If you found our first Halloween offering quite tricky, Dear Reader, this next story is something of a treat. It’s by my good friend, Cade the Okie Devil from Text US, and appears in ‘Underdog Anthology VI: The Gallows Stone’…
*Faught you’d perk up for that, Clicky… /flicks ash…*
Dear Reader… Enjoy! ❤
by Cade F.O.N Apollyon
Yarnip County Texas is likely the strangest county in the entire state. It appears on no maps. It does not appear on nor in any registry. There is no county-seat, as there are no towns. It has no courthouses. No sheriff. No police departments. No fire departments. No hospitals nor clinics. In fact, except for the ice-skating rink in the southeast corner of the county that sometimes doubles as a roller-rink, Yarnip County Texas has no real infrastructure to speak of at all. There are plenty of roads that lead to and through Yarnip County, but not a single crossroads in it’s length and breadth. There is only one permanent resident, and yet, at certain times of the year…Yarnip County Texas has the largest population in the entire Universe.
I know, I know…you are thinking that I’m telling some tall-tale in order to spin some investment opportunity or encourage tourism. But if you take a minute to actually ponder the merits of your own skepticism, why would I even need to encourage tourism to a location that is already, at times, the most populous place in the entire Universe? Yes, I am the guy that actually lives there. But I’ve already got so much money I could never spend it, and I’ve also got so many trinkets and gifts from visitors, that were I to sell them all, I’d pretty much have all the money on the entire planet. Plus, I don’t sell any of the gifts that are given me, nor do I sell any of the trinkets that I find. And believe you me, with all the traffic we get here, there is plenty of stuff left behind.
So you are likely wondering if I am a junk collector who is trying to sell off his collection. No. I’m the owner/operator of an ice-skating rink that sometimes doubles as a roller-rink. Junk collecting is more of a hobby that doubles as my attempt at being a responsible citizen due to the amount of flotsam and jetsam that this county accumulates during the course of the year.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. If someone passes through on a weekend trip, and accidentally leaves their Blarrchuck Moopeen Grinder, or a pair of Mastelline Vipps? They are going to come looking for it/them. I once found the entire Senate Building for The Realm of Cipotci, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I took it home, put it on my dresser, and even contemplated cutting a hole in the top to use as a change bank, although I never did. Good thing that I didn’t, because the Ipo of Cipotsi herself came looking for the building, and it turns out that the entire Senate was actually still inside the building and in-session. Just a misunderstanding that quasi-cascaded into a comedy of errors because of some chance encounters. The Ipo was very gracious though in the end, and she’s now aware of both me and the fact that I lurk and roam these parts with mostly the best of intentions. That said, the particulars about how the Senate Building from The Realm of Cipotsi wound up in Yarnip County Texas is a story for another time.
You’ve likely guessed by now that I am the founder of Yarnip County Texas. Well, technically, you’d be wrong. I only gave it the name. Yarnip County Texas is actually as old as The Universe itself, and I’m just a newcomer that just so happened to be paying attention at just the wrong time, in exactly the wrong place. But those unfortunate events inspired me to eventually give my home a name, Yarnip County. I even gave it a slogan; “Always Passin’ Thru!” But I’m not really here to talk about that, nor even about myself, as much as I am to talk about one particular event that happened about ten years ago. It’s something that is on my mind daily, and I try diligently to neither suppress nor recall that and those events. For the most part, I just sorta try and let the memories be what they are, and go on about my life as best I can.
She introduced herself as Abbey Attrix. I was pretty sure from the start that this was not her “real” name, but it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. She told me that she had some friends that were meeting her here in a few hours, and wanted to know if she could rent the rink and skate alone until they arrived. I asked her for how long, she glanced at what I assumed was her watch, and told me that she could pay me $50 and would also let me have her watch if I would let her have the rink for two hours. She held up her arm, and around her wrist was one of the most unusual watches I’d ever seen. It had only one hand, a minute hand, and two digital readouts; one for the hours, and one for the seconds. It had a deep red face that seemed to be surrounded by some kind of internal light source that was a combination of blue and red that cycled somehow…it appeared very expensive.
Let me state that it’s not unusual to have individuals show up alone and want to rent the rink for themselves, nor do I personally think that it’s particularly strange when someone wants to rent the rink alone. Afterall, I built the rink for myself so that I could be alone and skate alone, so it’s really no surprise to me that others also seek solitude on the ice. However, when I looked into her face and into her eyes, I perceived there was a distance between us that I could never plumb. I could make all of the observations and conjectures that I wanted, but time itself seemed to be slipping away before me, and I could tell by her occasional glances out toward the rink that she just wanted to get onto the ice. She’d been running from something, but that running was about to cease.
