The house was always cold. It didn’t matter what the temperature said on the thermostat. Troy begrudgingly took his coat off and put it away. For years he had assumed his house was simply cold, but it had been getting worse over time. Now he knew why.
Floor boards moaned and squeaked as he walked down the hall. He could hear noises from the boy’s room. It sounded like the television as usual. Troy slowed his pace until he stood outside of their closed door. He could hear the chilling voice in the movie perfectly.
“Your mother is in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it.”
He was about to knock on the door when Mary called to him as she walked through the front door. “Troy, are you home?”
He went to her and pulled her into the kitchen. “Mary, we need to talk about the boys. I think they’re getting mixed up in something horrible.”
Troy pulled a handful of pages out of his case and placed them on the granite counter top. “Do you know how many times they’ve seen that movie in there? Do we know what else they do while we are at work? Carson is only 9 and Scott is 7 for hell’s sake!”
Mary looked at him skeptically. “Troy, they are just boys watching movies. What harm can come of that? I think you are blowing this out of proportion.”
“Oh yeah?” Troy asked as he pointed to his papers. “I’ve spent the past few weeks reading and studying at work. ‘Talk of the Devil and he is presently at your elbow.’ Have you ever heard that expression?”
“No I haven’t,” replied Mary with growing concern.
“It’s an old English proverb. Did you know that there are similar phrases in over 50 different cultures? This shit is real, and I think the boys are inviting the devil into our home.”
Mary picked up the papers and glanced through them. “Just what are you saying, Troy?”
“Have you taken a good look at them lately?” He asked. “Have you heard them talk? Watched them eat? I’ve looked at dozens of cases of possession and exorcism, and I’m telling you that we have a problem. If you don’t call a priest, then I will.”
Mary placed a hand on Troy’s shoulder. “I can’t stand to see the family torn apart like this. There is a group of priests that have been close to my family for generations. I’ll call them.”
Troy sat down as Mary walked away and talked in hushed tones on her cell phone. He could only hear bits and pieces of her side of the conversation.
“… so tired of this.”
“… need this exorcism so we can be a family again.”
“Come tonight. Bring them all.”
Mary finished the call and stepped back into the kitchen. “They will be here tonight.”
Troy grabbed her hand, surprised at how quickly she believed what he had been talking about. “I’m so glad. I didn’t know if you were going to believe me or not.”
“Don’t worry, everything will be okay,” she said as she placed a hand on his chest and traced wary circles around the crucifix under his shirt.
He had fallen asleep on the couch. Troy opened his eyes and couldn’t see. It was completely dark. Fear pressed him against the soft couch. Strange sounds and hushed whispers had woken him up. “Mary?” he called out.
There was no response. He started to see faint outlines of furniture when he heard the footsteps. Mary came around the corner with a candle in her hand. “Ah, you woke up. The power has been out for a while so I let you sleep. It’s sure nice to see you boys together,” she said with a smile.
Troy turned his head and jumped off the couch. Scott and Carson had been sitting on either side of him the whole time. They sat on the couch and looked at him with vacant eyes. Carson looked like he was barely breathing. His lips were torn and bleeding, and a ghastly smile threatened to tear his lips even farther.
Scott sat on the other side of the couch and simply looked at his father. The little 7 year-old’s chest moved quickly as if the boy were hyperventilating. Scott’s face was as blank as his eyes.
“What about the priests?” asked Troy as he stood next to Mary.
“They should be here any time. I want you to sit down in this chair and try to relax, okay? It will be okay soon enough.”
Troy sat in the chair across from his boys. Mary turned around and walked down the hall, casting the room into darkness. Troy tried to see his boys through the darkness. He gripped the edge of the chair as he hissed a threat to whatever had possessed his children. “The exorcists are coming for you.”
“They are already here,” Carson said in a voice that wasn’t his. “We are ready for the exorcism, Troy. Are you?”
The front door opened and people wearing long black robes came into the house. Troy relaxed a little as he watched the hooded priests carry in various items. A few of the priests lit large, white candles and began to place them around the room. Carson and Scott just looked at Troy from the couch. Their faces occasionally flashed with the ugly images of the heinous things inside of them.
