Previously on Dovecraft High: Home of the Orcas (AND AN UNDEAD AXE MURDERER):
“Shit!” I yelled at Darnelle, who had closed the door. I found myself irrationally angry as if I had been watching a movie I wanted to know the ending to and Darnelle had turned off the TV.
“Don’t yell so loud, man,” Darnelle said, cupping his hands over his ears, “my head is fucking pounding.”
“Well if ain’t the two loverboys!” Wyatt yelled from behind us, “Whatch ya’ll doing back so soon?”
I turned to see him grinning at us and I desperately wanted to cut off his ponytail and strangle him with it.
“Well,” I said, trying to maintain my composure, “we’re back so soon because the guy who was driving us, Charles, got an axe through his head. You know Charles, right? Your once living, breathing co-worker.”
“Well shit, how about that! Ol’ Charlie done in by an axe. I woulda thought some troll with a big ass hammer woulda got him!” Wyatt then slapped his knee and gave another loud laugh.
“DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF THIS SITUATION, YOU SOUTHERN FUCK.”
Darnelle woozily wobbled in place a bit and went, “Shit, I need to sit down.”
Darnelle teetered over to a seat around the table and I looked back at the door we came through. I was antsy to get that 2nd door barricaded but I didn’t want to trap Lauren outside. And and I didn’t know where Matt was either, so that made me even more hesitate to block the last entry point into the brickhouse.
There was also the good chance that Sackface, who had shown every sign of having supernatural abilities and superhuman strength, wouldn’t give two shits about “barricades” and smash his way in regardless of what I stuck in front of the door.
“Damn, Darnelle, what do we do? Should we block the door? I just don’t want to leave Lauren and Matt out there.”
I got no response so I looked over to see Darnelle at the table with his head down, snoring loudly. I ran over and punched him in the ribs to wake him up.
“Shit!” he jumped up, grabbing his side, “trying to give me broken ribs with my fucking concussion, man?”
“Sorry!” I shouted, panicking, “Come on man, it’s not healthy to sleep after a hit to the head! Well, actually, there’s some debate about it between doctors, some say it is better to give the brain rest and sleep right after a hit to the head but some contend that, well, now’s not the time to talk about it!”
Darnelle wearily nodded and said, “Agreed. Now, what the fuck are we gonna do? That thing is still out there.” Darnelle’s eyes then widened and he said, “Oh, damn, Lauren was out there too, wasn’t she? I didn’t imagine that, right?”
I gave a mournful nod as Wyatt said, “Oh no, now Lauren’s out there with the monster! Who will help us now!” He laughed and snorted and I chose to ignore him.
I put my ear to the door to try and see if I could hear whether or not Sackface was still destroying Lauren’s car. It was eerily silent, no sound of Lauren’s car being diced like a a hunk of cheese. I considered cracking the door open and peeking out. I took a deep breath and slowly twisted the doorknob and cautiously pushed the door forward.
Suddenly, I felt myself thrust forward, my hand still clutching the doorknob. I gasped and tried to catch my footing as I fell headfirst through the threshold and into a nice, cushioned landing spot. It didn’t take long to realize that my face wasn’t on a conveniently placed pillow or pile of marshmallows, but Lauren’s boobs.
“Oh, honey,” she said sheepishly, “I’m flattered, but you’re as old as my son and it just wouldn’t feel right.”
I brought my face out of her cleavage, looked at her, and, surprising even myself, gave her a gigantic hug.
“You saved our lives,” I said.
“Oh, hon, it was nothing,” she answered, “when I saw you and Darny in danger, I knew that the good Lord would protect me and that I just had to save you kids. Just pay it forward.”
I made a mental note that the next time I saw someone in danger of being killed by some undead monster that I would indeed pay it forward and save them too.
“Shit!” I said, releasing Lauren, and peering outside to look at her car, “Where’s Sackface?”
“Sackface! The big thing trying to kill you and your car! Wait, how did you even escape from him?”
Lauren pulled a small, slightly crumpled picture of her pocket. It was a card containing a painting of Jesus, holding his arms open in a welcoming pose as a blinding light shone above him.
“’Though I walk in the midst of trouble,” she began to quote, “you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand agains the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.’ Psalms 138:7, dear.”
“When that evil thing out there started to chop away at my car, well, I knew I was in a bit of trouble. So I took this off my rearview mirror and started to pray and he didn’t like that, really. He stopped, and I showed him the picture to show who he, who WE all, answer to and that really got him going!”
“Then what happened?”
“He burst into flames and ran through a window back into the main building.”
Lauren put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, gave a warm smile, and said sincerely, “Now, honey, let’s get the fuck out of here.”
She walked by me and headed to her locker in the brick house.
“Boy oh boy,” Wyatt said, “this is turning into a hell of a night! And to think, I was gonna take a sick day! I’d a missed out on all this here entertainment.”
Lauren shook her head.
“Oh, Wyatt dear, I feel bad for you. You’re trying to convince yourself that the evil powers of Satan don’t exist. But I’ve seen it. It’s real. We need to get out of here, honey.”
Wyatt shook his head incredulously. “You all really know how to pull someone’s chain. But sure, keep going, I’m enjoying it!”
While they continued their banter, I looked back outside, sick to my stomach. So whatever Sackface was, he didn’t like God or religious things, apparently. So what did that mean? That all we had to do was quote the Bible around him and hope that he’d spontaneously combust and run away again? Would it really be that easy to defeat him?
And then there was the whole existential dilemma that this development brought and that didn’t make things easier. I leaned against the door, trying to steady myself as my head spun from the insanity of the night.
“Zachary, dear,” I heard Lauren call from her locker as she packed up, “I think it may not be the smartest thing to keep that door open.”
Of course, I thought. I was about to close the door when I suddenly remembered Matt. “Wait,” I said, “Matt isn’t here. Where is he?”
I turned toward to my left and saw Matt walking towards me in the darkness. He, like me, was covered in blood. He walked with a limp and had a broken broom handle in his hand.
“Jesus,” I muttered as he made his way to the door.
“Yes,” Matt nodded, “Jesus is exactly who we need, Zack. Do you have his phone number?”
“I bet Lauren does,” Wyatt said, who had sidled up next to me without my noticing, “so Matt, you’re in this too, huh.”
Matt stared blankly at Wyatt. “In what, Wyatt? Have you not noticed the fucking monster with a huge fucking axe walking around? The one that nearly killed me and killed Katherine?”
I was wondering who Katherine was, but Matt raised his splintered broom handle and I assumed that that’s what he had named his broom. Because why not?
“Poor, poor, Katherine,” Wyatt said.
Matt pushed past me and Wyatt and breathed, “Close that fucking door.” I followed his orders and followed him up the small hallway back into the main room of the brickhouse.
Matt looked around and said, “Where’s Oswald? Charles?”
He looked over at me and I slowly shook my head, like I’ve seen in a couple of movies.
Matt grabbed his head, and hopelessly began to mutter, “Shit, shit, shit.”
Darnelle, who had nodded off again, lifted his head from the table and said, “What’s going on?”
“I dunno,” Matt said, giving a helpless shrug, “I wish I knew. I was just sweeping a room and I hear this thundering going past the door, like a stampede. I thought it was those damn theatre kids again so I came out to yell at them and there’s this…this…THING.”
“Sackface,” I said, in a matter of fact tone.
“Sackface? Yeah, whatever, this thing. Huge, had an axe. He tried to get me with it, but I used Katherine to shield me. She broke apart, sliced again and he nicked me right here.” Matt pointed to his shoulder, revealing a shallow cut underneath a tear in his uniform. “Then, I just ran. I ran and ran until I lost him. I hid in my closet for as long as I could, and I headed over here.”
We were silent for a bit, but it was broken by Wyatt’s clapping.
“Speakin’ of them theatre kids,” Wyatt said, “you may think of joinin’ up with them! You’ve got got some natural talent there, a regular John Wayne!”
“Are you fucking retarded? Matt said, glaring at Wyatt.
“Now, Matthew, dear,” Lauren said softly, “they prefer “mentally disabled.”
“I don’t give a rat’s fuck what they prefer to be called! There is a god damned monster out there and it’s going to fucking kill us all! And Katherine!” Defeated, Matt threw the remains of Katherine across the room and began to sob.
“Oh, hon,” Lauren said. She came over to Matt and patted him on the back, comforting him.
“We’re all gonna die. Just, fucking die.”
“Damn,” Darnelle said, “this is some serious shit.”
“We’re not gonna die, boys,” Laruen said, confidently nodding, “we’re going to pack our stuff up, say a few Our Fathers and head out on that gate.”
I cleared my throat and said, “Actually, the gate’s on fire. I don’t think we can leave through the gate. Because it’s on fire.”
Matt looked up, his eyes blotchy from tears. “Fire? It’s on fire? Then someone across the street will see it, right? And call the fire department?”
“You would think.”
“Or,” Wyatt said, mockingly, “Maybe it’s some sort of magic fire that only we can see and the outside world can’t see shit of it! Then we’re trapped in here for good!”
Despite the fact that was being a smart ass, I actually wouldn’t have been surprised if what he said was true. The gate fire, if it was still burning, would have been going for ten minutes at that point. How had no one called the fire department yet? If some sort of dark magic summoned an axe murderer from the ass crack of Hell, would it really be that unrealistic if the fire acted as some sort of one way mirror? We can see it, but people on the other side couldn’t?
I got that sick feeling in my stomach again and sat down next to Darnelle.
“Well fuck,” Matt said, “we have phones. We can just call the fire department. Or the police. Or the army. Or fucking anything!”
I took out my cell phone and saw that I had a signal. I had expected Sackface to use his supernatural shit to take away our cell phone signals so I was pleasantly surprised to see bars.
“I’ll call,” I said, flipping open the phone. I dialed 911, put the phone to my ear and-
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH THE FIRE IT BURNS SOMEBODY HELP AAAAAAAAAAAAAH GOD SOMEBODY OH FUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO THIS CAN’T BE HOW IT ENDS”
-I had to pull the phone away from my ear as a choir of voices on the other end screamed in agony. The voices were so loud that everybody else could hear them and the color drained from their faces. Well, except from Wyatt, he seemed to be enjoying it. The screams and yells continued and I slowly closed my flip phone.
“Uh. My phone isn’t working.”
Matt took out his phone, which was a fancy iPhone. I saw him key in 911 and he put it on speaker. This time, it wasn’t the screams of a dozen people burning in a fire but rather a low, demonic voice chanting something in Latin.
“Ignium dolere te mentula milibus,” the voice droned menacingly, “Quia morieris tu, et non clamaverunt ad blattam scrotum.”
Matt ended the call and said, “Neither is mine.”
“Anybody else wanna try?” I asked, pretty much rhetorically.
“How much money you sinkin’ into this little charade,” Wyatt asked, still wearing that stupid fucking grin on his face, “because I gotta say, this is some deep shit you got going.”
We were all too exhausted to contend with Wyatt. We simply stood, defeated. There was no way out. I was going to suggest heading to the main building and trying to escape out a window, but that felt pointless. If Sackface chained the front door, ignited the parking lot gate, and tapped our phones to spout crazy demon things, then he wouldn’t forget to rig the windows with some sort of curse.
“Well,” Matt finally said, “I guess we know how Joe lost his leg.”
My eyes widened and I spit out, “What?”
“Joe. The guy whose section you’re covering for.”
“HE LOST HIS FUCKING LEG? THAT’S WHAT HE’S ON WORKMAN’S COMP FOR?”
Matt shrugged. “Technically, he didn’t lose it here. He got a real bad cut in it one day and they amputated it at the hospital. He said it was an accident with a box cutter. I’m starting to think it wasn’t a box cutter.”
“Oh? What gave you that idea?”
“Hey, now,” Matt said, defensively, “no need to get pissed. People get injured on the job, we didn’t ask any questions.”
“A gash large enough to require amputation, and you fall for it being a box cutter? How big a box do you think he was cutting into?”
“Easy there! I’m still your boss.”
“You’re right, sorry,” I said, waving it off, “go ahead and report me to the adminstrators, but make sure you do it before we’re all disemboweled.”
Matt looked like he was going to wind up for a retort, but instead just exhaled deeply and stuffed his face in his hands again. I shook my head, disbelieving at the stupidity around me. No wonder these guys are fucking custodians, I thought, bitterly.
“You know,” Lauren said helpfully, “Joe did get a little strange a few weeks before the accident.
He used to be so outgoing and then he just became so dark and mysterious. I asked him what was the matter and he said something very nasty. I told him I’d pray for him and he just walked away.”
Matt nodded. “Yeah, kind of. I guess I noticed that he wasn’t his normal self. Just assumed he was sick or something.”
“Definitely,” Wyatt added, sarcastically, “he was all strange and murdery looking! I bet it’s gots something to do with that monster out there!”
I looked over at the lockers and saw the one marked with a long strip of masking tape that had ‘Joe’ scrawled on it.
“That his locker?” I asked, gesturing over to it.
“Yeah,” Matt replied, “why?”
“You guys look in there at all? Maybe find some clues?”
“No, not really. We’re kind of big on privacy here, especially with the lockers.”
I walked over to it and saw it had a lock on it.
“Know the combination?” I questioned, looking back at Matt.
Matt shook his head, but said, “We got some bolt cutters though.”
“Willing to break your privacy rule and grab them?”
Matt up and headed towards a tool chest in the corner of the room. He opened it, rifled around it for a bit and pulled out a large pair of bolt cutters. He came over to the lock, opened them up over one of the shackles and snapped it closed. The shackle split apart and Matt tore the lock of the locker. Then, getting ready to do my best Sherlock Holmes impression, I opened the locker.
It wasn’t pretty.
On both the sides of the locker were the skins of four flayed rats.The skins hung onto the sides, their limbs outstretched into the form of an ‘x’. I didn’t know what was keeping the skins attached to the locker, and didn’t care to find out.
From there, I saw that on the back of the locker, there was blood. And lots of it. The blood was, like the threatening shit message I had found in the bathroom a few days earlier, scrawled into a message. In big, red letters the message read:
FROM THE BOWELS OF LATHAM RUSSO. IT IS THERE. HE COMES.
My eyes completed their grisly tour of the locker by looking beneath the message to find an intricately detailed, pale white model of Sackface. It showed him raising his axe high above his head, as if ready to bring it down on an unseen victim. I looked closely to see what the model was made from and immediately jumped back.
“This thing is made of fucking bones,” I said, pointing to the model.
“Bones?” Matt asked, leaning in closer.
“Yes. Tiny. Fucking. Bones.”
Judging by the size of the bones and the rat skins hanging mere inches away from the model, I guessed that the model was made of rat bones.
“I guess Joe didn’t have any pewter on hand to work with,” I said, braving a closer look at it. It was remarkable how much work and attention Joe had put into the model. The rat bones were segmented, chiseled and glued together to create an impressive and disturbing tribute to everyone’s favorite axe murderer. Every scar on Sackface’s body was accounted for as well as every nick on his axe. Even the bulging veins on his penis were lovingly crafted.
“How did you guys not notice him putting this shit into his locker?” I asked.
They all sort of looked at each other (except Wyatt, who was staring at the locker with a dumb grin on his face) and shrugged.
“Joe had been acting weird his last few weeks here, as we said,” Matt explained, “he would disappear into his section and not come back until right when we were about to leave. The thing is, we’re only here for lunch and breaks so he could have easily come back with his little project and stuffed it in here without any of us knowing.”
“He could have come in after his shift too, of course,” Lauren added, “He had keys, he had the code for the alarm for the school. We just don’t know, dear.”
