Antlers: Posted on /x/ March 9th, 2011
I’d like to think it was a summer day when I died, but now I’m not sure.
It was a nice day, too, at least I can fucking say that: it was one of those cloudless, scorching summer days that pounded on you with relentless heat. I stood barefoot on the narrow stretch of front lawn separating the house, my towel slung over my shoulder. One good thing about my house was the water- my house was literally hovering over the water, I could almost fish out my window if I really wanted to. The winter had been rough, and in the early summer the memories of that merciless winter were still fresh: the heat warmed my bones, and thawed that terrible winter from my memory. I still missed Josh, though, as terrified as I was of the Antlers. Every time I thought about him, I remembered more, and the more I remembered the deeper I froze until I couldn’t move.
And I couldn’t move now.
“What mom?” I asked, my bones resuscitating and reviving themselves. I turned back towards the house, and saw her on the porch, holding a bottle of Banana Boat Sunscreen.
“You forgot your sunscreen!” she yelled.
“No I didn’t mom,” I lied. “I put some on before I came outside.”
“Alright. Be safe, babe.”
She opened the front door and went back into the house.
Since Josh died she had been acting weird…like all of us, I guess. She’d be alright when we were around: she was a pretty damn strong woman. I knew what she was doing. She was being strong.
When she left for work she kept her door locked, but sometimes, when I went into the bathroom that lead into my parents bedroom and she was still home, the smell of pot would seep through the door. I’d always leave. The last thing I wanted was for her to know that I knew her secret, because then she wouldn’t have her escape anymore and this unstable family would become even more undone…and I knew she saw him too, maybe even more frequently than me. The first time she saw the antlers, she screamed. She never told me she saw them, but I know she did.
We all needed an escape, because we all saw him, and everyone in my family had one. My dad worked his ass off, I hardly saw him at all that summer, and I guess I never will again. He worked as a salesman for the local lumber company, and even when his hours ended he’d just park on the side of the road about half an hour from my house. I saw him once when I was with a friend. He was taking a fucking nap. My sister, who was a year older than me would also lock herself in her room when she got home. I hadn’t seen her at all that day.
I almost wanted to retreat back into lethargy, staring at the lake that spread out before me. My head turned, and I looked at the old boat dock to my right. Something about the damn thing scared me: I never fucking went near it, and there wasn’t exactly a reason too. The only person who ever used it was my sister, and oftentimes I’d hear her weeping on it. I noticed that she had stopped taking showers. I think she was seeing Antlers as well.
I could see a Pontoon boat rolling along the waters distantly in the panoramic landscape, and I decided it was time to jump in. ‘Things would be different,’ I said to myself. ‘I wouldn’t see him. It was just a figment of my imagination.’ With a breath, I ran toward the water, jumped down a small ledge and kicked sand up as I sprinted toward the water: with a splash I was in. It was warm. Like bathwater. I kicked out with my feet and propelled myself deeper. The water in front of our house got deep fast, and after swimming for a minute I was already over my head, the cool water refreshing my legs and thighs. I dived under for a second, pushed my hair back, resurfaced, and swam out deeper.
There was a rock pile that was about a five minute swim away, just out of sight from my house. I swam, heading toward it.
I wasn’t a very irrational person. I didn’t think about the unknown: I was a scientist. Everything had a meaning and a explanation. My sister was more poetic. In the rare instances she’d come down from her room, it was usually to sit on the old, semi-rotting boat dock and look out at the lake. She had a journal. I never read it. I guess I should have- maybe I could have stopped her. Anyway, there were no freshwater predators, except for snapping turtles, that would even think of pursuing a human, and even then a snapping turtle would only attack if it mistook a person for a fish or something. No other logical predators, nothing could hurt me. Nothing lived under the deep, cool and black water of Sebago Lake just as nothing waited behind the shower curtain, just as nothing lived under my bed, and nothing lived in my closet.
