The Keeper
by Dakota Smith 

Dear Renn,

 

Remember when we were kids, and we used to write our Last Will and Testament to decide who got our games? Well, the bad news is, you don’t get my Adventure of Link, that’s going to Emmet. The other bad news is I’m dead if you’re reading this. By now they would have given you the bar, I asked El to give this to you once everything calmed down. Thanks for taking care of the bar.  I know you hate it here, but I knew you needed something after Heather, and I know you’d come home if I needed it. You really are the best friend and best brother anyone could ask for…

 

-1-

 

Neon floods the sky around the now derelict lighthouse, The Last Light, Godequay’s premiere spot for drinks, a quick bite and the occasional controversial conspiracy-driven outburst from its daily (and nightly) regular. The sea behind the shack can be heard crashing against the grainy northeastern sand.

Two men stand on the porch out front, one a bit taller, dark brown hair and a permanent stubble filling his face. The eyes behind his glasses showing his exhaustion from the day’s work. Drew Pearson, owner and proprietor of the Last Light.

“You take the trash out?” he asks.

 

His accomplice, Billy Gosling, an aged gangly punk with blonde hair barely scraping his shoulders.

“Yeah, it’s out.”

 

“Turn off the sign?” he insists, while looking up at the sign, his eyes hidden behind the neon reflection on his lenses.
 

“Why ask if you can see it? The sign is on, it’s literally shining on us right now.” Billy steps back into the door behind the two, switching the sign off.

 

Drew lights a cigarette while looking down main street. Billy returns, motions for the Zippo in Drew’s hand. Drew obliges his request. The two inhale deep. 

 

“I think I’ll head up.” Billy begins to step off the porch. “See you for the breakfast rush?”

 

Drew smirks at his friend. Billy heads up the side stairs to his makeshift apartment.

 

A red Challenger sits out front, in front of a sign reading “Reserved.” He opens the door when a voice stops him in place.

“Heading out?” a soft voice says from behind him.

“Not sure…”

 

“Drew, we’ve been over this. You have responsibilities as the Keeper. You know you have to keep hunting.” A woman dressed in a style well past it’s time is standing behind him. “You have to find him. We have a duty to this town.”

 

“I don’t want this duty. I want a life.” He stomps out his cigarette.

As if without moving she has appeared closer to him. Her voice condescendingly carefree, her garb though, that of the second world war.

 

“I miss those things,” she says, looking down at the flattened stub of a cigarette left near Drew’s boot. “I miss the breeze too.” She walks directly through Drew’s body and takes a seat on the trunk of his car, though a clear gap between her pants and the metallic body is apparent.

“El, when does it end?” he looks at her distressed with a hand on his brow. “We’ve been looking for him for years and nothing. I’ve never even seen the man; this is your quest.”

“Well I can’t really do much as a ghost can I?”

He looks at her with disdain.  He opens the trunk; she’s still sitting there. Drew removes a sheet firmly wrapped around a long object; he rests it in the passenger seat.

“I’m heading out…I guess.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry Drew.” She’s looking down at her now long out of style shoes,  takes a deep but useless breath before speaking. “I needed someone tied to this town, and…when you picked up the weapon it just seemed to choose you.”

“Yeah well, I didn’t choose it.” He enters his vehicle and drives off in a flash. El remains seated in place. She sobs, though no tears are present. She wipes her still dry eyes and vanishes.

 

-End 1-

I think something bad is going to happen here soon. I don’t know what or when, just soon. I just have this sick feeling in my stomach. Like everything is going wrong at once. The Last Light is fine, Billy is fine, money is coming in, something just doesn’t feel right. All this just sounds like the ramblings of a crazy paranoid aging bar owner, and maybe that is all it is. I don’t know

 

-2-

The door of the Challenger slams shut; the sound of Bon Jovi’s Runaway muffled as the lock sets. Drew looks out into the forest ahead of him. A few rows of trees are illuminated by the vehicle’s headlights.

 

Drew sighs and heads for the passenger seat. He removes the sheet and places it on the crimson hood of his makeshift spotlight. He lights a cigarette in his lips, resting one hand on the hood of his car. Looking towards the tree line he starts in, hands as empty as the sheet he left behind.

