We've reached into the recesses of Prospero's twisted past to bring you these four short stories, and endeavored to stay about as spoiler-free as the back cover with regard to the present day storyline, so whether you've already read Splinters or not, tune in every Sunday night in October for a fresh tale of the dark and clandestine history of everyone's favorite Splinter-infested small town!
So, without further ado, let's begin with our first tale of terror...
The Prospero Chronicles:
The Stuff of Legends
By Matt Carter
There were others, too, improper words for the town’s only minister’s only daughter to know, and they would have done just as well, but the energy of summoning them was more than I wanted to give Prospero right now, or ever again.
I was going, and nothing, nothing was going to stop me.
Not even Frank Templeton.
Greasy, skinny Frank Templeton, Frank Templeton the mechanic at Brundle’s Gas & Go, breathing heavy and rubbing his hands on his coveralls and thinking that would make a difference. Frank Templeton, chewing that disgusting knob of tobacco and spitting its juices into that empty Coke bottle shoved into his workbelt. Frank Templeton who’d had his eyes on this body for too long…
One less reason to miss Prospero.
Still, it never hurt to smile sweet, even if it did encourage him.
“Hello, Frank. Fill ‘er up for me?” I asked.
He stood stock still, staring down at me. He’d stopped chewing. Spittle began to creep down his lower lip, and that damn tobacco wouldn’t be far behind. He wasn’t looking down my blouse, I’d seen him do that before and he never looked like he did now. I could almost laugh at him if he weren’t so damn pitiable.
A loud, high voice barked from the office, “Frank, ya god- I mean, ya idjit, fill up the lady’s car before it starts to rust!”
Harold Brundle was the complete opposite of Frank. Short, wide, and bald. He ran, or waddled, to my car as fast as he could, running one of his hefty hands through a head of hair that hadn’t been there in decades while the other fearfully mashed up his faded blue BRUNDLE’S cap.
“Sorry Miss Mills! You know Frank, always been a bit simple…” he said apologetically.
“No reason to be sorry,” I said, putting my hand on one of his as I stepped out of the car.
“Gee, thanks,” he said, looking relieved. Then he looked at my back seat.
“Lotta bags, planning a trip?” he asked.
“Moving out,” I said.
“Congratulations! Always knew you were bound for bigger ‘n better things!” Harold snapped his fingers at Frank, “Check her fluids too! Don’t want this fine car breakin’ down in the middle of nowhere!”
Frank didn’t look like he wanted to oblige, but finally spitting into his Coke bottle half full of sloshing, brown slime, he ambled over to the garage for his tools.
“Could I talk you into coming in to the office for a minute for a Coke? Ice-cold!” Harold said. I didn’t really want one, it was an early autumn evening and the chill in the air didn’t make ice-cold sound as tempting as he wanted it to, but if it could keep some distance between Frank and me…
“Sure!” I said, following him to the office.
Harold led the way, “Now I didn’t mean to imply there that your car’d be rusting anytime soon, Miss Mills, I mean what I was goin’ with there’s what I think you’d call a figure-of-speech, and… and what year was that?”
“1950,” I said.
“1950, great year, fantastic fu- I mean, well, it’s great. What I’m sayin’ is that the Hudson Commodore like you got there is a fine automobile and it should serve you well and I mean to say that I want to do everything it takes to make it so for you,” he said.
Like daddy always said, Harold Brundle was a toadie and a lickspittle, always trying to get in the good graces of Prospero’s better families. I’d never seen it for myself before, I’d always just thought it was him being nice, but seeing him like this now made all of daddy’s old words make sense.
His office was small and cramped, a good fit for him, less-so for me. Stupid heels. The radio was tuned to local news.
“…reports indicate that Landis, recently escaped from the Braiwood Institute for the Criminally Insane after killing two guards with an ax, may be on the road to Sacramento. He is to be considered-”
Harold dove for the dial, “You don’t want to be listening to that. Scary sh-stuff.”
The Chordettes singing about how they’d wish Mr. Sandman would bring them a dream must have been less scary for him.
“That fine?” he asked.
“Of course!” I said.
“Because I can change it if you’d-”
“It’s fine,” I said, touching his wrist. He breathed a sigh of relief, wiping his sweat-slicked forehead with his cap.
“Okay. Good. Okay,” he said, plopping down in his chair.
If he didn’t look so sad, it might have been funny. Even still, he did seem a little funny. If I wanted to give him a heart attack just now, I’d have asked him for the Coke he seemed to have forgotten about.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
He didn’t seem to hear me at first, so I asked again. Startled, he said, “All right? Yes, of course, why wouldn’t I be! I mean, that maniac from Braiwood’s got us all scared some, and you got those stories of those cops findin’ that commie nest over in Milton’s Mill, and you know how this town can be sometimes.”
