Popular Tags:


September 2014 Discussion Post: Which Non-Horror Stories Have Creeped You Out & Why?

September 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM

This month’s topic was suggested by Demonicus. If you have ideas for future discussion posts, please share them by commenting here.

We’ve all experienced irrational fear from things that simply shouldn’t be scary. Children’s shows and toys, for example, are a pretty common culprit when it comes to being innocent-yet-freaky, and this month I’d like you to tell us what stories, shows, movies, etc, have somehow triggered your scary-sense despite being supposedly innocuous.

If you have any idea as to the hows and whys of your particular reaction, please do share your theories! I can see it being helpful for aspiring authors – both as a way to get a better idea of how fear can work, even when dealing with things that aren’t overtly scary, but also as a way of garnering possible inspiraiton for some fresh, non-cliché stories.

Have fun, everyone!

The Black Woods of Beaumont Chase

September 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.5/10 (39 votes cast)

Daniel Warrington leapt to his feet. The fire roared and crackled in the hearth and the wind gusted outside and for a second he doubted whether he had really heard it – a second, heavier crash, like a great clap of thunder swiftly relieved him of such foolish notions. He rushed across the drawing room, his plush burgundy smoking jacket billowing out behind him, shoving aside an armchair in his haste, and emerged into the entrance hall to see the stout oak doors rattling in their frame. He snatched the Sharps model-1874 from its stand above the fireplace and dashed across the brilliant marble floor, feeding a new cartridge from the stash in the pocket of his smoking jacket into the chamber. Too late, he flung open the doors only to catch the briefest glimpse of an immense bulk retreating into the circle of trees.

He returned his attention to the doors – deep gouges in the wood, the lower panels splintered and dented. He slammed his fist against the doorframe in frustration, ignoring the hot lance of pain that pierced his hand.

Daniel Warrington had had enough.

This was the third incident of its kind to occur since his taking up residence in Nighthill Manor two months previous. Pausing only to pull on a pair of worn-leather boots and a demur brown scarf, he considered rousing his manservant, Dunwald Marsten, to accompany him, but decided against the idea. The old man was probably tucked up in bed by now – there was no reason to disturb him. Whatever it was that walked the woods of Beaumont Chase and menaced the Manor, Daniel Warrington would deal with it himself. After all, hadn’t he faced down enormous black bears during his months on the Continent; looked death in the sharp yellow eyes deep within Peruvian rainforests; slain a great white lion, King of the African plains, with nothing but a blade and his bare hands?

Determined and resolute, Daniel Warrington strode out to meet the night. The air was frozen and the skies empty. Before him at the clearing’s edge loomed the woods: a vast black wall of frostbitten limbs and flaking bark. The wind – at least, it was probably the wind – howled between the slender trunks and seethed in the clusters of tall dark pines. Pale icicles, thin and crooked like skeletal fingers, scintillated as Christmas baubles hung from a tree – a black, dead tree.

As he crossed the clearing, his hand fell to the LeMat belted at his hip. Deemed far too superfluous and unreliable for field use by the US Army, he had managed to procure one of the few remaining prototypes from a customs officer up in Birmingham. In addition to the revolver and the Sharps, he carried a long, thick knife with an elaborate deer-bone handle sheathed at his waist, a gift from an elderly knifemaker by the name of James Black several years previous – the blade had since tasted the blood of almost every animal that walked, crawled or swam upon the face of the earth.

Regretting not taking the time to change out of his smoking jacket, Daniel Warrington gritted his teeth and trudged on through the biting cold. Tracking the mysterious beast was proving to be exceedingly difficult. Having neglected in his haste to bring a lantern, it was all he could do to discern the sporadic trail of odd, hoof-like prints. Their distinctive cleft, although somewhat more pronounced, reminded him of the tracks of the curious black-and-white striped deer that ran freely across the African plains, with but a single difference; these were sunk far too deeply in the snow, incongruous with the weight of such an animal. Whatever the beast was, it was of a most prodigious size.

For minutes that dragged like hours he plodded onwards by the sickly light of the moon, the only sound that of fresh snow crunching beneath his boots. The wind nipped cruelly at his exposed face and hands, bringing with it a faint mist that flowed around him in shreds and tatters, snatching at his clothing with ghostly, insubstantial fingers. His every breath fogged the air with an ephemeral white cloud and seemed to draw the seeping chill ever deeper into his body.

Something moved in the outer darkness of his periphery; by the time he had levelled the Sharps it was gone – if it had ever been there at all. The darkness was enfolding now, a great all-encompassing blackness held at bay only by thin shafts of moonlight. A branch snapped to his right, and he whirled in time to see a dislodged clump of snow thud to the ground. Taking a deep breath, he once again levelled the Sharps. His mind was calm and still, a vast frozen lake in midwinter’s grasp. The weight of the stock in the hollow of his shoulder felt good. It felt right.

It had been far too long since he’d seen the spark of life fade from the eyes of a dying animal.

