As it’s October, I’ve decided to work on some horror stuff. So here’s the deal. I’ll be posting a few short stories up during this month (however many I mange to do). After that, I will still keep working on some, but they’ll just be put up more infrequently. I’m aiming for a kind of mix of different horror themes, and as always, whenever I post anything I’ve written up here, I love to hear people’s thoughts. And if you want to read more of my stuff, I have a lot up on Fictionpress. So, here’s the first short story. Hope you enjoy.
It was rare in life for someone to actually be struck speechless. Some said they were, but even using the words meant that they were not. There was a desperate need in humans to fill any silence with noise, especially an uncomfortable one. An unfortunate piece of news met with “I don’t know what to say,” when simple silence and perhaps a hug to the hurt party would suffice.
People were much more comfortable saying nothing when they were on their own. Faced with another person, words were a must. Babbling was all too common when people did not follow the saying ‘think before you speak.’ And being speechless, truly and utterly speechless, almost never happened.
Yet somehow he managed to have that effect on people, when he wished. He struck them dumb by his beauty, could see them working their mouths with no sound coming out. They would openly stare at him in the way they would stare at the Mona Lisa or Grand Canyon. Awestruck, wonder shining from their eyes.
And if he so wished, he could lift his hand and have them all eating out of the palm. He could rule the world.
Come home, brother.
It would be easy. Oh, so very easy. To rise up among them and have them follow him. He could lead them to hell and they would skip along merrily like children following the piper. There were moments when he was close to doing just that. Those moments when he stood in a crowd of them and watched them lift their heads back to stare at him, some turning gazes away as if he shone brighter than the sun.
Always, afterwards, the women would approach. Some men, too, but they were in the minority. They would step forward with their heads bowed. A few would fall at his feet weeping. Others would gush over what he had said, those that could speak, anyway.
Speechless. The inability to talk. Something he saw more often than most.
Not that he was the only one with the power.
Please, brother. You will be forgiven.
He had brothers and sisters in the thousands. And when all was quiet around him, when he found an elusive space that contained nothing, not the sound of humans nor animals, he could hear them. Their song would flow around him and wrap him in comfort. But he fought against it. He sought it out and struggled when he found it.
At times, even in the midst of sound he would hear their voices. Begging, pleading, whispering, seducing.
Once, a long time ago, there had been others like him. Others who had fought against the noise and the sound. Others who had stood beside him and drawn humans to them, to play, fight, love.
But they had gone. The songs had grown too much for them and with only pity filled glances back at him, they had returned home. They felt sorry for him but he knew their visions had been clouded, their gazes made foggy. They did not see the world as he did anymore, not like they had in the beginning. They saw home as a place of wonder and joy, not the prison it really was.
But one day they would see the bars again and throw themselves back to him. He would be reunited with his brothers and sisters and then, and only then, would he unleash his full power.
He could dull his appearance. He could walk among men and make it so he did not attract any more attention than any of the others did. At these times, a few would glance back at him like he was familiar, like they recognised him from some long forgotten dream. Some of them had dreamt of him, others simply saw in him a glimmer of the handsome, charismatic figure they adored.
In this guise he would walk through streets and take note of how they acted, their emotions, so complex, running so deep. Often conflicted. He saw how a daughter could love and hate her parents. He watched couples proclaim the deepest passion for each other when one felt simply empty inside. He was amazed at the way anger could rise up like a beast, consume people, destroy them.
He knew his father had forsaken them long, long ago. Disappointment had clouded his vision as they sought to wreck each other. These humans, he had said, did not care for one another, so he left them in the hands of his children and went to try again.
But his children were ill equipped to handle the situation. All they could do was watch and weep.
He had seen more. He had seen the way that yes, anger consumed them, but love, too. Not just love for other humans, either. They were capable of giving homes and affection to animals who were in desperate need of it. They wept over their deaths as they wept over each other.
Brother, brother, we need you.
They called his home heaven, but to him heaven was right in front of him every day.
And he was going to find great joy in ruining his father’s creation.
X X X
He waited. At times he sought out the quiet places to try to connect to those who had originally joined him. They simply begged him to come home. It was all they ever did.
He did his talks, he drew them to him. It was during one of these, with their attention fixed solidly on him, that he heard another voice, different from the songs, different from the words so softly spoken. The voice was powerful, deep, rough.
You do not need them to create the perfect world.
The perfect world. He had visions come to him as he stopped talking, visions of a world where he was in charge, there was no strife or war or famine. The horsemen did not whisper in the ears of world leaders, did not set about pushing the world closer and closer to the end.
Do you not see, my brother? The end must come for them to be cleansed.
Yes. Yes, he did see. He saw how the world must be made barren before it could be made good. His head swam and he fell forward, falling to his knees as he cried out, eyes rolling into the back of his head. They thought they knew ecstasy, thought they knew true joy. But what he felt in that moment was nothing like anything he had felt before. Complete happiness filled him even as his crowd rushed forward, panic setting in as they saw the man they loved fall.
He raised his hand, palm out flat towards them as he bowed his head. They came to a stop, watching him as a grin stretched across his beautiful, elegant face.
