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AUNT MAMA WAS ON FIRE, the short story turned urban legend burning up the net as the latest craze everyone wanted to believe. This time last year Slender Man was the viral sensation, but the tale of the old black blind woman from the south had crept its way into the hearts, minds and mirrors of today’s youth, every party in every town ending with a bathroom gathering, huddled around to bring mirror to mirror, medicine cabinet mirror to main mirror to make the infinite mirrored staircase.
Like those who move the pointer of a Ouija board but swear they don’t there would always be a few who claimed to have seen Joseph and/or Elise in the glass realm. And then there were the hardcore believers, who would go so far as to draw their own blood or that of another in hopes of conjuring up the power they had read about. Or to summon Aunt Mama herself. Like with any good folklore there were countless interpretations, but none could prove the myth true.
As for who had originally posted the short story, it was always traced back to someone with the username honeychild4, with tens of thousands reaching out to he or she on the message boards but to no avail. Then one day a new post appeared, honeychild4 leaving a riddle that spun such excitement that it seemed it was all anyone was talking about for the whole summer. Hidden clues, a plea for help, what did it all mean? Fueling more speculation, again came the onslaught of those who claimed to know, with many organizing search parties and scouring the southern states of the country, the outcome producing nuisances rather than results.
As the heat made way for the crisp of fall it appeared the hoopla had died down some, but then came October, the month mentioned in the short story, and it was clear that this Halloween was going to be all about Aunt Mama, honeychild4 and the mirrored staircase. At first Lucas hadn’t given the craze much thought, chalking it up as nothing more than just another viral hoax. Either that or some stealth marketing campaign created by some company who excelled at manipulating internet uber geeks and the like. But then Jake came along with his sociology assignment, asking Lucas for a little help.
A little help.
Three words Lucas grew up hearing whenever Jake needed something. Each being an only child and only months apart in age they had indeed grown up together, more like brothers than actual cousins. But it was Jake’s shadow that Lucas seemed destined to be covered by, the boney kid who always had his head in a book taking a back seat to his cousin’s All-American looks and charisma. Despite being linked by the same DNA Jake had been the one who had struck gold in the gene pool of their genetic bank. As a result, any girl he ever wanted, all he had to do was give her the look and they’d be down on their knees opening wide, with Lucas having to deal with Jake’s boastful details the next day.
Sometimes he would even have the nerve to complain about it. “I got pussy callin’ me every day of the week! Sometimes I just wanna turn off my cell and veg out. A weekend in front of the computer with nothin’ but movies and games, ya know?”
Lucas knew all too well of spending weekends with nothing but a computer, internet porn being his only means of releasing the tension after a week of being geekish wallpaper to those who viewed him as such while he had to go on listening to his cousin’s superficial cliff notes from his world of privilege. So why did these polar opposites even keep each other company? While Jake had the physicality of a Greek god his mentality was more in line with the bimbo beauties he’d conquer, therefore needing the intelligence of Lucas for “a little help”.
How was he going to get alcohol for the big party when his fake I.D. had been confiscated?
How was he going to pass the big exam when he couldn’t stand to study?
How was he going to keep Stacy, who gave the best blow jobs in town, from finding out about Natalie, whose acrobatic body never ran out of new exciting positions for them to fuck in? While keeping both from under the radar of the Peterson twins, who liked to share everything with each other, but nothing with others?
And as for Lucas, it was like a sick addiction, Jake being the spycam to the exclusive club he would never be invited to join. It was like watching one of those stupid reality shows that somehow sucked you in, Lucas being unable to tear himself away from the play-by-play of his playboy cousin’s lifestyle.
And so had been the story throughout high school and into what was now their second year of college. Jake boasting, Lucas imagining. Cheerleaders known as “cherry poppers” and the rich girls many referred to as “plastic pussy,” collectively they were known as “fuck fairies,” eye candy all guys wanted to be with and all girls wanted to be like. As shiny as trophies and as symbolic as letter jackets these model-like teen goddesses were reserved for the hierarchy of cool, the jocks and the bad boys, while the lower class of males– the average, the nerds, the male faculty, with their inconspicuous glances– were all left to visually photograph those they could never have. Delicious images to be stored in their mental sex fantasy albums so when alone in their bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, the mind would create while the hand would pump away.
