The most disturbing memory in my mind occurred in my aunt’s hometown, Unpleasantville; I couldn’t mention either its actual state or its real name for obvious reasons. Let’s say Aunt Millie told me that weird things often happened in that awful place for years. It involved a guy named Charles Stonebridge who used to be the most notorious bully during my childhood summer vacations with Aunt Mille. Local kids told me that he always picked on nerdy classmates at school, and that I was lucky I lived several states away during the schoolyear. Whenever I was in Unpleasantville, Charles would welcome me by doing “pranks” outside Aunt Millie’s house. I remembered one time he even sprayed “Jackie’s back from the Boogie State!” on my rented car when I was sixteen years old.
I went to university, earned two degrees, got a job as a financial analyst with a mutual fund company, married a nice litigation lawyer named Mark, and had three wonderful children. All in another state.
At Aunt Millie’s request to see my family because of her advancing age, Mark, my kids, and I packed our luggage and filed into our family van. Before our departure, I held our family meeting with everyone and explained the town bully situation. Melinda, my oldest daughter, exclaimed, “Reminds me of that awful guy who used to pick on some of my classmates, back in our middle school! But he drank too much with his buddies and died, crashing onto a tree when driving home last year.”
Herbert (nicknamed “Herbie”) my only son, scorned. “I never liked bullies; I stayed away from them – I never sat down with them at lunchtime.”
Brenda, my youngest daughter, shook her head. “I remember one when I was a freshman at Fox Hill High School, but he later died of leukemia.”
“One more thing I must warn all of you before we go there; there’s a mysterious monolith – huge and black – in the middle of Unpleasantville’s park. Please never, never touch it. Aunt Millie used to tell me that several people who touched it vanished into thin air right away. Some university scientists came to examine it and informed us that it’s a portal to another dimension. But it’s not the kind of place you’d want to visit because it’s nothingness, with corpses, floating in the air.”
While the girls looked sick, Herbie’s eyes widened with awe. “Wow! Imagine a doorway to a scary dimension – like the Twilight Zone.”
I shook my head, not approving. “No. Far worse than that old show. Nobody could survive there once they got there.”
“Where did this weird monolith come from?” asked Melinda. “I thought monoliths exist only in Europe?” “You’re right but nobody knew. The local Native American tribe believed some cunning fox spirits probably put it there as their idea of a good prank.”
A few days later, our family van arrived at the entrance to Unpleasantville, and a middle-aged man, dressed in greasy clothes, stood, waiting for us. He had a gallon-size container, sitting next to his boots. He grinned, picked it up, opened its lid and threw brown liquid at our vehicle’s windshield.
Angry, Mark rolled his window down and shouted, “What do you think you’ve done?” He turned on the window wipers to swipe away the liquid.
I put my hand on his shoulder and whispered, “That’s Charles Stonebridge.”
Mark’s face lit with understanding. Charles came around to look at us through our van’s windows. He grinned. “Jackie, No see long time. So good to see you again. I reckon your hubby is Mark, this here is your the oldest daughter, Melinda…you, must be Herbie..and you, youngest daughter, little Brenda.”
Nobody said, “Pleased to meet you.”
Unfazed, Charles leered at Melinda. “Why, you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. Wanna go out with me?”
My daughter tried to sink down her passenger seat, disgusted.
Furious, Mark shouted, “Over my dead body! Leave her alone.”
I felt sick in my stomach.
Charles chuckled and stepped away, his arms both up and palms open. “Okay. I’ll go – see you later.” He spun around and walked away.
“What a revolting guy! You’re right about him being the worst creep we’ve ever seen,” Mark said.
Herbie yelled, “Oh, boy, this guy sure makes Joe, my school’s bully, look like a saint.”
At this, everyone laughed.
An hour later at Aunt Millie’s house, she raised her eyebrows. “Charles poured old grease over your van? You can use my garden hose and car soap now.”
It was early evening so, after dinner, we asked Aunt Millie if she could watch our kids while we went out.
She nodded. “Sure. We’ll have popcorn and watch some good family movies on streaming service. Have a good time.”
We went to Poisonwood Pub and ordered our beers with a bowl of peanuts as our snacks. Several locals who remembered me from my childhood days came around and sat down with us for friendly chats.
Suddenly, the pub’s doors opened, letting Charles Stonebridge trudge in, swaying, a large whiskey bottle in his hand. A bartender and a bouncer rushed to bar him, but he pushed them away with ease. His bloodthirsty eyes fell upon us, he yelled, “Jackie, I always thought you’d end up a loser with a store clerk job, a no-good hubby, and ugly kids. Instead, you’re a big-time winner with everything good. Me, a mere cook at a greasy diner with a divorce. No kids for me. Not fair!”
Stunned, I realized he had been jealous of me. This explained so many summers of vicious pranks he pulled on me and Aunt Millie.
However, I had no time to respond, Mark erupted, getting up and rushing to face him. Poking his finger at his chest, he screamed, “How dare you insult my wife! Ought to get you out for good.”
Charles chuckled, “Weren’t you the judo champion at your university? Me know some moves, too. How about a match near the Monolith? Now!” At this name, everyone stopped drinking and talking and stared, shocked.
I got up, dashed to Mark and whispered, “Please don’t accept this. I think he’d want to throw you at the Monolith.”
He nodded. “Sweetheart don’t worry. I think he’s going to do it dirty.” He went ahead and shouted, “Let’s go.”
Fifteen minutes later, we all stood on the grass near the Monolith, guarded by small metal railings. A bright moon shone down, a gentle wind swept over our hair.
Mark and Charles stood apart, about twenty yards from the Monolith. Someone shouted, “5,4,3,2,1, now!”
They circled each other, hands raised and clawed.
First, the town bully pounced, his hands aiming at Mark’s shoulders, but my husband grabbed his collar and pulled him close. Mark’s leg got under Charles’ legs, tipping him over.
Enraged, Charles jumped back, grabbed Mark’s collar, and pushed. Hard.
Mark fell, only about ten yards from the Monolith.
Charles pounced. but Mark’s foot kicked Charles’ torso. Mark seized Charles’ shirt and threw him over.
To our horror, Charles flew over the railings and hit the Monolith. Charles vanished.
Men took off their hats and rested them on their chests. Everyone bowed their heads.
Thus, Charles Stonebridge, the town bully, is gone. He can’t tell his story, but it should be told. I can only tell it from my perspective.
Anne Hansell is a third generation Japanese-American, and on her mother’s side, is related to General Mitsunari Ishida who lost the Battle of Sekigahara to Tokugawa. She's written many short stories since she was a child, and is a member of California Writers’ Club and Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror. She lives with her husband (a New England gentleman) in Southern California.