Hush

Thiago had been hanging around the wrong kind of people for a while now, but these were another kind of wrong all together. A darker kind of wrong. There was something about the way they did things, the way they spoke, that belied something far more sinister and dangerous than drug dealing and gang banging.

Then there were the hints at darker dealings with the odd gypsy types. They weren’t really gypsies, not like they were shown on the television or the movies, but there was something that reminded Thiago of them. Romani, he’d hear one of the older members of the Clavos say. Romani of the outer circles, was what they had said. Whatever they were, whomever they were, they scared the shit out of him.

He had always been a tough kid, or rather, had been considered one. He wasn’t sure about being tough. He was scared most of the time. Scared of his parents, of his dad, mostly. Always beating up his mom and his brothers, and him now and then if he managed to get a hold on him. The kids at school. He really didn’t want to go back to either place, but he braved it every time. At home, he would stand up to his dad, punch back before getting knocked out. At school, it was easier. If he could stand up to a grown-up, he could take on any of the other shits like him. So, he did.

He wasn’t sure about being tough, but he understood fear and fighting against it. He understood that he was brave. But the fear the older members of the Clavos and the Romani they dealt with, well, they scared him to the bone.

And yet, here he was, in the caravan of one of these Romani. He had been brought in by one of the younger ones, a teenage girl that must have been about 16 but he wasn’t really sure. Thiago wasn’t very good at judging anyone’s age. They had taken him in and told him they had work for him, if he was interested, so here he was.

The man who was in the caravan, he looked strange. There was something about him that wasn’t entirely right. He had seen a documentary once about 3D animation and how hard it was to simulate human-like features and movement, facial expressions, and how there was this thing called the Uncanny Valley, the feeling of something alien, of strangeness when someone saw something so close to human yet just a few inches away from being the real thing… That was what Thiago thought of when he saw the fat, wrinkly man behind the big wooden desk in the caravan. There were lamps, the old kind, that used oil and rope. It was so weird.

Kid, you wanna earn money? The sales pitch wasn’t much, Thiago knew, but it was a given that he needed money, so it was a mere formality. You could get yourself a little something by doing us a favor, eh? The fact that the man was almost cartoonish didn’t help the feeling of otherworldliness Thiago was being creeped out by.

Sure. He had said it with a slight tremor, trying to effect nonchalance that was nowhere in the general vicinity relative to him. Not even in the same country.

Two hours later he was in a little storage garage, one of those places you rent to put shit in and never see again because humans are pack rats and hoarders, like his grandma. He was there with a little scrap of paper with some weird words in some language he didn’t understand. He was supposed to say that while trying to imagine some very specific images. They had made him practice for a long while.

He began once he had managed to calm his nervousness at being in a darkened storage room, alone with nothing but a candle, despite all he had experienced so far in his young yet fucked up life.

Nothing.

He tried again, saying the words, thinking the thoughts…

Nothing.

He did it again. Again. Again. Again.

Nothing.

How many times had he tried? Wouldn’t his mother worry? No, not really. Who was he kidding? His mother had enough to worry about with dodging his father’s drunken punches and romantic advances. Little Thiago may as well be a drop of water in the ocean. Lost as soon as you couldn’t see him.

He dropped down on his ass, sitting dejected, the scrap of paper cast aside. He was in absolute darkness but for the candle which would only last that much longer…

Minutes passed and he couldn’t help but repeat the words from the paper. He knew them by heart, now. He had been lost in the repetition thereof when he noticed something had changed in the atmosphere of the storage room. He was not alone.

SSSSSSSSssssssSSSSSSS

He heard a faint sibilance, the intimation of presence and menace.

sssssSSSSSSSSsssssSSSSSSS

Oh shit, he thought. There was something there with him.

sssWe hearssssssssWe comessssssssssssssssWhat does it offersssssssfor our presenssssssssssssssssssssssss

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No Fury Like

“If light be the brightest light, wherefore doth it shadows cast?

  • Theater of Tragedy’s Velvet Darkness They Fear

It was a sandy hell, this stretch of desert that seemed to, well, stretch forever. She walked in the cold of the night though she did not feel it. Not that cold, in any case.

She had been dead a long time, or rather undead. It had been centuries since… Since her once-master had slid into her chambers, uninvited, stealthy as a shadow, and given her the dark gift whether she would have wanted it or not.

There was much to be said about the impetuous audacity of the creature that had basically raped her into unlife, the modern romantic novel bedamned. All of it was rubbish. The notion of a male forcibly subduing a woman, objectified to such a degree, spoke so unkindly of her own kind – well, was she still female despite her state of undeath? – that Mina would have vomited had it been possible to do so for her.

Sand hell. Ha! It was, though, was it not? All of Earth was hell. She knew this, now, better than anyone else alive or unalive, she would wager. It was hell, and somehow, she was only capable of feeling the kind of anger that she could only describe as… petulant! She, hundreds of years old, petulant. And yet, that was what she felt. Petulant anger, like some irrational child.

She trudged on, treading sand that shifted under her porcelain white feet. She may as well be porcelain for all that she had been able to feel physically in the past hundred years. Sensation was a thing so far away in some stratospheric layer of the map of her senses – what an unapt word! Sensation. Senses.

There it was, the grand ruse, the great and secret trick, the prestige. God was dead. Not in a metaphorical or allegorical sense. No. God. Was. Dead. The Earth – the Earth! – was Her tomb, Her grave. And God had been female! Of course! It had to be so!

For decades her once-master and she had searched, nay, scoured the planet for hints, for any puzzle or indication that would lead to finding God. It was, after all, some strange divine punishment, her once-master’s condition and, by proxy, hers. This was too much, she thought. Too rich by a mile!

She couldn’t help but laugh heartily, a laughter that peeled like bell, from deep in her chest. She did so as she recalled her once-master’s face, the expression on it, of disbelief, of sexist pride crumbling away in offended shock. And all this time he had thought himself cursed by some male deity, when all he really was, was the product of strange chemical processes as yet not comprehended by science. How had she fooled herself into following him for so long?

In any case, she had taken only a few minutes to digest it all, while her useless once-master wallowed in his ridiculous wounded pride. How typically male.

Said wallowing allowed her to investigate further into the ruins of what had, at some point, housed divine flesh – divine flesh, if you can imagine that! How must such flesh look? How must it feel? She perused the stone tablets and the carved walls of the tomb of a being that had ostensibly birthed the universe, yet was somehow not as large as one would imagine, given the dimensions of the cosmos. It made sense, however. The big bang. And to borrow a rather vulgar colloquial term, had she actually, well, banged. There was no indication of it, or an absentee father – again, how typically male – that would have provided the little tiny spermatozoa for the majestic ova. No, the universe had been somehow born a diminutive super-condensed, super heavy, ultra-massive ball of matter and energy. Once out of the divine womb, it had expanded, and it was thought that it continues to do so.

What had set Mina off, what had made her finally throw off the shackles of her own tacit slavery, was that apparently Men had killed God. Yes, Men. Not mankind, though women did nothing and were therefore, in part, responsible by allowing it. Meeeeeeeen.

It took Mina all of two minutes to go down a path of reasoning so lethal her once-master had found himself impaled on a stone obelisk by the time she had reached its logical end. Fitting, Mina had thought afterward, while admiring his limp body transfixed by ancient stone. A phallus serving as the death of one that epitomized the worst in Man.

Mina’s conclusion: Men had killed their mother, God, and had made one huge mess of things. Well, she didn’t know how to fix it, or even if she could. It did put the universe under a light that made more sense, Her being dead. All the chaos, all the disarray, all the needless destruction… No woman would allow that. Right.

Well, she thought, now that I’m the oldest of the undead, I’ll make sure things go differently. The universe was turning to shit, but she would make it smell less shitty in the interim, that was for certain.

Green Monkey

The house was dark, and the sprawl of the property had provided ample opportunity for cover as Liam had made his way to the Wincherster’s two-story house, a red brick monstrosity that was just shy of being a mansion. He had waited a meter or two away from the front door, just off to the side, sticking so close to the large potted bush that, in the paltry light of the lamp above said front door, the shadowy perimeter was as a blanket of murk in which he could never be observed. When a middle-aged man, about 2 meters tall and muscular, had stepped out of the grey Oldsmobile that had driven up the concrete half-moon driveway, Liam knew that was the node of causality he required to make his way inside the house.

The tall man walked with a confident stride toward the front door and stepped under the glare of the lamplight. His strong features were illuminated and revealed a good looking man in his late forties. Liam observed with great care, his breath even and almost undetectable, concentrating intensely in the moment and allowing time to dilate.

When the tall man opened the front door with a set of silver keys on a Calvin and Hobbes keychain, Liam cast his hearing wider in an attempt to detect any new movement beyond the threshold now that the wooden barrier was effectively dislodged. Not a shuffle, not a whisper. Nothing.

Liam moved gracefully in a way that most onlookers would find it nearly impossible to consciously notice that there was an actual human being occupying that particular location in space, even if Liam hadn’t been moving in what could only be described as hyper-time, a state of atomic vibration willfully achieved through a superhuman degree of self-awareness and proprioception that allows him to move faster than time as humans normally experience it. As such, he was able to nimbly move right behind the tall man and shadow him without him ever being the wiser.

He understood that it was important to be patient, a lesson he had earned – not just learned – as a child under Green Monkey’s tutelage in the Outlands. Patience is the boon of the hunter and the bane of all prey. That was why, given the ample chance to sneak on ahead in hyper-time, Liam simply stuck to the tall man’s heels, letting him lead the way. Had Liam done otherwise, not only would he risk chancing upon an unforeseen variable, but he would also reveal himself to the tall man’s subconscious mind which would then begin a deceptively fast process of information distribution and cataloguing that would eventually result in an involuntary state of heightened alertness and defensive mental sub-routines. That would have proven most inconvenient for Liam in his current endeavor.

**********************************************************************

He was 9, running along the stream, the water churned and made a susurration amplified a thousand fold in Liam’s ears. His heart beat as adrenaline and sheer boyish excitement bubbled over inside of him. He was doing it!

Green Monkey had said it was too early, too soon for Liam to try the Catch Trick. Liam didn’t agree; he felt the power in him, the endless possibility blooming like a budding flower, just starting to open its petals which would reveal the whole of the universal matrix for him to navigate.

Now, as he ran, he reaffirmed that notion, that knowledge: he was ready.
He could see the silver spike he was tailing as it swam at astonishing speed just beneath the water’s surface. Its velocity was boosted by the fact that it swam downstream. Liam felt the rush increase within him and he used that boost to ramp up his own pace, to accelerate to a speed he had never before achieved.

The terrain ahead of Liam became craggy and uneven, strewn with rocks and detritus that could prove treacherous, so he made a decision then to take the dive and he plunged into the waters of the stream. He had made a near-perfect judgment and his aim proved nigh-true; he needed only to adjust his body’s orientation a few degrees upon breaking surface tension and the coveted silver spike was in his hands.

Liam felt its scaly, serpentine body twist and squirm under his grip. It was thicker than it had appeared from outside the water, and it was certainly stronger than he had expected. He mustered all his cunning and focused on flowing with the squirming creature’s violent movement rather than trying to force it to remain still. It would tire itself out, eventually, but Liam had another thing to consider: the stream would soon carry them into the great river, where the waters were far more dangerous. He needed to find purchase somewhere in the stream to be able to get out of it.

**********************************************************************

The entire family was home and Liam felt a sense of elation, what little of it he allowed himself to feel in his deep state of concentration. His senses honed and focused on a singular purpose, that of the catch. The tall man would be the first, of course. He posed the biggest perceivable threat and would therefore be dealt with accordingly. The other members of the family would follow suit in similar fashion.

Nine. Nine members in total. The sacred number. The number of death. Liam had scouted the house meticulously in the space of what a person in normal time would measure as two minutes. He had done his due diligence and stretched out the lines of predetermination that were revealed in the time matrix and planned his methodical catch accordingly.

 

First things first, of course: the tall man.

In order to do this particular type of catch-trick, certain reactions needed to be elicited from the prey. Liam used his breath and blew into the tall man’s left ear, causing him to flinch and take his left hand up to cup it. The tall man turned in what seemed to Liam a veritable eternity, an arc of movement almost balletic; a quaint arabesque of startlement.

The man had been standing in front of the kitchen faucet, about to wash a strange object that looked like a black egg attached to a flat base. It reminded Liam of images of bombs he had seen in old movies about the wars of the world outside the Outlands.

Liam turned the water faucet on to maximum pressure. The tall man jumped in that slow floating-through-outer-space graceful motion afforded by Liam’s hyper-time as the little person he had expected/predicted walked into the kitchen. This was the ninth, the catch.

**********************************************************************

Alana walked into the kitchen to see her father jump at the sound of the water faucet being turned on seemingly by itself. She looked on, as wide-eyed as her father, as he turned around to face the kitchen sink.

Could it be? She thought to herself, a glimmer of something, a spark kindling something that resembled hope.

**********************************************************************

Liam couldn’t help but allow a sliver of pride to bloom within him. She was watching him. Well… Not him, really, but the direct effects of his actions. He could see a sense of wonder being born within her eyes and it somehow spurred him on.

He moved from one the kitchen drawer to another, opening them with such speed that to those in normal time it would seem as though they had all opened in unison. He took silverware and threw it up in the air. He took porcelain dishes and threw them down on the floor. All the objects he could upend and forcibly remove from their passive state Liam threw into a dance of slow motion that laughed and mocked in the face of gravity and a slew of other physical laws.

He was high on the deed, on the catch-trick. He realized this in a moment of self-awareness and managed to recover some of his previous composure. It was time to let the tall man see himself brought low, debased, humiliated…

**********************************************************************

Alana could only stand there, agog, witnessing the spectacle of mind-blowing phenomena. Mere seconds after her father had turned to face the sink, all of the drawers and cabinet doors in the kitchen had opened at once, and the silverware and dishes and so many other objects flew up in the air and crash with the loudest of noises on the ground.

Her father let out a scream that seemed to come out of the deepest reaches of his bowels, a pit in his stomach that could not be plumbed even by the longest reaching probes.

She saw her father fall to his knees as he appeared to focus on something on the ceiling, right above where the pan and pot rack was. He mumbled and sobbed “No” over and over as he nodded in denial at what she did not know, and then his eyes – tearful – glazed over and he fell forward to the flower with a dry thud. At this, she couldn’t help but be startled, but she was not afraid. No, she knew now that she would never be afraid again.

**********************************************************************

Liam crouched atop the rack where the pots and pans had recently hung and he looked down on the sad, pathetic creature that was the tall man. The mealy-mouthed sounds the sobbing tall man made with his oddly misshapen mouth – the lips and corners of it pulled back by the fear and ridiculous sadness – made Liam want to punch his teeth right out. The terrible ones, they always got to see Liam and his kind right before the harvest. It was part of their just reward, after all.

It had been long enough, already. The process should not be prolonged beyond what was absolutely necessary. Economy, frugality, in all things: movement, pain, passion… He had extracted enough misery from the tall man. It was time to reap his soul.

Liam effortlessly swung down to the ground, light as a feather, and with a deep inhalation suffused and extracted the tall man’s essence right out of his mortal vessel.

**********************************************************************

The other seven inhabitants of the Winchester house – the ninth would no longer be counted; she was now anointed – fell in much the same way. They had all be broken and damaged before Liam’s coming, and had allowed their cracks to become great fissures and crevices that would one day become veritable canyons, gulfs of character and deviance, wickedness and turpitude. Liam would have spared any if they had proven salvageable, but they had all been subsumed into the rot of the tall man.

Systematically, Liam terrorized and reaped, and in the space of a handful of human minutes the household was devoid of life. That is, devoid of life but for Liam and the ninth.

**********************************************************************

Alana was still in the kitchen. She didn’t know what to make of the mushroom cloud of emotions expanding in her chest. Elation? Relief? Vindication? She had begun a ritual that she had found in the pages of an old book in the library. Ancient, had said the kind old lady that was so wrinkled she could have been a prune. It had been so weird, how the old lady who shuffled rather than walked had suddenly disappeared as soon as Alana looked up from the first page of the book. Poof, as if by magic.

The ritual had involved some serious sacrifices. Not the animal kind, no. She wouldn’t have done that no matter what. But she’d had to do some pretty gruesome things, and give parts of herself… well, nothing was worse than what her family had done to her. What her father had done to her.

But that was to be no more. Now… Now, she would have a new family. It was everything she had ever wished for.

**********************************************************************

Liam stood before the ninth, not revealing himself to her just yet. He studied her, so young and fragile, yet possessed of such potential. And the look in her eyes, the depth of them… there was a fierce void that held a fire that promised doom therein. An all-consuming white-hot flame like a furnace star…

It was time.

**********************************************************************

Alana gasped as the older boy materialized in front of her. Had he been there the whole time after the screams of her mother and siblings had died out? She couldn’t know.

He was dark skinned and seemingly slight of frame. He looked no older than the high school kids, but a little like he didn’t eat well. In his face, in his eyes, there was adoration of a sort. She saw in him death, but not for her. She understood, then, that this would be her new brother. A real brother, one who wouldn’t hurt her, but protect her.

**********************************************************************

Liam looked upon this little one, so hurt and broken, yet so full of life and candor. He wanted to embrace her and show her that all would be well, now. She had summoned him, after all, and she had made the right offerings.

Perhaps, she would make a good learner and catch with him, soon. Green Monkey would be pleased.

**********************************************************************

Liam saw Green Monkey hanging from a thick branch, eating a silver spike that looked remarkably like the one he himself had just managed to catch. What were the odds? He thought to himself.

He sat down in front of Green Monkey and looked at the silver spike, now dead from suffocation, in his hands.

“Eat up!” said Green Monkey through a mouthful of raw fish. The Outlands were not kind, Liam had learned as a little lost boy a few years prior, but he had found the strange simian creature and become its apprentice in what it called Catch. “It’s your first full catch-trick, don’t let it go to waste. You must eat it!”

Liam looked at Green Monkey through squinting eyes, then decided it was time to try the famed silver spike.

Green Monkey dropped down from the tree branch, walked two steps toward Liam and put his left arm on the child’s shoulder. “There is no joy like freshly caught fish and the satisfaction of concealing oneself cleverly.”

