Ticket to Normal Town

📅 Published on July 15, 2021

“Ticket to Normal Town”

Written by Keith McDuffee
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 15 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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There was a time once when my life was more like what most would call normal.  I don’t remember when that was, but it’s only logical to assume that before pills, punk rock and pussy, there was a bout of normalcy for Mister Gillean Rush.  I’ve decided that I’m probably better off not remembering.  My shrink tells me it’d only depress me more; damn it, I think she’s right.  That is something I really don’t need.  I’ve already got an overabundance of despondency, thanks.

Once in a while, though, I have my good days.  Days when — if I’m sober enough to remember them — things are blissfully uneventful.  And then I think to myself: Is this what it’s like for people not like me?  People without the kind of baggage I tow?  It’s nice.  But I’m no idiot; I know it’s short-lived.  Back on the road, all bets were off.  After all, it’s what I’d signed up for, right?  But there was a time, once — just for a short while — when I thought I’d accidentally found my ticket to normal town, full-boat and full-time.

August 27, 1986.  Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New Haven, Connecticut.  Sold out.  We’d just played the hell out of a three-hour set, and my head was still on fire from it all.  Jimmy — our drummer — I remember had to hold me in a sweaty headlock backstage so I wouldn’t sprint back out for a third encore.  He didn’t let me loose until the house lights were back on and half the seats were empty.  I stormed off to take a piss before joining one or all of the numerous soirees already going on in the dressing rooms, hallways or buses outside.  I can’t imagine how much water, beer and booze of some kind I’d thrown down my gullet on-stage without hitting the head, but then again, I guess sweating my ass off counts as a small relief.

When the door to the bathroom closed behind me, the sudden silence hit me like a brick.  It was as though the room was sealed off from the rest of the world, and it made the ringing in my ears stand out like cop sirens in a tunnel.  I closed my eyes and tried to shake it off.  It only got worse.  It was like the worst experience of tinnitus I’d ever had, and I had to steady myself against the wall.  The added smell of burnt matches and what had to have been someone’s foul puke did nothing to help.  Just as I was probably about to scream and smash my own head into the tiled wall for relief, a voice broke in beside me.

“Hell of a show, Gil.”

The ringing stopped.  Just like that.  Whether it was from hearing the voice or something else, I don’t know.  And I didn’t care.

“Renken?”  I asked.  By the voice, it could only be him.  “When the hell did you come in?”  “Ut ut!”  he said in that tone you might give a dog when he’s about to chew on your shoes.  “Eyes forward, son.  You know the rules.”

“What?  Man, I ain’t looking at your limp dick, dude!”  “Uh-huh.  Well then, you might want to watch where you’re aiming.”

Sure thing, I was pissing on my own goddamn feet.  I readjusted, finished up, and booked for the door.  I was intent on getting myself far away from that double-breast-suited, four-eyed creep.  His perfectly-parted hair and patronizing voice made me sick; the ear-ringing would’ve been welcome in place of it.

“Whoa whoa,”  Renken said, before I could yank the door open.  “We have to have a little talk, Gil.”  He zipped up, flushed and took to the sinks to wash up.

“Yeah?  What about, Renken?  I thought talking business was done.”

“Please, Gil, call me Harlan.  And Gil, what gave you the idea that our business was done?  I am your manager, after all.”

“Manager.”  I laughed.  “Right.”

He glared back at me, but I didn’t flinch.  I was still too fired up from the show to even let him bring me down.

“What is it that’s so important to talk to me about right now, Renken?  Come on, I’ve got things to do.”

“Yes, I’m sure you do.”  It was that condescending tone again, and it took more will than I thought I had not to backhand the arrogant prick.

“Anyway, Gil,”  he went on, “I was informed this evening that there might be some individuals with some — shall we say — conflicting interests in the area.  A certain group whose actions could jeopardize our agreement.  Maybe offer you a new deal, so to speak.  In short, if they’re successful, they could ruin you, Gil.  The tours.  The albums.  Sweetie Pie — the whole band.  Finished.”

“Come on,”  I said, in my most you’re-full-of-crap tone.  “A new deal?  Who?”

