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"Screw you, Frank..." A shot is fired. How did I get to this point? It all seems so long ago. I stopped in a poedunk town in a ratty motel for the night. The town was quiet, small, and the people were nowhere to be seen, probably because it was night, I suppose. The motel wasn't the best, certainly not the highlight of the town, but it was the only place to stay. I walked to the clerk's desk, with one bag in hand, and rang the bell. There was no one, so I rang it two more times.
"Alright, I'm coming don't worry." Said the man from the back room. "Why Mary, you come here more than..." He stopped when he realized I wasn't Mary. This man was strange, he was big, but had an extremely small left arm and had one eye. His hair was frizzy and had a slight limp in his walk. "Oh, hey stranger, I suppose you're wanting a room for the night." He said with a nervous tone in his voice.
"Umm yeah." I said hesitatingly
"Name?" He asked pulling out a book and pen.
"So what brings you to Keekowatt, Alabama, Mr. Cooper?"
I looked at him confused-like, "Excuse me, did you just say, 'Keekowatt, Alabama'?"
"Yes I did." He said as if it were common knowledge. I've never even heard of Keekowatt before, but then again, I was never familiar with the small towns of Alabama.
"Oh alright," I said, "I'm coming from Mississippi to go to a meeting in Georgia."
"Is that so? And what is it that you do, Mr. Cooper?"
"I'm a PR manager for a banking company." Suddenly, from the back room I heard babbling and unintelligible mumbling. I also heard things falling and glass breaking.
"Is everything alright?" I asked sincerely.
"Oh, that's just my son, Bobby." He leans in, "He's got a bit of a brain problem, just ignore him."
"Oh okay. So Mr...?"
"Nielman. Frank Nielman." He stretched out his arm with his hand open.
"Well it's nice to me you, Mr. Nielman." I said to him shaking his hand firmly.
"Likewise," his tired eye narrowed, "Now please, Mr. Cooper, let me show you to your room." He walked from around the counter and guided me to the door to my left. He opened the door and it let out a loud screech. Inside was a long hallway with green and beige striped wallpaper. It smelled of mold and like a very old house.
"This building is kind of old, eh?" I commented.
"We don't have many people come through here, or at least spend the night, so this motel has just been collecting dust."
We walked down the long hallway until we stopped at a door halfway down. Frank pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the door. The room was very normal, wooden floors, bed, dresser, closet and a window that looked out to the town. The town was bleak; the night sky was cover with clouds, which set a gray ambience among the houses. I could hear the faint whimpering from the house next to the motel. I looked outside, but I saw nothing that I should have been worried about.
"So I guess I'll leave you to rest Mr. Cooper," Frank said.
I turned around, "Alright. Thank you, Mr. Nielman."
"You're welcome." Frank left the room and I decided to snoop around. In the corner was a 90's television set, so I walked over the creaking wooden floor boards and pressed the ON button. Not much to my surprise, all the channels were static, every single one. Seeing how there wasn't going to be any TV watching, I decided to call my wife Jane and see how she was doing with the kids all alone. I took my phone out of my pocket and dialed her number. Unfortunately, the call did not go through. Having nothing to do, I laid in bed trying to go to sleep. I felt a certain discomfort; I felt out of place, I felt like I didn't belong. The feeling a child gets in a room full of adults. Soon I fell asleep and drifted to dreamland.
I woke the next morning. The light streamed in through the window and I felt the warmth upon my face. I pulled the covers back and walked over to my suitcase to get ready to leave. I walked out the motel moments later looking for my car, but it was nowhere to be found. I quickly walked back in the building and rang the counter bell.
"Frank! Frank, you there!?" I shouted to the back room.
"Yes, yes, I'm coming. What is the problem? Why are you yelling?
"Frank, where is my car?" I asked sternly.
"Oh, some hooligan children came during the night and cut some wires, so I had my cousin, Tom, take it to his garage."
"Dammit Frank, I have to be in Georgia by tomorrow night, I don't have time for this."
"Don't worry Mr. Cooper, he'll have it done by tomorrow morning. Go into town and look around."
I sighed, "Ugh, fine."
