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501: Conflict Resolution by R.J. Joseph
Episode 18th February 2022 • NIGHTLIGHT: A Horror Fiction Podcast • Tonia Ransom
00:00:00 00:23:22

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For our Season 5 premiere, a couple encounters a strange creature by the roadside who delights in granting perverse wishes.

Story by R.J. Joseph.

A transcript is available on the NIGHTLIGHT website.

Narrated by Tonia Ransom.

Produced by Jen Zink.

Executive Producer and Host: Tonia Ransom

*****

All episodes are brought to you by the NIGHTLIGHT Legion. Join us on Patreon for as little as $1 per month to help us produce more stories for you to enjoy.

Transcripts

Hi. I’m Tonia Ransom, creator and executive producer of NIGHTLIGHT, a horror podcast featuring creepy tales written and performed by Black creatives from all over the world.

Welcome to Season 5 of NIGHTLIGHT. We’ve got some great stories for you this season, plus some big news! NIGHTLIGHT will now be published year-round. That’s right. No more breaks between seasons. Thanks to our generous patrons, you get new stories in your ears twice a month, every single month. And don’t worry–our Halloween special isn’t going anywhere.

Our first story for Season 5 features a monster who solves problems.

But before we get to creative conflict resolution, I want to take a moment to say thanks to our newest patrons. There have been a ton since our season finale! Thanks to Debra, Al, Jarne, Wendell, Kimberly, Shahany, Shania, Vi, AJ, Danesha, Nathan, HR, Elizabeth, Tess, Alexis, Heather, Fred, Michael, Marcelina, Anna, Slay Away, Shanda, Elizabeth R, and Pamela. Thanks also to Lia, Asiyah, and Gilligan for increasing your support. And finally, thanks to Atri for their one-time donation, and to Raymond for yet another donation via PayPal. NIGHTLIGHT will be produced year-round thanks to the NIGHTLIGHT Legion, and now, we’d love to bring you new episodes every week. Just go to patreon.com/nightlightpod to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion and get a shoutout on the podcast. And don’t forget, NIGHTLIGHT merch is available. Just go to merch.nightlightpod.com to get your t-shirts, hoodies, notebooks and more!

Now sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy “Conflict Resolution”, written by R.J. Joseph and narrated by me, Tonia Ransom.

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Conflict Resolution

By R. J. Joseph

It couldn’t have been trying to hide, the way it poured from the brush and lay on the side of the open road.

“What the fuck is that?” Brandon squinted and leaned closer to the dashboard. “Didja see that?”

I had seen the flurry of movement just in the outside circle of the van's headlights. The tall brush moved violently, as if something huge slid through it.

Granted, it was dark that night, the kind of dark that only seems to happen on lonely Texas backroads. Brandon and I drove slowly down the rocky path, trying to prolong our limited time together. We turned a sharp corner and there it lay.

The beams of the headlights didn’t reflect off its eyes the way they did most animals. We almost missed it, in fact, because there was no reflection.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“What is that?” We both questioned a second time, words exploding at the same time. We laughed. Even though we’d only been together for a short time, it seemed we thought with one brain, we were so close.

Now, we had had some beer at the drive in theater we were just leaving. We liked to go there to see our movies because we could bring our own food and weed. And we could fool around in the back of Brandon’s old van. They always showed two movies, so we had about four hours to do the things my mama wouldn’t let us do at other times.

Brandon backed the van up, slowly, turning slightly so the headlights shone in the direction where we’d seen the thing.

I don’t think either of us was ready when the lights found their target. Reclined in front of us was the biggest piece of roadkill I’d ever seen. It looked longer than I was tall and it had two, human looking legs. The legs were attached to a chewed up looking torso, also human like, but with no skin. The flesh underneath was mangled, but not oozing like I would have expected.

Impossibly long arms, strewn out in in front of the thing looked like human bones that had also served as chew toys. I felt Brandon looking at me for an answer, but I was mesmerized by our discovery.

“What could possibly have chewed on it like that?” He turned wide eyes back to the road.

“What is it, even?” I whispered my question.

Looking at the head made things worse. I felt the beer bubble up in my belly and threaten to spew out as my stare landed on a desiccated deer head, antlers and all. Then, the thing moved.

“It’s still alive.” Brandon put the van in park and placed his hand on the door handle. “We have to try to help it.”

I grabbed him, pulling him closer to me. “Do you see that thing? It has no skin on most of its body. We can’t help it. It’s gonna die, anyways.”

“You’re right. But we can’t just leave it.” Brandon was really sweet like that sometimes. It was just like him to want to help a monster.

I sighed. “Okay. Let’s leave it some food. That seems like a merciful thing to do. At least it won’t die of starvation before its injuries kill it.”

