Nightmare Fuel: Day 20

They moved into the house on a Saturday, and despite the worries from the weather reports that it was going to be raining all the while, the Muddletons got all their things moved in with nary a drop upon the carefully taped cardboard boxes. Lara and Merve Yes-That’s-Really-My-Name were relieved once the door on the back of the van slammed shut and the moving men drove away, and they were able to tell Joseph that yes they were all excited about the new house but there was no reason on God’s Green earth why there should be Legos littering the corner of the staircase already. They set up his bed and gave him permission to open any boxes he wanted IN HIS ROOM as long as everything he took out of each box found its way when he was done onto its proper shelf or into one of the plastic toy bins. They had pizza for dinner that night sitting on the wood floor in front of the unlit black fireplace with its high carved wood mantle and called it a picnic, and Lara and Merve got their own bed set up and started unpacking the boxes in the kitchen and the bathroom, respectively. At bedtime they discovered Joseph’s floor a landline of legos and toy cars, but they were too tired to do anything more than to tell him to go to sleep and pick up in the morning. They did not make love.

On Sunday Lara picked through the boxes in the kitchen until she found enough things to make pancakes on the stove, and the dishes went into the sink to soak until she could figure out which box the dishsoap had ended up in. Merve told her with quizzical pride that Joseph must have picked up his room before they all woke up because the toys were gone from the floor when he went to fetch the boy for breakfast. He finished unpacking the bathroom much to Lara’s delight, and Joseph opened another box and found it disappointingly full of clothes instead of toys, which he put away more to get them out of the way of his fun than out of any dutiful sense of helping. He was, after all, only seven. In the garage, Lara found a large mirror that she was sure hadn’t come from the old house, and was very concerned it had been left behind by accident by the old owners, until Merve suggested that perhaps it had been a gift from the real estate agent like they did on those property newbie shows, and actually wasn’t it just right to go over the fireplace between the two old-fashioned lights? They slept with their backs to each other.

On Monday they all went to work and to school. When they got home, Lara found the dishsoap, and Merve hung the mirror over the fireplace. The room, in the reflection, looked quite barren he realized, although he could see the reflection of some of Joseph’s toys through the reflected doorway. Resolving to set the boy to cleaning up yet again, Merve went looking for him, only to get distracted by the task of unpacking delicate odds and ends to decorate the bare walls instead. Joseph complained that he couldn’t find his things, for which his mother admonished him and sent him to his room to unpack more. Lara broke a dish when she was washing and Merve made her a cup of tea before bed and gave her a tissue to dry her tears. After all, it was a big move, broken plates happened, didn’t they? She fell asleep before he got to bed.

On Tuesday, Joseph didn’t answer his parents when they kept calling into his room to wake him for school, and they kept reminding each other to go get him up. When finally they heard the bus come and go, Lara went into Joseph’s room to find the bed unmade, but empty. His floor was still clean, at least, and his shoes were gone. He must have actually gotten ready on his own for once, she told her husband with a wry smile, and sent him out the door with a kiss on the cheek. In the mirror over the mantle she could see how bare the room still looked, as well as several of Joseph’s toys and a plate, and resolved to have a talk with Merve about making sure he finished putting away one thing before moving on to the next. When Merve got home from work, the house was very quiet. No lights were on, and he couldn’t smell dinner cooking. Lara did not answer his call, nor did Joseph. Had there been a parent meeting at the new school? He couldn’t remember and was too tired to drive over there. He ate a sandwich, unpacked a box of linens, and went to bed alone.

On Wednesday he awoke to an unnervingly silent house and crept through it it feeling like he was in the wrong place. Nobody answered him, and his stomach turned unhappily. Where were they? He looked around the still mostly empty dining room and began to mull over calling the police when a bit of movement caught his eye and he turned toward the mirror. There he could see Joseph through the doorway running a car around the bottom of the stairs, and Lara appeared from beyond, looking frightfully haggardly at her husband. Whirling he began to demand why she had not answered him – but there was nobody in the doorway. He turned back to the mirror and saw her there, and she walked past Joseph, past him, right up to the reflection, but she wasn’t between him and the mirror as she should have been. Merve walked close to the mirror, and he could see the tracks of Lara’s tears as she reached out toward the mirror. Her mouth was moving, and he could not make out what she was saying. He reached out too. The crash of the mirror shattering on the floor was very satisfying. He went to work and when the school called asking about Joseph, he told them that his wife was supposed to bring their son to school when the boy missed the bus.

On Thursday, the house was very, very quiet.

On Saturday a pair of uniforms went to the house and found the front door unlocked, a mirror shattered in the dining room, and no sign of the Muddletons any newer than a half-eaten piece of pizza catching flies on the kitchen counter. They called in a missing person’s report, investigate the whole house, and finally left it to be closed up until some sign of the family turned up. The Forensics team was so interested in the lack of fingerprints on the frame of the mirror that nobody noticed the several pairs of eyes peering out at them out of the shards.

Eventually the house was foreclosed and put up for sale, and all the Muddleton’s belongings sold to pay for as much as possible of the loan. Somehow the bank’s realtor missed the oblong mirror leaning against the wall in the garage.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, by Burning Shark of DeviantArt.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 19

It was a full moon that night, of course. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s kind of foolishness to go walking through the woods at night, but I could SEE, you know? And I’d played in that section of the woods when I was a kid, so I knew it pretty well. A few new fallen down trees here or there, but largely it remained unchanged from what I was familiar with.

But when I came over the ridge to cut along toward the path down the slope on the other side, the big furry creature crouched on all fours on some sunken boulders, head tilted back to look up toward the moon? THAT was new. It was big, and furry, and I could see pointed ears and immediately stopped to go back the way I came (because hi, I’m not a complete moron, I’m not going to fuck with a big animal on its own turf, especially a wolf). I’d gone too far though; when I stopped my sneakers were already on top of the pebbled scree that surrounds the boulders, and the little rocks scraped and scratched underfoot. A person wouldn’t have heard it, but this wasn’t a person.

