“She was different when she got back,” Danielle spoke quietly to the therapist. The first time she’d wanted to speak in the last three weeks. After Austin disappeared, a detective came to investigate it, didn’t listen to her, she’d spoken with the cops, everyone at Furlong’s, and then finally the FBI got involved. When they came they asked about Annice, who’d been gone for so much longer.
“Something is wrong here, and I feel like I’m the only one that sees it. Then Brandon? What happened to Brandon?”
“Tell me one more time, just for clarity, what happened to Brandon?”
She sighed. She’d told him more than once, and he kept asking herself to repeat the story. “The day after we got back from camping, Brandon was gone. Completely. Didn’t show up to work. Didn’t answer his phone. Brianna, his sister, didn’t have any idea what happened to him. We went to the cops again and they blue balled us. Gave us the same shit they did the first time.”
Dr. Derringer nodded, tapping his pencil on his notebook. “So, you believe… what happened, exactly?”
She twirled her hair through her finger as she remembered it all. Jay was traumatized. Liam was barely able to get out of bed. They all knew the rumors. They knew what happened. “I doubt you’ll believe me.”
“Try me.” He smiled. How many times had she heard that since that night?
“I think it was a Skinwalker.” A spike of fear burst across her chest as she spoke the name. “You know, the old native legends?”
Derringer nodded and wrote something quietly into his notes. He gestured for her to continue.
“I really think it was. What else is out there, aliens?” She rolled her eyes. “I didn’t want to believe but really. Then, why would Annice show up out of the blue? I don’t even think it’s really Annice.”
“Tell me,” he interrupted her. “Austin had… been accused of some rather heinous things in his past, hadn’t he?”
She paused. Everyone knew the stories, but nobody could do what they said he did. He wasn’t a monster, at least, not before their camping trip. “I don’t buy it.” She shook her head, feeling the hair bounce between her fingers. “He couldn’t have.”
“Did you know Austin then?” Derringer spoke quietly, slowly. Every word out of his mouth came as if it had a secondary purpose.
“I was acquaintances with him. We had a few classes in high school but beyond that, I knew he was on the soccer team.”
“So, you don’t think that there was a chance that someone held a grudge?”
Danielle straightened her back. “With as little respect as I can muster, Dr. Derringer, if someone raped me I certainly wouldn’t wait for twenty-some years to get my revenge.”
He held his hands up. “I don’t mean to frustrate you, Mrs. Berry. I’m simply suggesting an alternative.”
“What do you think, then?” she folded her arms and clicked her tongue.
“I don’t think you’re paying me to know what I think about Austin Cole.” He paused. “So I’d rather not answer that.”
“He didn’t do it.” She threw a leg over the edge of the chair and stared at him. “I know Austin. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Derringer nodded again. “So, Danielle, what is causing you the most stress, about this situation?”
“No one will listen to me. Not even the therapist I’m fucking paying for.”
He adjusted in his seat as the words dripped from her lips. “I don’t think that is the problem. I’ve recorded everything you’ve said. I think it is deeper than that.”
She held her breath for a moment, letting herself think. “I think it’s going to come to finish the job.”
“That’s what they do.”
Derringer set the notepad on the table and leaned forward, clasping his hands together.
“Mrs. Berry, I know that this is the most rational thing you can consider given the circumstances, but what if the two occurrences aren’t connected? What it Annice’s return and your other friend’s disappearance aren’t connected. Austin was convicted of trafficking drugs several years ago and was imprisoned for it. Perhaps he owed someone money?”
Danielle stood. Her heartbeat racing. “If he did, what did Brandon have to do with it?”
“That is the question, isn’t it?” Dr. Derringer asked. Then, he began scratching his chest.
“I promise you, I told you everything I know about the place.” Annice sat, covered in a plush blanket with a hot cup of coffee in her hand. She looked up to Bryan as his mind whipped through possible scenarios. He clicked a pen and glanced toward Vidten, who had taken the skin of the detective and swelled to fill it.
“You were locked in there for so long, how did you survive?” Bryan looked down at his notes. A small notebook laid atop the clipboard, which held his real theories.
“They fed me, twice a day. Mostly undercooked meat. Sometimes there were vegetables.” She took a sip from the coffee and grimaced. He made a note of it.
