LONGHAIR DEATH FARM
By Clifton Wetzel-Bulinger
(discovered by Cameron Ashley)
This time…they’ve hunted the wrong albino!
Special thanks to CAMERON ASHLEY for contacting Clifton Wetzel-Bulinger directly. A lot has changed since this story was published in 1978, and we appreciate Mr. Wetzel-Bulinger’s bravery in agreeing to reprint the story, considering that he is now the Poet Laureate of the Isle of Man (best known for his villanelle “Alabaster Rainbows”). Look for the subtle social commentary that marks all his work, as well as his trademark albinocentric underpinnings.
Bronte Fox slid a pale couple of fingers through the fencing that divided them and stroked The Albino Wino’s head. “They hurt you,” she said.
The Wino sat up, pulled away from her touch. He inspected his swollen face with his own large, rough hands, and, noting his split lips, he spat out a viscous glob of blood and mucous-flecked saliva upon the straw that lined his cage.
How long had it been since his arrival here at this death farm? Weeks, easily. His hands shook. He needed a drink. Outside of a homemade Merlot that Theseus Jones, the leader of the longhair cult that kept him prisoner, shared with him right before his thrashing, he had gone pretty much sober.
There was a small minibar bottle of cheap rum he kept against his genitals in times of true emergency. And as true emergency was undeniably now, he pulled it free from its hiding place and drained half of it. It was nowhere near enough, but the rum’s warmth spread down his throat and into his belly. He lay down in the fetal position (as close as he could get to a full stretch in this welded-together coop) and thought back to how it had all began.
He remembered being sick and tired of the city: Vietnam protestors, music gone to shit, the vestiges of Flower Power clinging more tendril than blossom to the culture at large. Concrete so hot it seemed to sweat. Being rousted from shady spots by cops who had more booze on their breath than he did, traces of whores’ smeared pink lipstick on their crotches, bad intentions in their baton swings.
He remembered a brawl with The Silver Dragons, an Oriental street gang from Chinatown who picked on the homeless both for fun and to practice their roundhouses. The ensuing fight, ten-on-one with the one handily winning, was broken up by a big side of beef of a cop who saw the chance to vent some aggression on a stone drunk albino man just trying to get by.
The back-alley brawl was already won, silver satin-jacketed youths sprawled everywhere, their mean streaks punched out of them, at least for now. The cop saw The Wino standing at alley’s end, blood dripping from his skinned knuckles, a butterfly knife stuck clean through a segment of thigh. A filthy circus freak, grubby as a pit fighter, pale as the Angel of Death. The cop went straight for him, nightstick swinging like a rotor blade. Little did he know that The Silver Dragons weren’t the only cats in town who knew some Kung Fu. The Wino had learned much in his years on the road.
The Albino Wino blocked the first attempt at a braining, grabbing the cop’s wrist, snapping it, and peppering his body with palm strikes and chops. The cop staggered back, snarled and scooped up the fallen nightstick with his good hand. The Wino grabbed it as it swung towards him. He snatched it from the cop’s grasp at the very same moment he pushed the big cop back with a front kick.
The wino snapped the nightstick over his knee in a hopeful display of don’t-mess-with-this-super-whitey and said, “Stop.”
The cop shouted, “Screw you, pinky!” and pulled his gun. The Wino hurled a sharp shard of nightstick – he aimed for the gun barrel, but his aim was off, brain fuzzy from some strikes taken in the brawl with the Dragons.
The shard of nightstick buried itself in the cop’s jugular. The cop cried out and dropped the gun. He pulled the stake-like piece of wood from his throat. Arterial spray graffitied the alley walls and he fell dead.
The Albino Wino knew he had to split. When the establishment and the anti-establishment were as bad as each other, all a man had was himself, his American know-how, his fists, and his will to survive. The world was going to hell. It was no place for one as distinctively snowy-haired and as alien-eyed as he.
The wino pulled the knife from his thigh. Just a flesh wound. He bound it tight with two tied-together bandanas and looked around for Chalky.
Chalky sat on a trashcan, the bloodied-up corpse of an alley rat in his mouth. As usual, when The Wino found action, Chalky had to have some, too. The Wino scooped up the albino cat, who purred at his touch and closed his eyes, one sky blue, the other emerald green, contentedly as The Wino wrapped him up in his bindle.
