At the edge of the light Bloch spotted a patch of fur, which was soon met with a pair of white fangs. Bloch bounced back at the sound of barking as two dogs were fighting in the darkness, their animalistic growling and grunting filled the night around him. As the two animals rolled into the light he noticed they were fighting over a bone. It was a long bone, long and white, still with specks of dirt on it that were now mixing with the dogs’ saliva. Robert couldn’t help but notice how long the bone was, in fact it looked long enough to be, no, it couldn’t be, could it?

“Get out of here!” Bloch shouted as he kicked a bit of dirt towards the dogs. He surprised himself at how loud he shouted. Off in the distance, he could scarcely make out the shape of another house. A second floor light was on, its white glow was almost like a star in the distance. He hoped he hadn’t awakened the occupant from a good night sleep, something he should be having now instead of spooking around on an abandoned property.

The dogs ran off into the trees, and Bloch’s noticed an exposed patch of earth that had been dug up by the dogs. In the dirt Bloch could see another shade of white. A set of teeth covered in dirt grinned back at him with a deathly smile. He couldn’t admit it, but he suspected as much when he saw the size of the bone the dogs were fighting over. Now, the evidence lay before him plain as day. Robert Bloch was looking at the remains of a human being.

Still, his mind couldn’t believe it, he had to feel it, to touch it with his hands. Without fear he ran to the shallow grave and scooped up the skull in his hand. Its eyes, black, as the Wisconsin night, stared back at him. What truth’s had it to reveal? Robert felt like Shakespeares’s Hamlet, speaking to the remains of Yorick. Perhaps these were the remains of Ed Gein himself. Alas poor Gein, a fellow of infinite strangeness, he carried this town on his back a million times, and is now abhorred in the townfolk’s imagination. Here in Bloch’s hand rests the final fate of all mankind, no matter what fables he writes or what athletics he might achieve, one day all will be bones in the ground such as these. 

Bloch turned to see a second pair of circular lights shining on him, but this set of lights were moving in the darkness. The truck’s engine kept running as the driver’s side door opened, then swiftly slammed shut. Robert heard the ratchet of the shotgun before seeing Fred from the bar angrily step forward.

“What the hell are you doing out here!”

Robert’s trembling hands dropped the skull, it hit the earth below in a low thud as the truck’s engine continued roaring. “Sir, uh, we need to tell the police, there’s..”

“You aint telling the police nothing!” Good God what horror had he stumbled into? Was Robert now looking at a murderer? Bloch glanced down at the small hole in the earth and knew full well this man could shoot him and bury him out here and no one would be the wiser. Country such as this could hide violence for years and never give up its secrets. The man then shot not bullets but words at the helpless author. “What are you doing on this property!”

Robert’s hands still trembled as he held them in the air. Sweat erupted on his face, both from fear and the humid July air. “Sir I’m very sorry to trespass on your property, I was just..”

“This aint my property, it’s not your property either!” Fred shouted. “Sheriff was all riled up when I took him home, said you were writing shit down! You one of those Goddamn reporters?”

“No, no, I promise you I’m not a reporter. I’m a, I’m, I’m a friend of the Kohler family, did you know Sally Kohler?”

Now it was the armed man who bore a look of trepidation. As the shotgun barrel drew away from him Robert spoke more confidently. “I’m a friend of her family, and they asked me to look into something.” The man’s jaw fell and the shotgun lowered to the ground. “You probably wouldn’t have known her, but she was out here a long time ago. I believe”, he looked down at the bones lying at his feet and said, “I believe she may have met Ed Gein.”

Part Twelve: The Ghoul of Plainfield

July 23rd, 1991. Plainfield Wisconsin

Robert Bloch sat at a bar in Plainfield Wisconsin as the local news delivered a shocking report on just discovered local serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who had been arrested after police found a man fleeing from his home. In Dahmer’s apartment, police found two entire human skeletons, seven human heads, and an assortment of other human anatomy. As the news report continued, the tavern remained eerily quiet. Then, finally, someone broke the silence. “Well you know who that sounded like?” said an old man at the bar.

“Oh come on, don’t say it Lester.” a woman, Bloch presumed to be the man’s wife, replied.

“I’ll say it Irene, because you know we’re all thinking it.”  Lester insisted. “It sounds like old Eddie Gein.“ Lester said, half laughing.

Bloch then recognized the clerk at the store earlier, who was probably the youngest patron in this establishment. The young man asked, “Who?” 

“Was before your time,” Lester explained, “and you should be thankful for that. For years Ed Gein was kind of the village idiot around here.”

“Well why does he remind you of that guy?” The young man said pointing to the TV.

“I’ll tell you why.” Another older man interrupted. “When I was a kid me and a buddy was over his house one time.”

“Bullshit Bob!” Lester objected. “You were in his house?”

“Yeah,” Bob insisted. “God this must have been 40 years on now. But yeah, me and my buddy Jim used to go to movies and football games with him. One day we were over his house playing cards. Well, I wasn’t too into playing cards as a kid, so Ed gave me this tool to play around with that punched holes in paper. I’d run out of paper so I went in his room to get more. I go in there and, my hand to god, there’s two shrunken heads in the room!”

“Get the hell out!” Lester exclaimed.

“Swear to god!” Bob raised his hand in earnest. “He said he had a cousin that got them from the Philippines during the war.”

“Well he for damn sure didn’t have any family who fought in the Philippines! The only family he had was that religious nutjob of a mom.” Lester pointed to the screen as the local news story still continued, “Ten to one says that freak had mommy issues.” 

“Did you see anything else?” Irene asked Bob.

“No, but now that I think of it he didn’t let us over the house anymore after that.”

“Well, these heads you saw, did they look like Phillipino heads?” Lester asked. “Like were they dark skinned?”

His eyes widened as he thought about the answer. “Well no, now that I think of it, they weren’t.”  

“So what,” another older man said. He sat next to another gentlemen who remained quiet, but appeared visibly agitated at the conversation. “We brought all kinds of shit back from the war. Why I had a buddy who fought the Japs in Okinawa. I was over his place one time and he says ‘Hey look at this!’ He had a necklace made of human ears!”

