This is the first chapter of a story I was writing. I've already written most of the story but I'd like to see what you guys can come up with! It's about a completely ordinary man visiting a village so strange, it's hard to get away from. In my version, Jack goes on to meet a beautiful woman named Penelope Lockhart. (bear in mind that I've never done this before so I'm not quite sure what's meant to be happening).
Jack Brown, age twenty, was in a bad mood as he drove down the motorway towards Crepston. It was his first day as an interior designer and after promptly being pulled into a dark room and being told of his mission, he had not been impressed.“You’ll find a man that needs your help,” the withered old lady had whispered in the pitch black cupboard. “Take the van; you won’t need any supplies.”
What was that supposed to mean? He’d only been in the shop two minutes and already he was being sent away for an unexplained job. And why did it have to be Crepston? Every one knew that the little village in the valley was one of the poorest and cruellest towns around. Jack didn’t dare think about the state in which his client’s house could be.
It started to rain as Jack bumped down the cobbled streets of the little town. He wondered how he’d keep his jet black spikes from going floppy and instinctively pulled up the dark hood of his long overcoat. Maybe the fact that it was raining on his first day at work was a bad omen.
As he looked around at the shadowy houses, he noticed the little people cowering behind their rain-drenched windows, staring out uncertainly. There didn’t seem to be much light around- the dark clouds in the sky blocked out any sunlight- and it sent a shiver down his spine.
It didn’t take Jack long to find 13 Withermore street. The house looked just like any other; tall, old and a bit scary. The dying flowers in the overgrown window boxes and grubby windows covered in cobwebs gave the impression that no one lived there. The only sign that someone resided within the house was the shiny silver bike which leant against the mossy stone wall at the front of the garden.
After parking the car and stepping out into the drizzle, Jack made his way over to the house, hoping that the residence would look bigger on the inside. Somehow he doubted that it would have the same effect as the Tardis. He knocked on the door and waited a few seconds before it opened. The man standing in the doorway definitely wasn’t ordinary- his clothes and hair were evidence of that. He had a long cloak-like robe on, long, straight white hair and a smooth face. Even though he was extremely skinny, he was a lot taller than Jack and somehow seemed to take up the whole doorframe. His eyes were slit-like though deep shadows dug pits below them. If not for his worried expression then he would have been very imposing.
“Good morning, Mr Brown,” the tall man greeted Jack in a dull but accented voice.
“You too, Mr-”
“-Mr Casey,” the man replied. “Sorry, I should have introduced myself. Please, you are here to see the boy?”
“Boy? No, I’m a decorator,” Jack told him, confused. “Oh, of course, Mrs Sawyer told me about this. She would never be able to employ people if they knew what they were putting themselves in for,” Casey chuckled. Jack was perplexed. Who was this man and what did he mean? He’d definitely signed up for the right job; the shop back home had certainly looked like a decorating shop.
“I don’t understand,” Jack mumbled pathetically as his mind tried to process Casey’s words.
Casey laughed in reply. “Please, come inside and I’ll make you a drink. I don’t see how you can examine the boy in your befuddled state.”
Casey ushered Jack inside then closed the door behind him. The dark hallway was lit by a couple of blazing candles, their flames bouncing off the dark purple wallpaper and highlighting the never-ending passage ahead. The walls were covered in cracks and dark stains flooded the wooden floorboards at Jack’s feet.
“Follow me,” Casey muttered as he walked fluently into the darkness. Jack followed him until they came to an ornate wooden door which opened to reveal a gloomy kitchen decorated with mouldy green wallpaper and dark tiled floors. The kitchen counters and small round table were made of chipped oak and covered in old newspapers. Two chairs waited side by side.
“Sorry about the mess,” Casey apologised. “Do you want tea?” He went over to the stove and filled an old metal kettle with water. Jack was surprised that he didn’t have a modern kettle- this town felt like a step back in time! The man and the boy waited in silence while the water boiled. Jack kept glancing at the papers but didn’t want to be seen reading them in case he got told off. The creepy silence bugged him but he tried to shrug off his worry; he had to look professional.
“Here you are,” Casey said cheerfully, handing Jack a steaming cup of brown liquid. “Sorry but I didn’t have any sugar.”
“Thank you,” Jack replied gratefully, breathing in the warmth from the drink. He didn’t mention how cold he was but it probably showed on his face. Casey sat down and Jack followed. They sipped their tea for a few seconds before Casey began.
