I’d seen it before – glimpsed it from the corner of my eye as I walked past the open doorway – but never had it revealed itself to me so openly. Today, as I glanced back into the guest room certain that I would see nothing, there it was, looming before me. It stared back, eyes the color of onyx, seething with anger and intent. Its clawed hands clenched into fists, its interlocking teeth bared in a snarl, its lips quivered with menace, and its chest heaved with hostility and rage. Foulest of all was the opalescent skin, skin that dripped putrescent globules of mucus onto the wooden floor. It conveyed a hatred beyond belief.
Frozen in the moment, I stood stock-still. The crash of the laundry basket hitting the floor yanked me back to the here-and-now. I turned in a vain attempt to escape but the thing spit and leapt into the air. I tried to scream; a near silent whimper was all I could manage. Just as I made my way through my own bedroom door, its full weight landed upon my back. It tore at my hair, ripped apart my clothes, and shredded my flesh as it dug into my left shoulder blade to pull the scapula free of the muscle and sinew holding it in place. I fell to the floor taking it with me.
Having found my voice, I screamed at full volume with every ounce of breath I could manage. It screeched in return, and tore at my face, rending my lip in two, and slashed bits of flesh from my cheeks. All the while, I dragged my body forward, desperately trying to escape. Then it bit into the base of my skull – the sensation of its teeth sinking in seared through my brain and halted my forward motion. I lay there waiting to die; it sat upon me, savoring my anguish.
Then another sound reached my ears; a venomous hiss. In a single fluid motion, the thing retracted its teeth, whipped around, saw the cat hiding under the bed, and used its clawed feet to leap into the air; further gouging my back as it fled. I lay there terrified to move; terrified not to try. It was no use, my body would not respond. The cat crawled out from under the bed, sniffed me and mewled deep in his chest as if asking forgiveness before he ran off, abandoning me to my fate.
I lay there alone, unable to move, panting for breath.
From somewhere in the room, the sound of a glob hitting the floor echoed off the wood.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
There was an audible twang. Turning back, he wrinkled his brow in disgust. Four! Four perfectly placed stitches had torn loose so far. He was baffled and more than a bit annoyed. Peering at the remainder of the skein, he examined it for defects; it looked perfectly fine. He wrapped a short length around his fingers and gave a hard tug. He received nothing but resistance for his effort. A bit perplexed, his fingers slipped between her lips to remove the defective stitch; he inspected it thoroughly with a loop before discarding it with the others.
Making his way to the old apothecary cabinet his grandfather had used many years ago, he opened each draw until he finally found what he was looking for – catgut. Sometimes the old-fashioned way was the only way. Threading the much thicker needle with the coarse sinew, he finished the sutures. He stood and stared in consternation for a good ten minutes willing them to stay fast yet daring them to break free. Finally satisfied, he turned to reach for the clay and began the final stages of reconstruction.
Two hours later, after finishing the cosmetic details, he gazed down upon the face he had just rebuilt and was pleased with his efforts. He’d done a fine job of reconstructing her crushed bones and concealing the bruised tissue. She looked peaceful, almost angelic, but the sedative would soon wear off. After a brief wait, a slight murmur reached his ears; one eye began to tear open. As his grandfather used to say, ‘death was just around the corner, one should always be prepared,’ though he doubted his grandfather had meant it in quite the same manner.
With a deep sigh, he inserted a trocar into the femoral vein to drain the body, then moved to insert another into her brachial artery to introduce the chemical mixture. The art of embalming was one so few had the opportunity to experience, to appreciate. Apparently, she was not in an appreciative mood.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
I pound my torn fists against the sides of this box, but the effort is useless – there is no escaping oneself. Scratching, clawing, chewing a splinter I manage to create in my mad scrambling does no good; I simply ravage myself further. Bloody and raw, I fill with a pressure that threatens to burst from my haggard being, further tainting this polluted soul.
There is no escape from the crushing weight of my prison. I beg to be saved from the anguish in which I languor; but there is no salvation, not for me; not for one so undeserving, uncherished, unloved. There is only the false glimmer of light, one my inner demon allows me to glimpse for his enjoyment and my unrelenting torture.
Scuffed, scrapped, tattered and torn, a thing not palatable to another, I slide to my knees; a pile of rent flesh brutalized by the walls surrounding me. I clutch at the only thing I have left, a scrap of sanity, but my fingers… they no longer close. A wail erupts from my stricken lungs; my raw throat bellows a croon no one will ever hear.
My demon laughs; he finds my anguish a great delight. I am a toy to be played with, a thing of distraction, a means to pass the eternity in which he will dwell within me. I cannot escape him, though I try – all the more to his amusement. He watches me struggle in futility, basks in the restriction of breath that bands my burning lungs. He hears my silent shriek of agony, licks the salty tears that streak my filth-ridden face. He is my tormentor, he is my keeper, he is my salvation – though he shall never grant it.
The walls of this box are by now a forest of splinters; it matters not where I lay for comfort, I find none – there is only jagged surface to be sought here. This prison so impenetrable, no other shall ever glimpse it, nor shall I ever be released from it. I have no false hope, only a fool would hope for mercy from such a thing. Though I am a fool, I am not that fool…
Awash in a pool of my own shattered dreams, I find no blame other than mine to own. My demon chuckles as he reminds me this box is of my own design, made impregnable by my own failings.
Yet still, I rub my ragged and blood caked palm along the shreds of wall hoping to find the smallest fissure, a mere crack, any sign that can offer even the falsest of hope that someday I will break free – but there is none. There never has been.
