“And Then It Came” by Jeff Woodward

And Then It Came-001

The ground was cold and hard when he fell. His lip began to swell, and he could taste the warmth of the blood that began to fill his mouth. He gagged at the taste, but managed to curl himself up into the fetal position, as a foot swung and hit him in the small of his back. A bolt of pain shot up his spine, and he gritted his teeth to prevent from screaming.

“Get up, Marty, you puss’!” yelled Frank, placing another well aimed kick into Marty’s back. “I know you told the teacher I cheated on the test yesterday! Get up, damn you!”

Marty lay still, trying to let his mind wander as Frank kicked away at his exposed back. A warm couch, chips, and a Playstation controller in his hand. Marty managed a grin, which was buried in the crease of his left arm.

It’ll be over. It’ll be over. Soon. Almost done. Just take it. He’ll stop. He’s tired. It’s cold and he wants to go home.

The yelling brought Marty back to his unpleasant reality. “You tell on me again, and I’ll beat your ass into next week! You got it? Answer me!” Frank stopped kicking long enough to wait for an answer from the punching bag laying on the ground. Marty rolled slowly over, unsure of whether or not Frank would start kicking again. When he was sure that a kick or punch was not inevitable, he sat up.

Marty began to whimper softly, and tried to cover up the pain by speaking quickly. “I didn’t tell on you on man.” Frank stared down at him.

“Save it, loser. You did tell on me. I know it, and everyone in class knows it. Just stay outta my way! And everyone knows about your weird family and the hocus-pocus crap that you all do. So don’t try anything funny. You got it?” Frank abruptly turned around, and stormed off.

Marty sat on the frozen ground, making certain that Frank was out of eyesight before he began to pull himself up from the ground. He moaned as he put a finger to his swollen lip, pushing his finger into the tender skin. He managed to brush the snow from his jeans before he reached down and picked up his backpack, the contents of which luckily had not spilled out when Frank knocked him down. He did not live far, and Marty slowly made his way home.

The house was big for the area, set off of the street about one hundred yards. Oak trees littered the front of the property, and the old frame farm house was immaculately kept. Marty made his way up the driveway, and went around to the back of the house. A large fenced in garden was kept near the side of the red barn, and two Romanesque statues guarded the entrance gate.

Marty slowly swung open the gate, and made his way through the path that cut through the neatly planted herbs and flowers. The scent of basil and mint were overpowering, but Marty always enjoyed the sickly-sweet mix of the two herbs. The path wound through the garden, and eventually ended near an oak table, which resembled more of an altar, with a stool of the same material standing in front of it. The top of the table was scattered with fallen leaves from nearby trees, and a few blue colored crystals lay there, left over from Samhain a month before. The exact center of the table was carved with a pentagram, pointing directly north. Marty pulled the stool closer to the table and sat down, resting his head in his arms on the table.

I hate him. I hate him. Marty whispered to himself. Frank. I hate him!  Mean. Bully. Spoiled rotten rich kid who gets everything, while I get nothing. Make him hurt. Make him hurt!

Marty must have fallen asleep. He lifted his head from the table and found himself covered in soft snow. His hair was a tangled mess as he ran his hands through it, and his lip was throbbing now from the punch Frank had landed on him. His back was still sore, and began to stiffen from the kicks.

Slowly Marty raised himself from the table and made his way to the house. He pulled open the back door, and entered the kitchen. The clock hanging on the wall read 7pm. It was still early, but Marty was tired. He headed to his room, painfully removed his clothes, and went into the shower. He let the warm water caress his sore back, but only time could heal his lip. Feeling defeated, he dressed and slipped into bed, letting the day’s events push through his mind. Tossing and turning, it was two hours before sleep came to Marty.

Outside, the table moaned and creaked. The outline of the pentagram glowed green, then blue, the crystals releasing their energy into the circle. The fallen snow within the pentagram at first began to shift, then to take shape. The pentagram reached out, collecting more nearby snow until a small ball was formed. The table heard the cries. The table understood. Frank. Mean. Bully. Hate.

Hurt.

