Archive | August 2016

The Glory

His first cognizant thought was how oddly comfortable he felt. The old football injury didn’t ache in the background like it had for seemingly countless years. And the city was quiet…  Since when was the city quiet? Kurt’s eyes opened slowly and he found himself looking into the face of a stranger. The woman was crouched over him and appeared to be trying to talk to him, but all he heard was ringing.

Kurt realized he couldn’t move. His mind wrestled with confusion and concern as he tried to focus on what the woman was telling him. Her voice began to sift through the ringing, and he recognized some of the words her lips were forming.

accident –

don’t move –

will be okay –

Recollection hit him nearly as hard as the other vehicle did when he ran the red light. He had been typing something to post online and didn’t see the red light, nor did he see the ambulance with its emergency lights flashing as it raced towards the intersection. Fortunately for him he was unaware of being thrown through his windshield, of tumbling like a rag doll across the rough street, and of the emergency vehicle rolling over his broken body before it came to a stop on its side. But his conscious mind was catching up with horrific speed.

The fear on the woman’s face belied the calm and soothing words she tried to share with him. A squat man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker knelt beside her and spoke in frantic tones.

“The dude’s going to bleed out if we don’t do something.”

“His neck is broken so badly that one wrong move will kill him,” replied the woman, her voice betraying her nausea. “There isn’t much we can do.”

Certainty and finality calmed him. The sounds around him seemed to fade into the background. As his body started to shut down, Kurt’s mind gained an amazing amount of clarity. He had nothing to worry about, not like those hell-bound atheists and science-toting heretics he harassed whenever possible. He accepted the Lord years ago. He vaguely remembered it, but he knew he had because his pastor said so.

As fate would have it, that was precisely what he had been texting about when the accident happened. He was preaching on a local site for an agnostic group. Some would have called it trolling, but he knew he was serving a higher purpose. They were all damned. He was saved through simple belief and acceptance. Surely this accident was a reward from the Almighty. He was being called home.

A cold breeze blew and Kurt shivered. The muffled sounds around him slipped into nothing. He opened his eyes, expecting to see gates, clouds, or something similar, but all he saw was a dim view of what he had seen before.

“That’s strange,” he whispered. The sound of his own voice spooked him. Had he passed already? A foul breeze moaned around him as dark clouds quickly covered the sky. Heavy mists rolled across the street and obscured the people and buildings around him.

“What is strange?” asked something from the haze. The voice was like gravel and broken glass being ground, a bizarre combination of bass and treble that no mortal vocal chords could have produced.

Fear gripped Kurt and chased away all the positive thoughts that had been pooling in his mind. He searched for the source of the voice and found a dark shadow lurking in the depths. It grew in size and became increasingly peculiar as it approached.

“Were you expecting something pretty when your life came to an end?”

“I… I… This is wrong….” Kurt blabbered as the mist parted for a hideous and eldritch being. The thing was partially humanoid, but there were growths and extensions that defied understanding, its foot grotesque with too many crooked appendages and deformities. The wretched leg it was attached to was repulsively thin and covered by a sickly skin that didn’t hide the misaligned bones and flesh beneath.

The creature’s torso was a mottled skin of yellow and green, punctuated by tentacles and arm-like growths, each of which appeared to move on its own accord. The second leg was like a conglomerate of partially fused tentacles that oozed a fetid ichor that filled the air with a horrid stench and left a nasty trail in its wake.

It carried a long chain in a large hand that had nearly a dozen digits, each wrapped around slimy links of metal. The opposing shoulder had what appeared to be the lower half of a bark covered octopus with slow-moving growths that were covered with barbs and teeth. And the head, oh the head. There was no mouth, nor a nose, but the hapless face was besieged by numerous lidless eyes that shined with heinous intent.

Kurt’s hysterical scream was absorbed by the mist. “No!”

“You are still between worlds, Kurt. But not for long.”

