Black Water BOOks presents
Black Water BOOks presents
by john g rees
Here is the beginning of john g rees’ new HORROR book! Enjoy!
Yeah, we were young once, like you. A dream, a future to play
it out in and only so much time to do it. We lived it like there
was no tomorrow because that was the way it was. You could
be whacked by a semi-truck, flattening your furrowed future. Slip on
a rock in the garden and have a support stake poke you in the eye. Get
sandwiched in a parking lot on your ten-speed and that heart monitor
you wear starts to come in real handy, for once. And, of course, the guys
and gals who’d take it into their own hands. Those kids have balls, the
likes of which make our shriveled raisins cringe. Unfortunately you only
hear about the successes, which are far more exciting than the failures.
And there are far more failures than successes.
I mean, really. What are the odds of taking a weapon you are probably
not all that familiar with, trying to aim it at a target you can’t really see,
and expecting to get a bullseye? Of course, mass murderers seem to get
it right; all that practice, I suppose. But they, too, were in the moment.
Time was of the essence.
It really didn’t matter and some were actually lucky, tripping the light
fantastic while doing what they liked to do. Then there were others, like
me, who just enjoyed the work.
It was late summer when the workboat pulled up to the dock in
Corpus Christi. A hundred of us got off with a month to kill; smoke
and drink away before being sent out again. When I say smoke, I mean
it. There was no smoking allowed anywhere near the gulf, anymore.
What began as the world’s largest ‘known’ oil spill triggered a series of
unfortunate events. Fueled more by greed than the spin-off of polluting
everything, the Gulf region became a dead zone. The fishing industry
became extinct a while after. The loss of sea life created songs and
funds, activists ran rampant in the streets. But little was done for the
fish beyond good intentions. Less even for the fishermen. Wiped out
along with the fish, they sank without a second glance. What use the
knowledge of shrimping when there are no shrimp and won’t be ever
again? Wildlife and coastal habitat retention had become a sad joke,
aiding in creating the world’s largest unrestricted industrial complex.
Being bordered on three sides by land, a huge floating barrier cordoning
off the Atlantic kept the worst of it contained. The mentality that
created it got the rest of us to believe that if we were all allowed to
completely destroy just twenty - no, too much? Okay then, destroy just
ten percent of the planet, then we can save the rest of it. And we bought
it, or we were bought out. Either way we paid for it.
Wives and sweethearts picked up some of us. Ex’s, with a trail of
screaming kids, nabbed a few more to get child support before it
disappeared from the workers’ pockets, leaving the rest of us to the slim
pickings along the Gulf Coast. After a week of guy-like debauchery,
some began nursing a hangover that would last until they went back
to work, the lucky few to families…
Me? I like kids about as much as a jackhammer in the head and prefer a book
to listening to a drunk tell for the nth time about that night and how he found god,
making me wonder: if god was so good why were you hammered all the time?
Jonah was a maintenance tech aboard the rig. He fled the family
thing, too, but straddled the line between drug addict /alcoholic/sane
person like a tightrope walker in a high wind. That is to say, he was nuts
only half the time. The difference, at least in the practical sense, was that
he had a truck. And like any trucker Jonah had friends with them, too.
I was waiting for a bus with a bag of clean laundry over one shoulder
and a copy of Mark Twain’s ‘Roughing It’, when his big diesel rolled
into the stop, belching its smoke all over the clean duds.
“You know, Jake,” he said, “a truck like this will get you laid.”
“Yes shit,” Jonah replied with the sharp laugh and clear eyes of one
who didn’t owe anyone anything. “It also gets you where you’re going.”
“I don’t fuck truckers.”
Jonah laughed loud and hearty, wiping a slug of white snot from his
nose and flinging it into traffic. “I ain’t interested in your ass, Jake. If I was,
I’d of had it already. Now hop in before some cop gives me a ticket.”
Tossing my laundry bag into the bed of the truck, I climbed the short
ladder into the cab.
“Get nosebleeds at this elevation?” I asked looking down out the
window of the lifted rig.
“No, but this shit will give you one,” Jonah said, catching my look of
“It’s just coke, Jake, and just for the weekend.” He threw me the
vial, dropped the clutch and lurched into traffic. After availing myself
gluttonously of Jonah’s hospitality, I rolled a cigarette and watched the
decrepit urban surroundings become rundown suburbia.
“Where we going, Jonah? My pension is the other way.”
“We busted some serious ass these last few months, brah. Rented the
park. They cleared the homeless for us, so we could have some privacy.
Everybody who put out was invited.”
“What am I doing here?”