“No wonder you’re so emaciated. What about the guy you were with, what happened to him?”
She shivered. “He had this… lump on his chest, like a huge zit or something. It moved underneath his skin and when you killed that thing down there, it ruptured.” She took another sip. Bryan wrote down her account of the lump on the boy’s chest and Vidten spoke up.
“Did you find anyone else down there?” He faked a cough. “You know, anyone who you knew before you were taken?”
She shook her head and leaned back in the chair. “I didn’t see anyone else. There were tons of people down there, maybe in the hundreds.”
“Town like this, if hundreds of people went missing don’t you think it would be a bigger deal?” Bryan glanced back and forth between his partner and Annice. “You know, a total population of twenty thousand isn’t many people.”
She nodded. “I don’t know, honestly.” She took a long drink of her coffee and set the mug on the table beside her. “I really don’t. I’m just thankful to be back home.”
Vidten nodded. “I hope you don’t mind, we’re going to keep you in the hospital and have you checked out. You might be sick with something, if you were eating raw meat for that long something else must be going on. You won’t have to pay anything, we just want to make sure that you’re still healthy before we let you go back home. We’ve notified your mother and father and they will be by soon to pick you up.”
Annice nodded and picked up the mug. “Hey, Bryan, thank you.”
He nodded and snapped his notebook closed. “Of course. If you think of anything else, please don’t be afraid to call. We will be here a few days wrapping up the investigation.”
She leaned back into the chair and glanced out the window while she absent-mindedly rubbed her chest. “I missed the sun.”
“I’d rather be in a cave.” Vidten quipped, and stood alongside Bryan.
The pair stepped out of the waiting room and closed the door behind them. They shared no words until they reached the parking lot when Bryan pulled the notebook back out of his coat.
“What do you think this is?” He looked across the roof of his car towards Vidten who had already begun deflating.
They climbed in and his partner slipped out of the skin. “I think it’s a Skinshifter, for sure, but this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.” Vidten oozed from between the skin of the man and rolled off of the chair, pulling the man’s skin with him.
“It doesn’t fit the bill. Shifters don’t have mass containment facilities beneath cities. No Yandalooshi I’ve seen operates on a scale this large. It’s something else.” He peered through pages in his journal while he spoke. Outside, the cloudy sky threatened rain.
“I don’t know. Think about the Changeling you guys busted back in ’05.” Vidten squished his body down and relaxed.
“Yeah, that was a big deal but even he only took fifteen kids. I’m supposed to believe this thing has hundreds of bodies? They can’t all be from here. There would be widespread panic.”
“Think it could be a family of doppels?” The slime squeaked through the skin piled on top of himself.
“Too many inconsistencies. Plus, they can’t survive topside for as long as this thing has been active.
We’re talking close to twenty-five years in the same place.” He tapped a page in the journal with a list of names and dates. “’89, ’91, ’93, ’95, then there is a long break between attacks, the next one was in ’01. After that, it’s been every three months.”
“Too quiet. Cults can’t operate this quietly, even with Magic. He closed the notebook and slipped it between his legs as he started the car. “Let’s go take a look at the site itself.”
Brandon pulled against the thick leather bands that bound him to the steel table. In the darkness, he could see that he was within a small circular chamber, The cracked walls were overgrown with a peculiar moss that emitted a small amount of light. By the glowing moss, he could see that hung variously along the walls were some hooks. Hung upon the hooks were rows of skin dressed in different outfits. There were a dozen or more uniforms lashed around these hooks that spaced across the room. On a far table, a rusted set of surgical equipment rested, fresh blood spattered across the table. There were two doors in this circular room, one behind him and the other across the room.
He struggled against his bindings as he tried to force his way out. He pulled against them and the jingling of the metal lock echoed through the room. Occasionally, the sound of someone moaning would reach him wherever he was. He fought, eventually trying to dislocate his thumb and slip from the bindings but had nowhere to push against as his body was splayed out.
Eventually, he gave up the struggle and waited.
“If I ‘m going to die down here, it’s all the better.”
