Call to the Dark

Dunno really how this story came about, except that I’ve been watching a lot of American Horror Story and I wanted to try and capture the creepy, disjointed mood you get in the intro to the episodes. The idea itself is actually pretty run of the mill, and I’ve done similar ones before, but I’m a solid believer in the old ‘it ain’t the story, it’s how you tell it,’ directive. Hope you enjoy!

Call to the Dark

Ben Pienaar

 

It was his first abduction, and he had to admit he was nervous.

In retrospect, everything had gone perfectly, even though all of his plans had been rendered pointless in an instant by that miracle, unheard of in this day and age, of a little girl wandering alone. He’d seen the opportunity, taken it in one swift minute, and there hadn’t been a single eyewitness. The Crimestoppers ad concerning her had only mentioned that she’d last been seen skipping class at school and heading home, and that her usual route was being searched. The presenter was urging anyone with information to come forward when Derek turned off the live news stream on his laptop.

So after weeks of planning and sweating, it had gone without a hitch. Only now he was like the dog that caught the car: what the hell did he do with her?

He had ideas, of course. He wouldn’t have gone to all that effort if he didn’t have thoughts. He wasn’t a sicko or anything, all of that disgusting stuff was off the table. He just wanted to hurt her a little. And she hadn’t seen his face yet, so he could always let her go afterward. It wouldn’t even matter if she could lead them back to this place – it was just a rundown old house he’d been lucky to find. And the moment this was all done he was flying back across the pacific. Even if they somehow managed to catch him, he’d only be up for a few years of hard time. Not murder or paedophilia or anything like that.

But that was half the problem. He’d been so careful, coming all this way, going to all this effort – only now that he had her did he realise the true value of the situation. It would be years before he could contrive this situation again. So how could he make use of it? How could he suck every last bit of joy from this whole experience?

He sat on a moth eaten couch and stared at one of the boarded up windows. He lit a cigarette with a shaking hand and tried to think.

 

Connie didn’t like this house, and it had only a little to do with the man who’d brought her here – a stinking, pasty white man with yellow eyes and fumbling fingers. Lying here, tied spread eagle on a bed with rotten mattress that smelled faintly of urine, she had her first chance to get her bearings.

It was a basement with a tiny window directly above her, yellow afternoon light streaming down from above. If she craned her neck she could see the stairs leading down from the ground floor, but not much else. A broken bulb hung from the ceiling.

The first sign that something about the house was wrong was that the darkness moved. Even in her panic when he first dragged her inside, gagged and struggling, she’d noticed this in some peripheral part of her mind and it came back to her now, confirming her suspicions: The darkness moved.

It was physical. This basement was quite large, but even so the light from the little window should have been more than enough to reveal every corner of the place. Yet she couldn’t see more than a meter or so further than the edge of her bed: there, the darkness loomed like an ill-defined wall. Upstairs, she’d seen similar things: an open cupboard which was pitch black even though there was enough daylight in the house by which to see; a space behind the couch in the living room that was similarly impenetrable.

And she heard things. Voices, so distant it was as if they called to her across oceans.

Connie remembered that the man had given her a prick in the neck when he abducted her. Whatever he’d given her had made her body relax, flooded her with a kind of benign weakness, but maybe there was more to it. Was she hallucinating? It must have been working, because she’d been thinking about the shadows all this time instead of trying to escape. She hadn’t even struggled against the ropes he’d cinched around her wrists and ankles. She thought she could fit through the window if she could only get free long enough to open it.

Instead of trying, she turned her head and stared into the darkness, so close beside her, wondering if her eyes would grow accustomed to it. Maybe then she’d be able to see what dim shapes moved there, or from what recess the voices came.

 

Derek mixed a fresh batch in a milk bottle using the chemicals from the back of his car, which he lined up on the dirty sink. It was a lot, but then he wasn’t sure how long he was going to be here. Every time he set a limit for himself he daydreamed and the next thing he knew, he’d stretched it. One day only. But maybe he could make it last two, or three, or a week. He could keep her alive that long if he paced himself.

She didn’t seem afraid when he descended the concrete steps into the basement, deliberately moving slowly and taking heavy steps. It was all part of the routine he’d set up in his mind – the way she’d scream and struggle and plead every time she heard his big steps thundering towards her. Fee Fi Fo Fum. Screw her. He’d make her afraid. The chemicals would help with that.