“Yeah, about that. We really don’t ask divers too often. Guess the
pressure hasn’t pushed your head up your ass yet. But,” his face went
tight weaving the big truck through some particularly creative traffic
maneuvers, “when your gas mix went screwy, you finished buttoning
that flange and didn’t start screaming as soon as you got out. Covered a
few of my boys by keeping your mouth shut.”
“No use busting somebody’s balls just ‘cause you want to blame them
for being lame ass mother fuckers.” Jake replied. “Besides I’ve seen it
happen before. I think they invented the term ‘shit happens’ just for the
“Fucking ay right there, brah, you fuckers are nuts,” Jonah yelled
above the engine noise.
“So, kidnapping me is a way of saying thanks,” I asked.
“Sort of, I wanted to get to know you a little better before… uh,”
“Before you get sent to another rig.” Jonah’s answer was not an honest
one. When an honest man lies, he generally does so for a reason and you
can always tell. I figured he had his reasons, rolled another cigarette,
enjoying the smoke away from the volatile coast.
“You’re just different, man. Than the other divers, I mean. When you
get out of the chamber, you pitch in and help us out. It makes a big
“Something to do. You guys do all the work. I’m just picking up the
slack.” I pushed away pats on the back like the plague. Especially on the
rig and being a diver. Competition is ruthless.
“Not the way I hear it. Waylon, one of the riggers, saw you chaining
Shorty’s crane down just as he was lifting a load of pipes. We would have
lost the load, the crane, and Shorty if you hadn’t picked up the slack.”
“He seemed a little out of sorts at breakfast, so I kept an eye on him,”
“Yeah, he drinks too much. Hell of an operator though.”
“We all got stuff.” I didn’t know what else to say. Shorty was a full
blown alcoholic and should have been let go when his condition became
chronic. Booze and heavy equipment is a bad combination. It was only
a matter of time before he killed himself or worse. I kept my mouth
shut as far as my feelings about this were concerned. Jonah knew. It was
his crew, his business.
Soon we were heading west and north with a truck full of rig workers
we had picked up randomly on the way out of town. Two other trucks
had joined in the caravan, loaded with supplies and more people. The
signs for Big Bend National Park were riddled with bullet holes, smashed
up, or stolen, leaving the single vertical post as a reminder of something.
You just didn’t know what. The National Park System was opened up to
the droves of homeless in the early 2000’s. Well, not all of it. The most
popular remained as they were, but privatized with only their names
altered to pump the corporation that sponsored it. The remainder of
the parks went the way of the rest of the country, tanked by poverty
and apathy. Some, like Big Bend, could be rented, with or without its
current population. Others like the area around ‘Old Faithful,’ once it
started to not be so faithful anymore, became permanent cities. Heat
in the winter and electricity was generated geothermally. ‘Old Faithful’
was lucky. In Glacier National Park, now that the glacier was gone, full
time residents hobbled about strangling the life out of the area’s limited
resources to stave off starvation. Most were toeless from frostbite. In
general, the parks were miserable places to live, yet still they were better
than the cities where the rats and critters had finally won.
One thread connected all of man – whether you lived in a park,
your car, a gated community, at the office, in the middle of everything
or at the periphery – the internet. Early users warned of the dark side
of the information platform. After a generation or two they died off,
end of discussion. It was so insinuated into everyday living you couldn’t
imagine life without it. Well, most people anyway. I read instead.
Scored books when I could, just for the smell sometimes. The rest was digital
and ever so convenient. You gotta laugh though when someone
complains about having to actually turn pages. Barbaric.
When conversation wore thin and Jonah began managing the party
while still driving, I stared out the window. The landscape was ruined
years before. The mad rush for quick money left a trail of strip malls,
junk towns, junk food and a junked people that still scratched out a life
from the rotting skeletons of short term capitalization.
“No vision,” Jonah yelled waving at a ghost town of a mall. “Couldn’t
see but a few years down the road. You probably seen lots of them
traveling from rig to rig.”
“The shit all looks the same no matter where you go.”
“Don’t get all bummed out on me, Jake. Have another blast. We took
Big Bend because we wanted to see nature the way it used to be. Should
be cool. No net, no streaming sports, just nature.”
“Do the rest of our campers know about this?” I asked this as two
walkie-talkies lit up on the dash.
“Nope. You, me, a couple of the guys. This will be them now, probably
just lost the signal.” Jonah laughed, taking a snort before picking up the
radios. “’Sup, mon?” he asked, as he released the talk button, snorfling
righteously before continuing with the wireless. He looked over to see
me working my jaw back and forth, a little buzzed and worried.
“Don’t worry, brah. The men and their wives that have come along
aren’t your average net junkies. It’s another reason I asked you; never
seen you pick up your own phone. You got one?”
“Only the company issue callout,” I said, a little embarrassed.
“Shit, man, you are in the dark ages. Speaking of, we’re here.”
A little guard shack sat just off the road next to the rusting pipe gate
that crossed the broken asphalt. The wooden structure looked just big
enough for a man and a wood stove, if the man wasn’t too big. Jonah
honked once, briefly. The mountain afternoon became infinitely quiet
as Jonah shut the motor down to wait. On cue, the door to the shack
swung outward followed by a balding head connected to a neck and
shoulders that had to duck low to exit the hovel. Standing to his full
height made his undersized ranger outfit comical. Short in every way it
needed to be long and long in the places it needed to be short, he wore
it proudly and any reference to comedy was sucked up at the sight of a
menacing-looking double-barreled shotgun held in his gnarled hands
or the scarred face that looked like it had taken a blast from the sawed off
Stepping from the shade of the shack, I saw he held a piece of paper
under the thumb of his left hand as it clutched the twin barrels. He
stopped in front of Jonah’s rig, both barrels casually but seriously
pointed at the windshield as he checked the license plate. Judging by
the length of the barrel, the blast from the weapon would expand a foot
in diameter for every foot traveled. By the time the shot met the glass…
God I hoped the numbers matched up.
After a few moments the guard followed the gun to the driver’s door
and came to rest just beneath Jonah’s chin. The barrels never left their
target. A muffled conversation ensued that consisted mostly of grunts.
I couldn’t make out a word they were saying, but then the hollow steel
delivery tubes consumed my attention.
The gun moved forward into the cab followed by the head and
shoulders and stench of the guard as he pushed passed Jonah to stuff
the gun in my chest. His foul breath washed over me, “Hope you enjoy
your stay in Big Bend and that everything is to your liking. If not, don’t
hesitate to go fuck yourself !” As he said the last words he dug the gun
painfully into my xiphoid. I guess it was for kicks but when he pulled
the trigger I about shit my pants. There was no explosion that blew
a hole clean through my torso. Just a click. He waited for a moment
sniffing the air, then pulled himself out of the rig. His smile was tight,
lacking any mirth in the practical joke. Nodding curtly to Jonah, the
guard indicated we could continue on and returned to the shack to raise
the gate. The gun remained pointed at the truck with the remaining
barrel decidedly aiming at me. Our caravan rolled into the park.
“What the fuck was that all about?” I said rubbing my chest.
Jonah looked me up and down, his visage hardened as he tried to see
into me. “They say Olaf can tell when a man is not a man.”
“I may not be much of one…” I began.
“It’s not that, Jake. Back during one of the drug wars, don’t matter
which one, his family was taken by one of the cartel’s mercs.”
“What does that have to do with me? I was just a kid when that shit
“It don’t. The mercs were renegades from that Megacorp experiment.
Got away from the big Corp and went free agent. Anyway, they did
things to that poor family. Olaf was a kid then, too. He was forced to
watch as the mercs went barbaric on his sisters, parents and brothers.”
“I heard it got nasty, the wars, I mean.”
“Mighty nice word for what went down. From then on Olaf could
always tell when one of the freaks was in our midst. Like a dog.”
“Hey man, nothing’s been done to me!”
“I know, cause I been watching you on the rig. My guess is he can tell
when you’re going to be one, too. Commercial diver, top of your game,
a good rep, too. Yep, you’re a prime candidate.”
“What do you mean?”
“Megacorp only wants the good ones. That’s why me and my crew
fuck up on a regular basis. Not so much as to get our asses canned or
hurt someone, but enough to keep us out of the promotions arena.”
“So I’m fucking myself by having a good work ethic and run the risk
of being upgraded to experimental status.”
“They are called Reuseables. And yup, keep up the good work and that
is where you’re headed.”
“Fuck me,” I said, wanting more information.
“That they will, you can count on it. We’re here. Keep that shit under
your hat this weekend, we’re trying to forget.”
Clouds of brown dust fought for the airspace with the diesel smoke as
the three trucks rumbled into the parking area. Men and women were
hopping from the beds before the rigs had stopped and were unloading
before the smut had settled. The campsites were just a short way to the
base of a tall bluff that stood beside a cool stream. There were tents,
coolers, bottled water and beer. The next two hours were spent getting
all the stuff set up; most important was beer on ice, with small talk and
laughter erecting tents, creating a kitchen, and digging an outhouse, for
which there were no volunteers. Finding a shovel amidst the clutter I
asked Jonah where they wanted it.
“You and your positive I’ll get’er done attitude. This is the kind of shit
I was just talking about with you. See Shorty…”
Shorty was already at the river swimming with a beer in one hand and
his girlfriend Molly in the other.
“That’s what you should be doing. But… since you’re here…” he handed
me a small sack, “Pitch the tent over it when you’re done. Behind those
trees should be good,” he pointed.
