Hither comes the thirteenth
Inspired by the superstition that surrounds Friday 13th, Shea Evans presents a tale of terror in this creative piece.
Tonight I sit inside my room,
Alone and old and broken.
A shell of whom I once was proud,
And find my clothing soaken.
A quick call out for help,
Would call at once the nurse,
But never would I force her eyes,
To gaze upon my curse.
Each year now I wait condemned,
For the worst night of my health.
Hither comes the thirteenth,
Now is eleven-thirty, Thursday twelfth.
In this last half hour of freedom,
My mind backpedals fast,
And quickly fixes root upon,
A scene of distant past.
So through the murk of memory,
I relive the evil night,
Which occurred now oh so long ago,
And birthed my present fright.
The young man in my memory,
Is sixty years my junior,
He sits alone in a rural pub,
In a dark corner with his schooner.
At twenty years and full of life,
He works the sheep for pay,
And each night the man who once was me,
Comes here to rest and play.
Most nights I’d just sit a while,
And go upstairs to bed,
After talking with the station blokes,
When they had filled my head.
But this night of nights was different,
With intention I was lone,
Sat deep within my drink and thoughts,
Of a far off distant home.
When a man slid in the booth I used,
I recognised him not,
But after this single, fateful meet,
His face I’ve ne’er forgot.
The man across the table sat,
And was by the light betrayed,
In the beginnings of fresh candle-flame,
I could see his face afraid.
Upon his head his bush hat sat,
Askew as if disturbed,
By the memories that it held in place,
And the things that it had heard.
His eyes were all-a-darting,
His face a shiny sheen,
His lip was bit between his teeth,
And he seemed about to scream.
His age I could guess it not,
He appeared both old and young,
That was all that I could tell,
From the thoughts in which I swum.
Up the walls our shadows danced,
Upon the peeling paper,
And leapt about their yellow world,
And bathed us in their caper.
I made to open up my mouth,
I admit he made me nervous,
But he silenced me with speech his own
Before I could discern his purpose.
“I need a drink, so buy me one,”
The man said in his fright,
And his reply, when I asked why,
Was, “the devil comes tonight.”
Quickly I looked ’round for help,
But found the bar was empty,
This came to me with sudden shock,
When before it was packed-a-plenty,
With music vanished and so the patrons,
Came down unholy silence.
With no crack of pool or thud of dart,
The nothingness was violent.
I turned back to him, who noticed not,
The strangeness of this all,
And went to open up my mouth again,
But found I’d not the gall.
He simply pointed at the bar,
And I found myself commanded,
With no force of word or utterance,
To get the drink demanded.
With trembling legs I rose and went,
And then was truly scared,
When at the oaken bar-top bench,
I found two drinks prepared.
I brought them back and took my seat,
And bestowed the man his glass,
Who took it up in shaking hand,
And acknowledged me at last.
“You,” he said, “misfortune strikes,
Though it is not my will.
The curse I bear has chosen you,
As host when I am killed.”
Confusion hit, I was unsure,
Of what the man had said,
I went to ask him to repeat,
But he just shook his head.
“There’s not much time, it’s ten-to-twelve,
And I must soon be gone,
But know this when the curse is yours,
He only stays ‘til dawn.”
Finally my tongue was loosed,
“Who!?” the only cry,
“The devil himself,” the man spat back,
And I could see it was no lie.
“Once a year,” he then went on,
“When Friday Thirteenth comes,
Beelzebub, he flies to me,
And tortures me for fun.”
“I know not how and know not why,
But that he never fails,
To turn up on this evil night,”
The man whispered, “I have seen the scales.”
When somewhere near the clock hit twelve,
The man was shocked with fright.
“He’s here, he’s here!” was all he said,
As the bells rung out the night,
And noticed I an oddly scent,
Most peculiarly rank.
Of rotten eggs and sulphur fumes,
That around me rose and stank.
I felt my seat lift from the floor,
I hovered off the ground.
And noticed something horror strange,
When I turned to look around.
The glasses from the bar flew free,
And whirled about the room,
Cavorting in some merry way,
They danced to silent tune.
All chairs floated in the tide,
Pool balls, too, rose up,
And whirled their way around in time,
Compelled by naught to stop.
And laughter boomed in all about,
As darts joined the devil-dance,
It was crude and coarse and full of hate,
And dark were its commands.
Terrified I shut my eyes,
Hands clamped over ear,
While every ringing of the bell,
Evolved and grew my fear.
The cacophony of all this doubled,
With each striking chime,
And stirred a certain inner madness,
I knew I’d lost my mind.
Then on the twelfth the hell-play ceased,
My chair fell back to floor,
And startled found myself alone,
The scene set as before.
Revellers sang about in cheer,
Workmates played at game,
But from the burnt out candle stump,
I knew that something came.
Back in the present I find myself,
And realise with shock,
That the time is now eleven-fifty,
So proclaims the clock.
My fingers tighten on the arms,
Of the chair in which I sit,
While the room is basked in eerie glow
And is by the lamplight lit.
Just last year it was brought to me,
A knowledge grim and dire,
That the man who once appeared to me,
Had perished in a fire.
The victim photos in the paper,
Among them stared the bushman,
It was dated Friday thirteenth.
Terror gripped me then,
It hasn’t left me since,
And every mention of the number,
Causes me to wince.
Now the date is here,
And from somewhere down a darkened hall,
The bells begin to chime.
Comes the power of midnight risen,
And with it, too, the smell,
That dank, malodorous, reptile scent,
Which heralds the prince of hell.
My chair it once more rises,
The long-lost dread returned,
And the lights go out with satan’s laughter,
In darkness I will burn.
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Feature image by Reid McManus