The Elongated Man: The Ghost of Piney Woods, Chapter 1: Freaks

by Libbylawrence

Return to chapter list

Stan Lewis was not a troublemaker. It gave him no pleasure to be called such or worse. He was a family man who merely wanted to make certain his family could have an amount of security in case something happened to him. He knew most people in his line of work — coal mining — could appeal any injustices or safety hazards to a union. However, in the small West Virginia town of Bleak Rock, all the unions were in the pay of the local boss. Boss Jones was an eccentric obese man who felt as if he owned the land, the mines, and all the people who lived and worked in Bleak Rock. Jones could declare their pay had altered or their hours had been increased at a whim. It took a brave man to defy the small-town tyrant. Stan did not think of himself as brave, but he did care enough for his family and friends to hold a meeting of miners. He hoped together they could find strength in numbers enough to sway the ruthless Jones to make things better.

Thus, one night he held a secret meeting. The voices there were hushed, and their anticipation was muted. Who could really defy Boss Jones? It wasn’t likely to work.

Stan spoke hurriedly. “We got to be a team. He can’t force us to accept things if all of us stand up to his mob!”

A huge shadow filled the door as a massive figure smashed his way inside a doorway too narrow to allow him access. The man’s face was grim and his eyes expressive of pain. Still, he charged toward the front of the assembly and sent the miners in his path tumbling like ten pens. He lifted one skyward and tossed him into Stan.

A smirking Boss Jones then entered. “This little social is over. I don’t imagine you people kin work too well without a good night’s sleep. Head home, or you might not feel too good!”

They filed out hurriedly as the hulking figure glanced to Jones. Boss Jones nodded in approval as the huge man slapped Stan across the entire room before he lumbered off.

It looked like the men had been correct in thinking no one could defy Boss Jones. In truth, it would take a hero.

***

Daphne rolled her eyes as she broke one high heel scrambling up the mountain. She had runs in her hosiery, and she was hungry. Her friend Norville ignored her reaction as he pulled her along by the hand.

“I tell you, Daph, the ghost of Piney Woods is somewhere up here,” said the shaggy youth. “We can get his photo and sell it to the National Speculator. I mean, why not look, since the van broke down anyhow?”

“There is no ghost of Piney Woods,” said the pretty girl. “Too much moonshine made these locals imagine him.” The teens argued briefly, then headed toward an old cabin.

“OK, OK, we’ll call your dad and have him send somebody to fix the van, then we’ll get out of here!” said Norville.

Daphne nodded. She always got her way in the end. They knocked at the cabin but heard nothing. “Open it,” she demanded.

“Should we really just go in?” he asked nervously.

She pushed on the door, which swung open to reveal a clean but small living area and no occupant. “The place doesn’t even have a phone!” she whined.

“I don’t require one,” said a voice behind them. “It is my home, you know! What do you want?”

They whirled in fright to see a man with long hair and a beard. He glowered at them, but he still seemed less than threatening.

“We just wanted a phone,” explained Daphne. “Our van broke down. It’s in a ditch.”

The brown-haired man nodded. He stalked past them and led them through the woods to the colorful blue/green van, which was mired in the mud.

“Nobody can move that without a tow-truck,” said Norville.

The man from the cabin ignored the boy and easily lifted the van out of the ditch.

“Jeepers! No human could do that!” said Daphne.

“I’m not human,” the man muttered as he rushed off.

***

A lovely woman with short, stylish dark hair frowned as she waited outside the Bleak Rock General Store. She was used to the boutiques of New York, Paris, and London, and she had no illusions that this poor mining town in West Virginia could compete with her past experiences as a socialite. Still, she did hope her husband would complete his business in the store as quickly as possible so that they could go anywhere else. Her name was Sue Dibny, and she gently cooed to her baby daughter as she waited on her husband.

“Debbie, your father is sweet, caring, and a delightful man, but he can’t resist showing off for any audience,” she sighed. “It doesn’t matter if the crowd consists of a hundred or three people! He wants to live up to his press as the famous Elongated Man.”

“That’s world-famous Elongated Man, hon!” he said as he stretched one arm around her hips and gently caressed the baby’s chin.

Honestly, Ralph, you’d think I was teaching Debbie some terrible heresy!” sighed Sue as she kissed him.

Ralph grinned. “I merely want our daughter to think well of her old man!”

“I’m sure she will, although at times I think her old man thinks well enough of himself for everyone,” retorted Sue.

Ralph’s rubbery features feigned injury. “I believe someone gets cranky when she enters a small town!”

“Debbie’s an angel!” said Sue.

“I didn’t mean Debbie. I meant her mother!” said Ralph.

Sue elbowed him and said, “Well, love of my life, you are pushing things by chasing an urban — I mean rural legend.”

Ralph opened their camper door. “Witnesses have seen the ghost of Piney Woods. But I’m sorry I dragged you two girls along.”

“Seriously, I’m happy to be here,” said Sue. “Having a baby is not going to turn me into a June Cleaver stay-at-home mom type!”

He laughed and said, “And you look sooo adorable in high heels and pearls.”

“That I do!” said Sue. “Did the locals have any leads on where we could find this ghost?

Ralph shook his head. “Nope. Just somewhere within Piney Woods. I heard about the sightings when we visited your blue blood pals the Byrds and couldn’t stop my eager nose from twitching at the sound of such a cool mystery.”

Sue said, “So let’s head for the woods.”

Debbie gurgled and looked happy as her parents headed for another adventure.

***

Later, as Ralph continued his journey into the woods, Sue and Debbie remained at the camper. Sue read to her baby in her own unique manner. “The fall line of the Mad Mod is highly anticipated by all discerning shoppers. He–” she began, stopping when she heard sobbing outside.

She put the baby down in her crib and hurried outside, where she saw a pale, tired-looking woman weeping gently. “What’s wrong? Tell me, and maybe I can be of help. Talking always makes me feel better, and I’m a very good listener,” she said as she firmly led the woman inside in spite of her protests.

“I’m Martha Macon,” said the weary woman. “It’s nothin’ you can help. My young’un — my girl’s away, and I worry ’bout her somethin’ fierce.”

“How terrible!” said Sue. “I’d die if Debbie was gone. How did you come to be apart from her? Divorce?”

Martha shook her head. “No, nothin’ like that. My man and I love each other and are happy together. Or we was ’til Boss Jones came in and took over. He runs things here and pays off the union and the sheriff. He took our girl.”

“Kidnapping!” Sue realized. “That’s something I can stop or at least my Ralph can end it. He’s the Elongated Man. ”

Martha said, “Boss Jones took my girl, so our boarder will do what he tells him to do and enforce his rules.”

“How can one man enforce law to a whole community?” asked Sue.

Suddenly, the camper shook violently and threatened to turn over. Sue held Debbie as a hulking figure forced his way inside. He wore rags, and his hair was matted. His expression was one of sorrow and anger. He pulled the women out and said nothing.

“If this is your boarder, then I begin to see how he does his job!” gasped Sue.

The portly Boss Jones leered at Sue and said, “Well, well, well! What a pretty thing we have here! Darlin’, you gonna make me very happy man!”

“In your dreams, hayseed!” said Sue. “My husband will shut down your little dictatorship. He’s the Elongated Man of the JLA!”

Jones smirked, “I reckon my friend, here, will handle a rubber-man and a baby, so I sure can handle you!”

The huge man frowned in anger as he loomed above the oily Jones, but he knew he had no choice but to obey as long as Jones had the little Macon girl as a prisoner.

Martha whined, “I sure didn’t mean to drag you into this mess!”

“That’s OK,” said Sue. “We generally find our own messes.”

Return to chapter list