Little Devil

This story I wrote for Inkitt.com’s The Darkest Place horror writing competition.

Little Devil

The whisky and ice rattled softly in the glass as I stood over Thomas, fast asleep in his little bed. His face hidden under a mass of raven black hair. I took a sip of whisky and sighed. This wasn’t the first time I had watched him at night, drink in hand, pondering just how this little imp got here, into my home. He was almost four years old now and his occasional presence was still a source of confusion and disbelief. I had met his mother in a similar haze of alcohol, and it was under that same haze that I’ve been told we conceived this little gremlin. I stepped carefully out of Thomas’ room, my old gym room. I stepped over his discarded toys, trying not to stir him from his sleep.

I slumped down onto my recliner in the living room, the ice clacking loudly in the glass. I took a long draw from my whisky. I was lost in an existential sea of bad memories and moderately priced alcohol. Caught in a trap with no idea which limb to bite off and escape. If only I fought harder when Thomas’ mother came to me, swollen with pregnancy, with her accusations towards my busy sperm. I didn’t know her, I still don’t, not really. She wore me down, got me to doubt myself and what I might have done. I drained the last of the whisky from the glass and set it down on the floor next to my recliner. Old blues songs rang through my head. Songs of suffering and pain, cheating wives and hopelessness The suffering of others did little to put mine in perspective. I sighed heavily, surveying my living room while I mustered the motivation to get up and pour myself another drink. A pile of toy cars rested on a play mat of streets that had replaced the rug which was now rolled up against my wardrobe. That rug really tied the room together, and now I had a tiny city to walk all over.

I got up from my recliner and laid down on the floor, getting up close to the play mat city. I had one when I was Thomas’ age, it could even be this one for all I knew. I picked up at some charity shop one day in hopes that it would shut him up for five minutes. It was a bit worn out and stained but the kid seemed to enjoy it. I picked up a toy car and pushed it down one of the streets. I crashed it into another at a crossroad and wiped them both out. A dark thought ran through my head, wishing that maybe Thomas and his mother could meet their fate like this on their way home tomorrow.

“Is that what you really wish?” A voice whispered in my ear, a deep voice that slithered into my ear like a snake. I frantically got to my feet from my prone position on the floor. There was nobody there as I looked around the room, or in any of the rooms as I searched for an intruder. I checked the front door, which was still locked, before returning to living room. “I can make that happen for you…” I froze in place, questioning my sanity at that moment. A small flame ignited on the play mat, on the crossroad I crashed the car. I looked at it bewildered for a second before leaning down and attempting to extinguish it with my thumb. When I touched it, my hold arm felt like it was burning, like it was going to melt off to nothing. I reeled and the voice laughed. The little flame danced in time with the laughter. I got back down onto my stomach to have a closer look at the fire, It wasn’t spreading, it just sat there bobbing around as it laughed at my pain. I inhaled deeply and then tried to blow it out like a birthday candle. As the room retuned to it’s darkness, I let out a little shriek as I saw what stood in the place of the flame, a tiny devil.

I could feel his staring eyes like knives as the devil looked up at me. It’s presence weighed heavily on me. “You wish for the woman and child to die in a car accident?” the voice came again, smooth and slithering.

“No, no…” I stammered “I don’t want them dead, I don’t think I could bear having that on my conscience…”

“But you’re happy enough to fantasise about it” I couldn’t see his face but I was aware of the smug grin that came along with his words.

“I just don’t want to be around them, I want my life back. I wish he was someone else’s child.”

“Really?” His voice drew out the vowels as he asked, like he was toying with me.

“Yes.” I felt guilty but there was a feeling of relief that came with admitting out loud. There was a flicker of light as the devil’s flame reignited on the little play mat street, extinguishing again seconds later leaving a small mark like a cigarette burn. I lay on the floor for a while, consumed with my guilty thoughts before making the resolute decision that another whisky was the only way to make sense of this evening. Returning from the kitchen with glass in hand, I sat on the recliner with self-made promises to forget whatever mental break I had just experienced and with the remote in hand, turned on the TV. Channel hopping to find something to take my mind off it, maybe an old movie or if I was lucky, anything with half naked women. I was changing channels rapidly before something took my eye and I tapped the back button. 24 hour news, a woman crying, it hit me like a heart attack. Thomas’ mum. “Someone else’s child” had been my words and now there was someone else’s child asleep in my old gym room. Police were looking for Thomas. I dropped the glass of whisky onto the floor as my brain exploded with panic. Thoughts of life in jail chilled me to the bone.

I rushed to my bedroom and threw on some proper clothes and my jacket before quietly navigating the toys and silently picking up Thomas. I carried him with care out to the car. The streets were quiet, I just had to drive 20 minutes from here to Thomas’ house without any attention. I started the car and I could barely hear the motor over the sound of my heart beating in my ears. I prayed at the lights to stay green. With each one I passed, I felt a little safer. My heart sunk when I noticed that the next set of lights was by a bar. Drunks stumbled outside and I knew there had to be some police nearby to keep them in line. The light turned red and my eyes darted quickly between the lights and a drunk who was edging closer to the car, probably mistaking it for a taxi. He grabbed the door handle and it rattled in his hand. The light turned yellow and I floored the accelerator. The drunk screamed at me as the car drove away. He clutched at his fingers in the rear view mirror. Thomas stirred a little bit but quickly started snoring again.

