The Conversion of Andrew Currant
C. H. Baum
“Andy, I dare you to doorbell ditch old lady Cavin.” Micky prodded like his future depended on it.
“No way, Micky. You do it. She creeps me out.” Andy’s twelve year old mind conjured up images of an old lady cackling and laughing when she caught him, leaving remnants of rotten spittle on his cheeks and lips. In truth, none of the neighborhood kids had ever really seen old lady Cavin with any clarity, just quick glimpses behind leaded glass windows.
“You’re chicken Andy. If you don’t do it, I’m going to tell everyone in Mrs. Campbell’s class that you’re a coward. Even Dana will laugh at you, because she will know it’s true.”
“Okay. Just once. I’ll run up there, ring the doorbell, and then run over behind that old van. She’s the devil’s sister, you know. No one can call me a coward if I doorbell ditch the devil’s sister.”
Micky smiled his immature smile, deliciously anticipating the naughtiness of the act and ran over behind the van to watch from a safe distance. He didn’t want the devil’s sister to see him when Andy rang the doorbell.
Andy crept up the front lawn. The house was old; it looked like it was built in the neighborhood fifty years before there was a neighborhood. Peeling paint created claws that reached out silently to scratch at unsuspecting victims. The house didn’t even smell like the rest of the neighborhood. The mold and mustiness made Andy imagine two stories of ancient, crocheted afghans thrown over plastic covered couches, old nylon socks with no elastic draped over lamps, and an open can of cold baked beans on the floor next to a recliner.
Andy thought, It’s only a few feet away now. No turning back. I can do this, while extending his arm and pointing his finger in anticipation and accusation at the chipped doorbell. This close, he could see the black veins that crawled through the pristine ivory of the old bell, like a sun bleached tortoise shell, barely poking through the surrounding sand.
He sucked in a breath and held it there, dreading the actual act of pushing the ringer, frozen in fear. The petrification was broken as Micky made clucking sounds from behind the van. Andy steeled his resolve and committed to depressing the alabaster ringer.
He expected an ominous ding, followed by a booming dong, but got the uninterrupted ring of an old telephone instead. He was pondering the oddity of the ring when the door flashed open, a slender old hand closed like a vice on his slim wrist, and yanked him inside. It all happened so fast, his reaction was not to scream, cry, or twist his arm against the grasp; he just whimpered as he expelled the breath he had been holding while being transported wholly into the foyer of the old house, and hearing the door slam shut behind him.
The devil’s sister was actually very attractive for her age. Her black hair, shot with gray streaks, was pulled back in a severe bun, with an errant wisp that had escaped and was caressing her slim chin. She had striking purple, almond shaped eyes. Andy had never seen someone with eyes the color of ripe eggplant. Her smile revealed perfect rows of bright, straight, clean teeth. Then the devil’s sister spoke in a smooth and pleasant voice, “I’m sorry I had to yank you in here so suddenly, but there’s a giant hornet’s nest next to the ringer on the porch, and they go mad at the noise. I need to call an exterminator before someone gets stung.”
The buzz of the irritated hornets broke into Andy’s thoughts and he turned to see an angry swarm attempting to sting the window and the doorway where he stood moments before. Andy stammered, “Miss Cavin?”
“Yes child….you look shaken. Would you like some milk? We need to wait for the hornets’ fury to die down. I just happened to be baking some cookies too. That’s always a pleasant way to pass a few minutes.” She waved him forward, towards the kitchen and said, “Come, come.”
Andy followed the perfectly creased skirt into the kitchen, too ashamed to raise his eyes further while sinking deeper and deeper into the wonderful aroma of baking cookies. She placed three cookies from the cooling trays on a plate, and stretched over to open an ancient icebox with General Electric scrolled in cursive across the front of the door. She pulled out a pitcher of milk and poured him a tall, cool glass to accompany the cookies.
“Sit, my child, sit,” she invited, while pointing at one of the two dining room chairs.
Andy plopped down in the wrought iron chair and Miss Cavin sat down across from him, pushing the plate of cookies and glass of milk over to him. She also grabbed a cookie for herself and left them in a moment of silence while they both chewed the still warm deliciousness.
