Conversations with Monsters – By Jessica B. Bell

This is part of a series that takes place in Bayou Bonhomme, Louisiana. Get caught up here.

———-

Leroy sat uneasily in his little boat, trying to look anywhere but at the repulsive and otherworldly face of the thing he called Chuck, but only because he couldn’t pronounce the thing’s real name. He knew that looking too long into that mad jumble of eyes, tentacles and teeth wasn’t good for the mind. Just being near the old thing made his teeth and sinuses ache, and the longer he stayed in its malign presence, the harder it was to avoid staring at it. There was almost a magnetic pull to stare it right in its multiple eyes and surrender to madness. The Chief found out the hard way back in the summer of ’98 the danger of peering too long into old Chuck’s eyes.

“Darkness,” the Chief had said when he woke up an hour after passing out in Leroy’s boat. “Darkness that went on… forever. Toujours, Leroy. Darkness toujours.

Leroy had seen the darkness, and never cared to see it again, merci bien. He found that if he looked at his lap while he spoke, and pinched his hand a little if he ever felt his eyes drifting, he was okay.

“They found that little boy, Chuck,” Leroy said boldly.

The creature seemed to sigh with a wet, bubbly, foul-smelling exhalation.

“I hate when you call me that,” it said. “My name is C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh. I was old when the stars were young, and…”

“Yeah, I know,” Leroy said, having heard the creature’s ancient biography and proud lineage a dozen times before. Having no one to talk to for centuries had made Chuck somewhat lacking in social skills, and perhaps a little bit senile as well. “But you and I both know that I can’t say that, Chuck old gal – I don’t have the tongue for it. And before you correct me about your sex, yeah, I know, you’re not female, either, but Chuck, you gotta work with me here, yeah? Where I come from, women have the babies, and it takes two to make that happen. I don’t know what you are, but…”

“Your puny mind cannot comprehend what I am,” the creature chortled. “And so you dress me up in words you can understand and concepts that fit into your simple little brain.”

“Yup,” Leroy agreed, “that’s exactly what I’m doing. Now are you gonna tell me about that little boy or are we just keep jerkin’ each other off?”

“You are crude and primitive, as usual L’roy,” the creature pronounced his name in its own tongue, which Leroy always found amusing. “But I know nothing of this child you speak of. Tell me – did you bring me something to eat, then?”

Leroy grimaced in horrified recollection. He hadn’t known he had it in him to do what he and the Chief had done, but he had. Sometimes the nightmares even went away for a while, but he had the feeling that all that was about to change.

“Not this time,” Leroy said, nearly a whisper. “So you’re telling me you didn’t have anything to do with this? The kid looked like he’d been melted, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t look like your… your… sucker marks on him.”

“I don’t waste good food, L’roy,” the creature said in sloppy gurgle. “I told you then and I’m telling you now – I didn’t kill anyone. I’m hardly what you’d call inconspicuous. Do you think I crawled up out of the swamp and snatched that little boy and his dog?”

“No, I know you didn’t,” Leroy said, fighting the allure of Chuck’s eyes. “But I think you have your ways. Maybe you called to him with that psychic thing you do – that thing you’re doin’ right now that makes my eyeballs feel like they’re made of jelly and makes my teeth feel fit to shatter. Maybe you…”

Leroy stopped talking and thought for a second. Then he turned his lantern on to Chuck’s face, causing the ancient thing to squint. In this way, it was safe for Leroy to look, if not directly at it, at least more in its direction.

“I never said anything about a dog,” Leroy said coldly.

“Well,” C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh chuckled, a horrible, hungry sound that Leroy thought sounded like what it might sound like if an octopus tried to French kiss a bulldog. “I may have called the dog out here for a mid-day snack. I’ve been a bit peckish lately. I am eating for two thousand, you know.”

———————————-

The Chief sat in his office and poured himself some Jack Daniel’s. It wasn’t helping. He’d finally cleared off all the gawkers and that nosy troublemaker Amie Lebeau, and now he was stuck thinking about things that he shouldn’t think about. He was supposed to be home an hour ago, but the last thing he wanted to do was answer a bunch of questions from his wife Luanne, a woman with almost as much of an appetite as the Chief himself, only her vice was gossip and not fried foods. She was insatiable, and her barrage of questions would only give Oscar a headache, and when he had a headache, he tended to get irritable and even violent from time to time, and Oscar would never forgive himself if he ever laid hands on Luanne in anger ever again. Once was enough. No, if anyone was going to see the back of Oscar Blanchette’s hand tonight, it was going to be that son of a bitch Leroy. He couldn’t get his hands on Leroy’s pet monster, and so the man himself would have to do.

