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Two Tales

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Two Tales

 

by GJ Zukow

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First off, let me thank you for reading these short stories. I certainly hope you enjoy them. Both of these works were both previously published, non gratis, by small independent presses with less than a circulation of 1000.

The first short story, ‘The Evocatoress’ Apprentice’, was the first short story I ever attempted. It sat on my hard drive for years before I worked up the nerve and looked for someone to publish it. My first submission led to a rejection because the subject matter was supernatural and at the time it was not what they were searching for. The second place I submitted this to (well, the second place that actually responded to me) was a small start-up literary magazine. Seeing as how I was, and probably still am, a relatively unknown author and they had zero resources to pay I agreed to let them publish the story in exchange for a digital copy of the publication (just to get my story out there). The acquisitions editor, Rubie Grayson, helped a lot with the edit and it finally appeared in the December, 2013 issue of “The Fictioneer’.

The second story, ‘Of Undetermined Origin’, appeared online on Bad Dream Entertainment’s website. As they were also a new start-up and I was, and still am, trying to build a name for myself, it was also published non gratis. The head editor, Brett Reistroffer, helped greatly and soon I had a second story in the public eye.

The cover picture is by J. Saint. My thanks to him for the use of it. (xxii-ix.tumblr.com)

For those of you interested in “The Journals of the Damned” I think you’ll be happy to know that I will finally be getting around to doing a proper edit and slight rewrite before I release ‘Tox’ in the next couple of months.

I have been in a rough spot and am now finally, once again, in a position to get back to my writing. So until then, and as always, Enjoy!

 

GJ Zukow

 

 

 

 

 

The Evocatoress’ Apprentice

 

I. Caveat Proviso

 

As to what actually befell my friend Wendi Maeloche, I cannot say. What I will tell of her though, you will not believe. You may, and surely will, call me a liar, that I am mad and concocting a fantasy for your distraction and obfuscation of the truth. To be perfectly honest, looking back at our past endeavors and dark works, I would hold the same skepticism. For our lives, hers and mine, have unfolded in odd and terrible ways, far from the scientific rational of the current age. I have often wondered if I myself have not let slip the binds of sanity from my mind, but I have always had the assurances of Wendi who validated and shared my experiences. Paranoid delusions, schizophrenic breaks with reality and all manner, kinds and types of hallucinations may have clouded my consciousness you will profess of me, but they have not.

 

***

 

I stood mute at my trial, resolute and unwavering in the face of the prosecutor’s assault upon the facts of that horrible night not because I had no defense, but because if I had actually spoke of what I witnessed, I would assuredly have been placed into a mental institution for the rest of my natural life. Undoubtedly, they would have drugged me then, subjected me to psychological indoctrinations and held me in isolation as a risk to the health and welfare of those other unfortunates held captive in that institution known as the Eloise Psychiatric Hospital. That I could not risk, escape from a place such as that would have been much more difficult than from a mere prison.

It has taken me many months to acquire the materials I need. Now all is ready and I leave this record for any that would heed it. There is no doubt that those who find the evidence of my crime here in this cell block will say it is yet further proof of my madness. Of course, it is not to say that Wendi and I have not committed atrocities, both against man, nature and possibly God himself, but as for the murder of my closest friend, I am innocent. Most would say, upon reading this unholy confession, that I deserve the life sentence -at the least- for our past transgressions. I say not.

I can escape, so I will. There is absolutely nothing any of you can do about it. I go now, intent on reclaiming Wendi from whatever foul abode she has been unwillingly dragged to. If any should attempt to find or follow me, consider this your fair warning. I will neither brook nor allow any further interference from any of those who steadfastly remain ignorant to the whole truth of our reality.

 

II. Darkness Rising

 

Certainly, Wendi would not have obtained such power so quickly without such a willing, devoted and complicit compatriot as I. Of course, that also infers that she would not have been condemned to the terrible fate that she has fallen victim to. I imagine her studies would still have progressed, but at a much slower pace, allowing the wisdom that comes with age to mitigate the dangers that are inherent in her chosen profession. She is ever clever and gifted though, cursed with an ambition that knows no boundaries and her destiny may have been preordained from the start.

I may yet be her savior, but for me to affect any sort of liberation I must first extract myself from this prison known as the ‘Phoenix Women’s Correctional Facility’.

First, I shall tell you of her haunted youth so that you may more fully understand the circumstances that led an innocent child such as Wendi down the macabre path of necromancy, sorcery and demonology. In order that you understand me, and how I came to be her devoted and loyal disciple, you need to understand my lover and dark mistress.

Even as a toddler, in fact as far back as she can remember, she has had what she refers to as ‘The Sight’. ’The Sight’ is what she calls her natural ability to see and speak to the dead, and as she grew, so did her powers. You may not believe in ghosts and you may not believe in an afterlife at all, but you are seriously mistaken if you do not. You will know the stark truth of my words when your mortal body finally fails and you find that you yet still walk the earth.

Most of the departed pass on through the veil between worlds quickly, while others willfully decline to journey onward. A few of those corporeal entities who refuse to travel on prefer to stay and seek out a different kind of fleshless enjoyment, discovering death’s various and unusual benefits. Many are lost souls, spirits that are confused and do not realize they are dead or cannot, for one reason or another, accept their untimely demise. Some do not pass onwards out of the fear that they will face judgment for the sins they have committed while they were alive and their great fear of divine retribution holds them chained for eternity to this world. Lastly, there are beings of malice and dark energies that have refused to even been born into this world of pain and sorrow, who have instead chosen to delight in the anguish and sufferings of others and feed off the living.

All of them are drawn to Wendi and have shown themselves to her even as she was a child. Of course her mother and father, unknowing and unbelieving the truth of the matter, simply thought her speaking to unseen presences was but a case of an overactive imagination, just as many children play with ‘imaginary friends’. Of this, you should take a dire warning. Many so called ‘imaginary friends’ of the young are not images of fancy, many are indeed the souls of spirits, drawn to children whose spiritual eyes are yet open, having not yet learned to shut out the dead.

As Wendi never seemed to grow out of the phase, her parents became rightly concerned and did as all misinformed and unbelieving people do. They took their daughter to see a psychiatrist, becoming concerned to the point of alarm when she spoke of things she could not know of with her handful of years. All the laughably ‘learned’ doctor did was convince Wendi that to talk of the spirit world to others was to open herself to scorn, ridicule, fear and a diagnosis of mild insanity. ‘Imaginary friends’ do not show little girls their deaths and certainly do not try to possess them.

In elementary school, mediums, psychics and seers became a fascination to her and she eagerly, and secretly, studied every book and TV program that she could find in an effort to understand fully what was going on around her.

When I first met my dark future mistress in the third grade, she had already assumed the black and gothic style of clothing that set her apart from all of her peers. A somber and mature quality about her caused me to be as fascinated with her as she was with the dead. When other girls her age played with dolls and were delighted by ponies, princesses and unicorns, she was interested in death, the afterlife and ghosts, much to her mother’s dismay.

The dead have ever hounded her though, never giving her much respite. When one of our classmates suffered a loss, with a member of their relatives having passed away, the restless ghosts would always find her and pester Wendi until she did as they wanted. Usually this meant that Wendi had to act as a messenger for the recently departed but was believed only after convincing her wide-eyed fellow pupils of personal things that she could never have known. Repeatedly, through the years, she has engaged in these behaviors to our compeers and they now believe what the adults that surrounded us couldn’t, or wouldn’t, bring themselves to accept. That Wendi is not delusional or lying, that she indeed can speak with the unseen and instinctually feared dead. Unconsciously our fellow students, who knew of her and her unique ‘gift’, gave her a wide berth, out of respect and some small amount of fear I believe, and instead of her gaining favorable approval it instead only increased her loneliness.

Everybody who knew Wendi intuitively understood there was something different about the raven-haired child. There is something about her that causes people who have never met her to tread lightly around her dark figure, that is, at least in those who don’t take an immediate and unwarranted hatred to her quiet presence. Most adults found her a disquieting and unsettling figure, even as a child, while a handful outright feared her while in her presence.

Many times she has lamented when growing up, the fact that while she spoke the utter truth, she was ostracized and often punished by many whom stubbornly refused to open their eyes. Even then as children in elementary, I told her I would never leave her side, that I would always be there for her and never betray her. And I haven’t.

I think her mother and father had viewed her with some apprehension themselves. Her father, most certainly, viewed the dark haired and black-eyed girl with the intense and too knowing gaze that shared his house as an almost incomprehensible stranger that spoke to things unseen. Her mother, I know, loved her greatly but had a hard time showing it and Wendi, as a result, never truly felt loved or accepted. In school, I was her only friend, as most were uncomfortable around her and since I hung around with her, I was also ostracized and she became my only friend.

In time, Wendi coached me in being able to observe the spirit world but never have I achieved a fraction of her power. My raven-haired mistress with fathomless sable eyes has always been far ahead of me in our learnings. Things the rest of the world shuns have always fascinated her. She learned early on to keep her studies private. There lies in Wendi a deep and brilliant intelligence, one that compels her to gather and devour the forbidden knowledge of the mysteries that makes grown men quail.

As fiercely as she is obsessed with her subjects, I am as obsessed with her.

 

It was in her first year of middle school, in the sixth grade, that Wendi’s life took the turn that compelled her down the abysmal path that she travels upon now. If it were not for her mother’s sudden and inexplicable wasting death, I believe that her obsession with the occult would never have turned to the dread field of necromancy as it did. To be sure, while all mediums and speakers with the dead are necromancers, Wendi went further down into that terrible discipline than any other would seriously dare.

When a baffling and nameless disease turned Wendi’s once vibrant mother into a skeleton covered by loose and dangling skin within the short span of a single month, Wendi felt abandoned. There was nothing that modern medicine could do. There was not even a name for the terrible degenerative disorder that took her mother from her.

Wendi did not feel that her mother purposely abandoned her by dying, she was far too knowledgeable of how death comes for us all by then. It was her mother’s lack of contact with her after death that distressed her. After her mother had passed to the other side Wendi waited anxiously for her mother’s spirit to contact her, as so many spirits had before. When a month had passed and still her dead mother’s spirit hadn’t even attempted to say a goodbye, Wendi became indignant and angry.

Wendi’s mother knew, and had known since Wendi had learned to talk, of her only child’s penchant ability to converse with the recently departed and in Wendi’s eyes her lack of contact was an open refusal and insult. Wendi felt like she had been snubbed by someone that should have loved her unconditionally, betrayed by a mother that was unable to show her love in life and unwilling to show one small bit of consideration to her in death.

The only family support she had left was a father that openly loathed and feared her. Without her mother’s moderation on him and his feelings towards his own flesh and blood, his mood towards his odd daughter soon turned into an almost complete disregard for her on every level.

It was then that Wendi’s fascination with the occult turned into a morbid study of summoning and raising of the dead. She became obsessed with the goal of forcing her mother’s ghost to obey her and speak with her, granting her the final conversation that she thought she was entitled to. Wendi was determined that she was not to be ignored, that even if her mother’s spirit had passed on into the veil that separates this world from the next, she would drag it back kicking and screaming if need be.

She sought out and studied every scrap of information on the frightful subject that she could find. Endless hours that turned into days and days that slipped into months, she spent searching the internet. Most of what she found was utter fantasy but occasionally, she came across something that actually held the veracity of truth. With a slow and tedious methodology, she experimented and tested, augmented by her own natural adeptness.

