Tag Archives: blood

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – X

Taffeta stared down into Petey’s eyes which in almost the same moment, popped wide with the realization of what Hover just did to him, then dimmed as his consciousness, and his life slipped away from him.

With a soft grunt, he tipped forward dropping his head into Taffeta’s lap, then slid down from her knee and along her calf as his body slumped to the floor.

Taffetta’s breath caught as she tried to pull her eyes away from mound that was Petey, or at least tired to squeeze them shut, but they would not comply. Instead she slowly lifted her head tracing the room until her gaze fell upon Hover. Her face twisted in to disbelief and fear.

“Dammit!” Hover shouted, dropping the sledge to the floor. His body grew rigid as his hands clenched into and out of frustrated fists.

“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”

He stomped around in a small circle as a child might while having a tantrum, shaking his fists and at one point, raising them up to hit himself in the forehead several times in quick succession.

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

He kicked out at Petey’s lifeless body, catching him in the leg and making the body shift with its force.

“You stupid son of a bitch,” he said, grinding his fists harder into his head. “You couldn’t just leave it could you? Could you?”

Taffeta stared at the building, brooding mass of anger and frustration before her, her heart beat rising in pace with the escalation of the situation which had quickly deteriorated from a moment of hope and possible escape to…this.

Whatever this was now, whatever their situation had become, it came with a heavier weight than anything up to this moment, as her husband might say, “This was the shit and they were up to their armpits in it. Time to do, or be done in.” She missed that about him.

When Hover kicked out at his associate’s corpse, the alarms screeched through Taffeta’s head.

She burrowed deeper into her friend’s side trying in earnest to elbow her awake, but without drawing attention.

“C’mon, Myrna,” she shouted silently in her head. “C’mon, c’mon. I need you now.”

For the first time since plopping her into the dilapidated sofa, Myrna uttered the very softest of groans causing Taffeta to jerked her head toward her friend’s face.

“That’s it,”she dared to whisper. “C’mon Sweetie, wake up.”

Myrna uttered another soft and barely audible moan as her right eyebrow raised up ever so slightly.

Even that ever so subtle response set Taffeta’s heart to beating faster, but with a greater sense of comfort and relief than compounding fear.

Hover’s swearing boiled down to a base growl as he continued to smack and berate himself while churning in a small squall of a manic pace.

“Myrna,” Taffeta whispered, following another nudge. “You have to wake up now, but you have to be quiet…really quiet.”

An eyelid quivered, then lay quiet for a moment before both eyes popped open.

“What the…,” Myrna said, sitting bolt upright.

Taffeta grabbed the lapel of her friend’s coat and pulled her close to her.

“Sh, sh, sh,” she whispered directly into Myrna’s ear as loud as dared, but with the intention of being heard. “Keep calm. Keep quiet. We’re OK, for the moment.”

Myrna’s eyes shot around the room as her brain worked to put everything together as fast as she could. She remembered the…pharmacy, yes the pharmacy, they were going to get, but then there was that horrible, dirty boy and… She turned a face twisted with fear and a dash of panic back to her friend.

Taffeta raised her hands to catch Myrna’s face and made her focus on her. Her own face mimed deep, careful and calming breaths before she mouthed a long and silent, “Shhhhh.”

Myrna nodded, working to match her breathing to Taffeta’s. The two calmed each other to the point where Taffeta could finally hear something other than her heartbeat banging in her ears. At least until…

“Sweet Jesus! What the hell?!”

Hover stopped instantly, dropping his arms and turning to face the voice that blew out of the shadows like a child who got caught lifting the goods from the family cookie jar. Whether knowingly or by reflex, he took a small step to the side in an effort to block the greater problem, which was the slumping dead pile of Petey Chambers.

“It’s not what you think Danny,” Hover said, pleading his case. “He was gonna let them go.” He pointed accusingly at the ladies cowering on the dilapidated couch. “He was gonna let them go, just like that and you know they would rat us out! I mean he was untying them and everything! He…”

“SHUTUP!” Danny Mackenoy, leapt from the shadow swinging a fist wide and fast that caught Hover square in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.

“Just,” he said, through dangling, dirty strands of hair and a heavy breath, “Shut up.”

Hover lay on the ground rubbing the side of his face as a small tear welled up and dripped down to his cheek. Danny slogged forward, kicking as Hover scurried out of the way, clearing a path to Petey’s body.

