The Music of Jake Kaufman

 

Above are the soundtracks to Shovel Knight by Jake Kaufman.  Mr. Kaufman composes and arranges music for popular video games, such as Shovel Knight and Double Dragon Neon.

I particularly enjoy the Shovel Knight Soundtracks, as they bring back memories of spending countless hours tapping away at my NES controller.  I hope you take the time to listen, and if you enjoy Mr. Kaufman’s work then you can visit his Bandcamp page on the web or via the mobile app, and listen to his other work for free.  You may also purchase the albums for whatever price you feel they are worth.

Shovel Knight is made by Yacht Club Games and is a platformer made as an homage to classic retro Nintendo games i.e. The Legends of Zelda.

You can check out reviews for Shovel Knight herehere and here.

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One Night at the Gobble Stop

“Shit, again?”
I sighed and walked from behind the counter and over to the slushy machine. There it was, Halloween Huckleberry slush all over the floor.

“Thanks, kid.” I said.

“You’re welcome, loser.”

Halloween in Turkey Hollow, a time when all the teenagers come out and dress up to where you can’t recognize them, and then proceed to trash the town; what a wonderful day to be at work. The little goblin ran out the door laughing and high-fiving his buddies. I walked over and grabbed a wet-floor sign and set it up over the spill. I had been working at this dive for about two months now. I had a nice job at the local Wal-Mart for the past six years, but I got fired for taking an extra five minutes on my fifteen minute break. Everyone was doing it, but this time management decided I was the one to punish.

“Hello, do you have any Tylenol?”

“Yeah, on aisle three by the band-aids.” I said.

Customers have been in and out all night. They told me Halloween is one of the busiest nights of the year. I’ve been here since seven, and I don’t get off until seven. Everyone else asked for the night off to spend with family; I have none so I volunteered. I walked over to the broom closet and grabbed a mop and bucket. I rolled it over to the spill, but before I could clean it up I had a customer at the register.

“What’ll it be?” I said.

“Yeah, gimme’ a pack of reds.”

“You’re the boss. That’ll be three dollars and forty-two cents.”

“Oh, um, can you break a hundred?”

“Nope,” I said.

“Well, I only have three ones and thirty-nine cents.”

I looked at the man and sighed. What is it with people these days?

“There’s some pennies in the change jar over there,” I said.

“Oh, thanks. Here ya go, three dollars and forty-two cents.”

As I was putting the money away in the cash register a cop pulled up. It didn’t bother me, because I’d never been on the wrong side of the law. I noticed cigarette man getting nervous though, and after a few quick looks over his shoulder cigarette man exited the building. I closed the register and stepped back over to the spill. I was wringing out the mop when I heard the bell jingle, and I looked up.

“Can I get you anything officer,” I said.

“Maybe. You see any robed men tonight, Saw?”

“I can’t say that I have, Terry,” I said.

“I tell you what, Saw. This night just started and all hell’s already broke loose.”

“Trick ‘r Treaters gettin’ ya down?”

“Ha! I wish. They’re dressed like trick r’ treaters sure enough, but it ain’t trick r’ treatin’ they got on their minds.”

“Kids will be kids, Terry. Why, just a few minutes ago a goblin came in here and threw this slushy on the ground.”

“No, you’re not listening, Saw. These fellas’ are out doin’ the devil’s work. Murderin’ chickens and such.”

“Chicken murderers?”

“Yep, exactly. Upset a couple of old ladies and ran off.”

“701, 701, this is dispatch, over.” Said the woman.

“Yeah, this is 701, go ahead,” Said Terry.

“We have another…homicide on Goodwhich street.”

“Copy that, Dispatch.”

Terry put his walkie back on his belt and walked over to the coffee and poured himself a cup.

“What do I owe ya?” Said Terry.

“It’s on the house.”

“You sure?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“You’re a good man, Saw.”

I’ve known Terry since high school; we go way back. After we graduated he got a degree in criminal justice from the local community college. After that he hit up the police academy, and the next thing I know he’s the new swingin’ dick with a badge in town. I never made much out of myself, so I was happy for him. I finished cleaning up the slushy mess and put up the mop. On the way to the broom closet I saw something in the front window out of the corner of my eye. It was cigarette man; what the hell was he doing? I leaned in for a closer look, shielding myself behind the candy bar shelf. I peeked over the shelf just enough to see cigarette man, but not enough to where he could see me. Cigarette man was standing over by a parked car; it was a real clunker. I watched as he popped the trunk and pulled out something black. Normally I wouldn’t give a shit, but there was something about cigarette man that creeped me out. I leaned in for a closer look, and about that time I saw another man walk up to cigarette man’s clunker. The new man was wearing a dark black robe with a hood that draped over his face. What you could see of his face was covered by a red mask. The two men exchanged words, and then cigarette man threw on a black robe of his own; he pulled up his hood, and then pulled a red mask out of the trunk. I couldn’t believe it, but his mask was identical to new man’s mask. All of a sudden the shelf I was leaning against began to buckle, and I fell backwards pulling the shelf of candy bars on top of me.

It made a loud commotion, and I laid there for a few minutes feeling stupid. I pushed the shelf off of me, and staggered up. I quickly remembered my little spy game, and hunched down instinctively while peeking out the window. Cigarette man was gone; whatever he was up to, he’s now out up to it. Feeling silly, and a little sheepish, I went about picking up my mess. I guess there wasn’t anything strange in what cigarette man was doing. I mean, it was Halloween after all. I picked up a Hershey’s bar and tossed it onto the shelf. I wonder if these fellas’ had anything to do with what Terry was talking about? The door jingled and I looked up.

“Hey boss, I need ten on pump three,” Said the man.

“Ten? You got it,” I said. I walked over to the register and rang him up.

“You hear about the crazy shit goin’ on out there tonight?” Said the man.

“Nope,” I said.

“There’s these crazy fuckers running around town in black robes.”

“Yeah, actually I have heard something about that.”

“I was out visiting with my son when I saw a cop car zoom by blaring their sirens; scared the hell out of my boy.”

“Well that’s a hell of a thing. I wonder who he was after?” I asked.