I parked my car a street away from Thomas’ house and moved quickly while trying not to look suspicious or wake Thomas. I looked around for any signs of being watched as we came towards the house. I seemed to be in luck but I stuck to the shadows. In front of the house was a little fenced garden with a rusty gate that would probably wake all the neighbours. Instead I lifted Thomas over the fence and put him down on the grass. The cold would soon wake him and either he’d let himself in, or his crying would bring his mother. With Thomas safely placed in the garden, I slinked away. The temptation to burst into a run was overwhelming but I kept my cool. I got to the car and I could have screamed in relief, but I held it in, I didn’t feel safe yet. It was only once I was home that I felt safe and after all that I just wanted to sleep.

I don’t know when I managed to drift off to sleep but I woke up in the afternoon the next day. I had missed calls from work which I returned, claiming I was ill. I took a bin bag and collected up all the artefacts of Thomas from around the house before sneaking them into the neighbour’s wheely bin. I checked the TV for news, and breathed a sign of relief as it seemed I was in the clear. Thomas never saw me when he was someone else’s child so I guessed he had no memories of me. A little pang of sadness accompanied that thought but I soon forgot it as I reclaimed my life.

I spent the next couple weeks throwing myself into work, and down at the pub in the evenings. I felt liberated, not a care in the world. I was getting home from the pub late on Saturday when I sat down on the recliner and began flicking through the channels again, too wired to fall asleep. I almost cried when I saw her again, back on the 24 hour news. The reporter stood outside of Thomas’ house, men in white suits and masks behind her, flashes of blue and red lighting the house. She was dead and apparently not the only one. A local man had been found dead a few days before. His photo filled the screen, the drunk. My eyes were fixed to the screen, and my heart pounded when the door bell rang. I sat quietly, praying they’d go away as the bell rang again. I got up and moved quickly to the door, taking a deep breath, trying to think up excuses for the police. When I swung open the door, I thought for a second that they ran off. A prank. Something grabbed my leg and I looked down to see Thomas there, his mass of black hair clung to my leg. I didn’t know what to do, but there was no one else in the street and I took him inside before anyone could see us. He walked his wobbly little walk through to the living room and when I followed him through, he was sat in my recliner. He laughed to himself as he wiggled on the seat and pointed at the TV. It was still on the news, still reporting about his mother’s death. A chill ran down my spine. I rushed over to the TV to turn it off. Thomas’ laughing echoed in the room, gradually deepening into the laughter I had heard two weeks before. “Someone else’s child.”

I bolted from the room and down the hall, out into the street. I didn’t know where to go. Whatever was happening was insane, I prayed I was still drunk, that this was all a bad dream. There was a church a couple streets from where I stood and it seemed like a good idea to run in the direction of it’s spire. I ran down the road frantically but I lost my footing and stumbled face first onto the hard tarmac. Deep laughter boomed from yards away and I felt the stabbing pain of the devil’s gaze upon me. He walked towards me with Thomas cradled in his arms. The street lights blinked out as he came closer.

“Is this what you wished for?” His voice rang with smug pride.

“NO! I JUST WANTED TO GET MY LIFE BACK!!” I sobbed.

“Life is what you are given, we are just God’s play things.” The Devil turned his back to me and began walking away. I started after him when I was surrounded by light, and then pain as two cars smashed into me from both sides.

Some Kind Of Gas

I wrote this story late last year, and this is another story that hasn’t been posted online before. Perfect story for those with dentist-based paranoia.

Some Kind Of Gas

Sitting in the pristine waiting room, the old magazines seem antithetical. The worn-out pages in a state of slow decay, smell hidden by the clinical scent of industrial strength bleach. My hands dripping with sweat, soaking into the pages of Better Homes that I’m nervously thumbing through. I wonder how many other people’s hands have left their stain, blurring the photos of upmarket loft conversions. The filthy magazine’s misplacement hints at the true nature of what goes on here. It’s a place of sadism and perversity. My hands flick through the pages quicker. I’m not even looking at the magazine. I’m just trying to keep my hands from shaking.

My heart is pounding and I’m considering making a run for it when a slender hand lands on my shoulder. It feels like my skeleton is trying to escape when I whip my head around. The dental nurse smiles at me and tells me they’re ready for me now. My shaking hands fumble with the magazine, returning it to the well organised rack that I found it on before solemnly following the nurse towards the room. The kind of room that brings me so much dread. The placard on the door reads “Mr Sharpe: Dental Practitioner“. The name brings forth imagery of gleaming medical tools, drills, picks and scalpels. Dentists have always made me nervous, not just for their gristly vocation, but also for the fact that they’re not “Doctors”, they’re “Misters”. I can’t bare to think about their lack of qualifications as they go to work inside my mouth. Inside my head.

Mr Sharpe stands with his back to me as I enter the room, probably deciding which of his shiny tools to inflict upon me first. I uneasily lower myself into the chair, trying to find a soothing thought to calm my nerves. A wave of panic shoots through me as the chair starts to recline back, the procedure starting. The bright spotlight glares at me. It feels like the beginning of a puppet show and my mouth is the stage. The rest of the room seems dark outside of the spotlight and Mr Sharpe appears out of the shadows. He explains the procedure. Telling me that I’m in a lot of pain like I don’t already know. That due to my history of outbursts, I will be sedated during the procedure. Some kind of gas. Over before I know it he says. He retreats back into the shadows before returning, nozzle in hand. I can hear the quiet squeak of the valves as the mask is placed over my mouth and nose. The hiss of the gas and instructions to count back from one hundred. The shadows outside of the spotlight turn to liquid and start to move in like a tide, washing away the light. The light that beams off of Sharpe’s teeth is the last I see before being swallowed by the darkness.