 

A lone lawn chair sits next to an obviously placed boulder, similar boulders sit an equal distance on either side in repetition through the moonlit forest, Drew takes his seat. 

 

“Sometimes you’re the only one I feel I can talk to, Line.” His cigarette now just a stub of ash resting on a filter.

 

The boulder begins to creek open. The rusty gears of an old forgotten technology cracking open into a human-like figure.

 

“I hold the li…ne” and upbeat recording plays from inside this machine originating from a makeshift mouth seemingly meant to appease all that greet it. 

 

Drew reaches between its weed entangled legs for a hidden case of beer. He rests his dying cigarette in a small cup on Line’s knee with the rest of his spent butts. 

 

“Any goings on tonight?”

 

“I hold…the line,” it gestures with a thumbs up.

 

“Not sure if that thumbs up means we’re clear.” He cracks the bottle on a loose gear on the bot’s thigh, “or that there was in fact some goings on here tonight.”

 

“I hold…”

 

“The line, I know. So do I, bud...” Drew sips his beer and glances down at his filthy Vans. “So do I.”

 

A shadow gleans

A shadow whisks past in front of the two, the crunch of countless twigs snapping with each giant stride. Drew stands up on alert. Line’s stance is at the ready, although stuck in the foliage interlocked with his mechanics.

 

“I hold the line”

 

“Yeah, yeah. You hold it here; I’m going to hold it over there.” The Keeper moves forward into the woods, now hearing the crunch from behind him, then to his right, getting a little closer with each repetition of the sound.

 

His arm swings up now brandishing a rusty aged hilt topped with a glistening almost freshly smithed blade. He sweeps it along his right, cutting his target across the belly. He makes his step on one foot around as it slides across the dirt where he just stood. 

 

“Lycanthrope,” he sneers. “Is that all this town has to offer? Like ever?” His eyes now looking to Line.

 

“I hold the Line!” Both thumbs raise.

 

The wolf’s abdomen is steaming as if burned by the cut. It lies panting in the lost pieces of the trees above. 

 

Drew presses the blade to the creature’s cheek, it sizzles like his grill back at the Light. The wolf howls in agony.

 

“You know anything about Gray? Or should I just end it now?” He moves the blade back and gestures as if he’ll press again.

 

The beast’s neck begins to extend, his face contorting back inward from its snout to a nose, beyond that staying the same. Her howls muffling to the confused panting of a life escaping its dying body.

 

“Gray is…” she clutches her abdomen, as if that will fix her ability to speak. “Gray is here, and he will end this.” 

 

“Here doesn’t really tell me where.” He touches the blade to her neck; she screams in pain. “I need to know where so I can end whatever this is.”

 

“This began long before you carried that blade, cutting down my kind.”

 

“Your kind?” Drew’s confusion at this answer sends him into a pace around the fallen body. “Your kind was one of us, the people, the townsfolk of Godequay. Not this.”

 

“What makes you think this isn’t a better life?” she seems to be fighting to hold her mostly wolf form rather than dropping it all together. “I am better than you ‘townsfolk’ in every way.” The Lycan swats upwards at Drew, his blade flung from his hand though it lands nowhere. She takes off into the woods.

 

“And now you’ll lead me right to him.” Drew lights another cigarette and walks back over to Line.

 

“I held the line.” Line repeats.

 

Drew places his sixer back between his robotic friend’s legs. “Yes, you did.”

 

Line begins to fold back into the boulder. The crunch of his rust scraping against itself scratches Drew’s ears as he puffs his cigarette. 

 

The Keeper moves through the brush for about a mile, following snapped twigs and enormous footprints along the way, uninterested in a chase or the villain discovering his pursuit, taking his time as if it were a stroll. He’s completely unaffected by the violence he’s demonstrated tonight, and he flicks another butt to the ground as he slows his already leisurely pace.

 

Glancing upwards he sees a house on a hill. Like any other house on a hill, it ignites discomfort and fear in those approaching, but Drew also draws on a feeling of annoyance and inconvenience as he approaches it.  

