I have been writing like a fiend these past few weeks and as a result, I have nearly filled two handwritten notebooks, transcribed them onto a computer, and reached the end of The Happy Valley. There are a few chapters in the middle that need to be flushed out and then I go through the entire thing from the beginning in the painful process of editing it. To make matters worse I have managed to tie this story in with the previous iteration: The Boilertown Saga. I may have opened myself up to writing another book, and possibly a third. Dear Gods, help me, what have I done and will it ever end?
In the meantime for the month of May, it is the busy season in the cemetery. In preparation for Memorial Day we can work as many overtime hours as we can handle and I really want to buy a car. I don’t know how much more writing I can accomplish during this time. Originally, I wasn’t planning on posting much more of this story for things have gone off the deep end. Fair warning, this chapter is a bit “spoilerly” so to speak. A lot has gone down in a short amount of time. I have begun to have slight trepidation about the story line, for how convoluted and weird is too convoluted and weird and is such a thing even possible?
The Happy Valley: Mother Millipede
The Spiritualist stood just inside the doorway of one of the largest unused rooms in the decommissioned church. All of the furniture and statuary were gone a long time ago for the place hadn’t been used as such for a quarter or more of a century. “I thought you were behind me,” she heard Bracken behind her, his voice worried and felt his grip on her arm as he tried to lead her out of the house. With her free hand Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge brought a finger up to her lips silencing him. “She’s sleeping,” she pulled her arm free and pointed. Bracken followed her finger. To his horror he saw the massive Mother Millipede curled up in the center of the room. Between each segment was a pair of legs that clutched an egg. Words failed Bracken as a low whistle escaped his lips for there must have been a million eggs and twice as many legs. Unwound, the thing must have been at least a fifty sixty feet and every bit as vengeful while caring for her young.
“We have to get out of here,” Bracken urged once more.
“I said shhhhhh,” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge vehemently shushed him as she stood staring transfixed. “You don’t want to wake her.” She’s right, he thought. The two of them tensed as they watched the legs clutching the eggs twitch in a ripple. The Spiritualist and the former ghost witnessed firsthand what those eggs became. Metamorphosing from larvae to segmented death with gnashing mandibles.
“We need to get out here,” Bracken said for a third time. “I can’t stress this enough.”
“We need to burn the place down,” she answered resolutely.
“What? Deeds’s house?” Bracken mouthed, even though he knew that she was also right about that.
“What if this isn’t the first clutch of eggs and who knows how many more will be released into the world? We have to act fast before The Mother wakes the babies. Too much time has already been spent talking about it.” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge added credence to his thoughts. “If Deeds was here with us, she’d say the same thing.” The Spiritualist answered in absentia for her absent friend, “she’d probably ask what are we waiting for?” Bracken caught a glint in her eye reminiscent of the firelight that had yet to happen.
Octavia Anton Deeds was busy walking the proverbial walk of shame in the custody of The Twins through downtown Knowlton’s Corner. They had her cuffed and flanked on either side. She trudged along slowing her pace on purpose, staring at the ground, and nearly tripping over her own feet. They did feel weird to her, with the extra skin growing between the toes, much like her fingers. Deeds swore for she knew she had done something dumb. It was the third time that one of The Twins had stepped on her heel, “come on,” they reprimanded her and one of them nudged her with a knee to the back of the leg. Deeds stumbled a couple of steps and almost brought them down with her. She wasn’t injured or anything, she just wasn’t ready to go just yet. For the first time in a long time she was happy, “playing river pirate” while Knowlton’s Corner burned. All of her nightmares of drowning had ceased, she was able to utilize her new abilities, and she even befriended a bog witch. Most of all it was the freedom she missed. The Twins had come like they said they would and she had to answer for her transgressions. She did still did not understand what their role in all of this was, nor did she particularly care to at that moment. She had a feeling that it might have something to do with the coal chamber on Abernathy Avenue. “Will you please stop doing that?” they replied in unison and she felt another quick jab to the back of her leg with a knee. She stepped up her pace for moment for they too close for comfort.
“You could just shoot me with that gun of yours. You could carry me?” Deeds begrudgingly mumbled for it sounded like a better idea the more she thought about it. “Please?” she asked in earnest.
“Keep walking,” They answered.
