AI assisted by Thersa Matsuura
One of the most bizarre and gruesome murders ever to take place on the continental United States occurred back on the first of April, 1969. Two couples were on a road trip to check out an infamous hippie concert called Woodstock with a T.
Everything started out fine.
In the van were Felix and his partner Vincenza — everyone called her Vinnie. And Dora Jane and her friend Shawnie. Along with Shawnie was his pet dog, everyone called: Mudders… Mudders was not, however, an ordinary dog. He had been bred for over thirty years by a cult in northern California who called themselves The Devil Dogs or simply “The Dogs.” Mudders was a rescue. Mudders was a pal.
Unfortunately, after three days on the road, in the middle of an abandoned ghost town, the young couples’ van got caught up in a squall that turned into an all-out thunderstorm. Lightning struck the radiator, flooding it with water. The engine overheated. Felix, Vinnie, Dora Jane, Shawnie and Mudders locked themselves inside, where they were unable to get out until the storm had blown over.
Once it had, they decided to leave the safety of their van and try to find help.
The five friends went door to door knocking. But no one was home. Truly it was an empty, dusty, trashy town. But why? What had happened here, and when? They were sure this wasn’t some strange coincidence or a prank or anything of the sort. Something about it felt so unusual. The atmosphere reminded them of an abandoned asylum they’d stumbled across in the woods last week after following that strangely colored yellow brick road. But that is another mystery for another day.
After about an hour, they turned down a side street. Shawnie and Mudders were loping along ahead of the rest, looking for somewhere to eat. Shawnie Shawnie is wearing baggy jeans and an oversized blue hoodie with his name misspelled on the back.
Suddenly they noticed a barn. It was odd. The paint was peeling, and the windows were courageously trying to fly up. The giant clock was completely devoid of needles, and that was puzzling.
On the door were the words: “Reserved for the Undead Horde. This side up.” There was no arrow.
This gave Shawnie a shock. “The Undead Horde” was the name he had coined for the five of them. He’d had a blast every night telling jokes and playing music and making everyone laugh by acting like a zombie. Shawnie thought everyone was a little undead-ish. Shawnie was a little weird.
All he wanted to do was sing, dance, play the guitar and eat fried chicken all at once. He just loved that there were times when no one would be laughing but him. And if he could have a whole lotta food that he could share with his dog Mudders, then life was better than life deserved to be. Mudders, for his part, was a hoot and carried around a dirty fork. Mudders was always ready.
“All right, gang,” Felix, standing there, all power in his boots, proclaimed. “We need to investigate!”
Together the five of them pushed open the squeaky door.
There they discovered the most horrible thing any of them had ever seen in their lives. All five fell down screaming at the horror of it. In the middle of the room, lit by a greenish, flickering light, splayed out on the sawdust floor was the splayed out corpse of a man. From pants up, his naked body seemed to be enwrapped in dark green oil slick fabric or gill flaps -— the exposed flesh was covered with a black and blue floral or Aztec-like pattern. It was intricately and carefully etched into the skin. His lips were orange and stiff, like a lifejacket. His eyes were sunken black stones, half floating above grey lumps of mannish flesh. His mouth, smiling, was fanged and twisted at the edges.
What was most horrifying, though, was that his stomach had been cut and there on the floor, spelled out in his own intestines was a message. In cursive it read:
“Greetings! I am Vampire Frank.”
It also included the words
“Peppers and the Screaming Yoof – Farm #5”. It listed a couple dates, too. April first and then two futures dates. April 30th and May 5th.
The five friends sat on the ground where they’d fallen for some time.
Finally, Felix spoke:
“Do you think I should kill him?” Felix said, getting to his feet. “If he really is a vampire like he’s written here, then I should kill him. We may all be in some kind of nefarious danger. Killing a vampire is what a brave man would do and I am nothing if not a-”
Vinnie made a yipping sound and hopped to her feet. She was wearing a cute patchwork dress in floral patterns. Her hair is carrot-orange and bobbed. Her skin is pale white like frost, and her eyes look like sesame seeds, chameleon-like, shifting in color, exotic, and beautiful. She brushed the dirt from her skirt, and rolled her eyes.
“He’s very, very, very dead,” she said. “Besides he gives me the creeps.”
Dora Jane who was in a black turtleneck sweater and jeans and her favorite teal vest with some extremely white sneakers was next to return to the standing position. She matter-of-factly directed Felix’s attention to the fancy intestinal script on the floor.
“How could he have written this message in his own guts? It might be a clue. But it just doesn’t add up.”
She had a point. Felix’s heart, cold and distant, formed a ball in the pit of his stomach.
Vampire Frank looked up at them from beneath his open mouth of bloody teeth. But even as the others backed away from him, they could not stop staring at the awful message on the floor.
