Funland, p.1Richard Laymon
FROM BAD TO WORSE
The thudding footfalls of the troll didn’t seem to be getting closer. She risked a glance over her shoulder. He was about twenty feet back, farther away than he’d been when she bolted from the bench.
He looked like a giant.
But he wasn’t fast.
He won’t win any track races, Gloria thought. But her terror didn’t subside at all. Not a bit of it.
If he gets me, he’ll rip me up.
That’s absurd, she told herself.
What’s the worse that can happen, really?
He rapes and kills me.
A nasty corner of her mind whispered, That isn’t the worst.
She glanced back again. Now the troll was even farther behind.
I’m going to make it! If I don’t trip. If he doesn’t corner me. If there aren’t others waiting in the dark places up ahead.
Just ahead, on the right, was the Tilt-a-Whirl. Gloria wondered if she should try for it. What if she had trouble getting over the fence?
No. She didn’t dare.
Keep running, she told herself. Widen your lead. Then go for a fence.
Once you’re on the beach…
Light suddenly spilled out of a doorway on the right. It wasn’t at boardwalk level, but at the top of a raised platform.
Dunn’s place, she realized.
His Oddities place…
Table of Contents
From Bad To Worse
Other Leisure books by Richard Laymon:
This book is dedicated to
Ann Laymon and Kelly Ann Laymon,
my wife and daughter,
my traveling companions,
my best friends…with loads of love.
“Trolling” is an actual practice that has occurred in various California communities. Boleta Bay and Funland, however, are ficticious. The characters and events of the story are creations of the author’s imagination.
He came out of the shadows beside the closed arcade and shambled toward Tanya. He looked like something that had crawled out of a grave in a zombie film—face gray under the moonlight, eyes like holes, head tipped sideways, feet shuffling, ragged clothes flapping in the wind.
Tanya halted. She folded her arms across her breasts. In spite of the chill wind blowing in off the ocean, she was warm enough in her sweatsuit. But now her skin started to crawl as if coming alive and shrinking. A belt seemed to be drawing tight across her forehead. She could feel the hair standing upright on the nape of her neck, on her arms.
The man shuffled closer.
Not a zombie, Tanya knew.
Zombies aren’t real. Zombies can’t mess with you. They don’t exist.
This was a troll.
One of the mad, homeless parasites that preyed on anyone—everyone—who ventured near the boardwalk or the beach. More of them all the time. The filthy, degenerate scum of the earth.
This troll, still a few strides from Tanya, reached out his hand.
She took a quick step backward, suddenly suspected that others might be lurching toward her, and snapped her head around. She saw no one else.
She knew they were watching, though. Trolls. Two, or three, or ten of them. Gazing out from the black rags of shadows near the game booths and rides, from around corners, maybe leering up at her through cracks in the flooring of the boardwalk. Watching, but staying out of sight.
“Can y’spare two bits, darlin’?”
She snapped her head toward the troll.
She could see his eyes now. They looked wet and runny in the moonlight. His teeth were bared in a sly, humble grin. Some in front were missing. The wind wasn’t strong enough to blow away the sour stench of him.
“Okay,” Tanya said. “Sure.” She swung her shoulder bag off her hip. Clutching it to her belly, she opened it and took out her change purse.
“Can y’spare a buck, darlin’?” He bobbed his head, rubbed his whiskery chin. “I ain’t had a bite t’eat in free days.”
“I’ll see what I’ve got,” she said, and snapped open the change purse.
“Whacha doin’ out here?” he asked. “Ain’t safe, y’know. Lotta weirdees, if y’get m’drift.”
“I’ve noticed,” Tanya said.
“Purty young fing. Weirdees, they sure like purty young fings.”
Instead of coins, Tanya plucked a white card from her purse. She jerked it forward and snapped it across the troll’s waiting hand.
“Wha…?” He scowled at it.
“Can you read it?”
“It’s a message for you.”
He ripped the card and threw it down. The wind flung the pieces aside. “Wanna buck—free, four bucks. C’mon.” He jigged his outstretched hand. “C’mon!”
Tanya swung the handbag past her hip and behind her, out of the way. She felt its weight against her rump. “What the card said, you illiterate fuck, is ‘Dear Troll, Greetings from Great Big Billy Goat Gruff.’”
Tanya lunged at him. Squealing, he staggered backward. She grabbed the crusty front of his coat, hooked a leg behind him, swept his legs forward, and shoved him down. His back hit the boardwalk. His breath whooshed out as she stomped on his belly. He rolled onto his side and curled up, wheezing.
Tanya dug inside the neck of her sweatshirt. She drew out the whistle, turned away from the writhing troll, and blew a quick blast.
They sprang from their hiding place beside the distant ticket booth and raced toward her: Nate, Samson, Randy, Shiner, Cowboy, Karen, Heather, and Liz.
Watching their charge, she felt a swelling of pride in her chest. She smiled and thrust a fist into the air. All of them pumped fists over their heads. Somebody—had to be Cowboy—let out a whoop.
