Ancient Things

Ancient Things

A Story by Josh Matteo

I walked swiftly, cutting through the chilled fog that hovered over the pavement leading me to my destination. It was eerily dark for this time of night and considering there were streetlights granting my eyes access to the misty passage. After about 5 minutes of walking, I finally reached the sepulture that Elaine called home.  I’m sure it’s a lovely house in the day time, but something about stagnant fountains, stone-worked walls and dim lights bleeding through red curtains deeply unsettled me. It was only two days ago that Elaine came to me for help. As soon as she stepped into my office, I could feel the distress and sadness emanating from her eyes. It was as if she was barely hanging on to her own sanity, but then again, I don’t blame her. A normal person would have broken down from just hearing the stories she told me, let alone living through them.

I placed my finger on the doorbell carefully and pushed, knowing what was going to come next. A deep bell resonated throughout the cavities of the house, dissipating into the place where all sounds eventually go: silence. There was a pause, and without making a creek, the door opened. Elaine was barely standing, hunched over and clinging to the door she just opened. There was a bruised purple colour underlying her eyes as the lids seemed like they were about to give up and just collapse under its own weight. It was evident she hasn’t slept or washed in days; her hair a tangled mess on her worn face with threads of silver white spooling out of every corner of her skull. As soon as she saw that I was at her door, ready to do my best to ameliorate her untimely mess, her eyes widened and a slow grin made its way across her face, pushing the wrinkles out of its way to make room for the two rows of teeth she had hidden behind her previously clenched lips.

“Thank you so much for coming, Raymond. It’s gotten worse” she said leading the way into the living room. It was only after a few steps into the cold room that I noticed…none of the lights were on. With one swift move, Elaine switched on a small lamp on a side table and placed down a glass of ice water on a crocheted coaster.

“Please. Sit.” She gestured to the arm chair adjacent to the lamp. I sat down, making sure to remain calm in the presence of evil. I could sense that there was something not right in this house, tingling the back of my neck like black tongues of a snake tasting the air surrounding me. I could only imagine what Elaine has to deal with living here with it.

“How is she?” I asked. Elaine looked hesitant to answer.

“She…it’s worse,” she looked down at her hands on her lap, “she wouldn’t stop screaming. Things were moving around for no f*****g reason. I remember you told me about the number three earlier when we met. I keep hearing tapping in the pipes, knocking on the door and in the walls…but all in threes.” Elaine started to shake, fighting back tears, “She said that they were burning her…ripping her fingers off one by one, piercing her body with spears… raping her.”

“Look, Elaine�"“

“Who the f**k is they!” She screamed. “What is happening to my daughter?”

She got up and turned away from me, her hands covering her mouth as she started to whimper. The sound of her softly crying echoed in the silent house, making it sound like the crying was coming from somewhere distant.

“Is she eating?” I asked. Elaine chuckled and wiped her eyes. She turned a little more towards me.

“In a sense…see that hole in the wall over there?” She pointed to the bottom of the wall that the armchair was leaning against. “She made that. Dug up whatever was behind it and started eating.”

A large black centipede crawled into the whole along with several other cockroaches and crickets.

“No matter what I do,” she stammered, “I just can’t kill the goddamn bugs in this house.”

“Don’t worry,” I attempted to soothe her, “she’s going to be okay.”

“Look at what she did to me,” she lifted up her shirt to reveal a series of symbols carved into the skin of her stomach: five characters descending from the base of her sternum to the belly button. I got up immediately to analyze the scripture inflicted on her but I had trouble recognizing them. It was reminiscent of Hebrew and Phoenician, yet there were distinct symbols that were neither, let alone from the western world. I traced my finger around a symbol that resembled the Egyptian ankh, and then to another, that looked like seal script of ancient China and then finally to the last symbol, a crescent that cradled her navel. It was as if this script predated the major civilizations that the recognizable symbols originated from, or so I thought.

“Here, let me cleanse this,” I started, taking out my rosary and cross from my coat pocket.

