The Alleged Legend of Dalmus

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sometimes the stories we hear as children aren't just stories.

Submitted: September 10, 2010

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Submitted: September 10, 2010

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The wicked are sometimes punished, but usually rewarded, in one way or another. How can a twisted mind truly determine the difference?

The man on the bicycle looked off to Neil.
He couldn’t put his finger on it, the solution just beyond the grasp of his mind, but there was something wrong. He was riding an old fashion bike with large, thin wheels, high off the ground, rolling down the roadside as he waved enthusiastically, the straw hat atop his head casting shadows on his face. Not that there was much sunlight left in the day, the moon becoming more prominent by the minute.
The dark thirty, Neil thought, when the spooks start coming out. He had heard countless stories of the dark thirty by his Gramma, legends passed down from the days of wilderness and isolation that had been her youth.
And the man looked like something right out of one.
He looked just like Dalmus.
On his bike, clad in battered denim overalls over a red checkered shirt, heavy work boots pushing along.
“That’s just an old wives’ tale,” Neil told himself, smiling at his ignorance. Shaking his head, he waved back as the two passed, the man’s face still black beneath the hat. Neil felt stupid, to let such a thing bother him. Here he had driven nearly six hundred miles to his uncle’s farm in the middle of nowhere, and was getting all shook up by some local bumpkin on a bicycle.
His smile faded as he glanced in the mirror and saw the man riding behind him.
Lost in thought, Neil had missed the man turning around and speeding up to catch the car. Neil was only going about thirty five, fast enough on back country roads that sometimes hadn’t been resurfaced since Nixon resigned.
But the man was riding like the dickens, still waving heartily.
Maybe he needs help, or mentally not all there? Neil asked himself, trying to find a solution to the problem. Should I stop? Keep going? Ignore him? What if something’s wrong and he needs help?
All doubt passed quickly as a loud clank let out, startling Neil to lucidity. He looked back to see that the man hadn’t been waving a hand at all, but a hatchet, which it now used to strike the rear of the car. It took a few moments for it to set into his mind that the rider behind him had only one hand, the hatchet jutting out from his left cuff.
Mental ice cracking, Neil floored the accelerator and quickly left the man behind, still wildly waving his weapon for all to see as he pedaled on.
A little while later, as the sun finally released it’s hold to the night, he passed a sign barely the size of a bumper sticker that announced his arriving at a town.
LAZARUS
He remembered that the directions had said to go through the town, so he pressed on, the memory of the man on the bike still fresh and a tad unsettling as the dark grew more pitch, the road harder to see. And, to make matters worse, the low fuel light flicked on, lighting up the dashboard as he gripped the wheel tight enough to make his knuckled white.
Neil let out a sigh of relief as he saw lights up ahead and the familiar lit Texaco sign. He turned in, hoping that they were open, and was pleased to see an older woman sitting behind the counter inside.
After filling up, he ran inside to pay and, as an after thought, check the directions for any mistakes, figuring that the woman must be a local. She greeted him with a smile as he came inside. The night was beginning to turn cold and the store seemed just the right temperature after being in the car so long.
“Hi. I had thirty on gas and I might need directions,” Neil spoke as he stopped at the counter. The woman was sitting on a high stool. Almost too high in fact, causing her to appear like a frog, top-heavy and thick necked..
“Sure. Where ya headin’?” she asked, setting down a tattered Donald E. Westlake paperback and sitting forward.
“My uncle’s farm is supposed to be out this way. I was told get stay on 3248 till I hit 465. Am I going the right way?”
“Oh, you missed the turn. Who’s your uncle?”
“James Oswalt. Most of my family used to live around here.”
“Old Jimmy Oswalt, huh? He’s a good guy. Usually comes in once a month or so, gets what he needs. Haven’t seen much traffic up his place’s way.”
“Yeah, No one’s been down here in awhile, Uncle Jimmy being how he is. My mom gets worried and wanted me to make an appearance, see how he was doing, you know. Considering maybe one of us moving down here. But, you said I missed the turn?”
“Yes’r about five or six miles back. Direction you got were probably from the other way. There’s two ways to get on 465, one through town, the other, well, not. Kinda surprised you missed it.”
“Must’ve been when I saw that guy. Strangest thing but I saw this guy on a bicycle . . ”
“And he had a hatchet instead of a left hand?” she asked and Neil felt floored. He had really seen it, the man was not only real, but other people knew about it. Shouldn’t there be warnings for that sort of thing, maybe a road sign. He could picture it in his mind, a yellow diamond featuring the outline of a straw-hatted man on a bike with a hatchet.
It would certainly get your attention.
Neil wanted to make a remark about these unused warnings, but could only bring himself to nod.
“He’s been out there for several years now. Actually, he starting riding up and down that stretch about the time your uncle went to Jesus. Just stay in your car when you see’em.”
“My uncle went to Jesus?” he asked, wondering if he had been held out of the loop about his uncle, perhaps something very important.
“Oh, I mean he found God. What do you remember about him?”
“He was never a religious person, I can tell you that.”
“Well a few years ago, he started showing up to the church, singing just as loud as everyone else, if not louder. Started paying tithing and all. He really surprised a lot of people.”
“What made him change?”
“Don’t know. Maybe the rider had something to do with it.
“Is he dangerous?”
“The rider? Just stay in your car when you see’em.”
“Sorry. He just kinda threw me off. Reminded me of an old story my Gramma told me. About this thing called Dalmus.”
“A scarecrow built by a lonely farmer that came to life after the farmer killed a little girl and put her heart in it’s chest?”
“Yeah. And the scarecrow goes crazy or something and kills all the farmer’s chickens. Farmer decides to burn it, because how else are you gonna kill a scarecrow? Burns off the left hand, but Dalmus kills the farmer with a hatchet.”
“And skins him. Truly a sad story,” she responded, shaking her head. My God, Neil thought, she’s acting as though it really happened.
“Yeah. But it’s just a story,” he said, his tone coated with hope that what he believed was true. She looked at him levelly and shrugged her shoulders.
“Who knows,” she replied and looked back down at the book laying open on the counter.
“Well, thanks anyway,” Neil said as he walked out the door, giving a slight wave of his right hand. He drove out, heading back the way he’d come, hoping he’d miss that rider if it was still out there pedaling away.

