2 Nightmares by Kevin Grauke

The House at the Top of Quick Hill Road

after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The first thirty minutes are easy, but just as soon as you see the skulls of cow and deer on the walls inside the house at the top of Quick Hill Road, you have my permission to close your eyes so as to miss the large man in the too-small tie and soiled apron swinging his mallet down like he’s driving a stubborn railroad spike and then hauling the wriggling body up the ramp into the deep red room and sliding the silver door shut with a slam. Keep your eyes closed, if you wish, when you hear the crying woman find the room of feathers, the chair with arms and legs made from the less metaphorical sort of the same, the too-large chicken in the too-small cage, and finally, a meat hook’s finality. You may, if you wish, plug your ears, too, so as not to hear the squeals of the aproned man and his green Poulan. But when the end comes, you must open your eyes and ears both, to witness the strangest of beauties. Watch the dawn rise behind the family’s masked son just as the last one alive is getting away, exquisite in her bloody hysteria. Listen to the keening of his chainsaw: it’s a smoking vulture that climbs, swoops down, climbs again. Watch him then spin into a stumbling dance, pirouetting like the heaviest girl in ballet class, except this dance, backlit as it is by such a sickly sun, is nigh transcendent in its despair, knowing as he does how his furious machine has just missed out forever on what promised to be the tenderest meat.

An Elm Street Corrective

He slays teens in their sleep does the burnt man in the fedora and the red/olive sweater, piercing and julienning them with sickled fingers he fashioned for himself from boiler steam, his melted knot of a face grinning rotten as he lays waste to the youth of Springwood, OH(!), cracking wise all the while, thoroughly enjoying his time hobgoblining about, disrupting dream after dream with his rotten-toothed sniggers. With our mouths popcorn-stuffed, we celebrate his failures with the raucous lust of the virtuous. And yet, who’s to say, really, that his posthumous rage isn’t justified? Yes, our heroine was told by her mother that, in the name of justice avenging the most terrible of things, he was hunted down and set ablaze by an avenging mob that happened to include Mommy herself, but who’s to say that this mob was right in their righteousness? Who’s to say, really, that they, inflamed with vengeance, didn’t murder an innocent man, one framed for crimes never committed, just to cleanse themselves of grief? If this were the truth, wouldn’t you too inhabit and haunt the dreams of the children of those who slew you? Though nothing now but a crosshatched shade, wouldn’t you too bleed them down to their marrow in the name of cosmic balance? Wouldn’t you too luxuriate in the music of their street choir’s lamentation songs?

Kevin Grauke has published work in such places as The Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, Quarterly West, Cimarron Review, and Quarterly West. He teaches at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Twitter: @kevingrauke

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