Involution : War's End

Involution : War's End

A Story by alan khan
"

i plan on sending this to a horror magazine soon. any comments would be greatly appreciated. if you like it, if you don't like it i'l return the favor of your shared opinion.

"

Virginia, 1865.


This war is over. The flames in Richmond have been stamped out, the homes of our defeated enemy sheltering us during our march home back to the north. No one was supposed to be here, this plantation was supposed to be deserted; a dead stretch of land lost to a forgotten time. Yet now I am running blind and desperate from something I still cannot imagine is real, something that cannot exist. I hold my hands above my head to try and block out the suns glare but the effort is useless. The sounds of panic inside the main house are not as far enough behind me as I want them to be. I’m panting and wheezing more with every heavy step I take. My lungs pull hard at the dry heat hanging in the air as my chest continues to tighten. Fumbling with my gear I shed as much as I possibly can, my uniform pasted to my skin with sweat. 

Blood on my coat. Is that mine? I run my hands quickly over myself feeling for wounds, my mind imagining blood pouring from large tears in my flesh. I panic, marking my anxiety with waves of nausea and my throat trapping air on the way to my lungs. I can’t run straight, and I’m barely running at all; each step seems to be carrying me nowhere at all. But I do not dare stop. The blood staining my sleeves and skin are not mine; they come from the rest of the men still inside the house. I’m covered in their slaughter. That hideous monster, that demon that found us. Those claws, all that tearing, all that screaming. This demon had no mouth that I could see but yet I watched it tear the men apart. That Boy we found, he was too scared to even speak to us but didn’t even blink at the bloodletting. He must be its owner, its master of some sort. All at once he appeared in the living room behind us, without so much as a whisper. Then suddenly this monster just revealed itself behind him and made quick work of the men, scattering their bodies aside as though they were nothing.


I’m crossing a dead crop field, dirt and ash kicking up beneath my boots as I hear myself wheeze. I can’t keep running like this. Not with that thing close behind me. I’ve got to stop and hide, recollect before I can think of what to do. If I keep moving in the direction I am now, when that demon is finished slaughtering the men I’ll be very easy to track down. I’m running out of time and I have to do this quickly. My pace steadies as I begin to just barely see the side of a large barn peeking through a thick brush of trees. Screams and sharp cries continue to come from inside the house as I can imagine what has gone on since I slipped out. The men scatter, dividing their numbers evenly throughout the house, at first. But the demon is too fast, too relentless; not of our world, tethered somehow to the Boy’s cruelty. Eventually the men fumble over one another like whimpering children, pissing themselves and holding onto their limbs for however long they think they can. Still, in all that chaos I know I’ll have enough time to make it to the barn. 

All of a sudden I feel my legs fall out beneath me and I crash into the dirt as a sharp noise coming from inside the house seems to pierce directly though my chest. This was no roar, nor scream, nor howl, it was somehow all of this at once. A throaty pulse through the air that wrapped around a skin peeling screech. It lingered in the air seconds after it was over, and everything seemed still for that instant. I turn toward the house slowly as I hold onto my breath, the very idea of sound too petrifying. The wide walls of the main house tower over me, making me feel lost outside the rest of the world. Trapped in an open field, all too aware now of the desolation surrounding me, I feel pain from being in such open space. This house is its own monster, the belly of a starving horror consuming the men trapped within its walls. The sudden sound of shattering glass cuts into my tingling skin and jolts me from my frozen coma as a window not far from me is broken. My muscles yank at one another as Private Phillip Corbett climbs out of the shattered glass with vibrant crimson bathed over his face. He leaps from the window and ungracefully lands on his side. He quickly jumps back to his feet and immediately locks eyes with me. He’s wounded but moving quickly enough, and he’s the first thing I’ve seen out of that house beside me. “Mitchell!” He calls after me, desperation dripping from his voice. I jump to my feet with every ounce of energy I have and start to run, waving my hand toward the barn. “Move!” All of our yelling cut my time in half. No matter how gruesome a scene inside, that Boy heard us. Corbett needs to catch up now before I reach the barn, or I will leave him behind.



