The group of small children playing baseball in the
street scattered to make way for the silver, custom-striped van with the
canoe and camping gear
strapped to its roof. The teenagers inside grinned at the children who waited until the very las moment, asserting themselves with challenge in their eyes,
beofre grudgingly getting out of the street. They could remember being much the same themselves not very long ago, regarding the street in front of
their homes as turf rather than as a thoroughfare for cars.
"It's the white house on the left, " said Chris a
shapely nineteen-year-old with reddish-brown hair, large eyes, and an energetic,
manner. She pointed as they passed the house and pulled over to the curb on the opposite side of the street.
Andy and Debbie were both the same age as Chris.
Andy was slim, with dark hair, brown eyes, an athletic build, and clean0cut,
Debbie was slightly shorter than her boyfriend, with full, naturally wavy chestnut hair that fell down to her shoulders and a wide, sultry mouth. She had
the kind of figure that would even attract attention in a sweat suit. They both stepped down out of the van and came around the back to join Chris as
they crossed the street.
"Hey, Shelly," Chris called over her shoulder. "Come on out and meet your date!"
"Bring her to me!" a muffled voice called from the rear of the van.
Chris glanced back dubiously at Andy and Debbie,
walking with their arms around each other. Andy merely shrugged.
Debbie sighed and looked at
him with a wry grimace. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," she said. She like Vera and she regretted allowing Andy to talk her into setting up this
Andy grinned and kissed Debbie. Behind them,
the rear door of the van opened and a chubby figure in faded jeans
and a navy windbreaker came
out, wearing a white mask and brandishing a huge knife.
Chris glanced at Andy and Debbie and shook her head. "Sex, sex, sex," she said. "You guys are getting boring, you know that?"
"So what would a weekend in the country be without a little sex?" said Andy, grinning.
"Cool it, Andy," Debbie said quickly, nudging him in the side and giving Chris and anxious glance.
Andy looked contrite. Debbie had told him what
happened to Chris last summer, telling him to be careful of what he said
around her, and he had
already blown it. "I didn't mean it that way--" he said, apologetically. Chris interrupted him, not wanting to pursue it.
"I know you didn't," she said, reasssuring him.
The one thing she didn't need, especially this weekend , was to have her
friends walking on eggshells
around her because of what happened to her. "Look, guys," she said, "I want you to have a good time this weekend. What happened to me at the lake
happened a long time ago. I'm fine. Really. Forget about me."
Debbie looked concerned. She didn't fail to
notice the way Chris had stiffened suddenly or the strained note in her
voice as she tried to sound casual,
as if it didn't matter. "I'm supposed to forget that we've been friends for--"
Andy yelled with surprise as the masked figure crept
up behind him and plunged the knife into his back. The rubber blade
bent as it struck his
shoulder and Andy spun around angrily, grabbing the toy knife away and giving his "assailant" a hard shove.
"Damn it, Shelly!" he snapped. "Why do you always have to be such an asshole?"
"I beg your pardon," Shelly said stiffly from behind
the mask, his tone arch and stagy, like a second-rate thespian's.
"I'm not as asshole. I'm an
actor." He broke the word up into two distinct syllables, so that it came out "ack-tor."
"Same thing," Andy said with disgust, angry with
him for acting like a fool. Debbie and Chris walked away, shaking
their heads. "Look, Shelly,"
Andy said, his tone softening, speaking to Shelly as if he were an awkward little brother, "you're my roommate and I like you . . . most of the time. But
you gotta quit doing these things! Now, I set up this date for you, didn't I?"
Shelly remained silent, like a sullen child who was being scolded for misbehaving.
"Didn't I?" Andy persisted, leaning closer to him.
"Yeah. . . ." Shelly said, morosely.
"So don't embarrass me," said Andy. "Just relax, be yourself!"
Shelly pushed the mask back up on his head. "Would you be yourself if you looked like this?" he said miserably.
There was actually nothing wrong with the way he
looked, except that he was very overweight, which gave his body and his
features a round and
pudgy softness. His light brown hair was very curly, and while he wasn't ugly, by any means, his poor self-image gave him sort of hangdog expression
that telegraphed his own unhappiness with the way he looked to others. And when Shelly was unhappy, Shelly ate, and the more he ate, the heavier he
got, the more his unhappiness increased. It was a vicious cycle. Frustration led him to seek gratification in food, which only made the problem worse
and led to more frustration and size double-extra-large.
