[ppp_patron_only level=”1″ silent=”no”]
Eddie Farris crossed Main Street as the setting sun dipped behind the low mountains of western Pennsylvania, painting the valley in broad strokes. The few clouds in the sky were not gray or black, but shades of purple with scarlet hints. The wooded mountains surrounding the small town of Black Hills were blanketed in snow and the Slade River was a curvy iced mirror reflecting the vivid colors of the sun.
Eddie moved carefully across the slick road, as if he were elderly and not just twenty-five years old. Most days, his side still hurt from where the bullet had torn his flesh apart, and he didn’t want to slip or lose his balance. Getting up from the cold, wet pavement would hurt too much. Plus, with his luck, someone would see him fall and then yet another story about Crazy Eddie would spread around town, which was the last thing he wanted.
He safely reached the sidewalk under the battered marquee of the abandoned Black Hills Theatre just as a teenage couple came hurrying around the corner of the building. The young man had a buzz cut and wide shoulders. His blue jacket was emblazoned with the words BLACK HILLS COMMUNITY SCHOOL WRESTLING TEAM. The girl was a pretty blonde and her face was dusted with glittery make-up.
The blissful couple passed by Eddie as if were invisible, but then the young man said: “Hey, that was Eddie Farris. You know what he did, right?”
The girl giggled and said, “Stop kidding around. That’s not funny.”
Eddie kept walking, moving a little faster and keeping his head down, pretending he hadn’t heard them.
“He is Eddie Farris. I’m serious. He, like, murdered his entire family! Bat shit crazy dude.”
“Stop that, Johnny. It’s really not funny,” the girl said. But still, she giggled again.
“Hey, you!” the wrestler called after Eddie. “Hey, wait a minute, I just wanna ask you a question!”
Eddie continued moving as fast as he could without breaking into a run. People usually stopped bothering him if he didn’t react, if he stayed calm and didn’t correct their misconceptions.
“Wait! I don’t like my family either and I need some advice on the best way to off them!”
Eddie kept walking. The voices drifted away into the newly born night and soon he was alone again. A blanket of darkness covered the town, punctured by the boundless stars above. The air grew colder. The sidewalks were slick and the roads were lined by mounds of plowed snow stained with stones, cinders, and streaks of mud. Fog was rolling off the Slade River, blushing in the light of the rising moon, transforming the land into an endless white wall.
Eddie’s lungs burned and his legs ached. He continued walking anyway, spending too much time in his own head for his own good, as his father used to say.
How Eddie hated himself whenever he heard his old man’s words in his head. Even death couldn’t impede Michael Farris from tormenting his only son.
When Eddie reached the edge of town, he stopped, although he desperately wanted to keep his throbbing legs moving. There were no more buildings. Crooked telephone poles and snowy forest flanked the foggy road. To his left was the battered wooden sign that welcomed people to Black Hills.
Eddie turned toward town. The wisps of fog danced around the globes of the streetlights. He was alone here, but no more alone than he felt in town every day.
He began to walk again, this time back in the direction he had come from. Memories rose in his mind and he swatted them away, only for them to return again with reinforcements. He moved in a daze. Soon he was back into the town proper and so lost in his thoughts he didn’t notice the man headed in his direction until it was too late.
The man was limping, yet he moved quickly, emerging from the fog like a ghost. They bumped into each other, the force of the collision nearly knocking Eddie off his feet. By the time he regained his balance, the man had vanished into the fog again.
Eddie almost called after him, but then he closed his mouth. Something wasn’t right.
The man had been wearing a blue guard uniform from the Black Rock State Penitentiary. The uniform didn’t mean anything in particular, lots of people made their living at the prison, but this uniform had been old and tattered, which the hard ass block commanders would never allow. Eddie hadn’t seen the man’s face in any detail, yet had there been twisting scars around his mouth? And had the man been wearing an eye patch?
Eddie sputtered but couldn’t speak. He could only think of one explanation for who the man was, even though it made no sense at all.
After what Eddie had done to his father, Michael Farris certainly would have needed an eye patch to conceal his disfigurement.
He certainly would have had scars on his face.
And his father would probably have a bum leg, too.
But Michael Farris was dead.
“No, it can’t be.”
Against his better judgment, Eddie moved in the direction the man had been headed. All he could see were the buildings along the street, the lights on the green poles, and the vast whiteness of the infinite fog.
It’s him, he’s back! a nagging voice of paranoia shouted inside Eddie’s frazzled mind. The paranoid voice always sounded much like his own, but it said the things he didn’t want to consider: conspiracy theories involving the townspeople and what they were planning to do to him, cries of prophecy that made him wonder whether he was losing his mind, and unnerving questions meant to keep him on his toes every moment, always distrusting the world around him.
Although the voice was paranoid, the warnings it spoke were also often correct. There was a reason to fear the dark, to question what people were saying behind his back, to be aware of his surroundings, especially in Black Hills where he only had one friend left and no one else trusted him.
It is your father! the voice shouted. Who else would have an eye patch? And the scar? The scar! He’s back and he’ll get you for what you did!
Eddie stopped abruptly, nearly slipping on the slick sidewalk. He braced himself against the rounded top of a battered blue mailbox. His legs were ready to give out and he wanted to scream so badly his lungs hurt from preparing for the effort.
There was a small fire in the middle of the road by the Nolan’s General Store, greedily feeding on gasoline.
Eddie watched as the pile of notebooks burned brightly, cutting a hole through the night. They had been green and spiral-bound, and the flames devoured the cardboard covers. The pages were curling, turning black.
Only three people in the world could know what this would mean to Eddie, and two of them were supposedly dead.
* * *