I had never, and still haven’t, found anyone like her. Her beliefs go completely against the grain of modern science and religious theology and her theories are both brilliant and startling. None had ever expressed such radically alternate views of our reality like she, and I was fascinated and completely engrossed by her. That she was willing to challenge everything the world tried to tell us and delve deep into the world of the paranormal and supernatural impressed me. Wendi has a boldness and courage that goes far beyond the pale of most humans. Her willingness to analyze and undertake the forbidden and banned trials and rituals, that many profess black magic, at once scares and delights me. Her thirst for what she has termed ‘The hidden knowledge of creation’ knows no bounds and she is quite willing to go wherever that notorious education will take her.

 

By the time we were twelve years of age and in the seventh grade, I became her devoted apprentice. While all the others in our school started showing an open revulsion of us, teachers included, I found I had developed a slight ‘crush’ on her that took me years to express.

Seventh grade was also when the former respect of our classmates started turning into something much more sinister. It was the first time we started hearing our peers calling us witches and other such foul names. Specifically, we were blamed for all manner of things that happened to people we knew in this random and chaotic world we exist in. When someone hurt himself by doing something foolish, instead of taking responsibility for his own actions, Wendi and I were to blame. When someone had a spell of bad luck, we were accused of witchcraft. When someone fell ill or even received a bad grade for shoddy class work, we must have cast a hex on them. Never had we, at that point, done one thing to cause anyone harm, though none believed us.

In fact, Wendi hadn’t yet studied Santeria, voodoo or any of the vengeful disciplines in any depth. At that time, all of her mental resources were focused on the ritual summoning of entities from within the spirit world and our first real test wouldn’t happen until the eighth grade. The only workable response we had, that is, the only argument that we found that worked against the worst of our abuser’s accusations was to question them if they were foolish enough to believe that magic was real to begin with.

Wendi is a small girl and at that time, she was the tiniest girl in her class and would have had a hard time winning a fistfight against a mouse. I was hardly any bigger, and though never had we shown any inclination for violence we were often bullied and physically assaulted for absolutely no reason.

By the eighth grade Wendi had become a different person, extremely introverted and private to the point of secrecy. No one besides myself was ever allowed into Wendi’s personal thoughts, not even her father, who had also turned against her.

Her pater, for that matter, had also undergone a personality change of his own. With his wife’s sudden death, he soon sought solace in the depths of the bottle. Within a year, he had become a selfish and mean-spirited alcoholic that visited physical abuse on the daughter he couldn’t understand. When the lout wasn’t insulting her, he was ignoring her. I had even then, repugnant suspicions that his mistreatment took a more personal exploitation of his young daughter, as Wendi’s feelings towards him were more complicated than any simple daughter / father relationship should be, regardless of whether he was a practicing alcoholic or not.

Wendi grew cold to the world and while mine own situation wasn’t as bad as hers was, I found I hated most of the people around us. Maybe that is the reason neither of us cared one iota for the vile things that we released into the world with our failed experiments into the black arts. It wasn’t until we entered high school that Wendi finally perfected her methods for summoning and in those two years of dark research, we accidently released a number of horrid and terrible nightmares. Some of which still lurk and hunt among the living today.

 

III. Horrors Unleashed

 

At the tender age of thirteen, while Wendi and I were both yet in the eighth grade, Wendi made her first attempt at summoning spirits from beyond the world of the living. When she asked me to attend her in her perilous and forbidden task, I of course agreed.

Into the darkness of a moonless night, she led me. Into the depths of the forest that surrounds our small community of superstitious and overly religious farmers, to a place of long abandonment she took me. There, in an open field, upon the remains of a farmhouse’s old and cracked foundation far from prying eyes, she made preparations.

The darkness that night was overwhelming, so black was the evening that I stumbled and tripped constantly and needed assistance from my stealthy and sure-footed friend just to keep up with her. I must confess, that night, while I never doubted her beliefs or abilities, I was full of fear at what we were about to do. It is terrible enough to know the restless dead are all around us at all times and quite another thing entirely to endeavor to pull one from the nether that exists between the worlds and bring it back into ours.

Between two and three o’clock in the morning, in the hours of the dead, as Wendi informed me that it is only then that the near impenetrable curtain betwixt the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest, she started drawing disturbing diabolic symbols. In chalk, she drew a dreadful pentagram for our protection and to focus her spell on the weathered cement of the long ruined abode. In the center of that dread thing we stood, candles flickering at the five points of the central star and I chanted verses in Latin as Wendi had instructed me.

For over a half an hour I canted as Wendi commanded while she petitioned the deceased to part the shroud and bring forth her departed mother. Just as I was giving up hope of anything happening, the whole atmosphere changed and took on an oppressive and unnatural feeling. As Wendi implored the unseen to part the veil between worlds and called upon her dead mother’s wraith to come to her I felt a supernatural terror creep into me. Goosebumps rose and all of the small hairs upon my body and the back of my neck arose, the air around us becoming as cold as the grave.

My heart literally stopped and jumped into my throat with terror as two piercing and glowing orbs of red light appeared out of the dark mist that had formed just outside of the protective symbol. I was positive that whatever was leering menacingly at us mere feet away was not, nor had ever been, human. That it was not the spirit of Wendi’s mother was obvious to us both. After I shortly paused in my chanting, Wendi gave me such a stern and disapproving look that I quickly continued, and I became for the first time viscerally afraid of my unique and rare friend that I had not wanted to risk her ire.

Wendi, ever curious and completely lacking in the fear of the unknown, wanted to see just what it was that had responded to her summoning. Her tenor changed along with her words. While I was horrified at what Wendi was doing, I was also astounded by the fact of what she had accomplished already that night. She no longer implored the spirits to show themselves. Instead, she horribly started granting whatever it was permission to enter our world; in fact, she started verbally commanding it to do so, pulling it through the normally invisible veil.

Here was the truth of the matter, coming to reality in the shape of a horrendous and hideous abomination to be sure. From then on I nevermore doubted anything Wendi told me. She had, in one night, proved all the scientists and teachers wrong.

A thing of nightmares strode forth, a thing that was composed entirely of shadow and darkness that could not logically exist. Its eyes radiated such a deep red that it illuminated its bestial face and colored it as if it were bathed in blood. The monster had the form of a great black wolf, larger and clearly more malevolent than any that had ever walked the earth before it. It was wholly composed of shadow, evaporating into nothing wherever the light of the weak candles touched it. The unholy beast hated the light and it maintained as much distance between the flickering small flames as possible. No sound left its throat and it moved in complete silence. If not for the blazing points of scarlet light where its eyes should have been, none would ever know of its deadly presence until it was far too late to escape it, as it was nothing more than a patch of blackness in the dark of the night. Sharp obsidian canines and fangs snapped and tried to get to our flesh and it was only stopped by the outer circle of the protective pentagram that Wendi had meticulously drawn around us. Against this invisible barrier, it struggled, biting and clawing at the air, desperate to attack and maul us.

Both Wendi and I had stopped, fear and amazement ceasing our tongues. While Wendi and I fraught over what to do, as the dire shade stalked around the flimsy chalk pentagram, I asked her how long the symbol would keep the foul thing at bay. I was struck with mortal fear then as Wendi informed me that a pentagram’s strength is directly related to its permanence and a chalk symbol is one of the weakest.

When the fiendish thing started pushing up against the unseen barrier and its mass seemed to be slowly pushing inwards past its previous border, as if the circle were already weakening, Wendi at last found us salvation. Out of her worn backpack, she produced a flashlight and as soon as the bright light struck the vile wolfen nightmare, it soundlessly howled and jumped away from the beam. I swear I saw a small stream of whitish smoke come from where the repulsive thing had been struck by the concentrated beam of light, as if it had been painfully burned by it.

It ran around chaotically then, not wanting to leave its prey and trying to stay out of the flashlight’s ray. Finally, after having been twice more affected by the intense light it fled into the impenetrable gloom of the surrounding forest and was gone.

Nervously we made our way back home, jumping and nervously shining the flashlight’s bright beam whenever any noise startled us or occurred anywhere near us.

Neither Wendi nor I have entirely figured out what it was that we set loose upon our world in the small hours of that dark night but I can tell you it still roams and stalks the town. Every couple of months since then there have come reports of brutal and vicious slayings of various farm stock and pets that confound the community. Even in the heavy snows of late January, bloody and mutilated corpses of chickens, sheep and other creatures are found lying in the blood-drenched snow without a single foot or paw print or clue as to what attacked and fed off them. The attacks are always in the moonless and darkest of nights and never are tracks left behind. I am positive that these are the victims of the shadow beast we summoned, but I am sure none will believe my confession. I am also sure that it is only a matter of time before it finds human prey, and then the bloody death will be blamed on wolves, coyotes or a pack of feral dogs.

From that night on, after seeing Wendi’s power, I became both terrified of her and loyally devoted to her. There is none else like my dark mistress and I shall do whatever I must to bring her from what has befallen her.

 

There is scarce knowledge to be found in Wendi and mine choice of studies, most learning comes from crude experimentation. Very few tomes survive to this day from antiquity concerning any serious research into the black arts. Most works, I am sure, have been destroyed by religious fanatics throughout history and burned as soon as they were discovered. This repulsive lack of knowledge lessens us all since this huge hole in our understanding has been superstitiously labeled as heresy and diabolic by adherents of religions that do not speak the true nature of our universe to its followers. Just as none can now deny that the world is indeed round, much to the sadness of those who have been tortured, persecuted and executed for going against the church’s teachings, so have those that are unwilling to admit that other worlds exist all around hounded us whenever we spoke of them.

By the time we were in high school, Wendi had concluded that her mother’s spirit had moved beyond the world of restless spirits to a place where she could not be reached. In Wendi’s cosmology, she has come to believe that our world is surrounded by the limitless nether of the spirit world and this is itself the true body of all creation. That our universe and multiple others float in that nether, like bubbles in Swiss cheese. Call this an example of quantum physics, if you will, that alternate worlds are real and separated only by the thin, yet infinite, layer of space that is composed of the single dimension where the dead are pulled into before moving on to their next destination.

If one is to believe that the universe is infinite, then one must also come to the conclusion that every possibility -no matter how outlandish or remote the possibility- is not only realized but has happened -and will happen- an infinite amount of times. To say there may be a million to one chance that life as we know it may be possible amongst the stars is to say that there are millions of planets with life. In an infinite universe, all things are not only possible, or probable, but do indeed exist in reality. We have simply not advanced our knowledge far enough to prove it.

Thaumaturgy, evocation and the art of summoning is a delicate and fickle science, one that demands exactness in all things. While the pentagram may be thought of as a spiritual base from which to start, all of the intricate symbols and designs that are contained within it are the language of the spell itself. The details of the symbols are akin to the pictograph characters in Chinese, with one small mistake in the drawing of the intricate words leading to opposite meanings. Unlike hieroglyphics, there is no body of research to fall back upon. The complete ‘alphabet’ itself is not yet known, unlike the Aztec or Mayan languages that have been pieced together through observation and long study of its many examples on temple walls and carved into stonework. Mistakes are bound to happen and with something as inherently dangerous as what Wendi is driven to attempt, the results can be fearful indeed.

Before you go and think my statements folly and the ravings of a mind beset by insanity, I can offer at least some physical proof with another ritual that did not go as expected.

You may remember a number of years back the reports of a severely misshaped and malformed being who was only recently discovered after committing an atrocious act of murder. I can understand the scientific community, with its closed minds, thinking that the creature is an unfortunate representative of the human race but this is not so. The thing, although rudimentarily resembling a humanoid form, with a head, torso, two arms and two legs is not the result of an incestuous relationship or a pitiful being wracked and ravaged by several unfavorable genetic mutations. The vile and crazed being was not forsaken and cast off by its parents, abandoned in the deep woods and supposedly brought up by wild animals or kept in chains secretly in some basement or back room until it made good its escape as rumors and suppositions claim. It is instead a thing that escaped into our world in one of Wendi’s last attempts to bring forth her mater’s ghost.