“I’ll tell you about your job but first I’m going to explain about this village. Please, don’t interrupt until I’m finished- I don’t want to lose my train of thought.” He grinned an eerie grin and took a sip from his tea. Jack nodded obediently, pleased that he was getting to the point instead of making small talk. “It all started a few years ago,” Casey began, “this town wasn’t always so gloomy; it had once been bright and cheerful. Children would play in the streets, mothers would go out to market and the fathers would work in the fields. Crepston was a fairly rich town and we had many visitors, especially at events such as our country fairs and sports days. I had a family as did most men; Withermore Street was a good place to live.”
Jack wondered how long ago that had been; after all, his mother had always described Crepston as living hell. Had she seen it in its heyday? Probably not- the only reason someone would visit a place like this was for a funeral and they only came every few years. Jack turned his attention back to Mr Casey. “Then, one day, the planter came to town. We didn’t realise at first; the effects don’t show until it’s too late. But then people started to sick up blood and their skin would go all white. After that, they had no chance of living. The mutation would take place in an instant, producing the beast which had been feeding on the victim for months. Only then could we destroy the demon planted by the Egg Planter.”
Casey went silent for a few moments and Jack thought he’d stopped. It took quite a few moments for the reality of what Casey had just said to sink in. When it did, Jack’s expression turned to that of horror and his mind instantly sought for reasons to deny the truth. The man sipped his tea indifferently and sighed.
“Who was the Egg Planter?” Jack whispered nervously, unsure whether to take this tale seriously. Could these stories really be true? This man certainly seemed to believe them but as he lived in such a rundown and uneducated part of the country, it was hard to believe that anyone would trust his opinion.
“Don’t you mean, who is?” Casey questioned, raising one eyebrow. “The Egg Planter is a legendary creature, a man in league with the devil. His aim is to rid the world of humans while spawning demons at the Jacke time. To do this, he sneaks up on those who dare to sleep and feeds people eggs while they dream. Then, in the next few weeks, the egg hatches and the demon feeds on the insides of the body. From the outside, no one knows what’s going on but within the body, all hell is breaking loose. Then, when the demon is strong enough, it breaks out and kills all who get in its way.”
The room went silent when he stopped speaking and Jack shifted in his seat uneasily. “So, this town, does it ever sleep?” Jack questioned, finding it quite unbelievable that so many people could manage to keep their eyes open for more than forty-eight hours. If anyone else had told him this story then he would have thought they were having a laugh- it was only Casey’s sincerity that kept him from discarding the obscene idea.
“Only if it wants to risk its life,” Casey spat.
“But... why don’t you just run away?” Jack quizzed, thinking up the obvious answer to their problems.
“We’d like to. Many people have left and got out alive. Others weren’t so lucky. It’s too dangerous to drive in our tired states and those who walk fall prey to the night. Public transport doesn’t come by these cursed areas. “Plus, there is another reason for our continued residence here in Crepston. The Egg Planter needs victims and, if we left, then he would move on to find new ones. We cannot let more innocent people die as our families have. There are so few of us left and most would happily give up and sleep if it wasn’t for our desperation to save others. We need to continue our battle with the invisible soldier; he knows we are close to breaking point and will not move until we are all deceased. It is our duty to live our lives for as long as possible before the night claims us.”
This long speech moved Jack and, in that moment, he saw the people of Crepston in new light. This town wasn’t as beastly as he had always pictured. The families locked inside their houses all made sense now- they even had the right to be frightened of him! If they went out and cleaned their streets then it would be a waste of energy, contact with the outside world would be a danger to the surrounding villagers. The residents there were saviours, sacrificing their lives for the good of others. How brave, Jack thought.
“How do you know that this creature really exists?” he wondered.
“Because I’ve seen its effects and know what it can do to a person,” Casey replied bluntly.
“But it can’t be real! Since when have people of my standards been expected to believe in fairy stories?”
“This is no fairy story,” Casey frowned persistently. Jack realised that there was no point in arguing with this bizarre man- if he wanted to believe these incredulous stories, then he would just have to go along with him. That said, Jack wasn’t going to go against the man anyway, especially as it gave him a perfectly good explanation for the strange goings-on in Crepston.
“But what’s this got to do with me?” Jack asked doubtfully. “I’m an interior decorator!” For some reason Jack could feel his temper rising. It hadn’t mentioned in the job description that you had to hang around with old fogies telling ghost stories. What was up with this place? Oh yea, he thought, there was an Egg Planter stalking the streets. He almost laughed at the absurdity of it.
