(This fall my first published book will be arriving from the printers. It is called The Horror of Loon Lake and it is a horror anthology comic paying tribute to the classic horror magazines and comics that many of us loved. Included also is one prose tale, which will feature several illustrations by the talented Nicole Bresner. In ten installments, www.horror-writers.net will serialize this short story, entitled Willow the Wisp. For more information about the book, follow its page at www.facebook.com/horrorofloonlake – Carl Smith, aka Dr. Carl Cadaver)
Tuesday was the day of his whirlwind trip, so he had allowed himself time to sleep in and slowly prepare for the day. The skies were blue and still. Minnesota’s late summer splendor was on full display. The crisp wind entering his car’s windows massaged him and beckoned him to relax. He drove past Rose Lake, Long Lake, then onto Highway 10. Every sense he possessed was stimulated and thrilled to be alive in that moment.
In less than thirty minutes he pulled into town and nearly two hours later he was hopping back into his car and headed back south. He had scheduled himself a long dinner at Spanky’s in Frazee where he ate like a man famished. The lodge was filled with vacationing tourists, all existing without a care in the world except for relaxation and recreation. Except for his lack of sunburn and awkward wardrobe, he could have easily been mistaken for another Iowan taking leave from responsibility.
Watching the families and couples interact within the diner was hypnotic. The ease at which they communicated, even when perturbed, was foreign to his past experiences. Human interaction was always calculated, rehearsed, and executed for maximum payoff. He had never considered that people wanted to share of themselves. Now after meeting Willow he was beginning to think differently.
Jonathan paid for his meal and left a large tip. Leaving he held the door for a couple exiting families absorbed in the chaos of ensuring no man was left behind. Smiling and nodding his way through the gravel parking lot, he finally slid into his car and soon was headed home. Only a short time behind his planned schedule, he set his alarm and pulled his shades in preparation for an afternoon nap.
Behind the wall of sleep he dreamt of sweeping Willow off her feet, spinning her in the air, saying words to her that reduced her to joyful tears, and the two clinging to one another against the protest of Creation itself. Just as the impassioned speech he gave turned the hearts and minds of the pitchfork wielding mobs a bell rang, refusing to be ignored. It was his alarm.
After a meticulous preparation in front of the mirror it was time to depart. Looking and feeling better than he has in years, Jonathan pulled his door quietly shut and whistled his way to the graveyard. The scene would have raised an eyebrow if a curious neighbor would have peeked through their curtains. There was a whistling, bobbing man in a suit strolling towards a cemetery after 10 o’clock as if on his way to a carnival.
Arriving across the street he turned on his heel and paused to check his watch. He stood with unnatural stillness listening to the night, letting a little time expire so that his entrance would be perfect. He inhaled deeply of the lake town air, determined to remember every detail of this memorable night. A schooner-shaped cloud lazily passed the moon as he took full catalog of the stars above. He claimed the night as his own.
He was off, one foot ahead of the other. Crossing the street to the archway he ones feared to cross. He didn’t slow his pace as he strolled up the main lane, noting the rows of witnesses in his periphery. The Magnusson’s, Hagland’s, Classen’s, Rasmussen’s, and of course the Gunderson’s were all there offering support.
He stopped before the stone marked “Breeland” and left ample room between. He reverently lowered his head and closed his eyes in a meditative way until he felt his skin awash in static electricity. From behind his eyelids he could feel the intrusion of the blue light. He slid his hands into his pockets and fumbled with the contents. A smile formed on his lips and he opened his eyes. Willow was there, smiling and cocking her head in mild curiosity.