Priests positioned themselves around the room. Troy felt the tension build when the priests started to chant. The temperature of the room plummeted as Carson began to speak in another language.
Troy stood up and yelled. “Shut up and get out of my boys!”
Scott got off the couch and held up a small hand. Everything in the room became quiet. Scott looked at Troy and an ugly sneer spread across the small boy’s face. “Don’t interrupt the exorcism.”
Troy was confused. It was as if the demons wanted the exorcism. Deep laughter rolled out of Scott’s little mouth and shook the walls of the house. “Yes, we want this exorcism. But it’s not the kind of exorcism you are thinking of.”
Mary came around the corner. She was wearing black robes. “The boys need a father that can accept his unique role, Troy. This exorcism was never for the boys. It’s for you.”
Troy looked around the room. The priests each pulled off their hoods, revealing beautiful and grotesque masks. The white candles burned, showing the black wax underneath the white façade. The horror of it all was too much to understand.
“Let’s begin,” said Scott. The little boy stepped in front of his dad. “Sit,” he commanded in an infernal voice.
Troy sat in the chair and grabbed the crucifix under his shirt. Mary flinched and looked worriedly at her sons. Scott chuckled before he spoke to his father. “That artifact only works for those with faith. Let me show you something easier to believe in.”
The priests began to chant again. “Veni, omnipotens aeternae diabolus.”
Troy’s wife stepped closer and spoke softly. “Don’t fight it, Troy.”
“Agios o Satanas,” chanted the priests.
Carson stepped closer to his dad. His voice returned to normal as he pleaded. “Please, dad, join us.”
Troy was sweating, but his crucifix felt cold in his tight grip. He watched as his little Scott held out his hands. The priests around the room started to chant more quietly. Doubts festered in his mind. He should be with his family. Scott’s eyes turned completely black as he spoke in a loud, demonic voice.
“Dies irae, sovlet saeclum in favilla.”
Carson stood next to his father and translated. “The Day of Wrath, will desolve the world in ashes.”
Troy felt conflicted as he listened to his sons.
“Teste cecidurent, quantos tremor est futures, quando Vindex est venturus.”
Carson translated again. “As foretold by the Fallen, how many tremors will there be when the Defender will come?”
Scott’s voice became thunderous and deep. “Tui sunt caeli et terra.”
“Yours are the heavens and the earth.”
Troy was in a daze. His mind had grown cloudy. He needed a sign to tell him what to do.
“Oriens splendor lucis aeternae, Lucifer veni, illumine sedentes in tenebris!” screamed Scott.
Carson took out a knife and cut his palm, then spread the blood on his father’s face as he translated again. “East of eternal light, come Lucifer, illuminate the dark!”
Unlit candles that had been placed all over the room burst to life, their flames a deep purple. Scott put his hands down and looked at his father. His voice echoed across the room and the walls shook again. “Is that enough of a sign?”
Most of Troy was ready to give in, ready for peace, ready to do what needed to be done to have his family back. But a small part of him stood relatively firm. He couldn’t do it while he had even of a sliver of faith. Troy shook his head wearily.
Carson and Scott began to speak in unison, the demonic and false cherubic voices sounded like a choir of the damned. Troy closed his eyes and began to squeeze his crucifix as he heard and felt what his boys were saying.
“Open to us, accept what we offer.”
Troy squeezed harder, unsure of what he wanted, but aware that he had made up his mind. He pushed his fury into his trembling hand. The boy’s voices filled the house. “As this emblem is changed…”
Silence filled the room. There was no movement. If felt like he was falling through a dark hole. A single voice spoke clearly.
“… etiam muta cor meum.”
It had been his voice. He spoke those words. He knew those words, and he translated them himself with a hoarse whisper. “… so change my heart.”
Troy lifted his head and looked at his wife and children. They had never looked so perfect. Troy stood up, pulled the broken cross off his neck and embraced his new family.