“Mmmmmmmm. These are really good cookies, Miss Cavin. Better than the ones my mom makes. She always burns them.”
Miss Cavin laughed and he let the pleasant sound of her humor roll over him. “Burnt offerings are discouraged young man; they do not taste as good.”
He smiled, even though he had no idea what she meant.
She smiled back and asked, “You rang my bell child. Did you need something?”
He decided honesty was the best policy. “Well Miss Cavin, I’m Andy and I was going to doorbell ditch you on a dare. I….I’m sorry.”
“Please child, call me Day. I admire your honesty, and your bravery. But there’s nothing to forgive, and I’m not in that business anyway. I’m a harmless, old lady, and nothing would have come from it other than tragedy if I hadn’t heard you coming. Had I been upstairs when you rang the bell, you might be a pin cushion for a bunch of angry hornets.” She smiled and then bit into another cookie.
Andy was relieved, and the cookies were fantastic. “Miss Cavin, you treated me nice, even though you knew I was going to trick you. My mom wouldn’t do that. She would have punished me. Do you have any children?”
“Day, call me Day, child. And, I do have children, but not in the way you think. I have Daemonium.”
Andy had never heard that word before. He rolled it around in his head before he repeated it, “Day Moan Eeum. What’s that?”
Day stood and smiled right at him, her big smile was delightful, and her violet eyes sparkled in the light of the kitchen. “Come. I will show you.”
Andy found himself following her into the ancient living room, where he expected an old couch, with a couple of sitting chairs, but met with something quite different. There was a large, hulking table that occupied the entire space of the living room. The table was accompanied by a mix of mismatched chairs, placed at strategic points around the edge, and the table was covered with the biggest mess of wires, electronics, speakers, and coils that Andy had ever seen. It was like all the old appliances in town had dragged themselves to her living room and then exploded.
“What is this stuff?” Andy asked earnestly.
Day lightly caressed the base of his neck and said, “I fix these electronics. When they are done, they contain my daemonium and I care for them like children. These are my passion and my calling. Would you like to help me fix one?”
Andy immediately answered, “Of course.” He jumped at the chance to please Miss Day and to help her with her work. After he had been so mean to her, he really wanted to make it up to her; make her proud that she had let him into her home.
She resumed their conversation, “Ok, this is the carcass of an old telephone. It was made long before cell phones, even long before rotary phones.” Miss Day gestured for him to sit in one of the chairs at the corner of the table, and sat down ninety degrees to him. She pushed some of the other wires and electronics out of the way, and pulled an old oak box over the table so that it separated them. It had a black cone growing from the top plate and a black crank on the side that looked like it belonged to a giant pencil sharpener. Another black cone was attached to a braided cord and bumped along the table behind the box as she slid it over for inspection.
Day grabbed a pair of pliers and a screwdriver and extricated the black cone on the front of the telephone. Then she pulled away the oak top plate and removed the sides. They were left with an oak plank with a bunch of wires, and with a coil connected to the old crank. She re-attached the crank and spun it around, but nothing happened.
“What’s wrong with it, Miss Day?” Andy asked as he peered over the carcass of the old telephone.
“See that metal coil at the top? The one that attaches to the crank? That’s called a magneto and it creates electricity when you crank it.” She used the screwdriver to identify some of the wires and continued, “Then the electricity flows down these wires, and is stored in the big black battery at the bottom. My guess is that the battery unit is dead, but that the magneto still works and generates electricity. In order to fix this, I need to test the magneto coil. You think you could help me with that, child?”
Andy nodded excitedly, ready to help in any way needed.
“Ok child, I’ll need you to hold this wire with your right hand, and this one with your left hand. While I’m testing it, you might feel a little shock, but you can’t let go. If you let go, the daemonium may be lost forever. Do you understand child?” She was very serious and intense while she implored, “If you let go, it could stay broken forever.”
Andy again nodded excitedly. “I’ll hold it as long as you need me to, Miss Day.” To show his eagerness, he grabbed the appropriate wires in each hand, pinched them between his thumb and index finger, and then crushed down with all his immature strength. “I’m ready.”
