Greetings, horror fans! We’ve now entered the most horror friendly period of the year – the evenings are drawing in, there is the hint of a chill in the air and – best of all – it’s nearly Halloween.
In two weeks time, I’ll be taking submissions for a special Halloween Stitched Saturday, but in the meantime here’s something else to get your teeth stuck into.
For the next Stitched Saturday on the 14th, in honour of Stitched Smile’s awesome editor and poet Lethal Lance Fling, we’ll be looking for poems inspired by one of the following two pictures – as long or as short as you like in any style, but just go to town!
For this weeks stories, we have a diabolical double-bill from Nefarious Nick Paschall – the sixth instalment of Born of a Witch and a chilling standalone piece – Chimera.
See you all in two weeks – until then, #StayStitched!
Born of a Witch Part 6 – Nick Paschall
The rest of Esther’s shift went without any sort of scene or notice, just her selling textbooks to the various students getting ready for their workloads in the coming semester. Her shift lasted until four that afternoon, when she could sign off with Giger that she’d worked her shift and had the hours under her belt for the coming paycheck. Stephanie, a Goth girl that only worked part-time and was in a perpetually bad mood, came in and relieved Esther of her workload with a roll of the eyes and a casual wave of the hand.
“Thanks Stephanie,” Esther said as she gathered he purse from behind the register, “I really didn’t feel like more time than necessary here tonight, y’know what I mean?”
“I feel that way every night,” Stephanie drawled as she began to ring up a young Biology student, who gave a smile of false cheer to not interrupt our exchange. “Go, have fun or whatever before Giger keeps you here longer than he has to.”
“Thanks!” Esther said, swooping out from behind the counter and around the line that’d formed towards the front of the store. Esther passed by Giger, who was leaning against the wall that lead to his office, his luminescent eyes upon me in a quizzical frame of study.
“I’m off for the night, Mr. Giger!” Esther chirped, waving at him.
“That you are Esther,” he said distantly. “Do be careful out there, you never know what could be lurking in the shadows …”
Esther raised an eyebrow at this, but was mentally shirking at the warning. Could he know about Sin? Does this place have video cameras or something?
“I’ll be certain to stay in well-lit places sir,” Esther joked, giving him a wane smile.
He didn’t return it, instead choosing to turn around to stalk back towards his office. He opened and closed his door without another word or look over his shoulder, and an audible lock could be heard from the fifteen feet separating Esther from the reinforced wooden door. She shivered at how unfamiliar this man was from the normal Giger was, and how she would have to try and keep her eyes peeled when around him from now on.
Who knows? He might be some religious nut that would try and get me killed for having a demon in my service … Esther thought as she stepped out into the evening air, the humid air choking her on the smell of roasting meat coming from a nearby restaurant, filled to the brim with soon-to-be college students and their parents.
Esther pulled her shawl around her shoulders a little tighter and crossed the street after making sure it was safe. Climbing the fire escape, she unlocked her apartment, she turned on the door and flung her purse to the floor and Sin out from her sleeve in one violent motion.
“How the hell does Giger know about you?” I demanded of the decrepit child.
He turned his weak frame at an inhuman angle, pale red eyes looking up at me with an emotionless mask. “I don’t know. I would hazard a guess that he could sense me, like some psychics can. He may have been merely guessing. You played it off admirably.”
“Thank you,” I said, stripping out of my work clothes and changing into a tank top and sweat pants. “Do you remember the location I told you to memorize?”
“Yes,” Sin replied, reciting it with practiced monotone.
“Okay, I want you to go there and observe. Watch and keep track of when the parents go to sleep, when everyone in the house goes to sleep. I want you to look for ways to get into the toddler’s room, and ways for the toddler to get out. Do you have a way of keeping someone your feeding from silent?”
“Yes,” Sin said, a wide grin splitting his face, “I can keep the little girl silent long enough for the ritual to be finished.”
“Good, because I’ve still got to look up the damn ritual.” Esther grumbled. She pointed out the window. “Go observe for the night, and tomorrow night we’ll go harvest you a child.”
“Yes mistress,” Sin replied, hunger dripping from his voice. He slowly seeped into my shadow, vanishing from sight.
Esther spent the night pouring over her tomes looking for the Rite of Five Daggers, finally finding it ion a musty tome I’d tucked away near the top of my bookshelf in a place where she’d placed a few books she’d never thought I’d have need of.
“Shows what I know,” She’d chuckled as she’d pulled down the slim crimson book, the golden lettering bearing the title Of Rites and Rituals Most Profane that left little to the imagination.
