It was a long story. And I did not feel like retelling it.
Though, it was at that moment, the moment that we arrived on South Padre Island that Bill wanted to hear it.
“Tell me everything. I will accept no more delays!”
“Not even if we were lovers.”
Bill stuck his tongue out at me. “Fat chance, you’re not my type!”
And let me qualify the next statement by saying that in my own way, I did love Bill, only in a very platonic sense of the word.
Craven, hereinafter I will be known as C, “This is the time to choose–so you must choose. Do you wish to continue reading? Yes, you are r-e-a-d-i-n-g. But that is a good thing.”
But, Bill was the probably the pushiest gay man I had ever met. I guess it had something to do with the fact that he was an Aries.
Pushy or not, my circumstance of poorness had met his circumstance of richness. Can I say culture clash any louder? Hello!
C, “What difference does it make whether one is rich or poor?”
R, “Well, if I do say so myself. It points out a very necessary detail about this story. There must be a decided difference in characters or all else will be pointless.”
Of course, he had practically every indulgence that money could buy, and I remained mystified about his fascination with poorness, as it were.
Yet, there we were in my MR-2 waiting for the hurricane to land on the shoreline while talking about nothing less than a teenage fantasy.
“I don’t get you Bill,” I paused to approach the subject with care, “I mean, why are you so obsessed with Craven’s Reign?”
As I watched him turn his back to me in protest, I could not help but notice his silhouette against the rain line approaching the shore.
Bill’s thick neck and short Chippendale haircut made me want to idolize his purpose. It was a purpose that would only convenience him in a polite society which we certainly did not live in.
In my eyes, he was the perfect gay man, but his lifestyle was still something that was not so politely accepted. At times, I could feel his pain, his longing to be accepted and loved for just being himself.
And in my eyes, he was the greatest friend.
C, “Delete the last three paragraphs this instant! There is no need to talk about a wishy-washy compassion for the plight of this character.”
R,“No. I will not delete it. The reader needs to know about the relationship between one and the other character to understand the story.”
“No! I absolutely do not want to talk about it. That’s final.”
“Cry baby.” Bill smirked at me with his long black eyelashes batting furiously. “That is something that a child would do. Do you know that?”
I laughed at his gesture. “Surely, you don’t expect to manipulate a response out of me with that asinine play on psychology, do you?”
Bill shrugged his shoulders. “Asinine is as asinine as it sees fit to be.”
We both laughed at his craziness. But the idea of Craven’s Reign was no laughing matter.
It was no laughing matter when you consider that I only had six days left to live.
That was the price.
Clearing my throat, I looked out over the sand dunes where the witchy grass mobbed the crests. The surf beyond flailed against violent thunder. Torrents of charisma flooded me as Def Leppard filled my veins, “Cry of Wolf…Animal.”
C,“Retarded nineteen-eighties reference—what on earth does that song have to do with the story.”
R,“It is a reference for that time just like you said.”
“Ok. So it was a little less dramatic.” I tugged at my t-shirt sinking beneath the valleys of my queens.
I looked down at my feet in crabby sandals. They felt awkward now. Running blindly in the pouring rain, stumbling your way through mud holes, twisting your ankles against the buckles will do that, I guessed.
“What was it?”
An indefinable list mounted in my mind: out of all the Wes Craven stories—blood.
The only answer I could give was ensnared in my throat. Hell, it was flowing in my veins. How long would Craven Reign? I could not speak it or understand it. No not really. I never would.
“So, it was barely evening light. Enough that the sparse sun had lighted the Craven neighbors, and I did not particularly feel like getting any ones name.”
“How much blood was there when you arrived?”
Seething flames licked my throat. I could not answer without feeling I was damning his very soul. “I am not sure how much.” The words flowed out of me with a wicked ease. The lie was as apparent to Bill as if he had been the one telling the lie.
“Look if you don’t want to talk about it right now, that is fine. I just figured that since you had seen the worst blood feast first hand you would want to at least share it. I mean that is why you went.”
