Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
By Daniel Skye
Roddy’s white Jeep Cherokee glided across the smooth asphalt. The Jeep was a ’97, but still in remarkable condition for its age the fact that it was just over 100,000 miles. Roddy kept up with the oil changes, rotated the tires every few months, gave the Jeep a tune-up when necessary. He always used the best parts and high quality engine oil, never the cheap stuff.
He flushed the radiator once every six months, checked the fluids on a regular basis. He had recently changed the battery and installed a new catalytic converter. The engine was running fine. In fact, it was purring like a kitten as Roddy pushed the speedometer up to 75. It was past two in the morning, and there wasn’t a cop in sight. The road was virtually deserted. And they still had another hour to go on Route 25 before they made it home.
Jay had talked Roddy and Carine into traveling out of town for an all-day horror movie marathon. The final film had ended just after midnight and they’d been driving ever since.
Jay rolled down his window as he lit a cigarette, stuck his head out a bit, and gazed up at the stars. “Man, I would kill to see a flying saucer. You ever heard the theory that we’re all part of a vast alien experiment, that we’re all living in a human zoo? We’re just entertainment to extraterrestrials.”
“Where in God’s name did you hear this theory?” Carine asked.
“Facebook,” Jay said.
“Well, Facebook has always been a reliable news source,” Roddy quipped.
“I’m telling you, man, sometimes I feel like we’re being watched from something up above. And not God. It’s like something is studying us, monitoring us twenty-four-seven. And what about all those alleged UFO sightings in Roswell, in Phoenix, in–”
“Do we really have to talk about this at 2:15 in the morning?” Carine asked.
“Yeah, let’s change the subject,” Roddy suggested. “And how many times have I told you not to smoke in my Jeep,” he added.
“Fine,” Jay said, clearly annoyed. He flicked his cigarette out of the Jeep and rolled up his window.
“How’s it going with you and Rachel?” Carine asked Jay.
“Great,” Jay said. “She refuses to talk to me. She wanted her space, I gave her space. Then she got on my case for not keeping in touch with her. Then I started messaging her again, and she stop replying to my texts. I sent her cards, I sent her flowers, I offered to take her out to dinner. Nothing is ever good enough for her. What is it you bitches want from us guys?”
“Well, we certainly don’t like being called bitches, I can tell you that.”
“Girls are impossible to please,” Jay sighed.
“Or maybe we’re easy to please and you guys just really suck at it.” She grinned in the rearview mirror to let him know she was just busting his chops.
“Are we there yet?” Jay asked like a little kid trying to irritate his parents.
“Another forty-five minutes or so and we’ll be back in Dorchester.”
“Good, old Dorchester,” Carine said with a heavy hint of sarcasm. “Is there any place more boring than Long Island?”
“Delaware,” Roddy said. “I’d rather live the rest of my life in Long Island than spend more than a second in Delaware.”
“Turn on the radio,” Jay whined. “Let’s hear some tunes.”
Roddy had the radio set to his favorite classic rock station. But when he turned up the volume, all they heard was the insipid hiss of static. “I guess we’re still too far away from town to pick up WBAB. Let’s try K-Rock.” He switched the station. Static.
“How about Hot 97?” Carine asked.
Roddy tried Hot 97. Nothing but static and white noise.
He flipped through every station, but all they heard was the steady, banal sizzle of static.
“Maybe there’s something wrong with the radio,” Carine suggested.
“Maybe it’s aliens,” Jay said and started whistling the theme to the X-Files.
“Would you knock it off with that crap,” Roddy said.
“Whoa, slow down,” Carine advised him. “There’s a car up ahead. I can see the taillights.”
“Those don’t look like taillights to me. It looks like…”
The radio stopped hissing. Now it was emitting a low pitched buzzing noise. It sounded like a horde of bees nesting in the speakers. The noise grew louder and louder, piercing their ears.
“Turn it off!” Carine shouted.
