Story by By D. L. Wells
Illustration by Tim Soekkha
Have you heard it? The slithering? The thrashing? The sound of talons grinding on wood?
To whoever finds this note, stay away from this dreadful place. Keep away from the thing of an unknown form that approaches my residence at twilight. It comes to my door every night and bucks, thrashes, and claws my door. I, eventually, get tired of it, and I retrieve the rifle from my bedroom closet. But, when I open the door, loaded gun raised, it vanishes as quickly as it comes.
It all started after I came back from my expedition to South America.
Well, it wasn’t always meant to be an expedition. At first, it was a planned vacation: a tour of the Chichen Itza and a journey in the Amazon. But when I was following my guide, during my venture in the Amazon, on what he told me was a “safe” route, I tripped on a hard object and stumbled down the dirt cliff side, hitting the grass with a loud thud. When I regained myself, I complained profusely about the state of my back and arms, but they became the least of my worries. I was lost and grew frightened as a rainforest isn’t an ideal place to get lost in, especially alone. Once I began to observe my surroundings, I realized that I was in no, charted, area of the rainforest.
As you can imagine, my fears of being lost from civilization were replaced by the joy and awe of discovery as I told myself I found this. But, what was this? There wasn’t any recorded history to go on, so I couldn’t determine what kind of find this was but, in my mind, I thought I stumbled upon an ancient ruin. What I did not know was that the entire area, around the path, was discovered and put in a recently updated map, and this spot wasn’t in it. But then again, I wasn’t in South America anymore; I was in a place that no one could find on Earth.
My eyes being untrained in the teachings of history, I mistook it for a Mayan settlement—a lost tribe, perhaps—but there were no huts; nothing that resembled crudely made housing out of sticks and twine. There were only two structures in sight: an obelisk of black stone having several symbols of an unknown dialect etched on the surface and a building like a temple, stretching far into the distance; its entrance barred by a thick, stone wall.
Since the temple seemed to be closed off to me, the only thing left for me to examine was the obelisk, which seemed innocent enough. Suddenly, as if guided by some unnatural force, I laid my hand on the pillar. It hummed like a generator as the black stone glowed a bright, yellowish-orange, like burning steel fresh out of the forge, steam rising into the air. Even as pain engulfed me, my hand remained on the obelisk; I knew it was there, yet I did not move my hand away. The pain reached its maximum when I jerked my hand away. The flesh was burned off my hand, coated with a blistering red mark, but when I looked at the obelisk, I saw my bloody handprint fade into the stone.
The doors of the temple began to open.
Oh, stranger, with what I know now, I should’ve turned my back to and ran away from that forsaken place! However, arrogance and thoughts of exaltation and opulence had clouded my judgment. And as a blind man would do, I ventured into the darkness.
It was wetter inside the temple than I imagined; I nearly slipped off my feet. I, of course, thought that it was extremely odd as none of the temples I’ve been in before were this damp, it felt more like a cave. Now that I think about it, the inside of the structure felt more like a cave than a temple. However, the images carved onto the wall were the only things that indicated that this was a temple.
It wasn’t a collage of images, no, they told a story — a pilgrimage. Things of grotesque forms wandering about the cold, lonely, vastness of space searching for something or somewhere. The beings, foretold to be eternal, traveled for many years before they reached a planet. On the final carving, humans, portrayed in small forms, kneeled before the grotesque monstrosities, which were made bigger than the humans.
Soon, I stopped walking with intrigue and fascination and began to walk the way a fearful man would walk: with speed in my step and my head looking in every direction, as to be sure that nothing was following me through this infernal place. Suddenly, I got the feeling that it was becoming less like me wandering about the pantheon, and more like the pantheon leading me. But to what, I did not know. How could I know? How could anyone know?
The corridor had taken me to a large room; across the room was another passageway. Though what had caught my utmost attention was what lied in the middle of the room: a pedestal with an idol atop it. The small statuette was of an abnormal, barely-humanoid mass of flesh and eyes—think of a blob fish, except replace the two cold, black eyes, with several human ones. I felt as if there was a ghastly elegance to its design, thinking it was no, human-made, statuette; something far more horrid had constructed the idol. But it was then that I made the biggest mistake I could’ve made: I removed it from its pedestal.
A black ooze leaked through the idol’s crevices and onto my wounded hand, there was a jolt of pain when the liquid came into contact with my hand it closed and hardened around my wound in mere seconds. Remarkably, the pain went away as soon as it came and the hardened stone around my hand reverted to its liquid form and returned to the idol. Unfortunately, I had not the time to marvel at this for it was at that moment that the ground beneath me shook violently and the shrieking of some, no-earthly creature, echoed throughout the pantheon. I know that I should’ve put it back, but panic had got the better of me and I ran into the opposite passageway with the idol in my possession.
