IF YOU ARE NEW HERE…
This is Chapter Three of an ongoing fiction-memoir-horror story titled “No Name” I’m working on and releasing chapter by chapter, serial-style just like Charles Dickens did back in the day. Start here with the first chapter and then come on back to keep the story going.
That crematory caused a whole lot of chaos one summer. First concern of the community was the gardens including Granny’s. The tomato plants all got root rot, and the corn husks mummified on the stalks even with plenty of rain. With the apples, all kinds of weird was happening on the ends of those twiggy branches. Frankenapples at their freaky finest. It’s why so many fallen fruits ended up Chomp Chomped rather than processed into Granny’s first prize fried pies.
It was a disaster of a season for the crops, not to mention the tornadoes. Along with tornado watches and warnings, you also get beamed by golfball size hail slung sideways with the wind. We had two more ground-touching twisters before the end of it all, 10 in total. And we are about that many states away from the actual Tornado Alley down in Georgia.
Hail did it’s own damage but the storms also brought rivers of rain. Heavy rains caused more runoff to flow on down the incline from the crematory than was typical. And Granny’s gardens were in direct line from where the rain sobbed dead people’s tears that poured down the hill. Right into the tomato plants and the corn rows and then onto the apple trees’ roots.
Everything suffered that year, and of course, it was not the rain’s fault or the tornadoes or the hail.
Nope, it was those dead people’s tears.
The ash in the water tested high when the rain came down, or at least that was the conspiratorial theory on our street. Somebody even designed a testing device using some paper testing strips like you use for testing water quality. Said it proved there was actually ashes containing dead people that came out of the crematory. Of course that was not possible said the crematory, but that’s what we all expected them experts on body burning to say.
Ain’t wasn’t one to let this kind of stuff lie. For starters, she was Granny’s one and only. That house and the worthy land would go to her when Granny’s first and last names and dates got listed in the morning obituaries on the radio. If the land was devalued due to the decline in soil, water, or air quality, she lost her inheritance. That wouldn’t lie.
Then again everyone really hated the idea of that crematory being right there around the corner. Anything that could put a moratorium on that kind of commercial activity was in the benefit of the community.
This led to the next point of pandemonium of that summer. Ain’t started with the Letters to the Editor shouting to the masses about the crematory to straight up running for the city council. And winning. As a woman in the Deep South. In a town that was KKK white with a Grand Dragon as a resident.
I used to crank call the Grand Dragon and I wasn’t the only kid. Back in the day of crank calling, the kids in my elementary school made prank calls to everyone. You could dial almost any 1-800 along with any seven letter dirty word you could think of and someone naughty would nibble on the other end of the line. We actually used the phone book back then, even the Yellow Pages got dog-eared.
One time me and my slightly older and way cooler cousin called another local establishment, the nudist colony. Asked a whole bunch of questions, “Do they let you wear clothes when you eat? What about when you play volleyball? Do you wear clothes then?”
You know, all the questions a couple of 10-year-old has to ask someone who works at a nudist colony. When we rode our bicycles by the resort open to the public passing it by on the highway, it was all protected from peeps by thick rows of aged trees. We still strained our eyes to look for nudists.
Everyone crank-called Granny.
She would answer, a shouting-loud “Hello!” and pause to listen with eyes scrunched at a stranger on the party line.
“No, my Frigidaire is fine,” but she still walks over, opening the door to double-check, “No my Frigidaire is still running just fine!”
Hanging up in confusion.
The Grand Dragon never answered the phone when the kids crank called him. Instead we got to listen to his angry answering machine spew forth a very long recording, religious and racist, in a raving selfish message that consumed the entire span of the answering machine tape so that you could not leave your own message in response.
I heard he lived down a dirt drive that was as long as his answering machine message. Later in college in a town not too far away, I came out to my car after gym class to find flyers for some rally of those white robe wearers. Advertising their asshole attitudes.
The Grand Dragon and other clan members were not happy when that woman ran and won the seat for the city council. The behind-the-scenes talk was that a clan member was either actively campaigning for that seat against her, or the owner of the crematory was in the KKK. Shady white hoods, we could never tell.
These KKK thought they could intimidate the city council by coming up with their hoods covering their faces and sitting front and center at one of the monthly meetings. At this meeting, just so happened, the crematory was on the agenda. The item item up for discussion was whether to require additional, costly, and perhaps-not-even-available-in-the-state-yet, testing for water quality due to the “potential human hazard” and “health and safety issue” and “civic complaints.” I heard those phrases spew forth from Ain’t a lot that summer.
The meeting had already begun before they sauntered in, eyes hidden. Inside the small city council meeting room quarters were cramped. Chairs were all taken save for the front row. Because the rumors were that the KKK would be arriving, some of their covered clansmen at least. Possibly that Grand Dragon I’d been crank calling.
I sat in the very back row, peeking over everyone’s shoulders tense. Watching and noting the exit, ready for the flight from the white.
When the white hoods walked in, the overhanging fluorescent bulbs buzzed flamboyant. Cocksure in their coverings. Concealed completely, no one could make out enough to identify these community members outright.
Whispers, nudges, grins, and nods coursed through the crowd like salt sinking in white rice. Even if someone knew someone was a clansmen for certain, they would never tell it.