I did. Probably better than most. There was nothing that could really be done about what made Prospero Prospero (or the commies in Milton’s Mill if they were even real), but at least that maniac sounded like something that could be fixed.
“Well, the police will catch him, I think,” I said. “That is their job after all.”
“Of course. Of course. It’s just… do you really think that you oughta be hitting the road tonight? Maybe consider waiting for the morning when it’ll be safer for a wo- what I mean to be sayin’ is that when it’ll be safer for someone like you…”
I tried to be proper, I tried to be nice, but after something like that, I couldn’t hold back.
“You do know who I am, right?” I asked him.
All the color of his face seemed to drain into his belly, “Yes, I mean, oh God, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. Please, please don’t tell-”
His contrition was enough. “I won’t tell my daddy, you’re fine.”
That didn’t help him any. Quickly, I added, “Or anyone else.”
That was enough to set him at ease, “Thank you, I mean, you understand here how my business is my life. Without this my family, I got kids you know, and…”
“You’re fine,” I said. “While I must admit that your service could use a little work, you’re as kind and enthusiastic as ever. I’ll make sure to tell people about your kindness, and that I have no doubt that one day you’ll find yourself the King of Cars in Prospero.”
I probably could have come up with an even dumber title than the King of Cars if I really wanted to try, but I didn’t. I just wanted to get out. I had to get out. I didn’t particularly want to hurt his feelings on my way. He was a toadie, sure, but he was a good man, and like he said, he had kids. He did right by them as best he could, and was as good a citizen as you were bound to find in Prospero (god knew that if any commies ever found their way into town, Harold Brundle would be the first to find them).
If he played the game right, I had no doubt he’d go far in Prospero.
Harold led me outside when Frank waved. He gassed up the car, checked the fluids and gave the car a quick rub down with a rag, making it look as good as new. Frank looked oddly at my luggage in the back seat, spitting more tobacco into his bottle.
“Looks fine, looks mighty fine,” Harold said. “Except you left one of the back doors open you god- you retard!”
Harold strode over and slammed the door shut.
“Good as new!” he said, wiping his hands on his shirt.
“Thanks,” I said, reaching for my purse. “Now, what do I owe you?”
Harold shook his head, “It’s on the house. Just remember what to tell folks!”
“I will,” I said, getting into the driver’s seat and starting the engine. It purred to life beautifully.
“And God bless!” I called out as I drove off. The cool evening air was even cooler with the car moving. For a moment I thought about pulling over to put the top up, but it was such a beautiful night, why shouldn’t I enjoy the fresh air? It wasn’t going to last forever, after all.
The world became inky black maybe only a hundred feet past Brundle’s Gas & Go, my car’s headlights only showing a faint sliver of the road in front of me. It would be like this most of the way to Sacramento. There I’d find a motel for the night, and then…
And then my life would really begin.
My real life.
Prospero was a prison. It didn’t look like one, it didn’t act like one. Everybody smiled, everybody was friendly, everybody waved the flag on all the right holidays… but for me it was a prison. Maybe for all of us and I was just the only one who knew better.
Everybody was so trapped in their routines, so stuck with trying to be what everybody else expected that they didn’t dream of being anything more. I did dream, though. I dreamt because I could. I knew how bad things could be when you didn’t do anything to rock the boat…
And so I left.
I could make Sacramento before midnight. San Francisco by the end of the day tomorrow. Turn south after that, and then…
I was going to be a star. I was going to be a star.
I’d heard the stories, I knew of all the girls who went down there only to find it the end of the road, never getting further than the front door (or couch) of some studio head, spending everything they have on getting there and never able to leave, whiling away their years as waitresses or maids.
I wasn’t going to be like them. There were people down there, people I knew from back Home who would help me get on my feet. People who would open doors that my legs wouldn’t have to, not that they couldn’t. I was a dish. No Marilyn, because she was one of a kind, but pretty close. Good body, not too thin, chestnut hair with just the right amount of bounce, and a face that you could easily see on a film poster. I was going to be a star.
No, better than a star. I would be a legend.
Wouldn’t daddy just love that?
I adjusted the rear-view mirror, trying to get a look at that star-making face when I saw it.
I wasn’t alone on the dark, twisting forest road.
There was a pair of headlights behind me, catching up fast. For reasons I wasn’t entirely sure of, they made me nervous.
Come on, this road is public. It could be anyone.
At first they were just a couple dots in the distance. Now they were saucers, glowing bright and catching up, now maybe only fifty feet away. Forty.
They’ll just pass on by, then you-
The lights flashed once. Twice.
Just step on the gas. Get out of here.
The highway was tight and winding and stepping on the gas was dangerous, but I did it, trying to increase the distance between us.
It didn’t work. He closed in further, flashing those lights again and laying on the horn.
I wasn’t scared, not really, not quite yet, but was pretty close to getting there.
