After a brief unexpected absence of a week, we’re back! As well as having the customary inspirational pictures for a story for next Saturday (no upper or lower word limits – go for it) we have the first part of a excellent new story – In Dire Straits – from Stitched Saturday newcomer Alisha Jordan.
Following that, we have the first part of Born of a Witch by the ever-brilliant Stitched regular Nick Paschall. Aren’t we good to you?
This weeks pictures are all based around the theme of “Deserted”. Post your stories in the comments to this thread to see them up on the blog next weekend. Let your horror juices flow, and I’ll see you all here next Saturday. Bring cake.
In Dire Straits – Part 1 – Alisha Jordan
For the first time in her long career, she was nervous about entering this old truck. Cancer riddled body of the pickup reminded her of her God-fearing parents. Daddy drove the same model of Chevy. She felt like maybe she should, but didn’t force a smile when he handed her the steaming coffee. She brought the cup to her face and inhaled the aroma, feeling the steam moisten her nose and upper lip. Despite shaking hands, the corners of her mouth turned upward.
“You’ve made the right choice Darlin’,” he said tossing a smoke into her lap. He shifted the truck into gear and began driving out of the derelict, vacant alleyway where they always met.
“I hope so,” she was sincere.
Although the evening was hot and humid, she couldn’t shake the chill deep within her bones. She had an overwhelming need to right all of her wrongs, for the sake of Mama and dear Daddy. She hadn’t seen them in years, but in the decade since she’d been home last, she’d never forgotten every back road and pathway through the thicket to their hobby farm.
He pulled into the lot of the decrepit and suffering motel. Neon letters erratically flickering, barely reading ‘vacancy’.
“Number 38 there,” she pointed a quivering finger to a dark corner of the motel lot. As he parked he scanned the area, when he spotted the homeless man sleeping between the vending machine and trash can, he pulled his cap down and turned off the ignition.
“Quickly now, Beth is waiting at home with a hot meal.” He hit a switch, unlocking the doors.
“Yes, sir,” she hopped out of the truck, rushing to her room.
All her possessions fit into large, tattered duffel bag with faded pink leopard print fabric. She wondered how she had been so fortunate to receive such a blessing as this kind man, who offered her saving from addiction and the street.
“You make sure you keep this our secret, I don’t have room for the rest of them girls. They’re not special like you Sweetkins. They can’t be saved.” He had said the first time she met him. She hadn’t even been working the corner that night, but getting food from a gas station near the motel. There he was, sitting in his truck in the alley next to the abandoned building; she had thought he was Daddy at first.
She tossed her bag into the back of the truck, and as she climbed in she smiled genuinely through violent tremors of withdrawal. She imagined Beth greeting her with a warm smile, and a hot plate of fried chicken and maybe some sweet potatoes. There was no way she could eat, but the smell of the food would make her feel at home. She was ready to quit the dope, ready to be the daughter Mama and Daddy deserved.
When they left the city limits, she rolled down her window and stuck her face out feeling the breeze, savoring the scent of nature, green pastures, even manure.
“Keep your head inside this truck Sweetkins. Duck down like we talked about”
“Right, sorry” she rolled the window back up, pulling her hood over her head while leaning into the arm rest on the door. Daddy used to call her Sweetkins when she was a girl.
“Did you tell anyone where you were going? Or that you were going with me?” He asked squinting as high beams passed on the opposite highway.
“Don’t worry,” she lit the cigarette, “nobody even knows who you are.”
“That’s a good girl” He smacked the brim of his hat forward so all she could see was his nose and mouth.
She knew he was only trying to protect his reputation, and so he should with the likes of her. If she was an embarrassment to Mama and Daddy, then she certainly was to everyone else.
They pulled up to his house where a single light illuminated the porch. Boisterous barking came from inside, and this wasn’t the place she envisioned. The lawn was unkempt and ivy covered most of the house. Looking out the window she could make out a barn, but no neighbors.
“Beth like to cook in the dark?” She tried to laugh away her fear.
He exited the truck, not saying a word, and walked to the house. Reluctantly, she followed, clutching her bag to her chest. He ushered her into the house where she was greeted by a putrid smell. Then came the sound of several locks locking behind her, followed by a key.
A Rottweiler barrelled to her feet and barked at her defensively.
“Shut up Beth.” His voice made her body tense, ceasing the withdrawal shakes.
Too afraid to turn around, she stared at the shadows of furniture in front of her. The smell, the rancid smell burned her nostrils and evoked bile to churn up into her oesophagus.
“Are you scared?” he whispered into her ear from behind her. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move. The shakes returned more violent than before. “You should be.” His words cut into her soul with his moist, warm breath on the back of her neck.
She dropped her bag and hugged herself releasing audible shuddering whimpers. Beth attacked the bag, low throaty growls saturated by gargling saliva tore through the fabric. He grabbed her by the back of the neck, his other hand grabbed a fistful of her hair and he dragged her down the corridor. She screamed and cried, kicked clawed at his face, but he had no trouble overpowering her. He dragged her into a dark room, she could feel the flooring change from wood to carpet as they entered. He released her, where she crawled into a corner weeping. He laughed manically stalking towards her, fists raised. She raised her arms to block the impending blow, and he delivered his bony fist into her forearm and cheekbone. His other fist pummeled into her stomach enough to make her taste blood and bile in the back of her throat. He punched, kicked, clawed and an even bit for what felt like hours to her. She could hardly hear her own cries because one of her eardrums ruptured during the assault.
She awoke the next day to shreds of light escaping between boards nailed to a window. It illuminated the room enough she could make out the damage to her body. She could barely open her eyes, and when she brought her fingers to her face, she could feel the soft inflammation of her skin. Pain pulsated through her entire body, it hurt too much to sob. Dark splotches of blood stained the walls and carpet, and she was very aware even with limited vision and lighting, the brown and burgundy stains were not bled solely from her body. She lay in a fetal position, wincing as she laid her face on the blood-crusted carpet, and began to accept her fate.
She was going to die, she didn’t know when or what horrors awaited. But she was going to die.
“He’s got you, but he ain’t got you.” A hoarse woman’s voice whispered. She lifted her head, searching the room for the voice. She noticed a closet with sliding doors near the door. She lifted herself to her knees, then began to vomit violently. She felt feverish, cold sweat dripping and chills circulating through her body. When she was done vomiting, she wiped the bile from her mouth and crawled to the closet. A sour smell became prominent and when she slid the door of the closet open she was face to face with a decomposing corpse of a woman. The body was swollen, eyes and tongue protruding grotesquely from sockets and mouth. She backed away terrified, sliding her butt through the bile she had just hurled. She dry heaved, this time nothing to expel even though she felt as if her eyes may dislodge from her own sockets from the pressure.
She didn’t hear the door open a while she vomited bile into her lap.
“I see you’ve met your predecessor,” his voice rocked her body, laying on her side and covering her face with her knees pulled into her chest. He chuckled and crouched down in front of her, he pushed away her hands and lifted her chin, looking over his handiwork with a smirking grimace.
“I know they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he said softly caressing her cheek, “but goddamn! You’ve got miles of bad road, enough to scare a buzzard off a gut pile!” He chuckled. He stood and kicked his steel toe boot into her stomach, “get up, time to eat.”
She followed him out of the room where she immediately entered a kitchen. Flies swarmed around moldy dishes littering the counters, dirt and grime painted every surface. The smell was not as bad as the corpse in the closet, but it was equally detesting.
“I may have lied,” he chuckled more as pulled a can of wet dog food from the fridge, “Beth doesn’t have a warm meal, but it’s a meal nonetheless.” He opened the can and forked out brown chunks into a steel tin. “The china is out of commission, so I’m afraid you and Beth will have to share this dish.”
Born of a Witch – Part One – Nick Paschall
Esther breathed in the heavy smoke of the incense they were using, the four other women seated around the young boy. He was sick with the fever, his skin sweaty and hot. The mother and father had been paid to drop the boy off, with claims that his death would be quick and painless.
“Lies,” Esther whispered.
“Beg pardon?” Wendy, an older redhead asked from her seat across from Esther. The old woman was notorious for being deaf as a post, something that there was no remedy for.
“Nothing Wendy,” Cecilia said, elbowing Wendy just below the breast from her spot next to Esther, “lady is just talking to herself again!”
“Bad habit, that,” Mia said, flicking the ashes of her cigarette onto the drawn chalk lines on the wooden floor, ashes sizzling into nothingness.
“This coming from you!” Faye said, the heavyset woman grumbled. He thicker glasses and shorter haircut often made her the target of ridicule from the people of town. Well, for a while at least. The locals never ridiculed her, just the college boys who’d come every Sunday to avoid being in a dry county.
Faye ran the Dry Martini, the only bar in the city. It flourished despite her cantankerous attitude and always had a full house. While not one to take one on, she always had her choice of lovers to pick up if she wanted any. Esther, with her pale complexion and sunken eyes, was jealous of her fellow witches use of power.
But tonight, it would all turn around.
Tonight, she got her own servant.
True, it may be a young boy, but the other sacrifices hadn’t been winner’s either: Faye’s had been a crippled old man, while Mia had taken a baby. Cecilia and Wendy had obtained their inhuman spirits before Esther had come along.
Looking around Wendy’s parlor, Esther smiled at the older woman’s obvious success. Two shelves of books made up the far wall, lined with ancient texts and copies of her award-winning series of teenage vampire romance novels. Between the stacks was a minibar, where crystal decanters held amber fluids, and a small fridge held miniature pickles, olives, and ice for cocktail drinks that the ladies would enjoy post-ceremony. Esther could feel the eyes of something malevolent gazing at her and tilted her head nice and slow, until her peripheral vision caught it.
Clinging to the wall leading from the foyer into this room, a creature made from equal parts shadow and tar clung to the wall, a long tail swishing back and forth in an agitated state like a cat that’s been kicked one too many times. Balding save for stray hair on the side of its head, the entity gazed down with amber eyes, yellowed teeth pulled back into a sneer as it watched the coven convene around the sickened child. Esther could hardly watch, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away as the creature slithered down the wall towards the floor and out of sight.
