©Tianna Filley, 2017
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental.
Nicholas Dax Copyright ©2017 by Tianna Filley. All Rights Reserved.
No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author. For information on copyright laws visit: http://www.rightsforartists.com/
Nicholas Dax – – Some appearances can be deceiving … almost frightening!
My hands trembled as I lifted my backpack up onto my shoulders and stuck out my thumb. It was cold out here on the Interstate. It was also getting dark. I was shaking all over. I’d never hitchhiked before in my life, and I was scared to death of what I was getting into – but I was more scared of what I was leaving behind.
A white pickup truck shot past me, and then it slowed. I could see the red taillights coming to a stop on the shoulder and I ran to catch up. The passenger door opened. Rain began to spatter down on the pavement and onto my head. Please God, let this person be OK to ride with, I thought. I’ll die if I have to stand out here in the rain.
“Need a ride, little lady?” The driver seemed to be a decent enough man. Middle-aged, with a flushed, moony face. Balding, wisps of hair combed carefully over the top of his shiny head. White shirt, tie pulled down from his fat throat. Heading home from work. Harmless, I decided. I took a deep breath.
“Yes, and that’s all I need, OK?” I tried to sound tough.
“Hey, I’m a nice guy. Hop in.”
I did, and tossed my pack into the space behind the seat. We sped off into the deepening twilight. The air in the truck’s cab was warm. Suddenly I felt as though every tightly wound nerve in my body had suddenly unraveled. I went limp with fatigue.
“Where you from, Miss…”
“Isabel. My name is Isabel. Back there,” I replied vaguely. I hunched into my coat, wishing he’d shut up, and then feeling guilty. He was giving me a ride, after all. I suppose I owed him a little polite chat.
“Uh-huh.” I nodded.
He took a deep breath. Just like my father used to do when he was about to lecture me. I knew what was coming. “Well, let me tell you something. You’re what, sixteen?”
I nodded wearily. He sounded just like my father too.
“It ain’t any better out here in the world than it is back home. For a pretty young girl like you it’s a lot worse. Why, when I was your age …” I let Mr. Moony- Face go on and on while my mind turned back. Back to Nicholas Dax.
My family owned a corner grocery on Broad Street, in the East Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. My parents had come from Korea, seeking a better life and were willing to work for it. Well, they worked hard all right. Too hard, I thought. I also thought that living in a seedy section of the city, being robbed every couple of months, and living in fear of the gangs , crazies and druggies was not a better life. But they assured me that it was.
At one time, East Oak Lane had been a better place. There had been lots of beautiful Victorian homes, little neighborhood shops, churches and schools. Now the homes had gone shabby and were converted into cheap apartments, and the school buildings were emblazoned with layers of colorful spray-painted graffiti. Most of the little shops were gone, as well as the Oak Lane Diner, where my mother had worked before I was born. But the Catholic Church was still there, and every day at five p.m. the chimes played “Ave Maria”. That, and all the big old sycamore trees that lined Broad Street, were the only really nice things about the neighborhood.
We lived over our store, which my parents had named Happy America Korean Grocery. My sister Lizza and I worked there before and after school. Father and Mother spoke only broken English, and Lizza and I often were called on to translate. We had our share of regular customers who lived in the neighborhood, and they were glad to have our store there. There was Mrs. Ellis from up the street that was about one hundred years old, her toothless mouth as pink as a baby’s in her coal-black face. There were the wide-eyed little kids clutching quarters for bubblegum, who might or might not grow up to try to rob us someday. There were the working mothers running in for bread and milk, their faces etched with fatigue — they made up for all the other stuff. Stuff like the robberies, the older kids who tried to steal candy, the ones who laughed at my parents’ English and called us “gooks” and worse.
Lizza was three years younger than I, but already well into teenager hood. Posters of the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync papered her side of our room. Lizza considered herself worldly and sophisticated. She liked to wear perfume and nail polish. She wore her hair in a short, angular cut that made her look like a Vogue model. She was forbidden to wear makeup, but she hid a tube of scarlet lipstick in her book bag. Every day I would frown as I watched her pull it out and apply it at the bus stop. It wouldn’t be long before the boys were crazy for her, with her fine pale skin and shining black eyes.
