The fellows hailed from the local version of the Animal House Frat at the community college
and Ed Newton stiffened slightly when he saw them aproaching him.
The old farmer prentended not to see them at first hoping they were just out for a hike somewhere
and so he kept his head down as he went about tinkering with his faithful Fordson tractor.
"Now what do these kids want?" Newton wondered.
Their number had him concerned momentarily until he saw an equal number of coeds in their midst.
That was a relief.
These kids didn't usually come around looking for trouble when they had their girlfriends with them.
At least not as a rule.
But as his luck would have it of course they were headed in his direction and so Ed Newton stood up
and let his prescence be known as the entire group came trooping down his driveway.
"Halloo, Mr Newton!" the appointed spokesman hailed him.
("So it's to be Mr Newton, this morning, is it? I wonder what the game is today?")
"'Mornin', young fellas, an' you too, ladies!
What might I be able ta do you for?"
"Well - er - that is tuh say," The spokesman fumbled his opening line
and the little blonde girl next to him gave him a poke in the ribs.
"We were lookin' for a place to hold our annual Haunted Halloween Party yuh see, Mr Newton,
an' well - we were thinkin' that the old barn out back on your property over next to the athletic field
behind the campus would be just the place!
That is - if you'll grant us permission, of course!"
"That old barn hasn't been used in nigh on fifty years, kids!
There's no 'lectricity out there or nothin'!"
"The school's got a portable generator, Mr Newton!"
the blonde who had poked her boyfriend to jump-start him piped up.
"I see you've been doin' your homework, haven't cha, young lady?
Well, I don't rightly know what real harm it would do!"
His audience stood silent as it appeared that the old farmer was coming around to give them his blessings on his own.
This was gonna be a whole lot easier than any of them had expected!
"'Course the barn's at least half full of stuff ...
Le's see now ... Ol' Lennox, the hired man was the last livin' soul t'inhabit the place ...
Never did rightly know why he insisted on stayin' alone up there the way he did ...
But insist he did ... Came down here to the house every evenin' at suppertime as I well recollect ...
And then he'd go stomping off back to spend the night in that barn ...
An odd duck if ever there was one! But there warn't a man around who could match him workin' with an axe or a hayknife! No sir!
Why one time he ...! Well, but then ...
None of this is of any partic'lar interest to you young folks!
You'll hafta straighten up the inside some, I guess to make it inhabitable for the young ladies here you know!"
"We can get a truck to cart the stuff we need for the party, Mr Newton!"
"Hey! If we get one of those rental trucks we can stash anything we gotta move outta the barn inside the truck where it'll be safe!"
"Well, go ahead an' clean it up for your party then!"
"Gee! Thanks! Mr Newton! That's awful nice of you!"
"Well, it's as good a way as any ta get that stuff dusted off and straightened out!
Somethin' I've been meanin' ta do for years now! But cha know, I'm only one man an' I'm not as young as I used ta be ... an' well ...
Just try not to break anything!
And for gosh sakes be careful!"
"Of what, Mr Newton? Anything in particular we should know about?"
"Hey! Yeah! It's Halloween, yuh know!"
"Is the place s'posed tuh be haunted or somethin' good like that?"
"Haunted? Nothin' in partic'lar that I know of!
But then ... All old places are ha'nted by one thing or t'other, aren't they?
Just don't go steppin' on any rusty nails or anythin' like that!"
"We won't, Mr Newton!"
"We'll be careful!"
The group bounded with youthful exhuberance out of the driveway and back on down the road
toward the college campus from whence they came and Ed Newton went back to fishing around
for the sediment bowl on the fuel tank of his tractor.
He located the turnscrew at the bottom of the bowl and found that he couldn't turn it with his fingers
so he straightened up and headed toward the workshop to fetch a pair of pliers.
As he looked up the old man saw the last of the group of kids talking excitedly about the prospects of their party.
He shook his head and smiled to himself,
"Oh, but to be young again if only for a little while!"
It seemed to loom up at them as later that same afternoon they trekked down the path that lead toward the old barn.
"Gosh! Look at this place will ya!"
"Why, soitenly! That's what we came here t'do ain't it?"
"I mean - whut's it doin' standin' out here all alone?"
"Creakin' and groanin' in the wind mostly!"
"Yeah! But it wasn't always as lonely as yuh think, I'll bet!"
"What makes ya say that?"
"Well if you'll look behind you ..."
"My Pa tole me never tuh do that!"
"What? Why not?"
"Somethin' might be gainin' on me!"
"Just the same - were you to look to the rear you will note the goal posts of our football field ..."
"Yeah! And over to the left is the soccer net! So?"
"This was farmland! These were all fields!"
"An amazing deduction!"
"And they were all some distance away from the farm house ...
as we all know seein' as how we've just hiked over here from there ..."