His mind fell back to the prior evening when he’d seen Tracy outside of his door, the wicked bloody grin on his face burned into him. He wanted to run then, he should have, but he couldn’t bring his legs to move. He froze as Tracy reached into a leather bag and produced a small, violet powder. He brought it to his face and after that, Brandon couldn’t remember anything until he woke on the table.
He calmed his thoughts and tried to focus on the sounds from outside the room. The sounds of many groans bled through the walls. The rattle of chains haunted the place beyond him. A terrible scraping sound echoed nearly constantly as he considered a way to escape.
“Can’t break the bindings. Can’t break my hand.” He checked ideas off of his list quietly in the dim light. “Could I break the table?” He leaned and tried to peer over the edge and found the steel table’s legs sturdy beneath him. “Of course.” He sighed.
Then, the scraping drew nearer.
Panic set in as the sound of stone upon stone dragged from behind him, eventually pausing at the far door. From the other side, a sick crunch preceded a splatter, and then something groaned. The door creaked slowly as whatever was on the other side passed into the room. From the darkness, a man stepped through. Brandon winced, expecting something else. This man closed the door behind him and locked it quietly before he stepped into the room. He was tall, with silvery hair. He wore a dark jacket and suit pants. His dress shoes popped against the stone as he made his way across the room. As the man approached, Brandon remained silent. His face was covered in scratches and bruises, parts of his suit had been torn. He stopped by the table.
“Hello, young man.” He reached to Brandon’s bindings and began undoing them. “I’m Dr. Derringer.” He mumbled as if he was holding something inside of his cheek.
“How did you get here?” The first strap fell limp as his arm released back to his side and the blood rushed back to it.
“One of those things tried to kidnap me, but it is dead.” Derringer raced to the other side of the table and began on the leg straps as Brandon leaned toward his trapped arm.
“How did you kill it?”
“A big knife.” Derringer casually replied as he pulled the strap free from his legs.
Brandon slid from the angled table and landed on the stone as his limbs began to tingle.
“We need to get you out of here.” Derringer scanned the dim room for a moment as Brandon adjusted his clothing, noticing soreness in his back that hadn’t been there before.
“Where are we?”
“North of the town, in an abandoned mine shaft that’s been transformed.” Derringer glanced back, his eyes reflected in the dim light of the moss.
Brandon took a step back, closer to the table of instruments where he plucked a scalpel from the table. “How did you find me?”
“I’ve been here before.” The man paused, listening at the door for a moment. “A long time ago.”
Brandon watched his face fall, a frown creased across his jawline as he put his hand to the door.
“Well, make sure when we get out, you don’t have to come back.”
Derringer pushed on the door and a sharp scream echoed through the halls. The sound of scraping returned, with thundering footsteps.
“Go.” Derringer shoved him out of the door and closed it. “Follow the stones.”
Brandon obeyed as he stepped into near-complete darkness. “Stones?” He braced himself against the wall nearest him and felt a small rock that had been lodged into the wooden door. Behind him, something roared.
He didn’t wait for Derringer and began running with his hand against the wall, each stone he touched kept him sane as he pounded down the knotted corridors and through the small collection of rooms. He passed a hall where he saw from the corner of his eyes, a massive tangle of flesh and bone that stood in the center of the darkness, emitting its faint glow. The almost-human shape turned as he passed and a scream ripped through the darkness. Another set of thumping feet began behind him.
As he ran, he heard Derringer call out from another hall, his words drowned out by the chorus of screaming. The thing stopped at the sound of Derringer’s voice and turned back, resuming it’s howl as it sprinted down the hall in the opposite direction.
Brandon panted as he felt the searing pain in his lungs. He didn’t know how long he’d been running, or where he was going to go. Each hall twisted and turned and evolved into a new sprawling darkness. The stones did little to help him navigate as far away as he was from the place he’d first entered.
He turned, each turn throwing him further and further into the darkness before he crashed into a large stone pillar, obscured by the darkness. A single beam of light cast down from the ceiling and illuminated an altar, hewn from the stone itself beneath the earth. It was as tall as his waist and ten feet around, and atop it, bathed in the light laid a twisting, writing mass of limbs. Joints of its various arms overlapped and piled upon themselves, each of the gnarled limbs was bent and broken, the skin fused and formed a larger mass, which was connected to the oblong, spherical body. It was pale, its skin translucent beneath the light. Atop the mass of limbs, a small neck held up a bony head with no eyes or features besides one singular mouth that curled from the crown of its skull and wrapped around the head, half hiding rows of razor-sharp teeth.
