In Perpetuity

The darkened room blurred as he opened his right eye, clotted blood stopped him opening the other. The place reeked of rotting flesh and the ferric stench of blood, mingled with the rusted scent of the manacles digging painfully into his wrists and ankles. Through the blur, he could just make out a row of tables along the centre of the room, directly in line with thin shafts of light from unreachable slits which passed for windows. Adorning the walls were strange sculptures, or paintings; they were too difficult to make out, whatever they were.

It was supposed to be easy. He simply had to observe, to find out what these savages had done with their hostages, their victims. He was given detailed instructions, but he could not read, as so few could since the war wiped out nearly all of mankind. He suspected that the instructions came from others who could not read either, that he was sent to die. He laid there pathetically; naked, chained, awaiting his end.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of soft footsteps on a cold stone floor, as a blurred shadow drew nearer. The stories of torture, of flayed men, of death flooded his mind, as the warm urine flowed over his thighs and onto the floor.

The shadow came into focus and smiled at him, the smile of a young, attractive woman who looked almost happy to see him. She stood there naked, then lowered herself face down onto the nearest table and looked him in the eyes. A second figure approached, fully clothed in black robes, covered from head to toe but for the hands and eyes, slowly withdrawing a freshly sharpened blade. The woman on the table continued to stare deep into his eyes, piercing him like the blade which was being used to carve into her back. He saw pain and pleasure at once in her eyes, as she let out a slight moan, biting her lip, gripping the table tightly.

As the blade danced across her flesh she began to relax. Speaking softly, she said, “I envy you,” her eyes watering heavily as the knife’s penetration continued. He could not respond, he could not even summon the strength to open his mouth. He sat there, transfixed by the carver’s cryptic calligraphy adorning her back, writing words he could not read. “I am but a single page,” she said, “yet you are to be a book.” He could not understand what she meant, so he wept.

He wanted to sleep, to forget what he was watching, but it was impossible to look away. Hours passed, before the carver finally wiped clean the blade and returned it to its home, hidden beneath blood-stained robes. The page sat up, revealing the careful, bloody script on her back. Fine, red words were written, paragraph after paragraph, from the bottom of her neck to the point where her thighs met her buttocks. She looked back over her shoulder, fire was in her eyes as she smiled at him.

He tried to speak but the words got stuck in his throat, resulting in a feeble croaking sound. He eventually mustered a single word – “what,” – before his voice left him completely. “Are you asking me what it says?” the woman asked him. He nodded timidly in response. “I do not know what these words mean, but they will live on beyond me, as will yours, their perfect forms rendered eternal.”

She ceased talking and began to gaze at the artworks across the walls. He could see much more clearly, the outstretched arms chained up high, marked like the woman’s back. The head slumped downwards, onto the open chest, the skin of the torso stretched out and pinned to the wall. Runes were carved across the ribs, spreading out onto the inner flesh. The internal organs hung down, trailing onto the floor, telling a story with the words engraved across every visible inch. Flies buzzed around the entrails, before long their maggots would consume these cadaverous tomes.

He looked back at the woman, losing himself in the intensity of her eyes as she spoke in hushed tones, “We’re part of a bigger story, we’re the vessels of knowledge and thought passed through the ages, we’re the continuation of one of mankind’s greatest achievements, and you get to be part of that story in the most intimate way.” She gave him a kiss on the forehead, stroked a finger slowly along the blade of a long, thin knife, and caressed his throat with it in one smooth, deliberate motion. He felt the warm blood rush down his body as life left him, never knowing what words would be worked into every part of his corpse. He knew only the passion in her eyes, as the world went black.

The Theatre

I wrote this story back in May but never uploaded it. It is a tad unusual…

The Theatre

He wasn’t quite sure what he was doing in the theatre. Wandering aimlessly, peeking into rooms, lamenting the lack of effort put into the décor – he did those things just because he was there, but the reason he was even there in the first place eluded him. He put that thought to the back of his mind and continued to wander. Peering through a set of double doors he could see people rehearsing and made a mental note to come back later; there were balconies allowing for a better, more surreptitious view.

As he headed back towards the foyer, past the toilets, he noticed the entrance to a corridor hidden in plain sight. Had he not been dawdling around, inspecting almost every inch of the theatre, it would have gone completely unnoticed. The corridor was a dead end, completely empty but for the smartly dressed woman sitting on a tall chair. She sat close to the wall at the end, as though she were collecting tickets to allow entry into a room which was not there. He immediately noticed how beautiful she was. From beneath her tousled blonde hair her wicked green eyes fixed on him, her full red lips parted giving way to a blinding smile as she uncrossed her legs and crossed them again, allowing her to face him invitingly. He was drawn to her.

She immediately manoeuvred him onto her knee, facing the wall where a door should be, and began to gently caress his back. He found himself relaxing as she took his right hand and began to touch it playfully. It didn’t faze him as she took out a razor blade, smiling at him as she cut four lines into the back of his hand. He felt the blade penetrate his flesh, blood seeping out, yet only became more excited, especially when he realised that she had sketched a grid to play noughts and crosses. He watched with anticipation as she carefully carved a circle within the grid, not caring that he would have to cut himself to continue the game. His turn never came. He watched as she then carved a cross, playing the game by herself. All he could do was watch. He was paralysed by his own desire to be with her.