We were but fourteen at the time, in the first semester of ninth grade, and had moved our sorceries to an indoor location inside one of the long abandoned farmhouses that are sporadically located throughout both ours and the neighboring counties of our state.

Wendi is a studious and meticulous researcher, regardless of her grades in the mundane and near worthless education that modern public schools provide. Her failures never seem to disappoint her. Instead, her unfathomable craving for erudition in the forbidden arts leads her to glean a wealth of useful data from them, they are but learning experiences to her.

At some point in her investigations, Wendi realized that pentagrams cannot only be used as focuses for spell-craft or used as runes of protections, but they can also be used as the platforms for teleportation. When Wendi told me that since her quarry would not come to her, that she would attempt to physically take herself to her quarry and move mountains to do so if need be, I was astounded by the sheer audacity of her plan.

To hear what she intended made me anxious and terrified me, if something went wrong with that experiment not only could we have died but we could have ended up forever lost in a foreign and possibly hostile unknown world, trapped with no way back. I would not let my fear of what we were to attempt get in the way though. If Wendi could bravely endeavor to enter into the mysteries of the universe, I was resolved to steadfastly stand by her side and assist her however possible.

In the dilapidated ruins, Wendi made her detailed and meticulous occult symbols. The process took days of finicky and scrupulous work; no longer could she use chalk. Instead, she had to paint the floor in excruciating exactness and hope that her work was sufficient for what she dared.

This was also the first time I witnessed her using sacrifices to power her spell. While sage burned at the five points of the unholy star and I called out verses in the language of the dead, Wendi slit the throats of two roosters. Purposefully she let the thin gouts of the bloody arterial spray of her victims spurt beyond our pentagram as she called to the shades of the dead to accept her payment and transport us to the place where her mother’s wraith resides.

Then when the walls of the room, dark and completely obscured by the heavy smoke were no longer visible, Wendi invoked Charon and tossed a single copper coin into the thick mist.

Though the coin should have struck the weathered wall of the old farmhouse with a solid sound, incredulously there only came a long silence followed by a barely audible splash as if the offering had fallen into the river Styx itself.

A momentary dizzying rush overcame me then and fear boiled up within me. Vertigo and nausea struck me as I felt the distinct sensation of rapid movement and sudden displacement. The extreme discomfort I felt made me reach out to Wendi then, to steady myself lest I fell. Wendi smiled at me, in the mists, her face seemed to loom and her smile appeared twisted by an intelligent madness as a fierce light burned in her eyes that made me tremble.

Not once did she stop in her evocations and after another heartbeat passed, something presented itself just beyond the borders of our sight.

Another horror had come to us and as it came closer, it also parted the shroud of smoke and the once formless figure took on its repulsive details.

Whatever the awful thing was, it was not human except in its most basic form. It walked upright as men do and had arms and a head in the appropriate positions but that was where the similarities ended. The first thing I fearfully noted was its naked flesh was the pale grey color of ash. It wore no clothes and was hairless but for a few long and scattered clumps of hair that sprouted from its overly small skull. The disgusting abomination was quite obviously male and seemed unaware of any shame at its exposure. It was an abnormally emaciated horror with ribs, hips and every one of its bones protruding, as if it were on the blade edge of starvation. Its limbs were elongated with arms that ended in protracted fingers that dragged along the ground as it loped dreadfully towards us.

When it opened it mouth in a guttural and savage screech it showed rotted and black teeth in a mouth that was far too wide. It was obvious that there was no intelligence within the damned thing, as its misshapen cranium was no larger than a chimpanzee’s.

When the vile creature rushed us and smacked with a bone-jarring thud into the insubstantial shelter wall of the pentagram I reflexively screamed in terror, momentarily forgetting the safeguards Wendi had put in place.

Wendi wasn’t fazed by the thing that had appeared and kept calling for the wraith of her mater to appear before her. All that came forth were more of the hideous beings, both male and female and they clawed and tried to bite their way through the barrier like animals. Not one time did I hear an utterance that could have been a word; they were clearly a race of animals that only resembled us in basic form. The harsh sounds that did issue forth from their unnatural throats were but high pierced shrieks and howls that resembled no human voices. They slowly surrounded us in that murky world and my fear of them overwhelming our protective circle made me visibly tremble and sweat.

My normally implacable instructress herself started to become visibly upset, she tensely confided that she could not sense her mother’s presence at all on this foreign and alien plane of existence and I was relieved when she began casting the enchantment that would take us back to our own world.

Two more sacrifices and another coin tossed to Charon and the sense of speedily falling through the void struck us again.

As the smoke finally cleared and the familiar and reassuring rotting walls of the ramshackle house regained distinctness we were both startled to find that we weren’t alone. One of the repulsive horrors had somehow managed to travel the nether between the worlds with us, much to our shock and astonishment.

When the impure and polluted beast confusedly stumbled in its unsteadiness at being transported between its world and ours and stepped into the formerly protected radius both Wendi and I bolted towards the door and out of the neglected building without looking back. With the spell complete, the shield was no more, and nothing stood between it and us. The only redeeming quality that afforded us our escape from the monstrosity was the fact that it was lost and bewildered as to what had happened to it.

As we both made our way home, as speedily as the dark night allowed our feet to fly, we heard the distant but distinct and shrill screams of rage and disorientation that could only have issued from the vile beast that we had unknowingly brought forth.

It was that night that I finally realized that I loved her. She was a worker of dark miracles that could make me shiver with fear one moment and the next make me happy just to share her presence. I admired her intellectual capacity and understanding to the point of worship and empathetically sympathized with her for all the hardships her wondrous life brought her. I had never thought of myself as lesbian, as I was always desirous of the attentions of boys then and still am, but my true heart belonged to her forever since that night.

For two days afterwards, we heard nothing of the beast and we hoped to never hear of it again.

Wendi was pouring over what we must have done wrong in those two days and she had finally come to the conclusion that her mother’s spirit must have been reincarnated, which could be the only possible reason Wendi could not evoke her spirit. The sorcery didn’t fail because of any mistake she had made in her calculations but went chaotically awry due to a lack of a manifest target. With a great sigh that made me emphasize with her sorrow she finally gave up on the quest that had filled her every waking moment.

She didn’t quit on her research into the occult, far from it. Instead she simply moved on to her next dark obsession.

When word came to us from the local news station of a terrible death we immediately, and rightly, feared the worst. A child had been abducted and murdered, his discovered remains having been nauseatingly cannibalized. The culprit was easy to track and when the horrid criminal was found hiding in the nearby woods and captured, it caused a huge commotion.

From all descriptions, it could only have been the abhorrent thing that Wendi and I brought back through the void. Of course, none of the minds that study the thing can imagine it belonging to any other species besides mankind. Without knowledge of other worlds, dimensions or planes of existence, one may easily mistake the creature for a horribly mutated and insane human that could only have been the result of genetic damage and a biology gone terribly wrong.

That they have taken the demonic thing and locked it away in Eloise Psychiatric Hospital for further examination and safekeeping surprised me. That is still thrashes, howls mindlessly against the walls of its solitary confinement, and viciously attacks its keepers whenever the chance arises, according to those that work there, surprises me not. Instead of showing the murderous animal mercy and empathy, they should have euthanized it.

The odd thing is, even with this confession of the reality of the monster’s origin, I seriously doubt that any will believe me. I suspect that if I were to be ever apprehended again that I would share a padded cell adjoining the foul beast and shown much less benevolence. I will undoubtedly be labeled as one of the criminally insane and for this reason, I state my warning again. I will not hesitate to kill (and that is one of the least of the horrors I can inflict upon you) anyone that tries to stand in my way.

 

IV. Darkness Dawns

 

High school was ever the crucible of teenage suffering and for Wendi and me, those four years became a never-ending persecution.

Our town is but a small community of farmers and rumors and gossip concerning my peculiar and enigmatic mistress abounds. It has always been known throughout the town that Wendi possesses ‘the sight’ and most openly profess a fear of her abilities, often to the accusations that she is a witch. That she has become one now isn’t relevant. At that time, she had never even seriously thought about witchcraft, her dabbling in necromancy and evoking taking all of her attention and concentration. It wasn’t until the eleventh grade that she attempted any sort of hexing or sorceries and those were attempts at revenge for the constant harassment and physical abuses flooded upon us. It was then that Wendi felt forced to fight back and she did it the only way she knew how. Wendi and I were never planning to use our arcane and forbidden skills upon the living. I contend that it is the sheer hatred shown towards us by the small minds in our rotten hometown that created us thusly.

With every passing school year the cruelty shown to us, and especially her, got progressively worse. In ninth grade, it was a complete ostracizing and public shunning coupled with nasty verbal insults. The following year, in tenth grade, the malice started to take a violent and degrading turn with tripping, shoving, hair pulling and minor fights becoming the norm.

It was then at the age of fifteen, that Wendi started digging deep into the occult world of Santeria. As I stated previously, her attraction to the forbidden and shunned disciplines grew seemingly exponentially. It started where she would spend hours searching the internet for any scrap of information that she could find on the subject. Pen and paper in hand she would excitedly jot down any of the Wiccan spells, charms or divinations that she could find for later experimentation. Many of those simple ‘white’ spells never properly satisfied her, but she was tenuous in her quest, refusing to let go of the subject until she could either prove or fully disprove the truth of her current obsession. She would relay to me her works and their results, lamenting the fact that she could accomplish very little indeed due to both her lack of materials and a proper formula for experimentation with.

Not all of her dabbling attempts while we were sophomores in high school were without results. There were a number of small successes that, to her percipient mind anyways, bore fruit and they were what kept her fanatically devoted to her nocturnal and secretive studies. Those trifling outcomes that she so desired kept her steadfast in the face of the vast majority of her dismal failures. It ostensibly appeared to me that the more she and I were hassled and ridiculed, simply for being whom we were, the deeper she delved onto those forbidden paths of knowledge.

By the eleventh grade, with the physical and verbal abuses continuing without pause, Wendi had finally worked on a formulaic approach to ‘blood magic’-i.e. sacrificial magic- that she was positive would work. Her scientific discoveries into the dreadful occult demanded a few components for assuring the sorcery would be successful. The first is a personal item from the curse's chosen target, which could be anything large or small. The second component must be a piece of the victim's body such as a lock of hair or fingernail clippings. The third, and hardest item to collect surreptitiously, is a few drops of blood or bodily fluid from the target of the hex. Lastly, the true and full name of the quarry is needed, but in this day that is easy as none hide their true names unless they become famous. All of these things are mandatory and must be ritualized within a two-dimensional geometric figure in the shape of a star with five points (otherwise known as a pentagram), and a sacrifice is essential to effect payment to the dark entities that would carry out her work.

It is Wendi’s dark theory that black magic is but a variation of necromancy and summoning that entices the more malicious of spirits to enter into a compact with the castor (or petitioner of spirits if you like). The blood and spilled life force of the sacrifice is but a fore payment to the wicked and malevolent wraiths, as they grow stronger when they have had a chance to feed off the soul that is released and trapped by the esoteric and arcane pentagram.

Once she had reached the point of testing her dread new knowledge she immediately, without any hesitation, began making preparations.

