Sheriff Buckley squeezed the water bottle hard sending its top rocketing into the air. The bottle cap bounced several times on a desk and then rolled off to the floor. Water drained out pouring over Buckley’s hand.
“Ah, sheriff…’ was all his deputy could think to say.
“I’m okay,” Buckley answered, “I need to figure this out.” He willed his legs to move and headed toward his office.
Womack drew his pistol and kept in step. Though perplexed by the men’s fear and hesitance, Dr. Milburn curiosity got the better of him, he too followed. All three entered the office. The pieces of the cell phone remained where they had fallen. The ring tone seemed to come from every component all at once.
Buckley searched until he found the phone’s LCD and picked it up. The cracked display flashed on then off but there was no message.
“What the hell?” Milburn asked, and then snatched the LCD from the sheriff’s hand. The doctor twisted the device to its backside. Loose wires hung from one side. “I thought it might be getting a residual charge from the battery, but there’s nothing to draw power from. How’s this possible?” He scratched his head, confused.
“It’s not,” Buckley answered.
Milburn gasped in horror. His cheeks bloated suddenly as if holding back vomit and then tossed the LCD to the floor with the urgency of a man with his hand on fire.
The sheriff grabbed his arm. “What’s wrong?”
The doctor pointed a shaking finger to the floor. “Keep that thing away from me!” The ringing stopped as abruptly as it started, sending the office into startled silence. Milburn continued pointing toward the cracked display. His mouth opened and closed several times, but whatever he had to say stayed trapped inside his throat.
Womack must have drawn strength from his raised pistol, because he was the only one with nerve enough to approach the object of everyone’s concern. He knelt down and gave the display a slow, appraising glance. Words were scrolling across the powerless screen.
I WILL EAT YOUR SOUL MILBURN
Womack stood upright, stared over his shoulder at the doctor with a pitying look and then turned his attention back to the LCD. He brought the heel of his shoe down on the screen, shattering it into several dozen pieces.
“Look fellows, this has got to be some kind of trick. In this day and age, we can’t let ourselves believe in any mumbo jumbo,” Womack said, though not sounding confident of his words. “I mean hell, sheriff, it is Halloween. This has got to be a trick. Maybe even doc here is a part of it. We both know Jeremiah walked into the station himself.”
Buckley considered his deputy’s comments. He was right of course. There were no such things of zombies, that was only in the movies. Milburn could be part of a joke being played, the doctor was well known for his sense of humor. Buckley studied Milburn for a long time trying to determine if the man had played him and his deputy for fools.
“Is this a joke, doctor?”
Womack placed his sidearm back in its holster. “Oh it’s a joke all right, sheriff! Jeremiah is probably in the other room having himself a good laugh right now!” All three turned to look at the young man. He still sat motionless in his chair. “Come on, Jeremiah, jokes over!”
“He’s dead. I told you that before,” Milburn said and then looked at the sheriff, “I wouldn’t play games like this. Whatever is happening, I’m certainly not involved.”
Buckley didn’t think he was lying. Still, someone obviously was playing games, if not the doctor, then who? The mysterious ring tone could be explained away by hidden electronics in the office and perhaps Jeremiah did indeed come into the station in a drug filled haze that eventually led to an overdose. Milburn did do a hasty examination of the young man, the timeline of his death was more than likely a mistake. If this was a trick, it wasn’t funny and the sheriff planned to damn sure find out who was behind it all.
“Do me a favor, doctor and checked out Jeremiah again,” Buckley finally said. He glanced around the room. “And if whoever is playing this stupid game is listening, you can expect a night or two in the cell when I figure all of this out!”
Everyone relaxed realizing how foolish they looked believing that any of the night’s strangeness was real.
Milburn smiled. “When you find the delinquents behind this, please ask them how they did the trick with the display. That scared the crap out of me.” He and Womack laughed.
Buckley didn’t see the humor, there was still a dead man in the station. “Doctor, if you please, Jeremiah remember?”
“Oh yes, of course.”
When they turned to leave the office, all three froze in their tracks. Jeremiah was standing, looking in their direction. His arm was outstretched pointed toward the front door. The lights flickered on and off. All the phones in the building suddenly started ringing. Jeremiah’s mouth opened and thousands of blood red maggots started pouring out, piling at his feet.
Milburn stumbled back and fell to the floor. Both Buckley and Womack had their pistols out and aimed at Jeremiah. Between the flashes of light and dark, Jeremiah seemed to have been replaced by another man, Deacon Grimes. Grimes’ eyes burned with fire and an ethereal voice that was as loud as thunder came from everywhere at once.
“I will have my revenge!”
The entire building went dark in blackness so thick it seemed to have weight. The darkness held the men in place as if time had stopped.
The lights came back on.
The phones stopped its ringing.
Jeremiah was gone.
Everyone might have thought it a nightmare, but writhing in huge piles on the floor and in the chair where the young man had sat blood red maggots remained. Hundreds had slithered away from the larger mass and moved in the men’s direction.
Buckley fired three times. Red misty plumes of scattered pieces and blood rose where the bullet had impacted. Still they advanced and even more descended from the larger piles and made toward them. Buckley determined that being on the offensive was a losing battle and switched tactics to defensive. He grabbed Milburn and dragged him out of the way of the door and then kicked it shut with a foot.
The maggots were much faster than they should be and already they started to edge into the room through the spaces beneath the door. Buckley cursed under his breath straining to pull the doctor away.
In a panic, Milburn tore himself away from the sheriff’s grasp, got to his feet and charged toward the door. Maggots crawled up his shoes and eventually got onto his legs, stopping the doctor in his tracks. He screamed and scratched at his legs. “Oh God, help me!”
The maggots seemed to focus their attention on Milburn, slithering further up his body, some were already on his neck still climbing further. They crawled into his mouth, nose and ears. The doctor’s body crumbled to the floor in a heap. There were so many maggots on him that his body you couldn’t tell where he started and where they ended. Milburn’s screaming stopped but beneath the thousands of tiny red insects, his body quivered and jerked.
Buckley and Womack could do nothing but watch in horror as the doctor’s body mass deflated like a tire losing air. In less than a minute the maggots had moved away from their prey, swarming back beneath the door and into the other room.There was no sign of Milburn--no skin, no bones and no blood. Just the farmer’s costume he had worn
when he came into the station.