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I have a book that’s been sitting on my desk for months now… but until recently I’d never so much as glanced at any of the pages.
It was given to me by a friend – or at least someone that I think of as a friend. Right now it’s hard to picture anyone on my side, and friends are few and far between these days.
Mark Anderson– a detective who, in his free time, investigates and often finds himself neck deep in the paranormal– gave me this book…or rather, he asked that I hold on to it.
You may remember me mentioning it briefly way back in episode 14 of the show. He included it in a box of journals and documents, which were pertinent -at the time- to understanding and dealing with Malcolm Foye.
In case you’re forgetful or otherwise unable to recall, Malcolm Foye was possessed by the demon we now collectively refer to as the Grinner. It should be noted that I’m still not aware of Malcom’s whereabouts, and that while he may no longer be possessed, he is by no means grateful for our help.
It’s also worth pointing out that the demon isn’t dead… it’s not even banished to hell. Instead it lays in wait for the next willing human to give their body up as a vessel.
Mark didn’t really give me any hint or explanation as to what the contents of the book were… I wouldn’t find that out until I cracked open its pages.
I was surprised to find that beneath its brown leather bindings were thick pages and tight looping cursive handwriting. I’d expected it to be… a book… maybe a book of spells or rituals that summon demons and drives its readers mad. I was wrong…it was just a journal– a very old one at that.
The journal is much older than Malcolm Foye, and reading through its passages, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with him. Still, Mark Anderson gave me this book to keep it away from him… or maybe to bring him out of hiding.
I’m breaking the one cardinal rule Mark Anderson gave me when he passed on those materials regarding Malcolm Foye: don’t open the book. I’ve done just that, and if you’re looking for a reason why… I’m not sure that I have one. Maybe it’s curiosity… maybe I just have a death wish… or maybe there’s just something that draws me to this book. It feels like a piece of the puzzle in some way… I just can’t see the puzzle so I don’t know where to place it just yet.
Tonight, for a bit of Halloween fun, I’d like to read you a bit from the book. I have three stories lined up. I won’t be commenting or speculating on their contents – at least not for now.
If you come to this show looking for a spooky story, or something to keep you up at night… sit back and enjoy this unofficial Halloween episode of the Storage Papers.
Sometimes you don’t have to go looking for things. Sometimes they just come looking for you. It’s something worth keeping in mind, that’s for certain.
Funds weren’t exactly what they used to be, forcing me to interview for a real job. I’d put on my best suit; I think I’d only worn this one in funerals. Thankfully the cool October morning air on this particular fine day helped keep the sweat off my brow as I walked to meet with… I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name. Names seemed to always get less and less important. At least, they did in the line of work that produced a steady paycheck. What I normally work with, on the other hand… well, I digress.
Like I was saying, I was strolling on over to my job interview, just a couple blocks away – minding my own business – when suddenly this horn starts blaring like someone just won the sixty four thousand dollar question. Naturally, I go over to take a look and I find that the car in question was empty without a person in sight. I surveyed the neighborhood for a moment, wondering if some kids were doing an annoying prank or something, but all I found were irritated neighbors peeking through blinds and around curtains at the disturbance.
I walked the rest of the way up the driveway to the front door which swung open before I could even knock. I was intending to make sure they did something about that horn – some sort of mechanical issue most likely, but certainly not in my realm of expertise. Instead, I was greeted by a woman in tears.
Before I could even open my mouth, she’s wringing her hands and apologizing. Her name is Christine – Christee for short – and she’s saying how her husband will be home soon to fix it but she was at her wit’s end; everything seemed to be going wrong today. I glanced at my wristwatch. I had time to try to help a neighbor. I wasn’t exactly sure how to comfort her, so I just asked her what seemed to be the matter. Then I glanced back at the car and added: apart from the obvious.
She ushered me inside and practically ran through the place, pointing at various items. The grandfather clock in the foyer, the record player and television set in the living room, the radio and telephone in the kitchen, hell, even the musical jewelry box in the bathroom which she’d had since she was a kid – it was all going haywire. I asked her to elaborate but she seemed past the point of stringing together two coherent sentences.
So, I jumped back into a more familiar figurative suit and began investigating. I eased her onto the sofa, then took the few steps across the plush green carpet to click the TV on. I briefly saw her eyes go wide in the reflection, then a picture filled the screen as it warmed up. I started turning the dial on the TV, scanning the handful of channels. It seemed like a normal working set to me. Regular programming, everything as expected.
