Monday, March 11, 2013

Chapter 13

     Many miles from the room where Jonathan and the others were struggling with their demonic attacker and even further from the cabin where The Vessel was preparing for its dark work, Pastor Fredrick Gloval was fixing a sandwich. Even after three years the reverend found the task of piecing together his lunch still felt strange to his wrinkled hands. For 47 years his sweet wife had made his sandwiches, washed his clothes, and so many other chores that now fell to him in her absence. Many women would probably have balked at the idea of such servitude, many would have felt taken advantage of perhaps, but Elizabeth had been anything but ordinary. The woman had possessed a servant's heart. Nothing had pleased her more than to see to Fredrick's needs. "Freeing him up" she had called it, and always with a smile. She had been quick to serve others as well, often visiting the sick in their congregation (hot casserole in tow) or running the vacuum through the living room of a shut-in. Even in the last weeks before the cancer finally stole her life away, Elizabeth had been writing cards of encouragement from her hospital bed to the many families who's lives she had touched. Then she was gone, and Fredrick's world had grown lonelier without her. Now he stood in the parsonage kitchen, pulling deli meat from a ziplock bag knowing that no matter how he tried he couldn't arrange those ingredients in a way that tasted the same as her's had. Three years and still his heart could break freshly over a partly assembled lunch. His appetite suddenly gone, the pastor returned the half-made sandwich and remaining deli meat to the fridge and entered his study. He hadn't allowed the house to get dusty (Elizabeth would have hated that) but it had become less organized since her passing. Books were stacked haphazardly about the room where he'd pulled them from their shelves but not returned them. Sermon notes littered his mahogany desk, some resting under empty coffee mugs that had accumulated on the desk rather than in the sink to be washed. Once every month Fredrick would straighten the room but within days it would revert back to its current state. It seemed that along with irreplaceable parts of his heart, Elizabeth had taken much of his structure with her as well.
     Fredrick eased into the leather desk chair with a sigh and massaged his temples for a moment. His Bible lay open on the desk before him, highlighted and notated a thousand times over, nearly bursting with markers and old bulletins. He'd been working on a sermon for the upcoming Sunday morning service, writing his notes by hand with a number 2 pencil as he always had. Through the years his children had tried many times to convert their father into a computer-savvy man. Telling him how much easier it would be to catalog all his messages into neat folders and call them up with a click of a button and so on and so forth. He'd jokingly call them "Evangelists of the First Church of Google" and they would chuckle and let the point drop for a time. Now he stared at the pencil scribblings that covered the  page of college-ruled paper in his hands and found he could make no sense of them. As he struggled to retrace his mental steps and recapture the idea that had sparked this particular sermon the doorbell rang.
     He stumbled through the parsonage to the front door and opened it to find a very odd man on the other side. The man was tall and slender, dressed simply in brown slacks and a white buttoned dress shirt. His face was almost porcelain smooth and his eyes were an intense golden color where they were placed arrestingly above high and pronounced cheekbones. It took a moment for Fredrick to figure out what it was about the stranger on his doorstep that seemed so odd. Then suddenly it was clear. The man was hairless, not just bald but hairless. He had no eyebrows, no eyelashes, near as the pastor could tell the man before him didn't even possess pores! Even the stranger's hands and forearms (as much as they protruded from the white fabric of his sleeves) were completely smooth. Who was this man? what was he? "Do not be afraid,  Shepherd Fredrick Gloval." the man spoke. His voice had an odd quality to it, as though it were layered many times over.  The phrase 'like the sound of many rushing waters' came unbidden to his mind. The man spoke again in his queerly layered voice. "We have much to discuss Shepherd and little time." Though the pastor couldn't find his voice he did manage to step out of the way and wave the stranger into the house with a trembling hand. It wasn't until the figure entered the room and silently crossed the usually creaky hardwood floor that Fredrick noticed an astonishing thing. The man's steps made no sounds at all because his feet were not touching the ground.
     Fredrick closed the door gently and followed the hovering being into the house on legs that suddenly felt very weak. "An angel... you're an angel aren't you?" The stranger turned toward him and instead of answering the pastor he extended a line-less hand toward the old man with one finger extended. In the moment before it touched him Fredrick could see the angel had no fingerprint. He had a moment to think 'I wonder if this is how Daniel may have felt...' then the oddly smooth digit pressed against the lined and freckled surface of the pastor's forehead and immediately there was nothing but intense pain and then the parsonage was gone. He stood with the angel in a dark place. 'FOLLOW ME' the angel said only this time the voice (rushing waters) echoed in Fredrick's mind. He followed. The angel led him through horrible corners of the abyss, through hellish chambers that would have shattered his mind had the presence of the angel not provided an assurance of safety. The suffering and the terror was seemingly never-ending and through it all the angel's voice reverberated in his head like the tolling of an enormous bell. He was led through the chamber where the dragon, Lucifer himself, was once held and felt unspeakable despair when he saw the empty chains strewn about the floor like the roots of enormous ancient trees. The angel led Fredrick to the darkened basement where the monster that had once been a man had tortured, killed, and played. Then they were in the presence of the Vessel itself. The figure was swollen as though about to burst. Fredrick saw that the man's skin now seemed to fit poorly like a shirt three sizes too small. In fact, as he looked closer, he realized that portions of the figure's reddened, patterned skin had actually fallen away now to reveal shining black scales throbbing beneath. There was an intense grin on the Vessel's face made more terrifying by the fact that in some place his teeth had been forced from their original positions, pushed aside by yellowed fangs. The Dragon was coming through. 'HE MUST BE STOPPED. I CHAINED HIM AND I MUST CHAIN HIM AGAIN BUT THE LORD HAS CHOSEN YOU TO PLAY A PART.' Fredrick stammered a response. "How can I do anything to stop that? What can I..." The angel was gone, as was the cabin. The darkness was dispelled and in its place: warmth and light. Then from out of the light a brighter form emerged, too radiant to look at directly. And when this new form spoke the pastor wept.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chapter 12



