The traveling vampire sh.., p.3
The Traveling Vampire Show, p.3Richard Laymon
The field apparently hadn’t been a cemetery, though; nobody found signs of any grave markers or caskets. There were just a bunch of bodies—a lot of them in pieces—tossed into holes.
Tommy Janks got himself fried in the electric chair.
The clearing got itself called Janks Field.
There hadn’t been a road to Janks Field, dirt or otherwise, at the time Tommy got caught cooking up the girl’s heart. But Dad managed to drive in with his Jeep. He made the first tire tracks into that awful place. By the time the bodies and bones had been removed and all the investigations were over, the tracks were worn in. And people have been driving out to Janks Field ever since.
First, it was to gawk at where all those bodies had been found.
Before long, though, teens from Grandville and other nearby towns realized that the field was perfect for making out. At least if you and your girl had the guts to drive in there at night.
Not only did people go there to park, but some pretty wild parties went on sometimes. A lot of booze and fights and sex. That’s what we heard, anyway.
We also heard rumors of witches and so on meeting at Janks Field to practice “black magic.” They supposedly had naked orgies and performed sacrifices.
I sometimes thought it’d be pretty cool if they were sacrificing humans out there. I imagined bonfires, drums, nude and beautiful and sweaty girls leaping wildly around, chanting and waving knives. And a lovely, naked virgin tied to an altar, her body shiny with sweat, terror in her eyes as she waited to be sliced open in a blood sacrifice to the forces of darkness.
The whole notion really turned me on.
Turned on Rusty, too.
We used to talk about that sort of thing in hushed, excited voices. Not in front of Slim, though. I couldn’t have said any of that stuff with Slim listening. But also we figured, being a girl herself, she might not want to hang out with us if she knew we had fantasies like that.
Whenever I imagined the Janks Field witch orgies, I always pictured Slim as the virgin tied to the altar. (I didn’t mention that part to Rusty or anyone else.) Slim never got sacrificed because I came to her rescue in the nick of time and cut her free.
I don’t know if any humans actually were sacrificed at Janks Field back in those days. It was fun to think about, though: sexy and romantic and exciting. Whereas the sacrifice of animals, which apparently was going on, just seemed plain disgusting to us.
The animal sacrifices disgusted and worried just about everyone. For one thing, pets were disappearing. For another, people going to Janks Field for make-out sessions or wild parties didn’t appreciate tripping over the dismembered remains of Rover or Kitty. Also, they must’ve been worried that they might be next.
Something had to be done about Janks Field. Since it was outside the city limits of Grandville, the county council chose to deal with it. They tried to solve the problem by installing a chain-link fence around the field.
The fence remained intact for about a week.
But then a concerned citizen named Fargus Durge entered the picture. He said, “You don’t have orgies and pagan sacrifices going on in the town squares of Grandville or Bixton or Clarksburg, do you?” Everyone agreed on that. “Well, what’s the difference between the town squares and Janks Field? The squares’re in the middle of town, that’s what. Whereas Janks Field, it’s all by itself out there in the middle of nowhere. It’s isolated! That’s how come it’s a magnet for every teenage hoodlum, weirdo, malcontent, deviate, sadist, satanist and sex-fiend in the county.”
Make Janks Field less isolated by improving access to it and making it a center of legitimate activity.
The council not only saw his point, but provided some funding and put Fargus in charge.
They threw enough money at the problem to bring in a bulldozer and lay a dirt road where there’d only been tire tracks before. They also provided funds for a modest “stadium” in the middle of Janks Field.
The stadium, Fargus’s brainchild, consisted of high bleachers on both sides of an arena.
A very small arena.
The county ran electricity in and put up banks of lights for “night games.”
On a mild June night a little over two years ago, Fargus’s stadium went into operation.
It was open to the public unless otherwise booked for a special event. Anyone could use it day or night, because the lights were on a timer. They came on at sundown and stayed on all night, every night, as a deterrent to shenanigans.
Fargus’s “special events” took place every Friday and Saturday night that summer. Because the arena was so small, there couldn’t be anything the size of basketball games, tennis matches, stage plays or band concerts.
The events had to be small enough to fit in.
So Fargus brought to the stadium a series of spectacular duds: a ping-pong tournament, a barbershop quartet, a juggling show, a piano solo, a poetry reading, an old fart doing card tricks.
Even though the events were free, almost nobody showed up for them.
Which was a good thing, in a way, because Fargus’s big plan for the stadium hadn’t included a parking lot. This was a major oversight, since most people drove to the events. They ended up parking their cars every which way on Janks Field. Not a big problem if only twenty or thirty people showed up.
But then one night toward the end of that summer, Fargus charged a five dollar admission and brought in a night of boxing and about two hundred people drove in for it.
Things were so tight in Janks Field that some of them had to climb over the tops of cars and pickup trucks in order to reach the arena. Not only did the field get jammed tight, but so did the dirt road leading in.
Regardless, just about everyone somehow made it into the stands in time to see most of the boxing matches.
