“Layers Part 8” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 8” by Kaine Andrews

Part VIII

That should have ended it. I’d never found her in the dreams, after all. This was the resolution that I’d been pushed to since I was about the age she was. Or had been. Who knows what tense to use when you’re dealing with ghosts?

If she was a ghost. She was solid, having weight as I cradled her in one arm while running the steering wheel with the other. But it was just meat I was holding. Something she’d vacated long ago. A symbol and little else. But symbols had power, and by taking her battered body from the family and the burned, disfigured thing that had held her hostage for who knows how many decades, I’d given her the power to be free.

She wasn’t crying, anymore. I could hear her breathing, though. Ragged and labored at first, then smoothing out to the sound of a sleeping child being broadcast through a baby monitor. In that breathing she whispered to me; I heard her thanking me, and she told me her name.

“Deborah,” the corpse in my arms whispered. “Deborah Daphne King.”

The name gave me a terrible chill. I’d had a sister… or was supposed to have one, at least. But she hadn’t made it out of the hospital. Only lasted three days. Birth defects, something to do with the lungs; I don’t know if I just didn’t remember, or had never been fully told. But she’d been a Deborah, too.

That chill led to a shudder, and that led to the car drifting out of the thin lane. At the same time, a steep curve came into view. A terrible calm fell over me, a sense of resignation and deja vu that told me all I needed to know.

It didn’t matter how things had changed. One thing was going to stay the same. I tried to pull the car straight again, to force it into the turn. I pumped the brake. Neither had any effect, as the car continued to drift, the guardrail growing larger.

I looked down at her, the mangled thing that I’d been looking for my whole life, the thing that had driven me past the point of logic, of sanity. The thing that was going to kill me.

There was no body. No Deborah. Just a filthy, matted rag that might have been a towel at some point. Tears began running down my cheeks, and a strangled sob escaped my lips.

“You always knew,” a familiar voice said from the passenger seat. I drew my eyes up.

The thing from the house was sitting there, trying to smile at me. One arm was dangling between its upraised knees, the other stretched towards me, clenching the steering wheel and urging the car to the left, towards the rail.

I could hear it clearly now. I should have noticed it when it stated I’d finally come. But have you ever noticed that your voice sounds different, somehow alien when you hear it on a recording or an echo?

The thing spoke in my voice. It had always been me. Some lost fragment of myself, calling out somehow through the years, begging me to claim the treasure that it had given its life for, somehow blind to the fact it was no treasure but a wad of broken repressed memories and carefully fabricated lies.

“We’ll be together, now.”

The car hit the rail. I let go of the wheel as the vehicle plowed through with the shriek of steel and the roar of the engine as it surged, no longer powering wheels on asphalt but spinning in thin air.

“Forever,” I whispered to myself, hearing it both in my head as my voice always sounded, and in my ears as the thing had always spoken. Whether I meant myself and I, myself and Deborah, or all three of us together, I don’t know.

The car flipped once, cracking my skull against the roof and sending a freshet of blood into my eyes. I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt. There was no pain. The thing in the passenger seat reached out one claw, stroking the wound.

Another flip jarred me back into the seat and drove me forward. I felt my rib cage give way, my lungs collapse, as the wheel plunged into my chest. The thing put its finger to its mouth.

“Shhhh,” it said. “It’ll all be over soon.”

The car hit the bottom of the ravine below, doing another backflip and landing on the roof. The windshield, designed before safety glass had become the standard, shattered. Thick shards embedded themselves in my face, my chest, my arms. Everything went dark as my eyes were popped like ripe grapes. I felt fluids from the emptied sockets leaking down my face, mingling with the tears and blood.

The roof of the car had been punctured by a rock formation, dragging across it as the car burned the last of its momentum. It dug into my back as well, leaving a ragged gash that left the flesh hanging to either side like broken wings.

There was a perfect stillness to the world, then. A moment of absolute silence and clarity. No birds sang, no bugs hummed. My breathing had stopped, and the thing in the passenger seat had apparently lost its taste for chatter.

That silence was broken by a soft, unimportant sound. “Foomp,” it sounded like to me. But I knew what came next, knew it wasn’t unimportant.

Something had cracked the gas tank. The metal body of the car dragging across the gravel and rocks had provided the spark. Smoke and the smell of scorched earth came first, then pain sank in as the smell of a roasted pig added to it.

I couldn’t vomit, no matter how much I wanted to. Couldn’t hold my breath, even though it was coming only in shallow rasps. I just had to wait, to endure, as I burned alive.