“Did you take them home with you Fred?” Lester joked. Getting no reply Lester then said to the quiet man next to him. “What about you Sheriff, what was your take on Gein?”

At first the man only glared at Lester. Finally, he answered with a question of his own. “Well do you remember people coming up missing when I was on the force?”

“All right, just saying!” Lester threw up his hands in jest.

“So this Ed guy,” the younger patron asked, “did he ever kill anybody?” 

While the locals conversed about their local legend, Robert quietly placed an order of french fries, “I’m gonna sit in the booth over there.” he told the bartender, pointing to the back corner. Bloch was now like a fly on the wall. He took out his notebook and wrote down this name that he never heard before, Ed Gein. 

“People always suspected he killed his brother.” Another older woman spoke up. “My dad was on the fire department. When Ed was young he reported a fire on his property, and said he couldn’t find his brother, but my dad said when they got to the property Ed led everyone right to his brother’s body. Didn’t seem affected by the fire, but the body had bruises on its head.”

“Yeah, and there was Mary Hogan who ran that Crossroads Tavern up north in Pine Grove.” Another old man spoke up. “Ed was always after her, then she came up missing one day.” 

“Now cut the shit!” The former Sheriff protested angrily. 

Fred, sitting next to the ex-lawman, turned a watchful eye to his friend while he added, “Yeah come on, Elmo,” speaking to the man who brought up Mary Hogan. “Everyone knew she was mixed up with the mob. She left Chicago to hide out here, mob probably tracked her down and took care of her.”

“Ed was always in there though.” Elmo insisted. “I think she reminded him of his mother.”

“Bloody Mary reminded Ed of his holier than thou mother?” Lester objected. “I don’t think so!”

 “I’m telling you, I remember when she first went missing.” Elmo began his story. “Ed came down to help out at the sawmill one day, and we were all joking with him about Mary. I remember saying ‘Eddie if you had spent more time courting Mary she’d be cooking for you instead of being missing.’ He looked at us with that deadpan face of his and said “She’s not missing. She’s down the house now.’ He always joked like that, saying that he went and got her in his pickup truck and took her home.”

Lester then said “Yeah and when that teenage girl went missing you said she was at your house.”

“Well maybe she was! Elmo said, bursting into laughter.

“Wait so whatever happened to Ed?” The young man asked.

“He and his place went up in flames back in the 50s.” Bob said, then pointed to Fred and added “Just an empty property now out by where Fred lives. Look I’m not saying he was like that guy.” Bob tried to explain as he pointed to the TV, “but if he did crazy shit like that then he did it right under our noses.”

Irene heard enough “Look you stupid bastard,” she looked at Elmo but pointed to the former policemen “Arthur served this community for years! Are you saying he didn’t do his job?”

“Hey leave me out of this.” Arthur raised his hands in protest.

“I’m not saying he didn’t do his job. but you know where Ed lived?” Elmo reasoned. ‘He had that farmhouse out of town away from everybody. He could have been doing all kinds of massacres out there and nobody ever would have found out about it.”

“Now that’s enough of this bullshit!” The former sheriff now rose to his feet. 

“Come on man take it easy.” Fred stood up behind him trying to caution his friend.

Arthur practically charged at Elmo shouting “Mary Hogan was into all kinds of crooked shit and it finally caught up with her! Ed died in a fire because the stupid bastard didn’t have electricity and lit himself up with a kerosene lamp! Now that’s the last I wanna hear of this shit!”

Elmo raised his hands nervously, “Ok ok I wasn’t insulting you. I’m sorry, I was just saying.”

“Well stop saying!” Arthur got nose to nose with him. “I’m just saying, I’m saying shut your damn mouth!”

Fred came up behind his friend and patted him on the back. “It’s OK Art, it’s OK let’s just go.” He finally managed to get his friend away from the man.

“Make sure he gets home ok.” the barkeep requested as Fred escorted his friend to the door.

“I will.” Fred assured her.

As they walked out the door, Art turned back, Bloch froze as he realized he’d caught the eye of the retired cop. No one else in the bar noticed Robert taking notes. He could rip up the pages if need be, he could say he was making a note to call home, he was sure he could think of some cover if the former Sheriff approached. Fortunately, his scribbled notes were safe as Fred re-entered and said “Come on buddy I’ll get you home” and helped Art get out the door.

After this the conversation was minimal, but Bloch still kept his ears peeled. “I’m telling you, if you paid Ed a dollar you got a dollar and a half worth of work out of him.” Irene insisted. “He was a hard working man, just a little odd.”

Part Eleven: What If?

July 23rd, 1991. Wisconsin

Robert Bloch’s high school class always had reunions at odd years. In fact, the thirty-ninth reunion of the class of 1934 was the very first one they ever had. Back then the Cold War was in full swing, so maybe they didn’t want to chance waiting til forty. This summer was their fifty-seventh reunion. Bloch wondered if there was a special name for such an odd number, like how fifty years is the golden anniversary and sixty five is the sapphire.

Driving through the plains of Wisconsin, he laughed to himself as he thought back to the reunion a few nights ago. One of his classmates, who really shouldn’t still be wearing those low cut blouses, leaned over her dinner plate while eying his watch and asked “What have you been doing since you got out of school?” He delighted her with an impromptu story that he ran a garbage truck company. As a matter of fact, he was the top garbage service in three counties. “Trash, manure, medical waste, we haul it all!” he said with a jovial wave of his fist. She wasn’t eyeing up that nice watch of his anymore.

Later at the bar one of his friends looked that old classmate over and said “I don’t know about you Bloch. If you played your cards right you could have had her in the shower tonight screaming bloody murder!”

“I don’t think my wife would approve!” Robert laughed.

“Who knows?” His mischievous friend said. “Maybe she would have watched!” Robert missed the humor of his classmates, but he also missed his wife. Elly wasn’t up for another trip to the great state of Wisconsin. It was probably for the best though. He learned that night one of his friends who couldn’t make the reunion was living in one of those little towns in the northern part of the state. He managed to get a hold of him, and via a rental car went out to see him for a few days.

