This fic is a little different from any au we have done before. In other words, this story is creepy (very creepy), scary (pretty dang scary), gory (HELLA gory), a little disturbing (”little” is putting it a bit lightly), and character death (LOTS of character death). This story is rated very very explicit, very much a rated R film category and above. So, you have been warned, READ AT OWN RISK.
This story will be in 6 parts, from now until midnight~
Until Dawn, part two~
Ectober Week, Day 31, BAD END
Jack abandoned the body and took off after his friend. “VLAD!”
Damon grimaced in exertion as the cook’s faceless skull hit the floor. Blood splattered over his shoes. “Oh my– Jack, don’t just leave me with this! Get back here!”
But he was already gone.
“Maurice, come help me with this!” the officer ordered. Tucker’s dad immediately obeyed, hoisting the body up; together, they hobbled the corpse into the freezer. Jeremy, on the other hand, whimpered again and hurried back out to the rest of the group. Jazz was the first to greet him, the rest turning around to look at him with wide, questioning eyes. They had all seen Vlad leave with the maid and their voices rose as they fired question after question.
“What’s going on?” the redhead asked, eyes wide and curious. “What happened?”
“Where was Mister Masters taking Emma?”
“Where is the cook? Is he dead?!”
Jeremy swallowed thickly and took a calming breath, taking his wife’s hand. “The cook is… dead. I… I don’t know how to describe it. It was like he was… was s-skinned.”
Jazz gasped, mouth falling open in shock. First the butler was disemboweled, now the cook had been skinned? What was happening here? A few moments passed as the group whispered among themselves, growing silent as they watched Damon and Maurice come back out of the kitchen, passing the group and heading towards the foyer. They returned quickly with Hopson’s body, causing Pamela to gasp and Angela to look away.
“They’re moving the b-bodies to the freezer…” Jeremy murmured, urging everyone to move back out of their way and keep close. “Mister Masters took the m-maid to his office. She seemed to be having a n-nervous breakdown… I think Jack went to follow him…”
“They shouldn’t have gone off alone!” Maddie scolded, already moving to follow after the men in question. “I’ll go make sure they’re alright–”
“We NEED to stay together,” Damon corrected her as he rejoined the group.
Maddie scowled, glaring at him – the contest for authority between the two harsh and apparent. Nonetheless, the police officer met her blistering glare evenly. “So we will ALL meet up with them. I don’t want anyone wandering off alone right now.”
Jazz bit her lip, eyes flicking towards the kitchen. She had a growing need to see the cook’s body for herself. Perhaps she could have seen some clues there, some ideas as to who could have done this or why! She rubbed her arms as the group moved through the dining room and out towards the foyer for the third time, following Damon as he intended to find Vlad and Jack.
“We need to get out of this house!” Pamela hissed, clinging to her husband desperately. “Whoever did this is obviously still around!”
“And has done their research.”
They all jumped as Vlad and Jack joined them from the other side of the foyer, the big man frowning as he moved back towards his wife and daughter. Maddie turned to Vlad, placing a soft hand on his arm. “What do you mean? Is everything alright?” she crooned softly.
Vlad nodded, but his eyes were distant and troubled. “Emma passed out again, the poor girl is at her wit’s end. She was babbling about monsters and hell beasts… but whoever did this must have planned accordingly, because the phone in my office was cut, and that was a separate landline…”
Damon came up to Vlad’s side, expression grave. “If we have no way of contacting the outside, then we should leave to do so. I don’t think staying in this house would be the best course of action.”
“Yes… yes, of course, you’re absolutely right,” Vlad agreed. “Emma will be safe in my office, we should get help…”
No one needed to tell the others twice as they all moved quickly towards the large, double doors. Jeremy was the first to reach them, grasping the bronze handles and tugging hard. But while the oak doors groaned under his weight… they didn’t budge.
“What in the–?!” the blond gasped, grabbing the handle with both hands.
Tucker ran forward to grab at the handle of the other door, but no matter what either of them did, they couldn’t get the doors to open.
“They’re sealed shut!”
“What?!” Valerie yelped. Panic started to sweep through the families, building into a burning, writhing tangle of anxiety so potent they could almost taste it–!