     He stood with some effort and brushed the gravel from his jeans. Once his name had been William Hurd, but he had forgotten that name . As a child William had learned how much joy could be gained through hurting another living thing. His neighbor's dog had strayed into William's back yard when he was only six years old. He'd been sitting under a large oak tree, playing with plastic army men when he saw the lab and first heard the voice of the Dragon. It was a voice he would later come to love, long for, and even worship but on that first day, in the shade of the backyard tree, the child had assumed this was the voice of his father. He had never met his father or even seen the man in pictures. When asked about the subject, William's mother just became annoyed or sometimes even angry. Once when he had asked his mother if Daddy was tall or short, she had started crying. Not knowing what to do, William had left the room. When the Dragon spoke in the child's mind the first time, its voice deep and lovely, the boy sat up instantly. William was startled but excited as well, effortlessly accepting the impossible as only a child can. Here was his father, speaking to him at last, and when the voice told him to sneak into the kitchen quietly so he wouldn't wake his mother who was napping in the living room recliner it didn't cross the child's mind to disobey. He would be a good son. He would please his father. He hesitated for just a moment when the voice told him to retrieve the large knife from the drawer beside the sink, his mother never let him hold knives. His excitement over the voice quickly superseded any worries he had about his mother's rules. He had to agree with the voice; the blade felt good in his small hands, like it belonged there. He whistled to the dog, calling it to him like he had many times before. The Voice spoke again. "Look at his neck, do you see that golden line of light? That light is his life my child... you can take it. You can add it to your own. You can live forever boy." William squinted and focused and suddenly he did see a line of yellow light tracing across the dog's throat and other smaller lines traced across its body. These smaller lines were dim but the neck line... it was bright. He couldn't understand why he'd never seen them before. William looked down at his own arms and saw similar dimly glowing lines there as well. This was a present he thought: a gift from his very own father. No wonder talking about him made mother angry, she was jealous; father gave better gifts! "Cut that line with the knife child and have that light for yourself." The moment William pierced the flesh of the dog with the blade he felt something amazing happening.  He felt strong, like he could pick up Mother's car if he wanted. The dog was struggling but voicelessly for William had instinctively known to start with the animal's throat. As he continued to cut blood poured out (William was careful not to let any of that get on his clothes), but with the blood the light poured out as well. William watched joyfully and with childish wonder as the golden lines on his on arms which at first were dim began to shine brightly absorbing the light from the now headless animal.
     The voice told William that this was a secret, only for him. It told the boy he was special. It told him how to dispose of the body and to clean and replace the knife. It whispered to him of things to come. In the years that followed the voice would reveal much to William as he killed again and again. When he was older he learned that the voice was not his father, but by that time the now teenaged and withdrawn boy loved the voice as the father he'd never known. The voice told him of the dragon symbol and of the great task for which William had been chosen. That he would some day meet the dragon face to face and be rewarded. The dragon even whispered his true name in the young man's ear and named the boy a prince in the kingdom that was to come. As an adult William found work as a truck driver and when he'd saved up enough money he'd purchased the old cabin and equipped the place for his great work. With each death the man caused he had felt his power grow. He fed bodies into the abyss, using the symbol to pass them through and keeping the heads for himself. Sometimes the Dragon would give him dates on which to kill and he was always sure to obey, he never questioned. He always knew when he had found exactly the right sacrifice as well because the rings of golden life draped around their throats were almost blinding. Once he'd seen a victim's life glow he would continue to see it until it was extinguished. He could track a victim from miles even whole states away by their glow. It shown like a beacon in the night.
     About two weeks before abducting Laura, the final sacrifice was what the Dragon had called her, William began to experience the blackouts. He never knew when they were coming, and when he woke he remembered less of himself. After the third spell he had lost his name, after the fifth his childhood memories. By the tenth he had come to know himself as "The Vessel". After his last blackout, when the girl had escaped, he'd seen his face in the mirror and for a moment it wasn't his face anymore but the Dragon's staring back. He vaguely remembered a promise about meeting face to face but then the thought was gone and he had returned to his task.
     Now as he stood blood still weeping from the hatchet-wound in his head, all trace of the man who had been William Hurd was gone. The Vessel looked down at his arms and chest where the flesh was red and scaled. He looked up at the road ahead and even in the darkness he could see a distant globe of golden light. There were things he would need from the cabin before following.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chapter 11

