30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 7
June 1, 1964 (present) – Oswego, New York
Sheriff Miller shuts his eyes and prays for strength to carry on. The tragedy has consumed his entire existence like a fire for weeks. Thirteen, that’s how many perished a month ago as Mr. Fluke led his sixth-grade science class on a field trip to the well, twelve children, and the teacher. The only survivor of the outing was Wendy Hastings, but she was so traumatized by the incident that she went mute. For five weeks, she has refused to speak a word.
After the thirteen children and teacher disappeared, Sheriff Miller locked the gate that leads to the deep, dark well in the woods. But the locked gate wouldn’t keep the looky-loos from taking a peek at the well. Teenagers would still sneak out there, looking for a place to party or screw. Outwardly the teenagers laughed about it, joked about it; not one of them had the nerve to climb down the rickety ladder and swim in the well.
“Sheriff, nice to meet you,” Scooter McCormack says, shaking hands with the much larger man.
“Same. What can I do for you today, Mr. McCain?”
“It’s McCormack, sir. And it’s not what you can do for me; it’s what can I do for you.”
The sheriff isn’t much for small talk, says nothing hoping this busybody journalist will take the hint and piss off or get to the point either is okay with Jim at the moment.
The journalist senses the sheriff’s no-nonsense stance and adapts to it instantly.
“Right, you’re a busy man. I won’t blow smoke, and I’m not selling anything.”
The sheriff leans back in his squeaky chair, physically preparing himself for whatever is coming.
“I heard the only two words, Ms. Wendy said after the incident was ‘flying-rock.’ I won’t ask you to confirm or deny this sheriff, but I trust my source.”
Miller’s eyebrows raise. Maybe the friendly-looking, young journalist has something of value after all.
“Sorry, Scooter, was it? Where are my manners? May I offer you a cup of coffee?”
“Yes, sir. I’d love a cup. But only after I tell you what I came to tell you.”
“I like the sound of that. What can you tell me about the disappearance at the Winstedt Well?”
“Well, I’m going to ask you to keep an open mind, sir, until I finish. Okay?”
“I’ve seen plenty of things I couldn’t explain in my time. Consider my mind open. Proceed, please.”
APRIL 24, 1914 – Happy Times Resort Massacre – Devil’s Paintbrush
Scooter picks up his leather valise and removes a large, carefully folded map from its side pocket. He unfolds the map on Miller’s desk. Pointing to a place in central upstate New York, he says, “In 1913 an oil baron turned real estate magnate by the name of H.R. Parnassus, bought Devil’s Paintbrush lake along with the surrounding 1100 acres. They’ve since changed the name to Otsego.
H.R. built and opened a vacation resort. He called the place Happy Times Resort. On the night of April 24, 1914, less than one week after opening, thirteen vacationers staying at the resort committed suicide. Thirteen people, sheriff, in one night, have you ever heard anything so crazy? Two of the victims were identical 12-year-old twins named Timmy and Terry.”
“That does sound crazy,” Miller says, shifting in his chair.
“Not one of these people, according to interviews I read in newspaper clippings at the Cooperstown public library, not one of those 13 people seemed depressed or suicidal at all. They were all happily married and doing quite well,” Scooter says.
The sheriff nods.
“The next part of the story is where things get strange because it’s where I have a personal connection to the story, which started at least 100 years ago.”
Miller raises his eyes.
April 24, 1931 – Deaths of Kevin and Linda – Devil’s Paintbrush
“In 1931, there were two more deaths at Devil’s Paintbrush. They shut the resort immediately after what happened in 1914, locked it up, and abandoned it. Then two years into the great depression, a married couple named Kevin and Linda Tierney began squatting in the abandoned kitchen.”
“They’d lost everything, and they needed a place to stay. Winter was coming, and they had no people. Both their families had moved to California the year before the depression. In 1931 Kevin learned about the empty buildings at Happy Times resort. He and his wife snuck in there; the couple became squatters.”
“As unlikely as it may sound, I promise you it’s true; Linda Tierney was my mom’s cousin.”
Scooter pauses and reads silently from a notepad.
“One night shortly after the young couple arrived there, Linda tied her husband Kevin to the bed and slowly cuts him to death. The coroner said she cut her husband’s body over 940 times.”
Sheriff Miller, this was a happy couple who, again according to the Cooperstown library clippings, never fought. They were deeply in love. My mom said she still remembers their wedding and how she knew they were totally in love.”
