My name is Todd and I’m a night shift security guard at Ashland Town Center Mall in Northern Kentucky, or at least I was. I’ve spent many an hour walking the long, dark, corridors lined with stores and garnished with kiosks, soda machines, and cheap amusements. Most nights are quite peaceful, nothing really happens to warrant the shotgun hidden in the back office. All of the doors are locked so no one really comes in after the lady who waxes the floor leaves and I am left alone with my thoughts until the next shift comes at 5:00AM. Thankfully Joe likes to come in a half hour early to goof off and eat breakfast in the food court while no one else is around. He’s a talkative one, though. After he eats he walks with me through the halls going on and on about whatever happened that day, occasionally listening to my thoughts. I can’t say that I don’t welcome the company, but at that time of night I usually just like being alone. Even so, we are best friends. You can have a bestie in your late twenties, right?
Late in 2016 we got a little merry-go-round. The kind that’s made of thick plastic with a glazed look to the paint. When I first saw it I actually mistook it for porcelain. It was a sight to behold, that much is true. It had a ‘finer’ look to it than most of the kiddie ride machines next to the play area. Our machines are nice, but this was on a whole other level. It was like putting a fine china plate in a cabinet full of plastic cups. The difference was that drastic. It’s also worth noting that it was noticeably bigger than most similar attractions that I’ve seen, roughly ten feet wide.
It had a cowboy theme, sporting four ornately detailed horses, just the right size for a child, with shiny brass rods connecting to the ceiling, which was a standard tent-like structure like you would see on any other merry-go-round, but with beautifully painted scenes of cowboys riding their stallions through the Mesa Verde and lassoing bulls, cowboy stuff. The thing that really made this machine unique was a five(ish) foot tall figure of a cowboy, molded from the same material as the horses with the same glazed look and just as detailed. His face resembled John Wayne and he was waving his hat as if he were at a rodeo cheering on a bull rider from the stands, a shiny sheriff’s badge almost glistening on his chest. Whoever painted this guy did a really good job. He seemed like a happy, upstanding kind of guy, so I named him Tex.
Sometimes I would talk to Tex at night, mostly for catharsis sake, greeting him with a tip of my baseball cap and a gruff sounding “howdy, Tex.” Sort of a cowboy salute. Of course he never greeted me back. There’s something nice about opening up to something that doesn’t talk back. They can’t really go out with you to Buffalo Wild Wings and tell your crush about your foot fetish then leave you to pick up the tab while he takes her home for a roll in the haystack. Needless to say, we didn’t speak for a while. Joe, if you’re reading this; dick move. I guess I’m being a little too passive aggressive about this. It’s too late in the game to be upset about that all things considered. Of course I told Tex about it the next day and it really helped me put things into perspective and before I knew it, me and Joe were friends again, though we began avoiding alcohol after that.
After that I began unloading other emotional baggage onto Tex; how I finally got off of heroine, how I used to fantasize about marrying Cher (I had a poster of her over my bed as a teenager), and many dark and embarrassing things that I’m not too keen on recounting. I even showed off some sick baton trick that I had been working on. By the time that fidget spinners were the official big fad of 2017, Tex knew most of my secrets that even Joe didn’t know. He was my silent Psychiatrist, my fortress of solitude. His big, cartoonish John Wayne face was my solace in a sea of consciousness. This was therapy for me.
One night, after being contacted about my upcoming 10 year High School Reunion, I started looking back on that time; a time that I had long ago pushed out of my mind. Thoughts swam through my head of something that I had done. Something really really bad. I had never forgotten, but had just ignored it until it was no longer seemed to be an issue in my mind. But it was an issue now, and I just had to get it off of my chest. Thankfully, I knew someone that would hear me out. So I trudged over to the food court, bought a Mellow Yellow from the vending machine, and pulled up a chair next to Tex where I recounted my most detestable crime.
I stood and tipped my hat and said, “hey, Tex.” His face was the same as ever. Still unsure of whether or not I wanted to say this out loud, to vocally state that I had actually done what I did, I sat down and began drinking my Mellow Yellow, playing the events of that day over and over in my head. I felt a tear rolling down my cheek and decided that I had best say my piece and get it over with.
I told him about when I was seventeen, how I partied day in and day out for years and woke up in a corn field somewhere in Iowa with a car full of contraband, how I partook of said contraband all alone and tried to drive all the way home higher than a kite, and how I ran over a kid that was waiting at a street corner for the school bus with her friends and mother, and how I did the worst thing that I ever could have done; I kept driving. I remember seeing the girl’s mother running out into the street to her child. The sound of her friends screaming in terror. I found out that she actually lived with only a few scrapes and bruises but that doesn’t make it any better. I ran from my problems, from my crime, instead of dealing with them directly and facing the consequences for my actions. I never came clean. That is something that I’ll regret for the rest of my life.