Next to Lizza, I was dark and dumpy. My long thick black hair was my one claim to beauty, but I just pulled it back into a long ponytail and forgot about it. Fortunately I couldn’t have cared less about boys. I cared about school. My goal was to get into college and get the hell out of East Oak Lane.
Lately a new face had been stopping in for coffee and crumb cakes first thing in the morning. Lizza thought he was handsome, but I detested him. His name was Nicholas Dax.
He had long red hair and a thick red beard, and eyes so pale they were almost colorless. He said he did construction work, and his arms and chest were hard with muscle. He always had a joke and a smile for us, especially Lizza, who giggled like crazy whenever he spoke to her. I wanted to shake her for acting like such an idiot.
He’d come into the store, shaking the door so that the bells Mother had hung on it would jingle like mad, announcing his grand entrance. Like his big baritone voice wasn’t enough.
“Good morning, Isabel. Hello, Lizza. Nicholas Dax is here to make your day.” He’d wink, Lizza would giggle, and I’d want to throw up.
I guess he was handsome in a way, and he did have nice white teeth and a big grin – but it made me think of the grin of a wolf, before it makes the final kill.
“You’re just jealous because he likes me better.” Lizza tossed her head. Her bangs flicked back saucily over her right eye.
“No, little sister. I think he’s a big fat jerk,” I replied.
Lizza grinned. “Good. Keep holding that thought.”
I did think he was a jerk, but it was more than that. I was a little afraid of him. He was spooky.
On this particular morning we had no school, so Lizza let me sleep in. Father and Mother had gone on one of their trips to South Philly. Twice a week they’d go to the Wholesale Distribution Center around 4 o’clock in the morning. There they bought produce and deli meats for the store. Lizza and I were supposed to run the store until they returned. Lizza dressed and opened up without disturbing me. She wanted Nicholas all to herself for once, I’m sure.
Something woke me – a whisper on the wind, perhaps. I listened. There was no sound from the store downstairs.
“Lizza?” I called. No answer.
I got up and hurried down to the store barefoot and in my nightshirt. The shop was empty – no customers and no Lizza. I was about to look out the door to see if she were outside, maybe smoking a forbidden cigarette, when my eye was caught by a patch of torn cloth right by the basement stairs. It was the same fabric as Lizza’s favorite blouse.
“Lizza, where are you?” I called again. Still silence. I went behind the counter, over to the cash register. There was the cheap black pistol right under it. Father kept it loaded – we were robbed too regularly for it not to be. I picked it up, took off the safety and went over to the basement stairs. I flicked the light switch. The lights didn’t work. I swallowed hard and went down, slowly, every nerve alive, my eyes straining to see in the darkness.
It was damp and mildew-y and dim down there, but there was light enough for me to see Nicholas Dax standing over my sister’s body. Her face was a pulpy mess and there was blood in a huge puddle around her head. Her throat had been cut – no, torn out, as if by some animal. And that wasn’t all he’d done to her – I could tell by what he had done to her clothes.
My sister lay still, in a heap, like a broken doll. My beautiful, annoying, goofy, blameless and –surprise – much loved sister was dead. My heart fell into my stomach and I began to tremble.
Dax looked at me as I stared first at Lizza and then at him. His lips twitched and curled back in his wolfish grin. I saw bloodstains on his chin. He had torn Lizza’s throat with his own teeth.
“Kill me and you’ll go to jail, Isabel.” He looked up at me with that horrid grin. I saw marks on his face where Lizza had scratched him. Good for you, little sister, I thought. His normally pale eyes glowed a deep ruby red, and held mine. His red hair seemed to shine with its own fiery light.
“A young girl like you in jail – why, they’d eat you up alive. And you’d rot there for the rest of your life. Come here, Isabel. Let me take care of you.” His voice was almost tender.