She didn’t even look at him as he stopped at the foot of her bed, staring instead into the pitch black basement. Why was it so dark in here, anyway? This whole house was full of odd angles that manipulated things in the corner of his eyes all the time. He kept getting the creepy feeling that there were things moving around him that stopped when he looked at them. Never mind. He could always burn it down after. In fact, that would be the best way to get rid of any evidence.

‘They want me to do things,’ she said in a small voice.

‘Oh, you’ll do things, little girl. You’ll scream.’ He was speaking in his horror voice, a deep rasp he’d taken from the latest batman movies. It went well with the mask he wore, a

 

Version of the Donnie Darko evil rabbit mask he’d found online. It had terrified even him; he couldn’t imagine what it would do to a small girl who was tied to the bed and awaiting pain. He felt a thrill ripple through him at the thought of the fear he inspired, and when the girl finally looked at him and recoiled against her bonds, the thrill became bright excitement. A taste of what was to come.

‘You will drink this,’ he said in his rasp, and went to her bedside. He pinched her nose shut with one hand and, when she finally opened her mouth to take a breath, he tipped the milk bottle over her mouth and poured until she choked on it. He left her spluttering and took the bottle back upstairs. He waited for a few minutes before he returned, letting the drugs work.

Once again, she was staring into the dark, but now she had a slightly gazed look. She’d be physically weaker and uncoordinated, and her mind would be slow, but she’d be perfectly capable of feeling all the pain he was going to inflict on her. And she could scream. That was important.

This time, he didn’t say anything, only stood beside her bed and waited for her eyes to focus on him. They did, but it took so long that he felt awkward. He was considering saying something in his voice when she finally looked up, first at him, and then at the sharp knife he held in his right hand.

And there it was: the delicious terror, the widening eyes and quivering mouth; the welling tears. He could feel her quick heartbeats as though they were his own. When he lowered the knife to her bare shin, the beats quickened, his own breathing as fast as hers, and her whimper as the metal touched her flesh sent shivers up his spine.

The scream was even better.

 

Connie thought she was going to die, sure that each time he cut her he’d push the blade deep into her and twist it. She screamed as much for fear as for the actual pain, and when the man finally stepped back to observe his finished work and then miraculously just left her, she broke down with tears of relief.

The voices came to her again when he was gone, and soon she stopped crying and tried to listen. Some of the things they were telling her gave her hope, even though she knew they were bad voices. She knew that because they wanted her to do bad things, and they wanted to join in. They wanted to be inside her when she did them.

Let us in, they whispered.

Don’t let him do this to you, another said, running its cold finger along one of the cuts he’d made in her leg.

It will feel so good, said another.

She could make out some of their forms, now and again, but only in the corners of her eyes. They would be there, clear as day, even in the darkness, and then her eye would flick over to that corner of the room and there would be nothing there. She didn’t like what she saw at all. Yes, they were definitely bad things. They had big teeth, much bigger than the ones on the man’s mask. Some had claws and some had spider’s eyes and some were insane.

But she was so scared, and they were not.

They knew what to do.

 

When he came back, he noticed she’d loosened both of the nooses around her wrists, to the point where they’d almost slipped off. That was bad. He tightened them until they cut into her skin and then forced her to drink more from his milk bottle. He couldn’t risk her getting free – not in a house as unsecured as this.

She moaned and said gibberish things to him, and he laughed in a cold voice, feeling the power he had over her fill him up like fine wine. He was having fun alright, even more than he’d anticipated, and he’d dreamed about this moment for months. It was only the second session, and he planned to have another one before night. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. He laughed again and she cried.

He cut her shirt to threads and focussed on her torso this time, always small cuts – he was only just beginning after all, but deep enough. She was so young, she’d never experienced pain like this before in her life, and it was all because of him. Sometimes when she begged him to stop, he did, and other times he did not, and the power was in his hands. Imagine if I just kept going, he thought more than once with a burst of excitement so strong he broke out in a sweat. What if I went all the way?

            He managed to pace himself, but he left her sticky with blood and already half mad with the pain. He wondered if he could break her mind. Something to think about, anyway.

He went back upstairs and stood in the badly lit living room, smiling at nothing.

