I GIVE UP
by Thomas Nevin Huber
"It was a dark and stormy night . . ."
"Not in Alaska," Jerry said, staring at his typewriter. He had hoped
for a good horror story but this wasn't working.
He hated writer's block. It was the middle of June in Anchorage, where
the sun set just before midnight and it never got dark enough to call night. How could one get in the mood to write a horror story under these conditions?
He looked at the time - 8:00 pm. Stretching, he reached for his old
jacket. Maybe a walk in the woods would work. Better yet, a walk in the cemetery. Maybe something there would break the writer's block. That is, if some moose didn't interrupt his thoughts or demolish his garden.
As he walked outside he saw a moose standing in the woods, watching
him. He threw a small clod of dirt at it, but the moose didn't flinch. He just stared back, looking for all the world like it was smiling. "Go away!" Jerry yelled. The moose looked like it didn't care what Jerry thought, yelled, or threw.
Jerry got in his car and drove toward 9th and Denali, where one of
the older cemeteries was located. Minutes later, he parked at the locked gate. Jerry got out and found a sizable break in the fence, left over from the earthquake.
Just as he started through, he thought he heard a noise. Looking
around, he didn't see anyone, not even at the school across the street. Nearby brush crackled loudly. "What the - hello?" he called. Shrugging, he squeezed through the break – tripped and fell.
A loud snuff greeted him. It was a moose, but in the cemetery? He
shook his head, and then realized there must be other breaks in the fence. The moose was munching on one of the bushes. It looked familiar and looked like it was smiling.
Ignoring the moose, Jerry headed toward the older part of the
cemetery. Maybe the tombstones would inspire something. He was looking at names when a black tomcat wandered slowly out and sat in his path. "Y'erow," it crackled. It was old and fat.
"Humph!" Black cats are supposed to be skinny and fast, darting from
one grave to another. Not old, fat and lazy. Jerry mumbled, "Some excuse for a black cat you are."
The cat looked at him. "Erow?"
Jerry moved on. Nothing was inspiring about a fat black cat or a dumb
He spotted an open grave. He walked up to it and looked in. It was
deep and foreboding. At least something was foreboding. He glanced at the old weathered marker. There seemed to be something missing.
"I've seen stranger things."
Jerry jumped at the voice. He looked around, but all he saw was the
moose, the same one that he saw at the cemetery's wall.
"I'm hearing things." Maybe he had been talking to himself.
Then why had he jumped?
The moose sneezed and Jerry said, "Bless you."
The moose snorted back.
Jerry walked around the grave. The sides were neat, like someone had
used a back hoe to dig it. The pile of dirt - that's what was missing! It was just a deep hole in the ground. "Curious," Jerry said to himself.
Jerry knew he hadn't said that. He felt a sudden urge to relieve
himself. He looked around for public restrooms.
"Try the outhouse."
Jerry stood very still as a chill worked its way up his back and his
urge became stronger. He turned around and stared at an old, wooden outhouse. It was about five feet square, with quarter moons carved out of the back and the door for ventilation. How did it get here? They didn't use outhouses in Alaska! Not with winter temperatures well below zero!
He slowly opened the creaking door. A Sears and Roebuck catalog lay
there. He looked at the date on the bottom of the pages - this year's, 1968.
He pulled the door shut behind him. He tore a catalog page into
strips to line the sides of the hole. As he sat, he started through the book.
After a moment, he noticed the unpleasant odor, like rotting meat.
His stomach tried to climb up his throat and he gagged. Finishing quickly, he opened the door and stepped out into a semi-twilight world. The sky had taken on a ghostly grey pallor, getting darker by the moment. The sun hadn't set, but disappeared from the sky.
The chill along his spine spread as he looked toward his car. The
cemetery went on forever, not just a block or two. Darkness was closing in fast. Real darkness, not the deep blues and oranges of a typical Alaska summer night.
