Read Scary Creek Online

Authors: Thomas Cater

Scary Creek







Where the blood of
human sacrifice has sanctified the earth, screaming things abound.”










“There are ghosts in the jungle about the waters of
the Tonie Sap,”
the village people
murmured; “Ghosts of kings and queens and elephants, back there where the tigers
howl and the gibbons swing from bough to bough, where trees grow from the roofs
of ruined buildings that were once larger than mountains.”






This book may
not be reprinted without the written consent of the author. 

Thomas Cater, 16
Bette Lane, Hurricane, WV, 25526.





Chapter One

  There was a time in my life when the mere mention of
the word
would have provoked nothing but resentment and
derisive laughter from me, but now I am not so sure. I have spent too many days
and nights in this house on Scary Creek to say I know anything for certain.  I
am not a student of the occult, not in the traditional sense. I have not spent
my life on a university campus surrounded by ancient manuscripts and pieces of
tattered papyri in search of the unknowable. My knowledge of the transcendent
comes from the simple fact that as a photojournalist and a contributor to
magazines and wire services, I travel. I have lived in countries that leave
indelible marks upon one’s soul and subject one’s mind to subtle influences.
Humble circumstances nevertheless conditions that have predisposed my mind and
heart to intimations from the
other side

I am a photojournalist only by coincidence. A few
noteworthy credits secured my professional fate years ago. I am by nature a repository
of unassailable dreams, the most passionate of which include following in the
footsteps of Marco Polo from Venice to China, sailing a canvas boat from
Newfoundland in the legendary wake of Saint Brendan the Irish monk, rediscovering
America and circumnavigating Australia in an ultra-lite. I have spent years
preparing psychologically to follow Sinbad the Arab sailor’s perilous voyage
from Oman to China. Even now I long to raft the lengths of the Yangtze, Amazon
and Nile rivers.

There has always been fertile soil in my mind for the
cultivation of even the most forbidden and sinister dreams. I felt those dreams
take root when I witnessed Abidji tribesman  along Africa’s Ivory Coast commit acts
of self-mutilation prescribed by the spirits that possessed them. I felt those
feelings quicken in India when I witnessed worshipers of Kali -- Siva’s black
and shining treacherous queen -- mutilated their bodies for her pleasure. I
have also observed those mesmerizing powers in rare Chinese photos of men
suffering the excruciating ‘death of a thousand cuts
I have always
felt compelled to seek out and rediscover the sacred ancient places where the
blood of human sacrifice has sanctified the earth.

A rash of careless injuries precipitated my return to
Washington from Southeast Asia. I fractured my kneecap and broke several
fingers while exploring ruins in the ancient city of Angkor Thom, Cambodia. Wearing
the same sweaty boots and socks for days on end also damaged my feet. I became
indifferent to my personal health and safety, and I needed time to re-evaluate
my state of mind and my dreams. I was experiencing frequent trepidation about
life; mine in particular. The thought of dying on foreign soil and falling
under the jurisdiction of alien deities, whose rituals and ceremonies I am only
remotely familiar, inspired too many anxious moments and interfered with the
performance of my obligations. It was not a significant consideration when
viewed from ten thousand miles, but quite different when the icons glared down on
me from every jungle ledge and temple.


are ghosts in the jungle about the waters of the Tonie Sap,”
the village people murmured, “ghosts of kings and
queens and elephants, back there where the tigers howl and the gibbons swing
from bough to bough, where trees grow from ruined buildings that were once
larger than mountains.”


While recuperating in DC, I spent a year compiling a
book of ‘death camp’ photos. It was a bizarre concatenation of pictures
juxtaposing fields of mangled bodies with religious bas-reliefs, statues and
ancient temple ruins. Death and divinity sprawled in grand repose on every
page. It was a stretch from my early endeavors at
a truckers’
magazine, or my efforts to promote a small publication glamorizing the trials,
tribulations and indiscretions of young female federal employees.

My coffee table documentary attracted the attention of
one small publisher whose enthusiasm for my work outweighed monetary
considerations. The advance was small but sales were encouraging and the book
went into a second printing within the year. A major book publisher offered to
buy reprint rights with a small advance and royalties that hinted at financial
independence, and I jumped at the offer.

Things were going well. I was working part time and earning a few
dollars taking pictures for AP when I discovered a distant relative had also died
and left a small trust and real estate in northwest Washington, D.C. My
benefactor was a part of the family I knew very little about. Apparently, he
was heirless and died a horrible death. The executor of the estate was somewhat
reluctant to speak about it, but eventually confided to me that

cats’ had devoured him

A police investigation
that he had fallen on
his basement steps and died of a stroke. He was a recluse and occupied the
entire house with nearly a dozen cats. It was nearly a year before anyone
realized he was missing. The cats turned the house inside out searching for
food, consumed everything edible, including leather furniture, and eventually
began to feed upon each other. A few neighbors noticed
but no one complained. A tradesman sensed something peculiar about the
disreputable condition of the porch and convinced authorities to investigate.

Driven mad by hunger, the cats had tor
every container
to shreds in every cabinet and pantry in the house. Feline teeth and claws
perforated cans, paper and plastic containers. Every room was filled knee deep with
litter and ragged remnants, including gnawed and fragmented bones. Police suspected
that some might have belonged to a man. No one could imagine how long the cats
survived by breeding and devouring each other. Their source of water, authorities
was a sump-pump
water seep
in through the basement walls. The horrific event
posed an intriguing problem in thermodynamics.

