This is a story I can't believe I've never told on here. It's really one of the nost terrible stories I have. I hope you enjoy it.
Once upon a time there was a smurf. And he lived in a trailer home all by himself. Okay, that's going to get annoying if he keeps telling the story in third person, so he's going to stop right here.
Anyway, I lived by myself in this trailer on my mom's friend's property in the beautiful Napa Valley. The property had vineyards, a softball field, a swimming pool, a hot tub, a bonfire pit, a barbecue, etc. Nearby was a little mom-and-pop store with a delicatessen that had outdoor tables under the oak trees. I used to stroll down there and eat a smoked turkey sandwich with sharp cheddar cheese, plus a deviled egg or two, some kettle-cooked dill potato chips, and a berry smoothie. It was heaven for me. Those of you who know me might expect that I'd have some difficulty living by my lonesome. But in fact, these were some of the most tranquil and sublime days of my life. There were only two major problems with the place.
A pack of wild coyotes inhabited the same property as I did. I don't know how many of you have ever lived alone, but for those who haven't, I can tell you that it can be frightening at night. Especially when you're sitting alone on your couch, reading a book, and you start to hear the manic howls of the coyote pack coming closer from the woods. And then they are suddenly running all around your house, rifling your trash can, and running up onto your porch, with their little claws click-clacking on the wood. They had this magical ability to make the doors and walls of my trailer seem paper-thin, so that I always felt one of them would come busting right through the wall at any moment, just like G'mork came through that painting in the Neverending Story. Coyotes always sound like they're in pain. I hate them.
The coyotes were the lesser of my two concerns, however. About a month after I moved in, I convinced Tox to move in with me. That wasn't the main concern, either. No, the main concern was that our landlady's son, Levi, moved back home and had taken up residence in the pool house.
Levi had been our friend when we were small. He and his mother and sister had joined the church as a result of the interactions between Levi and all of us Mormon kids through Scub Scouts. While we were in middle and high school, Levi started experimenting with illegal drugs. He became weirder and weirder as time went on, piercing his own ears in the school bathroom, shaving his head except for one patch that he would grow out into a single nasty unicorn spike. It looked very intimadating, especially because Levi was always the largest of all of us. The kid was a big moosie. His mother, in a last-ditch attempt to help him, sent him to a drug-rehab camp for teens in Samoa.
While Levi was there, someone sneaked in some acid. But it was bad acid, and the story goes that three of the five kids who dropped it died, one is still in a coma, and the other is Levi. Levi is now a drug-induced schizophrenic. He can't hold a job. He wanders from town to town, throws rocks at police cars, and inflicts his theories of government conspiracy on strangers he meets in the video store.
Tox and I were the recipients of several unexpected visits from Levi while we were living on his mother's property. He would walk right in in his ragged sarong and weird Asian scarecrow hat, and start boiling his frozen spinach on our stove, or he would just sit on our couch and fart loudly and ask us bizarre questions. Any questions we asked him would go unanswered for over a minute, and then a light would go on and you would see that the question had finally sunk in, and he would give some convoluted answer. Tox found the whole thing sad, though mildly amusing. Me? I was scared to death of him.
When Tox got into a car accident and was staying at his parents' for a few days, leaving me once again alone in the house, I was actually glad to hear the coyotes' insane yelps and howls right outside the windows. If the coyotes were out, it meant Levi wasn't. I fell into feverish sleep those nights, dreaming of Levi being eaten by the pack of coyotes, or on one night, by a pack of wild Levis, who then turned their sights on my little trailer.
One evening, Joshua Adam Hawks and a gentile kid we'll call Loony Leo were over at our place. We got a phone call from the girls, who lived about 40 minutes away. They said they were on their way over, and they wanted a surprise when they got there. The other guys immediately started brainstorming about what great thing they could have for the girls once they arrived. But I am not one to be so easily manipulated. "You guys!" I exclaimed. "They never said it had to be a good surprise!"
So we spent the next little while trying to find a way to prop a bucket of water on the door so it would fall on the girls when they got there. It soon became apparent that the physics required to get that to work only exist if you're a character on "Dennis the Manace" or some such show. Soon the other guys had given up and settled into playing "Better Man" on their guitars. I pointed out that we still needed a surprise for the girls. And then I had an idea. A terrible, terrible idea. One of the worst I've ever had, probably, and that's saying something.
"I know what we can do, you guys! How surprised would the girls be if they got here and we weren't in the house. But Levi was!" Everybody kinda laughed, but after a moment's contemplation, it was decided that that would indeed be the best surprise we could come up with on such short notice. But then it was also decided that I should be the one to go get him, since it was my idea.
I protested, but only vaguely (I couldn't have everyone knowing that I was afraid, after all), and in the end, I started down the dark, tree-flanked path toward the pool house to see if I could find Levi.
There was a horrible sound coming from levi's house. It was what Levi referred to as his "jungle beats." He had an old record player in there, and it was hooked up to some huge speakers, and he would sit in there for hours and try to communicate with aliens or supernatural forces through the beats he would scratch. It sounded like funhouse music, only without the fun or the music, and with a little bit of plain, unadulterated evil thrown in. I lost my nerve. I didn't even make it all the way to the house. I stopped there on the little wooded path, and I turned and ran like a rabbit in the sights of the farmers gun, all the way back to the trailer.
