Strange events occur in and around the area of Covefax, Virginia.
If one were to see Dennis Trexler clumsily stumbling and fumbling through the thick brush, there would be no doubt in their mind that he was a drunk. Not only would they be correct, but they’d have gained an understanding of the majority of his entire character. Unfortunately, he held such a strong passion for alcohol that it had come to define him, and with that, any sort of personality that existed before he took his first drink had been eroded by consistent waves of booze washing up on his shore of consciousness.
It had slowly eaten away at him and he knew it, but, he was never going to admit it. Just like how he wasn’t going to admit that he was lost in this pitch black, endless, desolate, landscape of trees and forestry. Some would call Dennis stubborn, but with the drunkenness fueling his mental processing, he simply wrote it off as strong-willed determination. How did he even get here? He hadn’t the slightest clue, however, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was going to find his way out.
So, when he saw a break in the tree line and a tiny, dim light in the distance, Dennis tried not to act so surprised. Nevertheless, he let out a bit of a screech when he recognized this beautiful sight as a potential exit from the blackened woods he had been traversing through for, what had felt like, the entire night. As Dennis realized this, he adopted a sort of tunnel vision and quickened his pace, eventually breaking into a full-out sprint. It didn’t last long, as he almost immediately lost his footing and balance and tumbled into the dirt. Mid-tumble, Dennis rolled through it and regained some sort of base before breaking through the last few branches of the wooded area, spilling out into a small ditch that ran parallel to a town street.
Dennis groaned as his drunken mind caught up with his body. He rolled over and tried to steady himself on all fours before turning his head and examining the surrounding area. The only reason he had even managed to see the street from the ditch was due to the minimal light source he had seen from the woods. It belonged to a nearby streetlamp, which oddly enough, was the only one that lined the road, even though the road extended as far as Dennis could see. It was almost as if it had just appeared there for the sole purpose of catching his eye and, ultimately, guiding him out of the darkness.
Thinking that the fates were smiling down on him, Dennis reciprocated with a smile of his own. He pulled himself together and stepped out of the ditch and up onto the road. He looked to the right, then he looked to the left. There were no incoming automobiles as far as he could tell. Dennis had tried to hitchhike in the past, but it literally never got him anywhere, however, he was far too exhausted to attempt to walk further than another half a mile.
Thankful that he had finally had a clearer path, yet incredibly disappointed that he still had no direction or destination, Dennis was about to collapse in the street before he caught a slight glimpse of rectangular light on the other side of the street. Before long, Dennis thought that what he was seeing was a window. Intrigued, he kept in mind the lesson he had just learned, and maintained a slower pace as he walked towards this point of interest. The closer he came, lines and shapes became more detailed and defined, and Dennis began to see a geometric shape form and encompass the light. Once he saw a humanoid figure pass through the window space, Dennis’ suspicions were confirmed.
It was a house. It probably had power and heat. Food and water.
Now that Dennis could finally see the house up close though, he grew worried that that may not be the case. The home seemed quite run down. Gutters were hanging off the edge of the roof, leaves and trash littered the front porch, and the walls donned some sort of graffiti that Dennis had never seen before. “WE LOVE COVEFAX!” he thought that it read. There was more, but it was indistinguishable. Dennis had shuffled his feet enough, at this point, to have completely closed the distance, now standing at the front of the home. He could hear laughing from beyond the front door. Lots of it. In some way, that was welcoming to Dennis. Being so close to some manifestation of happiness made him a little happier, too. He wasted no time in making his presence known as he slammed his knuckles against the middle of the door. Standing there, Dennis feared whoever lived there may not answer. It was very late, after all. The door opened instantly.
He couldn’t make out their faces, at first. After wandering through the darkness for hours, Dennis’ eyes were incredibly susceptible to light, and he almost winced backwards from the sudden burst that protruded from the open doorway.
“Well, hello there!” one of the faceless figures said happily.
Dennis’ vision focused and he saw that it was a family who was greeting him. There was a man, a woman, and a small boy. They were dressed in very peppy attire, sporting tucked-in khakis and brightly-colored knitted sweaters. The woman was wearing a white dress and a pearl necklace. She looked like a housewife, through and through. They were all smiling at him, their white, flawless teeth made apparent by the mixture of bright light and fading darkness that surrounded them that night. Dennis thought that the family must have just gotten home from a visit with the Cleavers. He also noticed the interior of the home behind them. It was a stark contrast compared to the condition of the exterior of the home. Dennis thought he saw the beginning of the living room, which boasted all kinds of intricately designed furniture, decorations, portraits, paintings, and sculptures. Calling it well kept would have been a shameful understatement. This was one hell of a housewife, Dennis thought.