When I emerged from the pantheon, the once sunny day had turned into a very dark night, but the night didn’t scare me, it was what the night revealed: planets, which would’ve been a star if they were far enough away, seemed within an arms’ reach. Seeing that I was no longer on Earth, I ran; I didn’t think, I just ran. As I ran through the forest, the plants themselves seemed to be alive, weeds snapping for my torso like a Venus-fly-trap to a fly. If my panic had ever reached unfathomable heights, it would’ve been that day, and it was what prevented me from seeing the cliff ahead. Like an idiot that doesn’t watch where he’s going, I fell off the edge and into unconsciousness. Shaking, violently, from my unrestful state, I realized that I was on a bed, in a thatch hut, in a village far away from the rainforest. For a brief moment, I thought the horror I encountered, was nothing more than a mere nightmare, and I felt a sense of relief. Such things don’t last long, however; for when I turned over in the bed, I found the idol sitting on a shelf along with my other belongings. Realizing that the events that transpired weren’t a part of a nightmare, I gathered my things and quickly left the village.
Though sadly, I must confess, I found the same feeling of dread in going as I did in staying. When I was on a plane, surrounded by my fellow humans, I felt as if something not-of-this-world, was watching me. Even the comfort my own home didn’t present itself as a comfort to me, upon my return. As it was that night, the night of the same day that I returned to my residence— 244 Okatie Highway in Beaufort, South Carolina, that it came to my door.
How it came to be there, at my door, is as unknown to me as the beast itself (for I never seen it with my own eyes). Around the time of its arrival, I was sitting in my chair, next to an unlit fireplace— there was no need to light it ever since I had a new A.C. unit installed—and I sat there contemplating the event I partook in, in South America.
You might think that I was sleeping, as I told my concerned sister I would be, but I couldn’t; for some reason, I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. Then, suddenly, the air in my home turned cold, like I was in the dead of winter, but it was summer. I thought that something was wrong with the air-conditioning when a strange noise came from behind my front door: a slithering, thumping sound. The creature, I thought, was, probably, large, every time I heard it move it sounded forced and slow as if it was dragging itself. Whatever-it-was started thrashing against the door; it bucked and wobbled, vigorously, as if it was about to fly off its hinges. I rushed for my gun, as I would in any such situation, and came back to the door, but when I opened it, the thing was gone. I was starting to question my sanity until I saw the deep claw marks on my front door. Markings that no creature, of this world, could make.
It didn’t take me long to realize why it came here: it was here for the idol. When night turned into day, I took the statuette to my backyard, along with a sledgehammer. After placing the Eidolon on the ground, I raised the sledgehammer over my head and brought it crashing down on the stone monstrosity, but it didn’t break; it didn’t even make the tiniest of cracks. No matter how many times I brought the hammer down upon the eidolon, it wouldn’t leave a single mark.
After a series of fruitless attempts, I dropped the sledgehammer in my exhausted state. How many times I struck the idol is unknown to me; I was too focused on my frustration, and fear towards the imperishable deformity. I finally decided that if I couldn’t break the idol, I’ll put it out of my sight. So, I ran into my shed, retrieved a shovel and used to dig a hole; I dropped the eidolon into it and sealed it away. But, as I would soon discover, just because something was out of sight, didn’t mean that it was out of mind.
That night I was in my chair, reading a book, being as relaxed as I would get, by that point, when I heard that horrid slithering, thumping sound. It had come again. By the time that it was thrashing against my door, I already had my gun in my hands and was prepared to face the unknown thing. Though despite my quickness to react, it still vanished the moment I opened the door. The next day, I decided to go back to the Amazon and return the idol to that infernal pantheon. But when I went out into the backyard, I found that there was a hole in the soil; it was the same hole I put the eidolon in, yet there was only one noticeable difference: the eidolon wasn’t there. I didn’t expect anything to happen that night, after all, it had the idol, what else could it want. However, the slithering, thumping sound came from behind my door, followed by a sharp knock.
I’m at the door, Thomas, a voice like a loud, deep, gravely mumble said inside my head. Will you let me in?
“No,” I said aloud. “Now leave me alone!”
Oh, I can’t do that, Thomas. It laughs sadistically as the knocking continues. I just want to get to know you. Open the door, please.
“No, I won’t! Go away!”
The knocking turns into a thrashing as the door seems, barely, close to flying off its hinges.
I’m never going to leave, Thomas! it shouts in a deep, growling mumble. I’ll be with you forever!
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!” I screamed. “GET OUT!!!” With rifle in my hands, I fired at the door, twice, then everything went silent. I was alone, again.
Catherine, my sister, came by, in the early afternoon, the next day. She knocked on the door and I was quick to answer since I spent the night staring at it with a rifle in my lap.
“You look terrible,” she stated.
“Yeah, I haven’t slept for a while,” I confessed.
“Can you tell what happened there?” she asked, pointing at the two holes in the door.
“Something was clawing at my door last night,” I admitted, partially. “It was probably a rabid dog; it scurried away when I shot at it.”
“Clawing?” Catherine inquired in disbelief.
“Tommy, the only marks on that door are two bullet holes.”
“No, no,” I mumbled as I shook my head. “No that’s impossible, they’re three nights’ worth on that door.”