I turned back to the lady with one eyebrow raised as a commercial for Lucky Strikes came on. She raised a shaking hand, pointing her finger towards the built in speaker and asked, “Don’t you hear that?”
I cocked my head and listened carefully. Now that she mentioned it, it did sound a little off. I couldn’t place it at first, then I realized. There wasn’t just one voice coming through. It was two overlapping voices. I held back a laugh as I realized what must have been the issue and tried adjusting the antennae. The picture worsened, and it did drop to just one voice… just not the voice that should have been there. I strained my ears through the static but couldn’t make out what he – it was definitely a man’s voice – was saying.
The lady pulled me out of my focus by telling me it was like that with all the appliances. I clicked the TV off and moved over to the record player, wondering if I’d be able to hear whatever the noise was any better. I opened the case below the player and grabbed the first record my fingers touched. I didn’t recognize the artist, but once I put it on and got it going, the music was nice – a little jazzy. Not a bad choice.
This time I knew what I was looking for and spotted it much faster. There was a man’s voice talking. No… screaming. But it sounded like… like he was at the other end of a very long tunnel. Or like it’s a bad connection on a long distance phone call. Between how far away it seemed and the crooning singer, I still couldn’t make out what he was saying. There was definitely something going on here though, that much was for sure. I didn’t want to drop the G word in front of Christee – she seemed to be in a delicate state as it was – but it definitely felt a little ghost-y… and on Halloween, no less.
I gently lifted the needle off the record then hurried on to the kitchen. Before I could even touch the radio, it clicked on. I paused, but only for a moment before cranking the volume up high as I twisted the dial, navigating the static between stations, trying to find the least noisy of the noise. I finally found the best – or worst, rather – reception I could. It took monumental patience, but I could finally make out two words in the repeating message: “Kill…her.”
There was more to it, but that’s all I could make out: kill her. I could help but feel that if I was able to focus just a little harder…I held my breath, concentrating. I spun at the sound of shattering glass behind me to find Christee had just dropped a glass of water. Apparently, she heard it, too. I turned the radio down some and tried to assure her that it was probably just some radio interference or something. Nothing to worry about. She didn’t buy it and neither did I. That wouldn’t explain the record player. Or the grandfather clock, if that’s the noise it made on the hour.
I needed to find out what the rest of the message was. What was this haunting voice screaming for us to hear? I left for the hallway, poking my head through a couple of doors until I found her bedroom. I glanced around briefly, noting a more feminine quality than I would expect of a bedroom shared by a man. She probably just said she was married to ward off a strange man’s advances, I thought. I quickly spotted the music box which I unceremoniously emptied atop the vanity, jewelry sliding past the lid’s mirror, then left the bedroom with it in hand.
I had a theory on how to hear the voice more clearly. I paused as I re-entered the kitchen to find the woman sobbing as she tried to pick up the pieces of glass on the floor. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a terrible idea. Was this message a spirit’s attempt to exert some sort of control over me? Forcing me to murder this poor woman? Or worse? What is the point of a creepy message if it doesn’t affect anything? But if I knew what it was, I could try to understand it. If I could understand it, I may be able to stop it.
I strode forward and turned the radio back on full blast. Without a word I moved swiftly into the living room and adjusted the needle back onto the still-spinning record, then turned the volume up on that as well. I briefly knelt on the plush green carpet in front of the television and clicked that on, then stood up in the middle of the room, closing my eyes for a moment. I swear the voice was just out of my grasp. Without opening my eyes I cranked the music box and held it up in front of my face, trying to channel it all directly into my ears. It was just the boost in the frequency I needed. I could finally hear the specter amongst the cacophony of sound waves swirling around me. Then everything stopped in an instant and its voice was all I heard.
“She’ll kill you! Don’t trust her!”
The words jerked my eyes open to see the mirror on the inside of the music box at eye level. The woman was less than a foot behind me, her reflection twisting into a cruel smile. I dropped the box and spun on my heel, realizing too late that she was swinging a shard of broken glass at my neck. I felt warm liquid start to spurt out of my neck, spraying her unflinching face as she simply stared at me, still smiling. I collapsed to the ground, clutching at my neck as blood gurgled from my mouth and into the carpet.
