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OUT BY THE TURBINES
Jack was trying not to be mad at Derek, even though it was entirely Derek’s fault that they were in this trouble, and it was starting to look like big trouble indeed. After walking for over an hour they were only in a different part of no-place, which still looked like the first part: Mississippi Primeval, a back road through deep woods on a forgotten place in the map. During the whole trudge, not one car had passed. The road was so lonesome they hadn't even seen any roadkill, and every other highway in the state was a meat-market of possums and raccoons. At this point Jack would even welcome a squashed skunk, just as a sign that the road got traffic occasionally.
If they'd stuck to the main highway, there'd be cars passing constantly, and gas stations and convenience stores, all kinds of help and seldom more than fifty yards away. But Derek had declared "I'm from around here" and taken them through the backroads, telling Jack (who'd moved here a year ago from Kansas and was deemed to require educating) that he'd show him some of the "real Mississippi." Then Derek's car had broken down and Jack had decided that since he'd already been to a college football game and didn't care about church, he'd seen more of the "real Mississippi" than he cared to. He was getting tired, not in proper shape for this kind of walking, and there seemed plenty more to come.
"There's a place somewhere down here, I know there is," Derek said. "I used to buy Famous Monsters there when I was a kid. It's just an old country store but the guy who ran it was a weirdo, stocked all the cool comics and stuff. Ahead of his time, really. Rode a motorcycle and looked like one of the Hells Angels. That scared the piss out of people in the 70's. The South was by no means used to that kind of shit. He was super nice, though, so people got over it. Mostly. Wouldn't nobody fuck with him, in any case. They thought if he didn't deal you out his damnself, he might make a phone call and fill the streets with barbarian hordes."
"So the place was open in the '70's," Jack said. "What makes you think it'll still be open?"
"The eternal springiness of hope!" Derek grinned. "Naw, I don't know. It was still open when I was through here seven, eight years ago. New management, I think. Didn't see the biker dude around anywhere. Probably in a nursing home, if he ain't dead. I hope he ain’t. I got Weird and Witches’ Tales from that guy, totally warped my childhood in the right way."
Jack grunted. He felt too old to be stranded and walking down a backroad, and Derek was about ten years older than him. The walking didn't seem to bother him as much, though. Nothing about this seemed to bother Derek as much, and that bothered the hell out of Jack. Of course Derek hadn't meant for his car to break down, but Jack couldn't keep anger from creeping in. Usually Derek's easy-going nature was a good feature, but now it was irritating, as was his goofy appearance. He was a chunky little guy with thinning hair -- what he had left was so messy that more baldness could only be of benefit -- slightly buggy eyes, and a toothy jackass grin. That grin didn't know when to stop, and Jack wanted to punch it.
Since he wasn't really much of a punching kind of guy, he kept walking instead.
Around a curve they found the country store. Much of it had been claimed by kudzu, and a tree as thick as a barrel was lying on the rest of it. The only window left intact sported a sign advertising a kind of Pepsi they'd quit making at least five years ago. Someone had made off with the gas pumps, and small trees were reclaiming the parking lot.
"Well, shit," Derek said, slapping his thighs. He went and checked the pay phone at the side of the building, just out of stubbornness, but it didn't even have a receiver anymore. He sat down on the intact part of the porch. Jack sat down beside him, and they listened to the insects churr-churr-churr in the woods for a while.
"I sure am sorry about this," Derek finally said, picking up a bit of gravel and flinging it.
"Hell, you didn't know," Jack said, being a bit more charitable than he really felt. He wasn't comfortable really getting pissed off at Derek; he was a guy he was friendly with at work, not a close buddy. Jack still didn't know many local people to hang out with, so, since he and Derek shared an interest in archaeology, a road trip to an Indian artifact exhibit in Jackson had seemed like a good road trip for them, a chance to do some bonding. And, up until Derek's old Saturn made those klunking noises in the middle of no-damn-where, it had been.
Derek sighed. "I got that car tuned up, like, two months ago. Now, I got lazy about charging my cell phone, that's fully on my dumb ass, but that car should have been fine. Shit." Derek kicked at the dirt, then scowled at the road. Jack scowled, too. The insects kept going, repetitive as a needle digging at the end of a record. The air was hot, sticky, and smelled green, full of sap.
