Unedited, uncensored, unsettling…
Before we get started on this months story selection, a personal note. This week the horror world lost not only a shining and unique voice, but one of the most genuinely nice people you could know. One of my fellow Stitched Smile authors Draven Ames passed a few days back, and it’s a great shock and loss to us all. I urge you to check out this archived Stitched Saturday Post and read his story Wishing Well, and you’ll see what an extraordinary talent Draven had. You’ll be sorely missed, fella.
Back on the very first day of this month, I posted an inspirational picture, giving writers the challenge of writing a tale based on it.
This was the picture…
And two excellent writers paid heed to the clarion call. I present to you But if we fail by H.R. Arswyd and Cyrus by Ezekiel Kincaid. Check out the blog tomorrow for April’s inspirational picture, but until then – happy Easter and enjoy these two excellent slices of horror.
But if we fail – H.R. Arswyd
“But if we fail…all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.” –Winston Churchill, 1940
Brian tried to look at the floor, but his eyes kept darting first to Paul then to David, his sanctioned Youth Support Providers, who sat on either side of him. He was terrified but was desperately trying to conceal his fears and failing. Another glance at Paul showed that he, too, was scared; David’s face however, registered disappointment and resignation.
When Doctor Hadamar had called yesterday with the test results, it was David who had taken the call because Paul was far too emotionally sensitive. All the Doctor had said was that it was urgent they come in first thing in the morning and so, here they sat, awaiting the news which they all knew was going to be bad.
Brian knew something was wrong with him, that no matter how hard he had tried, he had disappointed Paul, David, his Education Mentors, and a host of others. At seventeen he was angry, depressed, resentful, and now, more than anything else, fearful.
A door hissed open and Brian looked up in alarm as Doctor Hadamar glided in, beaming a permanent-press smile that competed with his hairless skull in dazzling brilliance. He shook hands with David first, his face suddenly taking on David’s expression, then did the same thing with Paul. He merely looked and Brian and patted him on the shoulder before pulling up and chair and sitting with them.
“Well, as I said yesterday, the test results are back, and let me just say up front that there is nothing here we cannot cope with, ok?” Hadamar said, consciously working his voice to be soothing and calming.
Paul’s hand flew to his mouth, and he choked back a whimper as tears which had been orbiting on standby began their descent.
“This is not the worst case I have seen, I assure you,” Hadamar continued. “But, let’s take a look at the numbers, because, as we know, science never lies.” He activated the display screen and pulled up Brian’s results. David gasped and a sob escaped from Paul. Brian felt the same reality dislocation numbness that had increasingly marked his episodes the last few months and just stared expressionless at the display.
“As you can see,” Hadamar began, “Brian’s Social Conformity Index is dangerously low, while his Dissent Quotient is dangerously high. This corresponds with the reports in his record from his Education Mentors on his behavior and schoolwork. He seems to have constantly been attempting to overachieve and develop beyond the acceptable standards allowed by the regulations. Perhaps most upsetting is his addiction to independent, unregulated study without proper supervision.”
Hadamar’s smile was gone and his eyes bored into David, which cued Paul to turn on him.
“I’ve told you, I can’t handle him. I’ve begged you to do something!” Paul sobbed through a fresh wave of tears.
Brian slumped forward, elbows on his knees and he stared fixedly at the floor now, a case study of apathy and petulance.
“Doctor, I’ve done everything I can think of, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Brian is…uncontrollable. I’ve failed—” he paused and looked at Paul, “we’ve failed as Youth Support Providers. It was the one thing Paul always wanted, and I have always tried to make it work, but the truth is we’ve failed, and we have raised a monster.”
“I must also tell you that there are dangerous indication of a high likelihood of incipient intolerance, racism, and non-conformist tendencies based on Brian’s genetic profiling,” Hadamar added.
Paul sobbed louder, leaning toward David, and they held each other tightly, over Brian’s hunched back.
