Wells Astrological Society: Chapter 9

8:12pm 

Under cover of the trees, the flashlight is turned on to let the recorder find their way through the yard. They start on the far end of the yard, where they had entered from, to begin searching the various sheds and outbuildings on the property. With a bit of a shiver, the man reports, “We’ll check out the house last. It’s probably empty, like a lot of place around here, or maybe someone homeless are shacked up in there. And if this place is still getting electricity, I’ll have light when it gets darker.” 

It had been a process, sifting through the last of the videos and deciding where to cut and what to keep. By the end, Lyle had compiled a tape that would only run about sixty minutes but featured every last bit of solid film that should put the original owner behind bars. He had even gone through the trouble of setting up a rough timeline for when the videos were taken based on what could be seen of the house and the outside world, using the seasons as a timetable. If nothing else, it would convey some passage of time from one segment to another. Though most of it was spring and summertime and perhaps one that was late fall, the notion that it wasn’t all one continuous recording needed to be apparent. It was ready to be viewed by law enforcement, and there would be no reason for them to deny him one hour of their time. However, before turning it over, he wanted to assure himself what was on the tape.

What flashed first on the monitor was a standard FBI warning as would precede any commercial tape. There had been enough of them used in the stack, and he had thought it somewhat artful to leave that segment in. It proceeded along the path that Lyle had initially followed when starting down the stack; however, it did not proceed as planned for long. New sections in the tape padded out the run time and shed more light where Lyle would have preferred to be in the dark. Though the first bit of footage, the girl in the backyard, proceeded into the party, there was an addition between it and the entry from the car to the garage.

The frame picked up in a basement that could not have been considered finished by any stretch of the imagination. No concrete had been poured to make a floor. Instead, there was a scattering of gravel and rock covering bare soil. What sat on top of the earth was more damning and in ways beyond what Lyle could have anticipated. There was, shuffled into a loose pile, a collection of fleshy-looking sacks that were draped with clothing. On closer inspection, it was evident that they did not simply look as they did but were exactly what they appeared to be. They were no lifeless sacks but fleshy mounds that still seemed to pulse and breathe. These were people reduced to piles of skin lacking bone but apparently boasting some organs. It was then that Lyle noticed their eyes were hollow sockets, mouths empty in the way of dolls, and where he could see their backs, there were massive slits into emptiness.

He reeled back, wanting to scream, but the video wasn’t stopping even after pressing every key and trying to close the program. What was depicted next was not as morbid but just as damning. The footage moved to a room wherein a crack had developed in the wall and water was pooling on the floor. It was also pushing up through the foundation in spots where the water level had yet to climb. The recorder had set the camera somewhere it wouldn’t get wet, and then after a brief cut, that split in the wall was a massive wedge allowing the basement to begin to flood. Another cut gave the image of the basement half-flooded. The view from the steps showed chest-high water, various effects floating atop, and the vague impression of those limp forms where they had been left to drown. Whoever operated the camera spun away from this now and moved to the entry of the house.

Snow was stuck to the ground in that late March manner, wherein it has a distinctly dirtied color and all the pockmarks of being broken by sun and heat and rainfall. The camera zoomed from behind the screen door onto a marker for home. The numbers three-two-three-zero were stenciled on a reflective road sign that had seen better days. From that vantage, it was clear that not more than a mile down the curve in the road this house sat on, there were others. Around it, however, there could only be seen the field, the road, and a lake beset by low hanging willows across the way. Lyle jotted down the numbers and started picking apart the layout of the area surrounding the house, thinking it might just be the break in his search that he had wanted. But just as soon as he had been given a reprieve and a chance to ascertain some new knowledge, he was spirited away to another bit of film.

He counted his blessing as the radio in the car began to play over the recording. Something he was used to, something he could calm with. The conversation was again different from what he had known the first time around, but that hardly seemed a great terror against all else that had been present. The fact there was footage that had pushed through his editing and was simply there had only just now registered with him. It was beyond impossible, but everything with this situation seemed far from anything that could or should be able to happen, Lyle figured. He had almost entirely neglected the video through the radio portion until he heard the exact four words on repeat from both mouths. Clovis and the caller were remarking back and forth, “Three-two-three-zero.”

There was no flat man again, and the video carried on to the front door of the house; however, this time, the recorder got inside. They searched a wrecked living room that bolstered furniture and décor a decade out of date, even in the nineties. Then the kitchen, cluttered and likely reeking of rot and decay from food left out and the refrigerator left ajar. They checked the basement, and though it was dark, a dense layer of algae was evident on the water’s surface. Lyle wondered if that was the remains of those flesh suits or perhaps just the result of water sitting for who knew how long. Then, as though called, for indeed, some sound echoed through the house, the cameraperson headed upstairs.

Frantically, they searched the rooms before coming to the master bedroom. It was cramped, and stairs were built into the far wall, but that was not the concern once the film focused on the source of the noise just on the far side of the bed. Another man, short beard, black hair, and a Mediterranean complexion, shrieked where he knelt beside the bed. He was in profile, giving far better a shot at seeing what was happening than if he had been facing the camera. His shirt was off, and something was attached to his back, like a backpack made from a black tumor dripping with a viscous, tar-like substance. It took another moment; the recorder didn’t move an inch, likely frozen by fear, before Lyle could conclude precisely what was happening.

Whatever it was attached to the man’s back was not only stuck there, it was penetrating the man. There wasn’t any gore, which was the most disturbing aspect of the scene, the man’s horrid shrieks of pain coming a close second. Even when the majority of the dark wad of phlegmy material had been absorbed into the man, there was no evident hole or rift as there had been on the spines of the skin sacks. It was after it had wholly entered the swarthy man on the far side of the room that the recorder turned tail and ran. A brief cut brought Lyle and the cameraperson back to that familiar scene inside the shed. And this time, with greater clarity, it was evident by those contours of facial muscles and the set of his eyes that this was the man from the bedroom. Lyle let the film roll until it had reached its completion, only to have it followed by a winter scene that was out of place but left there to be intentionally contrasting with the nightmare visions before it.

Christmas, he had to assume it was just the afternoon of that midwinter day with the soothing aura of the following video. He had watched this section hours prior as two young children opened various boxes of clothes and toys. The dog barked happily beside them and nuzzled close when they were finished with the excitement. And as heartwarming as that all was, as much as it underscored the fright of what had come before it, that length of film was nowhere to be found.

Instead, the attic window was in frame with the winter sun casting in a gray light that illuminated only a shaft in the darkness. A lazy snow fell meandering through the trees and in an almost calming fashion past the window, and at times, through it. Overall, the footage was no worse than anything he’d seen, almost calming, but the sensation it gave him, the anticipation of terror to come, was beyond Lyle’s capacity. Finally, when there was a change of tune from the ambient silence to quiet pacing of shoes against wood flooring, he almost shrieked. But the footfalls of an unseen guest in the attic were not the only sounds to come through the recording.

“Yes, yes, yes, finally, you’ve got it all put together. They always do, never turn, never run away like they hearts tell ’em cause they minds want to know. And you come a running after you put it all together,” mumbled that voice. Lyle quaked with a chilling fear at the sound of Clovis Jung on the recording. He moved to turn off the equipment, end the video, and just turn away from it, but he stopped. His finger hovering over the button, he allowed Clovis another moment to bend his ear, “Yeah, you can do it. Turn it off, let me fade back into the static, and you can try and pretend that I don’t exist. You’ll turn down the radio as you drive through my range and forget you know where I am now. Or at least, you gonna say that. You gonna pretend you can do all that. But I know, and maybe you know already, you’re in hook, line, and sinker.”

“This is absolutely unreal. I’m dreaming. This isn’t anything,” Lyle muttered to himself, his finger pressing on the button now.

Clovis came back as though responding to him, “You won’t let your curiosity lie, won’t let the thought of it all die. Cause you can’t stop at just knowing where I is and what I do, you gotta know what I am, why I am. Can’t just stop now, can’t stop with just a voice in the ether, a mosquita buzzing in your ear, even when you know it already. You know that’s all I am in, a sound, a voice, a chirp in the static from outside.”

He didn’t release the button; instead, Lyle forced the video to close and ejected the tape from the equipment. The same four numbers appeared on the covers of the videotape, three-two-three-zero. It hadn’t been there before; Lyle knew it and somehow knew this was the game, a trap. He wouldn’t fall for it, couldn’t even if this all was just some protracted dream. The tape was put in the single clam case shell Lyle had for a master copy of the project. Already he had a note drawn up with a title that instructed that no one should view this tape alone, nor tamper with it, and if found to turn over to the authorities. With that single copy, he deleted the rest. Not only did he remove any digital trace of the videos but gathered up every last one, ripped out the film, dumped them in a garbage bag, and drenched them in kerosene. They would burn, Lyle would see that through to the end, whereas the master tape, with the box of Polaroids, would be set in the lap of Robert Porter or any sheriff given the task. He didn’t want to go through with the final step of his plan, but after leaving a lengthy voicemail on Aaron’s phone, Lyle figured he was prepared enough to take on this last aspect of the project.

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