13 Tales of Terror: Vacant

The room was empty, except for a spider skittering across the floor. It didn’t make it very far.

“Damn bugs,” McDermott growled, scraping his boot across the floor boards. He looked around the room, nodded once, then walked to the far end of it and opened the closet. Empty. The boys had done a thorough job.

The old house had been on the market for a while. Richard McDermott knew its history well, including the murders. Three separate families had been killed in this house in less than a decade.

The Richardsons were strangled in their beds. Husband, wife, two kids. Three years later, the Browns moved in. Young couple, planning to build their lives there. Young wife was found in the kitchen, decapitated. Husband disemboweled in the tub. Then came the Dukes. Big family. Died in ways so gruesome that nobody even talked about them anymore. Just tried to scrub them from memory.

Everyone said the house was haunted, or more likely, possessed by the Devil. McDermott didn’t pay much attention to any of it.

There were no ghosts or demons to worry about in this place.

There was only the thing in the basement. McDermott had no idea what it really was, where it had come from or how long it had been in the house. He just knew he didn’t want it to get out. So he kept it fed, as often as he could. Everyone knew about the three families. Nobody knew about the others, the ones McDermott brought in himself.

It had been hungry for the past few months. But that was about to change. A new family was moving in next week.

McDermott walked out of the house and locked the door behind him.

Just one more week.

Blood Red

Don’t go into the forest at night.

That’s what the townspeople say.

It seems like common sense, or folksy wisdom, but there’s more to it than that. Nobody will say anything further.

Find a man in a tavern and buy him enough beer, and he’ll start to talk. He’ll tell you about the town and its secrets, of the mayor’s affair with the baker’s daughter and how nobody makes eye contact with Farmer Hill anymore, not after the rumors spread about the sounds that come out of his barn.

Buy him a few more beers and he’ll tell you about the girl. His eyes, though glazed with drunken pleasure, will show a flicker of fear. His voice, loud and jovial, will drop to a trembling whisper. He will beckon you closer and tell you about the red-hooded girl of the forest. Or at least, what appears to be a girl.

It’s believed that she is a spirit of some sort. She is definitely not of this world, and even her human guise is not without its flaws. Her eyes are too big, some say, and her teeth are too large. On nights when the moon is a pale shimmering disc in the sky, she is seen roaming the forests surrounded by wolves. They do not harm her and she does not mind them. They move as one.

He looks around, even though nobody is paying the old drunk any attention, then locks his glassy eyes on you. And if, he says, if you disregard the townsfolk’s warning, if you find yourself wandering through the trees in the darkness and you come face to face with the red-hooded apparition, tell her you’re going to grandma’s house.

She may let you live.

He runs a finger across the twisted scar running from his throat down to his chest and takes another swig from his beer mug. He will tell you no more.

As you leave the tavern, having paid for the old man’s booze, there is a sound of howling. The pale yellow moon shines down upon you, full and bright. Wolves. You turn away, but another sound follows the howls, a sound made by no man or beast of this earth. It is the sound of lost souls or vengeful demons or horrors yet unknown, wandering the land cloaked in a red hood.

A to Z Challenge: Attacked

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The creature plunged its icy hand into Anna’s chest and thrust straight for her heart, squeezing it and making it beat even faster. Pain radiated through her as she tried to writhe free of its grasp, but there was nothing she could do. Her heart hammered away while stuck in that cold grip, and her veins filled with ice.

She had really believed that she would escape this time. That she would find a way to evade the beast. But she had underestimated it. It found her and, within moments, she was cornered. Unable to escape. Trapped. Her breath reduced to cold gasps, desperately seeking air to fill her deflating lungs.

And now it was all over. The beast had won. Anna could feel the color fading from her vision, her body growing ever colder. Soon all would be –

“Anna, are you ok?”

Kate knocked again on the door of the bathroom stall.

“Anna?”

Anna gulped in a deep breath, her body drenched in a thin film of cold sweat.

“I’m…I’m fine, Kate. Just need a minute.”

Anna locked eyes with the beast, staring in to fathomless void. She couldn’t let it win. There were people she cared for, a life that, however imperfect, she had to live. She grabbed the beast’s wrist and slowly, painfully, extracted its hand from inside her. She would not succumb today.

 

Written for the April A to Z Challenge. Four days late, but I’ll catch up.

