Manje Kò Moun Island
Today’s bit of horror comes from J. A. Titus, author of The Kindness of Strangers, based on a dream. Sounds like it was a pretty scary dream…
I rubbed my eyes, but it didn’t seem to make things any clearer. Stupid contact lenses! I knew I shouldn’t have left them in before I dragged my hapless, drunk ass to bed. Rolling over onto my side, I propped myself up and grabbed a bottle of Clear Eye saline from the nightstand. As I pinched the clear plastic bottle, releasing those little tiny droplets of saline solution, I cried out in pain. I may be a man, but salt water on dry eyes hurts like hell! The way it makes my eyes water, I still end up looking like some kind of crying pansy.
I lay down and scolded myself for having gone out last night and gotten plastered, when I specifically told myself I wouldn’t. Alcohol and I just don’t mix, but I never seem to learn my lesson. When good old Jack comes a-calling, I’ve got a shot glass ready in hand. Not that I’m some kind of alcoholic or whatever; I appreciate the fine taste of any smooth spirit; who doesn’t?
The clock ticked in my ear, making it nearly impossible to get back to sleep. So much crap going through my head right now, no wonder it drove me to the bar downstairs. What else could get thrown in my way to bring me down?
I lost my job, a job I’ve had since I was fifteen years old. Not that it was great money, but in an economy like this any job is a good job now-a-days, even if it was being a desk jockey to a bald-headed midget with a seniority complex.
Then my dog, Barney, died. Had the damn thing since I was twenty and he wasn’t even mine to begin with. Stupid Carolyn, my ex, dumped me and him on the same day. I felt too bad for the damn mutt to give him away. He wasn’t all that bad now that I think of it, aside from his constant smelly gas, snaggle-toothed grin, and whip-rod tail, he was more reliable than most girlfriends I’ve had since ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ Carolyn.
The latest floozy, Gwendolyn, up and dumped me this past Tuesday. This one used the line, ‘I’m leaving you for Frank the butcher; at least he really knows how to handle his meat’. Yeah – that one hurt below the belt.
Then to top it all off, I got a phone call from my older sister telling me our mother is being sent to a nursing home because no one wants to take her in and help her. Shoot, I’d take her in if I could fit her in this peanut-sized, barely fits a bed, apartment. She’s my mom, after all.
But nah, nothing else seemed to want to work out right for me. I’m pretty confident that’s why I decided to drown my sorrows, even if I don’t quite remember all the details from last night. I’m still alive. I’m still breathing. There’s no nasty-ass, drunk chick asleep next to me, so I obviously made it out of the bar ok. Oh 7 and 7, why have you abandoned me so?
I close my eyes, feeling the typical throbbing hangover headache approaching, still thinking of what the hell I did through the night, when I hear something shuffle in the hallway beside my door. I sit up and see some kind of white folded paper slipped under the door. What the…?
I look at the clock and, though still slightly fuzzy from my over-worn contacts, I make out the numbers 6:50. Who in tar-nation would be slipping papers under my door at nearly 7 a.m?
With a sigh, I get out of bed and muster the few steps it takes to reach the door where the white paper is. As I bent to pick it up, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirrored closet doors and groan at my stomach. No wonder Gwendolyn left me for Frank, the butcher.
I grab the paper and trudge over to my bed, plop on my lumpy mattress, and slide my finger along the clear tape sealing it.
“Dear Mr. Rudd,” it began, “you have won an all expense paid, 14 days and 13 nights, trip to Manje Kò Moun Island, a province of Haiti.”
I thought to myself, Manje Kò Moun Island? When did I sign up for that?
Intrigued, I continued reading. “There are no fees or requirements from you. Bring this letter to our travel agency immediately to claim your ticket. Congratulations and thank you for participating in our raffle, signed; World Mouth Travel.”
World Mouth Travel…, never heard of it. I sat there, numb, re-reading the letter hoping to find more clues. Did I really win a trip or was this some kind of scam? Was it some kind of trick to make me go out of my comfort zone? Or to end up on some kind of prank show where I’d become the butt of somebody’s cruel joke?
I crumbled the paper into a ball and tossed it across the room. Why would I waste my time? I’ve never even heard of that island, and if it were so great, don’t you think it’d be blasted in all the papers and news? I’ve heard of the Bahamas, I’ve heard of Hawaii obviously, but a vacation in Haiti? Well a province of Haiti? Sounded odd.
I lay down again, debating whether I was going to give in to my curiosity.
