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Albelack Road: Part 4

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A drop of water hit her face and when she wiped it with the back of her hand, it was not rain water but red. Pure dark and dangerously familiar looking. It was blood. She wiped it off on her shirt but it was stained against the porcelain white of her skin. She watched in horror as the black blood spread, going up her arms, her chest, her neck. She tasted the copper mixture on her tongue and she gagged but she trudged forward.  “His blood is good, Jade.” She dared not look back. She knew if she did, she would go insane. Ahead through the fog she could see red. The red hotel matches’ standing out inside the fog and instead of peddles from the road, they lay upon piles of bones. One, two, four more packets of Newton Hotel matches lined every few steps she took. They were so inexplicably bright within the dense fog and she knelt down beside the closest one, atop a pile of astonished skulls and rotting molars. She did not touch it, but remained beside it staring at the rows ahead of her. In the distance, she heard the thundering crash once more, the beast roaming through the forest. It cried again, loud, teeth chattering loud and the trees quaked around her as it stomped. Jade felt the earth move under her as a thick black shadow passed by closer this time than the last and the trees to her left swayed violently back and forth. It wasn’t until it was gone that she realized she was holding one of the crumpled packs of matches in her fist. She opened it with shaky fingers and stroked the head against the box. The flames sputtered, refused to ignite at first. And suddenly a bright flame burst to life and she stared at it wonderingly, mesmerizingly.

“A beautiful flower within a dark grove,” she said to no one in particular. She realized everything was quiet. No, not just quiet. She was deaf. Nothing made a sound, not even the hiss from the match or the sway of the trees.

“That’s mine,” said the loud voice cutting through her deafness but instead of grabbing the match from her hand, he stabbed her in the stomach. The shock came first, the blade feeling like fire as it sliced through her flesh and organs. He twisted it in her stomach and she grabbed his coat, trying to pry him off of her. She gasped loudly and suddenly, she was no longer in the forest. Jade Harper was back inside the hotel room. Jared was grinning at her from above, his eyes filled with an insanity that would not be filled until she was dead, the knife he was holding deep within her stomach. She tried to speak but only a bubble of blood boiled to her lips and she was drowned out by some hysterical laugh. Jade’s eyes shifted and she saw Marie standing over Jared’s shoulder in only her bra and panties, her eyes gleaming and she was laughing. Suddenly everything became clear to Jade as she lay on the carpeted floor of room 506 in the Newton Hotel dying. She was the fiancée and Marie was the mistress. The ring, Jade’s engagement ring blazed gold and fire on the hand of Marie the seductress, Marie the succubus. Jared laughed as he plunged the knife down into her stomach a second time but she barely felt it this time. Everything was dreamy, ghostlike as the room wisped, and danced away. The light from the ring shone like a beacon in the night, trapping Jade to her mind numbing purgatory, the fog filled world of their lover’s betrayal. In the window, a set of deepened yellow eyes gazed at her and the roar of a monster shattered the window. Jade screamed in her final moments of death.

THE END

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Abelack Road: Part 3

 

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She rubbed her shoulders with both hands and watched, waiting for him to return with a sickle to slice her up but nothing more moved within the fog and she reluctantly turned her back on him and the hotel. Instead of thinking of the man in the creepy trench coat and oddly bright pack of hotel matches, she focused on thinking back to the day when she and Jared were leaving for this little vacation. By that time, Jade had already drained most of his money from his bank account and she had already planned to kill him. But she pretended as usual to be happy with their arrangement. He would tell his girlfriend he was going on a business trip, that he would be home within the week. Jared was always a weak liar though. Marie saw through his faux façade and made a surprise trip up to the hotel. It was unfortunate Marie had to be killed too. If she had only believed the lie, believed that her man was being sincere and honest none of this would have happened. If there was an alternate reality, she would only have to deal with the heartbreak of her murdered fiancé. But then I wouldn’t be wearing this gorgeous rock, Jade smiled evilly as she twisted it around her finger.

Her heels crunched underfoot the sound reminding her of fragile bones, muffled by the fog and she wondered how long now until the loud roaring highway could be heard, desperate for a sign humanity lie ahead. There was a thick snap to her right, a deep fearfully penetrating crack that sent a shiver up her spine. She stopped, listening intently upon the litter of bones beneath her feet. Dare she look over, towards the sound that was maddeningly close, too close for comfort? She had a sudden irrational thought that it was the man in the trench coat, somehow following her from within the sanctuary of the forest, cloaked in a fine dusting of misty fog and sneaky shadows. Her heart fluttered nervously as she waited and yet again, a second, closer snap sounded. But it was not beside her as she had worried. The noises were coming from up the road. An odd noise, gurgled and deep filled the air and it was so loud she could feel the sound vibrate within her chest. Goose bumps rippled up her arms in a thick layer and she whimpered reverting back to a little babe of four terrified of the thing that hid within her closet as she fitfully slept. It was loud, and nothing she had ever heard before. A strange noise, not quite human but not wholly animal either. She thought maybe a bear at first, her rational brain trying to pick the memory of the discovery channel from the very roots of her cortex but the cry was so foreign, so inexpiably evil that she ruled it out nearly instantly. Not a bear. Not a human. But not completely animal. Her jumbled thoughts made no sense. A loud crash resounded close by followed by another and the trees in front of her swayed so strongly they bowed downward nearly touching the earth. Her feet couldn’t move, paralyzed to the spot with fear as more trees cracked and groaned under whatever was weighing them down. The cry filled the air again, further away and she made a slow, timid move backwards. Her heart wouldn’t stop thumping, the pain so intense she thought she was having a heart attack. Right in the middle of nowhere, with a monster mere feet from the spot she stood she was about to have a heart attack. But as quiet filled the night once more, her breath leveled out in the chilled frosty air and she was able to finally move again.