But this latest adventure into Jake’s “a little help” seemed promising. Of course Lucas had heard it all before. Of how Jake was going to give his cousin “a little help” in getting laid, but such talk proved time and again to be as cheap as it sounded. “As soon as I’m done cracking her open and taking my share, guess who I’m chuckin’ her over to next? That’s right, cuz. Finally time to make use of that ol’ jimmy hat in your wallet. How long you had it in there? Since we found that drawer full of ‘em at Uncle Jimmy’s place back in middle school, huh? ‘Member how you thought they were called Jimmy Hats cuz of Uncle Jimmy? I used mine a couple days later. I swear Uncle Jimbo kept that drawer full for me all those years. Never once had to go to the drug store.”
It was true that Lucas had the same red rubber in his wallet from years ago, long since expired but never swiped out for another, because in reality he felt he’d never have a shot at actually using one. But with this latest promise… Although the odds were greatly against him, never before had there been a greater chance for these odds to possibly shift in his favor, for he had been the mastermind in this little project of Jake’s.
Like most naive youth on social media Jake couldn’t help but fall prey to believing in half the bullshit circulating the web, and when his sociology professor had assigned ‘A Society Online’ as the topic of the term paper to be written Jake knew exactly what he wanted to research. Or more accurately, what he wanted Lucas to research.
“Think about it, man. Slender Man, The Rake, Jeff The Killer. If we solved the mirrored staircase trend we’d be instantly famous!”
They were both students at Florida State, most of Jake’s free time being spent at the frat house he belonged to while Lucas was guaranteed to be found in his comfort zone when not in class, the campus library, surrounded by tens of thousands of books. And that’s exactly where Jake had found him, along one of the quiet aisles of the biology department, after a half dozen text messages.
“Dude, it took me forever to find you! I’ve never been in this section before.”
Lucas looked at his cousin as if it had been the most obvious thing he had ever said, then proceeded to watch as Jake snatched a book off a shelf and began to flip through it. “Biology, huh? These books have any naked chicks in ‘em?”
What were the chances that from all the books on all the shelves Jake would end up picking one that was not only about the female anatomy but had plenty of colorful illustrations as well.
“Holy shit, check this out! They even show the clit!”
From the surrounding silence a student librarian suddenly appeared with a small stack of books in hand. She was from Lucas’ world of geekish wallpaper, and he could feel himself flushing in red as she stood right by Jake to return a text to its proper home. His cousin made no attempt to try and hide the wide-open pages in hand, leaving no doubt she could see the graphic images. But instead of being repulsed by this perv beside her the girl with a high bun in her hair and thick glasses below her bushy eyebrows actually smiled at the guy who was giving her the look before she turned to leave. Lucas knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, beyond the shadow casted by his cousin, that if that would have been him he would have been looked at as a low-life perversion of society. But because it was Jake… Darwin’s natural selection right before Lucas’ eyes.
“Dude, we could even make it a road trip! Best Halloween ever! Find out where honeychild is, take video of Aunt Mama, and bam, we got a billion views on youtube!”
Jake was now taking pictures of the colorful illustrations with his cellphone, zooming in on a pair of breasts with areolas as deliciously pink as some Lucas had imagined in his fantasies.
“We’ll pack up Rodney’s van, invite some sorority sisters and finally get you laid!”
And finally get you laid.
The umpteenth time Lucas had heard it, but goddammit, this time would be different. This time had to be different. He was sick and tired of being the Omega male, watching the best years of his adolescence go by as Alphas got all the action.
“Email me all you have on the mirrored staircase and we’ll go from there.”
And with that Lucas walked past Jake and his immature selfies, past the empty aisles of biology, past the student librarian and the look of repulsion she now showed towards him.
By the last week of October Lucas had everything planned down to a tee. Starting with the two pieces of content everything would be based around– the short story and honeychild’s riddle– it hadn’t taken him that long to figure out what others had been unable to: the actual location of the urban legend.
The first hint had been right there in the first sentence of Aunt Mama’s tale– The Cherokee dawn sky looked as though it had just been set ablaze, many of the colors appearing to reflect the palette of the rural landscape below, once home to miles and miles of cotton fields, now bare, with fields of pattern that radiated the feeling of a hidden past. ,Obviously an area where the Native American tribe once roamed, which narrowed the search to the southeastern states of Georgia, North and South Carolina and East Tennessee.
