Note: The way this works is ‘Nathan Burgoine draws three cards that correspond to a genre, a setting and an object. Then we write a story using all three. This month the draws resulted in a horror story set at a blood drive involving a frog. I started writing before I realized I was invoking a very famous horror story! Enjoy!
Let Your Vengeance Fall To Sleep*
By Jeff Baker
“I heard the frogs again last night,” Eric said.
Eric’s apartment was on the edge of town, not too far from Cow Creek. Hearing frogs was not too unusual for this time of year. But I knew what he meant, and he was terrified.
I’d seen it before.
Eric Montpillier was my second cousin and we’d been helping out at the big “Count Dracula Blood Drive” decked out for Halloween in the middle of summer. The company we both worked for liked being thought of as being socially aware and spent a lot of time co-sponsoring community events. So there we were, wearing t-shirts with the company logo and a cartoony picture of Dracula baring his fangs. But it was all real to Eric; he firmly believed his side of the family was cursed. (“His side,” meaning we were only related because my widowed Uncle had married his widowed Mom.) He’d told me all about it one night after we’d finished making out. (Yeah, “kissing cousins,” he said.)
The curse on the Montpillier family started about a hundred and thirty years earlier, when one of Eric’s multiple great-uncles abruptly broke off his engagement to a girl. He had apparently found somebody richer. Anyway, the jilted fiancée screamed in his face that he and the young men in his line were cursed to violent, early death. When he laughed at her she supposedly walked to the pond and drowned herself screaming “Let your vengeance fall to sleep.” No one ever figured what that meant. It was the middle of summer and the frogs were croaking noisily in the pond. Eric’s great-great-something uncle died not long after in an insane asylum, reportedly raving about “the frogs they can never hear.”
I didn’t believe in curses, but I did know that a lot of the Montpillier men died in their 20s, but then a lot of people in the 1800s and early 1900s died young. Eric was 28 the week we were working at the blood drive. Every year Eric would hear the frogs in spring and summer and get nervous for a couple of weeks. Sometimes Eric would get like that when there were no frogs.
And last night, there had been frogs. I’d slept with my window open, the nights were cool enough and the air was refreshing. And the sound of the frogs had wafted in from the distant creek. I had heard them in the middle of the night, smiled, rolled over in my half-sleep and muttered something like “enjoy your orgy, froggies,” before dozing off. Eric, of course, had a different reaction. He was a nervous wreck. He stumbled around, dropped things, snapped at one of the volunteers and was generally no help. My boss told me to take him back to his apartment after noon, because we were busy at lunch. But we all heard the loud crash from outside at about 12:30. I looked around; Eric wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I’d hoped he had gone home.
We found Eric outside, next to the delivery truck whose brake had failed and it had rolled down the drive and hit the side of the building. Witnesses said Eric had been leaning against the building quite a ways away smoking a cigarette, he hadn’t been hit but he had screamed and fallen to the ground when the truck slammed into the building. Someone was performing CPR and they had called an ambulance, but it was too late. The verdict was a heart attack. My guess was he had died of fright. I didn’t believe in curses, but Eric had followed his family pattern and had died young.
The blood drive went on. I went on. Life went on. The seasons changed. And I wonder now about the meaning of “family,” especially with regard to curses. Eric and I weren’t related by blood, but we were close. I wonder how close is too close. Especially three months later, in October when I can hear the sounds despite the early freeze, when it could not be. And now, I’m driving away as fast as I can, heading for the biggest city I can find. I’ve got the radio cranked, as loud as it will go.
Trying to drown out the noise of the frogs dinning in my ears.
*Note: Title from “The Frogs” by Aristophanes.