Let the show begin!
Hello and welcome to the first ever installment of my first ever blog in my first ever attempt to do something on social media that doesn’t involve posting memes about fuck you claps, leaving diatribes about car horn abuse as a status update or ranting on Twitter about people who spend all day ranting on Twitter.
You’ll notice the title of this blog. That isn’t me trying to be clever, but rather an acknowledgment of what to expect from what will be – for now – a weekly endeavor. The content will change as I write. Some weeks, I’ll have a pieces of flash fiction on here. Others I’ll post a rant. On different occasions, I’ll write a review of a book or a film I’ve enjoyed or hated.
There may also be times when I discuss more personal matters or address something tragic that’s made the news. Perhaps I’ll just be in a playful mood and start making fun of hamsters, because why the hell not?
The point is, there’s no reason to come up with a terrifically clever title for this blog because A) all the really clever names have been taken and B) there’s never going to be one specific theme here.
Save for one. The horror genre. I absolutely love it. Horror is, in all its twisted glory, the grand summary of all the other genres. It has action, drama, sometimes comedy, often romance and it can scare the hell out of you while making you think. There’s no greater genre. There’s also no better creative community to be a part of.
And part of it I am. I write horror. I’m a published author of horror fiction, a member in good standing of the Horror Writer’s Association and – although I hold a day job to pay my bills – writing dark, creepy tales is where my head and heart are at ( unlike the little thug who egged my apartment last Halloween, whose head and heart have since been dipped in bronze and mounted on my mantle as a reminder that sometimes life has its victories. I’m kidding of course. The little bastard was way too fast that night, even with the bola. Now I have nets installed. But that’s another blog post).
I’m also a film buff of the highest order. So Horror is a theme you’ll likely see winding through here on a fairly consistent basis.
To confirm this (And to wrap up: It’s getting late and I have to be up for work early in the morning), I’ve decided to kick this new adventure off with a short piece I recently wrote as part of a writing challenge over on the Stitched Smile Publications Groupies Facebook page.
The prompt on this occasion had been a striking image of a woman who was , apparently, part lizard demon. As you’ve likely guessed, the idea was to write an orignal piece (no longer than 2,000 words) based on the picture.
The version presented here has been edited and fleshed out a bit. It is not the original edition, which clocked in at a little over 1,700 words. I wasn’t happy with my final edit on that one and, as this was never written for profit, I thought it’d be fun to tweak it and post it as my first blog.
So here we go, horror fans. If you’ve made it this far without furiously clicking away and blocking this page (or falling asleep), I invite you to partake of the dark delights found within my tale “A Welcome Sound”.
Oh and check out my book , Beyond Where the Sky Ends , available at Amazon. That’s my shameless plug for the day.
Catch you on the flip side. Enjoy the story!
–D. S. Ullery
A Welcome Sound
by D. S. Ullery
“I think this is the same guy. The eyes are burned out of the sockets, just like on the ones we found at the last couple of places.”
Officer Douglas agreed, though the wave of nausea currently washing over him prevented him from replying to the man in the room above. He clapped a clammy palm over his mouth, a desperate attempt to keep out the taste of rot poisoning the air in the basement
It was dank and dark, the sort of subterranean space people usually only entered if they wanted to store worthless belongings somewhere they’d never be seen. Only it seemed it wasn’t old board games or outdated furniture this particular homeowner was keeping below. An evil smell, emanating from the recesses to the policeman’s left, suggested something far worse
Douglas was standing on the bottom step of a narrow flight of stairs. The steps lead back to an open trap door above. The two officers had discovered the concealed passage quite by accident. Upon entering the premises minutes earlier, they’d discovered a corpse laid out in the living room. It appeared to be a teenage boy. He’d been dumped at the base of an entertainment center, sticky pools of congealed blood pooling underneath him on the hardwood floor. Someone had taken a blade to the body and melted this eyeballs in their sockets.
While walking about the room searching for any evidence of who might have committed the murder, his partner had unintentionally scuffed the corner of a throw rug with the toe of his shoe, flipping up one of the corners. Both men had immediately noticed the perfectly angled crack where the horizontal door separated from the rest of the floor.
Looking at the hidden space now, Douglas saw a solidly packed dirt floor to his right. This area represented the majority of the basement space and resembled a large, black square of flat, packed soil. It was populated by three evenly spaced holes, running north to south. Douglas shuddered when he saw these individual pits.