“Haven’t you been listenin’ Crazy fucks, cops are after robed crazy fucks. I learned from my ex-wife, who heard from her idiot boyfriend, that them crazy fucks have been killing chickens. Who the hell would wanna do that?”

“Hell if I know, It’s Halloween, so probably teenagers on drugs. That’s what I was doing back then.” I said.

“Yeah, but I bet you weren’t no crazy fuck.” Said the man.

The man left to go pump his gas while looking around the lot a little too nervously. I chuckled as he hung up the pump and got in his truck and sped off. I couldn’t help but wonder if cigarette man was one of them crazy fucks? I wonder if I should call Terry and let him know what I saw. No, its Halloween, and I didn’t have any proof. Could’ve just been some guys putting on costumes and going to a party. I walked back over to my candy bar mess, and started cleaning again.

I should’ve known better than to poke my nose into this Halloween business. I looked at the crumbled Hershey’s bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups. I’m pretty sure I’m screwed at this point, so I might as well help myself. I leaned down and picked up a Reese’s, peeled off the wrapper, and popped it into my mouth. Just as I did, I heard strange thumping noises coming from the front windows.

“What the hell are you doing you little shits?” I screamed.

“Go fuck yourself! Trick ‘R Treat, loser,” yelled the little shits.

That’s all I needed, the front of the store being egged, in addition to all of the mess I already have to clean up tonight. “Happy Halloween, Sawyer,” I said. Where was I gonna’ find the time to clean all of this up? I started to pull on my hair out of frustration when I heard the door jingle.

“Eww, gross. What the fuck is this? There’s egg all over this door!” Said the woman.

“Yes, Ma’am. It’s Halloween,” I said.

“Ugh, I’m so fucking tired of this night.”

“You and me both,” I said.

“Can’t you call the cops or something?”

“Nah, better not. Mike, the owner, doesn’t like to prosecute customers if he can help it. Besides, the cops have their hands full tonight, I’d think.”

“Yeah, there’s some shit going down on Goodwhich; I heard sirens and gunshots,” she said.

“Really? A cop was in here a bit ago headin’ that way; was after some chicken murderers,” I said.

“Chicken murderers? I don’t know anything about no chicken murders, but I have heard about folks running around in black robes,” she said.

“Yeah, I may have heard and seen something about men in black robes.”

“Really? You saw something? Maybe you should call the police?”

“I really don’t wanna’ get involved in all this crazy shit,” I said.

“I don’t blame you, this is one weird fucking night. Anyway, I need a pint of Wild Turkey.”

“Wild Turkey? Hmm, yeah, here it is next to the jack. That’ll be six dollars even.”

“Well, I only have five dollars and eighty-nine cents,” she said as she rummaged through her purse.

I looked at her with a mixture of sadness and contempt. “We have pennies over here in the change jar.” She rifled through the coins until she had the total; she smiled and left.

I began to wonder if maybe I should’ve called Terry. If I remember right, he was heading to Goodwhich street. That lady said there was gunfire, but why would he be shooting at chicken murderers? I contemplated how silly I was being thinking any of this was serious, or outside the ordinary for Halloween night. I didn’t have time to be calling any police over foolishness, so I decided to get back to what was important, and that was cleaning up all of this mess.

The shelf was heavy for something that only held candy bars, but I managed to reattach it. I placed the boxes of candy bars neatly on the shelf, and then swept up the damaged candy and wrappers on the floor. It felt good to clean it up and put things back in their place. Maybe this night was finally beginning to turn around. I looked at my watch and cringed, it was only ten o’clock. I still had several hours to go until seven in the morning.

“Hey, you! Where do you keep the condoms?” Said two teens, a boy and a girl giggling. The girl dressed like a slutty tavern wench, and the boy a pirate.

“Um, aisle five next to the KY and pregnancy tests,” I said. The two teens walked away giggle and groping one another.

The door jingled one more time, and two men wearing black robes walked in. “Holy shit,” I whispered to myself. I couldn’t help but wonder if these were the guys; if they had any predilections and prejudices against chickens. The two men walked over to the beer cooler and seemed to be overwhelmed by their choices. I snuck around to where they were standing and pretended to be busy facing and zoning the product on a nearby shelf; nobody notices the help.

“You thinking Bud or Busch?” Said man number one.

“Bud? Fuck that, Bud is for pussies. We’re buying Busch,” said man number two.

“Man, Busch tastes like cat piss. Let’s buy Rolling rock,” said man number one.

They just sounds like a couple of idiot kids, I thought. They are most definitely the chicken murderers! Excitement pulsed through me, and I could barely stand still.

“Alright, fuck it, we’ll just get Natty and get the fuck out of here,” said man number two.

“Yeah, it’s almost ten-thirty and we need to meet up before the ceremony. I can’t wait to rip that bitch open and hear her squeal,” said man number one.

“Well grab the fucking beer and lets go already,” said man number two.

Man number one hesitated, but conceded and grabbed a case of Natural Light beer. They were about to check out and leave, so I made my way back to the register fast, but not so fast as to draw attention. I was making myself busy when the two men walked up and set the case of beer on the counter.

“You two having a fun night?” I said.

“You can say that again, this has been the best Halloween yet,” said man number one.

“Yeah, heading to a party? That’s a lot of beer,” I said.

“Oh yeah, we’re going to a real good party out on Rowling street,” said man number one.

“Hey, whats with all the questions?” said man number two.

Shit, what do I say? It was obvious and suspicious that I’m asking so many damn questions, I felt like such an idiot. Way to go, Jessica Fletcher! Think sawyer, think.

“Well, uh, when I’m selling alcohol by the case I like to know people wont be getting into too much trouble with it. Besides, I’m cooped up here all night, and I have to live vicariously through customers’ tales of epic parties,” I said.

“Yeah, well, fuck you and how much do we owe you?” Said man number two.

“Fourteen dollars and nintey-five cents.”

“Here’s a twenty and don’t mind my friend. He’s just nervous because we have a big night tonight,” said man number one.

“I wont sweat it; have a good night.”