Brandon crept around the pillar as the creature sat in silence, each of the smaller limbs moved independently of the larger structure. Where its feet would have been against the earth, he saw piles of hands that stacked and bent and pressed into the stone. The fingers wiggled freely as if they were not connected to the body of the thing. All of its flesh carried the same semi-transparent blue hue, and its insides looked much the same as the rest of it. Organs which twisted around and looped over one another. Three hearts, two sets of lungs, a single stomach which fed into multiple intestinal tracts that bundled together and looped around its body and ended variously along its torso, gaping holes that denoted the end of the intestinal tract oozed from its shoulders and back, yellow-green bile dripped from the open flesh as it continued to bob on the altar. In the center of its back rested a singular eye, Fingers and teeth protruded from where eyelashes should have been, the massive iris flitted around the room as if it was searching for something.
Brandon pulled in a tight breath and turned back to the hall, his mind growing foggy.
“I’m not staying for that.”
He whipped back and moved into the darkness of the hall and felt all the safer for it as he found the route he’d followed there, a sharp turn from a larger room with no markings. He passed through the hall into the larger main room and found himself face to face with Derringer, but it wasn’t Derringer.
Before him stood the man who had freed him, stripped of his clothing and covered in small nodules, They were dark against his pale skin and seemed to be chirping. The sound echoed into the room as Derringer, whose eyes had rolled back into his skull, took a step forward. Then another.
Brandon backed away, his chest tingling as his heart pounded inside of him.
“Get back.” He muttered as he backed into the hall. The man did not stop.
Trapped between the altar, and the grotesque thing before him, he closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. Brandon swung at Derringer.
Derringer caught his fist in one hand, the sudden bend in his shoulder crunched one of the small nodules and it fell away from him. When it landed, the thing quickly scuttled into the darkness.
Brandon twisted, kicking toward Derringer’s abdomen as he sidestepped and wrapped his arm around his leg. Brandon squirmed, hoping to dislodge himself, before being lifted off the ground as Derringer began to spin him.
The light of the hall passed behind him quickly as the blighted man who’d set him free spun and threw him into the darkness of the opposite hall, where he skidded and rolled across the floor. He stood and took a step back as he felt something behind him, the warmth of another body in the cold darkness wrapped around him as the thing in the shadows gripped his hands and Derringer approached, his bare arm exposed, the skin peeled back from it. A long needle protruded from the wound, opaque and white. Brandon fought to free himself from the grip of the creature that barred him, but it was no use. He screamed in pain as Derringer shoved the needle deep into his chest.
Bryan returned to the scene where the prior day he’d found Annice. A short walk into the abandoned mine shaft turned animal den revealed a much deeper network of tunnels and rooms, the entrance where he’d found one of the skinshifters was grand. Two large pillars twisted from opposite sides of the room just within the rounded staircase that looped to the second floor. Across from the entrance there stood a massive door covered with intricate carvings that depicted a twisting mass of flesh suspended above a small spike, something seemed to emerge from within the creature depicted on the carving. The body of the thing he’d killed had been removed. As had the body of the young man Annice claimed helped her escape, Austin Cole. He slipped his gun from the holster as Vidten wrapped around him, discarding the skin he’d filled. From the other side of the door, the hunters heard a cry from the other side of the stone door, somewhere in the depths of the cave.
“That sounded like a human.” Vidten quipped from the stone that rested close against Bryan’s chest.
“I can smell him.” He whispered as Bryan made his way to the large door. Beside the massive stone carving, he found a small lever and pulled it, the thin wood quickly snapped under the force.
“It’s never easy, is it?” He sighed and made his way to the stairs, slipping a flashlight from his belt.
