Short Story
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                          Weep and Moan
                                         
By Mark Slade


  The first time Carter heard the screams was when he put the record on his
turntable.  The screams started out low, almost faint.  He thought there was
something wrong with his speakers.  It almost sounded as if the wires inside
were loose, causing the left speaker to be lower than the right.  Carter
unplugged them, took the back cover off of the Morans 600.  The wires were
intact.

  Carter scratched his head, looked inquisitive.  He put the cover back on his
speaker and played the record again.  He placed the needle on the 78, and it
jumped and bounced on the turntable, fell back in place.

  At first, when he bought the record, it didn't look like it would play at all.  
The thick vinyl disc looked as if it had warped in the sun. it had several
bumps on the groove and was misshapen.  To his surprise it played without
any problems or skipping.

  Another nice surprise was the song.  The label on the 78 was blank.  He
smiled sheepishly, “When the levee breaks”  by Memphis Minnie and Kansas
Joe McCoy came from his speakers.  He bought the 78 on an online auction.  
The tags were wrong, stating it was Memphis Minnie  “Hoodoo Lady”.  Carter
paid 450 bucks for this record.  It would do well in his collection, and maybe
serve as his next article for Blues beat magazine.

  Being an agoraphobic, writing articles for music magazines was the only
source of income Carter could earn.  This anxiety came about when Carter
and his girlfriend Nora, were in a car accident three years ago.  He was badly
injured, breaking a leg and collar bone.  Nora died instantly with the impact of
a head on collision with another vehicle, killing a mother and daughter as
well.  Even though Carter was not at the wheel, he somehow blamed himself
for not doing more to prevent the accident.

  Since his recovery, he had not been able to leave his apartment.  He relied
on Simon, a friend from college that stays  a few blocks away and Alice and
Bill, who live across the hall from him.  They to go out and get things for him.

  There was something odd about the record.  The guitar sounded slightly
altered, a different tuning.  And the voice of Kansas Joe sounded slightly
deeper.  There was no mistaking Kansas Joe 's voice, that instrument of his
was unique.

  Carter listened to it several times.  Each time, there was a different pitch of
screams, either faint or loud enough to drown out the music.  But at the
beginning of the song, every time he played it, were moans or someone
weeping.

  “You're loosing it,buddy,”  He told himself.

  He heard  machine-gun rapping at his door.  Carter turned the record
player off and went to the door.  He looked through the peep hole and saw
Simon out in the hall holding a bag.

  “Ah,” Carter said.  “Finally some dinner.”  He unlocked the three locks
above the doorknob and opened the door.  Simon shot in, placed the bag of
Chinese take-out on the dining room table.

  “Shit, man,” Simon said.  “You have that stereo loud enough?”

  “You could hear it out there?” Simon pointed to the door.

  “Well, I could hear Kansas Joe blasting the hallway.  I thought you said the
78 was going to be Memphis Minnie Hoodoo Lady?”  Simon fished out the
containers of General Tso and sweet and Sour chicken.  He looked in the
bag.  “They forgot the egg rolls.  I don't know what's wrong with that place.”

  Carter went in the kitchen and returned to the dining room with plastic
plates and silverware.  “Maybe they ran out.”

  “Are you kidding me?  One thing Chinese restaurants will never run out of
is egg rolls and those stupid fortunes they stick in the fortune cookies.” Simon
said, sitting in a chair next to Carter.

  “Yeah...the tags on that record is way off.  Then again I'm surprised the
thing even plays.  It looks like it was warped in the sun.  I don't know.  Maybe
the guy never knew what he had.  No label on the 78 at all.”

  “That's weird.  I've never bought a 78 without a label.” Simon scooped out
some general Tso on to a plate.

  “Not that weird.  I've never bought one of these without a label and the
record was a great surprise.” Carter said.  He took a few bites of sweet and
Sour chicken.

  “Oh yeah,” Simon smiled.  “You were scammed at that yard sale  a couple
years ago.  The guy told you it was Son house and it turned out to be Barry
Manilow.”

  “ It's okay, Simon.  I've wished for a slow death for that jerk.”

  A gong sounded off.  Carter's cell phone could be heard from the living
room.  He looked at the open space that led to the living room and shrugged.

  “It's not me,” Simon said, chewing some chicken sloppily, the juices running
down his chin.

  Carter tossed his napkin at Simon.  “Damn, clean yourself up, Fido.  Maybe
it's Alice or Bill.” Carter went into the living room, picked up his cell phone.  
The gong sounded off again, then twice more.  “Whoever it is, this is the third
time they've called,” He said walking back into the dining room.

  Carter touched the screen on his phone and a deep, melancholy voice
spoke in a slow sing-song way.

  “Is this Carter Blessing?” the voice said.

  “Yeah....?  Who is this?” Carter was reluctant to talk, the voice made him
feel strange, like someone just walked over his grave.

  “I see you have just purchased a 78 rpm record of Memphis Minnie and
Kansas Joe version of When the levee breaks.”

  “How could you know that.....hey, who the hell are you, buddy?”

  “ Jackson Temple.  I am a rare record collector---”

  “I know who you are.  You buy some of the rarest records and pay very
well.  Mr. Temple, no one could have known what I purchased a few days
ago-----”

  “Alright, I am a friend of Jeff, who runs the online auction.  He told me, and
gave your number to me.”

  “Mr. Temple, that record was not labeled.  Also, the tags on it---”

  “I know,” Temple said. “Yes it was misrepresented on purpose for me to
buy.  My assistant missed the auction posting and you were able to buy it
cheaply.”

  “Is that right?” Carter said, not sure to believe Temple.  “Any way, what do
you want?”

  “I'd like to make you an offer, Mr. Blessing.  May I meet with you tonight?”

  “Oh, geez.  Not tonight....”

  “Tomorrow night, then?”

  Carter thought a minute.  “Yeah, why not.  You'll have to come to---”

  “32 Gravestone Rd, Apartment 12.” Temple said.

  “How did you know where I live?” Carter said nervously.

  “Let's just say I am very good at research, Mr. Blessing.  I will see you nine
tomorrow night.”

  The line went dead.

  Temple was on the busy street corner in front of Carter's apartment
building.  The passing pedestrians occasionally stared at Temple, who was
not using a cell phone or a blue tooth at all, but talking to thin air.

                 *******************************************

  At three in the morning, Carter heard screaming from the hallway outside
his apartment.  He rose from his bed and ran to the front door.  He peered
out the peephole.  He saw Mrs. Sand being taken away by two police
officers.  She screaming, “There was so much blood....oh my God....I can't
believe it!”

  The police officers were holding Mrs. Sand by her wrists, trying to force her
away from Alice and Bill's apartment.  On their front door were long smudges
of red, almost looked like someone attempted to write graffiti with lipstick.  A
short ,bald man wearing a Bill Cosby t-shirt ran  yellow crime scene tape
across the front door.  Three other men were roaming the hallway, talking to
neighbors.

  Someone knocked on Carter's door.  He looked through his peephole, saw
a tall dark haired man in a trench coat.  He knocked again, Carter backed
away from the door.  There was a few seconds before the man said
something.

  “Excuse me?  I'm Lt. Gary Bail.  I need to speak with you about what
happened here,” the man said.

  Carter held his voice as if the man could hear his breathing and that must
have been true, because the man sighed and said, “Look, I know you are in
there.  I'll be back to talk to you.”

  The man walked past the other three men, who were police detectives, and
he waved a hand, the detectives shook their heads simultaneously.  They
looked at each other curiously.  “What the hell?” one said.

  “I feel faint,” another said and held onto white wall of the hallway.

  Carter was convinced that man knew he was home.  He felt a strange
twinge in his left arm, as if he had been counting his heartbeats.  Carter
touched his chest with a hand, sat on his couch.  Finally, he calmed himself
down, went back to his bed.  He tossed and turned the rest of the morning
before falling asleep around eight A.M.

  Carter awoke around four that afternoon.  His cell phone was going nuts.  
There were at least six texts from Simon, all of them regarding Bill and  Alice.  
Carter text Simon back.  He told him he didn't know anything and he didn't
talk to the cops, he wouldn't open the door.

  His cell phone rang.  He looked at the name and recognized it as Jeff
Burrows.  He ran the online auction where Carter had bought the record.

  “Jeff, what's up?” Carter said.

  “Hey, Carter....you sent me e-mail asking about a bidder on that Memphis
Minnie record?”

  “Yeah...you know him?”

  “ No. I have heard of him.  Jackson Temple.  A collector like yourself.  Unlike
you, he has a lot money.”
  
  “Did anyone in your office tip him off about that record?” Carter asked, a
little upset at the thought of being stabbed in the back.

  “You know that wouldn't happen.  We're friends and sometimes I mislabel
records to keep the sale down.  Anyway, this record...maybe I should have
told you.”

  “Yeah,Jeff?”

  “The last three owners died....some say suicide...others say mysterious
murder.” Jeff said.

  “Thanks, Jeff.  Thanks for sending me a cursed 78.” I laughed.

  “Yeah....I admit,” He chuckled. “ I was reading news and it seems a terrible
string of deaths follow that record.  A year ago five people were slashed to
death in Oakland.  Six months ago, two people were found in their beach
house in Miami, drained of all of their blood.”

  “You telling me a vampire--”

  “You don't know about the history of that record, I see.” Jeff sighed.  “In
1927, when the Mississippi floods were cleaned up, about a dozen bodies
were found.  They were not drowned, but had been drained of all of their
blood.”