Now that visit was finished and he was heading back south. Eventually he would turn east and fly back home via Milwaukee. Speeding down the highway he noticed the road sign, ninety miles to Plainfield. Something about that name sounded familiar, Plainfield, but he couldn’t remember. Not long after, he saw another sign, now sixty miles away. About a mile later he finally remembered, that big guy back at that horror convention, and his story about the psycho house. As he drove by the empty fields he tried to remember the details. 

Less than an hour later Plainfield was ahead of him, and on a whim he decided to get off the highway. Coming into the one horse town, he stopped in at a general store to get a drink. He couldn’t resist a peek at the magazine rack. Long gone were the magazines like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories that writers like himself and old HPL got their breaks in. At least they still had a few comic books. A young man next to him was thumbing through a magazine about professional wrestling. Robert never knew they even printed such things. He didn’t understand what the appeal was, grown men in tights pretending to fight each other. As he looked over the shoulder of the young man, he spied a report about a wrestling event from Japan. A color photograph portrayed a grappler wearing a mask of a deformed face while holding a chainsaw over his head. The caption read this was a new wrestler named Saw-Man. Saw-Man? he thought to himself. Wasn’t that a character from a horror movie?

Either way, Robert grabbed some stationary and a soda and got in line to check out. In front of him were a much older couple who placed a few items on the counter, but the clerk charged them nothing. He’d heard of a senior citizen discount but this was ridiculous! As Robert paid for his own items he watched the happy couple walk out of the store. Maybe they used to be the owners or something. As he looked at them, he thought to himself that he hoped he and Elly made it that long.

Robert then walked outside and looked down the street. There was a hotel nearby, he didn’t imagine many people staying here.

“Elly it’s me.” Robert said as the phone picked up.

“Hi honey, how was your visit?” He heard his wife’s sweet voice over the phone.

“It was great, really fun. Listen I decided to stay out here a few extra days.”

“Oh ok, where are you now?”

“I’m in a little town called Plainfield.”

“Plainfield, never heard of it. Who do you know there?”

“Actually no one,” Robert answered, “which is the reason I called. I need you to get something for me.”

“Ok.”

He hated the thought of subjecting her to this madness, but he had no other recourse. “In my desk,” he went on to explain, “I think in one of the right hand drawers there’s a stack of papers from that convention I went to last Halloween, see if you can grab it for me.”

“Sure.”

“There should be a folder with just a few papers in it.” He explained. “There’s stuff written down in there about Painfield.”

After a few minutes her voice came back on the line. “Ok I got it.”

“Great, there’s just a few papers in there, I want you to read whatever it says, and I’m going to copy it down.“

“Ok,” he could hear the papers rustling. He took a deep breath as he remembered what she was about to discover. “Plainfield Wisconsin, October 1957, Sally Kohler,” Robert wrote it all down. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed as she continued reading. “Is this true?” 

He almost regretted calling her now “Well I don’t know honey, I’m going to try to find out.” Then, feeling the need to soldier on, he said “Just keep reading it please.”

She finished the last remaining notes before adding, “Honey please be careful.”

“I will Eleanor, thank you. I’ll be home in a few days, love you”

It wasn’t that late in the day. Robert managed to find the library, and the old lady helped him find the microfiche of the local newspapers. Given the Plainfield Sun only came out once a week, it didn’t take long for Robert to scan through years worth of papers. Not much going on of course. There was the occasional hunting accident or hunter disappearing. News about Evelyn Hartley made its way all the way out here. He remembered that case, poor young girl; disappeared while babysitting. It was the biggest manhunt in state history and it didn’t turn up a thing.

Locally there was not much else of note. Looked like two times back in the 50’s there was a fire at the same property, an old farmhouse on the edge of town. Also in the early 50’s there was a woman who ran a bar not far from here that came up missing. Blood and a bullet cartridge were found in the bar. This seemed to be the most serious occurrence in this area he could find. After decades of scant local news whizzed by he started to feel stupid. What did he think he would find? There was no rash of local disappearances, not even a little nugget that could inspire a good yarn.

Soon nightfall came, and Robert didn’t have many options in terms of entertainment. He imagined he’d write a letter to his young fan tonight, or at least started a new piece of fiction, but there was nothing to write home about. Maybe he should have known better. Lacking in options, he found himself at a local tavern that evening. A few people eyeballed him as he came in. He thought to himself he might have been the first out of town person to come into this tavern since, maybe ever. Looking around at the mostly older crowd, he would have bet the same people had probably been coming here for years. 

On the TV screen the Brewers had an away game with the Kansas City Royals. He couldn’t remember the last time he even watched a ball game. Way back in his youth, what felt like a thousand years ago now, there was a special father’s and son’s day exhibition game. Robert couldn’t remember who it was against, but he remembered it was hot. As he put down a few dollars for his beer at the bar he remembered the then outrageous price of a dime for a ballpark soda. That day, during the seventh inning stretch, big league player Hack Wilson tossed an autographed ball directly at him. The ball flew perfectly through the air. He reached his hand up to grab it, looking for his first moment of athletic glory, and the ball slipped through his fingers. He watched the white sphere stitched in red fall deep down into the abyss below the open bleacher seats. He never knew if he had disapointed his father. He did just get his first pair of glasses, so at least he had that for an excuse. But what if? 

Sitting at the bar with his drink in his hand, he couldn’t help ask himself this question, a question probably faced by all in their twilight years. What if? What if, by chance he was able to catch that ball? What if he then leapt into the more extroverted world of sports, and what if he never dove into that most introverted world of books? What if he hit home runs or scored touchdowns instead of spinning strange yarns of the Elder Gods and dead Whitechapel murderers? It was too late for such questions now, Robert did not regret his path in life. He did what he loved, but as he saw his reflection in the mirror at the back of the bar, he mulled over how his work never hit the nerve of the American consciousness. While he certainly had a successful career as a novelist, and even wrote a handful of screenplays and television episodes, he never had that one piece of work that captured the public’s imagination the way Stephen King had, or the way his old friend and mentor H. P. Lovecraft had, or, as he watched the ball player on TV hit a homerun to a cheering crowd, the way athletes had. Too bad it was hit by Todd Benzinger of the Royals.