Disappointed with reality, Shelly found escape in
fantasy. Movies were his drug. He saw several each week, often
going to two or three in a row on
weekends. At first, it had been enough merely to sit inside a darkened theater and watch another reality unfolding on the screen, but as he got older, he
became more and more involved with his fantasy world that he preferred so much to his own.
He became a walking encyclopedia of movie trivia.
He read up on the art of filmmaking and learned about camera techniques,
special effects, and
makeup. He became an expert on who was doing what in films, always staying at the end of every movie to see the credits and remember who had done
the editing, the special effects, the stunt work, the music, and the costuming. He began to experiment with theatrical makeup and latex molding and soon
everyone he knew became exposed to the many faces of Shelly Greenblatt. The drama club at school was not enough to give vent to his creative
impulses; the whole world became his stage. The only problem was, he often did not know when to stop.
He and Andy had been roommates since they had
started college, and although Andy knew Shelly well enough to understand
him and make
allowances for his behavior, it was often extremely frustrating trying to make excuses for the way he acted. He often wished Shelly wouldn't try so
hard. He had hoped that taking Shelly with them on this weekend would help him to unwind a bit and drop the goofball act. He had even asked Debbie
and Chris to fix Shelly up. Yet now it looked as if the whole thing might have been a bad idea. The pressure was apparently making Shelly very
nervous, he acted like a nerd. Andy hoped the weekend wouldn't turn into a disaster.
They walked up the front steps onto the porch of
the white house and Chris rang the bell. Shelly hung back slightly,
looking like an inmante about to
walkt his last mile on death row. The door was opened by a middle-aged Hispanic woman who spoke to them with a slight accent.
"Yes?" she said, eyeing them cooly.
"Hi, Mrs. Sanchez," Chris said, with a smile. "I'm Chris. We've come to pick up Vera."
"She's not going," Mrs. Sanchez snapped, and slammed the door in their faces.
They exchanged startled glances. They had absolutely
no idea what had caused such a reaction. From inside the house, they
heard Vera and her
mother shouting at each other in rapid Spanish.
"What're they saying?" said Chris, glancing uncertainly at Debbie.
Debbie shrugged helplessly. "I don't know," she said. "I flunked Spanish."
They were about to leave when the door opened once
again and a striking, raven-haired twenty-year-old in a form-fitting blouse
and tight shorts came
out onto the porch, carrying a knapsack over her shoulder. Shelly's eyes bulged.
Vera smiled awkwardly, slightly embarrassed at the
scene she knew they must have overheard. "Hi, everybody," she said. "What're
you looking at?
"Is everything all right?" said Chris.
Vera shrugged. "You know, just your basic, old-fashioned mother problems. So, which one's my date?"
Shelly stepped out from behind Andy. "Hi," he said sheepishly, practically shuffling his feet.
"You're Shelly?" Vera said, unable to hide her disappointment.
He sighed apologetically. "Sorry."
That's what I get for agreeing to go out on a blind
date, thought Vera. Her mother had been outraged at the idea:
not only was Vera going out on a
date with a boy she'd never even seen before, she was going away for the weekend! Vera's mother was very traditional and she thought that the whole
thing was scandalous. She had forbidden her to go, which of course had been a sure way to guarantee that Vera went, no matter what. Now it was too
late. If she backed out now, her mother would never let her hear the end of it. Like it or not, she was stuck with this guy for the whole weekend. The
expression on her face clearly mirrored her thoughts.
Andy rolled his eyes. Debbie had been right.
This wasn't such a great idead. Why had he insisited on bringing
Shelly along? The weekend was
going to be death.
"Hey!" Debbie shouted, pointing. "The van's on fire!"
Smoke was billowing out of the windows in the van.
They ran across the street and threw open the door, but instead of a fire,
they were confronted
with the sight of Chuck and Chili, sitting cross-legged on the floor in the back of the van with imbeclic grins on their faces, puffing away on plasic
bongs that were so huge they looked like oboes. The sickly-sweet smell of marijuana smoke permeated the van's interior. In order to dissipate some of
the smoke, Chris and Andy rolled the windows down all the way as they drove off. All they needed was to get pulled over for speeding or running a
stop sign and have a cope take a whiff inside that van. It would be all over.