She jogged. Her legs moved one in front of the other as she carried herself as fast as heeled boots and unpaved rocky road would allow. Ahead, broken branches littered the roadway, chunks of bark as large as her forearm as a heavy, ancient beast of a tree loosely hung onto another like it was a crutch. The large tree was barely standing, half torn away with splitters sticking up rudely in the air as it swayed inside the dense fog and she stopped, momentarily stunned by the sight. She was fully prepared to right this off as her imagination, that she had seen one too many slasher films with her girlfriends but seeing the tree in its current, abused condition, she was having a really hard time digesting her rapidly endangering mission of making it out of the forest alive. She briefly wondered if she was still asleep, mumbling away inside the hotel suite 506 still with Jared’s decaying corpse by her side, warm under blankets of blood and sweat. She moved, running past the tree and the memory of what had just happened. She checked her watch and noted it was only ten past twelve. That’s not right. That can’t be right. If it is, the highway is too far away and I am a dead person anyways. She tapped it, thinking that tapping it would set the world right but the hand only moved to 12:11.

When her foot connected with something on the ground, it was all she could do to keep standing but after a few moments of helplessly flailing her arms she fell face first into the peddled road. Her hands stopped most of the fall but the sting told her they were not okay and her knee was agony as the new rip in her jeans exposed the deep cut to the frigid open air. She cried miserably as she made herself sit in an awkward upright position. One leg under her as the other, injured leg stretched outward. Her palms were bloody, shredded to resemble that of pulp in the white fog and she cried out again. It was only until she noticed the red through the fog that caused her to forget her pain, to forget where she was and let the fear fill her heart once more. The terror turned her heart to ice and she was dimly aware the tears falling from her cheeks had frozen over. She crawled over to it but the plummet in her stomach told her what she already dreaded. She picked up the Newton Hotel matches with a shaky, bloody hand.

“No,” she whispered hoarsely, fear dragging its horrid claws across her back once more.

“That’s mine,” said the gruff voice. A grimy thick olive colored hand snatched the packet from her hand and she once more watched as the trench coat clad man with the shadows for a face trudged through the fog disappearing. Her mouth worked up and down, eyes wide and full of terror. Her mind was racing, unexplainable things that had happened and she couldn’t make sense of anything. The pain in her body was dull, barely there as she lifted herself up like a ragdoll. She held her hands out in front of her, palms upward as she walked numb to anything around her. Her heart was beating fast, too fast as she felt a heated, rancid breath on her neck.

Jaaaddeeee,” a female whisper sprung up from the shrouded forest, “you have blood on your hands, Jaddeeeee.” Jade ignored the whisper barely audible against the thumping of her heart, her blood racing as it fought to stay warm in such a cold, dark place.

Did his blood taste good? The boys, did the boy’s blood taste on your lips?

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Albelack Road: Part 2

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With slick, wet hair, nude from the waist up she pulled her black duffle bag out from under the bed and gave a deep sigh when she found it was unscathed by the pool of blood around Jared’s half naked body. She marveled briefly at how much blood he had truly lost since yesterday. She thought that might be something noteworthy to add to her diary once she got home. She also thought it was a shame she hadn’t brought a camera but when the police find the body there will be plenty of coverage she knew. Murder victim’s in Rockies resort. She slipped into a pair of tight black skinny jeans and pulled a stylish red turtleneck over her head. She fanned her silk blond hair out and brushed it quickly with her fingers in front of the mirror. She noticed the twinkling sparkle from the enormous diamond ring affixed to her left hand and she smiled pleasantly. She pulled the closet open and out spilled Jared’s ex-fiancé, a deep purple gush around her throat with an offensive looking Columbian necktie staring at her with what she viewed as some form of sarcasm. She frowned at her work. Those who appreciated the art of murder would criticize her, the sloppy form of the tongue partially cut in an amateurs attempt at vile mutilation. She didn’t like that word. Mutilation. Maybe, crime of passion, or bitch had it coming. She stroked the diamond engagement ring once belonging to the not so beautiful Marie and shut the door against her ex-rival of love.

“It was never about the ring, hunny,” she said unkindly to the rock on her ring finger, “it was about you fucking my man. Though I have to admit, the ring was an added bonus I didn’t foresee.”

She laughed and laughed until her sides hurt and when she quieted she realized she had just killed the man she loved. She stared at the mess that was Jared and a tear strolled down her cheek, as sparkly as the ring on her finger. She brushed it away hastily. With time escaping her rapidly, she ripped the knife free from Jared’s stomach and ran to the bathroom sink to rinse it with water hot enough to blister her skin. When she was satisfied the knife and sink were clean, she tossed it into the duffel bag and wrapped it around her shoulder. Jade picked the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign off the table and swung it around her finger as she stared one last time at her masterpiece.

“Good bye, my love. It was truly a night to remember,” she blew a kiss and exited the door. She wrapped the sign around the door knob and made her way to the elevator.

“Wait! Hold the door,” cried an elderly lady. For whatever reason, Jade did hold the door for her, sticking her arm between the closing frames and when the woman tapped the already pressed ground floor button she folded her arms across her chest and smiled at Jade.

“You’re the lovely lady from room 506,” she smiled.

“Yes, and I remember you. The darling and her gentlemanly husband. It must be nice to go on a second honeymoon, as young as you are,” Jade teased. The older woman blushed and smiled, waving her hand like it was nothing big.

“Well, I think I wasn’t the only one to have a wonderful night,” she winked at Jade and gave her a knowing smile.

“Oh. It was that loud, huh?” Jade blushed to herself.

“Nothing wrong with a good sex life, my dear. Any man that can you make squeal like that is a sure keeper,” the woman said and the elevator dinged.