And into her eye it appeared, amber orbs blazing with intensity, teeth cracking as the jaw distended. Esther remained still, and watched as the spirit tried to scare her and even then, she had to admit that it’d made her heart leap into her throat.
“I’m so sorry Esther,” Wendy said, hand held over her chest., “William is always upset when we bring another of his kind to life.”
Esther chuckled, waving off her concern as William vanished without so much as a trick of the light, a faint scent of rotting meat lingering. “I understand. I’ll have one of my own to look after soon enough, I imagine he’ll be a handful for me at first.”
“A little boy?” Mia said, blowing smoke through her nose, smiling. “You’ll be lucky if he listens to you within the first week.”
“Don’t say that!” Faye growled, punching Mia in the shoulder. She looked over at Esther and smiled. “You just have to be assertive. He’ll have the mind of a child, so maybe set up a play area in your home, and a play room when you get a house? Do you know what you’re going to set him to do yet?”
Esther shook her head. All the women clucked their tongues and shook their heads while Faye groaned. “Esther! You must have a clear goal in mind, or else they become restless! You don’t want one of these haunting you because they have nothing better to do, trust me!”
“Then what should I ask for?” Esther asked in a soft voice, eyes downcast.
“A man to take care of you,” Wendy said.
“Power,” Faye said.
“Money,” Mia replied.
“All of the above, in limited portions of course,” Cecilia answered.
Esther looked over the others, taking in their advice and thought over their ideas for a few moments. She looked at Faye with her success in town, at Wendy with her successful book, at Mia with her string of lovers, and at Cecilia with her late husband’s fortune.
“I’ve decided,” Esther said with a nod.
“Good, now focus on what you want throughout the ritual. Don’t deviate, and you have to really want it, dear.” Cecilia said, patting Esther’s pale hand with her smooth, tanned one.
Esther nodded, but didn’t say anything.
They each took a black wax candle and three matches, along with a silver knife that had never tasted flesh. Together they waited until the clock in the foyer gonged out the sound of the hour, and they began the incantation.
One by one they lit their candles, scooting back from the drawn pentagram on the ground to place the black wax item at the point of the star. Their nude frames glistened in the dim lighting as the night warmed up, the house growing dark save for the candlelight. Noises unlike an Esther had heard outside this ritual could be heard; gnashing of teeth and the baying of hounds, all close by, while clacking of claws on hardwood floors skittered past them. But she kept her attention and didn’t miss her turn when she was supposed to cry out in ancient Assyrian.
In the flickering light, she watched the boy’s body, now still yet still covered in a thin sheen of sweat, sitting between five candles and partially covered by a sheet to preserve the boy’s modesty.
As Esther raised her hand up and cut into her index finger, dribbling blood down into the flames of her candle, she watched in fascination as bloody script bubbled up over his body like tattoos on a biker, running along his arms and chest, down his spine and thighs and shins to the tops of his feet. They circled over his heart, and, while chanting, Wendy leaned forward and grabbed the boy by the ankles, flipping him onto his back fully.
He sprang to life, eyes opening to reveal a pitiless void. He thrashed, kicking and screaming in a guttural tongue, cursing in the language of the dead Phoenicians. Cecilia and Mia held him down, their knives sinking into his upper chest to better pin him. No blood left from the wounds, however, and he hissed out chuckles as a long, red tongue slithered from between his lips to lick at his neck. Wendy raised herself up to her knees and called out.
“Dark Prince, Fallen Angel, Deceiver of All! It is your Judgement we seek tonight! An initiate wants to one who walks within your fields, who knows your ways, who sings your songs! Please grants us this entity for the rest of her natural life to aid her in what she desires most.”
The boy rolled his head, tongue flicking in an obscene manner. “You all wish for the cunt to get one like you?”
Everyone nodded, including Wendy, who continued to keep her arms raised. The boy chuckled, body twisting and popping as bones snapped from the pressure of the impromptu possession. “Very well then… by midnight, she will have one of my children.”
Esther shuddered when she felt a cold breath in the shell of her ear, “call for Sin when you are alone in a room lit by a single light.”
Esther swallowed the lump in her throat and shuddered as the heavy weight that had, at some point, settled on her back, dislodged itself and scrambled away. The heat slinked away and the candles died out, allowing Wendy to clap the lights back on. They all rose, with Mia and Faye rolling the rug back over the chalk outline of the pentagram they so often used.
They shared their after-ritual drinks as they often did, Esther enjoying her Long Island Iced Tea a little too much. By ten to eleven, she’d called the local Uber driver to take her back to her apartment and paid him with a generous tip.
She’d settled in her bedroom by eleven forty-five in her night time clothes, a conservative set of pajamas made of breathable silk that she’d been able to afford after a Christmas bonus. No, sitting on her bed with a single lamp in her small bedroom, decorated with occult items and tools for soothsaying, she counted down the minutes until she could mutter the single syllable word and name that would open up a world of possibility to her.