“That won’t be necessary, Raymond” she said, quickly turning away from me. She took my empty glass of water and moved to the kitchen. “All it needs is some disinfectant and Neosporin,” she said over the sounds of a running faucet.

I sat in the chair thinking about everything she told me about her daughter, about those marks on her stomach, about what I was going to do about all of this. Elaine walked back out of the kitchen, straightened out her skirt and sat down. She remained silent.

“Would you like to be in the room when I�"“I started.

“No thank you,” she interrupted. “I…don’t think I would be of any use.”

“Very well. I just think that some moral support would be good for her. She must be so alone right now.”

“She is.” Elaine stated coldly as she fixated her eyes on mine, “But she is not in there right now and there is not a single good thing I can do for that girl.”

There was yet another cold silence.

“Then pray with me,” I said offering her my hand.

“I just need some air,” she retracted her arms quickly as if I was unclean. I didn’t blame her though. Her family was never religious…until this happened. She mechanically stood up and walked towards the front door. She stopped with her hand cradling the bottom of the doorknob.

“She’s sedated and strapped in bed,” she said matter-of-factly, “down the hallway, first room to the left.”

I gathered my briefcase and navigated myself in the direction her lethargic arm pointed. As I finally made my way to the threshold of the hallway, from the corner of my eye, I noticed Elaine let go of the doorknob, head to the ground like a lifeless doll dangling in midair, held up by unseen strings. I couldn’t help but pity the mother of a possessed child.

I paused to catch my breath as I clenched the doorknob. Images of blood-filled bed sheets and scratched walls filled my mind as I tried to anticipate the horrors of what was behind this door. I could feel the cold air slip from underneath the door to caress my ankles, sending a chill right up my legs, down my arms and escaping into the empty chasms of the house. I clenched the knob harder trying to refrain myself from shivering. Was it always this cold in the house? A faint mist escaped my mouth as I exhaled my final breath of anticipation. I slowly turned the knob clockwise, feeling the door give way. It slowly creaked open as I stood up straight, trying my best not to show any sign of weakness or fear.

Immediately, a rush of cool air blew through my body, and I hunched over, bracing the abrasive cold. Directly in front of me was a bed with what looked like restraining straps attached to the wooden poles on the corners. But it was empty. I quickly approached the bed to examine what I could only reason as a trick of the mind. As I stood at the foot of the bed, I touched the sheets that were strewn across the surface. They were still warm. Suddenly a huge wave of paranoia washed over me, drowning out all the ambition I thought I had when I walked into this catacomb. My eyes darted around the room, looking for any signs of the girl…but nothing. Turning around to leave, a figure quickly bolted out of the room. A gust carrying a sour, putrid aroma brushed pass my nose made me gag and cringe. I quickly rushed out of the room to the hallway. Then, piercing the silent veil that seemed to be permanently shrouding the house, the sound of breaking glass sprang from the bathroom further down the hall. I gathered my courage and dashed to the threshold of the bathroom and saw the window to the backyard shattered. A terrifying shriek filled the house; however, not from the girl who just escaped the window, but from Elaine at the front door.

WHAT HAPPENED?” She bellowed in a deep voice.

I ran to where Elaine was, knocking over the lamp lighting the living room.

“I thought you said she was sedated!” I yelled, throwing open the door. Looking to side of the house, I saw her. Her long blonde hair was matted against her head, and from the look of her arms and legs, she had not eaten in weeks. Her head jerked towards me and a look of panic filled her eyes as she saw I was after her. She tried to run away but her feet seemed nonresponsive. She only got about 5 feet from her starting point before her legs stuttered and she tripped. I ran up to her before she could collapse on the ground and injure herself, and caught her falling body. I cradled her body in my arms, her feet and head dangling, and rushed back inside the house. She let out a scream of pain as we arrived back inside the house, tears streaming down her cheeks. Somehow, it was colder inside than outside and I flinched for a second at the frigid air that assaulted my body. It seemed to affect the girl too seeing as she passed out in my arms�"probably from exhaustion.