Brandon left the van running and grabbed the leftover snacks we had inside. Then we slowly walked toward the thing on the ground. It didn’t lift its head, but it began to clench and unclench its massive fists that were tipped with what looked like talons. It hadn’t looked that large in the headlights. The beam hadn’t caught the ends of the human legs or the top of the deer head. It was easily seven to eight feet tall.

I was glad the thing was injured. The sharp teeth that jutted unevenly from the mouth could easily have torn us apart if it was healthy.

Brandon put his arm up in front of me to keep me from going too close. He must have also seen that the thing was larger than we’d originally thought. The hands, if outstretched, might have reached us.

In his free hand, he held the bag with the hot dogs and chips we’d nibbled on earlier. He gently tossed the food towards the creature, near the clenching hands. We stood up and watched it for a moment. It continued to stare at us, its mouth hanging open, the lolling tongue laying between the many teeth.

Suddenly, a clenching hand grabbed some food. The thing played with the food for a few seconds, before trying to half throw and half shovel it towards its head. The movement created a moist, sucking sound, as exposed tendons and muscle worked against one another. I again felt the urge to throw up.

“Maybe we should cover it up, too, so it can die in peace. Buzzards will be here soon and pick it apart before it even dies.” Brandon pulled me back towards the van as the creature finally got some food near its mouth. The long, mottled tongue snaked out and dragged the remnants into the mouth. I jumped into the van, too horrified to look away but too frozen to help, as Brandon tossed a sheet over the lower half of the creature.

“Let’s go,” I mumbled to Brandon, who still stood outside the van. I reached to honk the horn just as he turned and came back into the van. All I'd wanted to do was enjoy the feel of the smooth, slick leather on my skin where it peeked out from beneath my mini skirt and maybe play around some more on the way home since everything was still tingly from earlier. Maybe smoke another joint or pop another X. Now, I didn’t want anything other than to leave the monster where it was and get away.

Brandon finally got back inside and slowly put the van into gear. We started to drive off, with him hitting the brakes once to take the corner back out. The faint red of the brake lights illuminated the thing in the rear-view mirror. Its head was raised, eyes following us out of the corner.

* * * *

Brandon pulled the van up at the corner, half a block from the four-plex where I lived with my mother. “Damn. You know Mama’ll be tripping again since it’s ten minutes past midnight.” I hated hearing my mother’s mouth about every little thing. I hated my mother. She would never allow me to be an adult if she still gave me a midnight curfew at the age of twenty-two. It didn’t matter that I had a job and went to college full time. I was almost done with my degree and she still treated me like a child.

“I wish your mama would get a life. Find a man. Or a woman. Something so she can leave us alone and get out of our business.” Brandon didn’t like Mama, either, and that was okay, too. She didn’t like anyone, anyway.

“I wish she would just fucking disappear.” I gave him a lingering kiss to keep myself on his mind through the next couple of days. “Text me when you get home. If I don’t answer back, it’s because she took my phone.” I slid from the van and walked the rest of the way to the apartment.

The slap caught me unaware, even though I shouldn’t have been surprised.

“The hell you been, you little tramp?” Mama was on a bender. I had smelled her before I felt the backhand. She hit me again, this time punching me in the chest. The wind spurted out of me and I doubled over. The drugs I'd had earlier helped take the edge off the pain. But the drugs Mama did around the clock made her especially strong.

“You’ll get enough of dealing with that little nothing ass boy. He don’t mean you no good. Get your dirty ass in your room. And leave that damned phone out here.”

I struggled to catch my breath. “No.”

Her eyes widened and she took a lumbering step closer to me. “What you say?”

I stood up, still gasping. “I said ‘No.’ I’m grown. I pay most of the bills here. You can’t tell me what to do.”

She snatched my hair up in her hand and twisted it tightly. I tried to lean in to her grasp as I felt some of my tracks slipping. “Oh, you got you a little piece and now you smelling your ass. I’m still the mama.” She punched me in the face. “And you gonna respect me.” She punched me again, this time in the eye. I saw blinding stars across my field of vision. She reached back to hit me again, but I spun from my prone position right in front of her.

“I wish you were dead!” I yelled at her. “I wish you were fucking dead! I'm sick of you fighting on me. You didn’t care about my dirty ass when you were tricking me out to your boyfriends, so don’t worry about it now!”

Our neighbors wouldn’t hear me. They were either out partying or strung out. They never heard when Mama beat me and threw things at me. If they did hear, they wouldn’t care. They never came to help or call the police or anything. I was on my own. Like always.

Suddenly, Mama let go of my hair. I had been leaning against her hand and fell backwards from the momentum of my weight. Mama hung from a long, cadaverous arm, high off the ground. My brain refused to comprehend exactly how much strength it would have taken for anyone to have lifted her that way.