Long lost in thought, he didn’t even notice later when the game ended, a game he’d stopped watching so long ago. The tavern was now filled with the tune of the local news station, whose Breaking News logo emblazoned the screen. The news caster then appeared, he seemed more serious than usual, his voice in fact was almost shaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we come to you tonight with extremely disturbing news from right here in our area.” The Wisconsin anchorman said. “We warn you, the following segment may be too disturbing for some viewers. Milwaukee police have arrested thirty-one year old Jeffrey Dhamer, after finding an adult male fleeing Dhamrer’s apartment with one wrist handcuffed. Police arrested Dhamer in his home, after which they found a scene of pure terror.” After taking a visibly deep breath, the anchor man continued. “Police found seventy four polaroid photos of corpses at various stages of dismemberment, which were all taken in his home. Dhamer’s apartment was filled with actual human remains, including two entire human skeletons, seven human skulls, a pair of human hands, an entire human torso, two human hearts, and a bag of other human organs.”

As the report went on, and footage from the killer’s home was shown, Bloch looked around to see all eyes were on the screen. At this moment, nobody ordered, nobody drank, solids and stripes remained still on the pool table, the bar-keep even turned the jukebox off. Bloch couldn’t put his finger on it, but somehow he knew this horrific news hit the people of this tiny town with an extra sting.

Finally, an old man at the bar broke the silence. “Well you know who that sounded like….” 

Part Eight: Film School

October 26th: 1990. Hallow-Con, New York City

“Man they kill you on these prices!” Dan complained as he handed cash over for two hamburgers and sodas. He then brought his tray back to the table in the convention venue cafeteria with Victoria and George, who had splurged on a big personal pan pizza and a large soda. 

“Well it was cool running into you.” Victoria said as she took her hamburger from Dan and started eating.

“Yeah man, so really what happened?” Dan’s curiosity was killing him. “You were the big man on campus, then you just disappeared. Some of us wondered if you were dead!”

“Haha, I was dead!” George relished in hearing exaggerated rumors about himself. “That is so great. No, the truth about what happened to me was worse, my fucking dad wouldn’t help me pay for the rest of the school year.” 

“Oh man that sucks.” Dan said.

“Sure does.” George said, taking a bite of his pizza. 

Dan then asked, “So what are you doing now?”

“Back in Bethlehem, working a sucky job. Sometimes I get some gaming in, and I’m working on a few projects.”.

“That’s cool.” Dan said before remembering. “I think the last time we hung out was in the East Village when we saw Macabre.”

“I think you’re right.” George agreed. “I just got the new Slayer album. It’s pretty wicked!”

“Cool,” Dan said. That venue we saw Macabre at is where Victoria and I met.” He then started eating his burger.

“Neato.” George said before taking a drink.

“Yeah, it was a Fibonaccis show.” Victoria happily remembered.

“I remember them. Sucks they broke up.” George pointed to Dan recalling “I remember you playing their album in the dorm. I liked that track Some Men, and the instrumental piece after it, what was it called, Romp of the Meiji Sicophantas?” 

“Sycophants.” Dan corrected.

“Right, not my usual cup of tea,” George said. “but cool stuff.”

“So you two met at school?” Victoria asked.

“Yeah it was at a Herschell Gordon Lewis seminar.” George said.

“Who’s that?” Victoria asked.

“He was this guy who made a bunch of sleazeball films in the 60s and 70s.” George explained.

“Yeah you probably wouldn’t have liked him.” Dan said to Victoria. “I read in an interview once that he thought about doing horror movies, but never followed through with it.”

“Too bad.” George complained. “His style would have fit the genre. He could have been a real wizard of gore!”

“Probably right.” Dan agreed. “So are you ever gonna come back to school?”

“I don’t know, I got more into writing recently, I’m gonna try to bang out a book or two. I tried to get some film projects going a few times, but you know how that is, poeple are stupid and flake on you and all that.”

“I hear you man.” Dan agreed. “I finished but I stuck around because Victoria here is gonna finish next year. We’re gonna get married once she’s done.”

“Cool beans,” George said before finishing off his pizza.

“Yeah, we also got a few projects going on but nothing big.” Victoria explained. “We both got a shit load of debt now, so who knows maybe you dodged a bullet there.” They all had a laugh at that thought.

“Say some of the old gang is meeting in the village.” Dan said. “You should come too. I’m sure a lot of them will be glad to see you.”

“Well I’m going to a panel then I’m gonna meet this author I’ve been corresponding with.” George said as he looked at his watch. “Actually I gotta go.” 

“That’s awesome. Well hey it was great running into you.” Dan said.

“I was happy to talk to you both.” George said as he stood up. 

“It was nice meeting you.” Victoria said.

“Laters.” George then walked away.

As Victoria watched George exit the eating area, carving out a path among the crowd wherever he went, she observed. “He was… interesting.”

“Yeah that’s one way of putting it.” Dan said, to which they both giggled. While watching his friend from film school walk away he said “He’s got an ego the size of Montana, but he was SUPER talented. If he ever got the ball rolling he could make some kickass films.”

Bethlehem, 1989

“This is bullshit!”

“No this is bullshit!” Henry held up a screenplay and slammed it down on George’s table, its front page emblazoned with the title ‘Deranged’. The murderous letters shined back at him in their red ink. “I’m not paying for you to make crap like this!”

“You just don’t want me to succeed!” George yelled defiantly. “You just want me to be like those asshole jocks in Freedom High School!”

Henry was beside himself in both confusion and anger. “You loved football when you were a kid!” he objected. “Then all of a sudden you stopped lifting and stuffed your face with pizza, I didn’t understand it.”

“I didn’t want to win the Superbowl dad, I wanted to make movies! My loan only gets me so far. Even if I have to work 80 hours a week I still can’t afford to finish my degree!”

“That’s not my problem!” Henry desperately tried to reel his emotions back in. “I know I told you I would help you pay for school, but I’m not gonna pay for you to exploit a family tragedy!”

“It’s not a family tragedy Dad! She was probably just high, you know how fucked up she was.”

“She was my sister, you son of a bitch!” Without thinking Henry lunged toward his son, his hands pushed hard on George’s chest, knocking him down to the couch. There was a loud thud when George’s body hit the cushion, followed by the sound of wood cracking as one of the legs of the couch snapped. Henry pulled back and braced himself. He was getting older now, but his son was grossly out of shape. He held his hands up, more than prepared for anything his son might do.