Slowly, cautiously now, he picked his way between peeling silver birches and over the fallen trunks of once magnificent oaks. Alert to even the smallest motion, he hunted in silence, pressing onwards into the woods, deeper than ever before.

Eventually the tracks halted at a great twisted snarl of brambles stretching taller than a man. There was no sign of his quarry passing through, and truly the tracks continued in no other direction. Fighting back disquiet at the idea of an animal so large capable of clearing such a barrier with a single leap, Daniel Warrington slung the Sharps over his back and unsheathed his knife.

He would need to act swiftly now.

-

Stumbling forth from a narrow tunnel of thorn and tangle, Daniel Warrington emerged into a misted clearing. Damp from the moisture in the air, lank locks of hair clung to his forehead. His face and hands were sliced in several places, and his smoking jacket was all but ruined. Dunwald Marsten would not be amused.

He straightened and unslung the Sharps, taking stock of his surroundings. The wall of brambles encircled the entire clearing, and it appeared he had forced his way through at one of the lowest points; in places the brambles grew around the overhanging branches of nearby trees, crawling along their drooping limbs like sinister barbed snakes. All across the clearing spires of rock jutted upwards from the mists, their twisted points scraping the caliginous skies. Small, trembling gouts of white had begun to spiral down, but Daniel Warrington barely noticed. His attention was elsewhere.

It was not often that Daniel Warrington found himself at a loss for words – now, he could barely remember to breathe.

Dominating the centre of the clearing and towering over its surroundings was a dark Cyclopean monolith of impossibly immense proportions. Plainly visible upon its surface were an array of nightmarish bas-reliefs, upon which the gibbous moon shone sickeningly. Thin tendrils of mist curled up and around the hideous obelisk, crashing against its sides like churning ethereal waves.

Mother Nature took a deep brief, and the night itself fell still.

Deep within the mists, something moved.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

He could feel it now – the beast’s eyes were upon him. The fine, downy hairs on the back of his neck stood erect, and his skin rippled with gooseflesh.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The sound echoed hollowly across the clearing. He sighted down the barrel of the Sharps and willed his trembling hands to still. Shifting anxiously beneath the gaze of that loathsome monolith, he watched and waited.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The stag shambled forth from the swirling mists. A blackened crown of jagged antlers twisting in all directions adorned its head; as the beast sauntered past the monolith, the tips of those dreadful antlers screeched across the black stone. The Sharps dropped from Daniel Warrington’s shaking hands, clattering away across the ground. The stag’s jaw lolled wide, revealing a maw bulging with pointed yellow teeth, akin to those of the sleek tiger-striped sharks of the west Pacific. Only now did he understand the truly monstrous proportions of the beast; its head stood fully twice the height of a man, above which loomed the terrible antlers. The monster’s snout glistened wetly in the waxing moonlight, and its tattered fur seemed to crawl and shift as though it were a living carpet of chitinous beetles. Patches of yellowing bone shone through its coat; fur and skin clung to its forelegs in patches, like moss to the trunk of a rotten tree. Dark rivulets of blood trickled from the hollows of the beast’s eyes; a pair of vast, empty holes in which green flames guttered and billowed.

The stag snorted, stamping its foot with a sharp crack like a gunshot, causing a murder of sleek black crows to take erupt in flight from a nearby tree. Coils of mist drifted lazily around the beast, never quite coming close enough to touch its slick black fur. Its hooves were bloodied bone, heavy enough to crush a man’s skull to dust beneath their tread. And then it spoke; a guttural, rasping sound abhorrent to the minds of men.

At this, some hidden string, pulled taunt in fear, finally snapped, and the LeMat leapt into Daniel Warrington’s hand as if it had been there all along. He flipped the lever on the end of the hammer up, causing the striker to fall upon the primer set directly below it. The stag let out a monstrous bellow, lowered its head and charged. Daniel Warrington took careful aim, drawing a bead atop the beast’s skull.

The stag roared; as did the LeMat. The blast of buckshot from the revolver’s secondary barrel disintegrated the top of the stag’s head. Something coiled and dark pulsated amidst the ruin of its skull, shifting and oozing against the splintered bone.

The beast hardly faltered.

Daniel Warrington could only stare, horrified, as the wound immediately began to heal, bone reforming before his very eyes – the skin, however, remained absent, and he at once understood the significance of the many bald patches speckling the creature’s hide. How many before him had tried and failed to slay this dark, majestic horror?

Razor-sharp antlers gored his stomach, and then he was tumbling across the frosted earth towards the monolith. He pressed a hand to his stomach, and felt what seemed to be a handful of snakes squirming against his palm. Blood seeped between his fingers.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The stag towered over him now, whispering blasphemous insanities of the Old Gods which dwelt beneath the earth and deep down in the seas and in the dark, forgotten places of the world where the stars had never shone. Dreadful images began to form in his mind, of nameless monstrosities uncoiling beneath the earth and Polyphemus-like creatures emerging from the oceans.

The insignificance of man crashed down upon him – followed momentarily by the stag’s hoof, which fell with a sickening crunch, the splitting of a ripe melon.

