Ichor Falls


by admin on Nov.10, 2008, under Horror

Business these days… it ain’t what it was.

Moved here back in… don’t even remember now; it’s been that long. Figured, town needs a convenience store — hell, the whole world seems to need convenience stores. Why deprive myself of a steady living? Built my little store. Easy access to the highway, to the town main road. No-brainer, right? Get the tourists coming in for the Falls, and get the locals who need a quick somethin’-or-other. I win, the town wins, works all around.

Seemed to work for a time, too: got the locals pretty regularly, got the tourists sometimes, even got the odd state trooper who was comin’ in to have a look-around.

That store was the first smart thing I did. Life just crawls by when you got worries. Bills to pay, job after job, letting you go, gettin’ fired or laid off. Not now that I owned somethin’ people needed, people wanted. Time went by, I didn’t even notice. Years. Made pretty good money for my station, though I can’t say I saved much. How the time did fly.

Did notice though, when the tourists started dropping off, and the state troopers started picking up. I still had the locals, but they started bein’ different locals: at first, it was just poorer than usual, slower than usual — had to repeat myself when talkin’ to them, y’know? Also noticed how they wouldn’t come in the store if the troopers were here — figured it was ‘cuz they were illegals or somethin’. Nothing against that — times were gettin’ tough all over, and s’long as they paid, I had no complaints.

Nights were hardest — long nights, just me and the store, the odd shufflin’ local coming in or goin’, the lights buzzin’ overhead. Got to talkin’ to myself, playin’ the radio to make it seem like there was more company — these new customers couldn’t chit-chat for crap, I tell you that. Some seemed more smarter than others, but even they wouldn’t talk; you’d get a grunt or three, but mostly they just stared at you with this gleam in their eyes.

Every small town has its downturns and whatnot. Crime goes up when the road gets bumpy. Started carryin’ a .38 revolver in the store — body’s gotta protect himself, don’t he? Heard the state troopers on their CBs, talkin’ more ’n more ‘bout trouble in the town, strange goings-on and the like. Wouldn’t know, never mingled with the locals. Their money was good enough for me, but they were a weird lot. Draggin’ their feet, wearing rags and dirty things, all homeless or squatters or the like. I’d see ‘em congregatin’ in my parking lot after dark. Keep your perversions to yourself, I says, and we got no problems. But still, I started lookin’ forward to having cops in the store — they were there to lay down the law, and the shufflers knew it, and it kept ‘em scared. I liked that.

Another year goes by like that, things aren’t lookin’ much better the next. Pretty soon I can’t count on sellin’ anything higher-priced than a stick a gum, a pack of cigarettes. These filthy shufflers’d come in, poke around, give me that stare of theirs and walk without so much as buyin’ a gumball. I figure the town had it real bad then. One thing for a person to go into a store and not buy anything, but to come back? Again and again? Like they were just comin’ in out of the cold or somethin’. Didn’t appreciate that. No, I did not.

One night, I was gettin’ ready to close up; one of them shufflin’ locals comes in. He’s shufflin’ ‘round, lookin’ at stuff, pawin’ at different things. Takin’ his sweet time behind the racks. “Hurry up back there!” I yell out to him. “It’s late, I’m closin’ up!”

Damn idiot just grunts, keeps shufflin’, makes these weird little circles as he goes. “What’re you, deaf? I said move your ass back there!” I yell. It’s cold, and the game was on that night — wanted to get home, kick off the shoes, grab a beer, hunker down and cheer my guys on.

Shuffler back there — all matted, stringy hair an’ dirty grubby clothes — I swear he’s shuffling a trail of sweat and grime all over the store, rubbin’ his filth all over the place. All I hear is his dirty feet shufflin’, movin’ to another spot, still makin’ those noises, probably pawin’ all my merchandise, getting everything filthy back there so I’d have to clean up before opening in the morning. Filthy stinkin’ shuffler.

I decide the whole business is too weird for me and my patience’s just run out. I grab my gun, not because I think I’ll need it, but just to be safe — be pretty stupid to confront a guy and leave my best defense in the front counter drawer. I walk back there, get close enough to him. Close enough to smell the filth. It’s steaming off him, into the air around him and me, and he’s just staring, staring at me through that greasy hair of his, those dirty gray bloodshot eyes just laughin’ at me. This filthy maggot is laughing at me! At ME! Like he’s got more business in here than I ever did.

“I said, I’m closing up now. You hafta come back tomorrow if you wanna buy anything,” I say, nice and slow and loud, and he starts grinning at me, and his teeth are the only thing that ain’t dirty on this maggot, and he’s movin’ closer to me, and I dunno, he’s like, rippling under his dirty baggy clothes, or maybe it’s just the smell, the stench escapin’ his body, pourin’ out his goddamned filthy sleeves and pant legs, and it rattles me but by then I’m already so angry.