 

-End 2-

I’ve missed you a lot these last few years. I haven’t seen the girls in so long, I’m sure they’ve grown a lot. You never even got to meet Emmet. He’s incredible, 5 years old and he’s doing more than I ever could at that age. He’s beautiful. You know his mother, Maggie, she used to hang around with Billy and me. We’d smoke behind the house, and you’d threaten to tell if we didn’t give you a pull. I love her, just never could properly show it. I wish every day I could’ve had what you and Heather had with Maggie. I just couldn’t put her or Emmet in that kind of danger…

 

-3-

 

Drew’s hand knocks on a door, the sun is up reflecting in the window to his right. Two big brown eyes peer through the blinds. The lock slides open and the door swings inward. 

 

“What do you want?” the mouth below those eyes sarcastically spits at Drew before he enters. 

 

“Hey, Maggs,” Drew says, seeming a little less cynical here and a little more reserved. He looks around the home. “Just wanted to stop in and see Emmett, maybe go get some ice cream before The Light opens up.”

 

Maggie is short in stature but more than at eye level with Drew in confidence. Her slate black hair hangs high in a ponytail poking at the top of her flannel’s collar. 

 

“Too bad, he’s got a haircut appointment in an hour,” she says, and begins walking to the kitchen with Drew in tow. 

 

“I could take him?” Drew responds, glancing down as they enter the kitchen. 

“Kim’s doing his hair for free after mine.” She’s shuffling items on the counter hunting for her lost phone.

 

“You could bring him to dinner at The Light after?”

 

“Dinner with your parents after the salon.” She’s in the drawers now.

 

“My parents?”

 

“He wanted to see his grandparents.” beginning to look annoyed she places her hands on the counter. “EMMETT!”

 

Footsteps race down the stairs. Emmet rounds the corner into the kitchen. His glasses sit a little off level and his hair, shaggy and dark, pats his shoulder with every step. 

 

“Hey Dad.” He marches over to the bar top and climbs onto a stool, immediately glancing down at his hands and avoiding his mother’s gaze. 

 

“Hey bud.” Drew’s mood seems a bit more at ease when he enters the room.

 

“Did you hide my phone again?” Her eyes are targeted at the boy. 

 

“Where’s the fun in the game if I just tell you?” A smile raises on his face while his eyes seem to lower further down and away.

 

“Last time we played this ‘Game,’ Mommy told you she didn’t enjoy it.” She’s still clearly annoyed but knows exactly how to speak with her son. 

 

“Could I have some chocolate milk?” Emmet asks.

 

“Tell me where it is first.”

 

“Please?”

 

Maggie turns towards the refrigerator, opens the door to see her phone resting against the milk her son requires. Without skipping a beat, she slips it away in her pocket and pours Emmet some milk. She slides it across the bar to him with a smile.

 

“Thanks, Mommy.” He jumps down from the stool and walks to the living room. 

 

“We aren’t leaving for another thirty minutes, you’re more than welcome to stay for now.” She places the milk back in its place and turns back to Drew. “We don’t have any plans tomorrow, you can take him to get ice cream then, and if things go well, you two can have a sleepover…” a smile grows on Drew’s face, Maggie’s gaze lowers to the floor. “In the living room.”

“Sounds reasonable enough to me.” He looks over to Emmett who is brandishing the remote and looking for something to watch. He lowers his voice to a soft comforting whisper and steps a bit closer to Maggie. “I…I don’t mean to be such a fuck up Maggs.”

 

“Drew, you aren’t a fuck up. The bar is doing amazing.” She turns to hide a small but still existent tear. 

 

“I don’t mean with the bar; I mean with you and Emmett. I think I finally want this.”

 

“How do I know you mean that?” She steps a bit further away.

 

“I don’t know if there’s a way for me to prove it right now, at this moment.” A small but very real tear is on his cheek now. “But I do.”

 

“Not now.” She moves into the next room and yells back. “I have things to do. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. Go watch Emmett while I get ready.” Her steps smash hard against each step.

 

Drew walks into the living room. A familiar banjo can be heard from the TV. The name Jim Henson appears in large text on the screen. 

 

The Muppet Movie?” Drew inquires.