No Greater Monster

There are monsters out there, this I know. There are monsters.

Mathew said to himself out loud, as if speaking to an expectant audience, like he was in some movie and there was a fourth wall to break. He had always done that, speak to himself out loud as if anyone would listen. The years of isolation had only exacerbated the habit, made it a proclivity, an old crease in the flesh that you couldn’t help but run your fingers over obsessively time and time again.

He cleaned the tiles of the bathroom studiously, strenuously, even though the stains had long since been wiped clean off, eroded even. Matthew couldn’t help but adhere to the ritual he had perfected for himself. It was the cleansing, the only way he could cope with all he knew, with all he understood.

**********************************************************************

Shara had taken the day off. That’s what she had told herself that morning, in any case. Now she was back at the shop, idling and doing little more than twirling her hair as she waited for the hours to go by until she could get the fuck out of the convenience store. Eddie just had to get sick that day, the one day she was going to make her move.

The patrons today weren’t all bad, but she really had had it with the whole gig. She had been planning to make it out of Dodge, so to speak, that very day, and had been thwarted in her attempt by a strange sense of guilt. It wasn’t bad enough that she was leaving her old man, but she would do so, too, while being a work-dodger? Not a chance! She wasn’t going to leave her old man, near-senile as he was, with the burden of her bad reputation – though she hadn’t really gotten such a thing just yet.

It was her day off, goddamnit!  She could skip town on her day off, but not when she was required to show up to work.

She had been lost in her escapist reverie when she showed up. She had never been particularly infatuated with any person before, neither female nor male, at least not so much so that she had ever really tried anything physical. She had been quite content playing with herself over the years rather than giving in to the wooing of any suitor. This woman that walked into the store, well, she was something else.

The way she walked. The way she looked at Shara as she walked up to the counter to ask for a pack Virginia Slims. The oddly sheepish way in which she smiled when she noticed – surely, she noticed! – Shara’s silly, besotted grin and puppy-dog eyes… She was just too much!

**********************************************************************

There are monsters. There are, there really are.

The litany of Matthew, as it would have been known had anyone actually been listening, ever, went on. He scrubbed, on all fours, tears streaming down his face now, his eyes unblinking as they poured, as if it were someone else crying, not him.

There are ghosts of what has transpired there. The afterimages…

He couldn’t tell how long he’d been at it: the scrubbing. He couldn’t tell at all. His clothes were soiled, he knew. He had debased himself in ways he’d never thought possible, but it all seemed beyond him, now. It was all beyond any semblance of import. It was all of no consequence. He had to continue his cleanse.

**********************************************************************

Pandora. She had said her name was Pandora. How awesome was that?!

Shara had decided to close shop early and fuck the boss in the ear a thousand times, figuratively – though she would have paid good money to see that in a literal sense! Pandora, the promise of her, was just too much not to take the plunge. The sheer potential hinted at behind those intense, brown eyes…

In minutes, they were in Pandora’s car, going down the highway, to a place Pandora assured her would be so much fun.

Shara had no doubt in her mind; it would be such fun!

**********************************************************************

Mathew had spent days, now. Days.

It came to him, the memory and the notion, clear as day. Clear as that afternoon when, after waking up from a binge, with a terrible hangover, he chanced upon the intruders in his home.

Stiff morning wood pitching an unsightly tent in his cheap cotton boxers, Matthew had walked downstairs from his shitty bedroom, ever-unkempt, untidy. Shirtless, belly protruding over the barely-serviceable elastic waistband, he took the unceremonious trip to the bathroom that naturally preceded every self-loathing themed morning – err – afternoon, after a bender.

As he opened the door to the rather spacious bathroom – white-tiled, with two bathtubs of the old-fashioned kind – lion legs and all –, and a few drain openings on the floor that suited an autopsy room more than a bathroom – he was greeted by the sight of a young woman – barely more than a girl, really – hung from one of the shower pipes by her handcuffed wrists. She was naked, bleeding profusely from countless lacerations on her pale, sheer skin.

There was another woman, one that was obviously older, naked as well, though there was something venomous, toxic about her being unclothed. The very way she handled herself, it was… poison.

Matthew’s erection pulled a Houdini and went the way of the Dodo bird while the other naked woman spoke.

I know you don’t remember me. I know you probably don’t know who I am.

She chuckled in a husky voice, as if musing. Matthew had no voice to speak with.

There was a time when I knew you and you were important to me. You had so much potential, but you squandered it. Such a shame, really. Well, no good deed goes unpunished!

That last, she added in such a contrasting cheery tone that Matthew couldn’t help but flinch as if struck.