They stepped off together and with a sincere farewell, they parted ways. It wasn’t until Jade hit the open, cool air of night that she felt her mind clear and her chest rise with happy content. The hotel was completely isolated within the Rockies, surrounded by the thick Citadel forest. The drive up with Jared was less than exciting, with nothing but greenery and a thin layer of snow that lined the hard, solid earth. She had at least expected to see a bear or two but nothing moved within the thickness and only the radio static kept her from completely falling asleep. She was never a nature nut and the scene was underwhelming and boring. She groaned now, staring out at the bleak darkness of the forest as she realized she couldn’t take Jared’s car back home. She would have to walk up to the highway and manage to hitchhike if she wanted to leave this damned world behind. Her booted heels clacked off the concrete sidewalk and soon the crunching of peddles underfoot could be heard. Albelack road was completely barren, non-paved which gave her a shudder at the under developed region. It would be a long walk, and she realized she might maybe make it to the highway by sunup but she doubted it. She shivered in the cold air, wishing she had brought gloves and a hat. Or maybe a thicker jacket. She looked back and the barely twinkling lights of the booming hotel in the distance nearly disappeared by large coniferous trees was dissolving behind a thick blanket of fog.

The forest was deathly silent and only the hoot of an eerie horned owl broke the quiet. A dense fog lay upon the ground, swirling like hands as she passed by completely concealing whatever was beneath it. The only light was the half-moon high up and she noticed the sky was cloudless, unlike before when she first awoke. Coming through the fog, she saw a dark figure and a stab of fear pierced her stomach. It was a man, she could tell by the height and robust nature though his face was concealed in the shadow of a large hat. His body was cloaked with a large beige colored trench coat that ruffled the ground as he walked and he passed her on the other side of the road without a moments glance. She heard something hit the ground and realized the man had dropped a pack of red matches. She bent down to pick the packet up.

“Sir, wait you dropped…” but when she looked up again, he was gone. The fog was so thick she could barely see her hand in front of her face but she lifted the pack towards the sky to read what it said with squinted eyes in the dim moonlight. ‘Newton Hotel’ was scrawled across thick red cardboard in a golden flourish of expert handwriting.

“That’s mine,” said a gruff voice and she screamed, startled by the man in the trench coat standing in front of her, so close that she could smell his sour breath. She stared but his face was still invisible to her eyes and she handed the packet over to him with wide, watery eyes, her shoulders uncontrollably shaking beneath her thin leather coat.

“S-sorry. You scared the hell out of me,” Jade said hearing the fearful tremor in her voice, but he said nothing and only turned away to disappear in the fog once more.

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Albelack Road: Part 1

Albelack Road

By Terrin Jarrell

 

 

            Jade pushed the serrated black blade into Jared’s stomach, laughing manically the whole time as he squirmed under her lithe, fragile body, hands bound behind his back with a strip of barely sticky duct tape. His struggle was weak and the questionable tape held strong as the sedative she had slipped into his gin and tonic earlier that evening dulled his movements to that of a kitten. The panic in his teary eyed blues gave her pleasure and she licked her strawberry colored lips with a plump tongue. He tried to speak, to tell her to stop twisting the knife in his gut but instead what came out was a thick spray of blackened blood that splattered her face as he choked on what life he had left, the pain and suffering in his eyes as the last thoughts of ‘how could you’ flash past them. She relished in his last thoughts. Why was it that she was doing this again? Clearing his bank account didn’t seem satisfying enough for Jade and as an afterthought she realized neither was cheating on him with that animal print thong bartender from Basil Club. What was his name? Cherry? Berry? She couldn’t remember and it didn’t matter she supposed because he was dead too. Maybe it was Jared’s attitude of demeaning quality or maybe she was just a plain old psycho, the ones you read about in the newspapers who murder they’re cousins for five dollars or some shit, but she wanted to kill Jared Solms. Badly.

Now that she thought about it longer than twenty seconds, with her eyebrows furrowed against her forehead it could have been his slutty fiancé that triggered Jade’s outrageously extravagant revenge. She watched the light in his eyes disappear, the crashing waves of once gorgeous blue turning to a dull, grey disorder of death. She laid her thick blond curls on his chest, listening to the last panicked flutters of his heart beat against her ear. The overpowering smell of coppery blood mixed with the that of urine and defecated pants made her squirm with nervous delight, the stolen $9,450 set of diamond earrings dancing in the smeared blood along his chin as she gazed at his dead, sweet face.

            “A shame. Such handsome beauty,” she said stroking his cleft chin with a bright red finger nail. His dead eyes regarded her with an odd smoldering passion she knew was simmering on her own green gems and she wondered if that was just her imagination or if some part of Jared had actually liked being murdered by his psychotic mistress. “Lovely,” she spoke softly before getting off his now softening erection and tugged her bright red heels off in a heap beside him. She stretched her toes and threw her blood soaked body onto the white linen bed of the somewhat empty but otherwise romantic hotel suite, laughing away as if an invisible intruder were tickling her. She kissed the stiff, chocolate covered pillows, her lipstick rubbing off as she touched herself between her thighs with a timid, quivering hand beneath the bloody and sticky pink mini dress. She pulled at the tight dress, ripped free one breast from its prison shackle and kneaded it roughly, the nipple stiff to the touch as she pushed her hips up against her withering hand. She moaned, biting her lip to stifle her pleasure. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head as she felt the pressure mounting, her legs shivering with excitement as she painted blood pictures on the white sheets. She suddenly shivered violently, back arching against the post screaming her orgasm as it exploded across every fiber of her blistering hot skin and she moaned in time with the rhythm of her hand.  

            “Oh god, Jared you son of a bitch. Give it to me, give it to me, OH GOD!” she moaned with delight as a second orgasm rocked her just as violently as the first had.

 The warmth spread through her body and she rode the waves of pleasure letting them drown her in a passionate embrace and when it ebbed away slowly, she stripped her dress off and slid naked under the soiled, down filled covers. She tossed her dank, sweaty hair from her eyes as she relaxed deeper into the expensive and well-earned memory foam mattress, a contented cat’s smile curled around her lips as she stroked her silky barren thigh doing figure eights in the soft flesh.