I watched mutely, experiencing a vicarious thrill and admiring her brazenness, as Wendi would produce a pair of trimming scissors and clandestinely cut locks of hair from those who tormented us whenever chance or fate seated them in front of her in class. Wendi even went so far as to gather disgusting used tissues from the trash cans when none were looking, adding them to the small but growing collection of discarded fingernail clippings, chewed upon pencils, discarded tubes of lipstick or anything else that contained traces of DNA for her forbidden forays into ‘blood magic’. Some items she collected were revolting to my eyes but Wendi stole them none-the-less. She would happily steal bloody and nasty soiled tampons and pads from the receptacles in the girl’s bathroom stalls, stating that they may fulfill two of the mandatory components, serving as both a former personal possession and a blood sample.

When she had at last collected what appeared to be nothing more than bits, pieces of disgusting trash, all meticulously kept in Ziploc bags, and labeled in perfect order, she began her tedious process of trial and error.

Wendi had already chosen her first target as it had then been but a few days past that Wendi had been assaulted and humiliated by a gang of thugs in lipstick. Even as but a young girl in elementary school, Deborah Hickson had shown the profound ability to shower profligately licentious insults at those she took any dislike towards, and Wendi was always a favorite target of her sharp tongue. Now older, bolder, and seeing Wendi and I as easy prey, she and her vile friends delighted in slandering us and taking the opportunity to knock us to the ground after delivering cruel slaps as they taunted and laughed at us. Deborah and her friends were at the top of Wendi’s list and they would all soon pay.

We conducted our clandestine endeavor in the abandoned farmstead we had previously claimed, making slight but imperative changes in the symbol’s exacting design. From her backpack, Wendi produced tallow fat candles, which produced thick and slightly disturbing scents when lit. Those strange candles were delicately placed in a circle around us at the very tip of each of the stars points. I watched, uncomprehending as Wendi wrote new ominous characters in chalk around a small bronze brazier placed in the star’s central body.

It took me many months of study to catch up to the level of knowledge she had concerning the demonic language back then and by the time I understood what she had done she had progressed even further down new paths of dark learnings. By the time she was dragged from the land of the living she was years ahead of my understandings.

She stopped then and instructed me in an incantation, a foreign string of words that I could hardly pronounce, so different and unnatural they felt to my tongue that it took me more than a few minutes before I could recite them to Wendi’s satisfaction. I know now that those Latin words which so confounded me at the time and their dreadful meanings, having later memorized the dead language for my own studies.

Once the spell was underway, with the lighting of a cloying and slightly nauseating stick of jasmine incense that added its odor to that produced by the candles, I was instructed to repetitiously chant. Wendi ordered me to not stop in my vocalizations until she had completed the spell, the look on her face compelling my compliance. As I started my mantra, Wendi directed me to keep a mental picture of Deborah, who was our spells target, firmly in the foremost of my mind, accompanied by the summoning of all the hatred that I had stored up towards the vicious adversary we jointly shared. Wendi’s dark eyes flashed with a fierce promise of retribution should I have failed in the duties set before me and I felt no small amount of fear into even my bowels under her stern gaze. As I spoke the difficult to pronounce words, she spoke words of her own.

Building a fire of dried twigs in the brazier, her words seemed to take on a life of their own -as if they were physical things and not mere utterances issuing forth from a human throat. To the small fire, she added powdered sulfur and ground coal, whose stench mixed with the odiferous aromas already present and threatened to make me gag reflexively.

From the depths of her worn pack, she brought forth hair, nail clippings and crumpled-up used tissues, all former parts of the soon to be cursed Miss Hickson’s body, to which she added to the fire that eagerly devoured them.

With a slight conspiratory smile towards my worried brow, she removed the next component from her overly worn pack. A pair of sunflower yellow panties, heavily stained with the unmistakable signs of dried blood, was ceremoniously added to the bright flames of the brazier. I knew that every woman has had such a thing happen to them, ruining many sets of undergarments and pants, even when protection was already in place. This repulsive item, surely stolen from the trash, would serve for two components and Wendi thought them a prize.

From a black velvet wrapping, a wickedly sharp ceremonial knife was removed and my breath momentarily caught in my throat. Wendi gave me a hard look and the light of the flames danced along the steel of the blade, reminding me of my duty. My eyes widened in supernatural fear as she held the sacrificial rooster, bound and gagged, up to the pitch-black sky, offering it to the spirits. Wendi had used animal sacrifices to empower her spells before but those spells were never meant to cause another person harm. This seemed very terribly different to me, as if we were crossing an unseen moral line that would mean our eternal damnation. Without hesitation, she drew the well-honed blade across the vainly struggling bird’s neck with such force that the head was nearly decapitated from its body. Even though I suspected such a heinous act was forthcoming, I was startled with the coldness Wendi displayed.

Bright red blood spurted and sprayed, sending a disgusting line of hot viscous liquid across our faces and clothes. Holding the limp body of the doomed animal over the intensely burning fire of the brazier, a torrent of lifeblood pulsed itself from the mortal wound and soon overwhelmed the blaze. As a thick miasma of smoke billowed from the red-hot bowl, a sudden chill breeze arose from the still night and snuffed out the flames of the candles without warning. Just as suddenly as the cold wind arose, it dissipated, leaving us in complete and utter darkness.

The following school day, tired, anxious and nervous, I half expected to be accosted and accused of the previous night’s immoral crime. Wendi, however, seemed to be of excellent spirits and was slightly annoyed at my less than enthusiastic attitude.

When the final period of that school day arrived, I was completely despondent of any result occurring due to our seemingly worthless hexing. I did not doubt in Wendi’s powers, I doubted that we had come up with the proper ritual. Wendi was a true Thaumaturgist; she had already shown me she could work true miracles with her repeated dread summonings. Wendi was fanatical in her belief the spell would work, almost insanely so, constantly reminding me that the spell would not activate until opportunity presented an appropriate condition to manifest itself.

Shortly after the last tardy bell rang, the algebra class settled down. Minutes passed as the teacher started to routinely take roll call when I felt Wendi’s black painted nails dig into my arm from her desk behind me, alerting me without words to what I would have otherwise missed, having been concentrating on hurriedly finishing the homework I had neglected.

Many students, in their boredom, made a game of flicking sharpened pencils upwards into the yielding ceiling tiles above them, scoring imaginary points whenever the impromptu missiles stuck and stayed. They often hung there until either gravity or the custodians removed them and they were present on that day, fatefully located directly above Deborah’s unknowing head.

I watched unbelievably, with eyes wide and mouth agape as one lone, yellow, number two pencil almost visibly vibrated as it hung directly over Deborah’s seat. I blinked, refreshing my focus, trying to find an explanation as to what was occurring, as none but Wendi and I seemed to notice. A draft possibly, maybe the cool breeze created by a nearby air conditioning unit caused the pencil to wriggle, I thought to myself.

As I watched, wondering and with my heart and breath caught up in my throat, the math teacher informed the gathered students of a pop-quiz. A communal groan went up from the class and Deborah’s response was to roll her green eyes and disdainfully look up to the ceiling, showing her exasperation at the unannounced test that was to be forced upon her.

In that exact moment, the needle sharp point of the pencil released itself from the tile and plummeted downwards, tumbling as it fell. With an unnatural speed and force, when the falling projectile was mere inches from Deborah, just as she was finishing her admonishing head motion and her eyes were looking straight up, it happened. Deborah didn’t have the time to blink. The only reaction she could make was an instinctive widening of her pupils as the wooden projectile, sharpened to a fine point, drove itself squarely and deeply into the center of her right iris.

A soft and revolting sound issued as the pencil ruptured and penetrated the orb of her eye, followed immediately by one of the most terrible screams of pain and horror that I had ever before heard in my then young life. Chaos ensued after that as the whole class turned towards the target of our revenge and witnessed her still screaming, with pencil speared and half buried into her ruined eye. Blood mixed with the thin watery contents of her now deflating sclera, dripped, and ran between fingers held tightly over the pierced and offended orb. Gasps and screams of the dismayed witnesses rang out, adding to the sheer pandemonium of the scene.

I was in too much shock at what had transpired, not a sound issued from me. I looked behind me at Wendi then and saw an expression of silent pleasure on her face, which reminded me of the expression of how ‘The cat that ate the canary’ must have proverbially looked.

I remember the math teacher standing transfixed, rooted in place with such a pained look upon his features that made one think he was about to have a heart attack right then and there. The first person to break free from the spell of shock and incredulity to rush to Deborah’s aid was one of the football ‘jocks’ whose size and strength massively outweighed his intelligence.

Amid cries of fright, the senior year linebacker did what his base instincts told him. He grabbed the quivering eraser end of the impaling item sticking from between gore-covered fingers and yanked it free. Too late the elderly teacher broke from his lethargy and shouted a stern warning for the lettered jacket-wearing athlete to touch not the wooden skewer, but the deed had already been done.

Deborah let loose another anguished cry as red tinged liquid squirted thickly with the hasty removal and she promptly passed out. As she found solace in unconsciousness and her body slumped heavily back into her desk, her hands slid away from the offended socket, releasing the pressure that was holding the now devastated orb in place. The ruined eyeball slid out, still dripping fouled and bloody fluids, coming to rest on her cheekbone and hanging tenuously at the end of optic nerves that should never see the light of day themselves. New cries of revulsion echoed throughout the enclosed room while a few of the more weak stomached students promptly vomited at the sight.

Wendi grabbed me and helped me gather my things before leading me out the door. People were in a mad rush to escape the room and even then the hall was filled with cries for help as curious staff and students were quickly filling the doorway and nearby hallway, crowding to see what all of the commotion was about.

Once we were well away from class, Wendi could no longer suppress the hateful laughter that was bottled up inside of her and I inwardly winced as she rejoiced.

 

By the end of our junior year, students started to fall ill with odd and rare maladies or suffered accidents, which resulted in large and small harms. All the while we, silently and covertly, laughed at their misfortunes.

Wendi had, by the twelfth and final grade of our public education, refined her formulaic approach to ‘blood magic’ to such a point that my iniquitous friend could do away with some of the materiel components and if need be, even use pictures cut from yearbooks to target our prey.

It took time for our oppressors to discover the connection between harming us in any way to the calamities that started befalling them. It was halfway through our final year of schooling that our subjugation and persecutions ceased, and that only happened after Wendi had become so proficient at the casting of curses that a handful had died horrible screaming deaths.

Fires of unknown causes broke out and burned a few to death, others had their lives snuffed out in terrible auto accidents that saw them beheaded or mutilated beyond recognition and a few simply sickened and then quickly perished. Once it became public knowledge that all of the horrific deaths and tribulations came within twenty-four hours of the victims assaulting us, people angrily called for police investigations into us.

We were never silly enough to work our dark voodoos in our own homes, there are no cryptic symbols drawn onto our bedroom floors and no sacrificial blood stains them. The clueless police force that relies solely upon modern theories of the world could find no evidence that we were in any way responsible, however coincidental the tragedies appeared. Besides, I suspect that even if they had discovered our dark secrets, that they could never have put us to trial us in a contemporary court. If they did so, they would quickly find themselves the laughing stock of the civilized world. None of the academic or professionals of today believe or hold any stock whatsoever in supernatural deviltries. Since sorcery is blatantly false, it is laughable to even attempt to charge someone with witchcraft. How little they know.

However, there lies a deep-rooted fear in many people’s hearts that lingers yet from our past. The truth of magic, voodoo and witchcraft is found in some form in every tribe, race and religion. Incontestably there must be some fact within all of those stories, fables and legends or how could a thing that never existed be so universally feared. I tell you now that black magic is real and I am not insane.

The town’s people knew what we were then, especially our classmates, despite the fact that they had no proof and could find none in the scientific community to listen to their fears. While they hate us for what we are capable of, they also fear us and never again did they dare to harass or interfere with us in any way.

