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Grueberfest 09 R.2 - Petrified

Submitted by Ducky at 2009-10-13 01:14:07 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 39 ratings (39 reviews) (Review this item) (V)

“…because there’s nothing strange about an axe with bloodstains in the barn…there’s always some killing you’ve got to do around the farm”

Tom Waites
Murder in the Red Barn


*thwack….thwack…thwack*

Searing pain ran up Michael’s arm with each swing of the heavy mallet. Inwardly he thanked himself that the stopper was rubber and not steel, otherwise the shock vibration of each hit would have been worse. The ground was frozen solid and each swing drove the stake no more than a centimeter deeper in. Once the sign was far enough into the ground, a large and gaudy fluorescent orange thing that simply read “For Sale” with a contact number written beneath it, he threw the mallet into the back of his pick-up.

He’d had enough.

He’d purchased the property over fifteen years ago and moved into it with his wife June. It was their intention to start a family and live off of the land, but due to several mitigating circumstances, they only lasted there for two years. June couldn’t get pregnant, and this inability to procreate sent her spiraling into a depression that she never seemed able to come out of. This, doubled with what she perceived to be “paranormal activity” on the farm, was enough to make her crazy. He on the other hand, was more of a realist. Shaking furniture could be attributed to many different things…slight tremors, heavy footsteps, whatever. He had told her several times that the noise the loons made as they called out over the lake could be mistaken for crying, as could various animal calls. The man’s voice screaming the name Emma was only the wind. June also felt uneasy down by the lake…every time she walked down there she felt drawn to a grove of cedars that grew close to the shore. That she felt compelled to walk towards them made chills run up the back of her spine, and subsequently had the opposite effect, repelling her back towards the house. He told her she was being irrational.

She didn’t buy it, and in an effort to save their marriage he had decided to rent out the property and relocate elsewhere with his wife. Less than a month after the move she was pregnant and happy.

In the last 13 years, the farm had changed tenants 11 different times…sometimes the renters would be kind enough to give notice, but other times he would show up to collect the rent and find the place abandoned. Sometimes the tenants would just up and leave in the middle of the night…sometimes they wouldn’t even bother to pack.

He’d heard the stories. But wasn’t that all they were at the end of the day? Just stories? One couple explained to him that they were unable to make love in the cabin because every time they tried to they would hear a woman howling. Another renter, a single middle aged gentleman reported that every time he burned his dinner or in some other way spoiled his food, the cabinet across the room would shake violently like someone had been thrown against it. One time it shook so badly the glass in the doors smashed. The last couple though…their reason was the strangest. That couple, they left because on a ride down to the lake in the middle of winter they came across an old cedar tree that didn’t sit well with them. With four feet of snow on the ground and frost and ice covering everything in sight, this tree stood bare. They told him that when they got close to it they could feel heat radiating off of it, and that when they took a good look at it, it seemed to be petrified. It didn’t make any sense, but the kicker was that in the middle of a blisteringly cold winter, this warm petrified tree was oozing red sap from it that didn’t look much like sap at all.

Sick of the crazy bullshit, he decided to sell and be done with it.
_____

Half a century ago…

Emma had married Jake when she was barely 18, as was customary in those days. He had been 7 years her senior, a mere trifle of difference when she considered her other friends, some of them marrying men more than 20 years older than themselves. He had been a perfect gentleman during the courting phase, and even a few years into their marriage, she marveled at how lucky she was to have such a loving husband. He would spend long days working on their farm...35 acres without a farmhand meant very little downtime. They kept cows, chickens, sheep and hogs – from bucking hay to irrigating to calving, there was always something to be done. She had been a dutiful wife. Waking before dawn each day, she’d make sure to have the woodstove lit and stoked; she’d also have buckets of water pulled from the spring on the right hand side of their house, coffee and breakfast ready, and his clothes clean and pressed. While he worked she tended to duties close to home, and made sure to have dinner ready for him when he arrived at the end of each day.

If she had spare time, she would pack a light lunch for herself, mount her saddle pony, and ride down to the lake. There was a particular place she would go where a grove of giant ancient cedars grew close to the shore. The first time she’d been down there, she had walked around each tree, running her hands over the rough bark, until she found one she liked more than the rest. While all of the other trees had debris littered around their bases, this particular tree had none. There were no cones or buds growing from it. While the others seeded, this tree produced nothing. It was almost intimate, the way she ran her hands over its bark, almost as though she was gently caressing someone’s skin. On one side of the tree, she could discern…though faintly…a woman’s name. Upon closer inspection, she found others – scores of names that had been carefully inscribed into the bark. She pulled out her pocket knife, and the tree allowed itself to be branded with her name as well. She could spend hours watching the squirrels running up and down the tree - storing food in the hollows for winter and chitting at her when they thought she was too close. She’d listen to the loons call out over the lake, and enjoy the way the breeze played across her skin as it brought the hayfield to life. The solitude was magical. She could yell at the top of her lungs to the mountain across the water just to hear it yell back to her without ever worrying about bothering anyone. Sometimes she’d just lie on her back under the shade of her favourite tree and enjoy being alive.

