The Skullcut Man - Chap 2
The backup generator kicked on, and as light flooded the house, I was left standing, paralyzed, looking out the window. The hammock was now whipping about in the wind, whatever I had seen inside it, now gone. I let out a trembling exhale, before going back to bed.
The next week passed by without incident. Work was becoming increasingly stressful. I still had yet to make a sale at the dealership and could tell Hank’s patience was starting to wear thin. I relished my time with Gennie and Rosie who seemed both to tolerate their new lives in Bellford.
One morning Rosie asked if she could take the car for the day to bring Gennie to the beach and I reluctantly agreed. She could give me a ride into work, but I would have to walk home, a trek that would take around 30 minutes.
That afternoon when I was coming back, I came upon a fork in the road, and knew I would have to make the choice to go along Skullcut Bend or take the longer route, which would add another twenty minutes. Opting for the shorter way, I hiked uphill, my calves burning, as I could see the infamous bend in the distance. As I came closer, I had to squint my eyes, there was something on rocks up ahead.
It was a red coat, flattened against the rocks. My heart dropped into my stomach, my mind going back to the story of my Aunt CeeCee wearing the red petticoat when she disappeared. The crimson fabric was blowing, rippling in the air, as if beckoning me over. It was perched on top of the rock face, and I had to climb up, three or four stones, to get to the top, propelling myself upwards. I was eye-level with the jacket, and holding on with one hand, I extended the other, touching the clothing, as if to make sure it was real.
As I did this, something caught my eye. Four long black jagged fingers, the same ones I had seen in the hammock, came over the edge, caressing my knuckles, tenderly like a lover. In a sense of panic, I let out a scream, falling backwards, my head hit the ground, and it all went black.
When I awoke my eyes fluttered open, it took me a moment to orient myself, the sky had darkened now, little pinpoints of stars sparkled in the sky. I sat up, looking again towards the rock, the jacket was gone. Struggling to stand, my head pounding, I got up, and continued walking. I set my mind to rationalizing what I was seeing, could it be the Skullcut Man? No, I shook my head, I was imagining this, I had to be.
Emerging from the woods, I could see my house, all the lights were turned on, and a wave of relief flushed over me. I was almost home. Making my way to the front porch, I kicked off my boots, and opened the front door, to be greeted by the delicious smells of dinner, fresh from the oven, my mouth began to water.
I entered the kitchen, and could see my Mom, Rosie, and Gennie sitting at the table, their heads turned, all smiles as I walked in. I was about to say something, but then, I saw it, standing in the corner, the same black mass, like a shadow, with two half circles for eyes, the fingers stretched out and reaching.
I bellowed out a scream, grabbing a chair, and running towards it, howling in fury and fear. “Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out!”
My Mom and Rosie began to scream as well, but I soon realized it wasn’t at the figure I was seeing, but at me. “Jerry, what’s going on? Are you okay?” Rosie said repeatedly as she tried to soothe me.
The thing was gone, and I sat down, putting my head in my hands. “I think I’m going crazy.” I said, feeling my body shake uncontrollably. I told my Mom and Rosie about what I had seen starting with hammock and then at Skullcut Bend. “I feel like something is stalking me, it’s the Skullcut Man.”
“You’re just tired Jerry, we’re all tired, and we’ve been talking about this Skullcut thing too much, it doesn’t exist.” Rosie said, stroking my head. Gennie started crying, and she plucked up the baby from the highchair. “I need to put her down, but I’ll be right back.”
My Mom watched her go, before sitting down beside me. “I never told ya this before, on account of I didn’t think it was real, but your father thought that the Skullcut man was following him too at one point.”
“What?” I said, turning towards her.
She bobs her head up and down. “It happened a little bit before that little boy Caleb disappeared. He could see some black shadow sneaking around. I thought it might be early dementia or one of those mental diseases. But it passed. One day it just disappeared. So don’t keep worrying about it Jerry, just mind your business and don’t go lingering by Skullcut Bend, ya understand? It’s a bad place I tell ya.”
At work the next day Hank pulls me aside, “Hey Jerry, I’ve got to head out for a few hours. It’s usually pretty slow this time of day, but you’re in charge till I get back.”
“Sure thing, boss man” I said, patting him on the shoulder.
It’s just Jamie Culcut and me in the dealership. He hasn’t said much to me since I started, besides the usual small talk, he’s been placed firmly at the bottom of the hierarchy here by Hank, who takes every opportunity he can to further demoralize. Jamie gives me a smile, and I wave back.
Four gentlemen enter the building, and Jamie looks at me. “Go for it.” I say with a smile, and he jumps up, approaching to introduce himself.
I watch from the corner of my eye as Jamie takes the men on a test drive, explaining all the features of the vehicles, a big grin plastered on his face as he does so. Two hours later he approaches my desk, giddy with excitement. “Jerry! You’ll never guess what.” He continues talking before I have a chance to answer, “They want to buy four Santa Fes, right now! Say they got a job to do, and need four vehicles, one for each person. They’re willing to pay full price, upfront.”
I feel a creeping sensation of envy fill the pit of my stomach, “Well, that’s great Jamie, really great. Good job.”
“Hank will have to promote me now!” Jamie says, his eyes lighting up. “I can’t approve the sale, as I’m just a junior associate, would you be able to put it through for me?”
I hesitate for a moment, regaining my composure, “Sure Jamie, bring them to my office, and I’ll settle them up.”