Derek pointed at a power line showing above the trees, one of the big metal ones that looked like the headless skeleton of a robot. "You know, rather than walking on the road, which goes on like another twenty miles or so before it links to the main highway, it might be a better idea to follow those power lines. There's a community off that way just four, five miles or so. And it passes some farms along the way. Be a lot quicker finding help."
"Out through the woods?" Jack asked.
"Most of it's going to be fields. They don't put those turbines through the woods much. Gotta keep them clear so some storm won't... " - he pointed at the tree that had crushed the store behind them -- "... do that to them."
"Turbines?" Jack asked.
"Those tower things. Isn't that what they're called? Guess not... turbines are like in a dam or whatever, right? Generators. But that's what we always called the towers when we were kids. Used to play around 'em, even though you're not supposed to. Pretended they were MechaGodzilla. Tried climbing 'em. If you tap the guy wires that anchor them with a wrench or something it sounds like a ray gun. Buh-TOING! Think they even used that sound for the laser pistols in Star Wars." He squinted at the tower. "Hell, I lived around here, might have played on the same ones. Can't be far to a town that way."
"You really think it'll be quicker than sticking to the road?"
"Oh yeah, like four, five times." He gestured at the tower. "I mean, all that power, right? They don't run those wires off to noplace. They're there 'cuz somebody needs that much juice. All kinds of people that way, with phones, tow trucks, beer. God damn I could use a beer. Forget the glass, just serve it up in a child's wading pool, let me dive in with my mouth open, and if I look like I'm drowning tell the lifeguard to mind his own business." He wiped his sweaty face and shook his head.
"Sure there's not, I dunno, some Deliverance guys out there?" Jack laughed, looking at the woods.
Derek snorted. "Oh, probably a few, but don't worry, they'll just fuck us in the ass and let us go."
"Oh, is that all?" Jack laughed.
"Yep. In Mississippi that's called 'lost traveler tax.' Traditional as blues, barbeque, institutional racism, and voting against your own interests."
"That popular, huh? Well then," Jack said. "If you're sure you know what you're doing."
"Hey, my judgment's served us well so far today, hasn't it?" Derek said, then pointed at him. "Don't answer that." He snorted. "Seriously, it'll be fine. I mean, we can stick to the road if you want. Be less weeds but five times the walk."
"I keep thinking that somebody'll surely drive by."
"Might could. Probably won't stop, though. Would you stop for a couple fellas way out here? Shiiiiit. You'd think they'd charge you lost traveler tax!" He laughed. "Ain't much reason to take this road unless you like looking at woods. Which, unfortunately for the both of us, I do. Since that new interstate got laid out twenty years back this highway's written off. They maintain it a little as a route in case there's a forest fire or something, but mostly it's forgotten. You turn onto it, your GPS lady says, 'the fuck you doin'?"
Jack laughed and was surprised he could find it funny. But it was hard to stay mad at Derek, the goof. "Okay, I guess the power line idea is worth a try. I'm not sure it's in me to walk twenty miles."
"Me either, to tell you the truth. Anyway, following the turbines will give you a chance to see more of the real Mississippi."
"Ah, god, don't tell me that."
Derek made a face. "Yeah, that didn't work out so hot last time, did it?" He stood up, and Jack joined him.
"Hot enough for me," Jack said, wiping his face.
"I know what you mean. Still and all, the Department of Tourism's gonna be throwing darts at my picture. Damn, I'm sorry I got us into this, man, you just don't know. I'm starting to even think it's just possible that the real Mississippi sucks."
Derek shrugged and they started walking. "It is some beautiful country, I'll give it that much. I do have one question, though. If the real Mississippi involves so much walking, how come everybody from here's so damn fat?"
Derek laughed hard, a sound between a wheeze and a pig squeal. "Usually it don't. Usually we got four wheelers and Rascal scooters. And we mostly use 'em to drive from pie to pie." They found a gap in the woods and left the highway to go into it, picking their way through the underbrush until they were under the electrical tower. Jack thought he could hear a hum coming from it. Derek whacked one of the guy wires with a branch, and a twangy zing vibrated in the air. "See? Works even better if you hit it with something metal."
"That's a weird sound, all right," Jack admitted, staring up at the structure, feeling dizzy at the height of it. About fifty yards away through the trees he could see another.
"That's the sound of the real Mississippi," Derek said, winking a buggy eye and grinning, looking like some mischievous gnome. Jack snorted and shook his head as they walked toward the next one.
Hanging from a bush at its base was what looked like a long, translucent corn husk. Derek picked it up and displayed it. "Shed snake skin. Ain't it a beauty?"