~ Zack Kullis
© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.
The musty basement hummed with the soft crackle of static. A police band radio purred from a small shelf above the heavily used utility sink. It cast an orange glow across the floor, highlighting an array of long forgotten paint cans and chemical jugs under the rickety wooden stairs.
A middle-aged man, sturdy but pudgy around the middle, stood at the sink listening with a cocked head.
“Quiet day on the scanner, a rare one indeed.”
He tossed a dirty screwdriver into the sink and walked the length of the room. The radio’s orange glow succumbed to darkness as he went, but he didn’t slow or stumble. He knew this room well. Much of his time over the last few years was spent in this basement working the labors of his passion, like he was right now. He approached the edge of the harsh white light pouring down from the fluorescent bulb affixed over his work area. Pausing there, on the fringe—the muddled line between light and dark—he continued speaking.
“Of course,” he said, “It’s probably just the calm before the storm—robberies being planned, atrocities like murder and rape taking place with their victims yet unable to call for help, or witnesses still on their way to their horrific discovery.”
He stepped into the light and over to his tool bench along the wall. With slow, deliberate movements he picked up a pair of slip-joint pliers. He admired them in the glow—their metal edges glinting as they turned between his fingers.
“And that means… no one is coming to save you for quite some time.”
A man bound to a chair before him started to scream again. Like before, the gag and the thick plaster walls absorbed the noise. The captive struggled against his layered binding of duct tape and zip ties, but to no avail. Sweat and blood sprayed out from his flaring nostrils with the hastened rhythm of his breaths.
“Come on now, Robinson. You know that’s a useless waste of energy.”
The captor stepped toward his victim and tapped the man’s metal badge with the pliers. “Speaking of cops wasting energy, shall we discuss what brought us here?”
Officer Robinson ceased fighting and listened.
“Your career was a waste. How many people did you save? How many did you condemn? The scales are tipped too far to the latter, aren’t they? Is that what you call justice?”
No reply came except for the sharp hiss of Robinson’s inhalations.
The man slapped his victim and ripped out the gag. “You might want to join the conversation—you’re on trial here.”
Robinson coughed and filled his lungs. His chest shuttered, his words stumbling free between gasps. “I don’t make the laws. Justice is not always black and white. You know that.”
“Yes. Yes I do. But please, elaborate. Are you claiming that your unjust actions were out of your control?”
“Look, if you let me go now, we’ll work out a deal—forget the whole thing.”
His expression soured from light amusement to rage and he slugged the officer in the jaw. “You didn’t let them go. Those women didn’t get a deal.”
Robinson spat blood and tooth fragments onto the floor. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t know about them… that I was ignorant? Or, did you just assume I was paid to look the other way like everyone else?”
The cop’s eyes widened. “H-how did you find out?”
He punched Robinson again.
“Lest you forget, I was a cop longer than you. It wasn’t too difficult to follow the fragmented facts of your cover up.”
“Andy. Andy, listen. I was forced to ride along, to help—” Officer Robinson stopped rambling when he noticed his captor moving in with the pliers.
After a few minutes of work, relishing the man’s screams in his ear, William Andrews stepped back and eyed the teeth in his hand. “You really need to brush better… well, at least with the few you’ve got left. And, don’t call me Andy, I hate that.”
Blood dripped from Robinson’s ruined mouth, his chin resting on his chest as he whimpered. While Andrews waited for his captive to regain a talking mood, he walked back to the sink, tossed in the pliers, and washed his hands.
Drying off with a small towel, he leaned against the utility sink.
“Those women didn’t have a choice in what was done to them. You had a choice. More than that, you had a responsibility to serve and protect.”
“They were victims of circumstance,” Robinson said, mumbling, slurring from too much exposed gum and not enough teeth. “Witnesses that had to be silenced.”