He ascended and saw a bloody stain where Annice said she’d hidden with Austin before he’d expired, the blood had begun to coagulate and dry and left a poor image of the kid in his place. He stepped through it and moved toward a small doorway that had been carved out of the stone. The walls in the cave were littered with deep gashes like someone had drug the tip of a massive drill bit down the sides of them. He made his way through the path and into a small room where he found a collection of personal items that sat on top of a wooden bench. A wallet, a pair of keys, and a pack of gum rested in the beam of his flashlight for a moment before he made his way further into the room. It broke off into two separate hallways that appeared identical. He moved toward the sounds of scraping and moaning that echoed from the right. He followed the sounds until he passed by a door that had been snapped, pieces of scrap wood and rubble scattered across the hall and he peered inside, quickly checking the area before he continued. On the far wall of the small cave room, he saw tally marks accounting for two hundred and forty-one days.
“Annice,” Vidten whispered.
Bryan didn’t respond as he turned back and made his way out of the room. He continued down the halls, drawing nearer to the chorus of groaning as sweat beaded on his forehead. He gripped the pistol and turned a corner in the endless maze of identical halls before he found a young man, lying in the center of a small room. On the opposite door, he saw a large carving that mirrored the entry hall’s door.
“We’re on the other side of the door now,” Vidten whispered.
Bryan knelt beside the boy and checked his pulse.
“He’s alive.” He shined a light over the man, in his early thirties with sandy brown hair and covered in gashes much like everything else that came from the depths of the tunnels.
“Hey,” He nudged the man with his free hand. “Are you alright?”
Beneath the skin on the boy’s chest, a large swollen lump writhed. It was dark, not like a bruise but more like a large scab that had been grown over. It twitched, and beneath the loud groans that came from the cells around him, it was lightly chirping. Though the muffled sound beneath the groans sent a shiver down his spine. He placed a hand on the man’s forehead as he adjusted his grip on his gun.
“Can you hear me?”
“Give him some mojo.” Vidten pulled himself from around Bryan’s chest and perched on his shoulder. “You know, some of that alchemy.”
“Healing isn’t part of my Chain, unfortunately.” Bryan pulled his hand free and crept past. “No use to spare the dying, we need to find the source.” He spoke low into the darkness and knew that this was not like any nest he’d stumbled upon before.
Across the room, he noticed the faint glow of blue light cast into the hall. Vidten embraced him once more and he made his way to the source.
Bryan crossed the threshold and entered the room, his eyes laid upon the horrific visage of bodies sewn together, gaping holes on the body of a blueish clear creature, and a zipper-like mouth that wound around its head greeted him and he aimed his gun.
It did not move.
He took a cautious step into the room and watched the creature as it rotated around the pedestal, the massive eye affixed to it’s back by hands and teeth glanced around quickly. He watched the iris rotate and spin as if it were looking for something. Back in the room with the body, he heard a familiar scraping begin to move toward him.
He wrapped around the room, careful to avoid the eye as Vidten stretched from his chest to peer around corners. His nearly see-through body impossible to make out in the dim light. Bryan reached into his pocket as he spun and gripped a small vial of gold flakes he’d kept for emergencies. He crushed the vial and the goal turned to a liquid in his hand. The creature spun, the large eye scanned the room as Vidten used the rest of his body still wrapped around Bryan to direct him. He pressed his hand to the stone and let the gold drip from his fingertips onto the floor. Once the droplets had landed, they pulled stone into themselves and grew, following Bryan’s fingertips as they formed four small points. He swiped his hand through them and scooped each of them up into his hand, then he spun. He threw one of the stone and gold mixed spikes toward the creature at the altar, the point slammed into the bloodshot eye and it screamed as a gush of dark blood burst from the wound. He took the second and threw it down the hallway, searching through the darkness for a target. When the sound of it skittering across the floor echoed through the halls, he turned back to the being on the altar and jammed the remaining two spikes into it as its mouth unwound and opened to reveal a churning mass of thousands of teeth nestled within. The three spikes left in the creature did little to slow it down as it jumped from the altar and with many voices, began to groan.
Vidten tightened around Bryan’s chest and whispered.
Bryan obeyed the advice as the creature reached a malformed limb down toward him. He ducked beneath the homogenized collection of arms and sprinted away, down the hall. He turned back toward the room where he’d found the body and saw it vacant. A small wet bloodstain where he had been. Bryan gritted his teeth and sprinted towards the stone door as the tunnel behind him began to crumble. He pressed on the stone with his bare fingertips and chanted quietly under his breath. A crack formed in the door beneath his palm as he continued his chant, and saw the mounds of flesh moving toward him from down the long hallway. They ran, crashing into the ramshackle doors as they went, their outstretched bones ripped through the stone like a knife through silk.