"So now we see the farmer out standing in his field ..."
"So why have the animals tire themselves unnecessarily dragging equipment home?"
"So this lonely old barn was an early field house?"
"To store equipment on-site, yes!"
"By Jove! I believe he's got it!"
"Can't choo clowns ever be serious?"
"Yeah! At Mid-Terms!"
"How 'bout the nite classes at Danny's?"
"Now that's serious!"
"Serious drinkin', yuh mean!"
"Iz there anythin' else tuh take seriously?"
"C'mon! Let's see if we can get inside!"
"Huh? Why not?"
"We don't have a key!"
"So? Who wants a key?"
"Who says we even need one?"
"Yeah! Maybe the place is wide open!"
"Let's go look!"
The barn was not wide open for there was a large padlocked mounted in a prominent position on the door.
"I still say we could get in if we tried!"
"Hey! We're in the old farmer's good graces!"
"Yeah! Let's not muck up right off the bat!"
"Muck up, did you say?"
"That means that someone's gotta go ask for a key!"
"So who's gonna do it?"
A pall of silence fell over them like a sudden fog.
"Oh, for the Luv-a-Pete! All you big strong men!
Afraid of a man old enough to be your great-grandfather! I'll go!"
Patti, the blonde who had elbowed the spokesman earlier spoke up.
"Way ta go, Patti!"
"Go ahead gurl! You'll make the old man's day!"
"There! Now ya see! We went an' blew our only chance tuh be a hero fur the day!"
"Yeah! It just goes tuh show ... He who hesitates is lost!"
"Hey, Man! That's one helluva truck ya got there!"
"Yeah! An' the guy at the Rent-All gave us a real good deal on it too!"
"Hell! We could hold our party right in here!"
"Oh, yeah? What makes ya say that, wise guy?"
"All we gotta do is spread out a buncha old mattresses an' we it made!"
"That's what choo think, Hot Shot!
First you're gonna hafta find somebody dopey enough ta get within your reach!"
"Any port inna storm, babe!"
"C'mon you guys! Gather 'round for a picture!"
"We haven't even started yet!"
"I want a few before and after shots!"
"Before and after what, Arnie?"
"Look, Dave! Do I hafta draw yuh a diagram every time?"
"Huh? Oh! Yeah!"
"Just get over here, Dave!"
"Fine! Awright now everybody! Lookit the camera and think money!"
"Okay! That should do it!"
"Let's get ta work then!
Patti! Didja have any trouble seducin' the old farmer?"
"I got us a key, if that's whatcha mean, Arnie!"
"An' ja didn't hafta work any of yer womanly wiles? How come?"
"Nope! Not a one!
The minute he saw me coming, Mr Newton knew what I was there for and he handed the key to me!
He was even a little apologetic about not remembering to give it to us in the first place!"
"Well, okay then! Where is it? Let's have it!"
"Now don't go getting pevish, Arnie!
I got it stashed in a safe place! Don't you worry!"
Patti reached into the V-neck of her tee-shirt and pulled the key dangling on a loop of twine and handed it to Arnie.
"I mighta known that's where you'd keep it awright!" Arnie grinned at Patti and fumbled the key into the lock.
It didn't work immediately for it obviously had been some time since either the lock or the barn door had been opened.
The boys each took turns fiddling with the lock which finally screeched apart however reluctantly.
The door creaked in protest on its rusted hinges as Arnie slowly pulled on it.
"Easy there, guy! Don't tear the door off its hinges before we even set foot inside!"
"Did any of us think to bring some oil?"
"We're gonna need it!"
"Hey! I'll look in the toolbox in the truck!"
"Sound idea! We're gonna hafta have this door working, that's for sure!"
"Yeah! We'll all be in and out a thousand times!"
"Specially when the party gets on a roll!"
"Hey! Lookit! I found some!"
"What is it?"
"How's it work?"
"Squirt some on like any other I s'pose!"
"You were s'posed ta say, It's a mystery!"
"Oh! So sorry!"
"C'mon you guys!
Quit fooling around and open that door!
I wanna see what's inside!"
>p>"Sheesh! I'll bet there hasn't been a livin' soul in here in twenty years!"
"Longer than that, maybe!"
"Oh, I don't know! I wouldn't say that!"
"No? Why not?"
"Look up there at those bats!"
"Eeeeee! Bats! Where?!"
"Hanging up there in the rafters! See 'em?"
"Yes! But I don't want to!"
"They won't bother you any!"
"How do you know? Maybe they're vampire bats!"
"Nah! What're ya talkin' about?"
"They'll add to the atmosphere!"
"Yeah! It is Halloween, you know!"
"An' besides - they're up too high to do anything about if we wanted to!"
"I'm gonna keep my eyes on them all the same!"
"Hey! Look over here wouldja!"
"What is it?"
"Looks like a coffin!"