The first time he rammed me, then I was scared.
My car was nice and sturdy, but I was nothing compared to him. His was a truck, wide and heavy. He could run right through me if he wanted to.
He rammed me again, trying to force me off the road as he honked and flashed his lights.
The next impact made me scream and nearly took me off the road. I stepped on the gas even harder, but he matched me, pulling alongside me in the opposite lane.
I knew the truck. Knew the driver.
Frank Templeton, in the Brundle’s Gas & Go tow truck.
He swerved away from me slightly, ready to try to slam into my side.
I don’t know how or why I did what I did, maybe I saw it in one of those gangster movies Johnny always loved to watch, but it worked.
Right as he tried to swerve in to me, I braked suddenly, veering to the left and smashing my fender into his right rear wheel.
The truck spun around in front of me, tipping onto its side and rolling violently into a ditch. Part of me, an old part, thought I should at least stop and take a look, just make sure he was okay.
Thankfully that old part wasn’t really loud.
I drove into the night, watching those glowing headlights disappear in my rearview mirror as I laughed and shrieked.
No matter how hard it tried, Prospero wouldn’t hold on to me. I was going to get out. I was going to escape.
I was going to be a legend.
I turned on the radio with a shaking hand, found some music. Some doo-wop band was singing about how great it would be if life could be a dream. It was cheery, but not quite what I was looking for after what just happened. I reached to change the station.
“Don’t touch that dial. I like that song.”
The voice was thick and raspy, like someone who’d lived their life breathing barbed wire.
Even worse, it was in the seat behind me.
He was fast and strong, knocking the bags he’d hidden under aside, some of them falling into the road.
One of his arms was around my throat, the other pressed the broken top of an ax into my cheek.
“You know this road?” he hissed.
“Yes, some,” I choked out.
“Good. Find a nice, quiet place to pull over,” he said.
I knew what he meant to do, but knew better than to fight him. There was a soft shoulder up ahead that led to a thin patch of trees, and I pulled off into it.
“Good girl, good girl,” he said, releasing his hand from my throat. I took in several deep, hacking breaths now that I could breathe free again. He pressed the ax more heavily into my cheek. Its blade pierced my skin, drawing a thin line of blood.
“That guy back there. In the truck. He who honks his horn too much. You did a good job to him. But I gotta wonder, what do you think he was trying to do?” he said, pushing the ax even harder into my cheek, drawing more blood.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Guess,” he said.
“I don’t know,” I sobbed, hoping that was what he wanted as his free hand found its way into my blouse.
“GUESS!” he roared.
I don’t think he expected me to smile.
“I think he was trying to warn you, Landis,” I said.
“What?” he said, dumbfounded.
He didn’t see the attack coming. I made sure of it. My blood drops on the ax head leapt into his eyes, trying to burrow in and making him scream.
It was a good sound.
I changed my body, sounding like breaking wood as I snapped my ribs open into a gaping mouth of many teeth and tongues. The tongues drew his searching hand in, and the teeth made sure it wasn’t attached to his arm anymore.
He screamed even louder, pulling the stump where his right hand once was and trying to cradle it against his near-blind face. I didn’t stop changing there, no, he deserved a good change for what he’d done, what he meant to do. Tentacles ending with hooks burst from my shoulders, back and neck and wrapped around him tight. New eyes opened at the back of my head to better see him, and a large, toothy mouth on the end of a proboscis burst from my midback and hovered in front of him.
“Oh god, oh please, someone HELP! PLEASE SOMEONE HELP!” he screamed, his cries reaching no one in the middle of this dark, forest road.
“Please, I didn’t mean, just, I, what are you? Just what the hell are you?” he sobbed.
All my mouths smiled just then as my arms bent backwards, popping with that wood crack sound, fingers stretching and growing with claws as they wrapped around his head.
“What am I?” I asked mockingly. “I’m a legend!”
I made sure his screams echoed long and loud through the night. I may have had too much fun, may have messed my car a lot more than I meant to, but it was fun seeing what this new body I’d been given was capable of.
It didn’t look like I’d make it to Sacramento by midnight after all, but as I buried the last bits of him beneath a heavy drift of pine needles, I found myself thankful for the first time in this life that I was from Prospero.
Sixteen-year-old Mina Todd knows about the otherworldly shapeshifters that secretly run Prospero and has dedicated her life to fighting them. Ben Pastor, in town to attend the funeral of his missing childhood friend, Haley Perkins, has never believed any of the strange stories about what happens in Prospero. When Haley turns up alive and well at her own memorial service, Ben and Mina are forced to work together to uncover what happened to her. Though they may not always understand each other, Ben and Mina’s unlikely friendship may very well be the only thing that can save the town, and possibly the world, from its insidious invaders.
The dark history of Prospero is not over.