It was only after everyone began to give us a wide berth and fearfully ignored us that we, for the first time in our lives, were able to do what we pleased. It was then that our relationship started turning sinfully amorous. At first it was just for show, for Wendi anyhow, it was simply for the shock value of kissing each other in public and openly and wantonly flaunting familiarity with each other’s bodies just to watch the confused mix of reactions in the boys that shared our classes.

We found it fun to dress as brazenly as we desired, as brazenly as we found we could, and finally show off our always previously hidden assets. Wendi found that their fear of us made them practically impotent and she greatly enjoyed seeing just how far she could push the boundaries before someone worked up enough courage to ask us to politely refrain from exploring each other’s bodies in our classes. What would have once gotten us suspended now only earned us a sheepish and apologetic request to stop, but only after we had reached getting to ‘third base’ with each other.

That we made all the boys, students and teachers alike, and even some of the girls jealous that they could now only watch us with no chance of sexually having us was a sweet revenge all its own.

Neither of us is ugly, not by far, and never were. Once we started using makeup as all the other girls our age had been doing for years, rumors started flying that we must have sold our souls to the devil himself for such a change to occur. Nothing could be further than the truth. Never before had Wendi and I had the confidence or sense of self-worth to wear anything but black and extremely unflattering and conservative clothing that did nothing to show our bodies. Neither had we ever engaged in going about in mascara or even lipstick, there was no point to it. We were shunned and forbidden young women who never had boyfriends and who had been completely ostracized since childhood. It was simply a case of us making over our appearances, going from plain and unexpressive girls who only wanted to be forgotten and left alone to the sensual women we really were.

It was with a delicious merciless teasing that saw all those young men that had only shown us aversion before suddenly transfixed by our displays. Those boys that had once openly mocked us now lewdly leered at us with lust-filled eyes and their faces revolved from hate to desire, only turning away shamefully when their female peers caught them openly ogling us.

We made a game of seeing how many male members of our classes we could made hard, laughing at them when they had to leave class with books over their groins or slightly bent over in an effort to hide their lust.

Once the novelty of it wore off after a few weeks, Wendi grew bored with the free shows, much to my secret dismay. I must admit, I never told Wendi to stop. By that time, I was deeply in love with her and relished the touch of her lips and hands upon my body. In fact, I instigated much of it hoping Wendi would fall in love, or at least to tempt her into making love, with me.

So great was our teachers trepidation of us that though we completely stopped doing homework of any sort and never did any of our assignments that every single one of our teachers gave us good grades and passed us. The school administrators and even the superintendent himself wanted to be free of us so badly that they quickly realized that to fail us would mean that we would have to repeat the twelfth grade and they would then have to suffer with our disruptive presence for another year.

Wendi enjoyed their fears and simultaneous desire. I enjoyed that they left us alone and granted us complete privacy even when we were in a room filled with thirty other students.

Even our parents have come to view us with dread angst. It was with a fearful respect that they began addressing us. Timid and terrified while speaking to us of their immense desire for us to be out from under their roof upon the day of our eighteenth birthdays. Nothing else mattered to them concerning us. Not once did they mention Wendi and mine’s burgeoning sinful relationship that they, and the whole of the town, were quite aware of. Our abashed parents had clearly decided that it would be better if they did and said nothing that would potentially upset us -just as the rest of the village had.

 

V. Ruinous Perdition

 

Wendi and I were considered completely unemployable, as none were able to put away their apprehension of hiring two suspected witches to do even the simplest of menial labors so great was their fear of us. This left us in a desperate situation for money, something beyond even Wendi’s immense powers to summon.

Both of our parents were nervously anxious and adamant that we should leave their homes, threatening to legally evict us as soon as we turned eighteen. Finally, we had graduated but we were not invited to even attend the ceremonies, instead they indignantly mailed us our diplomas. We had but a few short months to find any means of earning money or be tossed out on the street. This greatly upset my mistress; she had no intention of leaving the town of her birth. She had just as much claim to reside there as anyone else and she was obstinate that she would stay.

When I offhandedly lamented the fact that we knew of no spell or incantations to place a mass charm or enchantment upon the populace to convince them to mindlessly dump their bank accounts in our laps Wendi’s dark eyes lit up with an intense fire. I recognized immediately that bright burning spark in her ebony eyes. She had found her new obsession.

The fixation that then occupied her intellect turned not into occult studies but instead into psychology. She had become feverish over the possibilities of hypnotism and the benefits that she could squeeze from its study.

At first, we used each other for our tests but Wendi soon found that I was too willing a subject. I was enthralled by her already and would do whatever she asked without hesitation and was excessively receptive to her suggestions no matter what she asked of me. My usefulness to her only went so far, while she practiced her cantor and trance inducing vocalizations upon me and became proficient in the proper wordings, she wanted to assay her new talent upon minds that provided more resistance.

It came as no surprise to me that she then started honing her mesmerizing talents upon her vulgar and abusive father. Since the always inebriated and ill-tempered man could not speak to her for any length of time without becoming uncivilized and start screaming filthy obscenities at her, Wendi would go into his room after he had fallen asleep to start her sessions.

Once she had sunk her hooks into his subconscious mind, I joined her in our secretive practices upon him. We made him do all sorts of degrading things for our amusement and broke down his will completely. When we tired of him he was a broken and confused shell who was on the verge of losing his job because of all the subconscious commands we implanted within him.

Wendi’s final test of her power over her shattered father came as a very public display that shocked the whole neighborhood.

On a warm summer day, in the middle of the afternoon, her father walked into the middle of the street. With a vacant look in his eyes, he raised the pistol that he carried with him and fired off two loud shots into the air, breaking the silence.

Once he had the attention of the neighbors, who had been drawn to stare through their windows at the drunk who had raised a witch, he put the barrel of his weapon under his chin. After a few seconds of trembling, obvious to Wendi and me that he was attempting to regain control of himself, his finger twitched spasmodically and it was over.

Wendi smiled wickedly as the man who had beaten and molested her crumpled lifelessly to the hard concrete after blowing the top of his skull off.

It was impossible now for any to say that the man had died by anything other than his own hand. Though most suspected that Wendi and I had some to do with his suicide, none could prove it.

The house became Wendi’s, as did the meager savings that her father had accumulated. Unfortunately, her father’s bank account held next to nothing and Wendi was forced to sell off most of her dead father’s things, including his car, to pay the death tax.

It was then that I moved in with her and it was then we truly became lovers after a drunken celebration led to her bed.

Though we had a place to stay, we still had a distressing need for money. The house was paid off but heat and electricity along with food in our stomachs became our prime concern.

Wendi and I set the whole of the basement up as our new lair of sorcery, painting the entirety of the space as black as night itself (walls, ceiling, floor and even blacking out the narrow windows) with an extraordinary work of dark art painted upon the floor. The pentagram, painted in a stark white that stood out remarkably strong against the pitch darkness of the subterranean room, was as large and detailed as we could possibly make it.

Then Wendi’s unrestrained mind came up with a brilliant idea. I had never even thought of the possibility myself and had never even heard mention of anyone else attempting what she had devised. She would use the internet to find victims to enthrall. She thought it possible that by using her sorcery mixed with her skills at hypnotism that she could transfix and control others from afar.

Wendi, as always, was completely right in her supposition. It took her no time at all to work out a way to solve our money problems. It was almost too easy for us. Sex is a great lure for many men and the internet provided her easy access to thousands of gullible and willing marks. After we acquired a webcam, we went straight to work.

Wendi and I took turns posing provocatively in the center of our demonic symbol in the basement, our nakedness luring perverted customers to us while the unseen pentagram focused our sycophantic witchcraft. We never performed any lurid sexual act for money. That was never our intention.

Once Wendi qualified a victim’s susceptibility to hypnotism, they were offered a private video chat with the both of us. If the quarry wasn’t weak to hypnosis, we quickly dropped them and moved on; there was no scarcity of prey. As soon as we found a suitable quarry, Wendi would start her spells of control and implant dirty visions of us into their impressionable minds. So enthused those depraved men were to have their nasty fantasies fulfilled, though they were all in fact illusions that existed only in their own minds, they gladly poured out their lonely life’s savings into our accounts.

By the end of two months we were well off and were at last free of any serious problems that a shortage of cash could ever cause us.

We had money then, and that only gave Wendi the ability to acquire the things that she had always desired. Of course, you should know by now that what she wanted wasn’t pretty dresses or a hundred pairs of designer shoes. What she went about gathering was a library of books on the dark arts and ancient copies of dread grimoires that were of a terrible nature.

As soon as the packages arrived, to Wendi’s extreme excitement, I knew and feared what she had set her mind upon. Books by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Aleister Crowly, Kenneth Grant, Peter Carrol and Konstantinos with their sinister and disturbing views became her fixation.

She studied every word of their dark alternate beliefs and she quickly became a staunch believer in their theologies. Even though I quailed at her new religion, she soon convinced me of their logic. The Satanic bible became her holy creed and within a startling amount of time, she had memorized every word of the forbidden doctrine.

Shortly thereafter, we dedicated an altar in the basement and supplicated ourselves to our new master. She became the high priestess of our new coven of two, and I became her willing devotee and disciple.

There is no hope of salvation for us now. Our final destinations will be in a fathomless layer of the abyss. A plane of Tartarus that only the most warped and wicked of humanity will be confined to for all of eternity once they meet judgment. I should have feigned fear or sickness that momentous night, risked her vicious ire and run screaming into the moonlight, and never willingly given my soul to the one I have. Instead, I readily followed her down those forbidden and unhallowed paths of sorcery, certainly relinquishing any hope of a heavenly afterlife.

Knowing of my undeniable and absolute damnation grants a decadent amount of freedom in this life however. No longer need I worry about such things as morality. I can spend the preponderance of my thoughts and energies in the sole pursuit of whatever my corrupt, black heart desires, no matter how wicked or self-serving they may be. While most suffer and deny themselves the pleasures this world has to offer in fear of upsetting the commandments of some unseen and unhearing but supposedly supremely powerful God, I have no such limitations.

Whereas my own powers grew substantially after that night’s allegiance, Wendi’s doubled and possibly even tripled. The matters that I had strained at to understand suddenly became second nature to me. With the newfound knowledge, we easily refined the spells that we had for long years endeavored to learn.

Wendi’s insatiable mind never stops in its hunger. Confident with her new abilities she soon procured much more dangerous tomes for her compulsive addiction.

Soon she had managed to obtain terrifying grimoires that made my stomach quell when I read them. The Grand Grimoire, The Greater Key of Solomon the King, Lemegeton (Lesser Key of Solomon) and the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage written by Abraham of Worms became her new fascination and she poured over them nonstop for weeks.

I knew what she was about to attempt and she knew my fears. She was obsessing over the fact that whilst our patronage to the dark lord had granted a great boon to our supernatural adeptness, they would grow even stronger if we could find a personal patron devil to align ourselves with.

I remember clearly, when things started going horribly wrong. I awoke one day to find Wendi in a state of nervousness that I had never seen her in before. If something was bad enough to make my stalwart mistress visibly shake with fear then there was something very wrong indeed.

She was obviously distressed about something and I was horrified to hear what had happened. In the small hours of the night, whilst I slept, Wendi had begun experimenting with the dangerous rituals to evoke a devil. She had actually summoned a powerful fallen one, which was quite an accomplishment in itself, and had been almost at the end of her bargaining with the dread demon when she realized she had made a grave and terrible mistake in her wording.

The fact that one must be very specific wasn’t lost on Wendi, the entire treatise she had studied reminded her repeatedly of this fact and though she had thought out her words ahead of time, she failed in one important but disastrous way. She wanted this potent and dominating being to apprentice her and teach her everything he could of the dark and sinister ways of sorcery and lay bare the hidden rules that make up the universe itself. What she didn’t specify was where. A supposition upon her part that was the one flaw in her dark pact.

