Madness’ Sole Soul: A Short Story

Madness’ Sole Soul

A Short Story by Robert J. S. T. McCartney

 

“I’m sorry, it has to be this way,” he remembered his mother saying. She left him—left them all. Now, they were all being hunted down by an unknown person (or maybe organization?). Rumor was that his mother was collecting other family members to help her purge those that were left and would get in her way of officially taking over the family since his father’s untimely demise. The lands, she believed were hers; as was the town. It was her birthright. That even though the past had tarnished what should have been regulated to her—she was persistent on correcting. Everything would return to her: the land, the town, the family name—everything. It would only be a matter of time until he would perish. So, he supposed on the issue.

It was true, she had left his step-father for an old fling from the “glory days” or what have you. Perhaps to gain leverage in use against her remaining members of the Hessen household. Though he never saw eye to eye with the man he came to acknowledge as a father figure in his life, he felt sorry for him. Vengeance, karma, these things have a way of working out. Order must be maintained in the universe. Time will work its hands the way it sees fit.

The day had come—one he had anticipated. The hitmen (or so he alleged) had come for the step-father, for him, for the rest of them.

“You need to get out of here, John. I can deal with them.” The young man steeled himself with a knife in hand. “Run, run as fast as you can. Don’t look back.”

“What you’re talking about is madness, Eric. Your mother could never do such a thing! Not to us, especially, to you.” John was flabbergasted at the information that had been collected and evidence that suggested his wife had, indeed, put a price on his head and the rest of the family.

“Go before it’s too late! There’s no time to argue. I know you’re not my real father, but I do look up to you like one.” Eric gripped the knife tighter as he clenched his jaw. John nodded and gathered a few things, before hurrying straight out the back door.

Out front, Eric heard an engine approaching. He opened the massive oak door to see a black SUV coming up the drive to the estate. “Typical fashion,” Eric mumbled aloud before closing the door.

He peeked out the window to see the occupants disperse from the vehicle. He knew them all. “My Uncles? Aunts?” He noted two more vehicles coming to the estate. “This…cannot be good,” he said.

A voice came from behind him. “Hello, dear brother.”

Sister.

“Hello, dear sister,” Eric replied, still peeking out the window. “Quite the family reunion we have today; unannounced in fact. Any reason as to why?”

His sister grimaced. “Did you not hear? There’s a high price for you and ‘dad.’ We are all here to collect—it’s nothing personal. I could use the money to take care of a lot of things.”

Eric sighed. “You were always greedy. We have vast wealth as it is and yet, you squander it.” His words struck a nerve. “You do know mother will only kill you after you kill John and I, don’t you?”

“I am aware of that. I have taken precautions. I’m afraid John is already. . .disposed. He didn’t get very far,” she smiled.

Eric grit his teeth. “The man was hardly any threat, let alone needed to be involved. You could have spared him, you cold-hearted bitch.”

“Please, I have been called worse,” his sister laughed.

“And soon you will be dead, all of you. I will make sure of it—mom included. I won’t let any of you live anymore.”

“Bold words, little brother, but remember I am older,” she replied sharply.

“Remember, I planned ahead,” he grinned.

Eric’s sister pulled out a knife of her own and motioned to attack him. “At least you will die with some honor, bitch.” He quickly disarmed her and slashed her arm; sending her to recoil in pain.

“You little bastard,” she screamed.

Eric moved in hastily and stabbed her in the gut and slashed upward, bringing her to her knees and to be embraced by death.

“Sorry, Julie, but it’s nothing personal,” Eric said as he twisted the blade once more into her neck.

The door opened and in came the rest of the family: his aunts, uncles, cousins, and his mother.

“Well, you certainly save us the time in having to find you, son,” his mother stated.

“Mom…”

She looked over at the dead body of her daughter. “I see you took care of your sister. Good job, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree alright.”

“You all are ridiculous. Acting together to kill another of your family? For what? For money? Land? You will all stop at nothing after this matter is settled to make sure you solely get all of it.” Eric shook his head. “Your greed consumes you.” He pointed to his mother. “Your whore ways and betrayal to this family will be your undoing, dear mother. I will kill you all.”

His mother laughed. “You sound just like your grandfather. He used to believe we had some ‘disease’ within us that drove us mad. Granted, that’s what got him locked up. As cunning as he was, he was no match for me. It’s just human nature, sweetie. Kill or be killed.”

Everyone eyed one another, uncertain of who would betray who.

“Kill him,” Eric’s mother ordered.

The cousins were the first to swarm him, and they were the first to die. He effortlessly slaughtered them and left them dead on the floor. Then came his aunts. The one that had a change of heart was only to be stabbed in the back by his mother. They too fell in the bloody heap that was amassing in the house’s grand foyer.

Three uncles and Eric’s mother remained. They spread out around him and slowly motioned towards him. “I wish you a merciless death, dear uncles,” Eric said as he went after his more overweight uncle. He ran and leaped at the man, stabbing him in the neck and under the jaw. Collapsing atop him, Eric stabbed him a few more times in the chest before rolling off him and readying for another attack. The next attacker came, and Eric disarmed him and stabbing him with his own blade; then used his body as a shield against his other attack. He slid on the ground and slit the Achilles tendons of his last uncle, and then sliced up his backside.

“Mother, you are all that remain. It appears things did not go as you had hoped,” said Eric.

“On the contrary, honey. You did the legwork for me,” Eric’s mother replied. She then drew a small pistol from behind her.

She smiled menacingly. “Never bring a knife to a gunfight, sweetie. Thank you for getting rid of everyone for me.”

Eric reached behind him and withdrew his gun and shot his mother in the chest several times, “I knew you would.”

He approached his fast-dying mother’s side. “The only difference, mom, is that I didn’t hesitate and make a big speech before I pulled the trigger. Perhaps now you can be at rest.” He kissed her on the cheek and looked at her dimming green eyes. “I love you,” and then pointed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger once more.

One by one, he went around to each family member and shot them in the head. He called the cleaning service that the family used in cases of messes like these. He gave them all a proper burial, despite them having tried to kill him. Ownership and duty fell to him now. Eric was the lord of the manor, the land, and town that came with it. He was the sole survivor of Hessen Estate Massacre.

He was granted everything, although the attorney thought it to be proper to read the wills and testaments of the deceased. Sifting through the mess, Eric had found a piece of paper that clarified more things for him. He handed it to the lawyer.

Clearing his throat, the lawyer read aloud. “It is hereby declared that under article nine, sub-article three, clause eleven, that in the event of the purge of the household, all assets fall to the surviving heir. Debts will be settled with the provided fund, and any outstanding family members outside of second cousins will cease any violent interaction. Half siblings hold no right, nor just cause, and are therefore exempt of any claim to the family name, land, or township. If so claim is ever made, they will be disbarred, and the assets will become forfeit to the state.”

Eric sighed at this. The lawyer shook his hand and eventually left.

In due course, Eric readied himself to leave the house for good. As he is about to close the door, one by one, his family all appeared before him.

“Eric, can you forgive us,” his mother asked.

“We are sorry. . . We should have been a better family,” an aunt stated.

“Time wasted. . .” an uncle added.

“We all could have been better,” his sister agreed.

“No, it was my fault,” he said. They all looked to him, puzzled. He returned their gaze in spite and anger. “It was my fault. . .for being so weak. You may haunt me and my dreams, but you cannot escape your damnation. Suffer your fates, you wretched kin.” The house trembled and shook, and the spirits vanished; returning to their relics, paintings, and pictures. Slowly he pulled the door behind him, closing and leaving behind it all.

Eric took a seat outside in a rocking chair and rocked in it. He noted the gray sky that seemed to have plagued the day. He sighed aloud.

The family car and chauffer pulled up. He noted his serviceman and driver in black attire, with two cousins that laid claim of wanting no involvement of what had transpired. Slowly, he got his pale self, up and ventured to the car.

The driver motioned for the cousins to get in the car. Eric remembered the driver had made prior claims before that he shared his distaste for the twin cousins. He always thought they were up to no good. To spur a change in the young master’s mood, the driver accelerated and would leave a short distance between them and the car.