Shawnie and Mudders crouched in the corner hugging each other. “Like this prophecy seems real enough to me and I feel guilty I had nothing to do with writing it in his bowel ropes, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it much. We need even more help now,” said Shawnie, scrambling backwards to the door with his dog in his lap.
The five carefully closed the door behind them and set out again to try and find help. Suddenly Mudders ran off barking. They followed. On the outskirts of town they found a small farmhouse. Its front door had been boarded shut and motion detectors that were planted everywhere started to softly glow as they approached. From within came the sound of singing. They crept up to the house and peeked in through the window. There, dancing to his own song, dressed in a red sequined shirt, a gold tie, black pants, and purple boots with his hair glued back into two pigtails was a middle aged man. A long rhinestone-studded necklace draped down his bare chest and it jingled as he started doing the mambo, cartwheels, and other gyrating dances.
He saw them ogling at him, smiled and motioned for them to come in the back door. It was standing open.
Mudders barked. None of the Shawnie proclaimed “Horde of the Dead” paid heed.
They all cautiously stepped inside and were surprised to see a large vintage disco ball hanging from the ceiling. Lava lamps glowed everywhere, along with the usual assorted burlap sacks, glass bottles, chains, leather belts, stuffed animals, and various other props you might expect.
A dozen or so taxidermied roadkill stood mangled on the kitchen table, eyeing them as they entered the room. But that wasn’t the spookiest thing. The spookiest part of the room was what sat behind a 1980s style turntable in front of a thick fog machine. It was a mannequin shaped like an old school zombie with holes for arms and a huge stomach full of shiny, super sugary candies that looked just like Smarties covered in silver spray paint.
Occasionally it would open its mouth and a recording of a robotic voice would say:
“Pound-pounds are the musical sounds of violence. Give me your pound-pounds or you will die. Do not make a sincerity violation of your rightfully inherited lives.”
“What are you kids doing here?” said the freely dancing man.
“Who are you?” asked Felix, rudely forgetting to introduce himself first.
“I’m Peter-Peter. I’m a farmer around these parts. I don’t get much company. I wanna thank ya’ll for coming out.”
He smiled at them again. It was then they noticed that there were holes in his lips where his teeth had pulled through his gums. They also noticed that he had no fingernails left.
“Sir,” said Dora Jane. She adjusted her glasses on her nose. “We just discovered a murder in the town. We need to get help.”
“Yes sir. It’s just horrible and he might be a vampire,” Vinnie added.
“Or a zombie!” Shawnie said, trembling. Despite his special name for his friends and his weird fascination for the undead, he was very afraid of zombies and vampires.
Peter Peter, the farmer, suddenly looked very nervous. His eyes darted from side to side.
“Oh, no, we don’t have no murders round here. You must be mistaken.”
Felix tried to convince the well dressed man, but he changed the subject.
“Why don’t you all stay for dinner? I’m making community spaghetti. I’ll be serving it in the basement.”
“Boy, that sounds like a good plan,” said Shawnie. “What do you say, Muds? Like community spaghetti sounds pretty good, huh?” He asked the dog who nodded enthusiastically.
Just then the doorbell rang. Peter Peter answered then quickly ushered in a cow.
“I’d like ya’ll to meet Nelly Girl,” he said. “She’s my only friend out here in this empty town. She gurgles.”
“Nelly Gurgles?” Dora Jane asked puzzled. “That’s your name for her?”
“Well, no. Nelly Girl is her name and she communicates with me by making a little gurgling sound.”
The cow sauntered around inside the room. She seemed to enjoy the disco lights and the fog machine. She made a few grunts.
“Mr. Peter Peter,” Felix said. “Can we borrow your phone? Our car is broke and we need to report this murder.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have one. Thank you. It was nice meeting you all. I’ll let you know when dinner is ready. And please come back anytime. You’re always welcome.”
With that he walked them to the door and said goodbye.
Felix, Dora Jane and Vinnie had to admit, that was a very suspicious man. Shawnie and Mudders had to admit they had never eaten Community Spaghetti before and wondered what it tasted like. There was nothing to do, but to keep looking for someone who could help. So they continued on, knocking on doors, until they reached a large red and yellow brick church with an old clock dangling from the steeple, ticking away the seconds. A large lengthy red carpet lead from a circular grassy area to two big black doors.