The ears shot up, and its head swung around – carrying the top half of it with it, and I could see that it wasn’t JUST a wolf. A wolf has a trunk of a body with legs underneath and the head thrust forward upon its neck; this creature had a body far too much like a human’s, heavily muscled in a V-shape like a swimmer, crouching on bent back legs with clawed arms that reached out to curl over the tops of the boulders, its head atop its shoulders. It was all-over fur, and the eyes that glowered at me looked yellowy, set behind an elongated snout that curled back into a snarl.

That was all I saw before I took two steps back under the trees and turned to run. Behind me the snarl bellowed into a throaty howl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I just ran dodging between trees and shoving back through undergrowth I’d just gone through in climbing up the hill. I didn’t look back, although I could hear its… feet? Hands and feet? pounding into the leaves and the dirt behind me, getting closer. I didn’t look back, I just forgot to look out for one of the newfallen trees. There was a branch that stretched across the path and it sent me flying. I saw a hint of huge shadow looming over mind and for a quick, sure moment I knew that the thing had caught up with me and was about to land on me.

In a way it was lucky that I was falling downhill and landed headfirst on a rock in the path. My skull was cracked open and my brains spilling into the dirt before it landed on my body and started tearing into it. I know this because somehow I was knocked out of myself. I stood there on the path just downhill, and watched as my body slide under the weight of its landing, my skull wrenched further open and a bunch of my ribs cracking. With a snarl like the one it had greeted me with on the top of the hill, it leaned down and sank its teeth into my throat, yanking back to tear it out in a spray of blood and shredding flesh. Its head snapped back and I could see the gobbets of my own throat in its jaws before they disappeared down its gullet, and it bayed triumphantly at the moon that now dappled our bodies through the trees.

I wanted to vomit, but really, how could I do that? It was standing with one foot on my stomach, and after its wild cry it slid back to sink claws and fangs into my middle, yanking already-broken ribs out of the way as it delved into my cavity, jerking loose my entrails to get at the bloody richness of my kidneys and driving one hand up into my chest to find my heart. I guess it did me the favor of spilling my stomach as well as its half-digested contents for me, since I couldn’t. I could only stand there, watching, until it was sated and, with one last snarl in my direction, loped off from the hollowed, shredded remains of my body.

I stayed there by daybreak, wanting to cry when a couple of kids came up the path just like I used to and found my body, screaming bloody murder as they ran back down for help. I watched the emergency services come. I watched my remains get packed up, and I peered over the inspecting detective’s shoulder as he wrote “Death By Misadventure” on the pad attached to his clipboard, quickly repeated by the coroner.

I’ve stayed here for the full month since then, watching hikers and lovers and kids taking the shortcut over the ridge, watching the remnants of my blood sink into the dirt and wash away until the spot hasn’t even a bit of passing interest for stray dogs. People can’t see me. Regular animals avoid where I am standing, but they really can’t see me either. Only that thing could see me.

And you can see me. What’s bringing you up the mountain tonight?

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, original artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 18

First I just thought my eyes were dry.

I was at work, and the HVAC system had finally just switched over from the summer air conditioning to the winter heating (The receptionist was joking to one of the IT guys that morning that the maintenance man had to do some sort of secret maintenance voodoo over it) and my eyes were starting to itch. It was just the dry air, I figured. I went out on my lunch break and snagged a bottle of vision, and that seemed to make things a little better whenever I used them.

But when I got up the next day, my eyes were still really itchy, especially the left one. Soon it was itchy even when I put the vision, and rubbing it only seemed to make it hurt worse. I left it alone as much as I could, just trying to make it through the day, because it was definitely one of those days where everyone assumed that an empty spot on my calendar totally meant that I needed my time filled with meetings. When I got home my eye was positively throbbing, and I went to check it in the mirror to see if there was an eyelash trapped. There, between my iris and the outer corner of my eye, there was a tiny dark spot, and that was where it hurt. I closed my eye and pressed gently, just to make sure. Maybe my cornea was scratched or something. I’d call my doctor the next day and get it checked out, I figured.

When I woke up the next morning my eye felt as if it wanted to explode. I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom, peeling my eye open to see if the spot looked worse. It wasn’t just a spot anymore. It had gotten bigger, and it was like a heart right under the surface of my eye – like a real heart, like should be in your chest, and with veins snaking away from it through the rest of my eye, and it was pulsating, gently. When I closed my eye I could feel it pulsating against the inside of my eyelid.

I called out sick to work and I’ve been hovering between the couch and the bathroom. The veins are getting thicker, and my eye feels weird, like it’s trying to dislodge itself from the socket whenever I have my eye open. And my other eye is starting to itch.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, original artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 17

I wish the weirdest part of my story was how I came to be abandoned in the middle of the Cement Desert. I wish it was how I got dragged into a deal over my head and things went pearshaped and I was sent out into the sun-seared, shadeless waste to die and take that whole story with me. I kind of wish it had succeeded, that I had just walked and walked and walked until I couldn’t walk anymore and then crawled until I didn’t have the energy for THAT any more and then fell asleep until the sun dried me out and flaked off my skin and flayed my flesh and bleached my bones until I matched the cement underneath me.

It almost happened that way. I walked, and walked, and walked, and night was not much better than day because all the sun that spilled across the cement during the day baked heat back up out of it to cook me slowly. It only took two days before I wasn’t even feeling myself sweating anymore because I was just too dry. The headache was massive. I wonder if this was the kind of pain mom talked about when I was small and she had migraines that landed her on the couch in the dark. I felt like there was something inside my skull that was too large for that space. I felt like my eyeballs wanted to burst, and it was hard to focus, even squinting against the light. Not that there was much to focus on. Horizon, just the horizon, walking as if I had any chance in hell of making the far side of the desert. Going back to find my escorts and the bullet-end of their guns was sounding better the further I walked.

I didn’t believe there even was anything at first; I figured the slow-growing lump was just a figment, a what-do-you-call-it? A mirage, that’s right. Like that place in vegas. It was like that place for sure. Walking across the desert, watching it slowly get bigger, it was shining and impossible but it was SOMETHING, that lump, and I couldn’t conceive of not going to check it out. It took a long time to get to, longer than I expected. When there’s that much empty space, it’s hard to tell how far away anything is any more. The only thing that feels close is death.