The Wino pulled a bottle of something cheap from his mid-size knapsack and took a healthy pull. He came up for air then went in again and drained the bottle.
It was time to hit the road.
It was whimpering that woke him. At first he thought it was Bronte Fox, but even in the half-light he could tell that the beautiful albiness was not the source.
It was the man in the third cage.
Bronte crawled to the cage wall that separated her from the Wino. “You passed out. It’s Johnny. They took another piece.”
In truth, all the Wino wanted to do was stare at Bronte, luminous in the moonlight that filtered through the cracks and gaps in the barn. She was unearthly and elven in her beauty, full-lipped and armed with eyes a hypnotising streak of light blue. Her hair seemed spun of stars, cascading over her slender shoulders.
Johnny cried again and the Wino wrenched his eyes off Bronte and focused on the whimpering mess on the floor of the third cage. The Wino knew little about Johnny. He was the first captured of the three; that much he knew and he knew it only because Bronte had said as much. He didn’t care for Johnny, who was a bearded longhair himself – belonging more to the obsolete tribe of hippies refusing to give up their naive dreams of transcendental trips and free love than to the clan of the outcast albino. The Wino knew that there was no place but the here and now and that absolutely nothing was free. Johnny hadn’t done himself any favors either, for when the cult members came for him, he begged off, pleading with the shotgun-wielding longhairs to take The Wino first, or Bronte, if only they would spare him. He returned hours later, unconscious and minus an arm.
The other arm had been taken this time. And a foot. Soon there would be nothing left.
As Johnny tried to push himself up off his piss-stained straw with nothing but stumps, The Wino cracked a smile.
Bronte looked at him. “Why are you smiling?”
The Wino playfully put an index finger to Bronte’s nose. “Honey, we need something to toast with. Champagne would be perfect but I’ll quaff the fumiest, most blindness-inducing hooch from the filthiest inbred-owned still if that’s all we could get.”
Bronte’s brow furrowed. “Why?”
“They’re savin’ us, honey. They’re savin’ us for later. We got time to make a plan. Maybe not a lotta time, but we can get outta here.”
Now it was Bronte’s time to smile. “We?”
The Wino touched her hand. “Yeah, we. You may be just some rich albino girl gone off the rails, but I ain’t letting something as beautiful as you end up in some crazy hippie’s stew.”
Bronte placed her forehead to the cage bars, her lips poked succulently through the metal lattice. The Wino rinsed his mouth out with a swig of rum from the minibar bottle, thought about spitting it out, but swallowed instead. As his lips met hers, the chanting started from outside – the longhairs were feeding.
“You’re special, man, don’t ever forget that. What you got, what you are, man, the universe has blessed you, man.” That was what the male longhair said to The Wino shortly after he and his girlfriend picked him up.
The Wino was adverse to hitchhiking, but he needed to split the city and split it quick. The car picked him up ten miles outside the city limits, passing him at first, then stopping and eventually reversing back to where The Wino walked along the roadside.
It was the girl who convinced him to take the ride, strawberry blonde and braless. If longhairs did one thing right, it was that their women didn’t mind showing what they had and sharing it around. The girl could’ve filled out a sweater two times larger than the one she wore. She smiled and beckoned to him and told him they were going more than halfway towards where he wanted to be. Still, The Wino was suspicious. It was the cop car that tore past, sirens blaring, heading right back from where he’d come from that convinced him, finally, to accept the ride.
It was the biggest mistake of his life.
They gave him beers and called him “man” and asked about his life.
They mocked the war, they mocked the establishment, they mocked the President, they mocked all but the place where they were headed.
The Wino, beer-buzzed, felt his lips loosen, felt a rant coming, felt the urge to tell them that their side, their bullshit “counterculture” side was just as bad as The Man was, that the only way out was to be alone, was for a man to forge his own path, seize control of the universe by the throat and punch destiny in the face until it yielded.
But he made not a peep, which was strange because he wanted to.
And then things blurred and went spacy and for a moment he thought that maybe they were right, these hippies, maybe, just maybe, there was something more, something other, something beyond. But, no. It was just the Mickey Finn the dirty, cheating longhairs spiked his beer with.
