Excerpt: The Devils of Logan Lake
No one with their wits about them wants to be a Newman. When Matthew Newman scrawled his family name into the ledger, we felt a shiver ripple through Logan Lake.
The fir coats of the deciduous forest shook with warning and the soil dried and cracked, the harvest that season reduced to decayed vegetation. Locust infestations. Unnatural weathering that eroded the quaint appearance of the town – pellets of rain sharp as bullets, unearthly wind that sounded like a wailing child, the rusty red horizon that lasted for hours, bathing the town in a blood glow.
The fish floated to the surface of the juniper waters, bloated, pink, rotten. It was a sign, Pastor Polintus said as much, the first taint of the devil rising to our town. The pungent rotten egg wafted through the town. Window shutters rattled, a skeletal noise, and the houses leaned precariously, faded, chipped, and sagging, as if they were desperately trying to escape but their foundations wouldn’t release them.
“All will be well, my people,” Mayer Carlington insisted. He hired architects to inspect the homes, environmentalists to investigate the lake, meteorologists to explain the peculiar setting of the sun but they all came back with the same answer: Nothing is odd about Logan Lake. Everything is as it should be.
“We see no cause of these developments,” the experts wrote and this was the last letter the town received on the matter.
The Newman’s moved into the deformed yellow-cladded duplex close to the edge of Lake Logan. We watched from our windows as the house bent to his will. The yellow stained cladding fell away like the old skin of a snake, as if the house had shrugged off its disguise and standing before us was a cornflower blue duplex with freshly painted white trims. It was no longer leaning against its neighbor, which sagged more deeply, as if exhausted by the presence of the Newman home.
We saw when the front windows illuminated with light, eyes of soft gold pouring into the darkness. Through the curtains, we could see silhouettes cross the path of the light and when one of the forms stopped dead in the center of the window, we saw two twisted horns attached to an imposing shadow. We hurried to shut up our homes for fear the silhouettes would stretch across the lawn; they would bleed into the cracks of our houses and smother us as we slept.
“The devil’s in that house,” we told Pastor Polintus. “Devil’s dancing in the skin of that house, pressing his face through the window at us.”
“We don’t fear no devil,” Pastor Polintus embraced us. He blessed us with holy water and oils, pressed the word of God into our palms for safe keeping. “We don’t fear no evil.”
We dared not tell him that we did fear the devil in the Newman house, that we believed the unholy blight wore Newman like a skin-suit of flesh, tainting everything he touched. We dared not tell Pastor Polintus that we feared the evil rotting Lake Logan. That would make us false believers, those of weak faith, and we were not weak of faith. We would find a way to combat the devil, to be as cunning as he as we uproot the evil.
Nobody wants to be a Newman. Not Iris Bishop, who played with the idea only as a tactic to rebel against her mother, who lived in the tired house next to the Newmans. Iris Bishop was devote, wearing her godliness like a silk dress, and she reminded us daily to rebel against the devil.
“If you got God in you, ain’t no room for the devil.” We listened to Iris Bishop, because who knew the devil better than she with a sister so sinful. Amara Bishop was a rantipole. A nelipot pagan who conspired with the devil. We saw it with our own eyes. Unlike Iris, who was clean, modest, and even-tempered, Amara had a sharp tongue, dark eyes like tar set deep into the sockets, surrounded by thin cinnamon skin.
We saw her with Matthew Newman before they were wed, slipping into the forest behind his wife’s back – not that his wife ever said anything about it. One of the town teens claims she saw them fornicating.
“Newman spread her hips so wide, I heard the snapping of bone,” the teen told Paster Polintus. “His hair twisted into horns and he grunted like beast.”
A grocer named Davis claimed to have seen Amara with Newman’s wife in a vehicle off the side of a dirt road. He curled his fingers at the top of his head.
“They were kissing. The windows were completely fogged up and it was hard to see but it was them.”
“How do you know?”
Grocer Davis hesitated. ” Because I heard Newman’s wife beg Amara to stop but she wouldn’t.”
It wasn’t long before rumors spread like twisted vines. Amara raped the wife, she was sleeping with the devil Newman, who had impregnated his own daughter, who also seduced the baker’s son. Iris Bishops own child, not long after the devils bled into the town, took ill and we reeled at the possibility that Amara cursed her own nephew to die.
“You’ll regret this, ” Amara swore one day, when we confronted her about her wicked ways. “You’ll eat your words. Ain’t no one in this town got the devil but the church.”
“The devil got in you.” We followed her around, insisted she see Pastor Polintus, plead with her to cleanse her soul in baptism but she swatted us away, a black look on her face, and we saw the devil was in her, planted like a seed.
It was years later, before she committed suicide, that Amara would hint in a letter for Iris, that the strangeness of Matthew Newman was the reason for her ruin.
In a turn of tragic events following the birth of Newman’s daughter’s child, the wife, whose name we can’t recall, drowned in the lake. It was a Sunday morning and when the doors of service burst open, our eyes fell on the naked bare of her skin. Our horror doused us. It renewed our fears, it tasted bitter. We were chilled at the sight of her and we fell to our knees, some in prayer, others to plea for the wife, for her poor soul lost to the lake. It was three days before Amara Bishop took the name Newman.
It took four men to drag her out, jaw set, eyes milky and stuck open, frame rigid from death.And she stank of it – stank of polluted water, of decay and vegetation from the embankment. There were bruises on the back of her neck that we never found out what they were from. Pastor Polintus covered her body with a tablecloth and when we looked to house across Lake Logan, Matthew Newman stood on his porch, smoking a pipe and leaning against the banister of the porch.
His eyes settled on the body and we can’t believe it but he smiled! His pearls flashed in our direction and that’s when we noticed it. We shivered, as surely as we did the day the Newman’s signed the roster in red ink.