Bone chilling rain misted down upon the Oldsmobile 442. Thick fog made the curvy mountain road even more treacherous for Scot to navigate the foursome to their sacred place.
The rock-and-roll on the radio gave way to static, so Louise, who was riding shotgun, fingered the dial. Finding nothing on the FM, she switched over to AM to listen to the news.
"The debate still rages over whether or not it is safe to incinerate some 47 million pounds of chemical weapons, 850 of which are known to be leaking. Last month, the waste, including Nerve Agents and Mustard Gas, was shipped to an Army Depot located just three miles outside of Tobacco City, when a heated debate broke out over the proper process controls to destroy the stockpile in a safe, environmental manner. In other news, five hundred and fifteen soldiers have died since President G. W. Shrubs Junior declared the war in the Middle East over last May."
Junior had not actually won the 2000 election to rule the United States of Americorp. His brother, Governor of Wrinklida, rigged the election so that African Americans couldn't vote because black folks remembered how bad things were under the rule of Shrubs Senior and would never vote for a chip off the old block.
Shrubs Senior, or "Pops" to his friends and family, was former head of the CIA and orchestrated the 1963 assassination of President John Denakee, a beloved humanitarian with the people's best interest at heart. Then Pops got himself elected as Vice President. The President at the time, a former Hollywood actor named Mr. Zombie, had a disease called Swiss Cheese of the Brain, and Pops found him to be extraordinarily easy to control. Soon, Pops decided he'd had enough of playing puppet master. He pulled his hand from Mr. Zombie's rear end and ruled the land as himself.
After awhile, he grew bored and needed more for his power fix. He decided to put his fingers in the Middle East pie because they had so much of Mother Earth's blood, and he had so little. He armed them first, as any southern gentleman would. He waited, and when they used their arms against a small neighboring country, Pops cried war and quickly overran his new playmate. At last, he felt powerful again! He told his playmate's disheartened people to trust him, encouraged them to take up arms against their King. Knowing their King would slay them for tyranny, he abandoned them and, with glee, watched what he had caused.
Pops lost the next election to a slick talking donkey named Willie, but it didn't take long for him to regain control. No one suspected, but in 1998 Pops blackmailed Willie with video footage of a sex scandal involving Willie and Junior's underage daughter, Laura Shrubs. Pops made his agenda clear, so Willie grabbed his saxophone and played Americorp the sweetest lullaby before signing H.R. 4655 into law, which instituted a policy of regime change against Pops's old playmate in the Middle East.
When Junior found the video tape, he got hot headed and demanded Pops get Willie impeached. Pops almost did, but at the last minute Junior accepted his dad's offer of the next presidency if he'd just let it go.
Junior's opponent, Greg Allen, recognized not only the ploy against the African American vote, but also that the vote count was corrupted in general. He demanded a re-count by hand, including the absentee ballots. Pops had his friend I. Judge put a stop to all the challenges, and thus Junior became President as promised.
The media, not easily satisfied, decided that even though it didn't matter anymore, they would recount the vote anyway. It turned out that, even with all that racist cheating, Junior still hadn't won the election. The people of Americorp were infuriated when they realized voting had become such a hoax.
The people's unrest frightened Junior. He called Pops, who decided slide of hand to be the only recourse. Pops called his brown friend Ben and arranged a fireworks display on a scale far grander than any other Americorp had ever seen.
Junior responded with his own fireworks display in the Middle East. The average Americorpse became so terrified of fireworks, they forgot all about the stolen election. Junior declared the war won soon thereafter.
The days turned to weeks as the blood slowly seeped.
"Louise? Are you listening to me?" Scot said.
"Sorry. I was just thinking."
"That whistle ass Shrubs. He's gonna get us all killed."
Paris and Veronica were cuddling like new lovers in the back seat, when Veronica suddenly lurched forwards. "Stop at the store!" she yelled in Scot's ear. "I wanna slushie!"
Scot docked his boat of a car and everyone disembarked. Americorp propaganda covered the storefront, as if to say, "Please don't hate us." Eight dark eyes watched the Americorpses fill their cups with cherry gluttony.
"It makes sense if you think about it," Scot said, operating the slushy machine like a seasoned professional. "Let's say I'm Satan, right, and the world is mine to tempt as I choose. My plan would be simple. I would take God's divine words and twist them ever so slightly through hundreds of years of translations until they become a lie. Look how many followers I'd have, and they wouldn't even know it. Think how many wars have been fought in God's name, and really Satan's the one reaping the rewards."
"That would so freak with my mom," Louise said.
They walked up to the counter to pay for their slushies.
"Tahir" was written on the nametag of the cashier. "You are going to a happy Halloween party then, I presume," he said with a thick accent.
