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Published:December 9th, 2009 12:30 EST
God Makes The Monsters Too (chap. 2)

God Makes The Monsters Too (chap. 2)

By Mark Frederic Jennings

Chapter Two

    Dark Valley


    The road home always seems so long at first. I`ve got such a long way to go still, one can be inclined to think. But then after a bit, one can see some progress being made, and with grim determination forge ahead, taking each turn captive, each long straightaway stored over in the, `got through it,` section of the mind. Then before one even knows it, they`re halfway home and rolling downhill.

     Although this trip home for Mike Anderson didn`t quite fit into that normal pattern. This trip he was almost flying home to San Diego, the city that he now called home, having moved there out of Helton to start college at the U.C. there once he`d graduated from Helton High so many years ago now. He was flying home on happiness, through imagined images of him and his lovely wife getting through her pregnancy together... the la maz classes they would undoubtedly enroll in... him touching her baby filled belly and feeling the new life forming there and later witnessing the undoubtedly spectacular and awe inspiring birth... handling the precious miracle newborn baby... then watching and nurturing the young child... boy or girl, it didn`t matter.

    HEY, Mike`s mind suddenly screamed at him and brought him quickly back to reality as his steering wheel jerked hard right... then left... then even harder and more so to the right again. Images of the road and total darkness flipped back and forth in the windshield as he pushed hard on the brake pedal but to no effect as the car continued to careen forward and then he felt the whole world bouncing high up as the car hit a super big dip, which at the same time also seemed to cause a really loud KA-THUNK, right under Mike`s seat.

    All Mike could do was hold on to the steering wheel, squeezing it as hard as he could. He had closed his eyes in reflex, but when he realized this he forced them open just in time to see the darkness before him suddenly become the brown dirt and rocks and bushes of a small hill he was headed right for that bounced in his headlights. Luckily though somehow the car then skidded sideways just before the car came to a rocking stop.

     "Holy cra-" Mike started to exclaim, then looked quickly over at his wife, and were it not for the seriousness of all that had just happened, he might have even laughed. Because somehow she had ended up practically on her head with her cute little tushy sticking straight up toward the car`s headliner.

    "Honey? Honey ya okay," he cried frantically over at her, hoping she hadn `t broken her neck or anything. She just started laughing though and he cautiously joined in. "I`ll take that as a yes I guess." 

"If... I... can ... just get... offa... my... head," she struggled to say, while also struggling to flip back over to the way normal people sit. Eventually she made it. "Whew," she added and got her bearings. Michael Anderson!" she then exclaimed and looked wide eyed at him.

    "I don`t know what happened honey," he told her, and he wasn`t lying. "I was thinking about our baby and musta just drifted over too far... gosh I`m sorry honey..."

    "And you complain about my driving!"
    "I know, I know. I`m sorry."

    "Well I better never hear it again," she finished with and rolled down her window and looked out. A lone car zoomed by on a dimly lighted road a few hundred feet away. All else was dark. Their car`s headlights had even died. But at least the interior lights still dimly lit their world.  "Lemme guess.... Wapatula road..."

    "We were on Wapatula road," he told her and then remembered she`d been sleeping last time he`d checked. Which explained why she had to ask. And probably too why she`d ended up sitting on her head. Often on their trips she would undo her seat belt to really scrunch down in the seat to sleep. A habit of hers he hated, and often corrected, but this time he`d missed it. Well... all`s well that ends well. At least she was okay, he had to think.

    Wapatula road was a long, twenty mile or so stretch of two lane country byway that connected Helton Valley to the I-15 highway that would then run all the way down to San Diego. And although civilization was creeping in on each end of the road with housing tracts, roadside shops and mini-malls, there was still a good stretch of it that was all but deserted save for the occasional turkey ranch or sod farm and Mike had found a spot to wipe out in that fit into that latter category.