She was deep in concentration, her smile becoming more sadistic as she punished his raw flesh. As her game came to a close she turned towards him and burst into a fit of laughter. She snorted, tears were in her eyes, she was struggling to breathe and was staring at his crotch as her hysterics got louder. He looked down and could see that his cock was out, but it wasn’t his cock. This was like a bloated mushroom, with thick, pulsing veins. It was horrible to look at and she gagged when it began to drip. The sight of his vulgar erection jerked him back to reality and he somehow simply walked away.

Ambling through the corridors again, his feet took him up to one of the balconies overlooking the main stage. She’s here, he thought, feeling as though his dreams were coming true. Down on the stage was a girl practicing some routine – it appeared to be burlesque. He’d been attracted to her since he met her over a year ago, everything about her was perfect, even her imperfections. She was wearing a corset, perfect for showing off her hypnotic cleavage, yet it was clearly too tight for her. Her dark hair was tied back so tightly that her face was overly stretched, except when she screwed it up in concentration, resulting in an expression which reminded him of a dog’s arse. Her stunning smile was nowhere to be seen for the whole routine. It was like a car crash. He always knew that she was flexible, but she lacked grace and timing. Her spasmodic jerks did nothing to cause arousal. All he could do was cringe and keep watching.

As he left the theatre what seemed liked hours later, he looked down at his hands. The razor blade’s kisses were no longer on his right hand, but were on his left. He licked some of the drying blood from his hand – it tasted sweet, not the ferrous taste he expected. The pain had subsided but he knew that the scars would take a while to heal.

Possible writing project

I recently had an idea for writing which I might actually follow through with. Normally I have big ideas and never get round to starting them, but with this I want it to be different. I intend to write some zombie apocalypse fiction, well aware that it is popular at the moment and that it seems like a bandwagon I’m jumping on. In a sense it is, as my love for zombies waxes and wanes every so often, depending on how much I immerse myself in the fiction. I took part in 2.8 Hours Later last year and would thoroughly recommend it, especially if you love zombie fiction. My current interest is not due to World War Z, though I have seen it and did enjoy it, though I wouldn’t exactly think of it as a zombie film. It is because I finally got round to watching The Walking Dead and have even managed to get my hands on the comics, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Last year I wrote a zombie short story, which you can read here. I’d figured out some of the logistics of a zombie threat, hinted at mostly, though one of my main ideas turned out not to be as original as I’d hoped. I went for the fungal-infection version of zombies, which appears to be becoming popular. The rage virus types would scare the crap out of me, but I wouldn’t call them zombies. I prefer the slow, lumbering types. My more recent short story is meant to be more touching and is set towards the end of the major conflicts, or at least well into them.

I’m thinking of writing a series of short stories which will be collected as a larger whole. They are provisionally called Where Were You? but I am considering changing that. Some will be very short, others will be quite long, and will each be about a character at the time of a zombie outbreak. Each story will explore what it was like for them to survive in the place they happen to have been at the time. I’ve been thinking of how much luck would be involved in such a scenario. There are times in my life where I know that I would have stood little to no chance, whereas in some locations or with certain people there are more possibilities for survival. At a music festival, for example, I’d have been completely overwhelmed, whereas those rare occasions spent on an army base would have improved things somewhat. My main decisions now involve style and localities.

Unnamed short story

This was my latest entry in a Facebook short story competition, I don’t think I got any votes this time. I can’t be bothered to give it a name. I actually got to choose one of the topics, but ran out of time to submit my choice (they used something from a comment I had made which wasn’t completely serious and didn’t change it later when I had an idea).  The topic choices were:

“1) A soldier (male or female) returning from war and the reception by those at home. The war can be past, present, future or fictional.

2) Amnesia – take it any direction you want. ”

Enjoy…

 

The street was empty, fortunately. The front gate was only slightly open, a good sign, I thought. I crept carefully past the side of the house and noticed that the back gate was still closed. I used the wooden gate to help myself get up onto the shed next to it, allowing me to check the back garden. It was clear. The back door to the house was wide open. I’d left it open only a crack but expected it to have moved. I carefully dropped down off the shed and made my way back to the front of the house with my crossbow ready. Underneath my old bedroom window was a ledge, with a chest height wall nearby. I slung the crossbow over my shoulder, easily lifted myself on to the low wall, and then reached up to the ledge to prepare myself for the difficult part. I spotted some movement near the garages opposite my house, a safe distance away, but I couldn’t resist having a shot. The bolt flew from the crossbow and lodged itself in his brain. I never miss, at least not when they aren’t chasing me. I made a mental note to collect the bolt later; it would probably be broken, but was worth collecting nonetheless.