I was a bit more forthcoming about my objections this time. "I am NOT going back there," I whined. "It is WAY too scary."
Loony Leo said, "Here, I'll go with you. I knew Levi back in 4H. I haven't seen him in forever. Let's go." So I somehow found myself headed back down the path again, headed toward the haunted pool house. The jungle beats were still filling the air so much that we could hardly hear each other, even when we were shouting. We went around to the front door. Emboldened by the presence of another human being, I knocked on the door. It creaked open slowly on its own.
"Levi!?" I yelled.
Nothing. Just those jungle beats, as terrifying as absolute silence, because either way ot rendered us completely deaf to any actual noise. The doorway was a black triangle. We could discern no shape, no depth. Just the blackness, and that noise, like a horror-movie soundtrack, emanating from somewhere in it. In my frightened state, I turned to ask Loony Leo what he thought we should do, but he had bolted. I ran and caught up to him on the path back to my house.
We ran inside. Loony Leo told the other two guys that he thought they should come with us, that it was way too scary. Tox let his true colors show a bit then. "No way," he stammered. "I'm kinda scared too. Let's just do something else for the girls." In the awkward silence that followed, we could hear the jungle beats floating up eerily through the woods. In the end, we just sent Tox to the store to get some ice cream, and we'd call that our surprise.
Well, the girls got there before Tox even got back. And when he did get back, it was with vanilla ice cream, with no toppings, so no one ate it anyway. I still really don't know what you were thinking on that one, Tox. In order to alleviate the embarassment of having such a lame surprise to offer, we engaged the girls in the story of our failed attempts to procure Levi, and how afraid everyone had been.
The girls, up for a little adventure, decided they wanted to go meet Levi, since they hadn't grown up with him, and had only heard the stories we'd told.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," I objected.
My objection went unnoticed, though, because suddenly the other guys were all gung-ho and macho about the idea of taking everyone down to Levi's. And the girls thought it sounded scintillating, and so the next thing I knew I was trudging along the forest path once again, collectedly remonstrating them for what I knew to be a bad idea. Nobody listened.
We got to Levi's house. The music had stopped, and the place was silent, but rather than mollifying the miasma of fear that surrounded the place, it only made the place seem dead, and, were it possible, even more frightening. There was a flickering t.v. light coming from the sliding glass door on the far side of the house. We went to the door. It had a curtain hanging in it that hung down to about knee-level. Tox hunkered down and looked inside under the curtain. "It's Levi," he announced. "C'mon, let's go in."
He kncked perfunctorily, and slid the door open. Instead of opening the curtain, we all just sort of sidled under it. Once everbody was inside, and my eyes had adjusted, I realized that there was something very, very wrong.
"What are you guys doing here? Who are these girls?" asked Levi, in an oddly strained voice. His face was three points of white: two glazed eyes reflecting the television, and a mouth stretched into a skeletal, cheshire grin. I averted my eyes, looking instead at the television set, which had been making some strange noises. I could feel Tox looking at the set already, and soon realized why he had been so quiet.
On the screen was a zombie. He had rotting flesh and tattered clothing. He had a naked blonde virgin on what was either a sacrificial altar or a mad scientist's table, and he was raping her. She was screaming in pleasure and pain, alternately. It was one of the most horrific things I've ever seen. Tox tried to stand in front of the TV screen to block the view for the girls, but in that dismal lighting, there were few other places to which one could avert one's eyes. Mine flashed back to Levi's demented face, and then to the third and only other spot of light in the room. it took me half a second to realize that I was looking at Levi's underwear, and that Levi's oversized pants were in a buch at his ankles. For several seconds my my eyes darted back and forth between the demonic face, the exposed underwear, and the zombie rape porn, while I flinched every time they lighted on something and quickly jerked them to the next atrocity.
I finally gathered my wits, and instructed everyone to go back outside. They obeyed dumbly, ducking back under the black felt curtain, and out into the relative safety of the dark, coyote-infested woods beyond. Everybody ran back up the path. One of the girls tripped on a step or a log or something, and fell. "Are you okay?" I breathed.
"NO!" she sobbed. "I don't know if I'll ever be okay again." We helped her back up and got her to the house, where everyone just sat around and looked shell-shocked, and the one girl just kept crying and crying. Joshua Adam Hawks sat with her and tried to comfort her. The girls' adventure seeking mood, as well as the guys' bravado, had left them like air from an untied balloon, and they sat like little wilted rubber messes around the couches in the living room. Then somebody noticed that Loony Leo was missing. He hadn't come back with us, and somehow, against all reason, I found myself once again walking down that dark and forlorn path to Levi's.
Loony Leo somehow hadn't noticed what it was that Levi was watching, nor the fact that Levi was in his skivvies, and he was just standing there, dwarfed by Levi's hulking frame, and trying to reminisce about the rabbits and chickens they used to raise together in a time when Levi's brain and self had still been in Levi's body. I took Loony Leo firmly by the arm, explained that we needed him in the house, and made him bid a hasty farewell. I looked askance at Levi as we exited the room for the last time, and I saw him looking complacently, creepily bemused, head cocked like some sort of cockatrice.
Levi disappeared soon after that, and I've never seen him since. But the indelible images of that night still haunt my dreams from time to time. Just me, a little boy lost in the woods, being pursued by coyotes and zombies and Levis. I never even had to say "I told you so." I don't think any of us is the same after that night. Nor will we ever be.