Shelly watched disapprovingly as Chuck and Chili
organized their stash. Chuch was a round-faced nineteen-year-old
with a full black beard and a
headband holding down his bushy hair. He wore well-faded jeans and tinted aviator glasses. With his sixties look, Chuck might have stepped right out
of a time warp. His girlfriend, Chili, was a darkly attractive, slim eighteen-year-old with curly black hair and a facial expression that made her look as if
she was always pouting. Chili was actually her real name. She had a twin sister named Pepper. The girls were born in a commune in Santa Fe and
their parents were a little loaded at the time.
"Is that all you're going to do this weekend?" said
Shelly disapprovingly, watching them sort their plastic sandwich bags filled
with grass. "Smoke
"Why not?" said Chuch wryly. "There's no law against it."
He seemed to find his comment extremely funny. But then, dopers were liable to laugh at anything, thought Shelly. He shook his head.
"There's better things to do with your life," he said.
"Like what?" said Chuck.
"I can't think of anything," said Chili.
Shelly decided to forget about it. It wasn't
his business to tell other people how to live their lives, but he wished
that people that insisted on their right
to ruin their health would respect other people's right as well. he wasn't crazy about having to site there and breathe in their smoke. It was as bad as
"Hey, Chrissie," Andy said, "how much farther to the lake?"
"We could've been there already if some people didn't
have to go to the bathroom every five minutes," Chris said wearily, glancing
"That's what happens when you're pregnant," Debbie
said defensively. She had only known about it for a month or so and
she hadn't started to show
yet. She also hadn't told her parents. They didn't even know that she and Andy were sleeping with each other, much less planning to get married. They
figured she was still going out on casual dates.
Chili offered a joint to Vera, who was sitting between Chuck and Shelly in the rear of the van. "Sure, why not?" said Vera, taking it.
Shelly couldn't take his eyes off her. Those
shorts were so tight, they looked as if she had been poured into them and
she was sitting with her legs
spread. . . and her blouse was unbuttoned enough that if she leaned back, he could see. . .
When Vera turned and caught him staring down her
blouse, Shelly quickly looked away. Now she probably really thinks
I'm a jerk, he thought,
angry with himself. He could never seem to do anything right. Hell, he thought, can you blame a guy for staring when a girl's dressed lik that? How
can you not stare at anybody who's so incredibly gorgeous? And she was supposed to be his date, too! A blind date, but still, he'd never had a date
with anyone who looked like her. And he probably never would again, he though miserably.
"Hey, let's share the wealth with those less fortunate up front, huh?" said Andy.
Vera passed the join and sat back down beside Shelly.
Her gaze fell on the small black case where he kept his props and makeup.
She looked up at
him with curiosity. "What've you got in there?" she said.
"My whole world," he said mysteriously.
"In that little thing?" said Vera, amused.
"Stick around," said Shelly. "You'll see."
Vera shrugged and turned to look out the back window.
She saw flashing red lights in the distance. They were coming up
fast, and a second later
she heard the sirens.
"It's the cops!" she said.
"What ?" said Debbie.
Chris glanced into her sideview mirror. "Oh, no !" she cried.
"Oh, my God !" said Chili.
"What're you gonna do?" moaned Shelly, anxiously looking out the back window as the two police cars came up fast.
"Destroy the evidence!" said Vera, grabbing for the plastic bags.
Chuck snatched her. "No way , man !"
"Let go, Chuck," Chili said. "Come on !"
It took a moment for it to sink in. Then he suddenly realized what would happen if they were pulled over with all that dope in their possession.
"We gotta get rid of it!" he cried, panicking as the sirens rapidly approached.
Andy grabbed a bag. "Eat it!" he said, stuffing some into his mouth.
They started stuffing the loose joints and the grass
into their mouths, swallowing as quickly as they could. When Chuck
realized that they were never
going to get it all down in time, he tossed a bag to Vera, who started stuffing the grass into her mouth and swallowing as fast as she could.
"The cops are going to get us!" Shelly wailed. "We're going to jail!"
Andy held a bag out to Chris.
She shook her head. "I'm driving."
He turned to Debbie and held the bad out to her.
"No way!" she said emphatically. "We're pregnant, remember?"
The police cars were almost on top of them. Chris kept glancing nervously into the sideview mirror.
