A hook within the lost souls mind,
Is ever the desire of the Dark Folk kind
-- The Nameless Recluse
"Justin! Hurry the hell up or I am going beat the shit out you!" Danny Hickles, Justin's older brother shouted down the hall from the living room.
"Gimme a sec, douche bag!" He responded, covering the phone's receiver with his hand, "I'm coming!". Then returning to the phone, "Sorry Katie, my brothers being a jerk. So, you gonna come?"
There was a uncomfortable pause, and a deep sigh came from Katie's end, "No. And I don't think you should go either. Why don't we hang out? Just the two of us? We could meet and get some food and just chill and talk. What do you think?"
"Katie, you know I've already got this planned. I can't back out."
He could hear her sigh again, softly and a little sadly, "Justin I have a bad feeling. You shouldn't go. I know that. Please, just go with me tonight. Do it for me. Please..."
Justin suddenly felt indecisive. He heard the pleading tone in Katie's voice and it almost won him over.
Come on Katie, don't make this all weird...
Justin's first feeling were one of guilt. Katie was the best, and she never asked much of him. That feeling, was quickly displace by annoyance. Why was she turning this into some awkward situation?
His anger flared.
"Nah, I don't think so. Maybe I have a 'bad feeling' about hanging out with you."
"Justin, I care about you. I don't think..."
"I'll be fine. See you later." Justin hung up the phone, slamming the hand piece into it's cradle violently. He stalked towards the living room.
"It's 'bout time." Andrew Smite, a friend of Danny's, shouted as Justin entered the room.
Justin didn't respond but continued on out the front door and towards the old pickup truck in the driveway. His jaw was set in a seething anger. But he couldn't tell you who he was more enraged at: Katie, or himself.
Justin grew up in the small town of Brison. The population, numbering around two thousand, mostly made their living in cities located a good step from Brison. Those cites were reached by traveling long roads surrounded by dense forests. It was good country, but perhaps a trifle spooky when the atmosphere was just right. The dark trees rose into large hills which the road cut through, descending off of the elevated plain that Brison was located on. The only exception to this wilderness was found immediately outside Brison in the form of rolling farm and cattle land. The two closest populations, once one left Brison, were found twenty-five miles north in Shiloh and forty mile south in Hixon City.
The sun touched western horizon as Justin, Danny, and Andrew left the Brison town limits. They were going north on County Highway 45 toward Shiloh. About nine miles out of town they turned left on to Route 456C. A small rural road that cut through the dense trees grew close on both sides. It was overgrown with briars and weeds, but remained navigable. It was obvious from the roads disrepair that not many people, if indeed any at all, ever traversed it. Under the trees shadows lay in dense dark layers.
Route 456C was narrow and bumpy. The old truck handles it well though, and after about two miles they found what they were looking for; An old, narrow, little wider than a trail, path on the right side of the road. They had been afraid of not finding a path to their goal, but this concern was totally unfounded, for there was path; one which was was strangely well kept.
Danny, who was driving, stopped the truck and they all jumped out. The three of them paused and looked around, taking in their surroundings. A thin crease of darkening sky, stars already revealing themselves dimly, could be seen directly over head. The trees pressed closely around them, and the thick brush, on and around the road, began to make them feel claustrophobic. A nervousness began to settle in their guts.
Danny clicked on a flashlight, followed by Justin and Andrew, "Let's rock and roll. And Justin... don't piss your self".
Without a word, because he found it too tiring to banter with Danny, Justin took the lead, slamming his shoulder into Danny's back as he want by. He headed for the trail and without a pause left the road and plunged into the even deeper gloom of the thick forest.
The trail was in much better condition than the road. There was no brush, only the trees. The dark earth that was the trail was smooth and hard and it seemed to drink in the light from their flashlights as they went along. The only sounds to be heard were the crickets and the low thump of Andrews boots.
After a few minutes of uneventful walking, Danny was the first to break the silence, "That story pop told us better not be a load of crap."