Well, this is so that you remember all that you’ve lost. A lesson. Maybe you’re not so thick to not learn it, the lesson.

The lady… She slit the girl’s throat and then walked out nonchalantly, not a care in the world while the girl bled out. Matthew, too dumbstruck to react, simply stood there, pissing his boxers. Literally.

**********************************************************************

Pandora was so unbelievable. They were breaking into some guy’s place, on a lark, just for the hell of it. The risk, the passion, the danger… They were all Shara had craved from since God knew when… She was so turned on!

There was nothing she could do to not want to taste Pandora.

Close your eyes.

Pandora had said that so vehemently, so authoritatively… Shara had felt a warmth at the pit of her belly, a familiar tickle that was also stronger than she’d ever felt before.

Then came the blinding pain.

**********************************************************************

There are monsters out there.

Matthew repeated out loud. He had seen it, crawling back out of a past he had thought long-buried. His own transgressions amplified exponentially, given flesh and played out before him like he could never have envisioned.

But there is no greater monster…

He went on, scrubbing, trying to erase his past, to erase his sins…

No greater monster than the human heart.

Note: The fourth of the twelve shorts comes in shoddy prose! What the hell did I just write? Maybe even I don’t know…

 

Through the silent neutrino haze

Into the mind of Aleph’s maze

Out of the center of time and space

Straight to the heart of our incipient race

The mistrals carry it from coldest ice

Sweeping across the wastes so wild

Path sinistral, the road there lies

In the sparkling eyes of the feral child

Uptaken by the wily haste

Of newborn thought, the taste

Of stardust in the tongue

The windy blight that would here fall

The same as did before the call

Of demigods with lances long

For us to heed and lay all down

To salt the earth and raze the ground

In dark, convened the throng

To make it once again His place.

That’s Nice

Jeb thought the new stranger who’d rented out the old Spencer cabin out by Oak Road was… unsettling. Yeah, that was the word: unsettling.

Not only was he not at all bothered by Jeb’s grotesque facial deformity – which he took pride in and wielded like Da Vinci wielded a paintbrush – but he didn’t seem fazed in the slightest by the smattering of rude swearing and insults he directed at the well-dressed man in lieu of cordial exchanges. ‘Do you want to die, city boy? ‘ Jeb would gander, to which he got a smile and ‘Nice weather ‘round these parts, isn’t it?‘ in response. ‘How ‘bout I rape that pretty face of yours and take a shit in your mouth? ‘ Jeb would stab with, only to receive a friendly chuckle, a conspiratorial look – the nerve! –, and ‘I bet you see all sorts of folks coming down this road, eh? ‘.

Jeb still did his job – he always did! –, because it was part of the way things were in this neck of the woods. You made sure the new strangers renting out the cabin got their gas fill so that they would arrive without too much trouble at said cabin, while also making sure that they got riled up and creeped out. But it just wasn’t working with this one. That was another odd thing; this was just the one person, rather than the usual group of horny college students.

No longer glaring at the weird stranger – that unassuming smirk on the man’s face was making Jeb real uncomfortable – he finished pumping gas into the Oldsmobile and handed the keys back to the clean-shaven man with the neatly combed hair, keeping his head down lest he catch another flash of that perfect set of teeth smiling right at him.

Yer goin’ to that there cabin by the Oak Road, aintcha, boy? Yer gonna get fucked, alright.‘ Jeb ventured weakly, a last ditch effort, no conviction in his mild vitriolic jab. ‘I’m sure it’ll be a great time, thanks for the pump. ‘ said the stranger without missing a beat, still smiling, as he handed Jeb a twenty note and patted him on the back before getting into the driver’s seat and driving away at a respectable forty miles per hour.

******************************************************************

Madame Lupescu only managed to hear the roar of the Oldsmobile’s engine in time to sprint into the middle of the road. How the hell did the car get to be so quiet? No matter, she was in place on cue for “the cursing” as she liked to call her part of the scheme. She loved being the crone, the old gypsy witch. She had come to relish the role and was quite likely the best at it, never mind that she was really the only one that ever played the role round these parts any longer.

She braced herself for the inevitable hit from the vehicle as it came around the curve, closing her eyes, and heard the classic screeching of the tires as the driver hit the brakes – futilely, of course – as he was assaulted by the appearance of the old lady lost in the middle of the road. She was always good at the dying curse part, when the occupants would at times get down and out of the car to look that the dying woman, who would spit out the damning Romani verse that would mark them for certain, horrible death. Sometimes they didn’t get down, so she would have to reappear several times down the road, pointing her crooked, gnarled fingers at them, her face bloody and misshapen. She preferred the former, though. She could effect more gravitas; she should’ve pursued a career in Hollywood, she often thought wistfully.

The screeching stopped and she realized she was still standing in the middle of the road. She opened one eye and looked sheepishly in the direction from where the car had been approaching and saw no car. Confused, she turned around with a jerking motion in the opposite direction and saw the Oldsmobile stopped on the side of the road. Then, to her surprise and confusion, the car backed up slowly toward her.

There was only one person in the car, a nice looking man in his thirties, who asked her if she was ok and that he would like to offer her a ride to wherever it was that she was going. She simply stared at the man as her mind chugged and churned, her mental gears jammed with the sudden change in the norm of how these things were supposed to go. This just never happened.

He insisted for only a few seconds and, before she knew it, she had somehow opened the passenger door and taken a seat as if spellbound. The man smiled as he might to a kindly grandmother and said ‘Where to, ma’am? ‘. It took her a few more seconds to gather her bearings enough to blurt out a staggered ‘J- Just a mile down the road is fine, s- s- sonny‘. Sonny… Sonny! What the hell is wrong with me? She thought to herself as she sat there, brooding, glaring now and then at the stranger who never stopped smiling and would look at her kindly without flinching at what she knew were terrifying milk-white eyes and spittle-rimmed lips.

She realized she was scared stupid, taken out of her element, and she simply didn’t know what to do. The stranger would ask all manner of pleasant questions, small talk, though he seemed genuinely concerned for her, which was, of course, most unsettling.

What was worse was that she would reply as if her mouth had a mind of its own, stuttering out the appropriate replies, albeit stuttered, to the harmless questions. She wanted to wash her mouth out with brimstone!

A mile later down the road, which took too damn long given how slow the stranger drove, she got off and walked sullenly toward the entrance to her cave. She would be the laughing stock of the town, she was sure.

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Tommy, dressed in a mechanic’s jumper, wearing a ski mask, and wielding a large wrench with a screwdriver tip soldered on the bottom end, watched as the Oldsmobile parked a few meters away from the old Spencer cabin. Odd choice of vehicle, he thought for a moment. Not much he could do with the spare parts there as his resale clientele was more particular to the off-road vehicles and gas-guzzlers preppy college students usually drove. His second surprise was that only the one person got out of the vehicle, the driver, and it wasn’t a college-age person but a man in his early thirties – or so it appeared to him.

The stranger went into the cabin with a small duffle bag he took from the back seat, then he returned three more times for larger duffle bags from the trunk, which were clearly heavy given that the man grunted in effort every time he had to pick one up out of the trunk, which he then dragged into the cabin. Once the third and last of the large bags was in the cabin and the stranger did not return from inside, Tommy set about his business.

He inspected the car quickly, finding it odd that there was no sign of impact from where the stranger hit Madame Lupescu. Must be tough tin, this car, he thought. He pried open the hood of the car and was hit by a few juddering bolts of electricity from two sharp prongs that shot up from the engine and lodged themselves into his chest. He had little time to experience the jolt as he blacked out.

When he came to, he was being given water from a cup by the stranger. With a start which nearly knocked the cup out of the man’s hand he jumped to his feet and slowly backed away, eyes wide. He couldn’t understand what was happening. The stranger was smiling! Tommy had just tried to sabotage his car and the man was just smiling… after giving him freakin’ water, for crying out loud!

He bolted. He couldn’t have done anything else at the moment. He wasn’t scheduled to kill anyone until after midnight, but, well, there was only the one person, right? He didn’t have to stick around. Surely one of the others would get him. Yeah, that’s right. Another of the crew would get him…

 

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Cooner was eager to get the party started, but he had nothing but bad feelings about this caper. First of all, he had only heard the footsteps of one person. One! And then there was all that dragging he’d heard, heavy stuff, like sacks or something, and no loud music or merrymaking of any sort! What sort of frat did these guys belong to?

Well, it was time to make an appearance, so he got up from his little hole under the basement stairs and proceeded to climb them. As he put his hands up to push the trapdoor open he found he could not budge it at all. He tried a few more times, pushing up with all his strength – which was considerable, taking into consideration that he was short in stature but dwarf-like and heavily muscled – to no success whatsoever. The hell…?

Fuck! He was trapped down here. Fuuuuuuck.

 

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Abboleth was deeply troubled. Incorporeal as he was, he appeared to be unable to get out of the damnable cabin. The current tenant had done something, but he couldn’t quite tell what. Salt, surely, but something else… this smacked of holy water and sacred geometry.

Well, he hadn’t been able to take his usual flight through the forested mountains and missed out on possessing the hillbillies – so he didn’t get his usual buzz on from their drunkenness and the sweet smoke of tobacco – and he was angry, to say the least. He was going to enjoy desecrating the flesh of this person, the defilement of his soul.

