Greetings, horror fans!
As there’s still another week to get your short stories in – details below – this week sees the continuation of our two serialised stories. We have the 4th part of In Dire Straits by Alisha Jordan, and the 3rd installment of Born of a Witch by Nick Paschall.
And, remember, you have one more week to get your two-hundred word Apocalyptic tales in – details are on last weeks blog post.
Enjoy… and Stay Stitched!
In Dire Straits – Part 4 – Alisha Jordan
After a moment, she clenched her teeth and took a deep breath before leaning over the seeping cadaver. Black coagulated blood ran down Ivy’s back and settled thickly between the closet floor and wall. She leaned against the wall of the closet and squatted over the body, her makeshift scent guard did little to thwart the increasingly foul stench. She let out a silent gag, took a deep breath and slowly penetrated the opening of Ivy’s back with the tips of her fingers. Ivy’s blood felt like pudding, she pushed her hand further into the muck until she felt the hard texture of bones. Gently feeling around, she grasped her hand around a rib bone. She looked to Ivy’s bulging, rotting face and winced. Turning her face away to take a deep breath and blow it out before continuing, she tugged at the rib gently with an irrational fear Ivy would leap to life and moan in pain.
“You best give it a better effort” Ivy whispered in her ear. Damn, she sounded like Mama.
She firmed her grip on the slippery bone and yanked hard feeling and hearing a sickening snap. She quickly removed her dripping forearm from the body and stared at the sopping bone in front of her. She found an area of soiled rug in the room to wipe her arm and bone clean. Once satisfied, she ran to a corner behind the door and dry heaved for several minutes.
Hungry, and shaking, it was the first time she felt hope. She retrieved the bone and took it to the protruding nail.
“This is too blunt!” She whispered angrily scraping the bone against the nail head.
“Shave it.” Ivy responded.
“And how do you suppose I do that?”
“Usin’ your teeth is likely your best bet.” Ivy hissed.
She grimaced, no way in hell was she puttin’ that fetid bone near her mouth, no offence Ivy.
Ivy spat, “You keep wastin’ time and maybe the next girl will be smart enough to put your acrid remains in her mouth.”
The next girl.
If she didn’t get out of this place, there would be a next girl, and she may never know what became of dear Mama and poor Daddy. She had to try.
She put the smallest end of the rib against her bottom molars and began rubbing the bone back and forth against her teeth. The scraping of teeth to bone made her skin goose bump and her neck chill. She even tried to bite at it, but it was too hard to penetrate.
She heard early morning birds chirping when she decided to rest. The bone felt thinner, but it was grinding down the enamel of her molars as well. Years of drug abuse had dilapidated her teeth.
She tore up the corner of the carpet, jagged slivers from the flooring beneath stabbing under her nails. Tucking the bone in the crevice, she prayed it was unnoticeable.
She awoke with her back pressed against the wall beneath the window. Her entire body saturated in sweat, another hot Louisiana day. Her tongue felt like Velcro as she peeled it from the top of her mouth and choked. She was weak, barely able to roll herself over to face the door. She tried to rise to her knees but collapsed. She needed water. She hadn’t urinated since the afternoon before, and still had no urge. Laying on her stomach, she slid herself to the door, clawing at the carpet and using her toes to propel her forward.
Laying in front of the door, she weakly scratched at the bottom until Beth came. She could see Beth’s nose and claws digging at the door. Beth barked a few times and whined, then the heavy steps came and stood in front of the door.
“Boone” her voice cracked as she continued her pathetic scraping against the door, “Please,” whimpering hoarsely, “I’ll be good. I’ll be a good girl, please Boone, I promise.”
Boone opened the door slowly and stood over her, sneering at the scent which greeted him, and at the wretched pile of her on the floor.
“I was gonna let yer ass rot in here.” He sighed and looked to Beth panting at his feet, “but maybe I’m gettin’ soft.”
Boone walked into the kitchen where she could see him grab a soiled cup from the counter. As soon as the tap turned on she could feel her body jolt with life. She struggled to sit on her knees, feeling as if she could weep if her body held the hydration to produce tears.
The water was yellow in color, and residue from the drink before danced in the liquid as he held the glass in front of her face. Her hands shook and her tongue throbbed. He smiled wickedly as he handed her the glass, then pulled it away as she tried to grab it.
“I do spoil you.” He chuckled, finally giving her the glass.
She drank ravenously, water spilling out the corners of her mouth. The cool sensation running down her esophagus and into her stomach both refreshing and relieving.
“Heck, this room is beginin’ to make this house unbearable.” He covered his nose and mouth with his forearm. “Yer getting’ yer friend out of this house today. Don’t think about gettin’ any smart ideas, because I can bury the both of ya in the same grave. No mind to me.” He watched her carefully for a moment, observing to see her reaction.
Out of this house, today. The words she focused on, perhaps an opportunity to escape would be easier than she had thought.