He saw the turn, clear as day, as he rolled down the road at thirty. He’d seen no sign of the rider, thanking his lucky stars, and turned onto 465. He wondered to himself how he’d missed the big green sign announcing the road, but dismissed it as his mind being pre-occupied.
He traveled down 465 for maybe ten miles before the saw the turn-off for Oswalt Lane. Many of the roads out in the boonies were named after the sole occupant of the thoroughfare. Hence, had Neil turned a few miles earlier down Turner Road, he’d come to a farm owned by the Turners and nothing else. These side roads were perfect for the area, but made Neil just a tad uneasy.
The oil-top ended fifty feet down, hard packed clay and dirt creating a beaten path more than a road, a dust trial behind the car like the tail of a comet. He could hear rocks bouncing up here and there, trying to avoid the largest of them, the twin ruts in front of him becoming deeper and deeper. The road had no shoulder, like most of the roads he’d traveled down there, the woods closely bordering slight ditches, thick over-grown grass hiding how deep they may have been.
The street continued to narrow little by little until it was barely a single lane, the branches scratching the sides of the car, Neil worrying about the paint. He saw a break in the wood in front of him at the furthest reach of the high-beams and smiled. Beyond he could make out the lights from the farm house, a low, flickering glare from the barn.
He parked the car behind his uncle’s beat up truck, the tail gate down, bed full of old hay. The air was cold, a slight wind blowing into his face, the sweet smells of the country wafting about. Neil always noticed the silence, no cars driving by, no people talking about nothing, just the wind in the trees and the creak of the woods.
The porch light was on over the front door and Neil rang the bell, concerned when he didn’t hear a ringing from inside. He waited a few moments before knocking loudly, the noise echoing in the dark.
Again, no one answered, and fearing the worst, he tried the door, finding it locked. He started around the side of the house, careful to avoid any sink holes of discarded lawn equipment that might obstruct in his path. The back porch was screened in and dark, the bulb burned out long before. Neil noticed the reek of mildew of old dirt as he closed the screen door behind him and looked at the back door. Not only was it unlocked, but stood slightly ajar, reminding him of the old joke about a door not being a door. He kept one hands outstretched in front as he walked, the door creaking as it swung open, the hinges giving off puffs of rust.
The inside was darker than he expected and it took him a moment to find the light switch as he headed into the kitchen. A layer of dust sat on every surface, cobwebs adorning any nook or cranny possible. He noticed a set of boot prints that traversed the littered floor, allowing slight glimpses of green linoleum beneath the fine ashy carpet.
 “Uncle James,” he called into the silence and received only more silence for his trouble. As he moved to the livingroom, or den as his uncle had always called it, he saw that one of the lamps had been left on near the window, hence the light from outside. The television was broken, the screen a crater formed by an unknown asteroid. Most of the furniture was ripped and bleeding cotton, a few pieces he had remembered were also gone, the outline of their existence still rested on the floor.
He found the rest of the house much of the same, everything left as though it hd been sitting that way for a long time without someone touching or moving anything. He didn’t even find any more boot prints.
Neil stopped dead in the kitchen, running his hands through his hair and trying to decide what was going on. He pulled put his cell phone and wasn’t too surprised when he noticed that he received no bars. Sliding it back in his front pocket, he spied a land line against the wall next to a Billy Bass that had seen better days. He picked up the handset but found no dial tone and set it back down. He remembered the light that he had seen from the barn and began to head that way, closing the back door behind him, pulling it shut with a grunt.
The barn stood maybe a hundred feet back, the front drive splitting off to another dirt track that led out past it to the pastures behind. He began to walk the distance, the light in the barn becoming brighter as he moved. He found himself slightly relieved when he heard something moving around in there and sighed loudly.
The noise was coming from the loft above and he moved to get a better glimpse, expecting to see Uncle James moving hay or working on this or that. Instead, he caught a glimpse of that rider, straw hat still in place. He walked quietly to garner a better vantage point, watching as the rider worked bent over, doing something that he couldn’t decipher. After a moment, the rider turned and held up the shiny piece of cloth in it’s hand so that the light could catch it better. That was when Neil came to two conclusions: one, that rider was Dalmus, the second that the bastard was stretching some kind of skin..
He saw a pair of his uncle’s overalls laying on a barrel a few feet away and took a look at them, noticing the blood that stained much of the cloth. As he set them back down, he heard a sound close behind and spun to see Dalmus standing at the edge of the loft, staring at him.
Neil had been right, if it was anything or anybody, it was Dalmus.
Perhaps six feet tall and stripped of it’s hat, the cloth face and button eyes gazed at his, the left hand missing, a hatchet shoved down into the nub.  He noticed something strange about the unclothed portions of Dalmus’ body, coming to the realization that the burlap from which the scare crow had ordinally been fashioned was replaced with skin, still gleaming in the light.
And Neil didn’t have to look far to find the source.
Behind a stack of hay he found Uncle James, skinned and left to rot, the flies having their way. He spun in time to see Dalmus lowering itself from the loft and he began to run for the car. He slammed the barn door closed behind him, a heavy thud coming from the other side not a moment later.
In the dark it was still hard to see, but Neil made due as best he could. He knew the general direction the car was in and headed that way, clearing the distance to the house before hearing the barn door open behind him.
He made it to his car in time to throw himself inside and tear into reverse. Careful not to blow his transmission, Neil roared down the driveway, Dalmus running to catch up. He swung out into the road and shifted to drive as the hatchet came down on the windshield and he hit the gas, the safety glass holding. He tried not to drive too fast, knowing every mile he put between himself and Dalmus was a blessing. Town was the best option, he supposed, to at least try to get help. They probably wouldn’t believe him, but damnit, he had to try.
He glimpsed the city limit sign as he drove by, little but a twinkle in the night. Soon the lights from town began to bleed into the night as he came around the curve and saw the fill-in station. Jumping out of the car, he ran to the front door, only to see a Closed sign resting in the window. He didn’t see any lights on inside and started to jog back to the car when a sound caught his attention. A high pitched squeaking, like an old hinge or an unoiled bicycle chain.
Understanding hit him like a brick and he jumped back into the car, heading off quickly, Dalmus just coming into the hallow of street light, riding like hell fire oh it’s bicycle, hatchet waving in the air.
“Shit,” he said to himself as he looked for a light, an open door, any sign of life in the town, but failed to find any. He saw the municipal building and pulled up in front, the light on in the front foyer. He began to yell as he ran toward the door, a police officer heading toward the glass door to decipher what was happening.
“The hell you yelling about?” the officer asked as Neil ran past him into the station.
“Lock the door. He’ll get in,” Neil said, looking around for anyone else in the area.
“Who? Whats going on?” the officer asked as he locked the front door and something hard hit the outside. Both men turned and looked out at the scare crow, adorned in rotting skin that had been partially tanned. The buttons had been replaced with eye balls, held in place by eyelids sown over the top and bottom. The mouth hung slack, open to reveal the blood stained straw behind. Dalmus ran it’s good hand over the glass, leaving bloody trails as it cocked it’s head to the side.
“Thats what I’m talking about,” Neil told the officer, pointing at the creature outside
“What is that thing?” the officer asked as Dalmus began to beat on the glass. Neil knew that the glass wouldn’t last long with that hatchet.
“Don’t worry what it is, just shoot it,” Neil yelled ta the officer only a moment before the front door fell inward and Dalmus was after them. The officer got off a few shots, streaking through the straw easily, before the hatchet came down on his skull, the bone giving way to the driving blade.
Neil ran for the rear of the station, closing every door he passed through, barricading any possible. He reached a rear door and took off through it, running into the night once again, the side of splintering wood behind him. Heading into the woods, he tried to stay along the edge, looking for any type of shed or out building to hide in. He knew in a chase, Dalmus would win. Hell, how couldn’t it?
He saw a big, sturdy shed behind a house and ran to the door, slipping inside and heading to the back. Apparently the shed was used for storage as decorations of every season stood haphazardly stacked in every direction, old artificial Christmas trees, still assembled, laid in a stack in the back corner, and here he gravitated. He began to work his way into the pile as he heard something on the sheds front porch. Sliding till he hit the floor, covered by trees, he watched as Dalmus looked through the window, eyes grazing across from left to right.
Content with it’s search, Dalmus turned and continued to run along the border of the woods.
After a few minutes a hanging silence, Neil worked his way out of the trees and walked back out into the night. He headed back toward the station, bent forward and darting shadow to shadow. He stopped at the end of a fence a few blocks form the car and looked up and down the street. No sign of Dalmus.
He trotted back to the car and began to open the door when he looked down to the see the front tire was sliced open. He walked around the car, finding the other three had met a similar fate.
“Shit,” he said under his breath as he kicked the rear bumper. He paced back and forth, hands clasped together on top of his head, trying to create on idea worth executing. Then it came to him.
Neil ran back to the gas station, breaking into the front window and working his way inside. He raced down the aisles, looking for supplies. He grabbed a couple of glass drink bottles and poured them out onto the floor, running back outside after stopping to pick-up a few shop towels and a lighter.
He was almost to the pumps when an idea hit him and he ran back inside. The [pumps were probably off for the evening, and it took a few moments of searching till he found the cut on switch. He darted back out and filled the bottles three-quarters with gas before replacing the nozzle in it’s cradle. He corkscrewed the rags into the bottle necks and titled them upside down for a moment to get the rag wet.
It didn’t take long for Dalmus to appear, riding on it’s bike, searching for it’s lost prey. It walked to the broken window and looked through, leaning into the hole as Neil snuck up form behind. He light the first rag and Dalmus turned to face him. Hatchet raised, it came forward, catching Neil off guard as he threw the bottle to the ground at his feet, flame shooting up onto them both. Dalmus began to shriek, flailing it’s arms as Neil fought to put out the flames that were eating away ate his jeans.
Neil moved backward, slapping at his legs, knocking over the second bottle. He lifted it up, pulled out the rag and threw the liquid onto the burning doll. It continued to scream, high pitched like a slaughtered pig. He back pedaled until he tripped and fell back onto the pavement. Dalmus continued to struggle, the skin burning off, the flames growing larger as the straw began to go up. After a few moments, the doll collapsed, after twenty minutes, there was next to nothing left.
After waiting until the straw was all burned to ash, Neil sat down next to the gas station’s front door, adrenaline still pumping.  He remembered the officer at the station and walked back, moving away from his mutilated car and passing through the broken front entrance. The officer still laid in the floor, blood pooling around his head, eyes gazing far away. Neil picked up a magazine from one of the waiting tables and sat down behind the desk, awaiting daylight and a lot of explaining.


© Copyright 2018 Frank Raud. All rights reserved.

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