The two men exited the store and went out to their car. Looks like they were driving a Honda Civic, an early two thousand model. They sped off before I could get a plate number.

“Damn.”

“Excuse me?” said the tavern wench holding a pack of magnum triple X condoms.

“Oh, sorry. That wasn’t for you, I mean about you,” I said.

“Do you have anything bigger?” asked the Pirate.

“Nope, magnum triple X is as big as they come,” I said.

“Oh, wow,” said the Tavern Wench.

“Yep, you’re one lucky lady. That’ll be five dollars and seventy-five cents.”

“Here’s six even,” said the Pirate.

“Here’s your change, have a nice night.”

“Oh, she will,” said the Pirate with a wink and a grin, before he slapped the Tavern Wench on the ass.

The teens left and finally it was quiet again. I needed to call Terry, so I began to pick up the receiver when the phone rang.

“Gobble Stop, how may I help you?” I answered.

“Sawyer, this is Mike. I got a call from a customer, well more like a complaint. She said there’s egg all over the front of the building?”

“Yeah, Mike, you know kids on Halloween do crazy things,” I said.

“We can’t let the customers tare up the store, dammit!”

“So I should call the police next time?” I asked.

“No, no I don’t wanna do that. I’d hate to have a customer arrested. If it happens again just give me a call. In the mean time, get it all cleaned up.”

“Yeah, sure. You got it Mike,” I said

That son of a bitch hung up before I could finish the ike in Mike. I needed to get on it, so I grabbed some Windex and a squeegee and headed outside. The egg had oozed all over the place and began to harden. It was plastered all over the doors and front windows; after about half an hour I realized Windex wasn’t gonna’ do it. I went back inside to look for something more powerful. I was rummaging around the broom closet when I saw something red hidden away in a far off dark corner. I moved some cleaning supplies around, and to my surprise there were two red masks.

Not just any red masks, but the exact same ones that cigarette man and his buddy wore. I couldn’t believe it; what were the odds that two of the same masks would be stashed away in here? Who could they belong to? The door is always locked, so the only people who have access to this broom closet are those who work here. So someone who works here is part of the black robed chicken murder cult? Whoa, cult, that’s a strong word, and I’m not sure its the right one. I mean, this is Halloween and it could just be some weird costume party, but a costume party where they murder chickens? That’s pretty fucked up, Saw. Then I remembered I had to call Terry and tell him what I knew, so I had better get to the phone. I checked every corner of the store; my eyes darting around looking for anything suspicious. If anyone that worked here was involved then I needed to be careful. I picked up the phone and dialed 911.

Nothing, just a dial tone. What the fuck is going on tonight? 911 wont answer now? I slammed the receiver down and kicked the wall. Part of the drywall crumbed which was just what I needed, more damage to the building.

“Excuse me, excuse me, sir?” Said the woman.

“Oh, shit. I mean, sorry. What can I do for you?”

“Um, my car broke down a few miles back, and I was wondering if you could call me a tow truck, or something?” She said.

“Sure, yeah, no problem.” She was beautiful, she had curly, copper red hair, pearly white skin and bright blue eyes. I reached for the phone book, but it wasn’t there. I looked around, and it was over on the shelf next to the flashlight and a package of unopened batteries size D. I thumbed through the yellow pages until I found the number for Triple A.

“Alright, here we go.” I picked up the receiver and dialed the number; nothing but a dial tone.

“Shit! Sorry, there’s a busy signal,” I said.

“Well, it’s Halloween, and I heard sirens and gunshots; maybe they’re busy helping out or something,” she said.

“Yeah, I guess, but what would they need a tow truck for? Look lady, there’s some serious crazy shit going on tonight,” I said.

“Like what?” She said.

I picked up the receiver and dialed Triple A once more. “Just robed men, crazy fucks, and chicken murders, but maybe more, I don’t know.” Damn, busy again; I slammed down the receiver.

“Wow, chicken murders and crazy fucks? Sir, are you OK?

“No. I mean yes. Well, I don’t know. Earlier tonight, Terry, a cop I know, came in here and said that there were robed men running around murdering chickens; shortly after he got called to Goodwhich street. A little while after that I saw two men in black robes enter the store, so naturally I followed them, hid and eavesdropped.”

“Naturally,” she said.

“Yeah, well, you wouldn’t believe what they were talking about,” I said.

“Try me?”

“They were in a hurry, arguing over beer, and they had real shitty taste in beer, but then they were going on about making it on time to some ceremony, and one of the men said, well, he said he couldn’t wait to ‘hear that bitch squeal.’”

“Whoa.”

“Can you believe it?” I said.

“Interesting,” she said.

“I tried to call 911, but that was busy too,” I said.

“So, are you thinking that some kind of cult is behind this?” She said.

“Yeah, I think. I know its Halloween and all, but there is too much coincidence.”

“A chicken murder cult?” She said.

“Yeah, I mean no, you’re not following me. They said they were gonna make some bitch squeal.”

“Well, what do you think they meant by bitch? Maybe they plan on killing a dog, or another chicken? A hen this time, perhaps?” She said.

“That’s ridiculous.”

“This whole situation is ridiculous; me being stuck in this gas station is ridiculous.” She said.

She was frustrated, and I couldn’t blame her. First she has her car break down, and now she’s here listening to me ramble on like some crazy asshole about murder cults.

“So what’s your name?” She asked.

“Sawyer,” I said pointing to my name-tag.

“Oh right, I should’ve seen that.”

“No, it’s understandable. I mean, considering how your night is going. First, your car breaks down, and then you have to deal with a paranoid gas station attendant that works at the Gobble Stop.”

She laughed, and her face lit up. Maybe the night wasn’t so bad after all.

“So, how about you?” I said.

“Me?”

“Yeah, your name, silly. I told you mine.”

“I’m Jennifer.”

“Well, nice to meet you, Jennifer. I wish we could’ve met under different circumstances.”

“Yeah..”

I glanced at my watch and it was eleven-thirty. I still have about seven hours ahead of me, but they would go by easy with her around.

“So both lines were busy?” She said.

“Yeah, they were. Here, let me try again.”