They looked like freshly dug graves. It appeared someone was planning a mass burial.
To his left, three cubicles of equal width and height lined the opposite wall. All three spaces had been designed without doors. A thick, concrete foundation was divided by four cement walls of equal height, width and length. Each space looked to be at least six feet wide.
Stepping off the stairs , Douglas withdrew the magnesium flashlight dangling from a metal loop on his belt, bringing it blazing to life with a quick punch of his thumb. He aimed the powerful beam toward the closest cubicle, stepping slowly in that direction.
He reached the space and peered inside cautiously, scanning the interior. His gag reflex was tested as the decomposed remains of a badly mutilated woman flashed briefly in the bright circle of light. He flinched, taking a reflexive step back.
Taking a deep breath, Douglas composed himself. It wasn’t easy: The stench was much worse this close (the body was clearly the source of the terrible odor) and the environment as a whole gave him the creeps. When he felt he had steadied himself, he entered the cubicle.
Keeping the light centered, he examined the corpse. She was upright, back pressed against a load bearing wall. Her arms were elevated, suspended at the wrists by thick, iron manacles, connected to the wall behind her by steel chains. Duct tape had been wrapped around her head, covering her mouth, several times over. From the state of the body, he guessed she’d been dead for weeks . Despite the deterioration of the woman’s flesh, it was apparent she’d suffered deep lacerations all over her body. Someone had cut her limbs, stomach and face with a knife , then left her here to bleed out.
Her eyes were ruined, having been reduced to scorched blobs.
A deep anger surged within Douglas as he mentally cataloged this last detail. That was the clincher. The whole ballgame, as his father used to say. His partner had been correct: This was the work of the same sick individual. The same man who had left similar death depositories beneath several homes across the city. Almost certainly the person responsible for the corpse upstairs.
Law enforcement believed the suspect to be a local land owner. Records showed the man had purchased this property, as well as several others where victims had been found, all in the same grisly state. Douglas and his partner had responded to a complaint called in by a neighbor earlier that day. The woman had reported screams issuing from underneath this house.
When the address showed registered on the list of properties owned by the prime suspect in what had been officially declared serial killings, the officers had entered prepared to make an arrest.
But, so far, the man was nowhere to be found. Only more victims.
Douglas found himself hoping the bastard was crouched down here, quaking in his shoes. He prayed the man would try to attack him if that were the case. Shooting the miserable prick would be one of the most rewarding moments of his entire life.
He moved to the next cubicle. Here he discovered a similarly grim scene. Another body, manacled as well, also bearing deep cuts and with the eyes burned out. The only noticeable difference was the degree of decomposition. From the look of it, Douglas estimated this unfortunate soul had been dead maybe a week.
So their killer had murdered the first girl, then kept this captive down in this hellhole while her unfortunate neighbor had rotted away. He tried to process what it must have been like for her to have to live with that smell, knowing what it represented was her fate as well. he couldn’t. It was more than cruel, it was unholy. The rush of hate powering through Douglas at that moment was so strong, he felt his face begin to burn.
They were dealing with a real life monster. It was that simple. That horrifying.
He decided to head back upstairs and collect his partner before checking the final cubicle. It was likely to contain another body and he didn’t want to face that alone. This was too much, even after having spent a decade on the force.
A sound caught his attention. It originated from the other side of the wall separating him from last cubicle. It was the noise of someone moving. It was a welcome sound, indicating to him one of two possibilities: There was a survivor, or he was about to have his desire satisfied and capture ( or kill) the lunatic responsible for this atrocity.
Douglas slid his hand toward his service revolver, popping the strap on the holster. He held the flashlight up, level with his shoulder, keeping the beam trained directly in front of him as he walked.
He turned the corner quickly, facing down whoever might be on the other side
A lithe figure was crouched against the far wall. Naked, pulsating flesh glistened beneath the light. Above the shape , a single wrist hung trapped inside a single shackle. Next to it, the other empty manacle hung empty.
Dark lines wove along the limbs of the creature, spiraling along its sleek form, culminating in a row of spiny, pointed protrusions which cascaded down its spine. These tapered to a black spike of a tail, which wound on itself like that of some impossible lizard. The thing had the unmistakable form of a human being. It exuded a distinctly feminine quality, yet in the same moment seemed overwhelmingly reptilian in nature.
