Willow the Wisp – part one of ten

(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)


Jonathan Kovac was a lonely man who had cultivated the ideal bachelor life for too long. Beginning at adulthood Jonathan had an itch that he always assumed was the longing for accomplishment. His accomplishments included a prestigious education, impeccable wardrobe, enthusiastic networking, and persistent ladder-climbing. Yet, the itch remained.

This itch soon turned into an aching, and the aching became a yearning. Jonathan’s mind had become restless pondering what could possibly settle this condition. He tried to fill his empty space with physical fitness, the arts, religion, assorted romantic (albeit brief) entanglements, and eventually even a new job in a new town. Of course, he was successful at every endeavor, but the void remained.

The emptiness that loomed over his life had begun to rob him of his inner peace. New to the small town, Jonathan was slowly building a new social circle. Everyone was kind and accepting of him, and eager to be his friend.  Like most career bachelors, Jonathan was not quick to speak of his feelings with strangers, and acquaintances were usually kept superficial. He trusted no one to see inside his heart, and to be honest, he was uneasy with anyone willing to let him inside theirs.

The internal disquiet building within Jonathan soon robbed him of his sleep. Hoping for a little peace, he began indulging in long walks late at night. During these trips he would try to imagine what was going on in everyone’s quiet little homes. Jonathan was disappointed to find that he had no imagination to speak of and every family he conjured in his mind looked, spoke, and acted like him. He took no joy in this game. Eventually, his long walks became solemn thoughtless processions, a lone man meters from his neighbors yet solitary in his journey.

Jonathan’s walks became longer and his demeanor grew more dejected. Sleep became a luxury he couldn’t afford, and thus his daytime hours became a weary pantomime of “just getting though this day.” His relationships were far too superficial for anyone to broach what had him so affected, so soon his small social circle broke and unraveled. Jonathan did not notice. Likewise, his work was suffering. Jonathan did not notice this either, but his manager did.

A three week vacation was granted to Jonathan and an ultimatum delivered. He was to find the old Kovac spark and return to work the outgoing dynamo they had hired, or lose his job. It was as simple as that. Jonathan had twenty-one days to solve the riddle that had been presenting itself louder until it echoed incessantly in the hallways of his mind for nearly twenty-one years. The fight had left him, and he was resigned to the idea unemployment.

On the first night of his leave of absence, Jonathan prepared a small meal, ate it, and cleaned up after himself. He then sat upon the sofa and sank into the cushions, awaiting darkness to fall so that the streets and pathways would be his alone once again. Shortly before eleven o’clock he stood, put on his coat and hat, and left his small home for the cool night air.

Jonathan walked down his usual path, past the quaint homes that occupied his neighborhood. He drifted thoughtlessly past these vessels of content family life, foreign and mysterious to a confirmed bachelor such as himself. He took a turn onto Scharf Avenue and pointed himself east towards the little Lutheran cemetery at the end of the lane.