::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Fiction: Cattle Mutilations

(Our grand prize winner – our Undead Zombie General -- in the DaRK PaRTY Wicked Scary Short Story Contest is, believe it or not, a loving wife and mother. Tiffany Biles, a Native-American writer from Oklahoma, is married to her high school sweetheart and the mother of two children. She works in advertising to support her unnatural addiction horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Biles has previously been published in the magazine “Thirteen.”

The judges were impressed with Biles simple, yet elegant prose and her ability to mirthfully string along the reader as she sets them up for a twisting tale of horror. Remember – not everything is as it always appears!)

Cattle Mutilations

By Tiffany Biles

There are more cattle in Oklahoma than most peo
ple would think. In fact, in many areas, where the endless pastures of buffalo grass graze the horizon in every direction, a person could drive for hours with cattle, and the occasional red-tail hawk, the only evident life.

Martin Kingsley liked it that way. He hated the city. Not the city itself, of course. He always thought it would be nice to be able to walk to the nearest McDonald’s or Taco Bell whenever he had the urge for a midnight snack. No, it wasn’t the city he hated, it was all the people. People so involved in their own hunger and thirst, pain and pleasure, thoughts and emotions, they charge or loiter through life with a dull glaze in their eyes and a dim wit in their step. That’s why Marty liked the country so much. He could drive for hours and never have to talk to a single human being. He could set his own time and terms for each meeting, catch them at home, away from their human herd, and take what he needed from them.

Martin Kingsley was a vacuum cleaner salesman.

Marty usually tried to hit about three houses a day. If he only made one sale every two days that kept him in food, gasoline, hotels, and the occasional pair of socks or underwear. Everything a man like Marty ever really needed. Other than his art of course…that’s what really drove him in life.

Marty was in southwest Oklahoma, somewhere between Walters and Duncan…on his way to dump coffee grinds onto the carpet of a Mrs. Brocks, a 250 pound mother of five who always had the appearance of melting wax…when he found Clive impaled in a wheat field on what appeared to be the remains of an ancient windmill.

He didn’t know his name was Clive at the time. In fact, he couldn’t even wrap his mind around the idea that the gentleman was impaled until he saw for himself up close and personal. Marty was simply minding his own business, trying his best to avoid the worst of the pot holes, listening to Jerry Reed telling him he still had a long way to go and a short time to get there, when he noticed, not fifty feet off of the road, an upright piece of timber with what appeared to be a man slouched over the top of it. As he slowed the car, eventually coming to a stop on the dirt-red shoulder, he realized that the timber did not end at the man’s stomach, but continued clear through his back, ending in a splintered point, below which the man’s feet and hands dangled nearly four feet off of the ground.

“What the hell,” Marty mumbled as he climbed from behind the wheel of the old Buick, mopping sweat from his pink forehead with a more gray than white handkerchief. He took the cell phone out of his front pocket, figuring he should call the Sheriff before the buzzards started in, and noticed that, like most of rural Oklahoma, he couldn’t even pick up a single bar of signal. He put the phone back, placed his hands on his hips, and pondered on what to do next.

I could just leave,” he thought, “No one around, no harm done. But, how the hell did a man manage to get all the way up there?

The pole, which he then realized must have once been one leg of a windmill based on the abandoned trough not far from it, rose at least eight feet off of the ground. The only way a man could get up there would be to be placed there by someone else who was no longer anywhere to be seen. Marty decided he couldn’t leave until he got a closer look at how this accident had occurred.

Marty was a big man. Actually, those are the words he preferred to use. Marty was in fact a fat man; a pink, bald, short, middle-aged, heart attack waiting to happen, fat man. These qualities did not aid in the short trek down a slight embankment, over a stagnant ravine, up the other side, then over the barbed wire. The walk left him with a torn shirt, wet shoes, out of breath, and only about twenty feet from the car. After the final thirty feet over rock-hard clods of dirt under a scalding 102 degree sun Marty was just about ready to kick himself in the ass when he reached the foot of the pillar.