I struggled to lift myself onto the ledge, scraping my chin and arms in the process. I wasn’t as agile as I used to be, when I’d sneak off out of the house after being grounded. I’d left the window open a crack, just enough so that others wouldn’t notice it. I opened the window as far as it would go and threw the crossbow onto the bed at the other side. Hauling myself through took a lot more effort, I felt like I was going to tear myself in two when I rested all of my weight on my stomach, but I made it through eventually. My bedroom was unchanged, so I carefully and quietly gathered a few supplies. I had a couple of survival guides, some weaponry which was mostly useful for display but could come in handy, a first aid kit I used to use whilst camping, an old torch which needed fixing, and considered taking a guitar as they are always useful for boosting morale. I left them all on the bed, except for one of the swords, and tried the door.

The door had been locked from the outside using a very simple lock. I knew that I had to make some noise to open it, there was no way around that, so I pulled as hard as I could. In the silence of the house it sounded like an explosion, I struggled to keep calm, but nothing came. I breathed a sigh of relief, then stopped breathing when I saw her. She was lying outside my room, not moving, she looked as though she was sleeping. Her fur couldn’t hide the bones that had become prominent through her skin. As my eyes began to well, I forced myself to step carefully over her body, so that I could check every room in the house. The whole place was untidy and stank, but each room was empty. In the kitchen the sink had overflowed, but the tap was no longer dripping. I’d left it to steadily fill up so that they wouldn’t struggle to find water.

I saw no sign of the other dog, she must have escaped. She was capable of climbing the high back wall, but she must have been petrified or desperate in order to do so. She could still be out there and I might never find her. I felt sick. I gave myself a moment and resisted drinking from the water in the sink. My whole body was shaking as I returned upstairs. She always waited outside my room when I was in there, and she was still waiting, even though she was gone. I cradled her body in my arms, slumped against the wall, and wept. I remembered the welcome home I used to get; even when I had only been gone for half an hour they would throw themselves at me, wanting to lick my face, wagging their tails, their whole bodies wriggling in excitement. This time there was no such welcome. I tried to take comfort in the thought that she had not been attacked or eaten, but all I could think of was her starving to death waiting for my return. She’d always loved food. She used to beg for it too much, but I’d have given anything to have her annoying me, pestering for leftovers.

I tried to tell myself that I did the right thing. If I had taken them with me we would almost certainly have all died. Those… things, they were attracted to sound, and my dogs are noisy creatures. Were noisy creatures. I felt selfish, I felt like I should have given them a chance with me. Other dogs had survived with their owners, but I panicked and fled, leaving them without food. They were my family, I had a responsibility to look after them, and I failed. I don’t know what I expected. I deserved no fanfare, but I still had hope. Even with the dead stalking you, their companionship would make it bearable. I came looking for something to live for, I came looking for the love they gave, but found only death. That’s all there was in this world – death. It was the only constant, whether the dead got to you or you were simply unable to live in this world, death was the only guarantee.

I looked down at the animal in my arms, she’d waited for me, but the other got away. There was some slim hope. I kissed her forehead, tears streaming down my face, and whispered “Goodbye”. I laid her down gently, found a blanket in a nearby cupboard and wrapped her up in it. There might still be time to find the other alive; I might still get that fanfare.

Roulette

The competitions are back on, so that means more content here from me. The theme this time was exceptionally broad, being simply “horror”. Considering my past output this could have been perfect for me, but I honestly struggled to get ideas. I got a fair few likes for my story, but didn’t win (I’ve won none so far). Here is my entry:

Roulette

It was night when they came. I put up a fight, tried to resist, but there were too many of them. When I regained consciousness all I could see was black. I was struggling to breathe, there was a cover over my head, my ribs felt sore, and my nose had been broken in the fray. My hands were tightly bound behind my back and my legs strapped firmly to the uncomfortable chair on which I was sitting. I could hear others around me, sounds of muffled panic and pathetic attempts to move surrounded me, but nothing else, until I heard footsteps. Several people had entered the room, the sounds of their feet echoed, moving in unison. Their movements sounded deliberate and organised. The sack was forcefully wrenched from my head and my eyes struggled to adjust to the light.

Every one of them looked petrified, some had even wet themselves. There were eight of us sitting in a circle, strapped to chairs which were bolted to the floor. Behind each one of us was a figure clad in black from head to toe, whilst another man wearing a suit and balaclava set up a small table and placed a briefcase on top. He removed several syringes and proceeded to go around each prisoner, forcing whatever poison it contained into each of us. I felt the needle slide into my neck with the mixture of pain and pleasure of penetration, leaving me feeling violated and scared.

After he returned the empty syringes to his briefcase he started talking. He sounded excited. He told us that we were part of a game, sort of like Russian Roulette, and that most of us had been given a harmless drug. We would all react differently to it, ranging from no effects at all through to terrifying hallucinations. One person, however, had been infected. Something vile would grow inside them rapidly, eating them from the inside out, and they would be the starter in an eight course meal. In this game of Russian Roulette nobody wins. The man closed his briefcase, I could sense him smiling, as the bags were forced roughly onto our heads and everything went black again. Their footsteps echoed as they left the room to the sounds of a woman screaming.

I felt a pain in my stomach, as though it was being punched from the inside. I was helpless, I had been too tightly bound to the chair, I could only move my head and scream. The pain spread up into my chest and I vomited, filling the inside of the sack. My arms and legs were shaking and my head felt like it was going to explode. Why me? was the only thought which found its way through the excruciating pain. Then it stopped.

