Excavation

It was on the 10th of March that things first started to get really fucked up. That was the day Briggs shot Meyer in the face, put a bullet clean through his left eye and out the back of his skull, scattering his brains all over the far wall in storage and onto the cold concrete floor.

“He’s dead,” Fritz, the compound doctor had said, bringing his hand back up from the body’s neck. I’d watched him push the eyes closed and his own followed halfway. He’d looked so tired all of a sudden. I saw the blood stain his fingertips.

“He… he attacked me…” Briggs had stammered. “He was crazy. Raving. He came after me! Tried to bite me in the neck. Claw my eyes out. I had to kill him!”

And you know the crazy thing? Everyone believed Briggs. Because of what we found in the tomb.

“It got into him,” he said, eyes wild, hands shaking violently. “You all saw it when we pulled that thing open. That cloud of dust right into his face, those things that flew out – how could anything survive down there for thousands of years, let alone with the cold? There was something down in there, something evil. It got into Meyer when he opened the lid. And now it’s only a matter of time now before it gets into all of us.”

That was three days ago. But let me tell you something – I’m not a superstitious man. They all died, at each others’ hands or Briggs’, because of what they thought they saw. But nothing got into anyone. There was no evil spirit, or virus, or alien life form down in bottom of that tomb. There’s only us here. Us and two thousand miles of God-forsaken frozen rock.

It’s just him and me now. My breathing is heavy. Blood trickles down the side of my face from where the bullet grazed me. I lean back against the wall, clutching the pistol tight with sweaty hands. One shot left. I hear Briggs’ voice echo down the long steel corridor:

“I’m coming, Eddie… I’m coming…”

Father & Son

“I don’t wanna,” Timmy cried, holding the rifle in his shaking hands. “I can’t…” His face was wet with tears and his cheeks flushed.

“Ya gotta,” said Pop. “Ya gotta, Timmy! Remember what I tolds ya. Remember what they is.” The man shook his finger at his reluctant son.

“But they’s people!” The boy sobbed. “They’s people, Pop! I can’t do it to them, I just can’t. They’s people!”

John Angrum knelt down next to his young son. He clutched the boy’s shaking arm around the wrist, the one closest to him, the one that sat beneath the forestock, and slowly brought it up, leveling the weapon at its end with the milling crowd in the distance.

“You know what they is, son,” he said, looking him in the eye. “Tell me what they is.”

“They’s dead, Pop,” Timmy said quietly. The metal of the barrel glinted in the noonday son. “They’s dead.”

“That’s right Timmy,” John said. “They’s all dead.”

Timmy closed his one eye, just as his father had taught him years ago, and pulled the trigger.

Richard

Before the first could even get his gun out I bounded onto the cushion of the armchair and then high above him. I came down onto him, his face alight in surprise, and slashed across his throat. Blood spurted violently against the wall, painting it in furious red streaks.

The other blasted his shotgun but it flew by me, detonating the lamp on the glass end table. I ran and uppercut the blade up into his throat and red spurted downward in a torrent, staining his white suit jacket and the blue shirt beneath.

The last one charged, swinging the crowbar he held. I threw the knife and it went over his right shoulder, then I pounced upon him and we were down on the ground and I was slamming his head against the white tile of the floor, and I heard his skull cracking, the bone splintering, and his dark red blood was spattering everywhere: onto the sofa, onto the plant, onto the mask over my face, until finally his lifeless eyes rolled back into his head and the cracking noises stopped.

I picked up the crowbar with my blood-soaked hand, and took off the rubber mask. I stared down at it. For a moment my mind slipped back to my hallucination, my dream – or had it even been a dream? – of those strange animal-headed people in my living room, and the flies buzzing all around, and the smell of rotting corpses, and I thought of the first question the rooster-headed man had asked me, the man whose likeness I now held in my hands – “Do you like hurting other people?”

 

The Perfect Drug

Tri-vexil-dimethyl-hexocycaline. Trivex. The Perfect Drug.

Like so many inventions, it was an accident, like the serendipitous discovery of matches; so many government scientists working so many late nights in so many labs trying to uncover the newest biological weapon to win the war on terror, only to find that they were high as fucking kites if they inhaled the smallest amount of fumes of one particular compound. Of course it didn’t take long for one of those aspiring chemists to take that recipe home with him, realizing it had far greater potential recreationally than it ever would for the military. And after that it was only a matter of time before the details leaked onto the internet and became public knowledge.

Vex. The Perfect Drug. It sold itself. Try Vex, the dealers starting saying after time. A beautiful high like none you’d ever experienced, no side effects, no bad trips, no addictive potential – and it could be manufactured by all from simple household chemicals and cough syrup. It was a blessing. A gift from God. And it took America by storm. Suddenly the American government began funneling so many of those precious millions of dollars from the military budget over to the DEA, who now had their hands full with this new little nuisance called Vex.

No one’s ever shot it in liquid form, at least not as far as I know. But I’m on the edge. I’m willing to experiment. I’ve had enough with sniffing this shit out of flasks and vaping it. I need something better. Something more.

The needle goes in my arm, and oh God, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever felt. A million orgasms’ peaks all thrown into one second of absolute celestial bliss. An existential high. I want to die now so I never have to come down.

And then my arm is itching. I look over, and scratch my fingernails against the skin. Oh god, it itches bad. I’m scratching and scratching and then I feel something hard. Then the skin breaks and I see what was beneath the surface breaking through – a human tooth. Now my arm is being torn apart, exploding into hundreds of them; smoker’s teeth, yellowed and covered in plaque, sprouting from my arm by the crease of my elbow and spreading all down my bicep and up toward my shoulder.

With horror I see that my fingers are twitching and writhing, swelling with bloat and growing into turgid tumescence. They are changing into tongues, tangled in long trails of saliva and covered in moist drops of spittle. They are writhing like they’ve been stung with cattle prods and flinging the thick drops of warm liquid everywhere.

I can’t feel my legs but look down to see that they are engulfed in flames. Horrible grey-green flames, burning brighter than the depths of hell and every funeral pyre erasing the horrors of the Holocaust from human memory.

My fingers – those tongues – itch and I feel them peeling apart like the withered skin of ancient dried oranges. They crack and open and myriad of tiny black specks, millions of baby spiders, emerge from the shattered tips and crawl all over my skin. They engulf the toothy forests of my arms and swarm onto over my torso. Up my neck and into my mouth they scurry as I let out a scream that no one will hear.

Trivex is the perfect drug.

Killer Veggies, Man.

I’ve been ripped before in my life but today I was straight up tripping balls. Straight fucking balls.

Ice cream. Mint chocolate-chip ice cream. That’s all I want. All I want is a pint of mint-chocolate chip ice-cream. Just like Jeffrey Dahmer’s last meal.

TO THE GROCERY STORE WITH YOU! TALLY-HO! Squire, prepare my steed! We ride for the Kingdom of Supermarche!

Oh God that’s cold, the wind. Electric boogaloo. Arsenic flavoured cotton candy. An automated screwdriver and lint-roller, all-in-one, as seen on TV! Variable bitrate encrypted Rhino catheters. The last and final resting place of Enrico Fermi’s housecat. A pox on your house! Eights packs on your grouse. Pancakes filled with swarms of louse.

The doors slide open and I’m in the produce section and IT’S FUCKING HUGE. It’s like an ocean, like the whole universe is just here in this grocery store. HOLY FUCK, those veggies have teeth, man. Fucking TEETH. Those limes have incisors, those oranges have molars, those apples have bicuspids and they’re all razor sharp. And they’re moving up and down in those little fruit and veggie mouths.

Holy shit man, they’ve got eyes. So many eyes! Thousands of eyes, like a fly! They’re watching me. Oh god, they’re moving! They’re jumping from the stand. They’re coming for me. oh God they’re eating me oh God get them off me get them off of me get them offa me getthemoffame getemoff getemoff ohGodohGodohGod

“Sir, sir, calm down. Sir! Sir!”

“What’s going on? What’s the matter with him?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know. Call the police!”

Not This Time

I awake with a start and a hand clutches my heart in my chest. I am panting. A slick sheen of sweat covers me. I am afraid.

Looking up from the bed into the near darkness I see it – the source of my fear. A dark form hovers above me; a shadow, a towering presence. I cannot see its face, but can feel it looking down on me. I can feel it observing me. Waiting. I know it means to do me harm.

And I’m afraid. So afraid.

Sleep paralysis, I think. This isn’t real. You’re experiencing sleep paralysis.

But then I discover that I can move. And so… can It.

The Invisible War

Nothing helps, and it’s only getting worse.

The dirt, the dirt and the germs, they’re everywhere. Hiding in every little nook and cranny of the house. I’ve scrubbed and I’ve mopped and vacuumed and disinfected everything but they’re just too strong. It’s an infestation. I can’t get rid of them. I can’t live in this cesspool. They have me surrounded and I can’t escape.

It’s only gotten worse. I could feel them spreading, their microscopic forms slowly crawling toward me in my sleep. They’d been getting stronger every day, and I knew it. All my disinfectants, all my arsenal was starting to become obsolete. They were evolving and now I’m losing the arms race. Last night they broke through my final line of defense, my last antiseptic perimeter, my ring of salt around my bed to keep away the little virulent demons. They are winning this war.

I’m infected. I could feel it when I woke up this morning. And I knew I had to do something.

The hot water pours from the faucet, boiling hot, too hot too touch but I know I must. The steam rises in my face and I put my hands under the scalding stream. The pain is excruciating, like nothing I’ve ever felt. I scream in agony but smile wickedly: die you little fuckers, die. I laugh as the liquid scorches my skin. Die, die, die.

No. No, it’s not working. They’re spreading too fast. I have to do something.

I run to the bathroom and turn on the shower. Hot. No hotter. Come on, faster. Hotter. Hotter. I can feel their little microscopic forms spreading all over me, multiplying in tiny little colonies. They’re raising their armies. They’re still on the offensive.

HOTTER. HOTTER. COME YOU MOTHERFUCKING HYDRO COMPANY WHAT DO I EVEN PAY YOU FOR! FUCK, HOTTER! HOTTER!

I step into the burning water and it is glorious in its destruction. I scream over and over as it burns my skin but I know I’m going to win now – I’ve mounted the offensive. Die you little fuckers, die. You picked the wrong man to fuck with. I scream and scream and in my screams of agony I can hear myself laughing but then I’m not sure whether I’m laughing or crying. But it doesn’t matter.

It’s still not enough. No matter how hot the water it’s not enough. I am torching the theatre of war to take the enemy with me but it’s not enough. I scrub and scrub and scrub, but it’s not getting them off. They are multiplying too fast. I just want them to die. I just want to feel clean. It’s not enough. It’s not enough.

My sobbing slows. With a shaking red hand I turn the shower off. The stream of inferno recedes to a dribble, tiny drips of lava dropping to the porcelain below. I stand in the steam. My skin is on fire but I don’t care.

It’s already too late.

They’re laughing at me. I can feel them. They’ve already breached the last beachhead. They’ve broken through the castle walls and are inside the city. They’ve osmosed through my skin. They are inside me.

Naked and red, I run to the kitchen. Again I turn on the scalding stream from the faucet. I grab a glass from the cupboard and set it down on the counter. Come on, hotter, hotter. HOTTER. Daddy’s thirsty. Come on. COME ON.

No. No, that wasn’t enough, remember? Stupid. So stupid. It didn’t work before, it won’t work now.

More. More firepower. I need more firepower to win the war. Complete and utter destruction. Total annihilation of the germ race. Genocide. Nuclear holocaust. Wipe them all out: little germ soldiers; little germ civilians; little germ men, women and children and crying germ babies.

In my head I see the image of the tall white jug, and I run to the laundry room.

I Am The Wolfman

I am the wolfman.

The full moon rises to its apex in the night sky and I feel its power overtake me, consume me, engulf me, making me change. My human mind is overtaken by that of the animal. As my bones crack and grow and my skeleton reshapes itself, I feel the monster inside taking over. Taking control. The coarse dark hair of the wolf sprouts from my skin and grows longer and thicker. The pain is excruiciating as the bones in my face crack and sever, then elongate, and my human visage stretches out into a snout. My muscles thicken and stretch. My body contorts into a hunched form. The nails on my fingers and toes sprout into long claws.

I feel the carnal instinct inside overtake me completely. The full moon instills the want to gorge on human flesh. The craving to eat. The need to hunt.

I am the wolfman.

I run from the alley into the street and spot prey: a woman, walking alone beneath the faint orange umbrella of streetlamp light.

“What the hell? Hey, stay back! I’ve got mace!” In seconds I am upon her. I pounce and slash at her face with my razor-sharp claws. She collapses beneath my lupine muscle and I plunge my teeth into her neck. Oh, the kill! The wolfman feeds!

“Somebody! Help! Get this psycho off me! Help! Help!”

I am uncontrollable. I am savage. Enraptured in the glory of the kill, I am in a frenzy. I bite her again and again and she screams out. Then slowly her cries become weaker as the strength leaves her. I tear into her with my yellow fangs and devour her flesh. My nose is wet now with her warm blood. I drag my kill into the darkness of the alleyway to feast.

Hunched over her lifeless body in the gloom, I hear another sound from behind me. A shrill sound. Sirens. Suddenly light floods the alleyway. A car stopping. Doors slamming.

“Sir, put your hands in the air and step away. We have drawn our weapons and will not hesitate to fire.”

I turn and am illuminated. The blood in my mouth runs down my canine jaw. Crouching over my kill, I ready myself to pounce. I growl.

“Sir, put your hands in the air and get down on the ground. We will not hesitate…”

My growl rises and I spring. Explosions. Hot stabbing trails of pain tearing through me. I let out a howl, one long last high-pitched howl, the aroooooooooo of the victorious hunting wolf. I fall backwards to the ground and the last sight I see is the beautiful full moon hanging in the sky.

I am the wolfman.

DKNSTRKTD

When I awoke my arm had turned into a girder.

I gazed in horror at the monstrous metal beam which had replaced my flesh, covered in red paint chipping away to red-brown rust. Out into the street I ran, and saw it was filled with throngs of horrified people. They were changing too.

A man’s hands were twisting lengths of copper wire, and a woman’s arms steel pipe. A young boy’s torso sat atop stacks of cinder blocks. Another man lay dead in the street, his head replaced by the frosted dome of a light fixture.

Up above the buildings were changing too. The massive skyscrapers were transforming into monstrosities made of our skin and bone. Blood gushed from orifices of the towering piles of flesh, running down into the streets and flooding them.

From high above came a voice, one we heard only in our minds:

You knew this day would come. You are only getting what you deserve. Proud humanity, turning from nature with scorn; you said you didn’t need us, that you had bested us with your technology, your science, your engineering. You raped and harvested us, turned us into what you said life should be, what was easiest for you: a sterile, artificial world.

You built false idols in the sky in which to live. You shut yourselves in, away from each other. Closer and into smaller spaces you hide away, but you are farther apart from each other than ever. And you are the farthest from us that you’ve ever been.

We are only showing you what you’ve become. Gaze upon each other in horror at your true nature.

Stendhal Syndrome

“….and here we see a remarkable piece from his ‘Black Period’ which ranged from 1647 to 1701. Notice the larger than life quality of the individuals in the work, which is a result of their exaggerated facial features and the subtle use of chiaroscuro.”

The guide continued to fill the ears of the other museum visitors with fanciful words detailing the history of the art before us. I scratched my face beneath my right eye. It’d been a long two hours thus far. The first half of the tour had been enthralling, but now toward the end my interest was beginning to wane. Though the subtle use of chiaroscuro bringing out the central figures was impressive, I could not appreciate it as I was too fatigued – both of roaming the hardwood of the Renaissance wing and of viewing masterpieces which now all blended into one another.

“….though only a simple depiction of domestic life in the countryside on its surface, the subtle shades and exaggerated emotion in the facial expressions of the family allude to a greater theme beyond that of this simple country home depicted. Scholars in the early 19th century noted that the central figure, the father, can be viewed as a representation of Satan, and his family gathering with him around the light of the candle as his servants, the forces of evil.

“The real action in this masterful work, the real story, is told in the subtlety of the background; in the impossible perspective through the farmhouse window we see the dark rolling hills of the countryside’s farmland stretching to infinity, and the suffering of the common folk who are indentured to work the land for their greater master. The inevitability of a life of work and servitude to the corruption of those in control must truly have seemed to the people of the time truly vile, and brought to mind the work of The Evil One as alluded to in this complex layered portrait of agrarian life.”

I yawned. Though my interest had waned, I could not help but keep my eyes riveted to the guide – she was pretty: blonde, and her voice had a melodius quality to it.

In the crowd, someone sniffled, breaking the flow of the stream of words of times past and the beautiful works of the Masters.

I turned and saw that right beside me was a girl, a tiny girl who could be not more than fourteen. I’d not seen her before and was sure she hadn’t come in with the group – I was at the back of the crowd, closest to her and would have noticed. She was short, and her midnight hair hung limply in unruly bunches around her head. Her face was pale and her beneath her locks I could see her fair skin was wet, puffy and bright pink, as though she’d been crying.

“This piece is best viewed from a far distance and…” The stream of beautiful words stopped with another sniff, this time a sniff which turned into a sad sob, loud enough for everyone in the hall to hear. People in the crowd began to turn their heads. The museum guide stopped talking.

The sob was followed by another, and another. The crowd parted and left me and the girl staring between them at the bewildered tour leader and the massive black work of Renaissance allegory. The sobbing grew in intensity and volume; she was openly crying now, not wails of sadness but of fear and distress.

The guide slowly and cautiously stepped forward and leaned down to talk to the pale frightened girl. Her blue museum jacket shifted on her small frame and I saw light glint off the pin on the lapel.

“Sweetie, are you alright?” she said in a rising lilt.

I began to back away slowly. The girl was quiet now, trembling and staring straight past the guide and into the black depths of the dark canvas on the wall. Her shoulders and head were shaking. The museum guide began to back away. “Sweetie….”

The girl was catatonic now, trembling and frozen in fear. My blood turned to ice as I watched her eyes roll back and turn completely white. Her mouth was open but made no sound. She slowly raised a shaking thin white arm and pointed at the wall.

The painting was alive.

The subtle dark tones of the work’s shadows were leaking around the ornate golden frame and out onto the museum walls like a noxious vapor. The wicked elongated face of the central figure had depth now, and his wicked smile was growing wider. The pointed hear began to emerge from the flatness of the canvas and out into the gallery air.

The tiny toiling figures in the countryside became living beings in miniature, cowering in the monstrosity of the dark family within the farmhouse. The children were gaining shape now too, and the wife in her cowled shawl, their twisted faces were emerging from the shadows on long serpentine necks, twisting and turning.

The girl’s crying was drowned out by a scream, and the rising panic of me of those around me realizing that what we were seeing was real. One of the tour group, an old man in a khaki trenchcoat, turned to run but a tendril of the thick seeping vapor suddenly shot out and enclosed him. I watched his screaming face gradually be covered in blackness which had turned into that like a black ink.

The gallery hall was chaos now. I watched a woman get eaten by a monstrous black mouth like a giant Venus Flytrap. Across the room I saw the long face of The Evil One above the guide plunging and writhing – it was devouring her. The coiling tendrils of black smoke emerging from the painting took solid form and enveloped all those around. A leg here, an arm there, a torso – it pulled their clawing forms back into the awaiting darkness on the wall.

Through all the turmoil I stood unscathed next to the girl, and her next to me. She stared sightlessly with her white eyes into the black depths and watched the bodies of the museum guests – bloody, broken, twisted, dismembered – as they were sucked in.

A woman’s shrill scream snapped me out of my trance.

I ran from the gallery hall and did not look back.