“Come on,” Vidten mumbled as Bryan continued putting pressure on the door.
The crack grew larger as he pushed. As the small crack stretched across the stone, he saw the lumbering mass duck out of the room and into the hall, moving after him slowly. He turned his attention toward the door and pushed into it, forcing his power upon it as he finished his chant.
The crack widened immediately, and in an instant fractured the stone as air burst forth from the space that was made. A powerful gust blew through the door as it collapsed in upon itself and buried the area in a haze of dust. The creatures did not slow as Bryan leaped over the rubble and sprinted towards the mouth of the cave.
Danielle couldn’t bear the solitude, sitting at home and waiting for something to happen. So as the sun began to set she got in her car and drove to Furlong’s, where she found Liam and Jay silently working. Their eyelids hung low over their pupils, red marks decorated the sides of their eyes and they didn’t speak as she took a seat at the bar. Danielle propped a bottle of water onto the tabletop and looked Jay dead in the eyes.
“We can’t keep pretending as if nothing happened out there.”
Jay didn’t respond. Neither did Liam.
“Guys, I’m serious. Don’t you think it’s weird? Brandon now, and Annice at the end of last year?”
Their silence in return only served to frustrate her.
“Someone, anyone please say anything to me I’m freaking out.”
“Stop talking.” Came Liam’s gentle response. “Don’t say something you’ll regret.”
“So we’re supposed to completely ignore what happened?” She rolled her eyes at him as he sunk the blade of his knife into a cut of salmon.
“I mean, we will be better off if we forget about it, yeah.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what’s out there, Dani.” Jay cut in. “Your grandmother told you all of the stories.
She took a long drink and tapped her foot on the stool. “That doesn’t mean I’m pleased with the cops not doing anything, that detective barely even asked questions.”
“Detective?” Liam cocked an eyebrow.
“Yeah, he and his partner visited Annice and talked to her this morning about what happened to her.
She called and told me some of it, but really, they just repeated the same questions over and over I guess.” She let out a long breath. “Doesn’t any of this sound strange to you?”
Liam set his knife down and pulled his hat from his head. “I still have hair, Dani, I’m still around. I’m not keen on asking any more questions about whatever has been going on out there. I just want to get out of town.”
She watched him slide a door down over his workstation and step into the kitchen as Jay contemplated his words.
“I think he’s on to something.” Jay plated a sushi roll and slid it across the line. “Maybe we should skip town.”
“And go where?” She scooted over as Liam made his way to the bar beside her.
“Anywhere.” Jay shrugged. “Anywhere other than here.”
Danielle’s brow warmed as she spoke with them. “I think that’s fine, but if we go anywhere now, I think we will be marking ourselves as suspects.”
“Of what?” Liam laughed. “Scalping our friend of almost twenty years?” He put his head in his hands and sighed.
“Of murder, at the very least. The cops don’t believe what happened. They didn’t with Annice either.”
“Annice is home now,” Jay started, he went to continue as Danielle interrupted him.
“Now, and how did she get home, that detective? If the cops scanned the area she was taken last year, wouldn’t you assume that they’d have found her sooner?”
The boy shrugged in unison.
“You’re both hopeless.” She took another long drink from her water bottle and swallowed hard.
As the moon rose into the sky, Annice laid beneath a large pile of blankets the same way she did every time she was overwhelmed. After Bryan had dropped her off and questioned her, she’d retired to her room and slept as much as she could. As if mocking her, the moon rose when she awoke and refused to let her fall back to bed.
She tossed and turned as she slept, occasionally glancing out her window where she watched the pinwheel in her backyard spin lazily in the night time breeze. On this particular night, it was far too cold to snow, but the wind made it feel even worse. She lifted herself from her bed and cracked the window an inch, and flipped the light on.
She tried anything she could to pass the time. She’d completed three of the family puzzles by herself earlier in the day, and as they caught her attention on her dresser she picked one up and broke it apart on her bed, where she sat and started it over.