    "Hey... what`s that smell," Mike asked and took a couple more deep sniffs. He reached quickly for the ignition and cut the motor, which had still been running, miraculously enough. "... exhaust fumes... we better get out honey. Does your door still open?"
    "I... think... so," the little lady said while straining at and then getting the car`s passenger side door open. She stepped out into the darkness, only barely illuminated by the car`s dome light which had come on now too.
    "Michelle... don`t go too far, honey. Not until your eyes get used to it," Mike shouted over the roof of the car, having got out himself.
    "I won`t... I won`t... I`ll stay right here... "
    "I`ll be right there."

    Mike took in his surroundings. He pretty much knew almost exactly where they were. About five miles out of Helton Valley and into this next valley after it, whatever it might be called. Funny, all these years driving across it, to and from Helton, and he`d never learned the name of this valley. It sure was dark out here though. So maybe that was it. Dark Valley, he half-humorously thought to himself.

    And even darker where they`d ended up about fifty yards off the road. It was amazing how far the car had come on its own. Maybe because he`d been going about seventy miles an hour. Then he must have been daydreaming just long enough to veer a little to the right, just over the white line he knew was painted on Wapatula road where the asphalt ended and the dirt shoulder began. Once over the line, even just a little, his wheels probably caught hard in the soft stuff and then it was off the edge and down the three foot drop he knew was there too and then across the small wash and into this field and across it to this first and smallest in a series of ever growing hills that would then merged with the big ones that encompassed the valley.

    Having put all that altogether in his head, he next wanted to check out the car. What`s the damage, he had to wonder.
    "Hey honey. We still got that flashlight in the glove box?" he asked, but then didn`t wait for an answer and leaned back into the car. He reached in across the front seat and pulled the glove box open.
    "Think so," she said, absent mindedly, still just trying to get used to the dark and looking at her cell phone. Mike got the flashlight out about the same time she answered and then turned to come out, but stopped.
    "Oh yeah," and he reached into the back seat. "This baby might come in handy too."
    He grabbed the little shovel from the back seat, the memento one he`d brought from his mom and dad`s house. "Honey... you okay?" he asked, already scanning the car with the flashlight.
    "Yeah... I`m fine... no service though..."
    "Oh... on the cell phone?"
    "Yeah... not a bar... Helton... nowheresville USA..."
    "Yeah... and mine`s dead," Mike reported. Which they both already knew. He`d forgotten to bring his charger on the trip and his phone had died earlier in the day. So phoning for help was out of the question.

  And from the looks of the car, driving out was probably not going to work either. All four wheels were stuck deep in the sandy dirt and who knew what else besides the exhaust had busted underneath. But wanting to at least give it the old college try, Mike unfolded the little shovel. He dug hard and fast around one wheel, but soon noticed how the dirt just seemed to fill right back in. Frustrated after a few minutes, he just flipped the little shovel away and it landed head first in the sand a few feet away, sticking like a knife straight up.

    "We`d better just lock her up and start walkin` back to Helton. It`s only about five miles and then there`s that all night gas station right there," he started in explaining, but then stopped. A big, lifted, four by four pickup was suddenly coming down off the road and noisily bouncing and churning it`s way toward them, much more successfully riding through the loose dirt and rocks due to its obvious capabilities.
    " Never mind," Mike said."Looks like help is here."
    "Honey," his wife said, sounding scared.
    "Comere," he told her and patted his leg. She nestled in right next to him  and waited.

    Mike was a larger than an average man at about six` five" and just over three hundred pounds. He was kind of chubby but very strong too, looking every bit like the offensive lineman he`d been in college before too many knee operations had ended that dream. Just in case too he took up the shovel again and figured he could handle just about anyone that way. As long as they didn`t have a gun.

