Scene Five

The Jacksons stared at the box sitting on their kitchen table as though it might contain a family of hissing baby pythons. Adorable, but most certainly deadly.

Lonnie had done the deed of carrying it into the house, because neither her husband nor her daughter would have anything to do with it. Although, in Melody's case, it was mostly because the box itself looked “rather germy”.

“I can call in the Lafayette Army to check it out and possibly disarm it,” Melody said.

“Disarm what, exactly?” Bernie couldn't take his eyes off the box. “I don't think we were canning dynamite or napalm back in those days.”

Melody shrugged. “This just seemed like a situation where something needed to be disarmed, is all.”

“This is ridiculous,” Lonnie said, reaching over to pull back one of the flaps. Filling the kitchen was a horrific stench of stale air so strong that it almost felt alive. She took a step back. “Maybe we'll just give it a minute to settle down.”

Bernie then noticed that his daughter was missing. “Oh my God,” he said. “MELODY!” He ran around the table in a panic, and made his way to the swinging kitchen door. “MELODY'S GONE...THE BOX TOOK...”

He felt some give on the door in front of him.

“What are you babbling on about, old man,” came the voice of his daughter. “Let go of the door.”

Bernie pulled his hands back, and kept them close to his chest as though he were in the middle of some vertical push up, Melody then entered the room. In her hand was an extendable arm with a rubber-tipped claw at the end. She clacked the claw near her father's stupefied face.

“I had to go find my germy helper,” she said. “I have no idea what you thought might have happened.”

Bernie returned back to his spot behind the table. “Never mind all that,” he said.

Melody took a deep breath. “Here we go,” she said. With the rubber-tipped tool, Melody pulled back the remaining flaps, and peered inside the box. “Just jars so far,” she said. “And they look empty.”

“Oh crud,” Lonnie said, clapping her hand to her face. “You and your friend didn't preserve your burps and farts, did you?”

Bernie raised an eyebrow. “I really really hope so,” he said.

“Removing the first jar,” Melody said, reaching in with her claw hand. Everyone took a deep breath as if they were about to be plunged underwater. “SCORE!”

The jar contained one, albeit oddly naked, G.I. Joe doll, with Kung Fu grip.”

Lonnie breathed a sigh of relief. “You were just a normal little weirdo,” she said. “See, Bernie. I'm sure we can find new clothes for your doll.” She looked over to her husband who didn't seem to share this sentiment. He stared worriedly at the rest of the jars, and mumbled something under his breath.

Throw them away. Throw them away...

Suddenly, Bernie lunged at the box and grabbed both sides.

“Nope!” Melody told him, grasping his arm with the Extendo-Grabber. “While I love a good mystery,” she said. “Sometimes they need to end.”

Bernie gave her a half-semi-crazed smile, and released his grip from the box. “Fine,” he said.

Melody reached in delicately for a second jar, and what she pulled out sent a shiver down her spine.

Sitting in what appeared to be a Barbie Dreamhouse lawn chair was a doll-sized skeleton wearing what Melody assumed was a G.I. Joe outfit. It was full camo secured by Velcro up the back, with matching pants and black plastic combat boots. Next to the tiny skeleton was what appeared to be a half-eaten, dehydrated floret of broccoli.

Bernie sat down, as if he were no longer able to stand.

Lonnie smiled and picked up the jar and held it before her face. “This is hilarious,” she said. “Is this something you guys made – well, I assume more Charles, because face it, Bernie, you don't have the patience for something like this?” She examined the contents of the jar more closely. “Or did they used to sell weird stuff like this in the seventies?”

Bernie was lost to them at the moment. His arms were tucked tightly in his lap, and he was rocking back and forth. “He didn't put holes in the lid!” he mumbled. He stared off into space for a few moments, and then released one arm and banged his hand on the table.

Melody wasn't quite as fascinated as her mother was. In fact, she was starting to get sick to her stomach as she continued to remove jars from the box. The third jar contained a small skeleton in a fetal position, clutching its throat. A fourth held a couple, arms wrapped around each other as if embracing and anticipating their inevitable end. Thankfully, the rest of the jars were empty.

“You guys had a real sick sense of humor,” she said.

Bernie returned to his tightened position, and was again rocking back and forth. His eyes were now red and wet.