Elaine stepped out of the shadowy living room, her face catching the light that broke in through the doorway. Her eyes showed that she was distraught, but she clenched her hands tightly to her breasts, wringing them feverishly. I glanced at her feet, and noticed the blood starting to pool around her.

“Elaine…” I started.

“It’s alright, I just cut myself on the glass from the lamp,” she said calmly yet affirmatively, “you go take care of my daughter…I’ll take care of this.”

I nodded and closed the door behind me. Again, the house returned to silence. She stood there frozen as I brought her daughter back into her room, my shoes crunching on the shards of glass that shattered the floor.

I placed her now frail body on the bed, lifting up her head gently to place a pillow underneath. Moving from each corner of the bed to the next, I quickly secured the straps to her arms and legs, pulling the cloth tightly.

Reaching into my briefcase, I brought out my bible and a flask of holy water. I stood at the foot of the bed once again, but this time ready to expel whatever evil was inside this troubled girl. As I started to read the scripture, her eyes fluttered open. She moaned softly and looked towards the straps on her hands, weeping at the sight of them.

“Please, help me,” she begged with a soft, broken voice, looking at me with desperation.

“Silence, demon!” I yelled with force.

“No, you don’t understand�"“

“I will not listen to your temptations. You will be cast out!”

“I’m not�"you have to help me”

I ignored the demon’s tricks and continued reading from my scripture.

“Please, it’s me. Mary Beth.” She weakly asserted.

“No, it is not. Tell me your name, demon!” I screamed at it.

Suddenly, Mary jolted upright, a look of pure dread frozen on her face, her finger extended towards me.

“mother,” she whispered.

I froze in place, thinking of what this meant, when I noticed her gaze and finger were not directed to me…but to something behind me. The room was dead silent, Mary’s figure stagnant.

There was no movement in the room as we both remained locked in place. The air a motionless cold, faint wisps of breath condensing near my lips.

A faint clicking sound sliced the still air emanating from behind me, sounding like silent laughter rolling out of hoarse throats finally rising to a deep chuckle.

I could hear the tapping of pointed nails against the wooden door. One. Two. Three…One. Two. Three…One. Two.Three…

Clutching my rosary in my pocket, I quickly spun to face whatever horror was behind me.

Elaine darted forward and with one swift move, clasped my head and twisted, my neck snapping and my limp body collapsing to the ground. Paralyzed, I stared up at her. Its face was twisted and distorted into a sickly grin, exposing her all too familiar teeth. Blood was still pooling around her feet, dripping from somewhere underneath her white shirt stained red around the place where the sinister symbols were. I could already feel the life start to leave my body, numbness already encapsulating me.

“Thank you very much,” Elaine said to her daughter, her colubrine tongue flicking out of her grin.

As the rest of my senses started to fade away, I could hear Mary scream as Elaine slowly climbed over my body and made her way to her. I could hear her beg and pull at the straps that I had trapped her in to no avail. And I could hear the sounds of her bones breaking and her fingers being ripped off…one by one.

© 2013 Josh Matteo

Author's Note

Josh Matteo
I was trying to experiment with atmosphere and word choice. Although I think the build up is lacking... help me fix it.

My Review

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First thing I noticed is that you used the word “sepulture”, which means “burial rites” – the word that you want is “sepulcher”, which means “a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried”. Not a big deal, a simple two second fix.

One thing that bothers me about this story is the first-person viewpoint. The idea behind the first-person view is not a bad one, but from a reader’s perspective, how can the main character tell the story with a broken neck? This would work better in third person, and enable you to really build the atmosphere even more.

I must say that I like stories that kill off the main characters (or worse). This story most certainly has the Lovecraftian atmosphere and feel. I’d suggest a re-write using 3rd person, and building the story a little more – explore the relationships a little more, and possibly making the surroundings more of a character in its own right, as well. This work is well worth the effort.

Posted 9 Years Ago

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Added on November 29, 2013
Last Updated on November 29, 2013
Tags: demon, exorcism, short story, horror


Josh Matteo
Josh Matteo

Santa Ana, CA

My name is Josh, I go to school in upstate NY. Any questions just ask. -Josh Matteo more..

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