They followed the carpet and discovered another sign posted on the door. This one read:
“‘Welcome to The Heretic’s Repository of Satanic Rituals. Come to us for safe worship. This is a no-smoking establishment.’ ”
They pushed open the heavy church doors and were greeted with another fresh hell. The pews had all been pushed aside, leaving bare the pretty marble floor. The fading sunlight streamed through the colorful stained glass windows revealing the body on the floor. This time it was also a curious death. The corpse was positioned in the classic bookman’s pose. Hands on chest, mouth open and tongue lolling out the side of the mouth in a parody of a scream. It was wearing some kind of simple toga, long robe that ran from head to toe. Half of it was thigh height, the other half as a knee length skirt. The front was bunched up around the neck, and it was inside out while the back was a deep ruffled fabric covering the shoulders. One arm was pointing straight up at the ceiling. The five friends all looked up. There scribbled in blood was another message: “Greetings! I am Werewolf Herman. Don’t forget Peppers and the Screaming Yoof!” and the dates again.
“Come on, let’s get out of here while we still can,” said Shawnie. “Are you with me, boy?” Mudders whimpered.
All five tiptoed backwards out of the church and closed the doors.
“Guys, it’s getting dark,” Felix said. “All the town’s spooky yellow streetlights just turned on and we still haven’t found anyone to help or a phone. We need to split up and cover more ground. Me, Vinnie, and Dora Jane will go this way. Shawnie, you and Mudders go that way. Okay?”
“Jeepers! That sounds like a plan,” said Vinnie.
“We need more clues,” said Dora Jane.
They split up.
Shawnie and Mudders cautiously continued down the empty streets, jumping at their own shadows and stopping to gape at every out of place sound. Mudders began to growl and sniff the air. It was dusk and it’s hard to describe how creepy the town felt. There was the sense that something behind the windows was watching them. Dark blackness seemed to swallow the color of the sky and the sun from human sight like hungry jaws. If Shawnie turned quickly he thought he saw a curtain move. The only sound was their own breath, their pounding hearts and the occasional scurry of a rodent drawn down into the darkness by their presence.
Then suddenly from a lingering shadow stepped a very large and frightening figure. It was wearing a huge hooded robe that completely hid its face. Shawnie and Mudders felt their muscles turn to glue. Mudders tried to bolt for it but fear overcame his courage and he slid down against Shawnie in a panic. Their teeth clacked together loudly. The figure moved closer and reached out. Its face briefly visible. The mouth was filled with jagged, toothy teeth. Its eyes were open in a vacant cinder like stare and they spoke no words but the creature seemed to call them to it like a puppeteer might to his puppets.
The pair found their cowardice and feet pinwheeling took off down the street. The monster followed. Quickly.
The chase was epic. Over some invisible loudspeakers in town, they heard the sound of music — and upbeat song — as they fled. The sound of the creature’s oversized boots thundered on the pavement. Everywhere they turned it seemed to be waiting so that they had to beat a retreat and run another direction.
At one point, the demon monster cornered them in an alley. There was nowhere to run. Soon they would be food. But just when all was lost, Mudders took out his dirty fork he always carried and stabbed at the figure’s hooded face as if poking at a bug. The beast doubled over and Mudders flung him backwards with an overhead chop block that left him flat on his back beside the dumpster.
Mudders extracted his fork from the assailant’s hood/skull as he lay there stunned and defenseless. And the two fled, finally, jumping into a large haystack to hide.
Meanwhile, Felix, Vinnie, and Dora Jane were looking for more clues. Who was Vampire Hank and Werewolf Herman? What was the Peppers and Screaming Yoof, #5? What did the dates mean? And where was a phone? While Felix and Vinnie were discussing something or other, Dora Jane discovered some footprints that looked too large to be human. She called to her friends to help her examine them. But as she was walking backwards, headdown, she bumped into something and her glasses fell off.
It felt as if she had been kicked by a donkey. But without her glasses she couldn’t tell what had hit her. Dora Jane called out and Felix and Vinnie turned to see what was standing behind their friend. Dora Jane asked what they were caterwauling about when someone tapped her on the shoulder and handed her her spectacles.
“Thank you,” she said putting them on. When she did she saw what was standing over her. The demon itself. She looked upon it in horror. The creature had thin curly fangs, but it also had a mangey shaggy mane and talons on each of its fingers. Its face was hidden in a hood. And the most horrifying thing was its tongue, which seemed to hang out a mouth that was twice its size.
It had big feet in bigger boots and bony arms, wearing black silky gloves, reaching out. It was wearing a robe that was so long it dragged along the ground. It wasn’t just a general panic that hit her. It was a definite panic.
All three friends screamed and took off down the street. After running for a bit, they saw the old hay wagon that Vampire Frank had used to transport the human cattle. Next to it the pile of hay. They jumped in.
They crashed on top of Shawnie and Mudders!
“Oh, my hairdo,” cried out Vinnie.
“Shh,” Felix whispered. “He’ll hear you.”
They all got real quiet with only their little faces poking out from the hay. They saw something strange coming down the street, a group of six zombies milling around, arms linked, making moaning and yum yum sounds.