The sun went down and I slept the night, and got up with my head pounding so bad it could have provided the beat for a Brit techno group, and the first thing I looked for was the lump. Still there, and it actually had a shape, now. It was round on the top, and taller than it was wide. And dark on one side – oh blessed mercy, that meant maybe there was shade, at least early and late in the day! So now I had a goal, and I got up, and I walked.

I walked. I walked.

I walked until it was close enough in front of me that I could see it was made of cement just like the desert. It was rounded as smoothly as the rest of the Cement Desert was flat. It was, as I staggered very close, twice as tall as I was, and with the sun behind me the shade had to be on the other side. I won’t lie, I was totally leaning against it as I made my way around, and I was so out of it that when the rounded surface stopped abruptly, I slid a little. Chevy Chase would been proud. I kept my feet, and oh the shade, the lovely shade! I know it wasn’t really doing anything for my skin, which going by my hands was totally red all over by now, but just being out of the sun made the constant flame of it ease down to an awful prickling.

The lump wasn’t just a lump; it was a half-shell, hollow inside, curved like the interior of an egg, and set into it was a huge shell that was the same color as the statue of liberty, and above it a weird statue that I guess was some kind of mermaid. Its tail was on top, belly against the wall, but instead of being the usual gorgeous chick mermaid (y’know, like Starbucks used to have on their sign before people got offended that she had tits) it was sort of… mostly a fish, long sinuous body and two fins sticking out the side.

The face was all human, though; it was a man, with a wide open grin, very careful even teeth, and it even had hair. Not wild merman hair, but really smooth, slick, side-parted hair that waved just so over the forehead. It was the kind of hair you see on a VP in some office building somewhere, not on a merman statue. But there it was.

“And here you are.”

Given everything else, seeing the mouth move and hearing it talk was pretty much all it took for my knees to buckle and my ass to hit the pavement.

“I imagine you are thirsty, aren’t you?”

It was too bizarre, seeing that metal mouth move and bend like flesh; it was like the animatronics of early 90’s movies, and I wondered if somehow I was being had, except what the hell would be the point of a toy statue way the hell out here? Although even that was more likely than-

“Magic fish, magic bowl, look, do you want some damn water or not?”

“Ye-heh-heh-heh-hehs,” I managed, coughing the word out raspily. I’d barely even opened my mouth in a day, since I realized it was drying me out worse to try to lick my lips.

“Marvelous. Good. So here’s the deal. Make a wish, and then you get the water.”

“I don’t-” I stopped, coughing to clear my throat uselessly. “I don’t wish for the water?”

“No sir, the water comes after the wishing. What way did you come from, anyway?”

I lifted a shaky hand to point. “Two days’ walk that way. Drove me out and dumped me.”

The metal almost looked as if it was melting around his head, the way it shifted to let him nod. “Right then. So what is your wish?”

“I wish…” I looked down at my hands, burned and cracked and thick with sun poisoning. Christ, they looked like effing sausages. I wished I hadn’t gotten in the middle of this mess. I wish I knew how to say no. I wish I’d had a gun of my own when Alaina and Mauricio showed up. “I wish they were dead,” I mumbled sourly, and coughed again.

“Who?”

“Alaina and Mauricio. They work for the Big Girl.”

“Are they the ones that… dumped you?”

“Yeah.” Even as I nodded, the merman’s head went still, mouth opening wide in a weird, yawing grin. There was a sound almost like a burp, and a gout of water burst forth to splash in the bowl, staining the oxidized copper with wet. I could SMELL the water, not a bad smell, but like when you’re a kid going to the seaside and you can’t see the beach or the ocean yet, but you can feel it in the way the wind is cool and damp. It was like that, an impossible burst of wet air in the middle of that cement oven.

I wish I could say I didn’t crawl to get to it, but I did, and dragged myself up on the edge of the bowl to shove my hands in. The water was cool and it was wet and felt so good and yet it HURT in the cracks in my skin and I screamed, and christ if that even wasn’t a wimpy sound, dry and thin and ragged. Then I was able to drag myself up almost to standing – really, I just sort of draped myself over the side of the huge shell-shaped bowl – and shoved my whole face into the water. That hurt too, and I screamed right into the water before backing out. Just a breath, and then I started drinking. Too much, too fast, and my stomach twisted and cramped around it and set it back up. I had to sling my head aside to vomit it out onto the hot cement. Even in the shade it was so hot that where it it, pink-stained, it hissed and began to steam.

That first run slowed me down, then, and I went for a few careful shaky gulps before sitting back down and catching my breath. “I think maybe you’re saving my life,” I pointed out, not really able to think much past the headache beyond pointing out the obvious.

“I am,” the creature grinned, and gouted a little more water out into the bowl. “Here, take this.”

Its mouth yawned impossibly huge, and a Ruger clattered out into the bowl, landing with its nose in the water. “You will go make Alaina and Mauricio dead,” it said simply, and I stared.

“Like hell!”

“You will. Or you will stay here with me.”

“Well, it’s not like I can walk two more days back like this, and even if I do it’s not like they’ll just sit there and wait for me to shoot them!” Even so, I reached a shaky hand in to gingerly pluck the gun from the shell bowl.

“You will.” The creature was implacable, lapsing back into that broad weird grin each time it spoke, and the gun lurched around in my grasp, wrenching my arm upward to slam the nose of it against my temple. “Or you will stay here with me.”

“JESUS CHRIST!” I yelped, my hand shaking, but I couldn’t pull my arm down, couldn’t let go of the gun, and my finger quivered on the trigger.

“You will go make them dead. Then you will come back. I will give you water. And you will grant my wish.”

Which is how I ended up walking back across the Cement Desert, holding myself at gunpoint. I can see the road in the distance, and I can see a car, and the sun is winking off of someone. I don’t even know if it’s them, but I’m going to do it. I will. And then maybe I can get myself before I need to go back there and find out what that thing could wish for. I have a terrible feeling that it’s going to want to leave with me next time.

