Sacrifice to the Gods

In the tomb of the gods, the dark soul stirred, the long-dormant bones staring through shadows with hollowed eyes. Someone called its name, spilled blood from a fresh kill upon the stone. In the inky black it waited, as red fluid slowly dripped through the earth. Soon its skull would stain red and it would rise again.

Above ground, shaking in the moonlight, Doug stared at the woman he killed. He watched her blood pool on the ancient carved stone and flow over the edge into the soil. The name he whispered still echoed in his ears.

How did I know that name?

He dropped the knife that slit her throat and it landed with a thud on the dirt. He fell to his knees, tears in his eyes.

Why did I come here? Bring her here? Why did I do it? Adelaide, I’m so sorry.

The blood twisted a path deep into the earth, descending far enough to slither along its bone. It welcomed the sensation, the warm fluid against its skull, human essence giving it life once more. Its bones twitched, a finger moving in spasms. If it still had flesh it would have smiled. The rebirth had begun.

Doug reached out a hand, touching Adelaide’s blood-stained sleeve. He noticed her blood on his clothing as well and withdrew his hand as if it had been burned. His gut churned and he turned away, vomiting on the grass.

“Such a pitiful reaction to death.”

Doug twisted back around, horrified and strangely relieved at the sound of Adelaide’s voice. Her body sat upright, staring at him with bright orange eyes. Her throat no longer gaped with an open wound where he sliced it, but her blouse was still soaked in her blood. Doug shook his head, as if to clear the strange image, but she only sat there staring at him.

He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. “Is this a dream? A nightmare? Oh, baby, tell me you’re still alive.”

“No.” Adelaide’s mouth coiled into a wide grin. “She is dead. Dead so I may be reborn. She is my vessel now. It is an honour for her.”

Doug rocked back and forth, whimpering. “I don’t understand any of this. What’s happening?”

Adelaide’s eyes showed pity. “Of course you don’t understand, human. You are just a pawn, born to achieve my resurrection. It is not your place to understand, only serve. Which you did beautifully.” Adelaide’s hand stroked Doug’s cheek and he sighed at her cold touch. Adelaide’s voice murmured, “You are special. You are mine.”

Doug suddenly pulled away. “I don’t want to be yours! You’re not her! I want my Adelaide!”

“Don’t worry, you will see her again. When I said you were mine, I meant this.”

Adelaide’s mouth stretched wide, into a grotesque maw with three rows of razor-sharp teeth, dripping green ooze. Her hands sprouted claws that slashed Doug’s shoulders before she threw him on his back, pinning him to the ground. He screamed and kept screaming as the beast that inhabited Adelaide ripped into his flesh and began to devour him. He survived her shredding teeth and tearing claws for ten minutes before death took him. Only his bones remained when she finished her meal. She wiped the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand and looked out at the world.

She whispered, “I’m still hungry.”

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2018 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

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Carnival

An ink stained night and a canopy of silver stars welcomed the rumble and clank of trucks and the smoking smell of diesel engines. Headlights slithered through the darkness as the line of ramshackle vehicles lumbered onto the fairgrounds and split the silence with belching exhaust fumes and the whine of old gears.

From the shadows I watched, under an old oak tree. My favourite type of tree. It’s a bit like me, a constant in a strange and evolving world. Much like this parade of carnival trucks. Old souls in a world passing them over.

Remnants clinging to hope against death and obscurity.

Perhaps that’s why I come, why I seek out these bits of forgotten eras. Nostalgic indulgence. So much of this world is loud and frantic, full of stress and panic. While I enjoyed those whispers of fear, sometimes I needed quiet reflection. Time to savour the memories, and contemplate my future.

Movement caught my attention, and dispersed my musing. I inhaled the pungent smell of animals and listened to the chatter as the carnies raised their tents and bolted the amusement booths together. I relished the clanging music of the hammers and the hoarse shouts, waiting for it all to blossom into a garish, colour-filled extravaganza. A wonder, this overnight eruption of nomadic fair, this constructed arena of entertainment. Perhaps a bit faded around the edges, or tattered by too many days on the road, but still such a treat.

I love their camaraderie and tradition. So human. So unmindful of the darkness.

I lifted my hand and let the starlight play against the skin. Fingers trembled slightly, a warning. A battering heartbeat fluttered, thumping erratically inside this chest. I sighed. My time was nearly done with this one. Regret mingled with anticipation. A new life about to begin, built on the death of the old one. I’ve worn many guises over my lifetime, been many people. Male, female, child, elderly.

A shame the hosts don’t last longer. Still, we had a good run, he and I.

I let the memory of our first encounter play out in his mind. Two towns west of here, at a harvest fair. The moonlight bathed the amusement rides the night before and the sun rose on a beautiful fall day. I wore a younger skin then; a restless, awkward teenager that accepted his fate too easily.

I never fit that host. I prefer them with more fight.

Perhaps that caused the difficult time in choosing that year; it took me hours to find a new skin. Searching among the rides and games, lingering, appraising, breathing in the smell of cotton candy and funnel cake. A fruitless hunt until I ventured past the noise and wandered near the edge of the carnival grounds. I knew the moment I spied him, he was the one.

Blond, blue-eyed, rugged. A perfect specimen enjoying a smoke behind a tree.

I left my failing host in a surge of black fire and passion, strangely heedless of chance observation. I swarmed him, possessed him, and the touch of his skin sang of salt and sweat. His soul rose to meet my attack in an agony of desperation as I burned through his defenses, but he fell to me as they all do. My invasion pierced through his thoughts and memories, shredded his control, and bound his mind and spirit into my will. He was a cornucopia of terror and defiance, and I feasted on those emotions.

Oh, how I feasted.

He fought until the end, until I boxed him safe and sound, making each moment I destroyed who he was a savoured delicacy. I hadn’t taken a host with such enjoyment in decades, and his agony, fear, and misery kept me gratifyingly fed this past year. I relished living his life, corrupting all he cherished. Listening to him scream from the prison I made for him inside his own body. Feeling his despair as death crept closer with each passing day.

He was special. I’ll miss this face.

I smiled at the memories, dark excitement rising through his borrowed blood. He served me well, my stimulating skin; a flawless mask to hide behind. An ideal life to steal. Yet, I can feel him dissolving, his flesh decaying. He is dying.

Yes, time to move on. Maybe a woman this year…

 

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

Mercy

They say the Old Manse rests on consecrated ground, but we know different now. When evil comes, it does so without warning, without provocation, and without a care of the sacredness or sanctity of one’s home.

The devil lives among us. In fact, it sleeps in the parlor beneath my bed, the one I shared with my older sister, Jessamine, until four weeks ago. It festers within her frail body, a host that grows weaker with each passing day, so weak that I wonder how much more my poor sister can endure.

A week ago, I heard Father mention a word I’d never heard in my studies before.

Exorcism.

Reverend Newton claims Jessamine is possessed by an evil spirit. It’s the only thing that can explain the physical change in her body, the mad gibberish she spits at us unabated, the fantastic feats she performs at will. Just yesterday, I watched her rise from the settee as if she had the weight of a cloud. It took Mother and Father to pull her down from the ceiling.

Oh, the terrible things it/she said to Father. The awful epithets it/she hurled at Mother.

The worst is saved for the Reverend. How the demon in Jessamine despises him.

The good Reverend arrived four days ago. Most of his time has been spent at her bedside, reading scripture, sometimes shouting, other times issuing commands in a soft yet commanding voice.

My sister’s exorcism is in its fourth day. It feels and looks as if we have all aged twenty years. Mother’s hair is whiter, and the weariness of Father’s eyes along with his sunken cheeks have given him the mask of a much older, decimated man.

Tonight is to be the last night. Either Jessamine will die or the Reverend will perish from the struggle between God and the Fallen One. I know in my heart of hearts that neither can persevere another day.

I was ordered to stay out of the parlor, but I can’t leave my sister’s side. I watch in mute horror as her body contorts and strange, terrifying sounds issue from her chapped, raw lips.

A hail storm, wild and white with gale winds that batter the glass windows of the Old Manse, howls in unison with the demon that has lodged itself within Jessamine’s throat. She is so pale. Her body is awash with sweat and blood, yet she shivers as if immersed in an icy lake.

“Child, the Reverand’s Bible!” my father shouts at me.

My heart hitches in my chest and I freeze.

It takes everyone in the room, Father, Mother, Reverand Newton and Esther, our charwoman, who was strong as ten horses, to contain my teenage sister’s writhing body. The popping of Jessamine’s shoulders and hips bring a wave of nausea to my already tormented belly.

“Mercy! The book!”

My mother’s panicked voice breaks me from my stupor.

Jessamine had smacked the book out of Reverand Newton’s hand when he tried to place its binding against her flushed, creased forehead. I find it under the chair and run to him.

Using his free hand to press down on my sister’s chest, he opens the book to a page with a red felt bookmark and begins to read.

Submit yourselves to God! Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!”

Jessamine roars, an inhuman wail that sounds like a zoo of beasts in agony.

I step back, stifling my tears. I squeeze my doll, my only source of comfort, tight against my breast.

“We’re almost there,” the Reverand says to my father.

Jessamine’s eyes roll to the back of her head and her body goes limp.

The Reverend continues, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up!”

A hail stone the size of a man’s fist crashes through the window. The angry wind follows, billowing out the heavy, maroon drapes. All of the candles snuff out and we plunge into darkness.

I scream. I know I’m  supposed to be strong and brave for my tormented sister, but out it comes anyway, a scream from the pit of my soul that won’t stop until my throat is torn to pieces. I want it to cease! I can’t bear another moment under this roof, wrestling with the devil that has taken hold of my dear, loving Jessamine.

Through my screams of terror, there is no way to know that all had grown deathly still.

A pair of cold hands place themselves on either side of my face.

“Mercy, please, it’s all right,” a voice hushes. Stale breath brushes across my face.

Reluctantly, I open my eyes, and my spirit soars.

“Jessamine!”

I throw my arms around my frail sister and we go crashing to the floor.

“Be careful,” mother admonishes.

“You’re back! You’re really back!” I cry, gazing into her clear, exhausted eyes.

A stream of tears flow down her cheeks and she kisses the top of my head. “I am,” she replies. “And just in time, I see. You dropped Lucy.”

She hands my doll to me and I notice the crack in her once perfect, porcelain head. It runs from the corner of her right eyebrow to her painted hairline. Normally, such a tragedy would devastate me, but on this day, it was a pittance.

My sister had returned!

…to be continued, Part 1

Written by Hunter Shea, Story & Concept by Ivy Shea and Veronica Shea

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2012 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.