“Just as good as ever,” she spoke lazily to the room.

And when the waves of sleep took her gently in their arms, she had no worries as morning ticked past uneventfully for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until midnight did she reawaken to the world, the room smelling muddy and sickly and she remembered her carnal acts of deviously evil proportions.

“Good morning Jared. So nice to see you’re still lying around,” she smiled at his bloated grey face, dipping her foot down onto the sticky but alluring blood soaked fluffy carpet. She loved the feeling of the squish between her toes and she stretched her arms in tired approval. The precious glass door that led out to the balcony was black, twinkling yellow stars glittered above like unicorn vomit and the moon was only half full, misty magical fog swirling around it like a cloak. Night. I slept all day like a goddamn vampire, she thought gritting her teeth against the scene. The bathroom light was on as it had when they first arrived and she stepped over Jared and into the large bathroom to shower yesterday’s grim off her sultry body.

.  .  .  .  .

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The Cha Forest: Part 5

It was hard to tell which citizens had been infected but by the quiet street vendor’s and the chilling afternoon breeze, he knew many had been affected. The cleanup would be bad, many funerals to attend in the morning hours and even more paper work to pen. Not to mention with the King in quarantine it made it hard to run a town such was the size of Shorkvera. But it didn’t take long to find Sierra, the little girl possessed by the demon Nell. She stood in the middle of the street, finding them. Nell had a healthy revenge planned out for Soun and it was better sooner than later that she revealed her ugly face to them. As it turned out though, Sierra had no face as was Nell’s purpose to wipe mankind from the earth and in Pestorus mind it made this mission easier, to avoid the look of the innocent while killing her.

Thirty-five years, Pestorus. Your wife brings greetings from hell,” Nell hissed around them. Pestorus clenched his fists. Soun revealed a pocket sized book, no bigger than Pestorus palm and she began to read a passage from it.

“Tella bissa, nova sprite oosalvia, nell.”

Nell jerked on the spot and a piercing screaming laughter filled the air. Pestorus covered his ears and shut his eyes against the noise but Soun just kept reading as if she were immune to the demonic screeching.

“Nell, su alog Freda monsta, cha.”

“What the hell are you doing to her?” he called, elevating his voice to a shout but just like that the screaming stopped and so did Soun. He looked down the street and the body of Sierra lay still, crumpled against the dirty, rocky road.

“Soun?”

He turned and she was there. But it wasn’t Soun. The dark rivers of black veins clawed their way down Soun’s once beautiful face and her cooled ice eyes were now a crimson red evil. The earth shuddered around him violently like a giant’s rampage and Nell smiled with a hideous blank smile.

Your wife loves it in hell with me. So does the baby. Babby boy, babby girl. Did you want to know what it was?” Nell said using Soun as her puppet.

“Go to hell,” Pestorus shouted, raising the dagger high.

The ground shuddered again and Pestorus was knocked to the ground. The blade went flying from his hand and Nell grasped his throat with elongated claws. She licked him, the tongue stretching so far, running the length of his cheek and down his neck.

What was it like to slid that dagger into your wife, into your unborn child and kill me? Was it worth it, Pestorus? Worth the blood on your hands, for cha, cha Nell?” she laughed in that deep, demonic echo.

Soun’s hand gripped tightly around his neck and he felt the oxygen leave his body. Has my life just been one long road of innocent murder? He thought thinking of all the innocents he killed to protect the good of life. But was what he did really considered to be good? It was him that needed to die, he realized suddenly. Not Soun or Sierra. He was the source of everyone’s pain and he needed to be the forgiven. He let go of Soun’s hand and allowed Nell to do what she had planned, striking her nails in his throat. And maybe praying the last moment of life saved him because she suddenly went rigid above him, her hand loosening on his neck. He shoved her off his body and saw the dagger was plunged into her back. From red to black, the gem gleamed above where her heart should have been.

“Pestorus, are you okay?” It took him a moment to recognize the new recruit. Kygard. He looked supremely surprised and fearful, his hands shaking as he looked at the carnage he had caused to Soun.

“I-I’m sorry, she was attacking you and…and…” Kygard continued to say, flustered.

“It’s okay, son. You did good. In fact better than good. You did something I could never do. Go check the girl, she may still be alive,” Pestorus said letting the tears freely fall. He removed the dagger from her back and gathered Soun into his arms. He let out an anguished sob as she just smiled at him, burying his face into her neck.

“Pestorus,” she whispered, barely audible. He nodded, unable to speak as he stared into her crystal eyes, “This was how it was always supposed to be, Pestorus. Not your wife or your baby, but me. I needed to die to end this.”

“I love you Soun,” he said choking back the emotions that wallowed inside him.

She smiled and closed her eyes, “Never doubt yourself, my love. Doubting is for the devils that crave the human soul. Set yourself free as I will be waiting.”

When he knew she was gone, he wiped his tears from his eyes and lifted her body. Sierra was already getting up slowly when he walked up to them, Soun draped over his arms. Sierra was shaken but otherwise okay and would heal over time, the fingers of forgetful memory already working on her as she clung to Kygard’s waist. Kygard looked tired and thin but he too would be fine in the coming days. Pestorus would make sure of this. It was time he taught someone else the craft.

“Kygard, I need you to come with me into Cha Forest. There are a few things I need to teach you about the world we live in that might benefit you greatly in your long years of life,” he paused thoughtful for a moment at Soun’s peaceful face, “maybe bring a shovel and a bouquet of delicate roses.”

END

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The Cha Forest: Part Four

Pestorus blamed his crazy morning partly on waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but the chill in the air was abnormal even this time of season and he tucked his fur coat tightly around his collar as he followed Soun up past the castle gates and into the barracks. This is a bad day. He dreaded this moment since leaving Soun’s house. The reveal of the faceless body to Soun. She had experienced enough pain and this was just going to bring it all back. Which he had wished to avoid in all the thirty-five years since the last outbreak. He stood just outside the barracks, staring at the door like it was a coiled snake.

