By Scott Deegan
Tommy stared at his friend and when Phil didn’t go on asked the obvious question. “So, what?”
“You fucking know what!”
“Look Philip, I don’t want to know what you were doing out there. I don’t want to be part of it. I don’t want anything to do with it.” Tommy let his breath out slowly. “But you and I have been friends a long time, you’re more of a brother to me than Eric’s ever been. So if you need help, I guess I’m in. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
“Oh god man, thank you! I’m sorry I’m bringing you into this, but thank you!”
“It’s fine. It’s not, but whatever, let’s get it over with.”
Tommy watched a car pass out on the street as he finished the rest of his beer.
“Whenever your ready.” he said and grabbed his jean jacket off the back of his chair. He started out of the garage but stopped by the door with his hand on the button for the opener. He turned and watched Phil drink the last swallow from his own bottle and set it on the table. Phil produced a crumpled pack of Marlboro reds from his hoodie pocket, tipped it until the smoke started to slide out. He raised it to his mouth and gripped the butt with his lips. When he pulled the pack from his face the cigarette stayed, he lit it as he walked past Tommy to his car. Tommy pressed the button ducked under the descending door and followed.
The farmhouse was thirteen miles north of town on the Rainbow Road. The Connelly Chemical Company operated out there for almost eighteen years before Mrs. Connelly decided she had enough of trying to keep Joseph Connelly sober following the disappearance of the couple’s daughter and filed for divorce. Joseph, who couldn’t stand to lose his wife so soon after losing his daughter, sat himself in the middle of the chemical warehouse with a case of whiskey, lit the whole place on fire and watched it burn, from the inside. The fire burned a multitude of colors due to the chemicals, hence the name, Rainbow Road.
Phil turned past the mailbox reading Connelly in peeling reflective stickers and headed up the driveway. The farm was abandoned now, boarded up and only used for parties by the local youth. Even that activity was few and far between. The place had a reputation and no one really like coming out here anymore. Which made Tommy wonder what the fuck Phil had been up to the last three nights. He figured he was about to find out.
Phil pulled the car alongside the house and killed the engine. He looked out on the grove of trees surrounding the property for a minute before moving his hands away from the steering wheel. Finally he looked at Tommy started to say something but then he stopped and shook his head. His gaze fell to his lap and remained there. When he looked at Tommy again it seemed he had tears on his face. Tommy hadn’t seen Phil’s hand move to the door handle so when the dome light came on he was instantly blinded. It took a second for eyes to adjust, then Tommy opened his door and followed his friend out of the car. When he looked over the roof Phil was lighting another cigarette.
“I’ve been coming out here a lot lately, something’s been bothering me.” He looked at Tommy almost expectantly.
“Bothering you how? What’s been bothering you?” But Tommy felt he knew.
“That night. Leah.”
“Not this again. Look it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t our fault. We were fifteen fucking years old, man? We didn’t know what we were doing, what we were messing with.”
“I know. I know it wasn’t my fau..our fault, I know. That’s not what’s been bothering me. It’s something Leah said. ‘It’s all good, it’s how it was supposed to happen’ remember. You remember her saying that while we were worrying about our fucking selves and she’s lying there dying. It’s all good, it’s how it was supposed to happen. She’s dying from the shit the three of us did and she’s reassuring you and me. Trying to make us feel better.”
Tommy knew Phil was crying now. He could hear it and he could see it. He thought he might join him.
“Trying to fucking make us feel better, I loved her for that and for so much more. Did you know that Tommy, did you know I loved her?”
“We both did, man. We both loved her. And I miss her too.”
“No, I mean I ‘loved her’ loved her. And she loved me. She told me she did. We were going to tell you that night that we were dating. She thought you might get mad or we would have told you before then.”
“Why would I be mad? I was dating Andi. Shit, I knew you two had a thing for each other. Imagine what it would have been like the four of us going out together. Man!”
Phil gave a small laugh and wiped at his eyes. “Yeah, that would have been something.”
“What are we doing out here, Phil?”
“Okay, remember that night. How she was trying to calm us. Do you remember what else she did?”
“That was a long time ago.”
“I can’t. It’s not coming to me.”
“She told us where to hide her body so we wouldn’t get in trouble. You remember that? In the hole behind the warehouse, remember?”
“That’s right, that was her idea. But that doesn’t answer the question. Why are we here now?”
“I loved her. And I kept having dreams about her and lately I think… I think I seen her.”
“Where? No, no you couldn’t have. She’s dead, Philip! We killed her. The three of us. It was an accident, but we killed her.”