But the thing was super strong. It shook Mama like a rag doll. It held her in a tight clench, its talons protruding from the front of her girthy body, from the back. I hadn’t remembered them being that long. The creature took a swift bite from Mama’s head and half of it disappeared into its mouth. I watched as the skinned ribcage expanded with the bounty, then flattened again.

Again and again, it ate at her until nothing was left. It happened so quickly there wasn’t even any blood spilled. My eyes met its gaze. An unspoken message passed between us. I had called. It had answered. And then it was gone.

I should have been in shock, but I called Brandon. “You have to come get me.”

“Why? You okay? Your moms fighting you again?” I could hear the squeal of his tires.

When he arrived, I waited for him at the corner. I shivered, the realization of what happened finally weighing on me. I told him what had happened.

Brandon pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the van. “You’re sure it was the thing we saw? It was dying. How do you know it wasn’t another one?”

“Another one? We don’t even know what this one is, much less if there're more somewhere. I just know. Its eyes were exactly the same. It was different, though. Stronger. Fuller. Juicier.” I shuddered as I remembered the teeth.

“And it just…ate your moms? Like, all of her?”

“All of her. Real fast.”

“And it didn’t hurt you?”

“No, it didn’t want to hurt me.” I struggled to find the words to say what nagged at me. “It’s almost like I wished Mama dead and it came to help me.”

Brandon whooped until tears cascaded from his eyes. “You mean like a zombie genie? Granting wishes and shit?”

“Babe, I know it sounds crazy. And I can’t tell you how I know, but that’s exactly what this is like. Either a genie or golem. Either way, it sort of spoke to me inside my head and told me that.”

Brandon continued to laugh, but started to drive again. “Shit, if its granting wishes and shit, then wish for 3.5 million dollars and seventeen cents.” He continued to guffaw. “Matter of fact, I wish it would eat my damned boss so I don’t have to go to work tomorrow.” He grew solemn and squeezed my knee. “You’ve never spent the night with me and I want to stay wrapped up in you all night and all day long.”

* * * *

We got back to his apartment and Brandon made good on the first half of his desires and I stayed the night. Exhausted, I decided I would cut classes the next day and just head in to work later that night. Early the next morning, Brandon’s cell phone rang.

As he answered in one-word responses, his brown face grew ashen. He ended the call and stuttered. “I..don’t have work today. Mr. Teeter, he…he was murdered in the shop last night. It’ll be closed until they finish the investigation.”

We stared at each other until he began to jump up and down in the bed. “It worked! That shit worked!”

I felt queasy about our good fortune coming at the expense of others’ lives, but then I thought about how many times Mr. Teeter had messed up our plans and underpaid Brandon for all the overtime he worked for him and I smiled. I didn’t know that old man. And Mama had deserved every bit of what she got. I moved back into Brandon’s arms to make good on the second part of his wishes.

We spent the rest of the afternoon thinking of everyone who had ever done us wrong. “Remember that damned bully I told you about from fifth grade?” Brandon asked me over hot wings.

“Yeah. He sounded like the worst.”

“He was. I hope he dies a horrible death.”

“And my microbiology professor. She’s a stone cold bitch. She needs to be erased.” We fell into a fit of giggles, sharing ranch dressing laced, weed high kisses.

Over the next few days, I stayed with Brandon and continued my regular routine. The news channels reported a serial killer that was especially vicious. They also reported on numerous unexplained disappearances. The police had no leads and the town was in a panic. Mama stayed in the house and got high all day, and she didn’t have a current boyfriend, so no one would probably miss her until her dope boy came ready to deliver again. The investigators would also probably start to see the connection between all our victims soon. We needed a plan to leave town.

In planning, we took some time to do research on our creature. Its description was that of a wendigo, an immortal creature that ate human flesh. They usually didn’t venture to warm locales, though, so we were stumped as to how it had gotten all the way down to Texas. But we really didn’t care what had brought it to us, global warning or whatever. We were just glad it was helping us out and clearing our lives of haters.

Brandon and I watched just to see who caught it next. Our zombie genie was coming through for us in big ways. We hadn’t gotten the money Billy had wished for but all our death wishes were granted swiftly. We quickly figured out we had to kill off Billy's relatives who could leave him money and that was how we’d get rich and bail to Mexico.

One night, Brandon’s phone rang while he was in the shower. I picked it up because I saw Mr. Teeter’s name flash across the screen. “Hello?” I answered the call, thinking it was the shop calling Brandon back to work.

“Ummm…is Brandon there?” The breathy voice on the other end of the phone wasn’t a resurrected Mr. Teeter. It was a woman.

“What do you want with him?”

“He’s the father of my kids and the one I’m carrying now and I don’t owe you any explanation anyway. Who the hell are you and why're you answering his damned phone?”

I saw red. I hung up the phone and burst into the bathroom.

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me you got a baby mama tucked away somewhere?” I snatched the shower curtain so hard the rod fell on Brandon.

