Papa’s gone. And I’m alone. Again.
As dusk is swallowed by night, I peer through the glass of the front door at a world that carries on without me. In the dirty, etched glass that serves as my window into the world I rarely enter, the reflection I’ve grown use to stares back at me. As the years have passed, I’ve come to realize the face is mine. But I know it’s not the one I was born with.
There’s a smell in the air. It frightens me…
Outside, tall oak trees cast long shadows across the road that snakes past our home — sharp fingers scraping the pavement, desperate to crawl away from the setting sun. Their branches are engaged in an ages old battle, pummeled by the invisible fists of a foul-smelling wind. Between the rustle of leaves, I hear the roar of the metropolis that lives around me. It must now stretch for miles beyond our neighborhood – a secluded enclave reserved for the city’s elite. We were once the families of the ruling class – the wealthy, the industrialists, and ‘the ones with the most to lose,’ as Papa would often say.
Automobiles rumble by in the distance, their angry horns bleating dissatisfaction. A trio of motorcycles growl, carving their own paths down paved streets far beyond where my eyes can see. Overhead, gleaming airplanes leave white streaks in their wake as they crisscross the sky. The patterns remind me of Tic-Tac-Toe played on scraps of paper with Mama, so many years ago. The din of the sleepless city invades this home that Papa built, as he says, ‘to protect us from the evils that dwell beyond our granite walls.’
Inside, my guts churn. Something’s coming…
Papa is a good man — a proud man. But even though he doesn’t say it, I know he’s also a very sad man. There was a time when Papa feared nothing. Now, it seems, fear consumes him. Sometimes I imagine I can see the terror that hides behind his eyes — wicked shadows living just below their surface. I can’t help but feel that he wants to make sure his fears find a new home, somewhere deep inside of me.
Papa doesn’t want me to go outside alone anymore. He never explains exactly why, saying only that so many horrors ride on the back of every wind, and that they’re particularly dangerous for a ‘little boy like me’ — a phrase he’s very fond of using.
While I often ponder what Papa sees on the wind, something tells me I already know, without him having to speak the words.
When the wind blows, I believe I can sometimes sense Papa’s fears. I smell their rotten odors as they arrive on the slightest of breezes. And their stench grows stronger as frenzied gusts howl through the trees. I like to believe that what I smell is simply the decay of the city; but deep inside I know it’s actually something far, far worse.
The thought turns my skin to gooseflesh.
While known for his honesty, I don’t know if Papa’s been entirely truthful with me. If nothing else, I fear he’s keeping things from me, sharing only what he wants in order to protect me from what he’s sure exists outside – ‘evils too dangerous for a little boy like me.’
I can’t count the number of times Papa’s told me how much he can’t bear to see me hurt. I know he’s talking about something much different than scraped knees or broken wrists. And I can’t help but think it’s my ruined face that has him so concerned.
Rather than risk his pain, I now try to do as Papa asks. I stay inside as much as possible.
Here, locked behind the door, I stare through the window and wait, watching day bleed into night and then back again. It’s an endless procession of time that marches past in a world that has forgotten I ever existed.
The wind blows harder. And the stench grows stronger. Oh, Papa, where are you…?
Today had been the same as most. Papa was dressed in a meticulously appointed suit — the creases of his pant legs pressed so sharp they looked as though they could slice a finger. Like clockwork, he placed atop his head a matching black top hat. When he dressed this way it reminded me of the days when he used to work at the bank. That was when Mama was still around.
“Son, I’m off to pay a visit to the Goldbergs. You remember Samuel and Rita Goldberg, no?” Papa asked. I nodded, even though I didn’t.
“I’ll be lunching with the Rubensteins, and then need to check in on the Schultz sisters before returning. You know, they don’t have many callers these days, the poor, lonely dears.” I thought his last statement rather ironic.
This was almost verbatim what he said every day. Only the names changed from one to the next.
“And Robert, remember…stay inside. Don’t open the door for anyone but me,” he said, pausing. “You know how much I care for you, son. You’re all I have, and I don’t know what I’d do if anything happens to you…”
He stopped before uttering the final word, but I knew, even though unsaid, he meant to end his sentence with ‘again.’
Papa rubbed my head, mussing my hair.