When the malicious hell confined fiend eagerly agreed and reached out through the nether separating the worlds to drag her into the flaming abyss itself to begin her lessons, Wendi panicked at her mistake and quickly broke the spell.

It was too late though, the deal had been agreed upon and Wendi told me she could sense her new master trying to tear through the fabric of time and space to pull her down into the underworld.

Wendi was constantly looking over her shoulder that day and a sheen of fretful sweat beaded her body as if she had a fever. We made plans that I was to summon her from whatever realm she would be dragged to as soon as I was possible if she were to disappear one day. We even went so far as to collect hair, nail, blood and some personal possessions she had held dear and locked them in a strong box along with everything that I would need to affect her evoking from even hell itself. With these things buried in a secret spot for safe keeping Wendi felt confident that her almost assured imprisonment in that fiery nightmare would be hopefully short.

Unfortunately, it has been many months since I had been ‘railroaded’ with her murder. I am terribly anxious for my governess and hope she understands how difficult it has been for me to collect the items I require to escape from this prison. Nonetheless, she shall be free tonight.

As soon as the sun fell and the moon arose the whole atmosphere of the house changed. There came a cloying and thick miasma of shadowy smoke that wafted up from the basement that brought with it the distinct and powerful scent of brimstone.

We tried to leave but found the doors and windows sealed tightly shut and though we hammered and attacked them with everything from our fists to heavy pieces of furniture, not even one glass pane suffered a single crack or scratch.

When something, and I do believe it was one of the devil’s minions that Wendi had made her dread barter with, came rushing up the basement steps Wendi produced the gun that her father had used to publicly kill himself with and held it in shaking hands.

What appeared could only have been a ‘succubus’ as it was a demon in the form of a woman. The vile thing had fine sharp teeth and claws that were long and wickedly curved. While its face and body was defiantly beautiful, there was a clear demonic manifestation to its features that told us clearly that this was a thing of nightmares.

Wendi didn’t hesitate to shoot the monstrosity, placing three well-aimed shots to its unholy body. As the gunshots echoed deafeningly in my ears and the repulsive creature crumpled to the floor, Wendi fired desperate shots at the living room window in the hopes that the bullets would shatter the unnaturally and spellbound glass. The impacts did nothing except to send the shots ricocheting wildly around, barely missing us.

Great screams of souls in torment could be heard, getting ever louder as if one were slowly turning up the dial on a hellish speaker system and there followed a large number of fearful footfalls speedily running up from the basement.

Wendi had spent her last bullet at the windows in vain and was desperately trying to reload the weapon but in her fearful tremors, she fumbled the firearm and it tumbled across the floor.

A myriad of terrible and grotesque monstrosities burst forth from the basement then and as I frantically lurched towards the fallen weapon, the fiends were already upon us. The speed of the vile creatures was phenomenal; before I could even touch the gun, they had grabbed both of us.

With an all-encompassing terror, I thought for sure they would rip me to shreds or drag me down to hell with Wendi but they didn’t. They came for one soul and one soul only. They came for Wendi and they held me tightly and painfully down, my terror so great that I unknowingly loosed my bowels.

I remember the fear and pleading in Wendi’s voice as she begged to be released from her damnable bargain. I could do nothing and the last I saw of her, as they carried her petrified and terror-stricken with tears running freely down her cheeks, were her dark eyes as they bore into mine.

Her screams mingled with the chorus of the other damned voices and as soon as she had been taken to her new foul abode to begin her apprenticeship, the horribly repulsive abominations that held me simply faded into nothingness within a single heartbeat.

My horror wasn’t over then as I quickly smelled and saw thick black smoke billowing up from the basement to replace the thick and vaporous dark mist that had heralded the opening of the portal between hell and earth. A huge and intense fire had started that spread so rapidly that by the time I went to the door to escape I could feel the heat under my feet.

Thankfully, the impenetrable spell of containment had dissipated and the door opened without any resistance. Once the outside air rushed into the room from the now, open door everything flashed over in an explosive conflagration of flames that sent me scrambling for my life into the cool night.

Outside there were different beings waiting to capture me. The street was awash in police lights and sirens that I never had heard or seen while trapped inside the house. The neighbors must have heard the gunshots and subsequent screams and called the police immediately upon hearing them.

I am sure the sounds of hell itself manifesting in a house occupied by two suspected dealers in witchcraft upset the whole of the neighborhood. Before I was rendered unconscious by a fearful faced police officer’s gun butt to the back of my head after he snuck up on me from behind, I saw a crowd of people standing well back from the fast burning structure that had produced the sounds of terror that scared them straight to their mortal souls.

When next I awoke I was bound and gagged, tied to a restraining chair that allowed no real movement. They were terrified that I would use my sorcerous skills to charm them or otherwise affect my escape then, so they hated the thought of my even speaking and only ungagged my mouth that I could eat. So afraid of me the town was that within a week they had charged me with Wendi’s death, arson and a whole slew of false charges and concluded my preliminary hearing that sent me over to the state penitentiary until my trial.

The charred remains of the demon succubus were declared to be Wendi’s and the gunshots were supposedly the sounds of our love affair gone wrong. They had come up with the story that I had jealously murdered Wendi and then set the house ablaze to cover my foul crime. The screams were proof that I willfully and premeditatedly took my lover’s life in my rage and that I had coldly tortured her as she lay dying.

Oh, how they slandered Wendi and I at my trial. I am still in shock at how quickly the court arranged the legal proceedings. Within three months, I was charged, sent to trial and convicted with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The whole town seemed to appear as witnesses to defame me and spread so many lies about us that the jury absolutely despised me and called me an example of human depravity that should never get the chance to see the light of day again.

I guess I am lucky that this state has no death penalty, as they would have surely demanded that but it doesn’t matter anymore.

 

Tonight my cell mate will claw open her own jugular veins upon the pentagram I have drawn in crayon on the grey painted cement floor to power my spell of transference.

Do you remember how I spoke of the mystic symbol of the five-pointed star being also a devise of teleportation from one place to another? While our house, with its precise pentagram painted in the basement may have been destroyed, there is another in an old and dilapidated farmhouse that still exists. Even if you whom read this do discover that abandoned and isolated place, it will be too late, just as it is for the poor woman whom I have taken months in preparing. As soon as I arrive there, I will bring my mistress back from the depths of whatever horrible abode she has been taken to. Once she is freed, she and I will take our revenge on the entire fetid town of our birth, have no doubt.

I quiver with anticipation on discovering all she has learned in her dark tutelage under her eternal dark master’s teachings and I will gladly share her new dread spells with you personally.

As for the pitiful creature that I have enthralled and ensorcelled to provide the blood and life force that, I require affecting my escape, fear not for her. She will experience no pain in her death, she will not even be aware of it. I have broken her will utterly and though I must admit that I used her for much pleasure in the deep dark of the prison nights, she now lives in a perfect and peaceful place that resides in the endless fathoms of her own mind.

The time is near, but before I make my final preparations, I warn you again. I will not brook any further interference by unbelievers that stubbornly refuse to recognize the truth of magic’s reality. I will not hesitate to kill anyone that gets in my way ever again. You have been given your final notice.

 

Of Undetermined Origin

 

 

I. Queastiones sine Responsis

 

 

I shall not profess a knowledge of evolution, nor the process of Darwin’s celebrated ‘natural selection’ and his work ‘Origin of Species’. What I shall asseverate is what I have seen with mine own two terrified eyes.

Abominations, odious and loathsome, they have taken the life and flesh of my friend first, then my brother's, and if they persist -and I am fearfully assured they will- soon my blood and tissues shall disappear down their ravenous gullets also.

They await me, skittering and chittering manically, clamoring madly in their anger at being denied the feast of my body as they swarm across the roof and walls in their eager search to find even the smallest of cracks. I hear their screeching and scratching at the chimney flue, mercifully closed, the distinct metallic sound adding to the overwhelming din of their futile attacks on the wooden cabin as they try to bite and claw their way inside to me. I cannot count their numbers, but their repulsive bodies cover the thin window panes thickly enough that they blot out the sunlight, leaving me in dreary, hopeless gloom.

This forlorn hunting lodge, and its isolation that I once thought a boon, will prove to be my doom. There is little chance of escape for me.

 

Teachers, scholars and learned men have put forth their theories, that evolution is a slow, unavoidable process that gradually unfolds over untold generations. Each generation of survivors, reaching maturity and successfully producing offspring (with the most fortunate and longest living among them), adding their environmentally superior genes to the species. The infinitesimal changes in the genetic code building up in the plodding, yet relentless march of time, slowly giving birth to creatures quite different from their ancestors. This I have been taught since but a child and thus I have believed, until today.

Now, I am faced with clear evidence that this may not be completely true. We, my friend, my brother and myself, have all hunted these woods, just as our fathers before us, and their fathers before them. I can, and do, with surety, state that the horrid monsters that currently infest these woods appear in no entomologic text book, that they indeed are a new species upon the face of the earth.

The vile things are insects to be sure, and their sudden and inexplicable emergence, as I can attest that they were not in existence the last time we hunted this forest, gives me great pause to dwell on the possibility of ‘creationism’ as expounded by religion, for such things are utterly at variance with my preconceived notions. Of course, if this is true, then judgement must surely be rapidly approaching us for God to have created such a voracious teratoid.

Is it possible then, that in the short span of a single generation, a species may mutate so radically that the resulting offspring is as different from its parents as a domesticated beagle is from its feral lupine ancestors?

 

It is undeniable that we humans have completely altered the very face of the earth in the short span of a few hundred years. In the ageless eons that have passed, the changes wrought have occurred in the relative blinking of an eye. Every fertile and vital acre of land has been callously usurped, leaving naught but the most desolate areas free from man’s ever voracious greed (and even there, the relentless pressures of humanity’s ceaseless incursions are evident). Roads, farms, sprawling subdivisions, shopping malls and filthy industrial complexes cover the once pristine land, forcing the creatures that once lived there to flee and fight for their most basic right to exist in a harsh and rapidly shrinking world or become condemned to extinction.

Open fields and woodlands I had once idly wandered and explored in my youth are now gone, replaced and forever lost to strip malls and gated communities. It seems the only untouched places left are the difficult to access vicinities of the few national parklands that have been set aside as nature’s last respite or the deep, unforgiving wastes of the deserts and high mountains where all things struggle to survive day by day.

Terra firma that before thrived and teemed with untold thousands of flora and fauna are now absent of all but a few species, the former tenants of the land having been driven ruthlessly, uncaringly, ceaselessly, to the brink of annihilation. Isolated populations interbreed, bereft of a wider genetic base, as even travel to new areas is a dangerous endevour -as evidenced by the numerous carcasses that litter and openly rot alongside our network of streets and highways. Any encroachment by the animals into areas they once roamed freely in since time immeasurable is met with gunfire, poisons and trappings, and if those deterrents and methods aren't lethal, lead to the offending creatures being returned to the habitat they found it necessary to flee from to begin with.

Even such beneficial living things as honey bees are reflexively pushed away, though all realize their absolute necessity. None want, nor can bear to tolerate, a colony of the hard working insects anywhere near their own homes or places of labour and endlessly seek to ensure that their relatively minor -yet immensely valuable- threat is removed.

