A Promise – A Fiction

I think this was inspired by a writer’s prompt, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where the prompt came from.  In any case, it’s a little bit of nothing that I kinda like.  Thus so it might have some life, I’ve put it here.


He ran.

He ran with all the strength he could muster towards the horizon. Already he had fallen once, scraped his face, his hands, his arms. Already he had to stop, to catch his breath, to pray for a second wind. Now there was a stagger in his step, suggesting another fall, another stop. He knew this—how could he not?—but it doesn’t matter. In fact, if anything it made him run all the harder. He had to reach the sea before it happened. He had to, had to, had to.

His course took him alongside a four lane city street, never mind which city, never mind just where. Cars, trucks, and vans raced past him at a frightening rate. Not a one pause, despite his clear and frantic face.

Not a one headed in the same direction as he did. Only he headed towards the horizon.

The day around him could have been spring, it could have been winter. It didn’t matter. He burned. Every iota of his being burned. He was beyond pain now, beyond any agony he had ever known in his long, long life. His body was flame, and inferno, and he burned on and on as he ran.

Up ahead waited a final green hill. Over it was the beach, the sea. Seeing it sent a surge of hope through him.

The same moment his foot caught a crack in the pavement. Or perhaps a phantom leg struck out for one cruel final jest. Whichever, he staggered forward, almost caught himself, but found his legs too weak, too rubbery. Down he went. Concrete scraped through his jeans to his knees, then across his face. At once he struggled to get up, to start running again. None of his limbs wanted to help him; he cursed them and made them do what he wanted.

As he got to his feet, the Voice spoke once again. Still it sounded neither male nor female, and still it said the same five words: A promise is a promise.

“Cheater.” That came out as a croak. He swallowed, then screamed, “Cheater! You put water in the gas tank! Didn’t you? Didn’t you? I’d have been there by now otherwise and you know it!

The Voice didn’t even acknowledge the accusation. A promise is a promise.

He was on his feet. Staggered. Walked. Ran. Tears streaked his face as he went up the hill. For two thousand years he had kept the covenant. For two thousand years he had done everything asked of him. He had watched the world he knew fade to half forgotten history. He had watched his children grow old and die, as well as their children after that and their children after that, on and on. So much suffering, so much hardship, and without complaint.

He was due a little leeway. A little consideration.

He was due.

He crested the top of the hill, only to stagger to a stop again. Below him, after a brief spate of green grass, was the beach. Cluttered with towels and folding chairs and umbrellas, but absolutely empty of people. Some sandals scatter about, most heading towards one parking lot or another, but no people in them. They had long gone.

As had the sea.

For the beach didn’t meet the water. Instead, it met with what the water hid. The brackish sediment. On top of this flopped a few still living fish, but most were dead.

All of this stretched out before him for miles.

In the distance, at the very horizon, was a line of midnight blue and foamy white. It moved out there. Perhaps away, but more likely not.

An instant was all it took to take this in. Then he screamed wordlessly and began to run once more.

His ankle twisted when he hit the beach. The sediment sucked at his shoes, then at his shins, then at his knees. It didn’t stop him. Nothing would stop him. He would uphold the covenant even if that covenant was now broken and useless. If that was all he could do then he would do it.

There was one other thing, though, he could do. He glanced at the watch on his wrist. He glance at his watch and he saw.

And he screamed at the uncaring horizon, “Damn you, I would have made it if you hadn’t moved the water! Do you hear me? I WOULD HAVE MADE IT!

A promise, the Voice said, is a promise.

The blue and white at the horizon began to grow. It would grow and grow until it towered over him, roaring, blotting out sight and sound. And still he would head towards it as best he could, screaming.

It was all he could do.

* * *

The waters of the oceans pulled away from the coast. Not just one coast, but all coasts. Not just one continent but all continents. Even the inland seas and lakes. Even there.

The waters pulled back, then raced forward with incredible speed. The great Wave smashed into the land, crushing all it came across. The righteous and the corrupt, it didn’t matter. The Wave didn’t care.

When it reached its full length, it pulled back. Back beyond it’s normal boundaries, back to its outer limits. Then it came racing forward and slammed into the land again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

For after all, a promise is a promise.

A Sample of My Thought Process or Lack There Of

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times?  Wow, that’s an intriguing name for a Horror Flick, to say the least.  Might wanna check that out.  Who directed it?

Emilio Miraglia.  Huh.  That’s the guy who did The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave.  A movie I hated.

So do I want to watch another flick by him.  Hmm.  Let me consid–

No.

No.

No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no Tippi Hedren at the end of The Birds no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no

 

Well maybe.

Saint Here, Look Elsewhere

The mind’s a funny thing.

There are some things I’ve watched a million or so times as a kid, I can’t tell you a thing about them, save that I watched them.

Take the Smurfs.  Every Saturday I was right in front of the television, watching their latest antics.  Fanatically.  Even in rerun.  Today, I could tell you the plot of one, maybe two storylines.  Mainly because they sprung directly from Peyo and I’d read the comics.

Then it goes the other way: stuff I’ve seen only once and I can give you, if not the whole story, then enough to give you the gist.

Couple of examples, neither quite fair, as I hunted most of the stories they were based on down as an adult.  First there’s Afterwards, an episode of the tv series Mystery (kind of, sort of).   I knew more or less beginning, middle and end for years.  Decades.  Only saw the show the one time.

Perhaps more impressive, there was this episode of the Horror anthology Dark Room. It had three stories and I could have told you about each one of them.  The last one, an adaptation of Robert Bloch’s Catnip, caused me to hesitate looking under beds for weeks afterwards.

Okay, I fib.  I still don’t like looking under beds.

I’m sure the reason these stories stuck in my mind and so many others didn’t is the Horror aspect.  For instance, I can tell you right where I was standing when I saw the ending of John Carpenter’s The Fog.  The family was over at a friend’s house, it was time to go.  I was on the stairs between the living room and the house’s foyer, scared out of my mind.   Burned right into the grey matter.

Now why do I bring this up?

For years, there’s been this scene from an episode of St. Elsewhere that I couldn’t forget.

St. Elsewhere, for those not in the know, isn’t exactly a Horror show.  It’s a hospital drama.

But I remember where I was when I watched it.  Upstairs at my aunt’s house.  It might even have been the first run of the episode.

I remember certain details from the story, like an obnoxious doctor making rude comments about a sleeping patient and the patient remembering them on waking.  Then there was this Z. Z. Top dream (I think my fondness for the band stems from this episode.)

And I remember this curly-haired doctor having a nightmare.

For the most part, the nightmare excepted, it couldn’t even remotely be considered scary.

Yet that one scene, the second to last scene in the episode (which no doubt helped stick in there) I remembered as being damn scary.  Curly Hair has his dream one last time.  He forces himself into this room he found so terrifying and has a confrontation with someone he knows. At the end, for some reason this someone ends up appearing in a ski mask.

I know.  You’re sterilized with fear from that description.  Me too.

Last night it sort of popped up in my thoughts, and I said to myself, “Self, the internet is a wonderland of information.  Let us seek out this episode and find out just what it was that made that scene so memorable to you.”

Know what I found?

It’s damn hard to find out any information about St. Elsewhere. 

You can have the finale episode’s ending spoiled for you nine ways to Sunday.  You can have the various connections to the various TV shows pointed out to you.  But actual information on a given episode?  You’re on your own.

Hulu actually has the show, but only first season.  This episode?  Wasn’t first season.

Problematic.

Yet I persevered.  I discovered the name of the episode (“Sweet Dreams”) and a host of other information, such as the guy Curly Hair talks to at the end was a recurring character who turned out to be (or might have been, it’s not very clear) a Ski Mask wearing rapist.  Which gives context to what I was seeing.

Which I wouldn’t have had at the time.

As I didn’t watch a lot of St. Elsewhere.

Finally I managed to find the scene in question on YouTube.  Curly Hair (Jack) has a chat with the dead Ski Mask (Peter).  They have a little chat about the Afterlife (which Peter says he can’t discuss) and a little pep talk for Jack, which sounds a bit ominous to my ear.  Maybe it’s just reading up on what happened in the series.

Then it comes.  Jack’s heading out of the room (no doubt beginning to wake up) and he asks the big question: “Who shot you?”

“That’s not important,” Peter says.  “What’s important is that I deserved it.”