Without warning, he stumbled on something, something that didn't feel
like a log or anything solid. Jerry lit a match and stared down. A human leg, clothed in blue and white cloth, like an old conductor's overalls, but tapered toward the foot. He bent down and looked closely. A shoed foot at one end and at the other - raw flesh. He felt his own flesh crawl as he watched a tiny white worm wiggle in folds of raw flesh. "Maggots!" The idea shocked and repulsed him. He dropped the match.
As he moved away from the leg, he stepped on something that squalled.
It was the old black cat. "Oh, sorry," Jerry mumbled. In the dusky light, he could make out the cat a few yards away, sitting and licking itself. "Dumb cat," Jerry said at the animal. "You'd probably get trampled by that moose over there."
He asked the moose, "Ever step on the cat?"
Jerry shook his head. A moose didn't talk. "This place is getting to
me," he said. "I'd swear you just told me `nope.'"
Jerry laughed nervously. "Mr. Ed, I presume? Or Francis?"
"Nope. Don't know Mr. Ed or Francis."
It was too dark to be shooting footage for Candid Camera, so Jerry
ruled that possibility out. More than likely, this was a bad dream.
"Scratch my ear," the moose said from a couple of feet away. The
black cat wrapped its tail around one of the moose's legs and purred loudly. The moose stomped its foot. The cat batted back at the leg.
"Don't do that," Jerry warned the cat.
"I wouldn't, but this is fun," the cat replied.
"Don't pay him no mind," the moose said.
Jerry backed away from the two and sat on a cold tombstone. The
insanity was getting to him. A full moon broke through the clouds and lit the area.
The moose and cat stood there, next to the open grave and the leg,
staring at him. The moose looked like it was smiling.
"I'm not hallucinating, am I?"
The moose looked at the cat with a dumb look. The cat looked back
and asked, "Should we tell him?"
"You can. I'm hungry." The moose turned and stepped into the open
grave. "Oops!" it said as it scrambled to keep its footing. It wandered away, muttering something nasty about open graves.
Jerry ventured, "What's with the grave?"
The cat looked from Jerry to the grave and back. "It's there."
"I mean, why is it open?"
"To catch mice?" The cat trotted over the grave and looked in. Then
sat and started licking itself.
Jerry thought about the situation as he watched the cat. This had
to be his imagination and he'd soon wake up. If anything, it was a bit comic. He chuckled at the idea of a talking cat and moose. Dumb, totally dumb.
The cat stopped licking itself. "Not scared?" it asked.
"More like amused. You're like a bad trip."
"Oh, one of those," the cat replied, putting emphasis on the last
word. "I'll have you know that we are not the result of drugs."
"Uh, a figment of my imagination?"
"No. Pinch yourself."
"Pinch yourself," the cat repeated. "If you can feel pain . . ."
"I don't want to."
The cat growled and then hissed at him. Jerry eyed the cat
apprehensively. It sprang at him. "Hey!" Jerry yelled as he dodged the cat and fell off the tombstone.
The cat squalled again and leapt for Jerry's face. This time, Jerry
wasn't fast enough. As he got to his feet, Jerry felt his face where the cat had struck and drew away wet sticky stuff. It tasted like salt – blood! And it hurt! "Oh god!" Jerry swore.
"God won't help you here," the moose replied. It was back.
Jerry backed away from the moose and into something solid. Wooden,
but solid. The smell of rotting flesh hit his nose. It was the outhouse.
"I'm dreaming," he said. "I've got to be dreaming!"
The cat squalled and leapt at him again, this time drawing a long
scratch down his arm. That hurt more than the scratch on his face.
"What the hell?" Jerry screamed, grabbing his arm. The slash was deep
The cat laughed at him. "I'm you worst nightmare, Jerry Jerk!"
"Jerry Jerk? Wh-what do you mean?"
"Don't you remember me?" the cat replied. "I was your pet cat and you
This was a big mistake. He tried to pinch the edges of the scratch on
his arm together. "I never had a cat. I never had any pets," he gasped. "You've got the wrong Jerry.
"That's what the other Jerry said," the moose offered.
"Wh-what other Jerry?"
"The Jerry on the ground," the moose added, bending its big head down
to nose the leg.
"That's only a leg," Jerry replied horrified. The image of a badly
mutilated body, sans leg, sprung into his mind's eye.
"You got the image wrong." The cat was on top of a nearby tombstone.
"The body has no legs or arms. It's just a body and a head. Like a pumpkin."
"And some dumb bird," the moose added, "saying, `Nevermore, nevermore.'"
"Poe," Jerry suggested, recognizing the reference.
"Yeah, Jerry Poe," the cat said. "That was his name."
"Edgar Allen Poe," Jerry corrected.
"Whatever." The cat was licking itself again.
Jerry edged away, wary of the cat. It looked at him and squalled.
Jerry jumped. The cat went back to licking himself.
From a nearby tree, a bird said, "Nevermore."
"Look," Jerry said, "I told you I never owned a cat, I never had a pet
cat, I never liked cats!"
"So?" the cat replied. "The feeling's mutual." "But why?"
"Why is to reason. Why is to die. You reason, you die!" the cat
intoned in an evil voice that dripped with blood.
A thought struck Jerry. Why not just walk back to his car and drive
"You'll never find it," the cat said, reading his mind.
"Like hell," Jerry growled.
He headed away from the pair - trio, counting the bird in the tree.
It didn't take him long. Somehow, the cemetery had become its own
little world. A world that didn't go very far without you coming right back to where you started. Jerry didn't like that kind of world. The trio was still there. Well, thought Jerry, "_At least I haven't run into the pumpkin_."
"No?" the cat laughed. "Just wait. A head and a body."
"Thanks," Jerry replied worriedly. His arm still hurt and was now
very tender to the touch. Maybe if he concentrated on the tombstones, they'd go away. But the cat had settled on top of one and was watching him, its tail swishing the air behind him in a nervous way. And the moose was smiling again.
Jerry looked at the name on the marker. Gerald Cummings. He went to
the next tombstone. Gerry Smith. Died young.
Jerry moved to the next marker. Another Jerry. Last name of King.
Probably someone related to the rail lines, since the marker had tracks running around the edge.
"You should relate to him," the moose offered.
"Nevermore," the bird said.
"He was a writer, too," the cat said. "But he didn't have problems
with writer's block."
Jerry glanced at them. He moved to the next marker. Jerry Shelley.
He looked to see where he was. He was working his way toward the open
grave. The next marker read Jerry Price. Another, Gerrold Bradbury. He read on. Rice, Lugosi, Arness, Romero, Carpenter, Milland, Serling, and a dozen others. All related to monsters or horror in one way or another. All with a first name of Gerry, Jerry, Gerald, Gerrold, Jerold, or something similar.
One more stone, with some dark substance smeared across it. He felt
the letters - Poe. Jerry Poe. "Right," Jerry said to himself. "This is not only insanity, it isn't even close to being right. These people weren't named Jerry."
"But they lived in a world of fear, in a world of nightmares," the
moose offered ominously.
"And you're Bullwinkle," Jerry spat out, thinking insanity for insanity.
"Hey," the moose said in a bright, but dumb voice, "I resemble that
remark. Wanna see what I got in the hat?"
Jerry ignored him and walked over to the open grave, stepping
carefully over the disembodied leg. As he bent to look at the marker, the cat jumped on his back and then to the top of the stone.
Jerry looked at the cat. Why not just shove me in? The pain in his
arm reminded him of reality. The pain was now working its way up toward his shoulder. And the name on the stone wasn't his. In fact, it wasn't a Jerry. It was Rodney.
"We never said it had to make sense," the cat said between licks of
its paw. "How's the arm?"
"Hurts like hell," Jerry growled.
"Give it a bit, and it'll stop," the moose offered.
"Nevermore," the bird said from the tree.
The cat stared up at the bird. "One of these days . . ."
