Monday, July 21, 2014

The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Forty-One part three

The Cold Inside
Chapter Forty-One
part three
By AL BRUNO III

Thursday January 26, 1995


Greg’s parents had spent most of the day offering to cancel this evening’s commitments and stay home with their son. Greg wouldn’t hear of it. “I’ve been through a lot worse than this.” He had told them, “The food bank needs you, especially this time of year.”

And that was true. The church the Fletchers attended was heavily involved in the maintenance of a local food bank that helped the lower income families in the tri-city area. The pastor of a neighboring parish handled strong-arming the local businesses into making donations and the members of Greg’s church handled distributing the goods to the needy people that came by every Friday.

This time of year they were always short of volunteers, Greg’s Dad told him it was because everyone was either depressed after the holidays or they were working double shifts to pay their holiday bills. Greg knew that if his Mom and Dad stayed home the only people there might be one or two old ladies and the kid doing community service. 

That left Greg with the house to himself for a few hours, he thought he might take advantage of the silence and spend some time dialoguing with God but he soon found he couldn’t think of anything to say. Truth was Greg felt a little numb and angry. As he sat in his room listening to the radio and flipping through his stack of old Dragon magazines he wondered to himself what he had done wrong or what he might have missed.

Drew, Adelphos and now Tristam. Greg thought, And before then Jeff and Janice. Why does this keep happening?

He found Dragon issue 67, the one with the article about the Astral Plane – well at least the D&D version of it. Now he had to wonder if any of it was true, if any of the folklore and fiction the author had culled together for the article had any bearing on what had happened with Tristam.

The image of a ruined bible flashed into Greg’s mind and he shuddered. It was a little after five and already dark outside, he drew his curtains and switched on his desk lamp for extra light.

He switched the radio to the AM station and listened, of course Tristam was the top news story and the main topic of discussion. The police were still investigating but the callers to the talk shows were demanding his blood and readily assigning blame. His parents, TV, movies, music, and the end of corporal punishment in schools – the list of suspects was endless. 

His own mother. Greg had to wonder himself, Why would he kill his own mother?

Because we stood by and let him turn into a monster? Or had he been a monster all along?

The crash was so muffled and brief that for a moment Greg thought it had come from the radio. Then he was on his feet, peering out into the hallway.

“Hello?” He called and then caught himself. Did he really want whoever had just broken in to know exactly were he was?

The kitchen was empty, so was the parlor, Greg thought of calling the police but what if it was nothing?

A dull thump and a muted groan made him jump in place.

The garage?

Greg’s hands seemed to search for a weapon of their own accord. The first thing they found was a meat tenderizer. For a moment he goggled at it in disbelief and then walked into the garage.


He flicked on the lights, the florescent bulbs hummed to life. The side door to the house had been smashed in. The doorknob hung by a strand of bent wood. A trail of muddy footprints led to the back corner of the garage. Holding the hammer-like tenderizer high above his head Greg walked around his mother’s car to find a shape curled in the corner with the folding tables and lawn chairs.

The figure was half-naked and perfectly still. Its skin was blotchy and stretched tight over a bony frame; the mouth hung agape, watery eyes stared out at nothing.


Greg didn’t even have to check for a pulse, he knew a long-dead body when he saw it.

But how did it get here? Why would anyone…?

Greg’s courage broke, he ran for the doorway. A call to the police sounded better and better.

“Please.” The voice was desperate and ruined, “Don’t leave me.”

“Who’s that? Who’s there?”

There hushed, crackling sound when the body raised itself up marionette-like. “It’s Tristam.” The mouth was all brown teeth and blackened gums, “It’s Tristam.”

The emaciated shape staggered towards him, its arms outstretched and pleading.




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