The hot metallic smell of Lizza’s blood hung in the air like a poisonous fog. My legs were heavy with fear. I swayed on the stairs. My fingers loosened on the gun.
Nicholas Dax grinned a little wider, and stepped back. He held his hand out to me.
My mouth creaked open. “You bastard,” I whispered.
“Not exactly,” he chuckled. Then he hawked and spit right on my sister’s body, a green-and –pink glob of mucous landing right on her pale cheek.
Rage boiled over and scalded my muscles into action. I raised the gun and pulled the trigger in one smooth motion. The cheap little pistol went off with a toy like pop. But my aim was good — I opened a black-and-scarlet hole in his forehead with the gun. As he toppled over backward, the red glow in his eyes faded, but not his horrible grin. He fell to the floor with a thump. Blood pooled around his head, then flowed down along the floor and mingled with Lizza’s blood.
As I watched over their dead bodies, the smell of the blood and the gunshot and the basement damp burning in my nose, I was suddenly obsessed with the idea that I had to get away from East Oak Lane this instant and never come back.
I left him there with her, raced upstairs and dressed, packed a bag and ran out into the street. No note to my parents or anyone. No time to grieve for Lizza. All I could think of was that I would not, could not go to jail for killing the man who murdered my sister. I took the buses as far as I could, and then hiked out to the Interstate, where I stuck out my thumb and waited for fate.
I must have dozed off during Mr. Moony-Face’s advice monologue, because when I woke up, we had exited the highway and were driving down a dark, wooded road. I blinked. I had no idea where we were. The rain was coming down hard.
“Excuse me, but where are we going?” I looked over at Mr. Moony-Face.
“Straight to hell,” came the answer.
I screamed in horror. Nicholas Dax was driving the car. He turned and looked at me, and his pale eyes burned like coals. His red hair crackled like a flaming halo around his head, and the bloodstains on his chin and in his beard had turned black. With the speed of fear, I reached into my coat pocket. My fingers curled around the little black pistol I’d thought to bring with me.
He took one hand off the steering wheel and grabbed my hair, twisting his hand into it and yanking my head down toward his lap. I brought my hand up and jammed the gun into his ribs. I fired.
The truck careened off the road and into a ditch. I bounced around inside and prayed we wouldn’t hit a tree or flip over or catch fire. When the truck came to a stop, I looked over at Nicholas Dax.
Except it wasn’t Nicholas Dax. It was Mr. Moony-Face. He groaned and looked at me.
I panicked. I flung the door open and stumbled back up to the road. I ran through the dark until I saw some lights. It was a house, set back from the road a little. I pelted up the driveway and onto the porch. I banged on the front door with both fists. My breath came in great gulps. I had to get help for Mr. Moony-Face before he died. He had to live long enough for me to explain why I shot him. Explain about Nicholas Dax and Lizza.
“Help!” I cried. “There’s a man, an accident, we need help!”
The door opened, silhouetting a tall, muscular figure. I reeled back and nearly fell down the porch steps. Nicholas Dax laughed at me. I fumbled for my pistol again. He stepped out onto the porch, his eyes blazing with that weird red glow.
“That’s right, Isabel, you just keep shooting. Keep shooting innocent people. Or you can just decide to end this foolishness and let me do to you what I did to Lizza. Either way you’ll end up in jail – or in hell.”
The red rage boiled up in me, as it did every time he spoke Lizza’s name. “No,” I yelled. “I’ll blow your fucking head off first!” And I ran forward, right at him. He opened his arms as if to embrace me, but I crashed against him, shoved the pistol into his mouth and fired. We fell to the floor in a blood-drenched heap.
Bone and brains were splattered everywhere. I had to wipe palms-full of warm slimy stuff off my face before I could open my eyes. I looked down at Nicholas Dax and saw that his face was as unrecognizable as Lizza’s had been. I gasped in relief.
“I’ve killed you for good now,” I said and shoved at his body with my arm. He felt surprisingly thin and light. He had always looked so powerful.
A sound made me look up. An elderly woman stood in the open doorway, peering into the night.
