After many years of writing and producing not a single horror story, I decided last night that I might have one in me. Well, some twelve year old Scotch helped me along, but a story it remains. I woke up this morning and read it over and found that it wasn't that bad, so I thought I'd share. It'll probably be shelved, but then again this may be the first of many, so here's the opening of a very rough draft. (Oh, and please do forgive any wild, drunken blunders)
The screen door had been rolling back and forth for over an hour, and a steady trickle of snow was drifting past the threshold. Tom watched the snowflakes dance amongst the devils, but the shivering went on nonetheless, and hauling his Mac tighter about his chest made no difference. Inside, the draft was dampened and soft, but the fingers which touched his lips were icy and unforgiving. It hadn't been so bad at first, but the gnawing fingers had all but sucked the warmth from his body. The shivering was full bodied and rich now, emanating from his chest and stomach, rising up in waves.
The depot shuddered in the gale and at times the walls threatened to buckle, but Tom heard nothing, and didn't care to look up. He only had eyes for the snowflakes.
Outside, the town was quiet. The Burger King sign out on the A93 swayed, and its girders whined, but the two bit actress held the cheeseburger with the same delight as always, her cheeks bulging and her figure forever trim. Below it, the carriageway was empty. Only Larry McFadden's Hilux was in sight, fighting the storm and winding its way up to Lorndale.
The new lot up on Lover's Leap was ablaze with living room lights as the young tenants sat down to watch the Strictly Final. Behind the Leap, past the A93, were the vast expanses of Radden Moor, which sat still and toneless in the evening light. The mist was pooling in the valleys in preparation for the morning Blanket, but tonight it was heavier. Through the miles of fog he could barely make out the lights of Radden, nestled between the peaks of Porter's Pass.
Dramant Street stretched out before him and behind the snowflakes it sat, sparsely lit by neon and halogen. Tonight, compared to the sights about it, the street seemed somehow bigger, imposing, as if looming over him. He'd walked the street day and night, year after year, and only tonight was it different. Something imbedded within the fabric of its tarmac and steel wrenched at his gaze. Despite his efforts to ignore it, to see only the snowflakes, he kept watch over it. Before him, behind the barrier of falling snow, it seemed to undulate and dance, calling him back to its warm embrace. And, not for the first time this evening, the snowflakes dimmed into nonexistence, and Dramant Street took him.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad just to stay one more night. It would be a fine thing to run on over to Lisey's and grab a Steak'n'Stella, maybe even catch the last few minutes of Strictly. Brucey was always worth tuning in. It'd be warm in there. Oh, how it'd be warm.
And even as he thought of it, the cold seemed dampened. The snow drifts had gone from the sky and he could almost feel the wood of Lisey's old stools beneath him and taste that Stella. It was good enough to warrant a pint, at the very least. Would Lisey tip him an extra pint on a Sunday? Probably not.
Hell, if he was fast then he could make a dash for The Redcoat before the lock-in. Angie was probably tending bar tonight, and she always slipped him one extra to keep hush about the Hash. Not that he'd ever tell; that Hash was premium stuff. You'd never get that anywhere else in these parts. Still, who was he to say no to a free drink?—
The screen door clattered against the stop, and Tom cried aloud. He cursed, and flung a glance about. Only the storm met his gaze.
The ticket girl had closed up the office and gone home not long after sunset. Tom suspected that opening hours extended long into the night, but there hadn't been any sign of a potential passenger, or a bus. Tom glanced at his watch, now more out of habit, and looped his arms around his shoulders. When the sigh came, his breath was a thick vapour.
The taste and smell of Lisey's was gone, but the thoughts still clung to the roof of his mind, dirty and wrong. For the umpteenth time that night, Tom felt not only disquieted by the thoughts, but intruded upon, as if somebody had groped his clothes and stroked his hair. Anybody else would have gone home. On any other night, he'd have done just that, but not tonight. There would be no leaving the depot unless on a wayward bus.
The thoughts were enough to keep him planted to the bench. The absurdity of that alone had been gnawed at by time as his bodily warmth had by the wind, and now it was a mere statement of fact. The thoughts were innocent enough; nice thoughts, of warmth and food, of fulfilment. But at the same time they were offensive, intoxicating, and again, wrong.
Wrong. That was the word that stuck. Not bad, but wrong.
