EXCERPT FROM “JAR BABY” BY LORI R. LOPEZ
PUBLISHED ON KINDLE;
AS A PRINT EDITION WITH ILLUSTRATIONS;
AND IN ODDS AND ENDS: A DARK COLLECTION
A woman burst into the auditorium, trailed by a man with black curls. Alice barged down the middle aisle to the brink of the stage. Her eyes scanned for a jar. A gloss-pated guy exaggeratedly writhed like a performance artist pantomiming as he shook something above him with both fists. The hands were empty. He seemed to be hallucinating.
“There!” Dimitri gestured. Hadrian’s vessel lay breached and hollow to one side. “What did I tell you? We are too late.”
“It’s been that kind of day,” muttered the girl, chiefly to herself. “Like I fell down a rabbit-hole into the sewer.” She addressed the contortionist, who thrashed on his back as if he were being throttled in Act Two. “Are you okay, sir?” It was obvious he wasn’t; she was being polite. It was common courtesy, instilled by lessons with a strict grandmother. (If Granny could see her now, she chuckled.) Etiquette always seemed to kick in at the worst times. But she had to ask, even if he might be putting on some type of show. He might also be having an epileptic malfunction, or a mental lapse. He could have ants in his pants for all she knew. “Excuse me . . . Hello?” She flung her hands to the air. “Fine, ignore me. Everyone else does. My father. Friends. Boyfriends. This guy!” Alice jerked a thumb at Dimitri.
And spied the scars blemishing the stage. Grooves, as if something with talons had made an impression. A number of impressions. She cast a glance at the audience, the few who lingered. What she could see of them squatting in the seats. They were traumatized. An incident had occurred. Cliché as it sounded, they looked like they had seen a ghost. That wouldn’t faze Alice because she knew ghosts existed. She had talked to the spirit of her mother the morning she died. Mom had warned her there would be days like this, cliché as that sounded. “You will have to be stronger than me. Against the forces,” Mama’s waning revenant invoked.
“What forces?” inquired Alice, bewildered. She had been eleven years old.
“They’re watching. The demons from the shadows.” Her mother faded to a speck of light. Then was gone.
Demons? There was enough evil in the world without worrying about gargoylish creatures peeking at her from dark places. Alice had hoped to see her mother again but never did. She drew consolation from the idea that her mom might be watching her too.
“Something’s going on here,” she asserted. “Those people are terrified.”
Dimitri had climbed to the stage. He picked up the jar. “They met him. Hadrian’s Curse.” He sighed. His eyes roamed the perimeter. “It will not cease killing until it is captive again. It is tied to this vessel.”
“Could you be any less dramatic? I don’t see blood. Where are the dead bodies?” Alice was skeptical.
“He’s dead. He doesn’t know it yet.” Corbo swept a hand toward the spastic guy who lay sprawled, chest and stomach convulsing, glazed eyes averted to the audience that had mostly evacuated. Besides a chewed appendage, his suit was bloodied from a wound in his shoulder.
“So this thing is like a zombie epidemic?”
“Its powers evolved from intense emotions. Hatred. Envy. Resentment. Vengeance. But this man has been marked. Like a rogue bear, the demon will return to finish him.”
“You know all this, or you’re guessing?”
“It is in the book, fair lady. The ultimate passage details the author’s paranoia after an encounter with the diabolic infant. The poor fellow’s face had been slashed, mangled. Then one night it came, scrambling in the hallway, scratching the door of his den. His last words: ?I hear its claws. There is no escape except by my own hand. My own cut.’ The pages at the end were stained dark brown.”
“Okay, what now? There’s a vicious man-biting Jar Baby on the prowl. Do we alert the media? Call Nine-One-One? Notify the military?” For once, Alice was at a loss for answers. She had wisecracked through life resisting bullies, chauvinists, bad influences, the backstabbing of friends and colleagues. An outspoken individual, she had tried to manage on her terms and not let anyone (or anything) pull her strings. But ever since she entered The Rook’s Nest, that steely resolve had skittered and slewed, derailing into weirder than weird territory. It was a little more than she had bargained for.
Dimitri raised the urn. “We have this.” He nodded at the limp hyperventilating guy. “And we have him, so we must wait. It will not go far.”
Alice retorted, “I’m not waiting around in case it decides to hop back into the jar it was just liberated from.”
Dimitri shrugged. “You wanted my opinion.”
“We need to find it. And rescue these people.” Alice marched briskly up the aisle. Corbo perturbed her. And then there was that awful cologne! She steered recklessly to the museum with all of the windows down, yet the stink made her gag. It had polluted her lungs and muddied her brain. Could someone die of cologne inhalation?
Dimitri gazed after her, contemplative. “I love how bossy you are, my lady.” Snugging the vase to his side, he nimbly skipped from the stage in a single bound.
Rolling her eyes, Alice approached people kneeling between tiers of seats. “Come with us. We’re going to get you out of here,” she gently persuaded.
A distant bleat. Interrupted by silence.
“Stay here,” amended Alice. “We’ll be back when it’s safe.” She wished she felt as confident as her attitude.
“Don’t leave me alone!” The man on the stage revived from his catatonic stupor. He careened off the platform and hobbled up the aisle, pale and distraught.
Alice dourly regarded him. This was the idiot who uncorked a demon. Couldn’t he have unbottled a genie instead? She had a lot of questions for him. Like, what was wrong with him? “Perchance you can point out the little dickens since you’ve seen it,” she bitterly requested.
“Of course. I could never forget those beady eyes. That scrunched face . . .” the guy winced.
“You’ve just described the average baby,” Alice stated.
“It wasn’t a baby! It was a monster!” The bald man blinked at her. “I’m Emerson Folly.” He extended his right hand.
She snorted. “That’s appropriate.” And walked away, shoving through a door.
About Lori R. Lopez
Lori R. Lopez wears many hats as an author, artist, poet, and songwriter. She dips her pen in Speculative Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Dark and Humorous Verse, and much more. She is an artist, musician, actress, filmmaker, tree-hugger, vegan, and animal-lover. Lori unapologetically takes pride in creatively bending and reshaping the rules of writing when it suits her style.
Her books include THE DARK MISTER SNARK, THE STRANGE TAIL OF ODDZILLA, LEERY LANE, ODDS AND ENDS: A DARK COLLECTION, CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, THE FAIRY FLY, OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, POETIC REFLECTIONS I and II: KEEP THE HEART OF A CHILD and THE QUEEN OF HATS.
Stories and verse have appeared on Hellnotes, Servante Of Darkness, and Halloween Forevermore; in WEIRDBOOK, THE HORROR ZINE MAGAZINE, THE SIRENS CALL E-Zine, and anthologies such as JOURNALS OF HORROR: FOUND FICTION, DEAD HARVEST, HWA POETRY SHOWCASE VOLUMES II and III, TERROR TRAIN I and II, GREY MATTER MONSTERS: TAKERS OF SOULS, TOYS IN THE ATTIC: A COLLECTION OF EVIL PLAYTHINGS, CELLAR DOOR III: ANIMALS (Editor’s Choice Award winner), UNDEAD LEGACY, BONES II, GHOSTS: REVENGE, MIRAGES: TALES FROM AUTHORS OF THE MACABRE, MASTERS OF HORROR: DAMNED IF YOU DON’T, I BELIEVE IN WEREWOLVES, THIRSTY ARE THE DAMNED, and SCARE PACKAGE: 14 TALES OF TERROR. Fifteen of Lori’s poems were published for an anthology titled IN DARKNESS WE PLAY.