Literary Lion: Lady of the Lake

As part of my ‘MORE WRITING’ resolution for this year, I’m trying to get in some more flash fiction prompts. There were a few I participated in last year that ended up fading away. I think now’s as good a time as any to get back to those.

One that I really enjoyed was the Literary Lion challenge put out by Laura Feasey. In fact, I’ve written one of my personal favorite stories during one of those prompts. Alas, the Lion went on a small break as life got in the way and then I went on an involuntary hiatus as life got in the way and it all went downhill from there.

The Lion has started roaring again recently, and while it’s taken me a while to get there, I’ve finally answered the call. This fortnight’s prompt is to write a tale in 25 words or less on the phrase ‘Drink Me’. Here’s my contribution:

Drink me. Go ahead. You’ve heard all the stories. I can heal you. Grant everlasting life. A soul is such a small price to pay.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 20: All Hallows’ Eve

  
The party was in full swing.

Victor surveyed all of his guests from the balcony, his dark eyes piercing through the skull mask on his face.

Down below, in the grand ballroom, the dead danced with the living. There were aristocrats in elaborate costumes: ladies in long embroidered gowns and lords in sharply cut suits. A trio of witches had shed their filthy robes and wore dresses of finely spun spider silk, complementing their ashen complexions. Undead soldiers were in full uniform, their jackets pressed and boots shined, looking pristine in spite of the bloodstains.

In one dimly lit corner, a werewolf fussed with his tie, unable to fix it with his padded paws. Drool dripped from his jaws as he cast his yellow eyes on the crowd; Victor made special note of him. A couple danced sensually on the dance floor, then exchanged partners and immediately plunged their fangs into their throats. Victor scoffed; vampires existed only to satisfy their basest instincts.

Half-humanoid creatures lurched and loped around the room while spirits floated through the air. Gargoyles perched around the perimeter of the balcony murmured to each other in gravelly voices, occasionally swooping down to grab a guest and carry them to their shrieking end.

A smile spread across Victor’s face, mirroring the rictus on his mask. All was going well.

Soon it would be time to perform the ritual. Soon it would be time to awaken the Ancient Ones and usher in a new age of darkness.

Victor patted the ceremonial pumpkin resting in his hands, which smiled malevolently at the ghoulish panorama spread before him.

It was going to be a Halloween to remember.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 14: Faceless

  
You see us every day, but never notice us. We notice you, though.

Were we to walk past you tomorrow, you would not recognize us. But we know you all too well.

Who you are, what you do, who you love, what you hate. We know it all, down to every last detail.

To the world, we are faceless. Anonymity is our cloak and it is our shield. People like yourself, however, have nowhere to hide from us. We know your faces, your bodies and your souls.

Occasionally, we toy with the world by launching an attack. A lone murder, perhaps, or a massacre if we’re feeling particularly playful. One of our number performs a sacrifice, casting off the veil of anonymity to reveal his true face to everyone. It does not matter. Nobody knows who he is. They can only express shock and disbelief. Some say they’ve seen him around, others claim they’ve ridden on the bus with him every day, but nobody saw his true face before. Nobody knew the doom that lay waiting.

That is our true power.

We are the Faceless.

We are everywhere.

We are nowhere.

We will rise up one day.

And you’ll never see us coming.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 11: Plague


Joanna kept running, even though she could feel her lungs burning. The sheriff’s office was within sight. She stopped just in front of the door as a creature bounded in front of her, screeching in an unnatural pitch. She wasted no time in snuffing the light out of its soulless eyes.

With a quick pump, Sheriff Joanna Wheeler ejected the spent shells from the shotgun and barged into her office. It was empty, except for the blond man, who was still in the holding cell. She pointed her gun through the bars of the cell, breathing hard.

“What the hell’s going on here? What are those things?”

The bedraggled prisoner shook his head sadly. “I toldja you should have let me go.”

“I’m gonna need a better explanation,” Joanna growled.

The blond man looked her square in the eye. His eyes were very blue, the irises standing out against the bloody veins that surrounded them.

“Shoulda let me go, Sheriff,” he repeated.

Perhaps she should have. When Deputy Earl Mason had brought the stranger in for driving drunk, Joanna had expected it to be a fairly routine case. They’d let him sober up in the cell while they tried to find someone to get him. But he didn’t have any ID and was too incoherent to give them a name. He had screamed about how they had to release him and babbled on about monsters before passing out. They didn’t give him a second thought. Until sundown.

Joanna had received a call about some sort of disturbance at the Wilburs’ farmhouse. She knew something was wrong the moment she pulled into the driveway. There was pin drop silence. She walked toward the house, taking her pistol out of his holster. There was some sort of sound coming from the barn just adjacent to the main house. Joanna slowly walked toward it, noticing the door was ajar. She pushed the door open and almost threw up.

All of the animals were dead. Their mutilated pieces lay scattered around the barn, the floor thick with blood. The Wilburs lay near the entrance. Most of the meat had been stripped off May Wilbur’s body, and Henry was in the process of being disemboweled by some sort of troll-like creature. It whipped its head around to look at Joanna, licking its bloodied gums. She emptied an entire round of ammunition into it and ran. As she was getting into her car, she saw more of those same creatures on the roof of the farmhouse. They leapt off and ran towards the town.

Joanna drove after them, hoping she could prevent them from hurting anyone. But she was wrong. Within minutes, there were hundreds of them, attacking anyone in sight. They overwhelmed the squad car and Joanna barely managed to escape, taking her shotgun and a couple of boxes of shells with her. She had come running to the office to collect some more ammunition, and hopefully some answers.

She kept her gun trained on the blond man, contemplating whether to just shoot him and get it over with, when a thought struck her: where was Earl? She heard a screech behind her and turned around just in time to blow the head off the creature trying to attack her. There was blood pooling under the door of the evidence room. Inside, Joanna found what was left of Earl. This time she did throw up.

Composing herself as best she could, Joanna unlocked the cell door and dragged the blond man out.

“Alright, you’re free. Now what?”

He shook his head again. “It’s too late.”

“The hell it is.” She grabbed him by the collar and led him out of the station. The blond man’s car was parked outside, apparently untouched. As they walked toward it, she realized the whole town was silent and completely dark, except for a few flickering street lights. She caught sight of a tall figure under one of the lights by the station. He was dressed in a preacher’s outfit with a wide brimmed hat covering most of his pallid face, leaving only a grinning mouth exposed.

“Good evening, Sheriff,” the creature said in a low twang. “He’s right, you know. It is too late.”

Joanna stepped in front of the blond man and raised her shotgun.

“Is it now? Well, why don’t you step into the light, stranger, and maybe we can talk about that.”

The figure grinned wider, jagged teeth glinting. Its eyes remained hidden.

“I appreciate the offer, Sheriff, but I’m much more comfortable here.”

“What the hell are you?”

It responded with a soft laugh that snaked its way up her spine.

“You may consider me a harbinger. This town is on its last legs, Sheriff. It’s beyond saving now.”

Joanna tried to keep her hands steady. “Why? Why here?”

The figured looked thoughtful. “Well, to be honest, Sheriff, we just wanted him.” It pointed a long finger at the blond man.

“But then your friend came along and took him in. We thought we might wait for his release before continuing our pursuit but, well, we got hungry.”

The figure’s grin widened into a ghastly rictus. Joanna cursed loudly and fired a shot as the street light flicked off. When it came on again, there was nobody there. She snapped her head around to look at the blond man.

“Get in the car.”

“Don’t you see? There’s no point! They’re everywhere!”

“Get. In the goddamned. Car.”

“It’s too late…”

The blond man lunged at Joanna and managed to wrap his fingers around her throat. Reflexively, she pulled the trigger and the back of his head exploded in a shower of blood, flesh and bone. Bloody spittle flew out of his mouth, staining her jacket and her cheek.

“Dammit!”

She stared at the blond man’s corpse and then looked around. She could hear humming. It was a low rumble, like several car engines idling at once. It was coming from every direction, pounding itself into her skull, sapping the energy from her body.

Things were about to get much worse.

Joanna slid into the driver’s seat of the car, taking slow, deep breaths. She laid the shotgun across her lap and started up the engine. The street lights started coming back on, casting deep shadows across the street. She could see that the creatures were perched on the rooftops and crowded along the sidewalk, watching her with unblinking eyes. They were humming in unison. The ground vibrated beneath her. She put the car into gear and drove off, with the creatures still watching.

Joanna said a small prayer under her breath. She was going to drive as far as she could go before the car broke down or was attacked. After that, all she could do was take out as many of the bastards as possible before they ripped her apart.