George remained still on the couch, it was now evident he wasn’t going to do a damn thing. Henry couldn’t remember the last time he saw George with tears in his eyes, and he was plenty upset himself. As Henry lowered his trembling hands he could feel his heart racing. He raised his right hand back up, pointing his finger at his son to say “You do what you wanna do, but you’re on your own.” He then picked up the screen play again and squeezed it with his fist. “But if you ever go through with this shit, then I don’t ever want to see you again.” He threw the document back down and walked out of his son’s apartment. 

Henry was brought back to the present by the voice, it was a female voice talking quietly over the microphone. “I remember cabbing home from an artist party, somewhere near my old shrinks building…upper West end, catching all the green lights.” Looking at the small stage Steve was now gone, and in his place was that lovely red haired woman who continued, “Till we hit this wasted eastside corner down in ‘Alphabet’ land.” Henry looked back at the table to make his shot, but he couldn’t stop listening to her voice. “And there was this crowd hissin to the street bitching of some old punk band.” He called eight-ball in the corner pocket. It was an easy shot, so easy he missed it, he missed it and the cue ball sunk. He’d scratched, she won. “When this kid comes up to my window with a chewed up styrofoam cup in his hand… and he says…”you gotta let life go…” Helen gloated as the woman laughed and said “What a rip!” Henry expressed no disappointment in his defeat. He simply put his pool stick down and looked at the stage while the woman slowly sang the words, “You gotta let life go.” In her light gentle voice she continued. “You gotta live, let live.” She looked a little older, maybe she was around his age,”Don’t even, search your soul.” Ha, not likely he thought. “You gotta let life go.” Her bare arms looked fit, and her face was quite pretty, but he could tell by the deepness of her eyes this woman had lived a life. He picked up his beer and took a sip while still watching, still listening. He’d lost the game, but he was starting to enjoy his evening.

Part Seven: The Master of Horror

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con, New York City

Victoria, like most everyone else at the convention, was excited to meet Tom Savini, the master of gory special effects. Savini did effects work for such classics as Dawn of the Dead, Maniac, The Burning, Creepshow, and Friday the 13th, hence the long line at the Friday the 13th booth for his autograph. While waiting with Dan she rolled her eyes as George bragged about the all the times he’d already met him.

Strategically adjacent to Savini was the booth for the current Friday the 13th TV series. Dan and Victoria were happy to meet Chris Wiggins, Eliaz Zarou, and Steve Monarque while moving along in line. Talking to the cast of the series, they got to look at a few props from the show, which was about cursed items from a pawn shop and had nothing to do with the films. Dan took Victoria’s picture while she tried on the cursed apron, which was worn in an episode by a distraught camp cook whose son drowned in a lake. George picked up a hockey mask laying among the props, and Victoria remembered another episode where a guy got ahold of that mask, which turned him into an unkillable psychopath. Victoria and Dan both agreed that would have made a good movie.

The mask fit perfectly over George’s face, and through the eyeholes he could see across the aisle to the Nightmare on Elm street booth. Its star, Kane Hodder, who played Freddy Krueger, was present signing autographs. As usual, unable to contain his excitement, George screamed “Kane Hodder!” Kane laughed as he looked across the aisle to see this big man wearing a hockey mask waving at him. Kane waved back and smiled politely as he continued signing autographs for his fans.

Victoria and her fiance were both glowing as they finally reached the end of the line. “Hey big guy!” Tom seemed to recognize George from past conventions and happily shook his hand. Victoria was afraid George would yap with him forever, but fortunately he did not, and her and Dan were next.

“I’m so thrilled to meet you!” Victoria blushed. Tom graciously shook her hand as a rush of excitement went through her. She flashed back to all those times as a young teenager, watching horror movies on her dirty couch, never even daring to dream that someday she would be here before him. To Victoria and her fiance, this moment was like what meeting Michael Jordan or Joe Montana would be to the people outside these convention walls. The couple were absolutely thrilled to talk with Tom, who could not have been more friendly.

To George, meeting Savini may have become old hat, but he was still excited due to what was standing right next to the horror effects master. There it was, decked out in full costume straight out of the movies, what was considered to be Tom’s greatest creation. It was massive, lumbering, evil. While her fiance made small talk with Tom, Victoria noticed George looking over the creature the way most men would look over her. His eyes went up and down the monstrous body, appreciating every little detail, from the fangs and claws down to the last little bloody scar. There before him, stood the Jersey Devil of the Friday the 13th series. 

Naturally Dan and Victoria admired the beast as well. “I always wanted to ask you this.” Dan said nervously.  “Is it true you there was a different story in mind for the first Friday the 13th film?”

“Well I didn’t write the script, but most of the people on the crew were big fans of Halloween.” The master explained while pointing to Dan’s Halloween shirt. “From what I remember, the original story was going to have a human killer.” Looking at Victoria he added “If I recall they were even thinking of a female villain. Thing was, Halloween wasn’t a huge hit, so the financiers were a little gun shy.” 

“Really!” Dan wondered aloud. “I thought Halloween was awesome!”

“Sure, I mean the people that come to shows like this love it,” Tom said, “but remember it wasn’t really a successful movie. Some of it was great, but they needed a better lead actress.”

“I loved that red head!” George motioned with his hands. “She had that nice big rack!”

“Uh, yeah,” Tom nervously laughed. “She couldn’t act though, they needed someone to play Laurie Strode with some vulnerability. Michael Myers was such a great villain, and Donald Pleasence was pitch perfect as Dr. Gavin, If they’d just cast a good lead that could have put the movie over the top.” George continued admiring the creature while Victoria and Dan nodded in understanding.

“Anyway, Sean Cunningham got a new group of investors for the film,” Tom went on to explain, “and these new investors pushed for a monster. There hadn’t been a good monster movie in a while, and we thought, hell since we’re filming in New Jersey anyway, why not make it the Jersey Devil?”

“Too bad about not having a female killer.” Victoria thought out loud. “We don’t get too many of those, aside from Carrie I guess.”