“Three nights?” she gasped.
I flung the door wide open just to find no claw marks, but only two bullet holes. “They were right here!” I quivered as I gestured at the area which used to have the most markings.
“Tommy what’s going on?” she asked.
“You wouldn’t believe if I told you,” I replied.
Seeing as there was no way to get her to leave it alone, I told Catherine everything about the trip to Amazon, the alien world, pantheon, the idol — everything. She looked, genuinely, worried when I finished my story. I tried to sway her mind by showing here the hole, probably made by a wild animal, where I put the idol.
“I put right in there,” I said, pointing at the hole in the ground. “At first, I tried to break it, but, but it wouldn’t break,” I chuckled, “it wouldn’t break. So, I put it in there, yet it still came. I thought that if I took the idol back then it would leave me alone, but it was gone. Then I thought, ‘maybe it’ll go away now’, but the thing still came. And—”
I broke off when I saw a tear run down her cheek.
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“No, it’s not that,” Catherine said, quickly. “I just think you need some help.”
“You think I’m crazy, but I’m not.”
“I don’t think you are, I think you’re sick,” she reasoned. “There’s good neuro-physician in town, he can help you.”
“Catherine, it’s real I can prove it,” I said in my defense. “Just stay here, tonight, just one night and if you don’t see anything, we can go straight to doctor in the morning… Please,” I begged her.
“You promise?” she asked with uncertainty.
“Okay, but you got to get some rest.”
She took me back into the house and laid me down on the couch, I don’t know how long I slept, but it was nighttime when I woke up. There was a bowl cereal on the kitchen table, but I didn’t eat much of it, I was too busy staring at the door, and Catherine noticed. I only ate about half the bowl when I left the table and sat in front of the door.
Two hours passed, and nothing happened.
“So, where is it,” she asks, not impatiently, it was just a question.
“It’ll happen,” I hoped. Then a slithering, thumping noise came from behind the door as the knocking started.
“There it is!” I shouted, pointing at the door.
“I don’t hear anything, Tommy,” she said.
“What! It is happening right now, it’s—”
I gasped, and Catherine noticed.
“What is it?”
Oh, what’s this? You brought a friend, it chuckles, how delightful.
The knocking turns into thrashing as hear its morbid laugh.
“YOU STAY AWAY FROM HER!” I screamed as reached for the rifle, pushing the stock against my shoulder and raising it to the door.
Catherine touches the gun. “Tommy put it down; you’re scaring me.”
“It’s bucking against the door!” I screamed like a lunatic. “Don’t you hear it? Don’t you see it?”
“Nothing’s happening,” she tried to calm me down in a soothing voice. “Just put the gun down.”
The thrashing stops as the gun fell from my hands; I sank with it, laying on the floor in a fetal position. Catherine gets down on the floor and puts my head in her lap.
“It’s inside my head, Cathy,” I sobbed “it’s inside my head.”
“It’s okay,” she said in a soothing voice. “It not real. We’ll see the doctor in the morning and we’ll get this sorted out, okay?”
I nodded. “Okay.”
“You still have that valium in your bathroom cabinet?”
“Do want some?”
“Okay,” she takes my head off her lap and walks up the stairs.
As I, gradually, get calmer and calmer I sit up against the wall, breathing heavily but not as bad as before.
Hmm, this is a nice place you have, Thomas, the voice comes back, louder than before. I think I might see the bathroom.
The slithering/thumping sound comes from upstairs, near the bathroom.
“No!” I gasped, grabbing the rifle before I ran up the stairs.
The entire area was shrouded in darkness—the bathroom, bedroom, and everything couldn’t be seen. But with what little light I had, I could see the form of a maggot-like creature as long and wide as a lion, walking on deformed on paws. It stared at me for the longest time, before it lunged at me, but this time I was quicker one, and I shot it in the chest. It slowly stumbled towards me and heart sank for it wasn’t a monster, it was Cathy.
“Tommy!” she gasped in utter disbelief as she tumbled to the floor.
I threw the gun to the floor and ran to her side, putting pressure on her wounds, staining my hands with her blood. I screamed in hatred, not at her, at myself. I killed my only sister, and nothing can change that.
Well, that is my story. Do with it as you will.
I can already imagine what they will say when they find our bodies: a murder/suicide and that would be correct, but there’s more to it than that; there, always, is. No one will ever know what influenced it, and I doubt you’ll believe it. Every time they pass the house on 244 Okatie Highway, the people of Beaufort, South Carolina, will be reminded of the lunatic that killed his sister; never knowing what came there. The thing that will pursue me anywhere I go. But, with the rifle at my side, I’ll be going somewhere that it can’t follow…
— ♦♦♦ —
Death Pin. By Bruce Harris, Art by John Waltrip
Eddie Dill wasn’t much and didn’t have much, except hard times. He was working a stint as a pin at a local bowling alley when the offer of a life-time came his way. He stood to make a cool grand. All he had to do was ensure that the right man won the big tournament. Too bad for Eddie that things are never as easy as they seem.