Today’s sample comes from the second book of the Fringe Killer series. This book, Gothica, takes a turn for the paranormal and pits Jamie and Skip up against a ghost from the past.
THE REGULARS of Gothica dressed like death. They reveled in darkness and spoke, ad nauseum, of the creature nocturnus. But when death looked them in the eye, and nearly spoke each of their names, they secretly went fetal.
Then, the report came to them that the prime suspect had been caught. When this information was leaked, the Goth community breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was just in time. The month was October, and it was nearing the night-of-nights for the death-kiddies—Halloween.
October 31st was a night custom—made for the Gothica crowd. And they knew how to get the most out of the one night of the year they could be who they were without turning cheek after cheek to avoid a brawl.
October 31st was but a few days away, and the kids always took it upon themselves to festive-up the club for the holiday. This year the theme was Monster A Go-Go, which begged for high camp.
A group of the regulars were meeting to start the decorating of the club. Sitting around the dance floor were Gwen, CrowBoy, SpyderGirl, PiercedOne, KitKat, Johnny, Dave, and Evilbob. Each was working on one piece of decoration. Their plan was to turn the main dance floor into what would be the graveyard set from Plan 9 from Outer Space. The movie was a favorite of the group, and it was unanimously decided that the worst movie ever made would be the perfect haunt for the night-of-nights. And, the owner spared no expense to this end.
To achieve the graveyard look, the dance floor had been covered with actual sod and what looked like a couple of freshly-dug graves. Currently, the black pack were carving names on gravestones.
“Come on, you guys, you have to let me make Spookee a stone!” Bob complained but was answered with a barrage of tape-balls, shoes, and groans.
“None of us mind a little gallows humor now and then, but I think we have to draw the line with that creep.” SpyderGirl chimed in.
“I’m just glad to finally be rid of that jackass. He creeped my shit out.”
“Gwen, everything creeps your shit out.” Evilbob tossed Gwen’s shoe back at her.
From the DJ booth, SpyderGirl began sampling some of the delights she had planned for Halloween. She started out with Vampir Song by Umbra et Imago which brought a giddy KitKat to her feet dancing. The song opened with a tribute to the attack of a vampire on a hapless victim. Footsteps. Heartbeat. Bats. Wind. And then, the ever-popular artificial organ sound popularized in the eighties. The voice, in German, eventually joined the cacophony with a screeching attempt at melody. Dave joined KitKat in her dance, and the two lost all thought and perspective within each other.
SpyderGirl left the song playing but dropped the volume to a level that would allow discussion among the group. She rejoined those on the floor.
“I actually went to church on Sunday,” KitKat confessed.
Every activity in the room ceased, and all eyes fell on the skinny, milk-skinned KitKat. KitKat looked around and shrugged. The music skipped a beat and launched into a Concrete Blonde cover of the old Leonard Cohen song, Everybody Knows. The humor was not lost on a single soul as the group collectively broke out into howls of laughter.
It wasn’t until Evilbob stood that the laughing subsided. “Church? My dear, you know as well as I do that church is nothing more than a means of goading the unwashed masses into complacency. It’s a morality check, a way to keep as many people following the straight and narrow as possible.”
Some groans were heard from the floor. Evilbob was prone to outbursts about organized religion. Most had heard his diatribe more than they cared to confess. But generally, everyone let him sound off because the consensus was that he was dead on.
Evilbob faced the crowd. “Church is not a vehicle for religious purposes. Church is a tool for the government to keep us from knowing the truth, and the truth of that matter is this is it; there is nothing more. Once you die, you’re gone. But if everyone truly believed that, this world would be utter chaos. You think the hatred in Iraq is bad now? Imagine it without the bonds of religious fervor.”
“Bob, you git, it’s because of religion that there is so much hate in Iraq.” KitKat gave him a playful shove. “Without their religious fervor, they wouldn’t have a spiteful God telling them to massacre the infidels.”
Evilbob was met with a chorus of “sit down and shut up.” He took them in stride and laughed as he sat back down to the work at hand.
As Dave was working, he felt something tugging at his mind. He couldn’t place the sensation but felt something he hadn’t in quite a while—longing. At first, he attributed it to either the rumbling of the bass or the religious rhetoric of Evilbob. Dave was always fond of a heated discussion. But this feeling was far more than catechism and Six Flags over Jesus. What was going on inside Dave’s heart was haunting and profound. He couldn’t deny the feeling. Pulling. Taunting. Begging.