“Corruption begets corruption.” Andrews shook his head. “I get it, you guys are the victims, right? You were working within the confines of a corrupt system, trying to build cases, but the money and power decided all. Clean cases got tossed because bribes came down from on high and the political red tape handcuffed you at every turn. You joined the force to make a difference, to help people, but the truth of life was suffocating… the truth that money is power and a great amount of money corrupts greatly. It weighed you down, sucked you in. And, just like quicksand, the more you struggled the deeper you sunk. I get it. I do. It’s exactly why I retired early.”
Robinson lifted his head. Peering through the darkness, he watched his ex-partner with raised brows of hope. They were on common ground—maybe an understanding could be reached.
“But, don’t delude yourself,” Andrews continued. “You always have a choice. I made a choice. I chose to leave the corruption behind and work in my own system. You and your conspirators chose to conform, to alter your sense of morality to fit your environment. You chose to sink.”
The radio’s static hum broke into a flurry of voices trading information.
11-99, Code 3, Citizen reporting officer down at rear of 4217 Oak Valley Road in Glennville.
62 in route, five minutes south.
Severe injuries, no pulse. No witnesses known, body might have been dumped. Medical in route.
Andrews smiled. “Sounds like they just found one of your conspirators. After losing a few teeth himself, Detective Sloan talked quite a bit about you and your adventures together.”
Turning to head back to his project, Andrews noticed something in the orange glow. He walked over to the stairs and picked up a can of Turpentine. Inspecting it, he muttered to himself, “Looks like it was meant to be.”
As Andrews reentered the work area, the tin in his hand flashed under the harsh light. Recognition hit the captive cop as if Andrews slugged him again. He jerked in the chair with wild eyes leaping back and forth between the can and the man holding it.
“Whoa, hang on a minute. Just hear me out, please.”
Andrews gestured with an upturned hand. “Continue.”
“You—You were right.” Robinson said, speaking too fast, his words bumping into each other. “I’m a product of my environment, but I made mistake after mistake, bad choices. But, it began with blackmail. The only choice I had was to play along or lose my job and serve jail time. After the first few incidents, I got numb to right and wrong. Then, taking and covering up became habit. I was wrong. I’m sorry!”
Andrews put down the can. “It takes a real man to admit he’s wrong. I think you’ve made some progress here today.”
In a great shuddering exhale, Robinson sighed.
“But,” Andrews continued. “There’s something you said that’s been bugging me.”
The chair creaked as the bound cop tensed.
“Just a few minutes ago you said those women were simply witnesses that had to be silenced. If that’s true, then why did the real autopsy report show that they were raped and tortured before a sloppy attempt was made to hide their identities through pulling out all their teeth and burning them alive?”
“That’s above and beyond brutality, sadism, a psychopathic lack of compassion. Those are traits bonded to the soul not born of your environment. Of course, there are rare exceptions, such as a crime of passion where emotional trauma trumps morality.”
Andrews produced a utility knife from his pocket and stepped closer to Robinson.
“Here’s a bit of suffocating truth for you: those witnesses you silenced two years ago were my sisters and you’re about to suffer a fate far worse than theirs.”
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.
“Pete, you always were an asshole!” We all started laughing. “The only reason they put you in green was because they were out of shit-stain brown.” Brunt of the joke or not, Pete pretended to fuck his M-16 and laughed harder than the rest of us.
The canteen made another round; it didn’t quench my thirst, but it sure as shit eased my mind. This fucking place was a hell hole dug straight out of the devil’s ass itself. Me, Pete, the whole squad – we were tight. We’d hit the bush together and somehow managed to survive the last seven months. It pissed off some of the other guys but screw them, let them find someone else to cover their backs. We didn’t need some FNG making expectants out of us – fuck that.
It’d been days since we’d done anything but hang around our LZ and shoot the shit, but sand bags and make-shift bunkers weren’t the worst things out here; any grunt would testify to that.
We were making so much noise, we’d drawn the Sarge’s attention; I could see him making his way over. “So fellas, you having a good time?” The cheshire grin on his face was enough to tell us the shit was about to fly, and it was coming our way, but we were so piss-ass drunk no one gave a crap.