Day stood up from her chair to get a good hold on the crank and winked at Andy before she started. She began slow grinding the magneto and watching Andy carefully. She knew he was getting shocked, but he doggedly held onto the wires. “Fantastic, child. You’re doing an amazing job.” Then she cranked the magneto faster, a blurry whir of electrical production.
Andy groaned against the shock, but he didn’t let go. When she cranked even faster, like a possessed whirlwind, he couldn’t have let go if he wanted to. The electricity paralyzed the muscles in his hands, and shook his forearms uncontrollably in short, seizure like convulsions. “Ngnnnnnnnnnnnnn.”
It was over quickly, and Day smiled over at him. “You did wonderfully my child. This will certainly return to its former glory. You are responsible for the life of this daemonium.” Then she shocked him even more by grabbing each side of his face, and kissing him deeply. He felt her tongue graze his and she sloppily sucked his bottom lip, letting it slip back while staring him in the eyes and panting with hot, wet breath on his face.
Andy stammered, “I, I………Miss Cavin…………I never kissed a girl before.”
From very, very close, she whispered, “I am not a girl, Andy. You will understand when you’re a man.”
Andy slipped out the front door, studiously avoiding any noise that might irritate the large hornets’ nest. He glanced back over his shoulder to see Day wink at him through the leaded glass, and disappear into the fog of the house as she backed away. As soon as he was off the porch, he sprinted across the front lawn, and rounded behind the old van where Mickey sat, crying.
“Mickey, I did it. I rang the bell.”
Mickey looked up, completely taken by surprise that Andy had escaped alive. “You were in there for thirty minutes. It seemed like forever. I thought you were dead.”
Andy smiled, a changed boy since he accepted the dare. “I helped her fix an old telephone. She is beautiful, and isn’t like anyone I’ve ever met before.”
Mickey hadn’t seen Andy talk about anyone like that. Not even Dana. He snickered as he pronounced, “You love her!”
Andy glanced down and saw a dark urine stain in the crotch of Mikey’s Wranglers. “You peed yourself. I was the one that did the scariest thing ever and you peed your pants. If you tell anyone that I love her, I will tell everyone you pissed your pants.”
Mickey nodded. He didn’t want anyone to know that he was so scared when his friend got yanked inside ol’ bat Cavin’s house that he’d peed down his leg.
Mickey ran up to Andy on the playground, completely out of breath. “Did you hear, Andy? Did you hear?”
Andy turned from telling Dana he didn’t like her anymore, and asked, “What? Did I hear what?”
“Ol’ bat Cavin died. They are going to mettle her mistake tomorrow. They already sold the house to someone that’s going to gut it and remodel the whole thing.”
Andy’s heart broke, but still caught the absurdity of Mickey’s statement. Through unbidden tears, Andy corrected, “You mean settling her estate?” He immediately followed with a gasp that ripped at his lungs, burning as he exhaled, and fell to his knees. “No, it……it can’t be. I was going to help her fix more of her daemonium.”
“Yeah, someone said they found her naked in the tub. Josh and Lucas heard the cops say that her corpse was floating in there, all pasty, wrinkly and saggy.”
Andy stood up and punched Mickey straight in the face. “You son of a bitch. She was not wrinkly and saggy, and NO ONE CALLS HER AN OL’ BAT!” Andy sniveled, uncontrollably shuddering, while standing over his friend with clenched fists. Mickey crab walked away, turned and ran for the safety of the recess supervisor.
“Go, Mickey! GO! Go tell on me you bastard!”
Dana sidled away, not wanting to be anywhere near Andy’s fury. He turned on her now that Mickey was out of reach, screaming through the snot and drool of his grief. “Go tattle on me too, you bitch! GO!” He screamed out to no one in particular, but the whole playground heard him, “I HATE YOU ALL!”
Finally. It was his birthday. Eighteen years old. Andrew made plans with Mick to celebrate appropriately because you only become an adult once in your life. “Hey, Mick, Dana says we can come over to her house. Her mom has a ton of whiskey in the basement and works nights at the hospital. We can get drunk and maybe she’ll let me make out with her.”