 

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by Carabou of Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons license.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 16

It appeared on my fifth birthday.

It wasn’t given to me, exactly. On my fifth birthday, of course, my parents had a party and there was cake and there were present and the children my parents invited to play with me loved the pinnate we all got to whack at. And at some point amidst the streamers and blowing out the candles and playing tag in the yard, Bear appeared.

My parents insist that Bear must have been a gift from someone at the party, but everyone’s gifts were neatly wrapped and labelled to me from TimmyMaryJoeySusieMarkusDevoneMumnDad. Bear was just sort of sitting in the middle of the pile with no wrapping, no ribbon bow. No tag. I opened everything else I could before finally picking it up and looking it over.

Bear was just that, a teddy bear. But unlike most bears, it wasn’t fuzzy, it didn’t have shining button eyes, and it didn’t feel squishy. At least, not squishy with proper fluff. Bear’s exterior was a strange honey-colored leather, worn smooth to almost shining, and it was constructed in oblong, almost awkward pieces that were stitched together along the edges with big dark thread like they use on coats and couches. The arms were almost like paddles. The ears stuck up near enough like Mickey Mouse’s and yet still different as to seem wrong. There was no mouth, no nose, no eyes; the stitches ran from the back of the head under the ears, over the top, to meet at the front in a point along with the seam that ran up from under the chin.

Nobody claimed credit for bringing me bear, and even though my parents finally decided that either someone was embarrassed at giving it in comparison to all the other toys I had been given, I knew better. When I picked up Bear, it was warm. There was almost a sensation of pulse underneath that smooth, tough leather, and I hugged it close. Bear had come to me on its own. Bear had picked me to be with, and I was glad.

The monsters under my bed had been getting bold, you see.

They had begun slow, when I was a little smaller, just before I turned four. There would be a tiny creak from the wardrobe, or the shadows would move on the wall even though there was no wind moving the tree outside my window. Little things, and easily explained away by my parents when finally I did start calling for them.Then the little creaks became scrapes and groans, from the wardrobe and from under my bed. The moving shadows became more deliberate, becoming terrible leering grins and huge alien eyes upon the wall. Something was beginning to snake out from under my bed and move my toys; it was getting very good at flinging things up onto my bed to make me shriek, so that mom or dad would come running and trip over the truck the monster put just inside the bedroom door.

Mom and dad yelled at me for playing with toys instead of sleeping. They started taking things away that they found on my bed. They even talked about sending me to a counselor when they started coming in to find me curled up under the blankets and crying. “Big girls don’t cry at nothing,” they told me. “Don’t you want to be a big girl?”

I did want to be a big girl. But I wasn’t big yet, and there were monsters, and they WERE big.

That night I went to bed with the new toys still stacked up against the wall waiting to get fully unpacked, and I brought Bear to bed with me. It was warm, and if it squished kind of funny when I hugged it close, well, that was just what Bear was, wasn’t it? My parents kissed me good night, and turned on the nightlight in the hall for me, and mom tugged on Bear until I finally let go, and she set it on the shelf above my bed.

When she shut the door, I turned around and knelt to grab Bear, but it was already moving. Its head tilted slightly to one side, one of those wrong ears cocked as if listening for something, and I didn’t even have to hold my breath yet before I heard a scrape from under the bed. It pushed outward as I huddled down onto the pillow, hugging my knees, and this time I saw it. It was like a snake, but the back end of a snake, long and scaly and wriggling across the rug until the slender end of it was able to curl around the new dump truck I’d been given from Joey so that I could bring it to his house and make castles and forts in his sandbox. The snake-end slid under it and dragged the truck halfway across the room, and then it went tight and the truck crunched, the middle buckling in half and something snapping and a wheel rolling off across the room.

My new truck was broken, and it went slithering back across the carpet to grab another thing; the tutu from Timmy, or maybe it was from Susie (they were twins and they gave me both their presents together). As it dragged back across the carpet, another snake-end pushed out from under the bed to meet it near the broken truck, and I reached for my blanket to pull it tight around me. They didn’t usually make faces or throw things unless they knew I was awake and watching them.

As I watched, the end of one of the tentacles split open, yawning a nasty hiss over several rows of conical teeth, and it snapped shut on the tutu. The first one did the same, and wrenching sharply away from each other, they ripped the tutu in two. The sound of tearing tulle was loud in my bedroom, and I couldn’t help a little gasp. They dropped the tutu and went quite still. I knew they’d heard me, I knew it, and gathered my blanket around me like cotton candy, wanting something, anything to protect me.

The eyes appeared over the end of my bed and the blanket muffled my scream. There were three of them, all different sizes and on long stalks, all fixing firmly upon my face which was the only part of me sticking out of the blanket. I saw one of the tentacles rear up behind the eyes, and it was diving for me as I rolled face-down to bury myself under my blanket entirely. I felt something thud against the blanket on my back and roll down, halting by my hip. It was way too small to be a tentacle, and holding my breath, I dared to peek. From under the folds of cloth, I watched Bear slowly right itself to sitting with a little shake of its head. Then it reached up one of those weird paddle-like arms and, ever so delicately, picked loose a thread where the three seams joined at the point where its nose should have been. With a tug, it started to unravel, the three smooth points of leather starting to curl away, and one arm stretched out to thrust the thread in my direction.

Mutely, I dared stick an arm out from the blanket to pinch the thread, trying to look at and yet unable to quite understand the wet, red pulsating mass that I was seeing under the curled-back leather. It shifted a little, revealing a wee length of tiny, gleaming white needle-teeth that curved into an impossibly white grin at me. Then Bear pushed to its feet and, with me holding the thread so that the stitches unraveled as it walked, it tootled toward the end of the bed, toward the hissing horror that I could not see.