They loved the boxing.
But when it came time to leave, all hell broke loose. From what I heard, and my dad was there trying to keep order (not on duty, but moonlighting), the logjam of cars was solid. Not only were there way too many cars in the first place, but some of them got flat tires from the broken bottles and such that always littered the field.
Feeling trapped, the drivers and passengers, in Dad’s words, “went bughouse.” It turned into a combination destruction derby/brawl/gang-bang.
By the time it was over, there were nineteen arrests, countless minor injuries, twelve people who needed to be hospitalized, eight rapes (multiple, in most cases), and four fatalities. One guy died of a heart attack, two were killed in knife-fights, and a six-month old baby, dropped to the ground by its mother during the melee, got its head run over by a Volkswagen bug.
After that, no more boxing matches at Janks Field.
No more “special events” at all, duds or otherwise.
The stadium became known as Fargus’s Folly.
Though the “night games” were over, the huge, bright stadium lights continued to remain on from sunset till dawn to deter lovers, orgies and sacrifices.
And the grandstands and arena remained in place.
The Traveling Vampire Show would be the first official event to take place in Janks Field in almost two years—since the night of the parking disaster.
I suddenly wondered if it was official. Had somebody taken over Fargus’s old job and actually booked such a bizarre event?
Didn’t seem likely.
As far as I knew, the county had abandoned Janks Field. Except for paying the electric bills, they wanted nothing at all to do with the scene of all that mayhem.
I doubted that they would even allow a show to take place there—much less one featuring a “vampire.”
Unless maybe some palms got greased.
That’s how carnies got their permits, I’d heard. Just bribed the right people and nobody gave them trouble. A show like this would probably operate the same way.
Or maybe they hadn’t bothered.
I must’ve let out a moan or something.
“What is it?” Slim asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
“What’s a show like this doing at Janks Field?” I asked.
Looking puzzled, Rusty said, “Why do you care?”
“I just think it’s weird.”
“It’s a great place for a vampire show,” Slim said.
“That’s for sure,” said Rusty.
“But how did they even know about it?”
Grinning, Rusty said, “Hey, maybe Valeria’s been here before. Know what I mean?” He chuckled. “Maybe she’s done some prime sucking in these parts. Might even be the one who put some of those old stiffs in Janks Field.”
“And she likes to come back for old time’s sake,” Slim added.
“But don’t you think it’s odd?” I persisted. “Nobody just stumbles onto a place like Janks Field.”
“Well, if you trip in a snake hole…”
“I mean it,” I said.
“Seriously?” Slim asked. “Somebody came out in advance to set things up. Don’t you think so? And he probably asked around in town and found out about the place. That’s all. No big mystery.”
“I still think it’s weird,” I said.
“Weird is what you want,” said Slim, “when you run a Traveling Vampire Show.”
“I guess so.”
“The only thing that really counts,” Rusty said, “is that they’re here.”
But they weren’t.
Or didn’t seem to be.
We followed Slim out of the forest. The dirt road vanished and we found ourselves standing at the edge of Janks Field.
Way off to the right across the dry, gray plain stood the snack stand and bleachers. Overlooking them, gray against the gray sky, were the panels of stadium lights.
We saw no cars, no trucks, no vans.
We saw no people.
We saw no vampires.
We started walking across the field.
“Guess we beat ’em here,” Slim said, her voice hushed.
“Looks that way,” said Rusty. He also spoke softly, the way you might talk late at night sneaking through a graveyard. He looked at his wristwatch. “It’s only ten-thirty.”
“Still,” I said, “you’d think they’d be here by now. Don’t they have to set up for the show?”
“Who knows?” Rusty said.
“How do we know someone isn’t here?” Slim asked, a look on her face as if she might be kidding around.
“I don’t see anyone,” Rusty said.
“Let’s just be ready to beat it,” I said.
They glanced at me so I would know they got both meanings. Usually, such a remark would inspire some wisecracks. Not this time, though.
“If anything happens,” Slim said, “we stay together.”
Rusty and I nodded.
We walked slowly, expecting trouble. You always expected trouble at Janks Field, but you never knew what it might be or where it might come from.
The place was creepy enough just because it looked so desolate and because a lot of very bad stuff had happened there. Bad things still happened. Every time I went to Janks Field with Rusty and Slim, we ran into trouble. We’d been scared witless, had accidents, gotten ourselves banged up, bit, stung and chased by various forms of wildlife (human and otherwise).
Janks Field was just that way.
So we expected trouble. We wanted to see it coming, but we didn’t know where to look.
We tried to look everywhere: at the grandstands ahead of us, at the mouth of the dirt road behind us, at the gloomy borders of the forest that surrounded the whole field, and at the gray, dusty ground.
We especially kept watch on the ground. Not because so many people had been found buried in it over the years, but because of its physical dangers. Though fairly flat and level, it was scattered with rocks and broken glass and holes.