The earth was soft, the blade sinking easily into it. Halfway through,
I rolled a cigarette, sitting down to watch the activity by the riverside.
Laughter and mock arguments drifted across the swale. Someone was
playing a guitar as the rising colorful tents helped to fabricate a festive
atmosphere. Already I was a bit jealous at the ease of the camaraderie
amongst these friends as they created a dream, while I dug a shit hole.
Fool enough yet to laugh at myself, I stubbed the butt, deciding to
create the nicest outhouse ever. Even taking a shit is part of the dream.
A couple hours later I took Jonah’s advice.
The heat of the day was waning as the sun crested the butte to the
west. The ice-cold beer went down easily and way too fast. With the last
of the sun I stripped and dove into the cool water. The current was lazy,
the water, clear. I scrubbed the sweat and dirt away but felt there was
filth that remained. There was something in what Jonah said about the
Reuseable Program and Olaf ’s nose, what there was left of it anyway.
Giving up my quest of cleanliness, strong practiced strokes propelled
me against the current to where my clothes lay in a bundle. They were
gone. In its place was a towel that was busy keeping a couple of beers
cold. Setting the coldies in the river, I dried off making a skirt from the
“Hey digger,” came a voice from a riverside copse of trees. Scanning
the shrubs, I spied my clothes hung on a line as they waved in the breeze
but saw no body to connect the voice to.
“Thanks for the towel. Want one of these?” I picked the bottles from
the water, popping the tops with a rock. When I looked up, she was
standing right next to me. Plucking a beer from my hands she leaned in
close, inhaling deeply.
“I think Olaf has his head up his ass. You smell okay to me. I’m
Julie, Shorty’s daughter.” She tipped her beer in salute then drew from
it deeply. Jonah said to keep it quiet so I struggled with what she said
while trying to think of something clever to say. She was cute and the
last light of sunset did her no harm.
“A pleasure,” I said reaching out and shaking her hand. They were
strong and calloused, no stranger to hard work but with a woman’s
tenderness. “Thanks for washing my clothes,” I chinned at the trees,
“that bad, huh?”
“Just used the outhouse. Saying thanks, I guess. You gay? I mean you
made it soooo nice. Besides I wanted to smell the real you.”
“I didn’t know Shorty had a family,” I said, veering the subject away
“Mom and Dad were divorced years ago. They get along great now.
But tag’em with married and it’s hell on earth. Trust me I know.”
“I’ve seen his temper on the job and glad it was never directed at me.
Hell of an operator, your dad.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. He’s too good at what he does. If it wasn’t
for Jonah, they would have taken him a long time ago.” Julie must have
seen my bewildered expression in the twilight. “You know, Megacorp, the
I didn’t like the direction of the conversation, always returning to the
subject of the Reuseable Program. “Listen Julie, this is all kind of new
to me.” I knew more than I was willing to let on about, so I played it
dumb. It was something I was good at and would serve me throughout
my life. Not that I knew this of course. “Jonah ask me not to mention it
this weekend so could we talk about something else?”
“Sure, you want to have sex?”
“Me and my big mouth,” I moaned.
“I was counting on that.”
“I need something to eat.” Seems I was always changing the subject.
“I was counting on that, too,” She laughed, taking my hand and
leading me away from the fire down the beach.
“No really, I’m hungry,” I said fighting a losing battle.
Dawn came with a profound silence. I listened to the wind blowing
through the trees and rippling water, silent except where it bumped
into the shore. Not wanting to move, I feared rustling the sleeping bag
would shatter the moment. The state of grace slipped away naturally,
chirping birds heralding a new day in the pre-light of dawn, and I knew
I was alone. Sitting up in the lean-to, I was busy taking in the river when
footsteps came up to the blind side of the tent. I thought it was Julie
when a cup of hot coffee was placed where I could reach it. When I
went to get it, a pair of steel-toed boots stomped down hard on my
hand, pinning it to the ground.
“Fuck my daughter, will ya?” His words hid the sound of his other
boot coming through the thin wall of the tent connecting with my
solar-plexus, knocking the wind from my lungs and tumbling me headlong
into the cold waters. Coming instantly aware an instant too late, I
met with a flying leap from Shorty, who was dressed for the occasion in
underwear and boots. Leading with his head, the little man nailed me
in the chest, plowing me under the water. I was ready this time and took
it without losing my air, letting him force me to the bottom where he
proceeded to stand on me and do some sort of little dance.
Struggling when you’re under water is usually a waste of time and air.