"Faster, faster!" Chili said, chewing furiously and swallowing as quickly as she could. "You better step on it!"
Chris sped up, but the police cruisers kept on gaining.
Their cheeks were all stuffed to capacity.
"Faster! East faster!" Shelly cried.
"Come on, help us!" Vera said, hanging him a fistful of grass. "Come on!"
"Uh. . . . I guess I'm just not hungry," Shelly said, grimacing with distatst and pulling back from her.
"You're always hungry, Shelly!" Andy said, his mouth full. "Come on, eat!"
"Come on, hurry up!" said Vera.
"I'm allergic to pot!" Shelly shouted, furious that he was going to get busted because of them.
"They're too close!" said Chris. "I gotta pull over!"
They all started cramming dope into their mouths as the van pulled over onto the shoulder and stopped.
The two police cruisers shot right them without even slowing down.
For a second, they all stared out through the windshield
with disbelief, and then they sighed with relief. A few seconds later
, it occurred to them that
they had eaten almost all of their stash.
"Oh, man!" moaned Chuck.
"Oh shit!" said Chili, trying to scrape together the grass they'd dropped onto the floor of the van.
Chris wondered where the police cars could possibly
have been going that they had ignored the like that. She had been
driving well over the speed
limit, trying to buy the others some time to get rid of the dope. A few miles down the road, she had her answer.
To the left, there was a turnoff sloping downhill
to a small roadside grocery store at the foot of the highway embankment.
The police cruisers pulled
in with screeching tires, and the officers jumped out of their cars and hurried over to the store.
"Okay, you guys, show's over," one of them said,
beckoning the small group of people away from the store entrance.
"Let's move it back over here,
There was anambulance parked in front of the entrance
to the market. Chris slowed down as the road followed the curve of
the embankment so that
they could look down as they passed and see what was going on. As they drove past the market, the ambulance attendants came out, carrying two
stretchers with shee-covered bodies strapped to them. Chris couldn't take her eyes off the sight. She swerved sharply and snapped out of it, quickly
returning her attention to the road.
"Hey kiddo," said Debbie gently, seeing the expression on her fact, "don't let your imagination run away with you."
Chris swallowed hard, trying to calm down.
Her nerves were already more than a bit on edge just at the though of coming
back to Crystal Lake
again. And now this. . .
"Chris, stop the van!" cried Debbie.
"What?" she said, startled, snapping out of her reverie. "What is it?"
Chris slammed on the brakes.
She was not a moment too soon. The van screeched to a stop inches away from an old man lying in the center of the road.
"What are you doin'?" Andy said. "You almost ran over him!"
"I. . .I must have been daydreaming," said Chris, shocked at what she almost did. "I didn't even see him!"
They piled out of the van and approached the motionless
figure. He was lying on his back in the middle of the road, his head
pillowed on a duffle
bag. It was a hell of a place to take a nap. He was in his late sixties or seventies, and had stringy gray hair and a long beard. He was as skinny as a
rake, his old baggy clothes were badly in need of a washing and his face was covered by a beat-up straw hat. He didn't move a muscle.
"Hey, man, he looks just like my grandfather!" said Chuck, bending over him.
They stood around the old man, looking down at him with concern. As their shadows fell across him, his eyes fluttered open.
“Why,” he said, looking at Debbie and Vera and speaking in a wheezy voice, “I must be in heaven!”
Chuck grinned. “What’re you doin’ down there, old guy?” he said.
“You all right?” Chris asked him in a worried tone.
“Get him up,” said Andy.
“Don’t touch him!” Shelly cautioned, keeping well back from the old man. “You don’t know where he’s been!”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” the old man said as they helped him to his feet. “You are, indeed, all of you, kind and generous young people. Look upon what His Grace has brought me!”
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a curious-looking, slimy, whitish object. His hand trembled as he held it out, directly under Shelly’s face.
Shelly winced, looking down at the disgusting looking object and wrinkling his nose. “What isthat ?” he said.
“I found this today,” the old man said, gravely. “There were other pieces of the body. . . . “
“That’s an eyeball!”Shelly cried, gasping and recoiing from the object.
“The wanted me to have this,” the old man said, showing them the eyeball and glaring at them wildly. “He wanted me to warn you!”