“Thanks Jerry!” Jamie says, that same goofy smile on his face, he sprints over to the four men, leading them towards me. I shake their hands leading them inside. We go over the paperwork together, and I move quickly through the closing, handing over the title transfers and four sets of keys, as they take the cars directly off the lot.
“I can’t wait for Hank to get back! He’s not going to believe this.” Jamie says almost vibrating with joy. He heads back to his desk, which is not in “prime location” still facing the showroom, but tucked in back.
Towards the end of the day I see Hank’s car pull into the lot, and turning to Jamie, he wiggles his eyebrows in anticipation, I look towards my computer. Hank saunters inside, and moves to his desk, gathering the paperwork I had put there a few hours earlier for the sale of four brand spanking new cars, he picks it up, reviewing the documents, before exiting his office. I can see Jamie, his ass slightly risen from his seat, waiting for Hank to come over, for that inevitable handshake.
Hank turns, coming towards my office, and I avoid eye contact with Jamie, as Hank stretches out his hand, “You son of bitch. Four new Santa Fe models! Fuck yeah Jerry! Well done!”
“Thank you.” I say, cupping his hand. “I appreciate your faith in me.”
“One hell of a commission check coming your way too boy. Come on let’s go, grab a beer across the street.” Hank takes my bag as we walk out. “Beer is for closers!” He yells towards Jamie.
I glance at Jamie before we leave, he looks like a kicked puppy. I put his sale in my name, there’s no way to dispute it, it’s ironclad. I try to justify it to myself as Hank buys me round after round. I have a family to care for, a wife and a kid. More on the line. More to prove. I need it more. I deserve it more. Three beers deep as I drive home, I almost believe it myself.
I wake up the next day to a splitting headache and find a note from Rosie on the counter that she’s gone for a walk with Gennie. I don’t have to go to work, and make my way back to Grandpa’ cabin. I spend the better part of the morning, scrubbing the floors, and cleaning out the closets, which are full of moldy clothes. I take a break sitting on the couch, and once again find myself looking at the box of Grandpa’s Henri’s things. It then hits me, the image I saw on the diary, could it be the same apparition I’ve been seeing?
I dig out the notebook, rummaging through the entries, mostly ramblings from Grandpa Henri, about this neighbor or that person in town. Jerimiah, his old neighbor heckling him for tricking him about the land.
Then I read something that makes my blood run cold.
“I feel something following me, some shadow, that I find in strange places. I wake up with it sitting at the foot of my bed, or following me around the farm. It moves quickly, so much so that when I try to draw its image it vanishes. I have done my best on the back of this book.”
I turn it over, again looking at the drawing and gulp. I read on.
“Today I was walking towards town, and coming towards me in the bend I could see Jerimiah Culcut. I knew he was still cross about his land, but he called me over. Jerimiah looks at me and says what I did is wrong, that I must do right by him. I laugh in his face, but he continues looking firmly at me. “Until you do right by me, I curse your blood, and for every generation you will feel my wrath, I will steal your greatest joy, till there is none of your line left. You will feel the curse of the name Jerimiah Culcut. The Culcut Man curses you!”
As I read this I feel nauseous and have to sit down, the Culcut Man, the Skullcut Man. “That’s where it came from.” I whisper out loud, and the door to Grandpa’s cabin slams shut, jolting me upright.
As night settles in and there is no trace of Rosie or Gennie, a pit forms in my stomach. I can hear my mom calling the police, but I know that there is no hope. I go outside, pressing forward towards Skullcut Bend, my world in tatters, I feel like I can hardly breath. When I get to the rocks, I slide down to the base. “Take me.” I plead. “Please, take me, but not them.” I feel tears sliding down my face as I say the words, and silently cry.
I can feel hot air against my neck and my body tenses up, knowing that the Skullcut man is near. Then I hear it, it’s just a few words, “I already stole your fathers joy, your generation.” Then it’s gone.
Gennie was never found, but Rosie’s corpse was found a week later in the ravine, just as Mildred Sweets was. I had to identify the body at the morgue, she was almost unrecognizable, my beloved Rosie. Her hands and body were bent and broken, scars ran alongside her head, into her skull. Mom tells me I broke down, hysterical, when they showed her to me. I don’t remember
Sometimes I think about what if I hadn’t screwed over Jamie Culcut that day, would the curse have been lifted? Could I have saved my baby? It’s too painful to even consider. I wonder about what the Skullcut man said, how he already stole my generation, could he mean Caleb Moore? Is it possibly my Dad conceived a son with my mother’s friend Sylvia, and if so was that how Lindsey and I escaped the Skullcut man’s vengeance? Of none of this, I can be sure.
I have come to believe that the Skullcut Man will continue to haunt our family, it took Grandpa’s daughter CeeCee and my daughter, my dear Gennie. It’s part of us now, our fates intertwined. Until we do right by the Culcut clan, it will forever be our shadow.
That is why I am reaching out to you now Tanner, I’ve written everything down that I can remember, everything that was told to me. Mom has told me you’re with a child, a new generation for the Skullcut man to steal.
On the way to dropping off this letter, as I passed by a school yard, a place where I might have sent my Gennie. There are kids playing in the playground, and I could hear them singing.
“Skullcut Man, Skullcut Man, run if you can. Skullcut Man, Skullcut Man, splits your head, now
you dead. Skullcut Man, Skullcut Man, black as night, full of spite. Skullcut Man, Skullcut Man, eats your soul. Because you didn’t pay the toll. SKULLCUT MAN!”
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