“Elmer? Elmer? Who are you talking to, dear? Is something wrong?”
A chill cut through me like a knife. He’d done it again. Now I’d killed two people. I began to cry.
“Elmer? Who’s crying?” called the old lady again. She stepped out onto the porch, looking like a wraith in her thin cotton bathrobe. She looked at me, and then at what was left of Elmer. I stopped crying and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. I knew then what I had to do.
She looked back at me, her rheumy eyes wide, and made a strangled, animal sound of terror. She took a step back. “I’m really sorry,” I said and shot her.
The next couple of hours passed in a blur. I ran back down the road to the truck and was able to get it back on the road. Mr. Moony-Face was dead by the time I got back and there was blood all over the truck. I drove to the house and got him, Elmer, and Mrs. Elmer inside the house, laying them out neatly in the living room and covering their faces with blankets. I emptied Mr. Moony-Face’s wallet and carefully searched the house for cash and car keys. My parents hide money in odd places, and this couple looked like they might do the same thing. I knew where to look, and I wasn’t disappointed. Finally, I took a shower and changed my clothes, packed some food and burned my bloody clothes in the fireplace. I borrowed Mrs. Elmer’s clothes, and one of Elmer’s coats, and tucked my hair up under an old baseball cap I found.
They had an old, well-kept Dodge Aries parked out back. I drove all night, up through New York, and reached Niagara Falls by sunrise. First I was scared that the Immigration person at the Canadian border would nail me, but she just looked at my identification and asked a few questions. Then she let me through. Next, I was petrified that the police might be watching for me, but they weren’t. In retrospect, I should have known that nobody had the first clue about where to look for me, but I was paranoid. I pulled into the first parking lot I could find and nearly fainted from exhaustion. I slept in the car for the next seventeen hours.
I abandoned the car there the next day and took the train into Toronto. The money I’d stolen from Mr. Moony-Face and the Elmer’s helped me buy a new identity and a new life. I melted into the Asian community of Toronto. I opened a corner grocery store in one of the Chinese neighborhood enclaves. I hired two girls to work for me, and their friendship helped ease the pain of not having Lizza anymore.
Toronto was pretty and clean, like Philadelphia, but there were some added attractions too, such as no murders, no robberies, and best of all no surprise appearances from Nicholas Dax. Long cold winters were a small price to pay for my freedom.
I hoped maybe I scared Dax off when I shot Mrs. Elmer. Maybe my shooting an innocent old lady showed him that I wasn’t going to give up easily. But deep down I knew better. I had better be ready just in case he decided to come for me again. So I took precautions.
I spent hours with a Chinese herbalist who looked as if he had been born during the Ming Dynasty. He had come to Toronto from Hong Kong. We made amulets and special incense to ward off the devil, when he wasn’t telling me stories in fractured English about the good old days.
Then I visited a priest and told my tale in confession. His eyes grew cold and hard as he peered at me through the little window of the confessional. I don’t think he believed me.
“Father, every word is true,” I said. “A demon killed my sister, and made me kill three innocent people. For that I am really sorry and beg forgiveness.”
Then his eyes grew frightened. Now he thought I was some crazy woman or a psycho killer. For a second I panicked, thinking he’d turn me in to the cops but then I remembered he wasn’t allowed to tell anything he heard in confession. So I cried and begged until he absolved me and gave me a vial of holy water. I think he just wanted to get rid of me. I didn’t care – I’d gotten what I wanted.
I spent hours searching the occult section of the library, and made silver bullets and wreaths of garlic, which I hung around my doors and windows. I bought a silver crucifix and had it blessed by a different priest this time. I never took it off. Finally I had made all my preparations and then I waited.
Yesterday was the end of the waiting. I was returning from the bank – I wanted a loan to make some improvements to my store – and I saw a young Korean girl, about thirteen years old. She was standing on the corner by the Bay Company store on Yonge Street as if looking for someone. As I drove by in my new VW Beetle, she whirled around and stared at me. She looked so familiar – a customer, maybe — that I slowed down and waved. Her eyes shone and her face lit up.
I slammed on my brakes. I could not believe what I saw. The girl looked exactly like Lizza. For a moment I forgot about everything except how much I missed my sister.
“Lizza! Oh my God, is it you?” I screamed and reached over to open the door as cars honked and swerved around me. I vaguely heard angry voices shouting at me, but the echoes of my own voice screaming Lizza’s name over and over made it impossible to understand what they said. Lizza began running toward me, her arms open. She was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
“Isabel!” she was crying. I could see the tears on her cheeks in the rearview mirror as she drew closer to the car.
I leaped out of the car and ran to her, throwing my arms around her. She smelled of cheap lipstick, cheap perfume and Ivory soap, just like always. I held her close and cried. My heart was just so full of joy to hold my sister again.
Still sobbing, I drew her to the car and bundled her into the passenger’s seat. Her face was bright with happiness. As I got into the driver’s seat she looked at me, grinning.
“Isabel, oh Isabel, it’s so good to find you again!”
The hair on the back of my neck rose. Lizza never called me Isabel. Not ever. For a panicky moment I wanted to push her out of the car, go speeding home and lock myself in my apartment for eternity. But I couldn’t. I had to try to put an end to this. I pressed the DOOR LOCK button with a trembling finger. The crucifix felt heavy between my small breasts.
“Oh, Lizza, I thought you were dead.” My fear gave a convincing emotional tremble to my voice. “Give me another hug, little sister.”
Lizza’s face contorted in a hideous grin and her eyes began to burn like coals as she reached out to grab me. Quickly I yanked the crucifix out from the collar of my blouse. She flattened herself back against the door.
“You bitch!” she cried. But it wasn’t Lizza’s voice. It was Nicholas’s that came from her throat. She glared at me with such hatred that the old familiar rage came boiling back.
With a hiss of rage, she made a snatching motion at the chain around my throat. “Give it up, Isabel. Give it up and come with me.” The deep voice boomed in the little car.
“No,” I replied. I reached under the seat, banging my head on the steering wheel in the process. I brought up the cheap little gun I still had and fired. This time the gun was loaded with silver bullets that I had made myself and held in the smoke of special incense from Mr. Ming, the herbalist, and then bathed in holy water for good measure.
Lizza screamed in agony. For a horrible moment I remembered that the demon Nicholas took over other people – innocent people. My heart pounded as I waited for her to turn into Mei Li or Maria from the store, or maybe just a stranger. But she didn’t. My car filled with a terrible stench. For the first time since before that day in my parents’ cellar, I screamed myself.
My sister had been dead for a year. Now her rotted skeletal remains lay on my passenger seat, bits of greenish-black flesh and stained fabric and clumps of moldy hair hanging from the bones. In her open, fleshless mouth I could see the wicked gleam of the bullet. It was wedged in her lower jawbone and it was smoldering. The same nameless dread that had sent me fleeing to Toronto now propelled me out of my car.
I fumbled for the DOOR LOCK button and shoved on the door handle. I half-leaped, half-fell into the street. A truck honked loudly at me. Brakes screeched and I rolled, barely escaping being crushed to death under its wheels. I scrambled to my feet and ran to the sidewalk.
Passers-by came over to see if I was okay. Then they looked into my car and saw Lizza’s corpse inside. They gasped and pointed and asked stupid questions and made faces. I just stared at my sister’s rotten face in the window, a silver bullet in her throat. The face that had once been so lovely, the throat that had sung the praises of the man-devil that killed her.
I heard someone throwing up on the sidewalk. It made the same splattery noise Elmer’s head had made when I blew it off.
A police siren sounded as the patrol car came up Yonge Street. I felt hot tears flowing down my cheeks and I wiped them away. It was finally over. I knew it was.
“Peace, little sister,” I whispered.
©Tianna Filley, 2017
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events
and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living
or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental.
Nicholas Dax Copyright © 2017 by Tianna Filley. All Rights Reserved.
No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
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