Al Bruno III
Dedicated to Francis Hogan
Does that light have to be so bright? Yeah. Yeah. For the cameras… I get it. No I don’t need a lawyer. I’m just sorry you guys couldn’t wait until I get out of the hospital.
Where do you want me to start? But you know that already. …right the video record.
Ok. Ok. My name is Adam H. Drahm… I’m 18, almost 19 really.
I know I look older; it’s the weight, the only good thing about pushing 300 pounds is that I never get carded… I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that to policemen… I mean a policeman and a woman…what I mean is a policewoman and a policeman … I mean police detectives… sorry.
Yes Detective Connelly I am ready to go on… I’m just kinda… it’s kind of jumbled in my head but I know what happened. And I’ll tell you everything. I don’t want there to be any questions or doubts about what happened. So let’s get started.
There were six of us. There was me, Kev and Jenny, Laurie and Mark, and Alice. We were in my Hummer heading out to a camp on Schroon Lake…
The Hummer, well it was my Dad’s really but he let me borrow it. He was just glad to see me out with my friends. What? You’re surprised they were my friends? The most popular kids in the school and the fat kid don’t mix, is that what you think?
Look, for as long as I’ve been able to put two thoughts together I’ve known I was overweight. When the other kids in Kindergarten won’t play on the see-saws with you, you start to realize a few things. It’s just that I decided a long time ago that fat or thin I wasn’t going to be a punch line.
Yeah a punch line, like every stupid comedy movie- the fat guy never gets the girl he just gets laughed at. That’s not me. No matter what else I am that will never be me.
It’s like my Dad always told me that you can get whatever you want in this world. You just have to really want it and you have to be patient.
And Dad should know. He is filthy rich after all.
Oh, I totally admit my Dad being filthy rich helped open some doors for me, but money can only get you so far. That’s not why the cool kids let me be part of their group, I’m sure of that.
Anyway, I was driving. We were going to camp out by the shore, a little post prom celebration. I had us all kitted out with a portable gas grill and tents and a portable TV… yeah roughing it. We had to make a lot of u-turns to get there – I kept missing the turnoff to the camp.
…no I had never been there before and I was kind of mad that Kev was making fun of the music I was listening to.
I mean since when is Liz Phair not relevant? She’ll be around a lot longer than any of these teenyboppers that are on the radio these days. Alice always reminded me of Liz, maybe that’s why I liked her.
Yeah I liked her. And I think she liked me, at least a little. After all it was pretty much two couples, and me and Alice. The numbers seemed to be in my favor. Plus she was pissed off at her boyfriend Tom. He was back in rehab again so she had ended up going to the prom with me. Good thing I was planning to go stag anyway.
I knew this was it. It was time for me to make my move. I’d been waiting years for a chance like this. She was really going to kick him to the curb this time for good, I was sure of it. I mean why else would she volunteer for us to use his family’s camp? Sheesh, they call it a camp, it was like an acre of primo lakefront property with a cabin and a boat dock and God knows what else.
…yeah, yeah we were totally trespassing but we knew no one would catch us. Tom was off getting clean and sober and his parents weren’t using the place because there was some kind of toxic mold in the cabin. I guess they were waiting for some kind of special toxic mold guy to come and clean it out.
So we were arguing about Liz Phair and finally Alice gets me to go the right way and we are bouncing up the dirt driveway past Tom’s parents’ toxic cabin. A little bit later we were unpacking our gear by the lakeside.
Well, I was unpacking, the others went skinny dipping. No I didn’t mind, I wasn’t ready to go flapping in the breeze before Alice just yet. Besides, someone had to set up the grill and the Xbox. Hey, as I was working I saw quite a lot and the weekend was just getting started. After they got done swimming we did the barbecue thing and everyone had a few beers. I couldn’t help but notice that Alice was having more than a few.
As the sun went down I offered to fire up the Xbox but the others were more interested in starting a campfire and mellowing out. They asked me to set up the tents since I was the only one with Boy Scout experience… which isn’t really true I only made it to Webelos before I got thrown out…
…I kinda punched out the Scoutmaster.
Come on, how many years of being called ‘Piggy’ can a kid take?