“Stop, Thomas. Let them in,” Eric stated.

“Thank you, Eric,” replied the one cousin who sat in front of him. The other cousin nodded and sat next to Eric. The car then rumbled away from the estate.

Soon, down the driveway, the cousin who sat next to Eric, took out a knife and slit his throat, then his brother’s throat, and then his own throat. He had tried to strike the driver but was held back by the serviceman in the back.

“Is he alright, Bennie,” Thomas asked the man in the back who applied a handkerchief to Eric’s neck. “Drive—drive to the bloody hospital!” Bennie looked back down at the bloodied Eric. “Put pressure on it! Hold it, young master!”

Eric could feel the warmth slowly leaving him. He also felt the heat of his dead cousin departing him as well.

“Faster,” Eric gasped.

Eric looked at the rearview mirror from the backseat. Who he saw was not his reflection, but rather his grandfather’s. “Grandpa?”

 “Eric, do you see now? Do you see why I did what I did?” Sadness overcame the old man’s wrinkled face. “I loved my family. Honestly, I did. I loved you all. But what I saw—what I knew that was harbored deep within, I knew it was only a matter of time. Even when shown kindness, we’ve all turned on one another. You know it well, my grandson. We carry a sickness—one that spreads like a plague. It must be contained, Eric. It must be put down.

Eric nodded. “I understand. I will purge them all. I will carry this mantle—this burden. For our family.”

His grandfather smiled and then vanished into nothingness. Eric looked out the window to the cloudy sky and the buzzing street corners. He closed his eyes and greeted the darkness.

Some time passed, Eric stared out at the gardens at the hospital. The sun shined brilliantly everywhere. He caught a glimpse of himself, and his family behind him, all mourning. He grinned as he lightly rubbed his bandaged neck. “I’m not dead yet.”

It begins again. This time the madness will be contained.

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Cover image for The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows by Robert J. S. T. McCartney

What Would You Say to…Free?

Cover image for The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows by Robert J. S. T. McCartney

They lurk in the shadows. They could be anyone…or anything.

Hello, everyone.

The ebook version of the novelette The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows has been released for free on Smashwords, iBooks, and Amazon.

You can download it here and choose your format.

Alternatively, you can click “here” for listing formats below.
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Click here for .doc
Click here for .txt
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Description:

Idris Sinclair lives a rather typical life; helping his family run their cherished diner. However, all the normalness he knows in life is about to go straight out the window when he happens to break into an abandoned van in the restaurant’s parking lot. He discovers a small weapon’s stockpile and various files, involving affairs foreign to him.

As night begins to set in, the family is involved in one of our government’s most heinous and dastardly secrets involving entities, not of this world.

It walks among us. It could be anyone—or anything. Suspect everyone you know, or you pass on the street. There is nowhere where you are safe. Run all you want; it will only make you taste more delicious to it.

It’s too late. It already knows where you are.

It’s. Here.


 

I hope you enjoy the story. There will be a continuation of this story. Don’t worry. 😉

Look for Lilah’s Guide to Hoyle coming soon.

RJM

[Free Ebook] The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows

Cover image for The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows by Robert J. S. T. McCartney

They lurk in the shadows. They could be anyone…or anything.

Hello, everyone.

The ebook version of the novelette The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows has been released for free on Smashwords, iBooks, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

You can download it here and choose your format.

Alternatively, you can click “here” for listing formats below.
Click here for .PDF
Click here for .doc
Click here for .txt
Click here for .epub
Click here for .mobi

For iBook users, click here.

For Amazon users, click here.

For Barnes and Noble, click here.

I hope you enjoy the story. There will be a continuation of this series.

Look for Lilah’s Guide to Hoyle coming soon.

RJM

 

The Crucifixion of Edward Croix

Pirate Orange Cells via Image After

“There are worse things in life than death.” It’s true, at least for me anyway. I don’t even know how long it’s been. I’ve lost count of the days and stopped caring really. There’s no hope of leaving this place; truth be told, alive or dead, and in all honesty, I’d rather the latter.

My name is Edward Croix. I used to be a pawn in the vast game called Wall Street. I was married, had kids, had a nice house with a white picket fence…I can almost barely remember my past life before being taken. All I know is I had it all, I wanted more, and that led to me being here.

There is little to no light in here. I can’t see my hands, hell, I can’t even tell if my eyes are open. All around me, the darkness plays its tricks on me, but the shadows are my only company. I have no real clothing on, save for my underwear…if there was much of that left. It’s probably more like a loin cloth now, I guess. There’s no nearby lakes, bodies of water. No railways, highways, or other things to distinguish exactly where the hell I am. It’s just cold and dark.

Certainly, I’d rather be elsewhere, anywhere in fact, but here even in a grave. You may be wondering where I am? What kind of predicament am I in? I honestly haven’t an answer that could make sense; other than that I believe Hell could be a lot more of a lovely retreat than where I am. There are screams all around me from people. I can hear kids crying, screaming. There’s blood dripping off the equipment they use to torture folks. They even have animals; dogs, cats, and only God knows what else to fuel their sick, demented wheel of torment.

At times, I suppose it’d be night? Well, at night time, they gather up the ‘lucky few’—as they call them—and moments later you can hear this heinous and atrocious whirling sound—like a blender, or a grinder. I’d press my face up against the cold metal door, trying to peek in the small sliver of a crack, down the hall at the ever-so-warm light at the end of the corridor. For a moment, you hear them all clamoring, screaming, begging for their lives, and then a few seconds later—nothing. Nothing but soggy meat sloshing around. To which, I suppose that’s probably what they feed us. Typically, I can hear someone whistling a tune while he makes the makeshift meatloaf. It’s catchy really. Sometimes I feel tempted to whistle along with, but I guess that would be bad practice.

I have no cellmate. No one to converse with over our shared fate. They like us weak. In fact, they like to break our ankles, our feet, our knee caps—and for good measure, cut our Achilles’ tendon. You eventually become accustomed to crawling around. Once, someone tried to strangle one of the guys when they brought food. Props to them…they killed one of the bastards, but they got a one-way ticket to the chef’s choice platter. From what I could hear, they strung the guy up; limb by limb gave him a saline bag and started dismembering him piece by piece. Each time, they’d cauterize the wounds. The guy had a hell of a will to live, I’ll say.

Eventually, they severed his genitals and his tongue…and well…had fun with his orifices using said items. I’d like to think he passed before then, but I don’t know. They probably had fun further defecating, desecrating and fornicating with the poor saps dismembered body.

You’d think that being kept in the dark; you’d not be able to picture things so vividly. However, you hear things, smell things—God, do you smell things, taste things…and you can see clear in the night; the things that go more than bump in the night. You never see their faces. You never see anyone’s face—not even your own. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. There was a guy named Keith, good guy, I guess. Well, he had a bad run in with one of the guys. Apparently, there was an exchange of some sexual favors and well…one of the supers caught wind of things and didn’t like the idea of one of the guys spoiling the goods for The Boss. Seeing as he liked his keep fresh, and somewhat clean—least of STDs. Well, old Keith and the one guy had a face swap. The Doc, as he was called, came in and had a field day. He took a box cutter and made Keith’s face come off, and swapped it with the one guy’s. It was a good several hours of screaming. I didn’t get sleep that night. Last I remembered, they wanted to have some more fun with their bodies, but The Boss got tired of it all and ordered them to be tossed into the burn pit.

The women were treated the worst here. Most were slaves: either for sex, ‘housework’, more sex, entertainment [did I mention sex?], and the cruel bearing of The Boss’ bastard children. It didn’t matter to them if they were fat, skinny, big titted, big assed, small and tight, tiny, tall. They were all meat…for pleasure and nourishment. Rape was, of course, standard. They’d have massive orgies in The Boss’ lair, dinner parties…I’m using ‘dinner’ lightly here. They’d have wrestling matches, stripteases, and other typical outside events; just with a slight twist where the loser would be devoured by either animals, ghouls—which was a horrendous fate in itself, or be dragged to the chef to do as he pleased.