"Aw nuts! It's just some old trunk!
Nothin' ta get excited about atall!"
"How d'you know?"
"Let's hava look inside!"
"Oooooh! Be careful!"
"Whaddaya think we're gonna find?
A dessicated corpse or somethin'?"
They all certainly hoped not!
But in each and every mind there was an image such as this ...
However they were doomed to disappointment ...
"Eeeeee! Don't say things like that!"
"Yeah! Gee! Don't go gettin' the gurlz all scared half tuh death!"
"Hey! What's this? Do you think us chicks will chicken out?"
"Uh - well ..."
"Would somebody tell me what dessicated means?"
"Wassa matter, Melvin? Isn't any old corpse good enough for you?
Ya gotta have a dessicated one ta boot?"
"There's nothin' in here from what I can see but a few scraps of rags, some hayseeds and a whole lotta dust and dirt!"
"What? No mummy?"
"Not unless yuh wanna plant one in here?"
"Nah! We gotta better coffin than this sittin' in the back of the truck! Remember?"
"Oh, yeah! That's right! So we do!
The one Dracula Dave used last year!"
"You got it! And while we're at it, wuddaya say we make the switch right now?"
"Maybe we should leave it as it is!
You know! As part of the decor!"
"We're gonna need all the floor space we can get!
The old tools an' stuff we can stand in the corners!
They'll be atmosphere enough, I think!"
"What do you girls think?"
"I think the fewer things we have laying around, the fewer there will be to get broken ..."
"So your vote is to take in away?"
"I think it would be safer - yes!"
"Okay, Al! Heave to!"
"Grunt! Gasp! Groan!
Man! This old thing is heavy!
Are yuh sure there isn't a body in here after all?"
"Aw, c'mon! An' you the star of the football team!"
"I'm the quarterback!"
"Oh! Then no wonder!"
"Doan make me laugh or I'll drop this dam' thing!"
The crew made good progress and there were no disasters in spite of the fair amount of horsing around
that attended much of their preparation for the Halloween Party.
"How's your blood supply, Marv?"
"I whipped up a fresh batch in the lab after chemistry yesterday!
We got plenty!
Witness this gag, will ya!"
"We don't wanna risk runnin' low that's for sure!
This dripping bottle I got set up for the coffin will use quite a bit all by itself!"
"You're not gonna go off and leave that thing running, are you?
Whoever's the vampire in there is apt tuh get drowned rather than revived!"
"I thoughta that!
That's why this hose is running up through this vent hole, you see?"
"So the vampire inside the coffin gets to control his own blood supply!
Hey! That's great!"
"Nice of ya ta say so!"
"Well, this has been a lot of work but I must say that it's lookin' pretty good!"
"Yeah! I see Linda and Marcie even managed tuh get a few members of their family tuh participate!"
"Don't be such a smart-ass, will ya!"
"Well - here it is Doorbell Night and we're still applyin' the finishin' touches!"
Lookit this dandy machete!"
"Where'd you ever find that, Kay?"
"Alvin brought it in! Said his uncle loaned it to him!"
"Hmmm! Yeah! An' that's not plastic, is it?"
"No Sirree! It's the genuine article!"
"Well make sure you put it in a safe place!"
"Yeah! We wouldn't want one of the drunks tuh start cuttin' up, would we?"
"An' get a loada this, will ya!"
"S'matta, Charlie Brown? Ain't cha ever seen a lady with an axe before?"
"Where'd that come from?"
"One of the guys in the Play Production Class said they used in as a prop in their Shakespearean Dramas!"
"Well, Liz, no one can say thatcha don't have an axe tuh grind, can they?"
"An' I see Greg couldn't wait tuh get the festivities under way so he's in his costume all ready!"
"Right on! With this gloomy old barn as a background and the dim lighting - you'll have 'em all pissin' their pants!"
"I hadta see if I could still fit into this getup!
Now would one of you guys pass me a beer?"
"Speaking of lights! Did Hank manage to get the generator hooked up?"
"Yes! Thank Goodness!
The guy in the engineering department said we could use it but that it wouldn't be available until today!"
"Let there be Light!"
"And there was!"
"That's a relief!"
"I should say it is!
How're we gonna keep the beer cold with no 'lectricity?"
"One thing we didn't make much use of were these!"
"We got enough of the real thing hanging around as it is!"
"More than enough if you were to ask me!"
"What?! Do ya mean ta tell me that after all the work I did weaving my web - you guys are gonna make me take it down?!"
"Heck no! That's great! That one stays!"
"It looks like we're gonna have a storm!"
"So? It isn't cold! So what?"
"Rain? Oh, no!"
"Our hair will be a mess!"
"Yeah! And we all walked over here tonight! Remember?"
"I s'pose we could all crowd into the truck one way or another?"
"Well maybe we could except for two things ...