“I will join you,” he whispered, laughing as plumes of smoke appeared around him. The crowd staggered back, some cheering madly.
He lifted his head, the grin stretching so his upper lip curled backwards. He relished the looks on their faces, laughing even harder as those at the front began to show fear. They could see the dark shapes forming in the smoke, could see they weren’t human. Far from it.
The smoke disappeared and his laughter died. They screamed. Those at the back still cheered, even as those at the front turned and tried to run. But the crowd was packed tight and they had nowhere to go.
Growling and hissing filled his ears. They were ugly things, these demons. They had once been humans, humans so evil they had been damned for eternity. There were sins out there that most people never touched, never even thought about. There were sins everyone committed, sins that would get them maybe a few years down in the pit of torment. Humans never came to heaven. If they were good, they had oblivion. When they served their sentence, oblivion.
“There is no reward for the good,” he said, shaking his head as he leant back to get a better view of the things circling him.
Horns, claws, scale, fur. Curled fingers, reaching out for the stunned crowd. A forked tongue, appearing to lick at the air. A dog’s muzzle snapping at the space between them and the humans.
“Who are they?”
They are my pets, brother. Our pets. To the humans, they are destruction.
“They are the end, aren’t they?”
Yes. But only at your command.
He rose to his feet and threw his arms out, mimicking his father’s favourite child’s last moments. In his head, he heard dark laughter. Joy washed through him as he took a deep breath.
“Ladies and gentlemen, be not afraid.”
A hush fell over them. They stared at them with their adoring faces as he stepped forward, keeping his arms out to create the illusion he was keeping the demons back. They were dark, so dark, almost like shadows. Living, moving, breathing shadows. And they were hungry. So very hungry. He could feel it, in the air, floating over them.
“I will bring you peace.”
He dropped his arms and watched as they moved forward, leaping into the crowd. Blood spurted out as teeth tore into flesh, as skin was ripped from bones and the demons feasted.
The screams were music to his ears. He watched as, in the distance, more plumes of smoke rose upwards.
The world would be cleansed.
X X X
She leapt over the broken wall, one hand on it as both legs came up and over. Barely looked over her shoulder as she ran. Didn’t need to see it, anyway. She could hear it, running, slobbering, jaw snapping. She half twisted her body, bringing the gun in front and firing off a shot.
“Damn,” she whispered, watching as the bullet flew straight through the thing’s chest. It sailed out the over side, covered in dark blood. The hole reformed. It had staggered backwards but was coming again.
“Mimi!” a voice called from the distance. “Come on! We’re almost there!”
Her legs were aching but she pushed herself onwards, fists pumping as her friends came into view. Three of them stood clustered together in front of the church, the smallest leaning against the railings as she tried to catch her breath. The tallest had his gun out, pointing right at Mimi. She flashed him a grin before dropping and rolling forward, giving him enough room for the shot.
She scrambled to her feet, glancing back. He’d got the thing’s neck, slowing it down just long enough for him to take Mimi’s hand and pull her through the gates of the church. The teenagers ran down the path between headstones, the door growing closer as the beast burst through the gate, hot on their heels.
The other girl in the group was whooping loudly, grinning and laughing as they came to the door. The tallest boy pushed the door open, stepping back with gun trained on the thing as the others scrambled inside. He followed, slamming the door.
Laughing, they fell against each other, clinging tightly, none of them able to fully believe they had made it to St David’s.
The journey to the place had taken them weeks. It had started out as campfire stories, rumours swapped between survivors. A story of a place where they were safe, where the demons could not enter. They moved freely everywhere else, but there was something about the old church that kept them out. Some said it was the soil, others said it was the purity of the place, though Mimi always argued that it couldn’t be that, because other churches were nowhere near safe.
Some said it was a man. That his presence kept the things out.
The fifth of their group, the oldest, had been against the idea. Said it didn’t feel right. He had peeled off from their group after they made it clear they were heading to St David’s.
“We’ve survived this long,” he’d said. “We can survive longer.”
They were running out of food, and patches where animals were still found were growing smaller. Mimi pointed out that even if they weren’t eaten, even if they could outrun the monsters, there was still illness, infection, starvation and dehydration.
He’d slunk off in the middle of the night and they had carried on their way, questioning survivors they saw.
“How can you know?” they asked. “How do you know the church is safe?”
“We don’t,” one had told them, and Mimi could still remember his half smile as he spoke, the handsome spark in his eyes, a rare look now. “But it’s hope.”
They had travelled together at times, in bigger groups, but inevitably some member of the group would fall sick or be attacked, and the others would stay behind to look after them. Other times they were scattered, each small group sticking together as the things chased them down. As clearly as she could remember the man’s smile, Mimi could remember the screams.
As they drew closer, the rumours grew in strength. Some people claimed they had been in the church but had left to spread the word, to encourage more people to flock there. And they did. A crowd had formed when they were close, and the teenagers had joined on at the back, amazed to see so many people gathered in one place with one purpose.
It was daring and bold, to have so many people together. More joined on behind, and soon the friends were surrounded.
And then the demons came.
