Infernal

By T. Joseph Browder

Horror, Sci-Fi

Paperback, eBook

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1339
2 mins

Excerpt

On that cool autumn evening in late October of 1982, as the sun fell slowly towards the horizon casting a purplish goodnight kiss upon the earth, the Williams house had still been standing.

And, if one believed local lore, it was still very much alive.

Richard had passed the property twice a day, every day, on his way to and from school for seven years. Despite hearing of the Williams murder-suicide, as well as the murders of the young girls attributed to Randolph Williams and the purported haunting, he’d never given the house a second thought in the light of day. Even at night, as he lay ready to sleep, the stories passed along by his classmates on the playground failed to conjure images of dismembered apparitions screaming out their sorrow and rage in the confines of the house.

It was almost eight o’clock. Baseball practice had run late, their coach, in a bad mood as he seemed to be most of the time, had made them run laps until they’d all been dogging it: breathing heavily, tongues swollen in their mouths for want of water. He could have called his father for a ride but even at the age of twelve Richard had preferred to be alone with his thoughts. To walk in the twilight and feel the late evening breeze cool his hot face.

He passed the Williams house as he had hundreds of times before, never noticing the faded, monochromatic grey exterior, the cracked and peeling porch balusters, the broken windows staring out like sightless, soulless eyes.

He heard a beckoning voice from deep inside the decaying walls:

Richard.

He stopped and looked at the house. Truly seeing it for the first time.

Riiichard.

The house seemed to loom. As if while he’d been passing it had moved closer to the road.

“Ha, ha, funny,” he said, thinking one of his classmates, a member of the baseball team perhaps, was playing a prank on him. Except all his friends called him Rick. And his enemies—everyone had a few—called him Dick. Always with emphasis; in case others should miss that they were referencing male genitalia. Only his parents, teachers, and other adults called him Richard.

Without realizing it he’d moved up the broken and overgrown brick walkway, between the rusted iron bars of the wrought iron fence, past two long dead cherry trees that lined the walk, and had placed one foot on the front porch steps. His weight on the aged wood made it creak in protest, startling him from his fugue.

Riiichaaard.

And then he was in the parlor, the front door open in the foyer behind him, casting the last of the days light tepidly through the opening. The room smelled of mold and mildew, the same smell he remembered from breaking open rotten logs to see what creatures, millipedes and spiders, mostly, lived inside. Underneath that smell was something else. Something dead. Something rotting. Something that made him think of the rancid woodchuck remains he’d found in the copse behind his house the summer before.

Riiichaaard!

The voice was most certainly in his head. What he saw, when he next came to his senses in the dining room, had to be as well.

The room should have been dark, but was not. Light as bright as a candle seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Shadows clung to the walls and covered the ceiling and floor as if hiding a great secret. There was no usable furniture left in the old house, yet, in the center of the room stood a polished mahogany dining table, complete with eight high-backed chairs and an intricate, pristine white lace tablecloth.

On a footed silver tray with ornate handles in the center of the table rested a woman’s head. It sat upright in a pool of blood crawling with flies and maggots. Her cheeks were poofed out, as if she were holding her breath, the skin a ghastly shade of green. Her eyes were shut but had swollen behind purple-black eyelids until they threatened to burst through the thin tissue. Her mouth was open, the tongue swollen to the point that it stuck out and lay upon the silver tray as if she were tasting it.

Really dogging it, Richard thought absurdly.

The eyelids popped open. Maggots squirted out from around the sightless, clouded grey eyes. The mouth opened even wider and the woman screamed:

RIIICHAAARRRDDD!!!

Maggots spewed from the wide open maw, twisting and writhing, then bursting open in torrents of flies. Richard wheeled and fled into the night.

He looked back just once. Through the dining room window he saw a turbulent flash of light, a mélange of color so beautiful and violent as to stop him in his tracks and take the breath from his lungs.

A dark figure stood at the window, back lighted by the cacophony of color. It gestured to him.

Come back, he heard. Step into the light. See what wonders lie beyond.

Sensibly, Richard kept running.


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