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"The evil started about twenty five years ago," Chris began, his voice trembling slightly, as he forced himself to recall the horrifying events of that time, long ago. "What I remember most are the snakes, Em, lots of snakes. The fish around the area were all dying, they were washing up on the shores of all the lakes and ponds within a fifteen mile radius because the population of snakes was continuing to grow at such an alarming rate, forcing the fish out of the water, up on to the shores to die. The strange thing is, the worst of it seemed to be out by Bailey's Pond, at least it seemed strange to me at the time. Later on, it began to make more sense why it was so much worse out there. But at the time I remember thinking it was kind of weird because Bailey's Pond isn't really close to town, so I couldn't understand why the people in town would be affected as much as they were by something that far away."
He paused to take a sip of his soda, an old favorite of ours, Mt. Dew with M&M's dropped in it.
"The town was failing fast, with people either dying or leaving. So many people died that summer in such a short period of time that a lot of the people left around here began to get scared, and quite a few of them decided to pack up all their belongings and get the hell out, before something happened to them. Or at least before they caught whatever it was that was going around. I guess a lot of people thought there was a sickness of some kind, like a plague, or something equally terrifying, so pretty soon there weren't very many people left in the area. It was like a mass exodus. It wasn't just the people dying that was frightening those who were left, it was the manner in which they were dying. Snakes were not only biting anyone that even got near them, they seemed to actually be searching out the people to bite. They were like rabid animals; stalking, hunting, attacking anyone they could find! It was terrible, like something out of a horror movie, Em. There were so many cases of snakebite in such a short period of time that the town council ordered all snakes within a twenty-mile radius to be hunted and killed, by any means necessary! And the spiders!"
He shivered; for as long as I had known him, he had never liked spiders.
"God, there were spiders everywhere you looked, Em. Those damn big, hairy tarantulas your mom always seemed to be so fond of. I love your mom, you know I always have, but her fondness for those things always gave me the creeps." Nobody who had ever known my mom had understood her fondness for the things. I suppose in a way they are pretty, but to me, as well as most people I have ever met, they just seem to be creepy. The mere mention, or simple thought, of spiders was enough to make most people I know cringe. "The spiders appeared to be so much bigger that summer, getting at least four times larger than they usually do, and that year, there seemed to be a whole lot more of them. Then one night, there was a town council meeting that most of the town was at for some reason. Unlike now, when everyone goes to the town meetings, they were not very well attended in those days. But this one was, probably because everyone wanted to know what was being done, or could be done, about all the spiders and snakes in the area. Anyway, a stranger showed up at that particular meeting and told everyone in attendance that he could explain what was going on, could explain why all kinds of strange things had been happening in the area, if they would give him the chance. He was allowed to speak and began by telling everyone his theory; his belief was that they were being punished by God, for some wrong done. Either by them or maybe even one, or some, of their ancestors; he wasn't sure which it was. But he told them he believed that to be the reason."
Chris went on to describe the man to me. "He was a normal looking man, except for his eyes. He was about six feet tall, around one hundred and ninety five pounds, brown hair, dark complexion, and I swear Em, black eyes! They weren't just dark brown either, Em, they were black; I don't think I have ever seen anyone in my life, except for that man, with totally black eyes." Chris shivered at the thought of the man's eyes. "Anyway, he told the people at the meeting that night that his boss had sent him to tell the people that he could solve their problem and control the spiders and snakes that had been running rampant throughout the area for the past few months, for a price. For a price, Em! The people at the meeting were so frightened that they didn't even think to ask what the price would be or who the man's boss was; they just wanted someone, anyone, to stop the plagues that had been visited on them for months now, no matter what the reason. By the time they found out the price, and who the man's boss really was, it was too late for anyone to do anything to stop it; by the time they figured it out, they were all under his power."
Chris shook his head as he thought of the power the man�s black eyes had seemed to have over the people at that meeting. "None of them even suspected that the reason the black eyed man's boss would be able to solve the problem was because he was the one who had started all the horror in the first place. And I don't believe that man's boss has anything whatsoever to do with God, Em! Just the opposite, in my opinion."
My mind was whirling, reeling with the realization that my fears had been justified. I wasn't losing my mind, or, if I was, it wasn't because I believed evil had taken over the entire area and the man I loved. I found myself wondering just exactly what I had gotten myself and my children into. For a moment, I even thought of turning and running from this place and the evil it contained, the danger it held, for anyone foolish enough to settle here; but I knew I couldn't leave Chris to face the danger alone any longer. I had been gone twenty years already (not by choice, but gone nonetheless), unknowingly leaving him to fight the evil by himself all those years. I knew I had to stay and help the man I had loved for most of my life, if there was any way I could help. He needed me! And I needed him, though my need for him was for a completely different reason. From what he was telling me, I wasn't sure there was anything anyone could do to stop what was happening to the people in the area or to stop the evil permeating throughout the surrounding countryside.
