In the small hollow of Amelia, the people often speak of the hills with the devil's smile. Three large barren, rocky terrain resemble a man's face and two trees on the very top look very similar to horns. As much as it rains in Amelia, those three hills never grow anything, no grass, no weeds. But at one time it must have, if there are trees.
I was there for the reading of an old friend's will, who had built a house under those devil hills. Guy Franklin and I knew each other as children. We lived in the squalor capitol of the poor at the heart of the meanest city America had ever invented, right in the heart of Amherst, north of Pittsburgh. Both of our parents shared a three bedroom apartment. Both parents came from Italy and both parents had three children each. Oddly enough we were the only boys in the family. Our fathers had met on the boat to America. Traveled together on a train when they were offered a job in the Shipyard. They rented the apartment dirt cheap, because there was no bathroom.
When their families arrived, they made accommodations by hanging quilts to block out the quarters for each family, but the wives shared the kitchen, which wasn't always easy, since they couldn't stand each other. A year passed and my father died in a railway accident. We never knew exactly what happened. I always suspected he was pushed in front of a moving train, since one witness said they had seen him arguing with two men. In the coming years Guy's father assumed father of us both and my sisters, and in that transaction, he gained another wife. Strangely enough, both wives got along perfectly well from then on, and was more than happy to share Guy's father. During that time everyone adopted an American name. I became Tony. Guy was had been Giuseppe. All of my sisters had names picked out of a Hollywood magazine, Shirley, Marilyn, Bette, Ann-Margret. The family name became Franklin.
It wasn't long before things went from bad to worse for us. Guy's father drank heavily. My sister Ann-Margret died from an illegal abortion. And of course Guy went to prison for three years for his part in a hold up of a grocery store.
When he was released, he sent for me. He brought me out to California and set up as a publisher of pornographic magazines by a friend from prison, Benito. Oh yes, there was mafia connections. Somehow everyone is connected, aren't they? I had never met Benito. To hear Guy tell it, the man saved his life many times, very influential for guy.
Okay, I admit it was strange that I should be so dedicated to Guy. And it's not because of circumstances made us brothers, though not by blood. Sure, I had girlfriends. But I never loved them like I loved Guy. I never acted on my affection for him. He wouldn't go for it anyway. He always saw me as his little brother, even though we were the same age.
He lived a good life.
The last few years, I have been on my own. He sent me a letter stating he had moved to the southern part of America, out in “the boonies” as he put it. He had achieved what he needed to create Hell's for those who had crossed him.
I always thought Guy had a screw loose, dabbling in the occult. Black magic. I enjoyed the orgies, but as far as sacrificing chickens and goats, that shit was for the birds. It was his fault for introducing me to Mogu.
It was something Guy had been introduced to in prison by Benito, the same one that set him up in publishing. I never met Benito. When released from prison, he died in a fishing accident. “ Mogu, a belief system old, but not so old it's followers haven't forgotten what powers it contained..” A direct quote from Guy himself. The belief system is an offspring of many religions in the bloodline from Africa that found it's way to the Islands and even in Sicily.
Mogu is the twin Gods who control the destinies of all man in the universe. Chief among it's followers of the philosophy that magic is separate, but equal. Black and White magic is separated only by it's intent and end goals. Mogu twins share the same name, but in your prayers, you either draw a white card and drip the wax of a white candle for protection. Mogu will keep you from harm, or others you mention. If you draw a black card and drip the blood of a black cockerel, in your prayers, Mogu's brother will bring forth your vengeance upon others.
I've always subscribed to the protection of Mogu, one had to wear the sign bearing his name, two circles intertwined, representing the sun. Those who represent the black arts, wear the sign of the sun blacked out by the full moon.
He always wondered who was the one who used the white arts against him. When he found out, he cast me out of his life.
The whole reason for my re-entering my adopted brother's life was to hear his last will and testament.
On this day, I entered his study along with Melinda, his ex-wife, and Verne, his ex-business partner in publishing.
