Tag Archives: horror

The Lure of Dark Gully – Visual Fiction

 

Dark Gully

The Lure of Dark Gully

Stay away from Dark Gully, when the wind is rising in banshee shrieks and tearing at rocks and trees like a vengeful demon of the night.

Stay away when you hear the small coaxing voice come through the maelstrom, telling you to come closer; telling you there is shelter from the storm in the narrow knife-slash in the cliff face.

Flee when you see the faint glow dancing on the tips of the waves, moving slowly to the shore to rest on the storm-slick rocks.

Flee when the tiny glowing balls of mesmerizing ether begin to coalesce into a form that rises out of the surf and takes a step onto the shore.

Despair when the figure holds out its hand and you take a staggering step towards it, all warnings and common sense blown away by the gale.

Despair as your foot steps into the stinging, foam-flecked wave and you are led, unresisting, out to the place where waves pound and rocks break and life is sucked away like a match tossed into the dark abyss of space.

So when the wind rises in the east; when the waves begin their tramping march up the rocks of the beach; when the sky darkens in an ominous light, stay away.

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You can Bait a Fool with Water… – Friday Fictioneers

I figured that this picture would inspire a lot of heart-warming tales (although we do get a lot of variety in the group).  In any case, I decided to go in a slightly different direction…

copyright Douglas MacIlroy

copyright Douglas MacIlroy

You can Bait a Fool with Water…

“Careful.” (Nervous girlfriend.)

“Don’t worry; it’s got a blindfold on. It can’t see us.” (Cocky boyfriend.)

Just a little closer. (Horse looking at two oblivious humans through the fly-mask.)

“Hey, it’s doing a trick! It’s holding the hose in its mouth.” (Boyfriend, gawking.)

Yes. Trick.

Water splashes on electric fence, splashes on cocky boyfriend. Sizzling, sparking, collapsing, convulsing. Girlfriend runs to help.

More sparking, collapsing, convulsing.

She couldn’t help. Two unconscious humans.

Fall, my dainties, fall. (Horse smiles.)

Snaky tongue emerges from horse’s mouth, dragging unconscious humans under the fence.

Body ripples, teeth and claws grow.

Horse no more.

Dinnertime.


The Sundering Fog – Visual Fiction #22

This visual fiction is the second picture I’ve used of this bridge. I like the fog on it, since it gives a much different feel. Plus, the first Visual Fiction I did, The Bridge, didn’t have a story with it. This story is the beginning of a longer one I might write sometime.

Taken in Wanju, South Korea

Taken in Wanju, South Korea

The last time I saw my son Seth was when I sent him over the bridge to go to school. The first day of Grade 4. I should have gone with him all the way to school, but that’s easy to say now. He wouldn’t have wanted me to anyway; he was so independent and on that day what he really wanted to do was cross the bridge by himself. I waved good-bye and watched as he disappeared into the fog.

I started my shift at the garage. From where I worked I could see across the river to the island where half the town was located, including the school. The fog usually burned off by about ten but that day it remaining like a blanket on the river.

About 11:00, there was a sudden crash; not an explosion, but a rending, tearing sound, as loud as a jet engine. Everyone ran outside, looking here and there and trying to figure out what had happened, until Randall Haskins tried to drive over to the pharmacy, across the bridge. I heard the sound of screeching tires and then Randall’s hysterical voice shouting, “The bridge! The bridge is gone.”

It wasn’t gone, but there was a large hole ripped from the center span of it, at least fifty feet wide. No one could see any reason for it, nor was there any concrete or rubble in the water below. The police chief took a couple of men and motored across in a boat to check on things on the other side.

They never came back. They didn’t even radio in after they went onshore. Another boat went over and the same thing happened. In total, seven boats went to the island that day and none of them were ever seen again. The police cordoned off the shore on both sides of the river all around the island and prevented anyone else from trying to go over there.

The fog cleared up the next day and we all saw the island sitting there in the river. Not a single person was visible all that day. The next day, the national guard sent four boats of armed soldiers across. We watched them with binoculars as they searched the streets. They reported back that no one was there, but we noticed as we watched that as they went in and out of the buildings, their number slowly decreased. Sometimes men would go into a building and not come out again. The men on shore tried to warn them, but they couldn’t get through and eventually the soldiers all went into buildings and disappeared.

Now the island just sits there, off limits to everyone. I stare obsessively at it whenever I can, trying to catch any glimpse of movement, trying to see my Seth. I can’t help it. I almost welcome the foggy days, when the misty white curtain obscures my view and numbs my pain and nagging worry, at least for a little while.