One of them brought up a note handwritten on a piece of paper that discussed what this group’s representation wanted. It involved leaving the crematory alone. “All mandatory testing had been done prior and the crematory was in full compliance.”
Then in the same spewing rant, Grand Dragon declared on paper, “Why would these people want to poison their own righteous ruling people? It was a prohibitive cost that was entirely UnEthical, ImMoral, and UnAmerican.”
And in case the message was not clear, rumors spread faster than the note’s message that crosses would be coming. And Burning.
Cremating crosses in the grass I’d just cut in my Granny’s yard. My sweet old Granny.
“Fine,” Ain’t said.
She stood up in front of all of the community members and the other city council members.
“Go ahead, bring your crosses. I’ll bring the marshmallows.”
That backwood crooked rite of burning a fundamental sacrificial symbol of one’s own religion. You tell me how that makes any sense. Here in the hills of Habersham these clowns-men got their socks hard with burning crosses next to grannies and their gardens.
That night our household joined the households of those other council members who called tee-time before the council meeting had even happened. They’d already decided that taking this stand in the stand of trees would be the best stand to nip this belligerence in the bud. Some police officers were there to protect the public, and the fire department had a fire truck just around the corner bait shop parking lot.
It was on like Donkey Kong. Just bring on the crosses, Burning.
We watched the clowns-men who came in the dark and used post-hole diggers to remove the ground from the top of the incline. The incline between the crematory and Granny’s. The strip.
Wearing white cones on their heads and Charlie Brown sheets, these men pounded the posts into the ground. Three of them. It took a step-stool for them to reach the cross posts, hammering them right in. Pine, white, bleached Southern.
Standing there by the time the fires came were five clowns-men, circled hands extended in exhalation of their improper use of the primitive fire.
In the background were the sounds of a tent revival going on. Down in the next town, but those preachers were as clamorous as auctioneers and when they got wound up, they sounded vociferous loud. You couldn’t make them out but you could certainly Hear Them!
Preachers shouting out gospel so fast rappers would be jealous of the twisting of these tongues. Tornado weather also made the air extra electric, remember, and that helped transmit the religious raucousness across to the houses in the hills.
Ain’t got up to walk from the stand to Granny’s house, but was pulled back by the police officers. She was in there snoring soundly we were sure of it, but still, “She shouldn’t be alone.”
“Sorry, can’t permit it, ma’am.”
The fire department arrived within minutes and whitewashed the red bleeding lumber leaving it charred black. Shriveled, smoking. Suddenly it starts to rain. A storm in the black of night, tornado weather, smell in the air, Time to go!
Our entire group drove a caravan around the whole block on our way home. See if we can spot any more of those fairies wearing boots as the District Attorney called them. We come to the final four-way and there to our left we saw it.
We all saw it. Every person in every car.
The same street corner Ain’t told me to go stand at when I had a red eye she thought was a sty.
“Or pink eye, but let’s try this first. It’ll work if it’s a sty,” she said.
Sty, sty on my eye
Go to the next person passing by.
We also had a woman who talked off warts if we needed her to do that, too.
When we drove around that corner, each in procession, the figure was wearing the same white hood and robe as the others. This one was carrying a large black bag. Each car nearly stopped and all turned to see this clowns-man up close and alone. Trying to pry out his identity.
We all saw it.
The eyes went from pitch black without a shine in the headlamps to ruby red as bright as fire. Not just red, but a light came out of this creature’s eyes. Then the robe started to glow incandescent, as if this being was entirely on white-fire.
We all saw it.
When the red lights lit up the eyes, it also moved. Not left, not right. Up.
Up and the eyes stayed exactly where they were. They were not eyes because it was not human. The beacons.
The cars each crept slow and then in flight from the white and this Hireling from Hell! Swear to all the gods, when we drove away, it hovered above the ground at least a foot. Those red glowing eyes followed us the entire way down the street. You could feel them watching you even out of sight.
We all saw it. Every person in every car.
Immediately, we rerouted to the police station. Every person sat down with police officers in separate rooms for interrogations within the hour. The reports all claimed the same. Even the one city council member who was diagnosed with total blindness since birth. She Saw It. Those bright lights were not human but some other realm, shown internal, now Burning us from the inside.
We all saw it.
Chapter 4 continues the story!
**This one has been a beast to end!! I’m not sure this is the end now, but I’ve already started Chapter 4 so it’s got to stop now, for now.
What genre is “No Name,” supposed to be? Well, I mean, horror-fantasy fiction-memoir?
Little girl grows up hooked on opioids and ends up haunted by the demon of her childhood—Lit.Er.A.Lly. Southern Gothic + Growing Up in the Nineties. This is not your mommy’s “Friends” or “Full House,” Not unless you inject those with racists and thieves, religious fanatics and the biggest horror of them all, the US foster care system.
Closest I can tell you I think of this book as something coming from the likes of David Sedaris’s mind inside the soul and body of Karl Ove Knausgård with Flannery O’Connor’s Southern feminist writing spirit guiding the whole muster.
If you like those writers maybe? Maybe you’ll enjoy this. I think so? But it’s also got some serious Stephen King infused in there. The horror, oh! The horror!
Thank you for reading…all the way to THE END!