It wasn’t me. As the pain disappeared I could hear the screams of others, writhing in their seats. It wasn’t me, and that scared me more. It could all have been over, but now I would have to wait for it to happen to another, I would have to listen to it devour the rest of them one by one, wondering when it would reach me. That’s when I joined some of the others by wetting myself.

The person in the chair to my right was silent, not even breathing. His chair started rattling violently, his throat gargling, his bones crunching, and there was the sickening sound of tearing flesh. I felt something warm spray over me as I listened to a complete stranger being eaten from within, worrying only about what would happen to me when it finished with him. It finished quickly. I felt something writhing around my ankles, hot breath beating down through the cover on my head, something clawed wrap around my wrists, and I heard a noise which pierced my soul. I started to suffocate as I panicked, inhaling some of the vomit and choking on it. I felt as though this foul beast was engulfing me, wrapping around me. Its weight was overbearing and it felt moist. I feared every death I could imagine. It could tear me limb from limb, smash me to pieces, devour me slowly, slice through my flesh with ease, crush me, it could even drown me. Whatever was about to happen I just hoped it would be quick. Then it stopped.

I had fainted. Somehow I had survived. Did it only like to feed on conscious victims? Was there something else wrong with me? I was so confused, I was certain that I was about to die. I listened for signs of the beast but heard nothing, only the sounds of breathing. Others were alive, but how? I don’t know how long I sat listening, fearing that the beast would return, but eventually I lost consciousness again.

When I woke up I was strapped to a bed, more comfortable than the chair, though I could not even move my head. There were no other chairs in there and it looked like some sort of hospital room, with the typical antiseptic smell. Standing over me was the suited man, still wearing his balaclava. I could sense him smiling. His smug voice asked me lots of questions, at first forcing me to give an account of what happened in the room, but later asked questions about my personal life. He threatened to throw me back to the beast if I did not answer, so I told him everything, I could not handle such fear again. Then he laughed. He laughed at everything I had told him, then he scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to his assistant who promptly left the room. When he eventually stopped his cackling he started to tell me everything. Nothing in that room had been real. Nothing in my life had been real; they had completely manipulated my thoughts, implanted memories and forced foul dreams upon me. He would not tell me who ‘they’ were, but I hated them, from the pit of my stomach. My stomach. Why was I thinking about my stomach? I stopped paying attention to what the man was saying, it was too much to take.

When the man was eventually leaving the room he picked something up from somewhere over to the side and made his way back to my bed. It was a mirror. He laughed as he held it up so that I could see my reflection, first showing me the top of my head. Wires were hooked up to my brain, which was exposed, that’s how they were manipulating me. Then he showed my neck, but there was nothing else. I had no body, just tubes and wires everywhere. I had no body, just a head, and nothing which filled my mind was my own. That’s when I asked to be returned to the beast.

 

 

Decisions – an old story

Another one from four or five years ago. More of a thought experiment than anything, though it does have some themes in common with some of my other stories.

Decisions

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  Over the top of my magazine I saw a figure lumbering about with incessant music blaring from his mobile phone, so I glanced up for a better look; in front of me stood a tall, thin figure with harsh facial features, tracksuit style clothing, and a beanie despite the blissful weather outside. He caught my wandering eyes and slurred “What the fuck do you think you’re looking at?” I panicked and mumbled, “Nothing, sorry, I wasn’t looking at you,” and looked away as he laughed, increasing his swagger as he headed for the back seat of the bus. My heart was pounding, my palms sweating and I could no longer concentrate on the article, as I feared he might come back for more confrontation.

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  Over the top of my magazine I saw a figure lumbering about with incessant music blaring from his mobile phone, so I glanced up for a better look; in front of me stood a tall, thin figure with harsh facial features, tracksuit style clothing, and a beanie despite the blissful weather outside. He caught my wandering eyes and slurred “What the fuck do you think you’re looking at?”  He was glaring at me to force me to respond. He had picked the wrong day, I wasn’t about to just lie down and take abuse from this nobody. “Not you” I said with derisive laughter in my voice “You aren’t my type; too fucking ugly!” The whole bus went silent as he moved towards me, though I did not feel scared as the adrenaline coursed through my veins. “You fucking what?” He responded aggressively. He was obviously trying to re-establish his dominance but I was not in the mood and took my chance. “If you don’t want fucking up I suggest you stay away from me.” I realised this wasn’t the most well crafted of threats but it appeared to suffice. He merely glared at me briefly, looked around at the shocked bus passengers and took a seat behind me.

I alighted the bus at my usual stop, which is a very short walk from my house through an area which few frequent. I could tell that the aforementioned thug was getting off the bus at my stop and knew I had to face him. He slurred yet more obscenities at me and I realised I had to fight him; something I had little experience with. I could almost feel the testosterone charging me, my hands shaking as I clenched my fist and prepared myself for the fight. I hesitated. Big mistake! He saw me coming a mile away and knocked me to the floor with three well timed punches. I had never been so disoriented in my life as I crashed to the floor in a heap, my pride bringing me down even further. Vulgarity spewed from his mouth as I curled into a ball to protect myself from his repeated kicks. Eventually he stopped, though I have no idea where he went; I was lying curled up in a pathetic ball, eyes firmly shut as I prayed for him to leave. I eventually staggered home and sat in silence, drowning in regret, weighed down by my dented ego.

