A short story

Richard Hennessy | 24 July 2018

photo by Jimmy Chan (CC0)

       Abandoned trailers, with blankets hanging where doors once were, and a rundown motor lodge prominently placed amongst the midst of the desolated landscape. Overgrown foliage and various remnants left from squatters and passersby, strewn along the empty dirt roads; providing real-estate for nearby rodents. The following story takes place in an old Kentucky town named Ledeville, current population one... and his name is John.

       John is not a native of Ledeville; though he has been here for just about a decade. John was once a well established business man from Boston, now he waits; suspended in a constant state of alert. Before the incident, John used to dress in the latest mannequin-approved fashions trends. But since, he has transitioned into worn out denim jeans and an “anxiety-sweat” stained t-shirt. John is a nice man, but his blood boils endlessly with the urge for vengeance due to the unforgettable loss of his family.

       Many years ago, in early Summer, John was traveling cross-country with his wife Susan, their kids Cadence 4, Rose 6, and Bowen 10. Also in attendance was their dog Roger, fulfilling his role by drooling on the upholstery. The family was relocating from Boston to Phoenix because John was offered a job at a rate he could not refuse. Susan was also excited about this because she grew up in Arizona and despised the weather in the northeast.

       After several hours of road reflectors, the evening night began to fall. At this point, Cadence and Rose were incessantly arguing in the back seat, while Bowen was zoned out listening to his headphones; and getting annoyed at having to constantly push Roger off of his lap. Susan was in the front passenger seat browsing a home decor magazine, while trying to keep John awake. With everyone at the point of exhaustion, Susan decided it was best to stop at the next decently priced lodge off of the interstate. A few miles later they stop in Ledeville, KY, following signs for a “Motor-Inn”.

       After the family checked-in at the reception desk, John took Roger for a walk outside; so he could also sneak a cigarette without the kids seeing. There was literally only one small area of grass, and it wasn't too far from the room, so John had to be quick while Roger did his business. As John re-entered the room, Susan finished getting the kids squared away for bedtime. Bowan and Roger took a non-specific spot on the dingy floor, and like usual the youngest found her way from the cot to the bed with mommy and daddy. John turned out the lights, and Susan said goodnight kissing John on the forehead.

       The next morning John woke up covered in blood with his family slaughtered and their bodies cast randomly throughout the room like unneeded pillows. John began weeping uncontrollably. After a few minutes of mental absorption, John heard an unfamiliar noise coming from the bathroom. Overwhelmed with emotion, he got up slowly and made his way toward the sound. After moving his daughter Rose’s mutilated body out of the way, he quickly swung the door open. There was Roger in the tub; squirming, limbless, and without a tongue. John instantly vomited onto the blood covered walls and floor. He looked up and saw himself in the mirror; his face was covered in bruises. Much like his loved ones, there were scrapes and cuts all over his body. His back and chest were stinging unbearably from the blood soaked shirt that was sticking to his wounds.

       Stepping back out from the bathroom, John noticed that the door leading to the outside was cracked open as if someone had left in a hurry. So John rushed over to the room phone and dialed 911. Before anyone had time to answer, John looked down at Cadence. He immediately became silent, and gently released his grip from the phone as it made its way to the floor. John picked up Cadence, without hesitation, and held her closely. Her body was cold. Staring at the vessel which once held his daughter’s soul, he softly closed her eyelids for the last time, placing her back down onto the bed.

       John stepped outside, just as police and emergency responders were pulling up to the scene. Due to his appearance, police drew their guns on John who was now standing in an array of headlights. Covered in tears, blood, and snot, he dropped down to his quivering knees. Before passing out from a state of shock, John could see the cops slowly approaching him. John started going in and out of consciousness, occasionally viewing the inside of an ambulance.

       Days later, John woke up in the local Hospital. His attending physician informed him that there were police outside of his room that would like to speak with him. John shook his head 'yes.' It was hard to speak with an oxygen mask over his face. Officers Blake and Davis approached John’s bed asking how he was feeling. John slowly nodded his head, as if to gesture “ok." Staring with a blank face and eyes of inquiry, John looked at the Officers. Officer Davis asked John if he had remembered what happened. John nodded his head slowly, side to side. Pulling the oxygen from his face and in a weak voice, John asked for his family. Officer Blake replied, “I’m sorry John." The officers then began to show him photos of the crime scene. Tears begin to roll down his cheeks. John said, “This can’t be! How? Who…?" Officer Blake placed her hand on top of John's and said, “I assure you we are looking into it... I know this must be extremely difficult." The officers exited the room. The doctor re-entered the room, just as John started to hyperventilate. She administered some meds that helped him to relax, and he slowly fell asleep.

       A week later, after John had built up some strength, he vowed to himself that he would seek retribution for his family’s lives. This newfound motivation to get out and hunt was increased by the day. However, for safety reasons John was constantly monitored and/or restrained to the bed. He desperately wanted to do something, but was helplessly trapped. One morning, he asked the nurse for his pants and requested to leave the hospital. The nurse explained that they had to dispose of the pajama pants he arrived in, because they were covered in blood and had canine feces on the left knee. The nurse also informed him that his release must be approved by a doctor. John waited patiently. After about another week, and an extensive medical examination, John was released from the hospital with a stipulation - long-term rehabilitation. He was told that due to the extent of his injuries and mental trauma, he was being sent to a psychiatric and physical rehabilitation center. While at the center, John would have a counselor specifically dedicated to his treatment. This news made John quite mad, as he was already anxious to get out. But being heavily medicated, he didn’t put up too much of a fight.

       After approximately one year of treatments, John’s assigned counselor finally approved his request to be released from rehab. The counselor added that he would give him a ride to anywhere he wanted to go, within a reasonable distance. John said, “It would mean a lot to get a ride to Ledeville.” The counselor informed John that Ledeville was no longer populated. He continued to explain, that after the incident, the handful of residences that did occupy the town had since moved out. He said, "The incident gave the town a negative reputation and it ruined their small economy." John, of course, still wanted to go there. The counselor said, “If that's what you want, I can do that for you.” John thanked him and went back to his room, preparing to leave in the morning.

       At about 8:30AM the following morning, John met the counselor in the lobby as planned. The counselor handed one of the two cups of coffee he was holding to John and asked, “Are you ready?” John replied, “Yes." Approaching the car the counselor says “Ledeville is about a two hour ride”. John said, “That's ok, it's where I need to be.” About 30 minutes into the drive John dozed off. He woke up in what appeared to be a deserted Ledeville, rundown and abandoned just like he was told. They pulled up to the old motor lodge and everything became increasingly more surreal to John. He hadn’t seen Ledeville in daylight before. John and his counselor decide to take a brief walk around the building and have a smoke. They traversed the vacated reception desk, passed the room where the incident occurred, and walk to the side of the building near a patch of grass where the car was parked. The counselor got back into his car and asked John one last time, “Are you sure you want to be here?” John replied, “I need to be." The counselor wished John the best and flicked his cigarette out of the window as he drove off. The smouldering butt landed on a plot of grass next to John. Instinctively, John walked over to stomp it out, but noticed something. The tobacco stained filter had landed on a very small, square stone that was flush to the ground. The stone appeared to have weathered letters that roughly looked like someone's name. John didn’t pay it anymore attention. He just picked up the butt and threw it in the trash.

       John has been in Ledeville ever since, helplessly awaiting the arrival of those who took his family...

       Or, so he thinks. John is not actually in the town of Ledeville, he can’t be. He is the psychotic killer that slaughtered his family. Currently, John is being monitored in a secure mental compound, where special case studies get their own building. The internal environment of each building is physically indistinguishable from its originally referenced location. In addition, each facility is also equipped with state of the art holographic technology. This technology is specifically tailored to re-create various aspects of the environment which could not be achieved otherwise, such as the illusion of spatial distance. These enclosed facilities are designed to help researchers gain more knowledge, regarding psychotic anomalies. Each location takes about a year to build, which is why John spent almost a twelve months in “rehabilitation.” John was selected for this experiment while he was unconscious in the hospital. Once federal investigators got involved, and assessed the evidence, it was clear what had happened. John had lost his mind. To them this meant that John qualified for a new covert federal program called, “Project Le-le," but in order to be initiated into the program successfully, John himself could not be made aware. Certain measures had been taken in order for this to happen. For example, the folks that were dressed like local police officers visiting him in the hospital. Their job was to simply misdirect John into thinking all is as it should be. Another would be the counselor, dosing John's coffee with a strong sedative so he would pass out, believing he was on his way to the real Ledeville. This also ensured safe relocation to his assigned facility, where he currently lives in false freedom as a science experiment.

       Five years after the initial incident occurred, the LeDeville Motor Inn was purchased by new owners. They did a ton of renovating, including the exterior landscape. They ripped up the parking lot, and even the little plot of grass. Oddly enough, the little plot of grass ended up being a makeshift grave-site. They never determined who it was, only that they were not dead when they went into the ground.

- The End -


Richard Hennessy is a writer, poet, and musician out of Fort Worth, Texas. His band Henry the Archer has been making waves in North Texas over the last year winning several awards: Fort Worth Weekly 2017 Top 10 Local Albums and Song of the Year, Dallas Observer 20 Best Local Albums and 2017 Best Male Vocalist and KXT 2017 Listener Favorite. 

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