Running, that is how it started, that is how it ended. The one thing I could always rely on, some call it the coward’s way, I call it surviving.
I was running that day, as always, to escape the two thugs that made my life a misery in class. Everyone in school hated the Dane brothers, but for some reason they hated me the most, probably because I was the one that got away so often. Though damn, they knocked the hell out of me when they did catch me.
This was going to be one of those days, I’d been caught off guard and here they came. Tall Brian and his meathead lump of a brother Ray huffing behind him as they bore down on me.
“Got you now stick!” Brian yelled jovially as he bounded behind me.
I hated that name, I was only skinny from all the chasing, I was surprised they weren’t thin too, too many stolen sweets I suppose.
It was January and bitterly cold, my breath rising in great clouds before me, the frosty ground was so hard it hurt my feet as I ran, praying I wouldn’t slip.
I was halfway home running past the old industrial estate at the edge of town when they started to really gain on me. I could hear Brian’s relentless steps getting closer. But I was damned if I was going to let them win this easy. In a quick move I darted off the path, over the decrepit fencing and onto the wild fields lining the estate. I heard them swear in surprise, then follow. I’d done this trick once before when they had gotten too close to my house, I’d doubled back and played a very dangerous game of hide and seek with the bullying freaks for half an hour before they gave up. The last thing I needed was for them to know where I lived, I’d never be safe!
I headed for the old shoe factory I’d used last time but nearly fell over in horror when I got close enough to see. All the windows and doors had been newly boarded up, there was no way inside!
In a panic I ran deeper into the estate, desperate to find any hiding place I could, but all the other buildings had been sealed up too. A new sign on one building proudly announced a new construction company had bought the land for development. Oh God! I’d used up all my energy getting here and now I was exhausted, terrible cramps shooting up and down my legs.
Heaving and near sobbing I was about to give up when I heard a strange sound around a corner, it was almost like, voices! Praying it was people that would help I limped as fast as I could to it. As I got closer, I could tell it was people whispering, but it sounded wrong somehow, too fast for me to make out any words. It reminded me of a group of magpies chattering in the trees. I rounded the corner and froze, there were four people there, but they were floating! Two women and two men in ragged clothes were hovering a foot above the ground as if they were perched on invisible stands. The strange chattering grew louder and as I looked at their faces, then fell to my knees and choked back a scream. They had no faces! Just featureless blurs, their heads snapping side to side so fast couldn’t make them out. But I know they were looking at me, I could feel it. One woman floated higher than the others, her sibilant chattering growing so loud it bounced off the stone wall behind her. I shook with fear, those voices were so cold, hissing viciously.
Now I could understand them, their words seeming to enter my head without touching my ears. It echoed in my mind, making me feel numb from the inside out.
“Come to us, be with us, join with us, fall with us!”
Over and over they chanted, becoming hypnotic… mesmerizing. I couldn’t think straight, my thoughts were drifting away from me. My eyes started drooping, I felt so tired all of a sudden. The strength was running out of my body in near palpable waves and the only thing I could think was I had to rest. I had to sleep. There was no danger, I couldn’t remember why I had been running. This was the perfect place to lay down.
I don’t know how long I was there, slumped in the dead grass hearing those haunting voices, it felt like forever, dimly knowing I would sit here until I froze to death…
Then I heard heavy footfalls and the angry roars of Brian and Ray, breaking the trance I’d been in. My head snapped round to that sound. I’d forgotten about the two freaks chasing me! Heaven help me I was almost grateful to hear them. I heard a long sighing hiss and jerked back, but the four ghosts where gone. I sagged in relief, then lurched forward, my head clearing and reality coming back to me. The last thing I wanted was a beating after the fright of my life!
I skirted around where the ghosts had floated and found a doorway half filled in with crumbling bricks, and nothing else. We’d ended up on the other side of the estate, and there were only empty fields beyond. I didn’t want to linger anywhere near those things had been, but I didn’t have a choice I couldn’t go back, so gritting my teeth I squeezed through the gap and into the gloom.
It was freezing inside; the only light came from jagged holes in the roof letting in the cold sun like spotlights. The place was filthy too, more than any of the other buildings I’d been in. A foul smell lingered in the stale air, like food gone bad. I dove past rows of long tables piled high with dusty boxes into a more open space looking for a place to hide.
A breeze blew through on of the holes above and a strange metallic tinkling began. I looked up and saw dozens of vicious looking hooks and chains hanging from the beams. I realized what that bad smell was, this was an old meat-packing factory.
Crashing bricks and loud curses rang out from behind, damn it! They’d found me! I dashed further into building diving between two great crates beside a strange raised floor like a platform. A filthy mold caked plastic curtain hung in shreds at one side, making it look like a stage, but there was nothing on it except a few pieces of broken rusty chain.
The Danes steps echoed as they searched for me, Ray didn’t like in here anymore than I did and whined to his brother.
“It stinks in here, forget stick. Let’s go.”
Brian replied with a snarl. “I’m not letting that little turd get away again; when I’m done he won’t be able to walk!”
I shrank in dread and tried to make myself small in the shadows. An opaque grey plastic sheet hung limply off one of the crates and in desperation I grabbed it and draped it over me. A slit in the plastic let me see out and keep watch.
Then just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, that strange chattering whispering started again! Oh god, where they following me too? It grew louder, deeper, different from before. These voices were all men, harsher and crueler. This time I had no problem understanding their words.
“We gather now to feel the dark, we gather now to be the dark!”
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to see! If only to know how close they were. I peeked through the slit and tried to focus; a swinging movement caught my eye and saw a long thin rope now hung from a beam above the platform, its end tied in a noose! A tall wooden stool was posed underneath it.
They hadn’t been there when I’d run past!
As I stared four shadowy figures began to form, three before the platform and one beside the stool and rope. These weren’t like the ghosts outside; they were jet black and featureless as paper cut outs. All I could tell was they were men in suits and strange old-fashioned bowler hats.
The one by the noose stood with its hands behind its back swaying slightly, the three below stood in a line like an audience. An eerie hum came from him, and the others picked it up, making the air feel even heavier, like when a storm is coming.
This was ten times worse than the floating figures outside, a horrible cold feeling came over me again, but stronger. The air grew very heavy and all the hairs on my body rose like hackles. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but I knew one thing, this was seriously evil.
I tensed up, creeping to the edge of my hideout, and moved the sheet ready to bolt. I just hoped I could get clear fast enough, I didn’t care about the Danes now, I’d take their punches gladly. Nothing was worth this!
Id almost got the nerve up to do it, when Brian loped around a corner and screeched to a halt as our eyes connected
He barked. In his blind rage he hadn’t seen the four dark figures until it was too late. Their heads snapped around to face him instantly and hissed.
“Spies! Filthy spies!” Their heads now shook rapidly, snapping back and forth in a frenzy.
Brian froze in shock his eyes bulging, as Ray stumbled to a halt next to him, his fat red face going white in an instant.
“Brothers, they have found us once more!” The leading shade boomed.
“Filthy spies, how dare they!” Replied the observing shades, their voices overlapping as they chattered in rage. Then they lunged at the boys, moving so fast their legs dissipated into waves of black smoke.
I shrank back in terror pulling the sheet back over me in a jerk. The brothers were screaming hysterically, their petrified vices echoing in the plant like tortured souls.
I curled up, too scared to move. All I could do was look through the slit as the shades clawed at them, dragging them across the floor and up to their leader.
Brian had gone quiet, sagging in the grip of one shade, his eyes wide and glassy.
Ray was squealing like a stuck pig, struggling vainly in the others grip.
“Silence spy!” Barked the leading shade, his voice growing deeper and more demonic as it ranted. You may have found us again but you will not bring the wretched law upon us this time!” A dark hand gestured to Brian and the shade holding him pulled him to the noose. My stomach lurched as a realized what they were going to do. Ray was sobbing, sagging to his knees and begging to be let go. Brian looked like he was sleepwalking; his face was slack and almost grey. He stumbled and swayed as his shade hauled him up onto the stool.
I didn’t understand, why didn’t he run?
His lips were moving, I realized he was muttering to himself in a dull tone.
“All a dream… this can’t be real… I’ll wake up soon… It’s ok…”
Oh my God, he’d snapped!
He didn’t even blink as the noose was tightened around his neck, he was still droning away. “This can’t be real… not real…”
My heart was pounding so hard I felt dizzy, I forced myself to look away and breathe slower, covering my ears to block the sound I knew was coming.
It didn’t help.
I couldn’t hear Brian’s drones anymore, but a strange rhythmic chanting rose instead.
“We offer this hated life into the darkness to join with the ones who came before.”
It reached a peak even as Ray wailed, then the screech of the stool was followed by a sickening wet snap.
I bit into my hand to stop myself screaming, I couldn’t make a sound, and prayed they wouldn’t hear me.
Ray was shrieking like a banshee.
“Brian! Brian! Please somebody help us!”
I curled up tighter in fear and shame. I’m sorry. I sobbed to myself, stinging tears streaming down my face.
Ray was fighting back, I could hear scuffling and cursing, his screams had changed into painful howls. Then there was a loud heavy thump and Ray wailed again.
I didn’t want to see, even now I don’t know why I looked.
I wish I hadn’t.
Brian’s body had been tosses off the platform onto the stone floor below. His head rolled at a horrible angle and blood seeped out of his gaping mouth. His cloudy eyes were open and staring right at me! I felt sick, the room tilted. Those eyes were so accusing. You chased me! I wailed inside my head. I didn’t make you come here, it’s not my fault!
A crash jolted me back; Ray had kicked over the stool in his fight with these things. I couldn’t help feeling a little hope; maybe if Ray got loose I could run out with him.
Then the lead shade picked up one of the chains and stalked over, then viciously backhanded him across his swollen face with such force a spatter of blood and broken teeth shot from him and landed next to his dead brother.
The thing backed off and I saw blood was pouring down Ray’s front in thick streams; his lips hanging in shreds.
He moaned in pain and terror as the three shades carried him to the rope, the leader righting the stool. The bloodied chain was wrapped around his hands from behind.
I wanted to look away, but now I was so scared I couldn’t move, my body had locked up, my heart pounding in time with my frantic terrified thoughts. No, no, no…
They gathered around him as the thin rope tightened and bit into his thick neck, he was making gargling noises and straining against the chain.
“Let another light be extinguished, let another soul know the only truth!”
The stool was kicked away and Ray fell, flailing like a fish out of water and making horrible gargling squeals as he strangled. Blood spattered around him as his bulk pulled him down, the rope now slicing into his neck, spilling even more blood. For a hellish moment I thought his head would literally tear off! Then his body sagged, and with an awful croak he went still. His tongue sticking out and his eyes bulging from his face.
“So die all interlopers. The leader growled. So die all unbelievers!”
“So be it” The others replied. And broke into ghastly laughter.
It beat down upon me, wave after wave, echoing and growing so loud I thought I would go mad.
I couldn’t bear it! I was Not going to die here! I willed my body to move and took a deep shuddering breath, then crouched and sprang using the crates as leverage, the sheet flying up like a flag as I dove forward.
“Another!” The cry rang out as I flew past.
I didn’t dare look back, my vision narrowed, all that mattered was the way out.
The fear spurred me on, dimly I knew I was going a speed I’d never touched before.
I could see the hole; the light streaming through never looked so beautiful. I lowered my head and half dove through it like a torpedo. Free!
A sudden pain circled my ankle and pulled so fast I fell forward halfway through the hole scraping my stomach and arms on the rough bricks. The pain grew worse; it felt like a steel band, it was so cold it burned.
I clung to the bricks and hauled myself forward. Another jerk and I felt my hands slipping; I twisted and looked back, right into a blank black face. Its hand tightened around my ankle viciously and pulled, the painful icy cold growing stronger, beginning to creep up my leg in waves.
In desperation in kicked out, catching it off guard and slamming my foot into its face, and I felt it give! It wasn’t solid, not flesh and bone. I felt my foot punch through something thin and brittle like ice on a puddle, and into a grotesque spongy feeling mass.
A shrill scream came from the hollow head and the thing let me go clawing at its own head. I grabbed the bricks and heaved doing a forward roll out onto the grass. I curled up in terror, my courage spent with that last dash, but nothing happened. Raising my head I saw there was no one about, and nothing coming out the warehouse.
Wheezing in pain, I scrabbled to my feet and hobbled as fast as I could away from that cursed place giving frantic glances back until I got to the fence, where I collapsed crying and whimpering to myself. The pain faded from my ankle, but the flesh where it had gripped me was bone white, like it had been bleached. Later when I felt strong enough I climbed over the fence like an old man, then limped home. Praying whatever those monsters where, they wouldn’t follow me.
I never told anyone what happened, and no one asked. There was a big search when the brothers didn’t come home and they were eventually they were found and buried, the biggest theory was some tramp or pervert had killed them then took off.
I didn’t argue.
Months later, my curiosity got the better of me, so I snuck to the outer edge of the estate where a new taller metal fence sealed off the whole area. I took my binoculars and peered through the bars at that ugly building. At first there was nothing, and I felt such relief, then a movement caught my eye and I looked again, and went cold. The floating ghosts where back, but now there were six of them! Two shorter figures floated by the adult figures, their heads at odd angles.
I ran, and didn’t stop until I was home, swearing I’d never go back. That band of whiter flesh around my ankle still hasn’t faded completely, and it acts as proof that I didn’t imagine it.
Soon after the people that bought the land had the whole estate demolished, carting away all of the debris and bulldozing the land flat. I can’t describe how relieved I felt hearing that, and prayed all the ghosts there would now be at peace.
They’re going to start building there soon, but I’ll never go there again no matter what.
And I admit, I’m just waiting for the workers to start quitting…
Credit: Raven Star
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