I grab my gun and point it at him — “You get the hell out of here! You get!” but he’s still movin’ close to me, that stupid fat white grin closer, and the glint in his eyes matches the glint on my gun, and the smell — God, the smell is everywhere — and I’m thinkin’ how the stench in my nostrils, that same air was under those clothes a second ago, escapin’ when he moved, steamin’ out from his filthy body and gettin’ into my lungs, inside me, and he’s rubbing all the filth he carries with ‘im, the filth he makes, all over my piece-of-shit store, and God I hate this town and this place and him, him and his kind are what’s ruined this town and all those years I worked here, buildin’ and savin’ and growin’ something to keep the lights on at home and these dirty stupid shufflers ruined it all and he’s so close now, and that ripplin’ under his clothes, it’s faster and his teeth are closer, and the shine in his eyes is so bright I can’t move, I’m so damn angry now –

He’s even closer now, and I can see things I couldn’t before, and I know what the rippling is, and the smell, and the minute his breath hits my body, I snap. I just snap. Next thing I know, I look down and I see my revolver in my hand, cylinder empty. I put all six bullets into ‘im.

There wasn’t as much to clean up as I thought — just tossed it into my trunk, dropped it off in the woods on my way home. Caught the tailend of the game, too. My guys won! Slept like a baby that night, and came in early the next morning, cleaned up from the night before.

Locals dropped off pretty much right after that. Wasn’t too surprised by that. I think the shufflers knew what I’d done, and I was proud to do it — they knew that, too. Did get a big uptick in state troopers, and a little while later, they ran a whole mess of shufflers outta town. Good riddance. Still think they didn’t do a good enough job. Too soft ‘bout the whole thing. But I guess they got their rules, and they did what they were told.

The whole thing kinda gave me a little mental boost, tell ya the truth. I took up huntin’ as a hobby right after that — back to Nature, back to God sort of thing. I ain’t one to brag, but I once caught a… well, you know the joke. Wish I’d taken more trophies, but night hunting is about speed and surprise. Cuttin’ off mementos woulda ruined the moment. Had to stop a few years back, local game learned new places to hide — and my bones were getting tired.

I guess the troopers found a new route at some point, because they stopped comin’ around as much, but I hung on — still got the highway trade, and a little business from the town over. Plus, knowin’ the territory now, I hired myself out as a kinda hunter tour guide, sellin’ what I learned over the years. Made some money.

Now that this redevelopment stuff has started, I’m glad to see the old stuff go. ‘Bout time this city had some fresh blood, I say.

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9 comments for this entry:
  1. Dylan Charles

    Loved the dialect and you got a damn good atmosphere going here. Good story.

  2. Xavier Brentwood

    This is a great “slice of life” look at what Ichor Falls does to people who are nearby. Not close enough to be overwhelmed all the time, but things spill over the edge of town.

    The narrator’s speech patterns and mode of delivery made me react as if to a real person’s story - I think this marks an excellent writer’s work. The effect was helped by the narrator’s misappropriation of certain ideas and actions I value, a twisting of what should be into what too often is.

    Besides, we can’t be sure of what (or who) he’s hunting in the woods at night…

  3. Sarah

    Thanks all for the comments-this was a completely unexpected Ichor Falls story. I had been thinking of writing something but hadn’t been sure what; and then suddenly, there was this bigoted convenience store owner in my ear, practically screaming this story at me.

    I was very pleased at the subtlety of the darker things going on in this story-as I told Kris, I wanted to avoid a “Soylent Green IS PEOPLE!” sort of reveal, and keep the true causes and deformities hidden in shadow.

    Really enjoying playing around in the Falls, and reading others work!

  4. Matt

    I really like the setting this has I’m thinking of running an Unknown Armies Campaign and I might just use Ichor falls as one of the story Arches this will fit in perfectly to it too

  5. venti

    I loved this story. Very much.

  6. Tarquin

    … he’s not hunting animals, is he? I don’t think he’s hunting in the Stillwood at all.

  7. Aazhie

    Woa- great ending! I was expecting a more moralistic “shufflers” eating the guy or something creepy, but this is a much better and more disturbing end than i expected. Really nice and I’m curious what kinds of folks he’s giving hunting tours to, or whether they survive their tour. I have shivers

  8. Spinningfox

    Great Story, saw one grammatical typo though, you said “more smarter”, kinda funny considering the context.

  9. Anonymous

    I liked this a lot. It’s a really good story showing the infection of madness. These “shufflers” probably aren’t all that human, but even then killing them in cold blood isn’t something that seems normal. It’s obvious that this store owner is slowly creeping into madness, even if the things he saw were quite real.

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