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The Black

Writer's note: This is a piece I wrote a while back in an effort to come up with something in the horror genre. There are a few more pages after this but, since it was written as a short story, I had trouble doing anything more with it.


   Down the gravel road Parker walked, with Michael and Alex to his right. The West Texas heat was stifling; it felt like the Devil’s own hot breathe blowing on him, trying to choke the air from his lungs. The sun beat down like the eye of a disapproving God, vengeful and enjoying the suffering of the earth below. All around them the landscape was pale and stark, as though that same irritated deity had whitewashed the plane into different shades grey. There were no signs of civilization, save for the road, a road which held the secret of its destination tightly. Something about the situation bothered Parker but he could not quite identify it.

     Here they were, strolling along, his friends discussing nonsense and laughing. Their conversation was very present to him and yet of no consequence, like background noise that served only to distract him from his own intangible thoughts. Their talk annoyed him, if only mildly, and kept him from being able to wrap his concentration around any one idea.  So he walked on, silent and uneasy, nodding occasionally and laughing when their behavior made it seem appropriate.

     An eastern wind was blowing, and while it did nothing to relieve the heat, the sound it made through the mesquite was friendly and inviting.  Up ahead, a couple hundred yards or so, the road seemed to dip out of sight which marked the first change in scenery since their journey had begun. They paid no mind to what may lie ahead or behind. Time seemed to have no power over them and, if pressed, none of the three could have ballparked how long they had walked.  When they reached the spot where the odd change in their path had appeared to be there was no tiny valley, no difference in the road whatsoever.  Only long straight dirt highway as far as the eye could see. To the left however was a house where only moments before stood empty desert landscape.  Parker suddenly felt a very strong sense of foreboding.  Not fear exactly but a hesitancy to deal with this new development, no matter how innocent it seemed.

     “We should check it out,” said Michael, a wicked grin flashed across his face.  

     “Oh, hell, I bet there’s all kinds of cool shit in there!” agreed Alex.

     Parker felt the discomfort that the house gave him boiling over, “I don’t know.”

     “Pussy.” Alex had no time for anyone second-guessing his destructive agenda.

     Before Parker could put forth a more credible protest the two delinquents had begun to tear off the board blocking the door. The house looked like a bad horror movie cliché. Abandoned for no apparent reason, it seemed structurally sound.  The door and windows had been boarded shut in a fashion that resembled giant X’s, which only encouraged the type of behavior that Parker was now witnessing.  It was a two-story farmhouse, painted white a hundred years ago. Dense shrubberies guarded either side of the building with the remains of a picket fence peeking out from within them. A “NO TRESPASSING” sign hung from one rusty nail next to the door.  Everything about this forgotten mid-American farm home made Parker’s stomach turn, not the least of which was what it was doing in the middle of this lonely nowhere.

     By the time he had reached the front porch, Alex and Michael were trying to muscle the weathered door into submission. He was about to muster one last desperate argument when, at last, they managed to throw the door open.  Immediately the stench hit him.  Parker had only time enough to whip his head to the side before he vomited.  Alex and Michael, seemingly unaffected by the reek of feces and rotted food and decay, pressed onward.

     Parker slowly gathered himself and took a timid step forward; his eyes, unadjusted to the dim interior, could make nothing out. Stopping dead in his tracks, he felt something scurry across his foot. ‘A rat!’ his nerve endings screamed, but his mind, or whatever small logic center it had left, knew that the creature perched only moments ago on his left foot was much too large to have been an ordinary rat. Again Parker spent a fraction of a second to gain his composure before venturing further into the fun house. The sound of excited whispering caught his full attention and cautiously he pressed onward.

     As bright as it was outdoors, very little of the sunlight was able to penetrate inside. His eyes slowly adjusted and he followed the stifled chatter into a small room to the immediate right of the front entryway. Entering the room, he was amazed by how the room, which had appeared to be only a coat closet, had eerily become quite spacious. Was it just an illusion caused by surging adrenaline and his struggling eyesight?  Before he had time to consider this he found Alex and Michael rifling through a deteriorating cedar chest, joyously conversing about the contents which, to Parker, seemed to be nothing but yellowed old papers. The two glared at him suspiciously, as if he were about to steal a valuable possession.

     “Whatta ya got?” Parker asked, surprised by the quiver in his voice.

     They stared skeptically at him, and then, as if spurred out of a trance, Michael answered, “Crap, mostly.” Alex nodded and smiled. Before anymore could be said, a sudden clatter broke the awkwardness. Parker spun around with lightning speed. Alex and Michael were instantly behind him, trying to push him through the door but Parker stood fast, his hands clenched to the door frame, he was temporarily paralyzed by fear. The two managed, none too smoothly, to squeeze past him and rush towards the noise. Parker forced his legs to follow them into the dank lightless hallway leading away from the safety of the front door. At the end of the hall, he saw his friends standing frozen in the doorway of another much larger room. He was about to speak when he reached them and saw for himself what had caused their abrupt halt. Peering over their shoulders he saw it, or rather, them.

     Why had he not heard them before? Their cries were deafening. Their redolence was nauseating. The sight forced his stomach into his throat, and made his testicles shrivel up into his groin. Eighteen, twenty-two, thirty he counted quickly. Yes, thirty retched animals, give or take.  For a moment he could not tell the living from the dead, until, much to his horror, he realized that the dead were the healthier looking. All manner of house dogs were about as well as cats, birds, rats, squirrels and others than were harder to identify. And cockroaches the likes of which he had never seen this side of a monster movie.

     Slowly, as if pulled by an invisible tether, they ventured into the room. A small dachshund sitting just inside, deep red ooze dripping from its snout, snarled menacingly before returning to devour the carcass of a larger terrier. Cats hissed, looking like skeletons draped loosely with flesh and fur. A featherless parakeet screeched “HI! HI! HI!” while it hopped across the shelves of a dust-covered bookcase on the opposite side of the room, it was a miserable and angry looking creature. Parker’s heart ached at the thought of the horrible suffering that these animals must have endured. Just as he was sinking into his pity induced daze, Alex awoke him to their twisted reality when he delivered a brutal kick to the midsection of a particularly vicious looking toy poodle.

     “Fuckin’ mongrel.” He muttered to himself as the pooch went careening across the room. Michael nodded approvingly and began to ramble to no one, as was his habit.

     “This is so much better than that crappy house of horrors at the fair last year. Remember that redhead that I took in there? I figured I could get some touch if I scared the shit outta her, but all she did was bitch about lame it was. I bet I could get her stripped inside of a minute in here.” Alex went on to remind himself, under his breath, how hot that redhead was.

     Parker tried unsuccessfully to comprehend how completely and utterly unfazed those two were. His eyes, burned by the angry smell of the house, began to scan the room. Standing nearest to the hall of the three of them, and towards the corner of the room, he drank in the view, slowly allowing his mind to process the sights and sounds and smells. Across the room and to his right was a doorway with a hand carved oak door hanging desperately to the wall by its lowest hinge, it blocked any discernible look into the room behind it and the sins it was hiding. Next to that once proud door, now so completely ripped of its dignity by the powers of time and neglect and whatever evil was fueling the house, was a 60’s era pea green sofa, tossed absently across the back was the kind of two-tone brown afghan that a kindly great aunt might knit. On the wall opposite the couch was a cabinet-style record player, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams Sr. albums leaned neatly against it on the floor. Various nature themed oil paintings adorned the walls, many faded or torn or both and all hanging askew. A smashed particle board coffee table sat in ruins on a large oval multi-colored area rug stained with urine and scat. Parker felt his eyes locking on those of an enormous tarantula crouched next to the table, and although the spider had no emotion on its face, Parker could feel all of its terrible hatred and bloodlust for him down to the very marrow in his bones. Across the room from him in the center of the wall was another doorway he only now noticed, leading into a small kitchen/dining room. He became aware also that he was alone in the room, save for the company of the vile creatures living there.

     His friends were in the kitchen and as odd ass they were acting he wanted, no, he needed, their company now. Right. Goddamned. Now. He walked towards the door in front of him and with each step came an increasing sense of urgency. Parker was at a full and panicked run within just a few paces, yet the room seemed to be fighting him, trying to keep him from gaining ground, trying to keep him from the others. When at last he reached them he was exhausted but incredibly relieved; he took a moment catch his breath and look around.

     To the left of the doorway was an old refrigerator, the kind that you couldn’t take to the dump unless you broke the lock because kids could get trapped and suffocate in it. Across from the fridge was the sink, dirty dishes sat stacked up along the counter top, a month’s worth at least and a month’s worth of half eaten meals sat spoiled and maggot infested on them. There was water drawn in the sink and fresh suds floated on it. Parker paid no mind to much of this, intent only on getting Alex and Michael within arm’s reach. Past the sink and the fridge and the antique gas stove that sat next to it was an open door that led to a mudroom and the back door. Alex was in there, staring wide-eyed at more of those precious old papers. Parker opened his mouth to speak when something crashed to the floor behind him, soaking his leg in piss warm liquid and shattering his nerves. He spun around on his heels and came face to face with Michael, who was pale and muttering nonsense while pointing at the old Maytag refrigerator.

     “What? What is it? You’re scarin’ the hell outta me!” Parker grabbed Michael by the shoulders as much to steady himself as to snap Michael out his stupor.

     With great effort, Michael spoke slowly and deliberately. “There is something in there, something big. I saw it. The door opened a little and then it slammed shut and that vase fell and there were hands.... Or claws, I think it was claws, man.” He was shaking fiercely, his finger still pointing accusingly at the refrigerator.

     Parker looked into Michael’s eyes, he knew those eyes, had seen them lie to countless girls in bars, seen them talk their way out of traffic tickets, there was no untruth in them now – only fear. He looked back at Alex, who was now right behind him. Alex must have seen the question on his face, because he shrugged and nodded. That was all the response Parker needed. He reached for the handle on the off-white Maytag, placed his other hand on the top left corner of the door just in case the thing on the opposite side pushed, and looked around for what he honestly believed might be his last time before hell broke loose. Michael shook and Alex nodded once. He took a deep breath and lifted the handle. Parker didn’t know what he expected, but not this; the door opened a quarter of an inch and slammed shut. He lifted the handle again but the door didn’t budge.    

     “It doesn’t want out, man. Fuck it. I say we give it what it wants and leave it the hell alone. Let’s get out of here.” Michael was shaking worse now.

     “Oh no. Whatever’s in there is about to be out here, whether it likes it or not.” Alex’s bravado was touching, if a little misplaced considering the circumstances. Parker was about ready to subscribe to Michael’s new sensible train of thought, when Alex shouldered him out of the way and began strong-arming the door open. Alex had always been the more physically powerful of the group, and when he pulled on the handle the door flew open so hard it seemed it would rip right off of its hinges. What they saw inside crouched on the floor of the fridge not only shocked them, but destroyed any notions they’d had about what they were up against. Someone gasped. They stood there with their mouths agape while two dark brown, (maybe they were black, yes, definitely black), eyes stared up at them. Parker may not have been the strongest or the prettiest of the group, but he was the best thinker in a pinch, and what was this if not a clusterfuck of a pinch.

     “It’s okay, we won’t hurt you. C’mon. We’re the good guys, promise.” Parker’s voice was even and soothing; he stretched out his arm and wiggled his fingers a tiny bit. The eyes looked questioningly at him, those terrible black irises – he couldn’t bear to look directly at them, focusing instead just above at the delicate shape of the brow. He stood; patiently holding his hand out, smiling what he hoped was a trusting smile. Slowly a dirty, trembling hand reached out from below the cowering midsection. The hand was thin and frail in his; the nails attached to it were long and yellow. ‘Easy to mistake as claws,' he thought. A leg emerged next, also dirty, but shapely. Although he wouldn’t allow his eyes to meet hers, he could sense hers never leaving his. Another leg out, and she pulled on his hand while she struggled to leave her hiding place. Upon standing her knees immediately buckled, her hands shot up to his shoulders and his went instinctively to her waste. Parker was now supporting her whole self, and while she was no heavyweight, maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, he should have felt some load on his arms but she was no more burdensome than a feather pillow. She stood again and backed away cautiously, her gaze darting nervously back and forth between them.

     They surveyed her as only single men looking at a half naked female can. They placed her somewhere in her late teens or early twenties. Her hair, long and dark, hung in oily clumps and draped carelessly on her shoulders. Her face was genuinely beautiful in spite the dark smudges around her mouth, a mouth that was framed by the delicate bone structure of a model. Her neck, long and slender, flowed gracefully into petite shoulders and arms. She was wearing a light blue night dress that was wore to the point of being transparent, tore just above the middle of her thighs, it seemed as though at any moment the molecules of fabric would simply give up the fight and float away, leaving her exposed to their wandering eyes. Beneath the suggestion of a covering she was wearing they could see the darkness of her nipples resting on small breasts, and a movie star’s board-flat stomach. As their eyes ventured further south, as eyes invariably do, they could see a coal black tuft of pubic hair shaved into what Michael lovingly referred to as a “racing stripe” and the curve of her hips that no amount of cloth, regardless of its condition, could hide. Her legs, as Parker had already mentally noted, were a sight to behold, but it was her feet that caught their eyes. They were horrid, callused and blistered and comically large, the toes were grotesquely long, capped by nails longer than those on her hands and curved toward the floor, coming to points and covered in what looked like old chocolate syrup.

     Parker could still feel her staring at him. “Are you all right?” A stupid question, of course she’s not all right - look where she lives - but that one came automatically. She only stared. “What’s your name? What happened here? How long have you been here?” Only that uncomfortable gape. “Are you hungry?” She nodded her head emphatically at this. There was nothing he could do about her hunger, but she communicated, and that was a start. She was shaking violently now, about to fall again. As she went down, Parker reached for her but was beaten by Alex and Michael, who were standing to either side of him. They grabbed her by the corresponding arm and held her up, and yet her eyes never left his.  

     “I bet she’d clean up nice.” There was no mistaking the lust in Alex’s words. Her head whipped harshly to the left and for the first time she was not looking at Parker, but staring venomously at Alex’s forehead, as he looked her up and down. Parker felt an instant relief, as though a weight had been lifted off of his psyche, Alex at that same moment coughed, it was an awful wet sound that made Parker’s stomach curl.

      A rustling in the room to the right of the doorway that they had entered the kitchen through caught Parker’s attention. It was a bedroom, and looking beyond the girl and her two supports, he could see a the foot of a hastily made four poster bed and what appeared to be a person trying to lie very still. The fear, which at first had been so crippling, now subsided. Perhaps taking the lead in dealing with their new charge had returned his confidence, but now Parker was determined to get to the bottom of this.

     “Take her in the other room and put her on the couch. I’m gonna check something out.” Neither Alex nor Michael questioned his direction as they were only too happy to have the opportunity to cozy up to the girl, filthy or not. Parker walked past them as they half carried her away. Michael’s hand was on her ass and squeezing. Once in the bedroom, he was convinced that it was indeed a body beneath the comforter of the bed. The form was small, like that of a child. He reached for the blanket when the foot of the figure moved. He stepped back, but this time it was not fear that he felt welling up inside him, it was anger. He’d had enough. Parker stepped forward and, without hesitation, ripped the comforter off, looking immediately at the squirming foot. It wasn’t there. The leg ended abruptly at the ankle and in the place of the absent limb was a rat which paused for a moment to flash it’s ugly blood soaked vampire fangs at him before going back to work on returning the rotting corpse to ground from whence it came. Parker heard a faint scream leave his throat against his will. He took a brief glance at the body before backing out of the room and in that moment processed more information on his gruesome find than he ever would have wished.

     The body belonged to an old woman, not a child, judging by the mat of silver hair sitting atop her head. Most likely this was the girl’s grandmother; there was a similarity in their features that he recognized instantly. “Grammy,” that’s she called her, somehow he knew that. She wore a gown that looked to be the pink twin of the one the girl had on. Grammy’s abdomen was torn open and her insides were missing, only an empty hole remained, surrounded by blood stained sheets. A single thought entered Parker’s mind as he backed away from the old lady – ‘That girl is lucky to be alive.’

     A crunching sound, like bones being broken, rang out in his ears. He looked down at the rat chewing happily on Grammy’s leg. No, too loud to be a single rat, besides, the sound was coming from another place. No sooner did his worst fears begin to surface in the recesses of his mind, sending horrible ‘what-if’ images to the big screen in his brain, when he realized that nothing he could conceive of would ever be able to hold a candle to what was actually happening.

     “What the?!?... You BITCH!!” Parker heard from the living room. He tried to run, but the more effort that he put forth, the less his body obeyed him. Everything was happening in slow motion. He was too late; he knew that, whatever had happened or was happening to his two friends and the girl would be done before he ever got there. But, he had to try; he couldn’t give up even if he died in the process, which was a distinct possibility. After an eternity, he arrived at the doorway leading into the living room from the kitchen. He rounded the corner in what should have been lightning speed, but sure as hell didn’t feel like it. Parker looked at the couch where the girl sat, Michael to her right, Alex to her left, and his heart sank as his blood boiled.  

     Michael was leaning back, his head resting on his left shoulder. From just above his brow his skull had been removed leaving a hollow crater were his brain once lived, his intestines were lying in his lap and he was soaked in blood. His right hand, however, remained firmly planted on the girl’s closest breast, holding it wantingly even in death. The girl, the one who only minutes before had seemed so helpless, ignored Michael’s dead fondle, for she was much too busy with Alex. She held him in her arms like a lover, yet it was no passionate kiss she that gave his throat, she was gorging herself on his larynx, tearing and slurping with total abandon, unaware that she was being watched. Her fingernails dug into Alex’s back, sending a river of thick rich blood down her digits, as she struggled to force her mouth deeper into his neck. The sound of muscle tearing and her grunting as she fed on his dear friend hypnotized Parker, preventing him from either running away or trying to stop her. At long last, she looked up at him, both of her eyes had gone completely black, blood oozed from her jaws, and she spoke in a clear low voice.

     “I am hungry.”

     She dropped Alex onto the floor and crouched slightly, her gaze staying locked on Parker. Her feet spread to twice their normal width, her toenails dug deep into the hard wood floor. She pounced. In mid-air, Parker saw that her mouth was opened farther than possible, revealing huge cannibal teeth which glistened in the light with their coating of blood and partially chewed meat. Her hands were spread wide, ready to skin him the moment that her nails made contact with his soft skin. Parker turned his head to the side, closed his eyes, crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the inevitable.