Backyard Zombie

September 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Gruesome University Presents: Backyard Zombie

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Additionally, for the sake of impatient types and/or those who find long credits unnecessary because they read quickly: the opening credits last until about the four minute mark. While I’m not trying to tell you guys to ignore the credits, I just don’t want people to miss out on the actual story because they got bored and closed the window during the prolonged credit sequence.

Credit To – Truby Chiaviello

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Restraint

September 6, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I know, little one. I know. You long to hunt, to kill. You hunger for hot blood and torn flesh. I know how long it’s been. But hush just a little longer, my child.

Yes, baby, I can see that he doesn’t know we’re here. But you still need to be quiet for a bit. It’s all about self-control, sweetling. You have to be able to control yourself. You’ve got to learn some restraint.

I know how delicious he smells, dear. I know.

Shhhh, flower, he hears you. Look. See how he turns from his screen? I know he’s not looking at us, baby. But he’s sensing you all the same. Humans can do that, if you don’t move with care. Mostly they’ll ignore the sensation, or dismiss it as paranoia, but you have to be still.

There, look. He’s settled again. So much easier this way.

No, little one, it wouldn’t be more fun to hunt him down. Remember the last time I let you do that? The girl almost got away. I was cleaning up for hours after that one. No, it’s much better to wait for the dark, wait for their guard to drop, and then …

Don’t fret, sweet pea. Your brothers and sisters were just like you, at the start. You’ll get better. More controlled. You just need more practice. That’s why Mother’s here, to help you learn.

See how his eyelids droop? Not long now.

There we go. He’s shut the box down.

Lights off. Always wait for lights off, baby. It’s much more fun in the dark.

Just listen to him breathe …

Oh, little one, I won’t make you wait anymore. Go on. Have your fun.

We’ll try again with the next one.

 

Credit To – Graille

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The Good People

September 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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One hot summer, an unnaturally hot summer for my province actually, my friend Heather invited a few of her girlfriends out to her family’s cabin a few hours away from the city.

Going to the cabin in the summer is one of the most favored things for people who live on this rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Newfoundland is Canada’s most eastern province, and the most easterly point in all of North America. Heathers family owned a cabin on a little island about 5 hours away from the capital of St. John’s. A ferry ran twice a day across the bay to bring you over and take you back to the small community of less than 150 people. She brought three of us along that summer, her girlfriend Sarah, Jackie, and me.

The island where her cabin is located is small, and the community smaller. There aren’t a whole lot of people around and I was told it would be hard to get lost in the woods because of the size of the place, so it was perfect for the exploring Heather was excited to do. She knew there were tons of old houses out in the woods, but at that point hadn’t been able to go check them out. We were planning on staying there for a week. We left on a Sunday and on the following Saturday Heathers parents were coming to stay at the cabin for another week. We had a lot of time to relax, swim, sunbathe, smoke too much weed and eat way too much food.

On Wednesday we were taking a walk through the “downtown” of the community (downtown is a serious exaggeration, it was just where most of the houses are and where the ferry docks) when a family friend waved us over to his lawn to ask us how things were going. Heather knew him well and they were chatting about family, how the summer was going, if her father had got a moose yet, you know, the basic stuff, when Heather mentioned to him that she was interested in exploring the woods a bit. Her friend furrowed his brow and warned her that even though the island was small, the woods were surprisingly easy to get lost in.
“You watch it now, Heather. You knows these woods are teeming with the good people,” he said, giving the rest of us a little side wink. Heather laughed and patted his shoulder.
“Dad warned me all about them coming out here when I was a kid, I know all about the fairies and I also know not a damn one of us have had any trouble with them, so I think we’ll be ok,” she replied, “but I’ll put a piece of bread in my pocket just in case.”

Now, fairies. They are a weird Newfoundland thing brought over from our English and Irish ancestors. At the time I was in university majoring in folklore so (I thought) I knew all about them. I was beyond excited to hear them mentioned; it’s a dying belief here and isn’t really taken seriously anymore. It’s hard to find anyone who even knows about them these days, let alone anyone who would actually warn us about them, and call them by their old name, “the good people.” I know what you’re thinking… who the hell would be afraid of fairies of all things? But these aren’t the cute tinkerbell fairies with wings and magic dust and cute shit. The ones around here are a different kind of fairy all together. This is something that I would learn the hard way.

After Heather said her goodbyes, Jackie asked her what the piece of bread was all about. “They say a piece of bread in your pocket keeps you safe from them,” she replied with a grin.
Jackie gave me the side eye, “are you serious?” she asked, “safe from what?”
“You’ve really never heard of the fairies before?” I asked her, not being able to stop my smart ass from being superior in my wealth of folklore knowledge. “They lead you off into the woods and shit and make you lost, steal your babies and generally fuck you up. Little gnarly old guys who dance around rocks and think it’s a fun time to kill your animals and create mischief where ever they can. ”
Jackie rolled her eyes at me. “Ok miss paranormal expert, go get your degree in ghosts already,” she gave me a playful shove.

We reached the top of a hill that overlooked the “downtown” area and the beach. Heather pointed in the opposite direction, “and that’s where we’re going after lunch, ladies. Right into the woods!”
“Will our phones work out there? You know your way around out there, right babe?” Sarah asked her, frowning at her iphone, “I only have 1 bar right now.”
“Nah it probably won’t but we’ll be fine, we won’t go so far in we might get lost. I’ll just climb a fuckin tree and look for a house, not like this place is big,” she replied. Heather was the most adventurous and bravest of us all, I could see the excitement buzzing in her. We wouldn’t be able to say no to this idea, all of us knew that. So we put on our hiking gear and off we went.

The first hour or so was uneventful. We weren’t just wandering aimlessly, there ended up being a labyrinth of old trails and ATV tracks we could follow. I loved hiking so I was soaking up the sounds and smells of the woods, when Heather yelled out to us from further up the path. “You guys! Oh man, come here! Come look!”
We rounded the turn and came right up to a house. It was like the trail led right to it. It was old, obviously abandoned, just seemingly sitting right in the middle of the woods with a small, over grown front lawn that was lined with a falling down white picket fence. It was a salt box style house that is extremely common in Newfoundland, at one point in time basically all the houses looked like this one. The paint was peeling, one of the windows on the top floor was boarded up, and the old wooden front door was hanging off its hinges.
“Look at this beauty! Holy fuck we hit the motherload with this one, there’s still stuff inside!” Heather could barely contain her excitement as she peered in through the windows.

We entered through the open front door and began looking around. The house wasn’t big. It had a small sitting room, a dining room and kitchen on the bottom floor. Old, dusty furniture and random knick knacks were still scattered throughout, and wallpaper peeled from the walls. Jackie and I were looking at some faded and worn out pictures on the wall while Sarah was standing awkwardly in the middle of the dining room, biting her lip. I could tell she was feeling uncomfortable.
“Relax babe, no one is here and it’s only 2 o’clock, there’s tons of sunlight left. Look at all this stuff, this is wild!” Heather exclaimed as she inspected a very large old record player against the wall.
“I dunno I just feel… weird in this place,” Sarah replied as her eyes wandered around the room uncomfortably.
“That’s cause its old as fuck and probably about to fall at any moment,” Jackie teased. Heather shot her a disapproving look but I laughed. Sarah was the most anxious of us all, I wasn’t much better but I was feeling surprisingly ok, I was too interested and preoccupied in all the cool old stuff to worry about anything just yet. At once Heather decided she wanted to check out the top floor.
“Well I’m not going up there. Why is it so dark?” Sarah asked as she wrapped her arms around herself and glared up the stairs.
“That must be from the boarded up window,” I guessed, but I was feeling pretty uncomfortable going up there myself. Fuck that, I can admit to being a wimp just fine. Old houses are creepy, and it was really dark up there. I wasn’t interested in seeing any ghosts or falling through the floor. Heather however, was all about it, and the rest of us reluctantly agreed to follow her up.

“I don’t understand why it’s so dark up here, I thought only one window was boarded up,” I said as arrived at the top of the stairs. There was a room to our left but the door was jammed, so we went down the short hallway that led to the front of the house. The boarded up window was at the end of the hallway, but I noticed there was no window at all in a child’s room we had entered. Heather and Jackie were looking excitedly through a box of toys, talking about the weird old shit, while I glanced around the room. It was small, only big enough to have a small toddler sized bed, a toy box, and a bookshelf.
“This is too creepy you guys, I wanna leave,” Sarah said, her brows furrowed.
“Nooo babe c’mon this is so cool!” Heather pleaded, “What are you so afraid of? There’s no one here but us.” Sarah shifted uncomfortably, admitting defeat. Jackie stopped what she was doing and looked around slowly, “Did you guys hear that?”
My heart jumped in my chest. “What?” I asked, “Don’t say shit like that in here please, stop freaking us out.”
“No seriously,” she said and stood up. “I thought for sure I heard someone call my name.” I bit my lip, wondering if I should believe her or assume she was trying to scare us. “I don’t know…”
Then I heard it, very very softly, someone call my name. It was so soft and so far away sounding though, that I wasn’t sure I had heard it at all. I blinked and looked at the others. They were standing still as could be, and I could see fear in Sarahs eyes. “It was my name that time,” she almost whispered.
“But-” I started to reply, when Heather cut me off.
“Nah you guys, you’re just freaking yourselves out. Maybe we should leave before you start convincing yourselves of other shit,” Heather said, obviously annoyed. But I could tell the tone in the room had changed dramatically. We agreed to leave.

When we got outside I felt almost instantly better. “I think the air in there was fucking with us, the place is moldy and smelly, old places will do tha-“ Jackie stopped abruptly, “what the fuck? Where is the trail?”
I looked ahead. The trail we came in from was no longer there. It was just thick trees and bushes. I gaped, my eyes wide. How is that possible? We were just out here and the trail was right in front of us.
Heather laughed nervously. “See you guys are all freaked out now and you know that just makes things worse. The trail is there, just hold on.” She went over to where the trail was supposed to be and tried to push through the bushes. “It’s here, we’re just… it’s just… “ She trailed off as she frantically pushed through tree limbs and thick brush. My heart sank. I was confused. The trail was RIGHT THERE. It brought us right to the house. But as we looked forward from the picket fence, it was like the house was smack dab in the middle of the woods with nothing leading to it at all.
Heather came out of the brush, “There’s… it’s just woods… ok no one panic yet, let’s look over here.”
We followed her around the house and to the backyard. “Look! See, there’s a trail! Ha!” Heather exclaimed as she pointed to a gate at the end of the backyard. Sure enough, there was a trail there. We breathed a sigh of relief. I still didn’t know what the hell happened out front, but I decided I shouldn’t think about it too much. I didn’t want to scare myself more than I already had. Before long, I could feel the tension ease a bit and we were joking and laughing just as we had before.

I took out my iphone, wondering what the time was, but to my dismay it was dead. “Aw fuck, my stupid phone died, what time is it?” I asked, stuffing my useless phone back into my pocket.
Like a cliché horror movie, Jackie and Heathers phones where somehow dead as well. We chalked it up bad reception and wonky battery percentages. But I could Sarah had tensed up.
“I didn’t even bring mine… are you guys serious? All your phones are dead?”
I looked up at the sky, “It’s okay Sarah, the sun is still up fairly high, it can’t be past 3 o’clock so we have lots of time to get back.” They all agreed, but I could tell everyone was feeling uneasy. Being out here with no way to call anyone in an emergency, well we’re the generation that just isn’t used to that kind of digital isolation. Not having a phone was making us all very uncomfortable.

Discussions turned to other things. What we were going to eat for supper that night, how we should have rolled a few joints for the hike, what we would do tomorrow, when Jackie exclaimed “oh look, I think I see a fence up there, another abandoned house maybe?” We hurried up the path to check it out.
Falling down white picket fence, peeling white paint on a saltbox house with a window boarded up on the top floor, a front door falling the hinges. “Oh you have to be fucking kidding me,” I said, confused yet again. It was the same damn house. We had walked in a circle for what must have been an hour.
“But, but… how? We walked in a circle? We couldn’t have, I…” Sarah was stammering but Heather just wrapped an arm around her and kissed her cheek softly.
“This sucks but it happens sometimes,” she said, “these trails are a maze, we must have somehow got turned around.”
“But we walked straight, we didn’t go down any other trails, Heather how-“ Sarah and Heather continued to bicker, but I was too busy staring at the house to pay attention to what they were saying. I squinted and shielded my eyes from the lowering sun. The windows were reflective, but I thought for sure I had seen movement in the upper window. My heart was beating faster than I was comfortable with and I convinced myself it was a trick of my eyes, but I noticed Jackie staring at the same window. I walked over to her.
“What are you looking at?” I asked her, worried what the reply was going to be.
“I’m losing it dude, I thought I saw something in the window up there. Something white, like a kid maybe, I don’t know I don’t see anything anymore, forget it,” Jackie turned around and walked back towards Heather and Sarah. I followed her.
“I don’t like this Heather,” I said, starting to feel really uneasy.
“Don’t sweat it. Look, the trail was here the whole time. We must have just not noticed it when we left the first time. The trail in the backyard leads back to the house, which makes sense, so this time we just go down the trail we came from and we’ll be back to the cabin smoking a big bat in no time,” she smiled at me. She was still pretty calm, still being silly old Heather. I felt better. She was right. The path behind the house would most likely lead back to the property if we weren’t paying attention. The woods were playing tricks on us.

The mood was getting more somber though, Heather tried to pick up our spirits but at that point we wanted nothing more than to just get back to Heathers cabin. Heather and Sarah took the lead, paying far more attention to where we were going this time and making sure we weren’t getting turned around again. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the further we went the more my stomach knotted.
Suddenly, Heather stopped in her tracks and put a finger in the air to signal us to do the same. We stopped. “What?” Sarah asked, frowning.
“I thought I heard someone call my name,” she said, straining to listen. We did the same.
“I don’t hear-“I started to say, but then, I heard it. Someone shout out my name. Not too far off like before, but much closer. My heart leapt into my throat.
“Who is that? Who out here even knows my name?” Jackie said looking around, “Hello!” she called out.
The rest of us looked confused. “But… I heard my name,” Sarah said, “No one called your name Jackie, I heard someone call out Sarah.”
This was not good. I couldn’t hide the fear on my face, and neither could the others. No one said anything; we understood each of us had heard our own name being called. It felt like we stood there for a long time, just waiting. Then I heard it again, like it was someone in the distance but still close by, call my name again. I couldn’t tell what direction it was coming from and it sounded… wrong. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, child or adult. It made my hair stand up and my chest flutter. I saw the color drain from mt friends faces.
“Let’s go,” Heather said, and started to walk briskly down the path again. We tried to catch up to her but Heather was taller and faster than the rest of us, and soon she was out of sight.
“Wait up!” Sarah called out, but a few seconds later we saw that she was stopped on the path again just ahead of us. “It… that can’t be,” she stammered.
I didn’t see it at first. But looking up higher, at the tree line, I could see that damn house again. At this point I didn’t think my heart could beat any faster, but it did. How could this be happening? How did we go in a circle again when we were being so careful this time?
“What the fuck Heather, what the fuck?” Jackie was yelling, “How the hell did we walk in a circle again?”
Heather was shaking her head. I’ve never seen her look scared before. Heather was always the level headed one of all us, boasting about going on random adventures and never losing her cool even when she ran into trouble. I felt at that moment we were fucked. We were dead lost and we would be out here for god only knows how long with no food and not enough water. At that moment the fairies came back into my mind and I believed in that moment that they were very fucking real, and they were screwing with us.

I could see Sarah was on the verge of tears, and Heather wrapped her arm around her again and told her it was ok, and that they would find their way home, and not to worry. Jackie and I just stood awkwardly in the path, not knowing what to say or what to do. We didn’t want to go near the house again. So we just stood there while Heather calmed Sarah down until it was starting to get dark.
“We need to move,” Jackie finally said. I agreed. We weren’t going to get out of here just standing around.
“Okay, this time we follow the sun. It’s setting, we know if we follow it we’ll be going in one direction and we can’t get turned around again,” Heather said. Off we went again. This time, none of us said a word. We were scared, we were hungry, and we were just getting pissed off.

It was getting dangerously close to being dark by the time Sarah spotted the house again. This time she just burst into tears, unable to control herself any longer. I felt the tears stinging my eyes and a hard lump in my throat myself. I wrinkled my nose as I tried to fight it back. Jackie swore and began yelling at Heather.
“What the fuck Heather? How is this possible? You said we wouldn’t get lost, you said it was impossible. You said you would climb a fucking tree if you had, to so climb a tree Heather! Climb a tree and find a way out, you got us into this. Holy shit this is so fucked up.” Heather just took Jackie’s strong words and said nothing while she bit her lip.
“Okay,” she replied when Jackie was done, and started to look for a high and stable tree to find. Almost all the trees in Newfoundland forests are conifers; pine, spruce, and fir trees. Not exactly that easy to climb. But at that point Heather was desperate, and she struggled to climb through the dense branches that cracked easily under her weight. Somehow she managed to get near the top and she looked around.
“There!” she shouted out pointing in the opposite direction of the house, “There’s a light over that way, I can see it!” She slid down excitedly. We started to jog in the direction, fighting our way through thick trees and ignoring the cuts the brush was giving us. I didn’t care anymore. I just needed to get away from that house and out of these woods.

We stumbled into a clearing and I heard Sarah moan loudly. I looked up. We were at the back of the house this time.
“That is fucking impossible, impossible! It was just behind us!” Heather had her hands to her head in disbelief. I just gaped. I couldn’t think straight. My breathing started to become rapid and uneven, my eyes began to cloud over. “How? How? How?” Repeated in my head. How was this happening? At this point we were all crying, none of us able to fight it back any longer. Even Heather had tears streaming down her face as she tried to calm Sarah down who was downright sobbing. We sat down in the grass behind the backyard fence, feeling defeated. It was more or less completely dark now, we had been in the woods for more than 8 hours by this time and I was tired. My stomach was in knots, my chest felt tight and painful. None of us knew what to do.

Suddenly, Sarah gasped and pointed in front of her.
“What is, wha- wha- wha-“ she stammered. My heart flew into my throat. I turned around.
At the edge of the clearing, near the side of the house maybe 20 feet from us, I could barely make out a shape. It was all white, or maybe it was grey, in the shape and size of a small child. It looked like a human and it was completely naked, but it had no characteristics. Its face was blank and between its legs was smooth like a doll. Nothing, it was like a completely blank person. It was standing casually with its arm out leaning against a tree when it turned its head to look at us. I heard the others gasp behind me, and then we ran. We got up and tore ass out of there.
But it felt like we ran for only a few seconds when I bumped into Heather in front of me. She had stopped dead in her tracks, her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide. “What-“ I started to say, until I realized the house was right in front of us again. My mind buzzed, I felt like I was going to fall over.

We weren’t alone this time. Making a circle around the house, were a large group of these blank people. They were… well, I hesitate to say dancing, because it wasn’t really dancing. It was more like twitching and shaking. Their limbs looked like they were filled with liquid as their arms wiggled around their sides. Their legs stomped back and forth as they moved their white blank bodies, heads shaking and their whole body twitching in a way that made my blood run cold. They looked human but these were not human movements. Human limbs don’t bend or move that way, and they can’t jerk around that quickly either. None of us said anything, none of us screamed. We just stood there, transfixed on these creatures completely unable to process what we were seeing. My whole body felt frozen, my legs were jelly and a scream was trying to escape from my throat but it just couldn’t make it out.

Then, the creatures all stopped. They stopped and stood perfectly still, and in complete unison they turned and looked directly at us. That was when we ran. I ran as fast and as hard as I ever have. We ran with tears streaming down our faces until I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and my lungs were on fire. I didn’t know it was possible that I could even run like that. My mind was blank. The only thing I could focus on was Jackie who was directly in front of me, I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t feel anything. I just ran.

It felt like we ran for hours when we reached a clearing and I saw a street light. I burst into sobbing tears, I couldn’t control it any longer. My whole body was shaking and I fell to the ground. Jackie held me, we all cried together sat in the grass on the side of the road with a streetlight glaring down at us. We were out.

After we had composed ourselves, we began slowly making our way back to Heathers cabin. We were exhausted, everything hurt. We walked back without saying a word to each other. As we reached the driveway, we noticed the lights were on in the cabin and there was another car in the driveway. It was Heathers parents. They were casually sitting on the back deck, listening to music and drinking beers. Her mom jumped up as soon as we came into sight.
“Where were you? My lord Heather what mess were you in now?” She gasped, looking at all us cut and bruised with puffy eyes.
“What are you guys doing here?” was all she managed to say in reply.
“You knew we were coming today. Where in the world were you?”
“But… mom it’s only Wednesday.”
“It’s Saturday Heather, were you guys out on a bender in the woods? Are you ok? You’re all a mess!”

None of us said a word. We couldn’t. If we talked about it then that meant it was all real. I don’t know what happened to those 3 lost days we had in those woods. What I do know, is that I was completely wrong about fairies. They are nothing like the old folktales say. They are not little old guys with pointy hats that prance merrily around rocks, or cute little girls with wings. They are so much worse than that.

It has been many years and I still haven’t come to terms with what happened. Writing this has been a struggle. But maybe now, after writing it all down and admitting that it happened, maybe I’ll be able to hike through the woods again. Maybe I’ll stop hearing my name being called out in the distance. Maybe I’ll stop seeing those blank faces staring into my bedroom window at night. Maybe.

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The Black Woods of Beaumont Chase

September 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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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

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Left Behind

September 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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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

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Solar Influence

August 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“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

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