“Jesus,” he said, leaning down to poke at the corpse that lay in the dark. “What the hell have you done? What the hell, Hover!?” He spun around and lurched toward Hover who tried to spider walk himself into retreat.

“Did you forget the plan?” Danny asked. “I made a plan! A careful plan that uses three legs of a stool made up of my brain, your flair for on the job security, and Petey’s gift for distribution, everybody playing to their strengths. But you, you with no brains what so ever decide that you will, kill our key to effective distribution!”

Danny’s words started clear enough so as to emphasize his point, but as his own words sunk in along with the realization that his plan, which worked perfectly up until this point, was now messed up beyond reasonable repair, his words grew tight and forced. He began to spit them out through gritted teeth. And as Hover tried to slink away, Danny inched ever closer.

“No distribution, no cash! It’s a pretty simple formula!”

Danny jumped forward grabbing Hover and dragging him across the floor to Petey’s body. “No distribution, no cash, Hover!”

He forced Hover’s face to the floor so that his gaze would have to meet Petey’s lifeless stare. “No cash, no plan!” He brought Hover’s face up to his own. “Did you ever think of that? Did you?”

“No!” Hover yelled, “No, I guess…”

Danny forced his head back into the floor. “Of course not!” He yelled. “You didn’t think!” He raised Hover’s head and forced it back into the dusty, dirty wood floor with a heavy thud.

“You never think!”

Thud.

“You aren’t paid to think!”

Thud.

“But I guess you wanted to give it a try anyhow!”

Thud.

“Now, look what we’ve got!”

Thud.

“No distribution!”

Thud.

“And, that means…”

Thud.

“No…”

Thud.

“More…”

Thud.

“Cash.”

Thud!

The last blow pushed Hover’s head in a way that his now similarly lifeless eyes stared into Petey’s. Danny sat, perched on top of Hover’s body, holding his one time partner’s head against the floor until the slight twitching in Hover’s left foot stopped completely. Then he slowly forced out a heavy breath before sitting upright and shooting his head back in a way that should have flipped his hair back and out of his eyes, but the dirt and sweat held it back. He brushed it away with a bloody palm leaving a smear of red across his forehead. He looked up.

“Ladies,” he said, matter of fact. “I’m sorry you had to see that. However, the poor behavior of my associates has brought us to a rather uncomfortable crossroads in our relationship.”

He looked down at his hands covered with blood. The tops. The palms. He clenched his fingers to feel the stickiness before dragging them hard across his shirt.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself.

Myrna and Taffeta sat still, clutching at each other, trying to remain calm, in the face of this recent turn of events.

Kilt – Part I

Paul Kilt stumbled through the double glass doors of the emergency room, dizzy, no… light-headed, still moderately coherent…luckily, and clutching the plush towel over the end of his newly stumped left forearm. The lights, while flickering due to the growing storm outside, were still bright enough to make him squint as he took a deep breath and forged on toward the customer intake desk.

Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen steps to the welcomed support of the faux marble countertop and a certain measure of prevention from landing face first on the floor.

His counting steps was something he had done for as long as he could remember. His trying to keep his face from smacking the floor with any ferocity, and losing consciousness, was something he tried to keep from doing since college.

On sixteen, he hit the counter hard and leaned onto it with his full weight, puffing out  heavy bursts of air to match the effort. He let his head rest softly on the window as his breath splashed itself across the glass in small, temporary waves of condensation. His head swam. His arm throbbed. His legs quivered. He was sweating and shivering all at the same time as his resistance to giving into shock started to falter.

“Off the counter and on the line please.”

The voice was heavy, gritty, and colored by age, countless cigarettes, a measure of malt whiskey and fair amount of contempt for those she spent her eight-hour work shifts attending to.

“I’m sorry?” he muttered, still trying to catch his breath.

A burly hand reached across and slid the visitor window open with an air of authority.

“Incoming patients must stay off the glass, stay off the counter and stay on the line. We will get to you as soon as possible.” The hand then slid the glass pane shut.

Paul rolled his head along the glass to where he could see the floor, blurry, but still. “Ha!” he thought. There was a line of tape on the floor about a foot away from the counter. Go figure.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I would… love to step back to the line there…the one you have on the floor, really, I would. But I…”

The window slid open again, fast and loud. The business end of a clipboard emerged. “Due to the storm, our computer system is down. Complete the top portion of the information sheet remembering to add your full name, the name of your insurance carrier, insurance group number, family history, any allergies and what brings you to the emergency room tonight. Then have a seat and we will call you when we’re ready.”