“It doesn’t matter whom, Gil.  Just know that I’m watching out for you.  You’re too valuable an investment.  You and I have a signed agreement, and I intend to ensure it remains intact.  Understand?”

I didn’t much understand him at that moment, but I took advantage of the break in the conversation to get the hell out of there and back to the comforts of noise.  Somehow, through the closed door, over the ruckus of music and the raving groupie chicks in the hall, I heard Renken’s voice again, one more time.  This time, though, he sounded past messing around.

“We have a deal, Mister Rush.”

I pushed aside anyone in my way and made a beeline for my room, or at least I tried.  A few hits from bongs shoved in my face, followed by generous swigs of whiskey, took me for a brief detour here and there.  When I finally got to my room, my bodyguard, Husk, was standing in front of the door like an impenetrable wall.  He soundlessly stepped aside and let me through.  For every tour, I gave him simple instructions that I paid him well to follow, one being: Let no one in my room but me.  He hadn’t let me down…up until then, because sitting on the couch was a toothpick of a guy in a pristine white suit, who I’d never seen before in my life.  I was fuming.

“Who are you?  Goddammit, Husk!  Get this piece of crap out of here!”  “Please, Mister Rush, calm down.  Mister Husk has been instructed not to interrupt us, but I assure you I won’t take up much of your time.”

My head was about to erupt.  I was in no mood to be instructed by anyone.  Husk: He was so fired.  This guy’s syrupy, British accent topped things off.  This was not a post-show party I wanted anything to do with.

“If you don’t get the hell out of my room right now,”  I said through gritted teeth, “I will kick your stick of a Cockney ass back across the Atlantic myself.”

Slowly the guy stood and reached into his suit coat’s inside pocket.  I admit I took a step back, thinking the guy was going to draw a piece on me or something, but he didn’t really look the type.  Instead, his bony hand came out wrapped around four racks of Benjamins.  He held them up then tossed them onto the table, spilling half-empty beer cans and weed bags.

“Forty-thousand dollars, Mister Rush.  For five minutes.”  I laughed my ass off.  “You been smoking some of this, buddy?”

Forty grand wasn’t necessarily a whole ton of cash for me in those days.  I’d seen a lot more, especially when the boys and I held up on tour in Vegas.  But for anyone to throw that kind of cabbage around just to talk?  It paid admission enough.

“Alright,”  I said, and then flopped my ass down in a chair.  “Talk.  Five minutes.”  The man sat back down and got back to making himself comfortable.  “Thank you, Mister Rush.  I’ll get right to the point.  My name is Connor Lynch.  I represent an agency interested in branching out from our usual course of business.  New clients to manage.  Our usual portfolio has consisted primarily of those in the film industry, though we’re sticking our proverbial toe in the waters of entertainment of the musical variety.  Hence my presence here, before you.”

“I’ve already got management.”  I knew this was almost definitely who Renken was talking about in the john, so it didn’t make much sense to carry on.  “Sorry, but you’re wasting your time, man.”

“Mister Rush…may I call you Gillean?”

“No.”

“All right.  Mister Rush, I won’t beat around the bush.  My agency knows the terms under which your current management has you contracted.”

“Do they now?”

“Indeed.  Do you not find the terms to be a bit lopsided?  And I do not mean particularly in your favor.”

“I dunno.  Seems to be working out well for me so far, Mister Lynch.  I’ve got few complaints.  Outside of this room, that is.”

“And when your deal with Mister Renken expires?  What then, Mister Rush?”  “I guess I’ll let the cards fall where they may.  I resigned myself to that a long time ago.  You can tell your employers that even if I wanted to work out a new deal, I’ve got a binding one with Harlan Renken.  Very binding.  I can’t just simply forget about that.  It doesn’t work that way.  Not with him.”

Lynch’s mouth grew into a grin that looked almost too big for his face.  “Now, Mister Rush, I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t think there was some way around that trifle detail.  There are ways for us to ultimately get what we want.”

“Trust me, Conny.  It’s solid.  You have no idea.  And now I’m done talking about this because, first of all, I don’t at all feel like pissing off Renken, and secondly, your five minutes are up, and I can’t listen to another second.  Now get the hell out.”

His grin never left his face as he stood from the couch.  He brushed some unseen lint from his impeccable suit and made for the door.

“I’ll be in touch again, Mister Rush.  Until then, my agency has left you, shall we say, a small gift to accompany you on your travels this evening.  Consider it a token of appreciation for taking our initial conversation.”  With that, he was out the door.

A few minutes later, I stepped out into the hallway again and grabbed the first bottle I saw.  I think it was tequila, but for all I knew or cared it was gasoline.  For me it was early, but I was already spent, and my night of conversations with suits took more of a toll on me than the show had.  I was just ready to get to the hotel and pass out.  I zipped Lynch’s cash into a road bag and booked it.  That was mistake number one.

My limo was waiting out back, already idling.  I dove in back, expecting to hit cool, air-conditioned leather, but instead, my face slapped onto a pair of stark-white female thighs.  It’s not the first time that’s happened, but it’s usually been the result of an arrangement I or my management had already made and I was prepared for.

“Well!  You sure do know how to make an entrance, Mister Rush,”  the Slavic voice belonging to the thighs said, and she followed it with giggles.

“I’m guessing you’re Lynch’s little gift?”  I asked without lifting my head.  I mean, why bother, right?

“Gifts, you mean.”  That’s when I sat up and noticed two more girls sitting across from us, stifling off their own fits of laughter.  All three of them were a little pale for my taste, but vastly hotter than any backstage hangers-on I’d usually be carting along.

“Well, then,”  I said, to what was to become mistakes two, three and four.  “Happy birthday to me.”  Out came my bag of E, and around it went.  Plenty for all.  Me, tired?

I’m not going to detail the things that went on in that limo for the next hour.  Be my guest and visit any number of Internet porn sites or read some of the more creative Penthouse letters.  Some of what you’ll see or read might come close.  What won’t come close at all, I can sure as hell tell you, is what happened next.

I’m not sure how long it’d been, but I came to realizing at some point that the limo wasn’t moving anymore.  With all that was going on in the back, and with the tinted windows and the privacy divider up, I hadn’t paid any attention at all to what was going on outside.  I had no idea where we were.  I hammered on the divider.

“Nichols!  Nichols, what the hell is going on?  Where are we?”  A couple of the girls starting pawing at me again like cats in heat.  I brushed them off and hit the divider’s controls to open.  No Nichols.  Instead what I saw was that we were pulled onto the shoulder of a wide, paved road.  Trees on both sides and nothing else.  No houses.  No street lights.  No signs at all.  On the road ahead of us, though, there was something else.  Or, rather, someone else.

About twenty yards away, standing dead center of the limo’s high-beams, stood that white-suited skeleton of a man, Connor Lynch.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,”  I said.  I threw on my pants and shoved the door open.  I was beyond pissed.  This guy gets to my muscle, my driver, and then tries to buy me off with whores and cash?  Screw this guy.

“Are you out of your mind, Lynch?”  I was already in his face at this point.  “What are you doing?  You show up in my room, and now you show up in the middle of the goddamn road, and you think this is how it works?  I told you, there’s no chance of a new deal.  All you’re doing now is pissing me off, and you are-”

“Mister Rush,”  he cut in.  “I’ve come to meet you out here to give you one last chance to reconsider at least discussing the terms of a new deal with our agency.  Must I take it by your continued…uncouth demeanor that such a thing simply will not be happening this evening?”

“This evening.  This week.  This century, Lynch.  It’s never gonna happen.  My contract’s with Harlan Renken.  Why won’t you get that through your thick skull?”

“Oh, Gillean,”  Lynch said.  “I had so wished my little companions would help change your mind.  Apparently, my expectations for them were a tad too high.”  One of the three girls ran up then and dropped to her knees in front of Lynch.

“Please!  It was not our fault!  T’was the pills Mister Rush was having us take.  How were we to say no?  They made us of no use to you!”

Lynch put a hand on top of the girl’s head and stroked her hair a few times.  “Fool child,”  he said with no hint of hostility.  “I have only myself to blame.  Your weakness is my own.”

“Do you forgive us?”  she asked.

“Forgive?  What can I do with a weakness?  One can choose to accept it or strengthen it, I suppose.”

“Yes!  We can become stronger!  Strengthen us!  We will do better next time.”  “Or,”  Lynch said, being a prick and letting the word hang.  “One can also choose to remove it.”

Lynch reached into his coat.  From behind me came a familiar sound to me, though not one I expected to hear out along a dark road in New England.  When I was back home in Colorado and not on tour, I’d spend every spare moment I had bow hunting.  When we’d put down something like an elk, it wasn’t uncommon for us to do some field dressing.  Once the bull is down, it’s time to go to work with your sharpest blade.  It’s bloody, it’s messy, and it stinks.  Some first-timers I’ve taken along with me would puke their guts out right then.  It’s not so much the sight of the blood and guts that gets to them; it’s the smell and the sound of the knife sawing through meaty, wet flesh, ripping through the animal’s tough hide.  That’s what I was hearing now.

Turning my head around felt like slow-motion.  I should have needed to shield my eyes from the limo’s headlights, but they’d become dim and tinted an orangey red.  Beside the limo, I assumed what I was looking at was the two other girls.  I could only assume since the two bodies on the ground were skinless, flayed to the muscle.  One body sat upright against the bumper, her mouth moving for a few seconds without making a sound.  Puddles of blood were pooled around the two and dripped off the limo’s hood.  A few feet away, in the middle of the road, was a pile of what looked like discarded clothes.  Since the girls hadn’t been wearing any, I knew it had to be the skin they were now missing.

I’m not sure how long I looked that grisly scene over.  It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds.  But before I could turn back to Lynch or turn my tail and run, that sound came again.  This time it was time much, much closer.  The slicing.  Tearing.  I felt a spray of something warm and wet hit the back of my neck.  My nose was filled with the smell of copper, and something else.  Sulfur?  The sounds of butchery ended with the noise of a wet slop on the ground near my feet.  On the road, staring up at me, was the gaping, eyeless mask of skin belonging to the girl who’d been begging Lynch for her life.

From behind me came the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked.

“Wh- what was that?”  came Lynch’s voice, and he sounded scared.  I was not expecting that.  I snapped my head around then and saw that Lynch’s face and suit were now redder than they were pale and white.  With one outstretched hand, he pointed a piece at me, but his entire arm was shaking.  He brought up his other hand in an attempt to steady it.  He was looking everywhere but at me.

“What was that?”  he repeated.

The body of the last girl was in a fetal position next to Lynch, devoid of clothes, skin or hair, just like the others.  She resembled a muscular illustration you’d see in an anatomy book.

“You mean it wasn’t you?”  I asked.

“Me?  Are you mad?  How could any human being do something like this?”  Now this was different.

“Human being,”  I said.  Then I laughed.  Oh, did I laugh.  I don’t think I’ve laughed harder at anything else before or since then.  I laughed at the absurdity of what had already gone on that night.  I laughed at what was going on right in front of my goddamn face.  I laughed at what was about to happen to Mister Lynch.

“What the bloody hell are you going on about?”  Lynch asked.  “Something’s out there, you knob!”  “Lynch,”  I said, catching my breath.  “My contract is with Harlan Renken.”

“Yes, I know!  You’ve been telling me that all night.  So what is your point?”  “He tends to not take kindly to competition, however weak it might be.  And you were right: No human could do something like this.”

I caught the briefest look in Lynch’s eyes, one that switched from pure confusion to instant realization, just as the figure behind him pulled him into the woods.  It’d happened so fast that the man’s blood-splattered, white shoes were left behind, sitting on the ground by the skinless whore.  Beyond the trees, I could hear Lynch’s screams.  Seemed he was being toyed with a bit more than the girls had been.

I walked back to the limo and got into the driver’s seat.  I figured Nichols had already taken off with whatever Lynch bribed him with, or maybe Lynch put a bullet in his head.  Either way, he was dead to me.  I threw down a couple more happy pills to keep me from falling asleep on my drive to a hotel bed of any kind.