Ghoulish Dilemma – Friday Fictioneers

Another story for the Friday Fictioneers writing group. I had several ideas for this picture, but ultimately went with this one. I have another one that is a bit longer I might post later, which is also based on this picture.

Ghoulish Dilemma

Ghoulish dilemma

Bruce looked up from the note, to the high stair where a scrap of cloth hung. He started forward, but then hesitated.

What if the shirt was an illusion too?


The Circle of Unbeing, Part 4

Click to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the story.

midnight courtyard

The wind was fierce and the cold was numbing, but Pavel did not mind. It numbed the conflict in his mind, blocking out all but simple directives. Go to the castle. Climb the tower. Find the dagger.

The streets were deserted as he made his way through the town and started up the wooded hill. He wondered where the creature—he still could not think of it as human, much less as his father—was now.

Inside the castle, he made his way up the steps of the keep and inside the unroofed hall. He had no light, but the full moon shone a phantasmal light over his path. Parts of the castle had been burned in the revolt, but the floor of the main hall was stone. He came to the high tower, its door splintered and rusted, and began to climb.

The steps were wet with slime and circled up and up until they ended in a wide chamber. Its roof had been burned away and part of its walls were gone, but Pavel could still see the remnants of broken glassware and rusted instruments that had once filled his grandfather’s study. He wondered now if his grandfather had been a monster too, or if he had found a way of transforming his son into one before he died. Whatever the case, it had happened in this room.

Pavel started searching, clearing away old bird’s nest and the accumulated detritus of fifteen years of exposure. He cut himself on a shard of glass, but kept going. His numb fingers were groping along the floor underneath a collapsed shelf when he felt the outline of a small box. He pulled it out and opened it. Inside was a dagger. Its handle and blade were black and a large ruby nested in the pommel. This had to be it.

He made his way back down, stepping carefully on the pitch-black stairs. He had just stepped out into the courtyard, when a dark shape slipped through the gate. As it crossed into the moonlight, he saw that it was the creature. It had seen him and was shambling towards him with surprising speed.

“Do it . . . son,” it rasped. “The mayor has . . . found me. He is coming. He will . . . imprison me again . . . if he can. Quickly . . . before he comes.” The creature pulled its thin garment away, exposing its skeletal chest.

Pavel held the dagger, willing himself to strike. As he looked at the monster in the moonlight, he could see more of its features. He had never known his father, or seen a picture of him, but now he could almost imagine what he had looked like when he was a young, handsome man. For the first time, he saw it as a person, who had lived in tortures unimaginable for fifteen years: locked away, starved, fed human flesh and blood. This was his father, who needed him. He set the point of the dagger between the exposed ribs and pushed the blade into his father’s heart.

“Stop!” a voice cried from behind him. Pavel looked up to see the mayor stepping through the gate, a lantern in his hand. Wadim, the night guard stood behind him. The mayor’s face was frenzied. “You release my prize from his cell and now you try to destroy him.”

The mayor stopped and let out a cry. “Crina! Crina! If it were not for this whore’s spawn, you would still be alive.” He looked back at Pavel. “You unlocked the door. You let the thing escape! My Crina was on the point of death when I brought her here. No medicine could save her, but this creature’s blood would have kept her alive, alive forever. She would have been changed, but she would have been stronger and mine still. I would not have starved her and kept her weak. No, she would have been well-fed, and powerful—powerful enough to help me. Oh my lovely daughter!”

The mayor drew his sword and advanced towards Pavel, who backed up the steps into the main hall. The mayor stopped and laughed.

“Yes, stay here. Stay here, Lord Pavel, with the ghouls of your ancestors. Stay here, where I burned your grandfather and kept your father as my pet. I will keep Wadim at the gate to make sure you stay, until hunger or cold lofts your soul on demon’s wings to join them. I am off to see your mother. She will burn tonight, in that hovelish prison where I have kept her.”

Pavel ran down the steps as soon as the mayor had left. He had to get back to help his mother, but he did not know how. The main gate was the only way out of the castle and he could see Wadim just outside the gap, spear in hand. He would have no sympathy for Pavel, not when it meant risking the mayor’s wrath.