Vlad held his hands above the mob. “SILENCE!”
He glanced around at the dark foyer… waiting for the echoes to fade…
Finally, they did.
When he spoke, it was at a whisper. “There is another exit out through the greenhouse,” Vlad breathed. “Follow me, stay quiet, stay vigilant. Damon, at the back. We need your trained eyes. Maddie? Come with me, at the front. You’ve always been better at spotting these things than I have.”
Her violet eyes brightened – despite all the peril of their situation. “Of course.”
Vlad nodded, his expression grave. “Then let’s move.”
Quickly, the party of twelve set off across the lengthy foyer and by the time they filed up the steps, they had fallen into an order. Vlad and Maddie led the main chunk of them, with Jack and the Mansons huddling close behind them; Sam was unable to tear away from her parents’ near-bruising grip on her arm. A few steps back followed Angela and Maurice, Tucker just behind them. Jazz, Valerie, and Damon brought up the rear. With her father keenly watching their backs, Val leaned in towards Jazz’s ear, her glittering green eyes worried in the fading light of the chandelier. “What do you think it is?” she whispered, unconsciously clinging to the older girl.
“It?” Jazz repeated, eyes flickering around her. “Well, I admit that the killings are… extreme, but surely there wasn’t evidence to lead that something other than a human having committed them…”
She turned to look at Val, blue eyes wide. “Right?”
Val frowned. “Yeah… but Emma was blathering on about a monster–”
“She was traumatized!”
“And even Mister Masters was calling the killer an it!” Val finished, trying her hardest to keep her voice down. “Maybe he knows something…”
“Mister Masters is just as much of a victim as we are in all of this,” Jazz deduced, voice calm once more as she tried to reason the situation with herself and Val. “In fact, I’d say he’s the target. His own staff, murdered in such a way…”
“A hitman then?”
“Maybe… but to be this showy about it?” Jazz argued, unconvinced. “I thought hitmen were supposed to be subtle.”
Val huffed, the stress wearing at her nerves. “Okay, then, an enemy of his? Perhaps someone he wronged in the business world? A disgruntled lover?!”
The girl sighed, looking away. “I just want to know what the hell we’ve been dragged into, you know? What have we gotten mixed up in, huh? What isn’t he telling us?”
“He isn’t hiding anything! He’s trying to help us get out of here!”
“How is being stuck in this old manor of his helping?!”
“Val, Jazz. Enough.”
Both girls winced and grew quiet once more, glancing back at Damon as he scolded them from the rear of the group. They flushed in embarrassment, realizing everyone in the group had likely heard their argument. Val looked away with a huff, choosing to ignore the others while Jazz looked up ahead. She frowned as she watched her mom interact with Mr. Masters, all sympathetic smiles and a hand on his arm or shoulder.
Now she was flushing in shame for a different reason…
“This leads into the greenhouse,” Vlad explained as they neared a set of glass doors, the group sighing in relief as they opened easily. “There is another entrance at the back, we can get outside that way.”
He lowered his voice, slowing his pace. “Now, everyone stay quiet…” he whispered. “This place would be easy to get into… so be on your guard.”
The party fell silent – the horror of the murders still fresh in their minds – as they followed Vlad through the dark ferns. The strips of simulated sunlight were bright against the black glass, but the utter silence and stark shadows made it feel like someone was watching…
Maddie stuck close to the billionaire, her violet eyes scanning the vegetation. “How big is this place…?” she whispered.
“For god’s sake, keep quiet!” Jeremy warbled, clinging to his wife and daughter. “What’s the matter with you?!”
Something rustled in the brush. It was distant – a single leafy branch, dozens of yards away – but to everyone, it was loud enough. All twelve people stiffened, wide-eyed as hunted deer, frozen in place…
There was a long silence.
Valerie unconsciously reached out for her father. Jazz trembled, fumbling at the younger girl.
Fear swept through the group in a silent wave.
Then, Jazz smelled it.
Faint at first… but as the seconds passed, it grew stronger and stronger. The stench of meat, left to rot for days in the sun, the kind that coated your lungs and left a taste like death in your mouth. Artfully fused with the acidic stink of… brine… sweat…
Vlad swallowed, opened his mouth, and said one word.
