Authors: Nate Gubin
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
"And could you put some ice in it and substitute bourbon for the water."
Burton shrugged his shoulders. "I guess so."
With Burton gone, Morton snuck down the corridor after Steve. From the shadows, he watched as Steve unlocked the small door under Frederick's east stairs. He opened it quickly, Hugh's moans and sobs bellowed out, and he ducked down the stairs.
Morton slid over to the door and listened as Steve gagged Hugh's cries to a pianissimo whimper. He quickly ducked through the door, slid down the stairs and hid in a closet full of child-sized space suits. From his hiding spot, he watched through a curtain of golden space fabrics as Steve made several passes around Hugh's head with a roll of duct tape.
"There, that should keep you quiet." Steve tore off an extra piece of tape and plastered it over Hugh's eyes. "Just in case you have some sort of telepathic power that broadcasts out of your eyes." Steve took a step back and folded his arms. "I wish we weren't leaving on the honeymoon right away. I really want to do some weird science on you. It's gonna have to wait. Ta." Steve whisked up the stairs.
Morton ducked out of hiding and stood silently and listened as Steve triple-bolted the door at the top of the stairs. Through the door he could hear him talking to Burton. "No problem a little duct tape couldn't fix. I really wish I had more time for home-improvement stuff. I really miss working with tools. I mentioned you should never go down there, right?"
Steve's voice trailed off and Morton tiptoed to Hugh's side. "Who gave you this bottle cap?"
Morton tore the tape from his eyes and showed him the cap. "Where'd you get it, you steal it?"
Hugh mumphed a few more words until Morton began to unwrap the tape off his head. Hugh gasped, "Thank God. You have to get me out of here."
"Where'd you get it?" Morton demanded.
"A friend gave it to me. She said it would help protect me."
"What was her name?"
"Ana, she's a lady that draws ..."
Morton stumbled back a few steps back. "Ana?"
"You've seen her? You've spoken to her?"
"Yeah, all the time." Hugh rattled his chains. "Can you get me loose? Lil needs me, this guy’s insane."
"She was my wife."
Hugh stopped agitating. "Small world."
Morton stood before Hugh, desperate, sputtering his words. "I have a million questions. Can I talk to her? Can you take me to see her? Is she okay?"
"She misses you."
Morton stood silent. He exhaled everything out of his lungs and stumbled back, using a bassinet to steady himself. "And she gave this bottle cap to you?" Morton suddenly saw Hugh in a new light. He was a messenger, a messiah.
"I don't know a lot about how this whole ghost on Halloween thing works, but if I can't save Lil by sunup, these guys on flying horses are going to come for me and throw me into a really bad place."
"Really bad place? Worse than being dead?"
"It's a fiery hell hole and you fall into it forever. You know that terror you feel when you’re falling? Imagine that lasting forever, plus there's some other horrible tortures involved, memories of loved ones erased and stuff ... Doesn't smell good, either."
Morton shook himself steady and nodded. "We gotta get you out of here." He looked closely at the chains and locks restraining Hugh to the chair and then searched the room for tools.
As Morton pulled drawers and cabinets open, tossing their contents like a salad, Hugh explained what they were up against. "He's crazy. He's gonna force Lil to have fifteen babies, then he's going to kill her before he takes his kids to another planet in his imaginary spaceship."
Morton knelt beside Hugh with a five-in-one screwdriver. "There's no way to cut these chains off, but I can take apart the chair." He began taking out the screws. "At least you'll be able to move around."
"I have to stop him. Lil doesn't know how crazy he is. If I save her, that will prove to her I still love her, and she will love me."
"So what?" Morton got one of Hugh's hands free by removing the arm of the birthing chair. "If I was you, I'd get my ass back to wherever. Eternity down that hole sounds like a real bummer."
"You don't get it. If we love each other, I come back to life. I can stay."
Morton stopped dismantling the chair. "How is that possible?"
"Ana said that love was a force greater than death."
"Then why is she dead? We loved each other."
Hugh shook his head and rattled the chain still restraining his right hand. "I'm not sure how it works, but I don't have much time."
Morton went back to work and freed Hugh's right hand. The length of chain was still locked around both wrists, but his arms were free of the chair. The chain joining Hugh's ankles together was wrapped once around the lower stretcher of the chair. Morton made quick work of removing the screws that held it captive.
Hugh stood up, with his head flopped to one side, eyes still burning from pepper, covered in black green slime, his warm-up suit in shreds. He dragged his chains across the concrete floor to the stairs. He looked back at Morton and for no apparent reason let out an agitated moan.
"The door's locked. We have to get out another way." Morton looked around the room.
Hugh waddled over to the cellar window and pointed. "The window, we can squeeze through there." He climbed up on a table and opened it.
Morton watched as Hugh wriggled and jerked his way through. He pulled the bottle cap out of his pocket and spoke to it with a soft nod. "You always had a soft spot for stupid fools in love." He put the cap away and followed Hugh through the window.
Outside, on Frederick's northeast lawn, Steve's dad, George, was hiding in the bushes with night-vision goggles, peering into Patricia's room. He had them set to thermal-image every curve of Patricia's toned body through her silk nightie. Mother of the bride, nothing hotter than that, George thought to himself. But his clandestine peeping operation was suddenly interrupted by two creatures crawling up from the deep.
"Hold it right there." George unholstered his flat black Charter Arms .44 Magnum and snapped his goggles up and out of the way. "Looks like I was right," he said smugly. "There's never a bad time to be fully armed and ready. My wife thinks it's crazy to bring a suitcase full of weapons to a wedding.
who's the crazy one. Eternal vigilance, gentlemen, eternal vigilance."
