Murph’s Law

When I pissed on my best friend’s grave, I didn’t mean anything by it. I had good intentions. But what can go wrong, will go wrong. I stopped at the cemetery after the reception to pay my respects to Chuckles: the man, the myth, my friend since grade school. The bar had been packed. I devoted myself to drinking for both me and Chuckles and drank roughly the equivalent of Milwaukee’s gross domestic beer product.

After the Sheriff threw me out of Billy’s House of Brews, I stumbled across a goddamn acre of the mayor’s snow-covered corn fields, cutting through to the cemetery on the opposite side. Chuckles had been laid to rest in the Fairfax Community Cemetery after a tragic incident involving a bottle of cheap grain alcohol, a sled, and a Ford F150.  The snow drifted in waves across the open field. Patches of bare, trampled corn stalks exchanged glances with windswept snow dunes. Each step was a leap of faith. My feet crunched through the icy crust and jarred against hard soil. Hidden corn stalk punji sticks jabbed my feet. I tugged my ankles from the sucking grip of the heavy, wet snow. I tripped. I fell. I crawled, and I stumbled. By the time I reached the cemetery, my church slacks were soaked through.

Chuckles had money. Well, his parents had money. When faceless corporations threatened family farms, the Miles Farm converted into a faceless corporation. These days, their pork products show up almost everywhere. Ever had a McRib? There’s a chance you munched on “Country Miles” hogs. Chuckles had a massive headstone, the biggest I’d ever seen–nearly six feet of towering concrete polished to a heavy shine, glowing under the full moon. I stood in front of it like one of Kubrick’s apes before a monolith. Engraved letters the size of my face shouted the stats of Charles Virgil Miles, “Son and Friend: Taken too soon.” I reached out and ran my fingers across the flawless surface, leaving finger-shaped streaks in the frost.

It had been an accident. Patrons at Billy’s called it dumb luck, but when you were the asshole who drove the truck, that was of little comfort. My mom always said I had a talent for putting myself in to bad situations. Everyone calls me “Murph,” as in Murphy’s Law. My dad started it as a joke, but  it caught on. My real name is Angus. I was conceived in the backseat of an old AMC Gremlin after an AC/DC concert. Angus is a bad name for a fat kid in a farming community, and after enduring years worth of cattle jokes, I was more than willing to embrace the Murph moniker. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, as Chuckles could tell you.

I had to piss. The wind cut through my wet clothes and tickled my full bladder. Pissing in a cemetery might be in bad taste, but Chuckles always said that when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. After my run-in with the Sheriff at Billy’s, getting caught mid-stream in the moonlight of the Mayor’s cornfield would be an unforgivable transgression. I hid behind the massive headstone like a stall wall and drained two pitchers of domestic pilsner onto a bundle of withered lilies. I relaxed. All my worries slid away in a yellow stream. History has shown that karma will catch me with my pants down.  There, under the full moon, karma took a bite out of my pale, gleaming ass. I heard labored breathing, and after a drunken minute, I realized that it wasn’t my own.  I shivered and shook out the last few drops before going to check it out. Near the treeline at the far end of the cemetery, puffs of warm breath raised from the other side of the headstones. A skinny, silver-haired man squatted down next to a rolled-up brown area rug. As I neared, he spun toward my stumbling footsteps, raising a large machete towards the dark sky.

“Christ, a zombie!” He tripped backwards over the rug and nearly toppled in to the empty grave next to it.

“I’m not a fucking zombie,” I said. “I’m Murph.” That would have been enough for any local, but I had never seen this guy before. “I’m drunk,” I added.

He lowered his machete. His wide blue eyes raced over me, unblinking, his forehead etched with deep wrinkles. His silver hair strung wildly off his narrow, balding skull.

He laughed. “People call me Van,” he said. “Murph, is it? You can help me.”

“Do what?”

“Save the world.”

The dude was obviously unhinged. What can go wrong, will go wrong. I looked around for the hidden camera, or some other Murph he might have been talking to.

“Man, you must be as wasted.” I shook my head and snorted laughter.  “Normally, I am all about saving the world, but I just drank my body weight in Beast Light. Try me in the morning.” My white button-down shirt peaked out through the open fly of my Dockers. I turned my back to Van and took corrective action. When returned to face him again, I saw that he had unrolled the rug. A woman’s body lay on top of it.

“Holy shit!” It was my turn to trip. The world tumbled and the hard frozen ground rushed up to punch me in the face. My vision erupted as white as a blizzard. Van helped me to my feet, but I yanked my arm away.