Lonnie put the jar down, and knelt down to embrace him. “Bernie!” she cried. “What is it?” She wiped the tears from his eyes which were by now streaming down his cheeks.

He stopped rocking, feeling her warmth, and pulled away to look into her eyes. “I told him to let them go,” he said, his voice weak and coarse. “I really did.”


“But he wouldn't stop. Sylvia was home from college on that last day. I told her...what Chuck was doing...but she just laughed at me and pushed me against the wall. She told me that boys were always making up dumb stories. So I ran. I ran back home, and locked myself in my room. I didn't tell my parents. I couldn't. How could I?”

Lonnie produced a tissue from her pocket, held it under Bernie's nose and told him to ‘blow’. He did so, and then continued.

“So I locked it away. My parents always wondered why I never played with Chuck again. But they just assumed it was some neighborhood tiff, I guess. Thankfully, they never pursued a reconciliation.”

“Maybe they realized this was something deeper than just a fight over the Star Warses.” Melody's grasp on the jar she was holding slipped from her grip, bounced on the table and then smashed on the floor.

“THE JAR!” Bernie quickly got to his feet.

“Relax,” the girl said. “It was just one of the empty ones.”

The room immediately filled with an acrid odor, forcing the Jacksons to pinch their noses closed.

“BERNIE! You did do that horrible thing!”

Bernie shrugged. “Boys'll be boys?”

Melody shook her head and narrowed her eyes. “Only a kid of the male variety would think to shut off some noxious gas inside a glass jar for thirty years.”

Bernie shrugged again. “Well, I didn't want to go against type,” he told her.

Melody looked at him confused, and then squinted. Since she was small she's had the annoying habit of saying some of her thoughts aloud. Sadly, this was not an act she was always even aware of. Luckily, this thought her father responded to was not one she was bothered had escaped.

“Bernie,” Lonnie said sternly. She had placed the jar she was holding back into the box, and sat down. “Let's get things straight. Are you saying that these skeletons are the remains of....” She seemed to struggle with the words.

Melody finished her thought. “...People of an equal size to said skeletons?”

Lonnie pointed at her daughter, as if having recognized the words. “Do you think that Chuck may have just tricked you, to scare you.”

Bernie shook his head.

“So you saw actual people in the jars, prior to...”

Melody jumped in again. “...Being a skeleton?”

Bernie looked up at his daughter, sadly, and nodded in agreement.

Melody pursed her lips. While they had experienced many odd things in this neighborhood in the past six months or so, they were, for lack of a better word, normal supernatural type things. Ghosts, Bardos, Hounds from Hell, etc. These were things other people had purported to have witnessed. Tiny people, though?

“And you saw them moving around?” She had to ask, as one of the beings in the jar distinctly had a button on its back to activate a karate chop motion.

Bernie nodded again.

“And I have to ask this,” Melody said, sitting down and resting her hands on the table, and otherwise acting as though she were an FBI agent investigating a murder. “You were definitely not on some kind of illegal substance?”

Her father' eyes softened. “Really?” he said. “I was eight.”

“I've read a number of pre-prohibition stories of eight-year-old's walking the streets drunk.”

Bernie became indignant. “Well, I have to believe many of those stories were propaganda. Also that was the thirties. I grew up in the Seventies. It was a different climate. There weren't just...,” he looked over to his wife. “I WASN'T ON DRUGS!”

“Okay,” Melody said soothingly. “Okay.” She shushed him. “I withdraw the question. I am simply trying to establish your current state of mind at the time of the incident.”

Lonnie took ahold of Bernie's hand. “Just tell us what happened. You know after everything we've seen lately that we'll believe you and not make fun of you.”

“I didn't agree to any of that,” Melody said, folding up her arms.

“I want to go and lie down,” Bernie said, practically swooning. “I think I'm getting a migraine.”

I'll give you a migraine, Melody thought, imagining a giant cartoon hammer over her father's head. She looked around as if to gauge their reactions, unsure if the thought had actually stayed in her head. No one seemed to have noticed.

Lonnie rubbed her husband's arm. “You can go to bed after you tell us what happened,” she said.

“Yeah,” Melody said. “We'll get you a nice glass of warm milk.”