    The truck stopped at an angle about thirty feet in front of their car. Loud country music could be heard coming from inside the cab, then it burst forth into the night as both the driver`s and the passenger`s doors swung open at the same time. Two good sized men got out on each side, then a woman followed the one that got out on the passenger`s side. The two passengers seemed quite familiar with each other, horsing around and giggling while they walked over. The driver was quite tall and took the lead. He wore a large cowboy hat. Mike just waited, tightening his grip on both the shovel and his wife.
    " We seen you go off the road from back up on the hill. Got down here as quick as we could. Everybody okay," the driver, the man with the cowboy hat asked, and Mike could see too he had one of them big, all metal flashlights.
    "Yeah, " Mike told him. "Think you can help us out?"
    "Oh sure," the cowboy hat man told him."We can tow you out most likely. Old Bessie here`s two and a half ton and I got my winch. Then you all can limp back to Helton. Have her checked out."
    "Yeah," Mike had to agree."I know I musta busted the exhaust somewhere. Stinks when I start her up. Who knows what else all."
    "Well, lemme just have a looksee. Find a good spot to hitch up," the cowboy hat man said then and Mike and his wife just watched while he circled around the car with his flashlight. Finally he ended up just behind and next to Mike and his wife. Which made Mike a little nervous and he was just about to adjust his position to better keep an eye on him when-
    "Are you two lovebirds married," the woman of the group asked, coming up into the ambient light of the car and the two men`s flashlights. And Mike hated to admit it, or would of if he`d had the chance, but the woman`s sexy voice and shapely, levi-clad legs stole his attention for just a moment. Which was all it took. Next thing all he felt was a crack of pain on the back of his head with an accompanying flash of light just before everything went even darker than the already dark valley all around them, dark as death even, and the blackness swallowed him up in it`s warm nothingness.


    Mike had gotten concussions before while playing football, and this had reminded him exactly of them. Except the headache pain this time was a little worse. Especially down at the base of his neck where he then felt with his hand and came away with wetness which he figured must be blood. He licked at it just a little. Yeah... kinda copper flavored. It was blood, Mike could tell.

    He felt funny in the head too, like thick and slow and stupid and confused. So he stayed on his hands and knees for a few moments longer. He had even thought for just a minute that he really was in a football game, but if he was this sure was one of the worst fields he`d ever played on, deep and soft, sandy dirt, rocky too. Then he heard the country music playing from a ways off, just like it had been before, and then he started to remember... the two men and the woman... the truck... the crash... they were gonna help... but instead... the guy with the flashlight... when I turned to look... the woman`s legs... hey...

    "Hey," Mike even said quietly then as he looked up. And he was going to say it even more loudly a second time but luckily in looking up he could also tell maybe he shouldn`t.

    Because in the looking up he then had a perfect view of what was going on. Off to his right in the distance was the large pickup still sitting there, and since the light was on in the cab he could see the man and the woman in there  making out like a couple of high school kids. Or at least goofing around with each other, to say the least.

    Then closer and dead ahead he could see his wife`s car and it looked like she had gotten back in and once again taken up her normal position low in the seat with her legs up on the dash, which at first seemed reassuring to Mike, but then after thinking about it for a second he realized that shouldn`t be the case. The car wasn`t going anywhere. It was still stuck in the sand he could tell now too. So why would she be in there if he was out here knocked cold like he figured he must have been. Which she would have known.

    It was funny too that nobody else seemed to care where he was or what he was doing. So they must have thought he was out cold still. Incapacitated. Or even dead maybe. They were totally carrying on like he wasn`t even there, the two in the truck going at it like they were, and the guy with the cowboy hat and flashlight who Mike had already figured out had to be the one that knocked him out was at the back of the car ripping stuff out of the trunk like mad, like he was hurriedly looking for something. Anything. Which Mike then realized what that was all about. He was looking for stuff to steal. But had he hurt his wife? He better not have.

    With that thought spurring him on, helping him get up through the pain and the dizziness, Mike made it to his feet. Now to get over there and go see. But quietly. He knew he better be quiet. Either way you figured it, something was very wrong here. So approach with caution for sure and oh yeah, he figured then too. There was his little shovel. Still sticking right up there in the sand. He`d take that with him. Might come in handy.

    He crept quietly over to the open passenger`s door first. Had to check on the little misses. She was gonna have his baby now after all. She was his everything. Her and that little baby inside her.

 But she was laying kinda funny, he could see as he came up. Errrr... not laying funny... or sitting even... but it was the way she was holding her head. It was all crooked and everything... and her eyes were open too... but she was just looking out the window... and not blinking... just looking up at the stars... like she could see something way up there.