The children…Mother of God…the things they’d make the children do, participate in, brainwash them to become…I get so furious! If there were anything worthwhile in here for me to do, it’d be to slay all these bastards, and at the very least, free the kids. They make them perform heinous acts, lewd and crude. They rape them. They make brothers and sisters copulate against their will, and join them. If I ever can get out of here, I will make them all pay!

What’s the use? All the anger I possess, all the seething hatred I have for this place and the last small sliver of the will to live I possess is nothing. I am nothing. I should just kill myself. No…no, I can’t do that. I’ve tried a few times, but they always have a way to revive you. I guess I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Days pass like water, and still here I am. Locked up. Hungry. Alone. Furious. Depressed. Hellbent. Murderous. I’ve had some dreams as of late. Ones where I walk again, fleet-footed in fact. I tear open and spill the blood of my captors, and free the oppressed. It’s a glorious dream. Sometimes, I have dreams of my past life: kids, wife, all of the good times. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. I don’t even know if they’re alive anymore. Once, they had tried to break me by torturing and killing a woman, and two kids in front of me. I knew it wasn’t them. I knew they were coaxed into screaming my name, and saying “Daddy!” I am anything but stupid. Though, still I felt sorry for the women and children, and their broken family. However, I wasn’t going to be broken. It had been some time since then. I forget how much time had passed. I think it was six months or a year now. I’ll admit I cried for them, but not the way they wanted me to, but because of the loss of innocence.

Someone’s coming! Heavy footsteps…It’s The Boss! The Boss was a giant of a man, at least, his shadow was. It’s always so dark…so, so very dark. His voice was deep and raspy; sounded like he was from the Deep South. I could faintly see his Cheshire smile, “Let’s get you out, stretch your legs a bit.”

I looked about and saw two shadows of men come into my cell and motion for me. I just sat there. I didn’t care. However, I was intrigued as to what my fate would become. They drug me down the corridor, towards that lovely glow…and here I was beginning to think it was my end. Voices whispered, heavy breathing from rooms here and there. Some cried, some laughed. It was a mad house.

They brought me to a stone room where a large wrought iron brazier flickered wildly in the center. The fluorescent lights from above hurt my eyes something fierce. The sat me down on a wooden bench. Comfortable, I thought. There were stretching boards, makeshift crosses, bloody barrels, an iron maiden, and countless other torture paraphernalia. On a solid oak bloodstained table, there was a bone saw, pliers, crowbar, baseball bat, drills, needles, a handgun. A handgun! I couldn’t take my eyes off that instrument of salvation. I glanced at it only momentarily, noting its presence, and my brilliant mind began imagining the way to break free.

The Boss was an older white fellow, long black matted hair, and goatee. He was relatively fit, at least in the arms. He had a big gut that protruded under his dingy white t-shirt. He wiped his hands on his bloodstained blue jeans, further adding to the makeshift paint job. He knelt down before me, peering at me with his icy blue eyes—the flames flickering fiercely to match his crazy. “Do you know why you’re here?”

I cocked my head slightly, pondering, and seemingly being the smart ass I was. “No, sir, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to know since you placed me in this hell hole. Would you mind enlightening me?”

The Boss smiled an ice cream smile. “You got a smart mouth there, boy. You know what’ll happen if you run it too much, right?”

I shrugged, “Well, shucks, Boss, ya got me there! I reckon you’d string me up and fuck me in the ass with a two-by-four, and then throw me on the fire rack, or some shit!”

The Boss and the guys had a laugh. I’ll admit it; I did too. “Well, well, you’re still quite the firecracker, even after all this time. I’ll tell you what. You can keep your tongue…” The Boss motioned towards me, reaching behind and pulling out a Bowie knife. “But I am going to take one of your fingers. Do you know what I am going to do with that finger?”

“Guessing shove it up your ass, and either force feed it to me, or shove it up my ass, or some dosey doe, Cotton-eyed Joe.” I instantly followed up. I didn’t care. There was nothing they could do to me that could break me. Not anymore.

“Ha ha, hmm. Yes, sir, you’re a tough one.” The Boss sneered, “I wonder, though, if you’ll be so tough,” he stood up and motioned for his lackeys, “when I start your fire.”

One of the guys handed The Boss a gas can. He doused me with the entire contents and then struck a match. “Any last words, boy?”

I smiled, proudly, profoundly. “I’ll see you in Hell, you son of a bitch.”

“Fair enough,” he replied.

At that moment, as that match fell to meet with me, igniting my fiery fate. I knew whatever strength I possessed left, whatever will there was…I had to make this chance, this final attack count. I had to make good on my premise. The gun was still within reach, and though my legs were crippled and mangled, I had grown accustomed to being nimble on them. I sprung from the bench made my move—going for the handgun. The match fell and ignited the bench; with the trail of fire leaping in hot pursuit. The guys slowly motioned to interrupt my efforts, as did The Boss. In fact, he was able to get a good stab in my side, but that wasn’t good enough to save him…any of them. I grabbed my instrument of retribution, and fired several shots at the guys and The Boss; each had three in the gut, and a lovely hole between the eyes.

The flames had caught up by now. Burnt flesh smells horrible as does burnt hair. Albeit, I’d rather the smell any day than the incredible amount of pain it sent me into. There was one thing I was always thankful for; I always had a plan. You see, when I came into the room, I spotted a trough with water. They guys liked to do the whole…waterboarding, CIA type thing, dunk people, etc. In a fiery bolt, I dashed and plummeted into that vat of relief. It still hurt like hell (putting it mildly), but it was better than still being on fire. When I got out of the trough, the pain had remained consistent, but adrenaline was fueling the fire within. There was still work to be done.

I began by gathering scraps of clothing that were littered all around the room and soaked them in the water before wrapping my body diligently. Granted, some of the guys had wandered their way down to the chamber to see what the fuss was about because firing a firearm does that…and it sucks when you don’t have a suppressor. I was no MacGyver, by any means. I was just proficient…in eradicating my tormentors, and hopefully getting the hell out of this place. So a pair of the guys came in, and I did the only thing I could think of to make sure I didn’t miss; play possum. It is surprising how many goons fall for that trick. I mean, I always thought it was hilarious in movies; or where you’re sitting there watching, and you’re like ‘Don’t move! Play dead! Go for the surprise!’ kind of deal. I also suppose it’s a bit sad for those lunkheads. In a way but to Hell with them. They asked for it by all the monstrosities and atrocities they had committed. I laid sprawled on the floor, the gun under my leg. That’s it, take a few more steps you dumb thick fu—. A few shots and they both went down. I’ll admit, I laughed and was amazed at myself and also the artistry of the way they both landed; one’s head in the other’s crotch. I felt the need to say something witty, but I had slightly more pressing matters to tend to.

As I ‘walked’ to the exit of the room, armed to the teeth with all my captor’s weapons of choice, I thought of how I was going to go about fleeing. Do I unlock all the cells and free the people now? Do I kill everyone that dares attack me? Do I flee and get help from the authorities? There were so many scenarios and problematic instances with each one…my head began to ache. I figured, ‘let’s just play it by ear.’

After some more thought, I figured “let’s let the bulls run.” I began opening the locks with haste. I could hear footsteps; they were rushing down the stairs from the crucible above. The people screamed…oh, did the scream! Such cries for bloody vengeance. A few of them darted for the torture room to arm themselves, while others fled to the stairs. It was there, where the guys met the tidal wave of retribution. The now-freed-captives butchered their captors; smashing their heads against the stone stairs, the stoned walls, each other. Hell, some of the people even tore their tormentor’s throats out; either with their bare hands, or teeth. The sight didn’t disturb me as I watched on wielding the flashlight. In fact, I smiled at their disfiguring and dismembering.