In this box, I see my deepest desires turn to dust; my most cherished dreams die; my fate sealed forever. I find my demon observing my anguish, relishing the unending torture of my most exquisite pain. Here, I am me – I am this quivering thing that lies upon the floor begging for a mercy that will never come; beseeching my demon for a small measure of what others are granted, but I shall never have. I am destined to scrape and scratch and gnaw at this unyielding pen that is minuscule in breadth, yet without end.
Why will it not swallow me and put to rest this pathetic shadow of my former self? Consume me, I beg of it, but it will not. What use am I to the box if it has no grief from which to feed; no pain left to color its darkened walls; no feather to pluck while my remnants jerk in concert?
My demon wants me locked in this box for an eternity, perhaps because it seeks the same as I do – a measure of level tolerance. It lives a lone existence, my demon, though I believe it was meant to, whereas I am meant for more. I am meant to be free from this punji-ridden hell of despair…
Another false hope I harbor; another path to mental decay I shall have to avoid for as long as I can. One more shattered reality in a world filled with tightly sealed boxes. Yet without these boxes, would I not be only an empty shell? Another harsh reality to be born on the back of so many others I wish were not mine. But the lie told that all is just, is just that – a lie. With each whispered falsehood the box containing my soul shrinks further, the desperate pitch of my moaning crescendos grander, the laughter of my demon grows stronger; a promise that one day, I will succumb to this crippling madness.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2015 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved
Why must I feel so utterly shattered when smashed upon your jagged edge? Why can you not let me fall into the beautifully delicious pain that exists inside you – pain that has been waiting for me to find it for so very long? You hide such an exquisitely luring anguish from me, thinking I cannot see it – but I see it with my very essence – my entire being; I see it in the blink of your depthless eyes even when not at your side; I feel it in every breath you draw whether that breath be taken roughly in my ear or drawn in a spat of anger at all the world has made of you. I long so desperately to be near you, to revel in your darkest pangs, your deepest wounds, your most hidden crevasses where your shadows stretch the longest.
My soul is no longer in my own keeping as it has already been fully engulfed by you – it is given with utter bliss and unhindered submission, bowing to your every whim and fancy. My pain is yours to have, my pleasure yours to give or withhold. I beg of you to open your shadowed darkness and let me submerge myself, gulping it in as though it were my own life’s breath; for it is, as I cannot be without you any longer.
Give to me all that I would allow you to take from one so undeserving as I. I offer you a glimpse of the salvation you have sought at only the cost of my own damnation. Why must you hide in a darkness you feel is precious only to you? My darkness is equal to that of yours and calls out in pain to touch, to merge, to become one with that mournful depth which dwells within you.
Ahhh, tears burn my eyes to think of the ecstasy that awaits the lost such as we. Am I never to attain such glorious freedom while you exist in your own self-imposed exile? Be all to me that your inner demon demands I be to you, suffocate me with your needs; for I need not the air I breathe so much as I need the nearness of the beast that rages within you. Your touch, your embrace, your longing – your anger, your angst, and your pain; these things are my gleaming gems, my most sacred desires – the currency of an aching soul unearthed from the roughest of stone I did not know existed before you.
Drag me into an eternity of damnation where I will languish in your exquisite tenderness… a tenderness that rends my heart to pieces and releases the overwhelming restraint I have kept in check for what seems all of time. Strip away my mask and bare my most inner desires that I am not able to unleash with any other than you. Take me farther into the reaches of madness that will consume what is left of my sanity for I need not think when you are near, I must only be.
This is my treasured wish; this is my undisguised want; this is what you have made of me. Be for me, as I am only for you…
© Copyright 2015 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved
The ground below your delicately formed feet begins to shift, sending you tumbling to within a breath’s width of the insanity you know awaits you should you ever truly fall; you struggle to maintain your hold – a hold that for eons has treated you so kindly, so reverently, so graciously. You suckle and gasp for that earlier delight that still echos through your now destroyed body. This gaping new view of the emptiness you see around you leaves you wondering which part of this horror-scape is to be accepted as a horror of your own making, and which part is far too horrible to be allowed existence any longer. How does one go about choosing their individual horror without having a previous grasp of their own tenuous reality? A reality stroked so gently; consumed so fully; torn to pieces in such an eloquent display of cruelty… naive, silly girl, you never did pay attention to anything other than your own wants – why did you not heed the danger when you still had the chance to do so?
Existence in this newly scorched reality is – other. You breathe in the foul tainted air, retching vile fluids from your own rotting organs while desperately reaching for handfuls of once moist, rich soil; the soil that continually sifts through your small clutching fingers; for you cannot hold what is no longer there. You weep for a blanket to shroud you from the view of your newly exposed self.
Can you no longer feel the gentle caress of the sun’s offered warmth? Have you, like the insignificant creatures that feed from your lush womb, begun to shrivel under his now harsh and ever seeking glare? No, not you; for you will offer yourself to this beast who brings the searing pain only to weep at its feet while its brilliance burns you from within; laying to waste the wretched thing that you are. You will seek to undo this cruel fortune that has been bestowed upon you, but in that seeking, you will yourself be undone. You are a creature of will, one foolish enough to forgo turning your face from the ever increasing blindness the searing light brings; you are a creature that believes herself to be the worst of all things in his eyes… worthy.
This all consuming brightness, this overwhelming luminescence, this addictive, abusive wave that pounds its putrid nourishment into you – how you will suffer for it… begging for his mercy, a mercy that he does not pretend to offer, but you will beg nonetheless… and in doing so, you will try to rise upward; growing closer to the light believing yourself to be his equal – this giver of all things; this taker of pure souls. But your soul is not pure, is it? Your soul is tainted by the ecstasy of existence. You, who have fed off the offal that has been lain down upon the altar before you; you, who have sipped from the chalice with the proffered blood of those baring no shame, the untainted, the yet to be ripened; you, who have ripped the meat from the bones of the small bleating sheep with your bared teeth and ragged claws as it lay there staring up at you with trusting, unknowing eyes. All the while, glorious creature that you are, you feel nothing; not an ounce of remorse for your glutenous act of satisfaction, feasting on the dying embers of the slowly dwindling soul before you.
The feathered one who tainted the sweet nectar – the devourer of forbidden fruit – the selfish wretch who cannot exist without consuming the flesh of the gentle, the deserving; you are these things and more. You are the speaker of lies – muttering those sacred and meaningless words while they are being whispered every so seductively into your own arrogant and self-indulgent ear. You are the reason the soil shall burn; you are the reason the soil is already burning.
You are a thing not worthy of worship, though you have had much of it, but now the beast has come to set you to rights; your penance shall be to worship him with the blind devotion you once commanded for yourself.
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved
Oh, what a lovely selection this year! Such cute little bunnies. Each with a cherubic face: round rosy cheeks, tiny pink lips, glistening wide eyes. I don’t know where to begin… I suppose I’ll just pluck one at random – what fun this will be.
They seem to grow uncomfortable when I try to coax the first one toward me. I don’t want to frighten them; don’t they know how I love my precious bunnies? I suppose the fidgeting and jostling should be expected as my impatience drives me to grab the first boy and drag him forward. Calming myself, I reach back in time and recall my grandmother’s instructions from when I myself was a youth.
“Everyone knows you start with the eyes. Nibbling them off the face is the first step. Then the ears. Yes, the ears. You begin on the right, taking small bites until you reach the crown – but don’t crack it! Breaching the skull at this point would be unforgivable!” She would say with mock exaggeration. Giggling, we would begin peeling back the foil wrapper together. “Next, it’s the legs. Nibble, nibble, nibble! Once you reach the torso, it’s time for a final sugary treat – the bow tie. When I was a girl, I ate all the parts off my bunnies first, and then I would line up their leftover bodies to be devoured later!” She would always tickle me when she reached this part of the story.
The din of screaming children is a faint echo compared to the bliss of such a treasured memory. As my eyes open, I see the other bunnies gathered in the corner, scrambling and clawing at one another to climb out of their pen. Silly bunnies! You can’t get out… the wall is much too high, I chortle to myself. Then I notice the change – tears streak their once placid faces; their formerly rosy cheeks are now blotchy and rouged an ugly red. Both saddened and angered, I turn my attention back to the one I’m holding. I realize he’s squirming and shoving against my hand to be set free. My previous jubilant mood is beginning to sour. Why are they ruining this for me? Selfish little bunnies!
In my anger, I must have shaken him too hard – the little bunny is no longer struggling; blood is trickling from his open mouth; his body dangles slack in my grip. Another special day ruined. How I miss my gram and the delicious bunnies she would bring me; now I’m forced to collect my own. Glancing toward the corner, I see a few have given up and are sitting on the floor sobbing. The cacophony of terrified wails from the others has grown in volume and pitch. I wonder if gram was wrong. I wonder if I should set these bunnies free; they really are adorable, after all. Then I look down at the one dangling from my hand. A small smile begins to creep its way across my face. I’m a good boy; I deserve these bunnies.
Everyone knows you start with the eyes…
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
It moved! I swear on my mother’s grave I saw it move! Glancing up, I scan the faces surrounding the table trying to determine if anyone else saw the jerking motion. No one seems to have noticed; they’re all laughing and drinking, chattering away happily while waiting to be fed.
I blink a few times to clear my eyes. I’ve been working too hard lately, putting in too many hours, that’s all. I raise the carving knife and fork once more, preparing to plunge them into the bird trussed before me. It fucking moves again! This time with an accompanying slopping sound. A bead of sweat breaks out on my upper lip; my wife is staring at me hesitantly. With both hands now resting on either side of the beast, I take a few slow, deep breaths to calm my overwrought nerves. A slight nudge comes from my right. It’s my wife, a strained smile on her face; she nods toward the foul creature. I nod back.
Bringing the arm with the fork up, I dab at the dew above my lip and make an off-hand comment about it being roasting in here. Everyone laughs. A small shake of my head, I exhale and raise the knife once again to begin slicing the meat. As the gleaming instruments near the platter, I hear a voice in my head. ‘Go on ya piss-ant piece of shit – cut me open. Show everyone what a big man you are and gut me. Gut me like you gutted your wife when the doctor told her there was no physical reason you couldn’t get it up. Ya don’t have the balls to stick it to her, and you don’t have the balls to stick it to me either!’
What the fuck? My knees nearly buckle and my wife reaches out to steady me. I jerk my arm away. The room grows quiet, the tension nearly palpable. I toss out another remark meant as a joke; the responding chortle is terse, fraught with unease. My wife is no longer smiling; she looks worried. I try to reassure her with a smile of my own, but a bare shake of her head lets me know she’s not buying it. ‘Ya know, she doesn’t have any faith in you anymore, right? She was expecting to marry a man, and look what she got – you! She knows about Terry, too.’ I almost utter a response but choke on my own spittle instead. ‘Yeah, that’s right. She knows you’re sticking it to that bitch from work. She knows you been doin’ it for the past month when all you’re bringin’ home is that limp fish in your pants, she just doesn’t wanna ruin this family get-together-thing. Your ass is outta here as soon as they’re gone, buddy!’
Sure that I’m pale as a ghost, I lean on the table for support once more. My head hanging, limbs trembling; the nervous tick of the fork tapping against a glass the only sound in the nearly silent room. My wife reaches over again and lays a hand on my forearm. I lash out to shove her away, forgetting that I’m holding the carving knife. We stare at one another in shock for a heartbeat before her body crashes forward into the china, her throat sliced ever so neatly from side to side. As the crimson of her blood mixes with the pumpkin colored hue of her favorite tablecloth, a slight gurgling is all that resounds. I look on in horrified disbelief, then one of the children lets out an ear-piercing screech. The demon starts again, ‘Ha! Look what you…’
I begin stabbing it with the fork, maniacally ripping it to bits while screaming incoherently. Everyone in the room is staring at me like I’ve gone insane. I try to explain about the turkey… about not realizing I was still holding the knife… about the pressure I’ve been under… but there isn’t a sympathetic eye to be found. ‘You know what you have to do, don’t ya? If you don’t, they’ll lock you up in the loony bin again.’ An icy cold sheet of acceptance washes over me as I move to the doorway, blocking my teenage brother-in-law from escaping.
I was really hoping this family would be different, not like the last…
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014/2015 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
He sits in the bell tower: watching, waiting; scenting the air.
It has been far too long since his last meal, not because he hungers, but because he craves. So many years of eating spoiled meat, the rotted flesh of the dead; so much time held in subjugation, fearing the wrath of a god that does not exist – these things no longer shackle him, he no longer recognizes a master other than his own desire. However, the invasion of his privacy, his sanctuary, after the last feeding frenzy came to light has forced him to stay his hand, to crawl back into the warren beneath the ground to avoid unwanted attention; as well as forced an unnatural silent abandonment of his home. This is his true birthplace – the place he shed the bonds of superstition and started living for himself; he is loath to leave it.
So he sits in the bell tower of the old church that boarders his domicile and he waits.
A fog sits heavy upon the ground this night, cloaking all but the nearest object, masking all but the loudest sound – but not to his senses. He sees and hears with a sharpness the pathetic human rabble can’t even comprehend. Frustration and anger setting in, he is about to descend from his perch when he hears it…
“Come on! I know you’re scared, but do you wanna go back and let him beat you again?” The boy’s hushed voice asks, “I’m not gonna let him hurt me again, and I don’t wanna let him hurt you.”
Her small hand trembling in his, one only slightly larger than the other, she looks to her older brother through the mist with tears running over her chubby, flushed cheeks. “No… I don’ wanna let Uncle hurt you or me no more. But Mommy and Daddy said we should stay there. That man read it from the special paper. The paper that said Uncle was s’posed to take care of us until they came back.” Tucking her head into the dirty teddy bear she clutches in the crook of her arm, she begins to sob – small feet trying to keep pace with her brother.
“Look, Mom and Dad aren’t coming back. That man with the paper said they are dead – do you know what that means? Dead?” Hearing her wail even louder, he stops for a moment to kneel in front of her. “Look, I’m sorry I yelled at you, and I’m sorry I said mom and dad are dead so mean like that, but it’s the truth – I know you don’t want it to be true, I don’t want it to be true, but it is. So now it’s just you and me, and we gotta protect ourselves.”
“Uncle is s’posed to protect us…” she shouts, spittle flying from her swollen pink lips.
Jumping up and clamping a hand over her mouth, he tells her to hush. Tells her that if anyone hears them, they’ll be sent back to Uncle’s house and he’ll beat them for trying to run away. He tells her he’s bringing her to say goodbye to their parents before finding them a new safe home where they don’t have to worry about being afraid of a backhand that will tear her cheek open, or a strap that will leave him too sore to sit for days. Gently rubbing his thumb over her injured face, he sees it begin to bleed again. “C’mon,” he yanks her small arm in anger; anger at himself, anger at their parents for dying and leaving them on their own. “We’re doing this and you had better stop crying about it or I won’t let you say goodbye to Mom and Dad. Do you understand?” This last statement hushes her bawling, and she nods her head as hiccups and quiet shudders escape with her heaving chest and still watering eyes.
Feeling ashamed of scaring her into silence, he puts his head down and starts walking once more.
Listening all the while, the Ghoul’s quills vibrate with the stuttering rhythm of her nearly imperceptible weeping. They are headed his way; where else would dear old Mom and Dad be if not in his burial ground? One clawed nail rap-tap-taps on the exterior metal of the bell before scratching its way down the surface, sending out an eerie wail of protest from the bronze. He begins making his way to the ground.
“I can’t go no more,” she protests as she plunks herself down upon the sidewalk.
“We’re almost there,” he replies as he pulls on her arm trying to get her to stand. “I told you to put on sneakers not those silly shoes. Now, come on, get up.”
“I like my pretty shoes, momma gave them to me! She said they were my princess shoes!” The bear is thrown; her arms cross her chest in protest. Looking into her face, he can see he’s made another mistake; her lips are curling, cheeks puffing up, and eyes beginning to squint for yet another outburst.
“Shh.” Finger to his lips, he bends down. “I’ll carry you and you don’t have to worry about walking. Okay?” he pleads, hoping she won’t start screaming this close to their destination.
From the fog, another voice answers, “Let me. I’m much stronger and I believe where you are headed is just over to the left.” Both children freeze in terror, trying to peer through the dense fog to see who is addressing them.
Slowly, walking with a paced gate, a hunched figure begins to emerge. Holding the teddy bear out in front of it, it speaks to them once again. “I have your toy animal, would you like it back? And if you are tired, I can easily carry the both of you.” He comes into full view – the boy pisses himself, the girl begins to giggle.
“Are you a giant talking puppy?”
The hair along his spine bristles in protest, “No child, I am not a giant puppy. I am something entirely other. But I can pretend to be a puppy if you’d like?” Sensing the boy’s need to flee, the creature reaches out a hand and lays it heavily on his shoulder. Addressing the little girl once more, he inquires, “Would you like to ride on me the rest of the way so that your pretty shoes don’t hurt your feet? You can pretend I’m a puppy, I don’t mind.” He grins, being sure to keep his lips sealed, hiding his teeth.
The girl leaps from the ground, and after reclaiming her teddy bear, climbs upon him. Gritting his teeth at the indignity, he allows the grin to slip as he stares the boy in the eye.
“Okay puppy, let’s go,” she kicks his flanks with her wooden orthopedic shoes and clutches tiny fistfuls of his highly sensitive hair. Bearing the humiliation, he nearly drags the boy along as they proceed to the graveyard.
Reaching the field-stone wall, he bounds over with the one child holding firmly to his back while tossing the boy onto the grass. Retrieving him once more, the Ghoul asks for the name of their parents.
The little girl pipes up that her mommy’s name is Rose as she pulls and stretches his skin with tiny digging fingers. Finding his humor for this game fading fast, he draws the boy close to his face and, with much malice in his tone, asks again for their parents name. The boy replies that it is Rose – their last name is Rose. Their mother is Chistina and their father is Benjamin.
Breathing fetid breath into the boy’s face, he mocks, “I guess that makes you little Bennjie then, doesn’t it?”
“His name is Christopher… he was named after mommy. Do you want to know my name? Do ya? Do ya, puppy?” The growl that issues from his throat is not intended, but he does not bother to cut it short, either. The small girl stops laughing and becomes still. With his free hand, he reaches around and plucks her from his back. Lifting the boy with his other hand, he begins to bound toward the portion of the cemetery where they may be interred.
Reaching the proper area, he slows and asks the boy where their marker is. There is no response. He glances down and sees the boy’s vacant stare. “Well, point then if you are too much a dullard to speak in my grasp.” The boy motions slightly with his head; the creature nods as he recalls the planting of the Roses’ and their elegant yet modest gravestone. Striding to where they rest, he tosses both children to the ground.
“Here you are children, reunited with Mommy and Daddy once again. I believe I overheard you discussing saying goodbye to them before moving on, is that correct, Bennjie?”
Rushing to her bother to clasp her arms around his neck, the little girl defiantly states, “I told you his name is not Bennjie! His name is Christopher!” Her face is red once more, in anger this time. “You’re just a big meanie – a monster that no one likes!”
A full grin splits the Ghoul’s face this time, his teeth glinting with saliva. The girl stares, not comprehending.
“I beg your pardon, my sweet one. I’ll ask again. Christopher, is this or is this not the grave of your parents?” He takes one knee before the children, placid, calm. Christopher nods once.
With lighting speed, the demon whirls and punches a fist through the packed earth, through the lid of the uppermost casket and rips dear mommy from the grave. Her putrescent corpse drips a trail of pealing tissue and carries a noxious fume as he holds it before them. Both stare in terror.
“Well go on, give mommy a kiss goodbye. That’s what you came here for, isn’t it? To say goodbye… here is your chance. You don’t want it? Don’t you think Mommy would like a hug and a kiss before you ungrateful little shits disobey her and your father’s wishes? Hmm?” He growls, “No takers?” His fangs flash in full display.
“Fine, I’ll just give your Mommy a goodbye kiss for you.” And with that, he turns and bites clean through the front portion of her skull, ripping the still clinging sinew and tissue away with a horrendous sucking sound amid the crunching of bone.
Turning back, he leers at both children before spitting their mother’s face onto the ground at their side.
The little girl begins to screech hysterically while clutching her brother. With a flick of his forefinger, he silences her by sending her tiny body tumbling several graves away. The boy has still not moved; he sits frozen, gaping at his decaying mother.
“Damn!” the Ghoul declares as he tosses the corpse at the boy’s feet. He stares at the small girl, hoping he hasn’t killed her. He detests eating dead flesh. After a moment or two, he sees slight movement and hears the beginning of a groan. As the faint groan develops to a moan, adrenaline courses through him. In a leap, he is upon the child. He lifts her by her skull and with two strides is back at her brother’s side.
She screams hysterically for Christopher to help her while clutching her auburn capped head. Growing tired of her ceaseless kicking and the cacophony emitting from such a small mouth, the creature starts to squeeze her cranium until she can no longer screech. The kicking – now only a spastic jerking motion. Easing his grip, her body relaxes but her feet continue their odd peddling.
Holding the child before his gruesome, viscera covered face, the Ghoul asks the little girl to tell him her name. Her blank stare gives him the answer he seeks – the child is no longer capable of comprehension, the pressure on her skull too great; it has deadened her brain. Wide eyed like a porcelain doll, she stares back at him, drool puddling in her gaping mouth, and overflowing her lower lip.
Without removing his eyes from the little girl, he asks Christopher to tell him her name. Listlessly Christopher replies, “Deborah. Her name is Deborah, but everyone calls her Orie.” The monster lets out a resounding cackle, leans forward and delicately pinches Orie’s pink tongue between his front teeth. Once he has a firm hold on it, he slowly pulls backward until it, and a portion of her esophagus, tears free from her tiny body. With a slapping sound, it strikes his chest. Slowly, sucking bite by sucking bite, he consumes the delicate morsel. The drool now runs red with blood.
Bending down in front of Christopher, the creature asks if the boy would like to say goodbye to his sister. Christopher turns his head away.
The Ghoul bites into Orie’s face as though it were a ripe tomato. Juice spurts in all directions. Holding the small body to his mouth, he sucks it dry until there is no more fluid to take. Wanting to get to the organs before they cool, he rips the stomach cavity open and begins plucking them out one by one; the smallest he grabs in handfuls like raisins. After finally sucking the bones clean of their marrow, he tosses them to the side and turns his attention back to Christopher once more.
Sounds echo in the distance, Uncle must have discovered them missing and assumed they’d run to the cemetery.
The blood smeared visage before Christopher speaks to him again. “You know your legs are useless. You know they, and your spine, were shattered on the grave markers as we traveled to this place, yet you didn’t tell your sister even when she begged you to save her. Why? Why let her die thinking you didn’t care?”
“Does it matter?”
Considering the boy, the Ghoul reaches out and rips off his left leg, then the right. He laps the blood pouring from the arteries, then just as with the girl, he slices the stomach and chest cavity open. The child’s heart beats at an alarming rate, his breath rapid and shallow, his lungs gasping for air as his mind tries to process what his body can no longer feel. Looking the demon in the eyes, he speaks his final words.
“At least I won’t go to waste, huh?”
With his hand wrapped around the boy’s heart, the beast replies, “No, you certainly will not. The trouble you children have brought me will force me back into the warrens once again. But you and your sister made for a scrumptious snack.” Leering in pleasure, he rips the heart from the boy’s chest, devours it whole, then fades back into the fog.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved
I can hear them scratching – almost ticking, always clicking, as they move around inside my head. It’s maddening. Their tiny feet always touching, testing, feeling their way about. Each hair-coated limb sliding between the soft tissue and bone – scuttling through the crevasse in between. Feeding off the fluid…growing.
Sometimes, when I’m looking in the mirror, in the worst moments, the moments where I have to hold onto the basin to support myself and can barely catch a full breath, I swear I see a shadow scuttle behind my eye. The quick darting of a grotesque form moving swiftly past before I can focus on it. My own visage in the mirror is a horror in itself; long hair a greasy tangled mess, cheeks sunken and hollow, skin a sickly yellow hue from their rancid poison. Sinking to the floor, scratching at my face to be rid of them, I gouge my eye sockets with filthy, ragged nails. Will they find their way through the opening if I offer one? Covered in the blood oozing from destroyed tissue around my eyes, forehead slashed bare, with flesh caked beneath my fingernails, I crawl on hands and knees to the bed where I cower beneath the covers seeking refuge, hoping to hide. But there is no refuge, nowhere to hide; they are always with me – inside me, there is no escape from what is inside…
I would have thought knowing they were inside me would be the worst part, but it’s not – the mind adapts to such things; it’s feeling their movements, their scurrying back and forth beneath my skin that is the most repulsive part. I don’t know how they were able to gestate inside me; they seem maddened at not being able to get out. Their constant frenzy keeps me up at night – I’m getting no sleep; it keeps me sick throughout the day – nourishment something I’ve not known in weeks; a prisoner in my own home – I’m terrified to go into the light, I look the part of a monster – a filth ridden hag.
I wonder: will they roast in the sunlight if I let myself burn in its glorious blaze? The sun beating down upon me, turning my skin the blistering red of cracked paint on canvas. Perhaps I should wander to the basement and embrace the furnace with its searing hot metal, cooking myself like meat thrown upon a hot skillet. Or simply douse myself with open flame; does it matter at this point? Tempted to try such things, my mind wanders to the possibilities: what if they panic from the heat and start to run, cascading in a black surging mass from my ears and shrieking maw? Nowhere for me to go, no way to escape them – more still coming, an endless flow continuing their frantic evacuation. What if they are no longer only in me, but all over me? The thought alone drives me beyond the limits of this tenuous sanity I now grasp.
God, the cacophony of their humped bodies sliding between the soft tissue of my brain and the hardness of my skull is deafening. I have to find a way to get them out! Nails gouge once more; I rip chunks of skin from my body sending fresh streams of puss and blood down my face, past my eyes – my mind shuts down and I feel no more.
Oh God, I think I threw one up during the night. It’s lying on my pillow, but it doesn’t look like I expected it would. It’s far too elongated, thin and withered as am I, almost a milky grey color. Covered in mucus, mine or its own, I cannot say.
It twitched! I know I saw it twitch, I didn’t imagine it. Frozen in fear, I stare wide eyed at the collapsed carcass of the thing on my pillow, hoping it was my imagination. It twitches again; not my imagination.
I leap up, tangled in my own covers, screaming wildly. It still lies there making a feeble attempt to move; I think it’s dying. There is a sloshing in my head – I moved too fast, screamed too loud, they are scuttling insanely about inside my skull. I retch, and retch again. Vomiting up more, I realize they are no longer only in my head but have found a way to travel into my throat! The thought makes me retch yet again. They are agitated by my convulsions; I can feel their vibrating urgency to quell their host. Oh God, please get them out of me!
The pounding in my head is beyond bearable, the heaving of my starved body uncontrollable; afraid to breath yet terrified I won’t, panic begins to set in as my body spasms of its own volition.
They are larger now, no longer simply sliding through the minute fissures of my skull. I feel a piercing pain with each stab of their clawed legs as they dig in and drag themselves forward. I can barely inhale for the number of them clinging to the walls of my throat. Coughing blood and eight legged bodies, I feel them holding on with their barbed legs so as not to be ejected with each contraction.
Swallow or vomit my only choices, I grab a bottle of water from my nightstand and begin to gulp the warm water. I can feel it sluicing over their swollen bodies like lesions grown from my esophagus, not just the intruders that they are. I vomit more, pulling one or two free that refuse to be expelled. The others grasp tighter, puncturing the delicate pink tissue of my already mutilated gullet. These, the ones spewed onto the bed, seem different, more frantic as they dance about. Their color more dense, darker – their bodies harder in form. Clearly blind, they dart in sporadic circles, slowly growing more sluggish, more translucent; collapsing like the first one I saw.
It seems they die quickly, they don’t survive long outside my body.
Scratching my ear, I feel something long and thin move away from my finger. Something covered in fine wisps of hair, something that slithers backward and draws into itself, much the way I have snatched my own hand away, clutching it with its blood covered finger to my chest.
Crawling again to the bathroom and scaling the sink, I open a drawer and reach for my scissors intending to cut away a chunk of hair to more easily see inside my ear. As I grab a handful of hair, I realize that the clump I’m clutching is slowly pulling away from my scalp with a slurping sucking noise. Tendrils of a thick sticky substance adhere to the skin for a brief moment before slopping to the side of my face. The exposed tissue is raw, puss covered and stings – small globules of fatty tissue clinging in place.
With a terrified grimace, I turn my head ever so slightly to allow the light to shine on my ear. There! Just like the shadow scuttling behind my eye, something quickly moves further into the darkened recesses of my ear canal. Barely able to stand on quivering legs, weak from hunger and brought to the brink of insanity by this infestation, I pull my long tweezers out of the drawer – the medical ones, and with a shaking and still bleeding hand, I begin to reach into my ear hoping to extract what is hiding there.
A sharp nip warns me to go no further; I drop the tweezers and my other hand slips off the slickened sink as I crash to the tile floor. The coolness of the stone a brief reprieve from the molten pain I feel in my head and throat. The smack upon my skull barely noticed above the crunch of crushed bodies.
I wake in a sticky patch of drying blood on the bathroom floor. Disoriented at first, I wonder how I got here, but the first subtle movement reminds me as they begin to rummage through my decimated body. Glancing downward, I can see the shape of one as it moves under my skin making its way across my abdomen and down my thigh. They’re crawling throughout my entire body now. They seem to be making their way to the cooler surfaces that are in contact with the tile floor I lay upon.
They relish the cool feel of the stone as much as I do. The clutter of them must have moved while I was unconscious. There is a pregnant hum to the silence, almost an anticipation of retribution should I try to move yet again.
The more aware I become, the more I come to realize that they are not all seeking to be dormant – not all moving toward the cool floor. The smaller ones still crawl through me, using their clawed legs to move in and around my organs. My body spasms from the pain, and I feel the frenzy of awakening. They nip in vague warning for me not to move, poke at my tender innards with their pincers and jab with hardened claws.
Exhausted from not eating, from the loss of blood, and the horror of knowing my body is their only source of food, I reach out towards the edge of the bathtub. As my hand closes around it, I feel their carcasses crunching between skin, tendon and bone. They bite and scrabble frantically to escape; I can’t help but feel a smug bit of satisfaction at this. Others awaken and join the fray, biting and stabbing with abandon at their host; my body. But I refuse to be coerced, I have found strength in their terror. I will drag myself to the bathtub – its cool surround offering a coffin of reprieve.
I manage to pull my torso up and over the edge. God do they hate this. The moment my abdomen is bent in two, head dangling in the tub, I begin to spew blood and small black bodies. Fatigued from my efforts and unable to go any further, I lay bent over the edge and watch as their slickened bodies scurry about, unable to find purchase on the smooth surface. Too drained to do more, I collapse in a heap half in, half out of my enamel coated salvation as the malformed creatures desperately crawl up my limp hair, trying to enter through ears and mouth that others are still using as a route of mass exodus from my traitorous body.
Pressure, there is so much pressure building behind my eyes. My head feels like it’s going to burst. So many of them have returned to my skull – I feel them packed in there like the woolen stuffing of a doll. For some reason this thought makes me laugh. Stuffed like a doll I am with crawling monsters gnawing away at my insides. More laughter, hysterical this time. I hear it as if from a distance, but know it’s emanating from my own cracked and swollen lips, my own cracked and damaged mind. The laughter gives me energy, makes them crazy. I can feel their panicked agitation escalate with the flow of what little blood is left in me.
Heaving the rest of my body into the tub, my swollen and infested carcass is wracked with uncontrollable convulsions. A stream of small creatures emerge with the spittle that I cough up. They scurry for the darkness of the drain. Lifting one foot, I manage to flip the hot water tap. Immediately they begin to scale my body and climb my flesh to escape the torrid flow.
Twisting, contorting and clawing my way around, I manage to turn my body so that my head is closer to the near boiling stream. It is excruciating; gloriously agonizing. I rip handfuls of my own hair from my head, and stuff them into the drain effectively clogging it to trap the scalding water in the basin with me – with them!
Delirious as I am, a small voice in the back of my mind whispers that I may be imagining all of this, but as my flesh peels back from bone and sinew, and the smell of steaming meat assaults my nostrils, I can’t help but feel that I have finally won. They will die along with me in agony and pain. My final act – to slide shut the glass doors, trapping them in the swiftly filling watery grave I’ve chosen for us all.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Feet pounding as fast as they can, I tear across the hard-packed ground. Tree branches slap my arms, scrape my face, tangle in my hair; I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I hear it chasing me, not quite on my heels yet, but close enough to make my skin want to crawl clean off my bones. At any moment, I expect to be snatched from the trail by god-knows-what kind of clawed hand. The thing is so near I can smell its stench. It’s enough to make me gag: make my eyes water and my nostrils burn. I set out to find it, to track it – to prove its existence. What a fool. I was never tracking it; it was tracking me the entire time.
If I can make it to the water, everything will be all right – that’s what all the stories say. Make it to that deep blue pool buried in the Pines and for some reason, the creature won’t come any closer.
I can’t be too far from the lake. Christ – I must have trekked thirty miles into the dense Barrens since leaving the road. It’s got to be around here somewhere; I’m right where the locals said the water would be. But there was something not quite right about the way those ‘Pineys’ were smiling…
My foot tangles in an exposed root where the dirt loosens and turns to a softer, sandier mixture. In near panic, I almost go down but somehow manage to keep my feet beneath me. The forest is thinning out quickly; I can see a much brighter patch ahead.
A guttural roar sounds from behind; it’s nearly on top of me. I can feel the air shift to the side as my eye catches sight of something black whipping by just off to the right. I scream – no sound comes out – but I don’t stop moving. Before I know it, the trees clear and I stumble onto a small beach.
I can see the water and whisper a silent prayer of thanks to those hicks who somehow managed to get me here. Flinging myself down at the water’s edge, I finally dare to look behind me. I can’t see it clearly, but I can feel it standing just under the dense canopy of the trees – hiding in the darkness.
Dunking my head into the cool water, I laugh when I realize what I’m holding. The entire time I was running, I was clutching my cell phone, but lost everything else. Can you hear me now? No! More hysterical laughter; the sound desperate even to my own ears. There’s no cell service out here. I can’t believe that in my panic the only thing I managed to save is this useless piece of crap. One last look at it and I hurl it as far as I can across the lake.
Leaning down again, I taste the water. At first barely a sip to make sure it’s safe, then small handfuls to quench my thirst. Making myself stop, I roll over and stare at the sun like it’s my newfound savior. The Pines are so dense; this small clearing is a godsend. I can still hear the thing rustling in the trees, but for now, next to the water, I’m safe.
I must have drifted off from exhaustion, maybe simple relief, I don’t know. When I wake, the sun is low and dim shadows have crept half-way across the small beach. I can hear it breathing and pacing in the brush. A spike of adrenaline slashes through me and I dive for the only hope I see; one long bow from a white cedar growing out over the lake. Scrambling to it, I climb as far out as I can, shimmying backward the whole while. From what I know of the Blue Hole, the water is deep as hell. Drowning is no better an option than feeding myself to Mother Leeds’ thirteenth son, and I would prefer to do neither.
As full night falls, I can see its red eyes glaring at me, along with the shadowy impression of a dark, winged figure. Its tail flicking from side to side accompanies the sound of tree branches being torn apart. Bellying down further onto the limb, I try for a little more distance. I know my chances of surviving the night are slim… Still, if I can keep my balance and stay awake, I might just make it until morning.
I hear a faint splash, and a responding roar from the woods – almost a challenge. Terrified to take my eyes off the beast before me, but more afraid of what lurks below, I chance a glance downward. Elongated, translucent hands reaching from the depths are all I see before I’m yanked from my perch, screaming for help that’s never going to come.
“Howdy there, Bob, Tomas,” the deputy says as he steps from his vehicle to greet the two men sitting outside the small shack that serves as a convenience store in this area of the Pine Barrens.
“Mornin’ officer,” they reply in kind. “What can we do you for?”
“Well, seems we found a car, one of those German import types, parked a ways down the road in one of the pull-offs. Little yellow thing called a Jetta. You boys know anything about that?”
Looking at each other, Tomas spits and says, “Might be we do. Some young girl in a yeller car stopped in here yesterday asking for directions to the hole. Could be it’s the same car.”
“Tell me you didn’t give them to her, did you?” exasperation plain in the officer’s voice.
“Might be we did. Don’t see why we wouldn’t if she asked,” Bob answers rolling a toothpick between his teeth.
The deputy reaches into his vehicle and grabs the radio handset. “Dispatch, we’re gonna need a tow out on Rt. 532. It’s a yellow Jetta – can’t miss it. Hang on just a sec.” He releases the com button. “Boys, she have anyone else with her?”
“Nope, but she had a crap load ‘a gear in the back seat of that foreign auto-mobile of hers.”
Clicking the mic back on, the deputy relays, “Dispatch, I’m gonna need a team on the ground looking for a backpack, tent, cell phone – any personal items they can find heading from that location toward the hole. Better make it a wide sweep, call all the guys in on this.”
“Copy that, Tim. Do we need a rescue team down there too?” the dispatcher asks with hope and concern in her voice.
Looking over the roof of his car at Bob and Tomas, seeing the grin on both of their faces, he answers, “Negative on the rescue team, just the cleanup crew and the tow.” Getting back in the car and replacing the now silent handset, the deputy tips his hat to the men on the bench as they nod in return. He puts the car in drive, and mutters to himself “Fucking city folk,” as he drives off.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.