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The First House

by Veris Marock about a year ago in monster
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By Steven Alexander Mailer

The First House
Photo by Tomáš Malík on Unsplash

The tears came in tandem with the stinging of the wound, the frantic fumbling of fester-some fingers upon the ragged jagged edge prompting it to shriek! Eric prodded at it with his tissue, whimpering as the ugly snarl of his own flesh defied him, screamed at him in a voice of sharp and shooting scorn! Yet, as he fidgeted with his wound, his mortality leaking over his young fingers, nothing unsettled him more than the deafening absence of the room before him. The room yawned and stretched and creaked like something waking. Something so impossibly old and so impossibly inhuman. Whatever fate he had avoided by entering this house, he wondered if it was perhaps preferable to spending another second in the oppression of its maw. Walls that had from the outside seemed small enough simply to hide him from his pursuers now had seemingly swallowed him whole. They towered and tunneled into the oppressive dark, arching over one another, framing him beneath a blanket of shadows that rested upon the dark wood floor like slumbering beasts. Eric stumbled to his feet and gasped a ragged breath, though no stranger to running he was not best suited to the exertion.

“H-hello?” He stammered, far quieter than he’d intended. An instinct, in his heart, told him to keep his voice low, an ache in his belly that grew duller as he peered into the dreadful black of the house. Eric grimaced and swallowed the instinct, clearing his throat, he shouted this time; “Hello! Is anyone there?” The words flew into the nebulous shadows of the house, swallowed by the vastness. No voice returned. No animals scattered. Nothing moved, nothing rose, and yet the silent, formless, phantom black-dominated his every sense. It towered over him, glaring down with alien malice and terrible hunger. The air tasted stale, like something left to rot, no birdsong or passing cars penetrated the walls that stood so defiant in their triumphant sacrilege, sacrilege against the knowledge that said there was no way they should stand so high, so much higher than the external dimensions should have allowed, trapping the cold bitter air that bit at his skin like a swarm of tiny angry insects. This house was wrong and even if he had nowhere else to go, nowhere itself was better than here!

Eric stumbled backward and flung himself at the door he’d come through! He yanked it back forcefully and ran out into the embrace of the cold autumn night! His feet found no leaves, no grass, no trees, no road. Those walls hung ominously where the world ought to have been, now shaped as a strange and unfamiliar tunnel. Rounded now and candlelit, the flickering light gave the walls the appearance of motion, as though it undulated and throbbed in mockery of the heaving of his own panicked breath. As he stared into the seemingly endless reach of the tunnel beyond, his panic took on a new form. An incredulous feeling crept up his spine, something new but at the same time old, as though it was knitted into his bones. A feeling that snarled through gritted teeth into his very core; “GO. BACK!”

Eric turned back to the door and yelped! No door, no wall, no great cavernous room, the rounded hall continued behind him, seeming at times to curve, just slightly, beyond the degrees that sanity could bear as though spiraling into the light-less pit below before, like a rubber band it shot back at him! The walls coiling in on themselves and yawning into embers! A fireplace formed before him, a blazing, hot infernal maw and in the center rested a scarlet burning poker. The poker rattled, as though some invisible hand gripped it. Eric’s heart thudded in his chest.

“No...no I didn’t...I didn’t mean to” He whispered as the poker launched itself from where it rested! Eric surged down the impossible hall!

Eric tried to reason it away, to rationalize what he knew in his heart was beyond reason! Beyond sanity! This was a space that defied all limitations, all laws that defined reality and he felt lost within it, as though it beckoned him deeper. Like a pitcher plant that lures those wayward and lost into the confines of its ravenous depths. His sense would have him leave but no matter how much he wanted to, he knew he had to push on! There had to be a way out! Someway to escape!

As he sprinted down those undulating halls, the silence began to part like a soupy fog allowing an emanation, a floaty, almost church-like sound buzzing through the candle-lit hallways. For lack of any other stimulus to follow, Eric pushed on. He had to find the sound, perhaps it could lead to people? The wound on his leg still gnawed at him, the bleeding had stopped for now but the pain was not so willing to compromise.