Everything could be explained.
The Previous December
“Damn it, Joshy, hurry the hell up!” He was loading a basket filled with fishing gear on the back of the snowmobile, his friend scrutinizing him from the opposite side of the snowmobile.
“All the good holes are gunna be taken!”
“Chill Jonny,” said Josh, strapping the basket in. “We’re all set. We’re ready to get fucking moving.”
The snowmobile roared through the still December evening, ripping up the newly fallen snow. They couldn’t hear the ice cracking underneath them.
The snowmobile slowed to a stop. Jonny and Josh hopped off the back.
“I told dad we’d be fine with the sled out here,” said Jonny as we unstrapped the basket from the back of the snowmobile.
“Yeah, he won’t be pissed if we bring home a big pickerel for supper. If we don’t, your ass is grass man.” Josh.
“Hah,” Jonny laughed as he took the auger out of the basket. “He’s gunna be mad no matter what, fucktard, and he’s as good as your dad-“
The ice groaned suddenly, and the ground lurched, heaving in and out like shallow breathing. When it stoped, both of the boys were silent for a moment.
“Shit Jonny I think-“
The pane of ice shot straight up, throwing Josh backwards and the snowmobile sliding off into the water, the snowmobile pinning him, crushing his chest and dragging his corpse down to the freezing black depths of Sebago Lake. Jonny fell under, the shock resounding in his chest like a heavyweight punch to his windpipe. His brain stopped, then fucking exploded: the cold was so deep within his body that he couldn’t function: he just had to get out. “Get out get out get out,” he thought rapidly and disjointedly to himself as he propelled himself forward, trapped underneath a layer of ice like a specimen He couldn’t breathe, but when he did his head was still underwater. He gasped in a mouthful of cold, deadly black poison. In a last ditch effort, with the remaining ounces of adrenaline and strength he had pent up inside of him, he lashed out with both of his feet and cracked a hole in the ice.
‘I’m going to drown fuck I’m dying fuck’ a blue light filled his vision. He swam with a dying strength to the surface, the blue light becoming brighter and brighter, his body becoming number and number, his thoughts becoming a swirling crescendo…he barely felt the hands pull him out, and if he did he would have thought it was god pulling him up.
It wasn’t god. The last thing Jonny remembered seeing was the pair of Antlers and the ‘man horse thing a man with no eyes no face no soul nothing but antlers and nakedness’ take him in his bluish gray arms and carry him, carrying him ‘somewhere where I don’t know where am I going this wicked antler man-“
The blue light consumed him, and Jonny knew no more.
I was at the rock pile. I dove under the water and opened my eyes, seeing the rocks stained with algae and growth and little bass that swum with adeptness, darting in and out and in and out: I turned around in the water, to my right, and I saw the antlers.
I swallowed a bit of water and resurfaced, clamoring and floundering toward a rock I could stand on.
“Fuck oh no it’s him oh my god” I whispered to myself as I climbed the rock, trying to get out of the water like it was black poison: “Its the man with the antlers he has no soul or face damn it-“
It took me a minute to calm myself down, but I did. This kind of shit happened all the time. I had been a member of the swim team at school, but since the fucking accident, every time I’d resurface at the end of the lane, for a second, just a fucking second, I’d see the Antler Man glaring at me with no eyes, no face no fucking soul and I’d choke on water and gasp for breath and flounder up onto the ceramic tile and close my eyes and convince myself that he wasn’t there and that we wasn’t fucking real.
I’d see him when I got into the shower, sometimes. I’d only catch a glimpse of his white antlers before he would disappear but I would know it was him. I would get in anyway, though, and through the artificial rain I’d hear hooves trampling up the stairs, into my bedroom, and then they’d stop. He’d stalk me. But I convinced myself that he wasn’t real.
He wasn’t fucking real.
I had thought about killing myself, and almost did after one shower incident.