"Nope," Jack said. "I don't see any beauty in a sign that says there are big snakes around here. Jesus, dude, what are you leading me into?"
"Hey, it's the woods, of course there's snakes. You ain't in Kansas anymore, Dorothy! Don't worry. Most of 'em ain't poison, and they all slither away when they hear us coming, anyhow."
"And the poisonous ones warn you by rattling, right?"
"Cottonmouths don't. That's mostly what we got around here. The cottonmouth water moccasin, pride of the South. They don't give you a warning, but if we see one, I will, by shitting enough bricks to build a toolshed."
"If I get bit you're sucking out the poison."
"Maybe." Derek rolled his eyes.
"Hope it bites me right on the dick," Jack said, bending a shrub over so he could step over it.
"Then you gone die," Derek said, pointing, and they both laughed. He let the snake skin trail away like a streamer and they kept walking. The woods opened up into a meadow, the electrical towers marching across it like a robot army.
"They look kind of like pictographs, don't they?" Jack said. "Almost like some of the stuff we saw scratched on the Indian pottery today."
"A little, yeah," Derek said. "Or like those stick figures from Blair Witch Project. That's what I first thought of when I saw those things in the movie. Turbines."
Jack nodded, staring up at the wires, feeling their hum, wondering if it was only his imagination. They were strangely intimidating things, trailing off into the horizon, pipelining high-voltage death. Everything we use, Jack thought, runs on something lethal. And these monsters delivered it, like a safari through the jungle.
It was still a long walk, wherever they were going.
The walk carried them past the remains of an old farm. Barn and house were both derelict and Derek suggested exploring, but Jack wanted to conserve their energy for walking to civilization, and the day was getting late. Besides, if there were snakes anywhere, they'd be in that nightmarish house. Derek said something about the "real Mississippi" but didn't push it.
Under an electrical tower near the farmhouse they found a flat slab of concrete, and, on top of it, a dead possum nailed to a board. Someone had used blood to draw strange jaggedy things on the slab around it. Weird letters and crude drawings - some childishly pornographic -- had been smeared onto the metal legs of the tower.
"Jesus, what do you make of that?" Jack asked.
Derek shrugged, looking around. "Sick-minded kids, I'd guess. Entertainment's hard to come by out in the country."
"In what way is that entertaining?" Jack asked, staring at the possum. It looked like it had met Jack the Ripper; someone had really opened it up and played around inside.
"You askin' the wrong guy, I'm Episcopalian."
"That's what it looks like, some religious ritual," Jack said. "Some primitive rite. Are there cults out here?"
Derek winced. "You always hear about 'em, but I don't know what to believe. Religious folks -- and every-damn-body here is religious, you may have noticed -- are jealously paranoid about any other beliefs. Maybe because they know so well the head-fuck that organized beliefs can do, brainwashing-wise. Ever tried reasoning with a Baptist? Well, don't. Rumors. Somebody's worshiping the devil, or Sharia law is coming to Memphis any day now, or some other crazy pigshit. It's fear of competition. They got a monopoly and want to keep it. Want the truth? And don't tell nobody I said this 'cuz they'll like to hang me. They're all cults. You get enough believers you just don't have to admit it anymore." He frowned down at the possum. "I don't know. Anything's possible out in the boonies. I figure bored kids with a Slayer CD, though."
"Small comfort," Jack said, squinting at some of the painted pictures as they walked on. Maybe they were fertility symbols, or just expressions of a warped and dirty mind. Violence and sex blended far too easily, and for many the lines blurred.
"On the plus side," Derek said, "it proves that we're getting nearer population."
Jack laughed. "Now that's glass-half-full! I'd just as soon not meet any of the population that does that."
"See if I try brightening your day again." Mischievous gnome.
"Speaking of brightness, it's getting kind of late. What happens if we don't find anyplace before it gets dark?"
Derek motorboated his lips and waved dismissively. "We'll get to town way before sundown. That's hours off yet."
"I hope so."
They walked on. The electrical towers went through another patch of woods, then opened into another large meadow. All around them the insects kept up their maddening churr-churr-churr, which Jack was starting to associate with the hum of the power lines.
The place felt like nowhere. Jack was entirely unsure they'd ever get anywhere. He was too tired to be mad at Derek, who, after all, was in the same fix he was, but these fields were as lonesome as any place Jack had ever been. It felt otherworldly, and he wondered if they shouldn't have stayed on the road. Cars were probably just whizzing by now.
Another half mile or so they found another slab of concrete in the middle of a field, with flies boiling over a frightening amount of blood that had been spilled on it. A human figure formed of tied-up rags and soaked in blood lay in the center of it. At first Jack thought it was a fetus, until Derek poked it around with a stick and he saw the knots.
"Okay, maybe it is a cult," was all Derek had to say.
"That's fairly fresh," Jack said. "Like, maybe last night? You can smell that blood. And look, they had a fire." He kicked at some ashes.
"Another over here. And here," Derek said. He circled, finding five small fires, all cold but fresh. The slab was in the center of them, and the grass was flattened, danced upon.
"Five points, like a pentagram," Jack said. "And all that blood! What do you think they killed?"
"Probably from a deer," Derek said. "Probably deer hunters doing some ritual to bring luck to the hunt. Some deer camps do weird shit."
"This weird?" Jack crouched and poked at the rag figure with a stick. "From a society overburdened with Baptists?"
Derek shook his head. "That Jesus shit goes on the shelf real quick when it comes to hunting. I've seen some primitive shit. First deer you kill, your buddies will paint your face with blood. You'd think it was the stone age. And all that preserving of body parts and hanging 'em on the wall like relics from some saint. They love blood anyway, religions do, all those hymns about it, all the paintings, that Mel Gibson movie that looked like all the good parts from the Friday the 13th series edited together. Shit. So they're all too happy to call time-out in the Baptist game if they get real blood to play in."
Jack stared off at the power lines, vanishing into the horizon. "Let's get out of here. I don't like this. My skin is crawling. I mean, maybe this is 'real Mississippi' to you, but back up in Kansas this shit would get you sent to an asylum to be evaluated. You'd get your shoelaces taken from you for this kind of thing."
Derek waved his hands and wagged his head. "This ain't no Mississippi tradition I'm familiar with." He kicked at the grass. "I'd feel better if I saw a bunch of beer cans around. If people weren't drinking, it makes them look more serious. Beer would excuse just about anything, in the Mississippi I know."
Jack shook his head. "There's not enough beer in the world to make this not look far-gone batshit. Let's get out of here."
"I'm wit'cha," Derek said, and despite being tired and thirsty, they started wading faster through the endless sea of weeds. Jack looked around for houses but there was nothing. Kudzu had swallowed something that might have been a shed. Jack wondered if someone might be waiting inside it.
The west was starting to show sunset colors, purple and orange, when they found the hatchet.
It was hooked over one of the supports on one of the towers, and it was rusty and crusted with blood. They might have passed it all off as rust and dismissed it as a lineman's lost tool, but there was hair stuck to it. The hair ended in a dime-sized chip of bone and scalp.
"That's human," Jack said. "Nothing else has hair that long. That's a piece of somebody's head. Derek, we've got to get out of here! Where's the fucking town, huh? Where's the 'community'? This isn't normal, Derek!"
"I'm not saying it is, dude," Derek said. "I'm as freaked out about it as you are. Look, the town's got to be close. We've gone, what, three, four miles?"
"I estimate five or six, and I see no sign of anything. It's like the post-apocalypse out here. There's nothing! Nothing but psychos around, somewhere." He stared into the forests crowding the strip of meadow, dark, thick, where anyone could be lurking and watching, then looked back to the west, where the sun would be sinking in an hour. "When it gets dark, we're not going to be able to see to walk through these weeds. And then what?"
"Come on. We'll be in town by then. And I'll be buying you beers."
"Like hell we will. I don't believe it anymore! And I'm not fucking drinking fucking beers, I'm calling cops! That's a piece of somebody's head! There's only really one way to get that! Somebody died out here! This is a crime scene, Derek! Miles of it!"
"Come on." Derek started walking. "Veins and arteries lead to organs." He waved a hand at the wires overhead. "We're walking through a big monster. We'll get to the heart if we just shut the hell up and keep going."
Jack followed, leaving behind the murder weapon, hanging on the tower like a talisman. Maybe they were being warned that they were on the cult's turf, but a warning they couldn't take served little purpose. Jack wanted to run and might have overcome his weariness and done so if there were anywhere to run to, but he no longer believed these power lines led to a town. Logically, the power had to be going somewhere, but logic no longer felt like a factor in this place.
The insects were growing louder as darkness approached, the thrum of some huge machine that was all around you but which you could never find. Jack could understand how that noise, out in all this lonesome country, could drive people insane enough to form a cult.
Derek was quiet and looked grim, and Jack wondered if he was mad at him now. Oh, that'd just be hilarious if Derek was mad at him! He was suspecting that Derek had no more idea where he was going than he did, so if it came to a confrontation he'd punch Derek in the face and walk away.
He looked around in the gathering twilight. As it grew darker the lights of any houses that might be around would start shining through the trees, but Jack wasn't sure he'd want to approach them anymore. There could be a cultist living there, and now that they knew the rites weren't limited to just possums, avoiding isolated houses seemed the wisest policy.
And they were going to be out here after dark. That was obvious now, from the way the sunset was spreading itself before them, spectacular, fluorescent red-orange and lavender-to-purple in the clouds. If it didn't mean what it meant, it would be one of the most beautiful sunsets Jack had ever seen. Now all it gave him was terror and a tightening feeling of dread in his chest.
God, he was tired. And thirsty. And soon they'd be stumbling along through the weeds, blind. And snakes were no longer the most dangerous things out here. He looked up at the moon, already starting to glow against the darkening sky. It was full, which meant at least it would give them more light, but what else might it mean?
He looked over at Derek, who was still plodding along, staring straight ahead, no longer looking like a happy gnome. Good, Jack thought. If you weren't miserable too I think I'd kill you. He thought of saying something just to break the uncomfortable silence but decided, no, let it stay. Let them both just listen to the maddening whir of the insects and wait for worse sounds, like someone stepping on a twig or creeping through grass. Don't let anything interrupt Derek's guilt and dread. Idiot.
They were tired, but there was always another tower in the distance to walk toward, like a goalpost in some game they were being forced to play even though they didn't know the rules.
They passed another electrical tower, with oddly-knotted rag-shapes dangling from the guy wires, old and rotten. There was light enough to show them strange alphabets and drawings of organs, sexual and otherwise, on the poles. Someone had used magic markers this time. Were they worshiping the "turbines" themselves, or were they just a convenient place to put some graffiti? Jack imagined there'd be similar things carved on trees in the deep woods that surrounded them. The electrical towers, he noticed, stood in an alley amidst the trees. Before they'd stood them up, bulldozers had rolled through and scoured the earth clean. And every year or so the state probably sent a crew through to bush-hog the area and keep it clear, maintaining the sacred site of their power-giving totems.
The stars were coming out past the wires. And they were still nowhere. The woods opened to meadow again, then closed back to woods. They had to use the fading light to help each other across a red-clay-and-limestone ditch. Jack found a fossil shell that would normally have interested him but now was just something he'd have to keep up with, so he left it. He slapped at ants on his leg, got a couple of fire ant bites for his trouble. Sure, why not? he thought.
And then it was dark. The moon, it turned out, wasn't much help at all, and it was too dark to be walking but, knowing what had happened around here, they stumbled onward, anyway, trying to feel their way to the next electrical tower. There were little lights, high on the towers, but they lit nothing, just indicated the tower was there. They glowed like animal eyes, giant cats watching scurrying mice in the grass.
The sense of being nowhere grew even more oppressive. The sound of the day insects changed to a deeper but no less disturbing throb of night insects.
Then there was another noise. A buh-TWOING! like a ray gun from the movies. It was more impressive than when Derek had tapped it with a stick; it really did work better when you hit it with something metal.
They stopped and crouched down in the weeds. Jack looked at Derek but couldn't see him, only a vague dark shape. The twoing had come from in front of them, but now was answered by a more distant one from behind.
"Oh shit," Jack whispered.
"Yeah," Derek breathed.
"What do we do?" Jack asked, feeling panic starting to grip him.
"I don't know," Derek whispered. "Just stay still, quiet."
CHOOM! from out of the night ahead of them. Buh-TWOING! CHOOM! Jack looked at the huge metal skeleton against the sky, twenty yards ahead of them. He couldn't see anyone standing under it but they were there, with something metal. Another hatchet, probably. Buh-twoing from the darkness behind them, and another, farther down the line. Choom, choom. Grass rustled not far away, and there was no wind.
He held his breath and crouched even lower. God, god.
Guy wires twoinged far and wee, more in the distance ahead. God, how many were there? Insects in the woods went silent, the way they did when someone was near. Jack could see nothing but felt figures closing in from all sides.