I walked out the motel, the sun was out and it was extremely hot. The town seemed to be vacant of life, I saw no children of any kind, and just assumed they were inside their houses. I felt a light rumble coming from my stomach and remembered that I haven't eaten in a while. As I walked down the road I noticed a food store with a man sleeping in a chair on a porch. The man had on a flannel shirt, jeans, and big hat. I walked up the wooden stairs and nudged the man on the leg.
"Excuse me, excuse me, sir?" I asked loudly.
The man jerked awake, "Huh, who's there?" The man lifted his head and much to my surprise he had no eyes. It wasn't like there were eye sockets and no eyes, but a large dip in the middle of his face. "Who's there?" The man asked turning his head each and every way.
"I'm Brian Cooper. I'm just here temporarily."
"Oh, I'm Andy Nielman, pleasure to meet you." He said in an unexcited tone. I cocked my head to his introduction.
"Nielman? Are you related to Frank, the motel owner?"
"Oh yes, he's my cousin."
"Oh okay, well, I'm just here to buy a snack."
"Well I'm afraid that won't be possible, son. Ya see our cash register is broken and we don't take credit."
"When will it be fixed?" I asked a little annoyed by all the inconveniences.
"Maybe 'bout tomorrow when my brother comes by and fixes it."
"Okay, well thank you for time."
"No problem Mr. Cooper, you have nice day..." I reluctantly left the store porch, feeling a bit uncomfortable with our formalities. I walked down the dirt road still looking around and exploring within my eyesight. As I looked around I saw businesses and buildings with Nielman posted on them, everywhere I looked was Nielman. On another porch I saw woman not much older than seventeen holding a quadriplegic infant and she herself was missing a hand. Even though I couldn't see them, I felt eyes looking, staring at me, everywhere I went. Them burning in the back of my head and in my heart. I looked around again, trying to see if I could catch the glance of passerby, but there was no one, even the girl with child was gone. I headed for my room, wishing my car would get ready soon, I didn't want to be here anymore, and I didn't think I was only that felt that way. I entered the door to the motel and Frank wasn't there. Out of curiosity I glanced in the back room and I saw the edge of what seemed to be a large, metal cage. My eyes fixed on the cage, I began to hear a low growl and a long, deformed hand grabbed one of the bars on the side of the cage. Startled, I left for my room. When I got in, I lay on my bed and looked toward the ceiling and I slowly drifted in to soft slumber. My dream was silent and blank, but I could feel a certain uncomfortable presence. I couldn't hear it; I couldn't see it, only feel it. Suddenly I was roused from my sleep by three loud knocks on my door. I rose from bed, walked over and opened the door and there stood Frank.
"Mr. Cooper ... you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just woke that's all." I said rubbing my eye a bit. "Do you own all these stores in town, Frank?"
"No I don't, just this motel ..." he paused for a moment. "Well I wanted to ask you if you would join me supper this evening. Ya see, Bobby isn't much company, with his brain problem and all." I looked over to my bedside clock and saw that I had been asleep for a couple hours and it had been in fact evening.
"Sure, I'll join you." I reluctantly replied, hoping that some ill, predetermined fate may have been negated by my acceptance to his invitation. He turned and walked down the hall, I followed. We entered the front lobby and went behind the counter, going to the backroom. The cage was gone; probably moved to another part of the motel. I smelled baked chicken, mashed potatoes and peas. The room was rather small with a kitchen table in the middle and a stove and oven off to the side.
"Please sit Mr. Cooper, I'll fix you your plate." Frank told me. I sat down getting myself situated. Frank sat a plate of food in front of me and I started to eat, trying to hide my extreme hunger. "Would you like something to drink?" He asked.
"Yes please," He picked up a glass and poured me what seemed to be an alcoholic drink and placed it by my plate. He made a plate for himself and sat at the other end of the table.
"So, you enjoying your stay Mr. Cooper?"
"Yes I am." I replied lying through my teeth. I reached for my glass and drank, mainly focused on my hunger. Frank was surprisingly silent so I continued to eat and drink. I noticed that every time I had a gulp of my alcohol the more my vision was blurred and was feeling drowsy until finally everything went blank.
