a serial novel: Part 2
by CHRIS CASTLE
as there been a problem over there?” Mike looked out to the small town he didn’t really know and it dawned on him then how all of them were strangers, really, the same as if he were still in the city.
“Not that I know of,” Nick replied, looking over. “I know the boy’s been depressed, so…” he shrugged. Mike spotted his reluctance to enter into the gossip that was like a wildfire drug to other people in town. Gossip divided the place into two, as sure as religion: The talkers and the locked-jaws, the believers and the sinners. Mike smiled to himself, outing himself in the latter category for both and realising his partner was probably the same.
“Some small towns have a problem with suicide,” he went on, bringing in the topic without addressing it. Missed his calling as a councilman, Mike thought. The cruiser turned into the road and drew up under the big oak tree. Nick whistled as he pulled the key out of the ignition.
“Almost hit forty there. I think we could categorise that as high-octane.” He smiled and looked over to Mike. “I’ve known Bob a while. Let me take the lead if this turns out to be…sensitive, okay?” Mike nodded and followed him out of the car. He stepped onto the porch and noticed the upstairs curtains were drawn, the front door open.
“Bob Riggs?” Nick called, stepping inside. Mike recognised it immediately, that feeling of things cooling after an act of violence, and reached down to his pistol. He had seen enough in the city to identify the feeling of the house right then and it brought a lot of old sensations back. Something bad had happened in this place.
The two of them separated and went room by room. Mike used ‘Mr. Riggs,’ while Nick started with the older man’s first name and then the son’s. At the bottom of the stairs, they went up one by one, Nick facing forward, with Mike skirting back to the more open part of the house, keeping an eye on the garden. Without having spoken, he knew Nick shared the feeling of a negative premonition. Mike felt it went beyond violence, however. What he felt was close to evil. As they reached the top of the stairs, he noticed the tiny shreds of paper scattered out around the floor. Mike stopped and crouched to look at one of them; it was a red lip, perfectly fake and wrapped in lipstick. He glanced around and saw a varnished nail, a hip.
“What the hell…” he began to say, drawing up from creaking knees to face his partners back. The creature drew up from the darkness and filled the entire door frame.
In times of action, things move quickly. It was something that Mike had learned when he was growing up around his father and later in the police force. It was true then and it was true now. It didn’t matter that this was Honey Falls, or that until that moment, the most brutal action he’d dealt with was a senile old cat’s claw. Now he faced true, visceral trauma. The creature rose up and sprang from the doorway, moving in a way that was both fast and clumsy, so it pinballed around, careering off the walls as it lunged towards the two of them. Mike was quicker to draw his pistol but Nick had more speed of thought; it was the combination of the two that saved their lives. Nick, understanding his own body, plunged to the left, not only knocking the thing to the right and into the clear view of Mike, but also sending the being into the flimsy airing cupboard door, which broke and entangled it immediately. Without thinking, Mike fired his weapon and the creature…reacted to the bullets. It didn’t show any signs of injury or even pain, but simply responded to the force of the bullet as it was knocked from its feet.
In the seconds that followed, two significant things happened. The first was that the creature forgot about Nick and moved towards Mike. The second was that Nick, prone, stuck out his foot, tripping the thing and sending it flailing over the banister down onto the floor. All this happened just as Mike was centring his pistol to fire a headshot and trying not to wet himself. Neither thing occurred and Mike holstered the weapon, fingers trembling as he reached down to Nick. As he got to his feet, the only sound in the house was their ragged, oddly matched breathing. Mike understood this meant that neither senior nor junior were no longer of this earth.
“What…what…” Mike was peering down to the misshapen monster on the floor, even as Nick hobbled towards the bedroom floor, bracing himself. As he stepped inside there was no smell, but everything else was the stuff of the worst, almost forgotten nightmares. The sprays of blood were so dense that it was as if the room itself was crimson and white flecks were simply dotted around. What was left of Bob Riggs was tangled up amongst the light fittings, so he dangled between the wiring and the crushed bulb. His feet were a few inches from the floor and Mike briefly wondered how many of bones had to have been broken for the body to have been positioned at such a jagged way.
“Help me,” Nick said quietly, without looking around. Without a word, Mike stepped alongside and the two of them slowly brought the body down. Neither of them spoke as they went about it, questions of evidence and scenes having ceased to matter in the last sixty seconds or so.
“Looks as if it started at the throat and worked its way down,” Nick said quietly, following the vast network of rips and tears.
“What did?” Mike replied, looking back and out of the room.
“We’re going to find out, aren’t we?” He said pulling himself up from his haunches, smiling gratefully as Mike took the crook of his elbow and helped him up. As they walked down the stairs, the body below came into full view.
“This can’t be just drugs,” Mike said, looking down to the corpse at their feet. It was almost as if it was drying out. A skim of darkness seemed to encase the body, as if it were wrapped in an insect’s shell. Parts of the flesh were distended; the wrists and cheeks were too prominent for the rest of body, while other parts; the neck and chest cavity seemed hollow to the point of being emaciated. It seemed as if the corpse had gorged and swelled in some areas and wasted away in others. It looked as if the body had waged war with itself.