The lights up ahead rose from the ground, floating above the Jeep. They definitely weren’t headlights. There was a whole clutter of lights that formed a strange, circular pattern in the air. A rounded object, like a huge disc, hovered in the air before ascending with tremendous speed and disappeared into the dark clouds above.
The Jeep begin to slow down on its own.
“Why are you stopping?” Jay asked.
“It’s not me,” Roddy said. “Something’s wrong with the Jeep.” He cut the wheel gentley and aimed for the shoulder of Route 25. The Jeep creeped along the side of the road and came to a dead stop before Roddy could even tap the brakes.
The electronics, as if being controlled remotely, went haywire. The radio changed stations by itself as the volume went up and down, rising and falling. The dome light and the headlights flickered. The horn blared without Roddy laying a finger on it.
Then, nothing. Silence. The radio cut out. The horn ceased. The lights went dead.
“What…the…fuck,” was all Carine could say.
“Took the words right out of my mouth,” Roddy said.
Roddy twisted the key in the ignition. The engine wouldn’t turn over. It didn’t even make a sound.
Roddy popped the hood and got out, followed by Jay. Carine was the last to exit the Jeep.
“Guys, what the hell was that thing in the sky?” Carine asked.
“This is all your fault,” Roddy said to Jay. “All your talk about UFOS and alien experiments.” He was clearly joking, if only to ease his frayed nerves.
“Maybe the alien theories aren’t so crazy after all,” Jay said, gazing skyward. Whatever the disc shaped object was, it was far out of sight. Jay wondered for a moment if he had really seen it at all. But if it was a mind trick, a hallucination, Roddy and Carine wouldn’t have seen it also.
Jay looked in every direction, making sure the coast was clear. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized they were alone. Alone wasn’t necessarily good when you’re broken down on the side of the road. But with that unidentified flying object out of sight, alone meant they were safe, at least for now.
“Everything looks fine,” Roddy said. “The battery terminals are tight. I just changed the battery a few weeks ago. The engine seems to be fine. Alternators alright. I don’t know what it could be.”
Carine took out her cell phone. “Of course,” she muttered. “Why would there be reception at a time like this.”
“I’ve got no reception, either,” Jay said.
“Same here,” Roddy said after checking his cell. He went to the back of the Jeep, opened the hatch, and began riffling through a toolbox he kept for emergencies.
“Be right back,” Jay said.
“Where are you going?” Carine asked.
“Got to drain the main vein. And it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere anytime soon. I can’t hold it forever.”
Jay wandered off into the tall grass and started walking towards the Sycamore trees in the distance to give himself some privacy. Roddy got down on the ground, slid his body under the car, and tapped the starter with a hammer from his toolbox. He got back up, got in the driver seat, and tried the key again. The Jeep refused to turn over. The key grinded in the ignition, but the engine didn’t make a sound. It didn’t even attempt to start up. He jammed his foot on the gas pedal as he turned the key. No luck.
“Seriously, what was that?” Carine said, her voice failing to rise above a whisper.
“I’d rather not think about it,” Roddy said.
“I can’t believe this shit.”
“Neither can I. But it looks like we’re stuck here until somebody else comes along. Keep your eyes peeled for any passing cars.”
Jay returned a short while later, sweating profusely, clutching at his stomach.
“You alright, dude?” Roddy asked.
“Yeah, you don’t look so hot,” Carine said.
“I don’t feel so hot,” Jay said. “Must’ve been something I ate. I’ll be alright. Just need to lie down a minute.”
Jay got in and stretched out over the backseat, rubbing and cradling his upset stomach. He was breathing laboriously. He fanned himself with the hand that wasn’t favoring his stomach. It felt like his whole body was overheating.
A car, a red Corvette, flew down the road at top speed. Roddy waved his arms to try and flag them down and Carine was shouting to try and get the drivers attention. The driver didn’t stop, didn’t even look back.
“Dick,” Roddy muttered.
Jay sprung from the backseat and opened one of the doors, puking out onto the side of the road. Roddy and Carine came rushing over. His vomit was dark, as if he had ingested nothing but black food coloring all night. That’s when Roddy noticed the “sweat” dripping from his body. It wasn’t sweat at all. A black sludge-like substance oozed from his pores.
