I’d been staring at the box for nearly an hour contemplating the consequences of opening it before the time was right. The beer in my hand was half empty, warmer now from being held so long and hardly as satisfying as it had been when I started drinking it. The whole world had gone mad but here I was, sitting in the living room of my little apartment staring at Pandora’s Box and wondering what madness still could be waiting inside. The floor was covered in fresh mud and dirt, streaked brown and green from where I’d drug it inside. I’d vomited twice at the memory of burying it, at the smell that came crawling up through the earth as I disinterred it. It might have been easier to move if I’d had some help and who better to help than my brother? He’d been more than happy to bury it with me two months ago but he never would have agreed if he’d known what was coming, of the questions I’d have. Once it had been done he refused to ever speak about it again so I was left no choice but to dig it up and drag it back here by myself. Even so, I knew I’d be seeing him soon. I was certain of that much.
I had sent him a picture of the box an hour ago, fresh from where I’d dug it up.
As if cued by my thoughts on the matter there came a desperate banging on my door. I gave a wry smile and took another sip of my beer. It was somehow less bitter now.
“It’s open,” I called to him from my recliner.
My brother Roger barged into my living room, his face flushed red, hands trembling as he glared at me. He was twenty eight, the baby of the family with those generic good looks that had always driven the girls wild in school. He’d gotten by on those looks for a long time but now, shaking in my doorway, his charm was useless. He would have leapt into the chair with me, those quaking arms swinging fists towards my head except that his eyes caught the box and froze him dead in his tracks. Pressed down by the unfathomable weight of his guilt he fell to his knees beside it and covered his mouth with his hands.
“What have you done?” he whispered.
“I recall asking you the same question a few months ago.”
I took another swig of beer.
“This isn’t funny, Steven!” The rage was quick and loud. “We don’t have time for this. We should be getting out of town and now we’re going to have to bury it again.”
“Bury it? I’m not burying anything. We’re damned, little brother. Where do you think we can run to avoid our judgment? Besides, aren’t you curious?”
“No.” he said sullenly.
“You came to me with tears in your eyes and asked me to help you make it all go away.” I said. “Looked just like you did when you were six and you accidentally crushed your pet mouse. You remember how you cried when Narf died in your little hands? You remember coming to me to help you? You wanted to hide what you’d done, hide from the consequences that would come your way. Can’t very well hide now, can we?”
“This isn’t a joke, Steven.”
“Does it look like I’m laughing?”
“We’ll have to ditch it on the way,” he muttered to himself. “There are lots of woods between here and dad’s cabin so we should have plenty of places to dump it.”
“There’s no ‘it,’ baby brother. There never was an ‘it.’ Always a ‘who,’ though.”
He ignored me and yanked the handle of the mud caked foot locker as if his rage would make it fly out the door and into the breezeway. Instead it barely budged. Something inside though began to rattle and scratch.
“You ever hear about Schrödinger’s cat?” I asked, polishing off my beer.
“I don’t have time for a lecture. Get up and grab your shit so we can leave.”
“And go where, Roger? They’re everywhere now. Looking for her I bet. Yeah, God woke ‘em all up just to find her. Where do you plan to run to when the cemeteries are spitting out bodies to hunt for us, huh? Where can we go when the dead are scouring the earth for you and me?”
“I’d rather run than wait here like an idiot.” he argued. “Now let’s get up and go.”
“We’re not going anywhere until we talk about the cat.”
“You’ve lost your damned mind.” he shouted. He stood, kicking the box as he did. He turned to walk off, to storm away like the spoiled little child he was. I snatched my revolver off the end table beside me and fired a shot into his leg. Blood spurted as Roger yelled and collapsed in the floor.
“The cat is locked in the box with a vile of poison,” I said. “There’s a Geiger counter and a piece of radioactive material inside. When it reaches a certain level of radiation a trigger snaps and breaks the vile, killing the cat instantly. From outside, there’s no way to know if the cat is alive or dead. At that moment the cat is in two separate states of existence, both alive and dead. Only when we open the box does reality manifest, does the cat become either one or the other. With everything that’s been going on, what do you think that means for what’s inside our little box here?”
“You’re crazy.” he sobbed, clutching his wounded leg.
“No. Crazy was getting drunk and trying to drive home in the rain. Crazy was helping you clean the blood off your hood and hide the evidence in the woods. This is an exercise in thought. Now tell me, is it alive or dead?”
I reached down and popped the latch on the foot locker.
“Crazy was seeing her little face on fliers and milk cartons, in papers every day and going about my life as if I didn’t know where she was. Crazy was pretending that I could ignore the grief I saw in her mother’s eyes when she pleaded for someone to bring her baby home on the ten o’clock news.”
I lifted the lid.
“Even now, opening the box doesn’t answer the question. Alive or dead; one or the other? Or neither? Or both? Or is it something new entirely?”
“Please, Steven,” Roger cried. “Not like this.”
Tiny hands reached up from the box, mottled skin gray with putrid veins rippling black lightning across the marbled surface of her arms clutching at the open air.
“She was dead when we buried her,” I continued. “No questions there. So now what is she?”
Dirty pigtails crested the lid, milky eyes staring lifelessly at us. Crusted patches of maroon formed a river of red from her nose and mouth that ended in a lake on a molded pink jumper. Slowly, the little girl, her frame twisted, broken, crawled into the carpet towards Roger.
“Even when observed she’s alive and dead. Schrödinger’s cat refuses now to conform to the laws of reality and existence.”