He blinked hard to see the end of the clipboard that protruded from the glass partition. It hung in mid air, waiting for him to take it and his place among the others who had brought themselves here for an evening of gentle care and healing.

“Sir?” The floating clipboard jutted out a couple of times indicating a sense of urgency.

He looked down at the death grip his right hand had on the towel, grown damp now from the mix of rain and blood. His subtle laugh forced a tiny hiccup through his body which sent a fresh shiver of pain into his left arm. “Uh…,” he managed through the wince. “I can’t…I’m not really in a position to…”

The clipboard hung in the air for a moment longer and then, ever so slowly, receded back to disappear behind the glass.

“Name?” the gruff voice asked, but he heard it as “nay-MAH!”

“Paul”

“Middle initial?”

“T.”

“Last name.”

“Kilt.”

“Killed?”

“No, Kilt. K-I-L-T.”

“Like the dress.”

“No,” he shifted again, hoping to ease the throbbing coming from the wound. “And it’s not a dress. It’s a traditional garment worn by men dating back to the 16th century and originating in the Scottish Highlands.” He had explained his name so many times in response to the “dress” question that even in his debilitated state, it just rolled off his tongue.

The elongated pause that followed reflected what he was certain to be the deep soul-searching on the part of the emergency room representative as she considered whether or not she would take this any further because she, most assuredly, was not paid enough to “deal with this kinda shit.”

“Address,” complete with an exaggerated hiss of “sss.”

“67 North Algiers Drive, Cardington proper.”

“Phone number.”

His vision started to blur further, as his head grew heavy. The voice seemed to come from farther and farther away.

“Phone number,” the request came more stern this time.

“Three.”

“Excuse me? Ugh. Do you have your insurance card Mr. Kilt?”

“Forgot…to…grab it.”

Another pause allowed him to hear more clearly the pounding that was starting to build in his ears.”

“Reason for your visit this evening?”

This time, the pause was his. Not so much for payback as he was trying to stifle throwing up. “Bleeding…to…death,” he managed. “And…the allure…of…good company.”

“Cause of injury, Mr. Kilt.”

He tried hard not to laugh. It hurt too much. His eyes traced his surroundings back and forth as if he might never see anything ever again and he was taking it all in. He felt himself slipping away from the counter and into the nothingness that was both the air of the emergency room and the darkness of being unconscious. And in that very last moment of lucidity, he giggled, “dog bite.”

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Boys – Part X

Taddy, in a full-out tear, slipped into the muck as he breached the corner of the house. As he went down, the lightning flare revealed the full figure of a beast he had only seen bits and pieces of so far. The flickering light held off the dark and the sheeting rain just long enough for him to see the thing drop Gunther, quite unceremoniously, to the ground. It pulled its head back and let out a roar that mixed with a crack of deafening thunder.

“Dammit.”

Lingering flashes of residual lightning made the scene across the lawn look like something from a grainy and poorly maintained monster movie. Taddy worked to keep the water from his eyes, squinting and wiping the pelting drops from his eyes as he willed himself to see deeper into the cheap looking animation that played out before him. Gunther rolled slowly to his side mere yards away as…that thing stood over him and howled.

The creature, reminded him of the giant minotaur from Stanley Kaldon’s 1956 classic, Labyrinth of the Damned. Big and ugly and likely surrounded by the smell of death.

The Calligar screamed into the dark thunder, calling his master. It’s head whipped to the left and right, its large black eyes searching for the right tools to make the offering. A large pole stood, stuck in the ground just behind him and next to a small table that would serve him well. It’s massive hands reached out and grabbed the pole, immediately pulling and shaking it free from the wet, muddy ground. He raised it over his head and then, holding it like a giant bat is his hands. He raised the pole a bit more before bringing it down fast and hard.

The pole came down so close to Gunther’s head that he could feel the wind it made followed by the earthy stench of the deep ground. He flinched raising both a dizzying fire in his head and a sharp breath catching pain in his chest. Broken rib flashed through his mind, quickly followed by broken ribs, every last one of them of them for all he knew. The monster stepped away and he tried to raise his head.