Jonathan and Clancy: Now
     The headless thing darted spider-like across the ceiling to the far corner of the room so quickly that Jonathan's eyes could hardly follow it. The bees were everywhere, stinging his face and scalp, stinging his hands. He wasn't sure if he had an allergy to bees but Jonathan figured if he received many more stings it would hardly matter either way. Even now he felt several painful welts swelling all over his body and was beginning to find it hard to breathe. Clancy's face and arms were covered in a growing number of stings as well. Jonathan wanted to make a run for the door but the thing was crouched  in the corner just to the right of it and seemed ready to pounce. Behind Jonathan, Clancy had wet a towel in the room's sink and was whipping it around furiously killing many of the bees that were swarming around his head.
     Suddenly the thing from the ceiling attacked, leaping the full distance across the room in a single motion and forcing Clancy to the carpeted floor. It gripped the man's throat tightly with both hands and squeezed until Clancy's face began to turn first red then purple like a bruise. Jonathan tried pulling the creature off of the downed man but its body was greasy and slick and its grip was inhumanly strong. He tried kicking it off but only succeeded in tearing chunks out of its ribs and stomach. The gaping holes made by his boots were leaking thick fluid black as oil. The blood reeked like sewage. As Jonathan struggled to free Clancy, still being stung by the remaining bees, he noticed a pinkish substance bubbling up from the blackened flesh of the thing's severed neck. A single drop of the substance fell free and struck Clancy's face where the skin immediately began to bubble and redden. Jonathan was so busy with his struggle that at first he didn't hear the frantic knock on the door. His mind was beginning to grow hazy and he was finding it harder and harder to pull air into his lungs. He gradually became aware of the pounding on the door and the shouting coming from the opposite side. A voice, strangely familiar, was calling his name. Knowing that his only hope may lie on the other side of the door, Jonathan turned and ran for the door. Just as he reached for the handle an impact from behind flung him face first against the surface of the door and icy fingers gripped his throat.