There he was, laying down to sleep… wait, was that a sleeping bag? Damnit! He wasn’t going to be able to do the bed thing! Brimstone and damnation! He liked the shaky levitating bed bit. It was his favourite. Very well, no matter, there were other ways to get business done.

He swooped down to break into the man’s body and found himself paralyzed, feeling a burning sensation… how could he feel without any body? What the hell?! At that moment Abboleth noticed, for the first time, that there were chalk marks on the wooden boards of the floor. Shit! It was Solomon’s key… and was that the Roman Rite the man was reciting? Oh no… oh no no no noooooooooo

Was the last he could muster to express as he was sent back straight to Hell. Great. Getting out again was not going to be easy.

 

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Morning had come, the dawn had proceeded with no screams or howls or bloodshed, and the sun had risen quite brightly. Around the Spencer cabin could be seen all manner of dismayed zombies, semi-visible spirits, and a few dejected lycanthropes, all doing their best not to appear awkward and uncomfortable. Inside the house the smiling stranger yawned, stretched out of his sleeping bag, and then poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos he’d brought with him. He finished his cup as he read the psalms from a leather bound bible, a family heirloom, and nonchalantly prepared incense to burn. He was pleased with how things had taken place. Add another one to the count, one more notch on his bedpost, another place cleansed.

He changed without bothering to shower – there would be a motel down the road where he could do so –, hopped into the trusty Oldsmobile his father had bequeathed him, and drove off sedately down the road.

The spooks could only look on as he drove away. They avoided one another’s eyes – where there were eyes – and shifted away from the place, to find refuge somewhere deeper into the forests and mountains and try to forget about the whole embarrassing ordeal.

In her cave, Madame Lupescu tried desperately to pry the image of the nice young man from her mind, that damnably bright smile burning her mind’s eye, and continued to fail. She couldn’t focus on anything else!

At the gas station Jeb felt the urge to travel, maybe see new places. The thought crept into his mind that he might be able to get some surgery done, some corrective procedure for his congenital deformities which, he thought with newfound kindness toward himself, were not so appalling if he smiled rather than frowned and glowered as he normally did.

Somewhere, a few miles down the road, Tommy was still running. He didn’t know when he would stop, or if he would stop. He just wanted to be as far away from that man as he could.

In hell, Abboleth was relegated to a menial task, corralling the souls of the newly damned. It really would be an eternity before he could get out of there again. With a sigh, he got back to poking fat corporate bastards in the butt-cheeks with a pitchfork. How quaint, he thought.

 

Horror Vacui

Mustn’t let the emptiness win.

Mustn’t let it be empty.

Mustn’t let the emptiness win.

Fill it. Fill it. Fill it.

Laura repeated the litany under her breath, like an autistic child focused solely on this quartet of verses as if it were all in the world worth focusing on.

Mustn’t let the emptiness win.

She toiled in the basement of her house, carrying the messy bits on her apron, held like a makeshift bag, as the bits dripped their fluids which ran down in rivulets down her otherwise naked body. She was old, wrinkled, skin sagging everywhere on her once-sculptural body. The wrinkles filled with the blood and offal of the bits like rills running down her copiously-varicose legs.

Mustn’t let it be empty.

She placed the remains of many different creatures, some of them even human, arranging them in such a way that the basement’s floor was no longer visible. The flooring had been ripped out weeks before, Laura had ordered this done on the recommendation of the handyman she normally employed, as there was need to replace said flooring due to some sort of rot seeping up through it from the ground below. It was then that she had begun to hear it in her head, the hissing noises.

Mustn’t let the emptiness win.

On the day the handyman came by to pour cement on the ground she snapped and pushed the man down the stairwell. His body was badly broken by the time he hit the basement floor, but he was still alive. She shuffled down the stairs and stuck a pair of scissors through the man’s left eye. It was what she instinctively knew had to be done. He had taken the flooring off and thus been the one who let the hissing out. His had to be the first blood offering to cover the ground and keep the thing at bay.

Fill it. Fill it. Fill it.

She’d been busy since then, taking what lives she could in what ways she could. Two girl scouts she had poisoned, three door-to-door sales men, a make-up sales woman, her lawyer, four neighborhood dogs, her birds, her cat as well as any other animal she could trap – raccoons, stray cats, anything – these had all been chopped and packed on the floor so as to cover the dirt of the basement floor in an effort to smother the hissing. That infernal hissing!

Fill it. Fill it. Fill it.

There was still so much ground left uncovered.

Fill it. Fill it. Fill it.

The doorbell rang. Good. She needed more.

Fill it. Fill it. Fill it.