Daniel Warrington thought no more.

-

Dunwald Marsten sat in the darkened library, reading by the guttering flame of a candle burnt nearly down to the stump – a leather-bound tome of substantial thickness, The Midwinter World. But the book was Midwinter World in name only – the cover concealed a far more sinister tome, one which had previously resided for many years under lock and key in a sub-basement of the British Museum – hidden by fools who possessed neither the strength of mind nor the courage to conquer the horrors bound within the book’s wafer thin pages.

From the walls of the room, glassy eyes reflected the candlelight, inch-long yellowing fangs frozen in snarls of anger and roars of defiance. It sundered Dunwald’s heart to see such beautiful, magnificent creatures murdered for the cruel sport of a single man. His gaze wandered to the umbrella stand in the far corner, fashioned from the foot of a majestic white rhino, and he felt the familiar fires of hatred flare up in his chest. That Warrington had the nerve, the gall to slaughter even a single one of Du’zu’s precious children grated on Dunwald’s very sense of being.

Well, it would not happen again. Yshmael would see to that.

Thin, wavering shafts of moonlight filtered through the picture window, picking out every scar and crag on Dunwald’s tanned, calloused hands – the hands of one who has spent a lifetime in the wilderness, wandering the secret untamed places of the earth.

The book at his fingertips remained dim and dark, the light itself refusing to touch such blasphemous pages. This suited Dunwald perfectly – some things were born only to dwell in darkness.

Dunwald drew the flickering candle closer, leant forward and continued to read.

…from the earth where groweth dark wood, into any time when the Rites are spoken, can the holder of the Knowledge summon The Walker, child of Great Du’zu, He who dwelleth in the vast Wilderness between the worlds and eateth the soul and flesh of Man, He that roams when the moon wanes yellow and is called Yshmael. Only in supplication to The Walker of the Worlds Between can one escape the Wrath of Du’zu…

Credit To – Tom Farr

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.5/10 (39 votes cast)

Left Behind

September 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 6.9/10 (106 votes cast)

Barbara was sure the ritual worked. She stood up from the pentagram as 5 wicks slowly swirled their smoke in the room. The weather seemed angry—lightning flashed and roared through the coastal home, and suddenly the lights went out.

“Damn the power. Let him come” she thought to herself as she calmly went downstairs in the dark. She prepared some tea on the stove, and waited.

As her chamomile steeped, she again thought about how unfair it had been to take him so soon, only 8 years old. Sure, things hadn’t always been easy, but… she had put the bottles away. Things would be different, now.

She heard three distinct knocks at the front door. Excitedly, she ran to swing it open, only to find no-one there. She left it open as a welcoming invitation. Knocks from the back door drew her to the spot, only to find that doorway empty as well. She left it open, too, mist from the rain collecting on the tile floor.

As she was about to take a sip, she felt a presence behind her. He was here! She whirled round to see her boy: his face was obscured by shadows, but his brown shaggy hair and favorite flannel shirt marked him well enough. She ran to hug him and found he was incredibly heavy, much heavier than she remembered him only a few weeks ago.

“Hello Mommy,” said Michael.

“Oh! My boy! Things will be so different, so much happier, now that you’re here! Do you want—”

“I want to play a game. Mommy.” Michael interrupted. There was something unnatural in the tone he used for the word. “Why don’t you run… and hide. I’m going to catch you! This will be a LOT of fun.”

“Are you sure you—”

“DO IT,” his voice boomed through the house. Uneasily, she agreed as Michael began to count. She was going to hide in the pantry when she heard a growling noise, like the low rumble of a distant earthquake. She realized it was coming from Michael. As he counted, she realized she may have made a mistake.

“15, 14… you better hide better than that, Mommy. Some things are better left as they are. But I’m here, now.” His boyish voice became more and more tinged with that horrific, low grumble. The sound of a blade pulled from the kitchen butcher block alerted her ears to danger. Yes, this had been a mistake. Intense claps of thunder blocked further sound as she raced upstairs to the master bedroom, and locked the door. Like a child, she cowered in the closet and waited.

“10, 9, 8… I don’t know why you’d want me back, Mommy.” She heard his words as leaden feet ascended the stairs. “You weren’t nice to Michael. 7, 6, 5, 4…”

She started to cry frantically, curled in the corner of her closet. She was trapped. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe as the locked bedroom door easily sprang open.

“3… 2…”

Silence. She listened as the storm calmed outside and a whisper emanated from directly behind the closet door: “In fact, Mommy, Michael hates you. That’s why he left you behind… and sent me instead.”

The door flung open and a bolt of lightning illuminated rows of jagged, glinting white teeth crowding Michael’s mouth like a shark’s jaw.

The storm subsided. Her tea grew cold.

Credit To – Skyla2186

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 6.9/10 (106 votes cast)

Mould

August 31, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 5.8/10 (80 votes cast)

My best friend was in Pompeii.

