The Looping Variable (2)

"Somewhere there is a street in the middle of nowhere where all the buildings are vacant. The bricks are bloodstained and charred. The surroundings are lifeless. If you go here at night you will see a young woman in the middle of the street with a veil that only shows the metal protuding from her eyes. You must continue looking at her until she disappears; then leave. If you look away from her, you will never be seen again."

The Looping Variable


            Slavik Corinthian drove his dented car down an avenue known over the years for gang fights. The Springtime sun was going down towards the horizon of a worn strip of wearing businesses. The young Russian man turned his wheel into the parking lot of an inconvenienced, American convenience store that was to be robbed later in the night by strangers he didn't know.
            Two familiar, loosely-dressed men with large cans of beer loitered outside with their chins raised like street ecclesiasts. One of them with tattoo-sleeved arms gave a menacing smile at Slavik as he turned the corner.
            "Buying tampons?" The drunken loiterer asked, his friend laughing beside him. Slavik met the glare of the man as he entered the store.
            The clerk appeared to be from the Middle-East. He was putting cash in the register as the door opened. He lifted his head up and gave a short, hard-faced stare before closing the register door; the kind of motion that was the closest to customarily friendly and probably steeped in years of cheap tobacco use.
            You'd have to buy two-hundred dollars in booze to get a smile out of this guy. Slavik thought.
            Slavik grabbed some tea and soda before heading up to the counter. He nabbed a newspaper and threw it behind the beverages.
            One hand on the counter and no touching his face out of awkwardness or skepticism. Unenthused face. Hard-assed. Slavik opened his wallet.
            "$4.75." The clerk said.
            Slavik pulled a five out of his pocket and laid it on the desk.
            Someone new came in, not one of the two loiterers outside. The clerk immediately greeted him with a wave and a smile, "Hey!"

* * *


            Two months of nightmares passed by for Slavik. They were followed with an obsession for folklore which he scoured through sleeplessly on his computer. He had began neglecting the gym and any semblance of social life except for work which left him feeling increasingly down. An antique, violet box lied in one of the drawers of his computer desk, which he was instructed that no one should ever touch. The ceiling fan above above him had stopped working, and all the large mirrors in the house had been smashed in, with the glass left on the floor.
            Slavik was going to take a road trip, the vacation time was his. He was seeing his friends less and less, no dates, and his immediate family was worried about him. His mother was trying to get him to go spend some time with his uncle who he had rarely seen, a man who was retired Spetsnaz; but from the last time Slavik had seen his uncle, the man was probably only retired on paper.
            Slavik had no intention of using his vacation time to go to Russia though. Rather, a ghost town in Colorado. Contact with an old woman and homely historian had informed him that a woman in her late teens had been stabbed to death in the 1930's. Later there was a wildfire in which more lives were lost, followed by more people moving away. It checked out with a myth he had been looking into, but he didn't have much more information than that.
            Slavik had already looked into three other horror stories around New Mexico, all which seemed to be superstition, and dead leads; Slavik would've looked more into first hand accounts and folklore around the state, but his acquaintance had told him these cases were a worthless endeavor.
            Slavik pulled out the adorned, violet box from out of his computer desk, the lights above him flickering a bit, a dark feeling rose in his stomach. The box was cold to the touch, carved out of bone, with a little rusting lock on the outside that jiggled when the key went into it. On the underside of the box lid were names mostly written in Polish, though Slavik's full name was also carved next to them in English. On the musty velvet insides of the box was a piece of white bloodstained cloth, a loaded handgun with the safety on, and packaged red chalk.
            White chalk would burn Slavik's partner, and dark chalk would be too hard to see. This didn't stop Slavik from thinking about buying some white chalk at some point. He kept the extra ammo to the handgun in his closet since there wasn't enough room in the box, his crazy uncle might've scoffed at him though, because it was for a Colt .45 instead of a Makarov.
            Slavik pulled out some of the chalk. Then, he knelt down and drew a circle within a circle on the hardwood around his computer. There was still chalk dust from the last time along with symbols made from cracks. Then, he put the bloodstained cloth at the top of the circular border and from outside. He went into the hallway, and began chanting something under his breath which led to strange sounds coming from his bedroom.
            "I see you've got a new television." A pale, black-suited man named Rembrandt said, eyeballing Slavik's computer monitor while standing in the red circle. The emails from the historian were there for the dead man to inspect.
            "Don't destroy it this time." Slavik came back into the room.
            Rembrandt ran his snow white fingers down the screen making it go crazy, "Ah yes, we might have something here. A worthy medium.. for my sculpting."
            "Don't fuck with my television." Slavik said, grabbing the gun out of his box.
            "As you wish." Rembrandt pulled back his hand and turned around. "There's something I should tell you since your getting so much better at black magic."
            "What?"
            "Wherever you draw this circle to raise me, it is a curse upon the ground. No life will grow there. Constitutions will wane for anyone who spends too much time inside the circle that you draw." Rembrandt's voice was full of pretension. "And from the looks of it, you've been hexing yourself."
            Slavik pulled the Colt on Rembrandt as he melted like candle wax and disintegrated, the house shaking with the storm of the dead man's laughter.
            Slavik was shaken, the last time he hadn't seen it so fully. He was in the hallway then, and slammed the door to his room to block the horror of Rembrandt's exit.
            "Fuck." Slavik said in shock. He spit on the chalk and blurred it with his foot, with the intent to get a mop next. He would have to move his computer, and scratch out the symbols later with sandpaper in the hope it would break the curse.
            The young man now felt left in great indecision as to whether to go through with the trip ahead of him.