He hadn’t noticed them at first. A few extra beers here, an extra pinch of Angie’s arse there. Who could tell? Not him. For a while he’d thought that maybe he was finally tipping over the edge, or the dust from the mine had finally gotten to him. Shit, maybe he was heading for one of those manic depressive breakdowns you read about in psycho novels.
Even then, he hadn’t believed it. Not really. The dust, the breakdown; they were just a cover, and bad one at that. The thoughts were sly, and nimble, unnoticeable. And yet there were different, not his own, wrong.
But the word was no charm. Even as ‘Wrong’ rung within his head like a gong, Dramant Street leered at him once more and he felt himself slipping away. It was wrong indeed, and sickly, but oh so wonderful. It was sweet, yes, like sliding into a hot bath, but also something else, something more. It was a deep and primal satisfaction, something sexual.
Tom closed his eyes and clung to the bench, pressing the frozen grate against his skin with undue force. The sensation stung at the thoughts like poison, and Tom broke his gaze from the street through his hooded eyes. Looking away, startlingly, took his breath, and he stood with a shudder and paced, gasping. He threw a glance skywards, but there were no stars.
No clouds, but no stars either.
Dramant's Rest was still. McFadden's Hilux had crested Lorndale Hill and was gone from sight. Tom stamped his feet in the hopes of some warmth. When none came, he wasn't surprised. The snowflakes were dancing before his eyes now. His stamping ceased and he watched them, and the fear was dampened, more distant. No thoughts nagged at him whilst he watched them.
He was being dramatic. Of course he was. What was he doing, sitting out here in the middle of a snowstorm? Because he wanted a beer? Was that bad? Sure, he felt bad, but he'd been a bit off lately. He must be coming down with something; Johnny had that cold the other week. Yes, it was that, certainly it was. What he'd do is sit for a while, watch the flakes, then he'd make a run for The Redcoat, and sit in there until dawn.
Somewhere, far away, he was smiling, and was sitting back down, watching the snowflakes.
And as soon as he settled back into the relative warmth of his seat, the snowflakes were ripped from under him, and Dramant Street was before him, and the thoughts were upon him. The thoughts hadn't been gone at all, but merely caged, belayed by the flakes. But now the snowflakes were gone and the Street was very much alive, and Tom felt himself fall into its smothering depths.
If he hadn’t been paralysed, he would have screamed. But nothing escaped him and instead he merely sat and gripped the bench whilst his peripheral vision sank into darkness, and Dramant Street leered at him, growing sharper, bigger, closer.
He was thirsty. No, parched, to the bone. He needed a drink now, or he’d die, wilt into sand and be swept away. He was sure of it. A panic, real and thick, erupted in his stomach at the sight of his skin waxing from his skull, pulled away by the dainty flakes.
From a great distance, he heard himself whimper. “No,” he said.
But the image remained and the skull became more bereft of life before him and began to sink into an amorphous pile, sliding, screeching, its toothy smile wide and gaping.
“No,” Tom cried.
Beer. Beer would make it all go away. If he could just dive from the depot, into the snow—no, now that he saw, really saw, there was no snow. The road before him was golden, ablaze with the brightest light, beautiful light—and make it to the Redcoat, it would all go away.
And now the thoughts were not thoughts, but something else, almost the tiniest of whispers. The voice uttering their sweet song was masculine and kindly, yet high and somehow feminine. It whispered into one ear, and then the other, and then it was all around, within, and everywhere.
It’ll all go away. All you need to do is drink.
“No. No.” Tom was rocking on the bench.
That Stella would be crisp, light and refreshing. He could feel it sliding down his gullet, fizzing against his tongue, draining away that thirst. It was like coming up for air, and Tom groaned in ecstasy.
It’ll all go away. All you have to do is stay.
Tom rocked harder still, but the voice grew only stronger, and the thirst returned with devastating force, punching at the back of his throat. The Stella was gone from his gullet and his tongue was sand once more, and he gave a wordless cry.
“Stop,” he sobbed. “Stop, stop.”
Stay, Thomas. All you have to do is stay.
Angie would be there. Once he’d had a couple of pints, he could get her to slip him a couple more, give her the eyes and start blabbing about the Hash. Shit, how her eyes would bug out, she wouldn’t be able to serve him fast enough.
That’s it. It’ll all go away.
And when he’d had his fill? Well, Angie’d still be there. The Shalman boys would slouch off around midnight and McFadden was out at Lorndale doing who knows what, but Angie would be there, all alone, with him.
If it was just the two of them then they might as well light up. She’d take a while to come around, but she’d do it for him. She had to; he had her good. Wrapped around his pinky; his charm. His pretty little slut of a charm.
Tom felt disgust rise in him. “No,” he muttered. “I won’t.”
His little slut. Rosy, perky, little slut. Once she was high off the Hash and the Redcoat was good and smoked up he’d take her into the bathroom and give her a little treat. She’d like that; she’d always wanted it from him, even back in school. She’d laughed then, laughed when he’d asked her out, but she wouldn’t laugh now. She’d beg him to give it to her.
And Angie was under him, her pupils enormous, but her face was gone, a skull, and he mere sand. The sensation of being ripped from life trickled from his forehead and he wanted to scream, but he merely shuddered atop the bench.
“Yes! Yes! Please!”
Angie was under him once more, and her eyes were still enormous, but now the sensation was not of death, but of something magnificent. She was under him, sweaty and writhing, and her doubled over reflection was laughing in the midst of the smoke of the Hash. Hell, the whole building looked like it was burning down, there was so much smoke. But writhed she did all the same, and Tom groaned once more.
It’ll all be yours. Just stay.
And she was upon him, wrapped about his waist, her hair lying around them as a single sheet. He was reaching at her, touching, squeezing. He tore at her shirt, tied as it was at the midriff, and it ripped like tinfoil, and he was upon her body. Her breath was in his ear, urging him on, and he in turn bit at her fervently, gnawing at her flesh.
It’ll all be yours.
“I can’t,” he sobbed.
She’ll be yours.
“I can’t do it.”
You’ll be a God.
All you have to do is STAY!
Light. The voice, thus far so sultry in his ear, hissed at the headlights, a high and piercing squeal. For a brief moment Tom almost expected Angie to return to him, but she was gone, as was the voice. The depot was back, and the snowflakes were dancing.
Tom held up his hand to shield his eyes as the bus’s lights pooled about him, but that was all that he managed. Whilst the bus trundled around the corner and pulled up to the depot door, he merely sat and stared ahead.
He still would have screamed if he could, screamed until his throat was raw and his lungs were on the street. But instead, he sat and waited. The voice was gone, banished. But still he didn’t scream. Instead, he felt a deep calm, almost post coital.
The engine trundled in his ear and the doors of the bus folded open. Two drivers stared back at him, one sitting at the wheel and the other standing by his side, chewing a mangled lollypop stick. They sat and waited for him to stand and gather his things, but when he merely sat and stared ahead, they looked to each other.
“Oi, Boyo!” the one at the wheel called.
Slowly, Tom turned his head and looked onto his wobbling bulk. The driver’s moustache, streaked and grey, caked in chicken grease, seemed closer and richer than he would have expected. The bus, too, seemed more, more visceral and tangible.
But at the same time, the sights were wrong. Not bad, not frightening, but wrong.
Tom looked at the lumbering high def driver and spoke. “Huh?”
“You need a lift there, laddy?” the driver called.
Tom wanted to speak, to answer, but the voice repulsed him.
The drivers shared another glance and this time the one standing dropped from the bus and braved the two feet to the clattering door. He pushed it aside and took in Tom’s huddled figure. “You had a couple too many?” he said suspiciously.
Tom tried to nod, but only managed to wobble his crown.
The driver, thinner than his friend, eyed him a moment longer through sunken eyes and then clicked his tongue. He turned back to his moustachioed companion and shrugged. “Either stoned out of his head or his wife’s been shagging all the neighbours at once.”
They both laughed, and Tom knew that he should join in, that the words were meant to rouse him, but he couldn’t. And at his lack of response, the thinner driver looked more worried still. He was closer now and bent over.
“You okay, mate?” he said.
The driver frowned. “Maybe we ought to get you to a doctor or something.” He turned his head and called out to the other. “Hey, Mick?”
“We going over to Radden later ain’t we?”
There was a rustling as his companion checked the route. “Uh, yeah, after Ol’Spark.”
“We can drop him at Radden General can’t we?”
Tom was released, free. He gripped the man’s lapel. “No!” he said. His voice trembled, but was discernable. “Not there. I’m fine. Just need to go.”
The driver spoke slowly, as if he were touched in the head. His voice too sweet, too kind. “Go where, mate?”