“You are a demon catcher,” Casey answered calmly, cutting of Jack’s personal joke.
“You kill the demons when they spawn,” he explained quietly, “Or, if we’re lucky, before they spawn.”
Jack sat still, unable to speak, his hands freezing around his half-empty mug of tea. He could barely believe what this man was saying. Was he insane? He couldn’t slay demons! What happened to being an interior decorator? He wanted to deny the truth but, to his frustration, he knew it was right. He remembered the application form asking irrelevant questions such as ‘Are you strong?’ and ‘Would you risk your life for this job?’ Of course he’d said yes; he wanted the job. At the shop the woman had said that he wouldn’t need supplies and that Mr Casey desperately needed his help. Everything fitted. If only he’d seen something odd about it before.
“Okay,” Jack mumbled reluctantly. He wasn’t quite sure what he was letting himself in for- or how he answered so quickly- but it didn’t take him long to decide that being a demon slayer would be a lot better than unemployment. Anyway, wasn’t this something that little boys dreamed of?
“You’re alright with this?” Casey wondered, surprised.
“Yes, it makes sense.”
“Good, then let me show you my son.”
It didn’t take long to get to the top of the crooked old house. The décor was the same all round; dark and ugly. The smell seemed to get worse as the two men climbed and the temperature dropped considerably. By the time they’d reached the highest room in the house, Jack was frozen.
Casey opened the door and pushed Jack into the darkness. He peered into the gloom, trying to make out the shapes inside the bedroom but the light of the little candle didn’t reveal much. Seeing how dim the light was, Casey walked over to a wall bracket and replaced an old candle stump with a brand new candle which he lit with a match from the innards of his cloak.
Now that he was allowed sufficient light to see by, Jack could see a small figure, huddled in the corner of the room. His ashen face was half hidden by a rough blanket which was drawn around the boy’s skinny body. His lice-ridden hair had grown down to his shoulders and his black pupils had retracted in fear of the light, giving his eyes a frightening appearance. The floor around him was covered in dried blood.
“Son, it’s me, your father,” Casey whispered warily. His voice lost all coldness and, though he seemed worried about the boy, he did not fear him. Jack realised that this was why people like him had been appointed to slay the children- their parents could never do such a thing.
The boy didn’t react positively to his dad’s greeting. He cringed against the damp wall and his eyelids rose in fear, showing the two men his bloodshot eyes. Jack realised that he was shivering.
“Do you believe me now?” Casey asked seriously.
“I can’t deny it,” Jack replied formally. The boy’s appearance wasn’t exactly proof that the Egg Planter existed; his sickness and fear of the man could easily have been due to child abuse of some sort. Jack realised that he’d probably look like that if he were trapped in a room of this state. And hadn’t he been slightly scared by this man’s first impressions?
And yet, even though this whole meeting could be explained away as an act of cruelty, Jack realised that Mr Casey was telling the truth. He could see the love and despair in his eyes, only felt by people who had lost someone they dearly cared for. The way his arms reached out longingly, as though wanting to embrace the child. And most of all, the hatred which, though clumsily hidden, still blazed out of the poor man’s eyes, desperate to get it’s revenge on his son’s death.
“See how he cringes away in fright? It shows that he is no longer possessed by his soul. The demon has taken over.” Casey’s words were so sorrowful that Jack felt like leaning over and comforting the grown man. He didn’t though, realising that this would be an unacceptable invasion of his client’s space.
“How long has he been like this?” Jack gulped, trying to hold back the urge to run away, back to his bed and under his warm covers. It was beginning to dawn on him that this was the kind of demon that he was supposed to be slaying.
“Jacob’s condition has been weak for quite a while now. It is only in the past couple of days that his mind has deteriorated so noticeably.”
The boy was called Jacob, Jack thought. Did he really want to know that when he performed the inevitable task of murdering him? No, he thought. Any connection to the child would just make the job harder. The boy was a demon; the demon didn’t have a name.
“He’s dying,” Jack commented glumly.
Casey’s sorrowful voice turned hard, “No, he is already dead. You must think of him in that way now, do you understand?”
“Yes sir… I do. It is hard for me though, to think of the thing that possesses this living, breathing child,” Jack answered truthfully.
“As for I,” Casey muttered. “But, it is our duty to.” There was a pause in which Jack tried to form the question he wanted to ask.
“Yes?” he looked at Jack questioningly.
“After everyone in the town has been… slaughtered, won’t the Egg Catcher move on?”
“Yes, I’m afraid he will,” Casey replied gravely.