As it flew away, the bird cried out, "Nevermore."
Jerry gingerly touched his shoulder. It hurt like someone was
tightening a wire around his joint. "I suppose that your claws had some sort of poison in them?"
"Nah, nothing like that," the moose said. "You'll see."
"You know," the cat said, looking curiously at the moose, "you really
ought to try to get a girl."
"I like to watch."
"Who should we go after?"
The pain in Jerry's shoulder was growing worse. Sweat was beading on
"Gloria?" the cat asked.
"You've got a thing with G's," the moose replied.
"Hits the spot - especially with girls."
"Very funny and droll."
Jerry couldn't concentrate. The wire in his shoulder was tightening,
The cat and the moose continued to exchange insanities about girls and
wanting to have one next.
"_Next? NEXT?_," Jerry thought, as he stared at the cat.
The cat stopped talking and smiled. It looked insanely like something
from Alice in Wonderland.
"What do you mean, next?" Jerry got out between gasps of pain.
"You're not very bright," the moose replied.
Off in the distance, the bird squawked "Nevermore."
Jerry sat heavily on a nearby marker. The cold stone felt good, but
the sudden jar hurt his shoulder. The pain was close to intolerable and he moaned softly at it, wishing it'd go away.
The cat laughed and the moose guffawed.
"I know a girl," the cat offered soberly. "She's an aspiring writer,
"Not bad looking, for her age."
"How old and where's she live?"
"In her thirties - in the Northern Lights Apartments."
The pain was deep and his fingers were growing numb. The scratch was
like a flaming sword, buried in his flesh.
"I know where that is," the moose replied.
"See if you can spot her, then."
"Okay, but after the show."
"Of course." The cat and moose turned their attention back to Jerry.
Jerry clung to his throbbing left arm. The pain in his shoulder was
deep, but not as sharp. The numbness was working its way into his hand, alternately tingling, and then going numb again.
"Are you left-handed, Jerry?" the cat asked.
Jerry shook his head, in too much pain to say anything.
"If your fingers are getting numb, it won't be much longer," the moose
Jerry was sweating profusely. The chatter between the moose and cat
didn't make sense.
"At least he isn't wearing a tapered shirt with long sleeves," the cat
"Short sleeve shirts are okay," the moose said. "I prefer a sleeveless
top and shorts."
"Well, by the time this is over with, maybe you can lure that girl up
here in a bathing suit. That would amuse me."
"You are morbid."
His hand was numb, and the forearm hurt worse than ever. It was like
all the pain from the hand and fingers and arm were concentrated in that one spot. Oh, if he could only sever the pain, pull off his arm, or something.
The moose approached and nipped at him.
"Hey!" Jerry said, jumping to his feet.
"You need to move around," the moose replied.
"Oh, sure," Jerry said, "like into that grave."
The moose tilted its head. "It is a thought."
The cat ran between Jerry's legs. "Showtime," he said as he purposely
Jerry flung out his arms, grabbing for anything to keep his balance.
He was close to a tall marker - the one that had Poe on it. Despite the pain, he grabbed for it with his left hand, as he sprawled on the ground the pain was suddenly gone from his arm. Jerry scrambled up and then stopped as the familiar smell hit him.
Someone's arm was on the ground . . . raw at one end.
Jerry stared at his empty sleeve, flapping loosely where his arm used to be.
"One down, three to go, and pumpkin time!" the cat said with
"Maybe a leg next?" the moose said with idle curiosity.
The cat nodded, slowly advancing on Jerry and growling ever so low.
And the bird said, "Nevermore."
# # #
Copyright 1994 Thomas Nevin Huber
Tom Huber is rapidly approaching middle age (50). Involved with computers since the early '60's and has been employed as a technical writer for a major computer manufacturer for over 12 years. Previous works include numerous user, installation, service, & tech manuals, and magazine articles. Hobbies include genealogy and running his bbs. Look for his major series of SF novels, soon.