Fear took over all rational thought as everyone made a mad dash through the greenhouse, trying their best to stick to the skinny path and find the exit on the other side. A twig brushed across Pamela’s shoulder, snagging on her dress and causing her to shriek in terror, pulling away from her husband. She was swatting at the air around her, like she was fighting off an invisible attacker, tumbling into the foliage. Sam looked back, a mixture of fear and annoyance on her face. “MOM!”
Maddie snarled in irritation and doubled back. Jack whirled, grabbing for his wife and missing by an inch. “Maddie, no!”
The rustling was getting closer. Heavy thumping – footsteps – echoed through the greenhouse. Maddie got down by the shrieking Pamela, yanking her to her feet. “Are you CRAZY?! ARE YOU TRYING TO GET EVERYONE SLAUGHTERED?!” she bellowed.
The air pressure changed. A huge, fleshy shape came crashing through the vegetation. Maddie saw it in the corner of her eye, and on the other side, but couldn’t react fast enough. It was running past them, an arm the size of a tree trunk swinging back–!
The other woman opened her mouth, about to voice a retort.
A huge elbow crashed into Pamela’s skull.
The entire top half of her head vaporized on impact, practically liquified into tiny bits of bone, squirming shreds of eyes, and soft brain matter, a cloud of blood mist spreading across Maddie’s face so evenly it was almost elegant – like morning dew off the lawn. Every individual, pearly white tooth was knocked from its root, all but a single molar nestled at the farthest point of her gums. They gleamed as they flew through the air, mixing with the scattered pearls of her broken necklace. Her bright, orange hair scattered. The stray pieces fluttered slowly, gently to the ground… unless they were still attached to the skin. Those struck the trees much faster, with a sound like pudding being thrown against a wall.
The others were already fleeing. But they weren’t fast enough.
Maddie screamed, as loud as she could.
Then, it was upon the group, skidding to a stop.
They were still too far away from the door, too far away to get away! Jazz turned, one hand gripping Val’s, pressing herself into her father’s side. Her irises rimmed in the artificial light as she stared up at the murderer.
No one could even utter a sound.
The stench of spoiled flesh was so thick it was suffocating. A hulking creature, ten feet tall, with eyes like marbles set deep in a skull wider than any human she had ever seen. Mismatched arms were stitched onto a thick trunk, constructed of the skin of human torsos, for one had apparently not been enough. Skin was stretched, folded, and stitched like old leather, over something that moved and pushed – and leaked through the tiny holes, trails of gaseous matter blacker than the night. It had one slender, delicate arm; the other torn up and almost entirely stitches, with a hand made for crushing skulls and ripping out soft internal organs, like a child could scoop out the flesh of a watermelon.
But… the thing had no face. Only dry, black muscles stretched over a rotting spine, and teeth that had been stolen far too long ago. No neck, no face. Only its stinking mist rose up through the hole, surrounding its skull in a dark, hellish corona.
“Hah… haaAAAHH…” Tucker began to wail, taking a shaky step back along with his parents. Everyone drew back from the creature before them, squeezing tight together as they stared up at this… this THING.
Sam moved closer to Jeremy, looking back past the monster to where her mother lay prone and nearly headless in the grass. “M-mom–?”
“Shh…” Damon whispered, moving to stand in front of his daughter protectively. Vlad and Jack moved as well, slow and steady, as they tried to carefully press the group behind them and closer to the door. “No sudden movements…”
The hulking creature watched them with its tiny black eyes, flesh rippling and bubbling as he stepped closer. Warm red blood dripped down its thick arm, unnoticed.
“Everyone, just stay togeth–”
The thing opened its mouth, baring rotten teeth. Not a sound came out.
Jazz nearly blacked out as it felt as if her skull was set to vibrate, shaking her brain at a hornet-like velocity until she felt a capillary burst in her eyes. She screamed – joining the chorus of pain splitting the air and falling to her knees along with Vlad, Valerie, Damon, Jack, Jeremy, Sam, Tucker, Maurice, Angela. The monstrous thing sunk down to its knees, swelling eagerly as it launched itself at them–!