“Or I could just play dead and you don’t have to shoot me?” Just as Deeds said that she stopped, loosened up her joints, and started to go boneless. They both gripped her restrained wrists and yanked up hard before her legs gave out taking the two of them with her. That was her plan until her arms were pulled at an odd angle and she jerked herself back to feet. “Owww,” she muttered as she shook off her failure and brought her head up just in time to see Maximilian Grander up and about out of the house on the other side of the street some distance off. He was heading towards them in the opposite direction hunched over and walking backwards. “What?” she muttered confused as she watched him draw closer and she saw that he was dragging someone. He looked every bit suspicious as he craned his neck around in every direction to see if anyone was there to catch him in whatever heinous deed he had committed. He was close enough for Deeds to see that it was heinous indeed. The head of the body he dragged behind him lolled to the side at a drastic angle. It was apparent the victim had been garroted and nearly decapitated. Deeds got a better look at the deceased; her confusion grew to shock when she realized it was Maximilian Grander himself. She stopped short and stared in befuddlement, once again getting her heel stepped on by the Twins. Grander stopped dragging his murdered doppelganger when he realized that he had been seen. He almost dropped the body and stood up in shock as he turned to face the folks on the other side of the street. His welcoming grin was more like a grimace as he nodded nonchalantly at The Twins, who reciprocated the awkward greeting feigning their own innocence. “Grander?” Deeds forced his name out. He looked confused as if he didn’t know who or what she was talking about. “Max Grander?” There was a bit more uncertainty in her voice the second time she said his name. He shook his head at her, signifying that the subject was dropped and bent down to adjust his grip on the dead Grander’s armpits as he cradled the body in the crook of his elbows and kept on dragging. Deeds stood there blinking rapidly for a second and looked askance over each shoulder at The Twins. Something clicked into place. “He did not know me at all. Is the real Max Grander the dead one?” Deeds drew the dark conclusion not exactly knowing how she got to that point for none of this had made sense for an awfully long time. “Wait,” she paused and turned around to look the pair dead in their faces. “You two are the same person?”
They each nodded once, “same person, different parallel,” That One answered.
“There used to be third.” This One added slyly.
“But we don’t talk about the third,” They said in unison.
“Huh, This One, That One, and The Other One.” Deeds muttered as she mused for a minute, before she had more time to process everything she was herded further down the street.
Bracken stomped down hard on the grub and he cringed as it squished and the gooey innards splattered over his boot and up his black pant leg. The mess barely had time to register as he swung his leg up and brought his foot down on the next one, and the one after that. He lost count because there were so many. He switched feet so both of them could shoulder the blow as they exploded under his boot heels. The massive Mother Millipede had woken up. She unfurled with a piercing screech and released her clutch of young from her legs, as soon as the eggs hit the floor they hatched and all the larvae wiggled and crawled and it was only a matter of time before they too curled up and twitched and a million more millipedes molted. No longer concerned with keeping quiet, The Spiritualist screamed back at The Mother’s face. “We need to leave!” Bracken shouted over the din as around him all the babies stopped their wriggling. Not only were they about to be released into the world but Deed’s house was set to burn. In their mad search to find a way to torch the place, they found a stockpile of incendiary fluid in one of the closets as if it was there just in case the occurrence should arise. “NOW!” Bracken roared.
“DIE!” The Spiritualist shrieked one last time with blood-lust in her voice. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge turned on her heels just as The Mother reared up on hundreds of thousands of hind legs. She paused to ignite the makeshift torch of rolled up papers that the adolescent millipede had kicked from under Deeds’s boarded door of her bedroom. With the torch lit she made sure to hit every wet surface on her way out and Bracken did the same as they tore out toward the outside. He waited in front of the blasted front door, shielding his eyes from the smoke and rising heat as he made sure they weren’t being followed. The Spiritualist circled around the perimeter to all the wet windowsills and boarded doors making sure she sealed all the possible exits in a great wall of fire. She met back at Bracken just as The Mother screeched and so did all of her young which had barely begun to sprout legs. He turned his gaze towards her. She looked exalted as her exuberant eyes reflected in the firelight as she paused to try to catch her breath. He found himself wondering who she really was and what happened to her in the coal chamber. She wasn’t the same Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge that emerged no more than fifteen minutes later. Before them the stained-glass windows broke and fire and smoke belched out. A flaming baby millipede squiggled out and died upon hitting the ground. It was followed by a few more siblings who tried to make their escape. Bracken was ready with his boot but they also died upon impact. The final screams of The Mother were still heard inside as well as a great thrashing and crashing as the roof collapsed. “Yeah, you better be dying!” The Spiritualist hollered and punched the air triumphantly; her voice was manic with rage at the dying cries of The Mother. Bracken brought his head down and almost gagged as he looked at his boots and trouser legs for they were covered in the milky white pulp of countless millipede babies. He too hoped that the fire that raged inside what used to be the house of Octavia Anton Deeds killed the creature and all her young. There was something about the way that Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge was acting that made him pause. She looked back at Bracken when she noticed that he was staring at her. She smiled back but he could see that it was forced. There was something behind her eyes that she wasn’t ready to let out just yet. He had a feeling it would be growing there until she did.
The air hung heavy with an acrid smoke of a charred chitinous exoskeleton, Bracken coughed into the crook of his elbow and squinted as he watched her draw closer to him. “Hey,” she said as she approached, tears streaming from her excited eyes as The Spiritualist gripped Bracken’s hand in both of hers. “We did it, we killed them all.” She paused for a second, lending an ear toward Deeds’s place, she could no longer the cries of the apocalyptic arthropod. “Let’s get out here.”
“And go where?” For the moment, the former ghost was at a loss for what to do next. The smoke was getting to him.
“The Post,” The Spiritualist answered as if she knew the answer to some great cosmic question. “I’m sure Deeds will show up there if she hasn’t already.” She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and led him out of the front yard and back into the heart of Knowlton’s Corner.