Hadamar watched the scene play out. He had choreographed and observed this ritual of guilt and recrimination countless times and knew how to time his scientific “deus ex machina” to maximum effect. He shot a sudden look at Brian, who, feeling his gaze, glanced up. Hadamar’s beatific smile returned, like the sun breaking through and scattering storm clouds. He lay a hand on Brian’s shoulder.
“Fortunately, thanks to the incredible advances we have made in Social Medicine, all of this is treatable, and I have high hopes that our Brian can go on to live a normal, well-adjusted life. There are two basic paths of treatment available for us to discuss today. The Luntz Treatment, and the Luduviko Method. We should also discuss the Cartwright Procedure as well.”
David spoke, “I’ve read the sanctioned descriptions, but could you explain them for us? I don’t have the expertise to really understand or explain things to Paul.”
Hadamar’s hand stayed on Brian’s shoulder as he spoke, “Both protocols can be effective, and great successes have been reported with both. The Luntz Treatment involves some simple surgery which essentially corrects the biological defects in Brian’s brain which are causing his acting out and his Inflated Individuality Syndrome, as well as his increasing intransigence to Social Conformity. The Luduviko Method essentially performs the same functions but is a chemical treatment. However, the Luduviko Method has higher incidences of non-conformity recidivism, and in some cases, the effectiveness of the drugs diminishes over time. It does, however have the benefit of being a non-invasive procedure. However, the Transformation and Empowerment Guidelines Manual indicates that in circumstances like Brian’s, we also utilize the Cartwright Procedure. That can also be performed either chemically or surgically.”
Paul was now quietly sobbing on David’s shoulder, and periodically dabbing his eyes or nose with a balled-up handkerchief. Brian had sunk down so that his chin was almost resting on his knees, seemingly crushed beneath the weight of Paul and David’s mutually supporting arch above his back, and the hand of Doctor Hadamar on his shoulder.
David struggled to appear stoic and controlled, and tried to speak, “What…” he then had to stop and clear his throat, “Which way do you suggest we proceed? After all, you are the expert here,” he said. “And we know that we should always trust a sanctioned expert, of course,” he added hastily.
Hadamar smiled again. He had seen this, too, plenty of times; an eagerness by Youth Support Providers to display full faith in the establishment and, by doing so, deflect any possible taint of personal responsibility for social failure of their charge.
“Well, normally I would suggest we go with the Luduviko Method and the Chemical Cartwright procedure. We usually do not consider the surgical treatments for someone Brian’s age, at least until he has completed his Sexuality and Gender De-Identification Course,” Hadamar said.
“I hate that course! It’s disgusting, and I feel wrong doing those things with the other guys,” Brian grumbled, shrugging the hand off his shoulder and glaring at Hadamar.
“BRIAN!” David shouted, cuffing him on the back of the head. Paul gave Doctor Hadamar a look of helpless despair and Brian subsided back into silence, again staring at the floor.
Nonplussed Hadamar continued, “However, in the present case, because Brian’s condition is deteriorating so rapidly, I have discussed this with the local Social Conformity Therapy Committee and the expert consensus is that that we proceed with the surgical alternatives as soon as possible. I also advise that, as an aid to greater social integration, we also incorporate some pigmentation reassignment therapy as well.”
David, still embarrassed and angered by Brian’s outburst nodded thoughtfully, “Of course, if that is what the Committee Experts have concluded, who are we to argue, right Paul?”
Paul nodded in agreement then asked, “And you are certain this will make Brian better?”
“There are always risks to any treatment or procedure and, despite all our advances and expertise, there can still be unknown variables, but we are working diligently to remove those obstacles. However, I am confident that we should see radical improvement within days of the treatment.” Hadamar opined.
“On the other hand, if you fail to act now, knowing what the science shows us, then you will be criminally negligent and I will be forced to report you to the authorities for Social Endangerment,” he added sternly. He suddenly brightened and reached out to Paul and David, placing a soothing hand on the shoulder of each then said, “But, of course, we all know it won’t come to that. You are both model citizens with no anti-social tendencies, and the Youth Support Provider Services reports show that you do an excellent job. This is not your fault or failure. This is bad genetics and chemistry, which are not your responsibility. This is where the State takes over to correct errors of nature. Now, I simply need your thumb prints here, here, and here,” he said, indicating the places on the display screen.