“Easy, Murph,” Van said, stretching his hands out passively. He laid the machete down on top of a nearby headstone. “This isn’t what it looks like.”

“You’re going to say you didn’t kill her.”

“No, I didn’t kill her. She’s not even dead.”

My hops clogged brain kicked into overdrive, but quickly barfed on itself. I straggled up to the body. The dead woman was pale with long, dark hair spilling away from her head. Her flesh seemed too smooth, like carved alabaster. Her blood red lips seemed to smirk slightly.

“She looks dead.”

“Of course she looks dead.” Van tugged at his silver strands. Everything he said had a tone of exasperation, as if he dealt with the dumbest human being on the planet. “She’s undead. She’s a vampire.”

“I thought vampires were alive at night.”

Van rolled his eyes. “She’s not a vampire, yet. She hasn’t changed. There is still time. We can save her immortal soul.” Van clutched both of my arms in his long, leathery hands. “You can help me do it.”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“We have to act quick, before the vampire virus runs its course, before the change. I will drive the stake through her heart. You cut off her head and stuff it with garlic.”

“Woah there, buddy,” I said. “I think I’m going to need another drink before I go decapitating people–vampires–things.”

Van removed a silver flask from inside his coat. He took a swig and then handed it to me. I wiped the neck with my sleeve and took a couple of swallows, careful not to backwash. Brandy. Not half bad for a nutcase. I pocketed the flask.

Van produced a stake and rubber mallet from a black nylon duffel bag that had been rolled up in the rug along with the body. With a scream he drove the stake through the dead woman’s sternum. THACK! THACK! THACK! He hammered the stake through flesh and bone.

“Hey, what the fuck?”

“Quick!” Van yelled over his shoulder. “Cut off her head! The machete!”

“Time out.”

“What?”

“Just, hold on. Time out for a second.”

“We don’t have a second,” Van said. “She may turn at any moment. She could wipe out this entire town. Her offspring could take out the entire county.”

“The state, the world. I get it. I do. But how do I know she’s a vampire.”

“Just look at her,” Van said, his voice shook with disbelief and frustration.

“Maybe she’s just a goth.”

“Mary, Mother of God. She’s not a goth, she’s a vampire! Am I talking to myself here?” Van looked to the sky as if he were looking for some sort of advice on how to explain this to me. A red mark peeked above his collar upon his outstretched neck.

“Did you cut yourself shaving?”

Van touched his neck and looked at a spot of blood upon his fingertips. His eyes widened even more. “Good God, I’ve been bitten,” he said, his voice hollow.

He tore at his collar, popping buttons. Two half-moon indentations etched his neck. They could have been teeth, but most barely broke the skin. The blood was no more than a single drop coming from the deepest of the marks. It was probably dry already.

“It’s too late for me,” Van said. “But there is still time to save my soul, and hers as well. You’ll have to act on your own.” Van laid down next to the woman’s impaled body, arms down tight to his sides. “There are stakes and garlic in the duffel bag.”

“Dude, you are certifiable.”

“Save us, Murph. Save the world.”

“I think you’ve got the wrong Murph.” I turned in retreat.

“I can feel the moon. It washes over me like the tide.”

Van writhed on the ground, grinding his silver head into the snow and mud. I froze to my spot, torn between the dual instincts to run back to help him or run away to flee. Van flopped over on his stomach, seizing like a fish on land, and then pushed himself up to all fours. He stretched like a cat. His wide eyes stared unblinking through stringy hair.

“I have changed,” Van said. He growled low.

“Easy there, big guy. You need some help. There’s a shrink’s couch with your name on it. I’ll help you find it.”

Van roared, sprang to his feet and tackled me. We tumbled to the ground in a tangled mess. Of course, he came to a rest on top of me. What can go wrong, will go wrong. He clawed at my shoulder and forehead, exposing my neck. I wrapped my hands around his throat. Ropes of tendon and vein strained beneath my fingers as he gnashed his teeth. Saliva dripped on my face as yellow, square teeth snapped just inches from my skin. I booted him off of me and scrambled up.

Van growled and then rushed once again. I grabbed the machete from the headstone and swung with blind, brute force. Van’s head found the snow a split second before his body. I stepped over Van’s body to the dead woman. Black blood seeped from her back where the stake had pushed through. With a wide, arcing swing, I cut off her head. I dropped the machete, and picked up the duffel bag. Stakes, garlic, and a folding trench shovel.

I don’t know if the guy was demented or if they really were vampires, but I hammered a goddamn stake through his heart anyway. Better safe than sorry. What can go wrong, will go wrong. Murph’s Law.

 

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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