 

“Yup.” His son replies rocking side to side to The Rainbow Connection, as Kermit the Frog comes into frame. 

 

Drew takes a seat next to Emmett. “You know I used to sing this to you when you were a baby?”

 

“Yup.” He is clearly more into the movie than a heart to heart with his father. 

 

“We actually watched this the first night you were home from the hospital.” Drew showing another apparent tear, only with his son so enthralled with the frog he doesn’t find a need to hide it. “You were crying, your mom needed some rest, so I picked you up and brought you down here and put this on. It was actually your uncle and I’s favorite movie when we were kids.”

 

“Why haven’t I met Uncle Renn?” Emmett has turned to his father while he was lost in his story. His young hand reaches up and wipes the tear from Drew’s cheek. “You got something on your face.” Drew looks at him with a grin.

 

“Your uncle just lives a busy life. Got a big job somewhere else and had to leave town a long time ago.”

 

“Does he not love us?” Emmett asks confused.

 

“No, he does.” Drew seems a bit unsure. “He has three daughters; can you imagine how crazy your mom and I would be if there were three of you?” Emmett chuckles. “And there’s only one of him there, they don’t have a mommy like you do.” He reaches for the remote and pauses the TV. 

 

“That’s really sad.” Emmett replies with his own tear now dripping from his eye. Drew reaches over and wipes it from his cheek. 

 

“You got something on your face.” They both find the urge to laugh. “How about, since you don’t have a whole lot of time to finish this now, we watch this tomorrow. Right now we can try and get through the next level of The Adventure of Link?”

 

Emmett reaches to the table and hands his dad the old grey, black and red controller. 

 

“Let’s go,” he replies.

 

-End 3-

Look, I know you cannot feel connected to that place anymore. I know you like to think you aren’t connected to this place either, but you are. It is your home. Godequay needs you. I need you here, even if I am gone. I don’t trust Billy with the Bar, and God damnit I want you back on your feet. Heather is gone, give your daughters and yourself a new setting to grow together. We came out just fine growing up here. Godequay needs you. Please Renn, come home to stay. 

 

Love,

Drewby Dooby Doo

 

P.S. The keys enclosed are for my car. Give them to Billy. Please don’t let him wreck it.

 

-4-

 

Two bear heads were mounted on the doors to the house on the hill, with one’s maw clamped on to a large ring. Drew grips one tight and slams it against the door twice. A woman answers, his blue eyes are piercing, blonde hair pulled tightly up concealed under a cowboy hat too old and tattered to be from the scam Old West (on the east coast) town up the road. Her black duster misses the floor by an inch, she stares at Drew.

 

“Hi, I’m with local law enforcement” Drew removes a fake badge from his chest pocket. “A large animal was reported in the area, and I was hoping to ask the owner of this fine home if you all had possibly seen anything?” 

 

The woman stands in silence. Drew’s eyes lock on to her lips. They are tightly bound in an X pattern from end to end in a sharp black thread. 

 

“Well, I guess I can’t expect to get much from you.” He awkwardly coughs into his fist. “May I come in and speak to someone?”

She holds for a moment then steps to the side and Drew enters the large foyer. A grand staircase is on either side of the room. Two finely woven chairs sit in front of an even grander fireplace seated between the steps. Every inch of wall holds a new painting, none of which are organized in any way. Each one a portrait of a long past individual only remembered by the walls of this home. 

 

His eyes are drawn to the table in the corner of the room, where a single, smaller portrait sits in a frame. A young sick looking boy stands alone. Saddened with what looks like the burden of the world pushing on his weak knees. 

 

A door above creeks open and a man in ostentatious out of date garb begins to elegantly make his way down the stairs. Drew wanders out of the corner to meet his host. 

 

“Hello, sorry to be so rude, I was attending a call in the office.” He brushes one side of his waist length golden locks behind his ear. Although indoors, his eyes are hidden behind black pointed sunglasses. A thin cigarette appears in his fingers, and he seemingly lights it with his thumb. “I see you met my help.” He motions her away, “Leave us.” 

 

“Hi, I am with local law enforcement, nice to meet you Mr…?”

 

“Gray,” he sneers with a condescending smirk.