“I’ll give Mrs. Rubenstein your best wishes,” he said, with a flash of a smile and a wink of his right eye behind which I was sure I could see the darkness that terrorized him. Then Papa was out the door.
He’s afraid. And so am I…
Hours had passed since Papa had left, and he was still not home yet. This was unusual, even for a man as busy as he.
Staring out into the dimming light, something felt strangely different about today.
That’s when I noticed the car approaching on the road. Anxiety chewed at my insides.
Oh Papa, Papa…you need to come home soon.
It was almost unheard of to have visitors these days. We never saw the friends or family who once streamed into our home for dinners, holidays, or simple chats. I suppose time takes its toll on everything, including the memories of those you once loved.
While not exactly out of the ordinary to see cars pass by on our private lane; it was a rare occasion when they actually stopped. Usually, they’d be filled with loud, drunken teenagers who’d roam across our lawn, not hesitating to relieve themselves behind hedges or at the base of our trees. This would continue until Papa grew weary of the cacophony and put an end to such escapades. He’d step through the doorway — voice booming — and send them scattering back to their cars where they were quickly on their way.
Taking special effort not to be seen, I hunkered down and peered through the bottom of the window in the front door. Through the security bars bolted to the outside, I watched the car creep into full view. It was one of the late-model sport coupes that interested me so; but it was badly in need of a wash. Beneath the grime I could tell it was probably a brilliant red.
I gagged on the decay…
I breathed a small sigh as the car continued past, sure it would be on its way. Then came the tell-tale flash of red that erupted from its back end as the driver brought it to a halt. My heart slipped into my throat. I slid to floor.
The car was still, its engine rumbling in the early evening. A fine mist of exhaust belched from the tailpipe.
Then it backed up to our concrete walkway.
It’s coming here…
The shadows of the oak trees threw the car’s internal compartment into darkness. Somehow I knew this vehicle carried no mischievous teenagers, but instead something far worse.
The air around me was heavy with the smell of rot. It squeezed my body in its tight grip, choking me and calling to attention the hairs on the nape of my neck. The last time I had this feeling was so many years ago it was barely memorable. But the reflection of the gruesome face staring at me in the glass broke the dam that held my memories in check.
Oh Papa, Papa…WHERE ARE YOU?!
The windows of the car were tinted. It almost impossible to see inside. I noticed movement behind the darkened glass. It was nothing more than a shadow turning to look at me. Inside the darkness, a set of green eyes stared out at door behind which I cowered.
Cold fingers scraped my spine as its gaze located me through the thin layer of glass. My reflexes slammed me backward, away from the window. I squeezed my body into the wall, willing myself flat, hoping to disappear and remain unseen.
In the few minutes that my heart threatened to jump through my chest, an eternity seemed to pass. Then, from outside, came the distinct sound of fallen leaves crushed by heavy footfalls as something crossed the lawn.
Then came the sound of leather soles on concrete.
Click… Clack… Click-clack…
No matter how much I willed it, I couldn’t summon the courage to peel myself from the wall and race to safety far from the door.
The shoes grew louder as they neared the door. Tears streamed from my eyes.
Then the crash came, reverberating the door and echoing through the house.
My body frozen, I watched the knob on the inside of the door turn slowly — first to the right, and then back again to the left, creaking with each movement.
Drums beat loudly inside my ears, and my thoughts were a chorus of screams.
Again, the doorknob moved — this time a complete turn.
And the door opened. A foot stepped inside. Followed by a leg.
The crease in the pant was as sharp as a knife.
I ran to Papa, grabbing him tightly around the waist — an act I’d normally think better suited for a child than for the full-grown 14-year-old boy I was.
Rivers of tears flooded from my eyes. They flowed over the rugged landscape of my scarred face, salting my gums and dripping onto my tongue through the hole where my right cheek had once been.
Cautiously, I peered around Papa. The car was gone.
It was my imagination after all… Papa’s fears HAD found a new home.
But in the distance, the flash of brake lights caught my eye in the night.
A new breeze blew across the threshold of the open doorway. I could taste the hint of rot as it dissipated into the cool, evening air.
It was then that I realized that Papa had been right. There are evil things in the world that are much too dangerous, especially for a little boy like me. And I knew it would be back.
(To be continued…)
© Copyright 2012 DaemonwulfTM. All Rights Reserved.
42 thoughts on “A Fouling Wind”
As I was getting ready to type this reply, I found myself stretching, moving, and breathing deeply. The nearly claustrophobic feeling of apprehension created by this story was intense.
It was easy to picture Robert, cowering, burried in dread and unease as his sensory system fouled itself on the rot and evil things that vex “a little boy like me.”
Thank you kindly, Zack. I, like you, enjoy my antagonists to be full of dread, and to instill that dread in everyone they come into contact with, including the reader. *devious grin* I appreciate your kind words very much, and thank you even more for taking the time to read the words that spew from my fingers here on Pen of the Damned. *sincere smile*
Well, my dear Daemonwulf, you are now three-for-three. I am blown away once again, as you are truly a master of the craft. The way you write is magical, almost hypnotic. You describe the setting so beautifully that I felt myself immediately transported there. Then you inject the feelings of isolation and vulnerability as the dread just keeps escalating. How fear is a contagion, and that it can overwhelm. The characters are drawn so well that I care about them and want to know more of their story. The climax is a bit of a naughty tease, but it effectively sets the reader up for the continuation. Doom is coming with the wind, and knowing you, it will be horrifying. This piece is more subtle than your previous works, the object of fear less tangible, but still very effective. I feel so privileged to be able to experience your work, and it is my sincere wish that more and more people will discover your talent. Another job well done and I look forward to Part 2 with bated breath.
Whoa. Sharon, you have left me speechless with your wonderful compliments. And ‘speechless’ is not a word that can generally be found in my dictionary. Until now, that is. I am honored that you think so highly of my work. Your words are truly humbling. And, it is I who am privileged to be given the opportunity by Pen of the Damned to be able to provide an avenue for supporters such as you to experience the dread I have trapped in this brain of mine. I only hope that Part 2 will meet with your already heightened expectations. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, once again. And, most importantly appreciate your continued support. *sincere smile*
What?! Noes *pouts* You simply cannot stop there!
I am really at a loss here, dear dark Daemon of the deep. This story was spell-binding. I found myself reading along with baited breath, tension creeping into each one of my muscles until they bunched and quivered with the anticipation of your fine prose and the feelings of dread it evoked. I absolutely love the atmosphere of this piece, how the surroundings themselves are an ominous, living breathing entity.
I do so wonder what this foul wind will bring, what terrors await young Robert, and what horrors lurk in his past. I get the feeling all might not be what it seems.
Thank you for yet another stunning sample of your work. You’ve left me breathless. Your writing is such an honor and a pleasure to read. 🙂
Adriana, Oh Noir of the Pinot Bush (*red smile*), thank you SO much for those kind, evocative words. I do try very hard to create an atmosphere that envelopes the reader and swallows them whole, and it is only through comments such as yours that I realize I have met the challenges I’ve set for myself. You are so right, with your supposition, that all is not well with little Robert or his elusive ‘visitor.’ *more-to-come-on-that-one smile* And, I apologize for keeping you on the edge of your anticipatory seat to find out more. But, taking a tip from our Damned Hunter Shea, I thought I would try my hand at a serial, considering the machinations of the story expanded greatly as it fell from the dark recesses of my head. I hope that the next part answers some of your lingering questions. *devious grin*
Daemonwulf, fantastic stuff! What a treat to read. Your mastery of atmosphere and tension is inspiring. I was genuinely racing through the writing, desperate to find out what was happening. Particularly impressive was the attention you gave to setting, which so many horror writers skirt in their hurry to scare. I would guess this is why the tension is so strong – you build it up sentence by sentence in a living, breathing (rotting?) environment. Can’t wait to read more!
Thank you Thomas. Coming from you, Oh Damned One, that is high praise. And praise that I greatly respect! *sincere smile* I do enjoy playing with atmosphere and tension, almost turning both into characters in my own stories. Like you, perhaps, I feel these elements can be actually more frightening in the horror genre than the scares themselves. For this piece, I actually toned down some of the gut-wrenching I commonly play with, hoping to focus primarily on creating a sense of dread. Thank you for your appreciation of that aspect of my writing. And, as I have stated in response to other comments posted here, I only hope the next installment will live up to whatever expectations you might have. Sorry to cut it short and leave you waiting. But that can sometimes be the way for us wily, elusive creatures. *four-legged grin*
That was an interesting piece. At first i thought the person was female, don’t really know why. You did a fabulous job of building a sense of isolation, even in the middle of a bustling city.
Your time setting was fantastic. Initially I thought we were set at the beginning of the last century. You then brought it forward with the city and the aeroplanes. Even so, when you were describing the car, and even Papa’s trousers, my mind was firmly set somewhere around the late forties, early fifties.
The sweet little touches, like playing tic tac toe with Mamma were sweet and added flavour and set the framework more firmly.
The sense of something bad having happened to Robert is strong and clear. There is also a sense that maybe whatever it was has affected him mentally and emotionally, too. Or perhaps happened because of an affliction of that kind.
The atmosphere builds to the point that the reader is holding his or her breath when the handle rattles and lets it out in a whoosh when Robert recognises his father.
On the whole a delicious little tidbit to send chills down your spine. A little different to your usual but absolutely delicious.
Why thank you Nephy. Yes, it was a bit different that my previous. But then, it’s only the first part… *devious smile* And, you know how much I like internal organs… *remembering smile* But, in all seriousness, thanks for your kind and detailed observations on this story. I COMPLETELY appreciate you taking the time to read the piece and, even more importantly, comment on it as I very much respect your opinions. Again, thanks much, Oh Pointy One. *toothy grin*
Wulf, as always I am in awe of your skill at delicately crafting scenes, stories and emotions heavy in nature. The fear and implied torment were palpable from beginning to end. As Zkullis the wise stated above, one needs to ‘wake up’ and remember to breath freely after reading your tale. Excellent work! Thanks for sharing your art with us!
Special K, I thank you very much. I do try to lace my prose with dread, perhaps sometimes too much so… But I like them to drip with malice, yet not reveal everything all at once (or, if ever… *devious grin*). And, the fact that your comments state you are experiencing such, makes me realize that I am at least close to hitting the nail on the head. Again, thank you so much sir, and I look forward to next week to see what dastardly plans you have in store for us Damnable Ones…
What dark and lovely imagery you laid out. I loved how the pace quickened near the end to parallel the faster beating of the frightened heart. Well done, my friend, well done!
Thank you, oh Zombie King! I very much appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this piece. I like to play with tension and pacing. And it’s only through comments from readers like you, that I know for sure my efforts were at least mildly successful. I hope I can maintain the pacing as the remaining prose makes its way into the tangles of the Interwebs, soon.
Fabulous, as always!!
Thank you very much Helen. *appreciative smile*
Well, I have to say I was truly disappointed in this piece… BAAAHHHH!!!! Not a chance in hell!
As always Daemonwulf, I am in love with your written word and adore your twisted mind. Much like our beloved Goddess of the Dark, The Dark Angel finds herself struck with a petulant impatience to experience the rest of your tale unfold! Beautifully written, deliciously enthralling, and just the right amount of anticipated devastation to keep me wanting more. Another captivating peek through the dusty, cracked pane of your window ;}
Okay, so honestly – how much begging do I really have to go through to read the rest now???
Have I ever told you how much I appreciate you? If not, consider it done. Thank you Nina for your kind words on this piece that has kept me up at night (primarily, the parts to come…). I am very touched (no, not in THAT way….well, maybe a little… *grin*) by the level of support you continually provide. And, the next part will be coming soon enough, as soon as I polish the blood stains until they are a shiny, brilliant red. *grin* Sorry to keep you in suspense.
Wow! This is sooo great, Daemonwulf! The ending is majestic, and the fact that more must be written to satisfy your loyal fans, even though we must wait and endure the time lapse, means we will have another tale to look forward to reading. Of course, Damned Sir, if you leave us hanging with this delicious appetizer and don’t feed us the main course later, your folly will call for retribution. Some stories hint at more to come. This one screams for it!
LOL. Hey Blaze. Thanks much for that! I think that is first time anyone has ever used the term ‘majestic’ in relation to my work. *indebted bow* And yes, I know, now the pressure is on to live up to the promise. That probably scares me more than anything I can pull from my warped and twisted mind. Sincerely, I very much appreciate your support and highly respect the opinions of someone with such an extensive body of work behind them (and, by that, I am referring to thee.) *TRULY-appreciative-(yet-still-toothy) smile*
And, thanks MUCH for the reblog!
Reblogged this on blazemcrob.
Oh dear Wicked Wulf, I found myself wondering “what could it be that the Damned Daemonwulf has in store for us…” – and yet again, you have not disappointed.
Horror writing is many things to many people. For me, it’s not simply the story, but how it’s crafted. Emotion. Visual. Pacing. The subtle yet complex use of structure. How does it read not only in your head, but across your tongue, within your heart & upon the eyes… You have nailed all those qualities in ‘A Fouling Wind.’
You’ve set up quite the cliffhanger for young Robert. Somehow, while I trust that ‘Poppa won’t preach,’ I believe we’ll all be losing sleep in the next installment to this outstanding tale.
Joe, your words could not be more accurate. When it comes to the flavors of the Horror Genre, I think it is ‘Different Strokes for Different Folks.’ (And, you have assembled a team that I believe fits that bill and delivers to every audience. Congrats to you on that.) I, myself, like to play with pacing, tension, anxiety (and sometimes gore) while trying to create a palette in my prose that oozes dread. And when I read a comment such as yours, I know I am at least on the right track, at least for what I believe is right for me. Thank you immensely for your kind words. I only hope I can continue to entertain our readers as the weeks go on. Sincerely, Daemonwulf, proud to be Damned along with you and your wicked, blood-drenched team.
Joe. I agree with all of that, and all of the comments made above. As far as the sleep we’ll lose via the next installment, I think I’ll get enough sleep in the cold embrace of the crypt.
Bring on more Fouling Wind….
Another powerful piece. I felt the fear and yet also a deep sense of sadness and the longing of a boy who wishes to belong and wants to fight his way out of the nightmare through his own curiosity. Now that the fear has developed in him, will he find his way to the surface? Writer only knows the answers. Love it daemonwolf, your writing is powerful and evokes strong emotions!
Aries, I am so glad you picked up on so many of the things that I intended to include in this piece. It’s a bit of a different story (so far) for me, but wanted to explore the sadness that my character feels. I’m very happy that I was able to convey that to you through my words. And, as always, my dear, I thank you for taking the time to read my work and, even more so, for taking the extra effort to share with me your insightful thoughts that are SO integral to this whole process. *my-appreciation-to-you smile*
First off I must thank you for a wonderful and compelling story that had me glued to my screen. I enjoyed your use of metaphors and powerful decriptions of the world you created for us readers. I will be anxiously awaiting the next excerpt of your story.
Thank you very much for those kinds words AF. There are greatly appreciated. I sincerely hope the next part meets your expectations. *sharp smile*
Daemonwulf – you evoke feeling and fear from your reader
I could smell death and wanted to pull the boy off the wall
As with the other comments to this piece, I can’t say how much I appreciate your kind words Moondust. Such complimentary words from readers such as you makes me realize that I am not writing into a vacuum and that the pieces that I pull from the dark recesses of my mind are actually enjoyed by readers as much as I enjoyed writing them. To be honest, this piece (and the parts to follow) had me a bit on the edge of insanity, but comments such as yours have truly made going there worthwhile. *smile* Thank you very much.
I want to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I have got you book-marked to look at new stuff you post…
Thank you very much Miles! I look forward to you coming back for more and letting me/us know what you think of my pieces. *appreciative smile*
Nice suspense. Chilling.
Thank you, M.P. *appreciative smile*
Wowie, wowie, wow! I love how this just sucked me right in. I had to keep my self from tying to skip ahead to see what happened next. Atmospheric, dark and creepy!
Why thank you Mr. Shea. I appreciate you taking the time to share with me your thoughts AND ‘experiences’ with this piece. I feel that pacing is one of the most important aspects of writing, and I work very hard trying to get it just right. *dismembered-Goldilocks grin* And I think you for letting me know that my attempts are at least working. Truly appreciate it.
Very well crafted piece. I am anxious to read the follow-up. The handing down of a father’s fear—man-to-boy from generation to generation; an heirloom for the ages—is a very real phenomenon you capture well and bring to another level. You handed it down to me, your reader, also. Thank you.
Thanks again, Copious. I hope the follow-up piece will continue to explain the fear. I too am looking forward to completing this particular piece as I am interested to see what your reaction will be once it is finished. Thanks again for reading and, even more importantly, commenting. I greatly appreciate it.