As loathsome as it had been, dangling that shred of skull and scalp, he wished he'd taken that hatchet they'd seen earlier. He had nothing to fight with. Not even a pocketknife. All he had were his house keys and he didn't want to take them out because they might jingle.
He could barely make out the shape of Derek a few feet away. At least, he hoped it was Derek. It could be anybody.
The wires made their music again, call and response across the long meadow. They must know we're here, Jack thought. They've probably been watching us walk for hours, hiding in the woods.
A bug was crawling on him. He just let it go. He hated bugs but amidst this fear it barely registered.
Grass was rustling. Jack fought the impulse to run only because there was nowhere to go.
Suddenly the pounding on the wires started again, rapid, all across the meadow, CHOOM-CHOOM-CHOOM like a laser battle, accompanied by insane howling that made Jack's heart feel like it was going to seize up in his chest. The shape that was Derek bolted and ran in panic, and Jack hissed "Hey!" after him but stayed put. He wanted to follow, but it seemed a bad idea, and the howls turned into something like a screaming laugh, echoing across the meadow and from the woods. A rebel yell? he wondered. Whatever it was, it was the most horrifying sound he'd ever heard, a thing from a fever dream.
Everywhere, they were everywhere. Howling because they knew no one was coming to stop them. They could make all the noise they wanted, out by the turbines.
Jack crawled through the grass, barely managing to breathe. His life, he was sure, was down to a matter of unpleasant minutes now and he'd almost consider just surrendering and getting it over with but he couldn't be sure they'd finish him quickly. Maybe he could die fighting. A hatchet in the head, he could bear that, but what happened before that? Was that the end of something that had lasted hours?
They rustled in the grass and yipped at each other across the field, a degenerate sound, brewed far from civilization's reach, out in the nowhere where the headless robots marched, the lonely place where society's mundane functions went ignored by those who took them for granted. He was alone with them now; they probably had Derek, although he'd heard no screaming. Maybe Derek had gotten away. Maybe it was safer to hide in the woods.
Jack peeked above the weeds and watched. The tops of the weeds looked like a sea of silver static in the moonlight, barely stirring in the breeze. He thought he could make out a shape here, movement there. Everything was quiet again; they were listening, waiting.
The woods weren't far. Twenty yards, maybe. He could run there and be harder to find. Maybe he coudl find some dark place under the brush and wait until sunrise. Maybe it was a plan. There was certainly no future in hiding in the grass. That would buy him a few minutes at best. They were closing in.
He crawled toward the woods and then bolted for them.
When he got into the trees he realized immediately it was a mistake. It was pitch black here; he was as good as blind, and moving was impossible in all the thick branches. If he could move at all, it'd make a lot of noise. They'd hear it and hunt him down.
Now they were being so silent he almost wondered if they were there at all. The only thing he could hear was his own heart, like a tribal drum. He could see it, a strobe of panicked blood pressure vibing in his eyes, making its own light.
He tried creeping deeper into the woods, moving very slowly, feeling his way and trying to avoid anything that'd make a sound. He made it a couple of yards before snapping a twig and freezing in place.
"Jack?" Derek whispered. He was a few feet to the right, Jack judged.
"Derek? God, man, I thought maybe they'd caught you!" he hissed. He reached out and felt Derek take his arm.
"They did," Derek said, too loud. "That's when they gave me this."
Something viciously chopped into the side of Jack's knee, metal meeting bone with a loud clank. The pain felt like the strike of a lightning bolt and Jack dropped, yelping in pain.
"Real sorry about this, Jack," Derek said, grabbing one of his arms while someone in a hooded burlap robe grabbed the other and dragged him out into the field. The robe, Jack noticed, was covered with weird painted symbols. Others, wearing similar robes, were standing in the moonlight, in the weeds. Some of them piled wood and started a fire, and Jack was dragged toward it. One of the figures handed Derek a robe and he shrugged into it, and then Jack couldn't tell him from any of the others. "Sorry, dude. But I told you I was from around here." The part of his face not shadowed by the robe was smiling a crazy fanatic's smile, which still had a hint of mischievous gnome's grin. The moonlight gleamed off of the hatchet Derek was holding, distinguished from the others by Jack's blood flecking its blade.
Jack screamed as they dragged him to the nearest turbine and lashed him to it. Then the sound of the hatchets pounding the guy wires grew loud enough to drown out his screams.
For a while, anyway. Until the moon was right.