Authors: Edward Crae
From Dan’s house, they heard the screeching hiss of the beast in the crawlspace. It had heard them.
“Fuck,” Dan said, strapping his rifle to his back and pulling out his shotgun. The stumblers neared, slipping and crawling their way up the slope. Dan pumped round after round into them, Drew firing his handgun in an almost full-auto speed. Blood and brains splattered the grass, and the stumblers slid down the slope as they dropped to the ground.
But still they came.
Six more remained, and the two men backed away, nearing the top of the slope where Steve’s porch sat crumbled and barren. Dan turned to hop up onto it, but a stumbler leaped forward, grabbing his ankle and pulling him back. He rolled over, shoving his shotgun into its mouth and pulling the trigger, vaporizing its head in a cloud of red gunk.
Drew stuffed his handgun in his belt, pulling out his shotgun and spraying the remaining stumblers with buckshot. They staggered back as Dan recovered and joined in. The two men fired until they were empty and breathless.
But, at last, the stumblers were finished.
They collapsed onto the concrete porch, sitting on its edge to catch their breath. The hissing grew in volume as the creature in the crawlspace sought a way out. They watched the house silently, dreading the sight of whatever would emerge.
“That was intense,” Drew said. “And fucked up.”
Dan nodded, too exhausted to speak. He reached down to grab the Barrett, laying it across his lap, anticipating the unknown creature that was about to make its appearance. Drew loaded up his rifle again, slapping five rounds into the magazine and shoving it in place.
“Ready,” he said.
There was a crash at the house, and the vent behind the flowerbed exploded outward. A pale, white, twisted figure crawled out, massive claws first. It emerged like a spider crawling through the end of a drain pipe; the long, spindly fingers anchoring themselves into the ground, pulling the rest of the creature out.
Dan raised the Barrett, peering through the scope to get a better look. The creature was hideous. Its face was split down the middle, with rows of crooked, sharp teeth lining each side. Its original mouth was still there, making the entire maw a four-part sphincter with a black barb at each corner. The snakelike tongue whipped around as it darted in and out, and the deep-set, glassy, black eyes reflected the moonlight.
But the most disturbing feature was its left arm. It was long, white, and bony. Its exaggerated fingers were nearly a foot long, and seemed to bear the bulk of its body as it crawled out on all fours. Its shriveled right arm was still human, and hung uselessly at its side, covered in the remains of a camouflaged sleeve.
“Jesus Christ,” Dan said. “It’s the armless hunter from the creek.”
“Fuck him,” Drew muttered, firing.
Dan could see the round strike the creature’s face, knocking it back and sending it in a fit of rage. Dan pulled the trigger, nearly dropping the rifle as the deafening gunshot sent the butt hard into his shoulder.
he shouted, recovering and slamming another round into the chamber.
The two men jumped to their feet, rushing to opposite sides of the porch as the creature charged, screaming, across the street. It cleared the distance in the blink of an eye, leaping to the crest of the slope and landing with an unearthly howl.
Dan froze as he beheld the creature’s form. It was even more terrifying close up; still retaining its human face—though split into four flaps—and emitting a frightening chiming sound that rang like satanic jingle bells. Its human voice remained somewhat, gagging and mumbling unintelligibly.
god!” Drew exclaimed, dropping his rifle, and firing straight at the creature with his Glock.
Dan backed away as the creature thrashed, lifting his rifle to aim. When Drew’s magazine was spent, the creature turned to him to attack, and Dan fired. The creature’s back exploded open, spraying green ooze everywhere as it screeched with rage. The satanic jingle bells increased in speed, and the babbling became more frantic and angry.
Drew reloaded, and pulled his Estwing ax from his belt. “
Shoot it again!”
Dan fired once more, hitting the beast at the base of the neck. When the creature reared back in agony, Drew charged, dropping his handgun to swing his ax with both hands. He growled in triumph as the blade chopped into the creature’s skull. It made a sickening splat as it bit into the bone.
Dan chambered and fired again, striking the mutated arm, and blowing it off. It tumbled away, rolling end over end until its fingers planted themselves into the ground and stood like a crab.
“What the fuck!?” Dan shouted.
Drew withdrew his ax, turning to chop the animated arm to pieces. The creature turned to Dan, its blackened eyes gleaming with unearthly life as it glared at him. He backed away; releasing the rifle’s magazine and reaching for another. The beast charged, and Dan leaped out of the way, landing roughly on his shoulder. He heard a popping sound as it was dislocated.
he cried as the beast reeled about to rush him again, fangs bared.
Then, as it leaped forward, Dan closed his eyes, helpless. He was spent.
“Die, you cocksucker!”
he heard Drew shout.
Dan heard the
of the ax hitting its mark again. He opened his eyes, seeing Drew pulling it from the creature’s back. Drew reared it back again as the hunter-thing rose to its feet—its actual feet—hissing and choking. With a Viking-like scream, Drew swung one last time, chopping the ugly head from its knotted perch. The creature collapsed to the ground, trembling briefly before it was finally still. Green goo oozed out of the stump, and Dan rolled out of the way, breathless and weak.
He looked like a madman in the moonlight, howling like a werewolf after a hard kill. Dan laughed with relief, letting his head fall back into the dirt. His heart thumped, missing a few beats as it slowed to a normal rhythm.
Drew shouted. “
Did you see that shit, man!?”
“I saw that shit, man,” Dan replied, his breath finally slowing. “Help me up. My shoulder’s fucked up.”
Drew bent down to lift Dan’s upper body, sitting him up gently. Dan put his arm around Drew’s shoulder, and the two of them stood, looking at the carnage around them.
“What a fucking mess,” Dan said. “We need to clean this up.”
“Tomorrow,” Drew said. “Let’s get you back in the house. It’s time to get shitfaced.”
Dan chuckled. “Yeah,” he said. “Good idea. I could use a drink. But, let’s put my shoulder back where it goes, first.”
Dan grimaced in pain, lying on the couch as Drew poured him a small glass of whiskey. He had dug out the pills that Jerry had given him the other day, and popped one of the hydroxones. Even after only ten minutes, the pill was beginning to kick in, and he could feel the pleasant narcotic tingling on his skin. It felt good—really good—but in the back of his mind, he was glad that Jerry had only given him two.
They were that good.
Although the physical pain was fading, the turmoil and confusion wreaked havoc on Dan’s mind. What had happened tonight was a complete brainfuck; not something he would soon forget. Just a few days ago, he had awakened to a relatively normal day. Then, on a quick trip to get some more booze, the world had turned itself upside down.
Or maybe it had righted itself. Who knows?
“You feel better?” Drew asked him, lighting some candles, and sitting down in the armchair next to him.
Dan nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be alright. That was just the most intense shit I’ve ever seen.”
Drew scoffed. “Uh huh,” he said, sarcastically. “That’s an understatement.”
Drew hit the play button on the portable stereo, putting on some soothing
that doled out its signature eco-death rhythm. Dan smiled, closing his eyes and letting the painkillers take over.
“I feel like Conan the Barbarian,” Drew said.
Dan opened his eyes, picturing Drew standing triumphantly over the monster’s corpse. “You
like Conan the Barbarian,” he said. “Only, you know, a little shorter and goofier.”
Drew snickered. “Fuck you, man,”
Dan smiled in his haze, watching his friend grin and stare off into space while his head bobbed gently with the music. He had only known Drew for a short time, no more than a year, but the events of the last two days had given Dan a new appreciation for their friendship. They made a good team. Granted, they were both losers, but hey… who cared at this point?
“Drew,” Dan said.
“I’m glad you called, man.”
Drew pursed his lips, turning to him and nodding his head slowly. He didn’t say anything, but Dan knew that Drew was glad, too. Thanks to a chance phone call, they had made a great connection. They had gone through a lot in the last few days, and this was just the beginning. If their exploits were any indication, it would be a good match up.
Together, they could survive.
To the droning sound of his favorite band, Dan drifted off to dreamland, his narcotic magic carpet singing him lullabies of death and destruction.
If only his dreams could be so pleasant.
Edward is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, whose dreams had always steered him toward storytelling. Having studied biology and astronomy in his spare time, Edward developed a story that eventually combined the two sciences with his love of horror and sci-fi. Wormwood Dawn is the result of this mishmash of disciplines.