“You have any food? I’ve hardly eaten all day.” Dennis pleaded. The exhaustion was setting in concretely, especially now that he was so close to a warm, loving home. A real home. He hadn’t been in one for years.
“Sure, stranger! Come on in!” the man said with a huge grin on his face. The man placed his palm on Dennis’ shoulder and guided him into the home, shutting the door once Dennis was completely inside.
“Oh, thank you, thank you..” Dennis rambled off repeatedly, trying not to sound drunk, tired, and lonely.
“What do you take? Water, milk, apple juice?” the woman asked warmly, her smile never fading.
Dennis almost asked for beer instinctively, but he stopped himself.
“I think water’ll do..” Dennis managed to sigh.
“Great! I’ll bring out some bread, too!” the woman replied in such a peppy manner that it alerted Dennis. The man was still smiling at him, as well. So was the boy. Dennis excused this behavior though, after all, these people were giving him food, water, and shelter. That meant more to him than odd mannerisms. He didn’t really care, anyway. All his mind was savoring was that first bite of bread. The woman walked off to the kitchen to prepare Dennis’ request, while the man, the boy, and Dennis all settled down into different chairs and sofas in the living room.
Dennis grew a little anxious. He wasn’t very good at casual conversation. The drunkenness was wearing off now, but he was still so drained that he could hardly even think straight. He hoped they wouldn’t ask too many questions, but he assumed it was inevitable. As if sensing this, the man popped the first question.
“So, where you from, stranger?” the man blurted loudly, and with giddiness.
“I’m Dennis, by the way. And uh..it’s funny..I can’t really remember.” he said, trying to keep it as informal and friendly as possible. He certainly didn’t want to scare these people away. In truth, they were the closest thing he had to friends. To family.
“That’s no good, Dennis! Not knowing where you come from is a dandy way to get yourself lost!” the man said with a mixture of reassurance, comfort, and ease. It was like a father gently slapping his son’s hand as it deftly found its’ way into the cookie jar: a reminder that there was a better way of handling things and to not make stupid decisions. Dennis also wanted to laugh. If only this guy knew even half of what happened tonight, about his blind journey through the forest surrounding this man’s home. He managed to keep his cool, however.
“Yeah, I know..” said Dennis with a guilty smirk. He was wonderful at sparking discussion.
“Do you like music, Dennis?” the man asked with seemingly naïve wonder. Dennis knew that it was natural for someone to be intrigued by a stranger visiting their home, but this guy, he was different. He really..cared.
“..I do, I do.” Dennis said quickly as he realized the long pause that occurred between the question being asked and his own thought process.
“Honey!” the man yelled to his wife in the other room, “turn on the ole’ sound box!”
Immediately, music filled the living room and Dennis caught sight of the man’s wife again as she made her way back from the other part of the house. She was carrying a tray, which held a glass of water and a plate with a small loaf of bread on it. She set it down on the table in the center of the living room and told Dennis to take what he wanted from it. Dennis waited a moment for the sake of being polite, then leaned over from the couch to grab his food. Food, he thought. How wonderful. Once he had gotten it, he couldn’t help but scarf down the bread and chug the glass of water.
“My, you must have been starving!” the woman remarked. “Did you at least like it?” she asked, that permanent smile still on her face.
Dennis, chewing, nodded his head quickly. John Mellencamp’s ‘R-O-C-K In The U-S-A’ was playing, loudly, on the sound box.
The man seemed eager to move forth with the conversation.
“Were you in school, Dennis? You know, higher education? It’s a great option for people looking for excellent careers in fields they love!” the man stated with what seemed like enormous passion. There was no fooling this guy, Dennis thought. Not that he ever could have hidden it from this family, but, sometimes, he liked to forget that he was a bum, that he was homeless. He knew what the man was hinting at: that if he had gone to college or made a better decision somewhere down the road, he wouldn’t be where he was now.
“Never really had the chance, you know?” Not wanting to step on anyone’s toes, Dennis opted for the simpler, neutral answer.
The man said nothing in response, just staring at Dennis and continuing to smile. He noticed the rest of the family, the woman and the boy, were still grinning as well. It was getting a bit eerie now, to the point that Dennis was feeling uncomfortable. He certainly wasn’t going to call them out on it, though.