I picked the receiver up and dialed 911, but the line was still busy.

“Damn, what the fuck. Both lines again?” I said.

“Well, if I could borrow the phone, I could call my sister and let her know

I’m OK, and where I’m at.”

“Of course, here you go,” I said.

I handed the phone over to her, trying not to sound or look too much like a dumbass. She took the phone from me in a graceful manner that couldn’t be described as anything other than feminine.

“Damn, her line is busy too. How is this even possible?”

“Maybe she went out or something?” I said.

“No, I mean 911, Triple A and now my sister. This isn’t just coincidence, are you sure there isn’t something wrong with your phone?”

“I don’t think so, but now that you mention it the last call I got was a couple hours ago.”

“Well maybe we should check the line?”

“Sure,” I said.

I picked up the phone and found the wire, and everything was plugged in fine. We traced the wire from the base of the phone to half way across the store. The line ended there, and disappeared behind the wall.

“Well, damn, now what?” She said.

“Oh, I know! Last time the phone went down Mike called the phone company. When he showed up he said there was a box outside where the line runs to.”

“Well, we better go check it then.” She said.

“Right.”

Together we walked to the back of the store and I removed the store keys from my pocket. When we arrived at the emergency door, I inserted the key and turned it clockwise once, and then counter clockwise twice, just like Mike showed me. The door yielded, and the locks unbolted with a thud. I opened the door and we stepped outside. It was dark, but the outside light was on. We searched the back wall outside of the building for a few minutes until we came across a box with AT&T written on it. Inside was a mess of wires, all cut.

“Well, there’s your problem.” She said.

“You think? Damn kids.”

“Why would kids cut your phone line?” She said.

“Well, if not kids, then who?” I asked.

“That’s a good question. I suggest we go back inside and try to figure that out; it’s freezing out here.”

We went back inside and the warmth from the store was comforting. I got Jennifer a complimentary cup of coffee, and then we sat down next to the register and discussed what to do next.

“So you don’t have a cell?” She asked.

“Nope, I can’t afford one and I’m always next to a land line anyway,” I said.

“I broke my iPhone the other night; I dropped it in the toilet.”

“Ouch, I bet that was expensive.”

“I bought the insurance, but my new phone wont be delivered until next week.”

“OK, well that rules out calling anyone since we’re the only gas station for miles,” I said.

“Well, maybe this isn’t as serious as we think? It really could’ve just been some pranksters like you said.”

“Yeah, we could just wait until morning, or when another customer comes in and we could ask them to call your sister or the cops?” I said.

We both sat there hoping for the best knowing deep down that something awful was about to happen. I watched her as she sipped her coffee, her red curls resting on her shoulders. A shimmer of light reflected off of her necklace, a necklace that I hadn’t noticed before. When I saw what it was,I began to panic.

“Holy shit!” I screamed.

“What, is everything OK?” She said looking at me frightened.

“So you are one of them?” I said.

“One of what? Sawyer, you’re scaring me.”

“You know what! You’ve known this entire time, trying to play me for a fool!”

“Sawyer, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m beginning to realize you’re batshit crazy.”

“Oh, that’s rich! A load of bullshit, but you’ve been shoveling that all night, haven’t you?”

“OK, I’m done! I’m leaving, I’ll take my chances outside with the chicken murdering crazy fuck cultists!”

“Yeah, you can take your devil worshiping, pentagram wearing ass out of here!” I screamed.

“You’re a real asshole! Wait, pentagram? You mean this? This is what you are so upset about? She said holding up her necklace.

“You bet your sweet ass, lady.”

“Sawyer, you fucking idiot. The pentagram isn’t a devil worshiping symbol. I’m a Wiccan, and Wiccan’s don’t worship Satan, they worship nature and balance.”

She looked at me like someone would look at a poor, sick and wounded puppy, her eyes full of sympathy and sadness. I began to calm down a little, and she gave me a crash course in what wicca was, and what being Wiccan meant.

“So Wiccans don’t worship Satan, or murder chickens?” I asked.

“No, we don’t even believe in Satan, and we definitely have no quarrel with chickens.” She said

“Listen, I’m sorry. I was raised Christian, and I’ve always been told that pentagrams are Satanist, and that cults use them for their symbols.” I said.

“Its fine, and I’m used to it by now. I’m not some cheap goth Wiccan, my family has practiced Wicca for several generations.”

“Wow, that’s kind of cool, but aren’t you worried folks might find out? I don’t figure too many in Turkey Hollow would be very forgiving of something like that. You know, them being Christian and all.” I said.

“Well, freedom of religion and all, but we have kept it real quiet up until recently. The world seems to be more accepting, but at the same time things have gotten worse. News of our coven got out a few months ago, and the town has become rather reactionary towards us.”

“Oh, that’s terrible, but I guess I’m no better though, seeing as how I reacted and all,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it, its no big deal. Really.”

“So, if they cultists aren’t Wiccans, then who and what are they?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, but I’m certain they aren’t Wiccans.”

I sat there perplexed and mesmerized by Jennifer. She was so exotic with her copper, curly hair, and her foreign religion. She lived in an entirely different world than me, a world that existed both outside, but parallel to Turkey Hollow. As I was drinking her in with my eyes and thoughts, the light suddenly went out. Immediately the emergency backup lights came on and it cast a red hue across the entire store.

“Uh, what’s going on, Sawyer?” She asked.

“Looks like the power went out.”

“This can’t be a good sign. The phone line cut, and now the power is out?” She said.

“Yeah, you’re telling me. I’m freaked out, but what do we do if neither of us can call out?”

Suddenly, I heard a jingle and we both looked at the front door. The robed cultists were filing in, one by one. There must have been four dozen of them, all wearing black robes and red masks. Jennifer panicking, began to draw a large circle on the ground; inside the circle she drew a pentagram. She pulled a small dagger from her purse and began speaking in a language I had never heard before.

“Who are you? Who the hell are you people and what do you want?” I screamed at the cultists, but they didn’t respond.

“Sawyer, get in the circle!” Jennifer screamed.