Then there is the vast amount of pollution, pesticides, contaminates, chemicals, toxins and foul poisons we have envenomed our world with. The truth that all of these vile banes cause genetic damage, singularly and combined, has been repeatedly documented. To most of the scientific community, reports of horribly transmutated offspring issuing forth from creatures, both large and small, whom exist in the worst of the many polluted zones of our planet are well known. Most mutations are terrible abhorrations that doom the beasts they have inflicted themselves upon. Millions of animals have been so adversely affected. What if the odds of genetic changes forcing a favorable mutation were a million-to-one or even a billion-to-one? What if for every ten million revolting transfigurations, one favorable mutation comes to exist that we would consider evolution?

What if, in the face of great upheaval and rapid environmental change, mother nature herself is capable of issuing forth from her fertile and vicious womb creatures who are not only quite capable of surviving in this new hostile realm, but of rising quickly to the top of the food chain?

Is it possible that the world itself, and the life it succours, is a sentinel force -the gaia hypothesis- that will occasionally take a short-cut down the normally sluggish path of evolution and accelerates it in order that the varied and diverse species it had worked so hard to create does not perish from the face of the earth at the hands of one endlessly greedy predator?

 

These questions without answers hound my mind and regardless of the how or why of the reality I now find myself faced with, it is a fact that I have the unfortunate honor of being the first to witness and document the arrival of a new species to the planet. One that has the capability and instincts to view humans as a food source.

 

 

II. Nameless Espial

 

 

Yearly have my brother and I made our pilgrimage to this pristine and solemn wilderness, rarely missing the opening day of deer season after a month's long anticipation. Were it that some illness or other calamity had befallen us instead, keeping us from our annual ritual for but a few weeks, leaving other unfortunates to behold and give warning of the horrors that now infest this wilderness -though I realize that wishing such an ordeal on another soul a wretched thought.

Sometimes in our ventures we are accompanied by close friends or family whom share our excitement for the hunt, such as poor Gorden -whose mortal remains have been dragged into the very depths of the grotesque creatures' lair.

The route leading here is long, and without an intimate knowledge of the back roads that wind throughout one of the most sparcely populated counties in the nation, almost impossible to find or follow. Once off the highway, one needs traverse through the single small hamlet along the way, negotiating down side streets that quickly turn into dirt roads. Further one must travel the dusty -or muddy, depending upon the whims of weather- lanes before necessitating the final, practically overgrown last leg of the journey.

If it weren't for the whitewashed boulder marking the turn-off, I myself would have passed it many times, for the rutted trail is driven so infrequently that nature has almost reclaimed it. Dense growth blankets it so thickly that every time we return, necessity demands that we cut down the brambles, bushes and young saplings that have arisen from the fecund earth. Even after we have cleared the access path, most would not recognize it as such, for the weeds and grass that do not impede our four-wheel-drive SUV, spring back up as soon as we have driven over them. Then again, the observant eye -one that was familiar to the signs- would spot the blazes on the ancient trees along the way, overlooking foliage that is not so wild or near as tall as the environs surrounding it.

To call this structure a cabin is as much as a misnomer as labeling the overrun two-track leading towards it a road, as it is nothing more than basic shelter around a crudely constructed fireplace.

 

There comes an appalling scraping, a grim scratching that raises the hairs on the back of my neck, the baleful sounds bringing on a terrible fear that rises up in the craw of my throat. The obdurate obscenities have in earnest begun biting and clawing at the thin panes of glass, enraged at the sight of their quarry and yet somehow kept from it by the translucent material.

Hopeless, hopeless, I am without salvation. The windowpanes will not long hold. Were that this refuge were not so far from civilization that my cell phone could get even one bar of signal. That the rare sight of other hunters were not so exceptional that years pass between those occurrences. Time rushes like a torrent past me now, hurriedly I will attempt to finish this account before my end.

 

This now accursed land, purchased by my father decades ago in his youth, adjoins state lands where hunting is allowed. It is bereft of electricity and running water, the five acres being far too distant from established lines to be affordable. Life here is as it were for most of recorded history, with water coming from a small, yet fast and clear running nearby stream and the heat coming from the plethora of dead and fallen trees.

Memories of happier times come to me, unbidden and hallowed in their intensity. Brought here and taught the ways of the forest and initiated to the hunt at an early age, before today this dwelling held nothing but recollections of comraderie. Even if we were unable to place venison on our table, never did we go hungry for long out here. Squirrel, rabbit and other game abounds -alas, sadly I need add 'or used to', for there is now scant evidence of any other living things in these woods besides the aberrations that presently claim them.

 

Upon arriving yesterday afternoon, the last warm rays of daylight we spent in unloading our gear, cleaning the layers of dust, bringing forth water and boiling it before storing it and chopping wood for our fires.

Last night we drank, boisterous and content, sharing jokes and making small wagers on whom would be the first to bag a buck and whom would bring down the stag with the largest rack.

Before the first rays of the dawn shone forth we awoke and made ready for the day. We had envisaged a weeks' worth of hunting, with the first day set aside for the scouting of sign, reconnoitering the best sites for our stands and the placement of bait and salt-licks. The three of us were eager, to be sure, and after a brief meal -and some much needed aspirin to calm the hangover that came from the imbibing in too much alcohol the previous night- we set out, happy, for the hunt begins.

Along the wandering stream we scouted first, for all living creatures need water and all game trails that wind -seemingly aimlessly to the novice- through the wilderness eventually lead to the life giving liquid.

What sign of our quarry we did find were scarce and stale, but undeterred we were and we followed those waning tracks down the thin pathways from which they came.

In promising clearings we placed our bait piles and salt-licks, all within range of good, sturdy trees -prime candidates for lofty perches in which we could ambush our unsuspecting prey.

It was my now deceased brother who brought to our attention the curious absence of otherwise previously abundant wildlife. No birds flitted nor chirped, no squirrels scrambled away from our forms -to hide on the far sides of arboreal trunks as they are wont to do.

It was queer, to be sure, the overwhelming silence, and a bit unsettling of course, but we continued on. I had thought the dearth of fauna was somehow connected to us traversing through the undergrowth too loudly, giving the inhabitants of these woods prior warning of our arrival. Laboring to maintain as much anonymity as possible from then on out we followed the trail deeper, ever deeper, to where we should have never tread.

When we came first upon a thing that we had never seen before, instead of turning and fleeing posthaste as we should have done, instead our curiosity overtook us and we investigated our find.

Spiders are not the sole insects that spin silk. Moths and butterflies are known to cocoon themselves and their eggs in thickly woven sacs to house their own fragile bodies and those of their young. Let us not forget that for centuries the Chinese had kept the secret of silk -and the worms that produce it- from all others, creating a monopoly for thousands of years.

Dense, diaphanous strands of silk -much thicker than any ordinary thread- were strung from tree to tree, covering a wide copse. Reminiscent of a spider's web, yet strung horizontally, not vertically, none of us knew what creature created it or for what reason. The thin, pellucid fibers seemed to form some sort of perimeter and we quietly debated as to the near translucent threads origin.

Fascinated, my brother reached down and touched one of the ankle high fibers, surprised at its strength (as he expected it to break at his caress). Instead, he discovered it was astonishingly strong and strung so tightly it vibrated like a guitar string, giving off an unsettling, low-pitched resonance that we all heard -though the sound was at the lower end of our audible threshold.

Gazing confounded at the difficult to perceive strands, we noted with some perplexity that for every strand that our feet could trip over, another filament was attached to it and lead to some central point in the unseen distance.

Our curiosity getting the better of us, we gingerly, carefully, stepped over the odd threads and made our way to the crux of the contrivance, where we found something that confused us further yet.

Rising from the forest floor appeared a massive pile of strangely formed dirt and debris, a mound of soil and loam that gently rose up taller than any man. At first sight I thought someone, for some unfathomable reason, had come out into the depths of these woods and constructed an earthen pyramid for some enigmatic purpose. Were that it were so, that a madman had created such a thing in folly.

Awestruck and astonished we approached the bizarre creation, too amazed at what we had found to be afraid.

The first pang of fear rose within my mind when we traveled closer and I saw the ivory glint of bones within the leaf strewn debris of the forest floor. The nearly invisible silken strands all converging at the unseen top of the mysterious mound.

Feathers and ragged shreds of pelts covered stark bones that were stripped completely clean of flesh. Antlers and bare animal skulls stuck up from the leaves and twigs directly under the barrow’s shadow, piled and stretching as far as we could see under the immense mass. Desiccated and eviscerated carcasses of birds, racoons, possums, squirrels and every single creature that once roamed these woods laid under that dreadful abode.

This is where the creatures of the woods had disappeared to. As my fear grew, I realized we were standing in a grave yard of horrible proportions and I no longer had any wish or desire to find out what had claimed dominion there.

The distinct feeling that we were being watched penetrated my soul then, piercing it like a dagger, and I became dreadfully aware that our trespass hadn’t gone unnoticed. I remember with terrible clarity, Gorden, mesmerized by the sight of the tumulus, drawn to it and compelled to climb to the top of the queer artifice.

My brother and I waited at the base of the mound, and it was then, upon closer inspection, that I witnessed a bizarre thing. Clumps of dirt, the size of a basketball, were pasted together by a sticky form of the same unknown material that stretched from the distance and led to the apex of the earthen pile.

Before I could force my shocked tongue to speak the words of warning that my brain was desperately trying to form, Gorden crouched down and peered deeply into what he found and unleashed our doom.

“There’s a huge hole leading into the ground up here, it’s so big a kid could crawl down it,” Gorden told us.

“What about the threads?”, my brother asked.

“They go down the hole.”

"Can you see anything inside?", I asked, to which Gorden got down on his hands and knees and bravely -or I suppose foolishly- squinted his eyes and scrutinized the darkness of the tunnel below him.

Where before, the abominations must have been wary of us, having never encountered men before, they immediately, instinctively, went into action when another creature had the audacity to perch itself atop their lair and home and stare into it with unknown intent.

 

 

III. Horde Entomic

 

 

In the span of a single, pounding, heartbeat there arose a screeching, terrifyingly reminiscent of nails upon a blackboard, both from without and within the strange mound. I witnessed, eyes wide in awful anxiety, frantic motion, as the nameless things made their way from within their lair and the surrounding forest in defence of their home. The unknown abominations started converging towards us, both from within their abode, and towards us, swarming over the grisly pile of bones that had already given up their flesh.

My words of warning were frozen in my throat as true fear, a primitive, animal response that surely must be the same that causes deer to freeze in the path of swiftly oncoming headlights or an animal of prey’s muscles suddenly to lock up as a predator pounces upon it, overtook my body.

Gorden began slowly backing away, terrified as we all were, with the unintended results of his curious inspection.

My ears were filled with terrible sounds they had never before heard, and it was motion in my peripheral sight that broke my lethargic paralyzation. Descending downward from the branches of a tree, suspended by a thick thread of material akin to the unexplainable filaments, was a creature that my eyes should never have beheld.

At first sight of that creature, which was slowly, yet all too quickly, steadily descending towards me, I trembled in terror.

It was a motley coloration of black, browns and greens, giving it perfect camouflage in the forest it calls home.

Seeing it then, laying my gaze upon the bizarre creature, I initially thought it was a species of previously unknown arachnid, for what else could it be, I thought.

Backing nervously away, not even aware I was doing so, I staggered into my brother, who was also petrified by the scene unfolding before us.

Glancing about fretfully, it was then I saw movement all about us. That feeling I experienced, of being silently observed, was not born of some paranoia, we had been watched by multiple pairs of insectile orbs, for how long I knew not.

All around us, movement came from through the dead leaves and debris covering the dark soil and along the rough bark of the ancient trees. Their deceptive markings mimic exquisitely the moss spotted bark of the trees, the detrius and dross of the forest floor. A veritable legion of the horrors were piling out of the hole at the top of the mound, forcing Gorden to scramble down in sheer fright.