The way Tahir's mustache wiggled as he spoke reminded Louise of a woolly worm. She watched it intently, trying hopelessly to predict the upcoming winter. A chill ran up her spine. "No, why?" she asked.
"You wear costumes, yes?"
"No, this is how we always dress," Louise said.
"I understand. It is Marylyn Manson you are wishing to be like. It will be thirteen dollars even, my friend."
"Thirteen dollars!" Louise exclaimed. "What's it made of, frozen suicide bombers?"
Scot dragged Louise out of the store while Veronica paid for the slushies and apologized.
"Damn Louise, that was cold." Scot said, laughing.
"He said I like Marylyn Manson! Fuck him!"
The radio came to life as Scot started the car. "Still no word on the plane that disappeared from an airport in Africa thirteen days ago --"
"Think they've got enough employees?" Veronica said.
"Damn, it probably takes four of 'em to feel safe enough to keep the place open," Paris said. "I can't believe you said that, Louise."
"Yeah, neither could he. Did you see the look on his face?" Scot asked.
"Absolute terror," Paris said.
"Absolute terrorist!" Louise said, laughing.
A few miles down the road, Scot slammed on his brakes. The car skidded and then jerked to a stop. "Damn, I missed the turn!" He backed up, and then turned onto an overgrown, dirt road. Tree branches slapped the windshield as he forced the car through the foliage. He stopped at a small clearing, where his ancestors lay buried beneath crumbling gravestones.
They got out of the car.
Clouds obscured the heavens. The darkness was absolute without a sliver of radiant light. Fog swirled about them as if the Spirit of the Forest had come to witness their most sacred right.
"This place gives me the creeps," Veronica said. A noise came from the shadows, a disassociated voice, deep and demonic, followed by the beating of large wings. She spun around in the general direction of the sound and strained her eyes against the opaque night. "What was that?"
"Just a hoot owl. Relax," Scot said.
Paris opened the trunk and retrieved his supplies. He poured a mixture of salt and herbs around the graveyard's perimeter.
Scot built a fire in an open space between his great grandmother and great, great uncle. He leaned in close and gave his breath to the small flame.
Paris cut a pentagram into the sludgy ground with a handmade sword, a gift given for just this occasion. He topped the pentagram with eight candles, alternating black and white, to shape infinity.
"Help me with this," Veronica said to Louise as she struggled against the wind to spread a lace cloth across a large, flat stone. The girls then sprinkled fresh red rose petals all over it, and placed a statue of Oshun in the center. Veronica set out four red candles as Louise filled five goblets with a mixture of equal parts Kava Kava and wine. She then set out five fair portions of space cakes and psilocybin mushrooms.
The flame finally flared, causing the wet gravestones to glisten with flickering firelight. As the wind blew, big fat drops of ice-cold water rained down from the treetops. Limbs snapped, sounding as if myriad undead awaited hungry for brains just outside the graveyard. A shrill scream filled the air, sounding like a terrified baby, its voice invoking images of a night hag or banshee.
"That was not a fucking owl!" Veronica said.
"That was just a mountain lion. Nothing to worry about," Scot said.
"Oh yeah, knowing that puts my mind right at ease."
"Let it begin!" Paris said.
"Here comes the shrinky dink!" Scot said as they all disrobed into the freezing cold.
"In the flickering firelight, beneath the bereaved and blackened sky, before the witness of our fallen ancestors, and the blessing of all deities of love, we four become one," Scot proclaimed, and they clinked their goblets together, giving the fifth glass to Oshun.
They each pulled strands of hair from their heads and tied them all together, then buried them inside the sludge drawn pentagram. They ate their cakes and shrooms, giving the fifth to Oshun.
They tingled as old spirits filled them. They danced and chanted, conjuring up images within the fire of vines twisting together, becoming one, becoming nothing. They gave sacrifices of their own blood and fornicated in the mud. They no longer spoke with voices, but with their mind's eyes and "Without fear!" was what they chanted.
The following day, Louise awoke around noon. As she made a pot of coffee, she noticed a trail of tiny, black ants traipsing back and forth across the countertop. One ant met another, and stopped as if to chat, then changed its course, going back from whither it came.
She poured four cups of coffee, adding sugar and hazelnut nondairy creamer. Dead ants floated to the top of each cup. "Fuck me," she mumbled to herself. She poured out the bad coffee, and then put on a fresh pot to brew. She checked the sugar, but found it clear. The nondairy creamer, however, had proven to be a death trap.
Louise wet a dishrag. She hesitated for a moment, and then wiped up as many ants as she could. She rinsed their little bodies down the sink drain. She felt the pitter-patter of petite feet as an ant scurried across her hand. She started to smoosh it but couldn't. She set it safely down on the counter top instead.