My mind catches up to the scattered frenzy my hands are in by the time they reach for the barn handle. I steady myself as I yank hard and fling the doors open. Decay; the unmistakable and heavy stench of decaying flesh slams into my face and strangles the air I breathe. My eyes sting and tear as my body tells me to run the other way. “What is this?” Corbett catches up and reacts the same as me as death’s fragrance wraps itself around our heads. I reach back with the hand not covering my mouth and grab Corbett’s jacket collar, dragging ourselves deeper into the smog and shutting the door behind us. This place is hell. I see now we are unfortunate captives in the domain where the devil dwells. That is the only explanation for the scene presented now to the both of us. A number of n*****s strung up on meat hooks to the left. Sunlight peering through cracks in the walls reveal mangled forms scattered throughout the rest of the barn in random arrangement. Torn bodies hung from nooses, some with calmness over their faces, others petrified and preserved in a state of twisted horror. Chains clattering, the constant hum of maggot wings, a faint and vague dripping noise echoing through the stillness; yes, this is hell. Excessive, cruel, and hidden away. The heavy silence of this scene sewn into my skin as my body vibrates from the inside; what happened here? Corbett stands close behind me and whispers over to me, “Mitchell what-” 

“How did you get out?” I turn my attention to the wound around his side. 

“The…men they, they tried to fight. I don’t even know if they lasted longer than five seconds before that thing…” He curls over slightly on the side of his wound. 

“Breathe. We have maybe a minute but we need to get it together. What did you see, and how are you out?” 

He explains everything to me as I walk him further into the barn, putting his body’s weight on me as we waddle up the steps to the second level of the barn, stepping over puddles of blood and torn flesh. We do our best to ignore whatever it is our boots slip on and continue talking. This place is so close to the rest of the world and yet I still am unable to decide if any of this as real. I saw awful things in the war that was real, but is it really any different to this? Perhaps this is all the world is; horrors we convince ourselves are far away. “We decided to scatter, there was an understanding; whoever could get out should. I’m sure the beast is only one but he was too blasted fast. He got too many of us. It doesn’t sound as though any others managed to leave the house.” He lets go of his wound and I feel his body weaken slightly at the sight of his hand covered in blood. “I didn’t feel it at first you know. I heard a screech of some kind, but it was so quiet somehow. Then the next thing I knew I could feel my skin peel back. I’ve felt wounds in the war, we both did didn’t we? This is something else. And that Boy. He was everywhere with the damn beast. Didn’t speak, didn’t smile. He almost seemed nervous.” 

I suppose I had an idea of what was going on, but hearing him speak about that boy drops stones into the pit of my stomach. I sit him down behind a large stack of red stained hay. “The demon, I think he feeds off the boy. Did you notice the opening in his stomach?” That same piercing cry of the creature cuts through the air again as I finish my sentence. It wasn’t coming from inside the house anymore. Corbett turns toward the barn door as the demon’s echo ripples through the air 

“An opening?” 

“I thought it was a marking at first but…I think it moved. It was always facing wherever that boy was.” I shake my head, and even feel I might laugh. “That demon is some…pet. We aren’t a meal, the Boy’s cruelty feeds the beast.” 

“God in Heaven.” Corbett’s voice was low, but steady. His body was still and his eyes were wide. “Where are we?” I take a knee down to his eye level, “They are coming sir. The Boy still feeds that thing. The demon can’t stop as long as he looks for us. I need you to move like you did before we got here.” 

He stood up with relative ease, needing only my hand to pull him to his knee. He held onto my hand and spoke in a whisper, “My wife and I said our goodbyes when I left for the war. She knows I’m not coming home.” The sound of someone struggling with the barn door holds most of my attention. “Let’s do whatever it takes to stop them.” He can die if he wants to. I fought a war already, I’m leaving here. And if I can kill that Boy on my way out, better yet. 