At first I hesitated; old superstitions don’t die easy. I stepped into the circle, and the cultists surrounded us. Fear crept up my spine while Jennifer was muttering her nonsense. Suddenly, and without warning, the cultists stopped their advance. From the back came a cultist dressed not in a black robe, but red, and on his or her face was a black mask that reminded me of death. The cultist reached up and removed their mask,revealing a familiar face.

“Reverend Matthews?” I said.

“It’s disappointing seeing you harboring this witch, Sawyer.” Said the Reverend.

Reverend Matthews was the pastor at the church here in Turkey Hollow. I had grown up in that church, interacting with Reverend Matthews every Sunday since I was a boy.

“Reverend, you’re a cultist now?”

“No, my boy. The only cultist here is that witch over there. Now, step out of the circle so we may proceed.”

“Step out of the circle?” I asked.

“Yes, son. You are being protected by the sign of Satan himself!”

“No, Reverend, you don’t understand! That’s not a Satan symbol.”

“Silence! Do not spew her lies! Are you not one of us, Sawyer? If so, then flee the circle.”

“No, Saw, don’t leave. Once you leave the circle I can’t protect you anymore.” Said Jennifer.

“Shut up, bitch!” Screamed the crowd.

“Silence! If he will not remove himself, then we must proceed. We cannot summon him past the hour. Samhain is the only day when the veil is thinnest.” Said the Reverend.

“Summon who? Reverend, you’re a Christian man. Why are you all running around murdering chickens and attacking this poor woman?” I said.

“The chickens were only the beginning; he requires sacrifice and life energy to enter our realm. He will arrive and smite this witch!” Said the Reverend.

“Reverend, how is summoning the devil going to help you? Don’t you see that makes you Satanist?” I asked.

“The devil? Oh, you are mistaken, my boy. We are summoning Gabriel, the archangel; all hail Gabriel!” Said the Reverend.

“All hail Gabriel!” Screamed the crowd.

“Gabriel, but Gabriel is an angel, why would he have anything to do with this?” I said.

“The angels are the foot soldiers of God, my boy, and Gabriel a general among them! He will smite this witch and send her back to hell from whence she came!” Shouted the Reverend.

Reverend Matthews removed a large, leather bound book from his robe and began to read from it in a language that sounded like Hebrew (I’d know because I went to Tommy Markowitz’s Bar Mitsvah in the seventh grade). In between passages he splashed what looked like blood all over Jennifer’s circle. The air began to thin, and suddenly an orb of white light appeared, pulling itself from another dimension. Flames began to dance and sizzle around the orb as it grew larger. Reverend Matthews voice began to build in intensity, and the crowd of cultists began to chant. Jennifer began to weaken, her face looked sallow and pale. She looked like she was about to fall over when I heard a jingle. That familiar sound with its normalcy was comforting and welcome. Who came in though was a welcome sight, indeed. Terry came barreling through the crowd like a rhino through poachers; he was holding a pump action shotgun.

“Clear the fuck out! This is an unlawful assembly, you chicken murderin’ sons of bitches!” Screamed Terry.

He fired a warning shot into the air, and the cultists all ran out into the lot where the rest of Turkey Hollow’s finest were waiting for them. Terry disappeared, trampled and carried away by the crowd trying to force themselves out of the building. I turned around to see if Jennifer was OK, but to my surprise she was standing up and pointing a finger at Reverend Matthews, who was now laying on the ground writhing and twitching with spasms. The white orb still levitating in mid-air, but seeming to struggle and remain in our world. Feeling brave, I looked deep into the orb and I saw a face, a face made of white fire and anger.

“Sawyer! You must stop her before she undoes all of the church’s work! You are one of us,” said the Reverend.

I looked back at Jennifer, but all she was doing was pointing at Reverend Matthews and speaking intensely in her foreign language. I looked around for a way to act, but I didn’t know what I could do. In the middle of the store lay Terry’s shotgun. I ran over and slid on the ground over to where the gun was laying. I grabbed Terry’s shotgun, stood up and aimed.

“Fire on her son! Don’t let that whore of Lucifer escape our justice!” Cried the Reverend.

I aimed the shotgun at the orb and fired. The orb vanished with a flash of light, and I could hear the angel scream. At the same time the Reverend exploded leaving chunks of body parts, flesh and blood all over the store. I looked back at Jennifer, and she was laying in the circle passed out. I ran over to her and took her into my arms. What I saw wasn’t Jennifer, but something much worse. She was terrifying, a specter of her former self. Her face was hot to the touch, and her eyes were white and fierce. The angel had possessed her, and now I was in trouble.

“Who summons Gabriel to this pathetic realm?” Gabriel asked.

I at once was levitated in the air and thrown across the room, landing on chunks and pieces of Reverend Matthews.

“It wasn’t me! It was Reverent Matthews!” I pleaded.

Jennifer, or at least her body, stood up and her feet lifted off of the ground. She remained inside her circle, floating.

“Release me from this circle so that I may cleanse this realm of all its sin!” Gabriel commanded.

I looked at Jennifer, I mean Gabriel, and her body was on fire, white flames burning her flesh. Her skin began to bubble, and ooze off of her body.

“Let her go, you’re killing her!” I screamed.

“Not until you release me from this circle. Until then, she belongs to me,” said Gabriel.

“If I do that, you’ll kill us all.”

“I promise to harm only those who must be cleansed.”

I considered my options, and they were few. I doubt gabriel would allow me to leave, and even if he did Jennifer would surely die.

“I have your word that if I break the circle you will let Jennifer go?” I asked.

“An oath bound by God, himself,” said Gabriel.

Not having any other option available to me, I walked over to the circle containing a burning Jennifer. I took my foot and wiped away part of the circle. Suddenly the flames on Jennifer’s body were extinguished, and she fell to the ground. Her body lay limp, charred like last summers Barbecue. I knew and wept, but before I could get a tear out I saw a burning white ball of dancing flames hovering in the air.

“You son of a bitch! You killed her!” I screamed.