 

Drew’s brow raises realizing he has wound up exactly where he needed to be.

 

“Mr. Gray. We got reports of a large animal in the area and I wanted to…”

 

“The wolf you cut up in the woods?” An awkward chuckle escapes Drew’s mouth. “And before you make that magical cutlass appear in your hand, Mr. Keeper, might I ask you to take a seat?” He gestures towards the two seats by the fireplace. 

 

Drew, gulping his pride down into his chest, slowly passes Gray and takes a seat.

 

Gray stands behind the other chair resting one hand on the back and looking towards the flames.

 

“So, what is it you want?”

 

“Well, honestly, I’m not entirely sure.” Drew being honest not only with Gray but himself. Something he doesn’t seem to do much. “Few years ago, I was given this job. Found out about the monsters and magic. So, I just do as I’m asked because there isn’t much choice. Either people get hurt or I just do this.”

 

“And who asked this of you? The French ghost?” His thick European accent delivering a hard bite with this question.

 

“Well yeah.”

 

“A ghost asks you to fight monsters and you just do that?” Gray whips around and takes a seat. “You could just say no.”

 

“Well, I have family here, friends, a life. I don’t want to see any of that get hurt.” Drew sits forward. Gray straightens his eyes on his guest.

 

“Isn’t that what a life comes with? That hurt, that is just part of life.” He stands up and approaches a small shelf, only one title appears on every sleeve but every copy is different and of varying ages and wear. He removes an older one. “I assume you know of me.” He holds up the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray. 

 

“Read about you in middle school.” Drew is tense, his fists clenched as he sits in an uncomfortable but prepared stance. Gray continues to walk, directed towards the fireplace. 

 

“It’s all garbage,” he tosses the volume into the flames. “Wilde doesn’t even get most of the story right. Oh, and one picture? Who has one picture of themselves?

 

“Well, I’d assume back then most people didn’t have a lot.” Drew’s sweat is building, something he is sure Gray will assume is from the fire.

 

“So, what’s the plan? You know I’m the one building up ranks with these beasts,” He turns directly at Drew. “And you also know I can’t die unless you take out the pictures.”

 

Drew stands up, looks down and then up at Gray. “Well, I guess I’m still not entirely sure.” He flicks his right wrist, and the cutlass appears in his hand bust just as Dorian flits past Drew. His hand revealing a long pointer nail he raises towards Drew’s neck on the way. He swiftly turns around and grabs Drew by the opposite arm. 

 

Drew is standing still. Gripped by his new foe. Blood begins to trickle, then pour from a finger sized hole in his throat. He quickly flicks his right wrist again, the blade vanishes. He presses his thumb to the wound to hold his artery together. Dorian removes a butcher knife from his hip, the blade steaming as if it were just held to a flame. Only it has sat on his hip this whole time. 

 

“And for good measure.” Gray chops down on Drew’s left elbow, removing the forearm in one sweep. Only no blood came from the wound. The Keeper drops to his knees “So, you have a choice,” chucks the arm into the fire. “You continue the foolish attempt on a man you cannot kill or agree to stop, and I will drop you at the nearest emergency room.” His smile has grown grimmer.

 

Drew stands up and walks to the desk he approached upon entering the home. In a blood-filled gurgling voice he musters, “I may not be able to kill you… but I can get us closer.” He looks at the picture of the young weak boy. “I knew at least one of these pictures was you since I saw it.”

 

“No…” escapes the immortal’s lips. 

 

Drew releases his throat and blood begins to pour out in a spout once more. He flicks his remaining wrist once more to summon the cutlass and stabs the photo. He turns toward his foe. Dorian Gray screams and vanishes in a blink. Drew remains, he retakes his seat and stares into the flames. His breaths that of a pig squealing in its final moments at a slaughterhouse. He closes his eyes and begins to mutter. 

 

“Why are there so…” Drew takes a deep clotted breath. “...many...” He exhales in chunks. 

 

He opens his eyes on a TV. It’s Dark in the living room. Drew’s newborn, Emmett rests his head on his chest, breathing softly into his neck. A familiar banjo is coming from the speakers.

 

“...songs about rainbows?”

 

-End-