I heard the phone in the kitchen ringing. I watched her walk out of the room and found myself staring vacantly at the sofa’s polished wooden leg, suddenly having a more difficult time focusing my vision. The ringing stopped abruptly as I heard her chuckle into the phone. Hers were the last words I heard.
“Nice try, my dear. All you did was bring me another one.”
The phone rattled back into its cradle, then everything went black.
I can no longer audibly speak words as I lie here in my hospital bed writing this, awaiting my fate. My lungs were damaged from the events that transpired just two days ago. The doctors give me one more week to live by their estimation. They say that within a couple of days, I’ll most likely need a ventilator, and I may go into a comatose state. They don’t completely understand it… at least the medical aspect of it, but I have an idea of what caused my rapid onset of whatever this condition is. They say my lungs look like they’ve had years of asbestos exposure, though my chest x-ray from 4 months ago looks absolutely clear. “Like a college athlete’s lungs”, they said, even though I’m in my late 40s. It’s important for me to share what I experienced before my body shuts down and I’m no longer able to write. Others need to know what’s going on… what to look for, so they don’t end up like me.
If you’ve ever lived in a coastal town, you’ll be familiar with fog. The closer you are to the ocean, the thicker it becomes. Even on a sunny day, it can roll in within minutes to the point that the daylight dims, and you can no longer see 10 feet in front of you. I loved this feeling. It’s almost like being transported to another world as I imagine being in a completely different place in the world, but unable to see my surroundings. It’s a place where you can let your imagination run wild without ever having to leave where you are.
Because of my fondness of the fog, I was in the habit of taking my dog, Shemp out for walks in the early mornings. Shemp, a golden retriever, was extremely helpful in the fog. We’d get 2-3 miles in every morning, and for the most part, it was easy to find my way. We’d walk to the end of the cul de sac, where a dirt trail began that twisted through some trees and the brush until ultimately it ended up on the beach sand. About 50 more yards after that, you’d be in the ocean. If the fog was extra thick, Shemp always knew which direction to go if we lost our visual cues.
We were on our routine morning walk. The sky was dimly lit, but the sun hadn’t risen yet, and initially, there was no fog. We trekked through the dirt trail and ended up on the sand. For some reason, I was compelled to let Shemp off the leash and just have a seat in the sand and look out over the ocean. It’s always been my place of peace, for rest and rejuvenation, and while I let my mind unwind, Shemp would run out into the surf and retrieve things like large shells and clumps of seaweed. He’d set them down next to me and go and find something else.
I’d probably been sitting there 20 minutes or so when I noticed it was getting darker, not lighter as the sun should be rising. I’d been facing the water this whole time, but when I turned around, there was a huge wall of fog rolling in, and it was coming fast! Normally, fog would roll in from over the sea onto land, but this was going the opposite way, out to sea. Within seconds it consumed the road and trees behind me and I knew we’d be engulfed soon, so I called for Shemp. He came running, dripping wet with saltwater and covered in sand. I didn’t usually keep him on a leash, but in the fog, I would put it on him for safety. As I knelt down to put it on him, we were consumed.
Once I stood up, a chill went down my spine as I realized I couldn’t hear the ocean any longer. We were about 50 feet from it and there was no sound, like the fog was blocking it somehow. Shemp seemed to be on high alert too. As I looked down at him, his ears perked up as he looked in one direction away from the coast, and then as if started, he looked another direction, and then another, flinching every time. Then I watched as the hair over his spine stood on end, and he started to growl. He wasn’t an unfriendly dog, and I’d only seen him growl like this once before at a dog in the dog park, and even then, it was only because he was being protective of me. Defensive, but certainly not aggressive.
He backed into my legs and maintained this defensive stance as I tried to see or hear anything in the direction he was facing. There was nothing. No change in texture in the fog, no sounds, just silence. I knelt down to scratch behind his ears, hoping it would console him a bit before standing up to start walking back. I said, “let’s go home” and he shot away so fast, I almost lost control of the leash. We found the dirt trail leading back to our neighborhood and probably only had about a half mile left to go before Shemp stopped in his tracks with his defensive stance again. This time he was not only growling, but viciously snapping in the air and pulling on the leash to try to get free.