I sat in relative darkness next to Tex for what felt like hours, the stench of guilt wafting out of my every pore, draining from my tear ducts almost unceasingly. A polluted river of sorrow, salty with regret. I had never told anyone that story, not even Joe. Saying it out loud seemed to put everything in perspective. Finally I stood, thanked Tex for listening, and finished my rounds before heading back to the office to watch some Youtube videos and get my mind off of all this, at least for a while.
I had a couple of days free and decided to get away; I needed some alone time and some private fishing would do nicely. So I went to my family’s old lake-house in Ohio where I spent my time quietly casting my line and contemplating my life. It didn’t feel good looking at myself that critically, neglectful person I was deep down reflected back so clearly in the sky-blue water. My dreams were just repeats of that day playing back over and over and every waking moment was stifled by guilt. I knew what I had to do, but I just wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t want to go to prison. So I returned home, got some rest, and went to work the next day as usual.
I stepped into the mall just before closing, the last shoppers filtering out the front door with their bags. As I made my way to the back office I passed by the merry-go-round and found Tex gone. The merry-go-round was there, but he wasn’t. The molded place where his over-sized feet were once bolted down was vacant, revealing a tiny plaque reading “Voodoo Attractions.” The bolts were neatly placed on the floor nearby. I figured that Tex had been taken to a workshop to be refurbished and went on with my life. I spent an hour or so watching Youtube on my phone, occasionally glancing up at the video feed from the security cameras before finally going on my first rounds, which were pretty uneventful, the only notable thing being a large, plastic trash can that I had found overturned in the food court. The janitor must have missed one. Earl is getting pretty old now that I thought about it. I sighed and picked up the trash, placing it in the can, carefully balancing it so it wouldn’t fall over again before returning to my business and wondering what had knocked it over in the first place. It was probably Joe for all I knew, I thought I had heard him slip in earlier.
At about 3:30AM I went on my last rounds for the night. All was peaceful; the light of the full moon was shining in through the windows in the ceiling and I felt as if I was falling back into my old groove. Then I heard it. KERKLUNK! The sound was loud like a gunshot. I turned around, standing in the moonlight, shining my flashlight frantically into the darkness. Panic gripped me for a moment, then I stopped and chuckled. It must have been that trash can falling over again. I was just being silly. It’s been four years since I started this job and never once had I come so close to leaping out of my skin. I broke into a full laugh, allowing it to echo through the dark corridors. KERKLUNK! All laughter ceased and I listened… KERKLUNK! It was closer this time. KERKLUNK! Closer. KERKLUNK! Faster. KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! The noises were steady now, rhythmic like… footsteps.
I readied myself for a fight, flicking my baton open with my right hand and wielding my solid, metal flashlight like a club with my left. KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! The steps were in a full run now and coming fast. KERKLUNK! KERKLUNK! As they approached I could hear a creaking noise between each step, like creaky floorboards and old. CREAKERKLUNK! CREAKERKLUNK! I could see its shadow rounding the dark corner and come right for me. CREAKERKLUNK! CREAKERKLUNK! It was just outside my circle of moonlight. CREAKERKLUNK! CREAKERKLUNK! It came into view, charging at me with all the ferocity of an angry bull. It was Tex.
Before I could do anything, he knocked me to the floor. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. His hard plastic exterior expanding and contracting, bending almost organically and producing a loud CREAK! with every movement. Suddenly he was on top of me. I instinctively covered my face before Tex unleashed a barrage of punches, breaking my left wrist and my nose in one massive swing. I recoiled in pain, leaving my face wide open to attacks. Every punch felt like being beaten with a wooden baseball bat landing with the force of a meteor. His plasticine face was stretched into a wicked grin. There was magic in this thing, dark magic.
I managed to dodge one of his attacks and scrambled out from under the plastic behemoth, but to no avail. He grabbed me by the ankle, dragging me back before continuing his assault. My vision began to go dark. Was this it for me? Was my last memory going to be this thing punching me to death? I was fading away and there wasn’t much that I could do except resign to my fate. I closed my eyes, preparing for death’s kiss. BANG! A gunshot! The onslaught ceased.
My eyes snapped open to see Tex looming above me, a rain of thick plastic shards from his back clattering over me. The grin that once adorned his painted face was now a wide-eyed visage of surprise and anger. A rush of adrenaline brought me back to full consciousness just as Tex stood up and charged at his assailant. It was Joe! Joe and that beautiful shotgun from the back office! I’ve never been so happy to see that man in my life. He fired again. BANG! Tex’s left arm exploded! He turned, visibly angry, and charged at Joe, knocking him to the ground with a powerful right hook to the face before disappearing into the darkness.
Joe quickly stood, shotgun in hand, and helped me up. “You okay, man?” I nodded as he forcefully patted my face, still processing what had just happened to me. Joe took me outside where we called the police and sipped a much deserved Mellow Yellow in the parking lot as far away from the mall as possible without leaving the premises. I explained everything that had happened the last few days, only leaving out the daring confession I had made to what I previously thought was an inanimate object with no capacity for intelligence. He was upset to find out that I had opened up to a statue instead of him, but forgave me all the same. We would start fresh from here. But I would never forget that sound, the inhuman creaking that came from that statue. I looked at Joe in light of the rising sun; a massive, dark bruise over the right side of his face becoming suddenly apparent. I smiled.