I hear an echoed countdown fade into obscurity as my vision returns. I’m still in the chair but the rest of the room is gone. Instead there is a void. Black as far as I can see except for a small rectangle in front of me. I reach out to touch it but it’s further than I thought. I reach my feet out into the void and feeling something solid I stand up from the chair. The rectangle grows as I stride through the void until what was a foot tall is now 8 feet. A large puppet theatre, striped in red and white. The curtains are drawn shut and I can hear faint sounds of life inside. A chill runs down my spine at the sight of this strange stage and I step backwards to return to the chair.

A quiet squeak starts as the curtains part. The inside of the puppet theatre reveals itself, large pearls the size of bowling balls line the edges of the stage. I step forward again to see if I can see anyone inside. As I near the lip of the stage, a large wooden face bolts out from inside, startling me and knocking me onto my backside. The figure laughs raucously as I pick myself up. His hinged mouth flaps open and shut with a clacking sound. I cringe at the sight of this strange puppet. It’s old and the paint on it’s face is flaking away, revealing an older layer of paint and older layers beneath that. I can’t decide what it’s supposed to be, maybe once a clown. Now it just bobs around mocking me with it’s impression of laughter. I try to speak to it to find out where I am. It just dances infuriatingly. I approach the edge of the stage again and it’s flapping mouth snaps in my face. I swing my hands up to defend myself and my fist strikes the puppet. It flies off the stage and falls down passed my feet, disappearing into the black void that I assumed was the ground. I reach down to pick it up but it’s gone without a trace.

Drops of water drip on my neck and back as I’m hunched over. I straighten myself up and another drip strikes me, this time on the side of my face. I turn back towards the stage, the lost puppet’s true form on display. It thrashes around, lunging out from the edge of the stage. The pearls around the stage are twisting around to show indentations. Giant pearly teeth around a beastly thrashing tongue. The stage mouth gnashes at me as I edge away but my legs begin to shake. I wobble as the void moves around me, gravity changing direction, pulling me towards the hungry stage.

I tumble forward, narrowly missing the crushing teeth as I fall down into an unseen gullet. I hit whatever floor there is with a dull, painless thud. Still inside the void but this time the only sight to be seen is the mouth above me. The pearly teeth glisten above me like a ring of stars. A distant halo drifting lazily above me. Suddenly one drops down. A buzzing sound like that of a fishing reel accompanies it as it lowers down to me. It hangs in the air in front of me and I can see my face reflected in it’s polished ivory. I’m taken aback by a loud cracking sound from the other side of the dangling tooth. Quiet cracks continue to emanate from the unseen face of the tooth. I see something slowly sliding round the sides. They look like thin, hairy fingers at first but then they stretch too long. A loud pop rings through the air as the appendages snap into place. They begin to writhe and flail before the tooth drops to the ground and presents it’s new arachnid features. A large spider-like creature with a giant molar for an abdomen. It hisses and lunges forward, it’s mandible’s snapping at me. I kick it back to try and scare it off. It just flails it’s front limbs angrily before hissing at me again. I turn away and flee, praying that somewhere in the darkness there’s somewhere I can hide.

I run and run and while I manage to put some distance between me and the tooth creature, I don’t seem to be going anywhere at all. It feel like I’ve ran miles but the halo still looms above me. Exhausted and frustrated, I rub my eyes. With my head in my hands, I hear it. The buzzing reel. Louder this time. I quickly look back up. The halo is falling, cracking and unfolding in the air. I run again, lactic acid burning my muscles. Peripheral glimpses spy stretched out spider limbs ready to snatch me up. I duck and dodge as the hissing and snapping jaws of a beast narrowly miss me. They are close and all I can do is keep running. I think I’m starting to get away from them when my footing becomes uneven. The ground is spongy and I fall to my knees. Touching it, the ground is wet. Suddenly there’s a rapid movement and I’m forced to cling on.

I’m flung to and fro but I manage to hold my ground. I notice a new landmark has appeared on the horizon, a spot of light too far away. The spot of light starts to open wide, bathing the rest of the void in light, exposing everything hidden in the darkness. I find myself clinging onto a gargantuan tongue, trying it’s hardest to buck me off. Spider creatures rappel towards me from the light as my grip begins to weaken. The creatures are almost upon me, hungry mandibles seconds away. I push away from the tongue as it flicks me backwards, away from the light. I hit the ground face first and once again I’m in the darkness.

My eyes flick open and I’m back in the chair. The spotlight burns my retinas a little as my eyes adjust. Mr Sharpe smiles down at me as he tells me we’re all done. My hands are balled up in fists and soaked with sweat. I wipe them on my jeans as I pull myself up from the chair. My mouth is still numb. I smile weakly at Mr Sharpe as his nurse hands me my bill and tells me to pay the receptionist on my way out. I still feel a little out of it as I stagger out of the room. I wobble on my feet a little and a chill runs down my spine when I hear a buzzing noise. I pray it’s a drill but I fear it’s much worse.

Neighbourhood

Another old story, although unlike the last two this one has never been posted anywhere online before.

Neighbourhood.

My eyes flicked open in the pitch black darkness. The only indication that my eyes were actually open were the neon numerals of clock on the bedside cabinet. I’d woken due to a chill running down my back. Half of the bedsheets were bundled up over my legs and the space that Leigh usually occupies was vacant. I’d assumed that one of the girls had gotten up from a bad dream or something and Leigh had gone to deal with it without waking me. I sat up and swung my legs out of the bed. The door into the hallway was open and empty. No light or shadows, not a peep or a squeak. It was rare for a family home to be this peaceful and there was something unsettling about that. I rubbed the crust from my eyes as I made my way out of the bedroom.

