Kerberos

December 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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A few months ago I was watching television in my living room when I heard the first howl. It reverberated through my bones like something from my darkest nightmares, leaving me temporarily immobile with the shock of it. After a few moments I tried my best to regain my composure, reassuring myself with a forced laugh of self-deprecation that it was most likely just a stray dog or coyote. I told myself that it had just startled me with it’s suddenness, nothing more. After all, I reasoned with myself, the mind likes to exaggerate things. The rest of the night passed without further events and I went to sleep having all but forgotten. My dreams, however, were less forgiving. In them I stumbled through darkened woods, heard echoing howls that seemed to come from every direction at once, was haunted by the feeling of piercing eyes following my every movement. When I finally woke a short while before dawn I was covered in sweat. A lingering unease clung to me until daybreak.

The next few weeks were pretty uneventful. Rarely I would, on occasion, hear some strange sounds as if someone was walking in another room or on the porch, but nothing that I wasn’t able to simply shrug off as my imagination. The worst thing that happened was a recurring dream similar to the first I’d had. I would find myself walking down a dark stretch of country road located near my home at night. The dirt road stretched out in front of me, seemingly for an eternity, while the trees on either side formed a dense canopy that only allowed for a few stray shafts of moonlight to illuminate my way. As I walked onward, I would always hear movement to either side, just out of sight. I remember only on rare occasion catching brief glimpses of silhouettes in the dark. But always, always, I could feel eyes on me.

Aside from the occasional dreams, it was about a full month from the first night before I heard the howling again. This time it was not singular, but a series of overlapping howls that gathered to form a melancholy crescendo. It seemed like the howls came from every direction at once and with such piercing clarity that I could have sworn the sources were almost on top of me. I was horrified, there was something that just felt fundamentally wrong about these howls. I covered my ears and closed my eyes, trying to will away the horrendous cacophony. I truly felt like I was going to be driven to pure insanity by the piercing sounds of it all.

As embarrassing as it may be, I was in the fetal position rocking back and forth with my arms over my ears when the howling finally subsided. I was trembling from fear to the point where it must have taken me a full minute to even stand. Trembling, I made quick a lap through my house shutting all of my curtains and ensuring that my doors were locked and dead-bolted, never lingering by any of the windows for long. When I finally reached the sliding glass door leading to my back porch, I heard footsteps. I was just barely able to see the black silhouettes that broke up the faint glow of the moon on my porch. If I’d had the lights on in the room I probably wouldn’t have even noticed until I was only inches away.

Slowly, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone, all the while aware of the distinct sensation of their eyes upon me. I took one quick picture as my hands trembled, then slowly backed away, unable to stop gazing into those eyes which burned like the coals of hell itself. Eventually I inched back enough to duck into my hallway, sliding to the floor as fear took hold and drained the strength from my legs. With my back pressed to the wall, I fumbled for the hall light switch, part of me expecting to hear the telltale sound of breaking glass at any moment.

Nothing, no glass breaking, no footsteps on the porch. Absolute silence filled the air, not even the chirping of crickets reached my ears. Pulling out my cell phone and staring at the screen, not even daring to look at the picture I had taken, my hands shook as I tried to figure out who to call. Who could I call? “Ghostbusters…” I whispered aloud to myself after a moment, trying to force myself to calm down with a bad joke. The cracked mockery of my voice that came out of my mouth only served to solidify my fear. I remember thinking about what I had just seen, could I really call a friend, family member or even the authorities? Even worse, the gate to the driveway was almost half a mile away and I would have to go to my car and drive the distance to let anyone in.

In the end, I crept to the over side of the hall, cautiously entering my room and retrieving my CZ-52 pistol. I sure as hell wasn’t going to look for a fight, but I decided that I wasn’t about to die without one either. I ended up sitting there against the wall until morning, only mustering the strength to lean around the corner and look out the sliding glass door when the room was bright from the sun’s rays. The porch was empty. With gun in hand, I made a few laps around the house, feeling slightly more confident with the comfort of the sun. The area was clear, I didn’t even find any tracks.

Over the next few weeks I was haunted by the same dreams of being stalked as before. I could see the silhouetted figures more clearly in the trees now as if they were getting closer. I could see the redness of their eyes reflecting in the pale light of the moon. They never howled in my dreams, they barely even made a sound as they crept along and shadowed my movements. A call to animal control revealed little except that a few people reported hearing howling as well. They said that it was normal of coyotes and that the light had played tricks on me. Unconvinced, I made a habit of locking and bolting my doors as soon as I got inside and was always indoors by dusk, with my sidearm always at the ready.

I used the internet to try and figure out what could be going on. I poured through information about canidae. Canis lupus, Canis lupus familiaris, Canis latrans, I researched all of them. What I saw did seem like a wolf or coyote, but those eyes, those howls, they were just so unnatural and unnerving that I couldn’t accept this. Then there was the picture, that blurry picture from my cell phone that showed what I could only pray was a trick of the light. It was as if the creatures exuded tiny tendrils made of shadow that writhed in the air around them. I could only hope they were diseased or covered in wet and knotted hair.

A part of me knew there wasn’t such a clear cut and simple explanation to this, however. Despite wanting to remain skeptical, what I had seen and heard lead me to suspect there was something supernatural and malevolent about these things. Searches lead to stories of barghests and Black Shuck, mythical black dogs that are said to roam the English country side as harbingers of death. I hated to even imagine this as a possibility, that my own death was just slowly stalking me until the time was right, that my end was near.

Trying to allay my fears, I posted the picture I had taken on various forums, ranging from ones about wolves and wild dogs to those dedicated to the occult and supernatural. It seemed that every time I told my story I was either met with ridicule or nut-jobs who linked it all to ludicrous things like alien plots. I caught a few leads eventually in news reports. Stories started popping up from nearby towns of people committing suicide or being attacked by wild animals, people who had reported of hearing eerie howls much like I had. The sites were spread apart and seemingly randomized, but I kept up my search for similar incidents. I had to find something that would prove to myself that I wasn’t simply losing my mind. Sadly, all I could do was keep searching and hope to eventually find some sort of meaning to it all.

Finally, four nights ago my dream changed. After walking for so long I could finally see the end of the road. I was horrified. A few hundred feet in front of me the road simply stopped, vanishing into a wall of trees. In shock, I stood there, staring at the throng of old pines, wondering if I should turn back. I had scarcely a moment to think before I saw it. Out of the center of the mass of trees, plodded a large black wolf-like creature. Barely more than a shadow, its eyes pierced the darkness as it eyed me. Behind those eyes was an unmistakable malice. Even more frightening, there was an unmistakable intelligence in them. I was frozen.

After what seemed like an eternity, the beast sprinted at me. As the distance closed I could see its body clearly covered in flowing black tendrils that flowed in the air as if its very essence was reaching out to devour all around it. Instinctively recoiling, I braced myself for the impact as it lunged at me, covering my stomach and neck to try and save myself. At the very moment in which I knew that everything was over, its haunting howl echoed through the night and caused me to wake up with a start.

My heart was pounding in my chest as I woke, my hand was already reflexively gripping the pistol that I now kept under my pillow. Sitting upright, I was trying my best to catch my breath when I heard and saw it. Like a black smoke it poured through one of the darkened corners of my room, almost seeming to suck the light from the area around it. As more and more started to creep in I could clearly see those damned red eyes that were now dripping with blackened blood and a muzzle full of razor sharp teeth starting to form. What happened in the next few seconds will be forever burned into my brain.

I got off only three shots between the time it had formed and lunged on top of me. I remember in the back of my mind I was shocked that it even had physical form as the impact knocked me backwards onto the bed. My gun was knocked out of my hand as it pinned me and pushed its muzzle towards my throat. Its eyes were burning flashes like cigarettes in the dark, leaving bright trails as it maneuvered for a good bite. With one hand I gripped its throat while with all my strength fighting to keep its gnashing teeth from my neck. While struggling,  the putrid stench of a thousand rotting corpses assailed my lungs as it’s breath washed over me.

With my free hand I groped frantically across my nightstand in a state of panic for some kind of improvised weapon. I was keenly aware of the sensation that my entire body was going numb. Those writhing tendrils of darkness seemed to permeate my very flesh, every where they flowed through my body felt like it was submerged in freezing water. I had lost all sense of feeling in my arm that held the creature at bay by the time my hand touched the base of a familiar metal surface. My touch lamp blazed to life.

In an instant the snarling atrocity which lumbered over me seemed to fade from existence. Nearby I heard a loathsome howl that echoed through my ears like a curse, then dissipated into nothingness. It took hours for me to regain feeling in my arm and my body, but I laid there until morning in complete and utter terror.
Had the light driven it back? Was pure luck the only reason I was now alive? I could scarcely believe that it wasn’t all some sort of hallucination. I wish that it had been something as merciful as insanity.