I sat in a red plush chair, Guy's lawyer spoke to each one of us, as if introducing us to each other for the first time. The lawyer went by the name of Dickson, and he knew nothing of Guy's dealings with Mogu. The man was very tall, and had a very bad hair lip that looked as if he'd been caught at the end of someone's fishing line. Melinda had a habit of sniffing and saying, “Mmmm.....?” every time she spoke. She hadn't changed in the fifteen years I had last seen her. Very striking red haired and buxom still. But if we had carried out the plan Guy and I had concocted before she left him the first time, Mogu would be devouring her soul every night for eternity, after which I had shot her in the head several times. But, Guy had discovered he loved her very much, even after leaving him for a Television Evangelist and slurring his name in all major newspapers.
Verne sat next to Melinda, and as always had a tendency to place his hands over her stockinged legs. And as usual she would remove his hands and if necessary, smack the dog shit out of Verne. Verne had aged considerably. No longer a man of great physical stature, but stooped over as if his vertebrae had been demolished.
Verne had stolen almost everything from Guy. All the movie companies that distributed porno’s, the book company that published the taut literary masterpieces Guy was forever in court defending first amendment, the rags that published terrible true and untrue gossip of celebrities. But Verne hadn't taken away Velvet magazine. Because at the time Velvet was not making a profit. Competition with Penthouse and Hustler was fierce. Then Velvet began to publish a lot of fetishes pictorials. That was what got Guy back in the game. Verne's ventures sank in the early 1990's. Drugs have definitely taken it's toll. As well as prison for one of the biggest coke scandals in Hollywood, where Verne was the only one to be indicted.
So we three sat in Guy's study, listening to guy's lawyer go on and on about everyone's attachment and importance to the man who made out his will thirty years before in a french brothel.
“As per the arrangements, neither of the three of you were informed of Mr. Franklin's death,” Dickson paused, wiped a bit of dribble from his chin with a handkerchief.
“We're the only one's named in his will...mmmm...?” Melinda didn't even try to look sad. She was as cold as the night of their honeymoon. I know, because I filmed it for Guy and his social club friends.
Dickson nodded. “ I think this is, perhaps, the strangest will and testament I have ever presided over. It seems Mr. Franklin has some strange beliefs in the afterlife, as well as strange beliefs in the present one of his closest friends and closest enemies. That's how it reads.”
“So, what does the chump want us to do?” Verne said. He was in a hurry to get the money he once had.
Dickson leaned over his desk and handed me a paper with the prepared statement typed nicely. “Would you please read this, Mr. Franklin?”
I waved a hand. “I don't need to read it, Mr. Dickson. I know this all too well. I was there when he wrote it out years ago.”
“Very well,” Dickson slumped back in his chair, wiped dribble from his chin. “Carry on.”
“In the event of my death, Guy Franklin, three of my closest friends, family or enemy, shall inherit my entire fortune, only, but only, if one should survive the Hell I shall invent in my afterlife for each who stands to collect. Any one person could survive with his or her mental standings mostly intact, and of course, alive.” I paused, the other two looked at me as if I'd been speaking in Latin. So I put it as plainly as possible. I sighed, cleared my throat. “We have to spend the night Guy's dead body.”
Melinda laughed. “I did that for ten years, this will be a piece of cake. Guy was always a stiff.”
Verne sprang from his chair as well as he could in his condition.
“I protest! Never will I commit such a vile act!” He bellowed.
Dickson shrugged, once again wiped his chin. “That's perfectly fine. You give up your chance for the inheritance.”
Verne was stunned. “I-I-No! I do not!” He looked away, obviously a flash of a memory swept Verne away. His face was filled with much sadness. Could it be that Verne was sorry about something to do with his once friend Guy Franklin? I'm not so certain of that. People do change over the years , and maybe Verne had become soft in his old age.
“Make up your mind, Verne.” I said. “It's not the first time you've seen Guy incapacitated.”
“Is he going to stay with Guy's body, too?” Verne pointed his cane at Dickson.
Melinda smiled. “I sure hope so,” She said and uncrossed her legs, then crossed them again slowly.
I rolled my eyes. The bitch couldn't help herself. She's always in heat.
“Yes,” Dickson said. “Someone has to bare witness, legal documents to sign.....proof who survived this...game.”
“It's no game, Mr. Dickson,” I said. “I assure you that Guy was very serious when he wrote this will. You wouldn't believe what he went through to have everything in it's place.”
“I'm not a believer in Mumbo-jumbo, Mr. Franklin.”
I laughed. “You don't have to, Dickson. You don't have to believe in Mogu. They already believe in you.”
