Zephrum Gates and the Mysterious Purple Haze

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† By Tricia Riel

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Chapter 2

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The Creaking Door

††††††††††† Although Beatrice the waitress had intended to discourage Dexter from his investigation,

she had only piqued his interest more.Dexter left the diner and set out into town on foot from

the diner.He asked all sorts of people all sorts of questions about the house and the fire.

After gathering a wellspring of information, he decided that it was time for him to explore the

scene himself.Because he had been dodging purple haze and energy forms all afternoon while

talking to the townspeople, Dexter decided to make sure he would be fully protected when he

finally went over to the Seelie house.

††††††††††† There was an old army surplus store in town and Dexter thought that it would have just

the right protective gear for the job.As he entered the store, Dexterís nervous and quirky

manner put the store owner on alarm.Dexter heard the deep cracking sound of metal against

metal as he set foot in the door.There, standing in front of Dexter, was a massive wall of a

man as enormous as an industrial-sized walk-in refrigerator.The man had a big purple scar

splashed across his right cheek, and he was holding a long semi-automatic rifle.He had just

chambered the round in order to have the gun ready.The rifle was pointing directly at

Dexterís flaring nostrils.

††††††††††† Dexterís eyes grew wider than two eggs flattened out in a fry pan as they looked down

at the metal pipe that was staring him squarely in the face.

††††††††††† A rough, low, intimidating voice slowly spoke to him from high above his head."Do

yuz' want somethin' here?"

††††††††††† Dexter bravely lifted his index finger up to the gun barrel and gently moved it away from

his nose.He gulped and tentatively said, "Well . . . eh . . . yes . . . I think so."

††††††††††† The great husky man in front of him was so large that it looked like three whole Dexter's

could fit into his clothes.The store owner was quite rotund.Because his neck was so barely

visible, Dexter thought that this man could be a walking, talking human tick.

††††††††††† With a gravelly sound, the enormous man swung his gun down under his arm and said,

"Well, then, Rock-o Pounder at your service."Rock-o tipped the top of his baseball cap with

his finger and half smiled as he said, "Donít worry about the gun, buddy.Everybodyís gotta'

have a gimmick for gettin' people into their store.Iím just tryiní out new ones to see what

works best.The gunís not even loaded."

††††††††††† Trying to act normal, Dexter said, "Oh, yeah . . . right."

††††††††††† "I hate the dang things if yuz' really wanna' know."Rock-o added.

††††††††††† Rock-o swung his arm wide to display the contents of the store and said, "What can I

do yuz' for, then?"

††††††††††† Dexter didnít quite understand the question.It was grammatically strange.He said,

"Excuse me?"

The large man spoke louder."What?Are yuz' hard o' hearing?What do yuz' want then, eh?"

††††††††††† Dexter piped up now that he realized he might be able to be helped."Well, uh, Iím

looking for some protective gear for my whole body . . . something that would protect me

from head to toe . . . preferably fire proof . . . and with gloves and head gear that could keep

just about anything from getting to me.Do you have anything like that?"

††††††††††† Rock-o Pounder put his hand to his chin and took a good long look at Dexter.He

scratched the three-day-old beard hair on his face and grunted, "Humphf."

††††††††††† Dexter wasnít sure what this meant, so he said, "Does that mean you can help me?"

††††††††††† "Cool your jets!"bellowed Rock-o."Iím thinkiní."

††††††††††† Rock-o began to pace back and forth, waving his hands up near his ears, ducking his

head beneath his arms, and lifting his legs as though he were walking over imaginary boulders.

Dexter watched in awe as the man jumped and ducked near one display and then, another, the

floor shaking as he moved.

††††††††††† Finally, Rock-o stood up straight in one place and, as though he were having a grand

epiphany, he said, "Ah-ha!"

††††††††††† Questioningly, Dexter said, "EUh, does that mean you can help me?"

††††††††††† Rock-o said, "Well, of course it does.Boy, yuz' havenít been in this world very long,

have yuz'?"

††††††††††† Dexter replied, "No, I guess not."

††††††††††† With a wave of his hand, Rock-o said, "O.K., Iíve got just the thing.Now follow me

into the back."

††††††††††† Dexter followed Rock-o Pounder into the back storage area through a narrow hallway

that Rock-o could barely fit through.Little boxes of things fell off the shelves onto the floor

as the two men passed through the dark passage leading to who-knows-where.They walked

down several black steps and into a musty cellar, where Rock-o pulled a dangling string and

turned on a small overhead light bulb.He said, "If we canít find it here, we donít got it."

††††††††††† He began to rummage through some boxes and fan through some one-piece work

clothes hanging on the wall.Then, he absent mindedly said, "What do yuz' need it for again?"

††††††††††† Dexter enthusiastically said, "Oh, Iím doing an investigative feature story for The

Diurnal Journal and Iím going to gather some information over at the old Seelie house to__"

††††††††††† "WHAT?!?!"roared Rock-o.Trying to explain, Dexter began again."Eh . . . well . . .

Iíve just heard that___"

††††††††††† Rock-o interjected, "Yeah, yeah . . . What youíve heard is nothiní.Now, even a big

brave guy like me wonít go over there, and Iíve been in battles yuz' wouldnít even want to

think about."Rock-o looked at Dexter for a moment."Are yuz' serious or are yuz' just

pulliní my leg?"He peered down at Dexter with a slow, threatening stare and continued, "Ya'

know, I donít like it when people try to pull my leg."