What? Oh… Yeah I got the tents out of the Hummer and got to work while the two couples started making out by the firelight. Alice came over to help me. We started talking about finals and stuff. She asked me if I thought I was going to make it through the History final, “Sure,” I said, “Mr. Zick’s finals are all multiple choice and he always has the right answer be an even number. He’s like obsessive compulsive or something. Remember that and you’re sure to get at least get a ‘B’. Oh and study the notes on Rome, he’s crazy for Rome.”
Alice shrugged as I handed her one end of the groundsheet for the first tent, we set it down on a relatively even patch of ground. “Well I don’t think I was paying as much attention as you. Maybe you should come over Tuesday night and we could go over your notes.”
“Sure,” I looked up from securing the groundsheet to the tent pegs and tried to sound calm. I was down on one knee as I worked; I looked like I was ready to ask her to marry me. “I’d like that.”
“I’m really glad you came,” she smiled down at me, she had a great smile.
I told her, “I know it’s no fun being the fifth wheel.”
“How many tents are there? Two?” She asked while I had her hold the tent pole steady.
“Yeah,” I said while fastened the tent’s skin into place, “A boy’s tent and a girl’s tent.”
She started laughing then, I tried to laugh along but then I asked, “What? What’s so funny?”
“Take a look back there,” She pointed to the campfire, to Mark and Laurie and Jenny and Kev. Things had kinda gone beyond the cuddling stage and there was some full-on making out going on. Shirts were getting loosened and waistbands were getting un-tucked. Alice said to me, “You think they’re gonna want to sleep boy girl? Are we kids in summer camp?”
The tent drooped as I realized what she meant, “I never thought…”
“Well you wouldn’t,” she was holding her sides from laughing.
“What the Hell does that mean?”
And I must have sounded pretty pissed because she became sweet again, “Well, I mean you’re so nice and innocent. That’s one of the things I love about you.”
Blushing and smiling I got the two tents set up and Alice and I decided to crash in the Hummer. When I offered to sleep outside she said I could put my sleeping bag next to hers.
I said, “You realize this means we’ll be sleeping together?”
We had a good laugh at that.
With the tents up we made our way back to the campfire, Kev and Jenny had wandered off into the woods, Mark and Laurie were sharing a beer and stargazing. There was no moon and somehow the familiar constellations were so bright they were like fireflies hovering just out of reach. Mark said, “We should a brought some fireworks, it’s too quiet.”
“I like the quiet,” Alice said, “I think sometimes we all talk too much.”
“Yeah” I agreed.
“It’s like we talk just to talk.”
“But we don’t really say anything.”
“Yeah,” I agreed again.
Mark’s reply was a long forced belch, Laurie thought it was hilarious. After that they staggered off to one of the tents, undressing each other as they went.
“Well…” I said, “there’s fireworks…”
Alice smiled at me, “And then, there are fireworks! Come on, I want to show you something.”
She took me by the hand and led me into the woods. Not the same part of the woods where I could hear Jenny’s voice coming in short gasps. It seemed like there was sex everywhere and it looked like I was going to get some. I mean I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of doing it outdoors but God hates a coward right?
Like I said Alice took me by the hand and led me into the woods… away from the lake, away from the cabin – we had to go up a little hill. It was steep but I didn’t get winded until about halfway to the top. I wasn’t about to slow up or let her know, but I did let her get a little bit ahead of me on the hill. But that kind of had its own rewards.
After about ten minutes it was like the trees parted in front of us and there was this clearing.
Well it wasn’t like a natural clearing. It was like it was a place where the trees just wouldn’t grow. They just stopped, and the trees that bordered the clearing… how do I describe it? Whatever side of the tree that faced the clearing was bare, no branches or leaves -there wasn’t even any grass, just dirt.
Maybe it was one of those places where they dump toxic waste. Maybe it was more of that toxic mold that ruined Tom’s parents’ cabin. Whatever it was, it wasn’t very romantic. Not that it mattered to me really, I was so wound up.
There was this big black rock in the middle of the clearing. It looked kind of like a coffin. It was pretty shiny – the starlight almost seemed to ripple across the surface of it like it was water or something. It kind of looked volcanic.
But that was crazy because there are no volcanoes in upstate New York.
I asked her, “What is this place?”
It was dark but I could just catch her smile, she was holding tightly on to my hand,
“Creepy isn’t it?”