The thing came at him out of nowhere, a vast shadow, an eight foot tall monster that rose from behind the couch and lunged for him. He cried out and lashed with his knife even as he fell backwards, his feet slipping on the hardwood. It cut nothing but air and as he landed he saw that there was nothing there. Christ, but he’d seen it! He was sure he had.

He sat there for a few shocked minutes and let his breathing steady. It was just nerves. He got up and went into the kitchen, where he’d left his laptop. He sat at a table so rotted the wood was soft to touch, and surfed the internet mindlessly, looking for things of interest or games to play, nothing stimulating, just to calm himself.

When dinner time came, he went to a drive thru McDonalds. No danger there, either. He somehow couldn’t imagine the bored girl in the window speaking to a cop later. ‘Yes officer, I remember exactly, out of the hundred customers I had there was a regular looking guy who got a big mac.’ No – she’d forgotten him even before she took the next order.

 

He returned and locked the door, savouring the way his heavy steps echoed through the house. He imagined the girl flinching with every sound. ‘Honeyyyy, I’m home!’ he said in a sing song voice. Already the thoughts of what he might do tonight made his stomach churn with anticipation. He forced them away for now in case they stole his appetite. He needed all the food he could get for the coming days. He had a small bag of white pills that were going to give him all the energy he needed to run far away.

He’d take one as soon as she was dead.

No, no, you’re not going to kill her, remember? She still hasn’t seen your face.

Of course, of course.

He paused halfway through his burger, something twigging in his mind that something was wrong. He chewed the last bite slowly and then held his breath, listening. Silence. That was it. When he left, he’d been able to hear her moans and whimpers from up here, and even when she wasn’t making sounds deliberately he’d heard the bedframe creak every time she moved. Now there was nothing at all.

He stood up quickly, his stomach flipping over and threatening to send the burger back the way it came. She’d escaped. And for how long? Perhaps the sirens would sound at any moment. But she was drugged – and he’d barely been gone twenty minutes. Surely it would be hours before they could get her name out of her, let alone a location.

You’re panicking. Stop it.

            He lifted his knife from the kitchen sink, only at this moment realising how foolish he’d been not to take it with him while she was gone. Imagine if she’d taken it and ambushed him? Still, the fact that it was still there, and that the front door had been closed, gave him hope. Dried blood flaked off the dull metal.

He paused again halfway down the stairway, just when he could make out the foot of the bed, and the darkness. Everything was so quiet. He decided to scare her, if she was there – sleeping perhaps, and in a booming voice he chanted as he came down the stairs. ‘Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum…’

And stopped, now two steps from the bottom, staring at the bed. The ropes he’d tied so snugly were severed, cleanly cut at all four points. The second thing he noticed was that the small window just above the bed was still tightly closed, and unbroken. So where had –

A small, high voice sang out from the dark to his right. A pretty voice, in any other context, the kind that might even one day grow to be a real talent, finishing his rhyme for him: ‘I smell the blood of an En – glish man…’

He came the rest of the way down and stood facing that second dark half of the room from which the voice had come. He knew he should feel relieved: that she was still here, that she was cornered, that she was still heavily drugged from the sound of it. But for some reason his gut was still churning, and no longer in a pleasant way. He opened his eyes wider, trying to see into the dark, but it was impenetrable despite the last golden rays of sunlight coming in through the window.

The girl didn’t show herself, nor sing again. He wanted badly to leave and fetch a flashlight from his car, but who knew where she’d be by then. He had to get her back on the bed as soon as possible. Glancing back at the reddened sheets, he saw a trail of blood drops and barefoot smears on the cement floor. It led straight into the dark.

‘Little girl,’ he said slowly, forgetting his rasp and realising as he spoke that he wasn’t wearing his mask, either. ‘If you come to me now, I’ll let you live. If you try to escape, I’ll make sure you die. Slowly.’

He waited, but there was only silence. Then he took a step forward and thought he heard something, a school girl giggle, hand to the mouth and eyes twinkling with mischief. She’d lost her sanity. He had succeeded in breaking her after all, because if that wasn’t the sound of a broken mind, he didn’t know what was.

He came forward one more step, watching his peripheral vision in case she tried to slip past him. She didn’t so much as shuffle her feet, though, and when he moved even further into the dark he found he could see something, after all: a pale white form not far from him, almost luminescent in the dark.