One is that the back of the truck is full of the junk we hauled out of the barn
and the second is that I didn't bring the keys with me tonight ..."
"I didn't even think of 'em!
Heck! We haven't so much as looked at the truck since we loaded it up and that was three days ago!"
"It was more like four days ago now, Arnie!
And don't worry about it!
Hell! We got all the comforts of home right here as it is!
All the chips we can eat!
All the beer we can drink!
And all the girls we can handle!"
"Man! That rain is really startin' ta come down!"
"Yeah! Listen to it beating on the roof!"
"Good thing that old Mr Newton keeps his roofs in good repair!"
"Even on the buildings he doesn't use anymore!"
"This old barn wouldn't last long if the roof were leaking!"
"It seems ta be about as tight as a drum!"
"There's no sign of water anywhere!"
"Except for what's pouring down outside!"
"Yeah! Lucky for us!"
"Man! Didja see that last bolt of lightning!"
"How could we miss?"
"Somebody come here an' hold me! I'm scared!"
"Be right with yuh, Babe!"
"Hey! No Fair! She wuz lookin' at me!"
The rain came lashing down in torrents as the wind blew, lightening flickered and the thunder rolled.
The truck standing as it was proved not to be as weathertight as was the barn that housed the fraternal brothers and their lady friends.
Parked with a wheel settled in a small hollow in the dirt track that lead to the barn, and heavily laden as it was,
it listed slightly to the left and a small crack had opened between two of the panels where they came together to form the sides of the box
It was not a major leak as leaks go and most of the water ran quickly down the side of the box body to form a pool on the floor
that ran off to the left side of the truck where it did little or no damage whatever.
A rather small part of the water leaking inside somehow managed to make its way along the roof of the truck where it formed drops
that gathered in weight to slowly drip down onto the top of the wooden trunk that had been situated below.
The water pooled there on the lid of the trunk and the porous wood quickly became saturated to the extent
that it in turn gradually began to leak into the interior of the trunk.
There among the scraps of clothing, the accumulation of hayseeds, dust and assorted dirt a rather strange transformation began to take shape.
At first the entire collection appeared to swell and then a strange hissing sound emanated from the dampened heap and an unwholesome fog
soon filled the interior of the trunk effectively eclipsing whatever else it was that took place inside the ancient container.
What the concoction of stage blood was not likely to accomplish inside the barn was about to be accomplished outside in the back of the truck
through the simple application of that most basic of life-generating elements ... Water ...
And then seemingly as quickly as it had come - the storm subsided.
The rain slackened, the wind abated, and though it was becoming late in the day,
some stray rays of sunlight burned their way through the thinning layer of clouds
and the atmosphere became considerably more cheerful.
The wooden trunk remained as it had been - still standing in a shallow pool of the rain water
that had leaked into the body of the truck.
During the height of the passing storm, a small torrent of water had developed briefly
and washed a fair assortment of the seeds and dirt together with the remains of whatever it was
that had been stored away inside the trunk where it gathered in the pool of water on the floor of the box bodied truck.
A sudden surge of water carried bits of this material over to one side of the body
where it made its way out of the drain holes that had been bored in the plank floor of the truck.
And so now it was that in the waning hours of the afternoon on the day before Halloween,
someone or something else had somehow germinated in the fertile ground
and was now expressing an active interest in making his prescence known.
"Well! I guess the storm's passed over!"
"In that case, I guess you can let go of me now?"
"Do I hafta?"
"No, not really ..."
"Great! In that case, I won't!"
"Hey, guys! Look!"
"Ey-ah - What's up, Doc?"
"Someone's out there!"
"Huh! That's odd! We're all right here, aren't we?"
"All present and accounted for, Captain!"
"Who could it be then?"
"Is this some kinda joke?"
"The Hell it is! Run!"
"Run? Run where?
C'mon, Man! Don't blow your cool!"
"Didja see that face!
It wasn't human!
I'm tellin' ya!
See for yourself!"
Bar the door!
The door had been barred earlier against the possible intrusion of any uninvited curisosity curiosity seekers.
There were few individuals outside of the frat who knew that anything was in the works, and this Halloween Monster Bash was to be a surprize after all!
"Block the windows!"
"The door! Arnie! Izzit gonna hold?!"
Alas, it did not.
Who or whatever it was that was outside beating at the door seemed to possess some demonic or otherwise super-human strength.
This coupled with the fact that the screws fastening the hinges that the boys had so thoughtfully lubricated pulled loose
from the weathered barn siding on which they had been mounted many years before.
The result was that the snarling apparition was through the broken door and upon them almost before they could think of mounting any effective line of defense.
"Where did he get that?"
"Arnie! Get down!"
In a technical sense, the warning did not come too late.
But then it could well be argued that at this point anything and everything was too late.