The door slides open and day light illuminates the terrifying scene again. The Boy slowly walks in; his hands clutching the blood stained hem of his pants. Taking short quick steps over the floorboards, wearing a wide nervous smile over his face. “Oh no,” His voice is average; no evil growl, no demonic tone…he’s just a boy. A frightened little boy, who I hope will bleed all the same. “Did they find it, are they in here?” Corbett backs slowly and pivots to his left. The barn’s size now apparent to me, I maneuver with him. “You’re in here right now aren’t you? See them all?” Waving his tiny arms around without much grace, motioning to the torn corpses, “They were scaring me. The n****r workers started fighting everyone else. Other ones from other houses came and started shouting and hitting things and different people. My father tried to get them back into work but they hurt him bad. I hid anywhere that I could then came in here” His hands clutch tighter at his pants as the air around him seems to change. Corbett moves slower and breathes heavier, for some reason he’s become much more anxious very quickly. 

The long pauses between the Boy’s words make the beating of my heart seem almost painful. “My sister hid with me in the barn but she wouldn’t be quiet. I heard them coming and she just kept crying. She had to be quiet. They got louder and she needed to be quiet.” The demon steps in behind the Boy from absolutely nowhere, materializing suddenly behind him. The air around the Boy shifted and creased almost like a sheet as the demon’s body stepped out from behind this lifted curtain, but differently than before, this time I can see it fully. It stands still and its thin hunched body seems almost frail now, propping itself up by its massive claws. Its scaly flesh has a greenish tint toward the left of his body, and an orange hue to the right with random patches of hair in odd places. There are sharp protrusions where there should be elbows and knees, and his left shoulder is almost completely made of a vertical spike. His head a perfectly round sphere with eyes a color and light I cannot say I have ever seen before. The absence of a mouth and it’s perfectly still frame innervs me greatly but not as much its eyes looking over where I am, and somehow following me everywhere I step. The mark on its stomach, a complete void of color, faces the boy still but…it shakes. Corbett at my side starts mumbling to himself under his breath. “Now?” He says looking over at the demon’s silent gaze, “Now? Like this?” 

We keep moving around trying to slowly move toward the front of the barn as the boy continues stepping inward. “I had to. The men were coming and she wouldn’t be quiet and I had to. So I put my hand over her mouth.” “What if I could see her again?” Corbett clutches his wound and continues to mumble. His posture changes slightly. “What if…” He needs to shut his mouth. The demon begins swaying where it stands, very slowly and eerily shifting its weight back and forth. Its eyes still following wherever we move. My stomach churns with warmth and I feel my body fight screams each time a floorboard creaks beneath the monster’s scaled feet. “They got into the barn and she would not stop being noisy. So…” he begins crying, “So I squeezed. And I squeezed so tight. And I put both hands over her and I…I swung her around against things. I did it till I saw all the blood. Then I kept going.” The Boy’s voice cracks between his whimpers, “And then it was quiet. I was so scared but it was quiet. And I knew they could hear me.” Waving his arms around again at all the flesh hanging around us, tilting his head in odd places to look around at all of them. “Then this scary thing stepped in right next to me,” The demon’s body suddenly shivers as it stretches out its long neck, shaking its posture like some demonic bird, turning and bending his head as his neck continues to lengthen. Deep tones echoing all around us from nowhere, as Corbett clutches his hand to his mouth staring at the demon, tears rolling down his face. The boy turns toward us now slowly, widening his eyes, “And he just knew. The scareder I became the more I knew I had to do worse. So we did everything so I wouldn’t be scared anymore. It came back when you all came here. I was scared with all your boots making noise downstairs and he just came back knowing I was scared.” The deep noises around us continue on as the demon’s body very slowly returns to its hunched over position. 