A repulsive tentacle reached out for him as he tried to move.

His whole body jolted and he heard kind voices in the background. Were angels wrestling him from this demonic nightmare? Kurt’s eyes opened to see paramedics leaning over him, talking frantically to each other and to him.

“Stay with us buddy, just hold on.”

The light was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He would give anything to not go back to that nightmare. Surely that’s what it was, right? Only a dream?  He was saved after all. Kurt was so tired, and he couldn’t keep his heavy eyelids up. He was ready for the Glory.

Kurt’s eyes closed. The warmth was instantly gone, as were the careful movements and voices of the paramedics. He didn’t want to open his eyes, but had no choice. The creature from before stood over him, a comical look of twisted glee showed brightly in each of its eyes, and the skin of its face vibrated with its voice.

“Glory… What do you know of glory, Kurt?”

A few of the tentacles used their barbs and teeth to dig deep into Kurt’s flesh. There was no blood, but the pain felt unlike anything he had ever experienced. Unable to move, he was left to watch in horror as the thing continued to work.

“Your days were filled with hate, rejecting your fellow mortals for petty differences of opinion, and you expect a reward of some kind? Pearly Gates, shitty harps, and those dumbass cupids flitting around with wings?”

The creature dropped the heavy chains on his legs and gripped Kurt’s face with its multitude of fingers. “Why do you deserve something different from this?”

Kurt fought for his voice, and found it, thinking his one last chance was to claim his acceptance of the Almighty and enjoy the gifted fruit of salvation. “I accepted the holy one and by his Grace I am saved!”

He looked down and saw something ethereal being yanked from his body. It was his soul. Kurt looked to the sky, sure his last statement would redeem him.  Riotous laughter filled his ears. Kurt looked back at the demon as it continued to rip his essence from his damaged body.

“You’re certainly not the first of your flavor I’ve had the pleasure of reaping. Saved by his Grace, to hell with what your actions might have been. Is that how it goes?  What would you say if I told you that the woman in the ambulance you crashed into died a few minutes ago. She was agnostic and is getting a benevolent introduction to an afterlife you will never experience.”

“That can’t be,” cried Kurt.

The creature gripped his throat, tore what remained of his spirit free, and dragged him up into the gathering obscurity. He looked down and through the billowing mists he could just barely make out the paramedics draping a blanket over his body. Kurt’s face was yanked around and forced to look at the demon.

“She was kind, good, and all of that boring tripe. The interesting thing is that it was all of her own free will, not because she thought it would buy her entrance into the land of faeries and light. Faith is worth shit if your behavior is too.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

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Iron Trappings

As tempestuous as the seas and equally unpredictable, Wrath sweeps through the skies, her shouts of hatred falling like shards of ice on those far below. Riding the storms and accompanied by a flurry of shrieking Sins, her Court watches with hawk-like eyes those passing beneath them. Sparkling spear in one hand, her other a clenched fist, Wrath leads her troupe in dizzying descents. They hurl insults, abuse, and hateful jibes even as they beset those unfortunate enough to be caught abroad, tearing them apart limb from limb in a bloody shower of malignant spite. Her goal is to ascend to the rank of Queen of all Sin, when she can rule with iron fist and steely gaze, and she is not afraid to destroy any who prevent her from achieving this.

From The Book of Sin

Screams of undiluted hatred did sing over the cliff tops.

22. Curses as ancient as the world itself were spoken, and they did corrupt the fair blue sky with their poisonous presence. Bound and chained in iron trappings, like some beast of the earth, a figure did scream. Her horrific voice did scold the air with its violence.
23. And like a plague of locusts the mortals did surround her, jeering and jabbing with gleaming swords and sharpened spears.
24. Cold iron clasps did restrain the captive, searing her skin and burning her to her very bones, and WRATH did writhe in vain.
25. The men did cry to stab the beast, and burn it, and behead it, such was their vehement hate at the creature bound in their midst.
26. The calls for vengeance rose viciously over the crowd; the assembled men shouting out for the death of the monster amongst them. For too long it had plagued their cities, dealt devastation to their caravans, wrought death as though it was a blacksmith at an anvil, and murder was its trade.
27. Now they did rejoice, for they had it at their mercy, but there was sorrow in their hearts too, and their eyes were alight with righteous vengeance.
28. The SIN gazed through slits of fury at those who did dare to approach too near, and her awe was such that all fell back before her.
29. Lean arms strained at their shackles as this goddess of death did strive to break free from the ensorcelled iron that imprisoned her. The chorus of cries only served to infuriate her further. They screamed for the beast to be doused in fire and showered with flames. They begged that its wings be torn from its back and the monster thus disgraced.
30. They raged that it should be cast, flightless, from the towering cliff, a final, fatal fall from grace.
31. Then the SIN did speak, and her voice was as a scythe through the cries of the crowd, and she did say I will flay your flesh from your hide and your pain will be so great that never before has one experienced such agony, and such was her fury that those who had been edging closer leapt suddenly back, their eyes wide, their skin pale.
32. Still she did scream, her tongue a flurry of fierce words and threats, and such was her undeniable temper that the maddened mob did believe every word she spoke, and they were mortally afraid at what they heard.
33. And the air was rank with their fear.
34. And into the madness atop the cliff a figure did stumble. Her dress was befouled with dirt and earth and sweat, but the daughter of Eve seemed not to care.
35. A single thought did flicker in her eyes, like a furnace, waiting to be unleashed.
36. Words ripped from her throat, hoarse though it was from her unyielding cries. She screamed bloody murder, crying SIN did slay my husband, It did murder his brothers and ruin their farmstead and now It shall pay the price for Its crimes.
37. Accusations flew fast from her lips, even as some relative, or piteous bystander, did try to restrain her. She flung him aside.
38. Grief did envelop the woman completely, as though she were in a valley and it lay a shadow across her.
39. Unashamed tears did stream down her fair cheek, and spying a sharp rock on the ground, she grasped hold of it. Before another word was spoken, she did hurl the heavy lump of hatred at the SIN.
40. With divine retribution it did fly where she cast it.
41. The rock struck hard the cheek of WRATH, and the wound did sting her, and it was the sting of shame.
42. The furnace of her heart now a conflagration, the woman did parade herself before the crowd. The SIN did see the fires burning in her eyes. She did recognise the pain that did gnaw at the woman’s insides. She did feel the hatred as it spilled out of the inconsolable woman.
43. The presence of so much anger did fill WRATH with vigour. It inspired her limbs. It flooded her veins, and it did nurture her own fury a thousand-fold.
44. An angel of unadulterated anger, the SIN’s own hellish hatred did cause her iron trappings to scream.
45. They did scream and scream and scream and with a clap like thunder break from around her limbs.
46. And silence did envelop the cliff top.
47. The men did run. The crowd parted like the sea before WRATH’s vengeance, but lo it was too late for those who had gathered to bear witness to the SIN’s demise.
48. With godly grace the SIN did swoop amongst the men and women and children. Her spear was lost, but she was not hindered by this, and her claws did exact a rich and bloody toll on the lives of those around her.
49. And she did wrench the still warm souls of those who had dared to trespass against her, and then discard them, and in doing so left lifeless husks to cover the earth.
50. And her anger was so absolute that none could flee her. Heads did roll, blood spilled like wine, and the air was alive with the chorus of screams.
51. And all the while WRATH did laugh at the slaughter she dealt, for she was above these lowly mortals, she was all-powerful and she was free.
52. And then her thoughts, though clouded by fury and fueled by ferocity, did turn to one thing and she did utter it aloud so that all did hear her, Who had gifted the men of the earth with such ensorcelled iron that could bind her?
55. She did scream to be told, but even as she did so, she knew already, for she also knew it beyond the craft of mortals to make such artifacts of power.
56. Even before the whispers of SIN did evaporate like water from the lake of death below, she knew that one of her siblings had betrayed her in this act and passed the iron over to the mortals. Another SIN had provided the means of her imprisonment. One of her own treacherous siblings.
57. And she knew wrath like never before.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 18

Damned_Words_18

Ravenous Eyes
Jon Olson

The carcass had washed up during the night, not far from the tourist hot spots. It was massive, stunk of rot, possibly a whale. We planned to investigate; maybe even identify it, once morning came. They beat us to it. Damn seagulls. Within a few short hours, they picked it clean. There wasn’t even a speck of flesh left. While a couple of them still peck absently at it, the majority flap their wings; jostling for position on the bone. They don’t seem satisfied. Their ravenous eyes look beyond us, just offshore at the children splashing a few meters out…


Washed Ashore
Joseph A. Pinto

Once, I provided you shelter. Once, I held your world aloft. I am but part of the tidewrack now, splintered from my whole. You have found use for me; I am thankful for that much. A waystation for others to defecate upon.

Yes, you have found much use.

Leave me to the elements, to the rising chorus of jeers. I recognize I am your running joke. One day, perhaps, the beauty will be found within me. Until then, I await the rising tide. To be drawn away with the rest of the rubbish; to deeper seas; to grander isles.


Deep Sleep
Zack Kullis

He was God on his Virginia class submarine. Sailors frequently joked about the captain’s eccentricities, strange books, and old spear gun. Once out to sea, the poison killed them all quickly. 133 sailors sprawled across their watery tomb, the smell of wretch filled the tight quarters. He entered the command center shirtless, the Albatross tattoo breathing as evenly as he did, and pointed the spear gun at a temporary survivor. The sailor choked on frothy bile as he fumbled for the radio, but the spear gun spoke quickly. His blood flowed brightly as his eyes dimmed.

“God bids thee sleep.”


My Gift
Hunter Shea

He’s not where he’s supposed to be.
Salt air crusts my hair. The sun so bright, it hurts my skin.
How long have I been wandering here?
No, not wandering. Searching. I know where I am. I know why I’m here. I have a purpose.
To find him.
He came to me upon a wave, a swollen offering from the churning brown sea. A secret I could share with no one.
For the merman was mine. Dazed, I hid my gift from prying eyes.
Gulls shriek. Gathering. Feeding. Fighting over…
My merman!
His eyes, his lips, his gills. All gone.


Treasure Hunter
Tyr Kieran

I wandered the beach often, waiving my metal detector from side to side, desperate to find something that could change my painfully dull existence. One fall morning, it happened. I found some valuables buried two feet down. They were still around the fingers of a murdered woman. The maw of her slit throat was packed with pinkish sand and tiny burrowing crabs. Yet, it didn’t disturb or discourage me. The sight of her fascinated me more than any girl before. I visited her often, digging each time with anticipation. She’s taught me a valuable lesson: don’t bury them, sink them.


Dissolution
Lee A. Forman

Will sits on the driftwood watching creatures take flight, wishing he could join. I’m a man condemned to nothingness, he thinks. Death is fickle; too much time to suffer, not enough time to live.

As he runs his hand along the log’s surface sludge coats his palm. The viscous liquid moves of its own volition, traveling up his arm. Nerves alight as the slime penetrates his being, driving itself deep inside.

Life feeds. Life dies.

The ooze coalesces with Will’s skin; his body loses cohesion. The remaining gelatinous flesh seeps into the ancient wood, sustenance for the primordial hunger within.


Idyllic
Christopher A. Liccardi

Idyllic – it’s what people used to call this place. Now, the only thing to wash up on these black sand beaches are the dead; most parts of the dead anyway. The birds pick and choose the choicest morsels to feed on, leaving whats left to bloat and stink.

If only they would stay dead! Why do they have to get up and shamble across the beach anyway? Fucking rotting tourists is what they are.

The gulls cry out in shrill exuberance with each new visitor. Nobody living visits this beach any longer.

The birds don’t seem to mind, though.


Icarus
Veronica Magenta Nero

The rise was good but the plummet was better. So close, almost close enough to spit in the white hot face of god, before radiating light seared my feathers, sending me spiraling downwards. The impact on water shattered every bone, my patchwork wings were torn. Blood seeped like a twisting lie, staining the ocean red. On the rocking waves I waited patiently for death to free me and lead me through the veil, far away from the cruel touch of the sun. On the shore they flutter and squawk, pleased and satisfied to watch me fall. Little do they know.


Driftwood
Thomas Brown

He stands alone on the beach, waiting for dusk. Behind him, St. Bees is quiet. The shrieks of the gulls fill his head, brush his skin, vibrate the jelly in his bones. Smiling, he cocks his head.

The dunes are empty but soon things will be better. Soon he will fly with the gulls. The rebirth is beginning. Already he feels the first feathers, prickling the underside of his skin.

They find him at dawn, washed up five miles down the coast. Cause of death: drowning. It takes three men to scatter the birds scavenging the flesh from his face.


Fowl Deeds
Nina D’Arcangela

The attack was imminent – we knew it would come from above, though many were lost to the beasts that swim the depths below. We fought with a ferocity that cannot be expressed in words; with the veracity of those who know the fate of an ecosphere rests upon their deeds. Man, ever ignorant of our struggle, watched feebly as destruction swiftly approached on wings far less pallid than our own. Our crusade failed.

Most are gone now. Those who can, rally to take flight one final time. We hold no hope of triumph; only a seething fury for unbridled vengeance.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Therapy

It is the judgement of this court that Franklin King be taken to Steadwell’s Home for the Insane and placed in their custody where he will undergo therapy until such time as a doctor shall declare him cured.

That was ten years ago. A lot had changed in ten years. Those who had condemned him had changed. He was only sorry his mother wasn’t here with them.  Franklin was slow, Franklin was mean, but Franklin was not insane; not then anyway. The court had made his mother put him in that home when he was eleven. They tortured him, called it “therapy” for the first eight years of his extended stay. He was slow, but he learned that fighting to prove he was not insane just made the therapy worse. He learned and he plotted and he grew.

He stood overtop the bodies of the staff at Steadwell’s and smiled. His face was covered in blood but he didn’t mind. He had toyed with them for the last year, making them think he had been ‘cured’ of whatever illness he’d been sent to them with. He hadn’t been sick when he got there. He was now. Now it wasn’t just one voice Franklin heard, but two. That second voice always knew what to do.

One of the orderlies, a particularly vicious bastard named Ron, moaned and started to move.

Not good, Franklin. Not good at all. You can’t let him live. He would have killed you some time ago if he could have.

That voice was always with him now. It kept him company all these years at Steadwell’s. He had come to think of that voice as himself only smarter, more cunning. He welcomed that voice when it showed up.

Franklin fished Ron’s broken body out of the pile and lifted him as if he weighed nothing. Ron screamed wordlessly in his face, pitching spittle and nonsense at him. Franklin had removed Ron’s tongue with a serrated knife he’d found in the maintenance shed out back when he’d started because the voice told him to. It told him Ron would wake the others and then they would stop him from administering ‘therapy’. Franklin always listened to that voice.

“You had a chance to be nice, Ron. You blew it,” Franklin said and jammed his thumbs into Ron’s eyes. Ron screamed again fighting to get free but Franklin was far bigger than Ron was. He placed Ron’s head between his slab-like arms and began to squeeze as hard as he could. Ron’s skull cracked under the pressure, his movements slowing to nothing more than twitches. Franklin tossed his dead body onto the others unceremoniously and wiped his hands on his shirt.

***

The judge passed down his sentence without remorse. He hated that boy and he hated his mother. The boy might have been his, probably was his, and he was a mistake. Franklin’s mother was a mistake too, but she joined the church after Franklin was taken away. The judge couldn’t mess with a woman of the church. Some things were just not acceptable.  The only way to deal with this problem was to make it go away. In the twenty years the judge had been sending people there, Steadwell’s never cured anyone.

***

Franklin walked down the whitewashed hallway trying not to rage against the ghost of all the horrors he’d endured. Each room he passed held someone who used to be alive until Franklin had changed that.

The ones that hadn’t been mean to him were killed outright. Most of them died in their sleep, but those who took joy in administering Franklin’s ‘therapy’, they were handled differently. Franklin had taken great care to ensure they had all the attention they deserved.

The voice wasn’t with him, but it had given him instructions on how to proceed and where to find the red metal can in the maintenance shed.

***

It had been thirty hours and two hundred miles since Ron and the rest of the staffers at Steadwell’s had their own private therapy sessions. Franklin thought he would have found peace in that, but the voice told him he wasn’t done. There was still work to do.

The job is almost done, Franklin. You have a few more hours of work left and then you can rest. We see this through all the way to the end.

All the way to the end, yes,” Franklin said to his audience.

He began to assemble them when he arrived back in town. None of them remembered him at first but recognition returned quickly when they heard his voice.

Franklin stood on the back steps of the house of his final victim. Franklin wanted to come here first, but the voice insisted. It had to be the judge because the voice told him it was to be the judge. He didn’t argue with the voice.

“Good evening, Judge. I was wondering if you remember me, because I remember you.” He trailed off when the dawning horror crept across the old man’s haggard face. Franklin could smell stale beer and old sex on him as he tried to back away from the door.

“You do remember me. The voice in my head said you would.” Franklin laughed, but it wasn’t a good sound. He removed a large hunting knife from his belt and held it up in front of his face. The greasy lights from inside the broken down old house reflected in the steel; the judge saw blood and hair caked on the hilt. He turned to run, but Franklin was too fast.

Cut him deep, Franklin, but don’t cut the bones. You need the bones. Your work here is nearly done.

Franklin did as the voice insisted.

***

Franklin sat on his newly constructed throne, naked to the waist and reeking of gore. The bones that supported his frame bent under the weight of his muscle. He hadn’t needed the voice to tell him what to do with all those people who had sent him for treatment. He knew what to do with them. Each of them had played a part in sending him away; taking his home and his mother away. Now, they were all part of his world and he was their king. But, now he was too tired to move.

Franklin slept in the sticky mess that he’d made when he cut out the bones and muscle. He didn’t bother to clean any of it up, but the voice told him the smell would bring the neighbors to the church where his mother had been buried. The voice hadn’t told him it was a bad idea either. In fact, Franklin, rousing from the deepest sleep he’d had in nearly ten years, hadn’t heard the voice since the killing had stopped.

He listened, but the only sound was the sound of the flies lighting on and off the food he’d provided them.

“Are you there?” Franklin asked. He waited for a long time before deciding that the voice had gone maybe for good. He closed his eyes and felt peace for the first time. He dozed off again.

The sound of the flies grew louder as the day’s heat began to seep into the fabric of the old church; so did the sound of the siren headed his direction. Franklin knew that only one officer ever drove the town police car, and that was the sheriff. He hadn’t been home when Franklin stopped by to visit.

He’s the last one, Franklin. You know what to do.

Franklin stood, stretched his aching muscles and picked up an axe that had been in the shed out behind Steadwell’s. He liked the weight of it in his hands so he’d kept it, and as a car door opened and slammed shut in the old church yard, the voice told him he’d only need to swing it one more time.

Franklin smiled, knowing the voice was right. It was always right.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2016 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.

Meat and Leather

The high-pitched screams slowly faded to silence in front of him. Using his paring knife as a tool of inspection, he checked his work, turning the glistening, skinless torso from left to right as he watched for any spots he may have missed. The small body rolled with little effort since no limbs remained to inhibit the motion; they were customarily removed for efficiency in the skinning process.

Satisfied, Jeremy pressed the blade to the creature’s neck with increasing pressure until the head squished away from the torso, completing the total dismemberment. He picked up the head by its youthful tuft of dark hair and held it at eye level.

“I hope you enjoyed the pain,” he said to the lifeless eyes staring back at him. “In the end, we’re all just meat and everyone’s gotta eat.”

Jeremy dropped the head into a trash receptacle. With swift slices akin to a Rhoad Island wharfsman he stripped off the meat—separating it from the inedibles—and tossed the pieces into the pot simmering on a can of blue Sterno at the end of his work bench. He then scraped the remnants from his cutting board into the trash, saving only the creature’s wings.

He took great care to clean the blood from his hands before raising the wings overhead, examining them one after another under the fluorescent light fixture with meticulous slowness and delicate handling, searching for tears, punctures, or deformities. The rubbery smooth sensation of the bat’s wings sent a shiver twitching through Jeremy’s body. He closed his eyes, caressed it against his face.

Jeremy trapped the bats for sustenance, but the pleasure he received from their wings kept him from branching out to larger more sustaining animals. There was something visceral about the sensation of leather, of smooth animal skin whispering along his human flesh—it took him to another plane of experience.

Just as Jeremy put down the wings he heard the muffled thumping upstairs that signaled another victim in his trap. He smiled.

“My stew’s getting heartier by the hour.”

Chuckling, Jeremy reached for his Lite beer. He drained the can, slammed it down next to the crimson-stained cutting board, and wiped the remaining drops from his chin with a clean area of his apron.

He skipped up the basement steps and continued on to the second floor, the old wooden staircases creaking with each shift in weight. At the top, he walked down the narrow hall to the far door.

When his parents still lived in the house, still lived at all, it had been a guest bedroom. But, to young Jeremy, it was like a historic monument—a perfectly arranged room that endured untouched as if from the high security of a museum velvet rope. His mother kept the room pristine just in case a distant relative or lost traveler would drop in and need accommodations, but no one ever came.

His parents didn’t venture out much, on the account of their excessive weight, so the family didn’t really have friends. And no sane person would just drive up a two-mile driveway in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey to knock on some stranger’s door. So the room remained quarantined—off limits and untouched.

Often, Jeremy would stare at the closed door, knowing that simply touching the knob would warrant the lashings of father’s belt, but when he stood absolutely still some nights after dinner, with the toothpaste dripping from his lips, he could hear the dull thudding of something trapped in the walls and desperately trying to escape.

It was a mystery that never drifted far from his current thoughts. What was it? How was it trapped? What would it be like to thrash about in futility until exhaustion brought Death’s sickle down that much quicker?

His obsession with solving the mystery compelled him to visit the room time and time again, despite the repeated punishments. After a while, the beatings weren’t even a deterrent; in fact, along the way something changed in him and Jeremy began venturing into that prohibited zone more for the leather belt than his intrigue in the room itself.

The same day he put his parents in the ground, he wrenched the knob and shoved his way into the room. Standing there, for what must have been hours, he soaked up the forbidden realm. Staring at the pineapple patterned wallpaper, the tasseled lamp shades, the maroon fluffed carpet, the massive wooden headboard on the four-post bed, but without the promise of leather-bound pain, it was simply a dull, old-fashioned room.

Jeremy shook his head and turned to leave when a sudden flurry of muffled thumping shattered the silence and buried his disappointment. Adrenaline electrified his nervous system like jumper cables bringing a dead car battery back to life. He scurried throughout the room letting his ears guide him to the source of this lifelong mystery. Pressing the side of his head to the walls and sliding in every direction he eventually pinpointed its location—the chimney stack.

Moments later the room was full of plastic lining, heavy tools, and masonry dust. Jeremy hammered his way to the answer he craved.

The demolition revealed an odd bottleneck design to the home’s chimney. It was an unintentional trap for creatures of the night—an ideal resting place during the day, but too narrow for flight on exit. Bats, upon waking at dusk, would feel trapped and bludgeon themselves against the brick structure trying to escape.

Laying on a small ledge in this bottleneck, were several tiny carcasses; one of which was still fresh. Jeremy cradled the corpse in his hands. He could sympathize with the winged mammal’s plight. He too had been trapped by this constricting house. Emotion welled in his eyes.

On the verge of vowing to cement the trap away and close off the entire chimney forever, he stopped abruptly in mid thought. His widening eyes tilted down to look at his hands. Lost in his head, he hadn’t realized his fingers were rubbing the bat’s wings like a child absentmindedly working a worry stone. The sensation brought full understanding to him, not just with what he desired, but the realization that he was now truly free to do as he wished.

Over the next few days he worked hard to enclose the hole in the chimney, but with a new design. He installed a one-way gated trap with an internal door that would allow him access to the captured animal. He tested different baits, from sound frequencies to rotten fruit, luring his winged friends to their doom. It wasn’t long until he was capturing enough of them with regularity to further his own survival and satisfy his unnatural attractions.

Jeremy was on his fourth trip to the chimney that evening. He heard the creature’s thumps from the hall, their frequency diminishing, volume weakening—it was the right time to extract it, to make sure it’d have a bit of life left to feel the blessed pain he would graciously offer. Pain was a gift. He would help his new friend transcend to a better realm.

But before Jeremy could open the door an explosion shook the house, reverberating in the closed room and nearly blowing the door off its hinges. His mind pictured a bolt of lightning striking the old structure and obliterating the chimney. Trembling, he opened the door, pushed past some rubble on the carpet.

Neither the room nor the chimney was as damaged as he’d visualized, but the wall and the chimney stack were bulging into the room with areas of missing brick near the ceiling. Jeremy, inching forward, watched with wide eyes as more bricks fell to the carpet; not as a delayed collapse, but from something moving in the stack. What was a dull thumping before the crash, was now the sounds of confined shifting.

Whatever the fuck it is, it’s much bigger than a bat, Jeremy thought.

He crept onward with an outstretched hand reaching for the trap door. The metal door hung crookedly but was strong enough to stay latched. His fingers danced on the handle until he managed a firm grip. He took a deep breath and pulled.

At first all he saw was darkness. Then he noticed the wet glint of dark eyes just as it started to move again. The shadows spilled out of the opening and Jeremy stumbled backward—his shuffling feet catching on carpet, sending him to the floor.

The dark creature unfolded from the confined space and stood over him.

Jeremy couldn’t comprehend what he saw.

Its two hoofs clumped on the floor as it shifted weight between its furry legs. A forked tail whipped back and forth as the creature eyed him. Two long horns, pronged like antlers nearly scratched the ceiling. An elongated face leaned toward him as its teeth worked up and down. The torn remnants of a bat dripped from the creature’s taloned hand. It snorted and tilted its head.

Then it dropped the bat carcass and screeched at him. The echo was so loud as it sounded through the room that Jeremy’s ears released a trickle of blood.

The large creature stepped toward him and when its massive wings unfurled, Jeremy finally realized the nature of the creature before him.

“Y-you’re real!” The sight of the devil’s wings reaching from wall to wall turned Jeremy’s fear into awe and acceptance. “We’re all just meat, and you need to feed. Take me to a better realm.”

The creature shrieked again and lunged at him.

As teeth tore into his flesh and sharp talons ripped meat from bone, Jeremy clutched to the leathery wings, rubbing them against his face.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2016 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

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