The crowd scattered, split and died. There were more screams, screams Mimi didn’t think she would ever forget. They saw people torn limb from limb. Arms had flown in the air above them, scattering them in blood. Heads had, quite literally, rolled. The four of them had run, faster than they had ever run before. The demons feasted and left them alone until one had gone after them, a block away from the church.
But they had made it. Finally made it.
Covered in blood and other substances Mimi couldn’t identify, they turned towards the inner door.
They all grinned at each other, as one of the guys stepped forward and pushed the wooden door open.
There were people everywhere, sitting on the floors and pews, some laying under blankets. A few moved around, handing out bottles of water and food. At the edges were the injured, some weeping while others screamed, clutching their injuries as others tended to them. Mimi caught the eyes of one girl, around her age with blood streaked through her dark hair. Her face was ghostly pale, her eyes too dark against the white skin. When Mimi glanced down, she saw that the girl only had one leg, and a bloody stump where the other used to be.
They moved forward slowly, edging into the middle of the pews. A woman sat on the end of one, head bowed forward as she rocked a silent child in her arms. A man sat beside her, shaking his head, tears streaming down his face, his eyes darting back and forth to the baby. He reached forward, for the woman, but she screamed and held the child out of reach, over the edge of the pew towards the teenagers.
Mimi cringed back, eyes widening as the baby’s head lolled forward.
She was pulled forward until they reached the first few pews. A hand on her shoulder guided her into a pew and she squeezed in with her friends, trying to steady her breathing, trying to get rid of the image of the woman and child but it just kept rising up, just kept interrupting any other thoughts she had.
A squeeze on her shoulder and she took a deep, shuddering breath, glancing around once more. Those in the first few rows seemed healthier, less injured, more sane. One man, directly in front, twisted his body around and smiled at them, like they were gathered at a happier occasion, like they were there for a wedding or a christening.
“Welcome,” he said, shaking the hands of the guys. “Welcome,” he repeated. “So very glad you could join us.”
She put the man somewhere in his early fifties, wrinkles and crow’s feet, streaks of grey in once dark hair. His eyes were different than any others she had seen since the arrival of the demons. They still held the spark of life, of hope.
“How long have you been here?” she whispered, because it didn’t seem right to speak any louder in the church.
“Since the beginning, child,” he replied. “I am one of the lucky few. I was here even before Him.”
The word rolled off his tongue like he was invoking God. The teenagers glanced at each other. Mimi moved her hand, resting it on the butt of her gun. They hadn’t been there long, but she was beginning to feel uneasy. There was something about the place that sent shivers down her spine, something about the way people seemed to have been separated, with the injured and damaged at the back, the seemingly normal near the front.
“Who?” one of the guys asked, and the man laughed.
“Why, our saviour.”
As he spoke, a door at the back of the church opened. A tall man with the most beautiful blond hair Mimi had ever seen stepped out, talking to a short woman who trotted alongside him in heels, smiling and laughing and flicking her hair. The man paused, a hand on her arm, and looked out at them.
His eyes fell on Mimi and he smiled. The breath caught in her throat and something tugged at her heart. In that instant she knew she would have done anything for him.
“I see we have new refugees,” he said, stepping forward and holding his arm out. His voice wasn’t loud, yet it seemed to fill the church. Mimi couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so happy, so carefree, like nothing else mattered. “Come to me, my child.”
She rose from her seat. Her friends reached for her, begged for her to sit back down, but she barely seemed to hear them. Her gaze was fixed on the man and the others sitting in the pews gently pushed her forward, whispering encouragements and praising her.
She stumbled up towards the altar and he moved to meet her. They were all smiling, smiling for her, smiling for him, as he took her in his arms and hugged her tight.
“Welcome, child,” he whispered, and though it was quiet, everyone in the church heard him. They were silent now, even the children, even the dying. He pulled away, his hands on her shoulders as he gently turned her to face the room. “We look full, child,” he said. “Would you say we can accept any more?”
“No,” she said, voice breathy. It came to her in a flash, like he had planted it directly in her mind, and she knew deep down that what she said next was the truth. “There are no more to take.”
“No more,” he chuckled. “No more, she says, and the girl speaks the truth. You are the last.” He gestured to the woman behind him and she moved to join the others. Some of them came forward, falling to their knees in front of the altar, some reaching out for him. “You have braved the nightmare in the outside world to find sanctuary in this church, under my protection. Tell me, child, if I handed you a sword and told you to fall on it, what would you do?”
“Fall.” No hesitation, no questioning. She would throw herself to her death and smile because it pleased him.
Her friends cried out. So did a few towards the back. Those near the front cheered her response and he kept his grip on her shoulder as he spoke.
“The human race was not made to survive,” he said. “You made to scramble through the eras and made so God could watch you live, learn and suffer. But you destroyed this planet. You destroyed everything created for you and He left long ago to start anew. Today, I complete his work.”
He raised his free hand. Screams filled the room as pillars of smoke appeared and demons emerged. The screams filled the air, rolling from the back, towards the front, though there were many who remained kneeling, who let the demons take them and had him as their last sight.
He let go of her shoulder as a lion headed demon ran towards her.