“Are you a spiritual person?” the man asked with the same cheerful tone.
Confused, Dennis asked, “What, like Jesus and stuff?”
The family’s burst of laughter erupted so loudly that Dennis winced, almost knocking over the glass of water on the table as he reached out for it with his hand. The laughing continued for a few more seconds and Dennis waited.
“No, no! Don’t be so silly now, Dennis!” the man exclaimed through the same painful smile.
His wife piped up now, “What we’re referring to is probably the exact antithesis of Jesus!”
Dennis didn’t know what antithesis meant so he went with his gut and tried to think his response through. “So, the Devil, then?” he asked.
“Some call him that.” the man responded, while the wonderful smile that Dennis had become accustomed to almost immediately faded. Dennis thought that he may have offended them, so he was going to try his best to make amends.
“Hey, if you guys are into that, nothing wrong there, just not for me you know? Haha!” Dennis tried to lighten things up. Silence followed. The family continued to stare, none of them smiling. Dennis felt so isolated in that moment that it was practically maddening. He wanted those annoying, giddy, eerie smiles back. This felt hostile.
What the man had called ‘the sound box’ continued to blast music into the room.
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A!”
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A!”
“Are you a drunk, Dennis?” the man asked with vigor. Dennis had never heard a man sound so hardened and serious. He recoiled at that question being spat at him.
“What? No!” Dennis attempted to explain, hardly able to maintain any sort of composure. He couldn’t even begin speaking again before the man intercepted him.
“You know, people do dumb things when they’re drunk. Like wander into Covefax and slander names they don’t even deserve to speak.” the man practically yelled, stoically.
Dennis was very unsettled. “You got the wrong idea, man, I wasn’t slanderin’ anybody..” he muttered, stumbling over his words as he, a drunk, attempted to reason with this group of people. Supposedly, a family.
The man stood up from his chair and walked over to Dennis, who peered up at him from the couch. Dennis didn’t peer too long before feeling the force of the man’s palm crash against the side of his head. He was so shocked that he crumpled to one side of the couch, grasping at his head where the blow had been struck.
The man looked over to his wife. “Honey, could you do me a favor?” he asked her. She simply nodded and ran off to another room. Dennis scrambled to get up from the couch. He was going to try to make it to the door and use the last of his energy to sprint into the woods. As soon as he sat up, the man caught him and squeezed Dennis’ neck with one hand and shoved his head back down onto the arm of the couch. Holding him there, the man continuously beat on Dennis’ stomach and ribs. With each blow, the man grunted, and Dennis’ cried out in torment. His mind played out the potential abuse he was about to face, the agony he was about to feel. He wanted to cry.
Eventually, the man called over his son. “Buster, come on over here.” The boy eagerly rushed up to his father’s side, awaiting his task. The man, still holding Dennis down by the neck, pointed at Dennis’ groin.
“There.” the man told his son. “As hard as you can, alright?”
“No, no, no..no!” Dennis begged. He was completely ignored.
The boy slammed his fist repeatedly into Dennis’ groin. The boy wanted to make his father proud. The man altered his point of attack, shifting from Dennis’ ribs to his face. The first blow broke his nose and it wasn’t long until his nostrils had become a consistently flowing blood spout. After a while, the man backed up from the couch, attempting to gain some space. He proceeded to run towards Dennis, sticking his foot out at the last second to ensure that it collided with Dennis’ head. Dennis’ neck bent back so far that he was convinced it had broken. Eventually, the assault ended. However, that ending was short-lived.
The man’s wife had returned with a crowbar.
“Here you go, honey!” she exclaimed. Her smile had returned. The man quickly grabbed the crowbar from his wife. As Dennis was attempting to roll his injured body off the couch so that he could crawl towards the door, he felt cold steel connect with his right arm, shattering the bone indefinitely.
The pain was so immense that Dennis’ world was slowly fading. He was going to pass out, or die, very soon. He was off the couch now and couldn’t tell if he was still being beaten or not. He crawled somewhere, anywhere, he just needed to get away.
The song was still playing.
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A!”
Someone’s foot struck the side of his head once more, and that did it. Dennis was done now. He couldn’t crawl, couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, and could just barely breathe. The only sounds to escape his lips were distorted groans of anguish and loss. His head had become the family’s soccer ball.
Another blow. The world was going black now.
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A!”
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A!”
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A.”
“R-O-C-K in the U-S-A..”