The rushed back toward the van and piled in as the old man staggered after them, brandishing the eyball, his voice rising in pitch lik an evagelical preacher’s.
“Look up this omen!” he cried as Chris quickly started up the van and shifted into gear, pulling around him in a wide circle. “And go back from whence ye came!”
Chris floored it and the van shot down the road, leaving the old man in its dust.
“I have warned thee!” the old man shouted after them, waving the eyball at the rapidly receding van. “I have warned thee!”
The letters carved into the heavily weathered, swinging wooden sign mounted on a post by the packed earth driveway read HIGGINS HAVEN. The old lakeside vacation home was set in a grove of large oak trees that had been there long before the house was built. Their heavy branches hung low over the driveway. The weather-beaten fram house had an elevated porch and curtained windows. Unlike many of the homes in the area, it wasn’t a Victorian or New England style, but sort of a bastardized amalgamation of the two.
In front of the porch, there was a large, packed earth parking area where the drive curved around and ran over to the ancient barn, some thirty yards to the left and slightly to the reat of the house. There were bales of hay piled up in a penned-in area near the front of the barn and the window doors to the hayloft were open, displaying an old block and tackle for hoisting up bales.
And twenty-five yards to the right of the house was an old outhouse with a peaked roof and a traditional half-moon vent hole in the wooden door--a relic of time before the house had been equipped with modern plumbing. Past the outhouse and down a slight incline was the lakeshore where an old wooden boat dock jutted out some twent feet over the water.
Chris turned into the entrance and drove over an ancient, loose-plaked wooden bridge that spanned a dried-up streambed that curved around the house.
“Check it out!” yelled Andy as they turned into the driveway and approached the house.
Chris pulled the van up in front of the porch and stopped. They all jumped out an ran immediately down to the lake.
“Why don’t we take our bags into the house first?” Chris shouted after them, but like restless kids needing to release pent-up energy after a long car trip, they paid no attention to her. She shrugged and sighed.
“Chris! Come on down!” shouted Debbie from the dock.
Chris shook her head. “You go ahead,” she called to her. “I’m going to take my bags in the house first and look around”
Behind her, inside the house, someone parted the curtains slightly and looked out.
Chris turned back toward the house and the figure in the window disappeared. For a moment, she stood still, simply staring at the old place. It seemed like a long time. A very long time. Almost as if it had been another life. Then she took a deep breath, grabbed her duffel bag, and climbed the porch steps to the front door.
Her parents hadn’t wanted her to come here, nor did they want to come here anymore themselves. The kept talking about putting the old place on the market, but somehow they never got around to it, as if they simply didn’t want to deal with anything that touched it. As if what had happened to her was theirproblem.
Well, it wasn’t their problem, she thought bitterly. It was hers. What had happened had happened to her, not to them. They didn’t seem to understand that. She was the one who had to deal with it, one way or another. Avoiding it was not the answer. Your problems didn’t disappear if you ignored them. The only way that she could think of facing what had happened to her was to come back here and deal with it once and for all. Come back to Crystal Lake where the nightmare had begun.
She started to look for the keys to the front door and then noticed with surprise that the door was slightly ajar. She frowned. There wasn’t supposed to be anybody here.
“Hello?” she said uncertainly.
There was no response. Glancing over her shoulder toward the lake where her friends were, she hesitantly tood hold of the doorknob and pushed open the door. It opened with a creak and she stepped inside.
With all the curtains drawn, the house was dark. Only the faint gleams of sunlight penetrated through the gaps in the faded window curtains, sending thin shafts of light across the floor.
“Is someone here?” she said nervously.
Suddenly she felt a hand grab her by the neck and yank her backward sharply. She gasped, opening her mouth to scream, but before she could , she was pinned against the wall and felt herself being kissed passionately. Opening her eyes wide, she broke the kiss, pulling back, and gave her “attacker” a hard shove.
“Rick!” she said, enormously relieved and yet at the same
time really angry at being scared like that. She hadn’t expected
to run into him here, at lease not this soon, but then she realized that
he must have been working out in the barn, hauling in the hay, when the
had driven up. Her father had obviously forgotten about stopping
the delivery and Rick was just being helpful, trying to get it in before
it rotted. he probably didn’t know that her family wasn’t coming
this summer, that they were probably never coming back again. She
had never told him about what happened, and as a result, there was no way
he could have known what coming back here again meant to her.