Jake wanted children. Emma also wanted children. Try as they might, it never happened. As years waned on, Jake became increasingly frustrated in his efforts to impregnate his wife. This marked the beginning of an onslaught of emotional, mental, and physical abuse that would last for decades. It was mentioned only once that Jake might have been the problem…in what started as Emma speculating in a hushed tone ended with her tending to a busted lip he had driven three of her teeth through.

She continued to be a dutiful wife, but the labour and chores that once garnered her praise and affection were no longer adequate. She couldn’t please him to save her own life. The food was too hot or too cold…the stains weren’t well enough removed from his shirt…the water had too much silt in it…the coffee tasted like it had been reheated from yesterday. It didn’t matter- something always set him off. Sometimes he would rape her mercilessly until blood streamed down her legs, all the while berating her for being barren and useless. Other times he would use her as a human punching bag – the main target predominantly her stomach, which ‘wasn’t good for much else’, followed by her face. When he was feeling really energetic he would throw her around the room like a rag doll and criticize her while forcing her to clean up the damage ‘she’ had caused.

Decades. It will break a person.

Emma would remove herself from the cabin more and more frequently, finding solace under the branches of her tree. She had become a mere skeleton of the woman who had carved her name there so many years ago. One afternoon, as she lay underneath it, a thick drop of sap fell and splattered against her cheek. Before she could wipe it away, it had absorbed into her skin. Her face, which for years had held no colour, flushed with life. Feeling a renewed sense of strength growing within her, a rictus smile crept across her face.

Jake began to spend longer hours working in the field so that he wouldn’t have to see the woman who he’d come to loathe so much. Emma spent longer hours down by the ancient cedars, though she seldom found time to eat the lunch she’d pack. Now when she went, it wasn’t for the squirrels, loons or even for the breeze. Now when she went, she would bring a step ladder, chisel, and length of marked up rope from the tack house to keep her occupied.

On her 47th birthday, an occasion that Jake had long since stopped recognizing, she treated herself to a present.

When he came home from work that day, she wasn’t there. It was strange but not unheard of, and as dinner was waiting for him on the stove he wasn’t in any great rush to see her anyways. When he finished eating, he began to drink, and after a couple of those he checked the time. 8pm. It was 8pm and she still wasn’t there. She’d never been out this late before. The light was waning and he knew he should go and look for her but the bottle was tempting and he took a few more swigs from it before angrily putting on his coat and heading outside, kerosene lantern in one hand, booze in the other.

“Emma!!! Where are you y’old cow??!!!!”

“EEEMMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAA” he howled, cursing his under his breath and staggering slightly over the uneven ground in the pasture. His rage grew each time his step faltered. It was her fault he was out here stumbling around in the dark. In his mind he pictured the lesson he’d be teaching her later on…it was like beating a dog repeatedly until it learned its role as a dog…but for some reason his fucking dog never seemed to be able to learn anything. His stupid, barren bitch.

He managed to spook the livestock, but there was no response otherwise. Spending well over an hour outside, periodically calling her name, he decided to head home. He’d scoured parts of the property, but 35 acres is a lot to cover on foot, and he hadn’t even made it halfway to the spot he knew she loved the most. As he approached the tack house en route to the comfort of his home, the low light of the lantern picked up something on the door, and as he approached it he discerned that it was a note. It wouldn’t have mattered if Jake had finished the entire bottle prior to reading the contents – he still would have been able to make out the three simple words that filled the page.

I HATE YOU.

With a deafening CRACK, the glass from his lantern shattered as the close range blast ripped through it and into his stomach. The close range shot sent him flying backwards where he landed roughly on the ground a couple of feet back. The last thing Jake saw in his life was his wife, standing over him, the barrel of the shotgun he had used so many times to kill injured livestock pointed directly at his face.

Emma dragged Jake’s body into the tack house and laid him out on a tarp. Picking up the woodcutting axe she had become so proficient with over the years, she smiled and proceeded to spend the next two blood soaked hours dismembering her husband. Finished, she reloaded the shotgun, placed the axe in a bucket, and returned the items to their usual place in the barn. Returning to the tack house, she wrapped Jake in the tarp and tied each end shut. After saddling up her horse, Emma attached a length of rope to the saddle horn and secured the other end to the tarp. At a quarter past midnight, body in tow, she rode down to the ancient cedars.