It’s best to relax and think rationally about things. With the breath I
took before going under I figured I had an easy four minutes and a ballbusting
five. That is unless Shorty started jumping up and down. His jig
died down and the clarity of the water allowed me to see enough to tell
what he was doing. Every diver has had it done to them, whether they
knew it or not. Shorty was taking a leak. With the current running, the
act was more symbolic than, say, a golden shower on dry land.
Now I’m trying not to burst out laughing and lose, prematurely, the
precious moments I had left. Shorty finished up and checked his watch.
He carefully got off my chest and checked his watch again. The current
lifted my body from riverbed slowly pushing it downstream. From my
position I could no longer see Shorty, but it was about then that he
figured something must be wrong. Before I could say, ‘put me down,’ he
had me out of the water, pumping my chest. I stopped him just before
he started the rescue breaths.
“I’m okay, Shorty! Listen I’m the one who was taken advantage of.” I
wasn’t going to apologize or beg.
“You son of a bitch!” He started to yell but as the sun came over the
horizon so did a smile begin on one side of his face, reaching across to
the other. “That’s my Julie. You hurt her I’ll kill ya. Now that the father
business is over with, let me buy you drink.”
“It’s a little early, ya think?”
“Never too early to chain an old operator’s crane down, ya think?” He
laughed reaching an arm up around my shoulder. “Nice outhouse, Jake.
Going to have to bring you along more often.”
“Thanks, I guess. You going to fuck me, too?”
He would have missed, so instead of avoiding it I let him clip me in
the jaw and caught him as he lost his balance in the sand, letting him
land on top.
“You’re all right, Jake,” Shorty said pushing himself off and standing.
The day passed in about as nice a way as I can remember. Seemed
someone was always playing a guitar along with the laughter of children
and the sunlight dancing over the water. I found it was like Jonah had
said, it helps you forget. As the day drifted downstream those of us that
could hiked upstream, to a waterfall and swimming pool. Julie and I
hung together a bit. The night before was fun and we left it at that. She
was a social butterfly and this was her karass. I admired the way she
worked the group but had no intention of tagging along like a dog.
The sun was directly overhead warming the tops of boulders scattered
around the perimeter. We spread out blankets in a shaded spot, then
everybody hit the water. Off to the side of a cliff face Jonah and a bud
began spidering up a crack.
“Hey Jonah! Where you going?” I yelled from the water. All I received
in reply was an arm beckoning me to follow.
Climbing out of the water and putting on my sneakers, I jogged over
to where they started the climb. I looked up at the gnarled sandstone
crevice, ‘This isn’t the first time you’ve done something stupid for
the male bonding thing,’ I said to myself. The rock was crumbly and
slippery when wet, which I was. You had to push with your feet on one
side of the crack and push your back against the other side to keep from
falling. A trail of sand cascaded down with every step. Twenty feet up
the crack widened making further progress impossible. ‘Fuck me.’
“Hey Jake! Look to your left.” Jonah was pointing to a ledge.
I gave him the okay signal and began descending. Had to get down a
few feet to access the shelf. My back started slipping and I couldn’t stop
it. My feet began scrambling to keep up with my body but only ground
away at the loose surface. Then suddenly - air! Swinging to the left and
stretching my arms out, I hit the ledge. There wasn’t anything to grab on
to, so I planted my palms on the sandstone, pressing as hard as I could.
If the surface wasn’t disturbed, it had plenty of friction to hold you - at
the price of your skin.
Feet searched for anything to gain a purchase. Nothing. Carefully, I
began to kick my right foot into the vertical wall. The gouging was slow
and I was tiring fast. Finally a dimple I could catch my toes on. Push up,
replant my hands and do it again with the other foot. After three such
steps I was able to sit down on the ledge and catch my breath. The group
of swimmers, who had been watching silently from below, broke out in
applause and laughter. I suppose I should have felt embarrassed, but the
adrenalin had me pumped. I stood and raised my arms in a mighty way,
turned and looked for the rest of the way up. There, cut into the stone,
was a stairway to the top. You had to laugh.
“We made the steps last year. Started them high to keep the kids safe.
How’s the back? We were watching, too.”
“I don’t know. You tell me.” I turned so he could get a look.
“Eww. Ahh, you’ll be aw’ight.”
Jonah made a thumbs up to Frankie who started a sprint towards the
cliff. I turned to watch him blast by and take a wild leap. Frankie was
pedaling all the way down to keep upright. Just before he hit the water,
he balled up finishing with a cannon ball. ‘And the crowd went wild!’
“Okay Jake,” Jonah began, “A little heads up. The pool is deep enough
but there are some big fucking rocks under there. The best is to do like
Frankie and take a flying leap. If you want to do a fancy dive take a good
look first. You can see them clear from up here.” Jonah pointed to some
light blue boulders just below the surface.
“I’ll stick with the bat outta hell thing,” I said, taking a sobering look.