The stench was already abominable, like any slaughter house in summer, thick with blood, bile, and excrement. Marty looked up, shielding his eyes from the two p.m. glare, but couldn’t make out anything more than a vague human shape; further down the pole, however, dripped the remains of the man who hung there, already drying in the heat. Marty looked around, thinking he would find a ladder or maybe some tire tracks, but other than his own footprints, there was no evidence anyone had been here since the last failed crop was plowed under leaving neat little rows of infertile soil. Marty shrugged over his stupidity as he turned to make the walk back to the Buick, figuring that even if he decided to report it he could at least let the deputy know he had made some sort of effort.

“Excuse me, sir, could I maybe get a hand. I seem to have fallen.”

Marty looked around. In fact he turned completely around three times before realizing that the very smooth, distinguished voice he heard, was coming from what he had assumed was a corpse.

“Uh, what,” Marty asked, not quite sure how people were expected to behave in these situations.

“I’m sorry sir, but I was wondering, since you took the time to walk all of the way over here in this dreadful heat, you might give me a hand. You see, I’ve been trying for several hours to either push myself back up and off of here, or to shake the pole loose from the ground thereby landing myself back on my feet, but neither seem to be working very well. You have been the only vehicle to pass since I came into the situation sometime during the night, and I was hoping you could be of assistance.”

“Shouldn’t I go for help? I mean, the nearest farm is only a few minutes away, I could call an ambulance or something,” Marty answered knowing full well he didn’t care if the man lived or died, but wanted to get as far away from this bizarre situation as he could.

“Oh, no, that won’t be necessary. Really. I just need a little push, then you can be on your way. My name is Clive by the way, and yours?”

“Martin…Marty actually,” he answered out loud, while in his head he shouted, “Why the hell you telling this guy your real name?!”

“Well, Marty, could you maybe just give this pole a push. It seems fairly old from what I can see of it from here, maybe if we’re lucky it will be rotten enough in the earth to tumble me right on over.”

“Yeah…okay,” Marty answered timidly. The sun had moved just enough in the sky that he was able to make out some of Clive’s features behind his wind-lashed black tresses. He looked to be about thirty, grown out of anything that might be considered youthful, but not quite up to the wrinkles and gray of true maturity. Marty placed him as Native American, but he could easily have been of several ethnicities. Either way, he definitely did not look dead, or even in the least little bit of pain. In fact, when he smiled down at Marty looking up at him he would have looked almost cheerful if the vision wasn’t so horrifyingly wrong.

Marty circled the post a couple of times before finding what he hoped was the least messy side and place his shoulder against the wood.

“On the count of three…one, two, three,” then he pushed with whatever force he could muster, grinding his cheap shoes into the earth.

The pole didn’t budge.

“You said you fell,” Marty asked, wiping his forehead again. “You mind telling me how a man falls on an eight foot high spear in the middle of nowhere?”

“Well, it’s a bit of a long story actually. You see that trough over there? Maybe if you could roll it over here close enough, and set it up on its side, I’d be able to use it for leverage and lift myself off of here? While you’re working on it, I could tell you how this happened.”

Marty had been in sales for a long time and he knew when he was being played. Marty could care less if this man lived or died, and Clive knew it. Clive was also aware that it was morbid curiosity that brought Marty here to begin with and it would be morbid curiosity that kept him around. Marty expected that if he didn’t stick around he’d wonder for the rest of his life how Clive ended up there. So, Marty did as he was asked and turned to retrieve the trough.

“I assume you’ve heard of vampires?” Clive asked, raising his voice slightly to Marty’s back.

“Yeah, sure,” Marty answered rolling his eyes.

Crazy Indian,” Marty thought as he lifted the edge of the troug
h and rolled it onto the side. “Probably all strung out on peyote.”

“While ‘vampire’ is the closest description of what I am in English, there is no word for that sort of creature in my language. The word we have for what I am translates to mean “the creator’s hand” or “Protector”. An angel, if you will, created by God to protect the people I was born into.”

“Huh,” Marty grunted in acknowledgment as he finally brought the trough to a standstill next to the pole chaining Clive, “so once I help you down, you gonna drink my blood or something?”

