(continuation of ‘Mercy’ chapter 3 http://huntershea.com/2012/10/31/a-gothic-tale-for-halloween-mercy/)
The striking of our grandfather clock woke me from a deep, bottomless sleep. The sky outside the lone window was still a dark gray, lightened ever-so-slightly by the threat of the dawn. I stretched my arms above my head and rolled my eyes, attempting to shake off my slumber.
My heart thudded in my chest.
I was alone, and on the opposite side of the parlor from my sister.
All of the candles were out.
How did I get here? The pile of books we had been reading lay a good seven feet from where I sat.
Jessamine was in the far corner, asleep and on her back.
I felt a tug at my ankle and stifled a yelp. I instinctively recoiled. In the dark, I couldn’t see what had gained purchase of the bottom half of my nightgown.
There followed the sounds of hurried clacking, as if a pair of rocks had skipped across the wood floor.
Despite my inability to see it, I knew it had to be in the room with us. It must have waited until Jessamine fell asleep, then separated us so it could do its dirty deed.
“Jessamine,” I hissed, wanting to wake her, yet terrified of alerting the ghoul, lest I become its latest morsel.
There was no answer.
Willing my legs to stand, I inched my way upwards, using the bookcase shelves to hoist myself up inch by inch.
I heard a tearing sound, followed by something far worse.
The smacking sounds of mastication, broken by eager, glutinous breaths, filled the parlor.
“Jesssamine!” I shouted.
Still no reply.
I needed light. It was impossible to face the ghoul in the dark. My spirit wavered between bravery and death by panic. I fumbled around the desk until I found the matches.
I struck one against the desk. It sputtered for a moment, then fizzled out.
The sounds in the corner stopped.
I could feel the ghoul’s penetrating gaze cut through the dark.
I grabbed another match, and with unsure hands, tried again.
The match stick broke in half, falling to the floor.
Clack, clack, clack, clack.
Those odd footsteps again.
Now a gurgling sound, a bubbling death rattle of a cry.
“Please, dear God, help,” I whimpered as I reached to pick out another match.
My cry was answered, as my thumbnail flicked across the match head, a brilliant flame roared to life.
And in that same instant, I wished I’d never brought light into the parlor.
My doll, my porcelain companion, stood on two small legs, leering at me. Its face had turned a mottled green, and bloody teeth sprouted from a mouth that was never designed to open. Weeping warts covered it from head to toe.
Worst of all, a strip of flesh, Jessamine’s flesh, hung loosely from its mouth.
I yelled in horror upon seeing my sister’s exposed throat. She lay, still as death, as her blood pumped onto the floor.
The demonic ghoul had truly left my poor, dear sister.
But it hadn’t gone to hell.
It had made a vile home within Lucy.
The ghoul clenched and unclenched its gnarled hands and slurped up the shredded flap of Jessamine’s throat.
I don’t know what overcame me then. I had been living for half a year under the specter of Satan and his damned minion. Fear, as much as Lucy, had been my constant companion.
There was no longer room for fear. This abomination had destroyed my family, and I knew at that moment that I would never again be the same. My heart turned cold while my temper flared like the center of a great bonfire.
Snarling like a mad person, I grabbed the candle and leapt for the ghoul. Cackling, it tried to sidestep from me, but I snared one of its slimy legs.
Warts burst open like blossoming flowers and a vile, hot fluid leaked onto my hand, burning my skin.
Still, I held on.
It shrieked. It hissed. It chomped its jaws and just missed snagging its teeth into the back of my hand.
With a flick of my wrist, I managed to get it to flop on its back.
Lucy’s blue eyes had been replaced by obsidian pools of hate. I moved my hand that held the candle onto its throat. Once I had a firm grip, I transferred the candle to my other hand.
“This time, go back to hell where you belong!” I shouted.
I brought the flames tips to its eye and heard a satisfying sizzle as the onyx orb melted. I moved the candle to its other eye and didn’t stop until both eyes were gone.
Suddenly, the ghoul’s protests and flailing stopped. Its tiny body twitched once, and was still.
Reluctantly, I let it go so I could rub the burned skin on my hand. The ghoul was dead.
Keeping a close eye on it, I walked on unsteady legs to my sister. Her face looked so peaceful, as if she had died in the midst of the most wonderful dream.
The tears came in a torrent, and I held her head in my lap, ever watchful for signs of the ghoul’s return.
I stayed there in the corner with Jessamine’s cooling body for two days.
When father returned, I was too weak to run into his arms.
His face was aghast.
“What…what…what?” he stammered.
“It was the demon in Jessamine. It became a ghoul. When it left Jessamine, it hid inside Lucy. You can see it, right there!” I screamed, pointing at its lifeless body.
But when Father picked it up, he held only my Lucy, her little head fractured but still the Lucy I’d always known. Her eyes were tiny points of ash, but Jessamine’s blood had somehow been cleansed from her porcelain face.
Despite my anguish and exhaustion and vexation, I began to laugh.
I laughed while my father pulled me away, and in his carriage, all the way into town. I laughed when he brought me to hospital, and even when they carried me to a room that smelled funny and was so bright, it felt like I had been thrown into the center of the sun.