“Okay, see you down there.” Jonah ran away from the cliff, spun
around and bolted for the edge screaming like a wild man.
I gave him a minute and followed in a like manner. It was worth the
Julie daubed some gunk on the torn skin I received during the climb
and lit a joint while we sat on one of the hot rocks to chase the chill of
the mountain water away.
“If Dad had come along you would have seen some diving. He used to
do it as kid down in Mexico, hustling pesos from tourists till one of the
resorts saw him and hired him on.”
“No shit. I’d have never figured Shorty for smiling for tourists.”
“He was smiling for the money, but it gave him a hell of an
understanding of people.” Julie was obviously proud of her father.
“That being we are all assholes, right?”
“You got it.”
“You don’t see him smile too often any more. When you do it makes
your day somehow.”
“There’s no money in it, Jake. You’re a little slow, aren’t you?” she
“Maybe just a little.”
When the sun drifted away from the pool, so did we. In the afternoon,
shaded areas were like refrigerators. Shorty was doing shots and chasing
them with bong hits by the time we got back.
“Hey, why didn’t you wake me? I wanted to do some diving,” Shorty
We looked around at each other till Jonah stepped up. “Nobody that
brave here, my little friend.” Jonah burst out laughing, taking the bong
from Shorty and refilling the bowl.
When he was through with a body racking coughing fit, I asked him,
“How do you pass your piss tests?”
“We don’t!” This time he was down on his hands and knees laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“We don’t,” he laughed out again. “You divers got one hell of a lawyer.
A no piss test contract. Who ever heard of such a thing?” By this time,
he had worked himself into such a dither, he had to let it finish on its
I didn’t get it, so I poured some coffee and rolled a cigarette. Halfway
through both, a hand was put on my shoulder.
“Come on, Jake, let’s go have a little talk.” It was Jonah and the laughter was
gone, probably not far, but out of sight for now.
We climbed to the top of a huge rock, nearly a hill in itself, to catch
the last warm spot before sunset.
“Got another?” he motioned for a smoke. I rolled two. We smoked in
silence but before we were through he said, “You know why we don’t
pass our tests?” I shook my head. “Because we want to be fuck ups in
the company’s eye. You get good, they take you. You think you were
invited here just to spend the weekend with a bunch of guys you work
with all the time?”
“I was wondering.”
“It’s because we like you. You’re all right and Julie says you’re on the
level, so we’re asking you if you want in. Guys like you get shanghaied in
their prime. They don’t wait till you die. And if they do, there is a good
chance they’ll expedite the issue.”
“Yeah, Julie mentioned that, too.” He could see my eyes clouding over
“Fuck me,” I said to no one in particular.
“They will if you don’t listen up.” Jonah paused to see if I was getting
it before continuing. I guess I was. “Take Shorty for example. Top
operator, in his 60’s and at the head of Megacorp’s ‘want’ list. That is
until we convinced him to join up.”
“Since then he’s been a drunk and they leave him alone?” I asked.
“Sort of. Their scientists can beat the alcohol thing but they can’t fix a
fuck up. It was planned to have Shorty tip his crane. We placed a Scuba
bottle in the cab so when he went over he would have enough air to
hold him till a diver was put in the water. You chained the crane at the
last second, foiling that plan, but it worked out just the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“We got it on vid. On the one hand Shorty still looks like a fuck
up, but… on the other it made you look good. Megacorp monitors all
operations looking to weed out guys like Shorty and cultivate guys like
“Jesus, Jonah, you make this sound maybe a bit conspiratorial.”
“A bit, Motherfucker? You need to read up a little more on current
events. Mark Twain didn’t have to deal with the likes of Megacorp.”
“I guess not. So what, what do I do?”
“That’s up to you, Jake. Kismet has a way of taking care of these things.
In the mean time, hang with us. I’ll keep you informed.”
“Who’s Kismet?” I asked, innocently.
“That’s the ticket,” he laughed. “Kismet is Arabic for fate. Come on,
dinner is ready.”
For some reason, camp food always tastes better than it actually
is; must be something to do with being outdoors, away from
industrialization and pollution. Of course now it was just the illusion
of seclusion, but it was good illusion. Live music, perhaps one of life’s
rarest treats these days, filled the air as the stars did the sky. Some sang,
others danced, we all forgot.
Well after midnight, Julie and I left the last guitarist in his quiet
melodic musings for a spot farther away from the camp next to the
river. The vigorous passion of the previous night was balanced with
a holding and caring that was all too absent in my life: the warmth
of another’s body next to mine, a quiet passion of communication.
What two hands can say to each other is more than words can
describe. From the blackest night to deep hues of early dawn we held
each other. It would not be enough for what the future had in store. It
was just enough for now.