“So,” Verne piped up. “When does this sitting with the dead man happen?”
I sighed. There was a tug of a smile at my lips. “It's already begun.”
“Where's Guy's body, then?” Melinda looked around the study.
I turned to the lawyer Dickson. He made a face, placed his hand under the desk and touched a button. Across the room,Guy's bookcase opened, swinging with a terrible creak that everyone cringed. There he lay behind a sheet of glass, Guy Franklin. He was on a wooden platform draped in red silk from seven virgin girls he had slain by his many accomplices. He himself looked exactly as I had left him years ago. Still with a dyed brown hair on his wrinkled head, and deep
hollow black eyes that would frighten the devil himself. He had a melancholy smile on his face. Did he indeed die so peaceful? Or was the simple fact his plan was coming together? Exact vengeance from the beyond.
The glass wall that was between he and us fogged up. Guy's body degraded into another image altogether. We saw Melinda standing inside a cave, with her back to us. Melinda was startled by this other apparition of herself. She suddenly rose from her chair. The apparition beckoned her with a hand, still not looking our way. Melinda seemed enchanted by this, lost , bedeviled. The apparition began to walk away from the mirror deeper in the darkened cave. Melinda followed, almost at a rushed pace.
Verne stood, tried to catch her by the arm. “Good God, woman! Keep your wits about you!” He screamed.
Melinda shook him off and stepped closer to the glass wall. Dickson seemed to have no reaction at all. He looked on, as if her were watching a film or television. I was bound by my allegiance with Guy to not get involved.
Melinda stepped inside the glass wall, a mist seemed to pass through into the study, bringing the temperature down to a mere thirty or so odd degrees. We all felt a shiver through our bodies. Verne was especially hit hardest. I wrestled my coat from my chair and wrapped the old man. He nodded at me in thanks.
That's when we heard the blood curdling scream. I nearly fell over backwards as my body jumped. Verne caught me by my elbows.
“My God........” I heard Verne whisper.
I turned to see the horrible visage. The apparition's face had been burned, bone could be seen from under rolls and rolls of dead dry, gray skin. It's eyes were a fixed glassy glare, no skin to cover just two large eyeballs staring back at us. It had no lips, but a smile of clenched bone-white teeth.
A mist came over the image. The apparition and the cave was gone. Now only Guy in his death bed was apparent. The temperature was normal again. The glass wall appeared, and Melinda was kneeling at it, sobbing lowly.
I moved toward her.
“Stay back,” She said. “Please....just stay away......”
I placed a hand on her shoulder, she turned quickly to me. I gasped. She had adopted the apparition's horrible face. She stood and ran to the door, found that it was locked. Melinda pulled and screamed, tugging at the doorknob in succession with her screams to let her out. All the while, bits and pieces of flesh fell from her face. One last pull and the door flew open. She ran as fast as she could, loosing her heels in the process.
There was laugh, a maniacal laugh echoing throughout the study. I recognized that laugh. Loud and boisterous. It belonged to Guy Franklin.
“I'm not sure I like this idea.....” Verne's voice trailed off. It sounded as if he was having a hard time talking-----and with good reason. I could see what Hell Guy had created for poor Verne. As he sat in his chair, Verne would die, his body would become a rotting corpse every ten minutes, then start all over again.
“This is too much,” I said, took a few steps away from Verne.
Dickson had come from around the desk. I could feel him behind me. I turned slowly to face him. Dickson was no longer human. He no longer wore a suit. He had become demon whose head was that of a misshaped catfish with a mouth that had been torn open by a fishing hook.
His torso was hairy, but still of human form. His legs were bent, out of shape with hooves likened to a goats.
“Now,” He said, saliva draining from his open wound. “I get to feed from you, slowly devouring every part of your body for all eternity as you beg to be killed.”
He took hold of me by the shoulders and screamed. His hands became engulfed in flames. There was a smell of burnt flesh....not human but a burnt fishy smell. In mere minutes, the demon had dwindled into a small gathering of sulfur.
I heard a voice cry out, and the library swung shut, encasing Guy and his deathbed. I felt a rush cold air which blew away the pile of sulfur.
I moved a hand over my chest where a newly created tattoo of the sign of Mogu rested. The sign that will protect me till the end of my life and well into my afterlife.