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  Over the top of my magazine I saw a figure lumbering about with incessant music blaring from his mobile phone, so I glanced up for a better look; in front of me stood a tall, thin figure with harsh facial features, tracksuit style clothing and a beanie, despite the blissful weather outside. He caught my wandering eyes and slurred “What the fuck do you think you’re looking at?”  He was glaring at me to force me to respond. He had picked the wrong day, I wasn’t about to just lie down and take abuse from this nobody. “Not you” I said with derisive laughter in my voice “You aren’t my type; too fucking ugly!” The whole bus went silent as he moved towards me, though I did not feel scared as the adrenaline coursed through my veins. “You fucking what?” He responded aggressively. He was obviously trying to re-establish his dominance but I was not in the mood and took my chance “If you don’t want fucking up I suggest you stay away from me.” I realised this wasn’t the most well crafted of threats but it appeared to suffice. He merely glared at me briefly, looked around at the shocked bus passengers and took a seat behind me.

I alighted the bus at my usual stop, which is a very short walk from my house through an area which few frequent. I could tell that the aforementioned thug was getting off the bus at my stop and knew I had to face him. I took my chances as quickly as I could and threw punch after punch at his pathetic excuse for a face. I had never hit anyone before and knew that my punches were weak, but the surprising barrage had him unconscious on the floor. I could hear my heart pounding in my head, my hands were shaking, and I had never felt anger like this before. The events which happened next felt like a dream or some bad film where the protagonist’s actions go unexplained. I picked up his limp body and carried it to my house, dumping him in my kitchen as I prepared another room. I laid out a sheet of plastic and placed a chair in the middle, barely taking my eyes off of him in case he stirred. I tied him up in the chair and waited, I wanted him to be awake, wanted to hear screams. I got out a toolbox full of rarely used appliances, some still in their original packages.

When he eventually awoke I sat in front of him, staring at the intense fear and confusion so evident in his eyes. I had stripped him completely naked and burnt his vile clothes for further humiliation. In my hands I caressed a pair of pliers as I decided which order to pull out his teeth. I forced his mouth open and he resisted, trying to scream for help, not realising that he was spurring me on. I gripped the first tooth in the pliers and began to pull, there was a sickening crack and I realised that I had failed to get it completely out. I felt the tooth resisting as I pulled harder and wrenched it free from its safe, gummy home. The scream of pain was like music to my madness, almost arousing. I continued with each of his teeth and every satisfying crack was accompanied by an even more satisfying blood-curdling scream. My skill at removing his teeth increased with each fresh pull and I discovered a variety of ways to cause him unimaginable pain in that vulgar orifice of his. Teeth were scattered around the room and my foresight to put down plastic proved fruitful as the blood spilt all over of it, staining all in this precious, life giving liquid.

With his teeth out of the way I was free to move on to the next target, known as ‘lingua’ in Latin. I crudely hacked at it, yanking it out of its natural home and waved it in his face. He was groaning in agony almost constantly, stopping only when he was struggling to breathe. For the finishing touches I took out a pair of secateurs, maniacally chopping off each off his fingers and throwing them casually over my shoulders. I took a hot poker from near the fire and cauterised the wounds, causing possibly the most satisfying of all his screams, as I contemplated giving abacination a try.

I cleaned up the whole mess as one would whilst doing normal mundane housework, even dancing away to music as I went. I left him strapped to the chair over night, returning the next morning to find him on his side, shaking. I kicked his head remorselessly, until he fell unconscious yet again, I dragged his body to some nearby woods and dumped it, wrapped in a blanket. I wanted him to survive; I wanted him to live the rest of his life in agony, unable to tell anybody who his attacker was. I would leave the country; an obvious choice, but now seemed like as good a time as any and Egypt had always appealed to me, perhaps it was the mummification process which intrigued me.

The bus was trundling along as per usual; I thumbed through my magazine in search of an article that might pique my interest, eventually stumbling on a piece about Hugh Everett.  As an unsavoury character entered the bus I reflected on the possibility that all the decisions we do not choose are manifested in some alternative universe, branching out from our own. It really made me think.

Necrophobia

I made a mistake in my last post. I thought that Harvester of Sorrow was the last short story I wrote and the last contest entry. I actually wrote a story back in August as well, for a competition where phobias was the main theme, taken from a long list of them. As you can tell from the title, I chose necrophobia as the theme and rushed out a story just before the deadline. I thought that I had an original idea in the story, but I was beaten to it and apparently more than once. Ah well…

 

Necrophobia

Fear saved my life, but overcoming it kept me alive for longer. When the outbreak was announced I was prepared. I don’t live in a major city, so I did not become overwhelmed by hoards of panicking civilians or swarms of the infected; I had time to get ready, when I wasn’t panicking. I’ve always kept to myself and this extended into the way I kept my home; I had my own water storage facilities, my own power supply, food stores, anything you could think of which would allow a person to live for several months whilst cut off from any form of civilisation. Civilisation was gone. The streets belonged to the dead and to those who would take advantage of any survivors.