“Suck it!” I stopped short of opening the car door, placing my head over the steering wheel and staring at the odometer. It was just how this whole event had really begun.
There were exactly six screws holding the odometer plate to interior dashboard of my car. How do I know this? Well, let me just say, I had had a long moment of blindly staring at it madly trying to figure out how to escape my six day fate.
“Forget it, I don’t care what happened. Next time, I will go and see for myself!”
“No! You can’t.” My protest to Bill was weak and it feebly trailed as I sat once again behind the wheel wondering whether I should go farther.
Should I tell Bill? Would I be damning his soul too?
“What really happens at Craven Reign you ask? Well, it is not what you think, that is for damn sure!”
C, “This is the best you can ‘rite’ for the telling the reader what correlation these two characters have to Wes Craven?”
R, “It is not time yet, ‘We sell no wine before its time’ so be patient!”
If I didn’t at least tell him something, Bill would stumble into the worst nightmare that ever daunted daylight.
C, “Ok, here you should add a few movie titles so that at least the reader who is reading this as we even speak…shh!”
R, “What is it?”
C, “I can hear the reader breathing. Look up, there they are looking at us on the page scrunching their brow up as we talk.”
Tap, tap, tap~!
C, “Hey you, reader, yeah you can we have a private moment? Just close your eyes and count to ten and we should be finished.”
R, “Did they close their eyes?”
C, “I am not sure, I can’t see them ‘rite’ now.”
R, “What were you going to tell me?”
C, “Never mind, let’s get back to the story.”
It, Craven’s Reign, was the worst place to be when the sun was high in the sky. Only darkness provided an exit.
“Look everything about Craven Reign is absolutely alluring. Why wouldn’t I want to go to the place where vampires are born?”
The deafening scream from Bill’s mouth sounded like a twisting serpent finding a jagged prong to loosen its’ exterior skin upon in a shallow, dank sewer pipe. The long echo eked out of his throat.
C, “The Serpent and the Rainbow.”
C, “Where are you R?”
“Your arms, look at your arms!”
I tried to pull my sleeves down over them, but Bill would not let me.
“What is wrong with your arms?”
“It is normal. I mean the blood. It is just…”
“The Hell it is! Your freakin’ arms are cut-up! You look like something took a scalpel and crosshatched your damn forearms.” He pulled my right sleeve up to the elbow. He was putridly amazed by the continual appearance of new “cuts” appearing on my skin while he watched.
C, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
R, “Did I miss something?”
C, “Where have you been?”
R, “Oh, I went to get us some popcorn and a coke.”
C, “Shhh! I don’t want you to interrupt the reader.”
“Listen. I tried to tell you that Craven’s Reign was a bad place didn’t I?”
I waited for some acknowledgement from Bill, but he was too damn busy watching new cuts appear on my arms and begin to bleed.
“What is happening to you Dani?”
I pulled my arm back from Bill’s clutch and began rolling the sleeve back down to my wrist. “It was something that I had hoped I would spare you.” I averted my eyes to the rolling waves of torrent on the Gulf hoping the storm would come ashore at that moment. I wanted the ocean to wash this awful accursed blood lust from me.
But I knew that the ocean couldn’t do it.
“Craven’s Reign is…”
R, “Yes, yes, what is it?”
Bill watched me closely. I could see his intent gaze out of the corner of my eye. I pursed my lip wondering how to begin.
“There are exactly six screws in the plate where my odometer sits behind my steering wheel.”
I exhaled waiting for Bill to interrupt my story, but he did not.
“And when I pulled up to Craven Reign, I sat exactly behind the steering wheel like I am now. I just sat here like this with my forehead pressed to the steering wheel, my hands gripped the wheel so tightly that the whites of my knuckles blanched the blood flow from my hands.” I paused a long moment.
Bill had relaxed in the passenger seat of the car next to me listening to my story and watching the tempest on the far horizon.
R, “Boring, boring, now the reader is snoring.”
