This is such a great anthology about monsters of all shapes and sizes. This book holds monsters that we all have feared since our childhood. It is the things that go bump in the night. It is the stories we tell around campfires. They are the urban legends and the tall tales.
Let me be straight forward with you now. I have never read any of these authors before. Now that I have, I will definitely be reading their other work. Each author brought something to the table. I thought the editors did a great job of ordering the stories as well. There was not a bad story in this anthology! With that being said, let’s get to the stories.
The anthology gets off to a strong start with Master Vermin by Wallace Boothill. This story is about rats taking over Baltimore. Think the bubonic plague with a twist! It is a great story!
5/5 rabid vermin!
Legend Trippers by Theresa Braun is amazing! Ever wonder why there is never any proof of urban legends? Read this story and you will know why! The story is about a Goatman. Great story!
The Murder of Crows by S.J. Budd is crazy cool! A mysterious lady gets into a serial killers cab. He tries to kill her, but he can’t. Turns out he owes her a debt! I will never look at crows the same way again!
Wicked Congregation by Gary Buller is terrifying! This is about sacrifice and fairies. This story is told as a confession or a recounting of events. I have wanted to visit England for a while now, but I might hold off due to the fairies that reside there. Great story!
5/5 wicked fairies!
Playing Dead by S.E. Casey is amazing! Who doesn’t like a circus that pops up overnight in your town? I don’t know what it is about them, but you just have to check them out. Am I right? The story is set in New Hampshire at a circus. This story deals with loss, nightmares, and depression. Great story! Didn’t see that ending coming!
5/5 devil monkeys!
Lake Monster by Mr. Deadman is crazy! Two friends go on a fishing trip, but things go terribly wrong! Great story!
5/5 bloated carcasses!
Never Sleep Again by Calvin Demmer is creepy! There is a serial killer on the loose. The serial killer has killed 4 people. The only thing left behind is dirt under the victims’ beds. This story will make you want to leap from your bed. You never know what might be under your bed! Great story!
5/5 sleepless nights!
The Voice from the Bottom of the Well by Philip W. Kleaver is mind blowing! Johanna hears a voice at the bottom of an old well near her house in Massachusetts. The thing at the bottom of the well is hungry. Johanna must feed it, and boy did she! Awesome story!
5/5 creepy wells!
Eclipse of Wolfcreek by Sylvia Mann is eerie! I have heard of the Mothman, but this story takes the legend to the next level. Great story!
5/5 red eyes!
No. 7 by William Marchese is crazy! This story has zombies and soldiers. Great story!
Criatura by John Palisano is great! He breaks down in the desert. He runs into La Criatura, a desert creature with white fur. He finally makes it to his destination the next day, but he is different. He has transformed. Great story! I honestly have never heard of a Criatura until I read this story.
Bitten by Christopher Powers will make your skin crawl! Charles goes to the Congo Basin on a trip and gets far more than what he was looking for. He finds a new species of spider in the sausage tree. The spiders are great hunters. One spider has hunted Charles down. Great story!
Kelpies by Leo X. Robertson is wicked! This is the first time that I have ever heard the term Kelpie before. A Kelpie lures a man into the water. Turns out he can go home anytime he likes, but he doesn’t. Years later he meets his son. Crazy story!
5/5 wicked Kelpie!
Bloodstream Revolution by M.R. Tapir was a good read! This story is about Chupacabras during the Mexican Revolution. I enjoyed this story!
This is a great anthology that everyone should read! This book doesn’t have any low points because the stories are balanced out so well. I highly recommend this book to fans of horror, tall tales, and legends!
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When your girlfriend is going down on you, you must be very quiet. Especially when you’re on her parent’s living room sofa, and her mother is in the next room reading. You must stare at the textured ceiling and count the cracks in the paint. It will help you listen for her mother’s footsteps, should she come running.
Keep your hands on your girlfriend’s breasts and remain as excited as possible. This needs to be over quickly, before her mother finishes her chapter. That’s what your girlfriend whispered into your ear, anyway. Back before she unzipped your pants and took you into her mouth.
You will bite your lower lip until it bleeds, but you won’t notice until you’ve wiped the happy tears away from your eyes with the throw pillow and found blood on the gray fabric.
The flicker of a page turning, the creak of a rocking chair settling. All these sounds make you nervous as well as excited
The kitchen table is so close, your girlfriend’s mother casts a shadow onto the hardwood floor, rocking back and forth as she reads.
Your girlfriend knows how quickly this must come to an end, and she slips a finger inside your asshole to prove it. The tip rubs against your prostate, making you thicker, making you bite your lower lip harder. Your girlfriend feels you growing inside her mouth and shoves her face into your lap with more force. Her breathing escapes in warm huffs that warm the insides of your thighs. It tickles your balls, and it’s amazing, but not as amazing as the eruption building up throughout your body.
Your toes curl. You bite your lip until blood oozes from your mouth, dripping from your chin and onto your bare chest. You grab the back of your girlfriend’s head to make sure she takes everything you got, and then her muffled breathing becomes more frantic.
Your arms tighten against your girlfriend’s struggle for air, but your need for release is far more important than her need for air. Then you learn she wasn’t having trouble breathing at all. Her problems are much worse than that.
You explode inside her mouth. The eruption forces your hands to your mouth, stifling the screams that helplessly squeal from your throat, but you’re not quick enough, and your girlfriend lifts her head just in time to vomit on your lap. It erupts with the same force as your semen, which rises up to meet her bile, combining into a liquid of purged love. It all falls down onto your stomach, between your legs and onto the couch cushion where it weasels its way into your ass crack.
This is when your girlfriend removes her finger from your prostate and places it onto your chest, smearing your own shit onto your nipples, where it merges with your blood, turning your body into a canvass of gore.
It’s too late to do anything now, so you stare at the doorway, waiting for her mother to enter the room. When she does, the horrified expression on her face pleases you, because she was the one you were thinking about the entire time you were inside her daughter’s mouth. You pretended her breasts were in your hands, her finger was in your asshole, and you can’t help but smile at her.
This will be the last time you ever see her, so you burn her disgusted face into you memory, where it will remain, forever.
Late announcement, but Deadman’s Tome is hosting a launch party for it’s latest issue! Deadman’s Tome Shit Fest is a full serving of disgusting, horrible, yet hilarious stories pertaining to and revolving around shit! If you want to be entertained, enjoy a good laugh, and you don’t mind getting dirty then Shit Fest is for you!
Want to get a free copy? Well, then you’re in luck! Excited about the brand new issue, Mr. Deadman will giveaway $50 worth of free paperback copies, $100 dollars worth of digital (epub/.mobi/pdf) copies, and will read a few stories during the Deadman’s Tome podcast! How? Easy, be a part of the chat. Mr. Deadman will ask who wants a copy and you just have to be faster than the others in response!
Tonight’s show features Patrick Winters, a horror writer featured in Deadman’s Tome Shit Fest with a story entitle Curses and Shits!
Want more shit fest? After the Deadman’s Tome podcast, there will be a special post show exclusive to patrons. This private show will be wild, but not the sort of wild you might be thinking… not for cheap.
Just about every weekend I run a special or giveaway on select titles. I really don’t care about the money. I’m not in this business to make bank. What I want is to create a platform where authors can reach readers like you, and that means I’m willing to make some very persuasive offers from time to time. I present Name Your Price.
I have a small inventory of paperback for Book of Horrors I, Book of Horrors II, Monsters Exist, and The Ancient Ones. You name your price, anywhere from a dollar to a million dollars, and that’ll be the price for the selected book. You could technically ask for zero and get a free book + shipping ($3). It’s stupid simple. Use the form below to make a request.
Shipping: While I don’t care about the money, shipping gets expensive fast. Any offer of $5 or more gets FREE SHIPPING as long as US domestic. International shipping gets really expensive, especially to certain regions. I will offer free shipping to the UK for orders $10 or more.
It was heavily disguised, he knew that, and as such, there was not a trace of accent. His heart sank a little at the words, but he knew it was coming, this call. He had been paid, and paid well, and God knew he deserved the money.
The desert blew in sandy twists around his feet, and when he opened the seventh and last packet, the wind threatened to dislodge the dark powder nestling there. He cupped a gloved hand around it, and breathed deeply of the desert air.
‘Christ, man! What the fuck?!’
Armitage pushed back on his bunk, his right hand clamped across his brow. He felt absurdly like a film-noir heroine about to faint, but couldn’t stop himself. His right hand held a bottle of beer, and he felt the slow pulsing of its contents escaping over his lap. The TV high on the wall in the corner blared banality. It served to add a level of normality to the surroundings. The humid clench of the air, the muted pops and stuttering chatter of distant gunfire dispelled it.
Donnie sat across from him on a ratty chair. Threads of stitching had popped free all across the upholstery on both arms. It would scratch your own arms unrelentingly if you sat there, which was why Armitage always opted for his bunk. This was Donnie’s lucky chair, or so he claimed. It didn’t seem so now. Donnie’s arms, for the most part, lay in his lap. The hand holding the chef’s cleaver drooped between his opened legs. His other hand, the one he had just severed, rocked gently to stillness at his feet, tendrils of blood threading the hardwood floor and the big toe of his left foot.
‘What the fuck have you done? Ah, fuck!’ Armitage almost screamed. Donnie was silent except for the tight inhalations of hot sour air through his clamped lips.
The beer finished its pulsing escape and Armitage let the bottle fall to the floor. He stared at the hand. He thought it was the very one that not five minutes ago has passed him the beer that was currently soaking through his jeans. He tried to speak but could not.
‘It’s ok, man,’ Donnie whispered. ‘I’ll be ok in a minute.’
He raised his head and looked straight at Armitage. His eyes were wild and white, red-rimmed and brimming with wetness. Armitage thought that they looked like they were brimming with insanity, and why not? What else could it be?
He had not seen the cleaver pushed down between the chair and the seat cushion. He had only vaguely seen Donnie pull it out, but had thought nothing of the gesture because his head was tipped back, swigging deeply from his beer. He had heard the whistling smack as the cleaver came down through the air and buried itself into the arm of the chair. He had heard a soft thump that only now did he sickeningly associate with the fall of a severed hand. Donnie’s hand.
Donnie’s jesus-fucking-christ-almighty left hand!
‘Why, Donnie?’ he whimpered. He could barely take the breath for these words and they left him panting, his chest tight.
‘I don’t think it was mine, man. The hand, I mean. I don’t know.’ He looked confusedly at Armitage.
‘What?’ Armitage asked, stunned and feeling foolishly like laughing.
Donnie shifted so that he could look down to his feet and prodded at the hand with his big toe. It rocked, looking like a dead spider, still leaking redness at its wrist. He looked at his abridged arm, leaking more copiously. A smile began to tweak the corners of Donnie’s mouth. Armitage felt cold wash through him.
‘Better,’ said Donnie quietly, and nodded.
‘Donnie, man, we gotta get you to the doc, something, you’re gonna bleed to death.’
Armitage stood in panicked jerks, his knees feeling like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. He fought the urge to vomit, but lost as Donnie absently kicked his hand across the hardwood in a series of strangely balletic tumbles. Wiping strings of drool from the corners of his mouth, he fell back onto the bunk. He clutched his head in both hands so that the bends of his elbows formed a tunnel through which he stared at his friend, and implored him.
‘Come on, man. We gotta do something! You just cut off your fucking hand, for Christ’s sake!’
Donnie put down the cleaver, a circular smear of red bisecting the blade, and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a plastic tie-wrap, and threaded one end through the other, clumsily, holding it in his teeth. He looped the resultant noose around his ruined wrist and ratcheted the tie closed, forming an absurd collar of puckered flesh at the arm’s end. The bleeding slowed and stopped. Donnie raised the stump and gestured to Armitage. It looked as though he was proffering a wet red rose to his friend.
‘Ok?’ he asked, petulantly. Then, more to himself, ‘It’ll be ok, man.’
Armitage moved his hands from his head and squeezed them tightly over his eyes. He could hear Donnie’s ragged breathing, hear his own.
‘What are you gonna do, Donnie?’ he asked without looking. ‘I mean, you gotta do something. You are a fuckin’ soldier, what are you gonna do?’
‘First I’m gonna cut off my foot. It’s this whole side,’ he said, waving the dripping cleaver up and down the whole left side of his body. The honed blade chimed on the leg of his jeans. ‘It’s not mine. I don’t know how or why it was changed for….this….fucking thing…but it’s not mine. I have to be rid of it. I have to, man.’
‘Donnie, no,’ Armitage moaned through his hands. ‘Come on, man, let’s talk about it. What’s got you like this? You sick? You worrying? It’s getting to us all you know, this fuckin’ war.’
Donnie looked up momentarily, just long enough to speak two words. ‘Less, now.’
He hefted his left leg up onto the arm of the chair. Armitage began to rise, but the look shot him from Donnie’s crazed eyes stopped him cold. He sat roughly back down onto the sofa, amid cooling vomit and beer stains.
‘Please, Donnie,’ he said. ‘Don’t.’
* * *
‘How long?’ he murmured into the mouthpiece on his cheek. ‘Till this is over?’
The voice chuckled. ‘You will be home by Christmas, Fallon. Your part in this war has begun, and for a few nights work, you will have saved countless lives.’
‘But please, is there no other way? I don’t want…..’
‘Just do as I have instructed you. The powder is untraceable, and is perfectly formulated. You have used six sachets so far. One per night? It will do as I have told you, and your men can go home. You…can go home. There need be no further death, my friend.’
The cleaver whined through the air and a meaty thump marked its progress through the tough meat and bone of Donnie’s ankle. Donnie whimpered softly as he wrenched the blade free, a little jet of blood following the blade’s edge, as if desperate to cling there. Armitage fixed on the arcing droplets. He shut his eyes and did not see the second swing of the cleaver. It met less resistance this time, and in a soft crunch of bone and tendon, the foot fell free and came to rest, sole down in perfect companionship to his still attached right.
Armitage screamed. He launched himself to his feet and rushed to Donnie, who was convulsing slowly on his chair, blood jetting from the end of his leg, still raised onto the arm of the chair.
‘Tie it,’ Donnie said, weakly. Without thinking, Armitage reached into Donnie’s shirt pocket and found a second tie wrap. He noosed this around Donnie’s leg and pulled it tight. His hands were slick with his friend’s blood.
‘Why are you doing this, Donnie? Why, man? Please, talk to me.’ He was crying now, and as he wiped the tears a thick smear of blood painted across his cheek. The tears cut through it slowly.
Donnie appeared to think. The convulsions had stopped, and his ashen face was turned up to the ceiling in beatific smiling blankness.
‘Those…things…’ he said, ‘weren’t mine. They just weren’t, ok?’ He said this last defiantly. ‘I don’t know. When I woke up today I saw the truth. That hand wasn’t my hand. The foot wouldn’t fit in my boot any more. You getting that, man? My fucking boot wouldn’t fit anymore!’
‘But Donnie, that can’t be right! You can’t cut off your own fucking hands!’
Donnie nodded. ‘Not both, of course,’ he chuckled, sounding weak. ‘But this one is ok. This one’s still mine. I can see it is. Can’t you see that?’
Armitage looked at the remaining hand, blood speckled and living, then looked across to the severed hand. Already greying, it rested against the leg of another bunk. It was curled into a half fist, as if it had tried to grab the leg. Armitage shivered and reached into his jeans pocket. He brought out his mobile phone. In a flash, Donnie swung the cleaver and sent the phone across the room. It broke into pieces against the floor. Armitage just stared at the fragments.
‘I’m ok, man!’ Donnie said again. ‘No doctor. I’m ok.’
‘Look, Donnie. You’re gonna have to explain this. You can’t hide what you’ve done, and if we don’t get this stitched up or something, you’re gonna fucking die.’ Armitage shook. He felt dangerously close to hysteria. He could hear a hitching in his breathing, a tight clipped tone to his words. ‘Talk to me, man. Explain why you’ve done this.’
Donnie dropped his head and appeared to sleep. Armitage started towards him, and was reaching for his shoulders when Donnie raised his head. His eyes showed none of their previous madness. Armitage made an involuntary noise deep in his throat all the same, and sat back.
‘I have no idea,’ said Donnie.
Armitage willed himself to calm. He rose quietly, backed away from his friend, and continued backing until he almost fell onto his bunk. The soft scrape of the iron legs against the floor caught Donnie’s attention for a second, but only that. He turned for a brief moment, and then returned to his inspection of his shortened limbs. He appeared to feel nothing at the sight of the stumps, but Armitage could see a waxy yellow sheen starting to show on his cheeks, and runners of sweat were beginning to paste his hair in dark feathery fronds across his forehead.
Armitage thought Donnie would be heading firmly into shock right about now. He made as if to move for the door and Donnie spoke, almost too quietly for him hear.
‘I feel…better, somehow,’ he said. ‘That’s the funny thing about all this. After our food last night, I slept better than I ever have. The sound of the guns didn’t disturb me like it usually does. I had no nightmares. And yet I woke thinking that something was terribly wrong with me. Something that only this could fix.’ He motioned to his mutilation with a nod of his pale face. ‘So I fixed it. And now I feel better, like this is how I need to be.’
Armitage chilled, and slowed his movement. He stared at the severed hand, curling like a starfish brought suddenly into dry desert air.
‘What am I going to do, man?’ said Donnie, and Armitage thought,
At last, he sees what he has done. I can help him,
but Donnie said, ‘This is how I need to be, but this is not how I trained to be. I am a soldier, man, and now I can’t fight. What am I gonna do?’
‘I’ll go and see the doc, Donnie. He can fix you up and we can get through this. That sound ok?’
Donnie waved with his remaining hand. Armitage left.
* * *
‘But…..?’ he said. ‘Must it be this?’
‘It must, and please be realistic now. It is too late to turn back. You know cannot possibly win this war. Do this, or you will all die, and will continue to die until there are no more of you.’
There was a soft click as the call ended, and he knew that was the last time he would hear the voice. His part was done now. It was over, or would be in scant seconds time.
Armitage pushed into the medical tent. The hot smell of blood and the chemical tang of disinfectant washed round him like mist. There was time enough to see the beds, all of them occupied, and the nurses that tended there, and then all was blocked from view as a uniformed officer stepped into his line of sight and laid a hand firmly onto his chest.
‘Sir,’ began Armitage, and then stopped, convinced his words would eject from him in a flood of teary babble. ‘I…’
‘You can’t be in here,’ said the officer.
‘But Private Donald Richards, sir. He’s…ah…excuse me sir, but he’s cut off his own fucking hand.’ He blurted this last and stepped back, head lowered.
The officer was silent for fully half a minute. ‘Christ,’ he murmured, then louder. ‘Christ, WE GOT ANOTHER ONE!’
The tent erupted into action around him, nurses flocking around Armitage, their hands fluttering feather-like across his arms, and feeling his hands.
He shook them off. ‘Not me!’ he shouted and ran back towards the bunkhouse he shared with Donnie.
They removed Donnie, strapped to a gurney that looked rusted with blood. His hand and foot went with him, although whether there would be a reattachment attempt, Armitage could not guess. All he knew was that the body parts were gone, and as he sat cradling the shattered remains of his mobile phone, he was thankful for that.
The officer that had stopped him in the medical tent came to see him as the darkness fell around their tents. Armitage sat in his desert combats, as if they would afford him protection from madness as they had from enemy eyes. The situation was explained. In the hours since Donnie had begun his nightmare mutilation, in the hours since he was stitched and sedated and guarded, 16 more soldiers had suffered the same dysmorphic reactions. The medical tent was now bursting with amputees, Donnie by no means the worst of them. One soldier had systematically shot the fingers from his left hand, one by one, and had put a bullet into each knee. One had attempted to remove his own head but had passed out from shock before he could complete the deed. There was no loss of life, not yet, but fully half a hundred bleeding stumps, burst knee joints, ruptured organs. Donnie had not been the first, and listening now to the officer’s words, words of sabotage, of mass hallucinations, of hypnotic suggestions, Armitage knew he would not be the last.
The officer asked Armitage if he had felt any similar desires to mutilate himself. Armitage almost laughed at this last. Desire to mutilate? When did he ever think he would have heard those words spoken in this or any other situation? The officer had finally left him alone, content with his assurances that, no, he didn’t feel the need to cut off a limb, or thrust a pen into his eye, or into his ear drum. The officer had looked at him for a long time before exiting the room. There were orders in that gaze, Armitage knew. When we are on the other side of this, that gaze inferred, there is to be no mention of anything that has happened here. Armitage didn’t think he would have trouble keeping this to himself. Already he felt his brain slowing, bogged down with the enormity of seeing his friend knowingly cut his hand from his body and sit watching the jet of blood like a fountain in a park. Time would tell if his mind would ever work the same as it had.
He almost entertained the notion that come morning, come the cleaning of weapons and the donning of uniform, all this would be nothing but a nightmare. He expressed as much to the officer, not noticing the look of suspicion in his eyes. His own eyes felt hot with grief, and his hands shook. He thrust them deep into his pockets and followed the officer, kicking the door closed behind him. He wandered, in and amongst the dusty habitation quarters, the dry desert biting his ankles, and sending hot air deep into his lungs.
The order to surrender was given two hours later. He heard rushing footsteps along the tented corridor that flanked the dining area. Armitage followed them in. He heard raised voices, and asked Fallon, the cook, what he could see from his vantage point behind the cooker. There was no answer.
Presently, officers and the remaining unharmed soldiers trailed into the canteen. They sat, and the order was relayed. Several voices were raised in protest.
‘Let us at least wait till everyone is here!’ one such said.
There was a beat’s hesitation from the commanding officer, and then,
‘We are here. All of us left. We are here.’
Shocked silence filled the room. The scuffing of boots became deafening as soldiers moved, restless to fight, but now unable. With the officer’s last words, Armitage again thought of Donnie, bandaged and screaming insanities in the medical tent, along with two thirds of the soldiers stationed here.
* * *
He straightened, but his head dropped low into his chest. A ragged breath scorched into his lungs, and he exhaled it. He hurriedly removed the ear- and mouth-piece, and with a deft flick of his wrist, sent the sandy powder drifting down into the huge pot of bubbling chilli con carne that was tonight’s meal. He stirred it in, and raised his smiling face to the first soldier that stood in line.
‘What war is there to fight when the army you rely upon to fight it has destroyed itself in the most fundamental way? We do not understand this,’ he continued, ‘but we know that we no longer have an army here. There are not enough of us and there are too many of them. We truly have no choice but to surrender ourselves. I suspect…? God help us, I have no idea. Is it magic, or poison, or hypnosis?’ he said, looking bewildered and shocked by his own words, as if they could not have come from him. He sat heavily. ‘We have undone ourselves.’
Armitage chilled. There were murmurs and soft words but no more cries of disagreement. The remaining soldiers had seen too much, and were numb with it. To see such wounds on the battlefield was one thing, but to see them here, and inflicted as they had been? It was too much. Armitage stood with the others and queued for food. None of the remaining soldiers spoke now, and none wanted to eat, but there seemed little else to do while they waited for their captors to remove them, as they surely would.
He sat alone at an empty table. There were many. His plate was heaped high. Armitage ate greedily but without hunger, mopping the wetness with hunks of dry bread and washing it down with water. He tasted none of it.
There was time enough for one last night.
Armitage noticed the first tingle in his fingers as he sat on his bunk, restless after the night’s bad sleep. In the second it took his brain to register the feeling, and perhaps begin to formulate some hypothesis as to its cause, he thought how much better it would be if he removed that itch. He looked at his hand and saw nothing that he recognised. A wedding ring gleamed from his ring finger and it was not the one he knew. A scar, jagged and deep pink, wormed across the back of the hand, and Armitage could not place it, nor the wound that caused it. He reached nervously to the hand and touched it. The hand felt not his own. He frowned and began his examinations afresh. There was no corresponding feeling from his left hand as his right fingers pulled gently at the skin there, just a deep itch in the tendons of that wrist, and in his mind’s eye, he could see the tendons fighting the connection of wrist to hand. He turned the hand over, and was unable to make a fist. The palm was too soft, he thought, to be his, the lines too deep.
‘Oh God, Donnie,’ he said softly to no one. ‘God, man. You were right.’
The screams intensified from the medical tent, and the sound of gunfire waned in the distance. Armitage stood and walked to the ratty chair, and to the cleaver that lay blood-rusted on the floor beside it.
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No matter who you are, no matter where you were, 9/11 was a devastating and soul shocking moment. The fact that the destruction was allowed to take place revealed just how vulnerable the West really is. The twin towers shattered and collapsed like our confidence and sense of security. Battered, bruised and with angered hearts, just about everyone demanded revenge. We sent our brave men and women into a warzone that was created through broken promises, failed deals, and resentment.
Honestly reflecting on 9/11 is a sobering experience. In recognition to the dreadful terror attack that reshaped the world into what it is today, Deadman’s Tome is giving away free ebooks of March to the Grave – the horrors of war themed issue all week (from 9/11 – to 9/17).
America, a land of prosperity, wealth, and hope, but that’s a fresh coat of paint on a system riddled with corruption, exploitation, and the disillusioned. Real American Horror exposes what lies under the facade: crib-side murder suicide, fear of zika virus, torture in the name of Jesus, Islamic terror, cannibalism, racism, and so much more.
Real American Horror is much more than a collection of chilling, terrifying horror. It’s a compilation of brutal truth wrapped in layers of fiction.
Real American Horror is available in Ebook format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. You can also find it in Google Play.
Paperback will soon be available across multiple online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Ingram. If you want a paperback, you can order one direct from Deadman’s Tome. Supplies limited. Order Paperback
(Enjoy a preview of Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales)
Standing with one eye shut in front of the shooting gallery at the county fair, Billy Hogan felt the crotch of his jeans tighten and raised his air rifle slowly. He didn’t budge. All the while his father’s words echoed in the confines of his mind: “You’ve got to get ’em when they don’t expect it, son! Ask yourself what Jesus would do and your aim will be true!” His father stood directly behind the boy with his brawny arms folded. Billy felt his hard stare driving him to succeed.
He stared at the yellow ducks passing by, watching them with deadpan eyes but seeing nothing, and knocked them down without missing a beat.
On one of their frequent trips into the dense woods behind their house, Billy’s father, a big bearish man with a grizzly beard, usually bagged a deer, or sometimes a bunch of squirrels, with four bullets, one for each of his victims. He never wasted a shot, no matter what.
Mr. Hogan taught his son how to focus on his target, at all costs. He stressed the importance of waiting until the prey appeared in the center of the telescopic site before taking the shot. “Like a martyr on the Cross” was the phrase he used to make the concept easier for young Billy to grasp. In Sunday school, he learned that a martyr was someone who endured great suffering for a cause they believed in, just like Jesus did.
Billy watched in awe as his father raised his Remington Pump Action shotgun swiftly and silently. He froze, shut one eye, squinted with the other, took a deep breath, switched off the safety, and waited until his prey, a deer this time, entered the crosshairs in the telescopic site before he exhaled, squeezed the trigger and the young buck fell down, dead.
Sometimes he would let Billy hold the rifle on his own when the magazine was empty, the muzzle still smoking from a recent kill. The boy loved the feel of it, sleek and heavy. It was a man’s gun, not a child’s toy, cheap and light, like the BB gun he’d had his eye on at the fair.
His father stood behind him, guiding his movements while Billy struggled to hold the gun level. Billy felt his breath hot, whiskey sour in his ear. “Don’t worry, Billy, you’ll grow into it before you know it.”
Billy nodded. “I can hardly wait.”
“Be patient, son. I know it’s hard, but you can’t rush perfection. You’ve got to take it as it comes.” He shook his head. “Always remember, practice makes perfect.”
The boy grinned. “I know, Dad.”
His father placed his callused index finger on top of Billy’s tender one and together they caressed the trigger before squeezing off a shot.
The old man behind the counter at the fair, dressed in a red and white pin-striped shirt and black pants, was aghast as he watched the tall, lanky kid standing in front of him knock everything down there was to hit, including the mechanical mother goose that flapped her wings right between the eyes. A crowd gathered ’round to witness the freakish occurrence, this being the first time someone ever hit everything the first time around.
Before he knew it, the man was shouting, “We have a winner!” He unlocked the glass case the housed the Grand Prize: a BB gun complete with telescopic site. Billy had had his eye on it since last year’s fair but at that time he had not been skilled enough to win it.
But a lot had happened since he turned ten this past summer: His penis got hard for no apparent reason when he least expected it, and he was frequently roused from exciting dreams about guns or girls by a warm dampness in his underwear.
The man behind the counter bent down to whisper in his ear: “Be careful how you handle this gun, boy. It can be extremely dangerous if it’s not used properly. Someone could get hurt.”
Billy nodded with a shit-eating grin plastered across his face. “Look what I won, Dad!” He grasped the gun tightly in his wiry arms and pointed it at a slight angle before bringing it over to his father.
“You’ve earned it, Billy. That was some fancy shooting back there. I’m impressed. You’ve got talent, son, that’s half the battle. Now you’ve got to whet your appetite for the hunt.” His father patted him on the heads.
“I aim to please.” He tucked the BB gun under his arm.
On their walk back through the woods, Billy’s father nodded his approval. “I see you’ve finally learned how to shoot your load.”
“Yeah…right, Dad.” Billy blushed and kept his eyes on the ground, embarrassed by his choice of words.
“I’m talking about the prize you just won!” He pointed to the BB gun. “I think it’s time we had a talk about the birds and the bees.” His father winked.
Billy rolled his eyes. “No one calls it that anymore. Stop trying to disguise sex. I already know the basics. I’m a real fast learner.”
Mr. Hogan snickered. “I’ll bet you are!”
The boy climbed the cracked cement stairs the lead to the back door, dug his house keys out of the front pocket of his jeans, being careful not to aggravate his raging hard-on, and unlocked the door. His father closed it gently behind him without saying a word, walked over to the fridge, pulled out a can of root beer and handed it to Billy. Then he grabbed some ice from the freezer, dropped it into a rocks glass and topped it off with a generous serving of single-malt whiskey, a clear sign his little talk would be long, involved and probably boring. Billy decided to get comfortable; setting his new BB gun across his lap, he felt self-conscious about his hard-on, though he doubted his father would notice it from the other side of the table.
Billy opened his root beer and took a long sip.
His father took a swig of whiskey, set his glass down on the table, and pushed it aside, more intent on the task at hand.
“Let us pray for forgiveness and strength.” He made the sign of the Cross, closed his eyes, and bowed his head.
The boy mimicked his movements.
Together, they recited their favorite prayer: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
Billy’s father opened his eyes and cleared his throat. “Good sex with a woman is even better than that adrenaline rush you’re probably still feeling after your impressive performance at the fair.”
Billy smirked, guilty as charged. “The thrill of the kill really gets me going.”
The older man grunted and continued his lecture. “When you handle a gun or a woman, if you’ve enjoyed yourself, you’ll shoot your load without thinking about it. Of course the gun requires your undivided attention. You’ve got to zero in on your target at the exact moment it’s in your sights, or else you’ll miss your chance at the kill.”
His father paused to down the rest of his whiskey and wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. “When you’re with a woman, you’ve got total control, you’ve got your bullet in her chamber, pumping her full of lead, so to speak. Do you follow me?”
Billy finished off his soda. “Uh, I think so…Handling a gun is more of a challenge because you have limited control over what you’re after. But when you’re with a woman, and you’ve got more experience than I do, the challenge isn’t always there, but the excitement is.”
Billy’s father reached slowly across the table and patted one of his son’s bony shoulders. “Well, son, I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Armed with his father’s words of wisdom and his brand new BB gun, Billy ran out back to the woods where he could pursue livelier game before it got too dark.
“Ask yourself what Jesus would do and your aim will be true.”
He paused when he heard something rustling to his left. A tiny chipmunk wiggled its nose and looked around, sensing danger, but not knowing who the enemy was.
Instinctively, Billy aimed in that direction, setting his sights on the disturbance, and pulled the trigger. The furry creature, concealed by dead leaves until the shot blew its cover, yelped and tried to flee, but he launched a BB directly into its hindquarters paralyzing it instantly. Billy clutched the gun in one hand and grabbed his prize, still squealing, by the scruff of its neck in the other. He rushed home, dropped the dying thing down on the back stoop, and ran inside to get his father, who was busy in the kitchen making venison stew for supper.
“Dad, come see what I got!” Billy grinned, finding it nearly impossible to contain his excitement.
His father stepped outside, looked down at Billy’s catch, gritted his teeth and said: “Wounded game is nothing more than a wasted shot! Bring me back something that’s dead tomorrow, or I’ll take that BB gun away and give it to a boy who knows how to use it properly!” He kicked the writhing chipmunk off the stoop into a pile of dead leaves, ignoring the pool of blood left in its wake, and went back inside, slamming the door behind him.
The next afternoon, not wanting to disappoint his father again, Billy snatched his BB gun from its usual spot against the wall next to his bed and crept out to the woods in search of an easy target. He felt his dick get hard in anticipation of the hunt. Perched high in a tree directly in front of him, Billy spied the perfect target a squirrel nibbling on an acorn.
He took a deep breath and set his sights on the tiny creature, waiting anxiously for the exact moment his target became a martyr on the Cross. His trigger finger twitched; he struggled to hold it still until the time was right.
Still clutching the acorn, the squirrel hit the ground with a soft thud. Billy scooped up his catch and rushed back to the house, eager to make his father proud.
“Dad, look what I got!” He held the dead rodent up for his father to see.
“Nice shot, son. Right in the eye. Kills ’em every time! Remember that and you’ll never go wrong!” Billy’s father grabbed the carcass and admired the BB shining dully in the socket where the squirrel’s left eye had been. “This little fella’s a keeper!”
Billy licked his lips. “Can you stuff and mount him for me, so I can keep him on the dresser, next to my bed? A trophy is sure to inspire me.”
“You betcha!” His father winked.
The sun resembled a bloody orb sinking slowly in the western sky when Billy went out to the garage to swipe his father’s Remington Pump Action shotgun for a little experimental adventure in search of the ultimate fare game. The gun was much heavier than the BB gun he was used to, because it was a man’s gun. Billy hardly noticed the extra weight. Tremendous excitement filled him with deeper purpose.
While he set out on his mission, Billy tried to think of a place with targets that moved faster and were tougher to hit than the ones at the shooting gallery. He camped out in the tall grass a few miles away from the woods and waited for a commuter train to pass by; he decided that would do quite nicely. Billy set up his father’s camcorder on the tripod he’d brought and adjusted the focus, so he could record himself in action for posterity.
A few minutes later Billy heard a familiar whistle not too far off in the distance. He walked a few feet in front of the camera and stood off to the right, ready to open fire as soon as the train appeared. When it sped by in one big silver blur, he locked on to a random window, thumbed off the safety and fired in rapid succession. It was much harder to hit something moving so fast, but Billy managed to rise to the occasion.
That done Billy shut off the camera grabbed his gear and headed for home. He reloaded his father’s rifle carefully, so he wouldn’t suspect a thing, and put it back in the rifle rack out in the garage before heading into the house.
As usual, his father was in the living room watching the news and drinking single-malt whiskey. He turned around when he heard the back door slam and glared quickly at his son, not noticing the camcorder case in Billy’s hand. “Where you been, boy? You had me worried.”
Billy shrugged. “I had a train to catch.”
Mr. Hogan nodded vaguely and turned back to the television with a sense of wonder. “Get a load of this, son: an unidentified sniper just shot six passengers on a rush-hour commuter train. Turns out he only fired six bullets–one for each victim. He must’ve been quite a shot.”
Billy glanced at the raw footage and grinned. His father had a keen eye.
“Let me show you where I’ve been.” He took out the videotape he had just made and popped it in the VCR, so his father could see how much progress he made in the week that passed since he won the BB gun at the fair. Billy pressed PLAY and sat down on the couch next to his father to admire his handiwork up close.
Billy’s father was speechless as he watched his son stand off to the right, hidden by the tall grass, poised, ready to open fire as soon as the train was in view. When it sped by, he saw his son lock on to a window and start firing in rapid succession. His father winced when he heard gunfire and saw glass shatter. The passengers’ shrieks were drowned by the noise of the rumbling train, but the camera angle managed to catch one bloody face locked in a scream, providing a silent soundtrack to the carnage.
Slowly, still in shock, his father turned off the television, finished his whiskey, and shook his head. “How could you do something like this with my good rifle?”
“It was easy, I waited for the right moment when my target became a martyr on the Cross, just like you taught me. Then I shot my load without thinking about it. I sure caught those folks off guard, didn’t I? I was so excited I didn’t know I hit the train until I played back the tape, just now…” He started to laugh. “I really wanted to impress you; it looks like I’ve exceeded your expectations.”
“This is no joke, son. Shooting animals is a sport. But shooting people is different; it’s murder plain and simple. You’ve committed a serious crime.” His father’s scrunched-up face tried to drive the message home, but from Billy’s blank stare, Mr. Hogan could see that the boy didn’t understand what he had done at all. “You know, son, you could go to jail if anyone finds out you did this. What drove you to go out and shoot up a train?”
Billy stopped laughing. “You did.”
“I never told you to shoot anyone! You always twist my words around into something else! You don’t listen, you’re too busy hearing what you want to!” Billy’s father shook his head in amazement.
“You told me to ask myself what Jesus would do and my aim would be true. That’s exactly what I did; it works wonders every time.” He grinned. “I wanted to make you proud, Dad.”
“Well, you went about it all wrong. If you’d only asked me I would’ve taken you out to the woods and let you shoot some deer, instead of watching me do it. This time you’ve gone too far!” He shook his head. “You’ve got to think about the consequences of your actions, boy. I thought you knew that by now, but I guess I was dead wrong!”
Billy buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. “I, uh… don’t know what came over me. I got caught up in the moment.”
“Come on, show me exactly where you found that rifle!” He grabbed his son by the arm and dragged him out of the house, to the garage where he kept his guns.
With his trigger finger, Billy pointed to the rifle rack hidden in a dark corner of the garage. “It was empty when you showed me how to shoot.” He bit his lip.
“You still don’t want to be pointing an empty gun at people, boy!” Without giving it much thought, Billy’s father grabbed the gun his son had taken without permission, switched off the safety, and pointed it right at the boy.
Billy felt the crotch of his jeans tighten. He stared at his father with vacant brown eyes; knelt down on the cold, dirty floor, spread his arms wide and waited.
His father’s hand shook uncontrollably, accidentally discharging the loaded gun. A single bullet lodged itself in the boy’s left eye.
Billy hit the ground with a soft thud, a pool of blood surrounding his head like a halo. A similar wetness spread across the crotch of Billy’s jeans as the final jolts of the boy’s body stretched a wan smile over his proud face.
About the author:
Amy Grech has sold over 100 stories to various anthologies and magazines including: Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Dead Harvest, Detectives of the Fantastic, Volume II,Expiration Date, Fear on Demand, Fright Mare,Funeral Party 2, Inhuman Magazine, Needle Magazine, Reel Dark, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, Space & Time, Tales from The Lake Vol. 3, The Horror Within, Under the Bed, and many others. New Pulp Press published her book of noir stories, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City.
She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers who lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website: http://www.crimsonscreams.com. Follow Amy on Twitter: @Amy_Grech
Captain Jonathon Riesner reclined in his bio-chair, staring out the portal into the black seas of infinity – his head throbbed with what had become a never-ending headache. Three crewmembers had died mysteriously over the past five days. Officially, he reported the deaths back to Sector as accidents, but they were not. The crew was on edge. He had slept very little since the first death, tormented by a reoccurring nightmare and the feeling of extreme dread – and he feared it would only get worse. He was not the only one, the ship’s doctor had told him, when pressed that five of the remaining seven crewmembers had come to him complaining of trouble sleeping and seeking his help. The doctor was reticent to say any more when asked further questions, but there was something more to it – as the doctor himself was deteriorating with dark circles under his blood shot eyes and a nervous tic that drew up his mouth on the right side in a grimace, now occurring with greater frequency and severity.
They had only two of the bodies, Science Officer Varda Negrev had opened an air lock – what remained of him was somewhere out in space. Technician Lordis Mason had died of exsanguination, her throat torn out, apparently by her own hands because she was the only one in the pod at the time. Captured on security camera, Payload Specialist Jim Paulson had put a pneumatic driver in his right ear and turned it on. Lieutenant Souder was the only other person he had allowed to see it since he was concerned of the effect it would have on the rest of the crew if they saw it.
He turned on the com unit and made the end of day recording: “Outlander 3, Mission Gamma Circuit, Day 1423, Return to Earth. Fuel Cells at 48%, Food supplies for another 36 days. Three of four water recyclers functioning at optimal levels. At current capabilities should dock at outer Earth station Micron in 33 days. Nothing of significance to report. Captain Jonathon Riesner out.” The ship will make it back – If any of us survive, he thought.
He had taken a Somalune earlier in hopes it would help him sleep and he did feel drowsy. He reclined his chair fully, gave the audio command for the cabin lights to dim, and prayed that he would not dream. The white noise hum of the air recirculator helped him slow his breathing and heart rates to match it, his eyelids fluttered and he soon drifted off.
Great cyclopean cities of titan blocks with mile high monoliths piercing dark skies all dripping with green ooze, sinister with latent horror, something suggestive of ancient and profane cycles of life in which man’s world and his conceptions have no part. A sound reverberated in the distance: thump, thump … thump, thump … growing louder with each passing second – hideous wings flapping – It was coming!
His vital sensor system began its high piercing alarm waking him. It issued an audio warning:
“Warning, Heart Rate at Dangerous Levels, 132 bpm”
He knew if he did not calm himself the cardiac pacemaker that had been implanted in him (as every crewmember had) would shock him to attempt to get back to appropriate levels. His hands were shaking and sweat was dripping from his face. The capacitors in the cardiac assist device, he knew were charging up – he had moments before he would feel the searing pain. If he could control his breathing, he might be able to get his heart rate down. He began breathing in, counting for five seconds, held his breath counting for eight seconds. Exhaled slowly counting for another eight seconds. Repeat.
“Warning, Heart Rate at Dangerous Levels, 128 bpm”
It was coming down but not fast enough. Riesner placed three fingers of his right hand on the carotid artery on the right side of his neck and began a massaging motion stimulating the vagal nerve. He continued with the breathing exercises.
“Warning, Heart Rate Elevated, 118 bpm”
The beeping alarm occurred less frequently – it was working. After about another minute his heart rate was within normal range and the audio signal stopped. He knew that the capacitors would harmlessly discharge.
He lay back and rubbed his eyes. It was the same dream every time he slept except that whatever approached got closer and closer. What was it?
He knew he would not sleep that night. Resigned, he sat up and went to the console, replaying the video that he had seen at least fifty times already. Payload Specialist Jim Paulson, “Pauly”, entered the pod, the camera in the corner looking down. His arms were jerking about his fingers as if some sort of fit of spasms flexing, bending, pointing making unrecognized gestures. He looked briefly up at the camera, his eyes wild, laughed shrilly and chanted: “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. Foam started pouring out of his mouth and he lowered his head. Looking up, he hurriedly went to the tool bench in which all the instruments were strapped down, picked a pneumatic driver, stuck the end of it in his right ear, turned it in and forced it in. Paulson began screaming, but continued to force the device in, blood and gray matter poured out between the shaft of the driver and his now enlarged ear canal. Finally, he jerked wildly and dropped to the ground – with enough damage to his brain done so that his autonomic system shut down, stopping his heart.
They had done analysis on the words and the language was unregistered in the computer. Also, they had interviewed every crewmember to see if anyone had noticed anything strange in the time leading up to the suicide. He had been the first, Lordis Mason killed herself two days later and two days after that Varda Negrev had decided to take a walk into the great unknown. Things had begun soon after they had gone through the wormhole.
Wormhole Gamma breached a tunnel to the Andromeda Galaxy. After the discovery of the element Prometheus on Saturn’s moon Titan, everything changed. The ore, a natural source of exotic baryons, resembled any ordinary ore in its inert form. However, once femto-refined it could stabilize wormholes, even artificial ones. With negative energy density, the exotic baryons could produce a locally mass-negative region of space-time, which allowed faster-than-light travel through the Casimir effect. Artificially produced wormholes were now possible with only an initial investment of energy.
The first manned ship had gone through Wormhole Alpha to the Crab Nebula just twenty-three years ago. The first ship to return to Earth through a wormhole occurred eleven years later with the crew alive. Currently, seven artificial wormholes existed within the Earth’s solar system for interstellar travel as formerly unreachable and sometimes even unknown areas of the universe now became accessible as space exploration consumed humanity. As space-time in the immediate galaxy began to resemble Swiss cheese, many urged caution in poking holes in the universe, as they believed that they were on the verge of some galactic cataclysm. However, the same wander lust that had brought man to new lands on Earth to explore and eventually populate the entire planet now propelled him to risk all to find new worlds overriding rational concerns and fears. The biggest fear – the wormholes can just as easily lead Whatever is out there to here – to Earth and the end of humanity.
An alert sounded and Lieutenant Souder spoke to him in his earpiece, “Captain, Come to engineering … IMMEDIATELY.” The last was in a panicked tone.
The Captain looked at his watch 3:15 AM Ship Time. Ship Time, based on an artificial 30-hour clock to help the crew maintain a regular schedule, established a sleep/wake cycle. Everyone except the duty officer should be in their quarters sleeping.
He left his quarters, hurried down the hallway past the other private quarters, half climbed down, half slid down the ladder to operations level, past the engine bay to engineering. There were two concerned crewmembers standing outside and the wall was in transparent mode so they could see everything. The door slid open and he went immediately to the control and set the wall to opaque.
Technician Tom Bailey had Doctor Kendra’s arms pinned behind his back. The ship’s doctor was thrashing about, his face red, spittle dripping from his mouth yelling, “We can’t bring It back with us!”
Lieutenant Souder was standing to the side, wringing her hands.
“What’s going on?”
“He was trying to sabotage the ship.” The Lieutenant said not believing her own words.
“He was attempting to close the friction valve in the oxygen exchanger.”
“Why?” Riesner moved closer to the two struggling figures. If the friction valve closed the oxygen flow could have ignited in the feed line – fire would have consumed everything and everyone in the ship within seconds.
“Why?” the Captain asked again.
The doctor briefly made eye contact and Riesner’s blood froze – there was a look of shear madness in them.
“Why?” Riesner asked this time more forcefully.
“We can’t bring It back with us!” The doctor shook his head.
“Bring what back?” The Captain asked fearing the answer.
“Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal” the doctor said.
“What does that mean?”
The doctor shook his head, distraught; eyes closed tightly, “Those are the words I hear in my head.” He stated softly.
“Can I trust you if we release you?”
“Cannot bring It back with us!” the doctor repeated.
“Let’s get him back to his quarters.” The Captain said. “Lieutenant you had medic training can you give him a sedative?”
“Yes, but we should keep him under watch.”
“Yes of course.”
Bailey frog marched the doctor back to his quarters. With the help of the Captain, he placed him on the bed and the Lieutenant gave him an infusion of sedation. The doctor struggled less and less and lay quietly on the bed. The Captain went to the desk. He was stunned at what he saw. The doctor in his spare time liked sketching and painting watercolors. He had beautiful landscapes taped to his walls of idyllic places on Earth but what he saw on the desk was far from beautiful. It was quite alarmingly hideous – It was a watercolor of some foul creature. It was a white polypus thing with red luminous eyes. It could have been part octopus, part mythological dragon and part human. Tentacles hung from the head and it had a scaly grotesque body. Wings spanned out from the back and dramatic claws on hind and front legs. Riesner’s heart skipped a beat – It was what was in his dream, what he never saw but was coming. He knew It was! Riesner rubbed his head.
“What is it?” the Lieutenant asked looking over his shoulder.
“Have you had any dreams? Strange dreams?” The Captain asked not making eye contact.
There was a pause. “Yes, but …” and her voice trailed off.
“Tell me about them.”
“They are just dreams.”
“I will tell you about mine.” And he told her about the alien cityscape, the approaching Thing, and the overall sense of dread.
He turned and locked his gaze on hers. She looked down.
“Dreams are only random firings of neurons based on memories and influenced by imagination, they are …”
“Are your dreams similar?”
She swallowed deeply, “… yes …”
Riesner took the watercolor sketch and went to the doctor lying in his bed. Bailey had brought a chair over and sat vigilant. The doctor’s eyes though glassy now because of the drugs still had a look of panic in them. His body lay listless.
“What is this?” the Captain asked the supine doctor showing him the art. The doctor looked away.
“You are a man of science and the sanest person I know, least you were.” The Captain said. When the doctor did not reply the Captain moved closer to him and so that only the two of them could hear, “Tell me John what is this? If the ship and crew are in danger I must know.”
The doctor closed his eyes and the Captain thought he was not going to say anything, then he did,” Cthulhu that is the name associated with It. You would think that It is only someone with a diseased malignant imagination could conceive. It is of eldritch origins – older than humanity. The others – they all have dreams of it. The city under the water, R’lyeh, will rise up and bring a rule of tyranny of madness upon the Earth. It would one day return to Earth when the stars aligned but the wormhole – it created a way for It to return, a path for madness to descend to consume all.”
“How do you know all of this?” The Captain asked, wanting to doubt the doctor’s sanity but somewhere deep inside knew that he was right.
“It communicates through thought, through space. It will enslave the soul of humanity if we do not stop it. “The doctor stopped and Reisner thought he was finished but continued, “I thought at first it was mass hysteria – a mass hallucination, But … “and the doctor shrugged his shoulders, “the madness is real, all the suicides – they are the end result.”
The captain patted the doctor on the chest, “Rest.”
The doctor was not done, “I was mistaken, blowing up the ship will not stop It – we must destroy the wormhole and Its path! “
“Ok, Ok.” Riesner stood and spoke quietly to the Lieutenant, “Put a block on engineering so that only you and I can gain entrance.”
The Lieutenant nodded her head.
To Bailey he said, “Stay here and watch over him.”
Upon exiting the doctor’s private quarters, he met the rest of the crew.
“What’s going on?”
“What’s wrong with the doctor?”
Bombarded with questions, he could no longer hide it from the rest of them, they knew something was wrong, but he needed time to think. “The Doctor is not feeling well. Go back to your rooms and get some rest. We will have a meeting at 8:00 in the galley.” He left and went to his room.
He began pacing.
This is all madness. He thought.
But, it is affecting the entire crew.
What if what the doctor said is true?
He unconsciously went to the overhead compartment above his bed, removed the chain around his neck with the key and took down the bottle – Glen Fiddich 100 year old single malt Scotch whiskey – it was almost empty, he had been going to it more and more lately. He reached for a glass, thought better of it and just began drinking directly from the bottle. He was so exhausted. After a half hour of pacing, he lay on his bed. Just a couple of minutes of rest – just close his eyes.
The greenish skyscrapers of non-Euclidean design reaching towards the poisonous sky. Pestiferous slime dripping from everything and the beating of wings: thump, thump, Thump, Thump, THump, Thump, THUmp, THUmp, THUMp, THUMp,…, No look away! THUMP, THUMP and IT was there before him, descending – the atrocity – the stealer of minds. Blotting out the sky, white phosphorescent slug like body, tentacles twitching about from the face, claws extended, the eyes – NO Do not look into the eyes! No too late! The searing red rending his soul!
Riesner woke with a start. He knew what he must do. As he strode down the hallway, he heard screams and sound of anguish coming from the other quarters. Though concerned he was undeterred from his mission. He went directly to the bridge. Though it should not have been, it was empty. He sealed the door and went to the helm, changed course back to the wormhole.
Within moments, he received a communication from Sector, “Sector to Outlander 3, why have you changed course?”
“Must not allow It through.”
“Must not allow It through.”
“Outlander 3, do not understand, why have you changed course? This is not part of your mission.”
“My mission is to save humanity.”
Riesner turned off the com. Liuetenant Souder was at the bridge door pounding – it would not open its controls fused.
“Captain, what are you doing?”
“Must not let IT through.”
“Captain we will not have enough supplies if we do not dock at base Micron soon.”
“The rest of the crew, you see them, you hear them.”
“Yes but, it is just, …”
“No, It is real, IT IS COMING!”
After about an hour the Lieutenant stopped pounding on the door and pleading and began sobbing. By the time the ship reached the portal to the wormhole she had gone quiet then began chanting “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. The Captain watched over this period as four of the seven remaining crewmembers’ system sensors, which shown on the control panel, flat lined.
The entrance was a glistening sphere showing distorted images of the Andromeda Galaxy on the other side. Upon entering, it was like traveling down the center of a wide tunnel, surrounded by concentric circularly distorted repeats of the same view. An Einstein Ring with the whole view of the Galaxy wrapped into a series of rings that got more and more closely packed together as the Captain looked to the left or right -consequences of general relativity and the curvature of warped space like light viewed from a curved lens. Riesner watched the wondrous view, momentarily forgetting why he was there. But images from the dreams shook him and he choked with the stench of a thousand open graves and the stark reality of what was at stake brought him back.
Riesner projected a hologram of his family into the bridge chamber. He began sobbing uncontrollably then closed his eyes, reached for the key board and began turning off safety overrides. He ejected positive mass-energy into the wormhole and right before it collapsed and became a black hole his eyes rolled back in his head and yelled “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”.
As the wormhole became a black hole, masses nearby such as three of the outer moons of Uranus disappeared and the planet wobbled then stabilized. In Whitechapel London a fifteen year old full of teenage angst began spray painting the word “Cthulhu” on the sides of buildings though he did not know what the word meant. In a SOHO studio a painter who was one of the highest paid living artists began painting figures of a great grotesque figure with octopus features on a dragon body though he knew not why. In a South American village, a primitive tribe began dancing wildly around a fire chanting “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. In …
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Do I regret my actions? Of course—every waking moment the memories fester inside my mind, and at night let loose. Darkness is their natural habitat, so I suppose it makes sense. Yet, as I rock atop the sheets in solitary silence, I am confident I would not change a thing. My actions, no matter how obscene, were for the greater good, as you are about to discover.
You are all in grave danger.
Let me tell my story, and then you might understand where I am coming from.
Perhaps older than the English woodland engulfing it, the church was a small, black building that sagged under its own weight. The mossy grey tiles bowed under decades of leaf litter, and walls appeared to sink into the ground as if the surrounding graveyard wished to reclaim them. This ancient place was my destination, as I travelled with a great burden on my shoulders. A shining sun would have kissed lush grass, colonies of plump mushrooms and snowdrops, but my work required the cover of darkness.
Two earthy grooves, once carthorse tracks, were overgrown, and foliage brushed the underside of my car as I descended the valley. The deeper I travelled, the greater the sense of dread, and I was thankful for the occasional island of moonlight breaking through the canopy above. I navigated by memory while two bony nubs on my left hand, where my ring and pinkie finger had been, tingled. Skeletal branches thickened and encroached on my path, scraping windows, and almost entombing the car before the headlights found an opening and the walls of that cursed place.
Within a little clearing, I reluctantly killed the engine, and an eerie quiet descended, weighty and foreboding. Branches did not rustle, and animals did not call. My father was a ranger here and taught me how to identify all the different sounds. Had I heard anything—a hoot, or a fox cry—it would have brought at least a little comfort. Instead, I scratched the stump of my fingers in absolute silence.
It came from the trunk, and a breath froze in my lungs. In the rearview mirror, I saw lightly waving underbrush and one nervous eye. For the longest moment, I held still, ears straining until my chest burned. Satisfied that all was well, I exhaled a measured breath, and grabbing a flashlight from the passenger seat, exited the car.
The white beam of my flashlight sliced the cloying darkness, falling on the little wooden gate of the cemetery. Rusted horseshoes, thick with tufts of moss, hung from the waterlogged boards. Random nails and streaks of maroon suggested there were others at one time, but they were somehow displaced. On my last visit, as father had dragged me along painfully by my upper arm, I had seen and heard wind chimes in the trees, but these were likely buried under dead leaves, or tangled within the tall grass where they fell.
I angled the circular beam up a noticeboard beside the arched doorway. Once containing parish notices, it was now vacant, and more horseshoes hung, black with rust from the swollen frame. Further up, there was an overhanging roof with a diminutive bell tower overlooked the clearing.
A low moan escaped my lips.
Decayed and bloody, a carcass stretched across the opening where a long absent bell had once chimed. Pointed ribs were parted like the jaws of a carnivorous animal, and bloated sacks of rotted organs swayed in the breeze. Sausage strands of intestines spilt from its severed gut and snaked down the tiles.
“A sheep,” I whispered, not liking the tension in my voice. “It’s a bloody sheep.”
Broken yellow teeth grinned amongst matted curls of wool, and milky white eyes appeared to gaze into hell. I don’t know how long the fetid creature had been up there, but there was no doubt in my mind that it was some kind of warning. Someone wanted to keep people away from this place—and for a good reason.
A branch snapped.
I wheeled around.
The flashlight found vacant woodland, and overgrown bushes shrouded in shadow.
I reasoned that it might be a fox or badger, but the throbbing stumps of my left hand told me otherwise.
I was being watched.
Lifting the gate from a drift of soil, I pushed it open. A blistered nail snapped, and a horseshoe fell into the grass. Quietly, I made my way up the lichen-spotted flags to the porch, observing strange, white pebbles dotted in and around the headstones. On closer inspection, I saw animal skulls of varying shapes and sizes jutting from the grass, hollow eyes observing my progress. There was something blasphemous about their placement, something unclean and alien.
Like many others of its time, this rural church remained unlocked, and two iron rings served as handles. A strange symbol was crudely painted on the wood in something dark and viscous that smelled coppery and rotten like old blood. These were the same doors my parents had dragged me through when I was ten years old. Mum had been sobbing, and dad had been muttering distractedly under his breath. Neither of them would look me in the eye, or had answered my panicked questions. That was the last time I had ever seen her.
I pulled the doors, and they parted down the middle. The loud creak of rusty hinges made me wince. As if escaping the terrible space within, the odour of damp and decaying plant matter rushed past me. It was dim inside, but the roof at the front of the church had caved in, and moonlight cascaded onto a granite altar scattered with dead leaves. At either side of a narrow aisle, there were three short pews, which I guessed would have seated no more than twenty or thirty parishioners back in its day. One of the benches had collapsed into the rotten floor, creating a deep hole.
I moved gingerly towards the front, testing each spongy board with a toe before proceeding. The atmosphere was claustrophobic, and moonlight charged the air with unseen electricity. There was very little by way of religious paraphernalia. Animal skulls hung where crucifixes should have been, and half-moons of iron were fixed beneath broken and faded stained glass. The ancient creatures here preceded Christianity, and the locals tried more arcane methods to keep them at bay.
The church roof curved like the upturned bow of a ship, and within the jagged edges of broken tile, the moon was a silver penny against a sea of black. An ancient oak partially obscured my view, gnarled branches hanging over the rear of the structure as if to embrace it. Within the creaking boughs were sunken hollows, and inside movement.
My left hand prickled like it’d brushed against stinging nettles, and I retreated to collect my offering from the car. Moving abroad had crossed my mind many times, a means of escape from this nightmare—but dad’s words repeated in my skull.
“You have to sate their hunger, or they will infest. You’re the son of a High Peak Ranger, like my grandfather, and his grandfather before. If they don’t get what’s coming to them, they will destroy the High Peak and then come for you. Mark my words. Remember Ashopton?”
I prayed what I was doing would satisfy them for another twenty years, knowing what I would do after that since I didn’t want to visit this place again.
That is when I saw it, sitting at one of the pews.
I thought it might be a doll left behind by a long-dead parishioner—until its head tilted to one side. Pinprick eyes glowed a strange shade of blue within recessed sockets, following me as I moved against the altar. Its face was narrow and skeletal—as pale as porcelain. Papery wings, threaded with veins folded at its back. A serpentine tongue elongated between razor teeth and licked purple lips. My missing fingers throbbed. How I’d laughed when mum said, They’re real, son, but not like in the stories or picture books…
I wasn’t laughing now.
I’d screamed as they converged on mum. My dad had cried out, too, but more out of surprise than anything else. A ranger for over thirty years, he was an expert on these things but hadn’t been aware of their keen sense of smell. Neither of us had known that mum was with child until they finally bore through the white skin of her belly. She was the starter, and my unborn brother the main course. Blind panic mixed with guilty relief since I had been reprieved, for I was meant to be the sacrificial lamb. They coveted the young.
Dad had run. Isn’t that what he’d always done when confronted with a problem? Foolish and meek, I fought back, an act of futility that almost cost me my life. Instead, I paid with two fingers.
The doll in front of me now stood with the assistance of twiggy arms, a perfectly formed miniature person. Its clawed feet tapped against the wood as it shifted in anticipation. Hunching its shoulders, it threw an ugly face to the sky, shrieking like a bird of prey. A rustling, like autumn leaves, sounded from the holes in the towering oak, the darkness inside the warrens undulating and blinking with the movement of hundreds of tiny faces.
Springing on my heels, I headed toward the open doors. Bare boards wobbled and bent underfoot. Expanding, the creature’s wings were the size of dinner plates, mottled with greens and browns that shamed the stained glass. It emitted another cry as I rushed by.
Suddenly my front foot crashed through a section of rotten board, and into the mulchy ground beneath. I toppled forward, my ankle twisting painfully.
Scrambling to my feet, a fire erupted at my shoulder blade, and everything tinted a deep shade of red. Serrated teeth excavated deep into the flesh and blood blossomed, warm and wet, over my shirt. I reached a hand around, pulling the creature away. My skin stretched and tightened before it finally let loose, surprisingly light like a bundle of twigs. Everything flared white, my brain screaming in protest. I launched it back at the altar, where the others crawled and floated, infesting the church like cockroaches.
It hit one corner of the stone and fell from view. The others watched it descend and turned their glowing eyes on me. They were everywhere—climbing the walls, chattering as they navigated the seats of the front row, fluttering in and around the silver blades of moonlight. Timeless and unforgiving, they had resided in this woodland before the church was even conceived, and would still be here long after I died. I knew that I was running out of time.
Outside, a light breeze cooled the wound on my back. I pocketed the flashlight and moved to the rear of my car. Opening the trunk, I lifted her dead weight in both arms, a shoulder blade flaring in protest. She was drowsy, but fluttering eyelids told me that she was close to being awake. The last drink she consumed was orange juice laced with sleeping pills, a prescription of mine to help with depression. She didn’t partake in alcohol, but I certainly did—to gain courage.
“What are you doing…where are we?” she groggily asked as I limped back to the church. “William, answer me.” Her eyes widened, lingering on the shadows. Her body trembled.
We passed the gate into the graveyard.
“I’m so sorry, Susan, but it has to be this way.”
Glassy eyes widened, focusing. She bucked with her lower back, and I almost lost grip but managed to regain my composure. I had removed the belt from her jeans to tie her wrists. As the shadow of the church fell on us, Susan whimpered.
She must have heard them, too.
I’m not a monster, and, of course, I am sorry. I’d trawled through countless pathetic faces on dating websites before I found the ideal candidate. Initially, her doe-eyed stare and talk of romance bored me to tears; but somewhere along the line, it became a real thing. It was like repeating the word love somehow made it tangible. Entering the church with her in my arms like a newly wedded couple crossing the threshold, I honestly felt love for Susan.
The walls within crawled with grey creatures and their cold, pinprick glares. The fairy folk of the High Peak Countryside all gathered for their twenty-year congregation. I dared not allow my eyes to linger at any single point, lest it send me mad. These terrible residents were a million miles away from the famous Cottingley fairies photographed by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths back in 1917.
The newspapers reported how amazing it was when the young girls had captured beautiful winged cryptids on camera. They failed to mention the girls had vanished three days later, never returning from a picnic in the woods. Their parents, one of them a High Peak Ranger, hadn’t reported their disappearance. They had remembered how the remote village of Ashopton had succumbed after missing a sacrifice, and how they had to break the great dam to flood it.
Susan’s eyes widened as they sniffed the air and followed us with intent, their wings making a dry rustle. None of them attacked, but they chitter-chattered to one another in an urgent series of clicks and whistles. They knew what was coming.
“Please, William, don’t do this,” Susan whispered. “You don’t have to do this.”
I blocked out her pleas and gaped at the slab where countless children had lain before. I never forgave my dad for what had happened in 1977, but when I visited his death bed, he told me, “They like the young ones. It is in their nature. Every twenty years they take a little piece of our future so we may keep the rest.”
Avoiding the splintered hole I made, I laid Susan down on the slab, her bottom resting in the deep groove of the font. She sobbed, mascara running in black torrents down her freckled cheeks. One of the fairies flapped over to the pulpit and hung from the lectern like a hungry gargoyle.
“Please, William. I love you. I want to be with you forever. It doesn’t have to be this way…”
I closed my eyes, allowing my thoughts to drift away. Breathed in, breathed out—counted to ten. My stomach felt like it was swinging between my knees.
I reached forward, caressing the round bump of her stomach. It was like a watermelon, except something rippled beneath the surface of her taught skin, a foot or an elbow perhaps.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, turning away.
Shoulders shaking like a mourner at a funeral, I headed to the exit, my car waiting. They fell upon her in a leathery flap of wings. She screamed, but it eventually tapered away into a low, wet gargle.
I did not dare turn back.
The forensic people matched the tread marks to my car and deduced the identities of the bodies from Susan’s dental records. They found traces of blood engrained in the imperfect stone around the font, too. But did they think to search the hollows of that old oak? Did they not look in the nooks and crannies beneath the rotten pews? If they did, then they might have seen little eyes, like balls of blue fire.
I sometimes wonder how many of us there are out there in the big, wide world. Men and women perceived as murderers, when all they are guilty of is saving the world from creatures beyond comprehension. There are things out there in our woods and suburbs that hunt us while we sleep, and it is people like me keeping them from your door.
You don’t believe? Pah. I knew it would be useless. No one has listened for two decades, and the authorities repeatedly refuse my parole.
Well, it’s too late.
It has been twenty years to the day since I made my sacrifice, and I am the last of my kind. Heed my advice. Run. Get as far away from the Peak District as you can. A full moon is heavy in the sky, and the nubs on my left hand are itching like crazy.
About the author: Gary Buller is an author from Manchester England where he lives with his long suffering partner Lisa, daughter Holly, and dog Chico. He grew up in the Peak District where hauntingly beautiful landscapes inspired him to write. He is a huge fan of all things macabre and loves a tale with a twist. He is an associate member of the Horror Writers Association.
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