* * *


            Slavik got up late, feeling punched in the gut by his dreams, but forgetting what they were. After making and eating breakfast, he tried to sand off the symbols on the floor, but they were too deep within the hardwood; he was at least able to move his computer, and leave that space in the room all to itself. He finally shook off the last of his fatigue doing calisthenics to Ozzy because his gym membership was expired: push-ups, pull-ups, crunchers, and one-legged squats.
            Slavik went to the bathroom to take a shower, afterward, he picked up a hand mirror; Rembrandt's eery face was crystal clear in the glass, "Bring rope."
            The young man jumped back and threw the mirror into the sink, it cracked into two pieces.
            When Slavik had almost everything packed, he ventured to the garage he shared with the neighbors on the other side of the half-house. He didn't have any strong rope, so he grabbed a bunch of thick, orange extension cord. Then, with a Ghostbusters shirt on, and everything packed up, he got into his old Buick and took off down the road.

* * *


            Slavik was tired from the lonely trip between him and his radio; but he had found the ghost town. He stretched his legs while dead weeds wavered in the soft wind next to two lines of buildings that sandwiched a fading, crumbling road. Fields surrounded the small town, and the only other buildings in sight were like specks. The sign with the city name was still around, too faded to be read save a few letters. He would use the daylight to survey the area.
            All the buildings except for one was locked, and that building was cleaned out with a hole in the second floor. There was a beaten up barber shop with a back door that had a rusty lock; Slavik took a tire iron to it he had from his trunk and with some sweat, he eventually broke in.
            The young man got out his antique box and drew another red circle within a circle, putting the piece of bloodstained cloth at the top of the border. Then he stood up and backed away a bit. Hard-eyed with the loaded Colt .45 in his hand, he whispered the words that would bring Rembrandt back into the world of the living.
            Bubbles of something that looked like plaster seemed to come up out of cracks in the floor while the circle of symbols made themselves present. The plaster like substance seemed to turn to flesh, bubbling more and more in quantity, with suit fabric pushing out and around it. In around half a minute the horrific process was complete.
            Slavik picked up the bundle of orange extension cord and threw it at Rembrandt, "Here's your weapon, asshole."
            Rembrandt stood there smiling and didn't catch the rope, it hit him in the shins and sagged over his polished shoes.
            "What is that supposed to be? A 'No Ghosts' t-shirt? Ha!" Rembrandt laughed. He turned around and walked out of the circle, "You think if something's going to be here, its going to be a ghost? If that's the case, I might as well kill you."
            "Its from a moving picture." Slavik tried to explain, sweating even more in the hot building.
            Rembrandt seemed to be less agitated, if only for a second, "I'll wait here to ambush and you'll be the bait when nightfall comes."
            "I'll wait in my car until nightfall." Slavik said still holding his handgun tightly as he unlocked the front door.
            "Don't drive off. You wouldn't want to be responsible for the consequences." The dead man said.

