Thursday, April 24, 2014


 Genre: Horror/Science Fiction

Note to readers: This story is a follow-up to a recent story titled Newborn.

Daniel Skye

            Jane Ignolia had screamed for three consecutive hours. She screamed until her throat was dry and hoarse, until her vocal cords were so strained that she could barely speak five words without her voice cracking.
            This was all that Jane’s screaming had accomplished. There was nobody there to hear her cries for help. Nobody but Russ Barclay.
            The doors of the barn were chained and padlocked from the outside on both ends. Aside from the few bales of hay that had become Jane’s bed, the barn had been cleared out.
            No cattle or livestock remained, only a lingering scent of what once was present. Jane was all the livestock Russ needed now.
            Russ was not crazy. Not in his own mind, at least. He didn’t even consider this kidnapping or wrongful imprisonment. He had spent years carefully planning every detail, stockpiling weapons, picking the right allies.
            “I’m sorry for this,” Russ called to her from outside the barn.
            “You’re sorry? You drugged and kidnapped me, imprisoned me in your disgusting barn. And all you have to say is you’re sorry? Are you going to apologize before you kill me too?”
            “I have no intention of harming you, Miss Ignolia. Quite the opposite. I need your help, ma’am.”
            “You need help alright.”
            “I understand you’re confused and you’re frustrated–”
            “Not frustrated,” Jane cut him short. “Pissed off.”
            “Ok, I understand you’re pissed off, but I need you to listen to me. Many lives are at stake here. Your life, mine, and the whole town of Spring Harbor. We’re all in danger.”
            “Go on,” Jane insisted. It would do her no harm hearing him out. Even if he was delusional, he knew how to be dramatic and grasp ones attention.
            “I know you’ve only lived here two years, so you haven’t experienced it yet. But every so often, a great fog rolls into Spring Harbor. But this is no ordinary fog like the ones were accustomed to. This fog is thicker and greener than any natural fog man has encountered. But the fog doesn’t come alone…It brings forth creatures the likes of which you couldn’t begin to imagine. In 2006, they got my boy on a hunting trip. In 2007, they returned again. A group of local and two outsiders tried to stop them. They failed. And I’ve been waiting ever since for them to return. That fog is due any day now.”
            “So why do you need my help?”
            “Like I said, I planned out every detail. I’ve been watching you, Jane. You’re tougher than all the men in this town put together. You know how to shoot a gun, and you know how to defend yourself. I need someone like you on my side.”
            “You really think I’m going to help you?”
            “I know you will,” Russ said, sliding a worn photograph under the red barn doors. She flipped it over and saw a rosy cheeked boy, no more than five or six years old, decked out in old western attire and brandished a toy gun like he was a cowboy.
            “That was Andy,” Russ told her. “My son. This is what he looked like after those things were finished with him.” He slid another photo under the barn doors, this one not nearly as pleasing as the first.
* * *
            Released from the barn, Jane was free to roam the property. After Andy’s untimely demise, Russ had let his place go to hell. Paint bubbled and peeled along the white picket fence. Mold had formed and was starting to devour the sides of the farmhouse. And as dilapidated as it looked from the outside, the inside was no better.
            The place reeked like a cross between a gin mill and a walk-in humidor. Jane supposed that the house could use a woman’s touch.
            Russ had shifted into third gear and was gathering every gun, every weapon at his disposal from the basement, setting them all on the Formica kitchen table. There were handguns, shotguns, rifles, crossbows, semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Her hazel eyes bulged when she saw the grenades and flamethrower. Russ Barclay clearly meant business.
            “If these things are what you say they are, how do you intend to stop them?” she asked.
            “The old-fashioned way. A hail of gunfire and a shitload of grenades.”
            “Are you sure it will work?”
            “I’m sure that these abominations are not of this Earth. They come from somewhere that even people like you or I would not dare to dwell. But whether they’re from this Earth or they’re from the planet Neptune, they must have a weakness. All we have to do is find it and exploit it.”
            “Uh huh,” she nodded, unconvinced. “And the two of us are going to stop this horde of monsters?”
            “Not just us,” Russ assured her. “I’ve got reinforcements.”
* * *
            The world didn’t end on December 21st, 2012, which came as a surprise to few who chose to believe such a preposterous prediction. But on December 29th, 2012, the town of Spring Harbor was evacuated by a sudden catastrophe.