Arnie stood aghast staring for but a split second at the heavy blade of the machete
as it arced swiftly through the short distance between his neck and the uninvited newcomer who was bent upon death and destruction ...
A single swipe of the heavy blade and Arnie's corpse fell lifelessly to the floor
where blood continued to geyser from his headless body for a few moments as his heart beat its last.
The situation deteriorated rapidly and as the ghoulish murderer stepped over his first victim,
Samantha uttered an ear-splitting scream ...
She turned to run away blindly ...
further into the interior of the barn ...
anywhere away from the hoor she had just witnessed ...
But in truth there was nowhere to go and no place to hide!
And so in fewer than three strides the monster struck her down from behind -
cleaving Samatha's skull with the heavy blade ...
With the machete blade buried in Samantha's skull,
Richie took what he may have thought was an opportunity to strike a blow in behalf of his fallen friends.
Quickly he grasped a loose length of a two-by-three and swung at the ghoul as he sought to pull his blade loose.
To Richie's credit, his blow was not inconsiderable and under any otherwise normal circumstances
it would have been quite enough to take out any lesser opponent.
In the present instance however the blow did no more than to make a resounding thump
as it landed across the ghoul's shoulders and, having successfully retrieved his weapon,
the monster turned and swiped it across the throat of the less than fortunate Richie ...
Whether the sight of the carnage that was taking place before her eyes either unhinged or fascinated her - no one will ever know.
But as Ritchie collapsed to join the other bodies littering the barn floor,
Debbie stepped forward in what appeared to be a brazen attempt at seduction.
The demon had little or no use for female companionship but only for her flesh and blood -
for with no more than perhaps a mere moment's hesitation, the ghoul struck again -
thrusting his blade deep into the misguided girl's chest ...
It would seem that there must be a law written somewhere dictating that a girl must stumble and fall as she seeks to escape her fate.
This is perceived to enhance the hopelessness of her situation or perhaps to make matters somewhat easier for whoever it is that is attempting to overtake her.
Be that as it may, in the present instance it was not a girl who tripped and fell but one of the boys.
And what he had the misfortune to stumble across was a cable that had been installed in recent years in an effort to bind the aged building together.
The ghoul, either in an attempt to prove that he was nothing if not resourceful,
left the machete protruding from Debbie's chest as she lay stretched out on the floor -
and proceeded to use the rough edge of the taut cable to saw it through the back of his male victim's skull ...
It was about at this point that this death dealing creature who Ed Newton had known in life as Lester Lennox,
seemed to recall that he had been a noted woodsman in his time.
As the old farmer had said, Lennox was well-known for his skill in handling an axe
and it was perhaps only natural that following his initial onslaught upon the present unwelcome occupants of the barn,
that he would pause in his rampage to seek out the tool with which he was singularly adept and for which he had been fondly remembered.
He had no great amount of trouble in locating one for the kids had left the small tools
leaning in various corners throughout the barn to serve as additions to the general decor.
And when he found an axe it was Sheba's great misfortune to be standing almost directly in front of it
for it was leaning against one of the studs that lent support to the outter wall of the building.
Sheba backed herself up against the wall where she stood trembling in justifiable terror as Lennox followed her gaze to that which he was seeking.
Grasping the axe in what may have been a kind of jubilation, Lester rewarded Sheba by promptly swinging his recently discovered weapon,
and burying the head of the axe in the girl's forehead ...
It seemed that Lester Lennox hadn't had this much fun in years!
But then, how could he?
This was his first time up!
And after all, he hadn't been an axe murderer at any time during the course of his first life, had he?
Or had he?
Lester couldn't have said with any degree of certainty ...
He was having trouble keeping what remained of his faculties focused and there was so much killing to be done!
But he did seem to recall a rather staid Victorian upbringing ...
Yet another scream came from somewhere to his rear and Lester recovered from his reverie and was back on the job at hand almost immediately.
Whether Lennox possessed the capacity to wonder how this girl could still be screaming ...
now after all that she had witnessed ...
and why an axe murder would upset her more than any of the others ...
we have of course no way of knowing.
Lennox did have prescence of mind enough to locate a knife on the window ledge where one of the crew had left it earlier during the evening.
And in far less time than it takes to relate this incident,
Lennox had driven its blade through the base of Patti's skull ...
and her screaming stopped quite suddenly as she pitched forward with the blade of the knife protruding from her gaping mouth ...
During all the time that Lester Lennox had been been on his rampage,
Mikki had exercised admirable restraint and had known enough to keep her head down and to remain as quiet and unobtrusive as she possibly could.
The wanton slaughter of her friends and fellow classmates had upset her as much as it had anyone of the others,
yet somehow she had managed to remain hidden somewhere just out of sight.
But now, as Lennox wrested the knife from what remained of poor Patti,
Mikki thought she saw her chance to make a break and run for the barn door that still remained canted on its broken hinge, enticingly open.