“Ben, come on! It’s fucking freezing,” the fatter driver growled.
The man before Tom frowned a last time. “Come on, mate, let’s get you up.”
Tom was lifted from the bench and carried into the fiery belly of the bus. His fingers burned immediately when he was hoisted into the back seat and his legs began to shudder. He hadn’t sensed it before, but he had been cold, very cold, and his hands were a faint shade of blue.
“Go on, get outta here!” the driver called.
A crow was cawing. The thinner driver battered its shadow from the bonnet of the bus and it took flight into the night, but Tom cringed all the same.
“Vermin,” said the moustachioed driver. “Where’d they come from all of a sudden?”
“Dunno, just showed up. Migrating, maybe?”
“Crows? Nah, they don’t migrate.”
“Bad omen, ain’t they? That’s what Mum says.”
Tom stared out of the window as the doors folded to a close and the engine rattled under him. The depot began to slide away from view, but as it did so Tom leant forwards and watched the snowflakes, still dancing about the clattering door, and then they were gone.
And their absence was wrong.
Thomas. Where are you going?
Tom’s groan roused both drivers, but they let it pass. It seemed that they had become resigned to his vegetative state and were content to leave him to his business. For that, he was glad, but it also terrified him. Finally, he had company, but he was more alone now than in the snow.
Thomas. You can’t run from us, Thomas.
Dramant Street was fading from view and the lot on Lover’s Leap passed overhead. When the lights of the street were cut off by the Rover Building the thoughts—the voice—was deadened. Tom blinked as the voice tried to utter his name once more, but now it was broken, like a radio station with bad reception.
And then Dramant Street was gone.
Tom waited, and the bus trundled, and they hurtled up the A93, but no voices came. He sighed deeply and felt himself deflate. He began to laugh, and the driver turned to him and gave a chuckle of his own.
“I think the cold was just getting to him, Mick. He’s okay now, ain’t you mate?”
Tom laughed only harder and now the fatter driver joined in with his own cracked guffaw. They were all laughing then and the bus’ engine seemed to laugh with them, and together they soared away from the jaws of Dramant Street.
The three of them laughed together, laughed hard and unfailingly, right up to the very moment that the figure appeared in the pool of the headlight. Before their eyes, stood on the tarmac of the A93, was something dark, hooded, and red. As the bus hurtled towards it, the figure made to effort to stop, but merely stood and watched them.
In that moment, the sight alone stole the laughter from the air, and the voice was everywhere.
“Fuck!” the moustachioed driver yelled, and turned the wheel in his hands.
In response, the bus screeched towards the figure and the back fishtailed. Tom had time to watch the figure break against the window beside him as if but mere smoke. The bus gave a horrific groan from its belly, and then the tires gave up and the world turned upside down, and pain was everywhere.
Tom didn’t hear the driver’s shrieks inside the bus, for the window had been no match for his forehead, and he had come smashing through it. For a moment the bus was flying with him and the wind was in his hair, and then he was falling.
It was mere feet, but he had time, all the time in the world. He had time to feel the butterflies in his stomach, see the faces of the drivers as they rolled end over end in the crushed shell of their bus, and watch the road rise up to strike his face.
He didn’t feel the impact, but when he came to in the snow, he knew that he’d hit. His mouth was hot and filled with sickly treacle, and his leg throbbed with such a sudden ferocity that he screeched through the mouthful of blood. He spat and it splattered along the snow before him, and he collapsed against the snow.
The bus was before him, still and silent. He breathed and cried whilst his leg throbbed ever harder, and the horrific treacle trickled into his mouth. He spat, and spat, but still it came and soon he merely allowed his jaw to hang open.
Somebody would come soon. He blinked at the notion—it was all that he could do—but it was true. Somebody would’ve heard the crash, and so somebody would come, and he’d be fine. They’d all be fine.
There was no sound to answer the voice, and so the tears escaped his eyes unaccompanied. Tom was paralysed once more, but no thoughts came. Nothing came. Instead, there was only nothingness, and the figure, standing before him.
Tom felt a horror then, but it was no feeble terror of the living. It was pure, untainted horror, and it burned at his flesh like a hot iron. This time he did scream, but even then the light had begun to fade, and the pain had begun to spread in his arm.
The figure only looked on; hooded, dark, and red.
All you had to do was stay.