“It’s something all right.” I turned to face her. I’d been rehearsing this kiss in my mind for years. It was now or never. Then she started walking, almost dragging me over to the slab of stone.
She touched the black stone the way people touch their Grandpa’s tombstone, “Tom and I found it last summer when we were out walking. No one knows where it came from.”
“Tom’s not here,” I blurted. I still don’t know what made me say that. She let go of my hand and crossed her arms over his chest.
I remember thinking to myself- So this is what it feels like when an opportunity slips away. I tried to salvage things. I remember asking her, “How do you think it got here?”
“Maybe it fell from space?” She chuckled at that, “Maybe it was always here.”
“Maybe this place used to be owned by a crazy rock collector.”
“Yeah…” She looked away from me, back towards the camp. I thought then that maybe I was freaking her out because I was standing so close and looking at her so hard.
“Alice…” I think my voice broke a little, “Alice you don’t know how much…”
But I never got to finish that sentence. Alice started and looked over my shoulder, “What’s that? What’s there?”
When I turned around I thought I saw …something. My first instinct was to get in front of Alice. If a hungry bobcat or a bear was going to attack her it was going to have to gnaw its way past my gut first. I thought to myself that if I never got a chance to tell her how I felt I could at least show her.
“What is that?” She said again.
“It’s all right,” I told her.
A tall dark shape walked out of the woods. At first I thought there was something wrong with the guy’s head then I realized he was wearing a motorcycle helmet and some kind of overalls. He was wearing carpenter’s tool belt too. It jingled when he walked.
“Go back to the camp,” I told Alice as quietly and calmly as I could, “The cell phone and the keys are in the Hummer’s glove box.”
Then I stepped forward. At the time I was more excited then scared, after all I had at least ninety pounds on this guy. It was my chance to prove myself to her, to show the depths of my commitment. When I was close enough to the stranger I could see his face was covered by one of those BMX style motocross masks. I remember that I had my arms up in front of me, ready to duke it out. I tried to sound cool but the first words out of my mouth were, “Where’s your bike?”
Then he hit me and I went down.
One damn hit and I went down.
When I woke up I didn’t know how long I was out but my dreams were terrible and cold, so cold. I didn’t think you could feel things in your dreams. Maybe that’s what woke me up. My first real thought when I came to was It’s raining.
But rain doesn’t feel that warm and the sounds in the air- and what I herd was nothing like the sound a rainstorm makes.
I opened my eyes and I thought for a minute that maybe I had just fallen asleep by the campfire. The flickering light almost let me fool myself for a second. Then I heard Kev’s dying groan and wet, warm red splashed down over me.
My hands were tied with rope, me feet too. I think it was the rope from the tents.
There was a whispering sound, like chanting. I even know a word to describe it- it was on the word a day calendar my Nana got me – ‘sibilant’. Yeah it was sibilant. The light was from a lantern hung from a low tree branch. We were all tied up at the base of that weird black stone. Jenny, Laurie and Mark were on the ground near me. Laurie was crying and screaming but her mouth was covered up with tape.
All our mouths were covered with tape. Duct tape. Did I mention that? I don’t know how I forgot it.
…No I can go on. I need to. Laurie was crying and screaming. Mark and Jenny were dead. Their chests were cut open. Then Kev hit the ground near us. He was the same way, a big disgusting hole where his heart should have been.
I started screaming when I saw that, as much as I could scream with my mouth taped up. I was shouting Alice’s name over and over again. I rolled around trying to find her. I knew that if I saw her cut open like that I would just… I would just lose it.
She wasn’t there. That gave me a little hope anyway. I thought maybe she had run while I was getting my ass handed to me with one punch.
One punch! I still can’t believe that it only took one goddamn punch.
Then I saw BMX Man himself. He was all covered with blood and carrying this curved looking knife in his one hand. He stepped over me and grabbed Laurie, she kicked and struggled but he just picked her up off her feet and slammed her down hard on the black stone in this kind of clumsy pro wresting move. I am sure I heard some of her bones break, maybe her arms or her ribs or something.
Not that it mattered in the end.
But when he picked her up the curved blade thing fell from his hand. He didn’t seem to notice, probably because he had plenty of others. I grasped it and tried to cut my hands free. Both the handle and the blade were slick and hard to hold but I managed to get the ropes around my wrists loosened up but it didn’t do much good for Laurie. BMX Man cut her heart out just like all the others then he pushed what was left to the ground and headed over for me.
I remember that with the light from the lantern spilling around him that BMX Man looked like he was made of smoke. I held up the knife I’d gotten hold of and made a “Ha!” kind of sound through the duct tape.
That stopped him at least. BMX Man froze in place. He looked like he couldn’t believe his eyes. Not that I could see his eyes at all. But the point is that Adam Drahm had thrown him a curve ball.
Yeah, I’d see those slasher flicks from the old days… you know the eighties… and it’s always the fat guy that dies like a bitch gets and usually dies a virgin.
Well not me. Not this fat guy.
With my free hand I started to pull off the duct tape, then I saw the black rock… it had changed somehow. The stars and the lantern light were glinting and twisting across its surface but the reflections were all wrong. They didn’t look right. They didn’t even look real. I wish I could explain it better. And the whispering, that sibilant sound? It was everywhere. At first I thought it was BMX man but it was like there was a chorus just out of sight. When I try to remember just what it was they were saying it just makes me more confused.
I think- I think the light on the rock keeping time with the voices? Does that make any sense?
The BMX Man tried to take a run at me. I think maybe he thought because my feet were still tied and I was sitting there on the ground I would be easy pickings. Or maybe it was just the whispers urging him on.
…was there whispering? Was there really? I think there was.
He tried to kick me in the face. Going for my glass jaw again. I caught him in the calf with the curved knife. The blade hit bone and tore down.
When I heard him scream it was almost disappointing. I thought it would be something like the cry of a monster but his voice was normal. He was cursing, calling me a “Fat fuck.” and all the other usual insults. He tried to stab me and managed to cut my arms and hands up pretty good but I pushed myself to my feet and hopped away from him.
Every time I tried to bend down and cut my ankles free he was there crawling after me. He had started shouting things at me… not just insults. I remember only one word really clearly. It was “Anzon.”
And you know that I have never heard that word before. I wasn’t even sure it was a proper word.
But here’s the crazy part, it wasn’t just his voice that I heard it from. It was like the whispering in the air was saying it too.
…no, I don’t know if there was anyone else in the woods with us. But I don’t think we were alone either. I don’t know. All I was sure of was that I had to get out of there. There was something worse than BMX Man there; I could almost feel it pushing down-
…no that’s not right, not pushing down. Slipping free? No, maybe it was another word from that calendar…
…insinuating? Is that right?
Anyway I tried hopping away and crashed into the tree holding the lantern. The glass shattered and fire just shot up the side of my leg. I did the drop and roll thing but remember this whole place was at the top of a steep slope so I went tumbling ass over teakettle down the hill. As I was rolling I could see flashes of the tree I had crashed into, it was starting to burn. I think I saw BMX Man up there and he might have been on fire too but the shadows didn’t make sense.
At least I couldn’t hear the whispering any more, real or not, sibilant or not it stayed at with the black stone. When I reached the bottom of the hill I barely missed smashing my head into the Hummer. It took me a moment get my feet loose. My body felt bruised everywhere. There was blood in my eyes. I leaned my head against the cool metal of the SUV’s bumper. I think I could have fallen asleep right there but then I realized that if the Hummer was still there then Alice might still be in danger. I made myself get back up and start moving. I was pretty proud of the fact I only threw up a little. I wasn’t at all happy that I still had the duct tape over my mouth.
I don’t know what hurt more tearing off the tape or having barf come out my nose.
That’s when I saw that the lights were on in the cabin. And then it all fit together in my head. After all Alice was a hot blonde and the one thing that serial killers and rock stars agree on it’s that hot blondes are at the top of the food chain.
I was sure BMX man had left her trussed up in there, probably as a bit of dessert after had finished whatever the Hell he thought he was doing with the rest of us.
Well I knew that BMX man wasn’t going anywhere fast so Alice was as good as saved. And I would be the one saving her. I could see the headline in my head already ‘Fat Guy Gets the Girl’. Just this once the fat guy gets the girl.
The cabin door was unlocked and I walked in and looked around.
There was plastic over the cabin walls, probably because of the toxic mold. And there were scented candles … like everywhere. There was a pile of papers on the table, they were old and wrinkled. They looked like mimeographs.
But who uses mimeographs anymore? I barely know what they are and that’s because I was in the library club.
I glanced down at the top page and a familiar word struck me, it was BMX man’s favorite word.
Of course then I realized what these papers were or what they were supposed to be. The Anima Pilgrimage.
You’ve never heard of it? It’s like one of those famous books that never existed, like the Necromonicon or the Pnakotic Manuscripts.
How do I know this? I used to be into metal music, you get stuff like that all the time in it. The Anima Pilgrimage was mentioned in the last studio album from the band ‘Relick’- that’s spelled R-E-L-I-C-K. It was in a bunch of the lyrics and all over the liner notes. Yeah the band where the lead singer legally changed his name to Evil. I guess his wife had him locked up for being crazy or taking too much PCP or something. But the Anima Pilgrimage was supposed to be an anti- bible related to the seven dark gods that had hidden their souls in the lost and empty places of the Earth.
…yeah I know its bullshit. Remember how I said it was a fake book? People that believe in stuff like that believe in vampires and leprechauns. But the songs were awesome.
So there I was looking at a copy of it and thinking to myself that BMX Man must have been one of those suckers. He really thought he was calling some kind of demon god down by killing my friends.
Then I heard Alice’s voice. I couldn’t tell you what she said but I can tell you that she was wearing the sheerest pinkest lingerie I had ever seen in my life and I can also tell you that I was not who she was expecting to see.
And then she said- and this part I do remember- she said, “Where’s Tommy?”
“Tommy?” I said.
“What did you do with him?” She demanded. She actually charged me, her stiletto heels clacking on the cabin’s wood floor. I backed up, knocking the mimeographed pages to the floor. My ass hit the door, pushing it closed. “Why are you here? Why are you still alive?”
I said, “I’m here to save you?”
“What did you do to Tommy?”
“Was that Tommy? Up on the hill?”
“What did you do?” She pushed a knife against my man boobs. I don’t know where she got the knife from but honestly with that outfit she was wearing she could have been juggling ferrets and I wouldn’t have noticed.
I probably should have lied but I remember I said to her, “I think he’s… I don’t know.”
She slashed at me, cutting my face, my body and my arms, “You idiot, you stupid useless idiot! After putting up with your shit for months! You can’t even die right.”
“I don’t understand.” I was sobbing.
She cut me again. “This world is a shadow. An imperfect reflection. And only people that know that have any value.”
“I love you,” I said to her… finally.
Then she started laughing, “Will you love it when I gut you like the fat piggy you are?”
She raised the knife. I grabbed hold of her wrist trying to keep her from hurting me any more. Alice was pretty strong for a cheerleader. I couldn’t hold her back so I did the only thing I could do.
I fell on her.
Now I want it on record here that I didn’t want to kill her, I never wanted to kill her. I don’t care if she was crazy or evil or both, I loved her. But when we went down her arm twisted wrong and my 300 pounds drove the blade into her belly. It took her a while to die but I stayed with her right until the end. And when it was over I lay down next to her, in a puddle of our blood and just waited.
So, I guess that’s my story. I mean you know the rest. I guess I went into shock, that’s what the doctors tell me. Funny thing is that breathing in all the toxic mold did more damage to me than Tommy or Alice.
Maybe I would have just stayed there in that cabin and waited to die but the fire I accidentally started… accidentally started, let’s stress that… the fire brought out the fire department and police and they found me.
…Detective Myles I don’t know. The black stone was there. I saw it. I almost died on it. I don’t know where it is now. It’s not like someone could have carried it off right?
Couldn’t one of your CSI guys look into this? I mean everything else checks out. You found Tommy right? The bodies with no hearts? The weapons?
It’s not my fault you can’t find a bunch of mimeographed papers and a boulder and I don’t much care. My Dad is going to have an army of lawyers on this and I’ll never see any jail time. I mean look at you, you both think I’m crazy right now.
What? DNA evidence? You mean the blood on my clothes?
Oh… oh. That.
Well. What do you think it means? It’s like I said before, you can have anything you want in this world if you want it bad enough and you’re patient.
And like I said, just this once the fat guy got the girl.