Without really knowing it Taddy slipped closer to the outside wall of his house and started inching along the foundation line trying to see and trying to stay hidden. If he could get to Gunther while that thing was distracted, they might make it out of this mess. As best as he could tell, Gunther was alive. He was moving a bit and he held onto that. The rain didn’t help but he was certain he could hear the other boy breathing. Well, wheezing anyhow.

The beast had forced the pole deep into the ground, much deeper than when he pulled it out. If Gunther stood up at tat moment it would probably rise up just above his head. The Calligar had stepped back to grab the flat surface which was, Gunther knew, the bulk of Taddy’s family’s backyard picnic table. He spun and raised the table up, setting the flat top of the table down onto the pole. He began lashing the two together with the ropes and wire he pulled off the nearby drying rack. Once he finished, he stepped back throwing another earth-shattering howl into the rainy sky.

The howl forced Taddy to pull into himself, covering his hears and hoping the sound of the rain covered any whimper his fear and surprise may have generated. A line from Souls on Mystery Island spoke to him, “I’d pay cash money on the dot, to get that thing to shut up.”

Underneath him, Gunther could feel the ground tremble ever so slightly beneath him. How sensitive he was, he wondered in the fog of his head. He didn’t know how the ground could be trembling, especially with all the rains coming down, still…he knew. And the very, very soft tremble began to grow, up into a full shake at least until…

The Calligar reached down and seized upon the legs of the little one. He dragged his prize through the dirt and raised him up before slapping him down upon the table contraption, the…altar, he created with the pole and the small table. Gunther landed hard, like the next cartoon fish in a monger’s shop. He whimpered and tried to recoil from the pain, but everything was pain, there no other way to respond.

Taddy noticed the ground shaking now. He pressed his hands against and into the wet grass to make sure. The shaking grew more intense and the sound of the shifting earth began to roar up canceling the voice of the rain. He looked from the ground back to the alter just in time to see the ground just below Gunther spilt open.

Boys – Part IX

Martin J. Gibbons, 57-year-old house painter.

Randall R. Stibbs, 49-year-old insurance agent and financial advisor.

Alison May Baker-Smith, 37-year-old soccer mom, mother of three.

Cody Timpkins, 28-year-old drummer for the up-and-coming rock band, Syzzle.

Andrew Taylor Corliss, 19-year-old trouble maker and doer of nothing whose friends once called Tack.

The list of recently missing, seemingly disconnected persons, grew slowly, almost deliberately. Each plucked from the burden of their every day struggles with the unknowing intent of serving as the vessel that would bring the dark master to the light of day.

Each one failing the task due to the weak and inadequate construction of the human animal.

He raised his hand before him and turned it slowly, deliberately. The once youthful skin of Andrew Taylor Corliss sat uncomfortably taught and bloated like a too small glove pulled over his fingers and palm. The skin, once smooth and dark, was now pale, dry and covered with liver spots and wrinkles.

He slowly clenched his hand into a fist and watched as the remnant flesh gave way to the pressure, popping and tearing and slowly peeling away as the fist flexed tighter and tighter.

He yearned to roam the lands above again to witness his work first hand, to drink in their tears and savor a symphony of screams. Still, for all that comes with unfathomable power, power in and of itself can be…restrictive. Yet, to effectively do his work among them, he must in essence be one of them. And so the process is what the case demands.

Such a frail species.

He loosened the grip and shook the hand away from him, flicking the last residue of young Corliss from him and toward the decaying pile of what was left of those who came before. A diminished skull from one Martin Gibbons, whose empty eyes stared through the pair of broken glasses resting in a cock-eyed fashion across a shriveled nose. He was strong and outdoorsy, but the process of transference puts so much strain on the human form, that the flesh ages at an accelerated rate. Martin Gibbons, at least the shell of Martin Gibbons, proved the least useful of all.

Mr. Stibbs suffered from an as yet to be diagnosed heart condition, substantially reducing his potential usefulness. Pity, he had a certain look that would have served him well, up there.

The woman was interesting, but again, the transference ravaged the mortal system. She just wore out too quickly for his needs.

Corliss showed promise, real promise. Yet perhaps, in his excitement in finally being able to reach the surface, he probably added more stress to his new form than he might have originally intended. At least until he was top side. The reflection of the once, some might say handsome and brooding young man, seemed to shift all too quickly to middle age and then to the more useless aged and decrepit, then to a pile of rot.