††††††††††† Dexter nervously responded, "Oh, I would never do a thing like that.Eh . . . and Iím

very serious.Yes.Very serious indeed.Couldnít be more serious if my life depended on it."

††††††††††† With relief, Rock-o said, "Well, itís a good thing because youíre going to have to be

real serious if yuz' get involved over at that house."

††††††††††† Rock-o pulled out a one-piece space suit looking thing, complete with a bulbous-shaped

helmet with an eye shield."Now, itís against my better judgment to sell this to yuz', so Iím

gonna rent it to yuz'.""If yuz' donít come back with it in three days, Iím cominí after

you___and I can be a lot more scary than a spooky old house.Believe me."His smirking

smile revealed a couple of missing front teeth.

††††††††††† He then slapped Dexter so hard on his back that Dexter thought his esophagus would jet

out from his throat."Howís that for a deal, huh? Just fifty bucks to save your life . . . or end

it.Ha!Ha!Ha!"Rock-o laughed at his own joke in a way that made his whole body jiggle

like a big bowl of custard.

††††††††††† By that very same afternoon, Dexter was fully geared up in his "space suit"and was

already beginning to slowly creep around the Seelie property and up the hill to the house he

had heard so much about.The birds screeched and squawked overhead.

††††††††††† He peered inside a cracked window on the side of the mansion.What he could make

out through the bone-cold moldy draft of the wide slit in the glass window was truly a

frightening sight.All of the furniture within the long room was covered with white dusty

sheets.Cobwebs draped and stretched over the old chandelier hanging from the center of the

high ceiling.The webs reached out to every corner and in every direction.As Dexter took

another whiff of air from the draft, his nose also detected the strong smell of mothballs.He

listened for a moment because he could have sworn that he heard something coming from the

deep corner of the room.There, in the farthest corner, was an old grandfather clock, still

ticking with a constant tock that all the years of neglect could not stop.Suddenly, a great

"Bong!"chimed from it.Dexterís shock from the sound had him practically jumping out of

his space suit.He slipped on the gravel he was standing on and banged his his head and

space-suit helmet onto the gutter as he fell.Then, he began to uncontrollably roll down the hill

into the gully of the driveway down below.

††††††††††† Dexter brushed himself off, and, with a second wave of determination, he plodded

another course up the hill.This time, when he approached the top of the hill, he noticed an old

wooden ladder leaning up against the side of the buildingís low rock cellar walls.He decided

to use it to climb up to the attic windows and look inside to see if he could discover any new

gems of enlightenment by checking out the upper reaches of the house.Shaking every step of

the way up on the old rickety ladder, he could barely remember to breathe as he climbed.

Once he came close to the small window he was aiming for, he lifted the protective visor of his

helmet and looked inside.

††††††††††† Through a corner of the glass that was not obstructed by the old worn black curtain

disintegrating and hanging on the inside of the window, he could see part of the attic.Inside,

he saw at least 40 flies buzzing around the windows.Some were lying dead and lifeless on the

windowsills.Others were frantically buzzing and seemed to be looking for a way out.

††††††††††† Then, he noticed a small package in one corner of the room.It was lying on top of an

old wooden table with a lamp that had no lamp shade.He was trying to get a better look at it

when, suddenly, a little gray mouse scurried across the inside of the window sill in front of

Dexterís nose and scared him into a jump that made him lose his balance on the precarious

ladder beneath him.With a hard plump to the ground and a scream, Dexter landed at the edge

of the top of the hill in his padded space suit and, once again, rolled to the bottom like a

runaway potato.

††††††††††† "Ugh!"was the only thing Dexter could utter as he slowly pulled overgrown weeds out

of his visor and caught his breath at the base of the hill.

††††††††††† One last time, Dexter tromped up the hill.This time, he thought that he had better just

go directly to the carriage house, (and the scene of the mysterious fire).

††††††††††† Once there, he looked upon the charred remains of what used to be a small building.

Dexter saw only rubble of blackened wood, rusted metal, and shards of glass jutting out from

the edges of the char-broiled mess.Strangely, a side door and its doorframe remained

standing and untouched by flames.Dexter thought that the explosion must have blown in the

opposite direction from the door, but it still seemed a bit odd.Just to see if it still worked, he

slowly reached for the doorknob, turned it, and opened the door.As he did this, a very

unusual thing happened.He heard a voice, creaking through the sound of the old door hinges.

It said, "The girl!The girl!Sheís ruined everything!"

††††††††††† Dexter stopped a moment and gave the door a puzzled look.He spoke out loud to

himself, "EUh, maybe I should shut this door."

††††††††††† As he began to shut the door, the creaking voice spoke again."Zephrum Gates.That

pipsqueak!Sheíll ruin my plan.Stop her!Stop her!Or die . . . "

††††††††††† With a shock that overtook his body, Dexter slammed the door fast.As he did, a

powerful wind rushed up from the energy of the slam and shot him like an arrow into a big pile

of leaves at the bottom of the hill.

††††††††††† At this, Dexter shook his head hard in disbelief and decided that he had had enough

exploring and new information for one day.After falling down the hill from this house three

times, he was not eager to make another trek up there.And after hearing that eerie voice, he

had to wonder whether he was completely sane.Still, his interest in the mystery of this place

had only just begun.Now, he had to find out who in the world was Zephrum Gates.