Then, a double-barreled shotgun unloaded into its side. BAM!
It stumbled, small eyes wide in shock as a huge hole tore through the stitched skin. Black mist boiled out of the hole – struggling with the same frantic nature as an ant on its back as it drifted into the air, like ink in water.
Instantly, the vibration vanished.
The group gasped, crying out in relief as they crashed to the ground, ears bleeding and eyes streaming with pink tears. Jeremy scrambled on all fours over to his wife’s corpse, sobbing her name. “P-Pam, PAM!”
In a haze of discharge, Maddie stood, gasping for breath and eyes filled with murder. She held a sawed-off shotgun against her shoulder; quickly, she popped the spent shells and loaded new ones. “Everyone, GO!!” she yelled.
Everyone scattered on instinct.
Maddie pulled the trigger again. BAM!!
The creature’s bigger arm was blasted off. More black gas boiled out of the hole, thickening in the air; its black button eyes were frantic as it tried to cover the hole, then after a moment of hesitation, doubled back into the leaves, beating a hasty retreat.
Maddie moved as if to pursue it, but Jack caught her arm and pulled her back. “Come on, let’s get out of here!”
The redheaded woman growled in annoyance but complied, following after the others as they moved quickly to the back end of the greenhouse. She winced in sympathy when Jeremy came stumbling past her, Pamela’s body cradled in his arms. It seemed he was unable to leave her body behind…
“The door’s locked!” Vlad called, startling her out of her thoughts.
She pushed her way to the front of the group where Damon and Vlad were trying with all their strength to open the glass double doors. She raised her shotgun. “Stand clear!”
The group quickly moved out of her way as she took aim, fired one of the barrels, and blasted a hole through the doors, showering glass all over the floor. Damon was quick to kick the rest of the glass away before pulling back, gesturing for the others to go through. “Careful! One at a time!”
The moon was full overhead as the unfortunate guests spilled out into Vlad’s backyard. Their host moved back to the front of the group, leading them as quickly as he could around the manor. “We need to get to the vehicles!”
No one argued with that logic. Even with the full moon and vast number of stars, it was utterly dark among the countless looming willows and whispers of tall foliage. The scent of the distant marsh filled their lungs and occasionally someone tripped or stumbled when their shoe sunk into the soft soil. No one seemed to notice that it was utterly silent. No birds. No insects. Nothing.
Finally, the group came around the final bend, the light of the front porch and many jack-o-lanterns lighting their way. A sigh of relief spilled through them as the first car was sighted…
Then, the fountain came into view.
Everyone slowed down from their fast trot to a slow, stuttering stop.
Jazz gasped in utter horror at the crumbled decay where the once beautiful grecian fountain had stood. The top half of the statue was gone entirely, the marble seemingly sliced through at the hips. But that wasn’t what had everyone going pale…
Out of the middle of the statue, bubbling up through the pipes, was a thick, dark sludge that ran red in the watery pools of the fountain’s base… like one massive, wet clot of blood, glopping over the flawless marble in streams and chunks, in gallons.
“What… what could have done this?” Jazz breathed, hands beginning to shake.
The foul smell of old, sticky blood reached their nostrils, causing the younger ones to gag on bile and the older ones to turn away, trying to steer the women and children towards the cars. “L-Let’s get out of here already!” Valerie cried, all but running to her dad’s car.
“There’s more than one of them…” Jeremy rasped, holding his wife’s dripping corpse. “Th-There’s more than one of those things… Th-THERE’S MORE THAN ONE!”
“DAD! Omigod, st-stop yelling…!”
Sam was starting to hyperventilate, retching into the grass. “Oh god, oh my– mom, MOM…!”
She fell to her knees away from her parents, clawing at Tucker’s pant leg; the boy knelt down and she clawed her way up his body, clinging to him like her life depended on it. “MOOOOOM!!” she wailed. Tears and snot streamed down her face, her mascara running. “I NEVER MEANT ANYTHING I SAID, I’M SO SORRYyyyyyyy…! AHHHHHHH!”