Minutes passed in monotonous drags, each step felt like ten and the corridor as he passed through it seemed to stretch, at all times, beyond his field of view, like the blossoming of a flower or the welcoming of yawning jaws poised to swallow him whole then all at once they fell still and the corridor opened into the inky, churning black of the room beyond. No, not black, he thought, as a light was thrown upon the wall! It danced and died a thousand times in the span of a heartbeat, silver then white like a blizzard, it reminded Eric of lightning as he entered the room and the silence was shattered like glass by a sound of fanfare! Eric cursed as he stumbled back and made himself small against the wall! In the corner of the room, the source of the light blinked at him, hissing like a cornered animal but it was neither beast nor man, no... a machine!? He thought. A box, no bigger than a wood-burning stove. Eric looked back at the hall he’d come from to find a papered wall where the door once stood. The machine hissed and flickered and illuminated the room with its dull erratic glare! It reminded him of the silent films they showed sometimes but this was far from silent, betwixt the coughing, hissing, swarming noise the machine bombarded him with, a voice issued forth. The voice was old, weathered and spoke sometimes in whispers but more often in mourning.

“The anniversary of Armistice Day should stir us to great exaltation of spirit” The machine said betwixt the popping and fizzing that cut off much of what else was said. Eric peered into the flickering screen, mesmerized and terrified all at once. “...upon which the great war for democracy and right was fought and won.” The voice continued.

Eric shifted from the wall, confident that the talking machine would not leap out at him. He slowly placed one foot in front of the other, still hugging the wall as he dragged his hand across the floral painted surface his hands found something wet and he recoiled. He grimaced as he shook his hand off, throwing black sludge along the dimly lit carpeted floor. That’s when he heard it, the wall, creaking like it was about to give way. Eric spun to watch the wall reaching outwards! Erupting like a tumor from the flesh of the house, grown black like mold and stinking of rotten eggs and something Eric had smelled only once before, on his father. Is that gunpowder? He thought. The wall creaked closer and as its panels gave way the flickering light danced across yellowed bloodshot eyes!

Eric’s blood ran cold and he leaped back as a face no lighter than the sludge he’d shaken off of his hand manifested betwixt the rotting timbers and dragged its dripping black emaciated body out of the paneled wall! Barely visible beneath the dirt and dried brown stains, was a soldier’s uniform.

As the soldier dragged himself into the room Eric staggered away, his heart pounded in his chest to run! To run so far and so fast as this wheezing, choking, gagging being writhed and shambled into the room! Every step of the being matched his own, mirroring him, his trembling, his bulging eyes. Eric saw the soldier’s face clearly, it was covered in large bulbous weeping yellow blisters, his nose had been worn away and his eyes drooped, leaking yellow tears! The thing reached for him. Eric couldn’t move. The hand reached for his sweating face and found his shoulder! It yanked him towards it! Its other hand rose, trembling, reaching for his chest! Eric whimpered and went limp as the bitter frigid grip on his shoulder grew tighter! He imagined the thousand terrible things this beast, this demon, this monster, could do to him! He imagined it tearing into his throat and savagery ripping out his still thumping heart or tossing him across the room like a rag-doll! Eric closed his eyes and tried to think of better things. He thought of his bed, he thought of his mother and when he felt the thing coming closer he thought of...him. Then he felt a pressure upon his chest and he braced himself! Only to feel something enter his breast-pocket. Eric, hesitantly, opened his eyes and looked back to see the soldier had vanished.

Eric scanned the room, the floral painted blue walls were old now as though long abandoned. The bemused young man looked down and reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a worn, bloody note from his striped dress shirt. The handwriting was nigh illegible, not helped by Eric’s still trembling fingers, he padded over to the blinking box and held the note to the light. The flickering light made the scratchy etched letters all the harder to read but as he fought to steady his hands and control his breathing, the words came into view.