When Boone was satisfied the woman in front of him was broken, he left her sitting on her knees in the doorway. Beth watched her intently, panting and looking from her to the corpse. When he returned he held a thick leather studded collar and a leash.
“Time to go outside, fresh air will do ya good.” He strapped the collar around her neck tightly and clipped the leash. She barely made it to her feet as he led her through the kitchen and out the back door through a mudroom.
The sunlight burned her eyes, the sting penetrating her very sockets and making her head throb. The backyard was heavily overgrown, grass, weeds and saplings standing a couple feet high. Directly outside the door he connected her leash to another leash connected to a clothesline. The clothesline ran to a shed about fifty feet away. He clicked his tongue and kicked the back of her heel forcing her to walk through the wet and overgrown terrain barefoot while he whistled.
“Barrow is in the shed, go get it. I’ll be waitin’ here.” He lit a cigarette and stood watching.
Her knees buckled and the wet grass made the skin on her legs itch, still, she savored the opportunity to inhale fresh air. She opened a squeaky door to a rotting wood shed where daylight illuminated a blood-soaked wheelbarrow. She stared at the wheelbarrow, then turned to look at Boone, watching her intently with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth forty feet away.
She could unclip herself from the leash and take off right now. Her hands were free, she could easily remove the collar and run, run for her life. If she did, and she was unsuccessful with her escape, she would surely die.
“C’mon now!” He hollered impatiently.
She leaned into the shed to grab the wheelbarrow but the slack wasn’t long enough. She practically hung herself, choking to the point she felt pressure behind her eyes while trying to grab the wheelbarrow handles.
She exited the shed gagging and coughing, heart racing and a flurry of emotions running rampant because she didn’t free herself.
A muffled noise interrupted her choking and she stopped walking. She turned to her right to see a red skinned woman who appeared to be standing on her knees in the grass. A thick, rusted chain hung heavily around her neck. The chain links clanged, grinding together as the woman reached out to her. The woman’s skin was badly burnt and her face was covered in dried blood. Her mouth was open, desperately blubbering with wide, frightened eyes.
She let go of the handles of the wheelbarrow when she realized who she was looking at. It was Mama, and her tongue had been gruesomely removed.
“Mama” she uttered quietly standing still.
“Surprise! It’s a family reunion!” Boone slapped his knee, damn near dropping the cigarette from his mouth.
She sprinted forward, straining the clothesline until it propelled her into the wheel barrow landing on her ass.
“Mama!” She wailed, reaching her arms out to her. Mama hoarsely blubbered back inaudibly, then released a primitive scream making sharp pin prick chills run down her spine.
“I hope yer happy, Sweetkins.” Boone stood beside her now, a firm hand pressed on her shoulder. “She is a sinner as much as you, raisin’ a bastard like you in to sow the oats of the devil.”
Born Of A Witch Part 3 – Nick Paschall
Esther woke up to the buzzing of her alarm clock, sprawled on her chest with her blankets thrown over body haphazardly, tossed about from her nightly movements. She could recall the vaguest of dreams, the face of a young woman… auburn hair, long, with green eyes. Shaking the cobwebs from her mind, Esther swung her arm out woodenly and slapped about to try and silence her alarm, succeeding after her third attempt.
Cracking open her left eye, she let out a small shriek when she found the pallid face of a dead child looking back at her, the blackened veins stark against the pale flesh.
“Sin!” Esther said, clutching her chest, trying to calm her racing heart, “you can’t do that!”
“I was waiting for you to wake up,” Sin explained, as if it were a good excuse.
“Just… just wait across the room next time alright, not inches from my face!” Esther ordered, heaving a sigh. Running a hand through her hair, she looked at the eldritch creature and studied the bleeding runes running up its limbs and sides. They seemed to be bleeding a little faster, as if the wounds were fresh, “are you alright?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” Sin said, smiling to reveal his brown teeth, “I found you a suitable subject last night and did what had to be done.”
“Already?” Esther asked. She hadn’t expected the demon to work so fast.
“Yes, you’ll have to perform the ritual to receive the gifts from me though. It will require a sacrifice,” Sin said, his smile growing wider.
“What kind of sacrifice?” Esther asked, getting out of bed to begin changing her clothes.
Sin shrugged. “The woman I claimed was a beauty. To gain her full glory you’ll have to grant the best kind of sacrifice, though anything will do. The lesser the sacrifice, the less the benefits you will gain from the woman’s… donation…”
“So, what would you want? What would be optimal?” Esther asked, shedding her night shirt and pajama pants as she rooted through closet for work clothes.
“A child,” Sin said after a long moment, licking his cracked lips, “a baby. Preferably female. The Rite of Five Daggers would release the energy to me and allow me to grant you the power to become what you desire.”
The Rite of Five Daggers? I’ll have to look that up… Esther thought, hooking her bra on over her meager breasts. “Right, well store her energy for now. Hop into my shadow as I’ve got work to do and I can’t have you lurking around scaring people. There are a lot of people here in town that are gifted, and they might panic if they see a half-naked dead boy covered in bleeding runes.”