“It’s more than that, certainly,” the older man said. “I thought he’d pulled himself to pieces with drugs and broke apart and taken old Bob with him. But this….” Mike could tell he had never seen damage like this.
“Wikipedia would shit,” Mike said, pulling himself up.
It was the strangest thing; in all the times Mike had dealt with bodies, the same fundamental things stayed the same. The corpse began to look like a weak, pitiful thing, almost forgotten about and discarded. Mike didn’t feel like that with this body. Even in its death, it seemed to retain its friction, its threat. It was almost as if it had not died at all but simply stilled.
“We’ll have to call in the city staff after we seal this place off,” Nick said. “Maybe there’s a new drug on the market that we don’t know about. I’m going to take a look at the room, see if there’s anything there. Call the ambulance and then the city, okay?”
“Yeah,” Mike answered, unable to take his eyes off the body. He reached into his pocket and dialled the number of the local ambulance driver. When it was engaged, he tried the city and waited for their office. He frowned when that was busy and tried all the other numbers he could remember. After this sixth knock back, Mike called a bar in the city he used to drink in. No luck.
Every number was engaged.
The two of them looked around the rooms; Nick’s surveyed the old man’s while Mike studied the scene of the crime. He looked for any pills or trails of dust and opened drawers and desks, but so much of the room was in a total state of upturned disarray, it was as if someone had already frisked the room and come up empty. The laptop was smashed but still plugged in, the same with the printer. It appeared both had been on around the time it had happened. He remembered the little shreds of paper, began to look at them and saw shots of models. The only real sign of activity was the computer. He tried to turn it on but was met with the low fizz of dying wires.
“You got anything down there?” Nick called from the other room, his voice strong but cracked around the edges. Mike wondered how close the two men had been over the years.
“Nothing. Everything’s engaged.” Mike frowned. It would be virtually impossible for every police number in their contact book to be simultaneously engaged. He clicked off the torch and stepped out of the room. The radio squawked into life as they reached the top of the stairs and Nick depressed the button first, bringing it to his mouth.
“Hello?” he said, almost timidly and then let the button go.
The sound of chaos followed.
SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES
By the time they reached the house of Sarah Jenkins, the two men saw the front door open and smoke coming from inside. Mike stepped out of the car first and as Nick opened his door, both of them were forced to look up to the bedroom window. It exploded and the caller, Mrs. Jenkins, sailed artlessly out of the window to come smashing into the ground before their car. Mike slipped against the car and onto his ass, pushing dirt away with his heels, before stopping himself by the back tyre. He yanked himself up and just had time to see Nick hobble run into the house. He called up after him, but the sound was lost amongst the commotion coming from the bedroom above.
The smoke should have been a problem but in a way it actually helped settled Mike’s nerves. Not seeing what had happened inside the house afforded him a precious amount of detachment and concentration. He carefully walked the rooms, following the banshee wailing from upstairs and isolating everything else. A small fire was prickling in the kitchen but there was no other screaming. His foot caught on something and he immediately knew it was a dead body. The smoke protected him from seeing it.
As he made his way up the stairs, the rumbling seemed to be contained to one room and it was, as before, the far one. The smoke thinned and Mike took the last step at a crouch. A carbon copy scene appeared before his eyes. Another creature, this one smaller, was uncontrollably hurtling around the room. It seemed to detect Mike in a vague way and as it turned to launch itself, Mike lowered down onto one knee, his mind eerily in control of the proceedings. The creature, as he guessed, drew up in the square doorway and as it tilted back to attack, he fired his bullets consecutively, hurling the monster out of the window in the same fashion as the poor woman minutes before. The noise, both of his gun and the body as it smashed what was left of the room on its exit, was immense. But then, seconds later, there was nothing, a quiet- and it stayed that way until his partner’s voice called to him from the hallway.
The scene was similar to what had gone before. The laptop was smashed but the power line still on, images shredded on the floor - this time posters from the wall. A moment later, after the adrenaline washed away, Mike became acutely aware with a rising sense of horror where they were standing. The walls, shorn of the posters themselves, were pink; the overturned bed, fluffy and lacy.
It was the bedroom of a young girl.
Mike vomited, even as Nick looked round in a stunned silence. Whatever the sickness was, it no longer took place inside the adult world but was claiming children, too. Mike felt a hand on his back and just as he opened his mouth to speak, the radio bit into life again.
BEDLAM DAYS continues in the Summer 2015 issue of HelloHorror.
Chris Castle is an English teacher in Greece. He has been published over 300 times and has been featured in various end of year and best of anthologies. He is currently writing a novel. His influences include Stephen King and Ray Carver. He can be reached for feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris has become a regular contributor to our journal: His stories, Grid, Slumber, Last House on Vector Street, Stealing Three, Zombie Cake, Button and Pa, The Garden, Butterfly Eater, Finger, The Last House, and Bedlam Days all consecutively appear in the January, April, June, August, October, and December 2013 issues of HelloHorror and its February, April, August,October 2014 and Winter 2015 issues.
The authors published at HelloHorror retain all rights to their work. For permission to quote from a particular piece, or to reprint, contact the editors who will forward the request. All content on the web site is protected under copyright law.