“And Mary Lou from the Prom Night Sequels.” Dan added.

“That’s why I love you dear.” Victoria’s eyes twinkled at her fellow horror nerd.

“It’s probably all for the best though.” George said, pointing to the Devil. ”That thing is awesome. So who is under the mask? Is it C. J. Graham or Dan Bradley?”

“That’s the one and only Tim Mirkovich, straight from Part Eight!” Savini revealed.

“Oh sweet, straight from Part Eight. I wasn’t sure if you were going to be here!’ George said excitedly.

Then the young couple got their pictures taken with both Tom and the Devil. George also got his Friday the 13th Part 8: The Devil Takes Manhattan poster autographed. “This is the best Friday ever!” George said. “I loved that chase scene on the Brooklyn Bridge, and that scene where the Devil dives off the Statue of Liberty was so cool!”

“Thank you.” Tom said. “Those were really hard scenes to shoot, we’re sure glad you appreciate them.“

“So what’s the next movie going to be about?” Victoria asked.

“Well we don’t know where else to take him.” Tom started thinking on his feet. “We did Jersey, we did New York, maybe next the Devil should go back to hell. haha.”

“That would rule!” George said, his eyes still on the beast. More fans were gathered around to meet Savini, so the trio and Tom made their final greetings. Walking away with the autographs and pictures, Victoria could have gone home right then and there and would have been happy.

October 26th, 1990. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

The Second Street Tavern was filled with music as Henry watched her daughter take a shot. He’d long dispatched Phil from the pool table, who was now on stage jamming with Steve. Henry was growing to like the local music scene. He liked it more when an attractive red head walked in with a guitar slung around her back. He gave her a quick smile as he heard her daughter say “Shit!” after the sound of the cue ball hitting the side of the pool table for a scratch. “Your shot dad.” 

He remembered his daughter being a better player than this as he looked over the table. She’d missed an easy corner shot that set him up to knock one of his own in the side pocket.  Looking at her while he set up his shot, she seemed annoyed.

“What’s wrong hon?” He asked while easily making the shot.

“I don’t know, I’m still upset George didn’t come out.”

“You’re here, that’s what counts.” he said while eying up his next shot.

“But it’s our family. I guess I just expected him to be here, you know, because this was the night.”

“Well, he probably doesn’t remember her too much.” He said as he sank another ball. “Do you remember her?”

“Yeah a little. I remember going to see her in the hospital, and I remember when she stayed with us for a while. She would let me watch cartoons when you wanted me to do my homework.”

“Yeah,” Henry laughed while looking over his next shot, “she was a free spirit. Our parents were really tough on both of us, and she just had it in her so much to rebel.“ He went on to reveal, “Sometimes mom and I knew she was letting you watch movies or sneaking you treats. We let her go, figured she should have some fun with you while she could.”

“Were things really that bad for her?”

Sinking another solid Henry said “She was in and out of trouble as long as I could remember.” He looked over at the bar sign indicating the date bartenders referred to when checking ages. “Once she was gone, I mean it was devastating, but nobody was really surprised.” He then looked at the table to set up his final shot. “None of this is on George though, he’s got to go his own way.”

“When’s the last time you even talked to him?” Helen asked.

Eyeing up his final shot, about to win another game he said “I don’t know, it’s been a while.”

Part Five: The Blackest Eyes

October 11th, 1974. Madison Wisconsin

Even though he’d lived here his whole life, George never stopped being amazed at how you can see off into forever. His eyes watched the nothingness outside his dad’s car window. He’d long finished his stack of Spiderman comics, but his older sister still had her nose buried in a book. Nothingness soon became something as they approached the two story brick building, in front of which was a sign that read Mendota Mental Health Care Institute. He couldn’t understand why his daddy would bring him to a place like this. He’d rather go to the Outagamie County Fair where that guy did the show with the trick mice. So he asked, “Why are we here daddy?”

“To see our Aunt, stupid!” his sister Helen scowled.

“I’m not stupid!” George fired back, angry at his sister’s insult, and because his mother didn’t intervene. In fact, her reflection in the rear view revealed she even cracked a smile.

“Then why are you reading those stupid comics?” Helen retorted.

“You’re both gonna be stupid when I leave you on the side of the road.” their father said in frustration. “Now knock it off!”

The two tykes piped down and soon they got out of the car. Summer was gone but it wasn’t too cold out yet. His mom dressed him in shorts that day, and he could feel the comfortable autumn breeze on his legs as the four entered the lobby of the hospital. 

“May I help you?” asked the Dr. in the lobby. George assumed he was a Dr. because of his white coat. He couldn’t make out the name on his name tag, it looked something like Strege.

“Yes.” his father said as George now looked up at the two adults. “We’re here to visit my sister, Sally Kohler.” His father seemed like a giant to George’s young eyes. He wondered if he would ever get to be big like him.

The young boy was a little confused as he expected to be going into a hospital room and find Aunt Sally lying in bed, like how they visited grandpa before he died. Instead he found himself in what looked like a big living room and playroom filled with people playing board games, table tennis, and watching TV. “Maybe I should get sick so I could get to play in a place like this,” he thought to himself. He didn’t dare say such a thing out loud, as he was sure his father would spank him. 

The people here didn’t seem sick either. They were moving about of their own strength and conversing with each other. He did notice some of them talked funny, and one of them had a bit of drool coming out his mouth. Looney Tunes was playing on the TV hanging high on the wall, so naturally George wandered over toward it. Approaching a nearby couch, he saw the back of a man’s head, whom George assumed was watching the show. Coming around the couch, he laughed at the cartoon, but when George looked to his left he noticed the man didn’t laugh. In fact, he wasn’t even watching the TV, he was looking at the wall. When George looked closer it seemed the man wasn’t even looking at the wall, but that he was looking past the wall, as if he were watching and waiting for some secret signal that only he would receive.

Then George noticed the man’s eyes, they were the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. His family didn’t go to Church, but he had a friend in school who always talked about the Devil, and who sometimes teased George, saying he had the devil’s eyes. George almost peed himself when the black eyes finally moved, now locking onto him as if he’d just done something very naughty.