Waiting for her arrival was the step ladder that had gotten so much use as of late, the gouging tool she had used to dig out a hollow about 15 feet up the tree, and the length of rope she had fed into the opening at the end of each session to discern the depth and to mark her progress. Piece by piece, she packed Jakes body up the ladder and deposited him into the giant tree. The last thing to go was the tarp…she carefully lifted the edges to collect as much of the blood as possible, gathered it together in the middle, climbed to the top rung, and shoved it in. There was still some room remaining between the tarp and the opening, and this she packed tightly with the wood that had once belonged there. Returning to her horse, she removed a hammer and a few nails from the side pouch, and finished the job by carefully nailing a large chunk of wood over the opening. She was exhausted, and when she finally fell into her bed later that night, she slept soundly for the first time in her memory.

She spent the next day cleaning, and the day after that she was gone.
_____

Michael thought about the tree for quite some time, and finally, curiosity getting the better of him, attached chains to the tires on his pickup truck and drove back to the farm. He’d had a couple of offers for the place, but nothing worth going for. Slowing down, he turned off the road and drove over the pasture to where this anomaly of a tree was supposed to be. It was close to the lake they’d said…he couldn’t miss it they said. He had only been down to the lake a handful of times, but remembered the cedars for their sheer size. He wanted some sort of explanation for all of the crap stories that he’d heard. He wanted something tangible that he could see for himself…something that couldn’t be explained away…then he’d believe it. He stopped his truck down by the massive trees…in front of one in particular.

They were right.

The massive hulk of a tree didn’t have a speck of snow on it. All of the surrounding trees were frozen in a mess of ice, frost, and snow, but to look at this one was to look at summer. Getting out of the truck, he walked over to the beast. It was radiating heat, and true to his last renters’ word, a strange type of red sap was oozing from it. It wasn’t slow moving like sap though - it was more diluted, almost like a sweat...a blood-like sweat. Pulling out a knife, he gave a hard tap into the bark.

CLINK.

Nothing. The thing was hard as a rock. Moving to the tree next to it, the same exercise produced a rough shaving of bark. “Jesus” he said as he looked back to the original tree. The fucking thing was petrified. Inspecting it, he made it halfway around the giant base and stopped short upon seeing a name etched into what used to be bark. Lifting his hand he traced over the rough letters with his fingers. EMMA. As he did, a searing pain developed in his hand. On instinct, he moved to retract it, but couldn’t. He heard a rustling sound behind him and turned his head to see a giant branch coming towards his back. The base of the tree itself made a loud cracking noise and the trunk ripped open like the seam of an over worn pair of jeans. The branch behind him forced him inside, and as the opening slowly began to re-stitch itself back together, Michael managed a formidable scream. It carried over the lake, hit the mountains, and laughed back at him. Blinding red light pulsed behind his paralyzed eyes. It felt like he had third degree burns covering his skin, which bubbled, charred, and solidified like granite before browning up like a roasted chicken. His feet had begun to solidify, and as the petrification process moved up his legs and towards his vital organs, all he could think about was June and how she’d been right all along.

It snowed all night that night. The police – two deputies and a sheriff, located Michael’s truck. The ground was saturated with blood…splattered everywhere, but there was no body. The deputies searched the area, but found themselves at a loss. Hearing the sheriff calling, they returned to the blood-soaked area to find him staring at the side of the tree.

“What was his wife’s name again?” asked the sheriff.
“June”, replied one of the deputies.
“Well aint that just the damndest thing…” said the sheriff.

There on the tree, freshly carved above Emma’s faded name, was June.

There were only the cedars – the group of silent witnesses, unable to bear testimony that one among them was now just a little bit fatter around the bottom, and a little bit healthier than it used to be.




June.jpg
June.jpg


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Reviews


Submitted by S.I. Co. at 2010-05-10 11:08:25 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

I should have read this before.

Submitted by RoadSong at 2009-10-24 15:28:50 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

The illustration compliments the words in a perfect way.

Submitted by forensicgirl3 at 2009-10-15 15:42:01 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

I hate to do this, but I've got to forfeit. I'm unbelieveably blocked. Maybe it was better to have titles assigned because I found that when I wasn't given one, everything went down the crapper. But that's not how things worked out this year.


It's been busy at work and once I was home, I had everything under the sun pop up.


Damn. With all the twisted and perverse things that scurry about in my mind at any given time, they all went and hid on me when I really needed them.


You watch. The second the contest is over, they'll pop up again.


Sorry all.

Congrats Ducky. I couldn't have beaten you anyway.

It didn't help either with the shortened deadline.


I really do feel bad about this.

No time and blocked on top of that really sucked.

Submitted by AshK at 2009-10-14 20:46:56 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by Berty (user info) at 2009-10-14 09:09:36 EDT (#)
Ranking: 2

According to Jurrasic Park; baby velociraptors were about 8 inches tall.

Remember the scene with Dr. wossname going into the lab during the Hammond video tour ride thing? With the animatronics?

Anyway velociraptors aren't all that. I bet an Ostrich could take one in a fight.


==============================

An Emu could take them both with one leg tied behind it's...er...tail.

Submitted by JoeyG at 2009-10-14 18:25:15 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Nearly forgot to rate.

I rarely read these posts at the PC, I much prefer to print them off, and read them tucked up in my armchair with a beer and a cigarette.

I printed this earlier, and it was only when I posted my entry that I saw the pages sticking out from the jaw of my trusty Lexmark.

This year has seen some awesome grueberfest posts, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Submitted by Jack_McCallum at 2009-10-14 18:09:49 EDT (#)
Rating: 2


I was severly tempted to break the perfect 2 on this because there were a lot of lines that didn't seem to work quite right- for me, anyhow. The overall story was good, though, and since I don't know how many +2s and +1s I'd need to create a +1.95, have a +2.

Submitted by monkeyswithguns at 2009-10-14 09:10:08 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by TuTs (user info) at 2009-10-14 09:06:44 EDT (#)
Ranking: 2

I see the raptor. It is just its head right? coming out?
--------------------------------
Good, I was becoming afraid that I'd added the wrong mushrooms to my omelette this morning.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-14 09:09:36 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

According to Jurrasic Park; baby velociraptors were about 8 inches tall.

Remember the scene with Dr. wossname going into the lab during the Hammond video tour ride thing? With the animatronics?

Anyway velociraptors aren't all that. I bet an Ostrich could take one in a fight.

Submitted by EmissionImpossible at 2009-10-14 09:08:55 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

nerds

Submitted by TuTs at 2009-10-14 09:06:44 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

I see the raptor. It is just its head right? coming out?

Submitted by monkeyswithguns at 2009-10-14 09:04:25 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by Berty (user info) at 2009-10-14 08:58:26 EDT (#)
Ranking: 2

Submitted by monkeyswithguns (user info) at 2009-10-14 08:48:38 EDT (#)
Ranking: 2

Wow. BTW, that tree at the right, am I the only one who sees a baby Velociraptor growing out of it's trunk?
-----------------
I do not believe a baby velociraptor looks like what you think it looks like.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

What are you talking about? Do you not see the vision of death incarnate, not from the front where you expect, but *pfffffffffft* from the sides, and the two you never even knew where there?

It looks as though it's uncurling after hatching from the shell. Tree on the far right, at the base of the trunk.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-14 08:58:26 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by monkeyswithguns (user info) at 2009-10-14 08:48:38 EDT (#)
Ranking: 2

Wow. BTW, that tree at the right, am I the only one who sees a baby Velociraptor growing out of it's trunk?
-----------------
I do not believe a baby velociraptor looks like what you think it looks like.

Submitted by monkeyswithguns at 2009-10-14 08:48:38 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Wow. BTW, that tree at the right, am I the only one who sees a baby Velociraptor growing out of it's trunk?

Submitted by spuj at 2009-10-14 08:18:37 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

fucking ace

Submitted by frankthebear at 2009-10-13 23:28:33 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

DAMN YOU FOR BEING SO GOOD!

Submitted by shitfuck at 2009-10-13 22:05:50 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

EFFORT

Submitted by Ducky at 2009-10-13 19:19:05 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

Submitted by forensicgirl3 (user info) at 2009-10-13 04:27:49 PDT (#)
Ranking: 2

Yeah. I'm toast.
__________________

I doubt that- there are still two days left for me to crash and burn. I just wanted to try to give you a run for your money.

Submitted by Ducky at 2009-10-13 18:02:08 EDT (#)
Rating: 0

Submitted by Berty (user info) at 2009-10-13 04:22:15 PDT (#)
Ranking: 2

What about porn? Isn't there meant to be lots of sex in American horror, to reflect the duality of hedonism with fundamentalist repression?

A reverse horror story! Only the girl who copes with her problems by sucking of strangers in alleyways survives!
_________________

jesus berty.


...and thank you for the correction scourge. it was far nicer than the new asshole that got ripped for me once upon a time here for spelling macgyver's name wrong.

Submitted by AshK at 2009-10-13 17:55:35 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Great story

Submitted by GroundHorse at 2009-10-13 11:53:39 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Nicely done.Thank you.

Submitted by scourge at 2009-10-13 11:33:21 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

fg made me literally lol. almost spit water on my monitor.

Submitted by skrapmetal at 2009-10-13 11:22:30 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

I do like the way you write.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 11:19:54 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Cheers Tuts!

Submitted by forensicgirl3 at 2009-10-13 10:28:42 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Submitted by scourge (user info) at 2009-10-13 09:09:25 CDT (#)
Ranking: 2

i first said to myself, "how do i say this without sounding like a nit picking cunt?"

then i said, "has sounding like a cunt ever given you pause before?"

then i laughed at myself.




it's 'waits', ducks, no 'e.'



everything else was great.

sorry i had to drop the -2 for that grave oversight on your part.
=====================


This is why none of us can have nice things.

Submitted by EmissionImpossible at 2009-10-13 10:13:20 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

*throwing one hand in front of the other, shielding it from the wind I light my cigarette, slowly taking two deep drags and blowing it from my nostrils, glancing towards SCOURGE, I drop the smoke by his foot*

* I rub my hands together*

* i walk off *

fade to black

Submitted by scourge at 2009-10-13 10:12:15 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

i know.

i'm absolutely horrid.

Submitted by EmissionImpossible at 2009-10-13 10:11:18 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

cunting cunty cuntity cunt below

Submitted by scourge at 2009-10-13 10:09:25 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

i first said to myself, "how do i say this without sounding like a nit picking cunt?"

then i said, "has sounding like a cunt ever given you pause before?"

then i laughed at myself.




it's 'waits', ducks, no 'e.'



everything else was great.

sorry i had to drop the -2 for that grave oversight on your part.

Submitted by TuTs at 2009-10-13 10:08:01 EDT (#)
Rating: 2


Where shall my netlove for Berty begin?
Will my hymn for him inspire?
Will this worship lead him to sin?
Yet I shall not burn with eternal fire.
A least a smile I hope this will raise
Or maybe even a little praise. :)

I don't have time for this. You better appreciate that.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 09:15:05 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Tuts, the best way you can do me honour would be to write me a hymn.

Submitted by TuTs at 2009-10-13 08:55:53 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

You know I am in netlove with Berty.

I wish I had more time tonight to actually read this, instead of the speed read I just gave it. Very good.

Submitted by forensicgirl3 at 2009-10-13 07:27:49 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Yeah. I'm toast.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 07:22:15 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

What about porn? Isn't there meant to be lots of sex in American horror, to reflect the duality of hedonism with fundamentalist repression?

A reverse horror story! Only the girl who copes with her problems by sucking of strangers in alleyways survives!

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 07:18:09 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

An earthquake hits a downtown Urban area. A school teacher is buried under rubble in a class-room full of kids with rival gang affiliations.

Will they overcome their differences or will the tense claustraphobia result in lots of death?

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 07:16:22 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Two men are trapped underwater in Scuba gear. One of them has to watch the other one asphyxiate. The story is a metaphore for old working alongside new in Research and Development.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 07:14:13 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

I'm not so sure about all these stories about ghouls, ghosts and goblins either. What about a horror story I can get behind like that story about gay HIV arse rapers from Africa? Surely the scariest story is just about a regular old person getting neglected in a care home and dying alone?

Or, as XKCD tells us, that there are people walking and talking who were born after 9/11?

Is Grueberfest meant to be gory though? Simples! A bloke in an abatoir with poor hygiene and the hanta virus!

I'd be good at this writing business if I wasn't illiterate.

Submitted by Berty at 2009-10-13 06:44:41 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

A thumping good read.

It's a touchy subject though, the old wife battery. I mean, how exactly do you stop a fellow from doing it? Beyond murder of course.

Say, "next time you feel like punching your wife in the face, try playing Scrabble instead"?

Can't really see it happening.

Submitted by EmissionImpossible at 2009-10-13 04:12:20 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

blimey.....


weirdo

Submitted by ridiculous at 2009-10-13 02:05:50 EDT (#)
Rating: 2

Brilliant...


Abe: I used to be `with it.' But then they changed what `it' was. Now
what I'm `with' isn't `it' and what's `it' seems weird and scary
to me. It'll happen to you.

Homer: No way, man. We're gonna keep on rockin' forever!

Homerpalooza