“Rus,” Soun said gently using his old nickname and he entered.

The first thing he noticed upon entering the barracks was the unholy smell of diseased flesh. The second thing he noticed was the absent soldiers. The empty hall plagued him in ways he wished Soun had never picked up on.

“Mighty busy force we have here in Shorkvera,” she mildly joked.

“Where the hell is everyone,” he demanded entering further.

“Pestorus, they’re all dead. You know that. Let’s go out in the air away from this horrible smell before it does permanent damage to our very souls,” she said, offering her hand out to him.

He took it and cursed that she could seem so calm in such a dire, rapidly out of control situation this was becoming. She was right though, the air was a lot better outside but the smell still lingered in his nostrils.

“We know where to go from here,” she said. He laughed humorlessly and removed his shoulder armor in anger.

“We don’t go anywhere together, Soun. You go home and stay there. I don’t want a repetition of last time,” he said, struggling to unbuckle his cuirass. She stayed his fingers and undid the laces for him, smoothly popping him out of his wild restraints. He felt hot and dizzy. This wasn’t supposed to happen again.

“Enough, Pestorus. Hold that wicked tongue of yours before you say something you truly regret. The girl, where is she now?”

“Romn Inn,” he said with closed eyes, taking deep breaths.

She started rhythmically rubbing his chest, and his airways cleared giving him more oxygen to breath, to think. He never knew how she could do the things she could and he never asked. He protected her. It was the one thing he could offer her for saving the town from that one fateful day. Though he knew she felt much more differently about the situation than he.

“She latches to the girl. Pestorus do you hear me? This will be tough the girl cannot be allowed to live. Nell is trapped within her vessel and it is the only chance we have at putting her out,” she said gently to him.

“I remember the rules from last time, Soun. I’m no fool.”

“This needs to be pushed into her heart, like last time. Only when the red gem on the hilt turns black can you pull the dagger free. Bury her at the Cha stone, and bring no one,” she said giving him the dreaded dagger.

“I am old, Soun. This will only happen again, so what is the point?” he said miserably.

“The point is that everyone in this town, this realm, this earth will die horrible deaths if Nell is not contained. That is why we sacrifice the things we do…for the ones we love. When Nell is reborn to spew her plague once more, a new defender will be chosen as it always is and they will make the same hard choices as you.”

“Is it impossible of me to ask you to leave now?” he said. She tucked the collars of his shirt down and looked at him, the ghost of a smile appearing at the corners of her mouth.

“Too impossible.”

“Yes,” he said finally caressing her cheek like he longed to this whole time, “I suppose so.”

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The Cha Forest: Part Three

He left, leaving the corpse in the company of those who knew not of what was happening yet. Pestorus didn’t know he was heading to her house until he was in front of it. The slanted shingles falling off a rusted tin roof, the door barely able to close as its swelled wood expanded from the heat of hot summers. He took a deep breath and went to knock but the door was already open when he reached the top step, the fresh face of Soun standing there holding a cloth in her hand as it lazily dried out the china cup in the other hand. Her smile was thin, but otherwise welcoming in his presence. She had barely aged since their last encounter and he grimaced at the thought of how long ago that was.

“Well, if it isn’t Pestorus. How long has it been…twenty? Thirty years?” she said as if she’d read his mind but her smile never faltered, “come. I’ve prepared tea.”

She stood there still, holding the door open and as he passed her he couldn’t help but take in her intoxicating smell of beauty and fresh summer wind. Her house was the same as it had always been, slightly cluttered but in a pleasing homey feel. Cabinets lined the walls with trinkets of every sort, and books marked with hundreds of assorted bookmarks claimed couch cushions and fancy oak chairs. He knew his way to the kitchen and by the time he entered the little cooking area, she was already pouring tea into the freshly washed cup. She handed it to him and sat down on a stool, gazing at him lovingly like she always used to.

“To what do I owe such a pleasant surprise?” she asked in that sing song voice of hers.

“There’s been a murder,” he said choosing his words wisely.

“And you suspect me? The honor I must be feeling right now,” she said in mock entertainment.

“No, Soun. I don’t suspect you. It was…dark,” he said looking away.

“Drink your tea. I promise there isn’t any poison in it this time,” she smirked.

“A boy was found with no face,” he said. Soun’s smile disappeared rapidly.

“You know we’ve seen this before. And you know I cannot help you this time. Pestorus, I may love you still but there are some things that even I cannot change, I pray you understand that. That kind of power exceeds my own.”

“I just wanted you to look at the body. To confirm my suspicions,” he said. Soun looked fretful, but she stretched her fingers across the table and clasped his worn hand.

She was cold, but then again she always was. Her eyes were ice blue, so chilling but mesmerizing, mimicking the coolness of her skin. He longed to stroke her cheek, to feel her smooth skin under his rough hands once more but he settled for a gentle squeeze instead.

“Fine. To make you happy once more, I shall do as you request.”

“Thank you Soun,” he said huskily, breaking contact with her.

“Don’t thank me yet, love. If this is what you think, our sorrows are only just beginning.”

.  .  .  .  .

Darmi’s hand shook violently as she tried to stick the thread through the eye of the needle. The thread shivered violently in her hand before missing once more and she cursed, tossing the needle on the table. Arthritis was a bugger, and in her old age she couldn’t seem to have a moments rest from the crippling condition.

“Terei? Can you bring me some of those herbs from the cellar? Unless you want your pants done and sewn proper, I’m going to need a tea for my fingers.”

“Maybe I don’ wanna wear pants,” he grumpily called from the kitchen.

“Shut your damn mouth and get the herbs. You’ll wear pants and you’ll like it,” she fired back at him.

