Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 7

     Jack descended into the hallway, his bag over his shoulder and his broom held ahead at the ready, when a sudden realization hit him. He was supposed to be cleaning the place that Stan just knocked over in one push. Muttering to himself, Jack grasped at the wall next to him until he found a light switch. Bare bulbs flickered on along an electrical line strung down the length of the hallway. The ground shook and the lightbulbs swayed gently from side to side.

     “I see she started the fun without me.” Jack hurried along the path until it branched out into a room that held more lived in furnishings. If it weren’t for the grisly mountings on the wall the place would have looked relatively harmless. Paranoid, perhaps, but overall mostly harmless. A round table sat in the middle of the room with only one chair next to it. It was set for a meal of some sort, but the food had long ago rotted into something resembling a paste. What was left squirmed with maggots and attracted a whole crowd of flies. Most of the flies in the room were more preoccupied with the trophies on the walls, which Jack had almost missed when he first entered the room.

     There were only two sources of light, one being a hole on the ceiling that led up to the surface and the other being a lamp in the far corner covered with a lily white lampshade that was, impossibly enough, still on. The trophies Creepy Bug Guy had collected were mounted on plaques and a plaque held a spot every three feet or so. Some of them were empty, but most of them had been fitted with little heads wearing Halloween masks. It would have been eerie enough, but Jack could make out the blank stares from the faces beneath that had long ago seen their last sunset. At some point in the past, they appeared to have been sprayed with something to keep them fresh, but nobody had sprayed them in a while and now insect nature took its course.

     The small corner dedicated to the kitchen was filled with a mess that Creepy Bug Guy had left and never cleaned up. Maybe he was dead? After all, the man had been working when Jack and his sister were children. There are days where time is a kindness and not a curse. A small bed in the far corner was the only other piece of furniture in the room. Directly to the left of the door, the whole wall from ceiling to floor was made up of insect cages. They made a humming wall of pets, thousands of long pent up insects, excited by the smell of human flesh and the series of rusty blades hanging along the ceiling that were in dire need of cleaning and a fire to melt down the metal.

     Three doorways led to other rooms and Jack decided it was best to explore both for his own safety and because the thought of staying in this room any longer made him feel slightly queasy. Not knowing which way his sister had gone, Jack closed his eyes and let the smells in the room hit him. It took him a few minutes before he located the scent he was looking for, leather and Lucky Strikes. The path to the left. The lights led him to another set of stairs and those stairs brought him up to another shed in equal disrepair.

     Jack’s sister was sitting next to the door, lighter in hand and cigarette drooping from her mouth, “So do you want the bad news first or the good news?”

     “I’m a bad news first kind of guy.”

     “Creepy Bug Guy is dead…I think.”

     Jack put his bag down and leaned it against the wall, resting his broom over his shoulder and sitting down on the other side of the door, “You think? He clearly hasn’t been home in months and there’s no way he would leave his pets and his trophies here. I admit, losing out on the chance to kill him ourselves qualifies as bad news, but if he’s gone that’s all that matters. He’s gone from this world, thank whatever God there is for small favors.”

     A roar echoed out from the woods. “Yeah, so here’s the thing. If he’s dead than he left behind a very big pet and if he isn’t dead than he turned into a real creepy bug man, as in an actual human insect. I thought I would wait for you before pursuing it.” Sam caught the blank look Jack was giving her, “Oh, don’t be such a sourpuss. It’ll be just like the old days.”

     Jack rose to his feet and gripped his long canvas bag tightly, “I left the old days behind.”

     Sam rose swiftly to join, “Says the man about to kill a giant bug monster.”

     Jack pushed through the door and moved on without looking back, “Just watch my back.”

     Sam faded to the left and Jack headed straight forward. The trees swayed slightly in the wind, making the leaves rustle and causing the hairs on the back of Jack’s neck to stand on end. After what seemed like an eternity, he reached a clearing with a cabin in the middle of it. A cabin? They must be close to the campground that was near here, likely the reason why the creepy bug guy set up here in the first place.

     At first glance, it was a cabin but on closer inspection it looked to be more of a wash house. One that, judging by the state of the walls, hadn’t been used in a long while, three summers or more. A small trickle of water had leaked out of the front door and vanished into the grass surrounding the building, which had gotten quite tall and uneven. Crossing the clearing he reached out and touched the wood of the cabin. A piece of wood fell away and hit the ground. Jack felt the shift in the air before the blow came. He ducked down and a razor sharp talon rammed into the wall, showering splinters on Jack. Jack whirled around and lashed out with his broom, raking the stomach of his attacker.

     The figure that attacked Jack had the body of a man but the arms that stuck out of the ragged sleeves ended in fly talons. The face was something between human and fly, the eyes had begun to facet but not so much that they had lost the human look that was originally there. The mouth, however, was entirely that of a fly and had long ago lost the ability to speak. The ability to speak seemed moot, since any human intelligence had obviously gone with this new transformation. The wound Jack had left across its stomach didn’t seem to slow it down at all. Thick green liquid seeped out from the deep gashes Jack could see under the tattered remains of the shirt it wore. With stunning strength, the creature brought it’s other talon down into Jack’s shoulder and pressed him to the dirt. Jack grabbed the talon and started to pull it out but the creature rapped Jack on the forehead hard enough to make him dizzy. His vision wobbled as his mind flitted to random things. That fly face is so dirty. When was the last time it was cleaned? The sky seems so far away from here. Somebody had lied to his sister about what exactly to expect on this job or she would have brought more people. Jack’s hand slipped from the fly claw as he struggled to focus. Time slowed as the first talon popped out of the wall, sending a shower of splinters to the ground. Cheap wood, we can do better.

     The talon started its descent and Jack closed his eyes tightly only to open them in shock when he heard a hollow thunking noise. Above him, planted squarely into the killers chest was a familiar croquet mallet, “I will never complain about what you do with your money ever again. “

     Stan gave the creature a kick to encourage it to move. The kick ended up sending it careening across the small field and into a tree. Jack ripped his jacket off and tossed it to the side. Clearly, a new suit was in order. Ripping his shirt sleeve off, he used it to tie off the arm at the shoulder while Stan watched over him, keeping an eye on the downed foe. The Stan’s mallet blow seemed to have dazed it, but it hadn’t cracked its skull and Jack had the impression that Stan had not held back.

     “And where did my loving sister go!?” Sam hadn’t been seen for some time. The former killer known to the siblings as Creepy Bug Guy struggled up to a sitting position, wobbly on legs that weren’t used to carrying that amount of weight in those proportions. Getting up to its feet seemed to take a lot of concentration, perhaps the blow Stan had given it had rattled it after all. Once the creature had its feet again, it charged in a rage, aiming its talons for both Jack and Stan.

     Then Sam finally showed herself. It all happened in an instant. There was a blur of motion and the flash of a blade before the killer fell to his knees and hit the ground face first right in front of Jack. “I’ve seen you looking worse.” Sam twirled a blade in her fingers idly, “The old you wasn’t this sloppy.”

      Jack got up as quickly as he could manage, “The old me was better informed! We were supposed to be hunting a man older than father with no special abilities, not Flyzilla over here. What the hell did he even do to himself to get like that?”

     Sam shrugged apologetically as if she knew nothing about it. Her jacket crinkled slightly with her movements. “Creepy Bug Guy ran across some old tech, apparently. My job was to track him down and make sure he stays down. I thought I would bring you along for back up and fun.”

     “For fun?” The wind suddenly died down, leaving a deathly calm in the air. “You knew this,” Jack pointed behind him at the ruined latrine, “and this,” Jack held up his ruined shirt sleeve, “would happen and you didn’t think that maybe it would be a good idea to tell me what was going on?”

     “Calm down, little brother. It’s just a shirt. Besides, I’ve got the big book of sealing. We put him in there and nobody else gets hurt.” Sam tugged out a small leather-bound book with some effort from the pocket of her jeans.

     “No. You got me involved in this shitty job, so we’re doing it my way. Besides, Mr. serial killer here won’t sit still long enough for you to seal him anyways.” Jack reached into his bag and dropped the broom from his free hand.  The metallic bristles hit the ground with a loud clanking sound. From the bag, he pulled what appeared to be a simple mop. Jack turned to Stan, “Did you bring The Bag with you?”

     Stan started backing away slowly before bumping into the wall, “Yeah,”

     “Bring it here. We’ll keep Creepy Bug Guy entertained until you get back. I’ll give you around three minutes before I start docking your pay.” Jack tightened his makeshift tourniquet around his shoulder before stretching his arm a bit. Dropping the mop, he held up his empty hands. That mop was a last resort, Jack wouldn’t use it until he needed to.

     Stan was never a runner at the worst of times, but he shambled off as fast as his large legs could carry him.

     Sam patted her brothers back hard, causing him to wince a bit, “I thought you said you were retired. You’re a cleaner right?”

     Jack checked both of his arms and cracked his knuckles, “I’m making an exception for him. And after we’re done, you’re helping me clean up and fix what’s left of the underground tunnel.” The expression on his sister’s face was payment enough for the pain in Jack’s shoulder.

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