The vast majority of those insects, born from the blackest of nightmares, have bodies that easily are comparable to the span of both my hands with fingers splayed wide (but there are exceptions, many are seemingly twice as large). Long antenna twitch upon their broad heads, and thick, sharp mandibles clacked together menacingly in threatfull warning.

 

While my smartphone gets no reception out here, I have taken pictures of the things as they skitter on the other side of the small windows. I hope whomever finds these last words will take them to heart. That they will study the images and not go unprepared into the wilderness.

Realize this is no hoax. Neither have I fabricated this insane story to cover a crime in an attempt to deceive the investigators in a futile attempt to make them believe I have died after murdering my brother and good friend in a drunken rage, to slip away.

 

We were surrounded, the things were slowly, warily, yet steadily advancing upon us from all sides, then they paused a few yards distant from us, as if they themselves were unsure of what had come to visit them.

Gorden had lost his footing, tumbling down the last few feet and quickly stood up next to us, sweat beading on his nervous brow.

All three of us slowly backed away, my brother behind me and Gorden in front of me (closest to, and facing the gargantuan pile).

At first, the aberrations moved out of our path as we left their home, possibly content to let the creatures -men- whom they had never seen before, just as we had never viewed them, leave their grounds after a successful show of force.

It was then that more of the beasts began pouring out of the colossal structure in the hundreds. The things coming out were not the same as their brethren around us, and they showed no hesitation, no fear of us.

While the bugs surrounding us had spinnerets, and were hesitant to get too close to us, the insects pouring from the unholy construction sported needle sharp stingers in replace of the silk spinning organs of their smaller kin, they were twice the size of the things that had surrounded us, their mandibles were frightfully oversized and looked as if they could crush a mans skull, and they did not waver one moment in rushing towards the interlopers that had violated the sanctity of their home.

Startled by the manic rush and sheer numbers of the strange mutants that were rushing towards us in a torrent, Gorden screamed. Unable to take his eyes off the terrors that angrily propelled themselves at him, he tripped over a half buried ribcage of some unfortunate animal, the weather-worn bones crunching into dry splinters under his feet, throwing him off balance as he fearfully turned and prepared to run.

Gorden fell harshly, I clearly heard his pained grunt as the fall knocked the wind from his lungs. The things rapidly covered the small distance towards him, reaching him even as he regained his feet.

Struggling for breath, about to be overwhelmed, he fired his shotgun straight into the chitinous mass plunging headlong towards him.

The unexpected blast and force of the slug -which is what Gorden had loaded, (were it that he had opted for shot instead, but hunting large game practically demands the stopping power a slug provides when using a shotgun, as shot both lacks distance and has the tendency to shred the creature at close range, leading to a needless waste of good meat) caused the unholy insects to stop in their tracks, momentarily unsure of what had caused a number of them to literally disintegrate into bloody pieces.

Both my brother and I had rifles and we began firing, hoping to hold off the loathsome obscenities so that Gorden and we could extract ourselves from the hellish situation we found ourselves in.

Just as my heart gladdened itself, with the sight of my brother clearing a path for us to escape through, and Gorden beginning to run in earnest to our side, my heart’s next beat skipped in my chest.

From one of the smaller insects -the type with spinnerets at the rear of their segmented bodies- came a strand of the opaque silk shooting directly at Gorden.

None of us expected that. Certainly not poor Gorden. I have never even heard of another living creature being able to do such a thing, but then again, I have never seen such a creature before.

The thin thread attached itself to his shoulder and suddenly more strands were being flung. Gorden was running, dragging the horrid insect along with him that was now tethered to him as it strived to dig into the ground in order to slow him. In a matter of seconds, Gorden was blanketed in the filaments and pulled off balance, to fall screaming once again.

I had lost count of how many rounds I had loosed, when the hammer clanked on a empty chamber I began swinging my rifle like a club, crushing any of the dire things that came near me.

The insects have six legs and have three main segmented body parts, much like common ants do. They also seem to have separate castes, much like the everyday formian species found around the globe -with the smaller, fiber producing members belonging to what most assuredly is the nasty species worker caste. The larger bugs can only be soldiers, obviously aggressive and absolutely fearless in the face of death, for they leapt heedless onto Gorden as he thrashed about, piercing his flesh with their stiletto sharp stingers and biting violently at every part of him.

When Gorden shot his last round directly into a pair of malignant mandibles, scattering the offending thing into a cloud of gore as it leapt for his face, the slug traveled on, through the creatures body and into the hive itself.

I had been trying to fight my way to my friend, dodging the first of the sticky fibers being flung at me, when Gorden’s slug punctured the mystifying dwelling.

A great terrible scream, whose likes I cannot even begin to describe, rent the air. If the hereto unknown creatures are akin to the ants or the bees in their colonial society, then that horrid sound could have only issued from the layrnx of the dread queen herself.

The ire of every one of the foul things immediately screamed in abysmal reply and swarmed Gorden, rending him into bloody pieces as his own scream ended abruptly.

I was still trying to get to my friends side, even after seeing a number of the insects carry chunks of him away and into the depths of their obscene lair. It was my brother pulling me back by my collar, yelling in my ear we had to get out of there, that cleared my shocked brain.

I remember ducking more thin strands, of running as fast as we could, yet never seeming to gain much distance from the monsters that followed us.

Right in front of me, a chitinous thing the size of a small dog leapt from its hiding spot among the limbs of an old elm and landed on my brothers arm. Its black jaws clamped tight on his forearm, rending the thick sleeve of his jacket between powerful, razor sharp mandibles while it stabbed its stinger deeply into his bicep.

It was my brother’s turn to scream then, and before we quickly killed the thing, it left a deep laceration that bled far too thickly around his wrist. That was not the only wound he suffered, nor what caused him to expire from this earth, for the puncture wound just below his shoulder swiftly swelled in a foul mixture of black and blue bruises.

Onward we ran, desperately attempting to staunch the flow of blood from my brothers wounds and all the while followed relentlessly.

Less than a hundred yards further, my brother started complaining he was going numb. I saw with my own eyes his bloody arm dangling uselessly, flopping back and forth like it belonged to a ragdoll unless he cradled it as he ran, his blood flowing freely from the ragged gash. He had lost all feeling and use of it, and worse yet, the paralyzing loss of muscular control was spreading.

The nightmare creatures possess an envenomed sting that swiftly ceases the heart and lungs. This I know, for two minutes later my beloved brother fell dead in midstride.

I tried to hold off the nefarious beasts, firing again and again until they began snagging me in their adhesive fibers. It was futile, and though I loved my brother deeply, I did not want to follow him down death’s dark path.

I ran off, leaving my brother’s corpse behind, allowed to escape as the horrid things were now more interested in my brothers flesh than mine. At that moment I almost felt insane as both relief and sadness fought for supremacy within my mind. I was glad that they weren’t following me, and overwhelmed with guilt at not being able to save either him or his body.

I watched the insects literally pick his body up in a swarm and carry him off down the trail towards their hive and there was absolutely nothing I could do.

But not all of them left. Some few watched me still and continued to follow me back to the cabin.

Heed my words and flee these accursed woodlands and the repulsive things that inhabit them or you too will find that the hunters become the hunted.

 

 

IV Desperate Decision

 

 

Winded, my gut cramping from the long sustained effort of staying ahead of my pursuers, I had thought the sight of the cabin once again would be my salvation.

I was wrong though, horribly, hopelessly wrong. I should have kept running in the hopes the detestable insects would eventually give up their pursuit or I reached the beginnings of civilization, and safety, that the nearby small hamlet offered.

As soon as I spied the isolated cabin and the SUV parked nearby, I thought my escape assured. Sprinting as fast as my straining legs could impel me, I first went to the vehicle, frantically pulling at the doors and rear hatch in hopeful anticipation one had been left unlocked.

I truly had no plan besides attempting to ‘hot wire’ the muddy conveyance, even though I have never done such a thing before. It was my brothers possession and I had no keys to start the engine, even had I found the doors unlocked.

That my sibling had locked the SUV was not unusual. Even out here we have had occasional visitors, and knowing we would be absent for most of the day, he would risk no chance of someone with ill intent to steal or pilfer from it.

Of the same necessity the cabin was locked, but as it belongs to both of us I have my own key. Glancing behind me, slamming shut the wooden door, I witnessed the first of the monstrosities crawling onto the edges of the property.

Momentarily secure, I desperately sought for my brother’s keys among his things, praying he did not take them with him into the woods. After searching in despair, tossing everything around carelessly as I ransacked the cabin, I realized with a certainty he took them with him. They now must rest, along with whatever remains of my brother and friend, in that vile nest, or scattered among the bones and detrius of the carnivorous scourge’s previous feasts.

With no option left to me, I made up my mind to continue on fleeing, on foot, until either the things stopped chasing me as I left their territory, I found enough signal strength to use my phone to call for help, or I finally collapsed from the strain.

Briefly I pondered waiting for rescue here, barricaded inside, but the thought of being isolated within these woods for possibly weeks, surrounded by the nightmares outside, made me quail.

Even though I thought I could stay indoors for at least a month before the food we brought was depleted, I feared I could not long hold onto my sanity with the nerve-wracking chittering screeches issuing from all around me as they swarmed the structure. In the end someone would come to find out why the three of us never returned and in all probability they would spot the danger -if not, for whatever reason, they too would either become trapped with me or their cadavers be carried off- before unknowingly placing themselves at risk.

Of course there was always the chance the things would give up after a time, getting tired of waiting for a meal that would not leave its haven, to hunt something else less dangerous and unprotected. But it was not my first choice. I wanted nothing more than to run as far and as fast as possible from here. Now I am helplessly trapped.

Once I opened the creaking door of the cabin to escape the forest, fate had made my choice for me, I could not leave. For as soon as I opened the door a chattering arose from dozens of hungering mouths. They were too close and in such numbers that escape was an impossibility.

Hearing a loud keening, reminiscent of the thrumming of a hundred bee’s wings, I looked up into the sky. There, among the trees, appeared a third type of the newly detected insectoids.

Immediately I remembered what I had read about the insect kingdom from when I was but a child. Workers, soldier and queen castes, they were all female. Males were only raised and released when the colony was of a size that it was ripe to begin a new settlement.

The things flying above me then were the size of the soldiers, but thinner and possessed of a double pair of great, dark, membranous wings akin to the wings of dragon flies.

I did not catch sight of the freshly released queen, but a horrid screech rent the air, and excited, the males immediately flew straight towards the insectile call, flying out of my sight.

Slamming the door shut, I trembled and shook at the mere thought of another colony of the nightmares building another foul abode. I wondered then, if the nest we had stumbled across were even the first, if there weren’t others hidden about in the deep depths of the wilderness. If other hunters, campers or hikers hadn’t also exhibited the same case of unfortunate fate as my fellows had, and not lived to tell of them.

 

The incessant drumming and smacking on the panes are producing the first cracks. My time is running short. This refuge will not last for the weeks or even days as I had prayed, in less than an hour they have discovered the structure’s weakness.

Once the creatures start piling through the breech, that is sure to open up in no more than a few minutes, I will of course attempt to take as many of them with me into the eternal darkness as possible.

Hopefully, they are not cannibalistic in nature. That they will not cart of their own dead to feed their brethren, leaving physical, irrefutable proof behind of what lurks in these woods. That whomever finds this evidence is properly forewarned.

My last desperate decision will be whether to die fighting or save the last bullet for myself. I need to…


Two Tales

  • ISBN: 9781311996039
  • Author: GJ Zukow
  • Published: 2016-04-15 17:35:07
  • Words: 21072
Two Tales Two Tales