Mikki almost made it too.
But you all know how, where and how little almost can count so I needn't go over that here.
Within two steps of the opening, Lennox caught up with the girl, and, like the true good sport that he was,
he seized the slender girl by the shoulder, spun her about to face him and proceeded to plunge his knife into her chest in several locations ...
Lester Lennox straightened and stood among the bodies of the dead as they lay strewn about the barn where they had fallen.
The ghoul stood listening for grunts, groans, moans, or any other visible or audible sign of life.
His was not a tormeted soul seeking vengenace for some unrequited wrong.
Nor was he the force fulfilling some ancient curse.
No, Lester Lennox had ever been a practical man.
He had killed in what appeared to be a long pent-up rage simply because he was hungry!
And in his present condition what he hungered for most was flesh ... freshly killed ... still warm and dripping ...
Now that the killing was over, he could get down to what he had really come back here for ...
He bent to the first female he came across and sank his teeth into her throat and tore away a great mouthful ...
Best to slake his thirst first!
He would take his time to savor her breasts later!
He now had all eternity, did he not?
At around the same time that Lester Lennox was raising his fair share of Hell at the barn,
Ed Newton found himself to be playing host, albeit somewhat reluctantly,
to a certain individual who had only recently arrived in this small rural community.
The stranger had a sense of urgency about him - an urgency that he was going to some length to impart to his host.
"But Mr Dispatier!
They seemed like just a bunch of college kids looking for an old place to lend atmosphere to their Halloween party!
What could be more harmless than that?"
"It is not so much the harm they may contrive to do, Mr Newton!
It is the harm that may come to them that concerns me!
Why I can only imagine what may be going on there even as we speak!"
"Well, now that you've come to mention it, I did hear some rather wild yells echoing down across the lots coming from that direction ..."
"There! Do you see?"
"But I laid it to nothing more than the usual shennanigans that go along with building a haunted house - or whatever else it is those kids are up to!"
"And you may well be right, Mr Newton!
I have no way of actually knowing you see!
But let me show you something!
Are you aware of the fact that there is an infestation of bats in your barn?"
"Well now, Mr Dispatier, I don't rightly know what part of the world you hail from -
But around here - bats and old barns just naturally go together like two peas in a pod!"
"Not bats like this one, Mr Newton!"
"Ye Gods and Little Fishes!
What kind of bat is that!?"
"This is a vampire bat, Mr Newton!
And what I am very much afraid of is - that given all of the proper conditions - that bat -
which looks fiendish enough in its own right -
may transform inself into something like this!"
"My God and My Heaven! Are you sure of all this?"
"Well to be entirely truthful, Mr Newton, God, as we think of Him has absolutely nothing to do with any part of this!
But in answer to your question ...
No - to be perfectly honest -
Most of this is pure conjecture on my part ...
But based on my previous experience ..."
"And what experience may that be, Mr Dispatier?"
"What I fear, Mr Newton is that if left unchecked, the spread of vampirism can quite predictably lead to scenes such as this!
"Good Lord! Mr Dispatier! You say that this is a part of your past experience?"
"Regrettably, yes ...
Mr Newton, I came to your town not entirely of my own volition but because I was sent by a higher authority.
I posed as a custodian at the college and I obtained both a generator to provide electricity and a truck to transport props and equipment
for those fraternity brothers and their girlfriends.
However - it was you, sir, who provided them with the key which granted them access to that barn in the first place.
We then, are the only men under creation who have any idea that those kids are out there tonight or what it is that may be happening to them!"
Mr Newton, you may not know me - but in certain other circles I am known as the Dispatch Rider
and I am here tonight because I need your help!
Come with me now so that we can put an end to this thing before it escalates any farther than it has!"
"You mean to say, Before It Becomes Too Late!"
"Yes, sir, I do!"
"I'll be right with you!
Just let me get my hat!"
The two men climbed into Ed's old Powerwagon.
Ed Newton drove while Mr Dispatier took the opportunity to check the load in the rifle he carried.
"I hope tuh God yuh won't be needin' that!"
Ed nodded indicating the gun as his passenger stowed it away in the rack behind the seat of the truck.
"So do I, Mr Newton ...
So do I ..."
The truck rattled and bumped along.
Ed didn't bother going out and around on the local roads -
but went directly toward the barn using the old access road that passed through the swamp to the arable land that lay beyond.
They made fine time - but of course - even had they started out hours before - they still would have been far and away too late ...
What's happened here?"
Ed got out of his truck in short order for a man who was over eighty years old.
His passenger was right behind him - having paused only long enough to retrieve the rifle from behind the seat of Ed's Powerwagon.
"It looks to be what I was afraid of, Mr Newton!
A bit different perhaps - but amounting to much the same thing, I fear!"