C, “Quit cutting into the story so much, the reader is not supposed to really know we are still here.”
“I was scared to death Bill. I mean, I was too chicken. I was sitting in the car outside of the opening, afraid I would never be the same if I went in. I felt as though every breath, every thought, every heart beat was a part of something I had no choice to accept. I felt so small. I was alone and the trees were so much taller than any I have ever seen and will ever see again…”
I rubbed my leaking eyes. The tears were only tears. There was no blood streaming down my cheeks yet.
“I am so sorry Dani. I should have gone with you.” Bill’s touch was tender, but it was pointless.
“No. You shouldn’t have gone with me. In fact, I should have not gone either. But it is too late now. What is done is done. I cannot undo it.”
“What do you mean you can’t undo it?”
Knock, knock, knock.
“What the he…?”
Outside of the car, a beach bum had tapped on the driver side window.
“Hey, you crazy kids, can’t ye see there’s a storm brewing?” The bum threw his hands down at his sides as if to wave us off as a nuisance.
“Bill, Craven is not a fan site for a vampire want-to-be. It is, it’s, “I clenched my teeth trying to formulate the words stuck in my throat, “it’s a place you can’t escape from. It takes. Do you understand? It takes from you.”
C, “Vampire in Brooklyn.”
R, “Nice way to introduce that one!”
C, “Thank you if I do say so myself.”
“You are tired and hysterical. You need to see a doctor really you do.”
“I don’t need a damned doctor, Bill, I am already dead.”
There. I had said it.
Bill’s eyes were a blank slate. His mouth was agape.
“When you enter Craven, Bill, there is no way for you to leave. It takes your life. It takes your blood.”
The distant waves were approaching the beach voraciously crashing on the otherwise calm beach.
“What do you mean it takes your blood? I am sitting here with you watching your arms bleed from scratches that just appear.”
I was astonished. Had he not heard what I had said.
“I AM DEAD.”
R, “Shhhh. Pass me the popcorn.”
Rain from the approaching storm began to speckle the windshield. I turned the key and flicked the windshield wiper on.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
The hypnotic sound of the windshield wipers was the only sound filling the car except silence.
After long moments, Bill spoke, “Why are you dead?”
I looked at him with a stupid look. “Because I entered the damn place, and now I am damned. I have exactly six days before Craven takes all of my blood. Don’t you get it? Craven is a like a center place where all the lost blood on earth gathers.”
It was the first and original nightmare—Craven’s Reign.
“Where all the blood gathers?”
“Yes. It is the blood hole of life.”
“That is crazy!” Bill was fiddling with the door knob trying to open the door.
“It’s true. Craven is just an acronym. And if you go there, the same thing will happen to you.”
Bill turned his head to look at me over his shoulder. “What did you see there that made you think all of this nonsense? What happened to you?”
“I went in of my own free will, and now, well, I have six days before Craven takes back my life force. Before it takes my blood. Blood exists in a kind of black hole type spot inside Craven. And the name Craven does not stand for any kind of blood lust. It stands for…”
I waited. I was not sure he was ready to hear it.
“What does it stand for Dani?”
“The “C” stands for the first rite, the very first part of where the blood hole begins to claim your blood. It stands for cuts.”
C, “No stupid, ‘C’ stands for Craven!”
R, “Hush, let the reader figure it out.”
Bill jerked the door open and leapt out of the car. “This is bizarre.”
“I know, I know. But it is true. Don’t you want to know what I saw Bill? Don’t you want to know the secret of the vampire lair?”
“I am not listening to anymore. You obviously need to see a doctor. This whole thing is not real.”
“Bill. Listen to me!”
Bill had his back turned to me looking out over the short parking lot beside the beach.
“Talk fast. I am getting out of here. This has gone too far. The gag is up.”
“Bill! Craven stands for the following: Cuts, Rips, Audio, Visual, Everything, Nothing.”
R, “I think that sounds a little postmodern in my humble opinion…”
I felt my throat tightening like a Ball python was squeezing the air out of my throat.