"I'm beginning to understand where your son got his crazy from." Hugh stepped out in front of Morton.
"Freeze, zombie." George cocked the gun.
Hugh took another step toward him "You can't kill me, I'm already dead."
"Yeah, well," George stammered, "I can kill your friend." He pointed the gun up at Morton.
"Whatever," Morton gruffed. "I'm not dead but I don't really care if I live."
Hugh quickly sidestepped in front of the gun. "No, don't shoot. We'll do what you say."
"Yeah, that's more like it." George motioned up with his gun. "Now reach for the sky."
Morton and Hugh complied.
"Here's what we're going to do," George said, waving the gun back and forth between them. "We're gonna find someplace out of the way and real quiet, and then you're going to handcuff each other to something like a pipe. With or without your clothes on, I haven't decided yet ..."
"Handcuff?" Hugh complained.
"Yes, I also carry several sets of handcuffs with me at all times, and no, that doesn't make me weird."
"Yes it does," Morton argued.
George angrily pointed the gun at Morton's head. "Now you're starting to sound like my wife." He pointed the gun even closer, almost hitting Morton in the nose with the barrel. "You'd be smart to stop sounding like my wife. And quit sounding like my so-called rational friends and my so-called doctor therapist. And another thing, just because certain representatives of local law-enforcement agencies think I'm too unstable to own a large collection of weapons doesn't mean I can't have them. It's called the right to bear arms, not the right to
bear arms. Now march."
He led them across the east lawn, when suddenly Fernback jumped out from behind a tree with a scream, scaring the gun out of George's hand. "Ha!" Fernback smiled. "That's for never thanking me for that skin graft."
George was stricken. Short of breath, he grasped his chest and fell to the ground. "What?"
Fernback put his hands on his hips and cocked his head to one side. "That beautiful patch of skin they used to cover up that melanoma they removed from your back, that was from my cadaver."
"But that was tiny." George gulped for air. "Like the size of a nickel."
"So? It was mine and you took it. Show a little gratitude next time somebody makes the ultimate sacrifice for you." Fernback pulled a pen and paper from his pocket and checked off George's name. "Well, that's all I have time for." He put the list away and looked at Hugh. "How's your night going? Because I'm having a hell of a time."
"Not good." Hugh shook his head. "I need more time."
"We have to head back, like now." Fernback tapped his wrist like it had a watch on it.
"I can't," Hugh said, again shaking his head.
"The reapers, dude, the horrible, horrible vent. Just a peek of the sun and it's curtains, man, curtains."
"I still have something I have to do." Hugh bent over and picked up the gun. Tucking it into the waistband of the warm-up suit, he was surprised at how well the elastic held it in place. It was almost like the official pants of the NBA were designed to carry a concealed weapon.
"Whatever, man, it's your funeral ... like all over again. It's like your funeral-funeral." Fernback turned and jogged into the fog.
This Dream Sucks
Lily was in her room, conducting experiments to prove she was asleep and dreaming. She tried floating around the room by puffing out her cheeks and flapping her arms. It didn't work. She tried closing her eyes and shaking her head, whispering under her breath, "It was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream ..." When she opened her eyes it was still late at night on Halloween and she was still in her bedroom, about to get married. She started to think that maybe the rules of a coma dream were different than those of a regular dream. Perhaps she should try to communicate with the people at her hospital bedside by wiggling her toes.
Just then there was a gentle knock at the door. "Who's there?" Her heart raced as she imagined what other nasty creatures could be lurking in her mind’s dark basement, taking their turns rising from the depths of her subconscious and knocking on the door of her coma dream.
"Sorry, Lil, it's me again," Hugh quietly hushed through the door.
Lily nodded. "This is totally a dream."
"Can I come in?" Hugh whimpered sheepishly.
"Okay, just remember you only exist in my dream and ... and I have control of you." Lily stood up tall.
Hugh entered with Morton in tow.
Lily clapped once. "I knew it. If this was a regular dream that guy would be a midget. In a coma dream he's a giant. It's like everything in a coma dream is opposite."
"This is my friend Morton."
Morton waved. "Hey."
"You're in chains." Lily nodded and nibbled her index finger, thinking, "That must mean something, like it's coma dream code for something ... I'm keeping the memory of you chained? Or ..."
"Steve chained me up in the basement. He's crazy, Lil, I mean bat-crap mashugana. Have you seen what's in the basement?"
"My God, this is intense. Now my fears about my new husband and his secret room in the basement are taking form. All my deepest, darkest fears in one crazy dream." She continued to nod, stoking her fantasy that this was all a dream.
"It's not a dream, Lil." Hugh took a step forward and Lily stopped him, both her hands warding him off.
"Whoa, don't touch me."
Morton tilted his head. "You're pretty sure it's a dream too?"
Lily looked at him. "Why? Do you think you're dreaming?"
Morton shook his head. "I'm not sure."
Lily took a step back and turned to the side to think aloud,
"Why would there be a tall old man in my dream who thought he was also dreaming? I wonder if you're supposed to represent some deep-seated daddy issues towering over me or something."
Morton contemplated that with her. "Now that could make sense. And you’re the daughter I never had, or maybe you're supposed to represent a new beginning, I mean with the wedding dress and all." Morton gestured to the dress on the rack, the train still delicately tented.
Lily agreed. "It almost looks like a ghost bride, like the dress could walk itself down the aisle. Maybe that has something to do with my feelings about this wedding, you know, like I'm just the dress—"
Hugh interrupted loudly, "This is real, Lil. I only have tonight, then I'll never see you again. Please, I need you to run away from this guy. He's crazy, he wants to lock you up in the basement and force you to give birth to fifteen babies."