A mysterious thick fog had rolled in from the bay, enveloping Spring Harbor. Living in a place like Spring Harbor, Burt Austin was accustomed to the fog. He’d seen it a thousand times before.
            But something was different about this fog. This fog was green and ominous. It seemed conscious, sentient. It carried a dark, unsettling presence. But that wasn’t all the fog carried.
            His grandfather had told him the legend of the green fog when he was nine. Once in a blue moon, a great green fog, green as the color of envy, rolls into the peaceful town of Spring Harbor. And along with it come the Desecrators. He had described them all in grand, vivid detail.
            “What are they?” he asked, shivering, feeling his nine-year-old-self shrinking to the size of a walnut from the utter fear his grandfather’s tale invoked. “And why do they come here?”
            “Don’t be silly,” his grandfather laughed. “They’re monsters. Nightmares from another dimension. And they come here for one thing. They come here to destroy.”
            It was a splendid campfire yarn, or a surefire way to induce many sleepless nights for impressionable minors. But it was not a tale that his older self was ready to accept. Not until he saw it with his own two unblinking eyes. And not until his brother, Jake, had his throat torn wide open.
            That was the day he swore revenge. And so when this fog appeared, it wasn’t dread that filled Burt Austin. It was bliss.
            The Desecrators were crossing the threshold as the fog crept in. Soon they would come, and soon the final showdown would commence. As Burt ran to gather his guns, the ringing phone stopped him dead in his tracks. He didn’t have to answer to know who was waiting on the other end.
            Russ Barclay had made a pact with Burt years ago. They swore that they would vanquish the Desecrators or die trying. And that’s exactly what Burt intended to do.
* * *
            Burt loaded his truck and rendezvoused with Russ at his farmhouse. There, Burt was introduced to Jane Ignolia and Tyler Reese, a new acquaintance of Russ. They had met on the internet, as Tyler had encountered a creature of similar description on a routine business trip years before. The townspeople all had their theories of where the creature came from. Some believed it was a gift from above, a guardian to shield and protect them. But Tyler knew this unholy creature was not of this world.
            “How’d you two meet?” Burt asked Jane.
            “I’d rather not talk about it,” Jane turned away from him.
            “What about you?” Burt asked Tyler.
            “Internet chat room,” Tyler answered. “Everyone I told my story to thought I was a whacko, except for Russ. He believed every word. He told me about Herman Coach and helped me understand more than I ever could. About Planet X, about the government experiments.”
            “The fuck is this guy talking about?” Jane asked unbecomingly.
            “I’ll explain,” Burt took over. “Herman Coach was a local resident, and one of the victims of the Desecrators. So was his wife, Shelly. She was torn to shreds giving birth to their twisted offspring they had impregnated her with. Coach was the one who dubbed their dimension Planet X. He was a brilliant man, but he wasn’t very creative.
            Herman Coach surmised that government time travel experiments conducted in the 60’s were responsible for a rift in the fourth dimension. A rift that allows the Desecrators to cross over into our world.”
            “I’m going to need a fucking drink after this one is over,” Jane shook her head. She was holding a double-barreled shotgun that held eight rounds and fired four shots. She was given a holster belt and two semi-automatic pistols to tuck into the holster. The guns were loaded with ten rounds apiece, and Russ had given her four extra magazines for backup.
            Russ was decked out like Rambo, war paint smeared over his face, a bandana tied around his head. He donned a vest of grenades and carried two large automatic weapons at his sides.
            Tyler had helped himself to one of Burt’s AK-47s. “You know how to shoot that thing?” Burt inquired as he loaded his rifle and tucked a pistol into his waistband. He had two grenades in his pockets for extra security.
            “Sure,” Tyler assured him. “I’ve seen plenty of action movies. I know exactly what to do.”
            “Poor kid is doomed,” Burt mumbled as he slowly slinked away.
            The fog grew thicker, darker, and a horrible shriek filled the air. The Desecrators were close, too close for comfort. As the men around her shifted into war-mode, Jane exhaled deeply and steeled herself for the challenge. “Let’s fucking do this,” she said.
            Loud, booming footsteps echoed through the fog and as the mist slightly parted, the Desecrators made their appearance.
            The leader was a six-armed beast that stood nine feet tall, towering over the pack of hushed makeshift soldiers. Its massive shoulders were adorned with spikes which supported its grey, pyramidal head.
            Beside it was a woman whose face was frozen in a horrible state of perpetual agony. Or so she appeared to be. In actuality, the female creature had skinned a helpless woman’s face and fused it to her own. Two spiraled horns protruded from her misshaped skull.
            And next to her was what resembled a mutated porcupine to Jane. Its brownish-yellow fur was shielded by a layer of thick spikes. The spikes all contracted and expanded, as if each individual spike was a living, breathing organism.
            The fourth had no eyes. But its lack of sight was compensated by its ultra-sonic hearing and its razor-sharp fangs. Its black torso had a slit in the center that ripped open to reveal a second mouth inside its own belly.
            The final creature had the torso of a dragon, the hooded head of a cobra, the claws of a wolverine, and long green wings that made up for its lack of legs. A forked tongue slithered in and out from its mouth.
            “We’re fucked,” Jane said frankly.
            “FIRE!” Burt screamed and the shooting commenced. He aimed his rifle steady and fired through the fog, targeting the female creature that had murdered his brother, Jake. Three rounds pierced her chest, but the bullets failed to take her down.
            Russ was screaming like a madman, pumping off round and round from his automatic weapons. He wasn’t focused on one particular target. He was spraying bullets at anything that moved through the mist.
            The first shots from the AK-47 almost knocked Tyler Reese off his feet. A member of the census bureau in the real world, Tyler was not the gun aficionado he professed to be. He couldn’t handle the recoil of the AK and quickly abandoned it for an easier-to-handle pistol.
            Jane tried unsuccessfully to take the nine foot behemoth down. Even when she blasted a hole through its chest with the double-barrel, it still kept coming. Its six arms flailed wildly, smashing everything in its path.
            It approached Burt’s pickup truck and lifted it with ease over its pyramidal head, hurling it into the second floor of Russ’s farmhouse. It could’ve crushed any of them with that truck. But it chose to destroy the house just to prove its strength and dominance.
            Still, the four makeshift soldiers refused to back down. When Burt ran out of shells for his rifle, he pulled out his pistol. He had fired nine shots at the female creature, and none of these shots had been fatal. A yellow substance oozed from her wounds, but the loss of fluid failed to slow her down.
            The two-mouthed creature rammed into Russ with all its might, knocking him off his feet and relieving him of his two automatic weapons. It bent forward, and the slit of its black belly peeled open, razor-sharp fangs protruding from its second mouth. As its gaping mouth closed in on his face, Russ yanked the pin from one of the grenades that dangled from his vest and tossed it right into its mouth. “FIRE IN THE HOLE!”
            He managed to crawl to safety before the grenade detonated and its belly burst, coating the farm in yellow slime and warped entrails. “We got one!” Russ cheered, but his celebration was short-lived as the winged creature closed in on him. Its mouth parted and its forked tongue slithered in and out as it spat a yellow ball of fluid in Russ’s face.
            It burned like acid and as he tried to wipe it away, he realized he was wiping away chunks of his flesh. His fingers, now contaminated with this corrosive substance, were melted down to the bone and his face dissolved away until nothing remained but a partial skull.
            Tyler was shaking as he fired his pistol, but he managed to clip the porcupine-looking creature in the back. It released a horrible shriek as it fell to its side. The female creature rushed to its aid as the nine foot behemoth and the winged demon formed a wall around it.
            “They’re trying to protect it,” Burt muttered. “Officer Fleming was right. The newborn is the key to their bloodline.”
            Burt tossed his pistol and rolled across the ground, snatching the AK-47 that Tyler had tossed. He opened fire and didn’t cease until the gun was empty. But the beasts were still standing strong.
            He grabbed one grenade from his pockets and plucked the pin, sending it sailing through the air. The behemoth snatched it with one of its six arms and tossed it across the farm, striking the red-painted barn.
            The grenade exploded with a thunderous bang and reduced the barn to a pile of smoking rubble and splinters. Burt dug into his other pocket and pulled the second grenade. He yanked the pin and this time, rolled it instead of tossing it.
            The behemoth caught the brunt of the blast. Flames engulfed its chest and spread around to his back. It dropped to one knee and the ground quaked from its fall.