I roamed down the corridor, stepping over the bodies of the fallen captors. Some even pleaded for help! Ha! The folks would take care of those left behind, or let them die their just deserved slow and painful death. Soon I’d finally find my way to the arena….and boy oh boy, was it in sheer chaos. It was glorious! Doors and pens for the dogs, pigs, and other animals burst open. Dogs turned on their masters, tearing out their throats, clawing out their eyes, tearing their limbs off. Pigs swarmed the Herder, trampling and devouring him. Rats swarmed their master, Timmy Dementia; gnawing on his face, eyes, nose, ears, and body. Crows flocked and swarmed their former masters; pecking out their eyes, tongues, and lips. The lions, tigers, and bears roared fiercely as they saluted, and slaughtered The Pink Brothers. There were people everywhere. It was an arena jammed full of people spilling each other’s blood. It was absolute chaos, anarchy…revenge. It was…beautiful.

As I made my way across the crucible, there came a man’s boisterous voice over the PA system. “Spoiled little children! I give you a home, food, water, and a place to sleep—and this is how you repay me? No, no, there will be none of this! No more, I say! Those of you that return to your cells may be forgiven, but if you do not. . .if you do not obey your lord, and master—” the voice trailed off, to the sound of a series of mechanical whirls that filled the arena. Time seemed to slow down, to me at least. The arena erupted into a horrendous growl of gunfire. Bullets ripped through people and beasts alike. I ‘ran’ as fast as I was able to. Screams, horrifying cries, and blood filled the crucible. I did not know who this…lord and master were. Maybe someone had assumed the mantle over The Boss? Maybe there was already a coup d’état in place, and I just fouled things up? Whatever the case, I was royally fucked, and hiding under a dead black bear. I watched women, children, man, and beast get torn to pieces with the explosive onslaught. After about a minute, the gunfire stopped.

The arena erupted into a horrendous growl of gunfire. Bullets ripped through people and beasts alike. I ‘ran’ as fast as I was able to. Screams, horrifying cries, and blood filled the crucible. I did not know who this…lord and master were. Maybe someone had assumed the mantle over The Boss? Maybe there was already a coup d’état in place, and I just fouled things up? Whatever the case, I was royally fucked, and hiding under a dead black bear. I watched women, children, man, and beast get torn to pieces with the explosive onslaught. After about a minute, the gunfire stopped.

The voice then spoke again over the PA system. “Disobedient children…look at what you’ve made me do?!” The voice then sighed, “No matter. You are all forgiven. As I am a loving, kind, and gentle lord, and master. However, it will take some time to rebuild—” the voice then seemed to go off on a distant and not-all-there, kind of rant.

The man was old. Really old. I looked around the crucible to see if I could find out where they were; the thought of perhaps dispatching them from afar came to mind. I didn’t see any of the guys around. I also hoped that maybe some folk either still lived downstairs, or had already pressed on; escaping this hellish prison. As I wondered and pondered, there came the voice next to me…my opportunity, my wish granted!

“And you, dear child, you are the catalyst in this rebellion?” Spoke the very old, frail man. He was bald, with pure white tufts of hair that peppered the back of his scalp, and formed his beard. His eyes blue; rich and pure, like a fresh, clear spring day. He was dressed in a golden robe and worn sandals. He held his weight on a solid brown oak staff. I was awestruck, that such an old man was so malevolent and cruel.

“I never wanted to be taken. I am only trying to go home—to find my wife and kids.” I replied, pushing the bear’s dead body off me.

The old man nodded. “None of us are ever asked to be taken, my dear boy. We are all the same as we come in, and the same when we leave. Nothing more, nothing less.”
I was puzzled by the old man’s way with words. “What do you mean?”

He turned and took a few steps, kneeling beside the barely breathing bear. “You see this beast?” I nodded. “His name was Johan. He has been born several thousand times, and soon will be again.” He patted the bear’s head, “Rest, my child, rest.” The bear then took its final breath. The old man stood once again, straight and true. “I could name all of these animals and people…even you, Edward.”

“I…I don’t understand. You are talking madness!”

“Yes, yes, I suppose. However, I ask you this. You have no memories of being taken, do you not?”

“I…it’s all a blur. I can’t really.” I shook my head. It began to ache tremendously.

“What you remember, are the bits and pieces.” The old man smiled. “You see, when we are taken, we lose fragments of our mind…our memories. Only when we are free, do we see everything clearly; the whole picture comes into focus, the movie played without the intermissions.” He grunted as he sat down before me.

I began to weep. “All the pain…all of the suffering. What did you have them do to us?!”

Still did the old man smile. “I had them do nothing that life hadn’t prepared for you already. These people died needlessly…however, they didn’t die needlessly.”

“Why do you speak in riddles?! You are making no sense,” I yelled at him as I collapsed to my knees.

“You claim Hell would offer much respite, and yet, you claimed to suffer tremendously here; feeling the suffering of others—their hate, anger, sadness, despair—such emotions and actions that you shared with both victim, and murderer. You’ve created this world. You alone. You. Are. Alone.”

As the words seemed to ring like a thunderous gong, the people and beasts disappeared. Everything faded until it was just the old man and me under the warm, vibrant sunlight, on a tall grassy hill. “I understand now.”

The old man smiled brightly. “You needn’t hang on anymore, Edward. You are free to go home whenever you want. You needn’t build a prison to confine yourself to. You can stay and fight, and perhaps…perhaps awaken. Awaken to another fight. Or you can make peace with yourself. Let the guilt, the pain, and end your suffering that you’ve endured for all these years.”

I remembered it all…I was in a car accident some time ago with my wife and kids—the kids were killed by a drunk driver, while I remained in a coma…for how long, I don’t know. My wife would come to visit time to time…but she took her life at my bedside. My eyes were always open to the truth, but it hurt so bad that I eventually had closed them after that because the world outside could no longer offer me comfort.

“Home…” I had long since forgotten the meaning. I cried a little bit. “You know me all too well, stranger, but I haven’t the foggiest of who you are.”

The old man smiled brilliantly, “Death knows no strangers, my boy.”

I looked up to the sun, its warmth so inviting. I knew it was a lie, but I knew where I was going. “I’d like to go home then.”

The old man nodded and sat there. “Soon you shall.”

I closed my eyes, as a gentle breeze wafted over my body. A perplexed kaleidoscope of memories of mine own, and those of my past existences came to one; the beginning, and now the end…at least this time around. As it came to a close—the encroaching darkness that would be only for a minute—there I saw the three faces I could only ever know. For I would soon be home.

In the outside world, the machines that helped sustain life beeped maniacally; sounding the alarm at the races—known as life. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel rushed to save the male adult named Edward Croix. He died on a Monday, at 3:18 pm. He was 46.

 

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

Who? Me?

"Bedroom Door Knob 2" Photo by Cathy Kaplan. Cathy Kaplan has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by Cathy Kaplan. Cathy Kaplan has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

It was a dark and cool night. The kind where the stars littered the sky with their brilliance. The wind was absent while the air was chilled from the rain some time ago.

A man stirred within a home, set in the middle of a street. He was restless and parched. He cautiously made his way into the kitchen in the dark. He stopped before the fridge and rubbed his young green eyes; fatigue had long been set. He scratched the back of his scalp, the mess of blond hair peeked through the cracks of his fingertips.

So tired, he thought, man, I’m so tired. I really hope they’re late picking us up. I’ve barely had any sleep. The man thought to himself as he let out a muffled yawn.

He reached into the fridge, the light blinding him temporarily, searching for a bottle of whiskey. His pale hand finally caught reminiscence of the bottle marked with “Jack Daniels.” He grinned to himself as he found his friend and confidant.

He then heard a creak outside, on what he believed to be the deck to the backyard. He chuckled to himself as he was so easily startled.

Probably an animal again, he thought.

As gravity maintained its order, closing the fridge door behind the man, he walked across the kitchen into the living room. His silhouette elongated his tall figure above the wall and ceiling. He picked up the empty glass on the dark oval coffee table, then retreated back to the kitchen. He then heard another creak…this time on the front porch.