It was the first alright shower I had in about a month- no antlers, no nothing, and I turned off the water actually feeling like a normal kid, something that hadn’t happened since December. I stepped out onto the tiled floor naked, walked over to the medicine cabinet, and looked at myself in the mirrors, about to brush my teeth. I looked up, wiped away the steam, and I saw my reflection.
It was dead, rotting, almost to the bone, with chunks of blue flesh hanging on like they were poorly glued bits of rotting meat. I turned away violently, spewing vomit into the air, and when I looked at the mirror again, this time with fading conscious, the words “YOU COULD HAVE SAVED ME” were written in steam.
I was shaken, and as I caught my breath the sudden desire to just get the fuck out of the water overcame me. I was five minutes from my house, and about two from the opposite shore. I couldn’t just sit on a rock and wait until nightfall. Mr. Antlers probally lurked more at night- but he wasn’t fucking real.
So, I started to swim back, against my instinct, against my better judgment.
I felt like I was being watched.
Things went alright until I was about a minute away from the safety of the rock pile.
My dark shadow flew above the bottom of the lake.
The only problem was I couldn’t see the shadow underneath mine, and when the shadow underneath mine got tired of stalking, it swam up, fell just behind me, and clasped tight, dead hands around my ankle. I could feel the cold, the hatred of them as soon as they locked in on me: I stopped suddenly, my body jerked backwards, and I began to thrash, screaming, kicking, trying to shake his fucking thing off of me-
It dragged me underwater with no effort at all. I continued to kick, but it was like I was in a vice grip and the saw was moving closer to me every second. It dragged me deeper and deeper with each millisecond that passed. Then, it stopped, and turned me flung me toward it.
The first thing I saw was the antlers. But something was different.
It had a face, a rotted, blue face with an eye hanging from a socket and patches where disease had set in and eaten away to the bone. He let go of me, and I stared back at him. I was rooted to the spot.
Slowly, he raised his right hand, and I saw the bracelet on his wrist. It was rusted, but the words were clear.
It was a dog tag, and it said “Josh.”
His hands moved slowly toward my neck, and clamped there with the same vicelike grip, choking me: bubbles escaped my clenched lips as I kicked at Josh in vain, as I was turning blue, the rotting face began to creep into a smile.
Josh mouthed the words, “Now we’re even, man,” and as I was crushed by a cold, blue light, the antlers began to disappear and were replaced by a white, glimmering skull, and the hooves were replaced by the motor of a snowmobile and Josh hung like a swollen corpse-balloon, and the water was cold, so damn cold freezing blue blue light where am I goin-
Portland Press Herald- December 10th, 2003
TWO BOYS DEAD AFTER FALLING THROUGH ICE-
The Game Warden’s Office has released the names of the two young boys who died after a snowmobile fell through the ice on Tuesday Evening. Raymond youth Joshua A. Walsh, 15, and Jonathan B. Riddon, 16, were both were found after divers found the wreck of the submerged snowmobile the two had ridden.
Steve Harwick, Chief Warden, said “It appears as if the snowmobile fell on one of the boys and dragged him under.”
The Warden’s office is still investigating the case, and both the Walsh and the Riddon family have made for joint- funeral arrangements.
Cont. On Page A7
Antlers: Posted on /x/ March 9th, 2011
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We Might Make It, After All
As he talked from across the fire, the light it cast illuminated his face. I stared into the dancing flames as he chewed on his tongue, a little nervous habit he picked up recently. I was waiting for him to talk, say something, but I doubted he would. There was nothing to say, and I wasn’t about to spark a damn conversation.
A tiny ember floated through the air and landed on my bare arm and absentmindedly snubbed it out with my thumb. It was cold. I had left my jacket back there somewhere, and he had lost his fucking shoes back there as well. We weren’t going back for it. I’d have to fucking freeze to death and he’d have to go barefoot.