But again, one fresh change. I was spared having to endure it all the way through, didn’t have to wait as I crisped, blackened, and finally died trying to scream. The thing laid hold of me, was dragging me out. Through the undercarriage, back up the hill, passing through the guardrail, which seemed to stitch itself back together as we passed, my eyesight somehow returned.

Back up the hill, a movie running backward. I passed the car going the other direction, then my other self pursuing it. Back to the house, where we were pulled through the hole in the front that it/me had created giving chase.

Like the guardrail, it pulled itself back together like a flower closing its petals against the night. I saw the television I’d knocked over right itself, saw the doors I’d opened on the way in slam shut, the blanket replace itself on the bed and straighten out perfectly. I heard a thud and knew the dryer had slammed shut again, and a moment later the rhythmic thumping of the thing in the dryer started again. Back into the shower stall, where I stood still and watched as the curtain pulled shut in front of me.

The house was as it had been, as it was supposed to be. It looked like a quaint little cabin, but underneath it was just a trap, a honeypot laid out just for me. Just like underneath the scars and claws and demon-like appearance, my tormentor had always been myself.

I was alone. I had become him, and he was me again. Now we would wait.

Perhaps not completely alone, though. Somewhere in the house, I heard the crying start again. Deborah was with me like she always had been.

I waited. I had time. All the time in the world.

I knew I’d come along. Eventually.

THE END

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Find out how it ends, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy

 

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“Layers Part 7” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 7” by Kaine Andrews

Part VII

When I’d come in my dreams, I’d always assumed the blank spots, the skips that broke the sense of a cohesive narrative, would be resolved if I actually ever found the place.

I was wrong.

A moment ago, I’d had the rotten claw of a godawful who-knows-what wrapped around my arm, pulling me towards whatever death awaited. I remember screaming when it touched me and remembered it seeming happy that I was finally here.

Then, nothing.

The next thing I remember was being in an unfamiliar part of the house. Taking a second to look around, I saw the kitchen behind me, and beyond that the still-empty living room. The room I was in looked to be a laundry room. Blue tiled floor, a half-dozen cabinets hanging above, one or two with doors that didn’t quite shut and gave a view of Borax boxes and bleach bottles. Taking up the majority of the floorplan was a paired washer and dryer, beige in color, and surprisingly clean and unmarred for their apparent age.

The washer was nothing remarkable, standing silently to my left with the lid up, a hungry maw waiting to be fed with clots of clothes and the blood stains they probably contained. Peering over the lip, I could see the agitator, covered in moss and mold that looked like it might have migrated from the bathroom. Part of me wondered if the thing in the shower stall brought the mold with it, some little chunks of itself or leftovers from its presence. But if that was the case, why would it be in the washing machine? Probably just the lack of use and general humidity.

Maybe I should have looked closer.

The dryer, though… that was a different story. It was on, producing a steady series of thumps and giving off an unpleasantly burned smelling heat. From the pattern – a swish, followed by a heavy thud, repeated every five or six seconds – it sounded like whatever was in there was wadded into a ball. Being pulled to the top as it turned, then falling back to the bottom, never completing a full rotation. It would explain the smell, too, since at this point it would be smoldering instead of just drying, singed on the outside instead of getting an even heat.

The crying sound was back, assaulting my eardrums and making my eyes water. It seemed like I could hear words in it, timed along with the thumps.

“Help me,” I thought I heard it say. Over and over again, punctuated by a fresh thud from the dryer each time, the crying it was buried in getting louder.

I didn’t want to. I knew what came next. I didn’t know how I got from the bathroom to here, but I remembered the rest clearly enough and didn’t want to open the dryer. What was in there was a thousand times worse than pulling the shower curtain back and being confronted with the thing that dwelled inside, a million times worse than Dad fixing me with that eyeless stare.

Thinking how much I didn’t want to do it, I tugged open the dryer door. With a final thump and a sickly-sweet smell that combined burning hair, blood, and mold into a single strike team designed to murder my sinuses, the thing inside slid to the bottom of the drum. The crying stopped, with a final whisper.

“Thank you,” it said.

I reached inside and drew out the bundle. At first, I thought it was just a wad of sheets, tangled in a knot and nothing to be concerned with. It was too heavy for that, though, and the unpleasantly solid weight of it made me try to unfold one end of the knot.

Like a series of petals pulling back to reveal the eye of a sunflower, or a disgusting parallel to birth, I uncovered a small head. Misshapen, caved in on one side, missing one eye and the other scrunched up so there was only the tiniest sliver of blue visible beneath the bruised lid. Untangling more of the sheets, I revealed a chest that was sunken, ribs poking forth like spears. One arm was broken, twisted behind her poor back, while the other was lifted up, what should have been chubby grasping fingers instead skeletal things that seemed to be trying to ward off a blow.

