Deleted Scene 1: The Making of a Minion

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Although his head was on the floor, Ned felt grateful for the cool surface where his face rested. He opened his eyes. Two shot glasses sat on the floor in front of his nose. Further down, he identified a couple of cardboard coasters. His forehead creased and he squinted.

One shot glass. One coaster.

As cognizance seeped into the rest of his body, he realized he was sitting. On a stool. If that was so, he reasoned, then his head could not be on the floor. Probing his alcohol addled brain; Ned eventually concluded that the side of his face was pressed on the bar.

“Closing time.”

Gingerly, he lifted his head. A string of saliva extended from the corner of his mouth to a puddle of drool on the bar surface. He lifted his arm and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt. Damn, he’d missed last call.
“Time to go, buddy.” The bartender cleared the shot glass and coaster as he wiped down the bar. “Need me to call you a taxi?”

“Nah, slept it off.” The words slurred slightly around his thick tongue. He waited until the bartender’s back was turned to slip off the stool with both hands braced on the edge of the bar for stability. When he felt somewhat steady on his feet, he turned to the door, gave a little push off the bar, and shuffled forward. No way in heck was he spending money on a cab.

The chairs were arranged upside-down on the table tops giving him a clear shot and he actually made it across the room without stumbling into something. He leaned against the door frame, then pulled the door open and lurched out into the darkness. Ned fumbled around in his pockets and groaned when he came up empty handed. Some a-hole in the bar must’ve pick-pocketed his keys and taken his car.

The thought was immediately contested when his blurry vision fell on his car still in the lot.

With a snort of derision, he contemplated that the pick-pocket was not only an a-hole, but also an idiot. He pulled the door handle on the driver’s side and when it swung open he climbed inside. Though he couldn’t go anywhere, at least he had a place to rest his head and close his eyes. College kids probably lost their keys all the time, he mused. Not that he’d know. But if he’d done his drinking in college—if he had gone to college—he’d probably have friends to call when he couldn’t find his car keys.

Suddenly he jerked forward and slammed his fist on the dash. “It ain’t fair,” he mumbled, slumping until his forehead rested on the steering wheel. His vision focused and he stared at keys hanging from the ignition. Comprehension took a moment, then he barked out a bitter laugh. “Backwoods folk don’t even know to steal something when it’s right in front of them!”

The starter churned for a few seconds before the engine roared to life. With a grim smile, Ned jammed his foot down on the gas pedal leaving a cloud of dust behind him as he rolled onto blacktop. He needed to get back on US 2 toward Duluth. Though he didn’t have another lead yet, someone was sure to have noticed his bitch of a wife or at least her shiny red Mustang.

US 2 was a straight shot north. In his muddled state, he inadvertently headed south. He missed the sign for Highway 200 as well as the brown and white sign for Itasca State Park. Flying through the stop sign at the intersection of Highway 200, Ned slammed on the brakes and skidded sideways. His left fender halted inches from the large entrance sign for the state park. Frowning, he studied the park sign and then looked both ways on Highway 200. With a shrug, he floored the gas pedal and sped off east, tires spitting gravel.

Next thing he knew, he was crumpled on cold, damp ground. Moaning, he rolled to his back and stared at trees silhouetted against the night sky. Where the heck was he and how did he get here? All that came to mind was the sign: Itasca State Park. He raised his head and cried out when throbbing pain skewered his eyeballs. The smell of decaying leaves assaulted his nose and his stomach churned. He rolled onto his hands and knees and puked his guts up then crawled a short distance away and collapsed. When he felt he could bear to move again, he slowly lifted his torso until he rested on his forearms so he could look around.

Son of a B! His car was smashed into a tree. How would he follow Honey now? It wasn’t fair. She’d stolen everything from him—his youth, education, chance for success—and to top it off, ripped his heart out. He wanted to make her pay; make her life suck for a change.

Bolstered by anger, Ned crawled to the nearest tree and dragged himself to his feet. He’d never have his revenge if he got arrested for drunk driving. Lurching from tree to tree, he made his way into the forest. As he trudged, the woods compacted, becoming difficult to navigate. Then he noticed large mounds covered only with low brush. Making his way to what Ned assumed was an easier path; he soon decided fighting through the trees would be easier than struggling uphill. At the top of a mound he sank to his knees, heaving in the loam scented air. “I’ll get my revenge,” he mumbled, hands balled into fists, “even if it kills me.”

Suddenly a new sensation filled his mind, muting the throbbing pain. He thought it was a sense of purpose, and welcomed the relief; embraced the numbness. Alarm started to bud as the odd feeling weaved its way through around his thoughts, but it was too late for caution. He sensed a presence. Something—someone—was inside of him.

“You seek vengeance.”

“Who are you?” He spoke out loud, attempting to sound intimidating, but his voice gurgled over his inflamed throat and instead he just sounded weak.

“I am ancient history—legend, myth, nightmare. And like you, I have a score to settle. I have need of mortal assistance. Perhaps we can help each other.”

Ned’s eyebrows lifted. “How can you help me?”