I tried to calm him down thinking there may be another dog or animal ahead, so I stopped, considering that perhaps the threatening sounds he was making would eventually scare off whatever was there just beyond our sight. As I stood there, I began to see a silhouette forming on the trail ahead of us. Not of an animal, but of a person. I was almost embarrassed at Shemp’s behavior. He normally loves people, and was one of the friendliest dogs I’d ever known, but he continued snapping as I tried to calm him. The figure grew closer until it was about 5 feet away, when I could make out some details.
My heart began racing as I took in its appearance. Shemp stopped barking and snapping, and instead, started whimpering and stood behind my legs, eager to flee. The figure stopped close to us, and had a wide-eyed stare at me. He didn’t blink. His eyes were bloodshot, almost to the point where there was no white left in them. He looked to be around my age with somewhat of a long face. His mouth was moving, and I struggled to hear his words, but there were none. He used his hands in an effort to enunciate his communication, and he seemed frustrated that I wasn’t understanding him.
I asked, “do you need some help” and he shook his head no before raising his arm to point directly at me. It looked like he started crying. He raised both hands to his head and raked his fingers through his hair, gripping large handfuls of hair and pulling on it in anguish. I pulled my cell phone out, thinking this guy might need some medical attention and hit the emergency button to dial 911. There was no signal. I’ve never seen a lack of signal here before.
By the tie I looked back up at him, he was no longer mouthing words. Instead, his eyes rolled up into his head, revealing dark red instead of white. His body began convulsing as he stood before me, then a white-looking foam began oozing from his mouth and nostrils, streaked with hues of pink and red that looked like blood. He fell to his knees and as he did, Shemp pulled hard in the opposite direction. I only turned my head for a moment to look at my dog, but when I looked back toward the man with the foaming mouth, he was gone. The fog had been thick, but there certainly wasn’t enough time during my brief, split-second glance away for him to get up and walk away, especially in his condition.
I pulled on Shemp to try to go toward where I’d seen the man collapse, but was unable to find anything. My eyes began burning, and I was getting short of breath, but I couldn’t understand why. I just had to sit down. When I did, Shemp came to me and started licking my face, and then began pulling me in the direction of our home. I struggled to rise to my feet, and began trudging along the path, letting Shemp lead me in my now disoriented state.
I must have only walked a few feet before I couldn’t go any further. I fell flat on my face in the dirt, letting go of the leash. Wheezing and coughing, struggling to get a decent breath of air, and with my eyes feeling like someone poured hot sauce in them, I rolled to my back. Shemp came to me and bit my shirt collar, trying to pull me toward our home, but unfortunately, the shirt ripped. He then came and laid his head on my chest, whimpering a bit, and stayed with me.
From my back, I tried looking around to see if I could see anything… anyone… hoping the fog would lift soon. My head began to spin and I felt dizzy like I’d been drinking. Then I saw another figure past my feet. I reached out to communicate that I needed help, gasping to vocalize, but unable to do so. As it approached, I saw another figure to my right, and then my left. It wasn’t long before there must have been 20 or 30 figures surrounding me. All of them had the red eyes, and what looked like mixtures of foam and vomit running down their chins and onto their chest. They all stood next to me, staring at me, mouthing words I could not hear or understand.
Right before I blacked out, Shemp ran away. I panicked as I was left alone in the fog, surrounded by these strange people. The light grew dimmer, and my peripheral vision faded to darkness while I watched them crowd around me, looking down upon me, and then I faded to black.
I awoke as the paramedics were loading me into the back of the ambulance, and I was wearing an oxygen mask on high flow. Looking toward the door, a few people had gathered to watch, and among them, I saw my neighbor, Jan. She was holding the leash attached to Shemp. I later learned that Shemp had run all the way home and found Jan, who was walking from her front door to her car on her way to work. She was familiar enough with my morning routine that she knew I rarely leashed Shemp, and found it concerning that he was running around with his leash on with me nowhere in sight. Thankfully, she followed his lead to find me. Before the ambulance doors closed, she told me not to worry about Shemp, that she’d hang onto him.