Dave focused his eyes on the gravestone he was sculpting. He tried to force his mind to follow suit, but to no avail. The niggling in his chest grew louder. The feeling toyed with him. The feeling played with him.
Dave loved a good game of cat and mouse.
As he worked on the tombstone, he focused his attention, not on the work at hand, but on the kernel of mystery. What he found was soothing.
“Done.” Exclaimed Gwen as she held aloft a Tombstone reading CONFORMITY. Everyone laughed and lauded her wit.
“Thank you, thank you. And now for my next trick… Where’re the other blank gravestones?”
“I think they’re down in the basement.” KitKat spoke over her shoulder as she ran to the DJ booth to change the tunes.
When Dave heard KitKat’s declaration, everything instantly clicked. An irresistible force called to Dave from below. He felt as if there was a hand reaching through the floorboards, tugging at his shirt. Dave stood and informed Gwen that he would retrieve the blank gravestones for anyone needing them.
The hand count was three, and Dave was off to sate his curiosity.
The door to the basement was unlocked and swung open with a delicious creak. The sound reminded him of the old Sammy Terry horror series he used to watch while growing up in Indiana. The television show starred a charming old man in ghoulish white-face and his pet rubber spider, George. He remembered the opening of the show as spoken by a ghostly whisper: “In the dead of night, when the moon is high, and the ill winds blow, and the banshees cry, and the moonlight casts an unearthly glow…arise my love, with tales of woe!”
Dave’s hand felt around the walls for a source of light, but found none.
“You’ll need this.” The voice sneaked up behind him and scared a year off his life. His heartbeat, already racing, doubled in time.
A large flashlight seemed to appear from thin air, until he realized that KitKat was the offering hand.
“What’s wrong Davie, afraid of a wittle darkness? Is everyone’s favorite ghoul boy about to pee his panties?”
“I distinctly remember a time when you liked this ghoul boy peeing in your panties.”
KitKat leaned over and bit Dave on the neck. “No, I just liked it when you wore my panties.”
“That makes two of us, kitten.”
KitKat purred as she walked away from the aroused Dave.
But even the momentary jaunt down libido lane couldn’t distract him from what lay hidden in the darkness below.
The flashlight cut sharply through the musty dark. Dave thought again of Sammy Terry and how the basement of Gothic reminded him of the set from the seventies horror shock-show. He hoped he’d get to the bottom and hear that creepiest of laughs as the man himself, Sammy Terry, rose from his casket to announce the horror du nuit.
The second his foot hit dirt, the door at the top of the stairs slowly swept closed. He let out a laugh at KitKat’s lame attempt to scare him. He thought she knew better than to believe that locking him in the basement of death would get a rise from him.
As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Dave swung the beam of light around the room. His heart momentarily stopped when he saw the light flash across a zombie-like face staring back at him from a corner of the room. He shot the light back to the corner, but there was nothing.
Dave always took pride in his lack of fear. Now, something stirred inside of him and begged to question that lack. He held the light in the corner a little longer. Something was there—a pair of vacuous, lifeless eyes.
He finally shook it off as some throwback to his previous thoughts of horror television. Dave let out a barely audible laugh followed by an deep sigh.
Of all the things I lost, I miss my mind the most. His racing mind thought and tried to attribute an author to the quote. The only name he could conjure was Ozzy Osbourne.
His head bumped into something. The fear nearly dropped him to his knees. Then, he realized it was a light bulb dangling helplessly in the center of the room. His breath was coming in ragged pants from the jumpstart his heart was getting over and over again.
He reached out his hand, grasped the pull-cord, and gave a gentle tug. The bulb came to life with a dim glow.
And standing where he had only moments ago concluded there was nothing was a man. Or at least, it seemed there was a man. What it really looked like was a man as seen through a fuzzy, black-and-white, snow-filled television. The man was dressed in old prison clothes as if he had jumped from the celluloid of an old prison escape film.
The air in the room was menacingly still. The entire room stood frozen in time, all but Dave’s heart which beat like the drum track from a Nine Inch Nails anthem.
For an instant, the man’s image seemed to fizzle out. Dave closed and opened his eyes to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. Just another bad trip. He started to chuckle to himself. But, as quickly as the image had faded, it reappeared.
Only this time, it moved.
The man’s movements were strobe-light jerky. He appeared to be was walking toward Dave. Dave’s mind willed his legs to flee, but he was caught up in some sick fascination with the thing.
Run, he thought to himself, but his legs would not comply. He was transfixed, rooted in the center of the room as the black-and-white man slowly stalked closer.
Dave felt a warm sensation easing down his leg. His fear had such a tight grip on his heart, he didn’t even realize until it was too late that he was pissing himself.
The strobe light brought the man closer and closer. As the man drew near, the image was overcome by clarity. The snow faded, and color washed over the skin and cloth.
Dave remained rooted. Fear boiled up in his esophagus pushing vomit through his mouth and down onto his chest. He wanted so badly to run, but his feet remained planted.
The man smiled and blood poured from his mouth onto his chin. They were face to face. The man’s breath smelled of blood and decay. His eyes were all pupil. Veins stood out prominently in his forehead.
“The bogeymen are here.”
Whispered sounds seemed to emanate from the center of Dave’s brain.
“…here to keep you safe.”
“…from the other ones.”
“….from the evil ones.”
The voices began to meld into a confused mess as the man began to slowly cut away at Dave’s clothing with a scalpel. The man was careful to cut only the clothing.
I’m going to be raped. The thought flashed through the motionless young man.
After the mystery man sliced through Dave’s thong underwear, he raised his hands showing thick, aged rope. Dave felt himself being tied up but could do nothing to resist. The rope scratched against his bare skin like sandpaper. He knew the sane thing to do would be to scream to his friends above. He knew that something was going terribly wrong. But he had no control over his faculties.
The rope was wrapped tightly around his waist, binding his arms to his sides. The next lashing came around his ankles. His legs were firmly locked together. The last bit of hemp was forced into Dave’s mouth. It tasted like rot. He tried to expel the rope from his mouth but couldn’t. And, after he tried, the man pulled the rope tighter around his head.
“Welcome to The Deep.”
“Welcome to the Bogeymen.”
The voices sang in joyous rapture.
The man lifted his arm slowly until his hand was in front of Dave’s face. Gripped tightly in a white-knuckled fist was the ancient-looking scalpel. Dave’s eyes threatened to explode out of their sockets with fear. What he thought might have been a nasty case of forced anal was turning into something altogether uglier.
He felt the blade of the scalpel enter the skin on the top of his left foot. Pain shot up his leg and entered his gut. The man began to slice open his leg. From the shin, to the knee, to the thigh, the razor-sharp knife ate through layers of epidermis.
Then, the blade made an arch over the boy’s pubis, and the line was being drawn down the right leg to his left foot. The man then stepped behind his victim and reproduced the effort from behind.
Dave’s body was starting to go into shock. He was shaking and had broken out in a cold sweat. He wanted to collapse to the ground, but his legs would not respond.
The man came back around to the front and inserted the blade into Dave’s lower abdomen. He was tracing around the six-pack the young man was so proud of. It felt like he was going to carve a window into his stomach so he could peer inside and see what made him tick.
Next came the chest. The scalpel carved tragically slow spirals around Dave’s nipples. The boy was swooning. The room had begun to spin, and he hovered just at the point of passing out.
The scalpel was then raised to his face. The deadly tip hovered centimeters in front of his right eye until it was lowered and inserted into the meat just below. His cheek was sliced through with a sickening sound. He felt the blade cut deep and tasted blood in his mouth. The scalpel must have dug all the way through. When the blade reached the bottom of his cheek, it traced his jaw line until it fell into the flesh of his left cheek.
When the blade reached his left eye, the man patiently retracted the metal and stared at his work. Seemingly unhappy with the product, he continued to slice fine, artistic ribbons through Dave’s now-butchered skin.
Full shock had settled in. Dave’s vision was blurring and fading. He could feel the cold grasp of death caressing his heart. He was going to be worm food soon.
The last thing he felt, before shock and blood loss got the best of him, was the skin on his face being peeled off. There was a sound accompanying the feeling that reminded him of the a time he had pulled wet wallpaper from a wall. He wanted to go back in time to that memory and fly away from death. But, death was too fast a predator for him.
Upstairs, Gwen shushed the group, swearing she had heard something. KitKat killed the music as torturous screams lofted from the floorboards. KitKat ran to the basement door but found it locked. She scrambled behind the bar for the key only to remember that Dave had to have taken it with him. The rest of the group was in her way, trying to pull the door from its hinges. KitKat finally made her way through the crowd and tried the handle herself. The handle was frozen. KitKat pounded on the solid wood and screamed Dave’s name. The agonizing screams began to fade. The door still would not open.