I wasn’t, of course, or I wouldn’t be standing here staring down at a museum display titled “A BLAST FROM THE PAST!!!” A kitsch red LED volcano flickering gently in the background, flinging deep shadows across expressions of abject misery behind a velvet rope for the small children to point sticky fingers at. Speakers rumble in the distance. One little girl bursts into inconsolable howling at the sight; or perhaps it’s the ruddy glowering threat that the same’s imminent to be visited on us. I like her immensely. Her father carries her out.

In fact, some years before Pompeii’s last days came about I had found myself dutifully lugging my scant possessions down the road with tail tucked between my legs; off to marry, of all things. That’s what you did back then when your family saw fit to offload you; and should be the match be prestigious enough “poof!” you were magically absolved of the past to boot – not even the neighbours could sneer behind closed doors anymore. Far away and footsore, then. Out of sour, miserably small mind and all that.

The distance didn’t matter, of course; my best friend and I were soul mates. I never ventured far before I could feel the line drawing me back in, calling me home. Our simpatico a secret treasure; far too precious to sport on your sleeve because so rare, as much then as now. Women don’t ever seem to connect, not truly. They’ve sharp noses for challenge, and too readily recognise and condemn what lurks within. How are you expected to place faith in a mysterious threatening other when personal trust barely stretches so far as you could throw yourself?

But we had somehow weathered that giggly, prickly rivalry of youth when any second double-edged friendship can slide into outright envious warfare, sparking bitter feuds to last the ages. I’d no reason on earth to disbelieve we would hobble on together into our decline, achieving that comfortable state where it no longer matters what hell your crumbling shell resembles or how it’s dressed.

And then at last two alike minds could tentatively reach out and clasp hands; honouring other, recognising self.

And she … she helped me. My best friend helped me when nobody else could. There’d not been another soul under all the wide skies like her: the natural outcast, the outsider; none other to so much as recognise my peril. Even I ascertained the threat only vaguely. To me it was no more than a dim line of smoke barely noticed, way off in the distance. Who could see harm in the tiny cough of a newly arrived baby?

Afterward, there were never any accusations of crime: where’s the point when it burns in every eye until the very air ignites? For decency’s sake I had to abandon home and trudge into the unknown to join some fat bastard I’d never met in holy matrimony.

Thus I escaped Pompeii, and so my name has changed over and again along with the multitudes of the living, heaving world. But not so those who were there, left mute and encysted. Not her. And it grieves me deeply to recall how pertly she’d once turned up her nose at donning a nicer dress, at playing along, her flat refusal in short to be any damn thing but herself; because now she never will be.

But she remains my best friend. Our hold is firm. Every time I am squeezed into life, thrust out into the world through blood and muck she is the very first thing I feel: before light, before air. And that’s when I remember Pompeii. I even used to hear her murmuring, sealed away down there. So I guess in a way I’m no more than myself, either.

They went and dug up the town – many many years later, of course. Avid for knowledge, sick enough for sensation to go grubbing around in the dirt. They mixed buckets of cold plaster on site, their improvised wooden paddles going round and round in the thin early Mediterranean light. It would have been hard messy work; arm muscles already burning, shoulders stuffed with ache and complaint. Shoes splattered for the wife to shriek at when they got home.

With long thin tools they drilled down to Pompeii’s lost people, who cried out with joy at that first hint of sunlight and air. Finally after all this crushing immobile time there came to the buried hope of rescue, of freedom. I heard my best friend, as the drill whined its way through pumice and compressed ash. While flakes of burned building sifted down onto her. Everyone and their lives were down there: my family, all those sullen despised neighbours; and in fact I’ve recognised familiar contortions in the frozen grimaces at the museum; but I’ve never heard any of the others. What do I care for them, anyhow? None of them ever helped me.

I heard my friend weeping, too overburdened to bear it.

But those who had not yet managed to go mad sealed down in the dark had another thing coming, for in went the plaster. The merest golden hint of the wild free sky gleaming in – oh sweet heaven yes, deliver us! Do you remember birds? I remember birds – but then a deluge of thick icy cold clotted down the tube and salvation was blotted out. Thrashing in the dark, screams turning to heavy choked gurgles as the narrow space filled.

The cold was so intense that my breath frosted out of my lungs in a rush, painfully colder than the surrounding air. I was sped to hospital where conscientious staff irrigated my abdominal cavity with warm saline and, when I shuddered and flailed awake, rather gleefully announced that I’d been dead for four whole minutes. Gathered excitedly about my bed they were so very proud of resuscitating me, and didn’t at all understand why I wept.

I think I tried to rush to my friend and gather her in my arms, straining to pull her from her prison. But four minutes was just not long enough. I still heard her shrieking hysterically for succour, as they all must have screamed; those who waited so long in the dark and ought to have been saved. As the frigid killing cold consumed them. Not only a new sensation but a final one, filling up everything until cold was all there was left, and it went on forever.

As the plaster stiffened so did they; and although I still feel her drawing me home I have heard my best friend’s voice no more. She inhabits a hard, silent place in my mind now. And she’s so profoundly cold.

And I, who deserved it so much less; I have lived my quiet times over and over. Always plagued with poor circulation, chill at the fingertips, at risk of losing them, I gravitate to warmer climes. Never too close to anybody. I have borne children. I’ve sat blissfully in the sunlight. I visit the museum countless times, to stand and look on my friend’s horror-stricken face.

All I dare hope is that I might well be unto my best friend as she has been to me. And so the unchanging frozen scar on my soul which is forever entombed may, in her, bloom.

Credit To – BP Gregory

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 5.8/10 (80 votes cast)

The Wicker House

August 30, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.1/10 (114 votes cast)

Of course everyone claiming residence in Arthur’s Wake knows tales associated with the Wicker House. It seems that every small province plays host to some structure of ill repute which, as if by supernatural magnetism, draws rumor of ghosts and bogies, wrapping the timber and stone of its foundation in a shroud of darkness and horror. In Arthur’s Wake, the Wicker House fills this odious task.

Scant days after arriving in town, while taking the time to familiarize myself with the local watering hole and its residents, I became introduced to the well known superstitions surrounding the Wicker House. As a man of science, I knew any truths to be found in these outlandish stories were likely embellished to points unrecognizable. Nothing was first hand; all experiences were from a friend who knew a fellow who may have seen something. It is the provincial mind which transforms wild dogs into wolves that walk like men and interprets astronomical phenomena as harbingers of certain doom. Still, my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I endeavored to better inform myself upon the subject through more objective means. To my great surprise, while failing to confirm the more supernatural claims of the tales, the town records in the basement of the local library did provide aspect to a most sinister reality all their own.

The house was built in 1920 by the millionaire Tomas Wicker who, in addition to being both a successful oil prospector and fishing magnate, was by all accounts completely insane. No one knows what first drew Wicker to Arthur’s Wake. Some speculate this as the first outward sign of his impending madness. What is known was that the foundations of the house which would come to assume his name were poured almost immediately upon his arrival.

The structure was supremely modest for a man of Wicker’s means, rising a mere two stories in height and composed of scarcely a dozen rooms plus cellar and attic for storage. The house was built on Blackwood Drive, a major tributary of the town’s main street, and close to the industrial center, such as it was. The plot itself consisted of about a quarter acre, the yard home to a few blossoming trees and a small garden, the whole of which was surrounded by a high wrought iron fence accessed by a similar gate. The posts of this formidable perimeter were topped by wicked spikes to discourage would-be trespassers. Construction concluded rapidly and the autumn of 1920 saw Wicker take up residence in the house accompanied by a maid, groundsman, and his wife.

The lady of the house quickly became the subject of gossip among the townsfolk. During the construction Wicker had boarded his wife in parts unknown. None could recall when she arrived at the house; one day she was simply there. As the groundskeeper cared for the exterior yard and garden and the maid handled all domestic chores including trips to market, the lady was herself never seen to exit the house. Due to this complete lack of socialization, the townsfolk did not learn so much about the woman as her Christian name. The servants themselves shed no light upon the subject. The man hailed from a remote part of the Dark Continent and the woman appeared to be a mixed-breed, vaguely of the Orient. Wicker had acquired the service of each while abroad for business dealings and neither spoke a word of English. Naturally, the Lady Wicker was the object of most persistent rumor.

Early speculation was she suffered from some exotic malady which left her drawn and bedridden. These theories were repudiated by those few who would occasionally spy her from the street. In each case she was seen exclusively at night, staring forlornly through the second story window of what was assumed to be her bedchamber, lit only by candlelight from within and to all appearances the picture of health. Additionally, there was little chance the typically damp and sunless climate of the Wake would be prescribed to improve one’s constitution by even the most inept of physicians. As common folk are wont to do, with a logical explanation absent more fantastic theories were crafted. Some began to speculate the woman was a witch, others an enslaved angel won by Wicker whilst dicing with Satan. What all who observed her agreed upon was her singular beauty.

I gleaned much of this information from archives of the local paper, especially one curiosity piece which was accompanied by a photograph of the lady in question. The scene was just as I had heard described, the single lonely prisoner peering through the window and across that terrible iron fence into the darkness of the night. The photograph was muddled due to the quality of the prehistoric equipment and the lack of natural light, effectively obscuring the lady’s features. Indeed it was difficult to distinguish whether the blurred form was in fact human, though it did project an impression of unmistakable femininity. And yet, even through that grayish haze I could perceive a certain piercing, almost hypnotic quality of her eyes.

Wicker himself was something of a mystery though considerably less so than his bride. An attractive man, tall, dark haired and well featured, many a young woman found herself unequivocally jealous of the seldom observed Lady Wicker. Though often away for long periods on business excursions, at home Wicker would frequent the only drinking establishment in the Wake, an illicit locale consistently ignored by the well-bribed police force charged with upholding Prohibition. Although he had no one in town that might be explicitly named ‘friend’ Wicker was known to purchase drinks for the house on his occasions of patronage and was as such engaged in conversation by no few number of fellow revelers.
It never took long for Wicker’s tongue to be sufficiently loosened at which time he would regale his latest passel of hangers-on with fantastic stories of his journeys abroad; forbidden hoodoo rights in the Caribbean, strange tribal sacrifices in the heart of Africa, dead men who walked in Eastern Europe, and countless others, each one stranger and blacker than the last. Though Wicker never spoke of his wife directly, these tales only served to expound upon the rumors of her origins.

Things progressed much in this way for some five years. Wicker would travel and carouse upon his return. The servants went about their business without comment or complaint. The townsfolk gossiped. The lady remained a shut-in. The horror occurred without warning.
The events that took place on the eve of Samhain, nineteen hundred and twenty-five have gone down in the history of Arthur’s Wake as unembellished fact. Among the town records I discovered the report of the patrolmen dispatched to respond to the disturbance at the Wicker House. I will summarize its contents directly.

Tomas Wicker returned from his latest trip abroad on the thirty-first of October. Having stopped briefly at home, he arrived at the aforementioned drinking establishment in a clearly agitated state. The always impeccably dressed Wicker was sloppily garbed, one shirt tail hanging out of his trousers, shoes scuffed beyond repair. It was obvious he had not recently bathed or shaved, his well-groomed hair was mussed, and his eyes were bloodshot and wild. Approaching the bar he apprehended an entire bottle of liquor, took several long swallows without use of a glass, and ignored all attempts of other patrons to engage him in conversation. Taking a final drink from the bottle he placed his wallet and the entirety of its contents on the bar, smashed the now almost empty receptacle upon the ground and exited with the astonished eyes of all present following him. That this entire portion of the episode occurred within a completely illegal establishment is not lost on me, although it apparently was on the investigating patrolmen. As I have said, they were well bribed.

That no mortal eye remains which observed what happened next is surely proof of a merciful God. The two patrolmen who first came upon the scene were summoned by terrified reports of shrill cries and demonic cackles. Long-term veterans and hard men both they were nevertheless ill prepared for what they would soon find at the Wicker House. Armed with a lantern and clubs in hand the men carefully approached the dwelling now ominously quiet.

The great iron gate was open askew as was the oaken door at the top of the steps leading to the interior of the house. Receiving no response to their shouted inquiries, the patrolmen cautiously entered the foyer and proceeded to search the ground floor. They found the first horror in the kitchen. The maid had been tied with thick hemp rope to a large table, limbs spread and secured to each of the four legs. She was naked, the butcher knife which had been used to slit her throat permanently sheathed in her heart. Glistening blood dripped from the cruel altar, slowly pooling on the floor while tell-tale splatters painted the walls like macabre decoration. The patrolmen shared a glance of mutual, unbelieving dread, tightened their grips upon their clubs and continued to search the premises in complete, terrified silence.

Having determined the cellar empty through a brief yet understandably taut examination, they exited the back door to the yard and discovered the groundsman’s body. A thick wooden stake had been erected in the center of the garden and crossed by a perpendicular beam. The man hung naked, suspended from the crossbeam by spikes harshly driven through his wrists and ankles in a grotesque simulacrum of Christ’s crucifixion. He had been disemboweled, ropey innards pouring out of his belly dripping blood and excrement.

Horrified, the patrolmen reluctantly agreed that a premature conclusion of their search to summon reinforcements would provide a very dangerous murderer a chance at escape. The men reentered the house and agonizingly proceeded up the winding stair to the second floor. Systematically they searched each room, uncovering nothing until only one remained; the bedchamber of the elusive Lady Wicker.

Eyes wide, heart pounding wildly the lead man slowly eased the latch. Raising their clubs the men burst through the door and stopped dumbfounded. The room was completely dark and empty, devoid of trappings or furniture of any kind. By the thin beam of their lantern light the men saw that strange occult symbols had been scrawled on every surface of the room though those on the far wall had been somehow marred. Of the murderous Tomas Wicker or his mysterious wife there was no sign.

A noise from above alerted the men to their quarry’s location. Returning to the hall, they spied a trap door operated by a string which, when pulled, revealed a ladder leading up into the lightless storage space of the attic. The two patrolmen stared at the entrance yawning black and wide as the maw of some infernal creature, beckoning fools to wander to their doom. Unable to decide who would proceed first, the men threw evens. The unlucky loser took the lantern and ascended the ladder.

He stopped halfway through the aperture, lantern held high to better diffuse its light and ready to beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the hallway below. The attic was in a state of disorder, strange souvenirs of Wicker’s trips abroad stacked haphazardly throughout. The constable slowly played his beam about, gradually revealing each disjointed mound of clutter. At last the light fell upon the attic’s far corner revealing the huddled gibbering mass of the man they sought.

Or what had been the man. Indeed whatever reason serves to separate man from beast had, sensing it was no longer a suitable dwelling place, fled the form of Tomas Wicker. The handsome features were gone, replaced by deeply sunken cheeks and a hideous grin. As the patrolman stared terrified, he could see the creature was covered in the blood of his victims left below. Hands about his knees, Wicker slowly rocked, babbling to himself.

Joined by his fellow, the constables steadily advanced. Arms outstretched they readied to seize the thing that had been Tomas Wicker when his mad eyes shifted upon them and the muttering stopped. In a moment of seeming clarity he whispered, “She’s gone,” before emitting a maniacal howl and leaping to his feet. Taken aback, the patrolmen hesitated, affording the lunatic room to bound past them to the window and hurl himself through the glass. His desperate shriek gave way to a sickening thud.

The men rushed to the broken window. Far below by the light of the moon they saw the body of Tomas Wicker jerk spastically, impaled by the wicked spikes atop the iron wall. By the time the patrolmen descended from the attic, the hideous motion had mercifully stopped.

The remainder of the report is, compared to the extraordinary events that had thus far taken place, remarkably mundane. Determining that the murderer was indeed dead the patrolmen called for reinforcements. The house was searched in detail and much speculation was made regarding the fantastic totems and fetishes populating every nook and cranny. All who set foot on the premises were in unanimous agreement that Tomas Wicker was unequivocally mad. Most confounding of all, there was no sign to what fate befell the mysterious Lady Wicker. Taking the lunatic’s final utterance as related by the patrolmen, the investigators deduced that the lady, tired of being regularly abandoned, had fled to parts unknown during Wicker’s latest trip abroad. Upon his return the shock had been enough to push the man into a murderous rage. Since virtually nothing was known of the woman, neither whence she came nor even her proper name, no search was mounted and the case dismissed.

It is from this point that the tale departs from the realm of logical reason to instead delve into the twisted byways of urban legend. About a month after the death of Tomas Wicker was when the disappearances began, the investigation of which ultimately lead to my arrival in Arthur’s Wake.

Parents would put their children to bed at night and find them gone the next morning. Exhaustive searches of the Wake uncovered nothing. Strangers new to the town were accosted, imprisoned and, in one instance, lynched by a frightened mob. Some questionable “evidence” was found on the man’s body after the fact, and the police happily declared the case closed with the suspect too dead to proclaim his innocence. That the pattern of disappearances has continued for more than sixty years would suggest they were mistaken.

I have been unable to identify the first to claim seeing a strange light emitted from the long abandoned window of the Lady Wicker’s bedchamber, nor the one who swore he heard the sound of children playing as he hurriedly passed the accursed house. I do know that the tales have spread and grown to the point they are not so easily dismissed. Shortly, I will ascertain any truth to them that may be.

Slender tendrils of fog quest hungrily between my feet like living things as I approach the ruins of the Wicker House. Pushing through the rusted iron gate, a trick of the moonlight suggests a soft glow emanating from the second story window as if from a candle lit within and, were it not impossible, the visage of a beautiful woman stares down and smiles at me approvingly. My hand tightens on the knob as children’s laughter reaches my ears. I open the door.

Credit To – Shadowswimmer77

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 7.1/10 (114 votes cast)

Solar Influence

August 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 6.7/10 (136 votes cast)

“Don’t look at it,” Kerryn whispers, tugging on my sleeve. “Leela, don’t!” I glance down at her, noting the concern in her baby blue eyes. She’s just a child, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.

“Don’t worry, Kerryn,” I whisper back. “Nothing bad is going to happen. It’s just the sunset.” I pry her fingers loose, closing my hand around hers and pulling her along gently behind me. “It’s beautiful,” I tell her. “I saw one in a picture once, when I was about your age.”

We walk up the grassy hill, leaning against the steep incline. The wind buffets us from all directions, trying to push us back, but I’m determined. I’m leaving tomorrow, and I want to share this with my little sister before I go.

“Leela,” Kerryn begs. “We’re not supposed to look at it! The man on the news said it will make us blind!”

I snort, dismissive. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I say. “Trust me, Kerryn, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. The colours are amazing, all red and orange and gold. It’s magical.” I breathe heavily, struggling up the hill. I’m not as fit as I was the last time I made this trek. It will be worth it, though. One real look at the sun before I’m sent underground to fulfil my duty. One last taste of freedom.

We reach the crest of the hill, and I stop walking. Kerryn stands at my side, staring at the ground and shivering. My gaze is captured by the landscape in front of me, the city spread out below us, sunlight glinting off the windows. Behind each one is a family waiting for the light to die. I shake my head at their ignorance. How could something so beautiful scare them so much?

I lift my eyes and my breath catches in my throat. The sun has just touched the horizon, spreading a blanket of golden light over the dull city, bringing it to life. The clouds capture the colours, painting the sky red, orange, pink… It is breathtakingly beautiful.

“Kerryn,” I whisper, squeezing her hand. “Look.”

She whimpers and steps closer, shaking as she leans against my side. I glance down at her to see her eyes squeezed shut. With a sigh I crouch down in front of her, making sure I’m blocking the sun.

“Kerryn, it’s okay.” I reach up and sweep her blonde hair away from her face. She whimpers. “Come on, open your eyes. I’m right here,” I coax. She shakes her head violently. “Come on, honey, I’m right in front of you, you won’t even see it until you’re ready. Just open your eyes.” Slowly, so slowly, she opens her eyes. She peeks out at me through slitted lids, uncertain. I take both of her hands in mine and give them an encouraging squeeze. “See? Nothing to worry about.” I smile at her encouragingly.

“I’m scared, Leela,” she whimpers.

“There’s nothing to be scared of, honest. I already looked at it, and I’m fine, aren’t I?”

She hesitates, searching my face, then nods.

“Okay, as long as you hold my hand,” she says.

“Of course I will.” I squeeze her hands again, smiling at her reassuringly, then shuffle to the side so she can see the sunset spreading out behind me.

Her eyes go wide, and her jaw goes slack, and for a moment she just stares in wonder. She looks just like she did the first time she saw our puppy, Jock. I can’t help laughing at her.

“It’s so beautiful,” she whispers, her voice breathy. A grin splits my face.

“I knew you would like it,” I say.

“We should go to it,” Kerryn says, smiling serenely. My heart stutters, and I frown at her.

“What? Kerryn, what did you say?”

“Shhh, you’re too loud. It wants us to be quiet.” Her hands go limp in mine, and she takes a step forward.

“Kerryn, stop it,” I hiss. “This isn’t funny.” Images flash through my mind, the warnings thrown at us on the T.V., the posters all through the streets telling us not to look at the sun. But they’re all wrong, aren’t they? I looked at the sun and I’m still perfectly fine.

“It’s so pretty…” She takes another step and my hands go cold.

“Kerryn, stop it. Stop it right now!” I wrap my arms around her and hug her close. What the hell is she playing at?

“It’s okay, Leela. Just let me go.” She takes another step, and I am shocked at her strength. She jerks forward, freeing herself from my grasp. What is going on?

I scamper around in front of her, clasp my hands around her face, trying to block her view of the sun. She stares straight past me, blue eyes glazed and glittering. Her pupils are dilating and contracting at an alarming rate, and her mouth hangs open. Oh my god, what have I done?

She pushes me away and I stumble backwards, watching in horror as she glides straight past me. It looks almost as if she is walking on air. But that is impossible.

“Kerryn!” I yell, reaching out for her. “Kerryn, come back!” Tears well up in my eyes and spill over. In an instant I am sobbing, crawling madly towards my sister who is walking above the ground, ignoring my existence. “Kerryn, please!”

My eyes slip past her, drawn towards the massive glowing orb slipping beneath the horizon as slowly and surely as my sister is slipping away from me.

My body goes slack, and my mind goes blank. What was I so worried about? It is beautiful. The golden light spills forth, coating everything. Its edges pulse, rough and pointed like a child’s drawing. The red and orange and pink fall from the clouds, following the sun in its demise.

I stare into its golden depths, captivated by its beauty. It is glorious. The red in its centre expands, calling to me. The dark sphere at its heart pulses steadily, expanding and contracting and expanding again, growing inexorably larger with each cycle. I can feel my heart beating in time to its rhythm.

My limbs tingle as I get to my feet. I take a step forward.

Why did my mother warn me not to come here? Nothing bad could possibly happen with the sun watching over us.

Its light warms me. I tilt my head to the side, focusing on the glint in the centre of the massive orb. Funny, if I didn’t know better I would think it had teeth.

I am vaguely aware of someone screaming, yelling my name and someone else’s. They are sobbing. Why? What is that tugging on my arm?

I flick my wrist, wishing the pest away.

“Leela!” She screams. My mother’s voice? “Leela, what have you done?!”

The sun opens wide and I am compelled to go to it. The glittering teeth call me forward and I follow. They are so beautiful. Look how they shine! I can’t believe I didn’t come here sooner.

“Come, child,” It whispers. “Come home.”

It is all-encompassing. There is nothing else.

I hear a horrible wet, tearing sound. I feel a vague tingling in my arms, in my legs. My chest grows tight. Should I be concerned?

“Leela! Kerryn!” My mother’s keening fills my ears.

Kerryn?

Oh my God. Kerryn.

I come back to myself, eyes wide with horror. The beast is all around me, drawing me in. Kerryn, where is Kerryn? What have I done? What have I done to my sister?

“Kerryn!” I scream. My body is rigid with fear. There is darkness all around me. It is inside me, too, I can feel it.

My skin burns, as if I am swimming in acid. I can feel my flesh bubble.

“Kerryn!” I am sobbing now, uncontrollably.

“Shhh, child.” Something strokes my face. “It will all be over soon…”

The razors dig into my flesh and I scream. The darkness forces itself down my throat, choking me.

What have I done?

Credit To – Jo

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rate This Pasta
Rating: 6.7/10 (136 votes cast)

This website contains fictional content that may be too scary for younger readers. Please verify that you are either at least 18 years of age or have parental permission before proceeding.