“Dulce et decorum est” it read. Eric sighed in frustration and tossed the letter aside. The letter floated to the ground and as it descended, burst into flames! Eric gasped and the smoke that burned off of the parchment lashed at his throat! His eyes! His skin blistered and yellowed and he shrieked! Scratching at his flesh and tumbling back! He knocked the flickering box on its side and as it crashed to the floor it illuminated a figure! The soldier returned, arm outstretched, mouth gaping into a wretched and terrible scream as his face melted to the bone and blistered and yellowed and burned! His mouth emitted no noise but the box screamed to life! It was a shrill and inhuman caterwaul that pierced him to his bones and sprung him to his feet as he tore at his flesh! He ran to the end of the room opposite the melting soldier, he had to get away! Away from that smoke, that awful, yellow smoke! Still the soldier reached, his face sliding from his skull as Eric ran! The rotten wall fell away and behind the shredded wallpaper was a heavy iron door! He pulled on it with all the strength his scrawny arms could muster!

The gas ate at his wound and he wept as the pain stung and gnawed and bubbled and blistered! The cold iron door held fast!

“Come on! shit, come on!” Eric begged as he pulled the door with all he had, panting heavily as it finally lurched open! Eric threw himself beyond the door and it slammed shut behind him!

Groaning as it eased back into the frame and Eric heard the sound of various mechanisms clicking into place as the door came to a rest.

The young man took a moment to gather himself. He looked at his body, his arms and found no wounds. No yellow blisters, no scratches, he felt his face and found the same smooth complexion save for the sweat that matted his short blond hair and stained his red and white striped shirt. Eric dusted off his blue cycling breeches, pausing to fidget with the wound on his leg that still bit at him at every opportunity. Eric cursed his father, he sat with his back against that bitter heavy metal door and cursed his father with every word he knew to utter in contempt and disgust!

As Eric rocked back and forth, he felt his throat constrict and his chest tighten! He couldn’t breathe! He couldn’t breathe! He felt his heart going a mile a minute and as he’d learned to the many other times this had happened he focused on his breathing and tried to steady it! He thought of him, of Sean and took long deep breaths in. And out. In. And out. As his panic mounted he fumbled with his hands in the pockets of his breeches. To his glee he pulled a bent slightly faded photograph from his pocket. Sean beamed back at him, stern but still young, still full of mischief. His eyes always smiled, that’s what Eric had always liked. He could tell what that boy was thinking, always, through those pond-green eyes. His hands shook as he held the photo, lamenting what had brought him here and trying to process the very real possibility that he may never see those big green eyes again when he finally found the strength to stand again, the room awed him.

The air hung still, cold, stagnant. As though life had frozen solid like a pond in the midwinter. The floors reflected the high marble arches and candle light danced across the glimmering surface. The whole room beamed with opulence, every panel was polished to perfection, every step shone and shimmered and betwixt the arches hung scores of scarlet flags. There was no wind in this place, the flags hung still, deathly still. Eric stared at them, their stillness stirring something in him, something he didn’t quite understand. The scarlet red of the flag contrasted by the white circle that dominated the center and the unusual jet black shape in the white circle’s center, like four L shapes connected in the middle.