    Mike mentally slipped out then and kneeled down real close to her ear. "... honey," he whispered. "... what do you see honey? Do you see Jesus? It looks like you see Jesus, honey. I hope so honey. `cuz I know they killed you honey. I know these rotten bast-" and he broke down and cried real hard but quiet and right over her for a few seconds before getting a hold of himself again. He had to. He had to get a hold of himself if he was going to do something about all this. He bent back down to whisper in her ear one last time.

    "Don`t worry honey," he quietly told her. "Don`t you worry at all... because I`m gonna kill them right back. I`m gonna kill them good. Just for you honey... I`m gonna kill them all," and then Mike started crying again but pushed himself away and stood up and staggered back into the darkness.

    After a moment he let himself stagger away even more, a good fifty feet or so away from the car. Here he could hide and watch and wait, get his bearings. Then he looked up to the stars too. He quickly said a silent prayer in his head.

Jesus, I know you don`t like us to kill.
But I think in this case you might understand. Or,
at least I sure hope you will. I know too what it says in the
   bible about an eye for an eye and all that. And you seen 
     what they did to my misses. So I just gotta do it Lord.
 I just gotta.

    He looked back down to notice how the cowboy hat man was done rifling through the trunk and seemed to be looking for something along the ground now with his flashlight.

    He`s looking for me, Mike suddenly realized. Which he could tell because the little spot of light from the cowboy hat man`s flashlight seemed to be following the foot prints Mike had just made in the sandy dirt.

    Mike moved back just a little more, deeper into the shadows, and started moving sideways, bringing him around behind the cowboy hat man, who on his end was now much more frantic in his movements, cussing hard under his breath too, and a time or two even bringing the light up to shine it out into the darkness with rapid and sweeping passes of the beam across the blackness all around. But not in Mike`s direction, who was now about ten yards directly behind him and closing quietly.

    Finally, even more frantically, the cowboy hat man scurried up to the car`s passenger door where the tracks finally lead him. Then he turned as the tracks also told him he should, but he was just a little bit short. And a little bit late.

    " That`s my wife and baby you killed," Mike said quietly from the darkness and as quickly as he could the cowboy hat man brought up his very large bowie knife, thrusting out hard and quick toward where he figured Mike must be, but he wasn`t. Not quite that close. Close enough though to swing the small shovel like he remembered his dad said he had when they charged the Japanese soldiers on the Island of Tulagi. And just like then, the hard and sharpedged shovel`s head hit the target, cracking the cowboy hat man full force right on the top of his cowboy hat covered head. He went down like a sack of rocks.

    And though that felt really good, to hit the SOB really hard like that, Mike couldn`t help but notice the even more wonderful orchestration of what happened next. How the flashlight flipped up out of the cowboy hat man`s hand and landed nearby, wedging up in the sandy dirt just right so as to perfectly illuminate the fallen man`s neck, and just the fallen man`s neck, because Mike didn`t really want to see his face anyway. While then this also made it so much easier to target that strip of flesh there just below the Man`s head , a foot wide strip of flesh surrounded by darkness, which was where Mike next plunged the hard steel and very sharp head of the little shovel, one time really hard and the man`s arms and legs jerked like in a seizure but just for a second. And then again real hard down on his neck, remembering how beautiful and sweet his wife once was. So even harder again and lots of blood coming now. And then remembering the baby down deep inside his wife too and the baby murdered too. So again and again and again, until just the sandy dirt was left right there, muddy and red sandy dirt there where the neck wasn`t anymore.

    Mike waited just a minute and caught his breath. He had to let the shaking in his hands and arms subside too. Once it did, he went and got the cowboy hat where it had fallen. He slipped it on. It was a good fit.

    Next he picked up the head that used to wear it. His shovel shots had completely severed it. He carried it out away from his body like the bag of trash that it was, like it was stinky and leaking, which it was too. Well, leaking anyway.

    " Hey Wayne, come on man," the fellow from the truck called out, seeing the high cowboy hat coming his way. " This gal`s way more than I can handle by myself." The woman giggled some more.