A laugh came from the burning flames and then it dated straight for me.
I woke up with a tingling, burning sensation in my skin. I felt better than I had for a real long time, and I’d swear I was a few years younger. I stood up and took a deep breath, and my senses seemed heightened. I could smell the blood from the exploded Reverend Matthews, and the burned flesh from Jennifer’s corpse. I had been possessed by that damn angel, but I fared much better than Jennifer.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you are a true believer, and this vessel will do just fine,” he said.

It has been a few months now, and I don’t hear him much. Only when a witch is near; I can sense them now, you see?

Turkey Hollow is back to normal, whatever normal is for Turkey Hollow. I’ll be damned if I ever volunteer for another Halloween shift again.

Dale Humperdinck

I had to stop Dale. What he did to Jimmy’s son was unthinkable. That rat bastard had gone way too far, and someone had to stop him. I had to find that bastard, but he disappeared after he did what he did. I knew who could find him though, but it would cost. The cost didn’t matter none considering what was at stake.

That night the woods were dark. It had to be around one in the morning, and the moon was full. I couldn’t let anyone know what I was up to. Lord, what would people think?

After I searched for close to an hour I finally found the path leading up to the mountain. It was wet and muddy, the sticky kind of mud that grabs ahold of your boots. Running up the trail was a thick rope for grabbing ahold of, and to provide assistance in fighting off the mud. I slowly made my way up the trail stepping over fallen branches and misplaced stones. The trees were so thick; I could barely see where I was heading despite the full moon.

I continued on, and when I got closer to the top I noticed strange creatures staring down at me. Startled, I stopped and took a deep breath, but I only managed a gasp.

“Lord, thou art in heaven, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” I prayed.

The creatures were fearsome. From a distance I could see sharp teeth and claws snarling down at me. I gathered my courage, and put one foot in front of the other. As I got closer, with what little light my eyes could gather; I could finally make out what these creatures actually were. There were several, maybe five or six. Skulls of opossums and raccoons impaled, displayed and arranged in a purposefully fearsome manner. The skulls were painted with dried blood, and attached to the poles were bear claws reaching down at me. This is part of the legend. Not a child in Turkey Hollow went without hearing about her guardians, and how disgusting and frightening they were. I closed my eyes, and moved past them. I had to find courage, so I began thinking of Jimmy’s son, and how much life he had in him. Life that was taken from him without his consent. I opened my eyes, and to my surprise I was less than three feet from her door.

The house, if you could call it a house, seemed ancient. The roof was sunken in, and the shingles were falling off. The walls were made of rotted out knotted wood. The legend said that she had been here since before Turkey Hollow had been founded; close to two centuries. Well, I don’t know much about legends, but it can’t be possible for anyone to live that long.

I held my breath, and slowly pulled my way through the mud to her front door. The door had strange symbols drawn on it. I remember my grandmother showing me a book once. It was a book from ancient Ireland where our ancestors came from. The book had pictures of old stones with those same symbols! My grandmother said the symbols were drawn and carved by the droods, or druids. I can’t remember their names, but I do remember those symbols! She called the symbols runes, and told me it was their magic; a type of old magic. I suddenly felt a mix of both fear and excitement, or maybe it was just fear. The two emotions can be similar, and hard to separate. I took a deep breath, balled my fist, and knocked on her door.
She didn’t answer. I knocked again, but louder this time. Still, no response. I started to believe that I came all this way for nothing, but as I was raising my hand to knock one more time; I heard something move inside. I held my breath not knowing what would happen next. All of a sudden I heard something heavy at the door move, and a thin beam of light shined through as the door opened. I had anticipated this all night, but there was nothing.

The door opened, but I didn’t see anyone. I once again gathered my courage, but there was none to be found. I searched my pockets and produced a bottle of Kentucky’s finest bourbon. I pressed the bottle to my lips and took a long pull. I could feel the warm liquid travel down my throat, and into my stomach. The warmth radiated slowly throughout my entire body. Within a few seconds I had finally found my courage to enter the old shack.

I peeked inside first, but strangely I didn’t see anything; just an empty room. I decided that my caution was foolish, and I pushed open the door, and stepped inside. Once I was completely inside, a fire place lit up, but the room remained empty. The room was somewhat dark, and all that could truly be seen were the shadows. Next to the shadows of dark flames dancing on the wall was the dark shadow of a rocking chair rocking back and forth, but there wasn’t a rocking chair to be seen inside the room. I suddenly felt my warm courage leave my body as I stepped closer to the rocking chair shadow.

To my horror, inside the rocking chair was the shadow of an old woman. She didn’t have a face, but you could tell by the way she held herself, and by her silhouette that she was ancient. As I moved in closer the rocking chair stopped rocking, and the old woman turned her head. The dark and empty shadow of her head began to take form. Where there was nothing had quickly become a face. I could see empty holes for eyes staring back at me. I felt the blood rush from my head, and I began to shake uncontrollably. I reached inside my pocket for my courage, and as I did the old woman leaned in closer.

“You’ll find no courage there, son,” said the shadow.

My eyes opened widely and I froze. My disbelief had overcome my fear. I looked into her dark, black face and I said, “Yes Ma’am.”

The ancient shadow looked through me, and then it began to laugh. Myself, fully overcome by disbelief, just stood there gently fingering my pint of bourbon inside my pocket.

“Why does he come to see Old Mama?” Said the shadow.

“I come to ask after someone.”

“Surely you don’t need Old Mama’ for that?”

“Who I come for has gone missin’, and after he did what he did he just up and disappeared.”

The ancient shadow leaned back in her chair and then sprang up like a rabbit startled while hiding in a field. She then turned towards me, and the shadow began to take form as she came closer. Then, as if my disbelief couldn’t get any worse the shadow stepped from the wall, and took her complete form as an old woman. There she was outside the wall, and inside the shack standing next to the fireplace. To see her take full corporeal form from a shadow was shocking to say the least. It couldn’t be helped, so I reached inside my trouser pocket, grabbed my bottle of bourbon, and finished it off.

Now to be honest I was pretty lit up by then, but I didn’t think it’’d make no difference to some witch. Who could blame me after seeing what I had just saw? I wiped my mouth with the sleeve of my arm and kept my eyes fixed firmly on Old Mama. She was wearing a dress from what seemed a hundred years past. Not just in fashion, but also condition. Her dress hung on her in tatters; around her neck were bones. I couldn’t exactly tell what kind, but they looked like the bones of some bird. Her hair was unkempt, and looked like a bird’s nest made of straw. She looked every bit of what the legend described. Old Mama was sizing me up the same way I was her. Her eyes were glossy, milky and white. She stared at me with those milky white eyes. They appeared blank, but there was something in them.

“Who have you come here to find?” said Old Mama.

“Dale Humperdinck.” I said.

The old woman looked at me strange with those empty white eyes.

“We can find him, but it will cost you. Do you understand the cost?”

“I know it’ll cost, I just hope I can pay.”

“Oh, you will pay. The bones will tell us the cost. The bones never lie.”

The old woman reached for the necklace around her thin, dusty neck. I could see clearly now that they were some chicken bones with the same carvings I saw on her door. She unlaced them and threw them on the floor. She began to mutter some words in a language that sounded old and ancient. When she was finished, she looked at me.

“Hold out your arm.” Said Old Mama.

I took my fingers off of the bottle in my pocket, and removed my hand. I raised my arm, but hesitated. She gave me a cold look. I conceded and held my right arm up to her. She looked at me intensely with those busy blank eyes.

“Blood will have blood.” She said.

The old woman took out a knife carved from old bone, and sliced my arm deep. Blood spilled out all over the chicken bones. The old witch cackled loudly and began muttering her old dead language again. Suddenly, lightning flashed and I could hear thunder. The old witch’s words began to build up in intensity. As her intensity built, so did the fire’’s. The flames were crackling and dancing in circles within the fireplace. The heat, oh my, the heat was burning my flesh. Sweat rolled down my face and into my eyes stinging them. My shirt was soaked and stuck to me like a second layer of skin. I looked down and I saw the bones. The blood on the bones were boiling and bubbling. The runes etched into the bones were steaming and as quickly as it began it had all stopped. The fire died down, and the heat dissipated. I was cold now, and I began to shiver. The bones seemed to grow colder as Old Mama finished her ritual.

My arm hung there while blood poured out pooling on the floor. Old Mama stepped away toward her wall, and reached her thin, bony arm inside. Her hand came out holding a large jar of clear, but yellow liquid. She reached her other hand in, and out came a small sack. Old Mama walked back over to where I was standing. I could barely stand as my life poured out of me. She grabbed my arm with a firm grip; her nails practically piercing my skin. In her other hand she held the small sack. She opened the sack, and inside was some sort of sticky salve. She took her bony finger and applied the salve to my wound. It was foul smelling, and it stung something awful. To my shock the pain started to go away, and she handed me the jar of clear, yellow liquid.

“More courage. You’ll need it for what’s to come.” Said the Witch.

I unscrewed the jar, and my nose instantly jerked my head back. It smelled of strong alcohol, and I quickly recognized it for what it was; it was some type of shine. I pressed the opening of the jar to my lips. It was cold, but when I drank the liquid it was hot. The hot liquid coursed through my arms, and into the rest of my body. The pain began to leave me, and to my astonishment the wound on my arm began to knit back together. I emptied the jar, and I had this strange feeling of intoxication and health. Old Mama was watching me quietly with a look of curiosity on her face.

“Are you ready?”

“I believe so.”

The old witch walked up to me and crouched.

“The bones have told me where you can find Mr. Humperdinck.”

My eyes winced at the sound of his name. I crouched down next to her clumsily, and I about fell over.

“So where can I find him? I must know, because he has to pay.”

“The bones say he can be found in the darkness; in the heart of darkness.” She said.

I stood up quickly, but I almost fell over. I found my footing and stared into the fire.

“I have no idea where to even begin.” I said.

“The bones are never straight and plain; the bones are never wrong. You must find your heart of darkness, and you will find Dale Humperdinck.”

I looked at her dumbfounded. I couldn’t for the life of me conjure a solution to this puzzle.

“You must leave now,” said Old Mama.

“I need more though. That’s not enough, and I haven’t even paid you. How do I pay you?”

“You’ll pay soon enough,” Said Old Mama cackling.

I looked at her, and then everything went black. I woke up outside of the shack. I stood up and banged on her door, but there was no light, no fire, no movement. I let out a sigh, and turned back towards the path. It was much easier going down than it was going up. Despite the storm and the rain, I was back at the mouth of the forest before too long. I saw my old black ford parked beside the road. I climbed in and considered my puzzle once more. Where can I find this darkness, I thought to myself? Lightning flashed, and I could see Old Mama’s shack. I shuddered, and put my key in the ignition. I turned the key, shifted and drove back to my house.

My house was small, and only one story. The yard needed mowing, but I’d been too busy. I walked up to the front door, and to my surprise it was standing open. I began to shake uncontrollably. Who could be here, I wondered? I pushed the door open gently, and scanned the front room. It was dark, and I saw no movement.

“Who’s there? Come out! I have a gun!” I yelled.

I had no gun; I didn’t have anything, so I stepped inside slowly. I searched around the front room, but I didn’t see any signs of disturbance. I went into the hallway where the closet was, and I was surprised that inside my shotgun still remained. I grabbed my old shotgun, and turned towards the kitchen. I raised the shotgun, and stepped quickly into the kitchen. Again, there was nobody. I looked around, but nothing seemed to be disturbed inside the kitchen. I made my way to the freezer, and grabbed a bottle of vodka. I guess I must’ve left the door open when I left. I took a long drink from the bottle, and made my way to the bedroom. I rubbed my eyes with one hand; my other hand was gripping the gun.

I walked into the bedroom, and sat down on my bed. It had been a long night, and I was ready to get some sleep. I allowed my mind to consider what Old Mama meant by darkness, or the heart of darkness. I took a drink from the bottle, and then I saw him. Only for a split second, but I saw his reflection in the window. He was behind me, so I raised my shotgun in a haste and whirled around. In my confused, and drunken state I pulled the trigger, and the barrel jerked up putting a hole in my roof, and knocked me to the floor. I quickly stood up, but Dale was gone. I ran to the front door, and it stood open again! I ran through, but I tripped over the rug in the doorway, and I hit the floor hard. The shotgun must’ve left my hands, because it hit the floor, and fired once more shattering my front room window.

