Short Shocktober Day 4: Snapping

The Less Trod Path

The planks had creaked under his weight as he’d walked across them, gingerly, but they’d held. He’d been pressed flat against the rough rock of the mountain, calloused fingers searching desperately for solid holds in the abrasive rock. The clean, cold wind plucked at his hair and hems. Below the sheer rock face, hundreds of metres below, the mountain began to slope, and cypress and firs began to crowd the rock. It was beautiful, but he was immobile, too terrified to pay it any mind.

               ‘Don’t go by yourself,’ McTierney had said. ‘It won’t be like the plank walk at Huashan. No one’s been there for six hundred years, according to this,’ and he tapped the scroll covered in ancient Chinese characters. ‘If it’s there at all, it’ll be rotten and unmaintained. There won’t be a safety rope pinioned to the wall. You’ll be lucky if there are still the holes where the stone post had been!’

               He’d ignored him. The draw of being the first was too strong. McTierney had thought that refusing to go with him would be enough to stop him going, but he’d underestimated the draw of being the first. He’d underestimated his foolishness.

               The planks had held, surprisingly sturdy, their six hundred year old stone posts holding, too. Then he’d rounded the corner. He hadn’t gone more than a few metres and there was a rumble. He pressed himself to the rock, cowering, praying to avoid the stones falling from above, but they hadn’t been falling on him. He crept back to the corner. The planks were gone; only snapped stone posts remained.

               ‘Onward, then!’ he’d thought. There was no other option. The air was cold, that was what was giving him the shakes, he told himself, as he shimmied along the ancient, creaking planks. The sun began to set, and cast gold across his shoulders. He watched his shadow gingerly move along the rock face.

               At the edge of the next corner, he peered around.

               Nothing. A few holes, and a single stone peg that had once held a series of narrow planks. He shifted his weight uneasily and the wood beneath his feet squeaked in protest. Palms sweaty, heart thundering, he crept back to the middle of his planks, finding a stone peg to ‘rest’ above.

               There didn’t seem to be hand-holds forwards or backwards. Above, the sheer face of the mountain was worn smooth by the wind. He rest his forehead on the rough rock face, and sighed. Only McTierney knew where he was; he didn’t want to spread the word to competitors. How long would he wait before he came to look for him?

               He hadn’t moved, but the plank beneath him creaked ominously, and the stone peg ground in its socket.

               It didn’t matter how long McTierney waited. Even if he was already on his way, he thought, as the planks gave another, more urgent, cracking noise, he probably didn’t have much time left.


Prompt: Snapping

Word Count: 494

Day Four of Short Shocktober! Kind of an oblique interpretation of the prompt, but I think it works, nonetheless!

Short Shocktober Day 3: Viscera

Content Warning: self-harm, madness.

A New Organ

Tentacles lash in the dark. A blazing figure in yellow slumbers on a throne of shifting darkness. Sharp talons slither over flesh, and blood runs in crimson rivulets down the black steps before the King in Yellow.

*

3rd of October

They say they’ve found a new organ. The interstitium? They say it’s made of the collagen supported, fluid filled spaces between cells. It fills your entire body. It makes lymph. Whether it’s really an organ or not seems to be up for some debate.

               I can feel mine throbbing. Crawling, even. It matches the rhythm of the real Interstitium. I can feel it.

               I found the notes. The ones on the real Interstitium. Had you told me that one day a hobby of collecting medical journals would drive me mad, I would have had you thrown out of my surgery. The notes were buried in the back of the yellowing pages of a medical journal from 1910. It’s so old it smells of vanilla and must. Amid the descriptions of injecting cats with ink to track the movement of their corpuscles, the author, pen scratching and leaking, describes and sketches the space between, the seething gap between our world and theirs. The Interstitium. The twisted, warping landscape, blighted by a hint of their very presence, where their vast, incomprehensible beings leak from their world into ours.

               I wish I’d never read those mad scratchings. Now, when I sleep, I visit this half-place in dreams. It must be the intersitium. The organ, I mean. It connects me to their realm. That must be it.  There must be some combination of drugs that will numb it, or stop me dreaming. There isn’t a problem I’ve met yet, that can’t be solved by pharmacology.

*

A great wall of organic, fluid filled sacs undulate, throbbing. Their contents swirl like oil on water, galaxies and nebula at their heart. The wall splits and peels away. Behind it two putrid yellow eyes peer forth, beneath a blazing golden crown. It beholds me with indifference.

*

13th of October

The dreams have gotten worse and worse.  I’m seven nights without sleep, now. No one lasts longer than ten. I lie awake, dreaming. The veil between our world grows thinner and thinner in my body. The interstitium crawls and undulates throughout my form. When I am awake, I see things shifting in the corners of my eyes, spidery, shadow creatures, that aren’t there when I look. It must be a hallucination brought on by lack of sleep. The alternative is too terrible to countenance.