I nodded, accepting their explanation. It was true, he could have easily come in after hours to work on his little passion project. I directed my attention to the message written in blood on the back of the locker.
“So,” I said, gesturing to it, “Who is Latham Russo and why is somebody coming into his bowels?”
“That’s the name of the gym,” Matt informed me.
“Yeah. Well, the gym is named after him. The Latham Russo Gymnasium.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” I said, vaguely remembering seeing that stenciled above gym when I had been back at high school.
“But why the fuck did Joe write that?” Darnelle asked.
I shrugged. I reread the message, rolling over its contents in my heads.
From the bowels of Latham Russo. It is there. He comes.
“What is ‘it’?” I thought aloud.
“Huh?” Matt asked.
“The ‘it’. What is the ‘it’ that’s in Latham Russo? Or, the gym, I assume.”
“Maybe it’s Darth Vader and his pardner Voldymort!” Wyatt exclaimed, followed by a howling laugh and a clap.
“Listen,” I said, trying to get everyone’s attention back, “clearly Joe was troubled in the head.”
“Yeah, straight fucked up,” Darnelle said with a nod.
“Right, straight fucked up. I guess. I can’t help but feel whatever it is that caused him to do this, uhhh, art has something to do with the gym. Maybe something’s there.”
There was a pregnant pause, followed by Matt clearing his throat.
“So, uh,” he began, “you’re saying that whatever caused Joe to flay some rats, hang their skins on that locker and then use their bones to create a tiny figurine of a gigantic axe murderer is in the gym? Like, just chilling there?”
“Are you hinting that we should go check it out?”
“Do you suggest we stay here until Sackface breaks in or we’re forced to eat Wyatt?”
Wyatt chortled and said, “You fellas just try to eat ol’ Wyatt Doone and y’all will see what Texan Justice feels like.”
I couldn’t help but think about how ‘Texan Justice’ sounded like something Wyatt would name his own penis.
Darnelle shook his head.
“Nah, man, fuck that,” he said, “I ain’t leaving this brickhouse. I don’t give a shit, he ain’t found us yet.”
“Darnelle, come on,” I reasoned, “we’ll be trapped in here if does though. If we find out how Sackface is here to begin with and how this fucking batshit insanity started, maybe we can stop him.”
“Dear,” Lauren said, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder, “I don’t think leaving here would be the best decision. We just need to wait it out.”
“Wait it out? What, wait until Sackface gets bored and heads to the bar to grab a few drinks?”
“’A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.’ Proverbs 15:18, honey. We can’t be hot tempered, as the Bible says.”
“I don’t think leaving a tightly confined area with no room for escape when a monster comes to kill us is ‘hot-tempered’. I call it, ‘not wanting to get fucking killed.’”
“I agree with Zack,” Matt said, “I don’t think just staying here is the best idea. That…thing will find us. We need to be proactive here.”
Finally, somebody making sense, I thought.
“Anybody going to ask what I think what we should do?” Wyatt asked with a hopeful grin.
“Unless it involves you jamming your head in a running furnace, no,” I said.
“You’re a funny kid! I think we should head on out to that gymnasium because I can’t wait to see what you guys are going to cook up next!”
“Okay, so that’s three of us who want to head over to the gym. Although, I say we count Wyatt’s vote as half. But still, two and a half vs. two.”
“How about this,” Darnelle said, “you guys head on out to the gym and we hold the fort here. Lauren can throw some holy water or shit around here and recite some Bible verses to protect us.”
Lauren nodded helpfully.
“I could certainly do that,” she offered, “It may be best if some of us stay behind anyway.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “that’s fine. So me, Matt and, God help us, Wyatt will go to the gym. You guys stay here and…uh…try not do die, I guess.”
I turned to Matt and said, “We should probably not go just like this. We need to bring something to protect ourselves.”
I looked around.
“No machine guns around here, huh,” I said, dryly.
“We’ll need to get creative then. Come on, let’s gear up.”
And so we started to look for stuff to help us not die as horribly as possible.