“Please, Steve,” Roger sobbed. He tried to crawl away but only managed to back himself into the corner. Little hands pulled a broken body across the floor, tiny teeth chattering hungrily towards her killer.
It was a strange new world I had created, opening that box, but it would all be over soon.
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
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He rubs bare bone with longing fingertips, staring into abyssal sockets. “Oh Agatha,” He bellows, “Why do you do it?”
He repeats these words for a few moments as he swirls his burning drink around in a stained glass. Throwing his head forward in a rush of blood he stares down a once bustling gallery of statuettes and ancient trinkets. His eyes once again meet the painting’s automaton eyes.
That old portrait, hung above the sitting room he no longer dares, is half visible from his fireplace chair. A woman poses there, her figure refined, her eyes a stately blue and her face immaculate. With skin pale as milk and soft as feathers she wears a gown of white with trimmings of gold and holds a single red rose between the gentle fingers of her left and a book of poems in the right from author unknown.
“It’s been too long my love.” He says turning back to the cracked bone, lifting it towards his nose and smelling deeply.
“Too long,” He says with a cracking voice, “Since the days when you lied to me. Since the days you betrayed me and left me to wonder.” His eyes glow savagely in the dancing flame of the hearth as his pounding heart forces his hands to tremble.
“Those promises you made to me. Bah! What promises did you keep Agatha? Oh mistress of my sorrow. Agatha the liar, that name suits you well.” He places the skull on the end table by his chair as he stares down countless corridors and looming ceilings, shadows itching ever closer in the dark.
He begins pacing in circles as he talks. “How many promises you did break in your day I wonder? Promises you left behind. All for me to forgive! But now you sit there dead and I cursed to live.” He turns to the yellowed bone. “Was I never enough for you Agatha?”
His mind wanders to painful thoughts and the burning of it shows prominently on his face. “It all started with a name didn’t it? ‘Weatherby.’ ‘A name like that was never suited for a DuPont woman!’ ” He says in a voice deep and full of hate. “That’s what your father said when I asked for your hand! ‘Weatherby will never be a household name.’ He said to me! The bastard!”
He screams into the dark, throwing his drink into the flame with roaring remarks. “What would he know! My name glows at every drug store from Portland to Baltimore! Countless papers know my name and my face will live on forever!” He lifts the skull in the air and laughs horribly. “Where is his fame now Agatha? What can he say to me while he rots in his hole and the DuPont line thrives no more? What would he say now that Charles Weatherby is wealthier than he? That Charles Weatherby is better than he!” Noticing his breathing rapid and appearance ragged, he removes the hair from his eyes and adjusts his vest. The skull stares blankly at his flushed face from behind pale and cracking fingers.
“No,” He smiles crudely as another thought enters his mind, “No it wasn’t my name,” he places the skull on the mantel. “It was that man wasn’t it Agatha? That polo player from New York who I had befriended in Washington many summers ago. A man whom I quickly discovered enjoyed more than my spring parties in the Boston Harbor!” He slams his fist into the wall, his hand throbbing in pain and cracking at the knuckles.
“I moved away from him you know!” He shouts as he covers his blood with a cloth from his desk drawer. “I moved us away because I didn’t want to lose you! I lost my family and my home for you! So we could start anew.” His eyes begin to moisten as his voice snaps between rage and sorrow.
“But I come home Agatha, I come home and you both shout like animals. In my bed! In my home!” He throws the stained rag across the room into the swallowing darkness and storms over, staring the bone down long and menacingly. “Naked beasts, grunting and thrusting in my home!”
His head spins as he begins to fall to the floor, the skull ever watchful from the mantel in silence. He smirks as he crawls back towards it, his head throbbing from the collision, the fire glowing before him like the gates of hell. His face is shadowed and pale like a devil.
“Oh he was such a man wasn’t he? Weren’t his thighs so tight and arms so big? Best of all his name and pockets were deeper than you could have ever dreamed.” He claws himself to his feet. “But where is he now Agatha? Hmm? Where is this man now I dare you tell me?” He cackles at the silence and thrusts his fingers towards the open window, to the churning sea. “He’s at the bottom with cement around his ankles, all because of you!”
Grief fills his face and stiffens it horribly as he dawn’s despairs mask. “It was his little girl that I hated most about it. She was so beautiful Agatha, but she was his! Her hair was brown and her eyes green. Green! That’s how I knew she wasn’t made from me!” He sobs into his hand as he sinks into the chair. “But I tried my best to be a father to her and called her my baby girl.” He shakes his head violently. “But even still, it wasn’t enough. The world took her from me, how cruel and cold it is truly, to take her the way it did.” He looks out the window, at a light on the dock. A ship in the distance bounces in the waves as the memories of the past further distort his face.
“She was sleeping in her bed when they came Agatha. Those terrible men. She was such a pretty girl and they knew she didn’t want to play. But…they…they made her anyway.” He shudders for a moment, “The blood on her gown…after they were done,” His hands cover his mouth as the images flash before him. “I carried her to the car when it was all over, but she was already gone.” He begins to rock, stroking his hands.
“I remember her screams… They made me watch! Held me down!” Suddenly he finds a smile. “But I got away, and returned from our room.” He looks above an old cabinet at two bleached skulls, the shadows of the fire drawing their yellowed smiles into long frowns. “But where were you Agatha? You were gone weren’t you? Nowhere to be found!” His fists tighten and his muscles stiffen as rage boils in his abdomen.
“You were never there! You left me in this darkness; you betrayed me!” he roars, throwing his chair and end table over. “Forever I gave myself to you, forever I loved you and you always spat at me! Even in death you have mocked me.” He grabs the skull with both hands and squeezes tighter with each passing word. “I was your husband! The man you never cared for! The man you’ve left to live in this world alone! Well I say no more Agatha! I curse that name until I am no more!” He throws the skull towards the wall. It strikes on the temple and shatters into four pieces on the floor.
He rushes over and picks them up, his hands trembling as he speaks. “All that blood,” He mumbles as he carries the shards to a gilded jewelry box and places them gently inside. “They told me you would not make it,” He says softly as he shuts the lid. “They said that our baby would be the end of you. But I told them to try anyway, to try and save you. Even after that bastard’s daughter died we tried again. We tried to forget all that you had done.” He stares out the window again, a storm blackening the night and flashing the sky on the sea’s horizon.
“But it was too late.” He wipes the tears from his eyes. “You sinned me Agatha. When they pulled out our son it…it was the first time in years you said you loved me.” He walks towards the box and begins petting the lid.
“It’s funny; you thought you would win, that I wouldn’t punish you for what you did. Didn’t you Agatha?” The scars on his hands sting with the thought and flashes of darkness blur his eyes. “I made them keep you alive. You begged me to let you rest on the table. ‘Just a minute I beg of you my love.’ ” He says in a voice high and mocking.
“My love indeed.” He laughs. “No act of God was going to have the satisfaction of removing the wind from your lungs!” A crooked smile graces his face. “It’s funny Agatha. Did you or your foolish line ever imagine that DuPont blood looks the same as any other? You know what else? Our son had green eyes. You thought I would never know? That I wouldn’t guess what you had done, again!”
He turns to the the window at two unmarked graves under a dead willow tree. Leaning in close to the box he whispers into the key hole. “Now is the time for your release and I hope you suffer it all just as you made me. The flames await you, my love.”
He lifts the box and throws it into the flame, staring envious of its fury as it swallows the shards, charring them black. “Now your skull matches your heart Agatha. Ha! Imagine it.” He watches joyfully as his silhouette dances and slowly falls from the wall as the flames begin to die and the world around him is consumed in darkness.
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, dark fiction, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
Ken ladled his dogs’ dinner into three dirty old bowls. Banging the ladle on the bottom of the empty pan he called, “Paunchoe, Sadie, Max, c’mon now! Dinner time!” The dogs ran out from the woods behind the cabin, ears pricked and tails wagging.
He rolled a cigarette and poured three fingers of whiskey into his glass as he watched them eat from his rocking chair on the front porch. Ken loved this time of year, the air was cooler, the trees brighter, and the hunting was always better. He planned to go hunting the next few days to stock up on meat for the coming winter.
“Ya’ll eat up now, we got us a busy day come tomorrow!” Ken told the feasting dogs. They raised their heads for a moment, wagged their tails, and returned to wolfing down their dinner. He finished his cigarette and whiskey and cleaned up the empty bowls. Giving his dogs a loving pat on the head, he brought them into the cabin. They lay down on the floor and immediately drifted off to sleep. Ken changed into his night clothes, and followed their example, flopping into bed, asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.
A piercing howl shattered the silence of the night, Ken sprang upright in his bed as the dogs jolted from their sleep and began barking excitedly. The high-pitched ululating howl continued for several seconds. It was unlike anything he had ever heard and the source was no more than a couple hundred yards from the cabin.
“Y’all be quiet!” he grumbled. They immediately ceased barking, but continued deep throated growls and looked at the window, ears pricked, listening intently. Several seconds later the howl came again, intense and angry, like a beast pursuing prey. He threw on his overcoat and grabbed his rifle from above the fire place. Taking care to keep the scrambling dogs inside, he opened the door and stood on the front porch.
“What on God’s green earth was that?” he asked himself in a whisper. A third ear-piercing howl shattered the cricket-call of the deep night, this time closer to the cabin than before. Whatever it was, it was moving in his direction. He heard the crunch of leaves under heavy feet and the swish of tree limbs swaying, and then snapping. By the light of the full moon, he stared into the forest about fifty yards from his porch and saw trees and bushes violently jerking back and forth.
He heard another distinct howl, different from the first, just beyond the tree line–the cry of a creature in agony, then a triumphant, primal roar and a sound like that of wet burlap being torn apart. Ken’s blood ran cold. He breathed heavily, gulping in air and felt sweat begin to run down his face. Once again, he scanned the tree line for any sign of movement, as the dogs inside the cabin whimpered loudly.
A deep guttural growl now filled the air. Something flew from the tree line toward the cabin, nearly hitting Ken. It crashed into the front of the cabin with a sloppy wet smack and slid down the wall onto the porch. His eyes followed the trail of blood, and settled on the head of a large black bear, trailing bits of fur, bone, and flesh from the neck laying on the porch step. He looked back toward the forest. Standing in the clearing was a huge creature, perhaps eight to ten feet tall, covered in long shaggy black fur; it was difficult to tell for sure in the moonlight. Its eyes glowed a fearsome red in the moonlight, blood dripped from long razor-sharp teeth. In one of its hands it clutched what looked to be one of the bear’s legs, its vicious claws dug deep into the flesh.
When his eyes met the creature’s, for a split second time seemed to stop. His feet felt rooted to the spot, his sweaty hands shook as he clutched his rifle. He tried to breathe, but something prevented it. A lead weight crushed his entire body and kept him from moving, or even making a noise.
The creature dropped the ravaged leg and opened its arms wide and threw back its head roaring at Ken. It ran straight at him with astonishing speed on two legs, like a man. Ken raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired. An eerie human-like yowl of pained rage erupted from the creature as it stopped in its tracks and looked down at the fresh bullet wound in its stomach. Ken cocked the lever of his rifle and chambered a fresh round as the creature turned to retreat into the woods. He fired again, hitting the creature in the shoulder. It disappeared into the trees in less than a second, howling in rage.
Ken stood on his porch in stunned silence and stared at the spot where the creature had disappeared. Eventually he turned and went back to the table on the porch and poured himself a full glass of whiskey which he downed in seconds. He sat in his rocking chair, replaying in his mind the events that had just occurred, over and over. It wasn’t until the first rays of the dawn that he finally moved. He opened the door to the cabin and said to himself, “What could have possessed God in heaven to make a monster like that?”
He went inside, the dogs were cowering in the far corner of the room and they had lost control of their bladders and bowels. He called them over to him, but they remained still, cringing and shaking. Kneeling on the floor, in a gentle and reassuring tone he reached out to them, “C’mon now, its ok, ain’t nothing gonna hurt ya. It’s gone.” Hesitantly, looking around as they moved, they slinked over to their master. He scratched them behind their ears and patted their heads. “That’s right, it’s all good now.” Paunchoe, his favorite, looked up at him with large frightened eyes and licked the back of Ken’s hand.
After cleaning up the mess, he cut a few chunks of the dried deer jerky hanging in the corner and tossed them to the dogs. Taking a hunk for himself, he sat on the end of his bed and watched the dogs as they devoured their breakfast. He said, more to himself than to them, “Well pups, looks like I scared him off, but I got a feelin’ he’ll be back. Think the best thing to do is track him down and finish him off. We’ve already put the hurt on him and he’ll likely be more dangerous. Best we deal with him directly.” The dogs stopped chewing and raised their heads. They looked at Ken for a moment, tails wagging gently, as if they understood and agreed. A moment later, they returned to their meal.
Ken put on his hunting clothes, grabbed his knife, his Colt Peacemaker .45 pistol and his Winchester repeating rifle. He loaded his pockets with beef jerky, some extra ammunition, and assorted other gear he would need and headed for the door. He turned around before leaving and said, “Best ya’ll stay here, you won’t do me no good anyhow pissin’ yerselves and runnin’ away out there.” The dogs looked at him for a moment, and then lay down on their beds.
Ken walked through the clearing toward the place he first saw the creature. A few feet into the woods he stopped to look at the bear’s body. Its right front leg and head were missing. Its belly had been torn open and its entrails were strewn several feet in every direction. Flies and other insects were crawling over the corpse.
Making the sign of the cross over his chest he said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” He turned his attention to the direction he thought the creature had fled. Searching for a moment, he saw a trail of blood leading off into the woods. He could see that he wouldn’t need to rely on the blood trail to track the creature–its path was made clear by the broken tree limbs and crushed bushes it left behind.
He followed the trail for an hour; its course through the forest became more and more erratic. First it went one direction, then backtracked and went in the opposite. Ken began to notice a pattern; it seemed to be making its way back to the cabin. He was stunned for a moment when he realized that the creature was heading back toward his home. He thought This thing is either very smart or very dumb, never seen anything get shot and come back for more. Unless it’s comin’ back to even the score? He shook his head and almost chuckled, There’s no way an animal would come back for revenge. But then again, this thing ain’t an ordinary beast.
Ken quickened his pace; now he was worried about his dogs. They had been left in the cabin, and would be no match for this creature. He continued to follow the trail, now heading directly back to the cabin. In the distance he heard a familiar roar. He broke into a run, tree limbs smacking him in the face as he ran. The sounds of smashing wood filled the forest, along with the panicked yelping of dogs. Breathing fast and hard, he sprinted homeward.
Once there he saw the cabin completely torn apart. Only one wall remained standing. The rest of the cabin was in splinters. His bedding and furniture had been torn to pieces. Shards of shattered stone from the ruined chimney littered the ground. He saw no sign of the creature except for a fresh path of destroyed plant life that headed north into the forest.
He saw what little remained of Sadie and Max. They had been completely torn apart. Their legs had been ripped from their bodies and thrown seemingly at random. Ken fell to his knees beside what was left of his dogs and cried. They were like his own children, and now two of them were gone. He looked around for signs of Paunchoe, but did not see him nor any sign of him in the wreckage.
Ken searched for anything he could salvage that was useable. He found some jerky, ammunition, extra clothes, his traveling pack, a rusty hatchet, and four sticks of dynamite that were holdovers from his days as a miner. Everything else was missing or destroyed. He packed his gear and set it on what remained of the front porch, then collected the pieces of Sadie and Max and placed them next to his pack, intent on returning to bury them. He gave his dogs’ one final sad look, picked up his traveling pack and set off in the direction the creature had taken.
He followed the path the rest of the day and into the night. He sat down near a gnarled old tree in a clearing. He had to rest. As he sat there gazing up at the stars, exhaustion overtook him and he drifted into restless sleep.
He awoke just before sunrise and continued his journey. He hadn’t heard the creature or Paunchoe since he left the ruins of his cabin, but the path was clear. It was mid morning when he found another clearing near the base of a mountain. There was a cave seated in the rock face directly in front of him at ground level, the creatures trail led right to it. The entrance must have been twenty feet high and at least ten feet wide. Footprints and a trail of leaves and brownish dried blood led directly into the cave.
He moved as quietly as he could to the side of the cave entrance and stood with his back to the wall. He waited, listening. He heard growling and shuffling from inside the cave. From time to time a rock flew out of the cave mouth. He heard a second sound as well, whimpering. He knew that Paunchoe was in there and that creature was trying to get to his dog.
Sweat beaded on his forehead as he returned to the tree line. He took the four sticks of dynamite out of his traveling pack and trimmed the fuses to about four inches. Ken stood up and bellowed at the top of his lungs, “Hey in there, we got unfinished business you and me. Get your hairy butt out here and let’s dance you furry son of a…,” Ken was interrupted by a reverberating roar coming from the cave. As the creature appeared at the entrance, he lit the fuse on the first stick of dynamite. Its filthy matted fur stained with blood and dirt, the creature spotted Ken and howled once again. He threw the dynamite directly into the path of the creature as it started to run for him. Ken dropped to his stomach and shielded his head with his hands. The creature only made it a few steps before the dynamite exploded.
The explosion threw the creature backward, slamming it into the rock face where it slumped to the ground with a heavy thump. It lay there and struggled to get to its feet. Ken grabbed his rifle and pocketed the remaining dynamite. He didn’t take his eyes off the creature as he slowly advanced on it. When he got to within a few feet of it and he could see that it was still breathing. Nothing could have survived that! Ken thought.
He raised his rifle, and the creature’s lifted its head from the ground, baring its bloody and broken teeth. It let out a weak growl, its red eyes glowing with hatred as it pushed itself up. Ken shot the creature through the left eye, liquefying the eyeball and sending a stream of bright red gore shooting from the back of its head. He shot it five more times in the head after it fell, completely destroying the top of its skull.
Ken reloaded and charged his rifle; he closed the distance between them and looked down on the creature. It was huge and powerfully built. The explosion had torn a hole in its chest. He could see parts of the creature’s ribs, and what he took to be its lungs dangling from the chest cavity. Its legs were burned from the explosion and were criss-crossed with gaping wounds.
Whimpering inside the cave reminded him, “Paunchoe! You in here boy? Paunchoe!” About one hundred feet inside the cave, he saw Paunchoe crouched behind a pile of rocks in a corner. He was badly hurt, Ken saw blood on his flank and one of his legs seemed to be broken. When Paunchoe saw Ken, his eyes lit up and he wagged his tail weakly. Ken reached down and stroked the top of the dog’s head very gently, “There there now boy, I’m here, everything’s gonna be ok.”
Paunchoe bared his teeth and began to growl. Ken heard footsteps from deeper in the cave and drew his pistol. From out of the darkness of the cave, another creature appeared. It was smaller than the first, only five or six feet tall, but with the same glowing red eyes. In an instant, the creature charged at him from the darkness, gnashing its teeth and extending its claws. Ken shot the creature twice in the chest and it fell to the ground a few feet from him. No sooner had the creature fallen than two more came from the darkness. He shot the first one in the head as it approached, and turned to aim at the second. He managed to get off one shot, hitting the creature in the leg. As it fell it clawed Ken’s leg. He screamed as he fell to the ground. Paunchoe barked as he lurched from his hiding place and attacked the creature, growling and sinking his teeth into the creature’s leg. It turned around and ripped Paunchoe’s head from his body and hurled the head at the cave wall. Ken raised his pistol and fired his remaining two rounds into the creature’s head. It slumped to the ground, dead.
Roars echoed through the cave. Ken looked up and saw three more of the creatures, each as large as the first, standing at the mouth of the cave. He had no time to reload his pistol, and his rifle was lost somewhere in the clutter on the cave floor. Ken realized he had one option left. He dug a second stick of dynamite from his pocket. His hands shaking and slick with blood, he lit the fuse and threw it at the approaching creatures. He rolled behind the boulders that Paunchoe had used for cover and covered his ears, the blast rocked the cave. Blasting loose rock from the walls and ceiling, the cave collapsed on the creatures, burying them beneath tons of rubble.
Kens head throbbed like it had been hit with a hammer and his ears were ringing. His leg was bleeding severely; he took off his shirt and wrapped it around the wound. It was no good, the shirt soaked through in seconds. Ken knew he would bleed to death if he couldn’t stop it soon. He rummaged through his travel pack and pulled out a small hatchet, his last bottle of whiskey, and another shirt. He cut the remaining pieces of his trousers in the area of the wound off and threw them to the side. He wrapped the shirt around the top of the hatchet, covering the blade. Dousing the shirt with the last of his whiskey, he lit a match and set it ablaze. He put the handle of his hunting knife between his teeth and applied the flame to his open wound. He shrieked, biting down hard on the knife handle. As he burned the wound he felt as if he would pass out from the pain but fought to stay conscious. After what seemed like hours of agony, the wound stopped bleeding. He dropped the makeshift torch on the ground. His heart pounded, and he could feel it in his burned and mutilated leg. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, he leaned to the side and threw up onto the cave floor.
With his body aching and his leg burning and painful, he grabbed his torch as he crawled over to Paunchoe’s remains. Putting his hand in the dog’s soft fur he lovingly stroked him. “I’m sorry boy, I’m so sorry.” He knew he had to try and find a way out of this place. He saw his rifle on the floor a few feet away. He crawled over to it and checked it over, it appeared to be undamaged.
Ken slung his rifle over his aching shoulder, with his hands shaking; he managed to reload the pistol. He began to crawl down the narrow passageway, holding the torch in front of him.
After crawling for what seemed like hours, he saw a split in the passageway ahead. It forked off in two directions, one heading to the right and one to the left. Ken was beyond tired, beyond exhaustion even, but he knew he had to keep moving. Weak and terrified, Ken pressed on and chose the passageway to the right. The cave was cold and dark, and the smell of rot and feces filled the air. The flame on his hatchet torch had shrunk; he only had a few minutes at best of light remaining. He continued half crawling/half dragging himself along the passage.
About fifty feet into the passage, he saw a chamber ahead. He could hear footsteps and a low pitched growling coming from it. Terrified, he raised his head and searched in the blackness ahead. It looked to be a shadow at first, slowly heading in his direction. The figure let out an ear splitting high-pitched shriek and began loping toward him. Ken dropped his torch and pulled his revolver from its holster. He aimed at the creature, this one much smaller than the others, about the size of a human child of five or six years old. Its red eyes glowed in the dim light given off by his torch. It rushed at him, arms extended and teeth grinding. He pulled the trigger and another loud crack filled the cave. He heard the creature drop to the ground.
After the echoes dissipated, he could hear the sounds of more of these creatures. Their screams sounded almost human–reminiscent of the wails of children. The sounds of many small feet echoed through the passage headed toward him, accompanied by howls and shrieks. “Oh good Lord, “he whispered, “their nursery.”
He unslung his rifle and pointed it in the direction of the noises. In the fading light of his torch he could see several small figures running in his direction, he opened fire, missing several times, but dropping four of them as they rushed towards him. As he pulled the trigger again, his rifle gave a dry ‘click’. More creatures advanced on him from the darkness. He recited the Lord’s Prayer in his head as he reached into his pocket and withdrew the remaining sticks of dynamite. He lit them with his dying torch and held them close to his body as the advancing creatures reached him. He felt a peace wash over him as the explosion rocked the cave.
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
The Best of the Demonic compiles an assortment of editor picks as a way to celebrate our two years of publication. Loaded with ten gruesome, horrific tales that will pull you to the edge of your seat, this greatest hits anthology will deliver back-to-back a complimentary sample of what Deadman’s Tome is all about. Fans of our thriving ezine, you already know that this purchase will be totally worth it. Those passing by, you don’t need to hold on to your doubt. As a growing monthly electronic magazine, the quality of our releases has increased phenomenally, and this anthology is a sort of snapshot of what we become.
If you crave horror, if you enjoy a good chill running down your spine, then look no further. Deadman’s Tome delivers.
Celebrating three years of publication is nice, but without friends and associates to share the moment with, the party would grow very boring, very fast. To that end, we reached out to everyone that has ever helped us in the past for their personal favorite picks and reasons why they enjoy this online magazine of the macabre.
Featuring fifteen tales designed to instill fear: Plain Old Wrong by K.S. Riggin, Solitary Man by M. R. Nelson, Inky Beast by M.J. Nichols, Armstice Day by D.D. Bell, and a lot more.
Deadman’s Tome Best of the Demonic (POETRY EDITION)
The Best of the Demonic: Poetry Edition is tailored with the same respectful touch we used with its counterpart. We gathered all of the poems out from the depths of our archives and scanned each and every one of them for a handpicked chosen. The fruits of our labor means for your guaranteed enjoyment. Every poem included in this anthology has earned its spot, and that means for a collection of quality poetry for your eyes to feast upon.
Reader beware, however, that even through the simple lines of poetry can madness be instilled.
Anyone that has kids can testify that they’re creepy as fuck sometimes. Standing in your doorway late at night, staring at you, whispering under his breath. Kids can be a source of unrelenting terror just as they can be a source of naive innocence. ANT FARM visits the fear of an undisciplined little bastard stomping the life out of you, literally.
You ready so a dunk wino mom taking out be an 8 year old? Well, it’s here and it’s short and straight to the fucking point.
I knew my mother was sick, weeks before we tried to take her to quarantine. There was no denying it. I first suspected it when she stopped opening her bedroom blinds in the morning. I knew it for sure when she started sleeping ‘til dusk. I was even more convinced when the upper floor took on that sulphur-like smell. The air was thicker, foul. I would hold my breath when passing her bedroom; the smell was strongest there. The door was always open. She would face the wall, hair leaking from the top of a blanketed lump. And the heat. Had the daylight been able to shine in, you might have seen a sheet of the hot stink wafting into the hallway like a fevered mirage. Yes, my mother was sick. No, it wasn’t your ordinary flu. She was aware too, of her sickness I’m sure, but gave herself no fighting chance. Not that she stood one; this we never said aloud to one another, Darry or I, but we knew. They all end up the same. We had seen it.
I wish she would have come to terms with it earlier. We could have done more with the last of her time in the house, if only to read together like we used to. Instead, she surrendered, let the sickness consume her. And just as sure as the sky is blue, as sure as the mourning dove sings to dawn its warm song of welcome, a hand from Hell cradled my mother snugly within the fiery furs of its palm. And I knew, on that Sunday evening, as Darry helped her down the front steps and I locked the door to our house, that it would be the last time she would leave it.
From behind the wheel, Darry scoured the radio waves for a station. We sat closemouthed as static rolled over the speakers. Finally, Rod Stewart started in with, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, and Darry let off the dial.
“Baby, can you turn it up? Please?” my mother asked. He kept his hands on the wheel. “Don’t you think we oughtta talk?” he said.
She shrank towards the passenger-side window. From the backseat I could make out only the relief of her face: her nose and cheekbones reflected in the side mirror; the shallow terrain of her face buried within the hood of her sweater. I looked sparingly. “Mum…,” he said. “Please. We have to.”
She inched her head off the window so that she was staring not at Darry but directly ahead. I looked out the windshield too—the road lit up by two pistons of white, scanning a desolate stretch of pavement, the dotted line being eaten by the hood of the Oldsmobile. “We don’t,” she replied.
Darry was frustrated, working out the arithmetic to find the right words. In the rear-view, he wore the same look he used to when Dad would gift him a last-minute curfew, seconds before slipping out of the house to snowmobile with Samantha Herrin. We don’t take the ski doo out nowadays. Darry doesn’t wear his sledding bomber anymore either. It’s boxed up in the cedar chest in the garage. He says it reminds him too much of Sam. That was before the spread. Before the deaths.
Darry turned the volume knob clockwise, and the heap of sweaters that was my mother began to tremble, while Rod Stewart’s voice masked the sound of her tears. The streets were mostly vacant; they had been for many months. I watched the storefronts pass as we drove out of town. Most were boarded up—only a handful of shops remained afloat—but some had their lights on, and they stood as rectangles of illuminated hope, foreseeable futures, contrasts to the dark of the night.
“They’ll figure it out, Mum,” I said from behind a gauze mouth-covering. “They will. Why it’s still spreading I mean. Once they do⎯”
“I need to be home, Thomas.” She spoke into her lap. “I need to be in bed. Can’t you boys see that?” Her voice grew. “Has everyone gone mad? How am I supposed to gain strength if I’m taken from my home? How?” The last word rode on a pitch as deep as an operatic bass note. I caught Darry’s eyes in the rear-view. They mirrored the fright in mine. It had reached her larynx⎯another symptom they had taught us to watch for. The notion that she might not survive the drive pounded at the back of my skull, pleading its way in. If it were to be, if she didn’t make it, Darry and I would likely witness her return as well; those who had succumb to the illness hadn’t stayed down for long. I wiped my palms on my pant legs. Darry put his foot to the pedal.
She sighed a lengthy expulsion of air and returned her head to the window. The stench of her breath made its way to the back of the car. It was all I could do to subdue the gag reflex. When she was gone, Darry would take the car, and I wondered if the smell wouldn’t resonate in the fabric of the interior, immortalizing our last drive with her. On the seat beside me I toyed with the leather tassels of her slippers. They were the only things I thought to grab for her on our way out⎯not a family photo album, her glasses, ibuprofen for the drive, but the shrivelled foot coverings that so rarely left her feet. In the dark they looked like hairless carcasses of small animals. I was waiting to tell her. I wanted to give them to her when the hazmat officials took her over. I knew the slippers would fetch us a final smile from her face, so I held them back in anticipation. It was worth something. We pulled over on the curve of county road fourteen, a few hundred yards from the tracks; she said her stomach was queasy. The crossing was broad and deeply-set, with just a marginal length of iron cutting across the road. The rest extended into infinite black on either side. Not a half mile beyond the tracks the quarantine centre stood like a bright white pillow, the four-acre dome lit by spot-lights surrounding its perimeter. The cold had entered the car, but I was grateful for the fresh air. I leaned forward and rubbed the middle of my mother’s back as her head hung out of the door. I applied pressure in an attempt to soften the heaving. There was nothing to come up. At this stage, it was just the hunger forcing her body to lurch.
“Jesus Christ!” Darry threw his gloved hands over the wheel and let his head drop. The engine wouldn’t turn. He twisted the key over so many times I thought it would snap. My mother sat back and wiped her mouth, the nausea passed. Darry threw open his door and rounded the front of the car. My stomach began to reel as I watched him staring blankly at the hood. I knew there was nothing under it that he could fix, still he propped it anyway. My mother moaned, and the crank on my stomach tightened.
“I have an oat bar,” I said. Silence.
“Mum, you have to try.” I fetched the green foil package from my pocket and probed her arm with it. With a pale hand, cracked like fissured parchment, she took the bar and turned round to face me. She pushed her hood back, and while I prayed for a smile, she just stared blank-eyed. In the little starlight coming in through the windshield I could see acne along her jawline, and her umber hair no longer breathed, but clung to her scalp, hanging in ropes like greased silly string.
“For you, Thomas,” she said, “I’ll try.” Before she turned around I caught a glimpse of the top of her chest where her sweater hung loose, where extra veins had begun a hike up her neck.
“Thomas?” she said, barely above a whisper. I hunched over the centre console, and she latched onto my sleeve. Her wedding ring hung loosely between two pronounced knuckles. Her hand slid down and found mine. Her flesh was no longer hot, not even warm. It was ice. It stung. “Thomas,” she said again and placed a hand on the back of my head, drawing my ear towards her lips. “I think we ought to hurry up, baby.”
A rumble sounded deep within her, and I stole my head back. A wild appetite was growing in her belly, I could sense it. As I sat back in my seat, I could feel her eyes on me in the passenger-side mirror. I drew my zipper up to my neck and reached for the door. “Darry.” I came around to the front of the car.
“I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at,” he said. The metal innards of the old beast were nothing more than dark shapes, complete gibberish to us both.
“We’re going to have to walk,” I said. “She’s getting worse.”
Darry stepped away from the car and stared across the fields of black snow, fields so vast they rendered us pebbles, loiterers on a stretch of nowhere highway.
“We have no choice,” I said. I curled my bottom lip and guided a breath of hot air towards my nose, warming the interior of my mask. “Darry. Look at me.” I went ahead and said it, what neither one of us wanted to admit. “I think we might have waited too long.” He faced me. Stray curls spiralled out of his tuque at the ears. We shuddered in unison as the wind came at us. A sheet of snow trailed behind it. It grazed over the road in a hurried fashion, and then it was gone into the field on the other side, as quickly as it had come. Again, all was still. Darry drew on a cigarette, pitched it into the dark, and yanked his mouth covering up from his chin. “You’re right. Go on and fetch your gloves. Let’s get moving,” he said.
We didn’t look at each other much as we carried our mother toward the dome. I’m not sure we would have survived each other’s sorrow had we. Darry had her torso in his arms, and I, her legs. She was looking up at the stars, brilliant, full. A ring of white had invaded her irises ⎯another symptom, one of the final stages. It wouldn’t be long now. My legs began to feel the added weight not only of my mother, but of the helplessness that was suddenly birthed by the inevitable. Ahead, our dome-shaped haven looked smaller than ever. “It’s not so cold out anymore,” she said. Darry and I halted. “It’s really quite a nice night. Don’t you think, boys?” Her breath didn’t show in the cold. The snowflakes on her face didn’t melt.
“It’s beautiful, Mum,” Darry said, brushing the snow from around her eyes. “You’re father loved this kind of weather.”
We walked along the shoulder of the road, trying to be quick but only wasting energy in doing so, and in turn slowing us down. I concentrated on my Kodiaks to confirm that my toes were in fact wiggling.
“I have to go back to the car,” I said. “Thomas, what? Why?” “Her slippers. I have to get them.” “What?” “Take her!” I dropped her legs and Darry scrambled to balance her weight. “Thomas! Stop!” he yelled.
I ran with all the fire in my legs, kicking up chips of ice with my heels, but the Oldsmobile was hardly getting bigger. Under only starlight it looked long abandoned, like it hadn’t seen an owner in years. Behind me, Darry was a frenzy of shouts and hollers. “There’s no time!” I heard him say. “Thomas! There’s no time!” Then he blurted something I couldn’t make out. He screamed it again, but I kept running. Only at the sounding of the air whistle did I draw the connection. Train.
My heart nose-dived to the base of my stomach. I pivoted brashly, slipping to my knees on a patch of black ice. Pants shredded and knees bleeding, I scrambled to my feet and raced back towards Darry and my mother. If we didn’t make the tracks before the train … the setback could be devastating.
When I reached them, however, Darry had already laid her out on the tracks. I wanted to scream, but my lungs were gone. “Don’t look,” he said.
I tore over to her and winced as my bloodied knees pressed against the iron. The tracks were buzzing with the momentum of the impending train. To my right, a dime-sized light was broadening in size. “Thomas! Get back!”
I placed my bare hand on her cheek. Her lids were closed, but her eyes were running rampant beneath them. My heart hit my throat as the whistle sounded⎯move or die, it announced.
“Thomas! Get the fuck off the tracks!” Darry swung himself under the flashing arm that had lowered between us.
But a heat flooded my mother’s face beneath my hand. She became a searing furnace. The blood of renewed life surged into her veins, and my tears hit her flesh with a hiss. The headlight bore down on us now. She opened her eyes, seeing life again for the first time, and the last. With the train’s light, I could see bright candy red where the whites of her eyes should have been. I knew then that Darry had done what I couldn’t have. The sickness had completed its work. The woman on the tracks below me was no longer my mother, my friend, but a parasite desperate to drain the blood from my body. Her eyes scanned mine with unfamiliarity, widening as they landed on my throat.
Darry’s arm hit my neck and yanked me backwards. I cupped my hands to my ears as the air brakes screeched at a soaring decibel level. Before he spun me around, I glimpsed her on her knees: her frothy open mouth, her poor attempt to try her legs. Her bleeding eyes. The metal beast roared into frame with bullet-like velocity. My mother went with it in a burst of dark wet, fragments of her assaulting the snow in my peripherals.
As we walked, the train’s rhythm chugged steadily alongside us, synching to my pounding heartbeat and diminishing only when we reached the car. I clambered into the back seat, and Darry took rest beside me. Our breath was just as visible inside, and between us, the cold slippers were stiffened like museum pieces. I disregarded them and awaited the grief to infect and transform me.
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s horror stories, ghost stories, monster stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre dark fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
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Deadman’s Tome newest anthology is about a month a away from release, but you don’t have to wait until July to get a copy. Pre-order a copy of Deadman’s Tome – Book of Horrors V1 and know that on July 1st you’ll have a collection of demented, twisted, thought provoking, and psyche damaging horror delivered right to your tablet, smart phone, or computer! Featuring the following authors: Seán Glasheen(Author), S.J. Budd(Author), Florence Marlowe(Author), S. Alessandro Martinez(Author), Matthew Johnson(Author), Mark Armstrong(Author), Jacob Lambert(Author), & 3 more
Lost, but not forgotten. Discarded, but not abandoned. Rumor has it that somewhere deep in the dark abyss lies an ancient relic of wicked men, a product of madness. A tome of horrors so unimaginable, so unfathomable that a few lines was all it took for people to go mad. There are documented accounts of this book shattering families, tearing through the strongest of examples of love, causing mothers and fathers to devour…
Hosted by Mr. Deadman, but made interesting with guests like Shawn Riddle and Kathleen Wolak. Shawn Riddle has infected Deadman’s Tome with not one, but two solid zombie stories, while Kathleen Wolak explored the dark topic of cursed paintings. From horror shorts to zombies to cursed painting, we’ve got quite a lot to talk about! While finishing off a bottle of Gentleman Jack, we talked about cursed paintings, ghost sex, zombie, and a bunch of other stuff that is loosely related to the featured stories.