She could hear him grumbling as the chair legs squeaked against the rough tile floor. She added a second log to the spitting fire and checked the pot, making sure there was enough water in it to sustain enough tea for the rest of the day. She made a mental note to pick up more of the herbs from Soun. It had been well over three weeks since her last medical resupply. The village had grown quiet over the early hours of the morning since the death of the small child. She had not a single clue where the children came from but she felt it had been her motherly duty to calm and claim them as her own until their parents showed up. The young girl, Sierra, sat on the patched couch sipping a cup of tepid water quietly. She hadn’t said a single word since leaving the inn but it was not Darmi’s place to question her after such an ordeal—some things were better left unasked. Darmi offered a cookie to Sierra but she merely shook her head and continued to stare at the back wall. There was a loud crash from the cellar door and Darmi dropped the platter of cookies to the floor and rushed as fast as she could.

“Terei? Are you okay?” Darmi flicked the light but the bulb flickered and burst.

“Terei? Sierra dear, please go fetch the neighbours. I think Terei fell down and my old legs can’t get down the stairs,” but when Darmi looked back at the couch, Sierra was gone. She narrowed her eyes.

“Darmi? I fell. Blasted shelves fell on ma’ head,” he called from the darkness of the basement, “I think I broke my hip.”

“Shit,” Darmi said taking the steps one at a time as slow as possible, “Hold on you old idiot, I’ll be there in a minute.” When she reached the dirt floor, she scanned the darkness for any sign of Terei. A few spilled jars littered the floor in the immediate circle of light but Terei was not among them.

“Alright where are you?” But he didn’t answer. In fact the only answer she received was a child’s giggle.

“Sierra? Did you come down to help Terei?” Darmi said smiling.

“I came down here to eat his face,” said the child’s voice and Darmi stopped advancing into the cellar, goose bumps riddling her arms.

The voice was human, but it had a supernaturally charged demonic quality to it that chilled Darmi’s spine to the core. When Sierra came into view she was not alone. In her hands was a young boy. Neither children had a face but she had the strange sickly feeling that this boy was the same murdered boy from the front gate. Darmi backed up and fell, tripping over a glass jar and landing hard on her hip.

“W-where are your parents?” she asked.

“Dead.”

“Wh-who are you?”

“Cha…cha…cha. Only the Nell of the Cha can save you…Darmi,” said the little girl tilting her head.

Darmi screamed and in the corner of the cellar her husband huddled unseen, afraid to move as the demonic children ascended onto his wife. He held back his silent tears as Darmi’s screams escalated and then stopped altogether.

.  .  .  .  .

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The Cha Forest: Part Two

“Sir Pestorus! You must come, there is a disturbance at the front gate,” cried a young man breathing heavily, barely old enough to fill out his newly tempered armor. Pestorus nodded grimly and placed the apple back onto the stand. The young woman tending the stand looked disappointed but she plastered her smile on all the same.

“Another day than,” he smiled warmly to her.

He knew it was going to be a rough day when he couldn’t even buy an apple for his lunch in peace. He hitched his sword belt upward and walked down to the gate where a massive horde of people were occupying a space just beyond the gated front walls. There was a mass of whispers filling the air and random accusations as they let him through easily but Pestorus paid none of them attention until he came into view of the young solider. He vaguely knew the new recruits name was Kygard and he was kneeling down beside a black tarp with a few mild rips in the sides. When Kygard noticed Pestorus presence he stood immediately.

“Sir, this young lady needs to speak to you. It’s…urgent,” he said and walked away with a wary, unsettled look.

The young lady walked up to Pestorus timidly, just a young girl maybe the age of seventeen or less with a thick head of grungy blond curls. She was holding the cords to the tarp closely, clasped to her chest like she was afraid they would blow away in some unforgiving wind. Her face was completely muddy and her clothes were severely torn. At first Pestorus thought he was dealing with a victim of abuse, but when he saw her deeply disturbed blue eyes, he knew he was dealing with far more than just a minor altercation. He knelt down beside her, hand on his rickety old knee and gently smiled.

“My name is Sir Pestorus. May I have the pleasure or yours?”

“Sierra,” she said shyly. An older woman in the crowd placed a worn calloused hand on the girls shoulder. The older woman nodded for Pestorus to go on.

“Can you tell me what happened to you?”

Her eyes betrayed every emotion she owned and she backed up into the woman, fearfully shaking her head violently. Her refusal only deepened Pestorus confusion and curiosity.

“She’s just a child for god sakes, let her breath,” said a man from the crowd. Pestorus held an irritated hand up to the crowd, a warning that his patience was already worn thin.

“Okay, okay. May I have a look under the tarp?”

She looked terrified as she bit her lip but finally she handed him the strings to the tarp, her seemingly greatest treasure. He undid the secure knot at the base of the tarp and when it tugged free he lifted the tarp. The first thing that hit his nose was the rancid smell and he pulled away, choking back the need to vomit all over the scene. Kygard handed him a handkerchief to thwart the smell and he accepted graciously. When he peeled the tarp off fully everyone in the crowd gasped loudly. A few screamed in terror, another man fell to the ground in a fainted bliss and others turned away to empty their stomachs. Pestorus eyes grew wide and he barely knew what he was looking at. Immediately this had become a crime scene and it didn’t take long for the guards to rope it off from the public. Word reached the castle faster than Pestorus would have liked and as he watched the jittery man jump from his steed he thought, what a day for the last of my retirement days.

“Pestorus what the hell is going on?” demanded Jaried, the emissary to the king, as he waddled over with an air of importance closest to that of a piece of dung. Jaried was wearing heeled boots and a green and orange velvet suit with large puffy gray pants to top the overzealous number off.

“I don’t know,” he said looking at Sierra again. Jaried looked at the girl than back to Pestorus with slight confusion.