Tanya turned to the troll. He was crawling, trying to get away. She hurried over to him and pounded down with her shoe, turning his foot, grinding his ankle against the wood. He let out a shriek and flopped. Keeping his foot pinned, she waited. At first she heard only the rush of the wind, the distant heavy sound of combers washing onto the beach. Then came the slap and scuff of the approaching team.
In seconds she and the troll were surrounded.
Nate patted her rump. “How’d it go?”
The troll disappeared under crouched and kneeling bodies.
“Lemme be!” he whimpered. “Le’ go!”
He gasped and grunted and yelped as blows thumped him.
Turning around, Tanya scanned the boardwalk. She saw nobody. If other trolls were watching, and she was sure they must be—hoped they were—they had no interest in coming to the aid of this one.
Tanya looked down at the troll. Karen had one cuff of his baggy trousers. Heather had the other. They pulled, and the pants shot down his pale, skinny legs.
“Oooeee,” Cowboy said. “This ol’ boy, he’s hung like a mule.”
“Sure puts you to shame,” Liz remarked.
“My ass ’n your face, bitch.”
“Shut up, you two,” Nate said. “Come on, let’s get him up.”
The naked troll, stretched by hands pulling his wrists and ankles, was raised off the boards. He twisted and jerked. He whimpered. He flung his head from side to side. “Lemme be!” he cried. “Lemme be!”
Tanya spread out his coat. Holding her breath, she tossed his shoes and clothing onto it. His shirt and pants felt moist, slick in some places, scabby in others. She gagged once, but went on with her task and wrapped the coat around his other garments. She picked it up. Holding it off to the side, she followed the struggling, spread-eagled troll as he was carried to a lamppost.
Its light—all the lights of Funland—had been extinguished an hour after closing time.
Cowboy slipped a coil of rope off his shoulder. He kept one end. He hurled the rest upward. The coil unwound, rising, and dropped over the wrought-iron arm of the lamppost. The hangman’s noose came down. He grabbed it.
“No!” the troll cried as Cowboy dangled the noose over his face. “Blease! I din do nuffin!”
“He din do nuffin,” Liz mimicked.
“Let’s string him up,” Samson said.
“Hang him high,” added Karen.
“No!” His head flew from side to side, but Cowboy got the noose around it.
“Gonna stretch your neck,” Cowboy said, leaning over him. “Gonna watch you do the air-jig.”
“Let’s stop wasting time and do it,” Tanya said. Dropping the bundle of clothes, she grabbed the loose end of the rope and pulled the slack out. She strained backward, tugging. The troll squealed. The group let go of him. Tanya saw his legs drop. He swung down, his rump off the boardwalk, his feet pedaling as he tried to get them under him. His sudden weight yanked the rope. Inches of it scorched Tanya’s hands. Then Samson and Heather and Cowboy joined in.
“Okay, okay,” Nate called.
They stopped pulling. “Hold on,” Tanya said. She stepped away, leaving the other three to keep the rope anchored.
The naked troll danced on tiptoes, clutching the noose at his throat.
Tanya walked over to him.
“You want to die?” she asked him.
He made sobbing, whining noises. A string of snot hung off his chin, swaying.
“You’re disgusting,” Tanya said. “You’re scum. You’re a stinking pile of excrement.”
“That means shit,” Liz informed him.
“We don’t want your kind creeping around, messing with us. You got no business here. We’re sick of it. Do you understand?”
He blatted like a terrified baby.
“Hoist him!” Tanya yelled.
The troll went up, clawing at the noose, back arched, legs flying as if he wanted to sprint on the wind.
“That’s enough,” Nate said.
The troll dropped. His heels bounced off the wood. His rump slapped it. His knees shot up, one of them clipping his chin and knocking his head back. Lying sprawled, he whimpered and tore the noose from his neck.
Nate snatched it from his grip.
Looped it around the troll’s right ankle, slid it tight.
“Pull,” Nate ordered.
The troll’s right leg shot upward.
His body followed.
When his head was a yard above the boardwalk, Cowboy lashed the rope around the base of the post. “That oughta hold the booger,” he announced.
They gathered in front of the troll. He was swinging from side to side, twisting and spinning, pawing at the boardwalk. His loose left leg didn’t seem to know what to do with itself.
“Now, there’s a right pretty sight,” Cowboy said.
“It’d be a lot prettier,” Tanya said, “if we’d left the rope around his neck.” She crouched and glared at the eyes of the dangling troll. “Next time, you motherfucker, we’re gonna kill you dead! Understand? So you better get the hell away from here as soon as you’re down.”
“Miles away,” Nate added.
With a giggle, Heather lunged in, slapped her hands against the troll’s hip, and shoved, sending him high as if he were a kid on a playground swing.