In bed, I remember pondering my situation. Trying to put some sense to this all. Three shell casings laid strewn across the floor and there were no holes in my wall. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. It told me a few things, however. There was no blood, but that beast had been hit and I was able to touch it. The sudden bright light seemed to have driven it back, but I had heard it later, so I doubted that it was fatal. It had appeared out of the darkest corner, so it possibly needed to manifest in darkness. Oh yeah, it also stalked me in my fucking dreams and toyed with me, only to then follow me into my bedroom and try to rip my throat out. I had no clue what the hell it was.

I felt like I would never know what was going on. I started leaving all of my lights on all night and switched all of my bulbs to 100 watt. Saving power isn’t exactly high on my list of priorities any more. I’ve tried staying awake forever. Didn’t turn out so well, but I can’t remember what I dreamed of these past few nights. That’s something I really don’t find myself regretting. I’ve heard it nightly; outside, howling, walking around on my porch. I don’t think anyone can ever become accustomed to that accursed howling, but it doesn’t completely paralyze me with fear any more. It may not have been much progress, but it is something.

Last night I had a bit of a breakthrough, although it doesn’t really help my current situation. I’d long ago assumed there wasn’t any chance of actually getting a serious response in any of the forums I had visited and given bits of my story to, but last night I received an email from an alleged government worker. It seems I’m not the only one with firsthand experiences. He has been dogged (if you forgive the pun) by these same beasts for some time now as well, but unlike myself he was able to dig up some information from classified documents that I would never have been able to get to. At first I was extremely skeptical– until I began to read through the information he had sent me. Too many pieces fit into place for it to be sheer coincidence or him making things up.

Although it is a lot of data to process, I’ll relay the story as it was told to me.

————–
Over the past few decades, dogs have been the focal point of myriad scientific experiments. Soviet scientists, for example, used them extensively in their experiments. From studies of the effects of weightlessness on the body to attempts to preserve living organs outside the body. Some died in orbit as the first animals to ever travel into the blackness of space, countless others died deep in underground labs under the surgeon’s knife in countries around the world.

Not all of them, however, remained dead.

Dr. Peter Safar, the inventor of CPR, introduced a concept to the Army that must have seemed laughable at the time. He suggested that you could keep a body in suspended animation for hours by replacing all the blood in a body with an ice-cold saline solution. It was shelved for nearly two decades. But, again, eventually dogs were put on the chopping block in the name of science. Organs were torn and bones were broken, only to be repaired by the ones who did the damage. The saline was drained after hours of operation, blood was re-inserted into the corpses and their hearts were jump-started. Safar was right, you could keep a patient in stasis for hours until they could be operated on, then resurrected. It was an astounding medical breakthrough, one that would soon be twisted into a blasphemous mockery of it’s original purpose.

Despite many practical applications for saving trauma patients and wounded soldiers, this treatment is still not in widespread use, at least not as originally intended. The government decided to do what it had always done with new technology designed to benefit mankind. The decision was made to weaponize it. Once more, due to repeated successful re-animations, man’s best friend was placed firmly in scientists’ sights once more. Thus began the project henceforth known as the Kerberos Project. Whoever gave it this moniker likely thought it was extremely clever.

If only they had known just how fitting their choice was.

It was surmised that, while in this state of suspended animation, procedures which would almost certainly kill a living creature from shock could be carried out with significantly reduced risk. In this vein, the original plan was to test concepts on the canines, which would then be carried over to select active special forces troops if successful. One of the primary goals was to make physiological ‘enhancements’ that would make the test subjects much more resilient in combat. Wolf-dogs were selected as prime test subjects due to their oft larger and sturdier frames that resulted from cross breeding.

The first test subjects were put under with the aim of implanting subcutaneous body armor in the form of layered titanium plates, which would theoretically be able to deflect bullets. While many were able to survive this procedure, the scientists were completely unable to find an acceptable balance between weight and protection. Results varied from dogs who could not move under their own weight which were slightly resistant to small caliber rounds to dogs which were highly mobile but statistically no more likely to survive small arms fire than a dog without the augmentations. Many subjects were lost to suffocation through their own weight, while the lightly armored dogs were simply put under yet again, their armor removed. Eventually the solution was found in sheets of carbon nanotubes, woven into a lightweight ‘fabric’ that was both flexible and able to resist small arms fire. The resulting armor was a mere 0.6mm thick and capable of flexing freely. An astounding seventy percent ratio of tested dogs survived the procedure and showed an astounding resistance to small caliber handgun and rifle rounds.

Having proven the plausibility of a bulletproof super soldier, they began to focus on potential offensive enhancements to the animals. Again and again, the dogs were put into a suspended state and operated on. No real breakthroughs were to occur, however. Notions such as replacing claws and fangs with much sturdier and sharper materials resulted in the animals shredding themselves into grisly ribbons when they attempted to scratch themselves. It was in this period, however, that abnormalities started to make themselves clear. The wolf-dogs that had been under the knife the most started to show signs of instability. They ran into the walls as if chasing an unseen foe, they snarled and growled at vacant corners. It seemed that prolonged and repeated death and re-animation had resulted, unavoidably, in brain damage. The decision was made to continue the studies and to see just how many times the dogs could withstand the process before they were unable to fully function.

The symptoms became worse and worse, the dogs seemed to stare at things that were not there, their ears began to twitch as if listening to sounds unheard. Speculation arose that the animals had begun to hallucinate as a side-effect of brain damage, but the tests were not interrupted. In time, every single of the surviving dogs displayed erratic behavior to some degree. The ones that had been subject to the most experiments had started to even show signs of a weakening vascular system, their heart rates slowed to an almost death defying pace and their eyes began to fill with red as if all their capillaries had burst. Extreme cases began to develop where blood actually started to slowly pour from the eyes and nose of the animals. These cases were accompanied by an inexplicable darkening of the fur and behavior that, if applied to a human, would be classified as paranoid schizotypal behavior. Both fear and aggression were markedly increased, the dogs alternately slunk from and/or bit at anything around them, be it real or imagined. The order came down from the high brass that these red-eyed beasts were too unpredictable for practical applications or to even continue research on. Research was confined to an observation only basis.

Within a week, the first reports of howling on the base began. Dogs began to disappear from their cages, each time with no trace as to how they had escaped. All of the cages found empty had been magnetically locked and there were no records that indicated loss of power. With each night, reports of strange howling grew as the numbers of subjects inside the lab dwindled. Sightings of black ‘wolf’ silhouettes were reported by the guards, often seen vanishing around a corner to never be located again.

The corpses started turning up on the fifth morning. Twelve dead. In the nearest town people were found dead in their beds, at their computers and on their couches. Some had their throats ripped open, others had their entrails devoured entirely. This was easily attributed to the escaped animals, but the most puzzling thing is that a few of the homes had been locked, without any signs of forced entry. Frightened townspeople recounted hearing an ominous howling throughout the night that seemed to be coming from every direction at once. Some even reported witnessing strange movements in the shadows and claimed to have been stalked by creatures by dark red iridescent eyes.

Within sixteen days all of the remaining animals, totaling over two hundred, had inexplicably vanished from their cages. During this period the omnidirectional nightly howling that pervaded the nearby countryside pushed people to their mental limits. Local police were inundated with calls from panicked individuals who had locked themselves in their homes, afraid to turn out their lights or even sleep until morning. It wasn’t until the end of the third week that the death toll began to wane into nothingness. Reports of the eerie howling started to be confined to the most rural of homes before they stopped entirely. The total of missing and dead was tallied at ninety-seven, with eighteen deaths attributed to suicide. Of the suicides, four were notable for happening in the victim’s beds and for a complete lack of physical trauma or traces of known drugs or medications in their blood streams.

In the end, nondisclosure agreements were signed by staff. The government wiped its hands of responsibility and claimed the incidents in town were due to a massive rabies outbreak. All data was classified as Top Secret and summarily filed away.
————–

This is basically the meat of the information he gave me. As far as I can gather from our correspondence, this happened originally in a remote location in Arizona which was blacked out of the files. Given my location in rural South Carolina and the fact that I have only witnessed a few at most, I could only assume that most of these animals have branched off into small packs and been roaming ever since. Sadly, I can’t do anything but speculate on the details of what really happened based on what I’ve seen.  The conclusions I’ve drawn only serve to horrify me even more, but I can’t think of any better explanations.

These dogs were taken into the realm of death dozens of times, only to be ripped back into our world. What if, each time, they took a part of the realm of death itself back with them?  It’s as if they began to see and feel that which exists on both sides of the veil of death simultaneously and it cracked their minds. They underwent this turbulent transformation into some sort of semi-physical manifestation of the other side, becoming literal avatars of death. Now this transformation is complete and they aren’t broken minded killers any more, but stalking agents of the afterlife that like to toy with their victims before taking them down. At will it seems that they can manifest out of the blackness and travel the void between both worlds, somehow neither truly alive or dead, but something in between.

I don’t know if they can be killed, but the light holds them at bay. Earlier, I gathered all of my courage when I heard my demonic stalker on the porch and confirmed this theory. I slowly opened the back door after I had flooded the room with light. I locked eyes with the beast, but he simply glared with hatred through the glass door. He made no attempt to press forward through the light.  It was a horrific few moments, but I had to be sure that the light could offer protection.  I now feel like a prisoner of my own home, but at least I am alive for as long as I have power.

One fear keeps repeating itself in my mind, though. What happened to the four reported dead in their beds with no explanations why? Did they reach the end of the same road that I did and simply never wake up?

They’re out there. They’re hunting.

The only advice I can offer is to keep your lights on… and try not to dream.
Credit To – Wolfen

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Bedtime IV: Something Wicked this Way Comes

December 26, 2012 at 12:00 AM
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Last night was the most heart-wrenching and frightening of my life, so much so that I can barely bring myself to contemplate it. By now I will have submitted what occurred during my visit to that cursed place I once called home; a visit which heralded the return of my childhood fears. No matter what foul thing befell me then, nothing could have prepared me for last night.

After waking up to the chilling sight of that toy soldier, bitten in half, I found that the window to my bedroom was slightly ajar. On closer inspection it looked entirely as if the window had been prised open from outside. The latches were bent back, out of position as if subjected to an unrestricted, unbound brute force.

From the outside looking in, I could see three indentations where the unwelcome housebreaker had used some kind of tool to leverage the window unnaturally away from its latch. What was peculiar about those markings was that they seemed to cut across the outside of the window frame like an old uneven razor, unlike a crowbar or other implement which would have merely left a dent where it had been used as a wedge, to force the window open.

Nothing had been stolen and I attempted to rationalise the markings on the window as human-made, and not ‘claw-like’ as they appeared to be. The toy soldier, returned to me so violently, I could not explain. My heart sank at the very thought of it.

I knew it was a message, but it seemed to me to be more of a twisted joke, announcing the arrival of my childhood predator, rather than something to be puzzled over or interpreted.

I spent the morning checking each room of my house and its contents; nothing was missing. I could only hope that whatever that fiend had been in the back seat of my car the previous night, that it had only wished to frighten me one last time, and then be on its way.

Perhaps its reach would be weakened so far from my childhood bedroom.

It is all too easy for any sane person to persuade themselves that a traumatic event is something more benign, but in this instance I could not; that broken toy was not a mere joke, but a promise. A promise that it would return, for what I did not wish to know.

My thoughts naturally tumbled inwards and back to those terrifying nights I had as a child. I was now re-introduced to the apprehension of bedtime, the longing for the day, and the anxiety of night. Like an old and relentless enemy, my fear grew throughout the day, festering inside of me leading to strange and ominous thoughts about the consequences of unwittingly bringing that thing home.

Do not misunderstand me, my fear was not simply for my own safety. As a child I believed that my nightly visitor was transfixed and consumed by wanting me, but I did not feel that my loved ones were in any danger. This, however, had changed. I did worry. This time I did feel nothing but fear for my loved ones, because you see, I do not live alone.

My girlfriend and I moved in together over two years ago. I have caused enough damage now, that I do not wish to speak her name and will simply refer to her as ‘Mary’. Mary and I had had a happy existence and in fact, we were very much in love. This coming Christmas morning I was going to propose to her, but that beautiful moment has now been bitterly taken away from me by that rancid abomination.

I knew that Mary would be home that evening. She works in events and promotion and as a result is often away from home for days at a time, travelling around the country coordinating various conferences and exhibitions. I do not complain about this, as she and I both know that I am a solitary character, and that the odd few days of solitude normally do me good, allowing me to dive headlong into my writing, absorbing each and every word, undisturbed.

Despite this, I always miss her, and with the events of the past week, reliving those torturous nights and then allowing them to return, I had missed her far more acutely than I had ever previously done so.

She arrived at around 6pm and I greeted her with a smile, a warm embrace, and a passionate kiss. I tried to hide my perturbed state of mind from her, but Mary knows me better than anyone I have ever met and immediately enquired:

“What’s wrong?”

I tripped and fumbled through my words as I explained to her that I had written a story about my childhood and that exploring those dark and twisted memories had left me distraught. Mary has an incredibly caring nature and she immediately lay her suitcase and bags on the floor, sat me down on our couch, and with her soft and gentle way, asked me to talk about the whole ordeal.

But I couldn’t!

I couldn’t mention this thing, this wretch which had now found its way to our home; an invisible and twisted invader which had been led there by my idiotic curiosity! At the time I felt that she would think me mad, but now how I wish I had told her the truth!

If there is one thing more damaging to a relationship than a lie, it is a half-truth. Not because it is deceitful, but because it is a corruption of the truth; perverted and abused to suit the teller’s needs.

I told her my half-truth.

I told her about my story, that of the thing in the narrow room and the watcher at the end of my bed, but that is where the truth ended and a lie began. I deliberately and deceitfully mentioned that it was of course just my imagination as a child, and neglected to talk of my experiences of returning to the scene of those depraved crimes. Knowing that she would see the damaged window latch and claw marks, I spun my web as I told a grand tale about waking up to a burglar attempting to break into our house, and having to chase them away.

I was quite the hero. I lied to her, and she showed me great sympathy and kindness for my deception.

I was embarrassed by the truth then, and I am ashamed of my lie now. If I had been truthful, then perhaps we could have faced this menace together, but instead that thing took advantage of my dishonesty and put a wedge between us.

The events of last night desecrated the most important thing in the world to me.

Night time arrived in all of its bleakness, and was unwelcome. I lay in the darkness, waiting. Mary was sound asleep next to me, each breath a soothing reminder of companionship, but despite my growing aversion to loneliness, I would have no sleep that night. I knew from experience that when my uninvited guest would show itself, it would do so with subtlety, increasing its grip on me with each visitation as if requiring time to build up its strength; a leech feeding on my fear for succour.

My nerves kept me on edge, which fought back the oncoming onslaught of sleep admirably. In the end though, biology won and as my bedside clock lumbered towards 4am, sleep took me; the relaxing blanket of nightly oblivion, anxiety washed away, my worries a distant memory, sinking deeper into the soft mattress below and finally into a long sought for rest.

Sleep, no matter how deep, is rarely all encompassing. For as I hovered over the cusp of a dream, something began to bother me. Something invasive, yet distant. I slowly opened my eyes and allowed them to adjust to the darkness. Mary lay soundly asleep and I calmed myself by listening to her breathing in the night. Inhale was followed by exhale, again, and again, rhythmically, hypnotically, I began to drift towards sleep once more.

But, no. There it was, something else, distinct yet undefinable.

It was distant, out of the way, almost obscured or smothered as if coming from…behind something. I strained my ears in an attempt to define it, but it was all too quiet. I remained in the bed for several more minutes, but with each passing second that almost inaudible sound grated on me, like broken glass on a raw nerve.

Sleep was now abandoned, and with much frustration I decided to reluctantly investigate the source of the noise. I sat up in the bed and listened intently. It was unlike any other sound I had ever heard. Quiet, low, but as my mind adjusted to the noise I slowly began to piece its nature together. It was most certainly obscured by something, but the closest thing I could relate it to…was a repetitive murmur.

I heard something similar previously when I was a child visiting my Grandmother in a nursing home. A place which had left an impression on me, seeing the wandering residents confused and of a fractured mind, meandering around the grounds like lost inmates murmuring repetitively to themselves of days gone past, repeating nonsensical phrases and words.

This is what it reminded me of; a continuous stream of indecipherable words, uttered by someone in the throws of confusion.

I turned to check on Mary, watching her chest rise and fall with each breath. Assured that she was undisturbed, I left the bed. As I stood up I recognised immediately that the murmuring was louder. While dark, I had left a light on in the hall as I always do which crept under the door and allowed me to view the room in a dim, but visible way.

I looked around to see if anything was out of place, but the room appeared as expected. My mind ambled back to that night as a child in the second room, when noises could be heard from some unseen, yet ever-present menace.

I took a step forward and as I did so the noise once again grew in volume. While I was still at a loss in deciphering the words, I could now hear the character of the voice. It was old, scratched by age with a harsh, guttural undertone to it. The words were being repeated at a frantic pace and seemed anxious, yet muffled by some unknown barrier.

I was frightened, but I drew strength from Mary being in the room, and with a deep breath filled with trepidation, I took another slow, and silent step forward, my bare feet cushioned by the cold floor below.

Again, the voice became louder. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, but I could have sworn that it had become more agitated as I drew closer. The next step I took, shook me to my very core, for as that murmuring, garbled voice grew louder still; amongst the rambling, gravelled sound of it, I heard a word. A word which shot an icy shudder through my bones. A word to be feared.

It spoke my name.

Dear God it knew my name! To me it was as if knowing who I was somehow endowed that thing with an unlimited reach. That I may never be rid of it. That it could kill me at any moment.

Something suddenly caught my eye, a movement accompanied by a ruffle of cloth. I knew now where that rhythmic, agitated voice originated. I knew now why it was muffled and difficult to decipher. I could now see it, only a few feet in front of me.

Standing.

Standing behind the closed curtains.

The moon was in its ascendancy outside, and while its glimmer could not entirely penetrate the thick cloth, it could barely, and faintly, outline the thing watching between my window and the curtains. I cannot now convey the strangeness which then overcame me. My anxiety and terror had heightened, but an unusual compulsion, an untimely sense of purpose took me over.

I had to see what it was.

I took another tentative step towards the curtains. They swayed slightly as if caught by a breeze, but I could not tell whether the movement had been caused by myself, or the hand of that thing hiding behind a shroud of cloth. I was now close enough to hear its laboured breathing, the displacement of fluid at the back of its throat palpable with each inhalation.

This was it.

I was going to confront this monstrosity from my past, this tormentor of children, this coward. Raising my right hand slowly, I accidentally touched the fabric of the curtain, causing a subtle ripple which parted the them momentarily. I gasped, for through that temporary slit, only for a moment, I saw it.

My God, how can I describe what was standing there? Even now, I close my eyes and wish that I could erase it from my memory. It shivered and shook as it continued to murmur, repeating some indecipherable phrase, sounding like a bizarre mixture of numerous languages. Its emaciated skin stretched over an unnatural frame of brittle and prominent bones; vertebrae, ribs, and other inner workings almost protruding through its paper thin, pale, languidly pink, and almost bruised looking husk. As malnourished as it appeared, the stomach was distended in places and its bony appearance did nothing to diminish the feeling that it was capable of exerting itself with brute, perverted force on any of its victims.

Sickness swelled in my stomach, a tainted, offensive smell filled the air, and as it murmured and whispered in the darkness through what sounded like broken, fractured teeth, I could not help but feel pity for this wretch, quivering in the night as if victim of a long starvation.

I quickly came to my senses and realised that this thing was not to be pitied, but feared. Not to be understood, but exposed. It was not shivering because it was cold, it was shaking with excitement, like a drug addict anticipating their next dose.

Standing there contemplating what I had just seen between the curtains, I once again prepared myself to remove its shrouded, clothed protection and to reveal it for what it was; a cold hearted vandal, a prowler of the worst kind, a deviant festering in its own delectation.

As I once again raised my hand to draw the curtain, something caught my attention. Its incessantly confused, gravelly, and inarticulate whispers squeezed through that broken mouth and uttered the three most terrifying words I have ever heard.

“Look behind you”.

A cold breath slid down the back of my neck.

Momentarily I froze, but love is a powerful motivator. Had I been on my own, fear would have taken me, shaking any possibility of resistance from my mind, but with Mary sleeping soundly in the same room as that thing; shielding someone I loved from that wretch was my only thought.

I turned around slowly and as I did so, I could hear it wheezing, gasping, groaning for air. At a quarter turn, I could smell its breath, the stench of death hung in the air, plague-like and foul. Then, I heard another voice. It was not that horror in the darkness, but Mary. She let out a scream which startled and distressed me to my very core. A scream which will haunt me for the rest of my days.

I turned quickly and laid eyes on it, but it wasn’t behind me, it was on the bed! It writhed and rasped, wheezing in delight, its bony spine curved with the anguish of countless years protruding through a ragged, torn piece of cloth which hung loosely over its torso, in a vain attempt to appear almost human.

But was it human? Had it once been human? Or was it something so vile, so despicable, so utterly and sorrowfully contemptible that no man or woman could ever attempt to quantify or understand it?

I sprung forward towards it, grabbing, hitting, pulling at that thing with every ounce of my strength, its loose skin slipping through my hands. It squeezed and forced Mary’s face into her pillow with glee, as its other limbs arched and contorted, tearing at her nightdress, running its long, starved fingers over her naked body with its sordid caress.

Mary’s screams were muffled by the pillow as I began to fear that she was being suffocated.

I shouted, I yelled, I pleaded with that thing to leave her alone, to take me, to do anything it wanted, but that only served to animate the fiend to even greater depths of depravity. It was hurting her, cutting her… my beautiful Mary.

Suddenly it stopped attacking her, but it still kept one of its brittle, gangly, and gaunt yet weighted hands on the back of Mary’s head, pushing her face further into her pillow. I had my hands around its putrid neck, trying as best I could to strangle the beast, but my efforts were in vain. Its scrawny frame belied its overpowering strength. I watched in sickly disbelief as it began to run its cadaverous fingers through Mary’s hair, slowly, and almost with affection.

I could now here the twisting and cracking of bone, the popping of cartilage, the snapping of tendons.

Thank God it was not coming from Mary! I was now on its back with my arm wrapped around its throat, and my chin rubbing against the abrasive skin of its shoulder. As its spine dug sharply into my stomach, it twisted its head in an entirely inhuman way. Its neck clicked and groaned under the strain with every arthritic movement, as if hindered by a thousand years of rigamortis.

It was now looking at me.

I have heard it often said of some people that they cannot see the forest for the trees, but now I truly appreciate that sentiment, so close was I to its black, icy stare that I could not take in its surrounding features.

I increased my grip, I swore, I screamed, I would have torn its throat out if I could have, but it was all in vain as it continued to run its scrawny fingers through Mary’s hair nonchalantly while looking at me.

I don’t think I will ever truly recover from the sound which seeped out through what I assumed to be its approximation of a grin; a wheezing sigh; a grunt; something which sounded very close to a sinister, otherworldly laugh.

As its face touched mine, its eyes stared deep into me. Not even my reflection was returned; two looking glasses into a sanctuary for the dark, devoid of light, happiness, and love. It was staring as if it wished to say something, as if it was trying to communicate a simple idea to me.

Malice.

With a wrenching, stuttered and violent movement, it tore an entire fistful of hair from Mary’s head leaving behind it an open wound. Then it was gone. Mary did not scream, she merely whimpered. I turned the bedside lamp on, but no words of care or sympathy could console her.

She wept uncontrollably.

The bed was soaked in blood which had seeped out from the numerous scratches on her back and the large cut where an entire section of her hair had once been. I hugged her, told her that everything would be all right; then she looked at me.

Looking at her tear filled eyes I knew what she thought immediately. She thought I had attacked her, that I had done those terrible things to her. Of all the experiences I have had, the look of betrayal, disgust, and contempt on Mary’s face will remain the most painful.

She is gone.

After composing herself, she gathered up some things and left. I tried to explain, I tried to tell her everything that had been happening, but she would not listen. Who would believe such a preposterous story? She simply said that she would not call the police, but that if I ever attempted to contact her, she would do just that. To her, I was the aggressor, not that thing. As she left, she turned to look at me one last time and then burst in to tears.

I know now that I have lost her forever. The woman I love more than anything on this earth thinks I am a violently hideous human being. If only she could understand that whatever did this, that it was not human, and if it ever was, it had long since abandoned that nature.

It was 5am when Mary left me; it’s 9am now. I am sitting here in the cold light of day at my kitchen table, writing this so that there is some record of what has transpired, so that people know, so that Mary knows, that whatever happens, that whatever occurs from here on in, that it was that despicable creature from my childhood, from that cursed narrow room all those years ago which rained this misery down upon me; upon us.

I must now dispense with the sentiment. I could easily sit here mourning the loss of my relationship with Mary, or I could allow myself to be overcome with fear; to do nothing. But that simply will not do.

I can hear the laughter of my neighbour’s children outside. At different stages in my life, I remember that same feeling of joy and happiness from something as simple as playing with friends, or climbing a tree, or kissing the woman you love, or even drifting off to sleep at bedtime to dream of what could be, in the safety of a happy family home. Memories, only memories…I fear I will never experience that happiness again. This thing has broken me. But I am resolute. Whatever that hideous wretch has in store, whatever it desires to do with me, I will not allow that thing to harm another person, or to invade another child’s life as it did mine all those years ago.

I must leave you all now as there is much to be done before it gets dark, before it returns. My plans are made and with any luck they will succeed. I wish I could say we will speak again, but I think that is unlikely. I hope you understand what must be done.

Because tonight, I’m going to kill it.

Credit To – Michael Whitehouse
Note: This story is part of a series. You can read the first installment here – Bedtime
Look forward to more installments being posted over the next few days!

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