Trustees refurbished the townhouse into apartments and
leased them to upwardly mobile professionals. Because of my work
and travel
Asia, months occurred before I learned of my inheritance. Within twenty-four
hours of receiving notice, however, I had moved my meager collection of art and
artifacts into one of the vacant apartments.

I spent a portion of the inheritance on a 10-year-old
used recreation vehicle, a veritable land yacht. I thought of it as the kind of
luxury vehicle Aristotle Onassis would have taken pride and pleasure in owning
if he worked for a living. The RV purchase was atypical of my usually
parsimonious nature, but the sudden acquisition of expendable wealth had
overwhelmed me. It was my descent into indulgence,
my stately pleasure dome
on wheels.

The RV provided me with a new will and greater mobility.
Tooling down the highway in $35,000 worth of second-hand decadence made me feel
as if I were once again in control of my life, the master of my fate, the
captain of the ship, or land yacht, and no longer subject to the whims of
fortune, good or bad. I began to concede that one’s destiny did not necessarily
depend on whether one adhered to the traditional codes of charitable messiahs,
bloodthirsty Asian gods, thieving warlords, dictators, or diabolical truckers, only
expendable wealth mattered.

On occasions, I would reflect upon the cruel
misfortune of my benefactor, Rufus C
Dangerfield, but realized there was not much I could
do to express my gratitude. The few remaining bones were sufficient to identify
him, but no one knew with any certainty what had actually happened. I was
unable to fathom how a man living in the midst of a bustling metropolis like DC
could fall heir to such a horrifying fate.

Returning from the fleshpots and killing fields of
Asia, I, who had made every effort to seek out the darkest corners of the planet
understand there mysteries, discovered that under the most civilized
conditions, a
veil of psychic darkness existed that could not easily
I tried to imagine what life was like for the cats: a safe
had become
their living hell. Stalked day and night, they waited for
die, for
brothers and sisters to tear them apart. Eventually, one lone cat would
survive, but endless hunger and the ghosts of previously slaughtered cats would
madness. If ever a house was ripe for a haunting …

They were not comforting thoughts. Whenever they occurred
I heedlessly opened a door or window to let in a breeze, or to release the
spirit of an errant cat. It was rather intriguing to
cats may
have devoured an esteemed relative.

Months after moving into the townhouse, I began to
experience other unusual and inexplicable events. I learned that in the early
1900s the house belonged to a famous theosophist and personal acquaintance of
Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Mary…something or other. Occult gatherings,
table-rapping, levitating tambourines and ghostly images were the order of the
day. Local historians advised me that many famous Washington personalities once
gathered around a séance table in my dining room. Sometimes I am inclined to
believe the trip wires are still in place waiting for someone to work them
because, on several occasions, I have heard the strangest sounds.

I was contending with the doubt and trepidation I had
faced and photographed in Asia. It would have taken more than a glib-tongued
evangelist or a movie on demon possession to convince me that life and death
amounted to more than a series of random or arbitrary accidents. The afterlife,
I concluded, was only a waking hallucination. After all,
what function
could a spirit world serve? It was a situation, so vague and temporal, as to
offer only the slimmest of hope to those not prepared to shuffle off the mortal
coil. It offered only dubious rewards to those who could not concede that man
was just another elaborate hoax of nature destined to return to the dust from
whence he came. Some egos were just too great to admit to such inevitable
conclusions. I however had few misgivings about death. I knew with certainty it
amounted to no more than the corruption of flesh, a condition we were all
destined to endure. Then I met Elinore.

I can hardly believe that what has happened has
actually occurred. It was not long before events in my life began to take a
curious turn. I lost my job with the
, book sales began to decline and
investments I'd inherited in Appalachian oil and gas stocks bottomed out. I
could not find the motivation to work no matter how hard I tried. I spent too
much time lounging around my apartment listening to curious sounds
that came from
nowhere in particular, but everywhere in general. The sounds, not unlike
voices, did not speak to me but spoke around me. For several months, I thought
the voices were coming from neighboring houses or apartments, but my efforts to
locate and understand them were fruitless.

I started having equally strange and repetitive dreams
involving old stone houses choked with vines dripping from three hundred
year-old rotting trees. Tangled within the snaking arbors were tiny naked
babies with orange eyes as bright as tracer bullets and silent sucking mouths
that had forgotten how to scream.

When I told Myra, the Polish poet and
married -- while riding the ripple of success -- about the dreams and the
babies, she stopped caring whether I found another job, or even continued to
look. An artist and an illustrator, she helped me scope out the book on death
camps and killing fields and eventually moved into my house. You can imagine my
shock when she loosed her grisly old tomcat in my home, an act she repeatedly

Not entirely overjoyed with sleeping and financial
arrangements, she and the cat eventually retreated to the basement apartment. It
wasn’t long before she began concocting excuses to avoid me. Every day she was meeting
someone for lunch, visiting distant cousins, or spending the weekend with artsy
friends. Since I did not aspire to paint or sculpt, I was not entitled to meet
them. I knew she wasn’t cheating on me; she was married twice before and
preferred etching and painting to sex. Both her previous husbands left her for
less talented and less attractive women. I knew she was bored with my lack of
appreciation for her genius and was waiting for the right moment to break free.

It was not long before my suspicion proved true. She
informed me by postcard that our marriage was over and we were through. ‘It is
not possible for two artists to live together’, she said, even though she did
not approve of my photographic art. She frequently declined my requests to
photograph her in the nude, and her portraits were disdainful and proud.

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