“You humans are a strange lot,” Sin said as he crawled across the floor, clambering into the shadow as if it were a crevice.
“Yeah,” Esther said with a smile, “we are.”
Esther spent the next half hour getting her outfit together, her uniform for work at the small bookstore across the street a menial job required almost no preparation besides ensuring that there were no stains from the previous day. Checking it over, she pulled down an apron and tied it around her waist, knowing that old man Giger would likely be busy pricing out the newest assortment of old books he’d purchased from an estate sale. They’d only shown up yesterday after the old man had hobbled home.
“He was so mad he missed them,” Esther smiled, thinking of the happy cackles that came from over her phone when she called him about it, just after she’d had the deliveryman drop the crate off in the back room, “he’ll be busy for the next week, no doubt.”
Grabbing a bagel from her pantry, she slid the split slices into the toaster with a wordless tune. Selecting a dark roast K-cup for her Keurig, she put her mug under the nozzle and selected the dark roast option, licking her lips in anticipation at the coming caffeine rush. She tapped her foot as the glugging of water filled the air, matched by the trickling of coffee and the clicking of the toaster.
Her breakfast underway, Esther reached for a slim matte covered book that rested on a stand with several other books. As she pulled her coffee away from the machine, taking a sip from the scalding fluid in abject pleasure, she flipped open to the index.
“Pagan rituals…” she muttered, eyes driving down the list as she sought out anything resembling the Rite of Five Daggers. She smiled when she saw on page one-hundred and ninety-three.
“The Five Bladed Rite of Release,” Esther said aloud, looking askance at her shadow, which was twitching ever so slightly, “does that sound like the ritual you need me to perform, Sin?”
Sin emerged from the floor partially, his nude upper body and forearm dripping with inky darkness as if the shadow were merely water. His eyes seemed to consider her for a moment and Esther could, for a second, hear distant cries of tortured souls ringing in the back of her head, before Sin snapped to attention and gave her a toothy smile.
“I think that one should suffice. So long as it pierces all but one of the anchor points on the child long enough for me to draw its last breath, then I’ll be able to give you what you want, in spades as they say.”
Esther smiled, turning away from Sin to flip through the pages. The toaster popped as she found the ritual, prompting her to stand and go about her morning routine of buttering her bagel before layering it with jam. Still reading as she performed the task, working her breakfast with one hand, she read through the rituals required materials and preparation that would need to go into the process.
“Five knives bathed in witches’ blood… easy enough,” Esther said as she read off the requirement, “then a victim that is cleaned with honeyed liquor. I suppose Amaretto will do…”
Snapping the book closed, she set it on the counter and picked up her bagel, biting into the crunchy treat. Looking at the clock, Esther sighed.
Time for work… Esther thought, today is going to crawl by. At least Giger is going to be busy.
Polishing off the bagel, Esther wiped her hands off on a rag before grabbing her keys and heading for the door. Closing it behind her and locking it, she walked down the stairs to the street and walked across the street to the bookstore. The lights were out, the hanging sign jutting from the building bearing the shops name.
“Welcome to Towle and Giger Books,” Esther whispered, a smile spreading across her face, her keys unlocking the heavy wooden doors to allow her entry to the store.
Stepping inside the store, she sighed as the cool interior washed away the warmth of the muggy August morning; she loved working in a bookstore for an old man who was perpetually hot. He was willing to pay the electricity bill to finance the air conditioner that flooded the store with perpetual frigid air, something that enticed residents to flock to the store during the warmer months. Esther locked the door behind her, knowing that she had two hours before the store opened, and walked over to the register and counter, stepping behind them to find the boxes of textbooks for the local college.
“Sin?” Esther said, curious to see if he could help her.
He stepped from a shadow across the room, crawling from beneath a set of shelves. Looking up at her, he stared with passive eyes, waiting for her to say something. Despite his fearsome appearance, he seemed content to play the servant, more so now than last night.
“Could you sort out and stock these books for me? The way they’re supposed to be stocked?” Esther asked, “you only have an hour and a half to do so. Would that be enough time?”
“So long as you know how to do it, I know how,” Sin replied, clacking fingernails on hardwood flooring, looking at the stacked cardboard boxes. There were at least thirty of them, all wrapped in plastic and duct tape, “and an hour and a half is sufficient. I have the energy for a few weeks to do such menial tasks.”
“Okay, please do it,” Esther asked, “I need to research where I can find a child for you.”
That seemed to put a spring into Sin’s step as he leapt forward, landing with a splash of shadowy water into the floor, sinking like an anchor into the ebon shade. She watched in morbid fascination as the cardboard boxes began to peel apart like orange rinds, books in plastic getting labels from the label maker slapped onto them before flying across the store in groups of eight or more to land in the correct sections, all in the dark.
All in silence.
Esther shivered, turning to go and look in the occult section. Giger was a fan of the strange and unusual, and catered to Faye and her own collection. She figured he would have something to read while her demon did her work for her.