By Ryan Clark
Note from the Dean –
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty:
The following transcription was found during the university’s transfer of archives from the Folk Studies department to the new college.
The interviewer, a 24-year-old student named Lou Milton, graduated with a Master’s in Folk Studies last fall. Records show he never used this interview with any project, according to his adviser, Dr. Brady. In fact, Dr. Brady knew nothing of his research in paranormal studies. When Mr. Milton left, he reportedly took a job somewhere in the South. Attempts to contact him and the subject of his interview have gone unfulfilled as their whereabouts are unknown. Subsequently, the video of the interview has also gone missing.
The subject, Mr. Jack Walker, has been missing for 18 months. Anyone with any information on his, or Mr. Milton’s whereabouts, should call the local police. Mr. Milton is wanted for questioning in the case. The family of Mr. Walker is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts.
FOLK COLL. BOX 6, NO. 6
DIGITAL VIDEO INTERVIEW: 10.31.2009
LOCATION: Fort Thomas, Ky., personal residence
SUBJECT: Devil and Folklore; Jack Walker, personal story
INTERVIEWER: OK, Jack, I’m just going to turn this on, and um, just tell your story, OK?
SUBJECT (JACK WALKER): Sounds good, thanks. I’m still not sure why you want to know all of this. I was surprised to hear from you. I don’t tell a lot of people. I don’t mind talking about it if folks ask, but I don’t go around introducing myself as the guy who met the Devil.
INTERVIEWER: This is just part of our research. Over at the university we’re studying claims of odd religious phenomena and this seems to fit.
JACK WALKER: Yeah, OK. Well, it’s a weird story. Did I ever think I would meet the Devil? I’d have to say no – I never thought I would. Especially not in Kentucky. (Laughs).
I’m a pretty good person, I think. I always put change in the little Salvation Army bucket around Christmas time. I try to live as Green as possible, minimizing my toxic emissions and whatnot. I try to be nice to everyone, you know – mind that Golden Rule. Yeah, I’d like to think I’m a pretty decent guy, one who would never, um, you know – wind up meeting the Devil.
But I did.
And I don’t want to come off sounding loony here, but he really wasn’t a total ass. Scared the shit out of me though.
I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?
INTERVIEWER: Just begin at the beginning.
JACK WALKER: Right. OK.
The Shitty Florence Apartment. That’s what we called it. There were a number of reasons why we decided on that nickname, one of them being, of course, because it was located in Florence, Ky – just a few miles south of Cincinnati. Another being that, well – it was a shitty apartment. Excuse the profanity, but you know when something’s shitty and whatnot. The term fit the apartment to a tee. About a year ago, Kym – that’s my wife, Kym – and I had to move when I took a new job. We took the apartment sight unseen. It was a bad move. For 20 years we’d lived in the river town of New Albany, Ind., but when the Nissan plant shut down, I had to transfer.
I thought I’d worked it all out. I called ahead, asking a friend who lived in Cincinnati to check out the place. Kym and I needed an apartment that fit three specific needs: We had a cat, we needed washer and dryer hookups, and it needed to be cheap. Of all the places in the phonebook, I found one – The Apartments at Meadow Ridge. Sounded nice, right? Our friend confirmed it was fine.
That did it. We had a place. We were moving.
After a short car trip we pulled in to The Apartments at Meadow Ridge, and I noticed two things very quickly. Even though it was dark, I could tell there was no Meadow, and I was pretty certain there was no Ridge. The apartments were former Section 8 housing complexes, small and dingy. Ours was located on the ground floor, which was nice, because at least we didn’t have to walk up any steps. I told Kym it was going to be OK: “We’ll fix it up to where it’s real nice,” I said, “And we only have to stay here for a while.” I know I said something like that.
The inside didn’t help either. It must have been raining over the past few days, because our front window had leaked water all over the floor. And in our tiny bathroom, there was a large hole in the ceiling, with a hammer in the sink.
Kym was pissed off. She told me she didn’t know if she could live there. I felt so bad for her, but what could we do?
I tried to say something nice like, “We’re going to be OK.” I hoped it was true.
(Sigh). This is where the story gets weird.
INTERVIEWER: You’re sweating. Do you need a break? Some air, maybe?
JACK WALKER: Sure, that sounds good. Thanks.
INTERVIEWER: (sound of door opening. Voices are fainter now) This is a beautiful house. Is that a picture of your wife and family in there on the wall?
JACK WALKER: Yes it is. That’s my Kym, and those are the boys – long since grown now. Joe’s in the Navy. Jack’s a police officer. You say your name is Lou?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, Lou. Lou Milton.
JACK WALKER: And you take classes at the university?
INTERVIEWER: Yessir. For a year now. I love it. Boy, I envy you, Jack. My woman – she’s always arguing with me. I don’t know if she’s the one for me.
JACK WALKER: Well, you’ll know it when you know it, I figure.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, well – oh, damn, I left the video on.
INTERVIEWER: OK, we’re back recording now. Take it away, Jack.
JACK WALKER: Well alright. I suppose we’re getting to the meat of it all.
Five months went by and with a lot of cleaning and decorating we made the, um, Florence Apartment our own. Work was good for me, as was the low rent payment, and Kym found a job at a local preschool, so our lives were back on track and whatnot.
The day it happened was just one of those days, you know? A day where nothing goes right. You feel doomed, like no matter what, everything you can think of goes wrong. Our alarm didn’t go off that morning, to start. It was a cold mid-January morning, and there was frost outside. I knew I was going to have to scrape the ice off of the car windows. Anyway, I woke up around 7:40 – 20 minutes before work. You know that feeling, right? (Laughs).
I got up and I felt jealous as I looked at Kym still underneath the sheets. So what if she has the short “Grandma” haircut now, right? You’re still a looker, hon! If she ever hears this, I’ll get points for that.
Anyway, I went to my closet. I remember this really good because it was so unlike me. Normally I’m always on time. But that day, I couldn’t find the right shirt, couldn’t find any matching socks. My pants were wrinkled. I was a mess. I went to the mirror and my eyes were bleary. If I remember right, I even had a nice zit coming in on my forehead. I looked like hell.
I figured I’d have to go without a shower, so I sprayed on some extra cologne. I can’t believe I just told you that. So I kissed Kym goodbye and patted our cat, who was curled up on my side of the bed. I grabbed my jacket and a pop tart and headed out into the cold January air. I scraped the ice off the windshield and looked at my watch – I only had a few minutes before I had to be at the plant, which was more than 20 minutes away.
I’m sure I said some kind of not-nice thing under my breath. (Laughs). So I pulled out of my parking space and drove up to the traffic light that lets us out on to U.S. 42. If you have to go left – which I did – then you’re sunk. The traffic light is notorious for taking forever, and I knew it would make me even more late, so I got even more angry. I’m not one who gets angry and yells and whatnot, but I was pretty hot by this point. There was one other car up in front of me so I pulled up behind it and we waited for the light to change.
That’s when I noticed something strange about that other car. It was a piece of junk – a Beretta, I think – and it looked like it used to be red, but it had faded into orange. It was covered in rust spots and dents – oh, and part of the back bumper was falling off a bit. I remember that. Well, the thing that was strange was that there were two people in the car – I could see them through the back windshield – and they were fighting. I knew they were agitated because they were gesturing with their hands all wild-like. I could see the profile of a man in the driver’s seat, pointing at what looked to be a woman in the passenger’s seat. It was weird, and it made me a little, you know, uneasy.
But I forgot about all that. Real quick.
The guy stopped gesturing and threw the car into reverse, sending the Beretta toward me. Obviously, the guy wanted to get in the right hand lane and didn’t look to see what was behind him. The only thing I could think to do was honk my horn – so I did.
It didn’t help.
The Beretta rolled into my Maxima with a crack. I knew then it wasn’t enough to do major damage, but it didn’t matter. It was just another part of a rotten morning, and I was pissed, um, I mean angry. I was very angry.
So I got out of the car, and the guy in the Beretta waited a second, then put his car in drive and pulled back to his original position in front of me. His bumper, which was hanging on by a thread, finally let go. Half of it crashed to the ground. I looked down and saw that the front of the Maxima was covered in red paint and scratches. I was pissed beyond belief.
I yelled something like “What the hell, man?” and walked halfway between our cars.
The guy slowly opened his door. When he got out, he was about six inches taller than me. I’m only 5-9, so it isn’t odd when someone is taller than me. He shook his head and shrugged his broad shoulders – kind of like he had the weight of the world on them, like he may have been having the same kind of morning as me, and this was the last thing he needed and whatnot. For the first time, I felt for the guy.
INTERVIEWER: Keep describing what he looked like.
JACK WALKER: His clothes weren’t too weird, just normal – a flannel shirt, with some jeans and work boots, I think. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, even though it was chilly, and his arms were covered in tattoos – snakes. All of them were snakes, twisting up and around his arms.
Then the guy looked at me. He was younger, but he had strange scars on his cheeks and a long goatee. He smelled like the inside of one of those alternative teenie-bopper shops – like incense and hemp. And he smoked a cigarette, too.
He said: “I’m so sorry, man.” I remember it exactly. “I’m so sorry man. I wasn’t paying attention.”
His words took a minute to sink in because I was stuck looking into his eyes. He was looking at me with eyes that were – well, I feel so stupid saying it, but I swear it’s true – they were eyes that weren’t of this world, man. Have you ever watched those Discovery Channel programs, like Shark Week or something? At first I thought these were like a shark’s eyes – like they had no soul. Does that make sense? But his eyes were more than that. I swear it was as if I was looking into a black hole, and then – I know I sound crazy – but something in his eyes also blinked. It was like he could blink both horizontally and vertically. And I know you’re going to ask about contact lenses or something like that. I’ve seen a lot of those things, and these were not contact lenses, my friend. They were something strange – and real.
Can I get a glass of water?
INTERVIEWER: Yes, sure! Let’s stop for a moment.
JACK WALKER: Thanks.
INTERVIEWER: We are now resuming the interview.
JACK WALKER: Right.
So I’d shouted at him, and he was real polite, but real strange with those eyes, and I didn’t know how to respond. And I still felt bad for him.
“How do you want to handle this?” he asked, and the whole time he never looked at the Beretta or my car. His voice was deep but it was like it didn’t have any emotion. And he kept taking drags on his cigarette.
I looked away because I couldn’t stare at him anymore. The tattoos and the eyes were really affecting me in a weird way. My stomach got all queasy-like.
He tried again. “Sir?”
“Yeah?” I looked back at my car, at the scratches and the paint. The world around us was still. I didn’t hear any birds, or traffic. There were no cars on the highway and the streetlight stayed red. As I said, it was a long light – but this was weird, like the world had stopped. Somehow, this, uh, man had stopped the whole world around us.
I remember every word he said. “What do you want to do about this? I’m really sorry. I’ve just had the worst morning.”
I looked back at his bumper, half of which was lying on the ground. “Yeah – I know the feeling,” I said. “Some mornings you just can’t do anything right.” Then I remembered I had some duct tape in the trunk. I asked him if he needed help and I said we could try taping the other half back on.
“Really?” he said. “You’d do that?”
I told him I would, and that seemed to make him happy, which made me happy. I mean, even though he was weird I could still help him, you know? So I got out the tape and we used up the entire roll getting the other half of the bumper back on. As we were working on the ground, the guy didn’t say much. Until I got up.
“You live here in these apartments?” he asked.
The question struck me as weird, you know? Like, why did he want to know, anyway? I told him that I did, but that I was looking to move soon.
He said that his girlfriend lived there, which meant that he pretty much lived there too. He said “We’re better than this place, right?” He took another drag and asked if we could avoid getting the insurance companies involved. “Can we just handle this? I mean, I know where you live, right?” And then he laughed – a weird, low grumbling sound. It wasn’t like a man – it was like, maybe like a growl.
I got up and I wondered where this odd looking guy was headed in such a hurry but I couldn’t ask. I didn’t want to know that bad.
Then, as if reading my mind, he told me, and I felt really cold. “Church. I’m kind of a big name in certain churches.”
I looked back to his car and my heart jumped. For a second I couldn’t breathe. I realized that the woman’s profile in the Beretta had not changed since the guy got out. She had not moved one inch. Her finger was raised in the air like she was making a point, but she was frozen in time. I was like, “What the hell?”
I thought then that it was probably in my best interest to let him go. We didn’t need to worry about the paint and the scratches on the front of my car.
So that’s what I told him. I told him not to worry about it – that it was no big deal.
He seemed really shocked, and asked if I was serious.
I told him I was.
He said: “Well that’s swell, man,” and he extended a hand.
I shook it. His hand was large but thin – not like a working man’s hand like mine. It was soft, and it was burning hot to the touch. For the second – and last time – I looked into those eyes. You could feel yourself falling into them. They blinked once, and then they blinked again, horizontally. I let go of his hand and he made his way back to the Beretta.
He said: “See you around, Jack, you’re a great guy,” and he waved. “Thanks so much – for everything.”
I hadn’t told him my name. Then again, maybe he just meant Jack as a figure of speech.
I stood there until he drove off, until I couldn’t see the Beretta anymore. Then I got back into my car. My hand was burning, like it was on fire. It had a big blister on it, too.
Other cars started to line up behind me, and I didn’t want to hold them up. I looked at my watch – five minutes until work. My mind stuttered. I didn’t understand how no time could have passed while I had talked to the strange guy.
But of course, the traffic light was still red. I looked both ways. Nothing was coming, so I ran it.
INTERVIEWER: Fascinating story, Jack. Why did you help him?
JACK WALKER: Well, you know, I thought my morning was bad, but after talking to that weird guy, I figured my day wasn’t as bad as I thought. At least after that I had an excuse to be late for work – I was in a car accident. (Laughs). Just a joke there. But do you need proof of the story? Look at my hand.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. Well now. For the record, Jack Walker is showing me his hand and there is still a scar from what looks to be a burn on his right hand.
JACK WALKER: You got it.
INTERVIEWER: Is there more to the story?
JACK WALKER: Just a bit.
Kym and I moved out a month later, and in that time I always kept watch for that Beretta. But I never saw it again – and it was several weeks before I could tell my wife the story. I didn’t want it to freak her out like it did me.
Then I saw him again.
It was six months after our first conversation. I had been promoted at the plant after my boss passed away in a violent accident. It was strange – Dale was always careful, but for some reason he leaned over some machinery to inspect it and got his tie caught in some gears. It wasn’t pretty.
Everyone was still getting used to the transition when one summer morning, my alarm didn’t go off. Friggin’ alarm. So I was late for work, and I sped like a demon – right through a construction zone, which landed me with a fat ticket and a court date. When I showed up for my day in court we had what I was told was a visiting judge – someone who didn’t cover the normal dockets in our area. Ten minutes before the proceeding I caught his eye – and he smiled at me. I didn’t think I knew him. And right then his eyes turned, right there as I watched, from a normal blue to that hollow black, and he blinked twice for me – once vertically, and again horizontally. But this wasn’t the same young guy in the Beretta. This was an older man, with graying hair and bushy eyebrows.
I didn’t know what to do. I got even more scared when he let me off with a warning. “Get a new alarm clock, Jack. Oh – and enjoy the promotion.” That’s what he said. I couldn’t speak. Did he do something to my old boss? Could he? I ran out of the courtroom and I was convinced that for the rest of my life I would now owe something to the Devil. Because that’s who he is – the Devil. I know it. Over the past few months I haven’t seen those eyes again. But sometimes, they show up in my dreams. (Coughs.)
INTERVIEWER: Are you OK?
JACK WALKER: Yes, I think so. Just hot.
INTERVIEWER: So, Jack, why do you think this man is the Devil?
Some have asked me that. Why the Devil and not some space creature or some character from another dimension? Simple. I don’t believe in that crap. And those folks who do are nuts. I am a God-fearing man, and I guess by obligation I have to believe in the Devil, too.
And for some reason, I think he’s going to pop up again, around a corner or in a restaurant. He could be anyone, anywhere. So why? Why would he want to find me? I don’t know – maybe it’s because I was nice to him once and not too many people are nice to him. The Devil has power, and he can do a lot of things. But who does he have to talk to when he has a bad day? (Laughs.) I’m just talking out of my ass now. Am I crazy? I don’t feel crazy. Here’s the deal: I haven’t seen those eyes for a while and I don’t want to see them again. No matter what. I guess I wouldn’t have seen them at all if I hadn’t moved to that Florence Apartment.
INTERVIEWER: So that’s it? That’s the whole story?
JACK WALKER: Yep. That’s it. All I know is that I’m damn paranoid these days. Did you hear about the fire in Florence last week?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah – I did.
JACK WALKER: Those were our apartments – Meadow Ridge.
INTERVIEWER: Really? That’s strange.
JACK WALKER: Yeah. I heard everyone made it out OK except for one woman – she wasn’t killed, but she was burned really bad. I just wonder if it was that woman I saw in the car – like, maybe she was finally punished for being so argumentative to her boyfriend.
JACK WALKER: Yeah. Well – did you get everything you needed?
INTERVIEWER: I sure did. And thanks so much, again. For everything.
JACK WALKER: No probl – hey. What did you say?
INTERVIEWER: Thanks so much, again. For everything.
JACK WALKER: That’s what I thought you said. Funny, you know? That’s what he said to me too.
JACK WALKER: Him. Hey now. Hey. Did I just? Did you? Do you wear contact lenses?
INTERVIEWER: No I don’t. Why do you ask?
JACK WALKER: It just seems like your eyes – that they changed color for a minute.
INTERVIEWER: My friend, Jack. My good friend. You know, you really do have a beautiful home here. You’ve done well for yourself.
JACK WALKER: Th-thank you.
INTERVIEWER: You’re welcome.
JACK WALKER: (shouts) Why are you doing this? Why the interview? What are you going to do with it? And with me?
INTERVIEWER: Jack, I’m going to leave this with the university. Someday, Kym is going to wonder what happened to you, and maybe this will make her feel a little better. Don’t worry – they’ll find it. You know, every now and then the world forgets that I exist. Sometimes I like to remind them. And sometimes I get creative. Thanks so much for helping. Thanks so much – for everything.
JACK WALKER: You know, I think we should stop now. How – how did you get my name and address anyway?
INTERVIEWER: Jack, I’m, shall we say, resourceful. And why do we need to stop? It’s so hard for me to find nice people to talk to. (Laughs.)