It initially took no notice of the policeman staring at it. It was concentrating on the fresh meat into was shoving into its gullet, swallowing with quick, dips of its head. Douglas followed its movements, swerving the beam down and exposing the tattered remnants of a human body at her feet.
He stepped closer, staring at the remains. Whoever it was had been thoroughly savaged. One arm had been torn from its socket and the stomach rent asunder, emptied of the vital organs. There, under the glow of the light, he watched as the creature dipped one claw-like hand into the wound, tearing away something brown and bloody. It plopped the tissue into its mouth with a sickening slurp, its head again making that quick dip as the meat slid down.
Aghast, Douglas began to draw his pistol, when he noticed something telling about the remains.
There, dangling from what was left of a belt strap circling the mid-section. It was a large key ring, hooked to a belt loop on the opposite side of the body from where the creature crouched. The keys were just far enough from the captive to be out of its reach. Douglas noted they were large and made of metal.
The very type of keys one would likely use to open shackles.
This was their man. He could feel it in his gut.
A surprised grunt floated to him from the darkness above the gruesome scene and he shifted the light back up. He was startled to discover a young girl (no more than eighteen, he suspected) staring at him. She hopped back, gripping the chain connecting the manacle to the concrete as if her life depended on it.
Gone were the bizarre markings. The protrusions he’d seen emerging from her back had also disappeared. The only remaining indications what he had witnessed had been real were her nakedness – her clothes were torn to pieces, scattered across the floor of the cubicle- and the blood staining her mouth from where she’d swallowed pieces of the body.
The reptilian quality she’d possessed had been replaced by a terrified innocence, silently conveyed through emerald green eyes that now pleaded for help.
Douglas slowly moved his hand away from his gun. He drew closer, signaling for her to stay still. He unzipped a small satchel connected to his belt and withdrew a pair of latex gloves stored inside. Quickly donning these, he reached out and unhooked the keys from the dead man’s belt.
It took several tries, but he finally found the correct one, managing to undo the shackle with a satisfying click. As he released the girl, Douglas could only imagine what had happened. In his mind’s eye, the recently deceased maniac had captured the wrong victim, unaware of what she really was. He must have unlocked one of the manacles in an attempt to have his way with her, only to find himself confronted by her true nature, unleashed in all its fury. He’d likely been reduced from tormentor to food in the blink of a eye.
At least, that’s what Douglas hoped. It gave him no small measure of satisfaction to think this man would end the day being something she’d eventually shit out.
The sound of his partner calling to him broke him out of his reverie. Alarmed, he began to scan the area for any possible places the girl could hide. He had no desire to take her into custody, nor did he particularly believe he’d be able to if he tried.
The girl tapped his shoulder, frantically pointing across the basement, beyond the three graves. She waved for Douglas to follow her, leading him out of the cubicle. They crossed the dirt floor, arriving at a small, square door located at the base of the opposite wall. The passage was cloaked in shadow and he’d missed it upon entering earlier.
The girl pushed at the door, causing it to swing inward. She scurried through, beckoning for him to have a look. He shone the light inside, greeted by the sight of a narrow, vertical tunnel, equipped with a small ladder. The ladder ascended to an opening, through which dim afternoon light now shone. An escape route, likely put in place by the murderer in the event he faced being captured.
She moved to the ladder, then paused, turning back to Douglas. The fear in her eyes was gone. What shone back was gratitude- and a question, one he understood without effort.
“I have a daughter, about your age,” he answered softly, smiling at her. He nodded toward the ladder. “Go. My partner will be down here shortly. You’d better be gone by then.”
She returned his smile, then disappeared up the ladder, a wraith vanishing as if she’d never been. She moved fast.
Faster than a human being, he thought with absolute certainty.
Douglas stared after her for a moment, wondering what she was and where she’d come from. It was a fleeting bout of inquisitiveness. It didn’t matter. The girl could be a demon from the depths of Hell itself. After what she’d been through today, she deserved to be free. Besides, he was of the opinion she’d done the world a service.
Behind him, the sound of his partner’s footsteps grew louder on the stairs, echoing as the he descended into the basement.
Closing the door of the passage, Douglas began to think up a cover story.