Seeing that body had brought back all kinds of nightmares, and the Chief didn’t need any more nightmares. Since that night back in ’98, nothing he’d seen in a horror movie scared him anymore. No amount of slasher flick nonsense could compare to what he’d found in that basement one hot night in early September fifteen years back. The Chief was a lot younger then, and maybe a hundred pounds lighter, too, and sometimes when he woke up in the middle of the night with his heart racing and his hands shaking, he was almost thankful that he came across that gruesome scene as a younger man. He felt certain that if he were faced with that kind of visceral terror today that his heart might just give out.

This was the fear that had been plaguing him ever since that little boy went missing. Every day that went by without that kid turning up alive and well was another day closer to Oscar opening the door on some ghastly chamber of horrors. He just kept telling himself that he’d taken care of all that – that the monster responsible for those murders fifteen years ago was long gone – that indeed, not a trace of him was left in this world.

Oscar looked at the clock. It was late. Nearly two o’clock in the morning. He had no business picking up the phone at this hour, but he reckoned he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep, what with everything that went on that night. He hadn’t talked to Jolene since the Singleton boy had gone missing, and she wouldn’t be happy to hear from him now, but he had to talk to her about her husband.

After about a dozen rings, a woman answered the phone.

“Hello? Who’s callin’?”

“Hey, Jolene, it’s Oscar. Chief Blanchette. Sorry for callin’ so late, cher.”

“S’okay,” she said. “I weren’t sleepin’ anyway. Not with all that noise about that boy they found.”

“Mm hmm,” Oscar said. “Yeah, dat’s what I wanna talk to you about. You mind if I come over, cher? Dere’s some tings I gotta tell you, and I doan wanna say dem on the phone.”

“You been drinkin’, Chief?” Jolene asked.

“Well, maybe un petit peu,” the Chief admitted. “Can I come by?”

Jolene thought about it. Her husband had been a strange man, and she certainly didn’t miss him, but he never laid a hand on her. Oscar, on the other hand…

“I dunno, Oscar,” Jolene hesitated. “Last time you were drunk, you done knocked out one of my teeth.”

“Oh, cher,” Oscar said, turning on what little charm he had. “Doan be like dat, you. I just want to talk, thass all. B’sides, I’ve only had a couple. I’m not angry drunk, I just had a couple to take de edge off, you know?”

“Oh, c’mon, then,” Jolene replied. “I got some o’ that peach pie you like so much.”

“Maybe it’s not your peach pie I’m interested in eating tonight,” Oscar said salaciously, flirting with this woman whose husband he’d helped murder, and whose bed he now shared on occasion.

“Oh, you’re wicked,” she cackled. “You best bring your appetite, then.”

Oscar grunted something in reply and then hung up. He knew that he had to tell her something – had known for years that someday he’d have to talk to her about Darrell, but he’d always pushed it away like it were a plate of brussels sprouts or something.

He’d asked her all kinds of questions back in ’98, and he’d believed her then, and he believed her now. She didn’t have anything to do with what happened to those kids, nor did she know anything about her husband’s extra-curricular activities.

When her husband Darrell disappeared, Oscar had sworn to her that he’d find him; that he wouldn’t rest until they tracked him down. At first, he’d lied to her and tried to assure her that he’d turn up alive, maybe in some cathouse over in Baton Rouge, but if the worst she had to worry about was cattin’ around, well, she wouldn’t be the first woman – or the last – with that trouble. As time went on and Darrell didn’t turn up, Oscar changed his story to one of sympathy, which he ended up nurturing long enough to get into Jolene’s drawers.

Here he was fifteen years on, still screwing the dead man’s wife, and still completely at a loss at how to tell the poor woman that her husband was a monster; a monster that he and Leroy Angell had put down like a mad dog.

——————

MORE! GIMME MORE!