“Wait. I can explain.” He slid around in the tub trying to evade my slaps. “I wanted to tell you. She wouldn’t let me go.”

“How pregnant is the bitch now?” I continued to slap and punch his wet body.

“Four months. But wait! Angel…”

“Wait, nothing. We been together for seven months. You been seeing her all this time? Since before me? I'm the fucking ‘other woman’?” The hurt I’d been trying to ignore stabbed through me like a blade. I collapsed against the bathroom wall.

Brandon struggled to wrap a towel around his body, still explaining. “We were on a break and she was sweating me about getting married and shit. I ain’t ready for all that. Then she threatened to go get my child support increased if I didn’t stay with her. I had to try and pacify her on that.”

“So you pacified her right into another baby? Okay.”

“Angel, baby, please. I love you. I don’t love her. She’s trying to make life hard for me. For us. Just let me get her off my ass so we can be together.” He wrapped me in his arms and I could sense his hesitation. He wanted to know if I was buying it.

“So you're leaving her to be with me?”

“Yeah, baby. Yeah.”

I stepped back just far enough so he could see my face clearly. “She’s the enemy, then?”

“She is, baby. It’s just you and me in this. Forever.”

“Then I wish that bitch was dead. And those damned babies. All. Of. Them.”

Brandon's mouth formed a perfect circle as my words registered. He scrambled to get dressed. While he did, I threw his van keys out the window as far as I could.

“Go on and run to your bitch, now. How fast can you get there?” I pulled on my clothes, determined that he wouldn’t leave me behind if he managed to find the keys.

The joke was on me. Baby mama only lived a few blocks away. I followed behind Brandon as he raced into one side of a small duplex, wrestling with a key I didn’t realize wasn’t on his key ring.

By the time I got through the still open door, Brandon was cradling a woman in his arms. She was half eaten, the bottom half of her body gone, ripped apart directly beneath her belly, where a still attached umbilical cord lay on the floor. Chewing noises drew my attention to the corner of the room where our creature stood, a tiny leg hanging from between his jaws for a brief moment before he swallowed it, too.

Brandon never looked at the creature. He caressed the woman's face, kissing her and mumbling, “I'm so sorry. I love you. I'll always love you. I'm so sorry.”

His words hurt more than I thought possible. I was beyond hurt.

“You can go join her. I wish you were gone. I can’t stand to look at you anymore.”

The words had barely fallen from my lips when our creature moved from the corner. Slobber dripped from its jaws and it stood above Brandon. He didn’t have time to yell before it bit his shoulder.

“No! No! I wish you would eat her. Eat Angel.”

I couldn’t believe he had the nerve.

The creature turned towards me, dropping Brandon. It seemed hesitant and I moved in quickly. It served both of us so I had to eliminate the other master.

“Eat Brandon quickly, starting with his head. I wish he didn’t have any more time to speak.” The wendigo turned and devoured my ex-boyfriend where he sat on the floor with his lover. It also completed its abandoned meal and soon they both the traitors were gone. I watched, partly in awe, partly in satisfaction. I slid across the room and sat down at the dining room table to think.

The creature followed me there. I wanted to ask why it was sticking around that time, but before I could do so, it grabbed me in its talons and pressed the deer mouth into mine. My lungs filled with rot and decay. I felt my body dying as the beast continued to breathe more and more deeply into my essence. As I filled and grew and transformed, its voice spoke inside my head.

“Accept me. Your spirit is soiled. I will live in you.”

That was why the creature had sought Brandon and me out and granted our dark wishes. It wanted to see which of us had the blackest soul. Apparently, I had resolved its conflict.

It became me and I disappeared.

********

Thanks again to our patrons for supporting this podcast. Because of your support, listeners around the world get creepy tales in their ears every other week. If you want new stories every week, the only way for that to happen is to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion by going to patreon.com/nightlightpod and supporting this podcast. You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal at PayPal.me/NightlightPodcast. If you’re unable to support us financially, word of mouth is the next best way to help. Give us a shoutout online on Twitter or Instagram @nightlightpod, or like us on Facebook @nightlightpod. Reviews are also a huge help, so be sure to leave a few kind words on your podcast platform of choice.

Audio production for this episode by Jen Zink.

And to thank you for listening until the very end, we have a creepy fact for you.

The most creative revenge I’ve ever heard of happened In the first century AD. The husband of a woman named Olga of Kiev was brutally murdered. When the village responsible came to collect her for a forced marriage, she had their ship dropped into a pit where the 20 men sent to retrieve her were buried alive. Then she went to the village to “make peace” by asking for pigeons from each resident. She then took those pigeons, tied burning sulfur to their feet, and let them go. They returned back to their homes, burning the village to the ground.

We’ll be back in 2 weeks with a brand new story.

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