“But there was the depression, the financial stuff,” Miller says.
“True and a good point, but bear with me, please.”
“After Linda cut her husband to death, she took her own life as well.”
Miller slides forward in his chair, placing his elbows on the desk, looks down at the map.
“The morning after, a local who used to steal lumber and plumbing fixtures from the abandoned resort came upon the bloody scene; he said he still had nightmares from what he saw there that morning.
“But the weirdest part is what the man said next; he said he thought he was hallucinating because when the man looked up, he saw a flying monument over the woods, to the northwest.
“That was where they found Timmy and Terry in 1914, the twins I told you about earlier; their bodies were assumed drowned in the dark pond where the trees never grew right, and the fish were all deformed or blind.”
“Now, I’m no psychologist, but I imagine a child might describe a flying monument as a flying rock.”
Miller wants to believe. But he is repulsed by the idea of the evil entity behind such deaths. He is first and foremost a logical man.
“This all could just be coincidence, surely, Scooter.”
“I agree, but I have two more bombshells for you, sheriff, then I will want the cup of coffee.”
Miller sits back as the squeaky chair protests.
“Bombshell number one, the date of the resort massacre was exactly fifty years before the tragedy here at Oswego. Exactly fifty years. Now, hold on, I know that does nothing to preclude the possibility of coincidence, but listen to this.”
April 24, 1864 – Baptist Baptism Massacre – Quabbin Reservoir, Massachusetts
“I’d been researching in Massachusetts, looking for any similar cases. I had a theory early on when I first heard about these crimes. I was looking cases here, in this region,” Scooter says, tapping the map.
Here Scooter dragged his finger towards Massachusetts. It was a line extending east from a line between Oswego and Devil’s Paintbrush. Miller sees where he’s headed now. The thing, creature, entity, whatever it is that kills people, prefers water, and it’s moving slowly westward.
“In the Shutesbury library, I found what I was looking for: an attack on people near water, and happened fifty years before. I found it; I wish I hadn’t, but I found it.”
“On April 24, 1864, precisely one-hundred years before the tragedy here, there were 37 drownings, folks attacking each other, strangling each other. And this was no ordinary group either. These were church folks at a baptism.”
Miller is stunned. He sits forward in his chair. Then he looks again at the faint pencil line connecting the three cities. The Quabbin Reservoir drownings on April 24, 1864, then the Happy Time resort suicides on April 24, 1914, then finally here at Oswego, last month, on April 24, 1964. He was no genius, but this seems like enough of a pattern to conclude something must be behind these happenings.
“That’s impressive work, Scooter. So, what’s behind all the deaths then? Tell me your theory, please.”
“It’s the rock, sir. Well, not a rock, or a monument for that matter; I think it’s a monolith.
Scooter removes a drawing of one from his valise. It looks like a smoothly cut rectangular solid of black granite.
“The only surviving member from 1864 saw a large stone thing flying towards the northwest. Its pattern is to move every fifty years. This thing feeds on human suffering. No, please, I’m almost done, don’t interrupt me now. But in 1914, it messed up. It didn’t get enough suffering to make the jump to here, to Oswego. So it hibernated, waiting for some unsuspecting souls to wander into its sphere of influence.”
It waited 17 years until Linda and Kevin began squatting in the boarded-up kitchen/dining hall.
“You see this line here? It is straight. Over 100 years, it has moved from a reservoir in Massachusetts to here. I think last month after the children and teacher disappeared at Winstedt, the monolith flew into Lake Ontario.
“Which means what?”
“It means plenty. This thing feeds off human suffering. Thousands of humans cross Ontario every day in the shipping routes across this big lake. I think this thing is just getting started, sir.”
“I have no idea how we fight it, but a priest might be a place to start. I’m not a church-going man, but I’ve seen real evil in this world. If there’s pure evil, then maybe there is a god also.”
“I could never find anything from 1814 April 24, but I suspect there were some people killed in or around here, in Boston. That gave the monolith the energy it needed to fly to the reservoir here, near Shutesbury Mass.”
Sheriff Miller looks at Scooter for several seconds.
Then he says, “Would your care to meet Wendy, Scooter? I have a hunch she might be ready to talk, especially if you can make her see what you’ve shown me. That we need to act on this information soon.”
(to be continued)