Okay, that’s a little too freaky…hmm…

The man put the glass and bottle of whiskey down on the kitchen counter top, and walked cautiously to the front window and peered out into the night. Nothing. . . He saw nothing on the doorstep, nor in view, but the street and neighbors’ lights. He shrugged it off, and went back to the counter where his drink sat…waiting.

He poured a glassful and began drinking the contents immediately. He looked down at the bottle of empty pills. Shortly thereafter, he heard an ominous creaking on the deck again, followed by a tapping on the window. The tapping increased exponentially, causing him to grow fearful.

It all seemed too coincidental.

What the hell?

He reached for his handgun and a hunting knife that were stored high above in a kitchen cabinet. Slowly, he crept towards the back door, passing the laundry, and bathroom…the path lit only by sporadic nightlights. He approached the back door, and cautiously unlocked the door. He opened it and found…nothing. Nothing but the twilight greeted him, the cool air rushing against his warm face. He closed the door and locked it tight, just as he had found it, and withdrew his weapons. He stumbled back through the house, where he had heard the tapping on the window. He pulled back the curtains…nothing. Nothing was there but the night.

I must be really tired…or maybe it’s the pills…

He smirked, and let out another deep yawn.

He walked through the living room, and made way to his daughter’s, and his wife’s bedrooms…both slept soundly. As he went to go check on his daughter again, only to just turn a light off, he heard the same haunting sounds. . .

This time, he went to the window of his daughter’s room and drew back the curtains. To his horror, several groups of eyes fixated upon him—twitching, blinking, glaring—with more slowly populating outside the window pane.

He closed the curtains with haste…masking whatever was out there. The tapping then evolved into scraping…not only at the windows but at the doors all over the house—the sound was becoming louder with every passing moment. The young man scooped up his slumbering daughter and rushed her to his and his wife’s room. He urgently woke her and told her what events were taking place outside, and to call 911.

As his wife reached for the telephone and dialed, there was only static, and a mocking laughter that could be heard on the other end of the line. She even tried with the cell phone, only to find it yielding the same results. The laughter began to whisper. . .

“No—o one ca—n s—ave you.”

She dropped the phone one the ground as it cackled maniacally back at their apparent impending doom. Here they found themselves alone…trapped. The scraping and tapping became louder…near deafening and more forceful. The man feared for his family, for whatever was outside, wanting to try and get in, would surely kill them all unmercifully.

The thought became apparent to him then. If I’m going to die…I’m going to die defending them…

The young man readied his weapons, as he took a final glance back at his horrified wife and still slumbering child, “Stay here!”

He made his way to his daughter’s window and slid it open. He slashed wildly and blindly at whatever was outside the window. There was a loud shriek, followed by a thud on the pavement. The man then shut the window and rushed to the front door. He took a breath and then quickly unlocked the front door, and fired a few shots from his handgun out into the night. Screams of again were heard, followed by a tremendous weight that was sent crashing to the ground. The man closed the door and bolted it shut.

After several moments, the haunting ended. . . The man mustered the courage to open the door, to see just what it was that was plaguing him and his family at this hour. The horror of his life came to pass as to what he found on his doorstep. There laid the familiar silhouette of a man…a shot to the chest, and two shots in his head. In his arms, the man cradled a small girl who, by the looks, had seized up…and a hole that bored through her small head into the man’s heart. Both laid dead in a bloody mess. The young man ran out and checked the side of his house where his daughter’s window shared with the driveway. He found another familiar silhouette… .this one of a woman—dead—her body slashed up, and her throat slit. In her hand, she held a small pebble, bloodied from her own blood.

The man panicked at the sight before his eyes and rushed back towards the entrance of his house. Out front, there was a red sedan—the insides were torn, battered, and smashed to hell. He stumbled through the darkness, back into his home to tell his wife of what he found. He entered his home, and made his way to find his wife and daughter—both dead. . . His wife’s throat was slit while his daughter laid with a hole in her small head.

No…No…N—no no no no!

His eyes widened, and he collapsed to his knees before his bed.

Did…did…did I? No—no…I.

He then rushed to his daughter’s room and gazed out the misty twilight where the familiar woman laid. He found…nothing. He ran back to his wife and daughter. The door to the bedroom was now closed…whereas…when he left it, it was open. 

Slowly, he tapped on the door and motioned to open the door. The door flung open, the darkness inside it wholly… Gunfire erupted from within it. Here, at the doorway, he collapsed. Darkness grew around him, as did the cold that soaked him to the marrow and through. As the frigid darkness embraced him and took him in, he felt life escape him entirely.

He shot up from the stool in the kitchen. Another nightmare. . . He moved the empty glass and bottle on the counter, next to the now empty bottle of anti-depressant and sleeping pills. He shuffled his way back to the bedroom where his wife and daughter once laid. The door slowly closed behind him. The sound of a “click” was heard…like that of a hammer on a handgun. All there was…was sobbing…and then silence.

Outside, a white van had arrived and honked its horn. The driver hopped out and went to knock on the door, only to find it ajar. He opened it up to find no one at first. He yelled out if anyone was home, but only found silence. He wandered to the bedroom, where he knew the man slept. He opened the door to find the man in bed…alone…dead, with a bullet hole in his head.

 

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group

Strange Man at the Bar

"The Bar Scene" photo by polymer. polymer has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by polymer. polymer has no affiliation with me or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

A lone man sat on a bar stool, hunched over, face flat out against the cool of the polished, hardwood bar counter top. He pushed himself up, erecting and straightening his back. He rolled his head from side to side, and front to back. His sleep deprived eyes focused on the environment that bewildered him.

Where did everyone go to?

He scanned the room for a soul, but only found that he was the sole survivor. He stood up and backed away from the counter to gaze out into the street, where pure darkness settled around. The bar was dull and dim lit—almost as if lit by a lone match that had been struck. Albeit, there was a spark of life who occupied within the walls. The doors were barricaded—chained and bound, letting nothing in. . .and surely nothing out. The man pondered and scratched his head, he was lost in the most puzzling ordeal he found himself in.

There were but three, plus the bartender and me. Now how can it be that all that is left. . .is me? Why have they gone, where to? How did the doors entwine so with chains, locks, and such complexity that I am bound here? Surely, this is a joke? Ah, yes, they must all be in the back laughing it up—playing tricks on such a drunken fool, such shenanigans!

The man shuffled his way to the back of the bar, where the door opened to the kitchen, but there was not a soul—only the hum of the electrifying air that buzzed with an unfashionable spectacle. The sounds startled the man and caused him to jump. He retreated from the forsaken kitchen. As he retraced his steps, a repetitive thud, began to echo into the lounge.

It is nothing. I saw nothing, be it nothing, for it is nothing. Perhaps it is a mouse? Maybe the refrigerator is broken? Be it the freezer thawing? Whatever it may be, it is of no concern. It is nothing.

The man shrugged as he turned full circle and found his home from once where he had awakened. He made himself comfortable, but his mouth beckoned him—dry. He licked his lips and smacked them once, wiping them with his right hand.

He sighed and looked about, thereby deciding that if indeed a trick was in progress, he would wager a prize. “I shall take a drink then, on the house you say? Too kind you are. I shall take my pick!” The man looked around the bar once again and stood up, looking behind the bar. He reached for a glass, and a rustic, dusted over, bottle of bourbon. “Yes, this will do quite well, thank you.” He unscrewed the top and poured himself a glassful, and sat the bottle down. . .close. He raised his newfound elixir to his lips and washed his once parched hunger away.

Satisfied, the man returned the glass to the counter and brought his hand to the bottle of bourbon. “Hello, old friend, how are you today? How is the missus and of Jim, Tim, and Mary? Ah, yes such a fine family you have.” He smiled as he conversed, clearly the bottle made no clear remark but gave a bow. He rose his glass to his friend and as like before it, met the same fate. Again, he returned the glass, and looked on, across the bar at the mirror that gazed back at the man.