I told her that she could keep her watch, and that $40 would do for two hours as I had nothing scheduled and was unlikely to have any chance renters pop in other than herself. She agreed, retrieved two twenty dollar bills from her bag which she then handed to me, and I asked her what size skate she wore. She told me her size, I went and retrieved a pair of ice skates in her size, returned and gave them to her, then I retreated to the DJ booth to put on some music. By the time I had arrived at the DJ booth, she had already put on her skates and was headed for the ice. I grabbed the microphone and asked her if she had any preferences, but she just smiled and shook her head no, leaving the musical selections up to me. Her hair was very short, and until she smiled at me, I hadn’t noticed just how beautiful she was. I’m a professional afterall; I’m here to operate an ice-skating rink, not pick up chicks.
Abbey had already began to skate a bit, and I could already tell that she knew how to skate as I pressed play on the CD player…
“The whispers, in the moment…of lovers sleeping tight…”
No sooner had Celine Dion finished breathing the first line of The Power Of Love, that I looked out to the ice, and saw Abbey slide to a ice crystal spraying stop, put her hands on her hips and look down her nose at me in mock-contempt as she smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back and laugh a little as she stood there, smiling and tapping the toe of her ice skate the way a mother might. I immediately hit the stop button on the CD player, glanced up and noticed that she was still tapping her foot as I rummaged quickly through the CD’s to find a different song. I admit that I noticed that the Jennifer Rush version of this same song was handy, and I contemplated putting it in the CD player as an attempt at being funny, but this was Abbey’s time. She paid for it, so I decided to hit her with a musical blindside instead, put in a new CD, and pressed play.
“As loud as hell, a ringing bell
Behind my smile, it shakes my teeth
And all the while, as vampires feed
Abbey had started skating again, and I could see her doing the “head-bob” in an approving manner before Black Francis and Kim Deal of The Pixies even began to sing. And that’s how our relationship went on that cold and lonely October evening. Two hours of back and forth without a word between us. She’d slouch her shoulders while rolling her head back in disgust if I played something she didn’t like, and she’d smile, bob her head, and keep skating if I played something that she did. I must admit that I was quite surprised at the varieties of music that she did and didn’t like, and a few times she even gave me a look of surprise that an old fart like myself would know that the song I was playing even existed.
“I’m bigger than that.
Can you tango, can you mango,
mix n mangle, can you flow?
Let me angle more my kangol,
Are you single, can you go?
Format B’s remix of Skeleton Key by Pleasurecraft & Green Velvet boomed on the speakers as Abbey continued to zoom around the rink while grinning a smile that couldn’t be purchased for any amount of money, and I’d been enjoying the time so much myself that I simply hadn’t noticed that we had already run about fifteen minutes over time…but that’s when the power to the rink went out.
I immediately reached for the small flashlight next to the DJ mixer, and yelled to Abbey to stay where she was until I could get some light, but the flashlight didn’t work. I found this extremely odd since I knew for a fact that the batteries had been changed only recently. The music had been so loud for so long, that I simply had not noticed that the wind had picked up as the sun had gone down. But as my hearing slowly returned, it became quickly attuned to the fact that the wind was indeed blowing quite viciously outside, and assumed that the wind was likely the cause for the power outage.
Probably less than a minute had transpired when my eyes adjusted enough to notice that the watch Abbey had tried to barter with was still glowing around her wrist, and as I looked around and surveyed the rest of the rink, I noticed that this was the only source of light in the rink. None of the emergency exit signs were working, which was odd considering that they were battery powered in a power outage, but even more strange was the fact that not even the luminous paint on the walls was glowing. If ever a person who loved Halloween wanted to be somewhere extra-spooky on Halloween night, Yarnip County Texas was suddenly the place to be.
I recall trying to keep my cool since I was the owner/operator of this place, and ultimately responsible for the safety and well being of my one and only paying patron, and luckily Abbey had worked her way over to the DJ booth by the time that I started getting a shade rattled. Without saying a word, she took the watch off of her wrist and laid it on the table next to me since it appeared that she had also noticed that her watch was the only source of light in the entire place. From the cycling purple-ish glow of the red and blue lights in the watch, I could barely make out the outline of her face and noticed that she was smiling. A large closed-mouth grin that made her eyes sparkle somewhat, but there was what seemed to be a hint of sadness in her eyes. To tell the truth, I don’t know if it was sadness or joy or what it was that I saw in there. After a moment of looking at each other, and just prior to me realizing that my gawping was about to become uncomfortable, she said “My friends are here.”
That’s when all hell broke loose.
The entire building and everything in it moved as if it had just had the ground removed beneath it, and I felt that sudden quasi-sickening feeling in my stomach as if someone or something that was only previously holding me up had suddenly dropped me or given way. I knew it wasn’t just and only me, as the entire building shook as it came crashing down shortly after starting to fall. Judging by the way that my knees buckled, it felt as though the entirety of the building had just dropped about one foot, and it’s unlikely that there was a single object in the entire building that didn’t make some kind of noise. My immediate concern was for Abbey who was standing on the ice in skates in front of the DJ booth. But as metal and glass found their new equilibrium amid much clanging, shattering and crashing, I noticed that I could no longer see her face and assumed that she had fallen in the chaos.