Laura: Now

     The man in the driver's seat of the huge truck was intensely focused, and Laura thought it best not to disturb him for the time being. He'd been very talkative at first. Explaining to her everything he could about the man who had captured her and the other women and Reginald as well. So much of his story sounded crazy, but somehow she knew it was all true. The legacy of murder and the obsession with this mysterious "dragon". It explained the trucker's odd behavior, the conversations he had been having with the air, and as much as she wished she hadn't she had seen the red scales covering the man with her own eyes. Now that he had explained it all and told her of his plan to try to catch up with his nephew whom Reginald expected to find somewhere in Connecticut, the man had grown silent. His mouth was a solemn line under haunted and distant eyes.
     Initially the man had offered to drop her off at the nearest town but when they'd arrived at an exit she'd told him to keep driving. At the time she hadn't known why she'd chosen to stay in the truck, the same horrible vehicle that had served as her prison only days before. Now as the miles accumulated in there wake Laura thought she understood. She was here for Nancy, and for Charlotte and the others. The time would come for walking into a police department and blowing the lid off of everything. There would be news vans, and media spectacle when that cabin was opened that would exceed anything that had come before. There would be exploitative books written and even trashier film adaptions made she was certain, but before all that, Laura planned to see the matter to its conclusion. She owed it to the women who had died in that cellar. Whatever dark work had been put in motion by the man she'd killed, Reginald believed it wasn't yet over. The older man was confident that his nephew, this Jonathan, had picked up where he himself had left off. He believed that the boy would follow the path hinted at by his uncle's notes. He also believed that he had unwittingly directed Jonathan into one of the trucker's traps: a trap originally intended for himself. Maybe that was why Reginald had grown so quiet. Perhaps it was simple guilt.
     When they arrived at the motel and Reginald had pulled the large vehicle to a halt he turned to Laura and spoke. "He's here. The pickup parked there in front of the door was mine, it would have been passed along to Jonathan after my apparent death was determined. We know not  what devilment is waiting behind that door." He gestured toward the hatchet Laura had just picked up from the seat where it had been resting beside her. "Be ready to use that again." Laura nodded and the look in her eyes said that she was. They left the truck and approached the door to room 319. Before they had reached the door they heard the sounds of struggle coming from inside the room: a loud crash, yells of pain from more than one voice. Reginald ran to the door and began beating on it, screaming Jonathan's name. There was a loud smack as something heavy hit the door and suddenly the door was open and a man fell out into the parking lot, with an abomination attached to his back.

Many miles away the trucker sat up in the gravel where he had fallen, and the grin on his face was one of pure joy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chapter 10