I spent the first few days barely moving. I found a small hiding place and waited for it all to pass me by, listening to the radio in order to find out what was going on. There are many rumours of where it started and how it got into the country, but those details are trivial – survival is the focus. What I do know is that it was not caused by voodoo, or a virus, as most films would have you believe, but by a parasitic fungus which acts fast. The parasite kills the host, then uses their bodies to spread and reproduce. They don’t move quickly, but the infection spreads with ease. It was first thought that you would need to be bitten or scratched in order to be infected, but sometimes it is enough for their fluids to end up on your skin or clothing, which can even happen with a simple touch. The early days saw a lot of people taking to the streets with weapons, mostly cricket bats and golf clubs, but this only helped the infection spread quicker. Some of them explode in the heat, releasing spores, or so I figured. Most sources of water were contaminated, infecting people who tried to ride out the epidemic in the safety of their homes.

I’d prepared for this event for years, but not due to some incredible foresight. It was my worst nightmare and I had to make sure I could survive, for I knew I would panic when the time came. I just hid. I spent most of the time frozen, even wetting myself rather than venture out of my hiding place. But eventually survival instincts took over and I at least had to make use of my stores; otherwise I would starve to death, making all my preparation pointless. I had a plan – load up a car full of supplies and get to the coast where I could steal a boat and get to an oil rig. I figured that the infection might not have spread there. Between my moderately secure home and the coast would be bands of survivors, mostly criminals busy looting, so I had to be quick. But worst of all were the dead and the undead.

I spent the night sorting out supplies for the trip, as I didn’t dare travel whilst it was dark. At first light I went looking for a car and finally saw what I feared. It wasn’t moving, it was just lying there. I froze. I tasted vomit in my mouth and could hear my heart pounding. I couldn’t move except for the violent trembling of my hands, over which I had no control. There was the object of my phobia, a dead body. I’d feared them for as long as I could remember and could not explain why. Fearing corpses was never really a problem, not until they started doing things which the dead should never do. They were walking, attacking, spreading. I hadn’t seen any of the animated corpses, as I’d stayed well hidden. The unmoving body had me transfixed, until I heard a deep moan and some shuffling behind me. Instinct kicked in and I ran towards the nearest car, which fortunately had a door wide open.  I tripped over my own feet, smashing my head on the pavement, and the zombies were closing in. I saw my blood trickling onto the path, as the inanimate corpse opened its eyes and started crawling towards me, emitting the most awful guttural noises as it scrambled desperately.

I forced myself to my feet and ran as fast as I could to the car, slamming the door with only seconds to spare. It was safe in the car, or at least would be for a short amount of time. It gave me a chance to catch my breath and work out how to hot-wire the vehicle. As soon as I got the engine running I only had one thing on my mind – it was time to put my fears behind me. I took great pleasure running them down, making sure I reversed over their heads with a sickening crunch, splattering brains everywhere. If I let my fears overcome me again, I would not make it to the coast. I needed to get there. I needed to be brave.

Harvester of Sorrow

This may be the last story I post for a while, unless I manage to find some old stories which are currently lost, or unless I write something new. This was written in July and was for the last competition I entered on a Facebook group. They had one competition since then but people weren’t entering, so I might have to use the theme from that for a new story, as I hated missing the competitions. I usually got good feedback but never won a competition, this particular one was commonly labelled “creepy”. For the theme of the competition we had to pick from a list of songs, so naturally as a big fan I chose the Metallica song Harvester of Sorrow, which you can play whilst reading if you wish. If I remember correctly, the song is about a man going insane and killing his family. I attempted to fit the rhythm of the song and included some lines from it, but it is impossible to match the pacing of music when writing prose, unless one is psychic and aims it at one person. I unashamedly aimed for a Lovecraft feel to the piece, though I could never do him justice.

 

Harvester of Sorrow

I am writing this letter in the hope that it will prepare others for those things which I have witnessed, for I am soon to end my life; this torture is too much. I fear that you will not recognise the importance of that which I shall divulge, yet I must communicate these woes before it is too late. My final prayer shall be that no other will suffer my fate.

It was during a walk on the moors at night, I’d lost the path in the fog, the waning gibbous moon providing little guidance, yet on I soldiered. It was the last thing I saw before I fell. When I regained consciousness I could no longer see the moon, as I had plummeted deep into some sort of ancient cave system. My initial panic was met with relief when I realised that I had suffered no serious injuries, nor had I broken the electronic lamp in my coat pocket, allowing me to illuminate my new whereabouts. With the deafening wind howling up above and a putrid stench of rotten fish all around, I gazed upon my surroundings with a sense of shock and awe. Crude sculptures lined the walls of the cavern, with bizarre inscriptions of some unknown language scrawled erratically through every visible gap. The creatures depicted were grotesque and appeared to be twisting in agony, unlike anything I could recognise from my zoological studies. Whose hands had wrought these monstrosities? Whose mind conceived of these abominations?

