Wretched

Foreword

A good while back I was really into trying my hand at horror writing. I wrote a few things that didn’t turn out as good as they sounded in my mind and left more to the back burner of my mind where they still sit to this day, but this narrative turned out by far the closest out of them all to what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. I was experimenting with telling a story without the use of dialogue, depending instead on atmosphere and detailed visualization. The version presented here has been triple-proofread, edited to improve the quality based on then-younger Me, and formatted for easier reading. Hopefully this is cleaner than that original presentation years ago.

The following work of fiction includes both graphic and implied violence. Reader discretion advised.

Submitted for your approval, here is- Wretched.


Once, this place had been a farm. Now the entire homestead was a mass grave: the livestock, long neglected, were all but gone; the fields lay bare, dead and dry beneath a gibbous moon, here and there a stray husk catching the wind and tumbled end over end across the cold ground in crinkling protest. In the shadows of the barn large rats scurried, scrounging for what meager food there was to be had, the dark corners littered with small corpses both starved and cannibalized. Down the field at the edge of a small copse of barren and twisted trees stood a decrepit house, barely more than a rotted shell, stony walls crumbling and thatched roof ruined by rot and the weight of a collapsed chimney.

Through the many pockmarks and single bare window set in the wall near the door issued a cold, flickering light, the source a meager fire smoldering in a hearth set into the east wall and filling the main room with wispy smoke. A table sat near the center of the room, bare except for a crude hatchet stained with blood and a cracked wooden bowl. The remains of several chairs lay about the place mixed with an assortment of animal bones and forgotten belongings.

A doorway opened into a second smaller room, the door lying smashed to one side within and replaced with a hanging cloth. Near the corner of the room stood a bed, upon which there sat a heap of rags and collected refuse. In the main room, the small fire popped. The heap stirred and emitted an animalistic grunt; a bony hand flicked out in anger, knocking debris to the floor. The bed creaked as a gaunt form dug its way out of the pile and climbed to its feet.

It was a man in form only. His dirty skin, flaked with disease, hung on his emaciated frame which was covered only by a filthy gown. His hair, where it hadn’t fallen out, was sparse and wiry, slick with grease. His face was deathly hollow, the features slack, yet his eyes shown with a hideous brightness that betrayed some inner spark. The man scratched himself, fingertips coming away smeared with blood. He looked at the blood briefly, then brought his fingers to his lips, running a pimply tongue over them before losing interest and simply walking through the hanging cloth and out into the main room, kicking the remains of a crib out from underfoot as he went.

He went over to the hearth where the fire was consuming the last of its fuel. Staring at the tiny flame for several minutes, he stood in silence, seemingly lost in its erratic dance. His gaze slowly drifted to the floor where a broken bit of furnishing lay, then back to the fire; to the wood on the floor, then to the remains of the wood in the fire. He bent down and picked up the piece of wood, turning it over in his hands for a time and then looked back to the fire before reaching out and placing the piece within the pit. It began to smolder and finally caught a weak flame. The man saw this and grinned widely, exposing rotten teeth as he suddenly began to dance, slowly tilting his head to and fro while arms twisted within themselves, popping in arthritic protest.

His expression abruptly went stony, arms hanging at his sides as he turned and lurched over to the table. He got down on his knees and rummaged through the clutter on the floor, coming up with a bone. He brought it over to the table, setting it down and taking up the hatchet in his right hand, bringing it down with a loud crack as the dry bone split, spraying shards about. Taking the half he held the man squatted down on the floor, dropping the hatchet and scraping out marrow with his fingers, scooping it into his mouth, eyes wandering around the room in a paranoid frenzy. Mid-scoop he froze and let out a startled grunt through his fingers, eyes fixed in the direction of the barn.

He stared for several heartbeats before a mad sneer twisted over his face, eyes wide as he sprung up and bolted across the room and out into the cold night, sprinting towards the barn, giggling madly. Reaching the barn, he barreled through the open door. Stumbling in the darkness, he located a shearing knife and headed for the back of the barn, tripping over an unseen obstacle. Blood oozed from his foot as he howled in rage. Leaping up, he hobbled back to the house and charged into the bedroom, leaped onto the refuse pile and tore it apart in a fit of mania. He stopped with a grunt, head twisting to the door, eyes feral. He leapt up and ran back into the main room, going straight for a battered set of drawers.

Yanking out the top drawer he spilled the contents and pawed through them. He shrieked and reached for the middle drawer, pulling it out and dumping its contents onto the floor. Tossing the useless horde aside he found what he was looking for, a candle, and held it in the fire. Turning back to the drawers he located a lantern, now decidedly less than serviceable, and leapt up once more, charging out of the house and back across the field to the barn.

Inside he relocated the shearing knife and made his way to the back of the cavernous room, passing between a pair of nooses that hung from the rafters, beneath which lay two dis-articulated skeletons, one of them tiny. Turning into the stall at the very end of the row, the man dropped to his haunches before the gate, giggling with mad glee, his eyes fixed on what lay within.

Stretched out on a thick bed of moldering hay lay a horror. The prone form of a large nanny goat, shuddered from the cold as it struggling to breathe. Its large eyes were cloudy with cataracts and a string of saliva dribbled from its mouth. Its body was grossly swollen, the skin a single reddish-purple bruise threaded with dark, throbbing veins. Muscles bunched and contorted in wild configurations and now and then the beast would suddenly begin to shudder and let out long, choking bleats as its body bulged and quaked from within. The man’s giggling rose to a maniacal laugh as he bounced on his heels. Just then, a bank of clouds ghosted over the moon, drowning out its light and bathing the barn in total darkness, the feeble lantern the only illumination. The man immediately stopped laughing, eyes wide as he felt a deathly cold wash over him. It was finally time.

Clutching the shearing knife close to his chest, the man reached out and placed a bony hand on the goat’s swollen chest and belly, causing the animal to beat in pain. He could feel the deep pulse of the angry tissue and the deeper movements of what gestated within growing stronger. Then he felt the sensation of a hand pressing against his from within the goat, causing him to quickly draw his hand back and tilt his head. Yes, it was time. Raising the knife over his head, the crazed man babbled a string of incoherent words. Bringing the knife back down to the goat’s throat, he began sawing. A torrent of dark blood burst forth and splashed across his blighted skin.

The goat let out a gurgling cry as it began to choke and retch. The quivering and quaking within its body grew frantic and the goat began to huff as a sound like tearing wet burlap joined the bulging protests of the inhabitant within its body. The goat’s sores began to bleed as dark stains spread under its skin and small tears splits here and there, a claw issuing forth quickly before drawing back. Innards began to squelch out from the widening tears as a muffled series of keenings and grunts sounded from inside the goat’s quickly deteriorating body.

The goat was dead by the time a great tear split its body open and a long, sinewy arm ending in an abnormally long two-fingered hand tore its way out into the flickering lantern light, intestines coiled around its length. The man leaped back and watched from the shadows as the thing continued to pull its way out of the ruined animal. Its bulbous head broke free, opened a mouth whose structure was all wrong and filled the dark barn with a wailing screech.

The man gazed in awe as the thing wriggled and writhed its way onto the dirty straw floor. Its hide was the color of rot in the wild light and bristling with irregular hairs and quills along a jutting spine. Its two-toed hands and feet sported deadly yellow claws and a tail like a giant rat’s thrashed about spreading gore around the area. Its eyes, large and set abnormally low in its long face, opened and blinked in the dancing light, hooding large pupils.

The man stepped closer, holding his hands out as if in worship of the wretched thing. The creature’s head snapped up to face him and it sniffed the air. The man stepped closer and it bared deadly fangs, leaping at him and sinking its claws into his bony chest. The man fell back under its weight and screamed in pain and surprise, his cry cut short as the beast closed its jaws over his face and ripped away the front of his head in a blossom of brains and blood.

                                                                           * * * * *

Having finished its first meal, the beast turned its attention to the surrounding barn, sniffing the air with its skeletal nose. It sniffed at the remains of the goat, sampling the ruined flesh. The moon emerged from behind the clouds, bathing the barn in ghostly light, and turned the open doorway into a beckoning maw of darkness. Seeing the outside in its peripheral vision, the thing turned and scurried towards the door, kicking over the lantern in its flight. The broken lantern’s flame caught the straw as the beast shot out the door and sprinted across the dead fields towards the tree line. By the time it had buried itself in the woods, the fire had already begun to make quick work of the old barn. Soon, the farm would be only a memory, but the legacy of what was birthed this night had only just begun…

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