I remember the day I moved in across the street from Jack Mounds. The moving men had just started loading their dollies and blankets back into the now-cavernous truck when some of my new neighbors came over bearing baskets.
Mrs. Overton was doling out banana bread to me as she spoke about Mounds. Famous horror writer, stayed to himself, rarely even did yard work. I cast a suspicious eye on his ragged grass; I considered a well-trimmed lawn to be essential to good neighbor relations.
It was almost a year later before I thought again of Mr. Mounds. My work kept me traveling, and my singular hobby also occupied much of my time, so that I rarely considered my mysterious neighbor. He intruded in my thoughts no more than a rare shake of my head at his unruly bushes as I pulled out of my garage, or an even rarer wave if we saw each other getting the newspaper. It was a late night at the University library, as I was doing some research, when I found Mounds’ book, A Midnight Summoning.
Pulling it off the shelf, I flipped through it quickly. A serial killer story, it seemed, with… my turning fingers stopped suddenly as I digested the scene I was reading. A serial killer — a young boy staked to a pentagram — a brutal ritual killing.
As my numb hands returned the book to the shelf, I could think only of Timmy Lyons, the freckle-faced nine-year old from down the lane who had disappeared last winter, never to be seen again by the residents except for his black-and-white face on a weathered “MISSING” poster. And I wondered what Jack Mounds knew about Timmy’s disappearance.
“Thanks for having me over, Tyler,” Jack Mounds said as he settled himself on my never-used loveseat.
“Well, two years across the street from each other and we’ve never talked — seemed time!” I said cheerfully as I placed a tray loaded with coffee and water on the table between us.
“I appreciate the effort,” Mounds said as he picked up a mug, stirred in some sugar and sipped at it. “Mmmm — pretty good.”
“Thanks.” I grabbed my own mug and mimed drinking. “I travel a lot for work, so I pick up some… unusual blends.” I put the mug in my lap. “So, a writer, huh?”
Mounds grimaced. “Yeah. Read anything of mine?”
I told the truth. “Skimmed through… A Midnight Summoning, was it? Kinda gruesome.”
“Well, horror sells well, but it’s not my… true calling, I guess you’d call it.”
He seemed to want to say more, but I only had a little time now and wanted to learn more about A Midnight Summoning. “So… where did you get the ideas for the… things in that book?”
Mounds knocked back some more coffee. “That’s the thing most people ask me, and the answer is — I don’t know.” He let out a low chuckle. “It almost seemed like, in dreams I was having, like I was watching someone else do these things.”
My hand tensed on my coffee mug. “Who?”
Mounds shook his head, apparently confused. He looked up, his eyes glassy, and then slumped over the armrest of the seat.
Mounds’ metabolism must have been working overtime, because I barely had time to drag him to my soundproofed basement workshop and lock him in the shackles before the sedative wore off and he woke up.
He was silent for a moment, taking in the dark glory of my workshop. He was shackled in the center of a Seal of Solomon, candles of my own manufacture at each mystic junction. It had taken at least two more children in addition to Timmy to render enough fat to make the candles, but the time and effort was worth it.
“Look familiar, Mr. Mounds?” I asked him as I pulled off my clothes to reveal the scarified patterns on my skin. Once I was completely free of clothes, I leaned close to him. “How did you know?” I hissed.
He stayed remarkably calm. “I didn’t know. Hell, I wrote A Midnight Summoning two years before you even moved here.”
I pulled back, nodding to myself. “Yes… something that has troubled me. Perhaps the Goat granted you a vision, to prepare you for me….”
“No,” Mounds said simply. “There’s no Goat. There’s just me.”
I picked up the sizzling poker from the brazier and held it. “Perhaps your tone should more fearful when discussing the Lord of All,” I said.
Mounds shook his head again. “You don’t understand. It’s happened before — what I write becomes… real.”
“You claim you MADE me?” I kept my voice down — the soundproofing was excellent, but there was no use tempting the fates.
Mounds sighed. “I suppose so.” He looked around, seeming tired. “I guess my writing created all of this, too.” Then he smiled, an odd look for someone shackled to the center of a satanic ritual ring. “The good thing is that I can do something about it.”
With no effort at all, Mounds pulled his hands free of the concrete blocks they were attached to, and snapped off the shackles on his legs with his bare hands.
He stood up. I was frozen in shock.
“As I said, horror isn’t my true calling.”
He took hold of the zippered front of his sage hooded jacket with both hands, and pulled it open, revealing a bright red “M.”
“My true calling is superhero comics.”
Ramon Rozas III creates written artifacts of unbearable beauty in West Virginia. He also writes SF and submits that instead. EDF, Aoife’s Kiss and Atomjack have all made the questionable decision to publish his pieces.