“Shhhh, honey,” I whispered. That was all I could manage. Between the vice grip on my chest that the asthma brought with it and the choking clot of would-be tears creeping through my throat, I couldn’t manage much more than that.

“Shhh,” I said again, running a finger along that shattered skull with as much tenderness as I could manage. “It’s okay. We’ll get you out of here, okay?”

I swaddled her back up in the sheets but didn’t cover her face. She deserved to see, to have a chance for those lifeless little lungs to fill with clean air. Once we were out of here, anyway.

Something from further back in the house moved. A scratching, slithery noise that brought to mind images of snakes or squids uncoiling, preparing to strike. Something grunted, then laughed. It seemed to be coming from the hallway. Apparently, the burned thing had decided it wasn’t going to let me go after all. At least not without its prize.

I bolted, through the kitchen and into the living room. Mom, Dad, and Sis were back, their heads swiveling to track my passage, but I didn’t give them much thought. They weren’t the real threat, wouldn’t interfere. I hit the door at speed, practically blasting it out of the hinges, and dove through the darkness – how long had I been in the house, anyway? Who knew? – towards the car.

I’d left it unlocked, keys in it. I was more concerned about the ability to make a quick getaway if needed than that little Billy might stumble upon the car and decide to take it for a joyride.

I wouldn’t let her go or put her down. Hugging her to my chest, I yanked the car door open with my free hand and dropped into the seat. The keys were still there. As I laid my hand on them to gun the engine, not certain of where I was going to know but knowing that I had to take her somewhere, anywhere, other than here, I was frozen almost solid by a sound.

First, there was the sound of an explosion, followed by a metallic rain; looking over my shoulder, I saw that the burned thing had come through the door, doing it with such force that the front portion of the house had literally exploded. The drops hitting the roof of the car and making the sound were actually splinters and fragments of the aluminum frame.

It raised one claw, the one it had wrapped around my arm, and pointed one finger at me. I felt something burning on my arm and glanced down at myself to see blood pouring out from under my shirtsleeve. The spot that it had touched me had gone a sickening blackish purple, oozing blood and other, less-identifiable fluids.

Didn’t matter, I told myself. All that mattered was getting away, setting her free.

It shrieked, a sound born of sheer rage. I didn’t know why; it knew I would come, and it must have known the outcome. I’d known since I was a child.

I wasn’t sticking around to hear it. I gunned the engine and popped the clutch, spinning the wheel one-handed while I clutched the child’s battered corpse to my chest with the other.

“Hold on, baby. It’s gonna be okay.”

Flipping the car around in the driveway, it caught in the gravel for a too-long moment as the figure on the porch descended towards us. It was almost close enough to lay a hand on the bumper – something that I knew would mean game over – when the tires finally caught and peeled away. There was a moment of savage glee when the thing was pelted with chunks of the house and gravel from the driveway kicked up by the tires.

I started down the mountain with my prize, whispering nursery rhymes to her the whole time.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Find out how it ends, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy

 

“Layers Part 6” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 6” by Kaine Andrews

Part VI

I moved to the door, nudging it the rest of the way open with my knuckles. The room beyond was the bathroom, fully decked out in yellow paisley wallpaper, antiseptic green tile, and baby-blue formica fixtures.

I saw myself in the mirror for a moment as I scanned the room. It was almost like looking at a stranger. My hair, instead of being straight and brown, had gone frizzy and white. My face had none of its usual color, bleached almost the color of my hair, and the lines of old scars were replaced with the ruts and grooves of age.

I looked away quickly. I didn’t want to see what else coming here might have done to me.

I could see the toilet peeking out around a small corner in an alcove to the right, a dead sunlamp mounted above it. I wondered who’d sit on the crapper with a heat lamp pointed at their face. Assuming it was Dad, I decided he was even weirder than his little house of horrors might have revealed.

To the right was a combination bath and shower, the only thing showing any real signs of use in the house so far. Unlike the other fixtures, the lip of the tub was chipped in places, showing the rusty metal beneath. There were small puddles of mossy water, breeding who-knew-what sorts of bacteria splashed on the floor beside the tub and along the rim. Blocking the view of whatever lay within was a vinyl shower curtain with a seascape pattern that looked more mid-90s than late-60s.

The crying was coming from behind the curtain. Steeling myself as best I could, I wadded one side of the curtain up in a trembling fist and yanked it back.

There he was. After all this time, all the bad dreams and wakeful nights, he was here in front of me. It wasn’t so bad. It was almost anticlimactic.