Clive chuckled at the remark. A chuckle that did not ignite in Marty the security it was meant to, but instead chilled his lower spine enough to cause him to step back and look up again at the dark figure.

“No, no, my friend. I feed only from animals. To the people I was born to, the buffalo was a great animal that provided almost everything we needed. Nothing went to waste. There was meat for the tribe, pelts for warmth and shelter, bones for tools…and blood to feed the Protector.”

“Here, put your feet on here. I’ll hold it to keep it from rolling and you should be able to push yourself up.” Marty looked up, once again shielding his eyes, “That what’s been causing all those alien cattle mutilations? Folks like you?”

“I really doubt it…but I suppose it makes more sense than aliens,” Clive quipped, ending the sentence with an uncomfortable chuckle, like someone who had farted in church.

“Uh, back to how I found myself in this predicament. You see, my people are all nearly gone now. For centuries I lived among them, roaming freely throughout the country. I can’t imagine another race thriving like they did, on love and off the land.”

Clive’s eyes glazed over in remembrance as he continued.

“Then the exterminators came. I call them that because that’s was how it was orchestrated,” his voice became huskier, pained, “…millions were slaughtered, poisoned, marched into death by people who had no right to do so other than that given them by gun powder. To know the pain of watching the genocide of such a proud people…people I was born to protect…is like no hell man will ever have to endure.”

Clive paused in thought then seemed to recall suddenly that he had an audience and pulled himself from the memories.

“Anywho,” he continued with his original chirpy tone, “the few that are left have no memory of my kind. Modern society now portrays my breed as either a child murdering demon or Tom Cruise with a bad dye job,” he once again chuckled…no, twittered, before adding, “the latter of which I didn’t mind so much.

“Since my work on this plane appears to be completed, I decided to visit the next one. And what better way to the next plane but by plane?” He smiled broadly at Marty, hoping for at least a smile, but the oaf of man just stared dully back, probably deciding which porno to watch with his TV dinner.

“I’ve know from past experiences,” Clive continued quickly before losing his inadvertent parishioner completely, “that I, well, have trouble dying. I’ve been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, even stoned once. I guess you would call me a fast healer,” that twitter again, like the new kid at school wanting so much to be liked.

As he spoke, he continued to struggle to free himself, twisting and wiggling, never able to make headway.

Like a worm on a hook,” thought Marty and smiled. Clive took his grin to mean renewed interest in his story and smiled back.

“That’s when I decided that I would commit suicide by jumping from an airplane. There’s not much chance of my surviving being instantly transformed into tapioca pudding, now is there?”

“Thought you guys could fly,” Marty half-heartedly responded, his mind a million miles away from giving a flying fuck whether he could or not.

“Uh, no, that’s Tom Cruise again. What I hadn’t bargained for was ending up here. Uh, Marty?”

Martin had turned and was walking back in the direction of the car.

“Are you leaving?” Clive called louder, his voice instinctively raising an octave to what Martin often referred to as a begging voice.

Martin turned his head just slightly as he answered, “I just had a brilliant idea my new friend.” Clive just barely glimpsed the grotesque smile that seemingly stretched from one of Marty’s ears to the other. But a glimpse was all he needed to know that it was the most frightening thing he had ever seen.

An hour later, Martin Kingsley was back on the road, whistling and sometimes even singing right out loud. This was the best sales day of his entire life. Hell, he might even take some vacation time off from vacuum cleaner sales and spend some time at home…give himself time to really develop his art.

Running into Clive out there in that field, dangling like bait waiting for a big old cat to swim up and grab him, was truly an act of God. God wanted him to pursue his art. When he finally realized that, everything else just fell into place. He went back to the car and grabbed the oversized vacuum cleaner bag he had in there for Mrs. Brock’s body and the chainsaw he had under it. In no time, he was back on the road.

“Cattle,” Marty shouted, hoping to be heard over road noise. “That’s what you all are. Like my daddy always said, I don’t care if you’re black, white, red, or green I can use you for something. And you, my friend, can be used over and over and over again.”

Marty’s booming laughter filled the car as the thumps emanating from the trunk were joined by Clive’s terrified screams.

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