When I got to the emergency room, they put me in an isolation room. My nurse changed me into a gown, and it wasn’t until she removed my shirt that I saw that same foamy substance on the front of it that I’d seen on all of those people on the trail. I motioned for something to write with, and she returned shortly with a pen and a pad of paper. I wrote out the words, “did they find all the other people?” She glanced at it and said I was the only one they found, then encouraged me to rest. Before leaving the room, she turned on a television set mounted to the wall and placed the remote by my hand. It wasn’t long after that when I saw a news story about a local protest outside a military sub-contractor building. And then I recalled a recent story in the news relating to this where the company had been suspected of performing experimental tests on unsuspecting civilians. There was a court battle against the agency that went all the way up to the supreme court of the state, but in the end, no evidence was ever found against them.
The accusations included experimental clinical trials for drugs and vaccines, and the creation of nerve agents. All of this followed the company announcing the landing of a large multi-billion dollar contract with the military, though no specific branch was identified and each of them have gone on record denying it to be true.
My mind runs rampant with thoughts as I’m writing all of this… too many things to put down in writing with the amount of energy I have today, but perhaps in my next life, I’ll be able to find what I’m recording here on this note pad from my hospital bed, and actually do something about it. My unique situation would typically allow me to do this, but considering the condition of those I encountered on that trail, who were seemingly trying to warn me and I just couldn’t recognize that in the moment amidst my fear, I have to wonder; will I live again to follow up on this with an able body and mind, or will I become like them, unable to speak and desperately trying to warn the living about their potential demise with exposure to the fog? Hopefully, it will be the former.
I wish there was an ending to this story. If I could give one piece of life advice to the poor bastard reading this, it’s this: the story doesn’t end with you. Things just keep going and going whether you’re a part of them or not. That being said, I can’t tell you how things end up in this story, I can only tell you my part in them.
There was an excavator, but by the time I was made aware of the circumstances, it was left to shovels and soil. Ladders were spread out in equal distance around the circumference of the hole, with makeshift footholds making up the distance, and loops of rope spooled around pulleys hauled dirt up to the surface by the bucket-full. Sweat soaked day laborers sat near the edge, passing around a bottle of whiskey, cigarettes dangling loosely in their dirt caked fingers. I introduced myself.
“My name is Joseph.”
One of the day laborers cut me off, waving the whiskey bottle to his left where a man in a grey tweed suit stood about a few yards to our left.
“The boss is over that way,” he told me.
I smiled genuinely and sat beside him, reaching for the whiskey bottle and taking a swig before passing it back.
“I can see that.” I told him. “But I want to hear your opinion first.”
The man chucked, snatching back the bottle and passing it to another laborer on his right.
“You want to know if it’s all bullshit.”
There was a certain energy in his voice… if I didn’t know any better I’d have called it excitement. I told him that I did, which wasn’t completely true, but was what I knew he was hoping I’d say. A childish smile crept across his face, and he took another long drag from his cigarette and gestured for one of the men to his right to pass over the bottle of whiskey.
“Oh… it’s dead real,” he told me. “The stories that they’re whispering around town about this big old building buried about a hundred feet below the field out here… it’s all true.”
I asked him why he was so open about it, and his response made me laugh. “You ain’t from around here,” he chuckled. “Who the hell is gonna listen to your ass?”
He was right. I’d passed a gas station about an hour back in this sleepy rural Ohio town and the few eyes that had met mine had shunned my gaze. This might not be one of those small towns where everyone knows your name, but it was certainly one where they’d recognize your face. I couldn’t expect the residents here much to give me the time of day, let alone take my word on what these men were trying to keep secret here on this long-neglected patch of land.
The man in the grey tweed suit stepped over to introduce himself and I stood up, wiping my palms on my slacks and shaking his hand. He was a professor at a local university about an hour or so north. I’d planned to lie and play the role of a professor myself, so I was a bit taken aback and quickly changed my tune.
I introduced myself as Joseph – something that was irrefutably true – and I claimed to work as a writer for the local paper – which was decidedly less true. I was banking on the excitement of this strange and recently unearthed discovery providing a buffer so that I wouldn’t have to talk much about myself.
A thin smile slid across the man’s face and his eyes lit up. “You’ll want to see this then,” he told me. “You’ll want to document all of this… you’ll be the first to report on this – and share this with the world.”
I was right, but I hadn’t expected the excitement to so resoundingly impede his judgment. I hadn’t even told him what local paper I worked for, which worked in my favor because I would’ve had to make one up on the spot. Instead he placed his arm over my shoulders and looked over to meet my eyes.
“Would you like to join us?”