My eyes opened slowly and I looked around, not familiar with where I was. My head felt groggy and I was dazed and confused. I was sitting on the floor, propped up against the wall. My hands felt sort wet and I could feel a weight on my legs. I looked down and saw a most gruesome sight. It was what seemed to be a woman; her chest was ripped open, revealing her organs. Her eyes were brutal gouged and her jaw broken. I vomited at the sight of her, tears filling the corners of my eyes. I brought my hands up to my face to wipe my mouth and saw that they were covered in blood. Incredible fear filled my heart and I was paralyzed. I looked around desperately hoping to find an answer. The room I was in was a bedroom, most likely the dead woman's room. Things were broken which indicated a struggle, but I didn't remember any of it, it was all blank memory. Suddenly, violent banging came from behind the door and someone shouted, "I know you in there!" I quickly looked around and saw a window. I picked up a flashlight that was sitting on a dresser, opened the window and climbed out. I peered around to the front of the house and saw a mob of deformed, frightful people. I slowly walked in the other direction towards the motel. I cracked a stick and I heard from behind me:
"There he is!!!" I turned around to see them running for me. I quickly ran for the motel with all my might, hoping to maybe barricade myself inside and find a way to escape. I finally reached the motel and rushed inside. I closed the door behind me and saw Frank standing in the middle of the lobby.
"Oh Frank thank God you're here. The people in this town have gone crazy! I don't know what happened, but there's this dead woman and they think I murdered her! I didn't do it I swear!"
"Oh I know you didn't, because I did it." I was mortified.
"What? But why?"
"Mr. Cooper, strangers are not welcome to this town. My ancestors have done well to keep the outside world from poisoning our peaceful town."
"So you framed me?! Why not just tell me to leave?" I could hear the pounding on the door behind me.
"If I just let people leave I could risk having more people come for whatever God forsaken reason."
"That's ridiculous! You're insane!"
"Oh I'm very sane Mr. Cooper and I will protect my fellow Keekowattians, no matter what."
"Protect them from what!?" I asked still not having any understanding as to what was going on.
"From thieves, liars, murders; the world, Mr. Cooper, protect them from the world ..."
"The people ... that's why they're deformed! You've all been inbreeding!" I said as I came to the horrible realization.
"You are a smart one. We are all Nielmans which means you Mr. Cooper are not welcome."
"I won't let you do this!" I yelled hoping to intimidate him.
"Oh, you don't have a choice." Suddenly the door behind me flung revealing the townspeople. Frank grasped me in his arms, keeping me still.
"I got him y'all."
"Kill him!" cried someone from the crowd.
"String him up to a tree!"
"Now, now everyone, we are civilized people and he is gonna in prison just like the rest of the outsiders that come here and bring their problem and filth along." The town people cheer in a victorious uproar. Frank dragged me past the people, I looked up and saw glaring, hateful sockets staring at me. He took me down the dirt road and turned a corner, continuing towards a small building in the distance.
"Where are you taking me dammit? I asked spitefully.
"Your sorry ass is going to the cells."
"I still don't understand Frank, why are you doing this?"
"Mr. Cooper, just as my forefathers, I have seen the outside world. I've seen its shameful and sinful ways and I will do what it takes to protect my family from that."
"You can't possibly block them off from the world forever!"
"I have so far." I suddenly remembered the dead woman.
"Who was the girl Frank? The dead one."
"That was Mary, she's one of us. She had to be sacrificed, in order to protect everyone else, she had to be sacrificed." After that was said, after I heard the hypocrisy leave his lips I felt an overwhelming anger build up inside me. In a spontaneous exertion of strength I flung my elbow back into his face, causing Frank to hit the ground with a loud thud. I quickly got to my feet and ran for the motel to get my things and get the hell out of here. As I approached the building I decided to go through the back door seeing how the townies might still be up front. I stop and leaned on the screen door trying to catch my breath. I looked around and found myself in the dining room again. Also I found the cage, I walked over, hoping that nothing was in there or at least nothing that would try to kill me. I knelt down and looked inside and saw a small boy, Bobby, with an unexplainable deformed face. He didn't seem belligerent or angry, but afraid. He reached out his hand and started carving something in the floor of the cage. When he finished, it read
"Please don't hurt me."