Reading throughout the night, Esther lost herself in the rituals until she felt eyes upon her. Turning, she jumped when she found the burning eyes of Sin mere inches from her face, embers cracking merrily in the darkness.
“Jesus Sin, what have I told you about surprising me?” Esther said.
“Not to,” he replied. “I figured you’d be expecting me, seeing as I sent a pulse across our connection.”
Esther frowned; I hadn’t felt and such pulse, but pushed the thought aside for the moment.
“What do you need?”
“Everyone is asleep, and I’ve crooned them into a deeper slumber using skills acquired from a previous host.” He said, shuffling on his haunches. “I say we go and gather the child tonight, while the fruit is ripe for the plucking.”
“And how would you propose we do that? I don’t have a car! “Esther exclaimed.
He waved a hand dismissively. “You’re a witch, aren’t you? You should be able to entrance a cabbie into giving you a lift before wiping their memory, or having them have a fatal accident a few hours later …”
“I suppose that could be done … I just didn’t think I’d have to involve anyone else other than the family I’d be robbing the child from.” Esther said.
“Well get used to it,” Sin said, “feeding me can get a little dicey at times.”
“And if I do this, you’ll be able to release the pent-up energies you took from the woman in question?”
“This rite will open he pathways between us and allow the energies to flow between us,” Sin replied, bobbing his head up and down,
“Alright, let’s go get this kid then!” Esther said.
Chimera – Nick Paschall
Sifting through his notes, Dr. Donovan Rogers was going mad. He’d been up all night, driven on by pack after pack of cigarette and entire pots of coffee, as he perfected his latest attempt at genetic engineering. He’d finally mapped out the chromosomal chart for what he’d designed and had input it into his genetic amplifiers, feeding in proteins and amino acids as necessary to form the building blocks of his new life form. The artificial womb, a large sphere of machinery largely made of shatter-resistant glass and scanners, had reported a successful integration of the new lifeform into the nutrient rich fluids.
That was when the scanners had alerted him to the growth of the life form.
Genetic engineering and cloning were processes that took years of labor as the growth of a modified or new organism took time to come to fruition. But what started out as a slight marble was now roughly the size of a dodge ball, floating in the container while absorbing the nutrients like a sponge.
“I don’t understand how this is happening!” Donovan cried out, spreading out papers on his table in search for the charts. “The mixture of genetic materials should have never allowed for such rapid growth! I need to find a suitable container for the new organism within…” he looked over at the artificial womb which had switched from years, to months, to hours in countdown for when the organism would be viable, “an hour and a half!”
Forgetting his charts, he strode over to the computer station next to the incubation chamber and began running scans over the life form.
He didn’t like what he saw.
“Metabolism in the record high, high viscosity with no internal skeletal structure, and a permeable surface… what in the hell is this thing?” Donovan growled. He slammed the monitor once in agitation before typing in the kill command once more, an injection of chlorine flooding into the pod.
The gray blob shuddered and bubbled as the chemical reached it, but just like before it absorbed it with little issue. Donovan let loose a string of obscenities.
“This isn’t possible!” He shouted, hands covering his face and glasses as he stomped about, white lab coat swishing behind him.
A beep from the pod alerted him of what he dreaded most: the timer had shifted again.
The organism was maturing at an alarming rate, and had made yet another jump in age, pushing the clock closer and closer to the creature’s inevitable birth. Spinning in place to begin typing an emergency kill command, he released a combination of toxins, both natural and man-made, into the nutrient water. Lowering the oxygen content in the nutrients and raising the carbon monoxide, Donovan flipped a switch to release the safety measures on the temperature settings in the container, setting the temperature below freezing.
One way or another, he was going to end this creature’s life before it matured.
Minutes ticked by as the computer beeped out it’s warning of the temperature, of the toxicity of the nutrients, of the viability conditions for the organism. Donovan’s smile grew with each warning, with each siren call. His research partners would be upset certainly, but they hadn’t seen the unprecedented growth and the bio-metric readings for the creature as they churned out of into reports on the computer.
His cheer was broken with the sound of a crack, followed by a hiss of water streaming out of a compressed tank. Looking away from the computer at the container, he saw that the blob had taken on a more alien appearance, and was now very much awake. The once pink slime that surrounded it was a deep fuchsia, filled with bubbles. It was sliding a slender two-pronged hand along the glass, causing it to pop and crack. The creature sported a head with droopy ears and a trunk that extended down perhaps three inches from its face. The outer layer of slime had gone from a frothy grey to an ominous black, and several deep maroon eye spots littered the head of the creature, as well as the arms and tubes leading out of curved back. Six ridged spinal tubes that looked to be solid, despite the creature’s lack of an endo-or-exoskeleton, rose from its formless shoulders. They were furiously pushing bubbles out like smokestacks, all while the creature ran a boneless arm along the glass, chipping away at the three-inch casing in some manner Donovan couldn’t decipher.
