Summer Prelude


1. Summer Prelude

The heat of early September had been tempered by clouds streaming off the Gulf of Mexico, across the coastal plains, and up into the Hill Country. Children had been playing all Saturday in a lush green park on San Antonio’s northernmost edge, joyful at the relative cool. As the afternoon deepened and the sun slipped quietly down the sky, shadows of trees lengthened like tentative, grasping talons. Laughing boys and girls ignored any prickling at the nape of their necks, heedless of the silence that fallen, chirping birds and cicadas stilled in ominous unison. They were too busy squeezing every last moment of fun out of this brief respite from school and scorching summer.

Amid the thick shade of mesquite and ash and pine, a form seemed to coalesce from the darkness. Impossibly tall and lean, the figure wore a coal-dark suit, white shirt, and thin black tie. Above that impeccable knot rose a marble-pale neck and head. But, good God, the face! What a staggering surprise, enough to make anyone’s heart quail in horror:

The figure had no face at all.

A game of soccer drew a group of kids closer and closer to the verge of the woods. Eyeless, without expression, the ghastly shape nonetheless watched them eagerly. And as the gloaming twilight edged the park with purple night, squirming tentacles thrust from that slender back, elongating with sick but sinuous intent till they coiled round a half-dozen children and dragged them screaming into the darkness.

On other side of the city, a dusty and broken-down van drove slowly down a barrio street, its worn shocks squeaking at every pothole. Scrawled in white chalk over the chipped maroon paint on either side were the words FREE CANDY.

Ruined brakes ground the van to a halt beside an abandoned, weedy lot. A handful of friends were playing marbles beneath the eerie glow of a sodium street lamp, and their heads jerked up at the stuttering engine. The older ones, who had learned to read already, pointed with excitement at the message scratched upon the van, explaining what it meant. The door slid open with a gritty whine, and the littlest among them jumped up and rushed toward the gaping darkness, clamoring for sweets.

Lessons about strangers were forgotten as pale fingers emerged from the darkness and filled their outstretched hands with chocolates and hard candy. It was as if Halloween had arrived six weeks early. The young boys sat on the cracked sidewalk and began unwrapping their goodies, stuffing their mouths with eager greed.

From the pitch interior of the van came a giggle. A raspy, high-pitched voice whispered the same unnerving phrase again and again: “Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep.”

One by one, the boys’ heads began to droop, and they curled up on the buckled concrete, dropping into a deep, drugged slumber.

Into the meager illumination stepped the driver of the van. The smile that stretched across his waxy, melted face had been sliced wide and red by a razor blade. The lidless eyes that stared from the black hollows of his orbits sparkled with madness. Lank black hair flapped against acid-white flesh as the man knelt and begin picking the children up one by one, laying them on the filthy floor of his vehicle while he whistled through ruined lips.

Other forms stalked other children all across the city. They emerged from seemingly nowhere, hungry for violence and pain and mayhem.

No one was ready.


  1. Hi Mr.Bowles,
    You recently visited my high school, and gave me an autographed copy of your book.
    Thank you so much for the opportunity to meet, and for taking time to visit. And I would personally like to thank you for inspiring me to start writing again.
    Alicia and Mchi freshman

    • Alicia, thanks so much for dropping by to share those kind words! I’m honored you found my presentation inspirational, and I wish you the very best with your writing. Keep at it. Believe in yourself. You’ll go far.

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