It had been two days since Justin and Danny's grandfather had gone back to Pine Grove nursing home. He was getting old, and senile, and during his visit he had told them a peculiar story centered around an old farm house and the family, named the Manners, that lived there a century ago. Typically when pop Hickles told a tale, eyes glazed and ears became numbed. This time, however, maybe because the tone in his voice or the look in his eyes, they had listened, and listened well.
The Hickles brothers had doubted the full tale that was told to them. They did, however, believe the basic parts of the story; that there was a spooky old farmhouse, off an obscure dirt road, somewhere north of town.
They had asked their grandfather a number of question, including the location of this house. The typical response was a blank look, followed by, "How the hell do you know about that?!".
So, with only the barest of a lead, they had set out on a search.
It had taken them a couple of afternoons of driving around before they found what was probably the correct road. Their step dad had flew off the handle about keeping the roads hot and wasting gas, but he didn't want them around anyway, so the brothers ignored him. This was usually done at their peril, but they took the risk of a beating and carried on. Their mom didn't know anything about their doings, nor did she care. She worked nights and slept days. They were out of sight and out of mind, exactly where she preferred them.
"That story pop told us better not be a load of crap." Danny repeated with more emphasis. "I want to see some messed up shit, or I'm gonna be pissed."
Justin ignored his brother. Danny liked to talk just to hear his own voice and he wouldn't give him the satisfaction of any sort of response. He stayed in the lead, bouncing his flashlight along the path and into the forest. It really was extremely quiet, disquietingly quiet, he thought as they trudged along, the path inclining slightly.
It took the three of them two minutes of walking to come out of the trees and receive their first sight of the old house. The two story structure was in a state of total disrepair. A gaping hole was in the moss covered roof, and a portion of the roof around said whole had rotted and collapsed. The front porch, went around the entire house, and had fallen in upon itself at various locations, forming piles of rotting wood. Windows all around the house were broken, and the rising moon gleamed upon their sharp edges. It did indeed seem as spooky as the trio had hoped.
The path ceased rising as they walked out onto a grassy lawn. Danny and Andrew both swore loudly.
"Shit! This is awesome" shouted Danny, aiming his flashlight at the house.
Justin stopped moving, his eyes gazed fixedly on the front door. A deep, albeit, sickening feeling had come over him.
Don't get sick, you twat. He thought to himself.
The moment they had walked out upon the lawn he began to feel a tinge of nausea. When he looked at the doorway, the dark foreboding doorway, he felt his head spin. Somehow he knew he shouldn't go a step further, should back away and head for the truck.
He didn't, though.
Justin took a deep breath and remained standing near the edge of the forest. Danny and Andrew continued on towards the house.
Andrew noticed Justin lagging behind. He nudged Danny.
"Chicken shit can't handle it." He said with a smile.
"Well, Chicken shit better learn to, or he can wait his ass out here all by himself."
They on towards the house without giving any more attention to the rooted-in-place Justin.
I'll never hear the end of this if I don't go.
He drove any thoughts of leaving from his mind and, despite a that he was a fool, jogged to catch up. Justin reached them just as they were stepping onto the dilapidated porch. =
Justin followed and stepping onto the porch, which creaked and buckled under his step. He passed into the house in their wake. Justin found himself in a large foyer area, his flashlight revealing steps that went up to the second floor, and an overlooking balcony. Three shadow shrouded doorways led to different parts of the house. Justin shined his light into each but saw nothing interesting, except within the doorway to the left, which contained some old looking furniture. Danny and Andrew were no where to be seen.
"Danny!" He shouted, "Andrew!"
There was no response.
"Danny! Danny, if you try to scare me I swear I will kick your balls into throat!"
There was still no sound. He shined his light back into the room on the left and with a shrug he decided to check it out.
If they try anything I'll kill them. I swear I will.
As Justin entered the room he could tell more about its interior. He had to admit that it was pretty cool. It was a living room with an old couch and chairs. Bookshelves lined the ruined walls and an old, all but destroyed, rug lay upon the soft, yielding floor. A large window dominated the room, a portion of which was smashed and shards of glass were glinting here and there in the flashlights beam. Everything was old and unkempt.
I would so take this chair home, if it didn't look like it would fall apart.