Mick dragged his feet, “I don’t know, Andrew. Her mom will notice we drank a bunch of the whiskey.”
“There’s no way she could count it all. We’ll take a little bit from each of the open bottles. There’s like twenty down there. Plus, her mom doesn’t care about the collection. It was her dad’s before he left. Dude, we can’t go wrong.”
Mick smiled and nodded his agreement. “Let’s go! Andrew becomin’ a MAN.”
When they arrived, Dana held Andrew’s hand and led them down to the musty basement. The old wood of the stairs moaned and complained from beneath orange shag carpet, as they descended. Dana and Andrew plopped down on a brown sofa that had a deer hunting scene stitched into the cushions. Mick sat in the recliner that looked like it had been recycled from the dump, disturbing a tabby colored cat that yowled in protest. The surroundings didn’t matter, as long as they were left to their own devices; he had whiskey and a woman waiting to help him usher in adulthood.
They drank small thimbles of whiskey from a multitude of different bottles, and before long they were snorting, laughing and whirling their shirts above their heads. Mick stated the obvious, “It sure burns goin’ down, and it damn sure messes up my brain.”
Miss Cavin visited his dreams for the first time since he was twelve. She was not the same elderly lady he met all those years ago. She appeared as a younger woman, before the years started to take their toll on her face and body. Andrew saw her with the eyes of a man, drawn to her animal sexuality. She was stunningly beautiful, hair flowing around her face like she was under water, and dressed in a skin tight, red skirt that hugged the curves of her hips. Her black jacket was open to her navel and she wasn’t wearing anything underneath. The audacious show of skin left just enough to the imagination, but the flaunting of her cleavage made her intent clear. She began by planting a hot, wet, kiss on his slightly open mouth, and caressing the side of his face. She followed by whispering, “daemonium” in his ear. Andrew expected more, but she sauntered away slowly, looking over her shoulder one last time before fading into the fog of his dream.
The dream shifted and he was in an unknown forest, hunting a lynx. He could sense the animal nearby, and knew he was getting close to the end of the stalk. The lynx bounded out in front of his trail, and he threw a javelin, spearing the animal and pinning it to the ground. He didn’t want to harm the majestic animal, but the dream followed its own desires; Andrew was just along for the ride. He sliced opened the stomach and cleaned the organs so that it wouldn’t spoil the meat. Andrew assumed he would take the meat with him, but his dream-self threw the carcass and gut pile around the forest, scattering the regal lynx with reckless abandon. Andrew felt glee at the slaughter of his dream, while knowing it was wrong and cruel. He just couldn’t stop himself from acting out.
“Andrew, get up!” Dana kicked him awake. “We fell asleep. My mom will be home any minute from the hospital, and you and Mick have to get out of here!”
Andrew crawled around the shag carpet of the basement looking for his shirt and shoes while wincing from his hangover. Mick was already headed up the stairs.
Dana panicked, “Damnit Andrew, hurry up!”
“I’m going, I’m going.” He pulled on his shirt and shoved his shoes under his armpit right before heading up the stairs. He stopped for a brief second and turned to kiss Dana. “Thank you, I had a wonderful night. I’ll never forget it.”
She smiled coyly and patted his rear end. “C’mon, get moving. I’ll see you in a couple days.”
This one was much more sinister, darker. He was hunting a wolf, and even though it was dangerous, he revelled in it. The wolf had doubled back on him a couple of times, and Andrew knew that on the third time, he would catch it unawares. Andrew salivated over the prospect of killing and gutting the lupine prey.
The vicious part of him was growing in strength. He was hungry for bigger, more challenging prey and the part of Andrew that was concerned about the progression was violently pushed to the back of his psyche. Andrew had no place in his own dreams.
He sat behind a tree, up wind from the wolf, and smelled the animal before he heard him coming. He sucked in the scent of the matted fur, the creature’s sweat, and the mud on its paws. As the wolf bounded past, he stepped out and ran his spear through its ribcage. Andrew laughed at the popping sound as the spear split and broke the ribs. He fell on the limp corpse and tore at the stomach with his knife, hacking in a fury of stabbing and slashing, flinging gore around the forest floor. He sectioned the quarters and threw the limbs in all different directions. Soaked up to his elbows in blood, he yanked out the heart and took a large bite of the sinewy muscle. The warmth of the flesh went perfectly with the mineral aftertaste of the blood. He licked at the gore that ran down his chin. It was delicious.