            Burt, thinking on his feet, moved for the flamethrower and strapped it to his back. He held the barrel steady and squeezed the trigger, and a stream of flames came spouting out. The flames caught the behemoth and fueled the fire it was engulfed in. It sank to the ground and tried briefly to crawl before its movements ceased, the flames still devouring it.
            The winged creature took flight and hovered over Burt’s head. It spat a corrosive ball of acid, just missing Burt and landing on his AK-47, dissolving it in seconds. Burt sprayed the flamethrower over his head and the fire clipped one its wings. It pulled back and spat again, striking Burt in the chest. It ate through his shirt and melted the flesh down to his ribcage.
            Then it turned its attention to Tyler, who had acquired one of Russ’s automatic weapons and was firing wildly into the air. The creature soared through the air and came down on Tyler’s shoulders, its wolverine claws tearing into his neck and ripping the head from his shoulders.
            A geyser of blood sprayed up from his neck as Tyler’s head smacked the ground and rolled to Jane’s leg. Alone and defeated, she dropped the shotgun and raised her arms as a sign of surrender, assuming these creatures had any concept of surrender to begin with.
            “Hello, Jane,” a voice spoke. But it wasn’t her own, and it wasn’t spoken aloud. It was a voice inside her own head, clear as day.
            “Who said that?” she asked, terrified of the answer.
            “Me,” a voice echoed through her mind as the winged creature hovered in front of her.
            “Are you…are you speaking to me?”
            “Yes,” the voice answered. “We have studied your language and have managed to emulate it through the use of telepathy. It is our only method of communication.”
            “Where do you come from?” she dared to ask.
            “A world far different from yours. A place devoid of human emotion and compassion. There are more of us, others that haven’t dared to cross the threshold yet. But your world is of much interest to us.”
            “Is that why you’re so keen on destroying it?”
            “You misinterpret our actions. We don’t mean to cause harm to everyone. Only the ones you see before you, the ones who pose a threat to us or others. Our planet is dying, and soon the rift that your planet created will obliterate ours. That’s why we explore other planets, other dimensions. To find a new home to call our own.”
            “And I take it you’re considering Earth?”
            “Considering? No, it’s already been decided. We must go now, but rest assured, we shall return, my dear.”
            “You killed a six year old boy. His name was Andy Barclay. Was he a threat to you?”
            “Not to us, but to your people. Andy Barclay would’ve grown up to construct a nuclear device. A device that would’ve been responsible for the deaths of ten millions people. He had to go.”
            “You can see into the future?” she said in awe.
            “We can. And it’s a bleak future for most of mankind.”
            “What about Shelly Coach?”
            “The wounded creature you see before you is her offspring. We artificially inseminated her while she was unconscious and under our influence. Her death was tragic, but necessary. You see, we cannot reproduce genetically. Not anymore. Genetic defects have occurred as a result of your planets time travel experimentation. But that wounded child before you is pure, his genes not yet affected by the anomalies of the rift. He is the key to our salvation."
            “When will you return?” was her final question.
            “Sooner than you think,” the voice said as the creatures disappeared in the mist.
* * *
            By the time Jane had reached town there were no people to be found. People had seen the fog, heard the explosions and destruction emanating from Russ Barclay’s farm and got the hell out of dodge. The fog had faded just as Jane reached the outskirts of town.
            On the border of Spring Harbor and Braxton, a mob of angry and concerned citizens had formed. Some had only heard the legends before, others believed, and others had seen it with their own two eyes. And the general consensus among the mob was that immediate action needed to be taken.
            The people were like moths to a flame, getting drawn in by speeches of standing united and fighting for their town with everything they had and then some. The mob was getting worked up into an uncontrollable frenzy. And it was decided upon that the next time the green fog enveloped their otherwise peaceful town, they would fight with every ounce of strength and courage they had.
            Jane pondered urging them to reconsider. But their minds were set. And she was already invisible to the mob as it was; she figured it best if she stayed invisible. Just blend in and don’t say a word about what you’ve seen or heard.
            If she did speak up and try to explain the so-called Desecrators meant no harm, they’d laugh her off or haul her away in restraints. She could see the fire and passion forming in their eyes. These people were willing to die for what they believed in.
And people willing to die for a cause can be the scariest threat of all.

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