“Any of you jerk-offs wanna tell me why Pete here, who is supposed to be on the greenline, is laying on the ground humping his gun like his wife just traded up for a new and improved cooch?”
I swear Pete must’a pissed himself he was cracking-up so hard. He snatched the canteen from Rog and held it up to the Sarge, barely able to get his words out. “Here, this’ll tell ya. Come on, Sarge, have a nip. Besides, it’s been quiet for days. O’Boyle’s got it. The little bastard has this sixth sense or something, he can fucking smell Charlie coming.” We all started laughing again, a little more reserved this time.
The Sarge stared down at Pete for a moment, then his eyes flicked to me like it was my job to keep him in line. I was still snickering, but doing my best to hide it. The Sarge, he was one of us; I could see he was making up his mind between what he should do and what he wanted to do. Taking a long drag on my smoke, I decided to back Pete up. “Go on, Sarge, have a sip. Ain’t crap been happening around here since forever. No harm in Pete having a little break.” Squinting up at him, I blew out a stream of smoke and waited while he stared back.
Reaching out, he snatched the canteen Pete was barely holding steady and crouched down to join us. After a long hard pull, and sucking in some serious air to cool his lungs, he shoved the canteen back into Pete’s hands. “Good thing I didn’t see you assholes fucking around. Especially this one who’s supposed to be…”
“Incoming!” Someone screamed.
The first sound I heard was the whup-whup of its wings; I could feel the pressure of the air pressing down upon me as the beast beat a steady rhythm above. I was being dragged toward it, dragged through a field of claws that scraped at my skin, tore at my clothes, ripped apart my mind. Whatever was dragging me had a tight hold on my pack and was grunting while it ran in a lumbering lurch. Fleshed in red, with pieces of luminous crystal protruding from its bark-like skin, something about it seemed familiar, but I couldn’t imagine why.
“Pete! Pete, where the fuck are you?” I screamed. It hissed in a language I didn’t understand, waved its free arm while shaking its head. I shrieked for Pete again, but the whup-whup of thrashed air was my only answer.
As we drew closer, other creatures rushed from the dragon’s gaping maw, they hefted its green tongue, carried it aloft.
The thing dragging me halted. The others tried to grab me with their talons, lift me onto the dragon’s tongue. In my mind, I struggled, the entire time the whup-whup of the wings blinded me with coarse pellets carried on its breath. I was in the midst of an inferno. As I looked around, I saw flames licking the edges of this new hell. The dragon fought its foe with mighty plumes of spray. The others rolled my limp form onto its side. The familiar one spoke, a glistening madness in its eyes as I rolled backward by no choice of my own and landed on the wyvern’s tongue that had slithered beneath me.
Its rasping texture stung my flesh as it tasted my blood, molded to my form, began drawing me toward its maw. The beast’s minions trotted alongside, assisting the tongue as it serpentined its way back to its host. The closer we drew, the fouler the dragon’s breath became, until finally I was consumed through the yawning rift.
The beast took to the air. I could feel the rock and sway from within the cavern of its gullet. More creatures waited there; they began to pull me apart. They delved with their translucent hands into my gut, only to emerge covered in blood. I fought them with what will I had, but it was futile – one of their young smothered my face pulsing noxious fumes into my lungs. When eventually they finished, all but one sat in stony silence. The attending creature looked down at me and spoke through some odd contraption it wore on its glistening face. It grasped my hand, spoke with a force I couldn’t deny, but force or not, I didn’t understand its words. My head lulled to the side drawn by the ever present whup-whup of the air as the wings continued to beat. As I began to lose consciousness, I saw a slit in its scales; an opening. With all that was left in me, I flung myself toward the fissure. The creature lost its grip upon my hand.
As darkness stole over me, my final sensation was one of falling.
I woke splayed awkwardly on a thin membrane that stretched as far as my eye could see. Disoriented at first, I realized there was no sound in this new place. I screamed; nothing echoed back to me, nothing but the sound within my own head. I stood and realized I was tethered to something, but I couldn’t see what. A rope protruded from my midsection. When I grasped it, I felt an overwhelming pain; it was slick and streaked my hand with filth. Quickly, I released it.