Justin was reaching out to grab the chairs arm rest when he heard a commotion behind him. He tried to turn but he was suddenly in a grip stronger than himself. His flashlight was ripped from his grasp and he was thrown roughly to the floor. He heard the scuffling and thumping of feet receding quickly into other parts of the house. Danny and Andrew were laughing as their fleeing flashlights bounced upon the walls. They made their way to some dark corner of the house and stifling their laughter, clicked off their lights.
Justin sat on the disgusting floor. The only light to see by was the moonlight through the smashed window. His anger flared but he said nothing. All sorts of crude and fitting titles for Danny and Andrew came to his mind but he held his tongue. It wouldn't do any good and they'd only find it funny anyway.
He got to his feet and, in the dim moon glow which cast a ghostly pale light around the room, he began to make his way towards the door. He'd one taken one step when a voice, a sweet but strangely hollow voice, asked him a question.
"Why are you in my house?"
Justin's heart exploded into rapid beats and his breath was caught in his throat. He stopped, not moving a muscle.
"Hello?" He asked feeling stupid the moment he said it.
"Hello." The young feminine voice returned, "Why are you in my house?"
The shadowy form of a girl, a little shorter than Justin, was standing in the doorway. Walking towards him, she came into the light with a questioning look upon her face. She wore a white floor length dress that glowed ethereal in the moon light. She was beautiful.
Justin's heart was beating faster, now in a different way. The need to not look scared and to be impressive coursed through his mind. He cleared his throat and tried to steady his breathing.
"We didn't know anyone was out here." His voiced trebled, and he cursed himself for it. "You don't live here, do you?"
Stupid question. Please don't piss her off.
She laughed, "You are funny. What is your name?"
She had a strange accent. It was very dignified as well as old fashion sounding. He found it captivating.
"I'm Justin. What's your name?"
"I am Isabella and I am pleased to meet you Justin."
Isabella smiled at him and it was like a subzero blade to his heart. All the questions pertaining to this girl being in a dilapidated old house in the middle of the night disappeared like a puff of smoke on the wind. She drew close to him, bringing a strange bewitchment before her. She reached out a hand, offering a touch of her pale white skin.
Justin was overcome. The awkwardness, and hesitancy of adolescence fell away, his emotions raging.
How far with this girl go? He found himself thinking.
He reached out to her.
The silence of the night was tore apart. Not if a damned soul was being tortured in hell itself, upon some instrument of the devils making, could screams sound like that. Horror locked him in place, forcing him to listen to the horrid sound.
A moment late he shook himself free.
"Let's get out here!"
"What? Why?" She asked with a sweet voice.
"Your didn't hear that? It sounded like somebody being skinned alive or something. We have got to get the hell out of here!"
" I'm sure it was the other boys playing another little prank. Don't you think?”
Isabella's voice was strange and multilayered. The words flowed slowly, delicately, from her lips; soothing and calming; intelligent and kind. Justin's nerves immediately began to level out again, like a drug had been injected. He wanted agree with her, for surely she was as brilliant as she was beautiful.
It would be smart to agree with her and despite a seed of fear, hidden deep within him, he found himself doing just that.
"Yeah... yeah, you're right. Of course you are. They aren't very cool. They're always are up to some crap; trying to mess with me."
She smiled at him again. Suddenly, With the speed of a striking snake, she reached out and, grabbing his hand, pulled him to her. Their lips met and she kissed him.
Justin had never kissed before and his mind swam at the experience. His heart beat fiercely. He felt awkward, not knowing what to do.
Just go with it! Don't screw it up!
He leaned in and return her kiss. It was incredible, as though some drug stronger than hormones was to be found in the experience. Cool wind blew upon his face and warm grass was under his feet.
He opened his eyes. Looking at this strange girl he didn't even know, haloed by moon light, he wanted her. Suddenly, He felt her tongue in his mouth and with that he abandoned hesitancy and all the awkwardness that he was so accustomed to.
The sound of a throat being cleared loudly and with purpose, sounded hard and dull in the darkened room.