I was happy to oblige, and the professor was happy to clue me in on some details as we prepared to lower ourselves down in to the hole.
The professor I’d come to know as Marvin. He had studied in London and returned to Ohio just a year previous, where he now lectured and taught courses on Native American History and Ethno-Archaeology.
Joining us would be Miguel, the day laborer I’d spoken to when I stepped on the site, who had sort of taken the de facto role of project manager for the dig, and Ross: a burly man of few words, whose 50s hairstyle and choice of clothing told the story of a man whose fondest memories were now vastly approaching three decades old.
The landowner would not be joining us. In fact, she wasn’t even in the state. She’d asked Miguel and his men to remove a large stone cross, which she had mistaken for a gravestone, that had been sitting at the center of her family’s large 12 acre property for as long as she could remember. She hadn’t explained why she wanted it removed, and I reckon the workers didn’t seem to care either way.
When that stone cross turned out to be anchored much deeper in the soil than he had expected, Miguel called up the land-owner who, for curiosity’s sake, implored them to keep digging.
When the workers had made a 20 foot trench around the cross, and still weren’t making much headway, the landowner finally reached for one of her lifelines: an old friend named Marvin who took over the scheduling and payments for the excavation. In exchange, Marvin would be attributed with the discovery of whatever it was that was at the base of this strangely tall stone cross.
When I had stepped on to the property, a now-massive project with close to a dozen workers toiling away at it, I had coincidentally joined Marvin on the precipice of his great discovery: a massive building with a spire that reached almost 100 feet buried deep beneath the soil of this long-owned family property.
Miguel and Ross lowered themselves one after another down a hole that had been chipped away in the roof of the stone structure. Below them was a void of total darkness into which they soon disappeared, their presence only assured by the creaking of the thick ropes that they had climbed down. Marvin and myself soon followed.
The four of us stood in the freezing dark as we watched the ropes travel back up towards the pin-prick of light in the stone ceiling, only to be lowered down again with gas lamps attached at the ends. Miguel took one and passed it to me, taking the other for himself. He looked at me and then to Marvin and to Ross. With eye contact and a simple nod he’d split us up in to two groups and he’d put me in charge of keeping the professor safe. I shook my head to assure Miguel that I understood his secret proposal.
Before us stood an altar and to our left and our right were stone pews. The lanterns illuminated the floating dust in the air around us. Gradually we became aware that the pews around us weren’t empty. Dozens of mummified and somewhat skeletal corpses sat slumped over in every pew.
Hundreds of feet under the dirt of this family-owned plot of land in rural Ohio was a church carved in stone and it served a congregation of the dead. Marvin broke the silence that had enveloped us.
“I… don’t know what any of this means,” he stammered.
Miguel pointed his lantern ahead of us, where bones were scattered in piles around the altar and half melted candles flowed frozen tendrils of wax down the small limestone stairs that made up both sides of the pulpit. He moved to speak, but a noise behind us caught our attention. The ropes that we had used to ascend in to this underground place were falling to the ground in snake-like piles. A voice shouted to us from above – one of Miguel’s men.
“What’s buried here shall stay buried”
Marvin shot back, his voice shaking, “I can pay you!”
A second voice responded – another one of Miguel’s men. “Keep your money, you goddamned grave robber.”
And with that we heard the sound of stone grinding against stone, and the portal above slowly began to resemble a crescent moon. I had no doubt that they’d soon be filling the hole back in as well, trapping us under thousands of pounds of dirt and sealing our fate.
Soon we were in utter darkness. Marvin stepped to the pulpit, and began to light some of the candles, presumably hoping to preserve some of the gas in our lamps.
Ross spoke up, “Don’t waste so many matches; use one candle to light the next.”
I think we were all a bit taken aback by his sudden decision to speak up. Marvin mumbled a quick ‘good thinking’ as he followed Ross’s suggestion.
As the dim light flickered to life and our shadows began to grow across the walls, I happened to glance back towards the pews. Slowly, the mummified congregation began to stand. Rocks ground against the stone floor under their shifting feet, and their joints snapped and cracked as they stood up row by row. The front row stood first, all at once… followed by the second, and then the third.
They looked to their left and right, as if acknowledging the presence of their undead counterparts. Ross whispered a theory to the group – something that made a lot of sense – the dead, to whom we shared our presence with, could not see. Their eyes were shriveled and desiccated – or had surely decayed, slowly liquefied in streams of black sludge, leaving behind only empty sockets.