He vomited again, that black blood pouring out all over the asphalt. It was oozing from every orifice, even leaking from his eyes.
“We need to get him to a hospital,” Carine said, on the verge of hysteria.
“Hang in there, buddy,” Roddy said, struggling to maintain his composure. “We’re going to get help.”
Roddy paced back and forth with his phone, desperately trying to get a signal.
“Rod! Get over here, quick!”
Roddy came rushing back. Jay was out cold, his body still covered in that strange, black substance. “Look,” Carine pointed to his mouth.
Roddy got a flashlight from his toolbox and peered into Jay’s mouth. A translucent tube was drilled to the roof of his mouth and stretched down his throat, past his esophagus. There was no way to tell how deep it went, but Roddy had an idea where it ended.
“His stomach,” Roddy said, whispering himself now. “There’s something inside of him. The tube, it’s like a feeding tube of some kind. It’s like they’re using his body as an incubator of some kind. When he came back, he was complaining about his stomach. Who knows what they put inside of him.”
“Who are they?” Carine asked.
Roddy gazed skyward as if to answer her question.
“And if there is something in his stomach, what is it feeding on? What is the tube connected to?”
“Looks like it’s jammed right into the roof of his mouth. Who knows how far up it extends. I don’t want to speculate. And I know how crazy this sounds. But they could be feeding off his…off his brains. I can’t believe I’m even saying that. What the fuck happened to him out there? He was only gone a couple of minutes.”
“I’m not staying here another minute. You keep an eye on Jay. I’m walking back.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I don’t know if it’s safe. You stay here. Take my keys. Lock yourself in the Jeep. I’ll go. There’s a service station just up the road a mile or so. It’s open twenty-four hours. I’ll go there and come back with help.”
Before Roddy could even hand over the keys, Jay snapped awake. His eyes rolled into the back of his head as his body quaked, his stomach shifting and pulsating as something twitched inside of him.
The gray, pear-shaped abomination burst through his stomach and leapt out into the road, skittering away on six angular appendages. It stopped about fifty feet away from the Jeep in the center of the road, as if waiting for something to arrive. They gasped as the lights appeared in the sky and the object made its return.
A bright beam of light shined down on them. It snatched the creature up and pulled it to the sky.
The lights were mesmerizing. Transfixed by that bright, burning beam of light, Carine started running towards it. She had no control over her own body. Someone, or something was pulling her strings now.
“Carine, stop!” Roddy screamed. “What are you doing? Get back here! Stay away from it!” But she couldn’t hear a word.
Carine stopped abruptly in the road and was seized by that luminous beam. It pulled her effortlessly into the sky and she disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Roddy’s whole world went dark. He blacked out, and woke up with the sun shining down upon him. He was in a grassy field that looked unfamiliar to him. No buildings or markings of any kind. He checked his pockets, but his phone was gone. So was his wallet and keys. He wondered how long he was out for and how he had gotten here. He didn’t remember much of anything.
He had a vague recollection of going out of town with his friends. But where were they? And where was the Jeep? Did he drink so much that he blacked out the whole nights events? Had he drank at all? Were they at a bar? So many questions, so little answers. His mind was fogged up. He couldn’t recall anything from the night before.
As he wandered from the field in search of his Jeep, he tried to piece the night back together. But something gnawed away at his stomach, the pain taking his mind away from his questioning thoughts. He assured himself it was just indigestion, something he must have ate the night before.
You’ll be fine, he told himself. Just find the Jeep, figure out where you are, and get home, and you’ll be alright.
In the pit of his stomach, he felt something squirm and shift. And the memories all started coming back to him.
Thursday, May 9, 2019
By Daniel Skye
PART THREE: THE FORGOTTEN ONES/THE VOID
With Lisa Ambrose at his side, Stephen Rhodes stared intensely into the long, narrow vanity mirror mounted above the dresser in his room.