Eric boxed his brain but like the last room, this room was filled to bursting with things he couldn’t understand or recognize but all the while, the longer he stood beneath these towering arches and the glare of those scarlet flags, the more he felt unwelcome. Suddenly a voice drew his attention! Eric turned to face the anterior wall upon which an opening had formed, not a door, not an archway but a split in the wall, the house, as though wounded had split apart. Without a sound, without complaint and Eric, compelled by curiosity and hope above all else, hesitantly strode towards it. Finding that the wound was just wide enough for his slight boyish frame the young man climbed through the gap in the woodwork. Beyond the shining palace was a place most...alien. Silver walls adorned with reflective panels and blinking lights greeted him, dazzled and perplexed him! These windows were nothing like the hissing picture box from before, they danced with colors and equations and images that drew Eric closer! The feeling of being unwelcome faded and there within the wound of the impossible house he found a place that, though he could not explain why, felt much more human. Wonder-struck, the young man came upon a high backed leather chair, he placed a hand upon the back and spun the chair and shrieked as empty black eyes stared into his soul! A skeletal shriek frozen in time grimaced into his eyes and begged a prayer long since turned to ash! Eric caught his breath as the shock wore off, the skeleton didn’t move, it did not rise to smite him or tumble to bits before him. It sat in the chair, staring wordlessly at the wound he’d come through as though it was as shocked as he was. Eric regained his composure, stopping to calm his breathing again he hesitantly batted the chair like an uncertain cat, finding no resistance he swiftly shoved it aside! The chair rolled away and Eric came to a metal desk strewn with unfamiliar packaging and beneath what might have once been food or even flesh he chanced upon a small metal device with a series of buttons upon it. Curiosity got the better of him as he pressed the central button causing a woman’s voice to emanate as if by magic from the device itself! Eric stood hunched over the desk as the woman spoke to him.

“It’s been three days since my last recording. Makes this day…” She paused and sighed hard, her accent was clearly American but her voice was troubled, exhausted. “...I don’t even know anymore. God, I don’t think anyone will even ever find this but if they do…” The recording hissed and fizzled, another voice seemed to overlap with the woman’s slightly for a second. “I’ve been treating this house like some kind of puzzle, a mystery to be solved. The longer I stay here, the less I feel that that assumption carries any kind of weight anymore.” The voice heaved a heavy sigh and gasped “I’ve seen things...they look human but they’re sick and twisted and, and...it’s like the house is trying to tell me something...trying to warn me.”

A breeze blew past Eric’s ear, footsteps passed the wound in the stone, he spun to face it! The room beyond had changed, the flags were gone, the high arches, the polished floor had evaporated. The room now, was bare as winter, made of cold white stone, windowless and dimly lit. Like a basement of some sort, or a bunker. The recorder in his hand made a noise that startled Eric, buzzing over the next few words and seemingly skipping ahead as when the voice returned it did so with finality. What apprehension laced her tone had collapsed into a cold despair.

“My name was Sarah Wong, I don’t know what day it is...I don’t know how long it’s been. It doesn’t matter. If you’re hearing this run. For god sake run! It’s not a house. It never was a house! I pushed too deep.” She whimpered. “We were wrong, about everything! It showed me what comes next...what we can’t stop. It gave me a choice, I could leave and live to see what it showed me or stay…” The voice broke and shattered as Sarah fought to collect herself. Another breeze blew past Eric’s legs, the sound of heavy boots on stone drew his eyes to a shadow that had been thrown upon the cold stone floor. “...or stay and become part of it. If you find this, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry but you can’t stop it! Whatever it shows you, you can’t stop it! You have to go! This is my last log entry...I’m cold...I’m so cold. I need to sleep. I need...just...to rest.” The voice trailed off and that sound returned. The buzzing overshadowed her voice and silenced her, the noise began to grow as Eric watched that shadow move, shifting as it turned, the light illuminating the silhouette of a man at attention. The buzzing began to distort, swarm Sarah’s lulling voice and replace it with a song that sounded more like it came from a phonograph than whatever the device was in his hand.

“Is that...German?” Eric asked aloud.

Two loud stomps made the young man jump and stagger! Eric fell, backing into the desk which shook causing objects to clatter to the floor which startled him again! A man now stood beyond the wound, in the cold spartan stone of the room, adorned in a black military uniform with a red armband just below the shoulder.

Eric shrunk, transfixed upon this new soldier, what iron will might have compelled some bravery within him fell stagnant. He felt like a vole hiding in the short grass, knowing by some primal intuition that a snake was about. Eric hadn’t taken in the rest of the room and now he felt if he took his eyes off this ‘man’ his whole world would implode. A single being, but it commanded a presence that made Eric feel like a rabbit before a wolf. Seeing, no other option, Eric chose to ignore his instincts, he took a step forward and asked;

“Can you help me?” He took another step towards the wound. “Are you lost in here too?”

The foreign soldier remained rooted, blue eyes staring straight ahead, not following Eric who had come to the precipice of the wound. Eric reached a hand through the opening, grasping from one unfamiliar reality to another. Hoping, praying, for something human. ANYTHING Human. The mercy of frightened eyes was singularly his own as the man stomped his boot! The wound surged towards Eric bringing the wall along with it and it yawned to accept him! Eric yelped as the wall enveloped him and just as quickly flew past him, becoming the same stale white spartan stone as the rest of the transformed room until the bricks began to morph, reshaping themselves into an opening that once again blazed to life! Another fireplace appeared before him, complete with that same red poker. It commanded the room. He looked at it and voices screamed in his head. To pick it up. To use it. To cave this soldier’s head in like...

“NO!” He cried! Breath upon his neck, Eric spun back to face the fierce narrow eyes of the soldier inches from his face! Those perfect blue eyes burned into him! Then, without reason, the glare softened. Tears welled and poured from reddening eyes as the soldier croaked as if trying to speak while underwater! Eric stepped back, stepping as far back as he could as a river of red cascaded from the soldier’s open palms!

The man released a mournful cry and fell to his knees! The endless blood poured free from his eyes, his nose and his mouth as he whimpered;

“Schau dir an…” He gurgled! “...was wir getan haben!”

“I don’t...I don’t speak your language I…” Eric was cut off as a scarlet river erupted from the soldier’s stretching mouth and pooled on the floor! A bleeding fountain flowed from his now laughing face! Eric shrieked and backed away as the scarlet pool began to ripple and the ever present screams began to distort, splitting into two voices, then four, then eight, then more and more and more still! Then the bleeding pool fell still. A tiny blackened hand slithered from the red and clung to the cold stone floor. The voice that screamed calmed and that scream became words, single German words. Eric stopped and gritted his teeth as he looked at the pool and what it had birthed. There, out of the crimson depths crawled a child, body beaten, bloody, broken and blackened and wrapped tight in barbed wire that encircled its tiny shattered limbs, growing from its eyes and round the back of its broken skull! It crawled, dragging a pair of broken jagged legs behind it and its wired shut mouth struggled to form the empty German words, like a countdown on a loop. Every syllable struck Eric’s heart and the smell! The terrible stench of it! Like a slaughterhouse, like blood gone rotten, meat left to fester! As the empty child dragged itself onto the frigid floor it looked down at its own reflection and wailed! As it did its own voice broke into yet more and more tiny hands reached through the gory aperture on the rope of their own lamentation!

“Screw that!” Eric screamed as he took off running! A narrow corridor lined with heavy iron doors manifested as if in response to him! At the top of each door was a small window! Flames licked at it as charcoal black hands clawed at the metal and glass! Eric’s chest ached with the fear, the terrible dread! It tightened and his throat dried out in the awful heat, like a sauna that had been left running for years! It stuck to him, the heat, the dread! The flames licked at him, tasted his flesh like a man damned! It made his feet a drudgery to lift, as though filled with rocks as he dragged himself through a corridor that seemed to get longer and longer and longer and longer and longer the more he fought to drag himself to its end where he could see nothing but a black archway and the flickering of a light beyond! The only hope he had left!

Eric chanced a glance backwards to behold what, if anything, pursued him. It was a mistake. The babies, the children, the old and withered bodies had bound themselves into a hellish behemoth of wire and blood and meat and pain and now dragged itself like a wounded animal past the burning vaults, screaming their German mantras as they grasped and grunted and whinnied and bellowed and brayed!

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Eric screeched and just as the words had left his mouth he fell, as though the house had fallen away he found himself in an abyss! Shadow surrounded him as he tumbled endlessly and through the void great flying machines passed him by, the rattle of weapons and screaming of men, wounded, dismembered, ablaze and disheartened filled his eyes with tears as he cascaded into the infinite black, spiraling beyond hope past the horrors that surrounded him! He saw great steel ships besieged by flying machines and ships that could sail beneath the waves! He saw those same soldiers he’d seen before hoisting their scarlet banner high on ground that would never thaw and coating it the same shade as they fell, choking and praying in tongues he’d come to hope he’d never know and as he saw London burn and blister in fire and thunder he at last began to understand, in that darkness as he tumbled head over heels into silence he understood.

Sarah Wong’s voice echoed in his head. “it’s like the house is trying to tell me something...trying to warn me.” He thought back to the soldier who had handed him the note, the gas, the German soldier and all that dread for his life became something else. In the agonizing minutes that stretched into hours he thought of the man he loved, he thought of the father he loathed, he thought of the life he’d left behind and Sarah’s words filled his head once more. “It showed me what comes next...what we can’t stop.” He closed his eyes, fully expecting to crash land and crumple into a heap of paste for some other poor lost soul to find, he whimpered a final prayer and with his last breath he apologized to the man he left behind and with a soft thud he found himself flat on a bed.

The soft mattress creaked as the springs bounced back and the wood settled to receive him, he gasped and opened his eyes, shading them from the light of the setting sun streaming in through his bay window. The light danced across his bare skin, a gentle caress as he woke to the sight of his own spacious bedroom as if from a nightmare. The visions throbbed in his head, the horrors refusing to relent. “No, not a dream,” he thought. “dreams fade when you wake up, they wither and they die. This…” He held his head in his hands and jolted when the sound of scraping metal on wood caught his ear. There Sean sat, at the roaring white marble fireplace, stoking the wood and the flames, hand gripped tight around a black iron poker.

“Bad dream?” He enquired, turning to face Eric wearing little else but a pair of well worn breeches stained slightly with earth and grass, beaming at him with those big emerald eyes. Eric’s eyes welled and a warm feeling spread through his chest, a relief he never thought possible. “You were out cold, sorry I didn’t have the heart to wake you.” Sean said as he sat down on the bed at Eric’s feet, the handsome man ran his hand across Eric’s legs beneath the blankets. “How are we back here?” Eric asked.

Sean laughed, that soft but boisterous tone was enough to drive his lover wild and Eric all but leaped from the sheets to grip him in his arms, after all he’d seen, all he’d experienced, the warmth and impassible strength of that man was the sweetest thing in the universe and it broke his heart into pieces when he found only the cold hard floor. “I thought you’d never wake up.” Sean said, not even looking in Eric’s direction. Eric mewled as he lay on his own wood flooring, watching Sean and his own rising form on the bed. His mouth formed words that wouldn’t come as he babbled at the copy of himself that rose from the bed to hug his lover. Somehow, he had become an onlooker to his own past. Tucked away within a memory. The worst memory.

“No, no not again...” he whimpered aloud as he watched Sean kiss him. He yowled and screamed! They couldn’t hear him. They would never hear him. He pounded on the floor in hysterical desperation! When he heard the crash of the front door swinging open! Thundering footsteps crashed up the stairs and his father’s feral bellows reduced him and his past self to a sniveling wreck! Sean jumped back and Eric rushed to hide him in the anterior closet of the room but it was late, far too late, his father knew!

“No no no no no not again!” Eric cried as he saw the door lunge open, cracking the frame as the volcanic monolith of a man that was his father kicked it nearly off its hinges and stormed in! Face blazing with wretched hellfire that erupted like magma from his drunken mouth!

“I RAISE YOU! I LET YOU LIVE! IN MY HOUSE! AND THIS IS HOW YOU REPAY ME!?” Eric shrunk against his lover and Sean, burly as he was, backed up himself as the virtual hell storm that was his father bore down upon them! He grabbed Eric by the shirt and shook him! “DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS YOU DONE, BOY?! WELL DO YA?!” Eric babbled and Sean shouted!