“I see much. I know whom you seek and where she can be found.”

Ned’s clouded mind fought to reconcile the ramification of the words. If the claim was valid, he wanted in. But at what price? “What do you need me to do?”

“Earth-bound labor.”

Labor? Ned snorted. He worked on the docks. Physical work was his life. “How do I know you can do what you say?”

Suddenly, the forest around him grew lighter, as if dawn had been forced into the sky.

“What is that?”

“I’ve enhanced your vision so you can see at night.”

Ned’s eyes grew large and he swiveled his head slowly from one side to the other, scanning the details of the surrounding woods. He was impressed.

“That’s not the extent of my gift. You’ve become part of the darkness; this is why its secrets are no longer hidden from you. This also means you can blend with the darkness; move undetected.”

Ned’s mouth twisted into an ugly smile. Move undetected, now that was a true advantage. “So, if I do what you ask, you’ll tell me where Honey is?”

“I will.”

Ned took only a moment before he answered. This being obviously had power. His car was wrecked; this was his only chance to find Honey now. Besides, he had nothing to lose. “How do I contact you?”

“Contact is made here—on the mounds. This is a sacred place.”

A sacred forest? Where had he crashed his car? Whatever. It didn’t really concern him. “Do you have a name?”

A pause stretched out and Ned shifted his weight from foot to foot. Finally the answer came: “You can call me Manitou.”

“I’m Ned.”

“You are Gushkewau’: Darkness.”

Ned lifted an eyebrow, but decided he didn’t give a rat’s ass what he was called as long as he got his revenge on Honey. The voice in his head issued instructions and he struck off down the hill and through the trees. Soon, the occasional rises in the terrain afforded a view of a lake in the distance. As he drew closer to the water, the land leveled out and, with his attention on the horizon, he stumbled and fell on his hands and knees in the damp leaves. He swore and sat back on his feet, brushing his hands together to rid them of debris.

With his enhanced vision, he instantly noticed the area was sparsely populated with small trees and brush though still surrounded by the forest of huge, ancient trees. He didn’t need a college degree to deduce that the land had once been cleared. His gaze travelled the clearing’s periphery and paused on a strange shape in the foliage on his right. He rose to examine the anomaly. The somewhat triangular structure stood a few feet taller than his six foot frame. Closer inspection revealed stone beneath the growth of vines and moss. Ned used the toe of his boot to poke along the bottom edge and when he felt the brush give way across the structure’s center section, he was sure he’d found an old fireplace and chimney.

Turning, he scanned the rotting logs—too uniform to be downed trees—and was sure he’d found the remains of a cabin. Could it be the place Manitou spoke of? The voice said the structure would be old. A quick survey of the surrounding area didn’t produce any site as promising as the first. But there was one important detail he had yet to locate.

Ned shuffled around in what he could make out as the center of the scattered logs, then methodically worked his way across the small area, occasionally thumping the ground with a foot. About seven feet from the chimney, a hollow sound replaced the previous dull thuds.

With a self-satisfied smile forming at the corners of his mouth, he stomped in each direction until he had a rough estimation of the size of the hollowness below and then used his heel to trace an outline through the leaves and dirt. A quick foray into the forest produced a sturdy branch which Ned used to dig up the earth inside the borders of his outline.

A couple inches below the dirt, he found the flat surface he sought and began scraping the branch across it to reveal the boundaries of the opening to the earth below. Nearly half-way around, the branch caught-up in mid scrape. He doubled his efforts around the obstacle and was rewarded with the discovery of an iron ring, still connected to the trap door below.

His lips drew back into a smirk.

Now his work concentrated on unearthing the edges of the door. As dawn crept over the horizon, Ned finally grasped the ring and jerked upward, breaking the door free of any remaining debris. “Ugh!” he exclaimed, scrunching up his face and turning to the side as stale air assaulted his nostrils. Holding his breath, he hauled the door completely open and stepped back, letting the space below breathe in the fresh air.

While contemplating the ancient cellar, Ned put his hand to his head then stopped short of brushing his fingers through his close-cropped hair. His scalp was sticky with blood. A quick glance through the trees reminded him how close he was to the lake. He was exhausted, but cleaning up would give the musty hole a chance to breathe.

Pants legs rolled, he splashed water on his face and head. At first, his many cuts stung in protest, but soon the coldness of the water did away with the pain. Bending further, Ned dunked the top of his head into the water and lightly rubbed his scalp. When he straightened, he quickly shook his head, sending water droplets flying.

The sun slanted through the trees and Ned took a seat on a rock to give his feet a chance to dry. As the iciness of the water faded, weariness took its place. He donned his socks and shoes and returned to the cellar.

He noticed immediately that the space lacked steps or a ladder. He shrugged; it wasn’t a problem as long as he could get the door open. Another search in the woods provided him with a long sapling. He stripped the small branches from it and tossed it inside the cellar. By sitting on the edge of the opening, he was able to haul the door up next to him. Then he quickly dropped inside, letting the door slam overhead.