Jonathan and Clancy: Now

     At first neither of the men really knew where to go or even what to say. For awhile Jonathan simply drove. It was Clancy who finally broke the silence. "Much as I fear the place, I think I know where we need to go." Clancy stared out the window of the pickup as he spoke and his voice took on a far away quality. "Before I ... left... before he sent me through, I had collected pictures of several dragon drawings in bathroom stalls all along the interstate. There were dates on some of them. If the date on the newspaper in the hospital lobby was current then that means the next dated dragon falls two days from now." Jonathan considered this for a moment then asked Clancy where they needed to go. The other man didn't respond immediately, he just stared out the window. Jonathan was about to ask again when Clancy spoke in a low whisper. "Connecticut. There's a motel off I-95... room 319." Jonathan pulled a well-worn atlas from the truck's console and offered it to Clancy who refused it. "I know the way." he said. "I've driven this route so many times I could travel it in my sleep, probably have a few times actually."
     The pair drove for hours on end, stopping occasionally to swap seats or to use the restroom, only at places Clancy had deemed "safe". When he wasn't driving Clancy studied the contents of the wooden box mostly in silence. Jonathan was so focused on the road ahead and his own troubled thoughts that at first he didn't even notice that the former salesman was crying in the passenger seat beside him. The man was holding the newspaper clippings that detailed his own disappearance and unusual return. Clancy was sobbing, his whole body trembling. Jonathan didn't think he'd ever seen a more broken person in all his life. He pulled the truck off the highway and parked in the shade of an overpass. For a moment he was unsure what to say, the man's tears made him feel awkward. After a brief bout of embarassed hesitancy Jonathan placed an arm around the crying man's shoulder. Clancy buried his face in Jonathan's jacket. Jonathan could feel a feverish heat pouring out of the other man and as he attempted to speak words of comfort he found his voice shaky and his own eyes wet. He hadn't truly allowed himself to mourne his father's passing or that of his uncle and now he saw a reflection of his own broken heart in the pitiful, tortured being weeping against his chest. He was alone. Truly alone, and yet he felt that if somehow he could complete this one journey, he might be able to find the strength to move on. Clancy finally stopped crying and though his eyes were rimmed in red he seemed better, more resolved.
     Several hours later Jonathan pulled the Chevy into a parking spot at a less than impressive motel and left Clancy waiting in the truck as he entered the lobby. Returning with room keys for 319 Jonathan found Clancy already standing in front of the room's door. Jonathan joined him and found that it took almost more courage than he had to place the keycard in the reader. The little light above the reader flashed first red and then green with a barely audible click from the mechanism within. Jonathan opened the door and stepped inside. Jonathan froze and when Clancy pushed past him he understood why. The room was wrong. It looked exactly as it had the previous two times Clancy had entered it and there was nothing in its appearance that spoke of its wrongness and yet the room was incredibly and unbearably wrong. There was a heaviness in the air and a sense of barely restrained danger. It almost felt like there was a freight train silently plowing toward the two men from the otherside of the drab and faded wallpaper. The shadows seemed to be wanting to rush out from under the twin beads and nightstands and plunge the room into living darkness. Their stomachs were suddenly sick and a cold sweat had broken out on each of their faces. It seemed that each step deeper into the room required a herculean effort. Clancy could feel the trucker's presence in the room like a physical thing. The space reeked of him. The bearded face flashed unbidden in his mind's eye and Clancy couldn't stifle a whimper. He cringed as Jonathan stepped to the bathroom door and opened it then reached into the pitch black to flip on the overhead light. Part of him was certain that unseen teeth would bite Jonathan's arm off right at the elbow and that the dragon's face would emerge slowly from the blackness, its eyes bulging in their sockets while its other heads whispered his name. Instead the bathroom was illuminated in harsh florescent white. The dragon was still there, drawn on a four inch square title just to the right of the shower nozzle. Underneath it the date was also still there. "Tomorrow." Jonathan said. " Whatever is coming, it will happen tomorrow."
     It was then that Clancy turned and almost missed the brief flash of pale flesh that darted back into the darkness under the nearest bed. He screamed for Jonathan. Together they cautiously approached the bed. With a silent nod they each grabbed a corner of the bed frame and overturned it. The hooded figure flew from the shadows crawling up the motel room wall, shattering the nightstand lamp, and finally perching upside down from the center of the ceiling. It must have somehow passed through the shower then sought the familiar darkness of the shadows. Jonathan wondered how many people had slept in the bed not knowing what lurked beneath. As the figure hung from the ceiling the hood fell to the floor revealing a yellowish head of bees, which scattered from the stump of its neck and filled the room.