At the end of the hall was the girls’ room. A dull beam of light peered out from the edge of the door. The little plug-in nightlight that kept my girls safe from their own scary dreams. I expected to hear my wife’s voice offering soothing reassurances as I got closer to the door adorned with “Jenny” and “Carrie” in large glittery letters. Not even the sound of little girl’s snores. The silence was only interupted by the creak as I pushed the door slowly, carefully in an effort not to wake them. The bunkbed that dominated the pink room with the floor that was more doll than carpet was empty. There was only the same bundled blankets that mimicked the one that had taken over half of my bed. I could feel dread deep inside me growing. I couldn’t help but begin obsessing of the worst. We had argued like most couples but Leigh had never threated to leave me, and that just made my thoughts more dark and terrible. Thoughts of abduction and home invasion raced through my mind.

My eyes were locked on that empty bunkbed, or at least it was until there was a change in my peripheral vision. Movement in the hallway. I moved quickly but when I reached the door whatever had been there was gone. Just a dark hallway. I edged towards the light switch. Light entered the room, a beam of light. The kind from a flashlight. I retracted my fingers away from the switch. Those thoughts of home invasion reverberated in my mind. I crouched down almost instinctively yet continued cautiously forward. Curiousity drove me towards the source of the light. It was coming from outside the house, through the frosted glass on the front door. The beam seemed to be intensifying, like if someone had just pulled their car into the driveway outside, except it was far too quiet for all that. The front door was to the right of the hallway, just around a corner where I had managed to conceal myself. I peered round but all I could see was the light, although it wasn’t just coming through the window. The door had been left open just a crack. I wanted to make a run for it, just close it and lock it. Put a barrier between myself and whoever was outside. But what if it was just Leigh and the girls? Maybe some noise from outside had stirred them awake and Leigh was just showing them there was nothing there. I felt ridiculous. I took a deep breath as I stood up from my crouching position. I shook my head and made towards the door.

The cold night air that leaked through the doorway felt cool on my bare feet. The beam of light was directly in my face as I swung the doors open. It moved forward quickly but it lowered away from my eyes as it drew closer. It was Harrison from across the street. We had been round to have a barbecue with him and a few of the neighbours a couple weeks back. His wife Gerri stood a few feet behind with a kind of deer-in-headlights expression across her face. Harrison didn’t say a word as he moved towards me. I opened my mouth to speak but before a word left my mouth he struck me. The flashlight was one of those big heavy-duty deals and it was being slammed repeatedly into the side of my head. I quickly lost consciousness.

As I stirred awake I slowly felt so many painful sensations. My head felt like it had swollen three times bigger and was throbbing. My muscles were tight, I tried to move into a more comfortable position but learned quickly that I was bound. My hands had been wrapped in bags and tied together. My ankles were digging into each other, tied tightly by ropes. While everything had been dark and generally absent of life before Harrison had attacked me, now was a direct contrast. From what I could see from my position in the grass of my front lawn, the street was awake. Lights on in every house. My ears were ringing from the pummeling I had taken. Thankfully Harrison had stopped, I thought that maybe one of the other neighbours had intervened. Talked Harrison down while the cops were on their way. It was hard to tell lying belly down.

A crowd had formed on the edge of my property and I could hear muffled conversation through the ringing. Calm voices. I felt a tugging at my feet, grass moving underneath prodding into my chest, then the rough texture of concrete. It grazed and cut into me but as we moved I managed to spin round onto my back. Harrison was pulling me along by a length of rope attached to my bound ankles. The other neighbours walked alongside. I yelled, trying to gain attention, an explaination. I didn’t even recognise my own voice through whatever damage that had been inflicted to my hearing. Even if they did acknowledge me, which they weren’t, no answers were coming my way. I tried to focus away from the grit and gravel that was shredding my back. Racked my mind at what I could have done to deserve this. I wasn’t a model citizen but I was no worse than average. My mind thought back to the barbecue, any drunken behavior that might have insulted Harrison or anyone else. My head bounced off the curb as he dragged me further down the street, towards the park. I thought of my wife and kids. I treated them right, didn’t I? This didn’t make sense. I screamed in frustration, but the procession of neighbours barely blinked an eye.

I struggled in my bindings. I’m an innocent man. I volunteered, I recycled, I was polite. The gate to the park creaked open and soon I was being dragged across grass again. I shrieked at the crowd and looked around for a merciful eye anywhere I could find it. Not one. I knew these people or at least I thought I had. Old ladies that I had helped with their shopping. Young children who had been round to play with Jenny and Carrie. They just stared up ahead. The dragging stopped and my feet hit the ground sharply. My body was surrounded by shadow in the moonlight. Harrison had stopped in front of a large tree, his hand planted firmly on the bark. He turned to his left and beckoned members of the crowd to move closer. Familiar figures breached the crowd. I recognised Leigh’s golden blonde hair immediately. This didn’t make sense. I flailed about and I could feel the rope cutting into my wrists and ankles. The girls were at her back and they stood calmly, staring as if waiting for a show to begin.