And then, he woke up caged. A beautiful woman next to him, a whimpering, spineless geek on the other. Each of them “special.” Each of them caged. Each of them afflicted with albinism.
And then, he met Theseus Jones.
Theseus Jones was tall and thin and had a pock-marked face indicative of childhood chicken pox or acne so bad it would make the world itself blush for you.
The Wino was brought before him by two longhairs so put together, they clearly were on a diet of more than just lentils, an observation that proved apt once Albino Wino learned what it was, exactly, that went down here.
He didn’t see much of the compound’s property on the trip up to the main house, thrown into the back of a pick-up truck, one Longhair Charles Atlas driving, the other in the back with him, pointing a sawed-off in his face, just that it was as large and unkempt as the armpits on a longhair dude’s old lady.
The main house was just a large, open space. Naked couples lay on cushion-covered floors, intertwined, locked at the genitals. The Wino’s albino eyes struggled to adjust as he was dragged past the armed guards at the door, through the squirming masses, to Theseus Jones himself, who sat on an oversized wicker chair that looked like some abominable longhair throne.
The big longhairs dropped him at Theseus’ feet. The Wino looked around, waiting for his eyes to focus, waiting for what seemed to be one huge, moaning, soft-skinned, writhing organism to cease its amorphousness and bleed out into separate shapes. Once it did, he looked up at Theseus who wore a crooked-toothed grin. A woman was on her knees before the cult leader, fellating him. She groaned as though hypnotised by the swollen organ between her jaws.
Theseus introduced himself and then said, “I like you. What’s your name?”
The Wino replied, “They call me The Albino Wino.”
Theseus chuckled. “Kooky handle, man.”
The Wino shrugged. “It fits.”
Theseus leaned across the arm of the wicker throne and produced a wine bottle. He uncorked it and handed it to The Wino. “Try it. Homegrown.”
The Wino shook his head even though the urge was strong. “Had enough of your booze in the car. I’m all napped-out, thanks very much.”
“It’s not drugged, I assure you, man.” Theseus himself drank heartily. He held the bottle out for The Wino, who took it on this second offering.
Drinking deeply, The Wino said, “You gonna tell me why I’m here, or we just gonna sit around and get drunk? That’s cool with me, but if you’re looking for me to participate in…this,” he gestured at the longhairs humping like animals on the ground in more positions than he knew existed. “You gotta know, I ain’t no swinger.”
Theseus went to speak, but stopped himself. “One moment,” he said right before he ejaculated furiously.
The Wino went to avert his eyes, but there wasn’t many a place to avert them to.
The woman in front of Theseus got up off her knees, wiped her mouth, and winked at The Wino as she passed. It was the longhair chick from the car, the one who spiked his beers and bewitched him with her breasts, now on full display, slapping together meatily with each footstep.
“You’re next,” she said, winking and running her fingers through the curling flaxen thatch between her legs. She disappeared through the copulating masses, a naked, golden-haired apparition treading lightly amidst a vibrating minefield of flesh.
The Wino drank deeply from the bottle. Good hooch. Not that he’d admit it to Theseus. “Okay, what the hell is going on here?”
Theseus laughed some more and tucked his member back into his linen trousers. “All in good time, man. First I need some medication…” He snapped his fingers and a young girl appeared, maybe fourteen at most. Timid and flushed, she was dressed in a sheer white, diaphanous dress. She held a large tray, lines of powder expertly placed upon it. Alongside the lines, a small, hollow tube, carved from wood and stained near-black. Theseus patted the girl on the head, picked up the tube, put it to his nose and snorted up the lines.
The Wino shook his head. “Coke? That shit’ll rot your brain.”
Theseus wiped his nose, beckoned the girl to leave. He said, “That’s not coke, man. That’s bone. Grade-A albino bone.”
The Wino almost dropped the wine. “What?”
“That’s right,” Theseus pointed at The Wino. “Your kind, you got the magic in you, brother…”
The Wino lunged for Theseus, managing, just, to get a hand to the cult leader’s throat before the big guys came back. The Wino went to fight, but the drugs were still residually with him and his reflexes were off. It didn’t take long before things went black again, this time far more unpleasantly.
Time passed and became something slippery. Counting the minutes was like grabbing fistfuls of running water. His minibar rum bottle emptied, here came the Delirium tremens – nausea, trembling, fever. Unable to hold down the plates of gruel and boiled vegetables.
