The Lady Mephistopheles, Dean Patrick, horror

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78,100 words

274 pages

 

by Dean Patrick

 

Stephen Paul is a raging alcoholic whose addiction suddenly manifests itself one cold Utah night in the form of a beautiful woman. Terra Drake, at first, seems warm and inviting, but she soon shows him the horrors sheíd beset upon his small town, the murder of his next-door neighbor, the bewitching of his hairstylists, the freakshow the county fair had become, and the damnation of his priest in the new Church of Flies. Sheís in cahoots with another demon, the Hooded Darkness, who stalks him at every turn, and the more he drinks, the more horror he sees and the more he blames them for the misery that has befallen small-town America. As his warnings to citizens and friends go unheeded, he strikes out on his own to defeat this ultimate evil, to save the world before hell itself comes calling.

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ITíS HARD TO SAY WHEN it all started, when the bottom fell out of every facet of normal life in the empty jar called earth, in a small mountain town called Duncan. When the demon woman Terra Drake raced through nice and wicked like, when she tore out the hearts and souls of anyone coming near. When she told me she wanted to live in the real-time rage she called anger management. When neighbors turned into monsters, priests into warlocks, and ghosts rummaged through the night like rat savages in search of something sick to fill their hollow guts. When ghouls roamed the streets with nowhere to go but into the frozen underground to feed on the dead voles and the worms that fed on their carcasses. When carolers sang in chants so vile and filthy all the Christmas lights in town burned bright red until each bulb split apart like a mad boil. When the frightful chill of night seemed to never end, when the vastness of endless ink blasted out across the mountains, faces like spewed flashes of tortured, dying flames...all a blur of furious black gushing through every surrounding like dead tornadoes filled with dead tornado things, all of them swirling in messy, bloody, glorious dead gore that pummeled the deep Winter frosts of an eternity in the making. Only laughing gods did more than howl like wolves that anguished under the moons that splashed its reflection across the void of space to illuminate everything below. I wondered if there was any real meaning to any of it.

But I get ahead of myself.

A few years ago, Iíd heard about Terra Drake on the news, before the pandemic, a strange and terrifying woman who had allegedly killed some rich tech writer out of Houston. Death by sexual insanity. Literally. I resonated with this because Iíd done plenty of technical writing myself, and now, as an editor, I could appreciate what the guy did for a living. I also went back and forth to Houston myself on a regular basis. Work, family. Whatever. Nothing was ever proven about the murder; it was her word against the dead manís. Didnít matter how gruesome the scene. Another rumor claimed sheíd taken the place of another manís wife who transformed into Terra Drake herself, fighting to the death in a bloodbath where the husband faced her in his living room, shotgun in hand, and she fought back with only talons and teeth. So the story went. When police and EMS found him, theyíd said his body looked like some hideous hybrid of a giant metal insect fused together in what was once his human side. Not a soul knew what the hell had caused such a Kafkaesque freakshow, other than a colonoscopy that had gone terribly awry. Drake herself had survived the manís twelve-gauge blast, and sheíd healed to a point where not even a scarís trace remained.

Like I said, just a rumor. Tabloid trash at best.

Then again, maybe the tabloid trash was anything but.

After a few weeks researching all I could find about this fascinating murderess, allegedly so, I found myself in a Covid moment. One of those we were all feeling as 2020 kicked our teeth down our throats, one healthy tooth at a time. I was walking up and down my driveway, shoveling snow, wondering when the virus would actually effect my life. When would it murder someone I knew and loved? Anna, my estranged wife...it had been over a year since Iíd heard a word from her. Maybe she was already dead. Wouldnít have surprised me. Mother or dad? Sibling or friend? My brother, Marion...was he dead or alive? I didnít know because I hadnít called him in years. How would Covid slip its way into my career, which was nearly resurrected from all the decades of ruin Iíd put it through with the ole drink and drug combo?

Covid continued its joyous menace as a political weapon, or medical tragedy; I could take my pick. Folks had begun to care not one shitís whisper, but I wanted to know where itíd been in my life. Why hadnít it reached out to give me a nice warm, ďHello, Steven. Iím here. Are you ready to blow out the candles?Ē

Iíd just landed from another long Houston trip, sitting inches from people wearing masks on a sardine-packed jet with signs everywhere telling us all to stay six feet apart. If this was the worst Covid had for me, then Iíd take it.

Now, being back home at the ranch, in the small town of Duncan, Utah, sacked back in the mountains, made things seem even more the curious as to the hows of Covidís eventual intimacy.

Iíd sent a text message to my next-door neighbor, Stan Smitts. Let him know I was back. Thanked him for watching after the place. Blah, blah. But, it was Covid that answered back; I just didnít expect it.

ďIím in the hospital. Emergency room. Covid positive, but glad youíre back.Ē

Stan was 65 years old, overweight some hundred-plus pounds, maybe six-one, and an alcoholic as fierce as Iíd ever been. In fact, that was the first thing that concerned me.

Heíll certainly go through alcohol withdrawal thatíll surely kill him before the virus does.

Over the next few weeks Iíd texted with him daily, checked on how heíd been holding up, sent him positive messages of hope and cheer.

Holiday seasonís approaching, and Stan canít even suck down a brandy, so he may as well have some digital joy.

Several days before Halloween, maybe it was more like a week, it was already feeling like we were deep into Winterís hollow eyes, but Fall had just begun, when Iíd come back from Houston, an over-nighter, and hadnít even gone inside to unpack and freshen up, because I immediately started throwing down rock salt to keep the walkways clear and shoveling the snow that had already fallen. Thatís when Stanís beastly white 4 x 4 creeped down his massive black-top driveway.

I didnít think he should be driving, but who cares what I think? I set down my shovel, raised my hand in welcome, and watched his truck inch so close to my wood fence that I wondered if heíd ram right through it. Mufflers growled at me. The electric window whirred slowly down. I stepped over the fence to the passenger door to greet him.

When I saw him, I heard Covid ask if I was ready to blow out the candles. Asked me if I was ready for the horrid tale of a Hooded Darkness, his dreadful dance with Terra Drake and their worshipping gang of thieves. I heard the warning of the not-so-distant future, the terror of the demon womanís rape of my town, all of small-town America, my friends, and my own mind that would surely give my tormented halls of loneliness and anguish a good ole horror show, for sure.