The ski mask appears and Peter starts laughing.  And this, I must say, is creepy as hell.

I’m just surprised it was creepy enough to linger for twenty some odd years.

But like I said, the mind’s a funny thing.

I Admit It: Mistakes Were Made

Hey.

Remember almost a week and a half ago, I came on this site to, I dunno, vent my spleen a little?  Maybe summon up some preternatural horrors to plague the uncaring world?  In a playful manner?  Because a movie I wanted to see (called The Babadook) wasn’t playing at my local theaters?

Yeah.

Well.

Today I found a single theater playing it, starting tomorrow.  Ten miles from where I live, but no biggie.

So.

Um.

There’s that.

And, I suppose I really should apologize to [REDACTED] for using the Necronomicon to summon up the Sulien Goat.  Super sorry.  My bad.  I’m sure that those of you who have had your soul eating by that Sort-Of Good Middle Aged One will still have full if sociopathic lives.

In the case of the politicians, I doubt anyone will ever notice.

Heh.

Yeesh.

MY CITY, STATE SUCKS THE BIG ONE!

I have just found out to my absolute horror and disgust, that The Babadook isn’t playing in my city or my state.

It’s playing in other cities and states.    Just not my city, state.

I’ve been waiting FOREVER to see this movie (well, at least since I saw the trailer) and now I find out

I

 

CAN’T

 

SEE

 

IT!

 

Oh, but look here!  I CAN see the movie Ouija.  It’s about trouble connected to idiots using a Ouija board.  I can watch that in this city again and again and again if I so wish.

But I don’t.

Why?

I’ve already SEEN THE FRICKING THING!

Back when it was called freaking

 

WITCHBOARD!!!

AKA

EVERY CRAP

HORROR FLICK IN

THE LATE EIGHTIES

EARLY NINETIES!!!!

Crap teenie bopper horror I get, instead of something of interest.

But I’m not bitter.

Clearly.

I’m not b

Screw this crap, WHERE’S MY NECRONOMICON!!!!!  THIS CRAP WON’T FECKING STAND, BOYO, I’LL BE TELLING YOU THAT FOR DAMN CERTAIN!!!!!

OH EM GEE PART DEUX! Two Reviews Ready to Go!

So with surprising speed I wrapped up a second review.  This one (shockingly enough) is of an actually feature film and not a short.

Imagine the novelty!

All that needs doing is transferring the file over from my word processor to Word Press (a process that has become a pain in my butt), making sure all the links link, the captions caption, and the formatting formatted.

What about proper spelling, grammar, and making sure the review makes sense?  Who cares?  I’m sure somebody else will come along and fix all of that stuff later on.

(Which is true, if you consider Future Cullen to be a separate person from Current Cullen.  Current Cullen certainly hopes this is the case.  If it isn’t, that strongly suggests that neither is Past Cullen, and Past Cullen was a lazy jackanapes.  Current Cullen has been correcting the reviews Past Cullen wrote and the errors HAVE NO END!)

Silliness aside, this coming Friday features the short film The Contraption.  Next Friday will have The Amazing Transparent Man (small spoilers: it ain’t that amazing).  The Friday after that, with any luck at all will also have a review.  Maybe The Cremators, maybe some Slasher flick or another.  Or perhaps another real short film or TV show episode.  Haven’t noodled it out yet.

Memo to Self: The Horror Novel With the Sword You Keep Looking For is “The Search for Joseph Tully”

Search for Joesph Tully 001I don’t understand how my brain works.  I really don’t.

You mention Progeny of the Adder, I can tell you it’s a vampire novel, written around the same time as The Kolchak Tapes (the novel that became Night Stalker.)  Never read it, but I can tell you that.

However, give me a novel I enjoyed, a novel whose ending still haunts me, and I can’t for the life of me tell you its name.

It’s sort of like Afterward.  Except with Afterward, I had an out in it being an episode of PBS’s Mystery.  This I wasn’t so lucky on.

You might notice Mr. Waters being coy with what the book (The Search for Joseph Tully, just like it sez in this post’s title) is about.  Don’t want to give any spoilers.  I just remember it being very good.

And the end sticks with you.

So,  as to remember, here is a reminder for myself.