I began to walk on unsteady legs; the tether seemed endless and I walked for hours. The membrane beneath my naked feet bounced in concert with each step I took. There was a strange tangerine light here, one that shone brighter on the horizon. I traveled toward it, but it seemed the further I walked, the further away it continually became. My foot hooked on something and I stumbled. Looking down, I saw an arm. Startled, I fell backwards and landed with a soft pwoof on the surface – the first sound I’d heard since I’d arrived here. Looking around me, I could see the membrane was littered with debris, most of it human offal and limbs. How did I not see any of this before? How had I wandered unhindered for so long without stumbling until now?
I kneeled, wobbling as I did so, on the taut surface. I inspected the arm that had initially tripped me. Reaching out, I grasped it. There was a wedding ring on its third finger; it was clad in blood drenched fatigues. I ripped at the fabric like a madman until I finally uncovered the forearm. And there, where I had seen it so many times before, was the name of Pete’s son tattooed on the baby rattle he’d had inked on him the day his wife had given birth to their first and only child back in the real world. I began searching through the remainder of the wreckage. Bits and pieces identifiable; a magazine, shell casings, glasses, boots – photographs. More things than I cared to recognize. Still holding Pete’s arm, I crouched forward and wailed in despair and rage. This time the sound split the air as it slammed its way through this world, shattering the silence.
I reached down with my free hand and yanked on my tether – no not my tether, my umbilical, and pulled as hard as I could.
A harsh bright light blinded me as my hearing rushed back in a nauseating wave. I found myself in a field tent on an operating table.
“What the fuck?” I barely managed.
“Stay calm, you’re gonna be okay,” I began to fight. “No! Just try to stay calm. Goddamn it, don’t struggle. Where’s the fucking dope guy! Get him under, get him under now – we’re gonna fucking lose this one!”
Blackness again. Cradling Pete’s arm in my own, I sat, I cried. I screamed my rage. I tried to rip the umbilical from my gut. I lay down and gave up.
I didn’t want to wake up; I wanted to sleep – like Pete. Sleep and never wake again. Opening my eyes, I lifted my head to look around. I realized I wasn’t on the OR table this time, I was in a quiet, sedate ICU ward. Most of the other soldiers were either sleeping or staring blankly off into space. I tried to call for help – a doctor, nurse, anybody, but barely made a sound. What little strength I had ebbed away and my head fell back to the pillow. Luckily an orderly was walking by and noticed the movement.
He smiled and came around the side of the bed to lean on the rail. “Hey man, good to see you up! You was out for a long time, wasn’t sure you was gonna wake – no matter what the doc said. Here, lemme get you some ice…”
“Wait,” I managed to rasp as my hand wrapped around his forearm. He looked down at it, then back to my face.
“Nah, man – don’t try to talk or move,” he said as he pried my grip loose.
After returning with the cup of ice chips, he pulled up a chair and sat down next to me. My eyes never left him.
“You been out for what seems like forever, man. They did a shit load of surgery putting your insides back together, both in the field and here. It was touch and go for a while. You know where you at? Shit, you at Ben Hoa Airbase, man.” He slid the first ice chip into my mouth.
“My insides?” I croaked hoarsely.
“Yeah, man. You big talk ‘round here. They didn’t think you was gonna make it. You was ripped up so bad, but here you are; breathin, talkin, eatin ice. Goddamn if modern medicine ain’t something else. You know what I’m sayin.” Another sliver of ice slipped between my lips.
“What about Pete?” I forced myself to ask.
“Pete? I don’t know nothin ‘bout Pete. Was he in your squad? If he was, he didn’t make it – sorry man. You the only one that came out of that mess alive. They say some Sergeant died haulin you to that Huey. There’s somethin I don’t get, why’d you guys abandon the line knowing your LZ was hot?” Another sliver of ice.
“What do you mean hot?” I choked on spittle. When the racking cough stopped and I could breath past the pain, I pressed, “What do you mean hot? Our LZ was dead quiet, nothing for days in the boonies around us.”