“You should see your face, man,” I said with a chuckle, “that bruise isn’t going away anytime soon.”
“Wait till you see your’s,” replied Joe, taking out his cellphone and setting it to the mirror function. I beheld my image in all of its glory, my entire face puffed up like giant, purple cauliflower. I laughed, Joe laughed, everything hurt from head to toe, and we were both on the same page for the first time in months.
Finally the police arrived and Joe and I gave our version of the events. Of course we were laughed at. In hindsight I shouldn’t have expected anything less. The story was preposterous. Two men attacked by a living statue? It’s unbelievable, right? Things got even more unbelievable when we all went inside and found Tex once again bolted to the merry-go-round as he was when I first saw him, his left arm and back missing sizable chunks of plastic. We were arrested for destruction of property and disorderly conduct.
We spent the next week in jail before a court date was decided and when our day in court came we found ourselves not against the mall personnel, as we and our attorney had previously expected, but four tall men in dark suits. The kind of men that had secrets and preferred to keep them under wraps. I very clearly remember one of them looking directly at me and smirking; it felt… scary. They claimed to be from Voodoo Attractions, the company that had rented Tex to the mall. They accused us of vandalizing their property, using fake security footage showing me and Joe getting drunk before shooting Tex with the shotgun, getting into a fist fight, and going outside to “prank call the cops.” The 911 dispatcher gave a similar claim. This was backed up by audio of Joe calling in to report a murder and ending it with a lame refrigerator joke. None of this had actually happened; I knew this, Joe knew this. But their evidence was solid in the eyes of the jury. We were sentenced to six months in jail, two months probation, and a hefty fee, not to mention court costs.
It was unjust, it was wrong, but it happened and, to be honest; I’m starting to think that we got off easy. The two police officers that had arrested us never appeared in court to testify and Joe told me that the 911 dispatcher that he had spoken to on the phone was a man. There’s nothing about this that isn’t fishy. So we spent the next six months in jail and now I’m back at home, sitting on my living room couch with an electronic monitor strapped to my ankle, typing my story in hopes that some of you might heed this warning to watch out for any products from Voodoo Attractions and never interact with them. I know I have. In my mind I can still hear the creaking and kerklanking sounds that Tex made when he moved. I’ve been hearing them for months and will probably be hearing them for the rest of my life. But since I’ve gotten out of jail, I’ve been questioning whether the sounds are actually in my head or if he’s somewhere nearby, watching me, waiting for another opportunity to strike.
[UPDATE - 8/16/2017]
I’ve been tracking down the girl that I ran over with my car when I was in high school. I’ve talked to her mother and we’re scheduled to meet this weekend. This is going to be really hard, but if I can tell a sentient, plastic cowboy about my misdoings, I think I can tell a person. Wish me luck.
[USER 1 COMMENT]
I may be wrong, but isn’t the baseline jail time for hit and run 6 months? Maybe Tex was helping you pay for your crime, in a very scary and strange way
[RESPONSE FROM TODD]
I never thought of it like that. It puts a moralistic spin on things.
[USER 2 COMMENT]
Depending on jurisdiction a hit and run involving personal injury to a minor is considered an egregious act. It can be called anything from a traffic offense to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon namely an automobile, and God forbid the police know OP was under the influence.Congrats for facing your demons OP. Takes balls. Hope all goes well.
[UPDATE - 8/21/2017]Hello. Todd here. Things went well with the girl and her mom, but it looks like I might be spending some time in prison. My trial is Friday. I’ll be sure to tell you the verdict when it’s over and you probably won’t hear from me after that. Thanks for sending your words of encouragement and for understanding.
UPDATE 8-27-17 Hey, guys. It’s me, Joe, Todd’s best friend. You probably read about me at some point. Just got back from Iowa. What a trip. Todd gave me the password and told me to tell both of you what happened to him or whatever. He won’t be getting back here for quite a while, with him going to prison and all. Court stuff is complicated and brain-numbinly stupid, so I’m going to make it quick. There was a trial, the miracle girl forgave him, it was touching, but he had a ten year sentence on the table. So Todd took a plea bargain that reduced the sentence to three years. On the bright side, until he gets out, I get to live in his house. At least as long as I can keep up rent, this place is a little pricier than I’m used to. Shouldn’t be, though. The door was off the hinges when I got here. It was just laying out in the yard for the whole neighborhood to see. The property value should have plummeted to nothing by now, but hey, whatever, I’ll live. Now if you don’t mind, I’m gonna get offa here and be a handy man for some dandy ladies. Peace.
[LINK TO ORIGINAL POST - https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/6u95r1/tex/]