It occurred to him that she shouldn’t be standing at all. Besides the hundred or so cuts he’d laid out across her upper and lower body, he had finished their last session together by severing her Achilles tendons. At the time he’d been almost feverish with excitement, but he remembered doing it distinctly. Yet there she was, standing before him.

She was whispering something in a low voice and he found himself listening for the words intently. Was he going insane, also? Was he hallucinating all of this, just like the shadow that had attacked him upstairs? Nothing seemed to make sense to him. The words she sang were disjointed, the tune erratic but strangely beautiful.

‘Don’t fear the night. Don’t fear the night.

            Taste the blood and feel the heart.

            Lick it clean, make it cry.

            Yours to die, yours to die.’ A lullaby sung by a child to give an adult nightmares. She had lost it, and the sooner he had her on the ground or under it, the better. This was getting too much for him.

As the last word echoed around the basement, he lunged for her, aiming the point of the blade at her lower abdomen. At least then he’d be able to make her death last, like he’d promised himself.

The pale form blurred and his blade hit nothing. He took a giant step to avoid falling head over heels and then spun around, waving the knife blindly. ‘Fuck!’

At first he thought she’d made a bolt for the stairs, but then he blinked and she was there, coming straight for him with unnatural speed. He sliced for her head and missed. She collided with his midsection head first, winding him and pushing him backwards into the concrete wall. The knife fell from his limp hand on impact and he heard it clatter to the floor somewhere to his right. That was fine – he’d be able to grab her from behind as she went for it.

But she didn’t go for the knife, nor did she take advantage of his state to make a break for it. Instead, he heard something tear as she ripped at his crotch with sharp fingernails, her head pushing against his hips like a battering ram. He rained blows on her upper back, expecting such a small girl to collapse immediately, but she didn’t so much as cry out. There was another rip, and then a sensation of hot breath on his balls a moment before she bit. The pain didn’t come then, just a pinching around the base of his genitals, followed by a tugging sensation. The two of them stumbled a couple of steps away from the wall. He screamed, but only in surprise. What was happening?

She pulled away and he felt a surge of satisfaction as one of his panicked blows caught her on the side of her head and her teeth cracked behind the force of it. He heard her rolling over the floor nearby, but couldn’t see her. He turned that way and heard her quick feet scrabbling up and then backward, not running, just putting distance between them.

He took one step before the first wave of pain struck him and he dropped to one knee on the hard floor, both hands dropping to the suddenly very wet place between his legs. He felt shreds of his pants and something soft that didn’t feel like anything he recognized. It was impossible to tell how much damage she’d done – the agony was so all consuming that it was numbing. He didn’t know whether she’d torn his ball sack or bitten it off completely.

He turned and crawled toward the place he’d heard the knife fall, moving awkwardly with one hand pressing on his wound, his eyes wide in the dark, grunting like a pig with each movement, still in a state of total shock. What’s happening what’s happening what’s… his mind ran on blandly, his free hand scrabbling for the weapon that didn’t seem to be anywhere.

His whole body was shaking, and he felt another wave of pain so strong he vomited his big mac across the floor and then collapsed, pools of black swirling into the darkness in front of him.

 

He was unconscious, he didn’t know for how long. He had a minute or so of lucidity, his eyes opening to focus, unblinking, on the pale silhouette of the girl standing nearby, her stance lopsided because her hobbled feet were at right angles to the concrete. There was nothing but the sound of breathing.

And of chewing. He could hear her chewing something, her teeth grinding rhythmically.

 

A few seconds (minutes?) later there were small hands around his ankle and he was being dragged along the wet ground, the smell of blood and vomit thick in his nostrils. He was bathed in cold sweat and his whole body felt weak. Was he dreaming? There was no way to know what was going on, or where he was. Too much pain.

 

He rolled over on a bed and found his arms and legs tied tightly to the posts. Where was he? The room was utterly dark, though he could make out a small square window somewhere above him backlit by moonlight. It wasn’t enough to penetrate this place. He couldn’t feel his genitals, only a burning so hot it made him groan aloud.

‘Oh, God. Help me.’ His voice was weak and raspy. Where was she now? He strained his ears for sirens, certain he must have been lying here long enough for her to get help by now. She would have tied him up and gone straight to the nearest police station. It was only a matter of time before the police come and, please god, the ambulances…

But he heard no sirens: only a little schoolgirl’s giggle from the foot of his bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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