Failures all of them, but in each failure a lesson learned, an adjustment made and an extension of the possibilities that lie ahead. There are no real mistakes in this world, only curiosities…experiments. This time, he would go younger still. Perhaps a smaller and more resilient body would make the transference easier both on the vessel, and on him. So many transferences in such a relatively short period of time had a way of ‘running down the batteries’ as they might say on the crust.

He looked at his clenching fists. He had been charging is batteries long enough. It was time to really get some business done.

Writer

Copper Channing made a living from the extreme misfortune of others. Writing horror novels, and best sellers at that, gave him access to a world he would have never known otherwise. Had he not called in sick to work at the foundry and picked up a pen and a legal pad that day at the ripe old age of twenty-one, who knows where he would be today.

Still, despite the wealth and fame, Copper Channing suffered from the very same thing every mailman, housewife, café chef, preschool teacher and everyone else in between suffered from. He was dissatisfied. Despite his very enviable position he yearned for something more. It was a ‘grass is greener’ mindset that allowed the blues to settle deep in his soul. It generated a certain loathing for his position, a disconnection with his entire accumulated body of work and a nauseating guilt that came with wanting something else, something better, in the face of having so much already. It was greed and immaturity and envy wrapped up into one distasteful ulcer of woe.

It wasn’t the writing. He loved the writing. He loved the fact that words had given him so much. Where his hands excelled at typing, they proved to be of little use to him in any other endeavor. The writing was his still and long-standing silent partner, the agent of evil he sold his soul to in exchange for security and position.

It was what he was writing that was the problem.

Perhaps it was because success came so fast and the struggle fairly slight. It took twenty-three months from the time he scratched those first words onto that pad, until he secured his first publishing contract. It wasn’t that he was a particularly gifted writer, but more that his imagination allowed him to conjured the darker images that the general public yearned to look at. He simply wrote down what he saw in his mind.

Kill Eye, was his first book to top the best-seller lists pretty much everywhere. Plastic, followed the year after and triggered a windfall of luck which carried him over the years to fifteen best sellers, eight top grossing films and a mountain of awards which he kept in boxes in a storage unit at the back of his property.

Still, he would give it all up today, or so he told himself, if he could write something real. And what was real? He wrestled with the notion that because horror came fairly easy to him it lacked soul and skill. It was hack-work, and the popularity of his product showed him, at least in this moment, that the reading public required little from him beyond a good reason to invest in a nightlight and a vivid description of one of a hundred ways a human could be disemboweled. It was tripe.

He sold millions of books, but could even one of them compete as one of the great American novels? He created relationships and families, but had he ever written a great love story? He would likely be remembered beyond his time, but in the same hallowed halls as Hemingway, or Shaw, or Eliot or would he be packed into the circus tent of lesser writers known for their mass appeal, and not so much for the mastery of their craft?

He tried. October Frost had the makings of a great love story until the text, or his mind, demanded the introduction of a wraith. It ended up being one of his biggest, not because of his insights into the tender, fragile state of love, but more into the inter-dimensional and explosive struggle for the human soul at the end.

In Ferryman’s Wake, his exploration of the complications that come with the loss of a loved one showed depth and promise, but that was all but dashed with the appearance of Old Hamm, one of the many characters he created to represent Satan, or really, the darkness in all of us.

Even now, having traded legal pads for processing power long ago, he sat before the blank screen intent on writing something truly moving, or truly funny, or truly anything to show that his years of practice had not gone to waste. Anything to show that he could connect on a deeper level. Yet, all his head would allow was blood and a thousand gruesome ways in which to release it.

Adrift

Maybeth’s eyelids slowly fluttered awake as her eyes beneath rolled in search of clarity and focus. The dream of her flying a hot air balloon over a chasm filled with churning lava dissipated as the light reached her. As the fog in her head seemed to thicken, George Harrison started in with the first verse of If Not For You. It was a bit louder than she wanted at the moment and she couldn’t be completely sure that the song wasn’t part of the dream.

She closed her eyes, drifting between the temping allure of sleep and the nagging need to stay awake.

The unpleasant pressure in her shoulder intensified as she tried to shift to a more comfortable position. She tried to turn her head, but stopped immediately when her brain began to scream with pain. Still not fast enough to stop her from wincing against the pounding.