Justin, his lips not leave Isabella's, was tore from his revelry. Standing behind the girl was a young boy, no older than nine or ten. A red wrath in his eyes face.
"Open your eyes and see! Open them!
There was a change but Justin did not immediately know what it was. The feeling of euphoria had passed but something else had passed as well. What was different? His eyes focused on the girls face that he was still locked into a kiss with.
Horror, unimaginable disgust and terror, permeated every molecule of his being. He screamed and violently tried to jerk away.
Oh, God! Oh, God!
The beautiful girl was gone and his mouth was locked upon the mouth of what, in all appearances, seemed to be a corpse. Eyeless sockets stared at him across the space of a few inches and tight withered skin still clung to her skull. Wisps of hair that had not yet fallen from her head, hung in tattered shreds.
Justin screamed, muffled, frantic screams. He tried to wrench away, but he was locked in a vice and could go no where. He felt pressure within his mouth, trying to force its way down his throat.
Tears streamed down his face. He tried to scream, but couldn't. His kicking and jerking amounted to nothing, his strength was no better than weakness. His throat began to feel tight as though it was being stuffed full of something. His breath was cut off.
Justin crashed hard to the floor, flung to the other side of the room. The boy had thrown himself upon them, sending Justin out of reach of the horrid thing. He came to his knees, unable to breath, and began to vomit. In the moonlight he saw thick, black sludge gush from his mouth and splash upon the floor. Blood, from a cut on his head, fell mingling with the disgusting substance.
Justin gasped for air. His head swam and he felt like fainting. The sight across the room, however, arrested his attention.
The boy grabbed the monster by the throat and threw her into a wall, which crumbled down upon her. The boy stood straight and tall; he peered into the darkness where the thing had disappeared. A mad laughter which could only come from a maddened mind, came from the rubble. The monstrosity launched itself with astonishing speed from the ruin. The boy bent his knees, preparing to meet the charge, but he was not the target of the attack.
The dead thing fell upon Justin and pinned him to the floor. Wispy forms, like gas, could be seem coming from her face. They poured down upon him. He struggled but to no avail. The boy ran across the room and set his should into the monsters side. She crashed into another wall, and disappeared into the room beyond.
The boy grabbed Justin by the arm and, with an astonishing strength, lifted him to his feet.
"Run! Out the window and don't look back! Run!"
Justin turned but even as he dove for the window there was a flash of white light and he found himself self falling backwards. He felt as though he had crashed into cushioned wall. He looked up and, not for the first time this night, his breath was caught.
The thing before him was human shaped and blindingly white. Green pools of color were found where it's eyes should have been. It was beautiful and though he was shocked at seeing it, instinctively he know it was not an evil thing. It was only at this moment that he realize the significance of all that was going on around him.
"He must get out!" The boy shouted at the white creature.
Though Justin could hear no answer, the boy continued to speak as though the white creature had responded in it's turn.
"He is protected! You can not do to him as you did to the others."
Moments passed. Justin began to hear noises coming from throughout the house; noises that were drawing closer. The mad laugh sounded again.
"Very well! You may do that, but spare his life!"
"Do what?" Justin asked, but was given no answer.
The White One moved towards him and as he did so a voice spoke within his head. It was a strong voice; calm, compassionate, and powerful. The strength that it conveyed was monumental.
Justin, Never come here again! Cling to those who love you most! Throw off the shadow! I am sorry!
As the voice ended the white creature loomed tall before him. Justin felt a dull blow upon his head and he sunk into darkness.
The sirens wailed. Lights of red, blue, and white flashed and strobbed. Justin raised his head from a crumpled dashboard, broken glass and blood fell from his head.
"Be still, son. Don't move! We're going to get you out. Just hold on." A voice called from up above. The truck, hissing and steaming, had been flipped on its left side. He looked up and out the passenger side window into the face of a police officer.
Through bloody and cloudy eyes he could tell that his brother and Andrew were not moving. Danny was pressed against the drivers side door and Andrew was laying across Justin. They lay as limp as rag dolls.
He couldn't see very well, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to. He felt nauseated and, even as a wave of blood poured out of the side of his face and down his chin, he sank again into unconsciousness.