“I know you’re in there,” Stephen said, talking to his own reflection. “Open up, you son of a bitch. Let’s finally meet face to face.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Lisa asked.
“Mr. Oblivion has my sister. I have no choice but to go in and get her.”
“Well, you’re not going alone.”
“No, I’m not letting you come with me,” he said vehemently. “You stay here, for your own safety. And in case I don’t make it back. Somebody has to be here to break the news to my mom and to defend this place.”
Stephen tapped the glass, focused on the mirror, stared deep into it, looking beyond his own reflection.
Lisa gasped and recoiled. Stephen’s image became warped and distorted. Darkness crept over the room until the mirror was nothing more than a gaping black hole. Stephen stuck one hand through, then pulled it out.
“Looks like this is the way in,” Stephen said. “If I don’t make it back, it’s been real.”
“Is that all you have to say to me?”
“What else am I supposed to say in a life or death situation such as this one?”
She grabbed him and squeezed him tight. Stephen hugged her back.
“If I don’t make it back, tell my mom I love her. Tell her I tried.”
He took one step in and Lisa stood aghast, watched in awe as the mirror swallowed half of his body. He took another step forward and disappeared into the black mirror.
Time stopped for a moment. He couldn’t see, couldn’t hear. But when his vision returned, he could no longer see the mirror through which he entered. The Starlight Inn was long gone. He was in a desolate plain, a landscape devoid of life and growth. All that existed was rot and decay. The place reminded Stephen of an old video game he played as a child called Silent Hill, sans the fog.
A black, mold-like substance covered every surface. The landscape was that of a town lost in time. Old fashioned buildings with brick facades, abandoned factories and warehouses, a sundial in the center of time. Splayed across the center of the sundial was none other than Simon Spiegel, the man who had tried to chop Stephen up into coleslaw with an axe, just moments before Stephen entered The Void.
His throat was sliced wide open. The black mold had spread over his body, devouring him slowly, methodically. The mold spread perpetually, growing over everything that stood in its path. It had a life of its own. It lived, it breathed, and it fed. And it had a voracious appetite.
Simon Spiegel gurgled, trying to speak through the gaping wound in his throat. What escaped was a raspy, unintelligible moan.
“Rot in hell, you piece of shit.”
If Simon was capable of replying, he would’ve informed Stephen that they were already here. This was hell, or as close to hell as one could get.
Stephen drifted slowly, cautiously, past the sun dial. He came to the end of one “street”, where two familiar faces waited for him at the corner. Two faces that Stephen only recognized from newspaper articles and the internet. The Maniwa Brothers.
Nick Maniwa was short and stout. Toby Maniwa was tall, lanky, and already in the process of losing his hair for a man of such a young age. Stephen wondered if age applied to a place such as The Void. He wondered if any rules of his world applied to a place such as this.
Undeterred, Stephen marched towards them with purpose, without fear. They stood side-by-side, unmoving, unblinking.
“Where is he?” Stephen demanded to know. “Where is the one who calls himself Mr. Oblivion?”
Toby pointed one frail, bony finger down the decaying road. “Look and you will find.” Then he added, “Enjoy your stay. We look forward to getting more acquainted.”
“I won’t be staying,” Stephen told him.
Stephen moved forward, glancing periodically over his shoulder. But once he looked away for more than a few seconds and then turned back, the Maniwa Brothers were gone. The Maniwa’s had murdered Aviana Phillips in cold blood, before vanishing without a trance. But they never really vanished, they never disappeared from the Starlight. They were there all along, trapped inside The Void, prisoners of Mr. Oblivion.
Stephen continued his journey, traversing this hellish landscape. He felt that black substance growing and moving under his feet. He had to keep moving or it would consume him as well.
A rancid smell permeated the air. His eyes widened at the sight of Gloria Tremont–a resident of the Starlight Inn–flat on her back, being torn apart by creatures that resembled buzzards. But these buzzards were mutated and possessed three red, unblinking eyes.