I stand frozen, and Corbett just continues to speak, “If I can see her again,” his voice higher now. “If I can see her again.” He suddenly turns around and clutches my throat as he pulls his knife from his belt. “I’ll give you to them and live the life I thought I didn’t have anymore.” I reach for my knife quickly as I realize it’s still out in the dead field. We scatter around as my body tightens from all the noise we make. We’re found, and we soon will be dead along with the rest of the corpses surrounding us, another body added to a rotting pile. The blade rushes toward my stomach and I can imagine the edge of it meeting my flesh. My eyes open wider and wider as everything that can possibly happen rushes through my mind. I’m not letting this blade touch me. If I’m done I’m taking anyone I can with me. The sharp pain in my nerves yank at my sanity as I pull on Corbett’s hair. He whispers my name under his breath, my refusal to die an inconvenience for him. I pull down as we fall to the barn floor, landing onto a slave’s mangled corpse; a buzzing cloud of flies tickling my face almost enters my mouth as I struggle to grab the knife from his bloody hands. The boy falls down and screams loudly as the dry heat clamps down onto my chest and neck. The demon hunches over and screeches, but without a mouth the noise seems to reach out in all directions, coming from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Ringing my ears; my body tightens inward, hunger and exhaustion weighing my stomach down. The demon’s head shakes violently as the scream rattles in our direction, the mark on its stomach vibrating and widening. I tear into the wound in Corbett’s side; ripping my hands between his flesh as far as I can, reaching for anything I can feel. I scream into his face as the demon’s claw slams into the floor, using its grip as a slingshot to leap toward the two of us. The scream now so close to me the noise pulses through my hair. I clutch inside his wound and grab his jacket with my other hand, rushing him into the demons body. I push against him and the demon with every ounce of my body and push even further. My body shakes, I’m clumsy and very anxious, but they both still fall to the ground with the demon’s blades flailing on either side of him. 

I jump to my feet as quickly as possible running after the boy. He turns over to his knees and crawls away from me, screaming and crying. He passes over the torn legs of a slave as nothing more than something in his way. I yell after him as he shouts to me to stop chasing him. I step down onto his leg. “You want to see scared?” I shout to him as I reach down and clutch his hair in my hand. “I’ll show you afraid.” I slam his head down. “I was just supposed to go home!” I can hear Corbett’s screams behind me over the sound of his body being thrown around. I have to finish this before the demon is through. I turn the Boy over and place my foot down on his chest. The urgency lets me savor the split second of the boy struggling beneath me. The split second before I raised my foot. The noise behind me dies away and I know the demon is facing me. My body tightens even more as I scream and stomp my foot down hard. Behind me, coming. It’s coming. Stomp again, and again and again, make sure it’s finished. The boy cries and coughs and manages to slip away under my foot running to my left. Behind me, right behind me. I chase after him and see the demon from the corner of my eye just standing. I catch the boy and see his nails dig into the floor as I drag him toward me. Faster. It’s coming. I feel the heat burning tears and sweat down my face as I scream and cry, tearing him apart. Ripping arteries as his life squirts over my arms. Still behind me. More. The burning in my skin drives me to do more. 

Silence. And painful stillness. I’m finished now. I slowly turn around and see the demon swaying again. Head still, feet planted, body shifting. The mark on its stomach facing forward, facing the boy and I. Can it still feed though the boy is dead? What is it? My body doesn’t let me move. I want to scream and jolt through the monster out the barn and straight home but my legs stay planted, the demon’s gaze never shifting. All this just to live a little longer? Even if alone, even if torn and even in pain, all of it done without question just to hold onto a few more breaths. I fall to my knees and sob as I slide over to my left finally, not ready for whatever will come from this. The mark moves. The void on its stomach slides over the beast’s body following my movement. No. Please no. I look over at the boy’s torn corpse; any trace that this was a person now gone. Now he is just a swallowed and spit out carcass mashed to the barn floor. I think I’m laughing. As I look back over at the swaying beast, the air around the both of us shifting and churning, the mark still follows me. I’m alive. The demon feeds on me now. God in heaven, the demon feeds on me now. He steps forward toward me and slips back to wherever it came from, back behind the curtain of air. Feeding from wherever it is now. “Weak.” A slow voice made up of every voice I have ever heard vibrates from the back of my neck. “Weak.” The demon speaks now, its words ringing in between my ears. “You are weak and I am hungry.”