Tanya toed the bundle of clothes toward him. With a small canister of lighter fluid from her handbag, she squirted the coat. She struck a match, cupped its flame from the wind, and touched it to the soaked cloth. The bundle erupted into a ball of flapping fire.
Its glow shimmered on the troll’s slimy whiskered face, on his swinging body.
Tanya kicked the bundle.
It tumbled and stopped beneath him. Shrieking, he grabbed his head and jerked as if trying to sit up.
“You nuts!” Nate yelled. Rushing forward, he booted the blazing heap. It rose into the air, falling apart, fiery clothes scattering and flying away on the wind.
The troll clutched the front of Nate’s pants. Nate rammed a knee up into his face and staggered backward out of reach. He whirled toward Tanya. “What the hell were you trying to…?”
“He looked cold.”
“Jesus! Come on, let’s get out of here.”
They left the troll swinging by his foot above the moonlit promenade, and walked away.
“Oooo, nice gams. Yum yum.”
Dave glanced toward the voice, saw that it came from the “mouth” of a green sock on the hand of a beggar woman, and kept walking.
If Joan had heard the remark about her legs, she was ignoring it, just as she usually ignored the appreciative stares, comments, and whistles she regularly drew during patrol of the boardwalk.
“Yummy legs. Where was they? Home in bed, daresay, yes. Snug as a virgin’s dug when Enoch bit the weenie.”
“She’s right,” Joan said. “You’ve got gorgeous legs.”
Dave stopped. He looked back at the old woman. She was sitting cross-legged on the bench. Her leathery brown face was turned away as she glared at a young couple strolling by and chattered at them with her sock puppet. The man and woman picked up their pace and didn’t look at her.
In spite of the heat, she wore a blanket that covered her head like a hood and draped her shoulders. It hung open, showing the stained front of a T-shirt. There were holes in the T-shirt. A faded skirt was spread across her lap. On the bench beside her was a yellow plastic dish with a few coins in it.
“Go on,” Joan said. “Give her a buck. She said nice things about your legs.”
“Yours. What was that she said about Enoch?”
“I don’t know. Something about him biting the weenie?”
“Who knows? Who cares? She’s a nut case.”
Dave walked back to her. She glanced at him through greasy cords of gray hair hanging over her eyes, then looked down. But the puppet turned to Dave.
“Weee,” it said. “Copper legs, here again, gone tomorrow. Copper legs with a Coppertone tan. Fuzzy fuzz legs.”
“What did you say about Enoch?” he asked.
The sock seemed to gape up at him as if startled by the question. Its wide mouth was no more than a tuck between the old woman’s thumb and fingers. A pretty sorry puppet, he thought. Didn’t even have eyes.
The mouth flapped. “Curiosity killed the cop, clap killed the twat.”
The sock shuddered.
Then flipped over as if dead.
“What happened to Enoch?” Dave asked.
“Gone gone gone,” the sock sang. “Mum’s the word. Where oh where was the pretty copper then? Home in bed. Nuff said.” The sock darted, nibbled Dave’s thigh, and scooted toward his crotch.
With a gasp, he lurched back. The sock-mouth caught hold of the edge of his shorts, then lost its grip.
“Dammit, lady!” he snapped.
Joan cracked up.
Dave rushed off without looking back at the crone.
Joan stayed at his side, laughing.
“She tried to grope me.”
“Going for your gun.”
Dave felt a shiver squirm up his back.
“Should we run her in for assaulting an officer?”
“Yuck it up, pal. You’d be laughing out the other side of your face if it was you. Jesus!” He could still feel the damn sock. He rubbed his thigh hard with his hand.
“I’d never get that close,” Joan said. “Except maybe to cuff her. And then I’d want to be wearing gloves. And a gas mask. And maybe one of those chemical-warfare outfits if I could lay my hands on one. Those people suck. I had my way, we’d get rid of every last one of them.”
“Join up with the trollers.”
“Just between you and me, I’d rather join ’em than bust ’em. Not that either’s likely to happen. I’m gonna get me a hot dog on a stick. You want one?”
Dave glanced at his hand. It didn’t look dirty. But it had rubbed his thigh where the sock had touched him. He was hungry, anyway. They’d been on foot patrol since the fun zone opened at ten, nearly three hours ago. “Grab one for me, okay? I want to wash up.”
“Use plenty of soap. It’s hard to get those troll-slicks off.”
He left his partner in line at the hot-dog booth and headed for the nearest men’s room. Funland had two sets of restrooms, one near each end of the promenade. This would be his sixth visit to one or the other.
On park patrol, they made regular stops, Dave looking into the men’s, Joan checking out the women’s.
“If any shit’s going down,” Joan liked to say, “that’s where we’ll find it.”
What they often found were loitering bums, folks of various persuasions engaged in sexual activities, and an occasional drug buy. So far today, the only restroom trouble had been a male wino barfing in a toilet of the ladies’ room. Joan had escorted him out, looking as if she’d lost the tan off her face.
Funland by Richard Laymon / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes