Category: Suspense


Rise Again

Another of my shorts celebrating the Universal Monsters in honor of Halloween.

The first, if you’re interested, was Frankenstein’s Monster, here.

Second, The Wolf-Man, here

As always, I hope you enjoy.

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

The gods whisper, ever-present beneath the dunes; though their voices over the eons had become mere wind-strewn sand across the desert floor.

Its face cracks upon the utterance of the incantation, the body’s way of acknowledging Time as master of all things before awareness can even set in.  Wrappings cling too tightly over long dead skin, making simple gestures – the moving of a hand – tedious.

But the flesh will have its way.

And so the wrappings loosen, one end falling to the temple floor.

Sst.

With Time paid its due, awareness gives way to thought, allowing the thing that had forgotten having ever been a man, to remember.

And with memory comes desire.

Sst…sst.

She was his everything, now as then.  Leaving the land of mortal men had done nothing to dull the ache he felt at her absence.  The longing.  He would shadow Eternity if need be, align all of heaven with the dark arts of hell, if that’s what it took.

He began to feel emboldened in his steps.

Sst…sst…sst.

The scroll was nearly his.

Within reach of his withered hand.

Just a few more steps.

Sst…sst…sst…

Desert Stray

“Okay, wait.  Do you mean, like, 28 Days Later zombies or Romero’s?”  Cissy asked as the wind toyed with her long, blonde hair.

Joe shifted gears in their beat up hatchback then flicked his cigarette out the window as they sped down the highway.

“Both.” He replied.

“Oh, God.” Cissy said, picturing all that undead flesh, “I guess – wait, can I have a shotgun instead of a 9mm?”

“Sure, but that means your SUV only has a quarter tank of gas in it.”  Joe smiled.

“Fine.  Well, I guess I’d blast my way out of the – this is stupid.  No way would I have gone to the library during a zombie apocalypse!”

“You hadn’t heard the news.” Joe said, after thinking for a second.

“Then why the hell would I be wandering the streets with a shotgun?” Cissy asked incredulously, “What kinda scary-ass library is this?”

“Yeah,” Joe admitted, “I didn’t think this question through very well.  My brain’s getting tired.” He said through a yawn.

“Well, we’ve been playing since Oklahoma.  We can take a break.” Cissy said, rolling her window up, “Want me to drive for a bit?”

“Sure.” Joe said, pulling over to the side of the highway.  “Just let me get a few hours’ sleep and then I’ll take back over.”

While Joe came around from the driver’s side, Cissy got out and stretched, looking up at the desert moon.  The night air had gotten chilly, making Cissy regret her wardrobe choice of a t-shirt and shorts.

“I’m going to get in my bag really quick, grab some sweats.”  Cissy said, climbing into the back seat.

“Okay.  Hey, will you grab my –”

“Grab what?” Cissy asked, looking up.  She inhaled sharply.  What looked to Cissy to be a large, black dog was standing in the light from their headlights, staring at them.  “Is that a wolf?”  Cissy whispered.

“Stay in the car and shut the door.” Joe whispered back.

Cissy did as Joe said and shut her door just as he shut his.

Is it a wolf, Joe?”

“Do they even have wolves in the desert?  I dunno.” Joe said as the creature moved closer toward them, staying in the headlights.  “It looks hungry.”

“Joe, let’s just go.” Cissy shook his shoulder.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” Joe climbed over the middle console back into the driver’s seat, “I’m wide awake now.”

“Joe!” Cissy grabbed his arm, “Where’d the wolf go?”

Joe peered through the window but didn’t see the wolf anymore.  It wasn’t out the front window or either side.  He climbed back over and looked out the passenger side window.  The animal, whatever it was, had simply vanished into the night.

“I don’t see it anywhere.” Joe said.

“Let’s go.” Cissy shivered.  She told herself it was because she was cold.

Joe got them going down the highway again.  They sat in silence for a long while, both lost in thought.  Eventually, Cissy dozed off.  As she slept, she dreamed.

She dreamt of long pathways cut in sand and framed in stone.  She was being chased.  She could hear her heart beating faster; her breathing, heavier.  Only, it wasn’t her breathing.  It belonged to whoever hunted her.  It was close.

Closer.

Cissy came to a cliff in her dream.  There, at the cliff’s edge, stood her pursuer.  A black wolf with an oddly human face.  As the man’s face on the wolf’s body circled Cissy, it spoke:

Thanks for the lift.”

And then it jumped at her.

Cissy woke up screaming.

Joe shook her by the arm.

“Are you okay?”  Joe asked.

“Yeah.” Cissy took a swig of water to steady herself.  “I’m good. Bad dream.”

“Sounded like it.” Joe said, “Well, we’re almost in the clear.  Twenty-four more miles and we’re out of the desert.”

Cissy sat quietly.  She couldn’t explain why, but something about being free from the desert made her smile.

Legal Jargon

The Shady Hills subdivision was an immensely popular place to build a home, for thousands less than was typical of similar subdivisions.  It had six housing options, all very beautiful, with no yearly dues to pay for the upkeep of the neighborhood.

By the time that Alec and Janice were ready to build their home, there were few spots left in Shady Hills.  Even so, the deal was such a good one that Alec had the land surveyed, twice, to search for sinkholes or any other natural disasters that could account for how cheap they were getting the house.

“I’ve seen Poltergeist.” Alec said to his wife, though he hadn’t actually seen all of it, fearful of clowns as he was, “I know that greedy landowners might build over cemeteries.”

“I know what you mean.” Janice said to her husband, though she only partially listened to him. She was busy looking at drapes in a magazine.  “Do you like mauve or lilac for the living room?”

And so it went until Alec, satisfied that Spielberg’s demon jester couldn’t get him, and Janice, content with her color schemes, signed on the dotted line and became homeowners.

A year passed.

In that time, Alec’s job as a salesman started to take him on the road, leaving him away from home often.  Janice, who ran her online retail business from their basement office, didn’t mind terribly.  Henry Beaucraft was kind enough to mow their lawn when it needed it and Janice sometimes played cards with Maria Gutierrez when her husband was gone so they could keep each other company.  Janice had gotten to know their neighbors well enough that she felt comfortable asking for help if she ever needed any.

During the second year of living in Shady Hills, Alec and Janice found themselves blessed with the birth of their first child, Derrick.  Alec tried to cut back his time on the road so as to spend more time with his newly expanded family, but the economy made beggars out of working men quickly, so he didn’t make too much of a fuss about it to his boss.  Janice, who now did mind terribly that Alec was gone so often, hardly ever slept.  It seemed to her that little Derrick cried whenever he sensed her eyes were closed.

One day, while changing Derrick’s diaper through sleep-deprived eyes, Janice snapped awake when she noticed Derrick’s arm.  There was a dark spot, almost like a birthmark, on the inside of his right elbow.

“Oh, Derrick, what have you done to yourself?” Janice asked her six-month-old, who in turn looked up at her with a gassy smile.

“It looks like a stamp.  Like someone stamped our son with a little eye.” Janice later told Alec over the phone.  He was in Tampa and wouldn’t be home until Sunday.  “I just don’t know when it could’ve happened.”  She drew the eye on scrap paper as she talked.

“It’s just a bruise that looks like an eye.  Kids bruise themselves all the time.” Alec assured her while absently looking out his hotel window.  “If it gets worse, take him to the doctor.”

Two years passed.

Alec, who had been promoted and gotten an office job, was no longer on the road, but he had to spend many late nights at the office.  Janice liked this arrangement better, but still would have liked Alec to have a more normal schedule so that he could help with things like planning Derrick’s upcoming third birthday party.

Janice was sorting mail from the day before when she came across a plain brown envelope with the eye stamped in place of a return address.  She felt ice in her stomach as she opened the envelope.

Dear sir or madam,

As per your signature on the Housing Ownership Agreement for the Shady Hills subdivision, in accordance with article seventeen, subsection C, paragraph four, a representative from EYE INC. will be arriving within twenty-four hours to collect your first born, one Derrick Boer.

Have a pleasant day

Janice jumped as the doorbell rang.

She rounded the corner and looked out the living room window to see who was there.  It was a man in a black suit, holding a black leather briefcase.  On the briefcase was the same eye that her little boy still bore on his arm.  Janice started to cry.

“Go away!” She yelled out the window.  Janice ran for her cell to call Alec.  “Leave us alone!” she yelled over her shoulder.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, ma’am.  I have a copy of you and your husband’s signatures right here.  EYE INC. is fully within its rights according to the law, ma’am.”  The man calmly stated as he tried to open the locked front door.

“Answer damn it!” Janice screamed as her cell only got a busy signal from Alec’s number.

Janice screamed again as she saw the man from EYE staring in her kitchen window.

“Let me in, ma’am.  I won’t be a minute, collecting the boy.”  He said as he pushed on the window, trying to force it open.

Janice ran to the front door to scream for help, only to see that her neighbors were already aware of the situation.  “Help me!” she screamed, “Henry!  Maria! Don’t stand there, call the police!”

Henry and Maria both just looked down, sadly, and went back to their individual homes, shutting their doors to Janice.

“You’ve lived here for years,” the suited man said as he came around the side of Janice’s house, “cheaply and pleasantly.  Now give us what is ours.”

Janice slammed and relocked the door.  She ran to Derrick’s room and shut his door, locking it as well.  Janice collected her little boy and sat in the corner, terrified.

“You really should read the fine print.” A second suited man said as he exited Derrick’s closet, “We are well within our legal rights.”

Janice screamed again.

And again.

And again.