Where?

What?

“Babe, I couldn’t even find the door. I couldn’t even see the floor. I’d be sad and blue…”

She instinctively reached out for the button to stop the music. She loved George, but not now. Her shoulder protested with a three-way shot of pain that radiated up her neck down her spine and into her arm. She winced again in response, sucking in air, which also seemed harder to do than usual. She missed.

Blinking, the only thing she did at the moment that didn’t hurt, she tried to focus as her eyes sought her hand. It was wet. Red.

Defying the order of her brain to sleep, Maybeth’s eyes shot open. Realization and recognition flooded her senses as the familiar collided with the unfamiliar. She glanced a little to her right. The gaze of her Perky Petz bobble-head puppy, whom she named Tiger gazed back at her, but the spring that held the head to the body was stretched and bent making Tiger’s head appear as if it popped off into mid air leaving a cartoonish swirl of motion behind it.

But, Tiger was in her car, firmly attached to her dashboard with a serious chunk of two-sided tape.

Where?

She shifted her gaze forward into an intense spider web of light.   

“Without your love I’d be nowhere at all, I’d be lost, if not for you…”

She turned her eyes to the left trying hard to keep her head still. Where she suspected glass, she saw dirt. It was then she realized she could not feel her legs.

Photo Bomb

Biggs passed the photograph back to Chance, “I’m sorry. For the tenth time, I don’t see him, and you’re starting to freak me out.”

Chance snatched the photo from Biggs and held it in front of his face peering at it, into it, as much as he dare, for to him is was clear as day.  The trip out to Billing’s Pass was one of the best days ever. In the photo, as he remembered taking it, were his three best friends in the world, Biggs, Toad and Captain Don.

The three stood by the sign that labeled the site of the falling water as Ellinger Falls. Captain Don was holding out his hands to the sign channeling Vanna White. For the first dozen times he looked at it, the image seemed fairly normal and mostly like he remembered it, but after that, a face, no – the likeness of a whole person began to appear as if it were some time delayed photo bomb coming to life.

It was a man whose face was pale with dark eyes, or at least there were dark circles under his eyes. He was taller than the three of them, and yet he looked hunched over as if he was standing on a rock or something behind them and was forced to bend in to avoid having his head cut off by the frame. The grinning face was wedged between Toad and Captain Don while hands had formed on their shoulders as if he was just one of the gang, one big happy family.

“You have to see it,” Chance urged holding out the image to Biggs again. “He’s right there!”

“Sorry man,” Biggs said waving away the image. “I see what I see, or don’t see.” He got up and moved into the kitchen.

Chance looked at the image again, but again…it changed. As he looked at it, watched it, the image began to shift in his hands. It wasn’t the gradual sort of, hey I don’t remember that being there before kind of change. This time there was real movement.

The hands on the boy’s shoulders grew longer. The fingers seemed to wither into what looked like claws and the grip seemed to increase with the finger tips drawing into points like claws that began to dig into the boy’s flesh. A small trickle of blood dripped from Captain Don’s shoulder as he stood there smiling with his hands reaching out to the sign. Ellinger Falls. Captain Don didn’t seem to notice or care.

The skin on the face drew taught to render a bonier appearance and the simple, sly grin grew wider and wider until it sat disproportionately and nearly all-consuming on the face. The lips pulled back incapable of maintaining their hold over the emerging fence of teeth behind them. The teeth were jagged and broken in spots, yet also pointed and sharp as if they were filed into dangerously sharp points.

Chance watched silently as the strange image of the man began to sway as if he were held back from him, trapped in place by the images of the boys before him, his friends. It pulled and weaved looking for a means of escape. Finding none, he stopped to find Chance’s gaze and held it. The clawed fingertips dug deeper into the soft shoulders they perched upon.

Chance’s arms quivered with a cool ripple of bumps as the hair stood on end.

If it were even possible, the thing’s grin grew wider. The rows of dangerous teeth opened, yet remained loosely connected by thin quivering strands of saliva and what looked like what might be blood.

As the dark eyes held his gaze, Chance was helpless to look away. Behind him, as the mouth of the thing in the image moved, a soft, gravel-filled whisper rose up from what sounded like just behind him. A hot light ‘breath’ brushed against his ear that carried with it the stench of garbage and rot.

“You’re mine!”