Laura: Now

     Just as she heard the trucker enter the room beyond the kitchen Laura's eyes found a thin line tracing up the center of the wood paneled wall beside the cupboard. It was barely visible and had she not been so desperate for escape, Laura may have missed it but there it was all the same, and now that she'd seen it, Laura was certain it was more than a simple crack. She pressed her shoulder against it and felt despair flare in her heart when nothing happened, but as she leaned against the panel harder it gave inward. She pushed the panel aside enough to slip through and then slid it back into place. She could still hear the man storming through the living room area. Laura heard the crashing sounds of furniture being overturned and the almost primate sound of his grunting and heavy breathing as he searched for her.She backed stealthily away from the panel and nearly toppled as she found herself stepping into empty space. She hadn't realized she was standing on stairs until she'd almost fallen. Taking each step slowly now and bracing herself with a hand on the wall to her left, Laura carefully descended the stairs at last finding herself in a damp basement. There was moonlight peeking through the cracks between the 2x4's that formed the basement wall on the far side of the room. The light cast a zebra pattern of across the dirty concrete floor which was littered with trash and rusted tools. Leaning in one corner was a rusting wood-handled sledgehammer but Laura found it too heavy to lift in her weakened state. Moving the hammer aside however, she found a hatchet with a rubber grip lying atop a pile of old, yellowed newspapers. She lifted the hatchet from the pile and instantly felt more prepared. From somewhere behind her, Laura heard movement and as she spun she raised the newly found weapon.
     The man tied up in the corner was very thin and seemed quite sickly. Had he not lifted his head to look at her she would have thought he was dead. Long dried blood had colored one side of his face a dark brown. His voice was little more than a low cough but Laura didn't have to hear the words to recognize "Help me." come from the man's cracked lips. She hurried to his side and used the kitchen knife which was sharper than the hatchet to cut through the cables around the mans arms and legs. He was older, in his sixties or perhaps even his seventies, his condition made his age hard to determine. "Is there a way out?" she asked as quietly as she could. The man gestured towards the far wall where Laura could just make out the faint outline of a door. Helping the man to his feet Laura offered him her shoulder which he refused; somehow the old guy was able to stay upright. Laura thought he must be tougher than he looked. She found the door locked with a rusty chain which fell away after two strikes from the hatchet. She hated to make the noise, but it seemed to be the only way out.
     She scanned the yard beyond and saw no sign of the trucker. The eighteen wheeler stood silhouetted in the light of the moon like a sleeping beast. She silently motioned for the older man to follow then sprinted from the basement to the side of truck and crouched behind one of its enormous tires. The man again impressed her by matching her almost step for step. The house was silent and dark which unsettled her. She could no longer hear the trucker and now a feeling of being watched overwhelmed her. Was he standing just out of sight behind one of those blackened square windows looking right at her? A sudden instinctual drive compelled her to check under the truck but she didn't see the man there either. Still crouching she eased past the old man, making her way toward the back of the trailer. She didn't see the attack coming. The trucker had been waiting perched upon the tailgate of the vehicle and when Laura rounded the corner he lunged at her, knocking her to the ground. The red scales were back now and more pronounced, covering not just his neck but now his arms as well. The trucker's eyes were nearly bursting from his face, red with burst vessels. The old man suddenly threw himself at the trucker and while his attention was distracted Laura buried the head of the hatchet in the trucker's skull. The man collapsed and in a moment was still, a pool of blood forming around his head. She turned to the old man. "Thanks." she said. "What's your name?" He extended a hand toward her and replied. "Reginald. Reginald Bowers."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good News and what to expect had added The Fringes to their alliance which is awesome because it will get the story out there to even more readers. The story is building towards a final confrontation, but there is still more to tell. In fact I have decided that even after the initial novel is complete, the Fringes will continue as a sort of horror anthology. THERE WILL BE more fringes novel, each with a different story and characters that encounter sinister happening in the outer edges of society, places Clancy Matthews would call the fringes. Thank you to all who are taking the journey into darkness with me, please pass it along along with the other awesome blogs @

