CEDE the DEMON – Davey Ray Lane (Part 1)

No one in the small town of Morlock was prepared when the recession hit. In fact, the government predicted it would be as short lived as a runny nose; but something worse than the recession festered in Morlock. It had taken root in the soil, nurtured by nature, bioengineered by scientists. It was designed to be the wonder food of the future. A seed – genetically modified to resist disease, pests, and drought; it could grow anywhere, under the most extreme conditions, mankind’s final answer to famine. As the recession spread across the United States and the hope of FDA approval dimmed, the projects’ investors lost interest and decided to ensconce their millions in Swiss bank accounts.  The recession had shut down the lab where it lived. Now it hid in the darkness, mutating and growing, waiting. It had no name. In the lab it was catalogued as “Eve 409.” Like proud fathers, the team of geneticists and plant biologists who created her, were sure “Eve 409,” would bring them international renown, save the world and billions in revenue. Eve had killed them first; sparing them the horror of watching her creep up on the houses in Davey Ray lane, death in disguise; quietly pulling the shutters of each house shut as she wiped out entire families in their sleep.

Cede was thirteen, when he first met Eve. He and his best friend Charlie Parker had been playing in the train yard, climbing in and out of the rail cars pretending to be cowboys, hooting and hollering. Today they were about to rob a train and were moving into position for the hold-up, when Charlie fell over something  buried under heavy tarp cloth,  busting his shin, and falling flat on his face. At first Cede thought it was funny, until Charlie started to writhe in agony on the floor and cry, his sobs coming out in tiny squeaks as if a mouse was stuck in his throat. Cede went over to help his friend and stuck out a hand, even as he was peering at the tarp with growing curiosity. “This is so cool; I bet there’s buried treasure under there. Dude, let’s see what’s under there?” Charlie, wiping his face with the corner of his shirt, “I really don’t care what’s under there, my knee hurts and I want to go home,” but Cede was already pulling at the tarp on the floor. Dust flew everywhere, covering the boys and causing a fit of sneezing that echoed and rebounded in the empty rail car.

When the dust settled, Cede had removed most of the tarp, to reveal a plastic bucket. Cede could see parts of it underneath the creeper plant that was entwined all around it. The vine had sunk tentacles deep into the bucket and along the floor of the rail car. In the gloom, the leaves appeared to glow, which was enough for Cede to notice the vine was festooned with bright purple flowers. “That’s it! A bucket! You made me stay and help you, to look for a lousy bucket! Cede, I’m leaving! This time I mean it! Charlie was upset, his face was red and he was beginning to stutter, a sure sign that he was about to cry again. In anger, he ran over to where the bucket stood and kicked it several times. Satisfied, he held on to the door and jumped out the rail car. Turning around, Charlie saw the bucket fly out the door, land on the ground with a thud and roll over into a drain. Cede jumped out and kneeled to inspect the bucket.

Charlie, pointing with eyes wide open, “Cede look at your fingertips dude, you’ve got some kind of black goo on them. You’re gonna get an ass whooping, if you don’t wash that off before dinner.” Cede is somewhat annoyed and a little worried “Whittlesnap! I know, I know, chill out dude” he says to Charlie.  Cede has no choice but to scrub his fingernails with the water flowing down the drain. “There, you can hardly see anything now” he holds his hands for Charlie to see. “Come on lets go, it’s getting late anyway,” Cede turns to leave and his friend follows behind, as they climb through a hole in the chain link fence and head home.

Seventh & National was foreclosing on many of the houses, owned by the Davey Ray railroad corporation; around the dinner table, it was all his mom and dad could talk about. The railroad was the lifeblood of the town; most of its citizens either worked at the rail yard, or depended on it indirectly for a living. The shrill whistle of trains, filled with wheat midlings from the Midwest states of Ohio and Kansas on their way to port in Galveston, Texas, meant the Dancing Nail, would be filled with paying customers on a Friday night. The Jukebox would be loud and the servers even louder, as laughter and the sound of country music filled the night. As times got tougher, the supply of grain dwindled and so did the mighty diesel engines that hauled them.

Darkness Creeps

“Some kind of ugly, unaware of what I had become and into my life darkness crept.” Jomo Morris

So I’ve moved from one kitchen to another; I had to fight hard to get that job. A year in this position and then the horrible realization that I would never be promoted. I waited and waited and hoped. I went to work each day and pushed my frustration deeper inside. I sought answers, I asked questions, but each day as I clocked in for work, my shame for what I had become, deepened. There was no love; no joy in cooking here, my enthusiasm became ash and gray. I was cooking for money, and into my life darkness crept. I was angry with my chefs, but why should they care? Cooks are easily replaced like an oil change every three thousand miles. The kitchen is relentless, it uses, it pulls you in, and when it has sucked the juices from the shell, it spits you out, for someone younger, more naïve and hopeful. Six months of trolling the internet, scheming and planning, spurts of optimism, bouts of depression. How do I convey being trapped in a job. Yes, I could leave, but my electric company won’t accept pride as payment. I forced myself to stay, even as my job had become a windowless room. Claustrophobic, I could not breathe, I didn’t look forward to waking up and going to work, I was lost. Endless days into nights, the same station, the same people, I wanted to scream, I couldn’t stand the smell of sweat and old shoes in the locker room. My paycheck made me sad, I was depressed, and darkness creeps. But I kept on applying, I was determined to find a way out, my mind was set. I was becoming desperate. And then my perseverance paid off. Salvation? A better pay rate? This could be mine, depends, can you pass these interviews? I did, then the final test, to prove I really wanted this job – cook for it. Three hours, five courses, a strange kitchen. Where were the pots and pans, a whisk? Imagine trying to run a marathon in church shoes. I was afraid. I had worked till 11:30 pm the night before, then up at six am, to be there for 8am. I’ve moved on, and I’m happier for it. Each day is a struggle to keep the darkness at bay. It’s a fight, I hope I’ll win. I look at the scars on my hands – at what I’ve become – the latticework of burns on my forearms and I pray for courage and strength. The courage to open my eyes each morning and the strength to persevere until the next.