He looked down at the dagger in his hand, still wet with his father’s blood. He could not defeat Wadim with such a small weapon. All he could do was kill himself. Yes, he would kill himself, but not yet. First he would drink his father’s blood and be changed. Didn’t the mayor said it would make him strong? His father had been old and starved, kept weak by design, but Pavel was young and strong. He would go save his mother and then kill himself with the dagger, ending their unfortunate line forever.

Pavel bent over the figure of his father. Dark blood was still welling up from the wound in his chest. He bent down and began to drink, sucking it into his mouth. It was cold and bitter, but burned like fire as it went down his throat.

His father’s eyes flickered open and then widened as he saw Pavel. “No!” he said, in a voice that was little more than a breath. “Do not do this. You . . . do not . . . know. I did not know . . . when my father told me . . . to drink from his . . . veins. Flee this hideous . . . unbeing.”

“It will not be for long, I swear,” Pavel said. “I must save my mother. Then I will join you and all will be finished.” He continued to drink, forcing down the foul blood until it stopped bubbling up from the wound.

The first thing Pavel felt was the cold, as it seemed to melt away from him. He still felt the wind, but now it held no bite. He stood up and looked around. The darkness had lightened and he could see into every corner of the dark courtyard. A wave of strength came over him. He looked at the cut on his hand and as he watched, it closed and disappeared.

A surge of joy went through him and he was off, running through the narrow gap in the gate, slipping past Wadim before he could even react. Pavel felt like the wind, moving effortlessly along the ground, devouring the distance. Ahead of him, he saw the mayor walking uncertainly down the path. He turned just as Pavel reached him and Pavel was glad to see the look of terror in the mayor’s eyes as he stabbed the dagger into his chest.

“You will never touch my mother. This I promise you. And this is vengeance for my grandfather, whom you murdered, and my father, whom you tortured.” With each name, he stabbed again. The mayor collapsed, dead on the path.

It was over. His mother was safe. Pavel turned the dagger to his own chest, preparing to end his own life. Then he stopped. It wasn’t over. There were still the thane and master of lands, both of whom were wicked men who had shared a part in his family’s misery. He would take care of them as well. But then? The town would be leaderless, defenseless against the next petty lord or robber baron who could seize it and use it for their own purposes. He could lead them well. He could do good, and help those who had been so oppressed under the mayor’s rule. He was, after all, the rightful heir. It was his duty.

Pavel dropped his hand to his side and was turning to go up to the castle when he felt a vague discomfort in the back of his mind. It was a hunger for something he had never felt before. He remembered the taste of his father’s blood on his tongue, so repellent then, but now . . . now he had a need for it, a thirst.

And it was growing.

ruined castle

 


The Circle of Unbeing, Part 3

Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the story.

fireplace

When Pavel reached the house, he took the axe from behind the door and began to sharpen it. His mother looked up from the hearth, where she was cleaning out the ashes.

“What are you doing home? What’s wrong?”

Pavel looked at her, hesitated. “Wolves,” he said.

He stayed home all day, sharpening knives, watching, and fidgeting, until his behavior began to frighten his mother and he left. No one from the mayor’s manor came to summon him, which both relieved and worried him at the same time.

Night eventually came and Pavel and his mother sat silently in front of the fire—her with her mending and Pavel staring into the fire, the axe on his knees. He looked up to see her gazing at him.

“Do you think you will need that here? Do you think the wolves will come into the village—break into our house?”

“I—I’m not sure,” he said.

“It’s not wolves you’re worried about, is it?” she said.

There was a clattering outside, like wood falling off the pile. Pavel jumped, then went to the small window by the door. The moonlight was shining on their small path and garden but there was no movement.

At that moment, the chickens behind the house began to scream. Pavel had never heard them make such sound—did not know they could make such a horrible, rending shriek. He put his hand on the door handle but could not will himself to open it.

“Well, are you going?” his mother cried suddenly. “You got the axe. If wolves are at the chickens, you’d better go now or they’ll all be killed.”

Still, Pavel could not make himself open the door or explain why. He felt paralyzed. The chickens stopped abruptly and there was total silence for a space of several breaths. Just when he thought it was safe, there was a thump against the door. It came again. Someone, or something, was knocking with heavy, irregular strokes on the outside.

Thump . . . thump . . .

“Are you going to open it?” his mother asked. “Pavel, are you okay? What’s wrong? If it were wolves, they wouldn’t be knocking. Pavel, let the poor person in and out of the cold. Pavel?”

His hand was still resting on the door handle, but all he could think of was some way to barricade the door. Pull the beds across and push them against it. Block the window. Anything and everything to keep the evil outside. He looked up to see his mother next to him and before he could do anything, she pushed him aside and threw the door open.