Chris continued his description of the man's eyes and the effect they seemed to have on the people at the meeting. "I couldn't stop looking at his eyes; they were like a magnet, drawing everyone's eyes to his. They seemed to radiate a force of some kind; which, I suppose in a way, they did, or at least that's what I remember thinking at the time. I don't know how else to describe it. It was eerie Em, that's the only word I know that even comes close to describing the effect his eyes had on almost everyone there."
After pausing to light himself and I a cigarette, he continued. "Later, at home, when I tried to tell my mom that there was something bad, something evil about the man with black eyes, she told me I was just being silly, that there was nothing to be afraid of, nothing at all. I tried to believe her, I wanted to believe her, but a part of me couldn't. I think the main reason I couldn't make myself believe her was because even though she didn't seem to be as much in a hypnotic state, she wasn't her normal self. She seemed to be slowly going under the spell of that man's eyes. Every time I'd think about those black eyes, I would feel a shiver go up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck would stand up." He shivered again and said, "It still happens whenever I think of those damn black eyes!" He rubbed the back of his neck, as if the hair was standing up even now, just thinking about the man's eyes. "But I never said anything about it again, after that night, to my mom, or to anyone else. I knew she wouldn't believe me, any more than she had believed me that first night; and if I couldn't even get my own mother to believe what I was saying, why should I think anyone else would. I was also afraid that someone would tell him, or his boss, that I wasn't under the spell the rest of them seemed to be under. That thought scared me, especially when I thought about the fact that it could be my own mother that turned me in. So I kept everything I was thinking, everything I believed to myself and began trying to act as much like the others were acting as I could. I spent a lot of time alone for the next few years because it was only when I was alone that I could be myself."
I said, "It is a parent's job to try to calm their child's fears, Chris. I'd be willing to bet that's what she was trying to do and I'm sure that she didn't mean to just blow you off like that. I think, maybe, she just didn't want you to be afraid. I believe I probably would have told any of my children pretty much the same thing, but it wouldn't be because I didn't believe them, it would be because I was trying to keep them calm. I would hope they could understand what I was trying to do and not think as you did that night with your mom. I don't blame you for thinking it, though. I suppose I never really thought about it, about how my kids would react if I said something like that to them."
"I know she was only trying to soothe me, Em. To calm me and make it so I wouldn't be so afraid, but it really bothered me that she wouldn't listen to me, that she didn't seem to want to believe what I was saying. That she seemed to be going under the man's spell just like the others had, even though she was slower about it. I guess the alcohol affected the hypnotic effect to an extent and caused her to be slower about going under than the others. I'm just sorry it turned out I was right, Em!"
Shivering, even though the temperature was eighty-seven degrees in the gazebo, I said, "I have to agree with you on that one, Chris. That's one time it would have been better for everyone if you had been wrong, huh?"
"No kidding. Like most people, I don't usually like being wrong, but that's one of the few times I would have been happier if I had been." Even now, with him telling me of the evil that had existed for so many years in this small, pleasant town, the evil that had spread throughout the whole area, as well as all the strange things I myself had witnessed since my return, I still found myself having a hard time believing it all. Believing that there was such immense evil taking over the area. And Lord only knew what plans it had for the future, for the people in this area, possibly the rest of the country. Who knows, maybe even the entire world.
If anyone from outside the affected area had been told, they would have thought everyone in the entire area had gone insane. At least they would have thought that about those few who were still able to think for themselves, even if they were able to have only a few scattered and random thoughts of their own. It isn't something that people want, or for that matter are even ready, to believe; the fact that evil does exist among us and can show up in the least likely of places. Before my return to Mt. Pleasant, if anyone had told me any of the strange and unusual things Chris was telling me now, I would have thought they had completely lost their minds. Now, after living here and having experienced even a small measure of the evil first hand, I was ready to believe anything was possible. No, now I knew anything was possible.
God, it's amazing how much things can change in such a short space of time. Less than a year ago I had no idea that evil such as this even existed. Or that normal, everyday people, like Chris and the other people in Mt. Pleasant and the surrounding area, were being forced to live with it; as the people in this area had been forced to do for twenty five years. As my children and I were doing since our visit to Chris and his family had started.
Chris broke into my thoughts, reaching to take my hand in his. "What are you thinking about right now, Em? A penny for your thoughts. On second thought, with inflation, I'd better make that a quarter," he jokingly said.
I told him.
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