Devil’s Hopper, a literary mystery, Chapter 1
In Devil’s Hopper the small New England town west of Boston, Marktree, basically deconstructs after discovering two mummified bodies, a colonist and Indian woman from Colonial times in the early 18th century. The mystery unravels through five characters and their voices. In the opening chapters we hear from the archetypal couple of contemporary Marktree, Lucky and Jewel.
The babies were crying in the woods and staggering like zombies toward Lucky Taylor. Sure it was a dream or at least he hoped it was. Maybe he needed to urinate. Just wake up for God’s sake. But here they came. Naked rubber babies. Burned into grisly dark colors, like bruised souls. The dump back of the Bakerville Toy Factory where he was foreman…well sort of. Still he had responsibilities. He had to do something. This residential community in Marktree, Massachusetts, an old suburban town west of Boston. These were upstanding, hardworking middle class folk. They wouldn’t put up with zombie babies invading their overpriced ranchers and extended capes. What with the inanities of cable TV he knew these babies intended serious harm to living families. Thrown out as defectives by the earlier generations running the Bakerville outfit. And outfit in the gang sense, Lucky meant.
“We know, we know!” the babies cried from the swamp, the wetlands where there was a stand of bamboo, where deer still infiltrated from the thick brush near the town reservoir.
“What do you know?” Lucky yelled back at the end of the paved road fading into the wetlands, squared off by a public garden walk.
He could see their gnarled heads bobbing in the murky light. A phosphorescence violet in aspect befitting their electric natures. This was bad. Real bad. Lucky a middle-aged Anglo-Irish male, with moderate exercise and a few carloads of cigarettes and a tank car of spirits behind him in a life of moderate self-denial…felt a shortness of breath as he advanced toward the babies.
“We know, we know!” the babies chorused.
“What? What do you know?” Lucky cried out and sank to his knees on the mucky ground.
They came right up to him with their bug eyes and their filthy bodies.
“We know everything!” they said and reached forward to feel him up.
That’s when Lucky awoke in a total sweat. His heart pounding, his own eyes bugging into the purple depths of his bedroom.
His long time partner Jewel Hunnecutt was propped up with her finger poking him.
“You’re driving me nuts! You’ve been raving again. You’ll wake up the neighbors.”
Lucky climbed from the bed and in his boxers staggered to the bathroom where he splashed cold water on his face. The night-light was a pirate ship and it seemed to wink with evil rays. There was more than enough light to make him look like a derelict with baggy eyes and a face frightened by age, mortality and hopelessness. This is me, Lucky wondered, and tapped the mirror.
“Oh God,” he moaned and stood wavering over the toilet to relieve his bladder. “I need a vacation. Maybe a new job.”
A voice inside his head, he hoped was the case, said rather smartly: “How you doing, Lucky?”
The room seemed to brighten around him and the toilet. Lucky let his eyes move side to side and then out the open door into the stairwell. There seemed to be someone there. A shadow. His peripheral vision saw an old man, humpbacked, fragile, one step below the landing, bent forward as if to hike himself further up the stairs.
The hair on Lucky’s neck rose and he turned to confront the old man. In the process of whipping about, he peed his final jet around the bathroom floor in a golden arc.
The old man wasn’t there now. But he wasn’t really new. Jewel had picked up on him years before growing up in this house. Her family had an old Yankee great great uncle who spent his final Civil War veteran years in the house. Having survived the horrors of war, Jewel said he just never wanted to admit defeat to death, so he hovered in the stairwell where people came and went.
“Harmless really. Just another piss ant, like most old men,” Jewel had said, her eyebrows arching at Lucky.
“Gimme a break,” Lucky said. “You know too much.”
“You’re all the same,” Jewel said. “You do dangerous things we girls don’t wanna do. You make us laugh. It’s like having a dog…you gotta enjoy the trade-off of cleaning up the mess.”
Lucky wiped up the bathroom and washed up, keeping his eye on the stairs. The pirate ship night-light blurred as he bent over one time too many. I’m gonna stroke out wiping up piss, he thought, a ghost uncle, territorial and a gang of toxic dump babies. This way to Hell…
He stumbled back to bed and tried to ease down onto the Maui Zephyr, a large futon favored by Jewel and her New Age friends. Whatever. Just a good night’s sleep for a change. He unscrewed the cap on his spring water and sipped. The water caught in his throat and began to gag, but he quickly recovered.
“Good grief,” Jewel said from her side, deep in darkness. “You gotta cut back on the margaritas.”
“Oh please,” Lucky said and eased back onto his pillow. Please, Morpheus or whoever was in charge, just a few hours lazy sleep. He had to be at the plant on time for a management meeting…things were going to hell in a hand basket, whatever that meant.
How could those cast off babies know everything…he wondered and felt himself sinking beneath a lily-padded pond of swamp water. He just didn’t care anymore. He’d sink into the mud and be preserved like one of those toxic castaway babies.