At the end of the bed, Bear shrugged out of its skin and dove, even as one of the tentacles darted at me again. I could not see what happened, only hear the hissing and the thumps and feel how my whole mattress shifted and rocked, and then there was a hiss worse than all the others, long and angry and ragged. It cut off abruptly into a gurgling, and then there was no more struggle. After a minute, I could hear a sound, a wet and meaty chewing like when I was having steak right before mom would tell me to stop being gross and close my mouth. It went on for a long, long time, and I held onto the thread while I watched the tentacle that had fallen upon the corner of my bed get pulled down to the carpet, and then inch by inch out of sight under the bed.

Eventually, there was silence – and then a tugging on my covers that made me burrow back under my blankets again, still clinging desperately to the dark thread connecting me to the limp pile of leather down by the foot of my bed. The thing that dragged itself up onto my bed was more disgusting than any of the yuck Devone had brought out of the swamp that was behind our back yard; it looked red and wet all over and had way too many arms and legs, more than a crab. Its head sat on top of it like a lump. It pulled itself up on top of the rumpled sheet, and then rolled upright in a movement that I abruptly realized was just like when Bear went to sit up.

As if knowing that I new it for what it was, it bared those teeth at me, grinning again. Then one of its weird limbs went to its mouth to curl around one of those teeth and yank it out with a sucking sound, just like when I pulled out one of my own teeth two months ago even though it wasn’t really ready because I wanted the quarter from the tooth fairy. It pushed upright and toddled toward me, and when it tugged on the thread I let it take it. It tied the end of the string around the wide end of the tooth, and placed it back between my outstretched fingers. Down the length of the bed it went, to climb back into the discarded skin; too many arms and too many legs it pushed itself inside the skin, filling out the shape again, and then waddled back with leather flapping to sit itself down in front of me. One paddle-arm guided my hand to slide the needle through the holes in the leather and pull the thread tight, until I had the rhythm of it and sewed bit by bit and stitch by stitch. Big, shaky child stitches, just like it’d had before, slowly closing the leather over it until all I could see was a gleam of that sharp smile.

Then I tucked the last little twitch in and pulled out the needle, left with Bear again.

I hid the needle in a little ledge under my shelf and straightened out my blankets, and nestled down under them to sleep with Bear in my arms. It was warm, and I could feel it pulsing in my arms like the beat of my own heart.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 15

They can’t live in the light, can’t touch the light, so you’re safe once you know that, because you can stay safe as long as you have light. They like the shadows, they thrive in them.

When there were still scientists trying to figure them out there were a lot of them trying to convince the world that they were us, just like us, but they’d taken a different evolutionary path. Thousands and thousands of years ago some of them must have gotten trapped in that warren of underground caves and they grew in number, they lived and hunted and fought and spawned and died just like we did on top of the earth, out in the sun. But they were under so long, so very many generations, they went pale, like those fish that glow in pools.

Not that the shadowpeople phosphoresce. They’re just pale, so pale. It helps to find them, really, because any bit of light will glint off their skin, like blacklight would off of teeth and eyes and white clothing in nightclubs.

God, nightclubs. Remember them? Remember when we liked to be all pressed together in dark places and it was fun not knowing who all was there with you?

Funny how things change.

Like nobody goes anywhere anymore without at least one or two flashlights in a hip holster. I always have two, because it pays to be safe, right? Except when I came down into this cellar in this house to see if maybe they had any food or batteries stored down here, I was only two steps off the bottom of the stair when I got hit hard, and I am pretty sure it was teeth that scraped across the back of my neck when I went down and rolled and my flashlight went clattering away into the dim.

Just dumb luck, really, that I rolled into this one patch of sunlight that slanted from the big windows upstairs through the trapdoor at the top of the stairs, and it shrieked and scrambled off into the dark. I thought I could use my second flashlight to keep it back while I got out, but the damn thing broke. I should have gotten those Maglites, even if they are heavy. You can beat the hell out of them and they keep going.

My neck hurts like hell, and I think it’s still bleeding a little. I’ve been keeping myself in this patch of light, watching that pale shape pacing in the deep shadows at the far end of the cellar. I was thinking that I could just stick in the light until it got to the bottom of the steps, but it’s afternoon. The light is making me inch away from the stairs, and I’m only maybe a foot away from the wall now.

I’m going to have to make a break for it, I know that – but I know that thing is watching me, too. It looks like it’s going to be four running steps, and hopefully by the time I get there, enough light will still be on the stairs, but that creature keeps creeping toward the shadows underneath the steps.

I was hoping the beam my flashlight was still throwing would help give me a path, but the thing shut it off. First things first, I’m going to toss this up through the trapdoor, I can probably make it from here. So if you find this on the floor outside the cellar, I didn’t make it, and you better shine your torch REAL good around the cellar before you go down.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 14

Three of us went into the woods that day. There was still so much woods back then, blanketing the hills and ravines that have since been delved into, flattened, filled in. Now you have to go somewhere to be able to wander into the woods and lose yourself all day, but not back then.

We did it a lot, and had our favorite spots; where the stream that split off from some river went trickling down over a bunch of boulders, where a lot of trees had fallen in a near-circle making a sort of clearing that protected from the Fall wind… we loved finding these strange little spots and making them our own.

This one day we went exploring in a direction we had wandered before, but we had never seen what we found then; there was a turnstile, sitting there in the middle of the underbrush. It was red with silver trimming, and there was a bar curving up out of the ground and back down again, making it look like… well, like a turnstile looks when you’re going into a place, this little path with bars across that you have to push against. Danny banged on it with a stick, but nothing came scurrying out, so it wasn’t playing host to any critters. It was Mike that found the coin half-buried in the dirt, and we all crowded in to look at it as he brushed it off. It shined up nice, like gold, and it felt heavy when he passed it around. There weren’t any words, but there was an etching of a roller coaster car on one side of it, and a top hat on the other.

Off in the trees there were large curving shapes that looked sort of like roller coaster tracks, but they looked ancient, rusting and broken and leaning against the trees like they’d been ridden so many times and now they were just tired and wanted to fall down. They made me feel uneasy, in that same sort of way that old people always made me uneasy when I was that age; I felt like I was looking at something that should have been strong and vital and instead here it was needing help just to keep its feet.