“It is over.” She mumbled to herself as she found the corner pieces and began working on the border.
She parsed through the border quickly, after the occasional glance at the completed photo. A small cabin in a snow-covered valley. The sun was high in the sky in the photo, she glanced to the pinwheel once more and saw a figure silhouetted in the night.
He was tall, the porch light reflected against his pale skin and revealed silver hair that had, at some point been well maintained. The man’s right arm was covered in a thin layer of blood that painted the whole of his elbow and wrist. His body was covered in strange black marks that seemed to raise off of his skin like bumps, or growths. He was grinning.
The man took a short step forward as she leaped off of her bed and ran into the hall, to her mother’s room.
She flipped the light on and Tonya burst from her sleep.
“Child what are you doing?”
Annice knelt beside the gun safe and quickly whipped through the combination. “Making sure I stay home this time.” She reached in and grabbed her father’s shotgun. She cocked it and ran back to her bedroom where the blistered man stopped at the doorway. He reached through the open window as she aimed the shotgun and fired. Tonya ran into the room with her handgun drawn and aimed as the man launched back a couple of feet. Annice swung back, hardly noticing her mother’s presence as she rounded the hall towards the kitchen. She kicked the knob and the door swung free from the old lock that barely kept it in place, to begin with as she stepped out onto the back lawn to find the man standing once more.
She brought the shotgun to his frame and pulled the trigger, the buckshot scattered into his torso as he took another step.
“Die! Just Die!” She screamed. She cocked the shotgun again. Behind her, she heard her mother pull the hammer of her handgun just moments before a boom echoed through the valley and a fresh hole decorated the man’s pale face. Chips of teeth and bone launched from their home in his cheek as he spun from the impact. She pulled the shotgun back to her shoulder and fired a third time at the back of his head. The blast knocked him down as he twisted and fell onto the lawn. She cocked the gun and shot again, the fourth spray of pellets launched a handful of the black spots from the man’s body and they disappeared in the darkness of the lawn. Tonya approached from behind and aimed her gun at the man.
“Who is he?” She asked, waiting for the man to move.
“What is he,” Annice replied, firing the shotgun a fifth time. The blast focused on the center of the man’s chest.
A sharp screech rang through the valley as the final shot echoed into the night and the man, who had been struggling to stand, slumped to the ground, his body littered with gunshot wounds. Annice threw the empty shotgun to the ground and ripped the revolver from her mother’s hands as she screamed and emptied the clip into the corpse before her. The rounds slammed into the body of the man and sent chunks of viscera and blood spraying from his body as tears flooded her eyes. She didn’t stop until she pulled the trigger and nothing came out, then, she fell to her knees with the empty gun at her side and cried.
Danielle had remained at Furlong’s until well past closing time. She sat beside Jay and Liam in the nearly dark restaurant, the only sound that of the dishwasher finishing his tasks.
“So that’s our plan?” Liam’s voice creaked through the stale air.
“We’re going to move,” Danielle answered him. We’re going to get out and get safe. Go somewhere that this kind of thing doesn’t happen.”
Jay remained silent for most of the conversation, until then. He pushed his chair away from the bar and stood.
“Let’s go home and pack.” He looked at her, expecting her to say or do something, but she remained where she was and stared forward, through the kitchen doors and toward the back of the restaurant as the back door opened and closed quickly.
Liam jumped from his seat and ran to the hall that led to the back door and when he did, he stepped back and gagged.
“There’s no way.”
Danielle slid from her seat and approached Jay, who turned the corner and had a reaction much the same. When she reached the hall she looked down into the darkness and saw their friend, Brandon, lying on the floor, clutching a massive swollen bump on his chest.
“You guys have to help me.” He struggled through a dry tongue and coughed a dash of blood onto the freshly mopped floor.
There will be no end to the screaming.
Thank you, for coming to hear a new story from the Otherwhere. This is only the beginning. I hope to see you back over the next few days until the end of this year. These are not only retellings of a world long ago. They are a recorded history, a warning for all of us. I am merely the vessel they are speaking through. I hope you share these warnings with as many as you can. The time is not long now. Do not be afraid of the shadows.
I’d love to hear from you on Social Media if you have it, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed thus far. I’ll be back with more.
See you soon.