“Leave him be!” Only to receive a back-hand across the jaw that sent him stumbling back into a dresser, cracking the wood with the force of it while he held Eric so tight it hurt his young arm! “You betrayed me! You betrayed ya mother! You eat at my goddamn table!” His father’s voice was a hoarse whisper now but it lost none of its gravity! His breath stunk of alcohol but Eric couldn’t pull his head away. Eric’s eyes pleaded with his father and only fury growled back as he launched the boy across the room! Eric fumbled over a footrest and tumbled into his bed-frame, his leg collided with the wound which splintered and jabbed into his thigh causing him to cry out!

“ ‘Nough a your yellin’! I’m gonna make you a man tonight whe’er you like it or not!” His father growled, pointing a dirty fat finger at him. “As fer you” He said, rounding on Sean who he grabbed by the throat! Sean struggled against the massive beast of a man but the gardener's strength was insufficient and he shouted as the man drove his fist into his face!

“NO! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP STOP STOP I’LL DO ANYTHING!” Eric cried!

“You have been corrupted! I’m gonna set you...!” He punched Sean again! “On the righteous path!” Again! Eric glanced about his room and his eyes fell upon the fireplace. Upon the iron black poker.

“You never respected me! You never respected this house! You never respected this family! Blood, boy! That’s what this is about! Blood!” He preached as he pummeled Sean senseless! Too caught up in the terrible joy of his hatred to hear the sound of metal scraping against wood. Too blinded by it, too drunk upon it to hear Eric, coldly, walk up behind him...THUD! He never felt the first blow but as he stumbled back and crumpled to the floor he would feel the next three of the seven others that followed!

Eric watched on, as each blow fell. Cold. Unfeeling. Empty.

Sean slowly rose from the broken dresser, bloodied and coughing. He raced over to Eric, pummeling a bloody mess and grabbed his screaming lover, gripping the poker together they held it, blood trickling over both of their hands as Eric collapsed into heavy awful sobs. Sean tossed the poker aside with more force than he’d intended. It flew into the fireplace and displaced a chunk of burning wood onto the old blue wool rug. He cursed as it caught and began to engulf the garment! Sean wrapped his arms around his traumatized lover and sprinted out the door! Eric watched them leave, he watched them retreat and he saw the torchlight outside the window. He remembered this part so vividly. Sean putting him down, telling him to run. Telling him to run so far and so fast, to the hill with the burnt out house. Promising him with a kiss that he’d see him later. It must have been the shock, Eric thought, he’d never have left him otherwise. He’d never leave him again if he could. He knew Sean had been trying to protect him but in this moment he could have punched him for it because there he was, still in that room, still in that moment, as the flames engulfed it, devouring his memories, his father, everything.

It was a snapshot in time and everything had changed. His whole world burned down and now he’s lost in a nightmare so very, impossibly, alone. The flames silhouetted his face in the window, he saw the door still open, he watched the fire part like the red sea offering him a clean escape out of the room. Another path to run. Eric looked at the face that looked back at him, bloody and crying, he watched bloody iron poker glow red in the heat and something snapped, it set his heart ablaze and he lifted his hand, finding it heavy with that poker, still dripping red. It didn’t burn him, that was the strangest part but Eric didn’t question it. He took a deep breath, hoisted the cudgel and crashed through the window! The window shattered, with the frame, then the wall it sat upon all crashed down and fell away into the black he’d fallen from.

Eric stared off into the void, hand still heavy, heart heavier. In the silence he heaved heavy, bitter breaths and they were the only sound in the deafening abyss. Eric spoke, not this time with begging, not this time with fear. The vole was dead, the serpent had already swallowed him whole.

“I know what you want now. It’s not my fear, it’s submission.” The abyss creaked, like the sound of a house settling. “You want me to curl up, to cry myself to sleep like a good boy and let you have your way. No more, ya hear?! I’m not afraid of you!”