Ed Newton stooped to check for any sign of life
but it was painfully obvious to him that there was nothing that either of them could do for the girl
who remained in a half-seated position with the axe cleaving her skull where Lester had left it.
It was absolutely still - as though death hung in the air and did not wish to be disturbed.
The men made their cautious way through the broken door and on into the interior of the barn.
There what was to become a common scene awaited them ...
"But who could have done this?!"
Ed Newton had lived a good many years and he had thought that he had seen it all in his time -
but he'd never witnessed anything even remotely like this!
"I have no idea who, Mr Newton - but I have more than a fair idea what!"
Lester had not yet eaten his fill and he was in no proper mood to be disturbed!
What is it?" Ed Newton found that he was nearly speechless.
"That, Mr Newton is an undead thing!
Either a ghoul or possibly a zombie!
They are much the same sort of thing!"
"My God! That looks like ...! It is!"
"Who? Mr Newton! Who?!"
"It's Lester Lennox!"
"It's crucial to know their names, Mr Newton!"
"In the Name of God! Dispatier!
How close do you want him?
The rifle cracked and at a range a close as this the bullet tore away a full half of the glowering face that was almost upon them ...
Ed Newton was never completely certain which revolted him more ...
the first shot that had reduced what had been the diabolical visage of Lester Lennox to a rotting loathesome mass ...
or the second which caused the remnant to explode completely ...
"Is it over now, Mr Dispatier?" Ed Newton heard himself ask in a small voice.
"Yes, for all intents and purposes, Mr Newton ...
Yes it is ... except for straightening things up a bit.
You may wait for me in the truck, if you prefer?
I shouldn't be very long here in what I must do ..."
"I've seen it through this far ...
So I guess that I may just as well hang in to the bitter end!
If you don't mind, Mr Dispatier?"
"Not at all, Mr Newton!
But be forewarned that what it is that I must attend to is not altogether pleasant!"
"Is any of this plesant, Mr Dispatier?"
"No - I suppose that it is not ..."
I've got to ask!
I knew Lester Lennox, you see!
And, as God is my witness, he was not an evil man!
What could have happened?!"
"No one knows for certain, Mr Newton ...
But you know of course that it has been written that the Devil stalks about seeking those which he can devour ..."
"Yes, but ..."
"I am afraid that is all that I can offer you as an explanation, Mr Newton, for in truth it is all that I know myself ...
You make take comfort in one thing though, however small it may seem to be ..."
"What's that, Mr Dispatier?"
"Lester Lennox was granted his release because you were here and able to call to him by name!
Never again will he be called upon to rise from the dead until the Day of Judgement for us all!"
"Is that such a good thing, Mr Dispatier?"
"Absolutely, Mr Newton!
For in the case of these other poor souls we can only do what we think is right ...
But whether they are granted absolution or not ...
We can never know ...
Not in this life at least!"
At the sound of a low growling, Dispatier hurriedly interrupted himself ...
Watch me if you will!"
And so saying, Dispatier moved quickly to the side of the corpse of the girl from which the growl had emanated ...
seized her by the shoulders lifting her bodily ...
and gave her head a quick snap which promptly broke her neck ...
And as if that were not quite enough, he then promptly rolled the corpse over on her back,
retrieved the machete from the Lord only knew where, and with one hand placed on her chest to steady himself -
he sawed dilligently upon her throat severing the head ...
Ed Newton regarded him for a moment then looked away and swallowed audibly.
"I know that what I do may seem barbaric, Mr Newton ..."
"You did all but wave her head aloft, Dispatier!"
"I'm sorry ...
You may perhaps not believe that but truly I am ...
At the same time it remains the only way available to man to rid us of the undead when they take this form!"
"You mean to say that there are others?"
"Vampires ... which I suspected was more apt to be the problem -
may be killed with a wooden stake thrust through their hearts, Mr Newton.
It is perhaps a somewhat more picturesque technique when the vampire happens to be female ...
But there is always a certain element of risk involved ...
For were the stake to either miss the heart or become inadvertently dislodged ...
then the vampire is able to regenerate itself rather quickly!
But once they are decapitated ..."
"Then that puts an end to them!
Am I correct, Mr Dispatier?"
Now if you will join me?
We have to inspect the rest of the barn before we can remove these remains from the building ..."
The two men climbed the stairs leading to the upper floor of the barn which traditionally was the hayloft
but of latter years had been given over to what Ed Newton referred to as dead storage ...
Items for which the farmer had no particular use - yet somehow seemed too good to simply discard entirely ...
Ed doubted very much that after tonight he would ever make any such reference again ...
"They don't look like they ever knew what hit them!" Ed Newton said wonderingly.
"It's well that they did not, Mr Newton! What is perhaps more of a blessing is that aside from being dead - they appear to be otherwise unmolested..."
