The Grind Show, by Phil Tucker
Children of Salem, by Robert W. Walker
Yesterday’s Gone, Episode 1, by Sean Platt & David Wright
Description: When Carrie failed to escape the city in time, she got trapped in quarantine. Civilization had abandoned her. However, she’s not alone. Others are with her—people infected and controlled by the single emotion they had when infected: Curiosity, Fear…Anger. She must avoid the contaminated and escape, or she too will be another victim.
One foot punched the gas pedal, revving the engine. Warm tears dripped off her face. Carrie gripped the gearshift. The engine belched throaty power, and then fell silent as she wrenched the keys from the ignition. She screamed at herself. “Drive already, God Da-”She managed to stop. Cursing God would only make it worse. She was the one damned, and He was right in doing so. Each day stuck on the island was a testament of her sins. Buster barked from the passenger seat. The Dalmatian flicked his tail. “You’re right, it was a good try,” she said, patting randomly. Day ten of trying and she still hadn’t driven an entire block. Mangled wreckage of twisted mailboxes, splintered fence timbers, and bicycle parts were scattered along the street. At least no one was on the mountain bike when the car she was driving smashed into the frame and bounced over each wheel, leaving the bicycle destroyed. Then again, there was no one. That wasn’t true, there were people, but she didn’t want to think of the others. Those left behind were hardly human any longer. The rearview mirror tilted to one side, and she moved to adjust the angle. At the end of the street, a shape moved around the corner and was lost among thorn bushes. Carrie kicked at the door and bolted. Squeaks from the metal brace attached to her left leg squealed with each step. Eventually the figure at the corner would realize she could only move with the speed of an injured lamb. “Buster, to me,” Carrie said. The dog bounded to her side. “Watch,” Carrie said. Hackles raised, the dog turned to look at the yard. Carrie wrenched at the front door handle and stumbled inside. Buster leapt over her and she slammed the door shut. Three locks turned close before she began to breathe normal again. She parted the blinds, expecting to see someone. The road was vacant. There was no movement except for the sway of long grass in the front yard from the breeze. The bramble of her corner neighbor’s yard grew into the border of lawn. They had kept the bushes trimmed, when they had been around. But that was over two months ago. She glanced back the other way. The street remained empty. Each of the yards seemed to imitate the next with a mosaic of trash entangled in the long hands of the grass. Tall weeds towered across each green stretch. She breathed deeply and steadied her pounding heart. Really, the movement could have been anything. Another dog or cat left behind or even her mind playing tricks. She wanted to shrug it off, but her eyes stayed riveted on the area just to be certain. For over a month, she had not seen anyone on her street. She acknowledged she was be getting careless, and needed to be certain of her surroundings before making so much noise with the car. Carrie looked at her yard, which looked the same as the rest on the block. Part of her wished she could bring the mower out, but the clipped lawn would have made it obvious there was a survivor living in the house. She turned back to the living room. Buster barked. “I know. We can try the car again tomorrow. Remember what happened when I went before I was ready last time? We don’t want to have to find another car.” Buster barked. “Okay, okay. Sure it was easy. If I can find the keys the car is mine, but it means I have to go into houses. Only one mistake is all it takes.” Buster barked again. On automatic, Carrie reached for the bag and poured. Brown pebbles dispensed for a second and were covered by crumbs and dust. She sighed, took the food sack, looked at the full trash, and threw the bag into the front yard through a slit in the window. The wind would drive the paper away. She looked at the bare cupboards and wished the breeze would return something edible. Her reflection caught on the toaster. She stared at the blue eyes and black pupils. Part of her worried that one day she would look at a mirror and the eyes would be different, instead finding purple had replaced the blue iris. “We need to go shopping, Buster,” said Carrie. The dog whimpered and lowered his tail. “You’re right,” said Carrie thinking of the blur she had seen. “Wait until it’s dark. At least then maybe no one will see us.” *** Moonlight littered each deserted home. Block after block Carrie moved through the silence. Thick towels wrapped around the metal brace muffled the sound of her movement. Perhaps she was overly cautious, but better paranoid than dead. Buster crouched low and moved forward. He turned his head back and Carrie followed. Times like these made Carrie appreciate she only had five feet of height to hide instead of the bulky frame of her dad. She wondered if her family was still alive. Did they pass the barrier before the bridge was destroyed? She was almost positive her mother was caught up in one of the last groups across the bridge, but she was uncertain about her dad. She tried to ignore the thoughts. There was a way to find out. If their cold bodies lay on the pavement, she would know they died because of her. A group of five stood below a street lamp three houses down. Each of the rust colored faces stared up at the florescent glow. Deep gashes stretched down the face and neck of a young girl and an old man. Carrie shuddered. Those who could not run were caught first. But even the old man had managed to escape; which meant there was some hope she might get away, if surrounded. She yanked the black beanie tight over her hair. Her long strands of blond were a gleaming halo at night. Her pale skin did not help and she covered herself in a dark sweater despite the heat. Even her backpack, once bright purple and gold of the school colors, was now covered in a thick midnight shade of spray paint. The bag had been her favorite, but blending into the shadows remained top priority. She squeezed past a broken fence post, moving away from the group. Purple eyes and dirt encrusted fingers haunted her dreams. She did not need reminders, and there was no way to predict if or when one would snap. The grocery store lights glowed through large windows onto the vacant parking lot. Carrie stepped forward. Buster growled, and Carrie jumped back into shadow. A lone figure, almost blending with the night, stood under a parking light, staring. “We have to sneak around back,” she whispered. Buster moved backward. From the opposite edge of the lot, another figure burst out, running straight for the lone man under the lamp. Carrie turned her head. Buster’s growl deepened. “Shh,” Carrie whispered. “There’s nothing I can do.” Sounds of metal carts crashing on the asphalt and banging against poles reverberated, but no screams. There were never screams, which made witnessing the brutality worse. Carrie kept her eyes forward, but movements on her periphery still assaulted her. Bile clung in her throat. The person under the street lamp would be dead by morning, or if not he would stare at his wounds in amazement for hours. The keys jangled as she rammed them into the lock and jumped inside the store. She slammed the lock back home and sighed. A voice yelled in one of the aisles. “Keep back as ravens eat the cream puffs! I’m warning you! Don’t make the shrimp jump into limburger cheese!” “Hey Herbert,” said Carrie. Herbert screamed again and the sound of cans crashing on the linoleum echoed as he scampered away. “Nice to see you too,” said Carrie. In a twisted sort of way, Carrie enjoyed seeing Herbert. The man had been the grocery owner since before she was born, and it seemed only right to pick up supplies under his watch. He was one of the few who offered any conversation, even if it was gibberish. “Get over your fear yet?” One of the freezer doors thumped shut on the far side of the store. Most likely, others outside were infected with fear as well, but Herbert was the only she could identify with those symptoms. The others probably hid in their cellars. She wondered what emotions others might have, but the Curious and Angry seemed the most prevalent. She felt fairly certain of her theory. Everyone seemed to be controlled by a single emotion, and most were curious or angry. She figured when the evacuation occurred and people began to change most had been bewildered or frustrated and were now stuck with that emotion. She had had those emotions as well as being scared and tired. But she still had no idea what was going on. She still didn’t understand how they lived. Did they eat? What was sustaining them? “At least you weren’t stuck with curiosity, like the guy outside,” she muttered. “Or worse, anger.” The dog chow bag resisted her pull to open it, and eventually she rammed the sack against a shelf edge. Pellets sprouted and poured from the hole. She took a list from her pocket as Buster crunched. “Don’t worry Herbert,” she said. “I am keeping a tally and when humanity returns to this hell hole I am sure my family will pay you back.” She reached in above Herbert, who was trying his best to hide on the bottom row, and plucked up a package of frozen burritos. His purple eyes glanced from between his fingers for a moment and his body constricted tighter.
Description: Adam watched Mad Gods drag his father to Hell.
Melusine Rothschild, Grande Dame of the Black Nobility wants to raise him. She is part of the World Elite that live by Predatory Ethics and seek to guide him in wielding the power and influence of his dark birthright.
Adam, the teenage Antichrist/AntiXos, wants none of this. He watches his TV shows in one of Danvers Mental Hospital’s nice padded rooms, snugly dressed in his own long sleeved, buckled, canvas jacket. He feels safe here away from a hostile, ravaging outside world.
He’s horribly wrong.
A Newer Darkness
Time: March 23rd, 1974, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Today was always special in the Hess family. All the transplanted Reichians celebrated it in the same way because it commemorated the Ermachtigungsgesetz of 1933 when the Reichstag gave power to the National Socialists in Deutschland. They passed the Enabling Act, which went on to dissolve the Reichstag and start the Third Reich. Everyone wore their best uniforms accessorized with family heirlooms worn in the Fuhrer’s ranks.
Rolf Hess arched his heavy brows down and felt a surge of pride looking through the ordered ranks of the faithful. Tight, square phalanxes of four men deep, four across stood at attention. The damp cavern that they gathered in was illuminated by many a bare bulb reflecting off of their polished jack boots.
They stood before a massive portrait of Adolph Hitler who looked on in what Rolf swore was profound approval. On either side of the portrait and before a massive podium were long banners of a field of red and white stripes with an updated swastika. The hall grew silent save for Rolf’s boots going closer to the podium at the center of the raised dais. He was so like his father that most gasped when they met him thinking the former Reichsfuhrer was come again. He had the thinning hair and heavy brows that met over startling blue eyes when he was confused or angry. The long aquiline nose seemed harsh, for his lips were thin and near slit of a mouth.
Everyone in the hall, including Rolf was dressed in updated SS black. He was a man of rippled proportions whose lean, muscled form was rigid in rider’s pants with a thin blood stripe down both sides. He was clean-shaven, his dirty blonde, crew cut hair in stark contrast to the high collar of his immaculately tailored jacket. Blood piping trimmed its edges and four pockets. Cold blue eyes scanned the crowd and clasping his hands behind his back he launched into his sermon.
“Fellow Reichians. We commemorate the hour of our deliverance with the Ermachtigungsgesetz of 1933 but we also commemorate the acquisition of the holy relics of 1956. The Fuhrer’s remains were in the hands of the Bolsheviks and jealously guarded. With His guidance, His old Reichsfuhrer, my father, Rudolf Hess entered the KGB Headquarters and liberated them for their return to us, their rightful keepers.” This was an update of the usual rehashing of the events of 1933 when the Nazi party had taken over the German Parliament and ended the Weimar Republic. Many in the audience became excited at the new stories their esteemed leader was sharing with them.
“My father did not stay in Spandau Prison as the world long believed. He was not without his own allies and within a decade of his imprisonment he came to our holdings here in Argentina.” He looked on through the crowd and saw nothing but attentive faces. “He was then responsible for the continuation of our movement and from the ashes of the Third Reich came our present, Final Reich. We have an exalted name to carry and we will not be found lacking. The First Reich lasted for a thousand years under the Teutonic Order and their Holy Roman Empire. The Second Reich burned brightly yet only for a short time with the Prussian Empire. The Third burned the brightest and would’ve eclipsed them had it succeeded.” At every mention of their near success Rolf fought back tears of frustration. They had been so close.
“We honor their achievements every time we congregate with more than one of our number or when we show pride in our race and heritage. The world does not share our beliefs. In the Americas, the United Kingdoms, and even in our Deutschland wherever our kind come together we are persecuted like schvartze or juden.” Coiled rage shook Rolf’s face as he continued. “Yet we still come together. We cannot be stopped. Even The Lords of Hell admired our resolve to go on in the face of this overwhelming opposition.”
Many in the audience turned to one another in confused discomfort but were quieted by steely stares that did not tolerate weakness. They didn’t understand this infernal reference. Rolf was familiar with this intolerance of weakness, and it had made him the man he was today. “These Lords of Hell, Nephilim, came to my father when I was but four and bade him sacrifice to them. They were Dark Nobility and wanted to recruit Third Reich survivors to their ranks. He refused to bow down before anyone but the Fuhrer. This adamant faith in the face of doom beyond mortal death gave them pause.” Those uncomfortable had mostly settled into their seats and began to be swayed by his sermon. “At their indecision Rudolf Hess, our Prophet, offered up this consideration to them. If they wanted to capture the hearts of evil men in the modern age, they should give them a newer evil.”
Rolf looked about the crowd and saw a few had gotten up and were heading to the doors; he nodded to a few hidden brown-shirt security men and went on. “As they had not taken his soul my father continued to entrée them. Who else in recent history had even approached the brilliant evil of Adolph Hitler?” Some in the hall were insulted at the idea of their Fuhrer being evil. Whatever he’d done had been to sub-humans, hardly more than the animals they ate.
“Do you know what they answered? Joseph Stalin.“ A shockwave went through the assembled: the Bolshevik, communist brute. What an insult.
Still others stood, not liking this turn of their little social club. Getting together and beating a few natives, juden, or schwartzs was a communal bonding experience; this talk of evil was very discomforting, very gauche.
“They were answered by a cry straight out of Hell’s black ninth ring.”
“Stalin’s not good enough to throw pebbles at my shit! He killed out of greed and lust for power. His successes were nothing more than an over-achieving mobster. Mine were out of pure hate! I couldn’t abide living with those filthy vermin. If the Third Reich had gone for a thousand years, I could have rid this world of every sub-human.” More brown-shirts had come to the exits blocking them. Those that tried to leave were protesting their detainment and were met with fascist argument of fist or cudgel across the face and head. Protest soon stopped.
“What audacity, who else could have struck out from Hell’s own heart like that? My father dropped to his knees in dread worship of his Fuhrer’s voice. He remembered its shrill command and was overjoyed to hear it once more.” He motioned for more brown-shirts to come through the ranks and take over vacated seats. “The Dark Nobility were justly impressed and summoned him forth like we will today.”
There was further shock going through the crowd, but none got up to leave. They were all captivated by the sermon and only reacted to its excitement. Those who did were removed by the brown-shirts who then closed ranks by filling the vacated seats.
“When our Prophet beheld his Fuhrer once more he kissed his feet. Among the Dark Nobility had been an Arch-Nephilim, Melusine Rothschild, who pronounced my father elevated from damned to favored apostle for his unflinching dedication. He would go forth and establish His Fuhrer’s worship.” Rolf continued intent on his missioned sermon.
“His remains are enshrined in a gold cabinet beneath this podium. He is exulted like no other. There has never been a man damned by his life’s work who was then elevated to predator, a carnivore from cattle.”
Some of the still seated black-shirts looked contemptuously at those that tried to leave. Rolf was happy with the night’s progress. He thought there would’ve been more dissenters but was pleased that they had just enough. Someone was looking out for them.
“All who have kept their seats through this Revelation are Reichians of the first order. All true Teutonic Knights. Everyone of you has been tested, their lineage investigated and found to be of purest Aryan stock. Those who tried to leave showed their treachery at their refusal to listen to our most revered lessons. Pity. They will, however, be fitting sacrifices to the rebirth of our Fuhrer.” Silence met Rolf’s pronouncement. He had expected this and had allotted some pause in his sermon hoping for the help that came. He left some of his plans up to faith and was not disappointed.
A voice that moved a nation to monstrous, collective acts on innocent and guilty rose from beneath the podium. None who earlier had doubted their senses clung to further skepticism. They threw it out when his unmistakable voice and charismatic power grabbed their attention and squeezed.
“Who among you would not willingly give your life for our race? I did, and it has put me at the top of Hell itself! I stand beside fallen angels and contribute to the Great Plan with Azazel, Ba-al, and Lucifer.”
Unnoticed by the rapt assemblage, three brown-shirts brought one of the dissenting black-shirts bound to his knees at Rolf’s feet. Two held the man down while the third handed Rolf a ceremonial SS dagger. Rolf sliced the man’s throat left to right, ear to ear, in an elegant arc ending dagger-point first directed at the crowd. The action was reflected and frozen forever in the victim’s eyes while the blood flowed like a fountain to soak the platform.
He was left to flop onto his back while Rolf straddled his body and sliced the thorax from his pelvis to the earlier cut. Dipping his hands into the open cavity they come out holding the heart, kidney, and liver he placed reverently aside. He returned to the now unmoving form and with a few deft cuts removed the colon.
The body was then taken out of view leaving a gory trail as mute evidence of what was done. A bloody altar heaped with similar gore was wheeled out and left just behind him. Rolf placed the still warm heart and organs on the altar. He sliced each in two while intoning an incantation.
With these sacrifices we summon forth the newest of the Nephilim, the fiend Adolph Hitler.
He is summoned to his faithful.
The blood and souls of these pure Aryans call him forth.
The blood and souls of the sub-humans, the cows call forth the newest carnivore.
Our reverence is here to sustain him.
We long to feel his dread approval for our loyal devotion.
We call him to this hall upon the very stage from which he commanded the Ermachtigungsgesetz in 1933.
Rolf was then lost in a trance. He chanted the incantation over and over and didn’t notice the change in the silence around him. There was only the sound of hundreds of rapt breaths before, but now it was the collective silence of those breaths held. He came out of his trance when he felt the weight of an approving hand fall on his shoulder.
The Fuhrer had come to stand beside him. In his life Adolph Hitler wore the grey unadorned officer’s jacket, but in his rebirth there were rider’s pants and jackboots of the Final Reich replacing the older plain black slacks. The face was as the massive portrait behind him but on closer scrutiny seemed colder, with more venom, barely leashed hatred and intolerance.
He cared only about the Final Reich and its members.
He stood before the altar and breathed in the souls that were held in the organs upon it. Once finished, he was lost in its rapture until it came back to the souls still here. He was lost further in the terror and betrayal the dead felt just before their sacrifice. It was good to be the Fuhrer and to have such faithful souls.
Promised and marked for him in Hell. Every one of these fine young men and women would be his to enjoy in eternity. There would be even more now that the Redeemer, The One had come.
It would make the Great War and its sequel, the Third Reich War seem like a bloody nose.
The Second Coming but not for the Son of God.
The Second Coming was evil’s chance.
Fair was fair. This was their turn.
“The pure men and women who for a brief time followed me and made the earth tremble would be proud of their sons and daughters here today. You are all Teutons strong and pure. I salute you!”
At that utterance, his right hand rigidly flew up and out in a heil. It was answered instantly by the entire assembly with a booming…
It dwarfed any remembered from Nuremburg.
The salute promised the renewed majesty of the First Reich when the Teutonic Knights ruled under the Holy Roman Empire. It hearkened back to the time when Rome was more than just the political machinations and intrigues of today’s Catholic Church. When Rome ruled and meant its Legions and its knights. The might of Rome now would return in the Legion of Hell and the knight would be reborn with the new Teutons of the Final Reich.
Rolf felt this in his almost bursting, prideful heart. His father was one of the few Teutonic Knights who survived the Templar’s near annihilation. He taught him the mysteries and secrets of the mystical men at arms. They had taken much of their strength from the pure, clean Christianity the filthy Catholics put down in the French Southlands centuries before.
The Catharae had not relied on a worship of a Jew, no matter how extraordinary He may have been. A talking dog is still a dog. The Teutons flourished in the First Reich and had gone on to be part of the Templars when their first Messiah had come. The Fuhrer had almost achieved the return of the Holy Roman Empire and came so close that its end was all more tragic when it failed.
Now as the portrait behind His God rose to reveal the rest of the waiting sacrifices Rolf knew they would have another chance to avenge the injustices committed upon them.
About the cringing black-shirts were many brown-shirts, men and women, hands behind their backs. Upon sight of Him and the Reichsfuhrer, they clicked their heels and salute with an arrogant snap of their arms. The Fuhrer and deputy jutted their chins forward in response and forgetting the crowd in the hall walked to the assembled victims.
The first person they came to was moving his head about trying to discern what was going on. He had been beaten so unmercifully his eyes were covered in blood from bruises and cuts. On his right upper arm was a concentration camp tattoo. Rolf saw it and chuckled. He’d been told there was a Nazi hunter trying to find him and his father but did not know he had penetrated this far. It was too rich an irony to have come so far and meet a more horrible end than he survived decades before.
Rolf motioned for one of the Reichians to clean the fellow’s eyes. He wanted him to know who was before him and to let his Fuhrer have his fill of the desperate horror to come. Once his eyes were whipped clean he squinted and blinked to see an unmistakably familiar face. He still saw it in nightmares and horrible memory yet he saw it now, with his eyes, not memory or nightmare, and he screamed.
“I’m in Hell!”
“No, Juden, Hell has come to you,” Rolf Hess pleasantly replied and gave his Fuhrer a ceremonial dagger to begin the feast whetted by this delicious appetizer. Adolph Hitler’s rapturous face thanked the Reichsfuhrer for this succulent preparation.
Description: A desire to be reunited with her dead twin is about to become very real….
Gwen’s had a tough year. With the anniversary of her sister’s murder approaching, she finds she isn’t ready for the real world. Her friends have another plan in mind. A visit to the mountains, and a weekend of fun, is what they promise. None of them expect it to be the trip to somewhere they didn’t plan and one that may cost them more than they could have imagined.
On a deserted road, they collide head on with another vehicle. Certain she is about to die, Gwen never expected to wake up in a strange hotel. With the presence of hotel’s caretaker, and a vague request to follow the rules, she begins to wonder just where they ended up. As her friends begin to vanish, Gwen knows her time is running out.
With danger around every corner Gwen searches for a way to escape—
before one wrong choice is made and she loses her soul forever.
You’ve got nowhere to run.
Screams, cries and a loud crash of doors slamming shut echoed behind her. Death was on her heels and she wasn’t about to stop and ask questions. Everything around Lisa kept changing. Rooms were gone, friends had vanished and hallways were longer than before. No matter where she turned, she couldn’t get out. She had been dropped into a labyrinth that didn’t end.
“There’s got to be a way out!” she cried.
Not stopping to listen, she kept going, running further and further down the hall. Her feet were going as fast as possible, but it didn’t feel like enough. She was moving in slow motion or so it felt, stuck in a movie that was drawing to a close. Lisa slammed her fist against the nearest wall. She wanted out.
A sharp turn to the left, and she found another long hallway sprawled out ahead of her. This wasn’t right. She had been running for hours but hadn’t made any progress. She had been careful to not run in circles, but the place had morphed into a maze that didn’t end. Every turn she made led into another, none of them leading anywhere useful. Stopping to catch her breath, she tried to calm her mind.
“Where did we end up?” Thunder cracked from outside, the walls shuddering in response. The place had turned into a warped version of a fun house. “House of horrors is more like it,” she muttered.
You won’t get out.
The voice continued to haunt her, its bone-chilling monotone ripping straight through to her soul. The voice wasn’t coming from around her; of that much she was sure. No, it was sent directly into her mind. People would say she was going crazy. Right now, she would prefer that than the hell she now found herself in. If this thing hunting her wanted to drive her over the edge, it was doing one hell of a good job.
Stop and accept your fate.
“Go away!” Lisa shouted, her breath coming in gasps. “Leave me alone! I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Her cries fell on deaf ears. Over and over the voice kept hounding her. She wanted to scream, to give in and make it go away, but she couldn’t. Deep down she knew she had to find a way home. Stubbornness ran thick in her blood, and she wasn’t about to stop now. Adrenaline pushed through her body in response. She had survived this long; she would find a way out.
Biting the inside of her lip, Lisa drew a deep breath. “No, I won’t let you win,” she cried out. “You can’t have me.”
Her eyes raked left and right, looking for her tormentor, searching for something she might have missed. The hallway was vacant, except for her. At least, that’s what it wanted her to think. She had learned quickly that nothing was as it seemed in this place. In the distance she heard a growl, the same sound that had hunted her for the last twenty-four hours. Every time she looked for the source she found nothing. Now, in the distance, she sensed movement that hadn’t been there before. Shadows began to crouch closer but never more than that.
“Go away,” she whispered. “Let me go home.”
Silence was her only reply. She was beginning to hate the quiet creek of the old place. She had come with her traveling companions, now they were missing. The screams she had heard over the last few hours had been more than enough to make her want to get out. Getting out had proved to be much more difficult than she had first expected. This place was determined to keep her put.
Another growl made her turn. She felt a cold wind rush across her and shuddered at the touch.
“It’s not real,” Lisa called out. “It can’t be.”
Many doors led from the hall but none had helped her. Her body pressed against one after another. None budged.
“Come on, please,” she begged, every part of her body feeling weak. “You can’t all be locked.” One of them had to be unlocked. Still each one held fast, the thick wood rebuffing her. As she came to the end of the hall, a window faced her with one door on either side. It was like a mirror image of the rest of place. She peered through the dusty glass only to find the same view as all the rest. As with the other windows, shutters were secured against the window pane. From the small slits, she caught sight of faint grey fog outside. It was all she could see through the tiny cracks.
“Dammit.” It was the same thing she had seen since coming to this place. “I swear I never want to see fog again.”
Another stomp and she turned to find something approaching from the far end of the hallway. Darkness and shadows cowered in the corners. She tried to focus on what was approaching but found she couldn’t. Her stomach knotted at the small glimpses she caught. It wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be real.
Deep growls filled the air, louder than before. If she screamed she wasn’t certain. Her heart pounded in time with the knocking of the wind outside. She had to find somewhere to hide and quickly. The thing that faced her wasn’t something she could fight and win. Given the chance, it would rip the flesh from her skin if she remained; that was a death she didn’t want.
Her arms pushed against one of the doors. It didn’t budge. Turning, she held her breath as she pressed with all her remaining strength against the opposite one, the wood softly creaking beneath her weight. She felt hope spring within her. “Please God, let it open.”
It would give, she knew it, she had to believe it or else all was lost. Another push or two and it creaked even more. Backing up a step, she closed her eyes and kicked out with her leg with every bit of strength she had left. The door gave just enough for her pry it open and squeeze through the crack. Rushing inside, she could still hear the sounds of hell approaching. Slamming the door behind her, she bolted the lock and placed a chair in front of it, leaning her body against the dark wood.
“Thank God!” she exclaimed. A hard slam against the door made her jump. Whatever had followed her wasn’t happy. She prayed with everything in her that it would go away.
“Hey there, what are you hiding from?”
A deep voice startled her. Turning she found her guide, Drax, staring back.
“What are you doing here?” From what she had heard, he had been one of the first that had gone missing. Her head felt clouded the closer he got – a buzzing that had come and gone many times before that she had learned to ignore. “Where were you hiding?”
His face held no emotions. “I’m fine. Can’t you see that? I just took off for a bit.” He moved closer. “You seem scared. Relax. Everything is going to be fine. Here, come with me. I’ve found a great place to hide. Nothing can get us there.” He motioned to her to follow. Part of her wanted to run, but the pounding on the wood was a stark reminder of what waited for her outside the door. Glancing about the room, she tried to find another alternative but there was none. Two doors were available. One in the direction that lead away from this room, the other back the way she had come. The latter wasn’t an option. She turned back. “Fine then,” she whispered. “Lead the way.”
He was gone as soon as she spoke. How he had moved so fast was unsettling. Nevertheless, she could still hear him in the adjacent room. She could hear him speaking, but she couldn’t understand his words. From what she could tell, the area he had gone into looked brighter than the rest of the rooms she had been in. Torn as to whether to follow or not, she found her feet taking her forward of their own accord. Lisa tried to stop but found she couldn’t. There was a compulsion she couldn’t find the strength to resist.
As she entered the room, she looked up to find Drax facing her. “You’re fine, now come on.” His hand reached out to her, but she hesitated. “Why are you afraid of me?”
“You seem different,” she answered without thought.
“Now stop it. Everything will be fine. I promise.” His thick accent hadn’t lessened since she had met him before the tour.
“How can you be sure?” she asked.
His smile faded. “I know more than you know. You are right where you need to be.”
“What do you mean, right where I need to be?”
“Trust me. The answers are perfect.”
Curiosity as well as concern pushed her forward. She didn’t stop, didn’t try to this time. He might have the answers to where everyone had gone. She was tired of trying to find out for herself.
“Hey,” she began, “do you know where the rest went?”
“They are where they need to be as well,” he answered, not once turning to face her. “Now let’s go.”
Through the doorway and into another room, she could feel her skin grow cold even with the warmth that the room appeared to hold. Turning to look back into the room she had just left, her body shook. Darkness crouched and waited for her. Never in her life had the shadows taken on a life of their own as they had in this place. A flicker of something in the darkness caught Lisa’s eye. There was a familiarity to it she couldn’t place.
“There is something very wrong with this place,” she whispered. “Why were we brought here? It doesn’t make sense.” Confusion filled her mind with unanswered questions. More than that, she just wanted to go home. Gwen would make sense of it all, she always could.
Turning, Lisa found Drax was back in front of her. She noticed that his skin was torn around his neck, stretched with strange patterns. Biting her lip, she was too scared to ask what they were. As she tried to recall where she had seen it, he drew his arms around her and pulled her close. The coldness of his skin felt odd in the warmth of the room. Nothing seemed right, but she couldn’t pull away; his embrace was too strong. Leaning back to ask him a question, her words died before they were formed.
Soulless eyes stared back at her, his skin no longer a healthy tone but pale blue and lifeless. The spark of humanity she had seen previously had been replaced by something else, a vision more sinister that now held her in its grips. She tried to turn away, to get out, but found she couldn’t. His strength was greater than hers. In the seconds that followed, the cold and darkness began to wrap around her, sucking the life from her soul.
“Your turn has come.” She recognized the monotone voice she had been hearing in the hallway. “All comes in time.”
The memory of all that had happened before came rushing back. How had she forgotten?
Drax had killed himself, or so they had thought. Hung from the rafters from what the others had said. Why hadn’t she remembered? Around her, the room began to darken, shadows taking what remained of the flickering light.
Reap what you sow.
“Oh God, Gwen, I’m so sorry.” Her whimpers barely escaped the darkness. “Forgive me.”
The doors opened and slammed back shut, her screams lifted high into the air only to be silenced by the wind.
The Punished, by Peter Meredith
Description: 12-year-old Curt Regis lives the carefree life of a beggar and a thief. Homeless since the age of six, he uses his guile and street smarts, as well as a glib, smooth lying tongue to reign as king of the street rats. So when he is caught breaking into a school and is sent back into foster care for the ninth time, he is quite confident that not only will it be a short stay, he will also be gone again in a day or two with a new set of clothes on his back and his bag filled with silverware, jewelry and maybe if he is really lucky, a Play station to pawn.
However, his luck has run out. This time he is sent to what many in the corrupt foster-care system consider the perfect home. It is a home from which no one has ever runaway from. A beautiful home where not a word of complaint is ever heard, where in fact, very few words are ever spoken and where the only real sounds that disturb the stagnant air are the screams of the punished.
Blessedly, Curt was yanked around then and the sight of those awful teeth digging into the soft flesh of Darla’s face was lost to him. Her screams on the other hand were not, they were clear and exact, loud with the agony of slow death.
They pierced his mind and he had trouble thinking past them. He blinked stupidly at the person in front of him. It was Paul, who had turned him around, and his face was a warzone. A battlefield where rational fear and insane panic fought for control of his features, but Curt caught only a flash of this before Paul shoved him into his room and threw him bodily onto his now familiar bed.
Curt struggled up thinking what a tremendously stupid thing to be doing just then. He should be running for his life, but Paul pushed him back down again and covered him over with his blanket.
“No matter what, don’t come out.”
The words were hissed in his ear through his covers and the desperation in Paul’s voice made him stop struggling at least physically. Mentally he felt besieged. The endless screams echoing in the otherwise silent hallways, the vision of the larger than life teeth and the near certainty that the house was alive washed relentlessly over his mind, making him feel as though his brain was being squeezed into nothingness.
He could sense his ability to think clearly diminishing. All that came to him were an annoying series of questions but hardly any answers.
Was he really going to hide from that creature, that thing, beneath his blankets as his five year old self would have? Where were the others? Were they hiding like a bunch of retarded children as well? Shouldn’t they all be hightailing it out of there while the thing ate Darla? Was that thing an actual ghost or perhaps something worse?
His own failing logic could only answer one of those questions and that was the first one. Yes, he would lie under his blankets and keep absolutely still. He realized he had been doing this, hiding from this creature, every night since he arrived, every night but the first that is. All along, he had thought it had been Miss Feanor, who came at night but in reality, it was this thing and she was afraid of it as much as he was.
How hiding under a blanket kept the creature at bay, he didn’t know, or how sound played any part in this, he didn’t know that either. Nor the fastidious cleaning. Nothing made sense.
And nothing would as long as Darla’s shrieks continued.
At first, her misery struck him so keenly that he cried beneath his covers, sobbing in empathetic fear for her. But her screams went on for so long that ultimately, his tears dried up and he could only clamp his hands over his ears and hope that they would end before he went mad.
They did end eventually and then his fear was no longer empathetic, but personal, selfish and he became afraid only for himself.
He should’ve expected this. The creature crept up the stairs quietly and as it did, he began to shake beneath his covers. By the long fifth step, he was nearly in a panic, because his muscles wouldn’t stop shimmying about. In desperation, he curled into a ball and grabbed his knees with all of his remaining strength. This helped, but oddly seemed to forced the shaking into his chest, where it felt as though his heart were about to explode.
Suddenly he remembered the note he had left in his pocket and his horror-stricken mind recalled every incriminating detail of it. He was sure just having it on his person was likely cause for a punishment and after what he had seen and heard, he knew he’d do anything to keep that from
happening to himself. Grabbing the note, he stuffed it quickly into his mouth and only barely began to chew when the creature entered his room.
Saliva flooded around the note, but he refused to swallow just in case it would make noise. The creature moved about his bed, slowly as always, so that soon Curt was drooling like a baby. He didn’t care. Somehow, enough light came through his window that the thing was able to cast a feeble shadow through his blankets. It turned him cold knowing the creature was only inches from him.
But then it moved away.
As the thing went about the house on its usual rounds, he slowly swallowed his forbidden note and the pool of saliva. Curt lay there sweating freely, petrified by fear, and he stayed this way long after the last sly sound of the thing had disappeared. Eventually, his brain became disconnected and he didn’t think, or question or remember, but instead slipped into a waking trance. And judging by how dry the pool of blood would later feel, he laid there for hours.
What brought him around was a sharp jab of fingers through the blanket, directly into his cheek. His mind switched back on and his brain started thinking exactly where he had left off and he sucked his breath in sharply with fright. A second later, the fingers jabbed him again, harder. He waited hoping to be left alone, but then suddenly his covers were ripped off of him and he saw Matt standing there. The boy wore unreadable expression. It was certainly not a happy one, nor was it the usual sneering superiority.
With a quick hand gesture, he motioned for Curt to follow him. They went down stairs and immediately he could see the body of Darla. It lay contorted and crushed looking, sprawled in a hellishly unnatural position by the front door, surrounded by an undisturbed pool of dried blood.
Before he saw the body, Curt had wished in his heart that Darla would be alive and hoped that she would only have the terrible bruises and sharp pains as he did on his first morning, but she was very much dead. Very, very dead. He had seen dead bodies before, four of them, nothing could compare to this.
The creature’s large teeth had shredded her clothing and had bitten through her skin in hundreds of places and even where the skin hadn’t been ripped open, he could see that the bones beneath had been broken. In many spots, splinters of bone erupted up out of her flesh and these appeared sharp and bloody. It looked as though she had fallen into a trash compactor on the back of a garbage truck or into some piece of heavy machinery. He grew light headed and felt sick at the sight.
He wasn’t the only one. Miss Feanor had a green complexion under an expression of worry and Matt, who had followed him down, couldn’t stop staring at the body and swallowed loudly repeatedly as he did. Only Paul, the only other person there, didn’t seem like he was going to vomit. He had other problems. His twitch had returned with a vengeance and no part of his face wasn’t effected. He was as difficult to look upon as the body. But they weren’t there to look.
Miss Feanor laid out a heavy blanket and directed Curt and Matt to put the body of Darla Heines onto it. Curt was terribly afraid to touch it, but Paul, who was practically blind from his twitch was clearly useless and so the youngest boy there went to the women’s feet. Along with Matt, he made to pick her up, but her legs bent inward, that is to say the wrong way and feeling the strength in his arms disappear at the sight, he had to drop her.
“Oh God,” he mumbled and knew there was no stopping the vomit shooting up his throat.
Turning toward the staircase, he heaved and retched loudly, but since breakfast had been hours before, only a nasty watery spew came up. The others waited for him in the dead silence, looking greener if that were possible. Finally, shaking and sweating as if he were in a fever, he bent to his horrid
task and with a face twisted and ugly, he helped Matt move the body onto the blanket. They moved her to the garage then, and that was much easier since they could hold the blanket instead of her. Darla was small, like a child herself. And lighter than he expected. Her body went into the trunk of Miss Feanor’s car, which was very tiny, but since she was so horribly bendable, she fit with ease.
Matt shut the trunk with a dull thump and just then, Curt’s knees gave out and he fell heavily to the cement floor of the garage. He couldn’t get up. There was no strength left in his mind or body and his head swam making the room spin and his stomach waver. Matt didn’t help him, yet he didn’t hurt him either, he simply turned his face, dead white and shining with sweat, to the door and left.
With a slack jaw and vacant eyes, Curt watched him walk through the mudroom and then the older boy was gone and he was all alone. The horror of the day had left him dazed and apathetic. He gazed around and saw the garage just as it looked the other two times he had been there. Save for a car, it sat empty. No tools, no bikes, no boxes, no nothing. Nothing but the cold. The cement beneath him was like ice, yet his body was numb and had been since he had watched Darla’s knees bend backwards, and therefore he only felt the cold cement vaguely.
Now he turned his lifeless gaze back to the door and looked into the mudroom and only then did he see what sat catty-corner to the garage door. It was the door that lead into the black pit of the basement, that lead to the creature, the thing. He felt the cold then. It raced up through the hard floor shooting up the sweat of his back.
He was trapped.
If the creature came then he would have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. In the space of time it took for his heart to boom once mightily in his chest, he was up off the floor and flying out of the garage and he didn’t check his speed until he was all the way down the long hall, standing with the others breathing noisily and staring back at the mudroom door. The creature didn’t come up from where it lurked in the basement.
A few minutes later, Miss Feanor left, presumably to dispose of the body of Darla the Caseworker; however, before she did, she ordered them to clean up the blood and of course his vomit.
Compared to handling the mangled body this was simple; nothing in his life would be difficult after that. They were done quickly, Matt going on his hands and knees to inspect. When they were finished, and despite not having had dinner, Matt ordered all of them, the girls included to start on their chores. This was fine with Curt because he needed something to do, something physical, something to keep him occupied so he wouldn’t think about how easily they rolled Darla’s broken body up to get her into the trunk, and besides, he didn’t imagine he would be able to eat anytime soon.
The Punished, by Peter Meredith
What is the price of eternity?
When Vespa’s father mysteriously dies, her family uproots and moves to a small coastal town in Oregon. Vespa yearns to disappear from the gawking stares of her new classmates, except one. She’s intrigued by Ember, a fashionable, and charming student. But the deeper Vespa involves herself in Ember’s life, the darker his secrets become. As Vespa unravels more about Ember, she suspects there may be more to her father’s death. Then she finds herself caught in Shadow Sport—a celebration that will answer all her questions and awaken new nightmares.
Shadow Sport is approximately 53,000 words long, and contains riveting action like the Hunger Games and chilling monsters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A line of dirt clung to the blood on Ember’s face. Looking up through dense pine branches, the moon was almost overhead, only minutes remained until midnight. The hunters would quit trying to kill him then, but he needed to hide until the final gong from the mansion tower bell. After that, he could find an escape, somehow. One thing at a time, and surviving was first. Sixteen was too young to die. Every ounce of terror drained from his tired muscles over the past two days; now there was only a determination to survive. He knew another of the monsters might appear any minute, but he couldn’t dredge enough feeling to worry about what might happen in several moments. He worried about what was happening now. Any second he was going to pass out and leave himself exposed, with only a mile of forest separating him from the main house. Already, he only had the strength to crawl. His arms shuddered as if each might stop functioning. Ember pressed against the short grass again, avoiding the broken fingers swelling on his right hand. His body bent in a heap, inches from the bush he struggled toward. Maybe rolling under the low, bowed ferns would hide him well enough. A bush rustled behind him.
He spun his head, but only mossy juniper and pine trees shone in the dim light. Much of the forest underbrush was so dense he could hardly pass through. This area, however, was cleared, with meadow grass that had grown in naturally. Several yards down the path, a blackberry bush grew at the edge of a trail. Crickets chirped not too far away. The place seemed serene, empty.
“Would you like to try again?” a soprano voice asked, only a foot away. She moved into view.
Terror grabbed at his chest. She was one of them, a monster. He recognized her voice as the leader’s. Sticky blood dripped into his eye again from the cut on his temple. Through the pain, the fear rebounded, trumping all other emotion. He forced himself to be calm, refusing to die afraid. He would go on his own terms. His head lifted from the ground and then, exhausted, fell back to the dirt.
“That’s the best you have?” she asked. “Tsk, tsk. And I thought you were going to make the midnight bell. Hiding in the trees was clever; lucky we’re in Oregon and not Arizona, hmm? I think I might use this venue again. Something about the greenery of Oregon forests goes so well with bleeding men.”
“You can…” His tongue ran over the cracked lips and he tried again. “You can go to…” His speech failed.
“Yes?” She leaned closer, but he no longer moved. “Are you still breathing?” Her boot kicked his shoulder and his arm flopped. A gash in his black shirt exposed his chest. “That’s a pity. I hoped to feel your heart quit beating in my hand. I guess there’s always next century.”
He let out a cough that convulsed his entire body, and simultaneously clutched the knife handle. The metallic glint flashed in his hand as he plunged the blade as high as his arm would allow. She staggered back, clutching her stomach. The handle of his hunting knife protruded from her side. A smile flitted across Ember’s face. Going on his own terms felt good.
“Not quite dead,” he said in a hoarse voice.
The seven-inch blade slurped out, her white knuckles grasped firmly to the grip. Crimson drops fell from the end. One hand clutched the side of her black shirt, blood seeping through her fingers, and the other hand gripped the knife as if the weapon were an extension of her fingers. “But…what…” A shiver shook her shoulder. She stumbled back two paces. Ember could plainly see she’d never been stabbed and he smiled again. Her bloody hand rose to her blank stare, palm toward her face, and trembled. She turned to him and his expression fell. A mask of hatred now covered her face as she raised the knife high over her head.
“Now you die!” she screamed.
In the distance, a heavy bell began to toll. Everything froze.
“The bell,” said Ember. “The bell,” he repeated his eyes growing wide. A new, intense terror leapt into his chest. He’d resigned himself to death when he saw her, but now things were much worse.
“Very well,” she said, and the knife fell from her fingers to the dirt. Panic controlled his every thought. He struggled, pushing with his broken fingers, not feeling the pain, but his energy was too depleted to fight or run. His heart hammered faster. His limbs no longer heeded what he wanted and instead became rigid, freezing him like a battered gothic statue. The moon disappeared behind her black silhouette. “From now on, you will know me as Queen Lilith.” She yanked his head to the side, exposing his neck, and bit down hard.
“Do you believe in vampires?” Steven asked his daughter.
“Of course,” said Vespa. She looked both ways and pedaled across the street, keeping to the shadows away from the street lamps. Silent, dark homes zipped by on either of the road. The night air felt cool against her skin. She would soon be old enough to drive, but she wondered if even then they might continue to make these secret excursions on bike.
“Really?” His bike glided beside her. She took three pedal pushes to each one of his.
“It’s the only way Santa could keep production going year round. What’s the lifespan of an elf? With the candy and cocoa they’re laying back every day and the year round work schedule? Eighty years, tops. Vampires you train once and they’re good for eternity, with no worries about sweet intake. Much more convenient, I say, and I’m sure Mr. Jolly St. Nick has figured out the same.”
“What about finding blood for them to drink? That doesn’t sound too convenient,” he said.
“There are always the elves. Santa had to find a way to get rid of them once he saw the benefits of vampire labor anyway. Elves are probably the perfect bite-size snack for a hungry blood drinker.”
Steven snorted at his daughter. “Vespa, sometimes you’re strange,” he said. “Maybe mom was right; attending a large high school is slowly corrupting you.”
“I’m strange? You’re the one who started bringing up vampires. Besides, we did just sneak out in the middle of the night to go run in a graveyard—without telling Mom, I might add. Who’s corrupting whom?”
“We could go back to the house.”
“No, I’m going to beat the clock this time and then you’ll have to tell me that deep, dark secret of yours. That’s the deal, remember? I make the run in under a minute and I ask a question.” She knew she was practically giddy and it showed, but she didn’t care. So what if her dad made fun of her later? Tonight was going to be her night; she could feel the certainty. It made her tingle. Learning her father’s secret had gone past curiosity. Now it was a passion, something she had to know. Something she was sure would connect her to her father in a deeper way. Private information had a way of pulling people together and making the bond stronger, if both people knew the secret. And she wanted to be closer to her father.
Most nights he worked late, coming home exhausted. There would be some conversation, but eventually he would lock himself away in a room and work for another four hours. When he finished, his mind was mostly mush and he talked little. But when they did graveyard runs or she hinted at his clandestine activities, he was ready to jump into the conversation.
She kept probing him with leading questions, until one night he had developed the graveyard run. If she could make the run across the cemetery in under a minute, he agreed he would answer any question she asked.
“It looks like rain,” he continued. “You might twist an ankle.”
“Quit stalling,” she said and crouched in the middle of the path. She looked past the wrought-iron gate into the cemetery. Mist rose like steam from the moss encrusted headstones. The smell of pre-rain swept the area. Anticipation tickled her and she drummed her fingers against the concrete in a jittery motion.
I own you, graveyard, she thought.
“Okay, on my mark,” he said.
The first beep of the alarm began and Vespa broke into full sprint. Blasts of air whipped her long hair. A streak of lightning spread overhead, flashing blinding light. In the burst, a mud hole, caused by a patch of missing cobblestone walkway, was illuminated.
Dodging to the hole’s right, the path vanished into a milky cloud of fog. Spears of moonlight filtered through the weeping willows, giving just enough light to avoid tombstones. The squishing of her footsteps on the grass was scarcely perceptible above the groaning wind. The hole had thrown her off the best path, but that was no reason to panic. There was still plenty of time. She would have smiled, but she was already beginning to pant.
A vase of Gerber daisies scattered as Vespa jumped over “Edison Willard—Beloved Father”.
What were the dates of birth and death? There was no time to check, and she knew her father would test her on these later; might even hold back part of his answer, if she beat the clock, as punishment. He was always trying to make her aware of the details. Soon the beeping of the stopwatch would end, and she wasn’t there yet; she had yet to see the black gate, which remained hidden in the darkness. Her legs pumped harder causing her lungs to burn. A drop of rain pelted a splintered wood cross ahead. Spinning kept her from colliding with the grave marker. Her shoes slipped across the grass dumping Vespa into the mud.
“Oh…dung beetles.” An actual curse was on her lips, but she could never manage to say them while looking at crosses and other religious paraphernalia among the headstones. She still had time, but she needed to be calm if she hoped to reach the gate. Running recklessly into another headstone would kill her chances of learning her father’s secret. When she panicked, injury followed. A glance at her watch revealed only seconds remained. “Gak!” She fled forward not focusing on any of the graves any longer. Where was that blasted gate?
Panting and ignoring the pain, she jumped over a headstone. Materializing from the night, the back gate appeared five yards away. The bars swung outward inviting those inside the graveyard to leave.
With a scream, she leapt across the threshold. The beeping on the watch went silent.
I made it. I made it. She shook the watch several times to make sure there were no broken pieces. She checked the time again. Then she thought, of course I made it. I’m amazing.
Breath wheezed into her lungs. The damp grass caught her as she sprawled backward. The fire in her legs felt like months would pass before she’d become whole again. She didn’t care. She’d beat the graveyard run.
Like a ghost, her father emerged from the mist. He bent down and helped her stand then slapped her on the back.
“Good job,” he said, a grin on his face. “I’m sure the $200 sneakers made all the difference.” She’d saved her allowance money for months to buy the shoes.
“They…slipped…on the…grass,” she said between gasps of air.
“Twist an ankle?”
She glared back at him, but she couldn’t pretend to be angry—her excitement was too obvious.
“Then I guess I owe you the answer to one question,” her dad said.
“You already know what I’m gonna ask,” she said, excitement building inside. This was it. She’d waited so long. A part of her, however small, wondered whether she would be disappointed when the mystery was gone, when her father told her his deepest secret. But another thought, who cares? I wanna know!
“I could tell you all about water pipeline design.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t doubt you know civil engineering.”
“Just that I am a civil engineer. You think my job is more…covert.”
“Yes, do you work for—”
“What were the birth and death dates from three of the graves?” he asked.
“Come on.” She wanted to sigh loudly in frustration, but she remained patient. To an extent.
“Nope, you know you’re supposed to pay attention to the details. What good is rushing when you don’t take in anything around you?”
She sighed and pushed a lock of sticky hair from her face. “There was a Johnathan Pruite, 1904–1982, and a Samuel Clayborne, 1925–1999, and a, umm, Elvis Presley, 1930–1970.”
“Yeah, that grave had rhinestones. Couldn’t miss it.” She flipped her hair and put on her “I’m innocent” look.
He tapped his chin for several moments. “I don’t know. You didn’t memorize three.”
“I’ll do it again! Besides, that was never part of the original agreement.”
He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, there’s no doubt you can finish the run in time.” He looked over his shoulder at the empty cemetery and the nearby copse of trees and bushes bordering the sidewall. His face grew serious. “What I’m about to tell you can’t leave this place, understood?”
“I knew it,” she gasped.
“I haven’t even told you what it is yet. I—” He looked back at the tree line. “Did you hear something?”
“I think I heard something back where we hid the bikes. Wait here.”
“You’re stalling. You can’t hold out forever.”
He didn’t answer. Vespa watched her father walk into the thicket, annoyed he withdrew right when he was about to reveal who his true employer was. She hadn’t decided whether it was CIA, NSA, or FBI. Whichever organization it was, her dad was definitely undercover. Would there be secret tales of infiltration? Would he teach her everything he knew, so one day she could be a superspy? Several minutes passed. He was taking forever.
The bushes whipped. Thunder rumbled in the sky.
“Dad? Everything okay?”
There was no answer.
“You didn’t leave me, did you?” Who knew what her dad was capable of doing. He did, after all, bring her to run in graveyards in the middle of the night. Maybe this was just the next step in his plan. Vespa went to the edge of the outcropping and listened. There was only a light dripping of rain. And then a scream pierced the silence. The noise blocked every other sense, leaving her with only the drifting echoes. Her hands trembled. Vespa sprinted into the thicket in the direction her dad had gone. Branches caught and snapped at her clothes and arms and legs.
Her legs knocked out beneath her, and she flew into a clump of ferns. Mud plastered her face. Picking herself up and turning back, she saw what tripped her. Her father’s body was sprawled face down. She ran to him and rolled him over. Deep slashes covered his chest. Blood oozed from gashes across his neck. An urge to run and hide shot through her, but shock rooted her to the spot. Some analytical part of her mind took over and pushed the scared part aside. He needed help—that was the first step.
“Help, please, anyone!” Vespa yelled. What did this? She had heard of large animals entering the city. She pulled the cell phone from her father’s pocket. Staying calm was important. A hysterical person would slow everything and make communication harder. But her panic was on the edge, waiting for her to lower her guard. Several yards behind her, the bushes moved and twigs snapped. She spun, but the space was empty. She wanted to bolt, but refused to give in to the feeling completely. Her dad needed her. A voice picked up on the phone.
“We’re at the cemetery, my father’s been injured. A bear maybe,” Vespa’s words rushed out. She looked around again. For a half-second, through the trees, she saw a flash of white, illuminated by moonlight, pass a distant path. There was no other movement. The forest remained silent except for the patter of rain. She looked down at her father.
She felt his heart stop beating under her fingers. Her father was dead.
The Horror Of The Shade, by Peter Meredith
Description: In all the deepest pits and in all the rank, vile dungeons that make up the illusion of Hell, no fiend is more feared than the dread demon, and for good reason. These pitiless monsters feed on bile and blood, they lap up the screams of the damned, they corrupt and destroy and they hate with an unrelenting fury.
And to release one upon the world is the ultimate in black sin.
When Commander William Jern and his wife Gayle are given an opportunity to move into one of the spacious Colonial homes on the Village Green, they jump at the chance. But the Jern’s new dream home quickly becomes an icy nightmare, as death stalks them relentlessly. It comes unheralded out of the night, and like all of us, they are fearfully unprepared. Yet regardless of his state of readiness, William Jern must face terrors beyond imagination in order to save his daughter whose body had become a frozen vessel for a horror summoned out of the great Void.
With the help of his son Will, a boy struggling to find the courage to be a man, and an old woman, who has foreseen the terrifying manner in which she will die, William undergoes the ultimate test to see how far a father will go, to save his child.
Adrina was forced to stare into the black pit of the demon’s face. She would stare and stare until she was used up and what happened after that, she was deathly afraid to find out. She hoped she would die before that could happen, but she was certain the demon would not allow it.
She could only stand there and see what the demon wanted her to see, and think what the demon wanted her to think. For the moment, it wanted her to see the surprise it had for her. She was allowed to see the smoke of its body flowing up and around it, and nearer to the interior, she saw it came together to form a streaming liquid gruel. In the foul gruel, there were shapes and it hurt Adrina, deep in her chest to see these. An arm, a face, part of a torso. These would form out of the vile fluid and then sink back in.
The face was the worst.
She knew the face. Pain would grip her heart when she saw the face, screaming in silent agony. It was the face of her granddaughter Emily. The demon had Emily’s soul and was letting it surface so that Adrina could feel her pain too. The demon was enjoying this, but it was a malicious evil joy and it was horrible to feel that sort of joy.
The demon drew them slowly toward it. Everything was being gently pulled into that black pit. Even the smoke and gruel that made the demon’s body flowed continuously up and into the black void.
The air around them coursed into the thing and it was like a wind at her back. It was gently pushing her, so that she leaned back away from the demon. Adrina could feel the heat from her body running off her, streaming into the voracious pit. She could see her breath flow to the demon.
The pit was feasting. Feasting on Tomas, feasting on the priest, but right now it was gorging itself on Adrina. Not just the heat of her life, the demon had opened her mind like a can of peaches and was savoring each morsel of pain, of fear, and especially of sin.
Because the demon wished it, Adrina suddenly remembered the first time, her mother sent her to kill a chicken for their evening meal. She had been seven years old and a little scared, but wanted to prove herself. Adrina had gone to the coop and grabbed up the largest bird and had carried it to the old tree stump. The small axe lay in the grass. The head of it was stained with rust and blood and there were little pieces of old flesh on it. The axe looked like a dead thing itself. Adrina grew afraid to touch it, worried it would move, worried it was not quite dead, and that if she reached for it, it would bite her.
On the stump, the bird squawked in irritation and Adrina jumped. She screwed up her courage and bent to grab the axe.
It was warm.
Her hand drew back and she cast a look over her shoulder at their tiny shanty, but her mom wasn’t about. The axe had felt warm, as if it were alive.
No. It was just a thing, a thing lying in the sun. But it felt like an evil hungry thing that enjoyed the death it caused. What else would it enjoy? Fear gripped her and Adrina nearly ran inside with the chicken. However, she knew her mother would be angry. She would just do it and not think about it.
Swallowing hard, Adrina grabbed up the little hand axe, and discovered not only that it was warm, but it also had a nasty smell about it. Ignoring the smell as best she could, she laid the chicken down, as she had seen countless times and brought the axe down hard.
The ungainly axe turned in her hand and hacked into the chickens back and shoulder. Blood exploded out of the bird and it bounced about in her grip, squawking in terrific pain. Adrina was confused at what had happened and felt unexpected pity at the pain she caused. But pity or not, she had to finish, and she stepped down lightly on the bird to hold it still. The axe was hot, drenched in blood now and as she raised it a second time, she saw it was smiling a gory, blood-dripping smile. There had been no notch in the axe before, but now, one was plainly visible and it looked to be a wicked, hungry, toothy grin.
Horrified, Adrina swung the axe down a second time, but again the axe, slippery with blood, turned to the side. This time she struck its back dead center and she had to pry the axe out of the bird that still squawked terrifically, drenching Adrina with its blood. The axe did not want to let go of the bird, it seemed to have a hold of it and Adrina had to work it back in forth in the frenzied bird before it would come out.
The wide grin was larger and bloodier.
Adrina knew what else the axe liked more than death, and that was pain. Death could happen in an instant but pain lasted longer. Seven-year-old Adrina threw the axe from her, terrified. She let go of the chicken and it tried to run, but it veered off sideways, falling over. The axe lay grinning in the sun enjoying the spectacle, while the chicken took a long time to die, flopping about in delectable agony. Adrina stood drenched in blood and crying…
She was back in the almost silent room with the mumbling priest and the demon. Her stomach rolled over, she was going to be sick. Still she stared at the silent black nothingness in the demon’s face, while her throat started to work up and down. Yes, this was good…the demon wanted her to throw up, but not just yet. It enjoyed the gorge coming up in her throat and the heaving of her stomach.
It was like chamber music playing in the background at its cruel banquet. Adrina tried to fight it, but it was no use, next she then tried to force herself to vomit. However, the demon enjoyed this too much; vomiting was like death.
It ended things.
Not only that, there was always a moment after getting sick, where she would feel just a little bit better, even if for a second. Kind of like the feeling, she had at the end of being raped. Maybe sometimes it is more than just a feeling of relief.
“Wasn’t there just a bit of pleasure in it?” The thought that came to her, unbidden couldn’t have been hers; it had to be the demon’s.
“No, you liked it!” It had to be the demon. It had to be.
“No, no, I didn’t like it, it was…” Adrina cried aloud.
She wanted not to remember the rape. However, the demon wanted it from her, and as she stared, she was powerless to stop it. The demon could force itself into her mind, so that she felt wide open, like an open book… open as her legs had been the first time with Claudio Butolask.
“No!” she screamed. However, the fiend sucked the sound directly from her throat, and she barely even heard herself.
Her legs had been pried open brutality with a harshness that seemed unnecessarily sadistic. The nails of his right hand dug deep and cruelly into her flesh making her bleed. Her mind screamed but she was afraid to make even the slightest noise, she had been warned. And she believed he would keep his promise.
Butolask had held the long knife between her legs and had asked which she wanted in her, him, or the knife? He told her if she chose him, she would have to ask nicely…
“Mother! Mother!” There was someone calling to her from a great distance. It sounded like she was at the beach and the wind whipped away the shout, before it could reach her ears. A hand grabbed her roughly and tried to pull her around, but the demon’s gaze from across the room was like a magnet and there was no denying it. Her body turned, but her head and neck didn’t, they twisted horribly as she was forced to stare.
A hand came down in front of her vision, mercifully blocking the sight of that foul unending void. Her mind was suddenly closed to the void, but the demon was still all about her demanding more, hammering at her. It had just been enjoying the time she had killed her first son, Stephan. Oh yes, that was a long, slow agonizing memory. Adrina was being forced to remember every terrible detail of it and the demon wanted to make sure she wouldn’t forget Stephan’s wife, yes she was dead too.
“Mother! Look at me!” She felt slow and stupid and old. Every one of her sixty-eight years pressed down on her as if they were bricks. She had no strength to turn around, to face away from the demon. It was almost too much even to stand and her legs began to shake.
Suddenly and mercifully, the presence of the demon, beating at the edges of her mind lifted. She was no longer its focus; it had looked away.
Adrina fell to the floor, on her hands and knees and vomited. She vomited again and then retched repeatedly. The vomit drew her eyes to it with ghastly fascination. The half-liquid runny mess drained toward the demon as if it was running down hill. It reached the base of the smoking fiend and started to drip upward into the smoke. Adrina began to gag uncontrollably at the sight, unable to breathe.
Tomas grabbed her up in his arms from behind and lifted her off the floor, turning her away from the demon. He held her briefly, but as she began to breathe easier, he spun her around and yelled into her ear.
“You are ok. Can you hear me?”
She looked into her son’s face. His eyes were so terrifically red and blood shot that they seemed almost inhuman.
She shook her head viciously back and forth, trying to clear it of the visions and the horrific feel of the demon rampaging through her mind. These slowly slipped away to haunt her just below the surface, but at least she began to think for herself.
It was then that the priest screamed, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! Please! Please, I didn’t mean it!” His face wore a look of fearful desperation and his eyes seemed to spin madly in their sockets. “No! No! Please I didn’t mean it! Take her instead!” He got up from his knees and swaying like a drunk, he came at Adrina.
Tomas gave him a quick shove away from his mother and Father Menning fell to the floor still screaming and begging for forgiveness. As they watched in horror, he started tearing at his own eyes frantically and blood stained his fingers.
“Mother, what do we do?” Tomas was desperately afraid and his eyes stayed glued to the priest as he mutilated himself. She knew they had almost no time before there was nothing left of the priest. After that, it would be one of them. And Adrina knew that the demon would go for her again, she still had so much pain left to agonize over.
“I don’t…I…don’t” she said hesitantly. There was one thing she could do, but the consequence was too great, and in her mind, she saw again the gun in her hands and the blood spraying the wall. Deep down she had known that she could save herself by purposely looking into the future, but the penalty for that unnatural act would be the life of her son. Killed by her own hand.
There was always a penalty.
This was why she hesitated. Save herself or her son. There was no hope for the priest or poor Emily. She could look into the future or…
“Run,” she said to Tomas, but said it so quietly that she could barely hear her own voice. Adrina fought a losing battle against her fears. There was no way she could run; she would have trouble even making it to the door in the state she was in. He was the only one with any chance of getting out alive.
“What?” Tomas looked like he had shouted it, but this too she could barely hear. She looked at Father Menning and he was no longer clawing at his eyes, they were gone, but now he was turning a fantastic shade of deep red. There was almost no time left.
Again, she said it too quietly, barely above a whisper and he bent his head down so that his ear was next to her mouth. “Run please,” the words left her mouth without strength.
She knew what would happen if he left her. The demon would own her soul for all time and the very thought sapped her will.
“You need to speak up!” he shouted and Adrina knew that if he did not start running in the next couple of seconds, he wouldn’t make it, but she was so afraid to be left alone with the demon, that she hesitated and the seconds passed.
Her entire being shook with fear, but somehow she summoned the strength to yell.
But then there was no more time. She knew it.
Adrina had taken too long. Her eyes were drawn to the priest and he was now a repulsive purple color. Her son would never make it out of the house alive. She had killed him with her cowardice and there was nothing left to do but to save herself.
The Horror Of The Shade, by Peter Meredith