A slither of light like a candle flickering in the distance sprung to life, fading in and out. Eric took a step forward, hand still heavy as he walked and as he took each step the light would shine brighter, the creaking of the house became a shallow rasp and then a growl but Eric walked. He kept walking, he wouldn’t look at the shadows that danced around him, at the monsters that hid beyond his vision.

“I don’t know what you are, if you feed on fear, or if you’re just cruel but even if every horror you’ve shown me will come to pass, it’s better than giving up.” He spoke now with conviction.

He marched, he marched and the house woke up. The abyss became a belly of wood and stone that rasped and churned around him and that rasp of the house became a voice!

“I am what you made me!” It roared in defiance! “What humanity has made me! I am the house that fear built.” Its voice was the creaking of stairs, the rattling of pipes. It spoke as something old, as something forgotten and bitter. “I was there in the nevermore when that-which-was, feared so grimly his own solitude he dreamed a dream that could dream itself unto and beyond the reaches of eternity!”

Eric kept going. Nothing could deter him. Nothing. He wouldn’t have it. Not again.

“What I have shown you cannot be stopped!” The voice implored! “The gears are already in motion within the clockwork soul of humanity!” It begged, gasping as it preached! “They will tell you it will end by Christmas and for new-years-day, your children will slaughter one another and die choking on their prayers! A plague will take their mourning parents. And then, while the world watches, the last Empire will EAT its own young!”

The light grew brighter, more like a roaring flame now than a brief candle.

“They will number them like cattle and gut them while they scream, Eric! The children, the sky will burn and crack and cities will melt as the innocent are burned into shadow and it will never stop!” It screamed through scraping metal! “It will never stop burning, Eric!” It pleaded! Each syllable deafening, reverberating off of wooden, stone walls that warped and transformed before his eyes! The facade evaporated and stone became flesh, gyrating and throbbing and bleeding, each wall lined with the bodies of victims past! The corridors that had formed around him like a web revealed themselves as tunnels of meat that throbbed with every word as the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter! Still the voice brayed, the tone now inhuman, high and scratchy, old and worn.

“They will wrap legions in striped cloth and sacrifice their own sons to a golden god of greed and wrath and they will never stop burning, Eric! This, is your life ahead, this is the world you are choosing!” It shrieked as Eric reached the precipice, the door framed by lines of jagged awful teeth and where a door ought to be stood only a fireplace, flickering, furious with yellow flame! An infernal heartbeat.

“Then I choose to burn.” Eric said calmly as he thrust the poker into the flames and cast the burning wood onto the floor! The organic innards of the house shrieked and flared! Retreating with the teeth and all the horrors they’d brought with them back, back into the dark! Eric looked back to find the fireplace gone, the derelict ruin he’d ducked into to hide from torch lights and pitchforks now sat silent, still and empty, alone before the tree line. He looked down at his hand, still holding the red poker. He lifted it up to his face and examined it, curiously, he turned it over in his hand and an eye stared back at him! Eric tossed the poker aside and it blew away like smoke. A voice whispered to him. “That was only the beginning” and faded as fast as it came.

Eric’s victory was not to last as the lights grew closer, the lights he’d been walking towards, the lights at the end of the tunnel. They grew closer and he stood to face them. No weapon, no lies. He stood to face them, eyes wide open and ready for whatever cruelty they could deliver unto him. Eric put his back flat against the corner of the derelict house as he exited its squalid frame. He braced himself for hell when a hand reached out and gripped his tight! Eric gasped to find Sean, face red and battered but still his own. He smiled back at him as he yanked him out of sight and into the tree line.

“Run.” He whispered and they did. They ran so far and so fast and prayed the world would never overtake them. Eric gripped Sean’s hand and in that moment, that glorious moment, his fear vanished.

monster

About the author

Veris Marock

I've been a writer since I was a child. I had my first story published in 2019 in a short horror story collection and I've been working to expand my horizons since then. My primary interests are horror and fantasy.

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