She poured four more cups of coffee. An ant climbed across the rim of one of the cups. Louise sighed, and then pulled a bottle of ant poison from underneath the sink. She put a dab of the poisoned syrup onto a piece of cardboard and left if for the ants to eat.
For a moment, she thought she understood how Dali must have felt. "Hey guys, coffee!" she yelled.
As they sipped their coffee together, Louise felt truly happy. She had fantasized about having a four-way marriage for years. She hated to be alone, and one person could never give her all the attention she demanded. She was a prima donna with implicit taste, and it had taken her years to select her three perfect mates.
After the foursome finished their brew, they went shopping for Halloween costumes. They returned to get ready for a big party at Stygian Playground, a former cathedral turned cabaret. Located just outside the city limits, next to the Army Depot, everyone knew it for its wild parties, illegalities, and general debauchery.
Scot dressed as a pirate, and couldn't stop himself from telling bad pirate jokes. "Why did the pirates get a divorce?" he said.
"I don't know, Scot, why?" Veronica humored him. She had dressed up like Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
"They arrrrrrrrrrrrrgued," Scot said. "What did the pirates say when the world blew up?"
"I don't know, Scot, what?"
Paris had found an excellent Phantom of the Opera costume at the Halloween store in the mall.
Louise knew she wanted to be Lily Munster, but those costumes had already sold out. Disappointed, she had left with nothing. Now she tore the house apart trying to think of something to wear.
"I know what you can be," Scot said.
"Put on my gas mask and chemical resistant gear and go as someone from the arrrrrrrrrrrrrmy."
"What a great idea," Louise said. She dashed upstairs to get it.
The party raged by the time the four arrived.
"Fart! Fart! Fart!" went the gas mask as Louise got her over twenty-one wristband.
"I'm gonna get a beer," Veronica said. "Anybody else want one?"
"If you don't mind," Scot said. "Are you all right in that thing, Louise?"
"I'm okay," Louise said, her voice sounding as an echo escaping from a tin can.
On stage, GWAR threw buckets of blood on the audience. The audience jumped up and down while yelling, "Blood! Blood!"
Veronica returned with the beers. "It's awfully smoky in here, "she said. " Let's step out for some air."
Outside, they found two of their friends, Seth and Keith, smoking a blunt.
"Hey guys, what's up? You guys wanna hit this?" Keith said.
"Arrrrrg!" Scot said, taking the blunt. He took three tokes, and passed to Louise.
Louise took off her gas mask to smoke.
"Wow, Louise, that's some crazy get up you got there," Keith said.
"Scot's crazy brother gave it to him," Louise said, smoke curling from her lips. She passed off to Veronica, and put the gas mask back on.
"Scot has a crazy brother?"
"Yeah. He's got Gulf War syndrome. He thinks the world's about to end."
"So it works?"
"Oh, yeah. He gave him a whole shitload of canisters, too."
"What the fuck are you supposed to be?" Seth asked Veronica as she took her turn on the blunt.
"Sally? Sally Jessie Raphael?"
"Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, dumbass."
A noise like a speeding freight train intensified. "What's that noise?" Paris asked. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and a shiver ran down his spine, as if someone had just walked across his grave.
"Sounds like an airplane," Keith said, craning his head to look at the sky. "There it is!"
"Should it be so low?" Veronica asked.
"Airports not far," Scot said.
"That's too low. Something's not right," Paris said.
The windows rattled as the airplane passed overhead. "Oh my God!" Veronica screamed, but the roar of the engine drowned out her voice.
Horrific noises filled the night, sounding as if a tractor-trailer fell from an overpass, thudded onto a busy highway, and started a multi car pile-up. Sounds of grinding, crunching metal, tearing steal, screams of terror, and finally, the tremulous boom of an explosion resounded.
Outside Stygian Playground, the force of the explosion knocked everyone down to the ground. The stained glass windows imploded. Everything went black, making the stars twinkle more brilliant than before. People screamed in panic.
As Louise stood up, she could see flames shooting up from the Army Depot. "Let's get inside," she said, helping Scot up. His eyes were full of tears. His once handsome face blistered. "Oh my god! What's wrong?" she yelled.
Scot gasped for breath. He fell down and vomited a grayish slime, then jerked with convulsions like a cockroach after a bug bomb. Blood poured from his mouth and nose. Wide eyed, he stared at nothing.
Louise looked to Paris for help, but he and Veronica had fallen down on top of one another. Their fingers were grotesquely twisted, and their eyes had sunk deep into the sockets.
Louise couldn't believe what was happening. It seemed so surreal, like a nightmare, a bad trip, a trick of the mind. Her biggest fear, of being alone, realized in this moment.
All around her the moans and screams stopped, giving way to an eerie silence, broken only by the rhythmic farting of an unwanted gas mask.