Since Mike found the coin, he went to the turnstile and jostled the metal arms once more, but they didn’t turn. Not until he stuck the coin in and pushed his stomach against the bar – it turned then, and smoothly, silently as if the hidden gears inside had been freshly oiled out here in the middle of nowhere. The bar in front of him moved, angling toward a slot in the side of the dirty red turnstile, while another emerged and slid up into place behind Mike with a soft click.

When he got to the other side, he just stopped dead, looking around at the trees and the rotting roller coaster track.

“Oh wow!” he burst out, startling us, “really? Thanks, mister!” I looked at Danny, and he looked at me, and we shrugged.

Mike took a few steps then stopped, turning to look in our direction as he called out, “Come on, guys, we get to-” He frowned, staring at us over the turnstile, except that he wasn’t really staring at us. His gaze was distant, like he was looking beyond us, but when I looked there was nothing behind us. “Guys?” He sounded uncertain, taken a step toward the turnstile.

Then his head whipped around, and with a whoop he broke into a run, dashing through the trees. I don’t mean running between them; Mike actually ran right through the trunks of the trees as if they weren’t really there.

Danny cursed, and I could feel myself going pale before we broke into a run after him. Feeling daring I tried to run through one of the trees like Mike did. Man, bark hurts like hell when you do something like that. I had a lumpy bruise on my forehead for almost a week.

We followed Mike, but we hit a point where there was a big patch of blackberry bushes, chest-high, and we couldn’t get past them. We could see, though, as Mike settled down into a round-nosed coaster cart that looked just like the one on the coin, except that it had big patches of rust, and looked like it should have collapsed under him. I wouldn’t have sat in it for fifty bucks, but Mike hopped right in like it was shining new. With a creak and a groan and a tick-tick-tick-tick-tick the cart started to move, and I could see Mike’s face for a moment as the cart started up the first unsteady rise of the track. He didn’t look terrified. He looked excited, like he had when his folks and mine took us all to the lakeside park in the next county and we got to ride the coaster there. He was looking all around him, as if he was seeing open space around a solid track, not like he was lurching upward past oaks and aspen on a track that was barely on its last legs.

Danny punched me in the arm and pointed further down the track and started yelling, and then I did too. “Mike!” we shrieked, “MIKE!” and shoved at the blackberry bushes. Danny grabbed a stick to try to beat them down as we pushed toward the track, screaming for our friend – wanting to get him off the cart, but he never even turned to look down at us. The cart crested that first hill, pushing up past branches into the sun, and there was a sickening dirty red gleam to it that made my stomach turn with a visceral recognition. Then it took off down the track, and it sounded like it was shrieking back at us as all of us were screaming, Danny and I almost incoherently and Mike with sheer delight as the cart thundered down, screed through the dip and rocketed back up.

Then it was still going, even though the track was gone, a big section of it fallen down into the underbrush. Maybe it was then that I’d started crying, watching the cart arc up and hang in the sun again just for a moment. Then it fell like it was being inhaled to the earth, and Danny and I weren’t screaming words any more, we were just screaming. Way too long it took us to get through all the bushes, running for the cart. There was nothing to find. I mean, it was there, in the same condition it had been when Mike got in, except for a new splash of red across the nose of it. I thought it was blood, it had to be blood, but I crept a little closer while Danny turned away to be sick against the bottom of an oak. It was just paint. Fresh, bright, red paint where before it had been a big dirtied patch of rust. And the cart was empty.

There was a flickering of shadow, and I looked up at the broken end of the track Mike had gone off of. It wasn’t the same though. It went higher now, becoming the crest of a hill where before it was broken off at an uphill, and looking around, the whole track looked a lot more… alert. More upright.

“Jordan,” Danny’s voice wobbled dangerously, and when I went to him he was pointing toward the dirt; something was glinting at the base of the tree next to the remains of his breakfast. Brushing at the dirt with my fingers, I got far enough to see the round edges of the gold coins and part of the etching of the coaster cart, and I uttered a curse that my dad would have whalloped me for even knowing, let alone saying. Jordan and I looked at each other, and the cart, and I grabbed the two coins, both of us dashing back toward the turnstile.

It hadn’t changed at all, and the bars still didn’t do anything more than clunk heavily inside the casing when I pushed at it. But Mike had gone through. Mike had used one of the coins.

Danny and I crouched together in front of the turnstile, and I reached up to drop in a coin. Together we reached out and pushed at the turnstile bar, slowly, and it slid forward. It wasn’t as noiseless as it had been when Mike went through. There was a thin squeal. It did not distract us from peering through, watching the woods beyond waver and disappear. It became a flat expanse of pavement, painfully bright and sunny, and arching over it was a roller coaster. It had the same hills and valleys as the one we saw, but it was pristine, nails and struts shining in the sun. There was a fence separating it from the pavement, painted gaily green with a dark design like a fruited vine climbing along it.

Abruptly the rail slid from our grasp and disappeared, the new one clicking into place, and the vision of the beautiful ride was gone, the forest firmly in place again with the roller coaster yawing dissolutely through it.

Danny and I stood up and turn to jog for home, glancing nervously backward occasionally. When Mike’s parents reported him missing we were grilled from everybody – our parents, his parents, even a police detective – but all we could really tell them was that we last saw Mike in the woods, that he went off without us, that we don’t know where he was going or if he was going to see anybody.

That last bit was a lie though, for me at least. Danny was blocked by where he had been crouching, but while we’d been pushing the turnstile and looking through at that weird, bright roller coaster, I had been able to see a man walking across the pavement. He was wearing a top hat and a dark suit, and just before the bar had clicked into place, he had turned and looked straight at me.