A long brown overcoat, ebony suit and long crimson tie, mild-mannered dressed man sat reverse opposite. He was clean shaven and moderately aged, with a few hoary hairs sprouting from the well-kept beard and hair. A few wrinkles told of a hard worker and overstressed individual. Pallid blue-gray eyes matched the color of his button-down shirt. He ran his red right hand over his face, top to bottom, letting a sigh escape. Before returning his red right hand to the bottle, he further greeted it and praised its kindness. He thanked it once more by toasting to life.

He caught an eye of the clock that crawled on the wall as if it were a spider weaving its web. The hands both stopped on six. He remarked at the coincidence that it made, noting that it was a shame that there was no second hand to mark the possibility of a third six. He let loose a chuckle and furthered his indulgence of his refreshment.

While he did so, the echo of the thud from the kitchen had subsided, only to begin a soft whisper in his ear. A pain shot through his head, eye to eye and to the top to bottom of his head. He clenched the bar in pain. It was so agonizing, he nearly dropped to the floor. However, it subsided and the whisper became clearer, like that of a moan. A light cackle, bone cracking, sight of blood gushing, and the taste of dirt overtook his senses.

What tomfoolery is this!? What manner of a trick do you play on me!?

The mirror that sat across from him now sat before him. He looked to his only friend, but only found a corpse. “My dear friend, what has happened to you? Where is your head? Where is your body? You have nearly dried up!”

The room stifled and began to warm beyond reasonable conditions as if the heat was turned to max or if perhaps inside in a dry, dusty mouth. A set pattern of thuds began to overtake within the room, leaving the man to search for a cause and deliver a rational, soluble explanation.

Perhaps the boiler is broken or the controls have become dysfunctional. It has to be another trick!

For then and there, there did mutter a low raspy voice, spoken from the other side (or was it that it seemed to come from within the room?). “It is no trick, sir. Everything is as it is. You are alone. You have been abandoned. You have betrayed your best friend. You have been captured, as time has deemed it so, your hourglass is at an end. The time for atonement has come. Your custodial precedence has come to pass. . .Relinquish from the flesh, from the taint you carry. . .”

For then the massive mirror grew monstrous veins and pulsated with life. The wall chafed and flaked onto the floor. The beating of a pulse—of a heart—of life who echoed throughout the vast room. An eye emerged from within the mirror. The mirrored image of the man grinned malevolently as it stood in the amber of the great eye. As then there was a maniacal cackle that was let loose, and the horror that betook the man’s breath as his image was dismembered from many lucid dark, razor-edged tentacles. They tore the legs off, then the arms—ripping the organs as if some wild pack of hounds tearing into a fresh kill. Then finally there went the head—the image laughed maniacally, whilst the eyes popped and gushed blood from the eye sockets, mouth, and nose. The protrusion of the tentacles through the eye sockets, where the pieces of the image’s body fell into the pupil of the eyes’ darkness.

For next the stools came to life, much like the tentacles that tore his reflection. Terrified, he fended against one that writhed its way to him, trying to encase itself around his legs. “I will not be taken! I will not let a mind trick on a drunken fool consume me! I shall prevail!” The man yelled as he stomped the tentacle off.

The great amber cat’s eye fixated, and a growl shook the room as then a tentacle fashioned itself a blade, as if a hacksaw, gnawing its way into the man’s arm. As the man screamed with pain, a familiar voice boomed from within, “You think this still a trick, a play on sobriety, dear sir? No, you feel what you do, know this as it is all. . .far. . .too real.” The man panicked and let loose cries for help, as the voice cackled with joy, “No one is coming to save you. Nothing can and nothing will.” As the man pleaded for life over death and wrestled with the monstrosities that sought to leech his life, he contemplated a plan. Even if he were to fail, he believed that if at least he tried, he would have no regrets in falling to the beast who laid siege on his life.

The man scrambled to his feet and grabbed his friend’s body, and hurled it at the tentacle that attacked him. The contents smashed and dazed the beast all but momentarily, clearly angering it further. He reached for a lighter and flicked the flint until it lit. He tossed it at the beast causing it to be set ablaze. Agonizing were the cries that were heard from within the room. The eye grew clearly angered, and more tentacles sought after the man. He grabbed a chair and hurled it at the mirror causing it chip and break—blood squirted and sprayed across the room. “What are you doing to me?! You are but a fool in your poor attempts to foil me! You delay only the inevitable!”

He continued relentlessly smashing at the mirror, as the great eye slowly became dissolved, and littered the floor. The tentacles lunged for the man, knocking him across the room. He steadily rose to his feet, his hand pressed against the wall, he could feel the warmth and the pulsation that could be felt throughout. He retracted his hand and searched for something to further his assault, finding only a fork and knife. He jabbed the utensils into the wall, as shrieks were heard, the door that had led to the kitchen manifested into the fashion of a mouth, with razor sharp teeth and enough force to crush the mightiest of steel. The tentacles flailed and sought after the man, who frantically rushed to be out of reach from the tentacles, and mouth. He grabbed a chair and tried to smash the window that had looked outside, but only bore more darkness. The window held sound, and soon an eye manifested upon the glass pane.

There is no hope, nothing I can do any longer. I have done all that I can. I have no regrets. I have nothing that will worry me any further. I have lived what I have, and will hold out for as long as I am able to before the end comes for me.

The man closed his eyes as he held off the attacks made upon him. Try as he did, he was no match for the overwhelming power that surrounded him. The tentacles enveloped him and dragged him to the kitchen door, where the beast began to tear him limb from limb. His torso delved into by the serrated blades of the tentacles that came from the darkness. Then his head rushed with the momentous pain of his eyes bursting from his skull. He laughed maniacally as the mirror image had come to pass, despite his efforts to change his future. As the darkness encompassed him, he felt the constant pain, even though his body was completely dismembered. Within the blackness, would come the reality of it all.

The man shot up straight from his bar stool, nearly toppling over. The bartender eyed him carefully and with a raised eyebrow. Searching around, he counted but three, plus he and the barkeep. He looked towards the kitchen and saw a light. A bottle sat blank next to him, and a glass. . .not half empty or full. A smile crawled across his face, and at once when he peered towards the door and saw it was clear and free. The window lit by the streetlights that waltzed in the cold early morning.

He sighed with relief and called the barkeep over. “My tab if you will be it paid in full.” The barkeep nodded and tallied up the bill, whilst the man looked to the empty bottle and small bottle of sleeping pills. “Thank you, my old friend. You’ve shown me a deal, next time I will not be a meal. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

As the barkeep returned and handed the bill, the man overpaid and wished a good night. He waved to the others and went to the door. Before exiting, he looked up above the bar to the time.

3:33?

He turned and pushed the door with his red right hand, and wandered out into the desolate night, laughing to himself with renewed vigor.

 

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group
Other Writing

The Wheel of Torment

St. Catherine and the Catherine Wheel aka Breaking Wheel.

St. Catherine and the Catherine Wheel aka Breaking Wheel. From Wikipedia.org.

 

The therapist looked through the notepad and file on his newest patient. He hadn’t looked her over, yet as he was still thumbing through the contents of the rather large file. Her name was Jessica Flynn, or as she was known to the public as “The Girl That Was Saved by God.”

The therapists bushy dark brown eyebrows raised and fell. Sweat built upon his brow as he flipped through more pages. The small black wire rimmed glasses occasionally fogged up. He couldn’t believe it himself.

Poor thing, he thought.

As he readjusted in his dark green leather chair, crossing the right leg over the left, and fixed his black slacks to hide the dull grey socks that burrowed into the brown loafers.

He let out a hacking cough. “Ahem, ah, excuse me, miss Flynn.”

She did not reply.

A bead of sweat fell onto his glasses from his brow, and trickled down to his cheek. He removed them and wiped them against his black and grey sweater. He cleared his throat, as he set to replace the glasses. His brown eyes attempted at focusing on the blurred image of Ms. Flynn, then back down to the papers in front of him.

“Now, Ms. Flynn, can you start by telling me what troubles you, and why you are here?”

A soft voice replied, “I am troubled because I am alive, and I am here because I survived.”

The therapist stroked his chin. “I see. And how is it that you see yourself as being troubled by your liveliness?”

“When you have seen what I have seen and been what I have been through, there’s just some things that you cannot let go of—no, some things that cannot let go of you.”

The therapist nodded. “Please, in your own words, tell me of what troubles you. . .and what you experienced.”

After a long pause. Jessica looked down at the floor with the same blue eyes that looked down so many years ago.

“Ten years ago, I survived one of the most brutal, horrific, and terrifying events in my life. I still have haunting nightmares of it—disturbing visions, things you could not possibly comprehend.”

She stared blankly up at the wild brown haired therapist that sat before her.

“Go on,” said the man.

“In the backyard of hundred acre wood farm. A red brick ranch with a cellar where. . .they kept us in. There were other people too, kids, parents. . .I forget how many exactly. We were all locked up. There lived a family. . .a family of religious zealots. . .fanatics—they had brainwashed their oldest daughter. Their only son tried to rebel and make them see to reason. . .but he was struck down for disobeying his father.”

Her eyes fell to the floor again. She recanted the sight of blood—so, so much blood. “They called it. . .’The Wheel of Torment.’”

She paused after the words. She remembered it all. Before her did the structure start to assemble itself, and before her did the room begin to change into that day so many years ago.

The man began to sweat more profusely and said nothing.

She took a deep breath and began to tell of the event.

****

“We have to figure a way out!” A man whispered to another in the dark.

“Shh! Quiet! You’ll get us killed and then there won’t be a way out!” he replied harshly.

“We’re going to die anyway! Wouldn’t you rather die fighting than just rolling over and dying to these—these lunatics?!”

The man tried persuading the other, and other people to come together and overpower their captors.

Up above, heavy footsteps could be heard that came closer to the door that led down to them.

“Be thankful they haven’t chained us up yet.” A man whispered.

The footsteps stopped at the door. The door opened wide to let in the bright light that they all yearned for.

A tall man’s silhouette asked aloud down to the dark. “Y’all not tryin’ to plan an escape now, are ya?”

“N—no, sir. We’re being good, real good.” A few people replied.

“That’s good, real good of you, children.” The old man grinned up on the stairs. “I have some good news for y’all. Y’all gonna be goin’ home today.”

Commotion erupted from within the cellar, praises, thanks, and other useless banter.

The man stomped the floor with the butt end of his hunting rifle. “Now, now! Shut yer traps! Don’t need all this whoopin’ and hollerin’.”

“Please, Jebediah, let us go home, please.” A woman pleaded.

“Momma, I’m hungry.” A child whispered.

“Now, don’tcha worry a thing. For you see, I’ve heard from the good Lord above, and he said it’s time. . .time to send his flock on home. I be seein’ to that soon.” Jebediah slowly closed the door and locked it.

While some praised and believed they were going to be free, others questioned the motives of the man.

“What the hell does he mean by that?” A man whispered.

“They’re going to kill us—they’re going to kill us all!” A man began to sob hysterically.

“Shh, shut up! You’re going to get us killed with that nonsense right there!”

Outside, in the backyard near the big red pole barn there stood the prize of the Everby’s. It began to whirl and come to life.

Jebediah smiled at his creation of salvation. He wiped the sweat upon his brow with his dingy white handkerchief. He looked up at the sun through his reddened fingers. He took out his pocket watch and looked at the time. The hands neared noon. He caught a glimpse of his blue eyes, worn, and sun burnt face. Sparse white flecks popped up through the black tufts of hair. He looked down at the ground, then closed the watch.

The time had finally come.

He looked over at his wife. “You know, you are the light of my day, and the world to me, don’tcha?”

“I sure do.” The older woman smiled softly and gave Jeb a kiss and hugging him tightly.

She was short, pale, with brown eyes like the earth. Greying blonde hair that was let down, ran past her waist. With a grey and white dress, and black buckled shoes with white stockings.

“Dhalia, be a dear and get Annie out here, will ya?”

“Sure thing, sweetheart,” she replied giving him a pat on his belly.

Moments later, Annie, their daughter came out from the house. “You called, Pa?”

Jebediah looked his daughter over and smiled bright, and wide. “You sure are the sweetest thing, darlin’.”

Annie had just turned eighteen some days back. She had bright blonde hair that was tightly done in bun. Her bright green eyes shine brilliantly in the sunny day, comparable to her pale complexion. She wore a light blue dress with white frills, and black belt buckled shoes, with white stockings.

“Aw, thank you, pa,” she blushed. “Did y’all need me for something?”

“Well, Annie my dear. The day is today that we meet our maker. The day we go home. I want you to get everyone ready and up here. Your Ma will help ya, in case any of them get ideas. Now, don’t be keepin’ the good Lord awaitin’.”

“Yes, Pa, right away.” she nodded and ventured inside with her mother.

 ****

“So, it’s agreed then. We jump them, and make a stand. Right?” A man whispered to others.

“What about the children?” A woman asked.

“If we can get rid of them, the kids will be fine.” The alleged leader replied.

“I don’t think they’d actually hurt the kids. Would they,” another woman questioned.

“For crying out loud, they killed their own son! What makes you think they won’t do the same to your boy?” he turned his head to the dark silhouettes that stood around him, “or your girls? Your family. They’re going to kill us all unless we do something.”

“Mommy, I’m scared.” a little girl sobbed, clinging to her mother.

“There, there, don’t worry. You’ll be OK, J-bug. Ya hear? You have to be strong.” Her mother replied.

They heard the mechanical whirring that was so profound. It immediately struck fear into the heart of the captives.

“What the hell is that?!”

Then, the doors that led outside began to unlock and shuffle. Daylight pierced the darkness of the cellar. Before them all stood Annie and Dhalia.

The people all crowded together and clung to one another. Children cried among themselves, while the few families that were still together huddled close together.

Eyes darted all over the place—the Everby’s and the captives. In a corner, a young boy began to whisper a prayer to himself while rocking.

“Alright, folks, ya’ll free to go. . . Come out one at a time though, ya hear?” Dahlia said.

No one dared move.

“What’s the matter? Ya’ll don’t want to go home? See your friends and family? Kids?” Dahlia looked about.

“Listen up and listen good, if ya’ll don’t come on out of there, I’ll just shoot ya dead where ya be. Now, get out here in the light, or else!” She hollered.

Slowly, some people began to stir and make their way up the steps to the outside world.

As a woman slowly climbed to the top of the steps with her son, she looked at Annie and at Dhalia. “Please, please let us go,” she sobbed.

“Sweetheart, I plan to, don’tcha worry your pretty little head,” Dahlia replied. “Now, I suggest you get to steppin’ if ya know what’s good for ya.” She waved a handgun at the mother and son.

Annie hosed the pair down with water and mumbled something incoherently aloud. The pair—startled—kept on their path that laid before them. Before them was a dirt path that led to a monstrous construct.

Here it stood. . . “The Wheel of Torment.” Namely, so for its slaughtering capabilities. A wooden construct, woven with wrought iron that was about ten feet or so tall. Several wheels that spun in different directions from one another, with about a six foot radius, with several rows of iron and wooden tips. They were already bloodied and severely dull (probably by the prior use on their cattle sometime prior). In the center was a loud motor that whirled and roared with extensive and precise components. Below it, was a drainage pit that was dug out that only the artisan knew where to. Years of tempering and pride decorated this killing machine, and it awaited new blood to feast on.

Nearby, Jebediah stood with his hands clasped together, mumbling aloud something incoherent.

The mother and son cried to one another, and pleaded with Annie and Dahlia. Their pleas however, only fell upon deaf ears.

“Get steppin’. Be a good momma and lead. Make an example for your boy!” Dahlia yelled.

More of the other captives rose up from the cellar and saw what sick and twisted idea the Everby’s considered “going home,” and “being sent free.”

A group of men looked at one another. Dahlia had turned her back on them all, while Annie continued to hose down the next lot.

“It’s now or never,” one man whispered to the other.

In a surge of adrenaline, the men rushed Dahlia and Annie. One motioned to take the woman hostage but their uprising was quickly dispersed.

“Momma, behind you,” Annie yelled.

Dahlia cried out for Jeb, while fending off her attackers. She fired off a few rounds that struck one man in the leg, and several shots in another’s chest.

During the commotion, the mother sent her son to flee to the woods.

Jeb quickly pulled out his revolver and shot the attacking men dead, square in the head, and lost sight of the boy.

“Now, look at what you made me do! Look at what you made me do!” Jeb walked over and clubbed the mother in the back of the head.

A few of the men that still were alive groaned in pain. “Take them.” Jebediah ordered.

“Any of you idjits move, you’ll be shot dead. Got it?”

The others nodded and sobbed at the failed attempt.

“We could still try. . .” A woman whispered to some of the others.

A woman shook her head, “I’ve already made my peace. I rather not have anyone’s blood on my hands, let alone mine on theirs. These bastards will rot in Hell.”

Jeb cursed to himself at the boy’s escape. Still, they were miles and miles from any water, and any civilization. He figured the boy wouldn’t survive long.

“Annie, are you OK, darlin’? Jeb asked.

“Yes, Pa, I’m fine,” she replied.

“Good girl. Go get the camera.” Jeb ordered.

Annie came back moments later with a videocamera and brought it to her father.

“Thank you, sweetie. You’ve been the best daughter any father could ever hope to have.” Jeb kissed his daughter’s forehead and gave her a tight hug.

Jeb called to his wife. “Dahlia, be a dear and get one of them youngins to c’mere and film, will ya?”

She took the camera and found a girl that was clinging to her mother’s raggedy clothes. She ushered the child over to a chair that was below a branch. On its end there hanged a noose. Dahlia fashioned the noose around the young girl’s neck. “Now, listen here, darlin’. You’re gonna stand over here and keep the camera goin’. You sit down, or try anything, your neck’s gonna snap like a twig, ya hear me?”

The girl nodded and sobbed.

“Now, stop that, Pa’s gonna say your prayers, ya hear? You’re gonna go to a good place.” Dahlia ‘assured’ the girl.

The girl looked over at her mother, who cried and only looked on.

Jeb drug the mother of the escaped boy’s body to the wheel of torment. A horrible sound of bones snapping and popping ensued. Everyone cried in unison, save for the Everby’s.

“Praise the Lord, for He is great!” Jeb yelled.

“We have to do something!” A woman whispered to the remaining adults.

“Now, do it now!” A woman raged.

“Jeb! Jeb!” The women tackled Dahlia to the ground and began savagely beating her, and wrestled the gun free.

Jeb aimed and fired at the woman that beat his wife into the ground, but she continued to wail on the hag. He continued to fire, emptying the remaining rounds in the woman. Finally, the bullet riddled woman collapsed atop Dahlia, while the other got the gun and fired wildly at the fast approaching Jebediah. Several shots missed, but finally one struck him in the midsection, but nothing fatal. Jeb unsheathed his hunting knife and ran it deep through the woman’s gut.

Some of the children wagered to run themselves, but that effort was stifled as Annie had grabbed Jeb’s hunting rifle and began picking off some of the runners, and gathered ammunition for Jeb.

“Y’all don’t even know what you’re doin’!? You keep makin’ efforts at livin’ and for what? To maybe live a few more days? Ain’t nobody comin’ to save ya. Ain’t nobody, but the good Lord above! Accept Him, and repent,” Jeb yelled.

Bodies were dragged back to the wheel. More and more were added to the bloody “succotash.” The young girl had stopped crying now. She had accepted her fate. She debated though, die from hanging, or to die to the wheel? She prayed to herself, as she looked through the lens and focused on the body of her mother that was now being tossed onto the wheel. A spike penetrated her skull and gut, while her limbs were broken several ways and she was left flopping about. Others began their walk towards the grinder. . .and were shoved to their fate.

“Dear Lord, I pray to you. I, Jebediah Raymond Everby, giveth unto you, my only daughter, Annie Carrol Everby. For she is your faithful and loyal servant.” Jeb led Annie to the wheel. “I love you, darlin’.”

“I love you too, Pa. . .Ma.” Annie replied, giving each of her parents a hug and kiss.

She took a few steps, and then stopped just before the wheel. After a moment, she leaped upon it. A pike penetrated through her skull, ripping her scalp apart, grinding her limbs to loose ‘appendages’. More meat for the grinder.

“Now, let ye sinners repent!” Jeb hollered aloud.

One by one, he, and Dahlia begin to toss children to the mechanical beast. Their small bodies are engulfed wholly. Tiny arms, legs, and bodies are impaled, ripped, and torn apart. Some are lucky to die, while others continue to spin on the spokes and suffer an agonizing death. Round and round they go, watching others come to blow.

The girl filming focused on another little girl: her arm snapped in several places, legs twisted and dangling, with an iron stud through her right cheek. The blood of others poured over her pale face and long dark blonde hair. She cried in pain, wanting to be shot, but Jeb and Dahlia did nothing. Shortly thereafter, the girl died.

The constant sound of bone snapping, and blood bursting. The clay earth became redder—a deep pool of crimson where the dead that aren’t still riding the wheel now laid. Intestines continuously wound up, being unwound from the stomachs of innocents—a wicked weaving of death. . .and murder.

“Praise the Lord! Praise Him for He is just!” Dahlia bellowed.

Blood sprayed against Jeb and Dahlia’s faces.

“My dear, it’s time.” Jeb sighed, catering to his wound.

The little girl continued to film, watching as Jeb and Dahlia tied a rope to one another. He embraced Dahlia, and hurled one end of the rope at the wheel of torment. Together, they were dragged along the ground, until they met the monstrosity they created.

Several moments passed, the girl continued to hold the camera. She started to sob and thought she was alone. A dark blonde hair girl atop one of the pikes of the wheel mumbles to her incoherently. She turns the camera around and gives a statement.

Small blue eyes filled with dried tears and reddened from crying. Her brown hair flows with the wind that gently runs through it. Her thin pale face bruised.

“My name is Laurie Endrid. I am nine years old. My parents were Nancy and Thomas Endrid. My brother was Thomas Patrick Endrid, Jr. He’s the one on the bottom. . .next to Jenny. I can stand no longer. May God have mercy on my soul, and forgive me for the choice I am about to make. Lord, I pray to you that Jebidiah and Dhalia Everby will pay for their crimes against all of us—for their ‘sacrifice’ to you.”

She continued to stare into the camera for a moment, taking deep breaths, hesitant. Finally, the camera dropped to the ground.

****

In the memory playback in her mind, much like the video, Jessica watched Laurie struggle, gasping for air—her feet kicking wildly. At last, they came to rest and her body swayed with the wind of the cool spring day. She remembers the wheel breaking and falling into the bloody pit, among all the bodies, and hearing the sounds of helicopters, and cars swarming the farm not too long after.

“The F.B.I. and other governmental agencies had been tracking the Everbys. They were too late though. Mostly everyone was dead—save for Laurie, but she can’t do much nowadays, nor does she like to talk. . .about things.” She paused, “and the boy who got away. They found him on the way there.”

She looked down at the ground, her left eye and cheek ached. “Sometimes, people make fun of me for my scars—” her voice trailed off. “Though I don’t have my real leg and arm anymore, I can still feel the pain. Often times, I wonder why I survived and not some of the others. I guess, perhaps, I just had to see it through.”

Sweat had built up on the man’s brow, while his heart raced, “I am so sorry, Jessica,” the therapist apologetically said.

He looked up at her from the file, wiping the sweat from his brow with his palm. He remembered the girl that shared the same dark cellar with him.

“I’m just glad that you made it out, Brian,” Jessica replied with a broken smile.

 

Hieronymus Bosch The Garden of Earthly Delights Hell. Photo by solidariat. solidariat has no affiliation with me, or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices.

Photo by solidariat. solidariat has no affiliation with me, or A.B.Normal Publishing Media Group, nor do they support my work and/or practices. Part of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights – Hell”.

 

Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group
Other Writing

 

 

 

 

For Buckethead – RJM