More fucking ice. If I could have moved my arm, I would have ripped his throat out.
“Look man, I got no idea what you guys was told. The official word is there was some major crap goin down ’round you,” he inched closer. “But look, I’m gonna tell you somethin you not supposed to know. And maybe I’m not supposed to know it neither, but ’round here, ya hear things. Maybe it’ll help you come to terms with all this shit, maybe not, what the fuck do I know, right?” He cupped his free hand around my ear and whispered, then pulled back flicking what I thought was a green tongue across his lips before smiling again. As my eyes shot back to his, flame reflected in them.
“Rumors, man. I hear rumors. But listen, I’ll come back later; check on you. You hang in there, a’right. I’m countin on you.” And with that he stood, tightened the leather strap around my wrist and walked away whistling softly to himself.
It took a moment for what he’d said to sink in, and when it did, I began to thrash against the restraints. I stared wide eyed and half crazed with the knowledge he’d given me. I kicked the phantom legs I could still feel, but were no longer there. My mind tried to escape to the silence of the realm I’d just left, but his words pinned me down as effectively as the straps across my torso.
My screams echoed through the ward.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Springtime. Fresh air carries the aroma of recently shoveled dirt, moistened by the rain, throughout the graveyard. Shovels, left behind in a hurry when the downpour started, lie on the ground next to the grave of the newest inhabitant.
Normality? Yes, but a sinister presence surveys the scene, not the least bit happy. Chunks of wet soil cling to his hair-covered naked body. His nails are long and unkempt, and yet, what difference does it make? They are more effective for him to use when digging than any shovel fashioned by the hands of man. He lives beneath the surface, under the graves, in small cave like areas formed from his own efforts, surrounded by the clothing removed from the local residents.
They won’t say anything. Ha, ha! Dead people can’t snitch on him.
The taste of rotting flesh rolls around on his tongue, reminding him of his hunger, his insatiable desire to feed. Heavy rain comes down, slapping a tune on the gravestones more effectively than any drum-stick. He delights in the awareness of the cleansing on his hair and skin.
Momentary pleasure: he is still angry… angry that God remaindered him and his kind to suffer the indignities of their existence. Undead, yes. Immortal, yes. However, these things come at the high price of humiliation. Forced to feed on the dead like a common vulture is not to his liking.
Yet, this is the way it’s always been. How can it change now? He is not stronger than God; he is merely a creature formed by His hand: to do His bidding.
The new carcass beckons to him, speaking to him, insisting that he feed. His hunger forces him to go and dig up the coffin. He tears the lid open and gazes at the body of a young woman struck down in her prime. She can not possibly be any more than in her early twenties. Her clothing and hair style tell him this. He may not live amongst the rabble known as humans , but he has devoured enough of them to understand the latest fads and fashions. On a more primal level, his highly enhanced sense of smell enables him to decipher the age of a person by unfolding different layers of skin and reading them much like a botanist counts the rings of a tree.
This one smells peculiar to him: no odor of decay or embalming fluids. Recent death. A mortician trying to save a little money. Who knows? As long as she was remaindered to the soil in a timely manner, all will be well.
But… no; this is more, much more. Fool that he is, his hunger plays games with his mind. His desire to feed overcomes his usual stealth. Vigilance thrown to the wind!
She is alive! In some sort of comatose state, but the girl is very much alive.
What now? He can’t devour her. It is not allowed. Does he close the casket and re-bury her?
Yes! That is what he must do. If she wakes and sees him, she will spread word of his presence. This place has been his home for many years, he has no intention of giving it up. Everyone believes her to be dead. Who would know? This time she will die for sure.
He will come back to devour her when she is genuinely dead. Hopefully, her struggles when she comes out of her coma won’t spoil the taste of her sweet, succulent flesh. No, that would be a pity. The fresh deaths are always the tastiest. And the young ones? They are the best!
Before he can places the casket lid back in place, her eyes open. Upon seeing him, a look of horror stares him in the face. A gurgling sound works up from deep within her. In mere seconds she will holler out and alert whoever may be close by to her predicament.
“No! You can’t!” shouts the Ghoul. “No one must know I’m here!”
His mouth leaps to her neck and blackened yellow teeth rip into her throat, removing her vocal cords. Air from the outside rushes in through the gaping hole and tries to exhale from within her body, but she will not be making a sound now.
Her blood on his tongue excites him and he laps up as much as he can, squeezing her neck to force more out. The coppery taste is like nectar to him. The demon wants all he can get and savors the thought of her flesh rolling around his tongue, sliding down his throat, churning in his stomach to quell his hunger.
This can’t be! God will destroy him! Control! He needs to stop now. But if he does, she’ll surely alert others. They’ll come here, searching for him.
He is unable to put the taste of her out of his mind. A live feast! In his arms at this very moment, still trembling, her heart beating a staccato of pain. Another bite, not so deep as to kill her: no that would not be good. She would be like all the others if she was to die too fast. Patience. He has to have patience.
Bite after delicious bite, mingling with the delicious red nectar, heightens his senses. The heavy rain is unable to wash the young lady’s blood from his long, matted hair. A sense of madness invades the Ghoul, and he starts chuckling as he eats, enjoying the look on his meal’s face. Such terror for one so sweet and undeserving of her fate.
He rips off her clothing in order to better gorge upon his feast, and a swelling develops within his long body hair as he gazes down at what she has to offer him. It has been so long. Too long, and it was with one of his kind. However, she left, leaving him alone. Another desire he should not give in to, but what more could happen to him? He can only be killed once.
Still munching on her upper body, he slams himself deep inside her and feels her shake in pain. No finesse on the part of the Ghoul. Pleasures denied him for so many years must now be sated. On and on he goes until he violently unleashes many years of pent up semen deep within her.
Totally out of control after having reached his climax, he takes bigger and bigger bites from his victim. Her efforts to resist him lessen with each delicious morsel he partakes of as she draws nearer to death. Having been buried once and survived, she will not be so fortunate the second time.
Shuddering uncontrollably, her movements cease as the end comes. Before long, the Ghoul devours every bit of her flesh and starts feasting on her organs, intestines whipping around in a frenzy, slapping the huge raindrops to the side.
Only bones remain now.
He turns, expecting God, an Angel, something to smite him down. Only God is able to take his life, but others can cause harm to him. Nothing; no one is there. How can this be? He has gone against the rules. Perhaps God is just playing with him, teasing him before delivering the blow that will end his life. That would certainly not reflect well on the merciful Almighty One, would it?
Nothing happens as he slips the lid back on the coffin and reburies it. He makes sure everything looks the way it did before he ravaged the girl. Usually, he digs his way upwards from the ground below and tears out the bottom of a coffin to feast. Nothing to cover up that way. Who would know what happened unless the coffin was dug up and moved. Even then they would think it to be the work of some animal. An animal, yes, they would consider him to be an animal if they saw him. Human cretins. They know nothing. He is their superior!
The rain comes down harder, this time washing him clean, shoving the blood and gore into the soil. He sits on a tombstone pondering what just happened. Would he have been able to eat fresh meat before now? Did he waste all these years subsisting on the most foul of mankind? He sensed God’s presence here before but not now. And the Fallen Angel, the Creator’s mortal enemy? The Ghoul does not feel his presence either.
Conflict and anger register in his mind. A battle is being waged. Is this the Armageddon he’s heard tales of? Has the battle begun? Is that why no one has come? But the war is not being fought here. Whatever is going on has moved on to another place.
He watches the rain until it ends and is entranced by the fog crawling midway up on his body once the deluge is over. A gentle breeze flicks the hairs on his body around, turning them into sensors picking up vibes of all that is happening in the area.
“Yes,” he says to himself, “the rules are changed. My destiny is not what it was.”
Off in the distance people are shuffling along, approaching his home. He smiles and stretches his talons.
“Come, you fools: the graveyard waits.”
~ Blaze McRob
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