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chapter 9

Jonathan and Clancy: Now

     The change was so sudden and so unexpected that for a moment
Jonathan simply froze. His mind was unwilling or possibly unable to
process the transition. Plain bright walls had been replaced by
volcanic rock, the antiseptic aroma of fresh cleaned floors had become
the reek of brimstone and decay. He glanced beside him to where Clancy
was now kneeling, his head in his hands, and screaming. Jonathan was
shocked to find he could see through the other man to the wall of
black stone on the other side. Jonathan looked down at his own
translucent hands; they looked like a photograph printed on
transparent paper. "Clancy, get up!" he said. " Something's happening!
Look at your hands!"
     The other man stopped screaming and stood slowly, staring down at
his transparent limbs in confusion. "This is different." Clancy said.
"It isn't like before." They were in one of the many cells of the
abyss and Clancy explained in a mad rush all of the horrors that had
happened to him in a similar room. Clancy told him about the dragon
and about the worms that wouldn't die or allow him to die. He told
Jonathan about the hooded figures with their counterfeit heads. Once
the man began speaking it was as if a dam had burst in his fragile
mind. He had been trapped inside his own head since the day he emerged
from the restroom stall, able to hear, see and remember but unable to
speak. The worm had been controlling him as though he were a puppet
made of meat instead of wood: a tortured marionette trapped inside his
shattered mind. Now here he was again, in the dark, but not really
here it seemed. Suddenly he dashed away from Jonathan and ran to the
mouth of the cell to look down into the chamber beyond. The dragon was
still there but no longer chained to the floor. The enormous bonds
that had once restrained its many legs were broken; now only one chain
remained. This final chain was attached to a huge collar that
encircled the beast's massive neck. Looking at the dragon now from his
vantage point above, Clancy noticed new details, a row of odd,
flesh-colored growths breaking through the glistening red scales on
the dragon's neck. Clancy was so intensely focused on the sight before
him that he didn't even notice Jonathan had joined him at the cell
opening until the other man spoke. "Those are heads, human heads."
Jonathan's voice was monotone, machine-like. His matter-of-fact tone
indicated that the man was in some degree of shock; Clancy could
identify. Jonathan had been correct though, as Clancy looked closer he
saw that the growths were in fact faces pressing through, their mouths
moving as though gasping for air, their eyes rolling wildly. Jonathan
cursed beside him. Jonathan had just recognized the faces if those six
heads, they were faces he had seen in black and white photos in his
uncle and father's box. They were the faces of murderers. As they
watched, the scales split apart and a seventh head began to push
through. On the ground below the dragon the hooded figures began to
pour into the space from each side and climb onto the dragon's body,
covering every part of its massive frame with a writhing blanket of
darkness. The final chain was pulled tight and beginning to warp. The
entire place was filled with the thunder of the dragon's hideous
laughter. There was a sudden flash of red light and as quickly as they
had arrived in the hellish place, Clancy and Jonathan found themselves
back in the hospital room. The worm was gone leaving behind only the
dragon on the floor which they hurriedly covered again with the bed.
Jonathan's voice was shaky when he spoke. "I'm all for getting out of
this room." Clancy agreed.

Laura: Now

     She had failed. Laura had never felt so defeated and utterly
powerless in her life. She hadn't saved any of the women, hadn't even
been able to save herself. Even the girl who had bolted from the
cellar ruining their one chance at freedom hadn't made it out of the
house. The trucker had retrieved her, dragging her unconscious body
back into the room. Laura had watched that unfold before blacking out.
After killing Nancy the trucker had slipped into an odd sort of
trance. He had slumped over in his chair, his head lying against his
chest. Drool hung from his lip and chin every few moments he would
twitch and shudder then grow still again. As she watched his head flew
up, eyes bulging in there sockets. His skin began to crack and redden
in a pattern that seemed very much like fish scales then the flesh
regained its normal texture and color and his head rested on his chest
     For what must have been the hundredth time Laura struggled to
free her arms from the straps securing them to the table. The right
side was fully immobile, her left arm she could move but only
slightly. She focused her strength on that arm. Gradually the strap
began to loosen. She forced herself to ignore the raw pain in her
wrist and struggled even harder. At last her left arm pulled free; it
was bleeding and cramped but it was free. She pawed frantically at the
strap restraining her right arm and soon freed it as well. Glancing
occasionally at the still motionless trucker, Laura freed her feet and
as quietly as possible she crawled from the table to the floor. Her
chest ached horribly with every step but she was mobile and that meant
she had a chance. Now she paused with indecision. Should she attack
the man? Should she sneak away? How far could she get before he awoke
and pursued her? The man stirred in his chair but did not waken from
his weird state. Laura forced herself not to consider the possible
meaning of the scaled pattern that had briefly covered the trucker's
neck and cheeks. Deciding on a course of action, she mouthed a silent
apology to the slain women and swiftly exited the room. She followed
the hallway beyond the library back to the living room area where she
had been forced into the trapdoor. Laura found the front door
padlocked shut and found all the windows barred. From the library  a
bellow of anger erupted. The trucker was awake. She had to hide. In
the kitchen nearby she found a knife, not a large one but it was
better than no weapon at all. Taking the knife, Laura squeezed out of
sight behind a nearby cupboard and waited.