George jumped as he felt a hand in his shoulder. He couldn’t scream as he felt the warm embrace, his mouth partly covered with hair and a fleshy cheek. ”George it’s so good to see you. Thank you so much for coming!.”  He finally realized it was Aunt Sally. He hugged her back tightly as she kissed the top of his head and led him to a table where his parents and sister were sitting.

The family spent the afternoon playing Connect Four and various board games together while they all caught up. Sally was happy to hear both her niece and nephew were doing well in school, and that George was doing great in sports. Soon enough, he again got distracted by the television as a Spiderman cartoon came on TV. 

“Stop staring at that!” His father scolded. “We can watch TV at home.”

“It’s ok.” Aunt Sally assured. “Do you like Spiderman?”

“Yeah I love Spiderman! He’s my favorite!” Little George then planted his feet on the seat of his chair and imitated his favorite arachnid hero shooting webs. “Thwap thwap!” he sounded before jumping off the seat and onto the ground. “Did you know his Aunt May almost married Dr. Octopus this year?”

“Oh really!” Sally said. Young George had no awareness of his Aunt’s ignorance of current Spiderman comics, so he prattled on. “Yeah, and he had a new villain called the Punisher, but he’s not really a villain, but he has a skull on his chest! I like him more than Ghost Rider though. He’s too scary!”

Sally smiled as she watched his nephew play as though he were swinging through the skyscrapers of the Big Apple. George’s young mind dreamed of being in New York for real someday, while back in reality his dad scolded “Knock it off this isn’t a playground!” It was too late though, he was off in his own universe as he leapt back onto the seat, then off again. Little Spidey leapt once more onto the chair, but this time its wobbly leg gave out and it sent him tumbling to the hard floor where he scraped his knee. His father panicked when he saw the blood. “Oh my god are you alright!” he said, rushing to his side. 

“He’s fine.” his mom said dismissively. George knew his mom was a nurse and figured she was probably used to seeing a lot of blood. No way was he gonna cry, but he was a little mad when he saw his bratty sister laughing at him. 

At least his Aunt wasn’t laughing. In fact, she looked a little scared. “Oh no.” she cried, still sitting in her chair. “Oh no!” George stood up and brushed himself off. He thought nothing of it when he looked down and saw a piece of skin hanging off his knee, but for his Aunt, it was too late. “No no no, oh no!” Now George was scared as he saw his Aunt shaking her head back and forth, tears streamed down her cheeks as she screamed “Gotta get away, GOTTA GET AWAY!!!!” 

“Watch him!” His father ordered his mother as he rushed to his sister’s side. “Sally are you alright!?!” Two orderlies in white uniforms approached behind her as she babbled “The bodies, the bodies, there’s bodies everywhere!!!” 

“I’m sorry,” the Dr. they met in the lobby came and said. “I’m afraid she’s going to have to come with us.” 

George’s mom looked at her watch while his dad said “It’s ok I understand.” George was now fighting back tears himself. Some superhero he was.

“NO! NO! You gotta believe me!” she pleaded as the pair of orderlies took Sally by the arms and led her away. She didn’t struggle as the doctor pulled out a long syringe, but she continued pleading, “You gotta believe me! There were bodies everywhere, they were everywhere!” 

“I’m sorry dad.” little George fell into his father’s arms, his tears dampening his father’s shirt.

“It’s ok son.” George felt his father holding him tight. “It’s not your fault.” His sister also came over to give him a hug, but George felt guilty inside for triggering such a horrible fear in poor Sally.

That was the last time George ever saw his Aunt, and it was the first time he remembered being really scared.

This is a story I wrote about the Ed Gein case. It is not written to glorify the awful things he did. It is written partly to explore the concept of popular culture alternate history. Lots of fiction is written about what if wars and elections turned out differently, here I will apply that concept to popular movies, television, etc. Enjoy

Part One: Hunting Season

October 26th, 1957. Plainfield Wisconsin

Deer season was coming, and Worden’s Hardware Store was packed, at least as packed as a store could get in a town of 700. Irene recognized most of the men she saw in the aisles who, along with her husband Lester, were stocking up on ammunition and other supplies. A few even bought brand new firearms for the new season. Deer were plentiful in the area, and Irene knew that soon on scores of properties across town, carcasses of dead deer would be hung up, skinned and gutted.

Irene’s daughter would not be hunting. Her little one was looking through the comic books. Irene watched her daughter’s tiny hands happily pick out issues of Millie the Model and Archie for mom to buy. She heard the store’s door open behind her and could see her daughter smile as she tugged on her arm. “Look mommy,” she said as the small man entered the store. Both mother and daughter happily recognized the babysitter that had often been to their home.

“Well hello Ed!” Irene warmly greeted. “How are you today?”

“I’m good, I’m good.” The man said, tipping his baseball cap to her as he walked by. “Will you be making those Christmas cookies again this year?’ 

“It’s not Christmas without them!” Irene laughed as she said “You must really like them, we haven’t even survived Halloween yet!.”

“They are pretty great.” Ed said, his light voice raised slightly in enthusiasm. He then looked down at the little girl. He smiled at her with his lopsided grin and asked “And how is this tiny rugrat?” The young girl giggled as she looked up at her babysitter. Ed was a short man, but to her he must have seemed like a giant. He made a gesture with his hands and teased “Got your nose.” She laughed again as she put her little hands over her nose. He then waved his hands to the side of her head and said “Got your ears!” 

She laughed again, and then covered her ears before retaliating, waving her own hand at his stubbled face and boasted “Got your eyeball!”

“Oh no, how am I gonna read now!” Ed mimicked being blind, closing his eyes causing the fleshy growth above his left eyelid to slightly flatten. Irene laughed along with her daughter as somehow he made his way to the magazine rack. Miraculously, he was still able to pick out the new issues of what everyone knew to be his favorite magazines; Inside Crime, Startling Detective, and Man of Action.

“Are you a Man of Action Ed?” Irene heard the voice of her husband behind her. She then felt his hand in hers, as, not waiting for Ed to answer, he said to her, “Let’s get some Halloween candy and then get out of here.”

Ed didn’t answer anyway, he just looked back at Lester, facing him with his meek posture. Irene tugged back on her daughter’s arm and politely said “Well it was nice seeing you Ed. Have a happy Halloween.”