The thing in the shower stall was tall; probably just shy of seven feet. How I hadn’t seen its head peeking out over the top before pulling the curtain back was a mystery, but one easily solved. He hadn’t wanted me to see him, not until it was time.

The face was a pitted ruin, flaps of black and blue flesh interspersed with hillocks of burned and mutilated flesh, some of it leaking fluids that I didn’t want to consider. The whole of it looked like a mask that had been poorly stapled over a mannequin head. The eye sockets, like those of the family up front, were empty. Instead of flesh or whatever passed for a brain beyond, there were flickering flames that occasionally turned a rotten green. The mouth was just a wide gash, ringed with split lips and fractured teeth. It lay open though unmoving. The crying was coming from there.

The body was wasted, emaciated. Bones jutted through the broken skin in places, giving the impression of a skeleton someone had laid a sheet over and tried their best to stitch in place. At the shoulders, ragged wing-like flaps of skin hung. Unlike the rest of the meat on the thing, they were pallid, shot through with tattered holes as though moths – or something worse – had been gnawing at them.

The arms were longer than they should have been, hanging almost to the thing’s knees. It didn’t have hands; instead, it had spade-shaped claws with three fingers each, tipped with nails that extended several inches past the fingertip, black with veins of silver and red shot through them and looking razor sharp.

The crying stopped. The edges of that jagged gash in the middle of its face slid upwards and I was horrified to realize it was trying to smile. The fear came flooding back at that, caving in my chest with the force of a sledgehammer.

“You came,” it whispered.

One of those claws shot out towards me, circling those talons around my forearm. Though it looked fragile and skeletal, there was a terrible strength behind it and I could feel the bicep and the bone beneath screaming and creaking under the pressure.

I felt blood running down my arm, and realized the thing’s claws had punctured the flesh. The pressure increased. It was dragging me closer.

“You came,” it whispered a second time.

I began to scream.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 7, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I Like Horror Fiction.

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I Like Horror Fiction.

WILLIAM MEIKLE

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I like horror fiction.

A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and a lot of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. (Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing).

Scottish history goes deep. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle or a historic monument or, from further back, a burial mound or standing stone. Five thousand years of living in mist and dampness, wind and snow, lashing rain and high seas leads to the telling of many tales of eldritch beings abroad in the dark nights. Add in the constant risk of invasion and war from Romans, Danes, Irishmen, Vikings and English and you can see that there’s plenty of fertile ground for both fact and…

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“Layers Part 5” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 5” by Kaine Andrews

Part V

I turned away from the portrait of a happy family, slinking past the couches with all the hair on my body standing straight up. They’d never bothered me before, and whatever logic remained in this hellhole said they wouldn’t… but after the television, I wasn’t certain that things here were going to go 100% according to the script. Something was different this time. Maybe because I was actually here, instead of just visiting in my sleep. Maybe because what was waiting for me had gotten impatient and greedy, or maybe it was just stronger.

Once I was past them, creeping into the hallway, I lowered my guard. Just a bit, but enough that I felt I could breathe without sounding like a broken teakettle. I glanced back over my shoulder, not surprised when I saw that Mom and Dad’s heads weren’t visible over the top of the couch, and I couldn’t see Sis sprawled out on the other one. They’d vanished.

I was okay with that. One less thing to worry about, at least for now. What was coming was worse than their eyeless stares.

The crying was louder back here. I knew where I was supposed to go – the door at the end of the hall – but still wanted to put it off as long as I could. Wanted to make sure there were no other nasty surprises. Besides, I had to follow the script; I was sure if I tried to beeline it, something would stop me. I had to check the other door first.

I laid my hand on the doorknob to the left and pushed the door open a crack. The crying intensified for a moment, a brief period where it seemed like it was coming from right in front of me. Then it receded, as though falling down a long well.

The door opened on a walk-in closet. A blue plastic bowling ball bag sat in the corner, the outer layer peeling and flaking. A long brown coat that looked like it was last in style sometime during the flapper era, reeking of mothballs and stale cigars, hung above it. A pair of battered cardboard boxes, the edges cracked outwards and yellowed with age, sat on the shelf above. One was a Monopoly set; the one on top was the old Parker Brothers Ouija board. Some people might have taken that as a bad sign; I figured the family had worse supernatural crap to worry about than a plastic planchette and a mass-produced particle board alphabet.

I pulled the door shut and turned back to the end of the hall. The crying was obviously coming from there. I moved towards it, feeling like I was walking through water rather than air. Something beyond the door was radiating something, an aura deadlier and more poisonous than radiation. I couldn’t let it stop me. She needed me.