The rocks were treacherous like icebergs. Just a small, sharp corner might be sticking up, but if your foot hits it, you find out that most of it is buried. The rock stays put and you go down.
You don’t want to go down in Janks Field. (Forget the double-meaning.) If you go down, you’ll come up in much worse shape.
Even if you’re lucky enough to escape bites from spiders or snakes, you’ll probably land on jutting rocks and broken glass.
The field was carpeted with the smashed remains of bottles from countless solo drinking bouts, trysts, wild parties, orgies, satanic festivities and what have you. The pieces were hard to see on gray days like this, but whenever the sun was out, the sparkle and glare of the broken bottles was almost blinding.
Of course, you never walked barefoot on Janks Field. And you dreaded a fall.
But falls were almost impossible to avoid. If you didn’t trip on a jutting rock, you would probably stumble in a hole. There were snake holes, gopher holes, spider holes, shallow depressions from old graves, and even shovel holes. Though all the corpses had supposedly been removed back in 1954, fresh, open holes kept turning up. God knows why. But every time we explored Janks Field, we discovered a couple of new ones.
Those are some of the reasons we watched the ground ahead of our feet.
We also watched the more distant ground to make sure we weren’t about to get jumped. That sort of thing had happened to us a few times before in Janks Field. If it was going to happen again, we wanted to see it coming and haul ass.
Our heads swung from side to side as we made our way toward the stadium. Each of us, every so often, walked sideways and backward.
It was rough on the nerves.
And it suddenly got rougher when Slim, nodding her head to the left, said, “Here comes a dog.”
Rusty and I looked.
Rusty said, “Oh, shit.”
This was no Lassie, no Rin Tin Tin, no Lady or the Tramp. This was a knee-high bony yellow cur skulking toward us with an awkward sideways gait, its head low and its tail drooping.
“I don’t like the looks of this one,” I said.
Rusty said, “Shit” again.
“No collar,” I pointed out.
“Gosh,” Rusty said, full of sarcasm. “You think it might be a stray?”
“Up yours,” I told him.
“At least it isn’t foaming at the mouth,” said Slim, who always looked on the bright side.
“What’ll we do?” I asked.
“Ignore it and keep walking,” Slim said. “Maybe it’s just out here to enjoy a lovely stroll.”
“My ass,” Rusty said.
“That’s what it’s here to enjoy,” I pointed out.
“Ha ha,” Rusty said, unamused.
We picked up our pace slightly, knowing better than to run. Though we tried not to watch the dog, each of us glanced at it fairly often. It kept lurching closer.
“Oh, God, this ain’t good,” Rusty said.
We weren’t far from the stadium. In a race, we might beat the dog to it. But there was no fence, nothing to keep the dog out if we did get there first.
The bleachers wouldn’t be much help; the dog could probably climb them as well as we could.
We might escape by shinnying up one of the light poles, but the nearest of those was at least fifty feet away.
A lot closer than that was the snack stand. It used to sell “BEER—SNACKS—SOUVENIRS” as announced by the long wooden sign above the front edge of its roof. But it hadn’t been open, far as I knew, since the night of the parking disaster.
We couldn’t get into it, that was for sure (we’d tried on other occasions), but its roof must’ve been about eight feet off the ground. Up there, we’d be safe from the dog.
“Feel like climbing?” Slim asked. She must’ve been thinking the same as me.
“The snack stand?” I asked.
Slim and I glanced at each other. We could scurry up a wall of the shack and make it to the roof easily enough. We were fairly quick and agile and strong.
But not Rusty.
“Any ideas?” I asked Slim.
She shook her head and shrugged.
Suddenly, the dog lurched ahead of us, swung around and planted its feet. It lowered its head. Growling, it bared its upper teeth and drooled. It had a bulging, crazed left eye. And a black, gooey hole where its right eye should’ve been.
“Oh, shit,” Rusty muttered. “We’re screwed.”
“Take it easy,” Slim said. Her voice sounded calm. I didn’t know whether she was talking to Rusty or the dog. Or maybe to both of them.
“We’re dead,” Rusty said.
Glancing at him, Slim asked, “Have you got anything to feed it?”
He shook his head very slightly. A drop of sweat fell off the tip of his nose.
“Nothing?” Slim asked.
“You’ve always got food,” I told him.
“Are you sure?” Slim asked.
“I ate it back in the woods.”
“Ate what?” I asked.
“You ate a Ding-Dong in the woods?”
“How come we didn’t see you?” I asked.
“I ate it when I was taking my piss.”
“Great,” Slim muttered.
“I didn’t have enough to share with you guys, so…”
“Could’ve saved some for the Hound of the goddamn Baskervilles,” Slim pointed out.
The hound let out a fierce, rattling growl that sounded like it had a throat full of loose phlegm.
“You got anything, Dwight?” Slim asked.
“What’re we gonna do?” Rusty asked, a whine in his voice. “Man, if he bites us we’re gonna have to get rabies shots. They stick like a foot-long needle right into your stomach and…”
The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes