QSFer M.D. Neu has a new gay/trans Halloween tale out:
It’s been twenty years since the quiet Midwestern town of Lakeview was struck by tragedy. But every year on the anniversary of the event Teddy returns home for ‘The Reunion’. Lakeview, like Teddy, has secrets and not all mysteries should come to light.
Teddy stood atop the grassy knoll, glancing down at Lakeview. Has it really been twenty years? The smell of fresh roses and lilies filled his senses. From there, he could see all of the town, Main Street, the radio tower, the old CAGE manufacturing building, the hospital, the school, even the country club. But most importantly, he could see the lake. He sighed, supposing that was something that would never change. The town was still all there—barely.
He peeked over his shoulder to where the town sign had once stood. All that remained was busted-up bricks and some aged wood with faded paint. He could barely read the name and town motto:
Set your spirit free
Teddy frowned and shook his head. “Yeah, right.” He sighed.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small anxiety pill, then popped it into his mouth, and dry swallowed it. Anyway, those that got out are coming back. Still, it brings up so much pain and hurt. He glanced back at the ruined sign. “It wasn’t all bad, of course. There were good parts.” A soft chuckle escaped him. Teddy remembered the day that led up to his return home so many years before. His mother had just passed away, and he and Lane were about to split for the last time.
“That was a long time ago.” Teddy wiped at his eyes and cleared his throat, thinking of Lane and that final fight. Having to go, leaving Nick was the worst, but he was relieved to be away from Lane and his bullshit. In a way, he was able to escape from that cage too. Still, Nicky had been just a boy and had no idea what was happening. The more he thought about it, the more his heart began to pound and all the old ghosts came to light. Every year, when he came back to Lakeview, was the same story. Standing here, looking down at the town, it was like it was happening all over again.
A gust of wind ruffled the leaves on the road. The clouds always seemed to surround the town this time of year. He rubbed his arms and hurried back to his Mustang. He reached into the car, pulled out his jacket, and slipped it on. Somehow, it didn’t warm him, but it kept the strengthening breeze off his back and arms. He patted the pocket. Not finding what he was looking for, he glanced back to the car. On the passenger seat was his pill bottle. He leaned down and nabbed it, then put it back in his pocket.
I’m probably going to need these today.
A rumble of thunder rolled off in the distance, near the far end of the lake. He scanned the town again. He couldn’t see his old house anymore. Over the last few years, it had vanished more and more. He supposed if he drove by it, assuming he could remember where it was, there would be nothing left.
So many mistakes. If I‘d believed him, then none of this would’ve happened. He shook his head. “It’s all so crazy, but it happened. No wonder no one ever believed me or the others.”
There was another clap of thunder as he pictured the day he’d come back to town, six years before it all went to shit. When he was young, he had felt like this town was a cage, but it ended up being his freedom when he returned after Lane. Maybe some prisons can never be escaped no matter what we try or how hard we want it. A smile bloomed across his lips at the memory of driving down the main street in full drag, big hair, and a brand-new pink Mustang.
My god, those people had no idea what to do, or what they were in for. He groaned at the thought of his behavior when he’d showed up.
Teddy shook off his trek down memory lane as he pulled up to what had once been the heart of the town. He applied the brakes, not bothering to pull into a parking space, Teddy turned off the ignition of his classic Mustang, the thrum of the engine falling silent.
The road before him was empty, like all of the town. He opened the door and hefted himself out as damp cold air bit the back of his neck and ears, his jacket offering no protection.
Like the streets, the buildings were in complete disrepair—most, if not all, were shells of their former selves. Not even the boarded-up windows and doors were left in place.
Things are so different.
He adjusted his jacket collar trying to protect his neck from the cold. The government named it an incident, but Teddy called it a disaster. He fussed with his keys and slipped them in his jacket pocket and studied his dilapidated surroundings. No one cared anymore, and no one talked about what happened. Twenty years wasn’t long in the grand scheme of the universe, but it was long enough for people who wanted to forget.
He took a deep breath and could taste the coming storm. Soon enough, it would rain.
He continued to take in the ruined storefronts. Life once hummed up and down this street, but after CAGE Manufacturing burned down in a freak fire and didn’t reopen, there wasn’t anything left to keep the town going. Like so many small towns with nothing more to offer, Lakeview died.
The sign from his old hair salon swung in the gusting wind. Ultimately, it would fall to the crumbling sidewalk and be forgotten, just like everything else. He frowned. No one would ever buy the building he still owned. Holding the deed to the structure was only a minor annoyance and ultimately would mean nothing, even to him.
A flash of lightning off in the distance caught his eye when he turned back to his salon. Doc stood there lifeless and pale. He was holding Jenny’s hand. Doc removed his hat, revealing a bullet hole through his temple. Jenny was no longer recognizable, her blond hair thick with blood and her pretty face carved up like spoiled hamburger.
“Not real.” Teddy shook his head and the images vanished.
He turned and there in front of him stood Kasandra, blood dripping from her mouth. All her teeth were gone, and there was a huge gash along the side of her face dripping with blood and gore.
“It’s me, Miss Thing. Can you make me look human again?”
Teddy stumbled back. His heart banged in his chest. He closed his eyes, then opened them again. The nightmare image was no more.