Harrison threw the length of rope around a branch and with the help of a few more of the neighbours, began to hoist me up. I could feel the blood drops rolling down my back and dripping from my shoulders as I was lifted entirely off the ground. I expected ceremony, some grand sermon to begin. Harrison to justify this act of cruelty. To let me in on my despicable acts. I strained my ears, trying to hear beyond the ringing for accusations, a list of my crimes. I looked around for moving mouths to attempt to lip-read about my abominable behaviour. Nothing. Calm staring faces. The throbbing in my head intensified with the blood pooling in my brain. An unbearable pain, quickly matched with another. Leigh had plunged a knife into my side. Tears streamed from my eyes but her face was blank from any expressions of malice. A teenage boy from down the street followed her actions, another knife penetrating my leg. I screamed out. My throat was raw. Peter, a retired man who had babysat Jenny a couple times a few years ago was making way through the crowd. As he reached the front I could see that he had a gas can in his hand. The liquid burned as it splashed into the cuts and grazes and in my eyes. Even with my eyes blurry and my ears ringing, I saw that little flicker of orange and yellow. The striking match. There was so many questions and no answers but it didn’t matter at the end of it all. All that was left was pain.

Failed Rituals

In 2010 I published my second story, Failed Rituals over on Creepypasta.com. It was translated again over on YouTube, This time into Spanish.

Failed Rituals

I really wish I had left that fucking light switch alone. Who would have thought the flick of a switch could mean the difference between life and death. Actually everyone’s thought that. That’s why I turned it on. Stupid little rituals that we take from childhood. The light will chase the monsters away, the blanket over your head will save you from the boogie man. And you just get more of these rituals as you get older. As long as you lock the doors and turn on the home security system, you can rest your head happily in your cozy little fortified home. No killers or psychos, monsters or boogie men.

But it doesn’t work. None of it. We always slip up some how. The one time you forget to lock that door. That’s when they get you. I would have been sound asleep if I hadn’t been woken by the loud slam as the front door blew open. I stumbled out of bed and down the hall to see it swinging back and forth. I moved quickly down the hall to secure it. A moment of panic swelled inside of me. My home felt like a crime scene. It wasn’t my safe little sanctum anymore.

Despite the overwhelming feeling of intrusion, there was no sign of disruption. Just the door. Just my careless mistake. I couldn’t comprehend it at first. It had to be a burgler or some psycho. I looked around the rest of the house. Checking every cupboard, every crevice. Nothing. I felt stupid but relieved. I just wanted to get back to bed, to forget this whole embarrassment. I flung myself back down on my bed, closed my eyes for just a second. I sat back up. There was no way I’d fall asleep unless I double-checked that I locked the door this time. I mean I was sure I had done it this time but I felt this was justified paranoia.

I got to the door and twisted the handle roughly about a dozen times, each time feeling the resistance of the lock. I smiled. Safe. I turned on my heels to go back to bed. But it was just a glimpse, a flicker of something in my peripheral vision that sent me swinging back into a panic. A shadow from the kitchen. I rushed in only to be confronted by my normal kitchen, bathed in moonlight. I sighed, questioned my sanity and decided that this, the longest night of my life must end. I went towards the bedroom once more. Another odd shadow crossed my path. As a shiver travelled down my spine, my tired mind braced apathetic denial and decided that it was probably the neighbours cat passing by the moonlit window.

I sat wide awake in my bed. Trying to lull myself to sleep. Counting in my head until I might eventually nod off. But everytime I closed my eyes that feeling of intrusion was still there. The hands of something unseen looming above my head. Every creak and every shadow filled my mind with the dread of my childhood. Those nights after being tucked in by my parents. Those same fearful thoughts of lurking terror. But it was nothing… right? More creaks. More movement in the shadows. I turned and pushed my face into the pillow. I felt something brush passed my foot which stuck awkwardly out from under my blanket.

I jolted upright, looking deeply into the darkness. Swirling shadows. The monsters. The boogie men. I felt around sheepishly for my phone. The dull light of the screen could put me at ease. Nothing on the nightstand and when my fingers roamed around the edge of the bed, instinctively I retracted them for fear of the unknown. I was alone but in the shadows I saw them, the monsters. Inky abominable beasts.

It was the only thing I thought could help me. I lunged from the bed directly at the switch. My palm slammed down on it and the room erupted into light. My eyes burned momentarily and I glanced round the room. Empty. Safe. Just paranoia. I shook my head and hit the switch once more. Climbing into bed in the pitch black. No shadows without my nightvision. But now I hear them. I can’t see them now. I don’t know what they want but I know I can’t leave. The rituals have failed. They’re on the other side of this blanket and all I can do now is hope that they’re gone in the morning.

Persuaded

I originally posted this over on Creepypasta back in 2008. Also if you’re German, a fan translated it over on YouTube.

Persuaded

It’s been 2 weeks since this whole thing started.

It all started with a tanker accident. It was all over the news. Everyone thought it was just another oil spill. There were plenty of volunteers. Plenty of people wanting to help the poor defenseless animals. Plenty of victims. Within hours of the tanker accident, it started happening. The animals had gone crazy, they were scratching and biting the clean up volunteers. They said that it was an adverse effect to whatever was in that tanker.

Rescue workers were still trying to get the crew out of the ship. They could hear screaming inside. Screams to open the doors. But that’s when it all went to hell. As soon as they cut the door out.

There was 6 minutes of broadcast before it went silent. 6 minutes of screaming and agony. The ship crew attacked the rescue workers like rabid baboons. Breaking bones and tearing flesh. The people on the shore weren’t fairing any better. Those that had been attacked by animals were attacking everyone else. It was worse than any war zone report, it was sheer brutality, and yet the broadcast still went on for 6 minutes. 6 minutes and then blank faces. Nobody could explain what was happening. They tried to continue with regular news, the economy, the weather, a cute human interest story, but they couldn’t make us unsee what we saw.