Ms. Tremont was in the process of being devoured but these buzzard monsters. Her eyes had been pecked from the sockets. Her flesh was rotted and discolored. She’d be missing for a day but it looked like she’d been dead for weeks, maybe months.
Just keep moving, he thought, and crept his way past the three-eyed buzzards.
A cold hand grasped his shoulder. He twisted around and saw another familiar face. A girl with raven colored hair, a septum ring, and a pallid complexion. Aviana Phillips.
“Aviana? Is it…is it really you?”
“As real as one can be in a place like this. You never should have come here Stephen.”
“I didn’t have a choice. That bastard took my sister. I have to get her back before she ends up like Ms. Tremont or–” He stopped before he completed his thought.
“Or me?” Aviana finished it for him.
“Well, you said it, not me.”
“It’s alright. I didn’t ask for this, but for better or worse, this is my home now.”
“It doesn’t have to be. Help me find him. If I kill him, your spirit might be freed from this place.”
“What are you basing that on?”
“I don’t know…horror movies?”
She sighed. “Whatever. It’s a worth a try. You do understand how powerful he is though? You know what he’s capable of?”
“Don’t worry about it. I have a secret weapon. And if I die, at least I’ll die trying.”
There was no sunlight or moonlight to guide the way. Only rows of slanted torches, buried halfway into the ground as if the sticks had been driven directly through the concrete, or what Stephen assumed was concrete or asphalt. With that living black mass growing over everything, there was no way to tell what was truly under their feet. The flames illuminated Aviana’s gaunt, pale face. Stephen couldn’t help but feel something for her. She was a beautiful young woman who had been robbed of her youth. He owed it to her to try and free her soul.
The smell returned. That thick, putrid stench. The stench of rot and decay. It made his stomach churn. The smell was maddening.
A shadowy figure loomed in the distance. Stephen didn’t let this frighten or discourage him. He approached the figure with malicious intent. Nothing would stand in his way.
“Long time, no see, Stephen,” a voice said.
It was a pale, sickly man with gray, lifeless eyes. Reed Bennett. Bennett was a sadistic serial killer. The last life he took was his own, inside the Starlight Inn. Reed thought he knew what evil was. But he didn’t know the meaning of the word until he laid eyes on Mr. Oblivion.
“Move,” was all Stephen said, emphatically.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. He won’t let me.”
“Fight it,” Stephen said. “Don’t let him control you. Do you know what he called you? He referred to you as a loyal puppet. That’s all you are to Mr. Oblivion. A puppet. He pulls your strings and makes you dance. Let me kill him, and you will be free. You all can be free from this place. Or, you can stay trapped in this hell and let him use you up until there’s nothing left of you to use.”
Reed seemed to consider Stephen’s words for a moment, then stepped aside, clearing the path for him and Aviana.
“That was easier than I thought,” Stephen whispered.
“You think these people like being slaves to that monster?” Aviana said. “We all yearn to be free, even if that means ascending to Heaven or spending an eternity in Hell. Anything is preferable to this place.”
They followed the trail of torches straight to a cathedral with blackened spires and blood red doors. The black, sentient mold had grown all around it, crawling up and down the cathedral like diseased vines.
Above the double doors of the cathedral was a man, his stomach split open, his entrails hanging out to the ground like sausage links. His eyes snapped open, and a hideous gasp escaped his mouth.
“Eric Ainsworth,” Aviana whispered. “The original proprietor of the Starlight Inn, back when it was called the Redwood Lodge.”
“Eric Ainsworth and his family disappeared back in 1924.”
“Nobody disappears from the Starlight Inn. They all end up here.”
They looked back to the red, double doors to see Nick and Toby, the Maniwa brothers now standing in their way.
“What you seek lies beyond these doors,” Toby said. “But I’m afraid we can’t let you go any further.”
“Mr. Oblivion has been collecting and corrupting souls to escape The Void with his unholy army of evil. And when he does, we will be on the front lines, ready to serve our master.”
“My sister is in there. And nothing is going to stand in my way.”
Stephen reached into his jacket and removed an ancient looking cloth. He unfolded it, revealing a crescent shaped blade with a blunt wooden handle. The boline that had been passed down by Lisa Ambrose’s grandmother. The boline that allegedly contained the spirit of a powerful warlock, one whose power rivaled that of Mr. Oblivion. He passed the blade to Aviana.
“I believe you deserve the honor. They killed you, now it’s time to return the favor.”
“My pleasure,” Aviana said and it was the first time Stephen saw her smile. She plunged the blade deep into Nick’s stomach and pulled up, splitting him from his groin to his abdomen. Then she repeated the process with Toby. They collapsed, smoke and steam rising from their gaping wounds. The black, sentient mold crawled over their bodies, licking up the blood, eating away at their flesh.
They stepped over their bodies and pushed the red doors open. Mr. Oblivion stood at the pulpit of the cathedral, his fiery eyes glowing inside his otherwise hollow, empty sockets. His symmetrical fingers rested at his sides. His long angular longs were bent at the knees and twisted to the sides, like a spiders appendages.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” it said and smiled hideously. It was a toothless abomination with black, diseased-looking gums. Frayed flesh dangling from its long, irregularly shaped limbs. It wore a dark blue robe that opened up to reveal its rotting, maggot infested corpse. It opened its mouth again a parade of maggots came cascading out, dripping down its face.
Under any other circumstances, Stephen would’ve been wetting his pants. But these were not normal circumstances. The adrenaline coursing through his veins was controlling him, and his love for his family and his sister trumped any nightmarish fear his brain could conjure.
He came charging up the aisles towards the pulpit, but an invisible force stopped him in his tracks. He felt something tighten around his throat, squeezing the air from his body. He felt himself ascending and glanced down to see his feet were no longer touching the ground. Suspended in the air, he choked and gasped for breath. The boline dropped from his hand and fell to the blackened floor beneath him.
Mr. Oblivion was holding him in the air and choking the very life out of him without even lifting a finger. “Foolish mortals. You think when you die you just go to Heaven. But you don’t. You come to me. I told you I have grown tired of this realm. And now, my unholy army is ready to break free from The Void. Your sister was the last piece of the puzzle. Now I–”
Mr. Oblivion gasped as the boline plunged deep into his rotting exterior. Aviana twisted the crescent shaped blade and pushed it in deeper. The flames in his eyes extinguished. Smoke and steam rose from his body. His angular legs snapped at the knees, causing his body to droop down to the floor. He tried to claw his way up, but his symmetrical fingers snapped off one by one. He was literally falling apart, his body breaking up piece by piece and disintegrating.
Stephen was finally able to breathe. He gasped as he fell from the air and as soon as he hit the ground, everything went black.
“Stephen! Stephen! Wake up! Can you hear me? Can you hear me!?”
It was the voice of his mother that beckoned him. He snapped awake and his eyes darted around the room. He was in his own bed, his mother and Lisa standing over him.
“Sara,” he cried. “Is she–”
“She’s alright,” Lisa assured him.
“You did it, Stephen,” his mother said proudly. “Now rest. You’ve earned the break.”
And that’s exactly what Stephen did. He rested, sleeping through the day and into the night. He slept for fourteen hours straight and woke up the next morning.
There was a message waiting for him when he woke. A message written on his vanity mirror from Aviana. It was only two words: I’M FREE.
Stephen smiled at the message and wiped it away with his sleeve before he mother saw it and he had to explain further. He already had more than enough to explain to her.
He joined his mother and Sara for breakfast in the private kitchen of the Starlight. “How are you doing, kiddo?” Stephen asked as he sat at the table.
“I don’t know…” Sara said and trailed off. “I can’t remember anything. And I feel all funny inside. I can’t explain it. But I know one thing…”
“Oh, yeah? What’s that? Stephen asked.
“I’m free,” she whispered in a voice that was not her own. Her eyes lit up and turned to flames that danced and swayed inside her now hollow, empty sockets. The room went dark and that black, sentient mold spread over every surface, every inch of the Starlight.
“Free,” it repeated.