* * *


            The hours went by at a crawl with Slavik eating occasionally and flipping through the radio. He did not leave his car except once to piss, the vehicle was parked somewhat diagonally in front of one of the rows of businesses and homes in some attempt to hide it.
            When the dark came and hadsat in the sky, killing off all the color, Slavik got out of his car-- not even fully shutting the door in order to be quiet. Gloomy clouds blocked out the stars but not some crescent moon phase. The peaceful absence of Rembrandt and the long trip felt more like a dream under that hopeless sky. Slavik was mistrustful of these feelings, his handgun was tucked in one pocket and extra ammunition in the other; and he was wearing carpenter pants so there was a sharpened steak knife in the pencil pocket on his mid-right leg.
            The young man took a breath of the chilly but tolerable air, and first noticed that a couple of houses had smoke coming out of their chimneys.
            Someone's burning wood in a ghost town on a warm night?
            Slavik walked up to the road between the rows of buildings, and immediately spotted a figure in the darkness. As he walked closer, he could see long hair over old raggy clothing, what was probably a veil, and pieces of metal jutting out, reflecting the moonlight.
            The woman stood stationary and whispered inaudible things with the breeze in a loud rasp.
            Well Rembrandt, you better fucking pull through.
            Slavik pulled his Colt out, looked away from the woman towards the ground, and spit on the dirt.
            The last thing Slavik heard was the glass of the barbershop shattering, and the last thing he saw was a blur of orange going towards the stationary woman. He didn't have a time to get a shot off before everything went black.

* * *


            Slavik found himself in an almost pitch black room with a dirt floor and walls made of stone. His gun was gone, but he still had the box of ammunition and the steak knife. There was one window, well-boarded up, and it gave off little light showing that it was nighttime.
            Hopefully I'm in a basement somewhere in this shitty town.
            A hand busted through the window shattering wood and glass with supernatural strength. The color white was unmistakeable, but Slavik backed up, not willing to guess it was friendly.
            "Don't back up, look behind you!" Rembrandt said, throwing the Colt .45 through the window in a laughing fit.
            Slavik turned around and picked up the gun. There were two stones that seemed abnormal, and seemed to pop out of the wall. Upon a longer look through what little light available, they both appeared more human, but not altogether in a human shape. They moved slowly, but he found himself increasingly dizzy as he watched them move.
            Slavik slowly rose his hand up. Filled with frustration and finding it impossible to move any faster, he fired at one of them with the strong kick of the gun. The shot echoed and hurt his ears, supplemented by the worthless laughter of his evil partner.
            There was a terribly loud, raspy roar from the wounded creature, as mouths seemed to open up all over its body. After it fell to the ground, Slavik felt like he had half of his speed back. But the other "thing" was too close now, and reached out with a length that seemed unlike the arm-span of a normal human, grabbing his gun by the barrel.
            As quick and with as much power as he could, Slavik pulled the steak knife out of his pocket. He stabbed the monster in its stomach-head; and saw its many agonized faces, young and old.
            The monsters seemed to boil, maybe by their own hard to see blood. They rolled around screeching on the dirt floor. Slavik picked his gun up fast and got out faster, pulling himself out of the hole Rembrandt had made.
            The young man found himself on the left edge of the town; he looked around and saw nobody. He went between the two houses and found Rembrandt drawing strange symbols with a stick within a large pre-drawn circle where the road was covered over with dirt. In the center of the circle, wriggling around in most of the extension cord was the veiled woman, but some of the blades in her eyes were now stuck in other parts of her, and some of the metal was in Rembrandt. Arrest of the ragged blades lied on the ground, along with torn pieces of electrical cord.
            Slavik watched silently as the two evil spirits departed with the wind.