© 2014 alan khan


Author's Note

alan khan
hope you enjoyed

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Featured Review

What are you looking for as far as critique?

I was entertained by the idea of demon ripping apart a bunch of people. It's a cool concept.

Your story has an original premise, which is always a good thing. There are plenty of visual adjectives, and description is well present. There are no grammatical, or spelling errors that I've noticed as all of the sentences are concise and clear. If there are any there are very few. I am no expert, but I have a basic understanding of literature and I could not detect any.

I know that sometimes you have to take risks for the sake of voice, but because race is such a sensitive topic I am afraid that if you submit this to a magazine, that someone in the office will get offended or take you less seriously just because of your use of the word "N****r" I understand you were trying to be realistic and that type of thing might work in a novel but in a magazine, I am unsure of whether or not they will frown upon the use. If you're feeling risqué disregard that notion, but I did want to call it to your attention as one of the things I noticed.

Also, I want to offer you a tip that will you better engage your reader. Eliminate use of the words, heard, or watched, see, feel. You can get away with saying: Suddenly my legs gave out. Being quick and to the point with what is going on will catch attention and hold it until the next thing that happens in the article, happens. You have to think of it as striking your reader. You don't punch slow. You jam the words into the center of your reader's forehead and you make them enjoy your concept.

Overall, it's a good story. Keep on keeping on. Read it one last time and submit it. If they feature you, do tell.





Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alan khan

4 Years Ago

this is almost exactly what i am looking for in terms of critique thank you. I really enjoyed the ti.. read more
Tania Olivera

4 Years Ago

You're very welcome, Alan. Hey, wordy can be a good thing during the process of creation. I always w.. read more



Reviews

What are you looking for as far as critique?

I was entertained by the idea of demon ripping apart a bunch of people. It's a cool concept.

Your story has an original premise, which is always a good thing. There are plenty of visual adjectives, and description is well present. There are no grammatical, or spelling errors that I've noticed as all of the sentences are concise and clear. If there are any there are very few. I am no expert, but I have a basic understanding of literature and I could not detect any.

I know that sometimes you have to take risks for the sake of voice, but because race is such a sensitive topic I am afraid that if you submit this to a magazine, that someone in the office will get offended or take you less seriously just because of your use of the word "N****r" I understand you were trying to be realistic and that type of thing might work in a novel but in a magazine, I am unsure of whether or not they will frown upon the use. If you're feeling risqué disregard that notion, but I did want to call it to your attention as one of the things I noticed.

Also, I want to offer you a tip that will you better engage your reader. Eliminate use of the words, heard, or watched, see, feel. You can get away with saying: Suddenly my legs gave out. Being quick and to the point with what is going on will catch attention and hold it until the next thing that happens in the article, happens. You have to think of it as striking your reader. You don't punch slow. You jam the words into the center of your reader's forehead and you make them enjoy your concept.

Overall, it's a good story. Keep on keeping on. Read it one last time and submit it. If they feature you, do tell.





Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alan khan

4 Years Ago

this is almost exactly what i am looking for in terms of critique thank you. I really enjoyed the ti.. read more
Tania Olivera

4 Years Ago

You're very welcome, Alan. Hey, wordy can be a good thing during the process of creation. I always w.. read more

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Added on October 24, 2014
Last Updated on October 26, 2014
Tags: horror, demon, civil war, short story, scary, Halloween

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alan khan
alan khan

Mint Hill, NC



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