"I'm not gonna hurt you, I just want to get out of here, you don't have to worry." I assured him. He began to carve something again.
"Will you take me with you?" Without hesitation I reached in and lifted the child and put him on my back. I could sense his fear; it was the same I had earlier, I could also sense in him that he knew this place was bad and that he needed to get out. I start to open all the cabinets in the dining room. I came to a broom closet and there stood a shotgun, I picked it up and checked for bullets. There were some inside, I checked the shelf at the top of the closet and found more and put them in my pocket. I looked into another and found my car keys. I looked around quickly and picked up a bottle of beer of the refrigerator and matches. I ripped my shirt, poured out some beer and stuffed the cloth inside. Suddenly I heard Frank's voice amplified over speakers.
"The intruder has escaped, I repeat the intruder has escaped!" I didn't have much time, I had to get out quickly and it wouldn't be easy with Bobby on my back. Suddenly I remembered that Frank took my car to the shop so my best shot was to go there. As I made my way back out into the town, I tried to figure out how could someone do this? How could someone claim to protect their family, but kill one of his own for someone he doesn't even know? My mind told me not to try to comprehend the irrational mind of a madman or else you'll go mad yourself.
I walked closely along the walls of the different buildings in the town, trying not to draw any attention to myself. Then, in the distance I saw the townspeople crowded around Frank, who was probably spewing more of his lies. I needed a distraction, and at that moment I remembered the bomb, made out of the beer bottle, that I made. I set Bobby down.
"Be quiet alright?" He nodded his head and took a step back. With beer bottle in hand, I struck a match and lit the cloth. I quickly chose a target, a house that was seemingly empty house, and flung it with great force. The explosion was large and noticeable; the crowd rushed over to the house leaving the path for me and Bobby clear to proceed. We finally got to the garage, and much to my joy, my car was there. As I examined it, I noticed that it was chained down. Dammit, I was out of ideas.
"Mr. Cooper I know you're in there and that you have my son. Come out now or I'll have to come in myself." I heard from Frank outside. The distraction didn't last long and I didn't know what to do. The only thing I had left was the shotgun and I was damn sure going to use it. I got the gun ready, I got myself ready. I told Bobby to stay behind me. I faced the door, pointing the gun towards it. This was my last chance of getting out alive, I couldn't blow it. I kicked open the door and there stood Frank, unarmed, with the townspeople behind him. I slowly walked towards him.
"Now Mr. Cooper, we both know you don't have the guts to pull that there trigger."
"Like hell I do," I hissed at him. I edged closer to him and noticed that he had a pistol tucked in his back pocket. I focused back on him. He started moving his arm towards his back.
"Let's just calm down--" I hit him with the butt of the shotgun in the face before he could get to his gun. Frank fell to the ground and I quickly took the gun and threw it behind me. I pointed my gun back at Frank.
"I am so sick of your shit, Frank. And after I kill you, I'm telling everyone how you've been tricking them and manipulating them." I was ready. I was so ready to watch him die, to know that his plans had failed, that I wasn't going to end like the rest of them. He was never going to hurt anyone again. I took my aim and put my finger around the trigger.
"Screw you, Frank ..." A shot is fired. I feel cold. My mind is groggy, I can't focus on anything. I feel an excruciating pain in my leg. It takes me a second to realize I am on the ground. I open my eyes and see Frank, and then a small figure walk towards him, Bobby, with pistol in hand.
"But, but, but ... Bobby how could you? You little bastard! How could you!?" I scream with overwhelming anger. Frank gets a little closer to me.
"You see, Mr. Cooper, everyone plays a role, and Bobby? Well he's a tricky one, he may even carry on the family legacy." Bobby hands Frank the pistol. Tears come to my eyes, I pray for help and ask myself why, why did this have to happen to me? I'm finished, it's no use. Frank points the gun at my head with his son at his side.
"Goodbye Mr. Cooper."
A shot is fired.
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