Teddy swiped the sweat from his brow, then kicked at a rock near his foot.
Why do I keep coming back?
Perhaps it was the ghosts from so long ago. To see those that understood the loss and the shared pain. Maybe it was time for a final goodbye. It could be for answers he would never get. Towns like Lakeview never revealed all their secrets. But something had forced him back, year after year. Something pulled them all back.
As the clouds darkened around the town, he found himself outside the old CAGE building. He ran a hand over the blood-stained road. The air was still thick with a coppery scent.
“This is where the end began.” A shiver ran down his spine as he stood.
Teddy followed the road back up Main Street as he toured the remains. He strolled to the empty diner. A smile grew across his lips. He had so many good memories of Casey and Lisa eating, harassing Greg about his drunk karaoke rendition of “Love Shack.” No matter how bad, Greg managed to get everyone up on their feet.
He shook his head, a sigh escaping his chilled lips.
A flash of lightning grabbed his attention, and when he glanced back into the diner, he saw Casey, Lisa, and Greg standing at the window. Casey had cuts all over her face, a large piece of glass embedded in her left eye socket. The right side of Lisa’s face was gone, the part remaining was blackened and ragged. There was a large hole where Greg’s face should have been, through which he could see Dee standing there with a blank cold gaze.
Teddy gasped and stepped back. The smell of rot and decay assaulted his senses. “You’re not real. That didn’t happen.” He closed his eyes. “It’s just my anxiety. I’m going to see you all in a little while, and you’ll be just fine.”
An old newspaper gathered at Teddy’s feet. He glimpsed the heading, “Local Teen goes on Murderous Rampage as Citizen’s Riot, Town in Shambles!”, before a strong gust of wind caught the paper and blew it off down the street.
To listen to the rumors and speculation, you would have thought the whole town had lost its mind. But it was only a few important people, people who could control the town and the news. If I only believed him, none of this would have happened. It amazed him how one small group could effect such devastation and pain on so many. They would have a penance to pay, of that he was certain. Teddy checked the door handle as he continued to relive that night, that awful night, when everything changed.
The meteor shower. Nick. My car. All that blood.
He pushed the awful images from his mind that wasn’t why he was here. He peered through the diner’s dusty, smashed window. The broken tables and chairs, the shattered refrigerator case. The shredded booths. More memories rushed back to him. He and Casey sitting at the booth in back. Casey preparing her playlist for the radio station between bites of toast. They were laughing. Dee ran around, attending to customers, while Bill was in back, cooking. Casey looked out the window, right toward him, their gazes meeting.
There was a flash of lightning, and Dee and Bill were standing at the window, their cold dead eyes focused down the street toward the old CAGE building. They turned to Teddy and pointed. Nick stood off in the corner alone and shaking. He met Teddy’s gaze and held up his blood-covered hands. Teddy shook his head and turned away only to come face to face with Casey, her face pale, the cuts and glass reappeared. Her hair was again a clumped bloody mess, her only eye hollow and lifeless.
“That’s not Casey, and that isn’t Nick.” Teddy forced his eyes closed and reached for his pills. He fumbled with the lid before quickly taking another pill. When he opened his eyes, Casey smiled stunnngly and her flowing brown hair caught what little light there was.
If only she were a guy. Teddy chuckled at the thought. Like that would make a difference.
Casey wasn’t the same after the disaster. None of them were. How could they be? But she took it the hardest, blaming herself for not getting an emergency broadcast out fast enough. It wouldn’t have mattered; by the time he and the others figured out what was happening, it was too late.
Teddy made his way back to his Mustang. The car was no longer bright pink as it had been in days long gone by. It was now a sleek black. It wasn’t as flashy or as outrageous as he once liked, but it was still fun to drive.
After starting the engine, he screeched down the road to CAGE. This time, instead of an empty burned-out shell of a building, a crowd of people stood outside the structure as it once had been. He slowed to a stop as a car sped past and into the crowd. One body flew through the air and hit the pavement with a wet crunch in the same spot he’d seen the bloodstain earlier. The bystanders all turned and faced him, their empty faces all focused on him. Watching him. Judging him. No reaction to the tragedy that they just witnessed.
Teddy shook away the image and focused on the street in front of him. “It’s not real; none of it is real. Everyone is fine. My meds need to kick in, so I won’t see that anymore.” He continued down Main Street away from the ghostly images. The once pristine lawns and trees were now nothing but overgrown weeds and dead stumps. He passed the broken metal gates that had been pushed to the side at the entry to the country club. The brick walls that once held them were busted and covered in faded graffiti.
The next road narrowed, and he came to his destination, where he silenced the rumble of the engine.
Kasandra’s dream house, once the envy of the Lakeview Country Club.
The estate once had a white three-story pillared front and a pitched roof, with a second-floor balcony that ran the full length of the mansion. It took years to build, and now it lay as a pile of wood and brick overrun by weeds and brush, nature reclaiming its land. It was much like the surrounding country club. Trees and shrubs had taken back the fairways and sand traps. There was nothing of its former glory. Not even memories of her grand parties could bring it back to life. Not anymore.
He sat at the steering wheel and sighed. So many memories. He glanced at the ruined home once more, then rested his forehead on the steering wheel. “I just need a minute before they all get here.”
M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.
When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric his husband of eighteen plus years.