“Bill I am dead serious. I watched various people at Craven “worshiping” the blood waterfall, bathing in it even, some of them were lucid enough to talk about the divine feeling of having their bodies blood added to the flowing blood stream. It was swirling endlessly beneath the falls. I watched a guy disappear in front of my eyes as all the blood in his body joined the pool.”
Bill fell to his knees clutching his hands over his face. “Why? Why is any of this happening?”
“I don’t know.”
There were deeps sighs and sobs as the rain was pelting down on the two of us. We were clearly too stupid and numb to get in out of the rain.
“There has to be something. There has to be a way that you can be saved. There has to be!”
I tugged at his arm the soaking rain made my sleeves appear more bloodied than they were.
“C’mon. Let’s get to higher ground.”
As we drove away from the beach, my silent thoughts raced. Was there a way for my blood to remain with me? Or would I be another unknowing sacrifice filling the blood hole in Craven.
I looked over at Bill in the passenger seat. He was wearing his fleur de lis on his the upper left collar of his cape. The ruffled Edwardian poet shirt was a stark contrast to the bluish black of Bill’s cape. For him it was a romantic blood sucking dream.
The rain was pelting the windshield as fast as the windshield wipers could sway it to the side. Visibility was low, and I drove slowly wishing I had not quit smoking.
I felt my throat constricting. I need to feel cool air on my throat.
“Mind if I roll the window down a little?”
“Sure, as long as you do it on your side. I am already wet!”
I rolled the window down about half an inch. It was just enough to let the air in without too much rain.
“Are you sure you have six days?”
The traffic in the oncoming lane was moving faster as I drove.
Out of the corner of my left eye, I caught the first droplet of blood leaving my sleeve. But it was not the only one. Soon many droplets followed. At first the drops would pool up on my sleeve and then by reverse gravity were pulled to the headliner of the car. Slowly, each drop moved horizontally towards the open window and melded with the onslaught of rain.
Bill pretended not to notice at first.
C, “Oh my God, the suspense is killing me!”
R, “I know! We are sitting here watching all of the little ‘b’, ‘l’, ‘oo’, ‘d’ trickle upwards against the roof of the car. How can you make all those letters flow away from the earth’s gravity?”
C, “Be quiet, you are going to miss it!”
“Your blood is trickling out of the car!”
I ignored him.
Bill’s voice boomed in my ear as he grabbed my left arm, “YOUR BLOOD IS TRICKLING OUT OF THE CAR!”
I jerked my arm away from his pulling the steering wheel with it. We swerved into the oncoming lane. Big headlights were all I could see.
As the falling rain pulsed around twisted metal, five days were lost.
“They must have been having one hell of an argument for her to lose control of the wheel like that and pull in front of that semi truck.”
The second paramedic paused. “From the looks of her arms, they had been arguing for some time. Usually don’t see this kind of ‘cutting’ without severe emotional distress.”
“It’s a shame really. They look like the perfect couple.” The first paramedic was pulling the sheet over Danielle’s chest.
“Yeah, he’s going to make it–the poor guy.”
“It’s weird isn’t?”
“Yeah, very odd, I have never seen a body completely drained of blood that fast!”
“Her cheeks are as white as ivory like he sucked every drop of blood out of her before they wrecked.”
“C’mon James, that’s insane.” The first paramedic pulled the sheet close to Danielle’s face.
“Goodnight sweetheart.” James was touching Danielle’s cheek.
“She looks like she’s sleeping, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, she does.” James tugged the sheet over Danielle’s face. “No more nightmares for you little girl now rest in quiet.”
As the paramedics loaded the two stretchers, the sirens blazed five times. Each one parted the way of everything and as they drove off there was nothing.
So is and will always be as long as Craven Reigns.
Biography: LaVa Payne lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas where she writes stories and poems. As a hobby, LaVa enjoys exploring WPA structures and old sawmill towns looking for lost treasures.