“Oh, Gil.  What am I going to do about you,”  came Harlan Renkin’s voice from the back of the limo when I’d gotten about a quarter-mile down the road.  There was that sulfur smell again.

“Do we really have to do this now, Renken?  I’m beyond exhausted.”  “Hm.  Well, coming from you, that’s a new one.”

“Why are you here, Renken?  You didn’t have anything to worry about.  He was just some Brit talent agent.  Our contract’s still solid.”

“Gillean,”  he said, as though I was a misbehaving child.  “Don’t you know that you already broke your end of that agreement this evening?”

“Broke it?  What do you mean I broke it?”  In the rearview mirror, I saw him remove his glasses and wipe them with a cloth he pulled from his coat pocket.

“Why, accepting gifts, Mister Rush.  You don’t recall the terms of our contract, Gil?  The money.  The girls.  All in violation, I’m afraid.  Our deal was very clear: For the rest of your life, only we would provide you with everything you could possibly need or want; no one else.  No exceptions.  In return-”

“You don’t have to remind me,”  I interrupted.  “I remember.”  I was severely pissed off, more at myself than at anything or anyone else.  I’d been tempted countless times before that night, and why I gave in that night, I’ll never know.  Bad pills?  No idea.

“So what does that mean, now, exactly?  Our deal is done?  Things go back to normal?”  I asked.

“It means, Gil, that as of this moment, my end of the contract is null and void.  Your wants and desires are of no consequence or concern of mine.  You, however, are still obligated by your end of the deal.  It’s not as though you haven’t already reaped some of the rewards of our agreement, Gil, but no one rides for free, regardless of whether or not you’ve cut the trip short.”

“That’s crap,”  I said.  “I live the rest of my life now as some peon, and in return, you get my soul?  Why don’t you just get it over with and kill me now?”

“Come on now, Gil.  If I wanted your soul the messy, old-fashioned way, I would’ve done it years ago.  You see, a soul like yours is akin to a fine wine that has yet to mature.  The longer it ages, the better it becomes.  You, dear Gillean, are still yet some mashed grapes, much too young to serve.  I still have a vested interest in seeing you live out a long life; ripen a bit, if you will.  No, I don’t want to see you dead just yet, Gil.  I’ll be making sure you’re around until we’re ready for you.  You’ve got many more years left ahead of you.  As for how healthy, happy and care-free they are, that’s now going to be all up to you.”

From the center console, the limo’s cell started to ring.

“Sounds like you’ve got a call coming in,”  Renken said.  He smirked and leaned forward to stare my reflection in the eyes.  “Something tells me you’re about to see your world take quite a different turn from here on out.  Good luck, Mister Rush.”

With that, his reflection was gone.

I let the cell ring to voicemail and just drove on into the night for what seemed like hours.  I wasn’t really sure where I was heading to at that point, but I eventually decided a parking lot would serve as fine a place as any to pull over and pass out in.  At some point during the next evidence of daylight, I woke up to the sound of the cell hitting voicemail again.  I decided to face the music and listen.

“Gillean, it’s Jimmy.  Listen, man, the boys and I were talking tonight, and we’re finally sick and tired of you.  God…I dunno why it took so long for us to realize that you are severely messed up, man.  That scene tonight?  I had to hold you back like you were some maniac.  You need to get yourself some help.  Get off those pills.  Maybe rehab?  Or something?  Anyway, I dunno where you are, but we need to talk about Sweetie Pie and you as the frontman.  Something’s gotta change.  Anyway, we’ll talk later.”

A month later, Sweetie Pie was no more.  My life went into the crapper for a while, but every time I thought it was the end for me, I’d bounce back a little bit.  Was it all thanks to luck, or was it Renken working his demonoid magic to keep me alive and well-marinated?  No matter.  I’ll just ride the wave until it carries me to hell.

One bit of advice I’ll give anyone else looking to work out a deal like mine: If you’re going to dance with the devil, you’re gonna have to let him lead.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Keith McDuffee
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Keith McDuffee


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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