I reached the end of the hall and pushed the door open. Even though I knew there was nothing to fear – at least, not right now – I still winced as the door rebounded off the wall, and kept one eye to a slit as I scanned the room beyond. Just in case.

The room beyond was a bedroom. The shag carpet continued, though it looked less walked on in here. To the left was a smooth wall, a recessed and half-open door beckoning at the midpoint. Ahead was an old-time slot machine, neon glass, chromed buzzer on top, polished level to the side, almost begging to be pulled. The lights were dark, and a thin layer of grime over the windows said it hadn’t been used in a long time, probably even longer than the television out front.

To the right was the bed, and as I came into the room and turned my attention to it, I saw a shape squirming in the middle, underneath the thin brown blanket that was otherwise without blemish, pulled perfectly up against the gleaming white pillows. The crying became louder again, very clearly from the bed.

I walked towards it, grabbing hold of the blanket’s loose edge on the right side of the bed. The image of myself in my head was that of a bad magician attempting the tablecloth trick, as I whipped the blanket away and let it fly into the corner. It crumpled there like the discarded flesh of an uncleanly killed animal, revealing the layer beneath.

There was an indentation in the bare mattress, right in the middle where the shape had been before I pulled the blankets away. The crying seemed to be coming from that same spot. I reached out and placed my hand on the mattress, feeling the smooth fabric cool against my skin. Sliding my hand towards the indent, even as it was rising to the same level as the rest, I felt the heat coming from it, as though a body had lain there not long before.

The crying stopped as I pulled my hand away. I glanced over my shoulder, to the half-open door. As I stared, the door wobbled in the frame, as though something had passed by it with a gentle nudge. The crying started again, coming from the room beyond. I backed away from the bed, taking a deep breath.

If there was any consolation to be hand, it was this: It was almost over.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 6, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy

“Layers Part 4” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 4” by Kaine Andrews

Part IV

Mom and Sis didn’t seem like it mattered to them one way or another that there was a gangly loser standing in their doorway, one who was trying to scream and had the reek of fresh urine hanging about him. Dad noticed, though. It looked like it was what he wanted because I could see the hard lines in that face go smooth, then contract in the other direction as his lips pulled back in a smile. His teeth were missing; only ragged gums and a flopping, greenish thing. Beyond that I guessed was his tongue.

As one, they turned away from me, rotating their heads towards the ancient television. Dad stopped smiling. My lungs unlocked enough for the shriek to slip past my lips and allow me to take a ragged breath.

The reprieve was short-lived. There was a solid thunk from the direction of the entertainment center, followed by the distinct hum of old technology powering up. A moment later the house was filled with a test tone cranked up to almost deafening levels. I screamed again, this time actually getting one out, but nobody could have heard it over that noise. Covering my ears, I looked over at the television and saw it was displaying one of those old Indian Head title cards in grainy black and white.

That was new. I’d been expecting a different sound, thought I might even have been prepared for it. Was hoping for it, really. That was the easy part, the only part that didn’t make my teeth grind and my heartbeat turn into a techno beat.

Doing the only thing I could think of, I lurched towards the television, probably looking like some poor man’s impersonation of Frankenstein. I took one hand away from my ear, instantly regretting it when the sound clawed into the canal and ruptured my eardrum. I felt something leaking out and dribbling on my shoulder. The pain was bad, but at least the sound was deadened.

I reached out and shoved the television, rocking it on the little rubberized feet a bit. It was heavier than I expected. I shoved a second time, harder, and it tipped over, landing facedown only a couple of inches from my foot. I heard glass shatter, but the sound kept going. I don’t know what else I’d expected; things were built like tanks back then, and breaking the glass wasn’t liable to trash the speaker.

I did the next thing that came to mind, grabbing the power cord that snaked out of the back of the unit and yanking it as hard as I could. It came loose in a shower of sparks. For a moment I hoped they’d hit that obnoxious carpet, catch fire, and burn the whole mess down. Preferably complete with Mom, Dad, and Sis.

I wasn’t that lucky. Whatever toxic chemicals they used to pour on the carpeting in the way back when, meant the sparks barely singed it. The lightshow ended a moment later with a loud popping noise from somewhere deeper in the house. The living room dimmed a little. I guessed a fuse must have blown or a breaker was tripped.

Either way, it put things back on track. When I took my hand off my other ear, I heard the sound I’d been expecting. Faint, coming from further back, down a hall past the family couches.

Somewhere back there, a baby was crying. I had to find her. Even though I knew what would happen when I did, I still had to try.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 5, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy