Suggested listening while reading:
Leroy woke in a cold sweat from a nightmare that wouldn’t fade. It was like a physical presence, pushing out from behind his eyes, pounding like the steady pulse of of a synthesizer bass drum in one of those techno songs the kids were all listening to these days. To Leroy they all sounded the same, and they made his head ache. That’s how he felt now — like some sadistic DJ was laying down phat beats in his head while someone else held his eyes open and made him watch, over an over again, the nightmare vision that had been imparted to him by the ancient being that lived in the bayou. Last night he had told most of what he remembered to the Chief, but he must have passed out at some point because he knew that he had more to tell — much more.
“Oscar?” the thin Cajun called out, but got no response. He looked at the clock at the wall and saw it was nearly two in the afternoon. This didn’t surprise him — in fact, Leroy thought that it wouldn’t surprise him to discover that it was two o’clock in the afternoon three days later, that’s how disoriented he felt.
He got up from his recliner and stretched, and caught a glimpse of a yellow pad of paper sitting on the top of his television set that didn’t belong there. A note from Oscar, telling him that he’d been called away, but to call him when he got up.
“Ah, now ain’t that sweet?” Leroy said aloud, hoarsely chuckling.
The note went on to ask him to write down what he could remember. Leroy thought that he’d like it very much if he could forget everything, but just then, remembering was all he seemed to be able to do.
And so he put the kettle on and sat down to write.
First, understand that I’m no good at telling stories, and so I’m just going to do my best to tell what I remember. And sometimes, it’s not like I was seeing a movie or anything, but more just feelings, or ideas — does that make any sense?
C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh — I have no idea if I spelled that right, so I’m not doing it again — from here on out, it’s Chuck, okay? Good. Well, Chuck’s been here for a very long time, and you’ll remember that I told you last time that he’s been living out in the bayou since before people started showing up. Now, Chuck, he told me that he’d been calling out for ages, and he seems to think that he drew the people to him. Now I don’t know much about history; all’s I know is something about some land bridge where the first people made their way across and then they headed south for warmer weather. But what do I know? Maybe folks were here before that. I think so — I think there were people here a long time before that, and that maybe they died out or moved on, but before they did, they encountered Chuck and were affected by him. At some point, some of them got convinced that Chuck was a god, and they began worshiping him. And not in a ‘Sunday-go-to-meeting’ type way. No, these folks’ idea of worship involved blood.
Chuck showed me a vision of dark skinned people sacrificing young women on the banks of the bayou while eating something that I recognized — the slug-like things that Chuck gives me to cook up for my barbecue. They are his offspring, Chief — I know that — and I think I know why he feeds them to us. I think he’s always done this, for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think he wants company — I think he’s terrified of what might happen if his people, such as they are, were to repopulate. And then there’s another reason, and this is just me guessing, but in every vision I saw, people were eating Chuck’s babies, and those who ate his babies were susceptible to hear his call. I think it’s how he gets his hooks in you, Chief, and that scares me. Does it ever wear off? Or is one taste enough? Now that I’ve tasted the beast itself, what does that make me? Am I doomed to be like Renfield in all them Dracula pictures? Keep an eye on me, Chief. If I start acting strange, don’t hesitate to do what has to be done. I reckon I got my hands bloody enough as it is.
Different people started showing up in my vision — first it was the red man, and then the French and the Spanish and the English, and it seemed to me that Chuck relished all the war and the slaughter and the atrocities. In some cases it felt to me like he had a hand — or a tentacle or whatever — you know what I mean — in starting some of it. Like somehow people weren’t acting of their own will — like they’d gone crazy. Like I said; I think it has something to do with the babies. I think it might be best if I didn’t serve that up anymore — what do you think? I may need your help in disposing of what I have in stock — you wouldn’t believe how quickly those things grow and how big they get.
I saw people eating each other, Chief. I saw people being burned alive and eaten — people dancing around them as they cooked, peeling off pieces and eating them right there — like it was some kind of pig roast or something. And this wasn’t no 500 years ago or nothin’ — I’m right sure I saw me the Stars and Bars flying, and then I saw things even closer than that. I saw a man who had to be Jean-Baptiste’s daddy — or mayhap his grandpere, and he was strung up and crucified just like we found Jean-Baptiste, surrounded by folks in white hoods like the Klan — only something told me this weren’t the Klan. They spoke in that weird language that I heard Chuck speak.
Then I saw something too recent for my own comfort, Oscar, and I knew that the visions were catching up on me. Remember old Josie Ammon — Marla Bergeron’s grandmere? She was the last of those that disappeared back in ’98, remember? Well, Chief, I think they done her, too — not Chuck — but whoever it is out there that’s under his spell. I think they worship him, Chief, not to put too fine a point on it. And I think Chuck gets off on it. Now, he done told us that he didn’t have nothing to do with any of the missing kids, and maybe he didn’t — not directly. But what if he drove Darrel Duchesne insane? Or planted the idea in his head that he wanted Darrel to feed him those kids or something?
I dunno. Maybe I just want to believe that — maybe I’d rather believe that than believe that Darrel, in his right mind, kidnapped those kids and hung them in his basement on meat hooks, cutting strips off of them and eating them when he got peckish. Because that’s what he did, Chief. I know you only saw the end result, but that fucker showed me in detail what Darrel did to those children. And all the while there was this chuckling — wet and inhuman and self-satisfied.
Chuck showed me Darrel barbecuing strips of flesh off that little Thompson girl’s back and rubbing garlic and Worcester sauce on them as he did it. Darrel smiling all the time as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Hell, he ate it with a side of rice and beans and some coleslaw, and washed it all down with a Budweiser!
Chuck made me watch as he gutted one of the kids like deer and let them hang to bleed out. He served his wife that kid’s ribs for dinner that night, Oscar. And Chuck just kept laughing.
I think we’re a game to him, Oscar — I think if he wasn’t already insane, then all those years alone have made him so. He’s like a very powerful, sadistic kid with a frog and a hammer and nails. I think he likes watching us do horrible things to one another, and if we won’t do it on our own, then I think, every once in a while, he pulls the strings, or gives us a nudge, or whatever metaphor you want to use to understand it.
One thing I kept seeing, though — the repeated motif, if you like — was sacrifice. People have been offering sacrifices to Chuck for damn near 10,000 years. And he just keeps laughing. He’s no god, Oscar. I don’t know why people have thought that all these years, but he ain’t. He’s just a greedy old space orphan that should have died out a long time ago. And I don’t think he’s immortal. I think he can be killed, and I think that we need to figure out how. But Chuck’s not our only problem, Chief. Someone out there in Bonhomme is killing folks — first that Singleton kid, and then Jean-Baptiste, too. And I get the feeling that they might stop at nothing to protect their slimy old god. We have to be careful who we trust, Chief. It may be we’re up against a lot of crazy people, or it might just be one lunatic. Do we have another Darrel out there? I don’t know — after all that shit Chuck showed me about Darrel, the visions went dark. The next thing I remember, you were dragging me out of the mud. I don’t even know how I got back to the shore.
Anyhow, that’s all I know. I don’t think Chuck showed me all this to be helpful. I think he was… I don’t know… bragging? Trying to scare me? I don’t know. But I think he only showed me what he wanted me to know — I’m sure there’s all kinds of information he could have given us, but I think he likes keeping us in the dark; frightened.
Leroy put his pen down and massaged his wrist. What more was there to say? Should he tell the Chief what Chuck showed him about Marla? Could he even trust that to be true? Or was Chuck trying to sow discord between them?
One thing Leroy knew: if Marla did have anything to do with Jean-Baptiste’s death, he’d put her down himself.