The next morning, Marty, lip still swollen, and pride still hurt, bravely went to school. In addition to his backpack and lunch, Marty took a red crystal from his nightstand and put it in his pocket. It was a crystal his mother gave him for courage, and every now and then, it would actually glow red, though he hadn’t been able to make it do so in a long time. The crystal felt good in his pocket, though, and this time, curiously, it felt warm against his skin.

The bus picked him up promptly at 8:10am. Luckily, Frank was on another bus, so the ride would be peaceful. Marty knew he would see Frank before school though, because the popular kids hung out under the maple tree that stood at the bus drop off point. He began to dread seeing Frank this morning.

It stood there at first, but knew its calling. It reached out and pulled images of a building and human children from the mind of its summoner. It began to move, and made its way towards the school.

Frank. Hate. Hurt.

The bus arrived at the school at promptly at 8:31am. Marty strained to see out of the window, hoping Frank would not be there today. The bus slowed to a stop, and the disappointment and fear settled into Marty’s stomach. There stood Frank under the maple tree, with the usual band of popular kids and regular bullies. Marty waited until the bus was empty, still staring out of the window at Frank.

“You getting off, kid?” the words cutting through the stale air of the bus.

“Hey kid, everything ok?” The bus driver began to make her way towards the back of the bus.

Marty snapped out of it as the bus driver approached.

“Oh, sorry. Yes ma’am.” Marty still looked at Frank and his crew. “Just a little out of it.”

“Well, get back into it, and get your butt to school.” The bus driver chuckled, and walked back to her seat. Marty followed her, slowly at first, then with an abrupt step he hurried to the bus door.

“It only gets better with time,” said the bus driver.

What?

“Only time can heal that swollen lip. And pay those boys no mind.” She gestured towards Frank. “Life has a way of correcting the wrongs. Now get on off to school.” She motioned for Marty to get off of the bus. He stepped out onto the sidewalk, and she closed the school bus door. Marty stood motionless at first, eyeballing Frank from the safety of the sidewalk. He decided then and there to walk briskly past Frank and his cronies, ignoring them and focusing on making it to the school entrance. Marty took a step forward.

It made its way on the wind, swirling like a tempest as it closed in on its prey.

Frank. Hate. Hurt.

Marty risked a glance at Frank as he passed by. Just then, a snowball flew and hit Marty square in the face. His swollen lip screamed, and his hands instinctively went to his face. While his face was covered, Marty felt brutish arms grasp him in a bear hug.

“Hey freak! Ready for a whitewash? You look kind of dirty!” It was Frank’s voice. No doubt about it. Marty was being pulled towards the maple tree, to the delight of Frank’s friends and fellow bullies.

Marty was shoved roughly to the ground and Frank straddled his chest, preventing him from getting up.

“You ready freak? Holy crap, look at his lip!” Frank and the others laughed.

“Looks like an overinflated tire!” one of them yelled, though Marty couldn’t see who it was. “Frank, you better be careful, that lip might explode and spray you with freak juice!” Frank laughed and grabbed both of Marty’s wrists, spreading out his arms.

“You thought I was through with you, freak?” Frank hovered in closer. “Time for a good facial snow scrubbing!”

Marty struggled but to no avail. Curiously, the crystal in his pocket began to heat up, slightly burning his skin. If another student was looking at his pants, they would see it glowing from the inside.

Frank. Hate. Hurt. The snow golem was within sight of its prey. It began to materialize, collecting the snow from the tempest and from the ground. It grew. Forming arms, legs, a torso and head, it more resembled a grotesquely shaped 55 gallon drum than a human. It began to move, ready to rip its prey limb from limb.

Marty heard what he thought was a scream.

Frank continued to hold Marty’s arms down, laughing in his face, saying something that Marty could not understand. Then Frank heard them.

The screams.

Frank loosened his grip on Marty, and turned his head towards the commotion. Kids were running. The other bullies scrambled away. Too fast for Frank to react, an icy arm shot out and knocked him from Marty. Frank froze, looking at the horror that stood before him.

“It can’t be real…” Frank was shaking. “It can’t be real!”

Marty sat up, staring at the creature in front of him. It was well over seven feet tall, its arms and legs spindly compared to its massive torso. Its head was rectangular, but proportioned to its torso. Blue eyes glowed from their sockets, and the mouth opened and closed to reveal icicle fangs.