The morning was chill, with a fog blowing down the river. We
watched the ghost drift over the camp lightly caressing those who slept
outside and leaving what appeared to be a trail of tears in its path. As
it passed over us, the dampness clung to Julie’s face, creating tears that
rolled down her cheeks. It was not just the fog.
“What is it?” I asked in the hush of dawn.
“I don’t know. I feel something separating us,” she replied, wiping the
“Today is the last day. I feel the same way, too.”
“It’s more than that, Jake. I had a dream we were being pulled apart. I
was screaming, you were mute.”
“What was doing the pulling?”
“I don’t know; it had no face.”
“Come on, let’s get some coffee. We can go for a walk and talk about
Julie was shy slipping into her clothes, I likewise. Something was
dividing us. And it was growing stronger.
The lone guitarist was still at it and had made a pot of the dark master
just prior to our arrival.
“Thanks, Frankie,” I whispered. “Anybody else up yet?”
“Just Shorty. He headed up to the falls to catch some rays and get in
a few dives.”
I rolled a cigarette and drank my first cup in silence while Julie went
to the loo and did her morning routine.
“Let’s head up to where Dad is,” she said to me. “Is he drinking,
Frankie rolled his eyes with a ‘duh’ expression.
“Back in a bit, man.” Julie and I reloaded our cups and headed
upstream. We didn’t talk as I thought we would, but that’s not to
say communication wasn’t happening. We followed the trail on the
canyon floor next to the river. Gossamer bands of fog cut off what little
sunlight entered the cleft at this time of day creating a darkened surreal
atmosphere so in contrast to yesterday’s picnic.
We found Shorty frying himself like a chicken in a pan on one of the
rocks that stood above the billowing cloud. Slowly the fog cover began
to burn off. Shorty rolled over to sear the other side. Julie stripped,
going for a swim while the fog still clung to the water. She disappeared
in moments with only the sounds of repetitive strokes splashing the
silence. A large shelf had an undercut created eons before. It was out of
the wind, dry and afforded a picturesque view of the waterfall and pool.
Perfect for a coffee and smoke.
It was too beautiful and the forgetfulness of the previous evening still
lingered. Indeed it was a fine moment. But like all they pass, for in that
moment I felt a change. Something was in the air as the fog dissipated
and reality clarified.
Shorty stood and stretched. His broiled little body glistened of oil
and sweat. “Where’s Julie?” he yelled over.
I made swimming motions with my arms.
“Call her in. I want some pictures when I dive.” There was a slur
in his voice and wobble in his steps. Frankie hadn’t lied in his silent
answer. Personally, I thought Shorty would quit the drinking for the
weekend. I reminded myself it was none of my business when I heard
“Hey - just in time. Shorty is going to dive and wants you to shoot
him.” Julie got out of the water and dried. I drank deliriously of her
unabashed toweling and dressing. Her utter lack of self-consciousness
was as beautiful as was she. I wanted to hold her right then, right now
“You ready down there?” Shorty yelled from the top. How he got up
there is beyond me. Some of the holds are far apart. There wasn’t much
time to ponder this as Julie hollered up that she was ready.
It was funny to see Shorty psych himself for the dive. He was usually
busy being the clown. Seeing the other side was, well, scary. He walked
forward, wavering just a bit from the booze and took a good look from
the jumping off place. He paced backwards, counting his steps, gave
his body a good wriggle then became still for a moment. With a hop,
he pumped five powerful steps coming to the edge, as both knees bent
springing him up and away from the rocks. On the way up he assumed
the jackknife position and began to flip. Once, twice, before snapping
open into the straightest little arrow you ever saw and penetrating the
water with barely a splash. It was perfect.
“You get it?” I yelled to Julie with a huge smile. She nodded with a
grin and love for her Dad.
“Man, that was killer. Two and a half, knifing into water. Sweet!”
“That’s my Dad.”
Just as she said this, we both looked back at the water. Bubbles still
rose from the entry point, but Shorty had not surfaced. The edge of the
pool was irregular with boulders and rock outcroppings, limiting one’s
view of the whole.
“Hey Shorty! Great dive man, where are you?”
“Quit fucking around man!” I was running around the pool hoping
to see him hiding on the backsides of the rocks. No such luck. Back
to where I began and I started stripping off my clothes. Julie’s face had
gone ashen. Going to hug her, she started to collapse so I eased her to
the ground, turned and dove into the icy water. He was nowhere near
the entry point. The current deep in the pool, however, was moving
me around pretty good. I figured it must be doing the same thing with
Shorty. I surfaced, took another breath and went back under, looking
everywhere at once while the current moved me around.
A shaft of penetrating sunlight illumined a gray blue hand sticking
out from beneath an undercut in the stone.
‘Oh shit, Shorty!’ I cried silently, swimming in close to get a hold of him.
A dark cloud of blood floated around his head. His body was stuck and I wasted
precious seconds trying to dislodge him without doing any more damage.
Julie was at the water’s edge when I surfaced. Her face went from pale
to panic to what do I do? Struggling on the treacherously slippery rocks
made getting his body out of the water near impossible. After a certain
point, we could get no farther. I got a solid purchase for my right foot
and was able to jam my knee under his ass to keep him from sliding
down. It was awkward but it worked. I started CPR. Adrenalin coursed
through me like never before. Chest compressions followed by rescue
breaths, over and over and over and over and over. The initial chest
compressions pumped the yellowish water from his lungs and beer from
his belly. Blood from a nasty head wound, that we hadn’t had a chance
to look at yet, flowed into the foam and water. After a few minutes we
were covered with Shorty. Julie through her tears remained stoic and
did her part. It must have been killing her to do it. But something in the
killing brought life.
As I took a break from crushing Shorty’s chest, Julie continued with
the rescue breaths when suddenly we noticed he was breathing on his
own. I checked his pulse. He had one, barely. We both took a much
needed breath, only one, before putting our backs into getting Shorty
off the rocks.
Hands appeared where none had been before. Hard hands. Hands of
men. Fresh men who could lift the man we could not. While Shorty was
being carried into the shade, I found my t-shirt, folded it and was back
at Shorty’s side as he was laid down. I placed the cloth over the head
wound, but not before getting one of those all too clear images of the
destruction. Shorty was missing a large portion of the back of his skull;
the convolutions of his brain were moist and soft. I held him there with
his head on my knees. Tears rolled down my face but I was not crying. I
had done all I could do, or so I had thought. Julie sat by her father’s side,
holding his pale but alive hand.
“Where did you guys come from?” I was out of it and a little
“Julie called on her phone when you jumped in the water. Is he going
to be okay?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“I called the medi-vac chopper, too. They should be here…” she
The whack-whack-whack of a helicopter broke the morning’s silence
and shattered our forgetfulness. Frankie pulled a pair of binoculars
from his shirt and focused in on the sound.
“Aren’t the Med choppers orange?” His question had an ominous
boding for the group. The communal silence went deep.
“Yeah. What color is it?” Jonah asked.
“Black, no markings.” Replied a somber Frankie who was busy putting
the glasses away. “Everybody who is not involved in first aid, let’s go!”
En masse, they gathered what they brought and double-timed it out
of the falls and back to camp, presumably to begin breaking down. Only
Jonah, Julie and I were left at the pool.
“What’s this mean, Jonah?” I asked, changing out the blood soaked
tee on Shorty’s head for a fresh one, like one would a diaper, all the
while trying not to let Julie see it. Jonah did. Whatever his reaction was
he kept it to himself.
“It means Megacorp picked up on it. They are on their way to take
Shorty.” Jonah was pissed.
“What? Take him where?”
“They can fix that, Jake,” Jonah pointed at Shorty’s head, “And you’ll
see him working a crane in a few years. But he won’t see you.”
“They’re going to re-use him, Jake,” cried Julie. “It’s my fault. I gave
the medi-vac Dad’s insurance numbers. Bastards had to make sure they
would be paid first.” She cried in shame, squeezing her father’s hand.
“All requests go through a Megacorp filter. It’s not your fault, Julie.
It was mine for making your dad drink too much. You see, Jake, it was
Shorty’s reason for joining us.” Jonah listened for the helicopter. It was
“Dad did not want to be reused. No matter what. ‘Kill me if you have
to’ was the way he put it.”
“We have about a minute before that chopper comes in over the
canyon and hovers on the pond. We have to move, NOW!”
“I’m staying,” said Julie, resisting.
While the two had been explaining, half of me was listening. The
other half was coming to terms with the very near future. When I
spoke, it came firmly as in the way of a command. For it certainly was
“Jonah, take Julie and get her out of here. I will deal with Megacorp.”
Jonah took Julie by her limp shoulders, raising her to her feet.
“I won’t let them take your father, Julie. I will miss him.” I didn’t know
what else to say. ‘Gee, I’m sorry I’m gonna kill your dad,’ just didn’t seem
to cut it.
“NOW Julie, they’re coming over the ridge.” She had gone catatonic.
Jonah bent low and picked her up in the fireman’s carry and ran for all
he was worth to the slot where he could climb out unseen. How he was
going to do that concerned me very little at this point.
This is the just the beginning of john g rees’ new HORROR book
Look for BLACK TIDE released by Black Water Books!
BLACK WATER BOOKS, 2011©