Authors: William Schoell
A HORROR BEYOND DESCRIPTION
He heard the other men of the so-called search party singing and fighting and cursing behind him, and he couldn’t understand how they could be so callous about it.
Then he saw something caught in the glare of his flashlight.
Something appeared to be—bending, if that was the word —over the remains of a human body. He saw other figures lying there, too, just on the edges of the circle of light, their bloodied and mutilated forms covered by shadows. The lips of the thing—if you could say it had lips —were eating something: a piece of meat, a morsel, no longer recognizable as part of a leg or an arm. Blood dripped down from the chewing orifice. He stepped back, too shocked to scream, and his light shined over the other bodies which had been formerly hidden by the dark. His eyes widened in pain and disbelief, his worst fears realized . . .
A LEISURE BOOK
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc. 6 East 39th Street New York, NY 10016
Copyright© 1984 by Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
Printed in the United States of America
Hillsboro, Vermont—Summer, 1983
Violet Harper wasn’t sleeping very well.
She would have been surprised to know that out of the six hours since she’d gone to bed, she’d actually been asleep for a full hour. It seemed to her as if she had spent the entire night tossing and turning, practically delirious, odd thoughts and pictures entering her head, keeping her from getting her rest. No one could have convinced her that in between these frequent spells of restlessness she was indeed held tight in the arms of slumber; not deeply, but enough for her to dream, and in those dreams, to see the same images, hear the same words she had been tormented by while awake. To her the night had been one long uninterrupted bout with insomnia.
That’s why she was surprised when she looked over to the other side of the bed and saw that her husband was gone. How the hell had he sneaked out of there without her even hearing? She was startled by a footfall, and then the sight of her husband re-entering the bedroom. She expected to see a glass of milk or a sandwich in his hand, and was prepared to scold him—he’d stay on his diet if it killed her—but if Robert had eaten he had done so in the kitchen in private.
“What you up for?” she asked. Her hair was in curlers and there was cold cream on her face, and she looked a fright, but they’d been married much too long for her to care at this point. At forty-five she had other things to worry about. She had the kind of homely face that on women often develops character and dignity with age. Not that she looked dignified right now.
“Couldn’t you hear the dog yammering?” her husband whined. “She’s been hollering on and off for the past hour and a half.” Robert was three years older than Violet, slightly plump around the middle, with thick reddish hair above a broad and pleasant face. He sat down on the edge of the bed and let out a long, low sigh of exasperation.
“What’s the matter with her? Did she have to go?”
“She did and she’s done it. Maybe now we’ll have some peace.”
That was not to be the case.
Both of the Harpers were fluffing up their pillows, straightening the blanket, when suddenly they heard it. An odd sound. A strange sound. Something like a kiddie car—one of those little autos children could sit and drive in—pulled over concrete, its small plastic wheels stumbling over the cracks in the sidewalk.
Only there was no sidewalk. And neither of their children had a kiddie car to play with.
Then the dog started to bark again, as if she too had been alerted to some threat. And worst of all, little Bobby began to cry.
“Oh dear,” Violet complained. “Won’t I ever get any sleep tonight?’.’
“Stay here, honey,” her husband instructed. “I’ll see what the matter is.” He got back out of bed, put on his bathrobe, and walked out into the hall. Violet couldn’t help but smile. Robert doted on that son of theirs— only three years old and such a doll. He didn’t pay as much attention to their daughter Lucy, who was seven, but he still loved her, she was sure, and didn’t mean to ignore her. Besides, Violet made up for it by giving Lucy that much extra time. Violet saw the bright moonlight streaming in through the bedroom windows and idly wondered if it was the cause of her insomnia.
She couldn’t hear that odd sound anymore, not over the barks of the dog and Bobby’s crying.
Robert Harper walked down the hallway to the children’s room. Someday they’d both be yammering for their own room and he’d have to build an addition onto the house. If he could afford it. He spent most of his waking hours wondering where he’d get the money for this and that. There was never enough, although they got by better than most. He wondered if it were the dog that had awakened his boy.
He opened the door of the nursery and stepped inside. The room was slightly illuminated by a glow from the window. Lucy was wide awake, sitting up in bed, her blanket pulled up and wrapped around her, her little fists holding onto it as if it were all that stood between her and the frigid arctic winds. Robert Harper could see horror in her face.
“What’s goin’ on in here?” he said in a cheery voice, his hand inching up towards the light switch, trying to find it, but missing. He looked over at Bobby’s bed. The little fellow was really wailing now, frozen on top of the mattress, his tiny eyes fastened on some form—hidden in the shadows—that was sitting by the side of the bed. Unable to find the light switch quickly enough, Harper swore and moved forward while the room was still dark.
“What the Hell—!” For just a moment Harper was convinced that the
had somehow gotten into the house, and he moved angrily over towards her. Then he stopped short. There was something wrong. For one thing, he could still hear the animal hollering out in the garage. For another, the children would never have been scared of her, not even if she had crawled unbidden into the blackness of their bedroom.
“Daddy! Daddy!” Bobby cried. “It’s on my leg! It’s on my leg!”
Lucy screamed in empathy.
Harper saw that the black shape had indeed moved up to the mattress, part of it covering the lower portion of Bobby’s body. There was a disgusting, slurping sound and the child screamed out in pain. Lucy stood up straight on her mattress, still clutching the blanket. Harper ran the few steps between him and the bed, and began to beat at the form covering Bobby’s legs. “Lucy. Turn on the light. For God’s sake, go and turn on the light!”
Lucy was too stricken with terror to do anything but watch her father battle with the thing in the corner by Bobby’s bed. Harper felt something sharp insert itself into his arm, felt the bulk of the beast as it threw itself against his body. He nearly tumbled to the floor. His hands tried to grab the thing, but slid off as if it were coated with grease. A slimy substance dripped onto his fingers and his clothes, and an overpowering odor filled the room. Something like a needle, only thicker, punctured his right leg, and he dropped to his knees in agony. He heard the sound again, like the one before, only louder, closer. He screamed.
Lucy saw the two shapes twisting together in the darkness, and even if she could have turned on the light she would not have. The forms rose, then fell, then rose again, neither seeming to have the advantage. One figure —she could tell if was her father—collapsed onto the ground and didn’t get up. She waited and waited but he did not rise. She heard horrible noises, like chewing sounds.
Then she heard another kind of noise. Something was clambering in through the open window. Another one of
It dropped to the ground with a thud, then climbed up the bed and onto her brother. Plop. Another one dropped in. Then another. They all climbed on top of Bobby.
And then they came for her.
She wondered all that time where her mother was, and why she did not come to help them.
In the bedroom down the hall, Violet Harper was recoiling from the sight of something that had smashed in through the window a few minutes before. She could not take her eyes off it. She was simply too shocked to call for help. She was dimly aware of the screams of her husband and children from the nursery, but she was quite incapable of reacting to them—and would never be able to again.
The thing on the floor made its way across the thick blue carpet towards the double bed. Its eyes glared back into Violet’s horror-twisted countenance. It moved past the door to the bathroom, blocking the view of tiled floor; gleaming chrome and porcelain; yellow shower curtain. It moved past the dresser, with its collection of music and jewelry boxes and pictures of the long-ago honeymoon. Past the ottoman at the end of the bed, where Violet often sat to remove her stockings at the end of a weary day. Violet thought of the most mundane things as her death slowly approached her: an extravagance, Robert had said of the ottoman, but she had liked it.
No one could have said that the thing on the floor was even remotely human. It had no arms or legs, but rather patchwork parts that seemed more common to other species, other animals. It was quite large and lumbering. But the worst thing, the absolutely worst thing, the thing that kept Violet paralyzed on her bed, the thing that almost made her welcome death as an alternative to madness—was the
The head wasn’t quite human, either. It had unusual features, a foreign look about it, indicating different ways of . . . eating. But it had a face. Oh yes, it had a face.
It was the face of someone who’d been dead for six months.
It was the face of Violet’s mother.
New York City—Spring, 1983
David Hammond was being released.
After a lengthy stay in an antiseptic place filled with crisp-looking nurses, efficient doctors and desperate patients, there was nothing more they could do for him. Nothing more they could say. He was finally going home.
He changed from his hospital gown into his clothes. Faded blue jeans. A pale blue shirt with what appeared to be a mustard stain on the front of it. Green wool socks. Brown shoes. A thin gray jacket with a zipper that only worked half the time. He waited for the nurse to come.
While he waited he looked around the room and studied for the final time the place that had been his home these past few weeks. The floor was a collection of dirty yellow tiles, each perfectly square and of similar size, except for those near the walls which were cut by the room dividers into fractions. His bed was higher off the floor than a normal one would be, and had a thick, hard mattress that was good for his back, but not especially comfortable. The sheets were brilliantly white. Only on closer inspection could one see the assorted stains that the Clorox couldn’t get out. Those stains always disgusted him. They were other people’s stains half the time, he thought, not his. It made no difference now. He was leaving.