Her father scowled at her. “Stop testing reality with that warm milk bit.”

Lonnie stroked his arm faster. “We're here to help you,” she told him.

Bernie's eyes narrowed. “Then why does this feel like the Inquisition?”

Melody then began to rub her father's other arm. “Yes, father,” she said. “There's a nice rack for you to stretch out on if you don’t spill it.”

“Melody!” her mother chided. “Stop goading your father. He was just about ready to talk.” She turned to her husband again. “Go on!” she said. “What happened to li’l Bernie all those years ago?”

Bernie wriggled free of both of them. “OKAY!” he shouted. “I'll tell you if you both stop creeping me out!” He sat down, and pushed the box on the table farther away from himself. “You were saying something about cookies?”

Lonnie smiled at him, and then rolled her eyes. However, she got up from the table and pulled some pre-packaged cookies from the cupboard. She dropped it brusquely in front of him. “NOW SPILL IT!” she said.

Bernie opened the bag and stuffed a cookie into his mouth, and sighed. “Chuck Conroy was always a weird kid,” he began. “If it weren't for two things: his close proximity, and the fact that he was the first kid I knew to own an Atari, then I probably would have steered clear of him.”

Melody nodded. “You've got to get your priorities in order, after all.”

Bernie pointed his finger at her, with a very serious look in his eye. “Do NOT underestimate the power of the video game on an eight year old boy. Remember, these were the early days before it had yet to penetrate the id of the culture. To us, this was power. Akin to a god with the ability to control cartoons.”

“Descend from your soapbox, old man,” Melody told him. “This wasn't like aliens coming down and giving us superhuman abilities. The graphics were crappy and the sound grating.”

“Melody,” Lonnie scolded. “What have we talked about?

Melody sighed. “Conversations should be kindled and not killed with callousness?”

Lonnie nodded, and then turned back to her husband. “Now, Bernie, stop reminiscing and get on with the story.”

Melody broke in again. “Or was that, Monologues should be mangled and murdered, never mustered?”

Lonnie shook her head. “It was the first one.” She tapped Bernie on the hand as if to get him started again.

“Okay,” Bernie said. “Where was I?”

“Chuck's Atari.”

“Oh, yes. First Gen. Hot off the factory floor. His parents were wealthy, and they usually ignored him, so you know what that means, boys and girls?”

Melody shook her head, and shrugged her shoulders. “Adult drinking problems?”

Lonnie joined in. “Superiority complex requiring lots of psychiatric bills later in life?”

“Close,” Bernie said. “Every toy he wanted he got.”

“To use your vernacular, it sounds like all the ingredients for a jerk salad," Melody said, and then she gave her father a wry smile. “Were you spoiled like that as a kid, Dad?”

“Enough of that cheek,” said Bernie, and continued with the story. “Chuck was always acting the braggart, and saying these frankly creepy things like “My Dad could kill your Dad and no one would even care. I don't know exactly what his father did. I never saw him around the house. But one day, I guess he felt comfortable with me, he says, 'Do you want to see something weird?' and I could tell right away by that look in his eye that I really didn't. But ol' Chuck wasn't a guy to give you an option when it came to looking at weird things. When he told me that the weird thing was in the cellar, I was even more worried. You know how I feel about dark underground places.”

Lonnie chimed in. “Bernie Jackson don't like basements.”

“Anyway, he led me downstairs. And this wasn't a normal cellar. The walls were like roughly-hewn stones, masoned together by a madman.”

“Let's tone down the dramatics,” Melody told him. “And just stick with the facts of the case. This isn't an H.P. Lovecraft story you're weaving together here.”

“Yes, Bernie,” Lonnie jumped in. “No adding of the Cthulhu to spice things up.”

Bernie nodded in agreement. “I wasn't about to do that,” he said. “But noted.” He then adjusted himself in his chair to get more comfortable as though he were planning on a long-haul. He grimaced when he couldn't find the sweet spot. “Long story short,” he said finally, and Melody stopped him by banging on the table forcefully with her index finger. “Fine,” Bernie said, and cracked his neck by tilting his head from side to side to side. “Let's do this!”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode Four

Melody Jackson

vs. The Creeping Terror

by BMB Johnson

Scene Five

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