The dead began communicating – this chittering noise, like locusts. It was clear by their movements that they may not be able to see us, but they could most definitely hear us.
Marvin began to laugh, mumbling about how this didn’t make any sense and asking himself how could any of this be down here. Marvin was right, but this wasn’t a discussion that I had any interest in having. When faced with the deadly and implausible scenario that stood before us, Marvin had lost all good sense… and he’d alerted the undead to our presence.
The dead began making their way towards us, their knees and ankles snapping, making their legs tilt in every direction. Marvin continued laughing, luring the unholy corpses towards us with his every one of his nonsensical howls. He had gone mad and he was sentencing all of us to what would surely be our death.
They drew closer and closer, forcing us back towards the fiendish altar and into the glowing orange candlelight. Marvin stayed where he was, ranting and raving like a rabid dog. One of the creature’s dragged itself across the floor and made its way to Martin, who had been focused on projecting his lunacy at us. He hadn’t noticed until it was grappling with his leg and sunk its black teeth into his thigh, blood spurting and bathing the ghoul in thick dripping crimson.
The others quickened the pace, their nostrils twitching and their mouths falling agape. It was as if the screams were secondary to the smell of fresh blood and broken human flesh.
They soon piled on to Martins screaming and convulsing body, tearing away chunks of meat and choking them down like pigs at a troth. They ripped at his arms until they popped and squelched and snapped away from his body, showering them in spurts of blood. I watched one take its boney fingers and sink them in to the flesh of Martin’s neck, and as he gargled out his last breaths, the thing laid waste to the insides of his throat.
The fiends devoured him in minutes, until all that was left were dripping pink bones and dusty bits of slimy entrails. His skull lay in pieces where one of them had smashed it into the stone floor in order to get at his brains.
When I turned around, Miguel and Ross were making their way down a previously hidden passageway behind the pulpit. I’d been so focused on Martin that I hadn’t noticed that they’d rolled away a large stone door to reveal a long dark corridor just behind me. I turned to follow, but not before Ross grabbed me and threw me to the ground. He put his foot on my chest and pulled a revolver from his belt.
“I ain’t sorry,” he told me. Not that I’d expect him to be.
He fired once and nailed me in the shoulder. I yelped in pain and soon realized the implications. Those things would follow the sound… smell my blood. I had to get away quick. Ross began to ease up on my chest and then stepped off entirely. I made my way to my knees. He fired again this time the bullet went splintering in to my thigh, and it didn’t exit from the other side. Unimaginable pain pulsed through every nerve ending in my body. My lungs seized and everything around me began to wobble as I started to drift in and out of shock. I moaned in pain, something that made no difference now, after the multiple gunshots and puddle of blood that I now laid in. The living corpses would be here soon to tear me limb from limb and devour me and until I lay like Martin: a pile of wet bones.
Ross had crippled me – left me to serve as a distraction while they made their escape. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I watched them stutter closer, like watching someone walk under a flashing light. Soon they were all around me.
Ross and Miguel were gone. All that remained was me, what once was a college professor that I only knew as Marvin, and a horde of wretched starving undead ghouls. They worked at my limbs, ripping away mouthfuls of muscle and fat… and they tore away the skin on my face and eventually scooped out my eyes. In minutes, they ate through my stomach and split apart my ribs to make work of my organs and entrails.
I felt every bite, and I heard every slop and every gulp of my twitching flesh. If they were any slower, I’m sure I would’ve died or at least lost consciousness… but they worked like piranhas. They could strip one of your limbs in a matter of seconds.
The last thought I had before my heart was ripped out and the vertebrae snapped and let my head loose for them to feed from was about Ross and Miguel… I hoped those ghouls saved room for desert. Of course there’s no way out of here, those damn fools. I hope the undead smell the blood I spat on Ross. I hope it draws those ghouls to them like moths to a flame… and I hope those bastards stay awake as long as I did and feel every bit of it…
I wish I could tell you what happened next… if they ever did make it out of there – though it was assuredly impossible. I wish I knew more about the family that owned the land or if the landowner knew any of this was down there. I can’t tell you any of that, because I don’t know; I wasn’t there. I can only tell you my part in it.