“Frank,” it growled. “Hate. Hurt.” Frank tried to break away from his fright and run, but the golem was too quick. A lanky arm shot out and grabbed Frank by the wrist. Frank screamed, which was followed by the screams of the other students who stood and watched in horror. Where the golem grabbed Frank, ice began to form, and the golem dragged Frank towards the maple tree with the ease of a parent dragging a toddler from the toy section of a department store.

Marty looked on, unable to move. The crystal began to burn a small hole through his jeans, which he did not notice…..

The golem held Frank against the maple tree and grabbed both of his arms, stretching them out.

Frank. Hate Hurt. The snow golem began to pull. Frank’s eyes widened.

The others began to scream louder, but no one had the courage to rush in and try to stop the monster.

The golem pulled, and Frank began to cry, as his arms were stretched further and further out. The golem was going to tear him apart…

Marty felt a burning sensation on his leg. His left pocket had caught fire, and the red crystal poked out of the hole. Marty looked at the crystal, then at the golem, then back at the crystal again. Instinctively, Marty reached down and pulled the crystal from his pocket. It was surprisingly cool to the touch. Frank screamed louder, and his arms were almost out of their sockets when Marty rushed up behind the snow golem and rammed the crystal into its back.

Vapor. A pile of dead snow. Frank slumped against the tree. Marty stood above the pile of snow that used to be the golem, the red crystal laying within its center. Marty reached down and picked it up.

The crystal was dark again.

 

 

 


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Jeff has been writing horror and fantasy shorts, in addition to articles on history, for many years. He was editor at Macabre Cadaver, a speculative horror magazine, and has interviewed actors and musicians from the horror and metal genres. Jeff is also the author of When Giants Speak, a novel of gang life in the 1980s.

Jeff was also a member of REHupa, the Robert E. Howard press association, the amateur press association related to the works of Robert E Howard, creator of Conan.

Jeff’s work can be found here: Jeff Woodward

photo credit: Quartz via photopin (license)

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3 Comments

  1. So we have tale of revenge and childhood rage, among other things.

    I think what we have here is a prelude to something else. Although it stands as a story in it’s own right, I cannot help but feel that more happens after the story ends, and that we’re kinda cheated out of that longer tale.

    Unless Jeff goes on to write it.

    That’s a hint, Jeff.

    I want to know more about the magic. Was it real or just a psychotic episode? If it was real, how come Marty and his family are known for it? If it’s not real, is there more to Marty’s family?

    I want to know what happens to Frank’s family. I want to know why Frank was a bully and why he chose to pick on Marty. There are always reasons, there are bound to be reasons, and for me these things are more interesting than crystals and hints at pagan secrets. So I wanted more, but I think these details belong in the story that comes after this one.

    As a thought, I felt like this might work really well as a comic strip. Or screenplay.

  2. I am struck by one thing in this story: the violence.

    Or maybe the brutality.

    I don’t know. There is an energy here that is powerful stuff when it is on screen. We have had bullies in the arena before, but none I hated as much as this kid because of the hammering he delivers in the beginning.

    And then comes the ending sequence and what is supposed to be comeuppance is inverted and I was flinching and wondering if the story would please let the bully go.

    This is not a snowman that evens schoolyard battles with a snowball fight. This is a callback to, and the word appears in the story, a golem, a monster from Jewish folklore (I think) built out of the mud and shit at the base of crucifixes.

    I kind of was wondering if anyone would take this route, and, now that I’ve read this story…well I’m glad it was written but my squeamishness makes it so that all I can think about is that boy’s arms about to be ripped off.

    Which I think is the point. Violence for violence is not a great way to go about things, as this story drives home nicely.

    Nice work.

  3. Very well written, love the flow of the story and the dramatic climax. I also really like how rather than the typical snowman approach,Jeff chose to go with the snow golem.

    Also, I really liked the how Jeff incorporated the ominous perspective of the golem before it was physically formed. By doing this, Jeff constructed a sense of anticipation that kept me engaged and eager.

    Great job Jeff!

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