I’ve still got the other coin.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 13

Mary was still pretty tired when she woke to her alarm clock and wandered sleepily into the bathroom. Her father, she noticed as she peed, had already hun on the wall next to the vanity the ornately framed mirror her mother had picked up at an estate sale over the weekend. Silly looking, a mirror like that in a little two-bedroom railroad house like this, but her mom always dreamed of a house-on-the-hill kind of life, and insisted on buying things to decorate accordingly. “Champagne tastes on a beer budget,” dad called it affectionately, and if Mary found it utterly tacky to have a row of faux Faberge eggs lined up along the top of the television… well, it made mom happy to have them there, and if mom was happy then everybody was happy.

After a good scrubbing up and toothbrushing, Mary went to inspect herself in the mirror, which in turn led to inspecting the mirror itself. An oval stretched tall, it had a strange almost crackled-looking mistiness to the reflection. Mom had proudly declared that to be a feature of it being a real antique silver-backed mirror. It made sense to Mary that mirror-making had moved on: what was the use of a mirror that didn’t give a clear reflection?

She ran a hand absently over the deeply carved frame, then snatched it back with a hiss; a sharp bit had sliced a little cut into her finger. She stuck it in her mouth to suck on, not bothering with a bandaid before going to get dressed for school.

Unnoticed, the little smear of red left on the frame sunk in and disappeared as quickly as if it were being sucked in by the wood.

In homeroom, before bell, she could see Jenny Harper slipping little notes onto several people’s desks. Purple, intricately folded, and with a glint that bespoke of liberal use with one of those expensive metallic pens, or maybe a bit of time with glue and glitter. She watched from her seat over by the window, trying to watch without watching. Four, five, seven, twelve… it looked like all the girls got them. All the girls that lived in the right houses, anyway.

Getting passed over by girls like Jenny was a bit of old hat by now for Mary, and she just sighed, rubbing one faintly itching eye with her bandaged hand. With a little bit of surprise, she realized that by now she didn’t even really care enough to cry. So Jenny was a bitch; Lindsey was still really nice, and Cara always invited Mary to her birthdays, even if it wasn’t the done thing to do. Still, when everyone had left class and she saw one of the crumples of purple paper on the floor, Mary scooped it up to see what she was being cut out of this time.

Another sleepover.

The trashcan rang with the satisfyingly deep thrum of a softly struck bell when she tossed the crumpled-up paper into it on her way out the door, absently rubbing at her eye again as she made her way down the hall. Unfortunately, it meant she wasn’t quite watching where she was going, and ran right into Jenny as she turned a corner toward the science classes.

“Ooof! Ugh, watch where you’re going-” Jenny snapped, rounding on her, and her eyes lit upon Jenny’s hand with a smirk. “…ew. Bloody Mary.”

Her stomach and eyes both burning, Mary mumbled an apology and hurried on toward class.

The itchiness came and went throughout the week, but the nickname Jenny came up with in that unfortunate moment came, and stayed, following her through the halls. Friday afternoon didn’t come fast enough, and she was glad to bolt for home.

Her parents cooked up dinner and then went out to visit the Peaney’s, and Mary was left to her own devices… which pretty much meant homework, but through most of it she kept glancing at the clock, thinking about Jenny’s glittery flourishes, and what sort of things they might be doing at the sleepover. The itching came back, refusing to be blinked away, until finally she went to the bathroom to inspect her eyes – maybe there was an eyelash in one of them.

Leaning close to the mirror, she opened her eye wide and held her eyelids there with a thumb and forefinger; what she saw was not a mote of dust, or an errant eyelash. Instead, where the surface of her eye should have been smooth, there were several tunny sections that seemed to have come loose and curled downward like peeling wallpaper. Horrified, she blinked, and leaned closer. Her free hand lifted to gingerly poke at one of the little flaps, and then holding her breath she pinched one and drew downward.

It peeled painlessly, like when she got white glue on her palms in art class as a child and peeled it away, marveling at the imprint of her hand’s lines in the dried clear film. Flap by flap, strip by strip, she peeled one eye, and then the other, and through the strips hung down, her eyes didn’t burst or deflate as she would have expected. She was so rapt by the odd peeling that she didn’t quite take notice of the dark blood seeping faintly down the peeled sections toward the bottom of her lid, some of it dribbling out like tears, some of it leaking down through her nasal passages to mingle with the saliva in her mouth.

All she could think, abruptly, was of the sleepover, and what would the girls think if they could see this? She lifted a hand to the mirror frame, mulling it over.

Across town, the girls were crowded into Jenny Harper’s bathroom (because she had her OWN bathroom, and didn’t have to share with her little brother, thank GOD) trying out all her different makeup while she regaled them with how that half-wit Mary had slammed right into her in the hall just when Bobby Cooper was about to come over to ask her out.

“…so she had this cut on her hand and it wasn’t even bandaged or anything, and it was BLEEDING and she was, like, touching her eyes! So of course I called her Bloody Mary!” A ripple of laughter swept through her guests, and chirrupingly they repeated the clever nickname.

“Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary!”

Without warning, the mirror in Mary’s bathroom swam before her, and the framed of it felt almost as if it twitched under her hand… and the misty reflection went dark, and cleared into a vision of Jenny Harper’s bathroom, as seen through the mirror. She stared, and they stared – and dragged close to the mirror by a force she could not resist, she screamed, her grip on the frame useless as she felt herself pulled, bloody-eyed, toward the girls how went white and, as a body, screamed too, shoving and trampling each other in vain attempt to get out the door.

Jenny Harper, Mary felt a dark pleasure to see, simply when sheet-white and dropped hard, her head hitting the edge of the toilet hard enough to crack porcelain and skull all at once.

When the screaming finally stopped, the room was dark.

There was a pile of bodies in Jenny’s bathroom, and those who weren’t dead were too terrified and useless to help Mr. Harper get the door open against the weight of them.

Mary’s parents never did find their runaway daughter, but sometimes her dad thought he felt her presence, when he was in the bathroom.

Her mother refused to sell the mirror.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture from MyBigFatBloodyMary.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 12

I am waiting.

So much work I did to bring the end of days about, unearthing old texts and translating them, then gathering to me those who could do my bidding. There was not a joy in it, really, but it was something that had to be done. It has all gone on far too long for all of us, this world, this existence, and I could not bear to pass my way through it and let it decline irritably in on itself, biting its own ankles like a tiny dog impotently furious at it’s physical stature. No, this world deserved an end of true greatness.