I tried to continue with my regular existence but every time I switched on the news or walked by a news stand it was there. This big mystery. They had some explanations, some kind of infection, brain parasites, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t an infection we were afraid of, it was them.

4 days after the initial report, a state of emergency was raised. And yet we’d all seen this before. Every zombie movie ever. People didn’t know who to trust. People were stockpiling food and weapons. Some tried to flee but it seems every zombie movie was right. They didn’t make it. 3 days later they arrived in my town.

I expected moans, shuffling corpses, dismemberment, but that’s where the movies lied. They ran through the streets, screaming. I remember running to my front door as fast as I could, locking, barricading, doing anything to make sure it would stay shut, and then I headed for the window. I was on the second story and I could see the carnage. They were unstoppable. They were aware.

A group of them made there way through a building across the street. They jumped straight through plate glass windows. Even the shards slicing through them made no difference, they just kept coming. My barricade wasn’t going to hold. I rushed around my flat, grabbing supplies and jamming them into the most secure room of the flat. I went back for one last look across the street, and I wish I hadn’t. In a second story window, my face met one of theirs. They knew where I was. I quickly dashed into the room and locked the door.

I don’t have any kind of panic room, or a secure basement, so the safest place I could think of was my bathroom. No windows, one door with a lock. I had filled my sink and bathtub full of water, So I could stay for a while. So I sat there in the dark room, with the distant screams in my ears.

I began to feel like I may have over-reacted, it had been 2 hours and no sign of them. It actually got quieter and I thought they had moved on. Maybe I could leave the room, get to the kitchen. Grab more food to wait it out. A crash came from the front door. The sound of someone running full force into the door and knocking down the barrier behind it. There was a couple more crashes before I knew they were inside. Rapid footsteps moving around the flat, a couple screams and then a bang on the wall beside me. My eyes were open to their widest, even in the pitch black darkness of the room. Another bang, and another. They knew I was there and they knew I was scared.

This was the zombie nightmare I had been expecting from the start. I had nowhere to run. There was only so much time before they would break in. I sat with my back to the door, hoping my extra weight would make it harder for them to get in. And then it got worse.
“why don’t you open the door?”

A voice on the opposite side of the door. No screams or moans, just a quiet, whispery voice. And then more of them.

“we’ve come for you.”
“you’ll be happier if you open the door”
“it’s not so bad…”

The whispery voices, became a cacophony of noise trying to persuade me, to break me, to fool me. I had heard that the moaning of zombies would drive people insane but this was worse, a siren call. I sat in the darkness and hoped and prayed that they’d get bored. But they don’t get bored and they don’t leave. I managed to use the mirror to peak under the door, only to be greeted by horrible unblinking eyes, blood smeared faces, screams and more horrible whispers. That was two days ago…

I don’t know what to do anymore… maybe it won’t be so bad…

The Thing That Never Dies

Greetings Ghouls!

It’s been a hectic couple months since I last posted and I’ve been focused on my fiction work elsewhere on the internet. The next few posts are going to be various stories I have written. There will be some more thought pieces coming soon too, but first enjoy some of my creepy tales.

Season’s Shriekings

It’s that time of year where all the naughty boys and girls with an unhealthy obsession with the macabre like to settle down next to the fire and watch a festive fright flick. Black Christmas, maybe Gremlins, maybe even a little bit of Silent Night Deadly Night. However looking at the roster for Christmas horror films, it’s a bit limited. Almost entirely populated by either slashers in Santa disguises, or just straight up evil Santas, the time has come to diversify our holiday horrors. Here’s a few suggestions on how to use some of our other favourite horror sub-genres at Christmas.

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While Christmas can be a fairly torturous experience for many of us, with the family obligations, the barbarity of the general public if you work retail this time of year, and the brain-bending misery that is figuring out just what to buy Grandma this year, there’s plenty room for some more visceral torture. How about something transformative, a Christmas tree salesman who makes his own by abducting a guy and surgically attaching more limbs before decorating it with baubles pierced through skin and asphyxiating tinsel.

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Maybe you prefer something a little less medical, and a little more homely. How about a Body Horror focusing on the ultimate pushy Grandma, force-feeding her brood with gut-expanding amounts of gravy, turkey and brussel sprouts. A soundtrack of choking gasps and farts over “I wish it could be christmas everyday” by Wizard, would be enough to turn the stomach of even hardened horror fans.

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While it’s usually the jolly fat man who’s dishing out the punishments in our Christmas horrors, how about a little revenge for the retail workers. A bit of the old Death Wish as a shop assistant abused by Christmas Shoppers is pushed passed the limits of sanity and goes on a home invasion killing spree (You just had to agree to that warranty, we know where you live now…) and using their gifts against them, getting some vigilante justice. Garrotted with jewellery, maimed by electrical goods, there’s plenty room for some imaginative kills.

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Christmas time is a time for children, and while the Evil Children sub-genre could easily run rampant (as it should), my suggestion is slightly different. A bullied child visits a mall Santa and whispers into his ear their Christmas wish. This Santa is the real deal however and grants the kid’s wish. A wish to be stronger. The kid discovers powers beginning to form, telekinetic powers. Basically I’m saying to rip off Carrie. Replace the Prom scene with a school nativity play and go wild.

So those were just a couple ideas to whet your appetite for festive frights. If you want to use any of these ideas, contact me at horror365@ymail.com or through twitter @horror365. If not I might just have to get these under the tree for next year’s christmas.

Christopher Stewart

“King of Creeps”

Live by the rules, Die by the rules

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One unique thing about horror as a genre is that it’s almost always evolving. Horror cinema is so massively populated with dozens of films being released weekly supported by a huge indie scene. Tropes and clichés are often subverted to give all us hungry gore-hounds something to feast upon, something fresh and exciting. If it’s not, then there’s the other side of horror cinema, the scrutiny. More than any other genre, Horror has many meta films that show self-awareness and use that awareness to rip apart all those sub-standard films that clutter up our DVD collections. They show us The Rules of Horror. However, has the time come to break those rules?

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When you think of The Rules, first thing that usually jumps to mind is Wes Craven’s Scream. The Scream franchise was always a send-up of the Slasher genre and it gave us rules like “Never say ‘I’ll be right back’.” The other two rules in that famous scene being Don’t get wasted and Don’t have sex. Those rules are pretty forgiving. If you find yourself in a slasher film scenario I think you could follow those pretty easy. Scream’s commentary on lazy by-the-numbers horror films gave us the tools to criticise any film that wasn’t pushing the envelope.

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Other films that followed such as Cabin in the Woods, and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon continued to add rules for us to recognise. Particularly in the character archetypes. The Final Girl, AKA The Virgin. The Slut. The Jock. The Stoner. The Brain. This Breakfast Club cast of mashed up social groups to diversify their teen audience regardless of the reality that they’d ever really hang out. These are the standard set that you will see in even some more inventive horror films, and almost all of the bog-standard ones.

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The question I have to ask is; with all these rules that have established their place in the horror genre, are we closing our minds to the interpretation of more creative horror? Most of us know what we’re getting into when we’re getting ready to watch a horror. We know the characters we’re bound to see, what kind of creepy location their going to end up in, and in some cases who’s going to die and what order. If you’ve been to the cinema in the last year to see any horror, the majority of the time I’d be shocked if you were surprised by anything being shown. The usual trend-following has left us with all the same demon possession/haunting films for the last 5 years. Yet those little gems that pop up, that challenge the norm, do we give them the same fighting chance? Do we look at them and expect nothing more that gore, boobs, and a couple of jump-scares? As soon as we’ve decided that a character is a slut or a stoner, will we mentally register them as anything else regardless of character development?

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While I think there are plenty of horror fans out there who are open to change and growth within the genre, there’s also plenty of the other kind out there, loudly declaring their disgust either in the cinema or on their blogs. Declaring that horror ain’t what it used to be without giving a second thought that maybe they’ve missed the point. You won’t be pleasantly surprised by a film if you’re bogged down with pre-determined judgements. I remember watching Wrong Turn 2, going in thinking it was going to be terrible, the idea of setting it during a reality TV show and the usual cast of horror fodder. Turned out to be clever and more importantly different. I want more films like that (Just not necessarily more Wrong Turn films…)

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Another Man’s Shoes

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One major trend in modern horror cinema is the Found Footage sub-genre. Mimicking the style of documentary or home video style film-making, the sub-genre attempts to put the audience into the shoes of the protagonist, or at the very least try to convince us that what is occurring on screen is something that has happened in our own reality. Many horror fans however have begun to tire of this style and the question must be asked, are we done with Found Footage?

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While most people credit The Blair Witch Project (1999) with the creation of this sub-genre, generating a box office success from it’s style and being hailed for it’s ingenuity on a low budget ($22,000), it was Cannibal Holocaust (1980) that got there first (actually there were many Found Footage films before Blair Witch, including The Last Broadcast, Forgotten Silver, and Man Bites Dog.) Cannibal Holocaust was infamous in it’s use of the Found Footage style, leading to director Ruggero Deodato being arrested on Obscenity charges, claiming that he was showing a snuff film and that some of the actors had been killed. The charges were dropped when it was found out that the actors were still alive (they had agreed to lay low while the film was out to fool people into thinking it was real). Sadly few films after that have fooled their audience to that same degree. Personally I will still get on occasion people asking me if certain films are real, or try to convince me of the legitimacy of particular events that films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are based on. However the mass-majority fail to believe such tales these days.

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The intimate level of perspective offered by Found Footage films are comparable to horror in a different medium. Horror literature (or literature in general) is often written from the point of view of a narrator protagonist. We get right inside the head of the person who is experiencing all the dread, sharing in all the fear and terror. However unlike Found Footage, the narrator leads us with an internal monologue, their stream of consciousness. The closest thing to that we might experience in a Found Footage film is the occasional rambling of the person behind the camera (usually to the effect of “What was that!?”) The internal monologue also fixes one problem that dogs the sub-genre, that question that takes us out of the story, “Why are they still filming?”.

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There’s only so long you can standby and film atrocities. While some Found Footage will focus on the voyeuristic nature of the camera, the majority of them use it as a way to get around paying to make the film look professional. The main reason these films are popular among first time directors is because they are cheap. Sticking to this style for the duration of the film however often damages the plot because it becomes unbelievable that we’re still watching the footage. The [REC] franchise is one that managed to make a bold change of style away from Found Footage. While the first two instalments were notably successful Found Footage films, the third [REC] film moved away from the style (In a joke towards the style, it did start off Found Footage until they beat up the cameraman for not helping). Behind The Mask: Rise of Leslie Vernon, is another that also did this with it’s third act, choosing to drop it’s documentary style when the documentary crew decide they’ve got to stop filming and help. Both of these films fail to make us believe that they are documenting real-life cases and proceed to only entertain the audience, yet most Found Footage films fail to make us believe they’re real anyway so is the style so important?

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The Found Footage style doesn’t need to go away all together, it just needs to be thought out better. A well thought out and well written horror film will always be better regardless of style. Films like the VHS franchise make up some of the better Found Footage films out there due to the short film anthology format, the stories don’t out-stay their welcome and we never ask why they’re still filming. We could also utilize the point of view sequence more without having to use the device of characters holding cameras. The 2010 film, La Casa Muda (also known as The Silent House, which was remade in 2011) often went into POV mode for parts of the film. La Casa Muda’s simulated “Shot in one take” style often had the camera drifting around, sometimes into a character’s eye-line and then taking over as that character’s point of view. I think more films could take advantage of this in more intense moments.

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Found Footage no longer scares us into thinking that it’s real, but they do put us in the vulnerable position of the protagonist’s shoes. If they can just bring a little more of that intimacy that exists in horror literature, they could be onto something truly terrifying. Until there’s something better than maybe a clunky film-noir style narrator over the top of it, I’m not sure how to get there yet.

Sex and Death

If you’ve seen your fair share of Slasher movies, you must be aware that one of the first people to die will be someone who has snuck off to have sex. Sex gets you killed in horror movies. It’s the kind of fact that channels the genre’s origins in old cautionary tales. The kind of Little Red Riding Hood story except exchange “Don’t stray from the path” to “Don’t have sex in old crime scenes”. While it all seems common sense to the viewing audience, do these old cautionary tales in our modern horror movies promote bad sexual attitudes?

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The idea that you will die if you have sex in a horror movie is the kind of abstinence-only sex education that has become out-dated in modern society, which would be relevant if the creators of horror films had any intention of teaching their audience about sex. It’s supposed to be a reflection of the twisted authoritarian ideas of slasher film killers (often pushed onto them by an abusive parent). Also it’s an easy way for horror film makers to get in a little bit of nudity to attract an audience. Follow up that nudity with some gratuitous violence and you’ve got yourself a hit with the young, heterosexual male audience that at one point made up the majority of the horror audience.

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One of the major archetypal characters in slasher films that we can all recognise is the “Slut” character. Often she is one of the first characters to get killed off, if not the very first. She will have little to no character traits other that being horny, probably a bit dim and physically attractive. While those character traits are not in themselves problematic, it is a problem that they are the only character traits. Writing female characters this way reinforces the idea that women are nothing more than disposable sex objects. I said before how the Slut character is “one of the first characters to get killed off”, in older horror films there was another archetypal character who was often killed off before the slut which was the Token Black Character, often thrown in to appear inclusive but these days is rarely used because it appears insensitive to make someone’s race (based on ridiculous stereotypes) their sole character trait. The Slut is getting to that point, that it is insensitive and dated and should be put to bed. The fact that the archetype name is entirely derogatory is evidence enough.

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To move away from the slasher sub-genre, there are many more sub-genres of horror that are more geared to entire plots focused around sex. There are plenty horror films, such as A Serbian Film, Feed, and The Bunny Game, that centre their plot around more disturbing circles of fetish culture and pornography. The British Board of Film Certification often gives these films a hard time, demanding cuts to be made as was the case for A Serbian Film, or banned outright like The Bunny Game. You would think, maybe if it got banned it’s a film so shocking and exciting that it’s probably fantastic. The Bunny Game is terrible, little plot and heavily promotes sexualised violence. The BBFC are strongly against sexualised violence and it was due to the fact The Bunny Game has little else to offer that got it banned. These films are often extreme and disturbing but the behaviour is almost always betrayed as deplorable. By demonising sexual violence, do these horror films guide people away from acting in a similar fashion?

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The Rape Revenge sub-genre was a product of the 70s exploitation cinema era, with notable films including Last House on the Left, I Spit on your Grave, and Straw Dogs. All these films shared a common plot line, that during the course of the film a young woman would be raped (and sometimes murdered) and either the young woman or one of her loved ones would get their bloody revenge. It is often said that the rape scene is acceptable because 1) it is showing a real world horror and it’s terrible nature, and 2) that the rapists are shown getting punished for their horrendous actions. However by making a whole sub-genre of this it seems to trivialise the act of rape, reducing it to nothing more than a standard plot-point that has to be visited before we can move on to the gory retribution.

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The last sub-genre I want to mention is the female predator sub-genre. Films like Species, Jennifer’s Body, Under the Skin, and to some level, Teeth, all fall into this sub-genre. While the female characters in these kind of films are generally more fleshed out and interesting characters, they are normally shown as evil. I would say that Teeth is the biggest exception to this because the female lead, while she does use this power to inflict cruel justice, it is still justice. Jennifer in Jennifer’s Body does kill boys out of her demon blood lust, but there is a sympathetic angle because men made her that way. The sub-genre shows that these women (or creatures in the form of women) are evil creatures that exploit the weakness of a male libido to gain power over men and that these women (or women-shaped creatures) should be destroyed.

While horror is a massive genre full of compelling, subversive, and thoughtful films, there are still many that are being made that will often use old tropes and clichés that can be concerning. We don’t need to keep making films where women are nothing but powerless sex objects, and that rape is nothing but a plot-point. There’s nothing wrong with using our insecurities about sex to create new cinematic nightmares, just hopefully more progressive nightmares.