All I could hear was ringing in my ears as Dale got away. After I regained my senses I stood up and stumbled to my couch. I was this close to avenging Jimmy’s son, but the bastard got away. I looked around, but I couldn’t find my bottle anywhere. I left it in the bedroom, but I couldn’t bring myself to get up. Where would he be? I looked at the clock, and it was four-thirty in the morning. I rubbed my eyes, but I couldn’t let myself get tired. Dale had a head start, and there was no tellin’ where he’’d be if I waited until later in the mornin’. I bent over, and reached under the couch searching. My hand found the bottle, and I pulled it out. An almost full bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon. I had forgotten that I stashed it there last week, and I was very happy to see it. I unscrewed the cap, and took a long pull from the bottle. It was smooth, and it burned going down. I felt its warmth and began to wonder about darkness.

The only dark place I could think of was the woods surrounding the mountain, but Dale wouldn’t be going there. Then it hit me, how could I have not thought of it. As soon as Old Mama said darkness I should’ve known exactly what she was talkin’ about. She was talkin’ about the mine! I couldn’t contain my excitement. I grabbed the bottle of Wild Turkey, my shotgun, and I ran out of the door, but this time taking great care to avoid the rug.

I hopped in my black ford, but then I hopped back out. In my haste I had noticed something on the front bumper. I walked around to the front of the truck, and I saw red. There was some sort of sticky, black and red liquid dripping from my bumper to the undercarriage. Maybe it’s a leak of some kind, or I hit one of Old Mama’’s coons on the way home. There was no time to waste, so I hopped back in my truck and raced off to the mine.

I pulled up less than a block away from the mine. I had to be careful not to get too close as to avoid the posted security guard. Like Dale, I also knew of a second entrance that would allow me to avoid the guard. I exited my truck, and headed down the side of the road. I brought the shotgun and the Wild Turkey. I was a few feet away when I slipped to the side of the gate wall where they have a side entrance for deliveries.

For six years Dale and I had worked here, and they had always forgotten to lock the side door. Now I was sure more than ever that this is what Old Mama was talking about. I checked the side door, and sure enough it was open. I snuck inside and the door closed behind me. I looked around, and there was a light on. The light shouldn’t have been on, so Dale must have been here. I raised my shotgun and headed towards the elevator. I looked around, but all I could see were rusty mine carts here, and pick axes there. He must’ve went down the mine shaft I thought, so I climbed onto the elevator tram and pressed the button marked down.

The elevator made a loud noise of metal scraping against metal as it descended into darkness. As we passed each level there were brief flashes of light where lanterns lit up each work site. It was hypnotic, and for a moment I saw in one of the flashes Jimmy’s son laying bloody in the street. His life crushed out of him by Dale’s truck, and Dale speeding off leaving the boy to die. He was a murderer, and he had to pay for his sin; blood will have blood. If Dale knew I was coming for him then he wouldn’t be anywhere other than the bottom. After what seemed like forever the elevator finally reached the bottom of the mine. The elevator came to a slow stop screeching and sparking along the way. There wasn’t any light on the final floor of the mine. I grabbed my lantern, and stepped off the elevator into darkness.

The lantern flickered as I walked deep into the shaft. All that I could see was darkness, and all that I could hear was silence. This had to be what Old Mama was talkin’ about. You can’t get any darker than the bottom level of an old mine. As I continued walking and squinting into the black void I was startled by a quiet noise. I began to shake a bit, so I reached for my bourbon and took a drink. Feeling stronger I started again with my shotgun in one hand, and my lantern in the other. I walked slowly, and on high alert. I was about ten minutes down the shaft before I heard it again, but louder this time. A loud blood curdling noise that sounded almost like someone screaming. I froze standing still and unsure of myself. What was Dale doing down here? Did he have someone? I can’t let him hurt another child! I picked up my pace, and started running down the shaft.

“Dale! Dale! I’m coming for you, Dale!”

I was stumblin’ and trippin’ down the shaft for what must have been half an hour. My legs started to burn after a bit, and I was doing more stumbling than running. I stopped to catch my breath, and sat down. I took the bottle of bourbon from my pocket and took a drink. As I sat there catching my breath, slumped against a wall, I heard it again. The loudest blood curdling scream I had ever heard, like some demon crawling from hell. I sat there frozen holding my bottle. I set the bottle down, and grabbed my shotgun. I didn’t know what it was, but I was gonna’ be ready. I took a deep breath, and then another. Just when I thought whatever had gone I heard the noise once more.

Out of the darkness came more than a noise this time. Something flew out of the void. It was winged and fearsome. I thought to myself that this was surely a demon. The demon was black and reddish brown with sharp teeth. It screeched as it swooped down on me. I dove out of the way just in time, but I left my shotgun where I had been sitting. My adrenaline kicked in, and I suddenly had a second wind. Fear gnawed at me, and I became desperate and began pleading with the demon.

“Please! I’m sorry! Can I not be forgiven?”

The demon screeched and flashed its fangs.

“I didn’t mean to; it was an accident. He just ran out in front of me without any warning. I know I shouldn’t have been drinking behind the wheel, but I’ve been drunk since they closed down the mine.”

I lay there sobbing as the demon swooped by letting out his loud unforgiving screams. While I was sobbing I got up and dove over to where I left my shotgun. I cocked it and aimed at the demon and fired.

I woke up, but I had no idea what time it was. After I had fired that shot, I had killed the demon sure enough, but caved in the shaft at the same time. I was sober now, my bourbon bottle lying broken next to me. I looked at the demon, but it was no demon at all, but the largest bat I had ever seen. I had deserved a demon, but all I got was a bat. I deserve hell, and I’m damn close to it where I’m at now. There isn’t much time now. The air is thinning, and I soon won’t be able to breath. The lantern is starting to flicker and run out of oil.

If you’re reading this Jimmy, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for killing your son, and I’m sorry for leaving this confession on the back of this whiskey label.