A gust of frigid wind burst into the room, causing the fire to gutter. Pavel heard a rasping, croaking sound and then that hideous deformed face he had seen in the dungeon emerged into the light of the fireplace. His mother gasped and stepped back. The creature shuffled over the threshold.

Pavel stepped in front of his mother, brandishing the axe, but he was too transfixed with horror to strike. Now that he could see the monster in better light, he saw that it looked like a man, although one shriveled and twisted by some evil force. Its skin was yellow and thin and its eyes were bloodshot and roving. They latched onto his mother’s face and the mouth opened.

“Ah . . . An . . . Anca.” Pink spittle dribbled from its mouth as it expelled the word. Pavel’s mother was staring at the creature, her eyes growing wider and wider until she started to scream. She fell back on the floor, covering her face with her hands and screamed and screamed. Even when she fell into a coughing fit, she continued to writhe and tear at her hair.

“Mother!” Pavel ran to her side, trying to make her stop. He kept his eyes on the monster. It pulled itself a little closer.

“Pa . . . vel,” the monster rasped, staring at Pavel with its bulging eyes. And then, in a moment ghastly revelation, Pavel knew what the slavering ghoul in front of him was. It was his father.

It had been, at least. Now, one could hardly call it human. Pavel felt nothing but loathing for it and he wished he had the resolution to cut it in two with the axe. But he could not. Not now.

The monster that been his father saw the swaying of the axe in his hand and moved closer. “Kill . . . me,” it said. “The axe . . . will do nothing. In the high . . . tower there is . . . a dagger. Only it . . . can . . . kill me. I will . . . meet you . . . there.” It stopped and started to hack in short, sharp croaks. Pavel could barely look at it. “Kill me . . . son,” it said again and then, suddenly, it pulled itself around and was gone through the open door.

Pavel shut and locked the door. The fire had sunk low and the room was dark and icy. “Mother, sit up. Please,” he said, going to her and helping her up. All the strength seemed to have left her, but she got up, unresisting, and let him guide her to her chair by the fire. She picked up her mending and started to cry. The sobs came, stronger and stronger until they were shaking her thin body. The dam she had built triple-strong against the grief of her life had finally broken.

Pavel stayed by her until she finally quieted. He was putting more wood on the fire when she finally spoke. “You must do it, Pavel. You must kill him.”

“I don’t want to go near that thing again,” he said. “That is not my father. He died when I was a baby.”

“You must!” she said again. “I said good bye to your father a long time ago, and I cannot live now, knowing he is being tortured like that every moment of the day. You must kill him or I will never have peace. Do it for me, if not for him, son.”

Pavel nodded slowly. “I will go now,” he said.

moonlit night

(to be concluded tomorrow)


The Circle of Unbeing, Part 2

Click to read Part 1 of the story.

Midnight Forest

The frigid wind whipping through the tower door greeted Pavel as he reached ground level. He wanted nothing more than to run home and sit huddled by his fire but instead he crouched in dread in a protected corner until the three men of the Inner Circle reappeared, again wrapped in their rich cloaks.

“My lord, a messenger came here saying that your daughter is sick, to the point of death,” Pavel said.

The mayor looked at him hard, but then nodded. “Then let us hurry, boy,” was all he said. Pavel picked up the lantern and led the way back down to the town.

Pavel left the mayor at the door of the manor and went back to his small house. His mother was up when he returned. She looked up from her sewing, the weariness indelibly etched on her face. She never complained to him, but as Pavel had gotten older, he began to realize how hard the last fifteen years had been for his mother, the former daughter-in-law of a viscount and wife to the heir. Now, she was only a peasant woman and the least skillful of them all. When Pavel had been young, he had only thought about his own discomfort and yelled if the food she made was burned or tasteless. He would hide from the other children if his clothes were ill-mended. But she remained always like a lamb to the slaughter, though the execution stretched out over years of toil.

Pavel went and stood by the fire, still trying to process the horror he had seen in the dungeon of the castle. “The mayor’s daughter is on the edge of death,” he said after a moment. His mother’s hand went to her mouth but then dropped as she looked up hollowly at him.

“What will he do to us this time?” she asked plaintively. “When the crops were bad last year, he took a double share from our stores and when one of his cows broke its leg, he took our only one.”

“This is not our fault,” Pavel said.

“When has it ever been?” she asked. “He will kill us yet, even if it takes another fifteen years. He has a vendetta.”