  “Hey man, this is not funny---”

  “Its not suppose to be, Carter.  I'm just giving you the history of that
alternate record.  It is a story that has kept me from playing that record.  
Anyway, it didn't look like it would play.”

  “Oh, yeah. True, Jeff.”


  “Did you play it?” Jeff asked, concerned.

  Carter hesitated before he answered.  “Oh, no.  I haven't tried.  It won't
play.”

  “Okay.  I was wondering if it was true you can hear weeping and moaning.  
Hell, I heard people have heard pained screams.”

  “Oh...uh...that sounds...silly.....how many of these records were pressed?”

  “Ah....less than a hundred.  Hey, man, I have to go.  Talk to you later.” Jeff
said, then the connection was severed.

  That was odd.  Carter thought, looking out the window.  The sun had just
disappeared.  The dark night had swallowed it up.  Carter touched the screen
on his cell phone and the time pooped up. 5:45.

  Had I really been on the phone that long?  Carter shook his head at that
thought.

  Suddenly the door swung open and Simon appeared in the hallway.  “Hey,”
He called out to Carter.  “I've been texting you,” Simon walked in.  His smile
was wide, eyes glazed over.  

  “I thought I had that door locked......” Carter let his words trail off when he
saw the man who had knocked on his door, representing himself as a cop,
the night before.

  “Look who I ran into, Carter,”  Simon said, laughed loudly. “Jackson
Temple.  Can we come in?”

  “Well, yeah----no, I mean you can---” Carter caught himself halfway through
his sentence, tried to retract his compliance.

  Before Carter knew it, Temple was inside his apartment.  The door had shut
on its own.  To Carter's memory, he had not seen Temple walk in, he just
appeared.  The stereo turned on by itself, the arm of the record player fell on
the 78. it bumped and jumped off the groove, the hiss and pops were loud
and obnoxious. “When the levee breaks “ eased out of the speakers at top
volume.

  “I'm so glad you could see me, Mr. Blessing.” Temple waved his hand.

  Simon were clear now, and he was himself again, only confused.  “What the
hell's going on—Carter?” He stared, blinked quickly, tried to shake off
whatever ailed him.  “How did I get here---”

  Temple sliced Simon 's throat with long black fingernails.  Simon fell to the
floor like an empty sack.  Blood spilled out that long gash in his throat and a
river of red formed on the hardwood floor.

  Carter screamed, rushed backwards from Temple.  Temple cornered him in
between the window and the couch.

  “Why.....?” Carter croaked.  He tried to hide behind the curtains, but they
wouldn't follow his nervous hands instructions.

  Temple waved a hand and the couch moved swiftly away from Carter.  He
waved his hand again.  The record played in counter clockwise.  Behind the
music being played backwards, there were hundreds of voices moaning,
weeping, and screaming.

  Carter ran toward the door, Temple headed him off.  He backed Carter to
the stereo.  He reached out, took hold of Carter by his neck, lifted him up in
the air, his feet dangling.

  “The last record,” Temple said.  “I have been collecting these records for
decades.  I was there when this song was recording.  I heard these two had
written a song about me.  About what really happened at those dams as the
rain caused the mighty Mississippi to rise and drench disappearing towns.”

  Carter kicked and swung his legs.

  “I was devouring everyone in that room when I felt the end of a broken
guitar fretboard piercing me through my back.  I felt my spirit leave my body.  
When they pressed those 78's bits and pieces of my spirit entered each
record.  As every copy is played, I appear in the material world.  Every victim
of mine is recorded in each record.  I grow stronger and every record I
collect, I become apart of this world.”

  Carter kicked and swung his legs again.

  “This is the last record.....I become whole....forever.”

  Finally, Carter's right foot kicked the record player, the record jumped off,
the stereo components fell from the table to the floor.  The 78 broke into a
thousand pieces.  Hands were no longer grasping his throat and Carter fell
on top of the broken pieces.

  Temple's screams echoed as he went up in a small flame.  His body
disappeared in a long string of black putrid smoke.

  Carter coughed.  He tried to calm himself, placed nervous hands on the
floor, lifted himself to a standing position.  He stood over Simon's body.  That
too went up in a small flame and a puff of smoke.

  Carter looked around the apartment, touching things, straightening up.  He
went to the front door, opened it.  It swung open and hit the wall violently.  He
walked out into the hallway, down the stairs and out of the building.  On the
street, he walked past the bustling pedestrians and speeding cars, out into
the dark night.

  He wasn't afraid of anything, anymore.
About Mark Slade

Hi, my name is Mark
Slade.  I have appeared
in Burial day, ELECTRIC
CHAIR PODCAST, The
rusty nail, Anthology You
can't kill--I'm already
dead, Weirdyear.  I have
my own podcast Dark
Dreams PodcastI live in
Williamsburg,VA with my
wife and daughter.