It was all I could do not to vomit. I started to feel claustrophobic, panicking, my breathing getting heavy, sweat dripping down my neck. I could find no way to climb up through the entrance which I had created. I feared that this nightmare of a place would become my tomb, trapped far beyond my fate. I had no choice but to wander into the dark depths of that desperate place. I tried hard not to look at the disproportionate forms, with their twisted limbs and contorted faces, if those really were faces. But no matter how hard I tried they were constantly in sight, surrounded by glyphs in the language of the mad. I felt like I had descended into Hell itself. The panic overtook me and I fell yet again. I remained conscious, noticing that the floor was not stable, but moving, pulsing, enveloping me. Tentacles lashed at me, dragging me down, stinging me on contact. The pain was unbearable, excruciating, matched only by the fear, as I saw the hideous head with its eyes of unimaginable darkness. I believe my sanity left me at that point.

I do not know how I survived, but I fear that I was allowed to live for some dark purpose. Every night I see those eyes, pure black, yet clear. I feel the floor engulfing me, the tentacles lashing me, the eyes penetrating me, the beak… the beak. The stench, the sculptures, the writings, they follow me through every waking nightmare. Nobody would believe me. Not even my beloved family. Morphine became my only comfort, but even that could not stop the torture. I was being called; I knew it, some monster, some ancient god, forcing me to do its work, forcing me to cause its chaos. I knew it was going to win when I struck my wife. I felt angry, miserable, and in agony. I had never harmed my wife, yet there I was, beating her mercilessly. I had to do something to protect my family. These monsters could not touch them in death. If you could see into my eyes you would not doubt that what I did was right. They would be safe.

I emptied every bottle in the house, I could not be completely sober for what I was about to do. Even the strongest whiskey was not masking the rotten stench, nor could it prevent the images in my head. My intestines felt like they were being twisted, as though I was becoming one of the grotesques. If I needed anything to galvanise my resolve, it was the thought that I would thwart their plans, that my family would be free from their torments. I could hear screaming, I knew it was in my mind, I knew that the torturous harmonies would soon be no more. I felt them growing stronger as the pain and anguish increased, but I was not going to water their seeds of hate; I would drown them.

After my two girls had said their prayers and settled into bed, I held the largest downy cushion over their faces simultaneously and waited until their panicked flailing ceased. They were free from the horrors which I would bring upon the family. They would not endure the nightmares brought by the Harvester, the ancient demon-god which was consuming me. I felt an intimate connection with him, but I had to sever that tie. As I said my goodbyes to my beautiful daughters my wife interrupted with a bottle to my head. She was unfortunate in that she did not manage to render me unconscious, but now she is safe, safe from the world of the living where the dark gods reside. Their cackles filled my head, as though they were in the room with me. Did I protect my family? Or did the gods trick me? Whatever their machinations I shall not be a part, I will end my role, but I fear that much worse is to come, that the entire planet will be engulfed. If you are wise you will follow my path; the gun should still be in my hand when you find the body. Let the vile demons know that you are not their puppet, that your sorrow will not be their gain.

Mathilde

This short story was written in May as part of a short story competition on a Facebook group. The story had to be between 500 and 1,000 words, and these were our instructions with regards to theme:

A British soldier hiding in the basement of a farm in France during World War 1 and the French woman who lives there as well. You may take those two characters and do whatever you want with them.

Mathilde

They were fucking. They were two floors above him and he could still hear every detail. Clothes were thrown to the floor, the bed was creaking, as both of her German lovers shared in her ecstasy. One was gentler than the other, preferring instead to speak to her in broken French, appealing to more of her senses, and clearly it was doing the job. She was enjoying it. She was enjoying it and that was a problem. Suddenly the unlit cellar grew darker, smaller, suffocating. She was meant to be distracting them to help him, not for pleasure. There was no escape; the whole village was occupied by The Hun, that’s why he needed Mathilde. Mathilde, the woman in bed with Germany. Suddenly the unlit cellar felt like a tomb.

An escape plan was needed. With the noise upstairs the moment was surely at hand, nobody in the house would notice. Nobody except the man who was standing on the stairs with gun in hand, completely naked but for the sadistic smile he wore across his face. The quieter, rougher man from upstairs had snuck away during the ongoing mêlée in the bedroom and made his way to the cellar. The man said nothing. He kept his gun pointed as he walked over silently, his large frame blocking out the light streaming down the staircase, as he struck with the handle of the pistol. The cellar went black.

He was in a different room when he regained consciousness. The unlit cellar became a dream. He did not see his German captor, his naked, hairy German captor. He saw the beautiful soft face of Mathilde, with her full red lips, large doe eyes, and cheeks which blush just the right amount. She did not look worried or upset, but somehow pleased with the arrangement. It was comforting to see. Her supple fingers toyed with a knife, caressing the blade, as he noticed the ropes binding him to the chair. She’d been helping him all this time, keeping him hidden, safe in the cellar, bringing him food whenever she was able. The unlit cellar became a lie. She had turned on him, sold him out, betrayed him, but for what?