“But why should he?” Pavel asked. “He killed my grandfather, but I was a baby and you were only his daughter-in-law. What could we have done to him?”

“I never told you,” she said softly, putting calloused hands over her face for a moment. “Perhaps I should have. My only crime was that I would not be his wife. I rejected his proposal and later married your father. I thought he had forgotten about it, until that night, when the people rebelled and he, their leader, took the title of mayor. A civil enough title, but he is as ruthless as any noble.”

She faced the fire, but continued to speak, slowly repeating to herself a litany of grief and injustice, dredged up for yet another bitter dose of recollection. Pavel went to bed before she had finished and her dreary murmuring cast ominous shadows over his dreams.

Nerakrist

Pavel had just woken up the next morning when someone pounded on the door. He opened it to see their neighbor, Domnul Iorga.

“Warning,” Iorga said immediately. “Wolves are about, they say. The Cernea farm was attacked and six sheep were killed and mutilated. Also, one of the farmhands who was sleeping in the barn is dead. Carry a blade with you if you go out.”

“Thank you, I will,” Pavel said. “Have you heard any word on the mayor’s daughter?”

“Dead, they say. Last night,” Iorga said. He gave Pavel a meaningful look and crossed himself. “God be with you and yours.” He turned and went up the path to his house. Pavel looked back, but his mother was busy at the fire and had not heard. He would not tell her, at least not yet.

Pavil worked as a messenger for the mayor, as well as his duties as the midnight lantern carrier for the Inner Circle’s gatherings. He arrived at the mayor’s manor after breakfast and the guard Andrei informed him that he was summoned directly to the mayor’s study. “God be with you,” the man murmured after him.

“Is it true that Crina died in the night?” Pavel asked.

“So they say,” Andrei said. “Wadim was on night watch and said that the mayor came back after the first hour and then left again, carrying his daughter with him in a carriage. Wadim swears she was alive when they left, but an hour later, when they returned, she was covered with a sheet. I would have thought they’d go to Domnul Florea, the surgeon, but his assistant said no one came there all night.”

Pavel only nodded and hurried inside. All he could think of was the hideous monster he had seen in the dungeon of the castle, and how it had attacked Iosif. Was it possible the mayor had sacrificed his own daughter to that thing? There were rumors that the Inner Circle was involved in satanic rituals in the castle late at night. He had never believed them, but now a shock of fear ran through him as it occurred to him that what he had seen might have been the devil.

He was ushered into the mayor’s study immediately. He bowed and stood in front of the narrow wooden desk with the ceremonial mace lying across the front.

The mayor had changed overnight. His hair and beard were uncombed and his face looked haggard and wolfish. His dark-rimmed eyes bored into Pavel as if he were trying to read his thoughts.

“Did you go down into the tower last night?” the mayor asked immediately.

He knows. He knows everything, Pavel thought, as a chill of terror went down his back. “I would never go into the tower, my lord,” he said.

“Liar!” The mayor’s fist crashed down on the desk. “Sergiu saw you go in.”

“No! He was gone before—” Pavel hesitated. “I mean, yes, I did open the door to see if you were coming, but then I shut it again. I did not go in, I swear.” He was desperate in his denial; not matter what guilt his soul might endure from lying, it was far better than admitting he had gone down into that dungeon now.

“A door in the dungeon that is always kept locked somehow became unlocked. Who could have unlocked it, but you?”

“I do not know, my lord, but I swear that I did not go into the tower,” Pavel said. He could feel the sweat trickling down his back and hoped his guilt did not show through onto his face.

The mayor gave a snarl, but then collapsed back into his chair, as if his strength had suddenly deserted him.

“Go,” he said, “but may calamity find you swiftly if you are lying.” Pavel fled.

“I’m glad to see you still in one piece,” Andrei said when he had reached the courtyard again. “Did you hear about the other fatality last night?”

“Yes, the Cernea family’s farmhand,” Pavel said. “Domnul Iorga told me. Wolves, he said.”

“I have not heard of that one,” Andrei said. “I mean Doamna Korzha. Her husband said they were getting ready for a bed when a monstrous face appeared in the window. Big green eyes and teeth like a wolf, they say. The old woman screamed and fell down dead, her fare suddenly paid in full for her journey to heaven. Her husband said it was a face like a devil. Hey, where are you going?”

Pavel had taken off running towards home. There was a monster loose in the region and it was his fault. He had to get home and keep that thing away from his mother.

(to be continued)


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