We stared into the fire, both of us now. He stopped chewing his tongue. We looked at the dancing flame, and I didn’t blink once, I just stared. I saw the thing back there, dancing with the smoke, smiling in the orange, and I’m sure he did too because neither of us looked up from the fire for a long time. The damn Thing was talking to us. It never stopped.
I was still staring at the fire when he stood up. He coughed, and spat mucus out on the ground. I looked up at him, and his wide, sunken eyes were bloodshot as hell. He was bleeding a little bit from the side of his mouth and his flannel shirt was ripped in the front, like some huge hand tried to rip his fucking stomach out.
“We need to move.” His voice was gravelly, deep, and rough.
I stood up, and nodded.
“Leave the fire.” he said. “Doesn’t matter anyway. It knows where we are.”
We walked away from the light and into the darkness.
“HOLY FUCK,” she screamed. He saw what she saw, and before he could really think, the breaks squealed against the tar and his head jerked back as the car abruptly stopped. Almost before the car stopped moving she threw the driver’s seat door open and bounded out of the car. He followed her, slowly, staring at what she was running towards.
On the right side of the road an old, beaten tree with thick branches that hung over the sides of the road, held a special present. Swaying like some kind of perverted tetherball of human flesh, hung two young men.
As the dawn slowly lit up the sky, him and I were on the grassy, mud banks of some river, walking slowly, squelching through the thick mud. I ditched my shoes, threw them in the river, half because they were falling apart and half to try and give him some consolation for his loss last night. I wouldn’t need them, today, anyway. We’d probably end up following the river for the rest of the sunlight hours.
It had been a good night- the flashlight hadn’t died yet and we made some good distance. No sign of the damn thing- no broken trees, no splotches of blood in the trees, and no fucking teeth. The thing left teeth everywhere he went, human teeth, like some kind of territorial sign. I’d started to collect some of them. I had 4, he had 5.
He stopped for a second, and turned towards the water. It was a lazy stretch of water- we had passed some currents a little while ago, but it calmed right down. Without a word, he bent down and picked up a stick half buried in mud. He threw it in, and we watched it slowly float for a minute. It went downstream, eventually.
He started to take of his shirt and pants, and so did I. We stripped naked in the morning light, and began to walk down the mud bank.
We sat on the banks of the river once again, our asses in the mud, the early afternoon sun warming our bones. I was starving. We were always starving. He had a can of Chef Boyardee left, and we split it. I was sad to see it go.
“If we keep following the river, maybe it’ll turn into a lake.” he said.
“With people.” I added.
“Yeah, with people.” he agreed.
“Do you think we’ll see It again?” I asked.
“I pray to god not,” he said. “But you never know.”
He stood up, and walked towards our clothes. It was time to go. I was tired, and exhausted, but I still had some running left in me.
We didn’t talk much, but I knew he was thinking what I was.
That we might make it, after all.
“Call the fucking police,” she murmured. He didn’t hear her. He was still staring. Staring at the way their bare-feet swung like pendulums, like the breeze was swaying them around like a waving flag. One was wearing a necklace of what seemed to be human teeth, white against the dead man’s torn flannel shirt. He looked up and down the tree, and half by chance he looked to the side of it, where he caught a glimpse of It.
“Call the fucking police,” she said, a bit louder. He shook his head, and kept staring, his mouth agape, his eyes wide and dilated.
“ Call the-”
“I see it.” he muttered.
“Look. It’s behind the tree. It’s watching us.”
Her gaze met where his was pointing, and she saw it. He could tell. She saw it too.
“Get in the car,” he said.
“We need to get away,” she muttered.
As if they shared the same mind, they both turned on their heels, dashing towards the car. The Thing didn’t follow, and all at once he knew that this was a game. Maybe she didn’t have a chance, but he did. He could run forever.
We might make it, afterall. He thought.
As he opened the door, he glimpsed at the cup holders through the window, and he saw the white enamel of human teeth.