So much to gather, so many to have slain – not only the ones that were required for the rituals, the removing of their hearts, the feeding of their small intestines into their own mouths as they were made to swallow and swallow and swallow, but the ones who did not realize the beauty of what I meant to do. the ones who came in with guns and fire and thought to stop me. I was warned. I marked the entirety of the old inn in which I had been working with the symbols, and filled the basement with the powder – carefully, so carefully! They became so many sweet pieces of offering, sizzling as they fell into the sea.

So far to travel, carrying my notes with me to scribe the bloody sigils into the foundations of those false and stupid churches, full of pompous assbiters preaching asceticism and forgiveness and love and don’t forget the bake sale next Saturday, as if that would make any difference in the great and dark Beyond, beyond the here and now of their knowing.

So many graveyards to seed with the powders on the headstones and the ichorous salves smeared into the graves fresh and old, and the crypts and mausolea with their heavily sealed preservations of ancient meat, all of them a forgotten meal waiting for the right words, waiting for the smoke, and the blood, and the maddening song to call them forth and vomit them out.

So many driven forth from their plastic and wood houses, when finally the sky began to crack and the winged horrors fell through, when the ground cleaved and the terrible beasts burst forth, flesh and claw and screaming hunger and far too many eyes. One by one and then many by many they fell to be food, or to the madness, or both. Theirs was the sacrifice, the last sacrifice needed.

So much death scents the air now, the slaughterhouse smell of blood and meat and shit and ash overcoming even the rotting salt of the ocean by which I stand. It is enough now. He will smell it, it will waken Him like some of the madboys once woke for bacon clocks, and He will rise. The sea shall boil forth around His great and unknowable visage, and I will greet Him, and He shall reward my by consuming me first before taking the world bit by bit and bite by bite into that unfathomable maw. I will fall into his gullet and no more be this meatwoman in this black dress of mourning for the world that once was, and there will be peace.

I am waiting.

 

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by Shapovalov on DeviantArt, shared with permission.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 11

There was fog.

Not just a little fog, one of those misty days where you hate going outside to walk more than the distance to your car because if you do your clothing is going to be damp and chilly. I’m talking fog, real fog, the kind that they mean when they call it pea soup. The kind you don’t go anywhere in because even your fog lights are useless against it. The kind of fog that makes the whole world crisply mute against your ears, as if it is waiting for you to say something. That kind of fog.

Don’t ask Davina why she was out in it, because she’d be damned if she remember now. Suffice to say that she was out, and she couldn’t see much more than herself. If she looked down, even, she couldn’t see past her shins; it swirled around her lower legs like an amorphous, affectionate cat.

Davina was more of a dog person.

She was out in this fog, and she was walking through the coiling obfuscation trying to find anything at all. A tree, maybe, or a road with a guardrail along it. A car, even better a house. But on and on she walked, and there was just the fog. She couldn’t even feel any sort of rise and fall to the ground to give her an idea of where she was.

Maybe it was Kansas.

Time was as unsteady as everything else; she had been walking for so long, but her feet didn’t hurt. She had walked along enough she told herself she was thirsty, but her lips weren’t dry, and her tongue was damp as the fog. It caught on her skin, collected in her hair; her shirt was sticking to her upper arms. Why hadn’t she put on a coat?

Idly she reached out as she walked to push her hand through the fog before her, and it swirled lazily in curls and waves like a monochrome version of Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night – and beyond the swirls, finally, there was something dark than the half-lit whiteness. The shape was dark, and motionless, but distant, and she hurried toward it as much as she dared without risking a misstep and a snapped ankle on the damp and invisible ground.

As she grew closer, the shape began to resolve itself into a person. The more she neared, the clearer that became, until she was a handful of yards away and could pick out the shape of him, the dark trousers, the heavy coat, the thick, round fur hat perched atop his head.

“Hello!” Davina called out, “Hello, I am lost! Can you help me?” The man lifted a hand and beckoned her closer. Davina went, until she was just before the man.

The fog did not seem to have touched him; his fur hat should have been drooping with damp, but the little dark hairs of it stood up firmly, and the lines of his coat were crisp. Wordlessly he looked her over, and finally grinned. “You have come at last!” he declared in delight, and began to shrug out of his coat, moving to put it around Davina’s chilled shoulders in spite of her admittedly weak protest.

“You have come! I have been waiting for you.”

“For me?” Davina asked with an uncomfortable chuckle, even as she nestled into the coat – and while it had fit him well, large and boxy, square-shouldered, it fit surprisingly well around her.

“Yes,” he beamed, lifting the fur hat off his head to settle over her hair, and somehow it did not slip down over her eyes, fitting to her just as the coat melded against the slighter curves of her body.

“I don’t know you, do I? Why were you waiting for me? I am lost, this fog is-”

“You are Davina,” the man said with a shake of his head, cutting her off. “I know you. I have been waiting for you. I was lost, until I got here, and the last lost went on and told me to wait, and you would come. You are the signpost; point me the way on that I may rest, Davina, and I will be lost no more.”

At his demand, Davina felt herself filled with a sudden but undeniable certainty, and her hand snapped up, pointing obliquely off into the fog. There were no paths, but her finger was sharply unwavering.

“Beautiful girl!” The man crowed, and grasped her shoulders to press a kiss to each of her cheeks. “Do not worry, one will come lost and you will know and they will point you your way,” he assured her, before turning to hurry off in the direction she was pointing.

Davina tried to follow because he seemed like he knew where he was going now, and if he knew where to go then she wanted to follow. Maybe she’d be able to find a place to wait until the fog cleared. Except she could not move. Looking down the fog was thick and unmoving around her feet, as unforgiving as cement, no matter how she twisted and tugged against it.

“How long were you waiting?!” she screamed after the man, and shivered in spite of the warmth of the coat as his voice floated thinly back through the featureless fog, “Only a few hundred years!”

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by leenik on DeviantArt, shared with permission.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.