“Then, what is the point in your deaths?” Jack continued. “Isn’t there another approach that we can take, other that that of killing off the town?”
The already silent room seemed to get quieter as he asked this and Mr Casey’s eyes bore into Jack’s. The boy below them stared up with demon curiosity and slowly pulled part of the blanket away from his face. Jack heard the clock downstairs chime four-o-clock as the rotten coo-coo made its cawing call throughout the house. The silence afterwards was deathening. Then, unexpectedly, Casey smiled and reached forward to pat Jack’s shoulder.
“You’re right young man, our deaths are pointless. Apart from the fact that we are temporarily stopping the Egg Planter from moving on then, after that, there will be no point in our deaths. I have been waiting for you to ask this question which is why I haven’t given you the answer beforehand.”
So, did that mean there was hope for these people? But then, why wouldn’t they have chosen to live? Jack wondered if Casey was talking about the Jacke thing as him.
“If there is another solution to the problem then why don’t you take it?” Jack wondered.
“Because, you have not come up with it yet,” Casey chuckled back sourly. When Jack looked at him questioningly, he explained, “That is your second task- to come up with an alternative outcome. None of the villagers have found one yet and the townsfolk decided that someone from outside of the valley might be able to think up a new idea. Just by questioning our choices, you have started on the journey to saving our people.”
Jack stood numbly as the great responsibility trickled onto his shoulders like snow, building up into a big, heavy blanket of fear. How could he think of something when all the others had failed? He didn’t know anything about this Egg Planter- or the town in which it lived. Wouldn’t the people who had been living there for years have been a better choice of life-saver?
“Why me?” Jack asked, his voice almost turning into a moan.
“You were unlucky, I guess,” Casey shrugged, “I did not choose you for the job, I am only here to give instructions. Speaking of jobs, we’d better get back to work. You can ponder my information later, I’m sure.”
Jack had almost completely forgotten about the shivering boy huddled at his feet. When he looked down, Jack saw that the child had crept out of its shell of sheets and was staring at him intently. His bare chest shone pale in the candlelight along with his frozen blue lips which chattered together ferociously. The bloody eyes of the boy bore into his and he felt the demon within him call out softly; Join us powerful one. Join with us and be free! Jack ignored the disturbing voice within his head and turned back to Mr Casey.
“So, what do you want me to do?” he asked in a confident but fearful manner. Maybe if he acted professionally then his mind may think like a professional too.
“Well, I would prefer it if you killed it with a gun- I’m not too keen on the thought of my carpets being stained with blood,” Casey told him grimly- he too seemed to be playing along with the professional act. Jack would have been shocked by this man’s casual approach to his son’s death had there been different circumstances but he knew that this was probably the best way to go about things.
“So, where do you want me to shoot him?” Jack asked as casually as possible. Just saying the words bought sick to his throat.
“The head will be best,” Casey replied. “After you’ve shot it, we’ll take it down to the garden. I’ve already prepared a bonfire.”
Jack nodded and asked, “Have you got a gun?”
“Yes, I’ll go get it.”
Casey walked out of the room and Jack heard him stomp downstairs. While he waited, he whistled a simple little tune to himself, trying to keep the demons at bay. The little boy stared at him frightfully; unaware of what was going to happen next. The lonely room felt weird without the extra adult and Jack felt a sudden urge to run from the village and back to his apartment, his cat and his TV. How could he have got himself into this? The question kept running through Jack’s head over and over again and it wouldn’t go away. His day had begun so normally; getting up, getting dressed, calling his mum, buying some coffee from the post office. Then, all of a sudden, wham- the world was turned upside down. Even this dreary house and murky street were out of place in the world. Mr Casey didn’t even have electricity for goodness sake!
Jack was pleased when Mr Casey returned but shivered when he saw that the tall man was carrying a small handgun. He handed it to Jack wordlessly and pointed towards the boy. Then, to his dismay, he walked out of the room and shut the heavy wooden door behind him.
“Fine,” he muttered out loud. “Looks like it’s just you and me, demon.”
Jack didn’t look at the boy as he prepared to kill him. He’d never used a gun like this before and half expected his arm to come off when he shot him. He didn’t think about what he was about to do- instead he thought of my garden and how, if he was ever let free of this place, he would pull up some weeds and plant some pretty daisies. Maybe I’d trim the hedge too if I had time, he thought…
It took three shots to hit the target. As soon as he did, Jack dropped the weapon and pulled at his face with his hands. The task was done and he never wanted to do it again.