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15 responses to “Conversations with Monsters – By Jessica B. Bell

  1. Pingback: The Body and the Beast – By Jessica B. Bell | Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante.·

  2. I liked before I commented and I don’t regret it—I was a little trigger happy because I was so excited to read this! You’re drawing the mystery out piece by piece without giving all the details and it’s KILLING me. In the best possible way. I have so many questions, and your answers are better than anything I could have thought up. Lovely job!

    One editorial comment: “pinched his had a little if he ever felt his eyes drifting, he was okay.”
    I don’t think you meant to say “had”—maybe hand or hat?

  3. I read it. Not just ‘read’ it in the busily-skimming way but absorbed every word, soaked it up and sucked on it a little. You take me right there, to the American Gothic bayou swamplandia. You write so viscerally I can ‘see’ everything I’m supposed to. The entire world unfolds upon a few paragraphs. I’m never confused as to where I am or who is speaking, it’s all so very professionally and solidly constructed. More importantly, I buy every single word. I’m both invested in the characters (especially C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh) and hooked on the story, hungry for more. So yes dear, it’s tremendously good.

    One question: the Chief says he’s only laid his hand on his wife Luanne in anger once, but he also admits to hitting Jolene. If the ‘once’ is intentional, thereby making the reader think a) Chief is unreliable narrator or b) Chief does not see Jolene the same way he sees his wife, then it’s food for thought. If it’s unintentional, I’d have him reference the ‘once’ with his wife upon remembering he hit Jolene last time he saw her, because there’s obviously a pattern emerging? Does that make sense at all or am I overanalysing?

    • I think it’s because the chief is a bastard, But yet has some weird ironic chivalry When it comes to his wife (That he’s cheating on yes I realize). He doesn’t want to hit his wife, But doesn’t have the same compunction with Jolene.
      When you have time you should definitely go back and read from the beginning of the series. I am glad you like it. I just finally today figured out what actually happened back in that often hinted about summer of 1998

      • I understand. I like that about the Chief. I love a flawed hero.

        Oh, I’ve read it all, my sweet 🙂 Some earlier today, and some before that (though not necessarily in the right order due to me being a Bad Blogger). Your writing is always exceptional and it’s a great world but this one was your best yet, I think. It reads independently and the imagery of Chuck and Leroy at the beginning is just solid gold. You could probably sell it to HBO based on this excerpt. I shall eagerly be reading the rest of the series, as well as anything else you spew out x

  4. Helena, you got me with “The creature seemed to sigh with a wet, bubbly, foul-smelling exhalation.”

    If that didn’t just create a smell/sound/visual bomb in my head . . . ! Wonderful, if disgusting.

    And, this made me laugh: “Having no one to talk to for centuries had made Chuck somewhat lacking in social skills, and perhaps a little bit senile as well.”

    I can relate.

    In all, I’m loving this story. Well done, very atmospheric. I have a soft spot for gothic anything and this series is treating that soft spot very well!

  5. This is so rich in imagery. I love the characters. The atmosphere. The names are so authentic. Very well done (and coming from a Southerner with a Southern Gothic Family, that’s saying something.)

    • So glad you enjoyed it! I feel very flattered that you always take time for me, despite how busy you are! (I’d like to think that you keep coming back because you’re enjoying the writing — if it’s ever just because you find me so charming, do let me know and I’ll work harder at being less charming and a more intriguing storyteller)

  6. Reblogged this on Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante. and commented:

    Good news everyone! (To be read in the voice of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, or else not at all) The tumblers are all tumbling into place, and Jessica, having gotten one long story and one story with a very dirty title out of her system, is not brainstorming the next few Bayou Bonhomme stories. I’ve decided to cut down the amount of sedative I secretly slip into her gruel in hopes that it will increase her productivity. I’m excited at what she’s told me so far — oh, and teaser — she knows how it ends, now, but promises it’s still a ways off — though I wish she’d shut up about it. I hear her all night long, yelling for me for more food, more water — Helena I’m cold! Helena I’m tired! Blah blah blah… and then when I — soft-hearted soul that I am — go to throw her perhaps a scrap of moldy bread or a bit of rancid beef — all she wants to do is tell me about her story ideas. Now tell me — can you blame me for keeping her locked up in the basement?
    Well, while you wait for the continuation of the story, here’s the next chapter to keep you going. If you haven’t ever read any of these tales, do click on the Jessica Bell tab and start from the beginning.

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