The glow of the watch provided me with my only bearings, and I quickly grabbed it and held it out over the ice from the DJ booth’s lofty position…no Abbey. My heart, weakened in its pulse somewhat from the fear, pounded a first ‘BOOM!’ of approval as my being shifted from the fear of cower to the cape of crusader. I knew it was foolhardy, but I sprang over the counter of the DJ booth onto the ice of the rink without hesitation, and luckily my somewhat aged ankles held as my feet found their footing on the ice of the rink. The soles of my shoes had hardly touched the ice when the power came back on, and it scared the living shit out of me. Deamau5 immediately began blaring on the sound system since I had just put a new song on prior to the power going out, and I quickly looked around and surveyed everywhere, but Abbey was nowhere to be seen. I yelled her name as loud as I could…no response. I reached up and around to hit stop on the CD player, but the song kept playing. In frustration, I reached for the volume sliders, but when I moved them down, no change. I admit that a flush of rage came over me as I looked around at the damage of the place, and contemplated ripping the power cables out of the wall for the whole fucking mess, but then something grabbed me…
“Feeling the past moving in
Letting a new day begin
Hold to the time that you know
You don’t have to move on to let go
Add to the memory you keep
Remember when you fall asleep
Hold to the love that you know
You don’t have to give up to let go
Remember turning on the night
And moving through the morning light
Remember how it was with you
Remember how you pulled me through
I noticed that I was still holding the watch, and still standing in the same place that I had landed on the ice, looking around in disbelief listening to a song by deadmau5 & Kaskade blaring on the PA, when it occurred to me that I was a complete moron for jumping onto the ice because I could have landed on top of Abbey had she fallen.
The ice. The ice is unbroken. I looked at my feet in disbelief, then looked around the ice itself…no fractures, no bulges, no shards…no lines? Impossible. I was wearing my Converse All-Stars, but wandered shakily out further onto the ice anyway, and as I surveyed the ice itself there was not a single line to be found. The song suddenly ended and I instinctively looked back towards the DJ booth, and on the railing to the left of the DJ booth hung a pair of ice skates with the laces tied together, and they were swaying ever so slightly as if someone had only just hung them there. I watched them for a moment to be sure that my eyes were not playing tricks on me, and sure enough, they stopped swaying after a moment. I kept watching them for a while longer just to see if they started moving again. The wind was blowing furiously outside afterall, and this building was already drafty even before some Titan decided to throw it off a cliff a few moments ago. The skates didn’t move.
I kept feeling as though I should be scared, but I never really recall being afraid after the lights came back on. I’m not sure exactly what I felt at this point. My entire life has been filled with weird and strange experiences, but I am neither witch nor wizard, alchemist nor mage. If I had to qualify my feelings at that point, it was simply “keep going”…don’t stop. And so, that’s exactly what I did. I had to know. Still clutching the watch, I proceeded off the ice, and straight to the breaker box for the power. When I got there, and without hesitation, I pulled the main breaker lever, and the entire rink was suddenly aglow via the artwork within the rink that had been painted in phosphorescent paint. I flipped the main breaker back on, the lights came back on, and headed out the front door into the parking lot.
Nothing. No cars except my own. Just prior to turning around and going back into the building, I noticed that the front-end of the car was sitting at an odd angle. I walked a little closer and craned my neck to look around the car, and sure enough, the left-front tire was flat. To be honest, it didn’t even phase me because I was already home and had luckily already stocked up on beer and food for the evening as I was planning to grill a steak out in the cold after the sun went down.
It’s likely that at this point, you have many questions. You’ve identified holes, you’ve thought about what you would have done or would have done differently, and maybe even what I should have done. You aren’t wrong in doing so, and I can assure you that I’ve questioned myself relentlessly since then. But I can only tell the story as it happened. I cannot go back and make everything right, nor can I write some instruction manual so that I’ll be better prepared next time this happens. A woman calling herself Abbey Attrix wandered in to my skating rink in Yarnip County Texas on October 31st of 2008, some pretty weird shit happened over the course of about one minute, she vanished from my rink and my life completely, I’ve no idea what happened to her, nor have I seen her since. The last thing that she said to me was “my friends are here”, but I never saw anyone other than her, and I could only just barely see her when she said that. No one has ever appeared looking for her, she has never returned, and I still have her wristwatch.
“Well I live with snakes and lizards
And other things that go bump in the night
‘Cause to me everyday is Halloween
I have given up hiding and started to fight
I have started to fight.
Well any time, any place, anywhere that I go
All the people seem to stop and stare
They say “why are you dressed like it’s Halloween?
You look so absurd, you look so obscene”
Oh, why can’t I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that’s served?
Why can’t they see they’re just like me
It’s the same, it’s the same in the whole wide world.”
– Ministry, Every Day Is Halloween
So if you again are thinking that I’m telling some fantastic tale in order to drum up interest in Yarnip County Texas and/or my skating rink? Well, you are free to think what you want. Just know that my skating rink is only closed one day out of the year…Halloween. Oh, and good luck finding Yarnip County Texas or my rink the other 364/365 days of the year.