Lucas knew that many small towns in the south originally got their names from the different languages of the American Indians, and so he had looked up Cherokee words pertaining to mirror and reflection. This in effect pinpointed him to the southern Georgia town known as Destiny, taken from the Cherokee word for mirror, daseti. Eventually the letters in the name had been shifted while omitting one letter and adding two more to form the name it was now known by.
From there he went on to honeychild’s riddle, dissecting line by line to see what clues could be deciphered. The first half of the first sentence was a confirmation to the general area he had already discovered. The Cherokee rose and bumble bee, the state flower and state insect of Georgia, while the second half hinted to more slayings, with Aunt Mama’s rockin’ correlating to her craft of witchery.
Number 4 was no doubt connected to the 4 in honeychild’s username, with the verse babychild, mamachild, all for another honeychild giving Lucas reason to believe it had to do with generations, especially given the fact that ancestry had been mentioned towards the end of the riddle as well.
The next hint was really the final part of the puzzle when it came to the precise location. Racin’ dog rollin’ down the highway had to be the Greyhound bus line passing through the outskirts of Destiny. The mention of a bend gave Lucas an odd sense of déjà vu, causing him to recall a time in middle school, around the same time that he had placed the red rubber beside the library card in his wallet, when his class had taken a field trip up to the Coca Cola factory in Atlanta. He had been staring out the window of the school bus for hours, looking for anything out of the ordinary among the miles and miles of open fields, the patterns whizzing by as he tried to avoid their hypnotic effect.
It was during a rare bend they were rounding when Lucas spotted something very peculiar that would stay with him to this day. Two black girls on the side of the road, just standing there in the middle of nowhere and watching as the bus took the curve. One was around his age, dressed innocently in a bright yellow dress, her hair pinned up in a bun.
The other, who was already grown up, was quite the opposite in her high shorts and half t-shirt. At first Lucas thought he might have been imagining them, the repetitiveness of the rural landscape having created a mirage of sorts. But then his classmates started hooting and whistling at the pair, the older of the two seeming to invite the attention as she waved. But for some reason Lucas had been more drawn to the quiet one, and when the bus began to leave the bend and speed back up her eyes had found his. It could have been the sun’s reflection or a number of other things, but Lucas thought he saw her eyes weld up with shine, like a bunch of tears about to fall at any moment.
He peered out to her for as long as he could, until her shimmering eyes were lost in the cream coffee color of her face, her image shrinking smaller and smaller until she was like a bumble bee in her bright yellow dress, hovering there in place until the rural landscape engulfed her completely.
The thought that the little bumble bee girl etched in his memory had been honeychild was enough to momentarily bypass logic and raise a few hairs on the back of his neck.
Suggestion. The power of it from that damn short story. That’s all it was, or so he convinced himself to believe.
Back to the image on Google maps, to the bend that couldn’t be his bend, and the dirt road veering off to an old house a quarter mile away.
The house was indeed from the slave days, sitting in stillness and holding who knows how many secrets to its past. Had there really been a Matheson family there? And a family of slaves who had turned the tables on them? One of the first things that caught Lucas’ eye was a sign hanging above the steps of the leanin’ front porch. Discolored from age he had to zoom in on it, the faded lettering in the old style of Bodoni reading:
Had this been the hidden agenda of whoever had created the hoax? To lure in tourists and the like? Nah, if that were the case the clues to finding this place would have been easier to figure out. But the sign did provide an answer to a question that had been bothering Lucas since he had decided to take on the project. They would now have a reason to be showing up on someone’s doorstep and gaining access to what lies inside.
Zooming back out Lucas’ eyes scanned to the right of his LCD screen, finding an empty rocker on the far end of that leanin’ porch. No doubt this was the location of the urban legend that had swept the web into a frenzy. And he had to admit, the whole thing was kinda brilliant, with three parts still leaving him stumped. What was the blood berry? What the hell did honeychild mean with the use of Hershey Kisses?! Had to somehow be linked to given up my suga’. And how about the verse about hummin’? The rest of the riddle was pretty self-evident, and with a destination now in place he had Jake take care of the next order of business. To recruit a handful of frat brothers and sorority sisters who were just as naive as his cousin to want to investigate the mirrored staircase.
Chapter 2 posted shortly.