And I still laugh now, ten years later.
They think I did it.
Esther passed on from infection.
Jessamine perished from her wound at the ghoul’s hand.
Mother never regained her sanity. In fact, she’s in a room not very far from my own. I pass her in the yard sometimes. She spits curses at me and blames me for the evil that befell our family.
Only I know it was the ghoul; the demon that slipped into our Old Manse and within my departed sister, the dearest person in my life. And when it tired of a human host, it found Lucy.
I tell everyone but no one will believe me.
Evil is real.
The ghoul was real.
And Lucy is still somewhere, outside these four walls. If you see a doll with burned eyes, run. Run and pray your soul hasn’t been tainted.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2012 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
22 thoughts on “Mercy – The Final Chapter”
This may well be one of my favourite Pen pieces yet, Hunter. I love the suspense of not knowing precisely what is happening in the dark, and the other primal horrors like hunger and gluttony and my interpretations of ‘ghoul’. The sounds of mastication all add to the dread, and when the darkness is shed and the truth revealed… Gripping and atmospheric and still very human in the way you bring us back to the characters and their fates at the end.
Brilliant short fiction!
Thank you so much, Thomas. You just made my day. Like I’d said earlier, this was my first every attempt at a gothic horror piece and oddly, I felt very much at home in that world. Methinks I need to revisit it in the very near future.
Hahaha….loved it!!!!! Who would have thought it was sweet little Lucy?!
Always be wary of the sweet ones. Or was it really Lucy? Hard to tell when you get your story from a kid in a nut house. 😉
Hunter – another great piece in the Mercy saga! I really love the way you wrapped it right back to the cues from the beginning, but kept the reader engaged in the prose regardless of the clues you were couching throughout the story. You may have discovered yet another talent, Monster Man! A beautiful Gothic tale, written superbly! You should be very proud of this entire piece! ;}
Thanks Nina. It was a total blast going back in time and also trying to write through the eyes of a young girl. Never realized how much fun you can have with this gothic stuff. LOL
Hunter, Hunter, Hunter…just when i think I’m about to leave the Mercy saga, you drag me back in!! lol I really enjoyed the overall storyline. Good cohesiveness, & as Nina said before me, I appreciated the way you buried your clues throughout the installments. Yet again, I’ll be eyeballing my daughter’s dolls very carefully; should I hear the dread chatter of Lalaloopsy rising from the corner of her room, I’ll bind the nefarious creature and deliver it to you for exorcism, my devilish fiend!
Thank you for creating & sharing the world of ‘Mercy!!’
Thank you so much Joe. Lalaloopsy is evil incarnate. Be very, very afraid!
An excellent finish. The heroine not winning the day completes the dark journey leaving the door slightly ajar for a doll to return.
Thank you. I never was big on the good guys winning in the end. The vibe of the 70s has definitely defined me. 🙂
Great story, Hunter. Now I know what’s wrong with my Damned Doll! Why didn’t you warn me earlier, you fiend? This is certainly one of your better works, although the spirits and evil in Alaska present a grand tale. You’re not kidding about the good guys not winning in the end!
Sorry about not warning you about that infernal doll. Best to set it aBLAZE as fast as you can.
I like your thinking, Hunter! Flame on!
Hunter, I enjoyed all of the Mercy chapters, and your final chapter topped it off nicely.
I’m always a big fan of freaky dolls, ghouls and demons. A dose of insanity thrown into the mix made it just that much more fun.
Thanks! I threw everything in but the kitchen sink. LOL It was fun to write, which to me is so important. If I’m not enjoying writing it, how can people reading it have any fun?
Fantastic conclusion. I enjoyed the Mercy saga immensely. I always find a great read with you Damned writers. Thank you for posting the Final Chapter.
Thanks CC. So glad you liked it and all of the great material being cranked out by these damned minds.
Hunter, I beg your forgiveness for the delayed comment. This last installment was a lot of fun in the story’s culmination. I reveled in the blackout scene with the sounds and tension. Well done!
Thanks Tyr! No forgiveness needs to be asked for.
Dear Hunter, While reading your masterful tale of evil, exorcism and excess dread (*toothy grin*), I have realized something that is apparent in myself. I believe I very much enjoy the sometimes taboo concept (among some entertainment lovers) off children being placed into harrowing, potentially dangerous, and even downright deadly situations. I think this confluence of ultimate innocence and unrelenting evil is one of the things that makes horror such an interesting genre to me.
You, sir, have very effectively accomplished this via your multi-part “Mercy” that, contrary to its title, offered your readers no such mercy from the terrors served up throughout your stylish and haunting tale. I, for one, am glad to have been along for the “merciless ride,” (*sharp smile*) and have to say the culmination of this story did not leave me wanting. Overall, across many chapters and two websites, “Mercy” was a taut, enjoyable read that kept my evil heart singing through each paragraph and in every installment. Well done!
Can I hire you as my PR dude? Thank you so much. I agree that children in peril (or evil kids) make for compelling reading (or viewing). The contrast betweem ultimate evil and ultimate innocence is an uncomfortable place to be…but then it’s our job to go there.