The tale unfolded in a fever-dream, at times narrated by Bronte, at other times narrated by Theseus himself who may or may not have actually come to visit. Theseus as African Missionary, sent to save, finding only superstition and black magic. The myth of the albino as something magical, possessed with healing powers.
The Wino saw African albinos brutally slaughtered, their flesh consumed, their bones ground to powder and ingested. A lifelong migraine sufferer, Theseus was offered the services of an albino girl. He took her and was healed. He still wore the girl’s powdered thumb bone in a vial around his neck.
A powerful speaker, a charismatic man, Theseus founded this longhair death cult, hopped up on the bones of American albinos, hunted and captured by roving teams, prepared by jaded ex-hippies burned by Vietnam, by Manson, by Altamont, their dreams soured, fighting the awfulness of the new America with a greater awfulness. All of them warped through indoctrination and cannibalism. There was no denying their health, however, this Bronte could attest to, as every second night, she was sent to “cure” some ailing cultist of his “affliction” through sex magic she had no idea she possessed.
One day, Johnny, little more than a bobbing torso by this point, did not return. The Wino knew that he and Bronte would have to make good on their escape plans.
He looked deep into Bronte’s eyes and said, “This here horrible shit can no longer stand.”
The weapons at The Wino’s disposal:
The empty minibar bottle he still kept nestled against his genitals so that he could inhale the dwindling fumes and transport himself to seedy big city bars.
The uncanny, almost alien sexuality of Bronte and, apparently, his own uniquely musky brand of rugged albinism.
It was the couple who had picked him up and drugged and captured him that showed the most interest. She had made her own curiosity and arousal known at The Wino’s first meeting with Theseus. Her boyfriend, or whatever you would like to label him, was clearly enraptured with Bronte. He had had his share of her, Bronte told The Wino, but so taken was he that he spent more time stroking her ivory skin, her alabaster hair than he did penetrating her.
The Wino couldn’t blame him. Bronte was a mesmerist, unaware of the extent of her own loveliness. Should they escape this death farm, The Wino fully intended to probe whatever magic lay beneath the colorless cloud of her ghostly pubic hair.
The couple came essentially unarmed. She with a kitchen knife, he with a pitchfork. They stood nervously in front of the cages, lit by twilight cascading in through the open barn door, a young, stoned, sensual, hippie version of the couple in Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
The Wino pleaded with them for booze – so drained was he from withdrawal that the only way he could sexually perform was with a spiritual fortification that had less to do with Jesus or Budda and more to do with Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker.
So eager were the couple for extended healing sessions that they complied, smuggling in cups of some feral moonshine that tasted of potatoes, oranges and bakery goods. Whatever it was, it did the trick – The Albino Wino was shortly restored.
The initial escape was easily done, after three nights of not at all unpleasant copulation, the four of them loosed upon the barnyard dirt. Freed from their cages by the longhair male who, it turned out, was some sort of trustee – possessed with a set of keys to everything on the farm – bewitched into rule-breaking sexual sessions through Bronte’s longing, lingering gazes. On the third night of these clandestine moonlight rendezvous the girl let their fate slip.
“Thank you,” she said, “for spiritually fulfilling me and healing my debilitating hepatitis with your seed.”
The Albino Wino fumbled for his pants while the girl played with the fine gossamer of his chest hair. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
The girl rolled off of him and turned to her side, her back to The Wino. “Tomorrow,” she said sadly, “Theseus will take your arms for the ritual…”
The Wino rubbed his face. “Tomorrow…”
Bronte, feigning sleep, visibly stiffened in the moon glow. She and The Wino exchanged a glance, a nod. The Albino Wino rolled, uncovered from a clump of hay the smashed top half of the minibar rum bottle and grabbed it by its stubby neck. Springing to his feet, he leapt upon the longhair male and raked the jagged edge of the bottle across his throat. Bronte gave a short shriek as the blood spray painted her bosom and face, streaking her hair pink.
The longhair girl fell agog at the sight. Bronte Fox, bloodlust and, yes, possibly envy, building up inside of her, called for the girl’s blood. Bronte fell atop her like a snowy blizzard. The girls, both naked still, writhed upon the ground until Bronte plucked an old horseshoe from the hay and bludgeoned the girl to death with it.