“Is she responsible for this? What is this? A dog?” he said with his nose stuck firmly upwards, pulling the tarp back. He gasped and released the tarp, eyes wild as he looked to Pestorus for answers. Pestorus only shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t know if she’s responsible. Can a little girl remove the face of child?” Pestorus said almost sarcastically.

“R-remove? It’s completely smooth! It’s just skin!” Jaried cried.

Pestorus shrugged his shoulders once more. There was more to the body than just the face though the face was the focal point to the mystery. The torso had deep wounds that had been dealt after the boy was dead, he could tell from his long term service to the royal guard. Of course this would all be explained by a medical doctor but until then, Pestorus held his tongue. He called Kygard over to him, ignoring the outrageous rant of Jaried.

“Take this girl to the Romn Inn. Tell Ferry I sent her and that she is to have everything to make her feel comfortable. New clothing, food, water. Anything she wants.”

“Yes sir,” he nodded and ushered her away. The paleness of her face still visible in Pestorus memory clearly, the pain of her loss only reflecting his own losses he had endured from life.

“What do we do?” Jaried said standing next to Pestorus, hushing his words as if no one else could hear him.

“We inform the King and pray for some kind of bloody miracle,” he said and Jaried walked away from the pretentious little man.

“Take the body to the barracks and no one is to touch it until I say. Understood?”

“Yes sir,” said a guard.

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Tepper’s Mill Part 2

“When I was a young boy I used to walk up and down these streets all the time,” smiled Aber.

“You lived here your whole life old man?” asked Mary.

“Born and raised,” he winked at her.

“I came in from Cleveland. But I was supposed to head to California that day. Damn I miss that sunshine,” I said dreamily.

“Canada has sunshine too,” Aber said.

“And brutal winters, can’t forget those. What are we gonna do when winter hits, huh?” asked Mary sarcastically.

“You can start by putting a coat on instead of wearing a bathing suit,” called Sevina from behind the group. Mary glared at her with red rimmed eyes.

“Hark, how much further do we have to walk? My feet hurt,” cried the one child, Luke. He was a little ways behind me and I called him over to me. Jenni gave me a look but I smiled and scooped Luke into my arms.

“How’s that?” I said tugging at his swinging foot.

“Better.”

“What about me?” cried Gabe. I gently rolled my eyes and allowed him to crawl on me too.

“You two are lucky I like you,” I said smiling and everyone in the group laughed.

But once the laughter died down, it was back to the quiet stillness and the memory that we were probably the only ones alive in the dead city of Hamilton. The sun was slowly setting and I knew I would start getting questions about shelter soon. Night time was the worst. Though the dead rarely came out at daylight, once the night came it made it nearly impossible to sleep. Once the disease hit, not many people were able to get out of the big cities. I was only able to get out because I was at the airport. I saw it first with my own eyes. I could remember feeling the tray of forgotten coffee slip from my fingers as I watched on in horror as people started to devour each other, ripping chunks of flesh from immobile bodies strewn across the bright white tile. A few of us got out on a plane to Canada. When we finally landed hoping to be escorted by military personal, nothing was left. Only loose newspapers greeted us from the streets full of loot and broken glass. Seemingly everyone had completely vanished, gone without a trace and when night came, they all came back hungrier than ever. And not human. Clara was with me then. But she was gone now. Maybe this apocalyptic purgatory was my punishment of infidelity, of ruining mine and others virtues. And I had failed to protect her like I had my true family. Plio and I married in 2004 and things went well at first. A few bumps and bruises along the way but we managed. And once we had Kelley it seemed even better. But Clara came into my life like a whirlwind and everything changed, became less safe and more dangerous, adventurous. That was where I messed up.

“Hark, look,” tapped Jenni breaking my thoughts. She had a worried look of fear on her face and she was pointed ahead.

Ahead of us in the middle of the street was a body. It wasn’t moving but that meant nothing. My heart thumped deeply in my chest but I kept my bravado strong and dropped the children down to my side. Jenni took charge and stood in front of them protectively, eyeing me for my next move. I could feel my mouth go dry and my mind begin to wander on darker things as I turned to the group. They all stared at me like little lost children, sunken bloodshot eyes and skinny wrists. Dirty grungy, ripped clothing hanging loosely on them as flies buzzed their heads for a nice place to land.

“Stay here,” I told the group and no one objected.

I could sense everyone’s fear like a collective heartbeat as we all looked at the body that seemed to take up the whole street like an ominous troll. What was it called when you were afraid of the dead? Necrophobia. Once upon a time, I would have laughed at such ridiculous phobias and fears and psychological mumbo-jumbo. I sobered up fast though, believing this wasn’t just a study of some poor saps anymore but rather something so physical you could touch it and it lived and bit and infected. I gripped my bat tightly as I walked forward. My breath was heavy as it always was and I tried to relax as I closed the gap between me and the dead body. A few flies buzzed around his head but he looked relatively healthy. His cheeks were still pink and fleshy, his brow was slightly damp and his chest was moving up and down in rhythmic time. There didn’t appear to be any wounds or bite marks, nor any scratches and I reached to check the pulse in his neck. I dropped my head in relief as I felt the steady thrum of his pulse against lukewarm flesh.

“He’s not one of them,” I called back and suddenly he gripped my wrist tight.

I dropped back, scrambling away from him as he stretched out his arms to me moaning. His eyes were dead, milky white with the veins of black and his jaw worked up and down as he crawled to me slowly. He let out a loud scream, a noise I had never heard come from the dead before and around us more calls were heard. I kicked him in the face hard with my steel toed boot and scrambled back to the group.

“We have to go. We have to get out of here,” I said.