“I don’t think we did. I think we helped change her, but I don’t think she died. I think she wanted us to think that. I think her parents wanted us to believe that. But I don’t think she’s dead. She came to my house.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? What do you mean she came to your house? When?”
“About four or five days ago. It was her. She’s changed, but also I don’t think she did. She’s different now than when we knew her seventeen years ago. No, I mean she the same as she’s always been but, I don’t think we ever saw her true form.”
“What? Are you fucking high? I mean I know you’re not, so that means you’re out of your damn mind.”
“Listen, Tommy she’s alive. Her whole family is alive. Her Mom didn’t leave, her Dad didn’t commit suicide. The fire at the warehouse was a cover up.”
“Bullshit! They found his body!”
“Yes they did. He molted out of it. It was just a shell.”
“This is insane.” Tommy said, but Phil held up his hand stopping him from going on.
“Let me finish. Let me get it all out first and then I want to show you something.”
“The Connelly’s can only be out for a couple years at a time, otherwise the people that hunt them, the exterminators will, well, exterminate them. So they shed their bodies and hibernate for seventeen years just like cicadas. Then they come out for two to three years to enjoy life for a while, make some friends, get enough nourishment to hold them over until they can resurface again.” “
They are getting close to returning. Leah is awake, her parents will be waking soon and then they’re going to need to change again. Look different so nobody recognizes them. Want to see?”
“Fuck you. Bullshit. Yeah, I want to see. Fucking bug people my ass.”
Phil led Tommy to the pit that used to be behind the chemical warehouse, an illegal dumping ground for old outdated chemicals and also the Connelly’s household garbage that now also contained scraps of what was left of the burnt warehouse. He moved a few pieces of tin until he came to what looked like a door made from old twigs and mud. Phil knelt and knocked three times, the door opened, and Andi crawled out.
“You fuckers! Where’s the camera, asshole. Very funny.”
Tommy looked at Andi and something went scurrying through her eye. His mind flashed back to when he was about eight or nine and rolled over in his bed to see a cockroach crawling on the inside of the glass of the clock radio on the nightstand. Andi tried to speak but it wasn’t her voice, yet it was. But it was also Leah voice and another that sounded almost alien to Tommy’s ears.
“Andi’s changing getting ready for her coming out party.” the Andi thing said and opened the door. “Meet the family.”
Tommy looked down through the opening to the bottom about six feet below and saw giant beetles trying to hide from the light.
“There’s just bugs down there, I thought you said it was the Connellys in there. What’s going on, Phil? What the fuck is going on?”
It was the Andi thing that spoke. “The Connellys that you knew are down there. The real Connellys, afraid they’re gone. We needed hosts so the Connellys they fed us, clothed us, and gave us shelter. Really took us in, so to speak. Right here.” She reached over and touched his left ear.
“No, no. The fuck is this shit, Phil?”
“I loved her, man. I love her. I helped her parents with the whole thing. I needed her. They said if I can provide the hosts when they come back, Leah and I can be together. I just needed two more after Andi. One more after you.”
Phil shoved Tommy through the door and into the hole. Tommy landed for the most part on his right shoulder and felt it pop. He grabbed it with his left hand as he rolled on the hard dirt. Pain exploding through his upper body. He looked back up through the door just as he felt something started across his face. He moved his eyes to the left and could make out part of a huge beetle crawling from his cheek to the side of his head. As he felt it force it’s bulk into his ear canal the pain was excruciating. He felt flesh rip and his eardrum explode and then the biting began. He felt each bite and the vibrating of the bite was a sound in his head and even though his left ear was ruined, he could hear himself being eaten. He was going to be eaten alive and he was going to have listen to it.
Just as the door was closing on Tommy and the hole was darkening he heard Phil. It was muffled with only having one good ear, his own screaming drowning out everything else, and that fucking chewing, but he heard Phil.
“I wonder if your Mom is home?”
8 thoughts on “#StitchedSaturday 2/2/19 – Scott Deegan”
Nice Scott! Hooked me and pulled me in for the ride. Cool premise.
Fantastic story! Plenty of squeamishness packed into the end of this short read.
Awesome story! Great, quick, fun read!
Very impressed!! Great story.
That was such an awesome story. Great twist at the end!
Oooo. Scott! I dig it!
I liked it!
But it also made my ears itch!
Looks good Scott! It is a nice story with some great imagery. I really like how you are quickly developing characters by showing us their interactions rather than exposition, especially in such a short story!