Fluid poured from the pod as the glass split a three-foot gash, shards of reinforced glass clattering to the linoleum below as now-toxic chemicals spilled out. Donovan quickly typed in the command to cease pumping in the toxins and monoxide before racing towards the blast doors that kept the laboratory safe in case of a breach.
… blast doors that were now locked because of the breach.
“Dammit all! How the hell am I going to deal with this all on my own?” Donovan cursed, looking around the lab for something, anything that could be used to subdue the creature when it made its inevitable escape.
Another splintering of glass echoed throughout the room, followed by a low hiss of the creature. A wet plop onto the ground told Donovan that it was free, and he had no clue on how it would behave so soon after birth. He heard it splash through the fluid, obviously having formed legs that allowed it a semblance of motor functions. The Sea Pig DNA they’d spliced with that of several arachnids and reptiles had made for an unstable creation, a Chimera in the truest sense.
What had Donovan so worried was the additional genetic make-up of each team member and their metal make-up. The creature was largely Boron/Carbon based, a unique state that made it unable to couple with any other organism on the planet. They’d designed it to be male, removing the female DNA chains to ensure it wouldn’t be able to breed.
Donovan doubled over, hacking and coughing as a splitting headache rippled behind his eyes. He felt warm fluids trickle from his eyes and, upon reaching up to wipe the tears away, he realized that it was blood.
“What in the…?” Donovan said, looking up as he heard the suction movement of the creature slumping around the large work table.
It stood nearly two and a half feet tall, slumped over with the six tubes rising from a partially formed rib cage within a gelatin body. The semi-translucent bones glowed from beneath the tarry flesh, revealing that it indeed did have a rudimentary skeleton in certain places. It lifted its sloped head, the trunk rising to sniff the air. Another wave of pain rippled across Donovan’s mind, this one worse than the last. Stumbling back, he fell with a grunt as he struggled to see past the blood gushing from his eyes.
“What in the world…?” He muttered, finding blood coming up from his throat. Coughing he realized that he could detect a toxic scent of chlorine, mixed with other scents that he couldn’t recognize.
The creature slumped forward, four slimy tentacles ending in two pronged hands with slithering digits skimming the ground, leaving behind smears of black sludge. The feet were wide like the Sea Pig, and seemed to suction up the leftover slime as it went.
A tickle in the back of Donovan’s mind was all the warning he got as the headache increased tenfold, his eyes becoming useless orbs as the barest fraction of light pierced through his mind like a knife. Rolling into a fetal position, he wept bloody tears as the experiment slouched closer, rasping as vapor rose from its ridged back tubes. Donovan flinched when he felt the ice-cold grasp of three tentacle hands grasp onto his forearm, the fluid instantly numbing his flesh. Looking up through squinted eyes, he gasped as he saw that his skin was turning into a slurry of goo that sloughed off and seemed to be absorbed into the creature, which shuddered as if in ecstasy.
He swung a fist at the creature and connected with the side of its boneless head, the reflexive strike doing little to the creature as it seemed to lean into the blow. Donovan felt the creeping chill spread over his hand before he yanked it back, only to find that the outer most layers of skin had become jelly, and were dribbling off him as they jiggled from his movements. He closed his eyes as a wave of nausea overcame him, forcing him to empty his stomach as he grew light-headed.
The creature reached out and grasped onto his neck and head, pulling him close to its chest in what Donovan would have sworn was an embrace. His skin rippled and melted at the contact, and the creature gobbled up the freshly liquidated meat as it began to croon out an alien noise, rocking Donovan back and forth.
A series of images flashed to the forefront of Donovan’s mind, emotions that were alien to him surging forth. Something akin to affection and hunger, pride and jealousy… it was as if the creature was somehow implanting these thoughts into Donovan’s mind.
Donovan coughed, curling up to try and stay warm, his body no longer responding to his desire to pull away from the tiny abomination. Instead, he allowed the creature to continue absorbing him as it sent messages of thanks and pride, of love and envy. It seemed keen to communicate but lacked the truest means to do so, instead killing the subject of its conversation.
Donovan’s final thoughts as his blood ran freely from the numerous bubbled flesh wounds were of a single phrase echoing in his mind, rattling about his head like a bat in a microwave.
Than’ koo Provv’ess’err…