               The drugs didn’t work. No regimen of chemicals seems to have produced any effect at all. The interstitium must be excised. I’ve sharpened my scalpels and knives. I know what must be done. It will be hard to remain conscious whilst I strip the traitorous organ from my body, I know, but my fate is sealed, my will is steel.

               I know what must be done.


Prompt: Viscera

Word Count: 494

Little bit of cosmic horror for you all. That’s Day Three – Viscera – of Short Shocktober down. It’s very edifying to get pieces finished regularly.

Short Shocktober Day 2: Bones

Content Warning: Bones, gore.

The Lost Parisian Ossuary

‘Don’t you think it’s weird that all records of this place were destroyed, though?’ The questioned echoed in the tunnel’s narrow walls and arched ceiling. Taylor’s torch roved over gaping side tunnels, barely chasing back the black as he hurried along. His broad silhouette cut a manly, roguish figure in the torchlight, and I finally saw in him the Indiana Jones he always saw in himself.

               ‘Of course, someone wanted to hide it; it’s rumoured to hold a stash of gems. What fool would leave directions to their hidden treasure in the public record? Le Chat Noir was wise to scrub it from the plans after the renovations.’ I kicked a pebble and it clattered down the corridor at Taylor’s feet. I  let out a little involuntary squeak at the sound. Taylor sighed.

               ‘Pull yourself together,’ he demanded.  ‘There’s nothing down here but rats and bones. And cave dwelling crabs, apparently.’

               ‘I don’t think those gems exist,’ I confessed, as we hesitated at another cross roads. Taylor stopped to play his light over a yellowing map in his hand. The humid air was thick, faintly mouldy. ‘If this jewel thief existed, why didn’t he go back for his stash?’

               ‘Here,’ Taylor pointed, and plunged off to the right. ‘I told you; he dropped dead in the street. It was only the gendarme’s search of his apartment that revealed that he was La Chat Noir. It was only my little stroke of luck – and a dose of genius –‘ he said this bit under his breath, barely audible over the march of our feet, ‘that led to my  discovery.’

               ‘I think someone destroyed those records to stop people finding this place,’ I said, bumping into Taylor. Our tunnel had stopped as abruptly as Taylor, opening into a circular room.

               The walls were lined with bones, a regular repeating pattern of tibias alternating with skulls. Their empty eye sockets stared at us in surprise, as Taylor washed the room in the torch’s sterile light.

               ‘I can’t believe I found it,’ he whispered.

               He stepped into the room and a chill wind blew out of it. I could have sworn I heard someone whisper something in French, but I couldn’t make it out.

               ‘Come out of there,’ I told him quietly, but he just glanced back, rolled his eyes and took another step.

               There was a cracking noise, and Taylor jerked, frozen on the spot. The wind blew again. I definitely heard a whisper this time, but not loud enough to discern. He staggered forward one last step, and there was the crack once more, and the spectral voice. I finally understood it.

               ‘Join us.’

               Taylor jerked in agony. His torch clattered to the floor. He held up his hands in wretched horror, the bones exposed as the flesh peeled itself away. His eyes grew wide, his face of agony growing into a rictus as the flesh shrank and sloughed away, a soundless scream trapped between his skeletal jaws.

               I ran.


Prompt: Bones

Word Count: 498

Shocktober Day Two down! I think this one’s better. I did some brain storming and research and got some good non-fiction details, with some fascinating history. The Paris Catacombs are a real place! There’s probably not any curses or hidden treasure or anything down there, tho’. Probably….

Short Shocktober – 31 horror flash fiction prompts for October ’21

Every year in October, artists gather on the ephemeral planes of the internet to collectively participate in a dark ritual. During that ritual they spill oceans of ink. Besmirch sheet after sheet of snow-white paper. Stab hard at the heart of creativity, to pierce it with pens and pencils and have its black ichor flow forth. An eldritch ritual, known only in the fearful whispers as… Inktober…

Anyway, I love spook-month, and Inktober has always appealed to me, but I’m not much of an artist, so I decided to do my own thing with prose. One of the things that I’m struggling with lately is getting things finished. My current projects are quite long, and I could do with the boost that finishing something regularly gives you. So for that reason, I’m going to use the thirty-one daily prompts, below, to write 500 words of horror flash fiction each day, and post them here. I’m posting the prompts and rules (“more like guidelines than actual rules”, he said, making an ancient reference), because I hope that other people will be interested and join me!

Continue reading “Short Shocktober – 31 horror flash fiction prompts for October ’21”