    Mike walked toward the driver`s side door, but kept going all the way around the truck until he was just behind the open passenger`s side window. He tossed the head into the cab, then stepped back into the shadows again.

    What happened then was almost funny, Mike couldn`t help but think, how madly and frantically the two scrambled out of the cab. And perfect too how the man just fell down on his hands and knees right in front of Mike, heaving his guts out, so Mike right away brought the shovel up high and slammed it hard down onto the back of his head then watched as he fell hard and still into the dirt.

    But now Mike was torn inside. He kind of didn`t want to kill this one too, but then the rage and madness chewing him up was just too much to not do anything about. Even though he couldn`t help but figure at the same time that the Lord wouldn`t approve either. He knew Jesus would most likely want him to just tie him up or something, maybe throw him into the back of the truck and take him the cops. After all, the woman had just gone screaming off into the night. So carting this guy off was doable.

    But Mike couldn`t stop now. He was past the point of no return. Gone round the bend. And all that. Worse yet though was how he really didn`t want to live anymore anyway. He kept seeing his wife`s face staring dead up into the stars. And the baby already dead inside her too. He just couldn`t stop thinking about the baby. And since they were all dead, he`d just as soon join them.

    And of course he knew too that it may have even been slightly possible that this guy had nothing to do with killing his wife. But probably not. Probably just as much a... worthless... murdering... thieving... sonova-

    And with each word, as they came into his head, Mike slammed the shovel`s sharp-edged head hatchet-like down on this new victim`s head. Again and again and harder and harder, now even like when he was lifting weights and they would do as many reps as they could until there was just no more energy left, no more strength. He just kept hitting and hitting like that, until he couldn`t hit any more.

    Then he staggered back, staggered back and fell to his knees and he cried, cried for all of it, and for all of them, for his dad, for his wife, and for the baby too. And then even for the killing of these two guys as well. And he tried to say he was sorry, tried to say, `Sorry Lord. Please forgive me... please forgive me.` But instead of words it all just came out in great sobs of anguish and the horrible pain of killing guilt that he knew would never go away now... unless... unless... and then yes... he knew then what he had to do.

 He shuffled and staggered back to the car. He came around to the passenger`s side. 
    "Honey, watch your fingers," he gently warned his wife. "I gotta shut the door now. We gotta get goin`," and he unstuck the passenger`s side door out of the sand and forced it shut. He ran his fingers along the top edge of the window where it sealed there too, just to make sure.

 Satisfied, he went around to the driver`s side and got in. It took quite an effort to shut the door on that side, but he made it and it slammed loudly in the night.

    "Oops, my bad, honey. I know how much you hate that," and he patted her thigh like he always did when they were in the car riding.

    He made sure the window on his side all the way up, then started the motor. He took his wife`s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Here we go honey. We`re gonna go see Jesus. I know he`ll let you into heaven. He may not let me in... after what I just did... and what I`m doing now..."

    He squeezed his eye shut real tight to keep the tears in. He drew a deep but quivering breath. "... but I gotta honey... I just gotta do it... I can`t take it anymore... I just can`t take it, honey," and Mike held on to his wife`s hand for dear life as he pushed down on the gas pedal and breathed in the fumes filling the car.
    Outside, those crickets nearest the car stopped rubbing their legs together and scrambled for deeper cover. A couple cottontails nearby scampered away as well, wondering what the heck was going on. It sounded kind of like one of those streaking monsters with the big and too bright eyes that were always going by out on the edge of their land, but this one wasn`t going away like they always did. It was just sitting there and making that horrible noise.

    Oh dear, they thought and scampered away even further, then came together behind a bush just up the hill. They felt safely far enough away there and turned and watched. Yes indeed ,it was one of the monsters like out on the road that could kill them so fast. But it was right here nearby. What would they do?!

    Soon though, and thankfully too, the sound from the monster lessened quite considerably. And then later, after a bit more of the night`s time had passed, it quieted down completely and went dark too. The cottontails waggled off then and got back to their cottontail places, doing cottontail things, glad that all the commotion was over.