“When will you perform the procedures?” Paul asked.
Hadamar stood and beckoned for Brian, taking his hand and firmly lifting from his crouch to his feet, “Right away, of course.”
Cyrus – Ezekiel Kincaid
In 1983, the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, converted a federally funded hospital into the Mental Hospital for Adolescents. The hospital abruptly shut down in 2009. Few stories have circulated about the closure. Only those who worked there know what really went on behind the walls.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with a lady who wishes to be known as Hilary Engquist, wife and mother of three. She worked for the hospital from 2002-2009. She relayed to me her experiences while on staff there as a nurse. If you are squeamish, and if you are uncomfortable with trekking into the darkest depths of the human psyche, and if upending the stones under which evil forces lurk gives you nightmares, then you might want to forgo this story and pick something a bit more light-hearted.
I placed the recorder on the bed and pushed the record button. “Mrs. Engquist, thank you for taking the time to meet with me today, but why here?”
The strike of her match echoed through the hollow room, and its gentle flame eased the dimness. She placed it to her cigarette and inhaled, crossing her legs in the metal folding chair “Because this was his room, Mr. Kincaid.”
Please, call me Zeke. By him, you mean Cyrus Benson?”
She exhaled and nodded. “Craziest bastard I ever laid eyes on.”
I surveyed the room. Peeling white paint, drywall on the floor from the crumbling ceiling, beer cans in the corner, and dingy white curtains hanging on the windows. “Tell me about him.” I leaned back in my folding chair.
“I’ll never forget the day they brought him in. You know how people say that when you’re caught in a surreal moment, it seems as time stands still? That’s what happened the first day I met Cyrus. It was his eyes. Crystal baby blues, clear as the Pacific. Calm and serine on the outside, but there seemed to be a storm brewing behind that cold, unmoving demeanor.”
She took another drag. “Cyrus Benson. Seventeen years old from Houma, Louisiana. That little son of a bitch turned the town upside down. It’s a quiet little place. Nothing much out of the ordinary goes on there. That’s why when it was discovered what Cyrus did, it sent shockwaves up the entire community. You know how it goes- small town, heinous crime, community stunned.”
I nodded. “What’d he do?”
“Well, with most like him, it starts with mutilating animals. But that ain’t the most disturbing part-not by far. Beau Henson started noticing that some of his baby goats were disappearing. When the cops caught Cyrus, they found…awe hell I don’t even know what to call it. They found body parts from different animals stitched together. The bodies were that of cats. He had cut their heads off and stitched the heads of the kids on them. He had also cut the cats’ tails off. Attached where the tails should be were cottonmouths. The cops also found something else.”
She tapped her cigarette, dropping ashes on the floor. “Cyrus had him a little fishing spot on one of the tributaries. It was right there in the woods, near the Moffet Road side of town. Cyrus invited his two best friends, John Blanchard and Carter LeBlanc, and his girlfriend, Madeline Harper, to go fishing with him one Saturday morning in May. When they got to the fishing spot with Cyrus, it didn’t take them long to figure out that there wasn’t going to be any fish caught that day. Cyrus had the little demented animals he had stitched together hanging from a cypress tree near the bank. Laying by the trunk was the body of three male goats. While his friends were all gawking at the abominations, Cyrus hacked them to death with a machete.”
I reached in my coat pocket for my flask and took a few swings. “Go on.”
“He cut the heads off his friends and the three male goats. He then took the goat heads and attached them to his friends. He stripped them naked and placed them on the ground, sitting up, with their backs leaning against one another. Carved in their chest was some sort of symbol. I can’t describe it, so I’ll draw it for you.”
Mrs. Engquist stood up and walked to another bed that sat in the corner. She kneeled on it and placed a hand on the back wall. With the other hand, she reached in her purse and pulled out a tube of lipstick. She then drew this symbol on the wall:
She glanced over her shoulder at me. “He must have carved that symbol into his own body in twenty different places as well.” She hopped off the bed and sat back down in the chair.
My eyes didn’t leave the symbol. “What’s it mean?”
“The Tetromet. Ever heard of it?”
I slammed my fist on my knees, huffed, and shook my head. “We’re done.” I went to retrieve my recorder. “Yeah I’ve heard of it. It’s all an urban legend tale…I can’t believe you drug me out here for this garbage.”
“What’s the matter Zeke? Don’t believe in the supernatural?”
“Of course I do. I was a pastor for twenty years. But this isn’t supernatural. It’s lies.”
She jumped up and placed her hands on my shoulders. “Please. Mr. Kincaid. Here me out. I promise its true. By the end, you’ll believe.”
I stared deep into her eyes. She didn’t have the look of a liar. A loon, maybe, but not a liar. I eased over to my chair.
“Thank you,” she said, and sat down.
“Go on. Why don’t you tell us what a Tetromet is.”
She cleared her throat. “The Tetroment used to be the cherub who guarded the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, but he rebelled. Now, in his twisted state, his authority is used to turn the souls of the deceased into demons. His head is supposed to be that of a black goat skull. His body, a feline, and a viper for a tail. Would you like me to go on?”
“No. Get to the point. Tell me about what happened the night before the hospital was shut down.”
“Very well. In our group sessions, Cyrus wouldn’t shut up about the Tetromet. He claimed the Tetromet would come and rescue him. He told the other patients in group that if they didn’t serve Tetromet, he would devour their souls and introduce them to wonderful suffering.”
“What type of impact did that have on the patients?”
“They started seeing things. Davey, who had issues with sadomasochist fantasies, kept saying the Tetromet was coming in his room at night and molesting him. Jill claimed to see the creature walking the halls. Jules, who was abused by his father, kept saying his daddy would come in his room after lights out, stark naked, wearing nothing but a black goat skull. Molly, a delusional schizophrenic, hollered at night for all the cats to stop meowing. She also said she couldn’t sleep in her bed because of all the snakes.”
I rolled my eyes.
“The kids began to buy into Cyrus’ message. When they did, the hallucinations stopped. In group, they would all just stare at Cyrus, like they were waiting for something. Then the last night…” She fidgeted with her purse and looked away.
Her eyes fell back on me. “The last night. In group session. Cyrus stood up and said, ‘It’s time.’ The others got up and faced me. Then…their skin…oh God.” She swallowed.
“What about their skin?”
“It started to melt off and slosh to the floor. Like bad Claymation from an old horror flick.” She lit another cigarette.
“So they all died?”
She laughed a nervous laugh. “I wish. They were demons underneath. Their bodies… a charcoal color- skin thick and leathery. They had no eyes. Out of the sockets grew horns. They curved around their heads and sat above bat-like ears. And their teeth. Rows of jagged teeth, like glass. Opaque in appearance. It looked like they were just crammed in their mouths.”
“What about Cyrus?”
She paced around the beds now. “I don’t know. I ran out of the room.”
“Where’d you go?”
“What was in there?”
She paused behind me. I tilted my head and saw her staring out the window. “The Tetromet,” she said. She eased closer to the window, her back facing me. She remained quiet, so I stood up and moved within a few feet from her.
“Yes.” Her voice grated low, deep, and guttural. She turned toward me, and her skin melted off.
I stumbled back, tripping over my chair. Before me stood a demon, like the one she described. I produced my Glock 19 from my coat and fired off three rounds into its head. Then, the oddest thing happened. The creature squealed, as white blood gushed from the wounds. It fell into a fetal position and liquefied into a pile of white slime. The slime bubbled, then evaporated.
I leaped to my feet, grabbed my recorder from the bed, and ran out the room.
The experience above, my dear readers, is what birthed my Tetromet stories.