"Unmolested, Mr Dispatier?
Why they've been murdered!"
"With the machete I used down below or so it would seem, yes.
It could have been worse, Mr Newton!
Apparently the ghoul did not stop to eat any part of them.
The bite of the undead is what spreads its noxious venom to its victims - forcing them to rise to join the ranks of the undead as well!"
"One ghoul could make an entire army of undead zombies?"
"Lester always did go about things in an orderly fashion - if you know what I mean!"
The men left the two girls as they were for the moment and moved to another area of the barn ...
"Good Lord! She's still holding a wine glass!" Ed Newton exclaimed.
"Yes ... and now we must exercise considerably more caution that we did with that other pair!
The way she remains frozen in that position coupled with the prodigious amount of blood makes me think that perhaps ... ?"
But much to Ed Newton's everlasting relief they found that the dead girl was in no way playin' possum as Dispachier had at first suspected.
For when given only the slightest push, she promptly toppled to one side and the wine glass shattered as it fell to floor.
And so, to the farmer's everlasting relief, they came to the body of a girl who proved to be the last victim of the attack.
She too had been thrust through with the machete but as with the others - there was no indication that she had been bitten.
"It's quite unusual," Mr Dispatier observed in his dispassionate way.
"Generally ghouls are such greedy creatures that they stop to feed upon a kill almost immediately ...
This Lennox fellow retained a certain method to his madness ...
It would seem to explode some of the more popular myths which may indeed be misconceptions after all ..."
"What are we ta do now, Mr Dispatier?" The farmer was anxious to make an end to the present situation.
"Mr Newton, I think it best that you mend that barn door while I straighten matters here in the barn ..."
"I can do that easily enough! What are you gonna do with the kids here?"
"Wrap them in body bags and take them away in the truck as I came here to do in the first instance, Mr Newton ..."
"Do ya mean ta tell me that you knew this was gonna happen!"
"Or something very much like it, yes ..."
"And yet you stood by and did nothing whatever to prevent it?"
"There was a time when I tried, Mr Newton ... Believe me!"
The two men didn't converse much after that.
It seemed that each preferred to remain alone with his thoughts and neither had much of anything to say.
Dispatier handed the farmer a screwdriver from the toolbox in his truck -
Ed Newton found some wood screws in a coffee can amongst the stuff the kids had removed from the barn and stored in the back of the truck -
And while Ed set the door in place and repositioned the hinges -
Mr Dispatier wrapped the bodies -
and backed the truck around to the barn where they both worked to unload the items in truck and put them back in the barn.
When all was said and done the Dispatch Rider climbed aboard his rented truck and rolled down the window as he sat behind the sterring wheel.
He produced an ignition key from his pocket and proceeded to crank the engine.
"A casual observer would be hard-pressed to know that anything happened here tonight, wouldn't they, Mr Dispatier?"
Ed Newton broke the silence that had fallen between them.
"I might suggest that as you head home tonight, Mr Newton, that you do your level best to forget that anything like this ever occurred ..."
"That's somethin' I'd like tuh do, Mister!
But believe me!
It's gonna be easier said than done!"
"I believe you, Mr Newton!
Well, I'd best be on my way!
Do you see that sunset behind your barn?
Peaceful, isn't it?"
"At the time, I had to agree with him that it was ...
But ever after when I see that glow in the sky I can't help but wonder ...
Is it a promise of a better day tomorrow? Or is it it a sign that all Hell is waitin' ta break loose?"
"Now ta tell ya the Saint's Truth - I don't rightly know ...
But this much I'm sure of ...
I was lookin' Death's Messenger right square in the eye - and he and I will meet again one day ...
I can only hope that its under better circumstances!"
"Now you young folks are more'n welcome to make use of that barn - if you'd like ...
But I thought it only fair to let you know what became of the last group to try it ..."
"Unnh - No thanks, Mr Newton!" the leader began, looking about him for someone to deliver a suitable excuse.
It was the little blonde girl who came to his rescue.
"There's no lavatory facilities anywhere near there, Mr Newton!
An' it's hard enough just tuh sit through a football game at the field sometimes!
Yuh know what I mean?"
"Why - I never even thought of that, little gal!" The farmer was forced to admit.
"Now that I've thought it over, I remember that the K of C let us use their hall last time we had a party off-campus!
Maybe we should check them out first!
Wuddaya say, guys?"
"I think that p'raps you've reached a wise decision ..."
The farmer found himself to be in total accord -
But by this time his visitors had all gravitated toward the end of the driveway.
One of them thought to look back ...
"Thanks, Mr Newton! Thank you very much!"
The old farmer raised his hand to wave at the youngsters as they continued up the road in the direction of the local Knights of Columbus hall ...
Then he shook his head and smiled to himself as he hunkered down to continue making adjustments to this tractor.