• • •
So it’s a log cabin, then. Charming.
What isn’t charming – not to Jonathan Knox, anyhow – is the herd of deer heads mounted upon the walls. The bedroom is not large, it’s no master bed by any stretch of the imagination, and the bed is tucked into a corner. There are two windows, one on each wall the bed touches, and across the room is a bulky recliner upholstered with well sat-upon cloth. There are other furnishings in this little bedroom, too, sure, but that’s not the point; the point is that save for the headspace above the bed and the recliner (and the windows, obviously), every square inch of log wall in this bedroom sports a Goddamn deer head mounted to a slab of dark wood, and they’re all staring directly at me.’
Moving much quicker than he moved last night, Jonathan Knox throws the warm blankets and the quilt weighing them down onto the floor and swings his legs around, plants his feet hard on the area rug. It’s one of those cheap-ass ones with an expensive-looking pattern, all shapes and angles you’d find in a shallow Mandelbrot fractal, but Jonathan Knox doesn’t pay it any notice. All Jonathan Knox notices is the sudden sensation of a laceration ripping open into a proper gash in the sole of his foot.
The scream could wake the dead, unless they’re the dead of Spectral Earth. Those dead are already wide awake.
Footsteps approach, and they sure aren’t Jonathan Knox’s. Jonathan Knox is on the floor and his feet are in the air, he’s rolling back and forth knees clutch’d to his chest like some sort of human fetus. The footstepper opens the door. The pain is so great Jonathan Knox doesn’t even open his eyes right away.
“Boi!” boi s a voice from the pain. “Whatchoo doin’ out’a bed, boi?! Don’t’choo no yer foot’s gone droolin’? Y’cain’t walk on a droolin’ foot, boi, don’t’choo got any cent’saboucheh?!”
Boi rolls to and fro like an egg thrown from its carton.
“Boi! ” the voice bellows, stepping towards Jonathan Knox. “Yer brain gone droolin’ too? What’s fuckin’ you, boi?”
“Pain…” whimpers Jonathan Knox. “What… what happened to me?”
“Y’stepped on’a piece’a’glass, boi!” The ‘man plants one foot on Jonathan Knox’s side, bringing an end to his piteous rolling. “Ganked ya somethin’ fierce, I reckon!”
“Glass?” in moan. “But I was walking in the forest, wh–”
“Why was there glass?? ” The ‘man, definitely a ‘man, asks excitedly. “This is Wuester, boi! Ain’t an acre’a’woods you won’t find shattered bottles plan’ed like seeds to grow ‘mongst the fungus, I reckon!”
“But why? ”
“Bars’re packed and the liquor shops ain’t got a stool to sit on. We’re backwoodsmen out here, boi, we’re mountain, and we drink in the Goddamn woods. You got a pro’l’m wi’that you can get up’n’walk y’r shirt-wi’th’buttons-on’it-wearin’ ass right on out’a here. ‘Cept y’cain’t,” he continues, “on account’a’th’droolin’ yer foot’s gotten up to.”
Finally Jonathan Knox musters the necessary strength to open his eyes and crank his neck up. What he sees is a man as massive as he is burly, one dressed in red and black flannel at least one size, probably four sizes too small for him. On his legs he’s got blue denim jeans without a single tear but with many patches, and between the two is a flat brown leather belt with a big ol’ belt buckle bearing the letters O and B, not in that order.
“Bo? ” Jonathan Knox intones. “Is that your name? Bo?”
Bo(?) loads a snot rocket onto his tongue and fires that shit clear across the room. It strikes what must be a spittoon, makes the sound of a cowbell beaten by a drumstick.
“Heeeylll no, y’droolin’-foot sonuvabitch! Bo was my father, may God rest‘is wretched soul! My name is Cletus, Cletus Doe, an’ I suggest you ‘member it ‘less you wan’a be cooped up wi’the chickens!”
“I’m sorry,” Jonathan Knox moans. “Cletus, I’m just so sorry! Forgive me!”
Cletus slaps a thigh, the one dangling from the leg attached to the booted foot resting heavily on Jonathan Knox’s side, and howls like the moon went full. “Sheit! Don’ worry ‘bout’a thing, Droolie. You’re fuzzy as a peach in my orchard, y’smell what I’m throwin’ atcha?”
“Not in the slightest. How did I get here?”
“First thing’s first,” Cletus says without removing his boot, “get the fuck up off the floor. What are you, some kind’a fuckin’ insect?”
“I ain’t ask fer backtalk, y’pissant!” Cletus hollers, crushing Jonathan Knox’s bottom ribs and putting a kink in his spine. “I said get the fuck up off the floor! ”
“You’re crushing me, Cletus! ” Jonathan hollers right back. He’s never hugged his knees so tightly in his life, it’s the only thing keeping Cletus from stomping him flat.
Howling laughter, like a half-turned werewolf tickled by a wigglin’ feather. “Sheit, I almost forgot!” Cletus removes his foot and Jonathan Knox feels his left lung reinflate. “Go ahead, try now.”
Jonathan Knox releases his legs and focuses every last iota of willpower in his being on not crying at the pain, but it’s not enough. It’s not remotely enough. In response, Cletus kicks him in the spine like he was trying to punt a ninety-yard field goal.
[to be cont’d]
This has been the start of the sixth subchapter of the first chapter of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~