Andrew woke up, sweating and trembling from the exertion in the dream, and concerned about his subconscious progression to bigger, more dangerous prey. He thought, Maybe I should see a psychiatrist, before climbing into the shower to start his day.
The choice of prey was progressing, and he was helpless to stop it. He watched the pulse of blood through the artery running up the side of the prostitute’s neck. It fascinated him. He snickered as he vividly imagined slicing it and watching the blood spurt through her fingers. His mirth made her turn her head towards him, assuming he would make good on his promise. She quested after her addiction, “You bring it with you?”
“Bring what baby?” He teased her, knowing exactly what he had promised her.
“You know…..the sugar you promised me. I give you a little sugar, and you give me a little sugar. That’s how this deal works.” She smiled and licked her lips seductively, running the tip of her tongue around her mouth. It was meant to be sexy, but she ruined it by opening her mouth wide enough to see her rotten teeth and then scratching uncontrollably at her shoulder.
“I’ve got it right here….” Andrew fumbled in his jean’s pocket for his razor.
He was interrupted by a cop banging on the window with his flashlight. Moments away from slicing her throat and dissecting her corpse, his prey was abruptly stolen from him.
“Go away, Pig!” he yelled through the dream.
The pounding on the car window continued, unabated. The policeman would not be deterred once he saw a known prostitute in the car with Andrew. The dream grinned with the prospect of killing the policeman too. He’d strip them down naked, and put them in a compromising position in the park.
The policeman continued to bang on the window, unaware of the sinister evil on the other side of the glass, stubbornly rushing towards Andrew’s razor.
Andrew woke up to someone banging on his door. It took him a moment to realize it wasn’t a cop banging on the steamy window of his car. His head swam with a splitting headache, and he somehow knew it was related to the abrupt end of his dream; he hadn’t released the dream to run free and kill.
He could hear a muffled Mick through the door, “C’mon, Andrew, OPEN THE DOOR!” right before the pounding started again.
He stumbled up from his couch and swirled back the dead bolt with a twist of his wrist. “What? I was sleeping….”
Mick was out of breath, and panted, “Dana’s all broke up. She’s crying her eyes out. Someone killed her cat.”
Andrew was agitated, “It’s sad and all, but cats get run over all the time. Why on earth does that make you run over here and bang on my door in the middle of the night?”
Mick shook his head, “No, you got it all wrong. Someone didn’t run over her cat, someone BUTCHERED her cat. Her mom came home, and found the cat hanging in the bathroom, with its intestines pulled out. Her mom works at the hospital and she’s seen a TON of gruesome stuff, but when she saw the cat, she puked all over the bathroom. Whoever did it, rammed the shower rod THROUGH the cat’s head and rehung the shower rod over the tub!”
Andrew had flashes of disturbing hunting scenes and a lynx. “Who would do something like that?”
Mick shrugged. “Who knows…..some sick weirdo, a demon, the devil……whoever did it was just plain EVIL.”
Andrew grabbed his jacket to head over to Dana’s. “C’mon, Dana needs support of her friends.”
Mick nodded, “Yeah, especially because whoever killed her cat, also killed a dog over on 3rd and Eastern. Had to be the same guy.”
Andrew’s disturbing flashes repeated for the wolf. “What happened to the dog?” he asked, even though he knew the answer.
“It was a pit bull, one they used for fighting on the bad side of town. Whoever killed it hated the dog something fierce. He speared it with a fence post. The post went clear through the torso. Then he butchered it and spread the guts and body parts all over the intersection. He wrapped the intestines around the light pole like a holiday garland.”
Andrew felt sick to his stomach. “That’s disgusting.”
“That’s not even the worst part,” responded Mick. “He also ripped out the heart and there were bite marks on it! He ATE half the heart!”
“Stop, STOP! You’re going to make me hurl. Let’s go to Dana’s and see if we can calm her nerves.” Andrew stepped out into the hallway and turned to lock the door behind him, before shuffling down the hall with Mick. He knew the cop had been Mick. The prostitute had probably been Dana. He thought, That’s the clear progression. I almost murdered my friends.
Dana was inconsolable, crying softly against Andrew’s chest while they sat huddled together on the old couch in her basement. Mick was oblivious, as he played the vintage video games while sitting cross legged on the floor. Andrew knew that if he fell asleep again, he would murder them in a possessed frenzy. He had to leave. He had to escape.
He kept to his own head while his friend grieved. Asking himself question after question. How did this happen? What is wrong with me? Why did this just start on my eighteenth birthday? The shock hit him like a wet slap in the face. Miss Cavin did this to him. She WAS the devil’s sister. That old bitch had done something to him with the telephone, possessed his dreams somehow. She probably didn’t even really die; she just moved on to another unsuspecting youth to corrupt. He got an idea and looked up daemonium on his phone. The first thing that popped up was, “Latin to English translation – Daemonium – Demon.”
He whispered, “Holy shit.”
His statement disturbed Dana and she looked up at him with red, puffy eyes. “What did you say?”
“Nothing baby. But I need to leave. I’m really tired and I have to work early tomorrow. I’m sorry about your cat. That’s just not right.”
Dana nodded and hugged him as thanks for the support. “Ok, Andrew. Come back tomorrow afternoon, after my mom leaves for work. I don’t want to be in the house alone.”
“Yeah, I’ll be here.” He pressed his lips on her forehead and shuffled out of the basement.
As soon as he got outside, he began talking to himself in hushed tones, “I DO understand now that I’m a man. You possessed me, you bitch……..you psychotic old hag. But I won’t sleep until I find a cure for the demon haunting my dreams.”
It occurred to him that the demon took up residence in his adolescent body through the flow of electricity. So electricity would have to kick it out too. He remembered her saying that the daemonium could be lost forever, and he was determined to make sure her warning came true. There was an electrical substation near Dana’s house, and he headed that way, following his intuition. The massive electrical towers tracked through the miles in single file, standing like sentinels with their high voltage wires only dipping to the ground over the substation fence.
Andrew grabbed a fist sized rock and slammed it against the padlock on the chain link fence until it shattered the shackle. He slipped inside and walked confidently up to one of the transformers. Two giant, porcelain wrapped antenna stood out from the head of the transformer, like some huge insect buried up to its neck in the soft soil.
As he got near enough to touch the antenna, he could feel the energy raise the hair on his arms and neck, and hear the droning hum of the massive charges flowing through the substation. He gave no heed to the warning signs with their angry red lightning bolts and grabbed both antenna at the top, where the high voltage wires connected to the substation. The instant he made the circuit, the electricity flowed. It was a massive rush of power that seized his muscles, and slapped his heart around in his chest. Burns crawled up his hands into his arms, blackening the skin. The mix of smells were intoxicating; crisp ozone carrying a hint of roasting flesh.
In an explosion of sparks, the safety equipment took charge and blew the transformer, shutting off the flow of electricity. Andrew’s body stiffened, tipping over backwards and falling with his arms extended out; a perfect impersonation of a zombie from the old black and white movies. He glanced up at his paralyzed arms, ending in nothing more than claws, and made the comparison of hot dogs left too long on the grill; blackened skin crisscrossed with angry red cracks where the flesh had split open. He laughed as he remembered Miss Cavin saying, “Burnt offerings are discouraged young man; they do not taste as good.” The memory chased him into unconsciousness as the chuckle died in his throat.
Andrew dreamed BIG.
Find the story in the book
About the author
C. H. BAUM
C H Baum lives in Las Vegas with his two children and a stunningly gorgeous wife (no, she didn’t pay me to say that).
When he is not working his super glamorous job as a mortgage underwriter, he is writing or riding.
Writing horror, and fantasy that smells suspiciously like horror. Or, riding his bike around the valley, pumping away at the pedals.
Read more about his work, find his book here:
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