Covered in gore, but semi-clothed at least, the duo snuck out of the barn. The night was cool but clear and under the moonlight The Wino and Bronte seemed as though one with the stars, beautifully iridescent, a constellation of two – The Vengeance Seekers, perhaps, one day to rise above this mortal coil to sit beside Orion the Hunter.
The Wino clutched the longhair male’s pitchfork, Bronte the girl’s kitchen knife. The lights in the compound’s main house glowed in the distance. Theseus would be in there, fornicating and snorting the bones of their pale brothers and sisters.
They met little resistance on the way to the main house, and what resistance they did meet they dispatched like spear-hurling primitives, pitchforks rocketing javelin-like into jugulars and sternums. Their opposition, conditioned by spiritual nonsense, to believe that these beings in all their albinistic glory were something other than human, were defeated at the mere sight of them as they creeped like pale spectres through the scrub.
The most troublesome were the two large longhairs who had given The Wino his beatings. But by the time The Wino and Bronte encountered them, they had firearms. The Wino shot out their kneecaps and left them writhing on the ground, giving them something to think about. With each cult-sentry dispatched, so did their arsenal increase, inevitably to the point where so burdened were they with weapons that many they left with the dead.
Cultists, roused by the fighting, fled through any available exit. The Wino and Bronte shot as many as they could. Vengeance is a black and murky beast that clouds judgment and dampens all sense of kindred humanity at the best of times, but The Wino felt no kinship with these cannibals; the world would be better off without them. The chaos, the storm of people fleeing, helped protect them from the gunfire of those remaining. The Wino lost his right earlobe, torn free by a lucky shot. With blood trickling down his pulsing neck, The Wino unloaded with return fire, blowing the shooter’s brains out the back of his head.
By the time they discovered Theseus Jones, sleeping still in some drugged stupor, a trio of buxom beauties by his side, The Wino and Bronte were surely fixed to fight an army of trained killers, never mind this lot of beardy, tripping rabble.
The women fled screaming, but were gut-shot by a grim-faced Bronte, the red mist far from settled in her eyes.
“I can make you a God,” Theseus said upon awakening to find The Wino poking the barrel of an AK-47 in his face.
The Wino shook his head. “I don’t want control over no man, no institution, or no cause,” he said. And with that, the great Theseus Jones closed his eyes, clasped the vial around his neck and was turned into a bloody, chopped-up cadaver in a hail of righteous gunfire.
They found the still and The Wino drank deep. Having had their fill of killing, they let the remaining cultists run free. The little girl who served Theseus his bone powder caught The Wino’s eye. She mouthed the words thank you and was gone before The Wino could respond.
Bronte shared a drink with him, coughing the moment the shine hit her lips. The Wino laughed and drank some more. With breath like gasoline, the couple headed off into the night.
Some ways down the trail that led to the highway, a mewling was heard.
“What was that?” Bronte said.
The Wino shushed her with a pasty index finger to her lips. A blinding flash erupted from the scrub, leaping into The Albino Wino’s arms.
“Chalky!” The Wino exclaimed. “Drawn by the scent of the poisonous hooch on my breath, no doubt. Thanks for waiting around for me, buddy.”
Chalky, apparently none the worse for wear from waiting weeks for his master, purred and nuzzled The Wino’s snowy beard. The Wino turned to Bronte, “You ain’t got no allergy to cats, I hope? This little guy’s been with me through hell and back and I ain’t about to throw him over for some piece of sweetmeat.”
Bronte Fox answered by scratching Chalky under the chin and passionately kissing The Wino on the mouth. Tongues doing the Watusi together under the full moon, The Wino finally pulled free. He said, “I swiped us some cash from some dead longhair fool. Let’s you, me and Chalky find us a place we can get us something good to drink.”
With that, the trio headed for the highway, on to bigger adventures and deadlier foes.
Keep an eye out for the magnificent return of The Albino Wino in his next white-knuckle adventure: A PALER SHADE OF WHITE!
Cameron Ashley is the editor in chief of Crime Factory. His most recent fiction can be found in D*cked, Noir at the Bar and upcoming in The One That Got Away. He lives in Brunswick, Melbourne. This one’s for Nette.