As I said this a group of ten or fifteen undead shuffled out from behind the tallest building in front of us. The one lying in the street was having a difficult time getting up but as he looked up at us, the rest of them started running. We bolted, running for the nearest cover in an office building. I was never religious, and I could argue that I wasn’t still but in that moment, as we ran I prayed for the safety of all of us, praying to some almighty to give us some slack and pull us through this latest horror show. I carried Luke and Jenni scooped Gabe up as we shut the glass double doors behind us. Aber and Mary were already grabbing pieces of toppled furniture and staking them against the glass when the wave of undead struck like a tidal wave. I was in momentary shock, staring at the horde as it gnawed and chewed at the glass anticipating our juicy bodies. Some of the dead were more decomposed than others and others looked as fresh as we did, save for the milky eyes. Bones stuck out in places that should have been painful but the only look of pain in these dead faces was the raw hunger.

“Dammit, Hark you said he was alive,” called Cable as he rushed to place upturned tables against the door. Sevina was cowered in the corner clutching mass handfuls of hair in a fit of fear.

“I…I…he was. His chest was moving and everything. I even felt a pulse,” I said back.

“You what?” said Aber stopping in his tracks.

“He was alive. For the brief moment I touched him and then he turned just like that. L-like a switch. One minute he was human, the next he was…”

“Dead,” said Gabe chillingly from under Jenni’s arm.

“How is that possible? How is this still happening. What have we done to deserve this shit,” screamed Sevina from the corner, rocking on her heels. Cable went to her, holding her in his arms as she shivered.

“This is wrong, this is all wrong,” she mumbled under her breath.

“They’re learning to act human,” said Mary.

We all grew quiet at the unsettling notion of the dead learning the art of trickery, staring at one another with suspicion and worry. Sevina let out a massive sob. I flipped a wooden chair closest to me and broke the leg off. I felt unsafe without a weapon and the thought of my trusted metal bat outside among the horde made me feel useless. I concealed the bite wound with the sleeve of my shirt for now. I would have to tell the group at one point but now wasn’t the time. Mary reached to touch the elevator door buttons and I stayed her hand.

“No, we take the stairs,” I said.

.  .  .  .  .

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Tepper’s Mill

Tepper’s Mill

By Terrin Jarrell

 

            I hefted the club in my hand and only hesitated for a brief moment before smashing it against Clara’s head. The sickening wet whack echoed throughout the buildings surrounding them and her groaning and moaning was silenced immediately, the dead hand reaching for me moments ago dropped to the ground with a thump. She had turned; it was obvious from the start but we all ignored it, wanting to believe it was over and that she was completely fine, that the bite was no more menacing and dangerous than a simple mosquito bite on a summer’s night. We wanted to believe the infection was over. But it wasn’t. And I stopped trying to convince myself of this very fact once Clara died, though I never said this to the group. I tried to keep myself as numb as possible, iced to the pain and loneliness of the fallen world I moved as their unspoken leader. She was dead twice over now as kneeled down beside her lifeless body, examining the bruised and bit forearm of her lovely cream colored skin, slightly burned from the blazing sun. I brushed her blond bangs from her forehead and gazed once more at the beauty of the group, her blue eyes shutting forever in peaceful oblivion. The brave one of the group. I snatched a tarp off of an old 73’ mustang, a car I would’ve drooled at before the end of times and covered her corpse as best I could with the lack of materials on hand. A proper burial was out of the question but we all knew that and it didn’t change the level of respect we had for her.

“Stupid bitch, she knew better than to go out there alone,” yelled Mary through a few sparkling tears. Mary picked at her scabby arms, fingers jabbing at nothing as her body forever waited for the next great fix.

“That ‘stupid bitch’ risked her life to get you food. It was more than any of us should have asked for so I’d damn well shut my mouth if I were you,” I said raising my voice.

Mary said nothing and I grabbed my bag off the ground. It was only moderately heavy, a few cans of food, a bottle of water and a few memento’s from my past life. There was a rip in the bottom and I tried to remind myself to have Jenni sew it for me at the next rest point. No sense in having a useless bag in times as hard as these.

“We move. We have to get off the street before nightfall or we all end up like Clara,” I said more sympathetically, one more glance at her tarp coffin. I lifted off the ground, tugged my bag around my shoulders and strapped the metal bat to my hip again.

“She was truly a spirit that one. You can’t blame yourself for what happened to her. You did the best anyone could have in this crazy scenario,” said Aber coming up next to me, dragging his ax in front of him like a cane. I couldn’t let the tear that threatened to fall show so I patted him on the shoulder and let him make his own peace in private mourning as I moved away.

Once the funeral was over for Clara and we all made what little peace we could muster, we moved out trying to get away from the city. I had time to examine the behemoths that surrounded us as we trudged along. Long lost buildings already aging in the short absence of the human population looked like sad giants as the sun danced across the dirty windows and weeds sprouted from the cracked, unattended roads of old. Shattered windows opened random holes up in the buildings and a few computers hung from stretching cords. Though the somewhat sparkling shine of the glass in the buildings provided a small hopeful memory of what used to be, I knew they were also the most dangerous. The buildings created too much nostalgia for the group and it allowed each individual to lose his or her guard. Not to mention the dead found it quite homey. I couldn’t wait for the rolling hills and the smell of farm country, the escape to the future. I looked back at the group behind me, shuffling their feet slowly in the eerie quietness that should have been filled with the noises of busy cars going by and vendors selling newspapers on the street corners. There were seven in total but the group was once much larger. The group consisted of two small children who had been adopted by Jenni, a child herself. Only sixteen but she had taken the responsibility when no one else had. Mary, the junkie. Before the disease she was just a waste of life, begging on the streets of Toronto until she could scrounge up enough money for her next euphoria of dope. Though everyone in the group had changed from what they used to be in some way or other, she was always able to hold onto that tiny piece of herself still. Aber was an older man but he had his wits about him and he knew when to back me up. Finally my eyes rested on Sevina and Cable. They were lovers and had come to us in a gas station when we were a bigger group then. They only kept to themselves but that was fine. Having less people to care about made the world a bit easier. That was something we all started to realize. I thought about Clara again and instantly regretted it. Why did it always came back to her?

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