“Cool it, gang,” said Dora Jane. “There’s got to be a logical explanation.”
“Yeah, there’s a logical explanation all right,” said Shawnie. “We gotta get out of here and go home!”
The small zombie horde continued to move closer to the hiding friends. They were pointing randomly at houses as they stiff-legged it down the street.
“Look!” cried Mudders. Sure enough coming down the opposite end of the street was the large demon creature, making its way toward the zombies.
“If my calculations are correct,” said Dora Jane. “They’re going to meet right in front of this hay stack we’re hiding in.”
“Zoinks,” said Shawnie and swallowed hard.
“Something is strange about them,” said Vinnie. “Look at their clothes. They’re so stylish! Not like any zombie I’ve ever met and they smell like gently burning vanilla beans far off in the distance and untouched peonies that bloom in the bottom of the river that runs through my backyard.”
“It almost looks like they’re coming from a party,” Felix added. The monster and the zombie types were in front of them now, encircling the tall, hooded demon.
“Or GOING TO a party,” Dora Jane said. “I’ve got a hot idea!”
Dora Jane leapt from her hiding place on the haystack and with one one fell swoop, pulled the hood and the mask off the demon creature.
Revealing that the monster was none other than…
“Nelly girl?! ” Everyone cried in unison.
“Exactly,” said Dora Jane.
An hour or two later, in the Ol’ ghost town square, under a sparkly ring of dazzle-lights everyone gathered. There was Felix and Vinnie, Dora Jane and Shawnie, and, of course, Mudders. Joining them was Peter Peter the farmer who was now wearing a pair of cowboy boots, a C I A tuxedo and a toothy smile. He held a microphone in one hand. The six party-going zombies rocked back and forth from foot to foot, still linking arms. They looked incredible, all dressed up for a night out. But that’s not all, the unmasked Nelly Girl stood on her hind legs, in handcuffs. The sheriff scratched his head asked questions of traveling young folk.
Dora Jane explained that “Peppers and the Screaming Yoof! #5” was the name of a very cool, super-secret, rave house. It was raverific and a place young zombie-types went to blow off steam and be their true selves. Once inside the tent walls, their life became tolerable in ways humans could never experience. And there was nothing wrong with that. It was a beautiful thing.
The problem was Nelly Girl’s overly enthusiastic method of advertising the parties. Nelly Girl was an excitable cow, as cows go, and she had a dark side. She had a penchant for hunting down unattached and attractive supernaturals, called Shroomers, and after brutally dissecting them, painting on their torsos with her tail and using their blood, organs and entrails to advertise the next secret rave. In the town she was known as Bloodbag Lady Bovine and was not well liked. It’s the reason the townsfolk hightailed it.
Nelly Girl continued her murdering spree until the Horde of the Undead’s van broke down and they stumbled across two of the victims.
A police officer tried to maneuver the very tall Nelly Girl into the backseat of the squad car. But before going in, she turned and bellowed:
“I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for these meddling kids.”
“Thank you, kids. If it wasn’t for you, we’d never have solved this mystery,” the sheriff said.
Just then an old bus pulled up and stopped. It was painted with hundreds of neon colored handprints. The Giggly Goblins was written on the side of the bus. The doors squeaked open and out filed a very long line of partygoers. They were all dressed in incredible attire, fetish costumes, strange hairpieces, some carried spinning glow sticks, while others were decked out in a myriad handheld drums, tuned to a different drummer.
“Hey, where are you all going?” Felix asked one of the men dressed as a priest but wearing a horned mask, no shirt, and huge furry, belly dance pants.
“Tonight’s the Excitable Exorcism Rave,” he said.
“It’s going to be groovy,” said a woman wearing a giant black flower cluster on her head, a series of shedding feather boas over her zoot suit, one eye patch and obscene purple and yellow eye makeup. She had several books under her arm. “Come on, join us. It’s going to be held at the Malt Shop which is apparently where all the near illegal occult events take place.”
“Jinkies,” Dora Jane said, looking at her watch. “Today’s the first of April. The date written in Vampire Hank’s entrails and Werewolf Herman’s blood.”
”Well, I guess you know what that means,” said Vinnie, snapping her fingers and mussing up her hair.
Felix waggled his eyebrows, tore off his ascot and stuffed it into his back pocket and said, “Let’s get wasted!“
“That’s all right gang, but do you think we can grab a bite to eat first? Mudds and me are starving!” said Shawnie.
Peter-Peter spoke up. “Well, what do ya’ll think a Malt Shop does? It has all the best eats.”
“Then count us in!” said Shawnie.
The entire crowd laughed. Felix showed Vinnie one of his new dance moves.
Dora Jane slipped her hand into Peter Peter’s and said, “You ready to make some history?”