I tossed and turned, closed my eyes, and stretched out. I couldn’t get comfortable. The idea of winning this prize, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, kept nagging me. The crumbled ball lying on the floor beckoned me, literally seemed to scream my name. Derrick … Derrick …Derrick. It called.
I slammed my fist against the bed and cried out, ‘What!?’ Then immediately felt embarrassed for answering. My neighbors were probably going to think I was crazy.
Finally I gave in. The temptation was just too much. All expense paid, it said, 14 days and 13 nights, it said. What idiot wouldn’t want to give it a shot, even if it was some part of one of those timeshare scams?
I glanced at the clock again and it blinked 7:20. That’s it, only 7:20? Why is it that when you want time to go faster, it always goes slower; and then when you want it to go slower, it always speeds up? I turned onto my stomach and stuffed my face into my pillow, hoping the lack of oxygen would help me get back to sleep. I’m sure it’s not the safest way to pass out, but when you’re this excited, you have to go with extreme measures.
Luckily it worked. I soon passed out and had the weirdest dream. I’m sure the last remaining remnants of alcohol and the extreme excitement had a lot to do with it, but this dream was downright scary.
I dreamt I was running, running barefoot in the woods. My feet were sore and bleeding from the rough terrain but it didn’t matter. Whatever chased me was drawing closer and closer. No matter how fast I ran I felt its hot breath on the nape of my neck. I didn’t dare turn around and face the horror. Instead I continued running. My heart thundered in my ears, and sweat poured down my face, stinging my eyes. I wanted to cry out, but I had no voice. It felt like my throat had been slashed and my trachea and vocal cords whipped back and forth against my open, exposed flesh. Opening my mouth to breathe only sent me into convulsions, blood spewing everywhere. The creature sniffed the air and roared, signally the hunt. I twisted to the left, turned to the right, trying to throw off my hunter, but it didn’t matter. My lungs ached for fresh air, but I couldn’t breathe, all I could taste was my own rich, salty blood. Then, not a moment later, another creature just like the first, caught up to the left of me. It mashed it mangled jaws together and its bubbling flesh dripped from its face. The smell alone was putrid and quickly filled my senses; I felt like vomiting. The creatures snarled and growled behind me, as two others quickly caught up. One bit my leg ripping tendons from the bone. I cried out in pain and tried desperately to pull away, but then soon another was thrashing at my face, shredding whatever skin I had left.
Rinnnnnng … my alarm trilled loudly, finally breaking me from my horrible dream. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them wide, almost afraid that I’d find the creatures in my own apartment. When the memory of the dream finally dulled, I sat up and rubbed a Charlie horse from my leg. I jumped from my bed, quickly dressed and tried to put the dream behind me. The clock blinked 9:30, and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I brushed my teeth, combed my hair and picked up the crumbled white paper.
World Mouth Travel was located about a block from my apartment, so it was a quick walk. When I finally reached the glass door, I paused to catch my breath. Right in the front window was a large poster with a beautiful picture of a volcano island. Two stunningly tanned young woman, dressed in grass shirts and seashell tops, fanned their arms, delicately pointing to a bold printed sign that said; Manje Ko Moun Island … take all your cares away.
It was beautiful, this poster. There were a bright assortment of flowers in almost every color of the rainbow and luscious, green palm trees almost touching the golden, sunny sky. There were delicate white birds, like doves, floating listlessly in the clouds and soft, furry animals scattered throughout the pictured field. I couldn’t help by sigh out, ‘incredible!’ If that’s what I really won and that’s where I’m really headed, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I burst through the glass door, flushed and panting, and slammed my prize letter on top of smooth marble counter.
“I’m here! I’m here!” I called, but there was no response. “Hello?”
I could hear a giggle somewhere beyond a pink cubicle wall, and felt my heart slowly sink. Did I really just come down here? What if this really is a joke? My hangover headache returned, and my eyes began to water from the dull pain.
I waited, five, maybe ten, minutes more and decided if no one came out, I was going to leave and tuck my tail behind me. I shifted my attention to a pile of brochures on the end of the counter and noticed a small sign, written in pencil, just above them, that said to ring the bell for service. Bell? What Bell?
As if magically, a large old-fashioned brass bell appeared by my arm. I stepped back surprised, having not seen it before, and eyed it cautiously. How could I have missed such a large, gaudy thing? I shook my head, convincing myself I was just so excited I must have missed it, and pushed down on the top of the bell.
Ting … ting … ting. The sound reverberated along the walls of the small store, bounced along the glass windows and echoed in my ears.
“Just a minute!” a voice giggled from beyond the pink wall again.
I tapped my finger along the marble countertop and kept myself occupied by pulling at loose fringe along my shirt sleeve.
“I’m so sorry for keeping you.” A small voice stated from behind the tall counter. “I had to finish a phone call. Thank you for being so patient.”
I peered over the counter, but couldn’t see anyone. I heard some metallic movement from behind the wall, along with a few grunts and soft mumbling. Just then, out of nowhere, a woman’s head popped up.
She gave me a wide smile and seemed to laugh at my surprise, “Don’t worry – you’re not the only one that makes that face when they first see me.”
I backed away and cocked my head to the side, unsure of how to respond. “I’m here to claim my prize.” I stated. I stepped forward and slipped the crumbled paper with my prize letter onto the counter in front of her.
She raised her eyebrows at me and then continued reading. Her short arms propped up on the counter. I noticed – as I watched her read the words on the paper – she was very short.
“When did you receive this, Mr. Rudd?” she asked, her blue shadowed eyes stared intently.
“Um, it was stuffed under my door this morning.” I replied.
She sucked in her bottom lip and seemed to bite down slightly. “I see,” she began. “Give me just a moment while I look up your account.”
She disappeared below the counter and I could hear her typing in something into a computer. “Aha- found it. Give me a minute while I print your ticket, Mr. Rudd.”
“Uh, sure.” I stood on my tip-toes and peered over the counter once again. In front of me, where she had once been, I could see the top of a metal step stool. As I watched, suddenly a hand appeared and reached up to the step stool. I backed away, surprised once more. Was she some kind of midget or something?
Two tickets and a hand slid across the counter, in Adams Family ‘It’ style. Then the top of the woman’s head bobbed and I could finally see her once again. I smiled nervously; this was definitely an odd experience.
“And here you are.” She stated, sliding the tickets towards me. “One ticket for your flight and the other for your stay.”
“I won’t need a ticket to come back home?” I can’t say I’ve traveled like this before, so I wasn’t sure if a ticket home was needed.
She smiled another one of her wide smiles, “Nope. Just one ticket will take care of everything. You never know, you might like it there so much you may decide to stay.”
I shook my head. “I doubt that.”
Then it dawned on me, “Um, I forgot to ask, what raffle was this for? I don’t remember buying any raffle tickets recently.”
She gave me a puzzled look, “Raffle? Oh yes, I’m sorry, it slipped my mind. The raffle was from a contest we held a few months back.”
That didn’t answer my question. “Is this one of those timeshare scams, cough-cough, I mean, timeshare demonstrations?”
She giggled, “Mr. Rudd, of course not! Enjoy your trip and make sure you pack a lot of bug spray; you don’t want to get eaten alive out there.”
I looked at my tickets and I slapped them against my palm; they were valid as of tomorrow, which meant I could pack today and head to the airport in the morning. “I’m going on vacation, I’m going on vacation!” I chanted as I ran home.
The next morning, stocked with my duffle bag full of clothes and toiletries, I hailed a cab to the airport and eagerly got in line to board the plane. The flight was pleasant enough. I didn’t have any traumatic experiences (like seeing a gremlin attacking the wings or engines) and the weather outside was perfect for flying. The buzz around the plane was all about this same trip I had won. There were several couples and a few singles, all eagerly babbling about where they were going to go and what they were told there was to do on the island. I was seated beside an elderly woman who clicked her false teeth as she chatted away excitedly about everything she had heard.
“They have the most amazing swimming pool. It’s all spa-like and has this waterfall built in.” she told me. “Then I was told that each room has a personal staff included to provide everything our little hearts desire. Isn’t that amazing?”
“Mmhmm.” I agreed, nodding.
“And the best part of it all is it’s free! It’s all free.”
“Now, dear, where are you from originally?” she asked me, clicking her teeth.
“Never heard of it. I’m from Alpine, which is about an hour drive from Detroit. Are you from Michigan?”
I shook my head.
“Oh. Then how did you win? Did you mail in your raffle or something?”
I shook my head again.
“I see, well nevertheless, this is quite the opportunity, I have to say it was so unexpected. I couldn’t even remember entering the contest, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
“Well you see, my husband just passed away and I was forced to retire shortly after, so I didn’t have much left to really live for, you know?”
“No grandkids or anything?” I asked. Something seemed off about this trip, my gut feeling was starting to kick in once again.
She shook her head, “Nope. No kids either. Just me and my old cat, Frances.”
“Do you think this is some kind of timeshare scam or something?” I asked her, trying to see if she had an off feeling like I had.
“Well now, I’m not sure. They don’t usually last this long, but you never know with new marketing now-a-days. Things have changed so much in my lifetime; I’m not surprised if it was.” She thought for a moment, “But think about it, usually those timeshare things only last one day and the rest of the time, you’re there to enjoy yourself and really embrace the culture. What’s twenty-four hours of your time, and I doubt it’ll be a whole day affair, to have another thirteen days worth of fun and adventure? All for free!”
I nodded, “You’ve got a point there.”
The pilot announced we would be descending shortly to Manje ko Moun Island. The buzz within the surrounding seats went from a low hub to a dull roar. Everyone was excited. Everyone couldn’t wait. The young honeymooners in the front, the second grade school teacher across the row and even the old lady beside me all bounced in their seats, clapping their hands, chanting, “We’re on vacation, we’re on vacation!”
I laughed, trying to submerge my feelings of impending doom, and silently thanked myself for not having drowned in alcohol the night before. Even if I subconsciously wanted to.
The plane landed on a beautiful tarmac surrounded by lush green palm trees and gorgeous flowers. Just like the poster, I breathed in awe. We deplaned and grabbed our luggage, then were warmly greeted by two beautifully tanned girls. Just as the poster, as well, they wore grass skirts and sea shell tops. I could hear the old lady with the clicking teeth gush about how lovely everything looked, smelled and felt. I grinned, thinking she reminded me of my mother in better days. Always excited and flustered about something.
“Take your luggage and place it on the cart by the gate; our staff will gladly take them to your assigned rooms while you go on the tour of the island.” One of the beautifully tanned girls replied. Her seashells were blue, while the other girls’ seashells were yellow.
“Come follow us.” The yellow-seashell girl replied, curling her finger towards her, as she stood by the gate.
The crowd obliged, dumping their luggage onto the cart hitched to a small scooter and lined up beside the two beautifully tanned girls. I trailed behind them, not wanting to fully join them almost in reservation of what this tour would involve. The gate before us was cast iron and looked extremely heavy. The thick strands of green ivy that covered it hid behind whatever secrets this place seemed to have. For a destination island, it was awfully quiet and it made me increasingly uneasy.
The yellow-shelled girl lifted the handle to the gate and pulled it open, revealing a long, dark tunnel. A light could be seen at the very end and the sound of birds and crickets chirped, echoing along the metallic walls. “Just follow this hallway to the very end, and you’ll see the hotel before you. A gentleman will be waiting to assist you once you get there. As it is quite dark, please don’t crowd and take your time. Your dream vacation will begin here.”
The two girls exchanged sly glances and smiled back at the buzzing crowd. We were herded into this tunnel with the gate closed behind us. Voices bounced along the walls from everyone talking and spilled out into the woods in front of us. There was no hotel and there was no one waiting at the end.
Questions began to arise, “What is this, some kind of joke?” asked the honeymooners.
“Where is the hotel? Did we miss a turn or door or something?” asked the second grade teacher.
“Where are we?” asked my chatty, elderly neighbor.
A slight chill went up my spine as I realize something very important. My dream. This is just like my dream. I spun around back towards the opening of the tunnel and ran back to the gate, but the girls had left already. I banged my open hands against the rails and called out, “Hello? Hello, is anyone there?” But there was no response.
I gulped and shivered as the high pitched shriek from the woods echoed along the tunnel reaching my ears. Screams pierced the air surrounding me and the sounds of a bloody attack told me to stay. I could hear flesh being ripped from bone and the gurgling of blood as it gushed from their victims’ throats. A howl and sound of lips smacking told me the attack wasn’t yet over. Some of them had run, had tried to escape only to be hunted down and devoured. Piece by piece, they were torn apart.
If I moved, I was sure one of them would hear me. Every little breath echoed. I twisted around slowly, praying none of those creatures would notice me and tried to slip my arm through one of the rails. I just needed to reach that handle, to lift it and escape. I reached and reached, but couldn’t grasp it. Or if I was able to grasp it, I couldn’t lift it.
I heard a grunting noise from outside of the tunnel, and I froze. The creature sniffed the air and headed right towards me. I didn’t dare breathe or make a sound. I was stuck, there was no escape.
I turned slowly, my back against the gate rails, and faced the creature. I didn’t even have a chance to scream …