The torture began slowly. He felt the blade of the knife slide effortlessly under his skin, pain shot up his arm, overwhelming the brief sensation of pleasure he got from the initial cut. The knife worked its way in deeper, slowly, almost teasingly. Mathilde appeared to be taking pride in her work, carefully slicing patterns into the tender flesh, oblivious to the screams for help. No, not oblivious, it was music for her. Her blade was dancing, reflected in her eyes. If not for the pain he could have watched the intensity in those eyes for days. There was a raw and wild beauty to it, something few men see.

She started talking, interrupting the artistry of her torture. Her loquacious German had been watching, sitting in the corner the whole time. It was not clear what they were saying, but it seemed that they had known each other for a long time, that this was how they got their pleasure, that the safety of the man in the cellar was never the goal. He thought only of England, of what it held waiting for him, as Mathilde began heating the blade over a flame, smiling as though she had just won the war single-handed. Memories and dreams were all he had left as he became an instrument in Mathilde’s sadistic symphony.

Arms

I appear to have written this in 2008 and it was one of the first stories I took seriously. I wrote a few others around the same time, but none are saved on my computer, so they may take a while to track down.

 

Arms

The first signs of possible change came when the fingers went numb. This was hardly seen as an obstacle for normal life, as typing became only slightly clumsier and writing does not come from the fingertips. These signs were easily ignored and left to progress at their will. When the fingers became sore the ignorance continued, thoughts such as “I will see a doctor if it gets any worse” permeated the mind and self-diagnosis of over-working cold hands became almost dogmatic. It is easy to convince oneself that it couldn’t be anything serious, after all, serious things don’t creep up on you right? They surely always make themselves noticed right away or they would not be serious n’est-ce pas?

Typing had now become very stiff and laboured, writing became illegible and any attempt at drawing could be no more complicated than a stick-man at best. The thought of picking up any instrument became a laughable affair, if you have that sort of sense of humour, most of us would simply wince. Of course, excuses can be made to get out of almost anything, though eyebrows are likely to be raised when you refuse to shake hands in church because you have oil on your hands. There are times where we all like to think ourselves as warriors, battling to triumph over adversity, safe in the knowledge that old adages such as ‘God helps those who help themselves’ may somehow prove true.

By now it was no longer just the body which was affected; the mind was starting to go too. The doors were kept firmly shut, work was quit and all appointments and plans cancelled. Luckily it is easier to be reclusive in this day and age with such revolutions as internet shopping available to even those with dysfunctional digits. So what if mundane tasks were no longer achievable, such as fastening buttons on clothing? So what if hobbies are no longer manageable as they require use of the hands? So what if a social life is impossible when hiding from the world? So what if painkillers do nothing to numb the intense agony that clings to your most useful limbs as though they have become one in the same? As long as you can make decisions it’s not the end of the world right?

Life had become a repetitive nightmare, with pain being the most constant aspect. Frustration had performed a spectacular coup d’état on the mind, overthrowing a pleasant blend of truly democratic emotions. Something had to be done. Changes were needed. They had to be drastic. Time was running out. What to do? Increasing the dosage of painkillers was achieving nothing, creams and lotions were more painful to apply than beneficial, even after the immense feat of removing the packaging and lid. A rash decision had to be made and one particular risk sprang to mind, determination to end this all kicked in and thoughts were put into action.

In the shed outside was a set of rarely used tools, neglected and left eagerly awaiting to be used on even the most tedious of tasks, still somehow retaining their original polish. If you entered the shed you would swear you could hear excited murmurs as they watched to see who you picked. Today the saw was seemingly in luck, removed from its resting place for the first time in what must have seemed like a decade to such an underused piece of equipment. If it knew what it was going to be used for it would have tried to have hidden itself under the lawnmower or behind the rake.

As the right arm was the least functional the saw was brandished in the left, its shiny surface reflecting an expression of anxiety mingled with a maniacal, determined glare. Just below the right elbow the first mark was made, the saw’s teeth sliced effortlessly through the flesh, tainting its polished sheen with the stain of blood. The left arm drew back and forth clumsily, making the job take far longer than intended. Blood was spewing forth rapidly as the pain surpassed the previous agony. With a sickening crunch the saw hit bone and the sawing halted. The effort was too grand, but the determination surpassed it. As the sawing recommenced, the world started to blur, the pain subsided slightly and actions repeated as though they required no brain to power them, they simply had their own momentum.

After the last of the bone had been sawn through, the limb hung limp. Dangling flesh was difficult to continue sawing through and any rational mind would have found another method, but as is probably obvious, rationality was nowhere to be found. As the blood rushed out of the arm as though in a race to leave the body, the last of the flesh was hacked off until only a ragged stump remained. Before realisation could kick in that the job was only half complete with no means to finish it, the whole world went black and consciousness left the body.

It took a while before the remains were found; being a recluse can be quite risky as it leaves nobody to pick up the pieces. Whoever was unfortunate enough to find it would have probably been incredibly baffled by the horrific scene lying before their eyes. I do not envy them.