Ed’s head nodded, “Thank you, thank you you too.” He stared blankly while Irene and her family resumed their shopping. 

Usually there wasn’t a line at Worden’s, but it was getting to be that busy time of year. Irene saw Ed ahead of them in line waiting to check out. He looked antsy, anxious to get to the register. She didn’t blame him, as she wanted to be on her way before her daughter asked her to buy more stuff.

Eventually the line moved along and she felt more relaxed. She noticed Ed appeared more still as well, his head fixed ahead, not fidgety as he is known for being. Now they were close enough that they could see Bernice, the owner of the store. She was now in her late 50s, and was known as a hard working honest woman. She reminded Irene of Ed’s mother, and mused to herself how those in town who remembered Augusta Gein probably would have agreed, except that Bernice was a lot friendlier.

Augusta was long for this world now. Irene felt a little sorry for Ed, which was why she delivered Christmas cookies to him last year. Once again the holiday season was right around the corner, and she wondered how he would be spending it. She then realized she never thanked him for helping her husband with some odds and ends around the house.

“Ed?” He looked startled as she put her hand on his shoulder, but then appeared to relax once he saw Irene’s familiar face. “Ed, I was saying thank you again for fixing the door. It doesn’t squeak at all anymore.”

“Oh, you’re welcome.” His eyes shifted between her and her husband as he said. “It’s no trouble at all.”

“Next.” A familiar voice sounded. Ed looked to see her standing before him. It was his turn now.

“Hello Ed!” the shop owner greeted as Ed put his items on the counter.

“Hello, hello Bernice.” He said as she rang the items up. “How, how are you today?”

“Well business is booming so I’m good!” she laughed.

“It sure, it sure is busy today.” Ed awkwardly said. Irene blushed behind him as she wondered if he’d planned to open with that line. She wondered, perhaps she distracted him and threw him off his game plan.

“Yes, it sure is.” Bernice answered.  “Are you all ready for deer season?”

“Well I don’t hunt actually,” Looking at the store’s gun rack he added, “but I was wondering about your rifles.”

Bernice turned around to look. “What about them?”

“Well, my Marlin rifle only fires .22 shorts. I was thinking about trading it in for one that could also use long and long rifles.”

Pointing to a particular gun on the store rack, Bernice explained “Well this one should do the trick. It’s my favorite rifle actually, pretty handy.”

“Ok,” Ed nodded, he glanced back at the line behind him, his hands fluttered as if he was nervous and he said “I’ll take a look at it some other time then.”

The two then finished their transaction. Ed reached across the counter to hand his money over. His rough skin brushed against her soft hands as she took his cash saying “Well it will be here waiting. You have a good day now Ed.”

Bernice then looked past him to Irene and her husband, who approached and put their items on the counter. “See you Ed.” Irene said, but she noticed Ed kept his gaze on Bernice, as if he were desperately trying to think of something else to say.  

“Have a, have a good day Bernice.” was all he could do. He at least said her name. 

Once Ed shuffled out the door Lester joked; “Looks like Eddie’s in love.”

Bernice blushed as Irene retorted “Oh don’t tease. Ed’s a nice man, he’s just a little simple.”

Bernice leaned forward. “You know,” she said in a hush, but not too low of a hush, “ last week he asked me to ‘try out the floor’ at the roller skating rink in Hancock.”

“Get out!” Irene said, aghast.

“I didn’t know old Casper Milquetoast could roller skate!” Lester kidded, comparing the local simpleton to a character from the Timid Soul comic strip.

“Well I sure can’t, at least that’s what I told him!” Bernice revealed as the trio burst into laughter.

“Can you move it along up there please?” An impatient customer yelled from the back.

“Alright Ronald, hold your horses.” Bernice barked back. The young couple then paid for their goods and got out of the line. 

“Oh poor Ed.” Irene thought to herself.  “Odd little fellow. Completely harmless though. One day he’ll be gone and people may not even remember him.”

The wind always howled out here as Sally sped down highway 51. She fumbled through the radio stations in her dad’s car, but couldn’t find anything worth listening to. She recognized Moonlight Swim by Anthony Perkins, but immediately turned the dial killing the sappy love song. Her dad loved that music, but to her nothing was worth a damn out here. She recalled from her school days local author Hamlin Garland, who described the great dead heart of Wisconsin as a panorama of delight. Kodak country others called it. Why did she have to be born in such a Godforsaken place? Soon it wouldn’t matter. She figured in a few days she’d be in San Francisco, where she’d be around buildings, around people, around sky-scrapers, and the ocean, instead of being around these massive red barns and silos like silver bullets that dotted the faded pink soil. 

After a while she could see that off to her right, way off in the distance, the sun was setting below the horizon, dimming the lights in this expansive sky. Darkness enclosed in on her, and eventually she could only see by the headlights of the automobile. Her foot slammed the petal while her eyes relentlessly scanned the road ahead. There was little chance of an accident with another vehicle, but there was the odd chance of a stray cow or horse in the road.

This gave her mind time to wander. She wondered how long her stupid parents would even notice the car was missing. They went to bed early tonight, but her annoying little brother was probably still up. Hopefully he didn’t notice and rat her out. If she was lucky, she’d be out of the state before they even knew she was missing. Then there’d be no chance they’d catch her. She’d be long gone, and would be spending her time hanging out with Kerouac and Ginsberg, writing poetry and performing music.

Her path ahead was clear as day, but it would be an interior issue that slowed her down. The engine sputtered and her velocity waned. “Shit!” she thought to herself. She left in such a hurry she didn’t bother to check the gas. Her car sputtered to the side of the road and now she was in trouble. For all she knew nothing was around for miles. Once she shut the car off the air was almost pitch black, save a sliver of moonlight that shined down from the dead empty sky. Looking out over the surrounding trees her eyes faintly made out a blocky like shape not too far ahead. It might be a house. If she was lucky, someone had a farm out here and could help her. If the home was abandoned, she could at least spend the night there and figure her next step in the morning light. 

It wouldn’t be much of a story if Sally didn’t encounter something horrifying now would it? Come back tomorrow to find out what it was!