Jasmine hurried to join the two, wrapping her arms around them in an attempt to quiet the hysterical girl. “Sh-Shhhh… i-it’s okay, it’s… no it’s not okay, why would it be okay…?”
Her hands visibly trembled from what she had seen. “Not human… not human… oh GOD, that thing wasn’t HUMAN…!” she gasped.
Her mind whirled at a hundred miles an hour. Behind her, a car sputtered as Damon tried to start it. That… thing, whatever it was, had been using some kind of… sonic attack! There had been no sound; it had to have been at a frequency below the level of human hearing! So powerful it burst capillaries, rattled brains, shook teeth loose. The black matter inside it, it had moved by itself, writhing like a living thing! Puppeting around that stitched-together bag of human flesh like a ten-year-old in their first sack race. But what was it? “What was it–?!” she whispered.
Damon got out of the Foley’s mini-van and hurried over to Vlad. “None of the cars will start,” he whispered, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.
“That’s no surprise…” the billionaire hissed back, not bothering to keep the fear out of his own.
He swallowed. “They’re inside now…”
“‘They?’ Mister Masters, what are you talking about–?!”
His dark eyes flicked over to the mansion, still lit up like a beacon in the murky night. “O-Oh no, Emma! Emma is still inside!” Vlad gasped, grabbing at Damon. “We have to go in there! We have to save her! A heavy door isn’t going to stop those monsters, we have to–!”
Maddie gripped his arm tightly. “Hey… hey…” she whispered, softly running her fingers up and down his sleeve. She hesitated, then wrapped her arms around his broad chest; she pressed her breasts against his back, then her cheek, closing her eyes. “It’s okay… We’ll go inside, okay? It’ll be fine. Your girl will be fine.”
Cobalt eyes flicked down. His gaze trailed over her slender, yet buxom body, with wide hips that pressed snug against him.
Lost in the warmth of his body, her sleepy violet eyes met his. “Hmm?”
Vlad furrowed his brow – almost confused – as he turned to face her. Maddie’s grip softened, her breath catching as their eyes met, at that place between their height difference. “…Vlad…?” she murmured.
“What gun…?” Maddie breathed.
She took a step closer, even though there was no space to spare. On the other side of the car, Jack watched – his expression torn between frustration and sadness – as his wife moved against Vlad…
The billionaire took a sudden step back, almost stumbling as he regained his personal space. “Madeline, now’s not the time or the place for this kind of…”
Maddie took a sheepish step back, eyes on the ground. “No, no! You’re right. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean–”
“Where’d you get the gun, Maddie?”
Her hand went automatically to the weapon at her hip, strapped there by a twisted bungee cord. “Oh! Right.”
The woman swallowed, wiping her hands on her pants. “When Pamela was killed, I screamed to warn you and Jazz – and everyone else, of course – and then I went straight for the garden shed. You were right about the shotgun, obviously. But…”
She slammed open the door to the shed and spotted the weapon, just in time for the stench to roll over her.
She doubled over. “AUGH!”
Maddie sighed, resigned at the memory of ripping that sawed-off shotgun from cold, curdled hands. “Vlad… I’m sorry, but your gardener never left the grounds,” she told him grimly. “One of the torsos on that thing, maybe an arm, too, came from him. He died weeks ago.”
Vlad let out an exhausted sigh, burying his head in his hands. “No…” he whispered.
Maddie wrapped her arms around him again. “There’s nothing we can do for him now, Vlad, but we can keep going! We know they can get hurt!”
The silver-haired man nodded, hands coming down his face. “Yes… Yes, they can, you’re right…!” he whispered. He reached out and gripped Maddie’s shoulders, pulling her a few inches back so he could call out to the others. “Everyone, listen up!”
Jazz pulled her head up from hiding – pretending not to have seen all that – and turned to face Vlad along with everyone else. Including her dad. Jack’s smile was small, tight, and forced as the other man stepped forward.
“I know it’s not what anyone wants to hear right now, but we’re going back into the house!” Vlad announced.
“NO!” Jeremy screeched. The man looked half-mad, petting helplessly at his dead wife. “THERE’S SOMETHING IN THAT HOUSE–!”
Instantly, the cool-headed billionaire was back. “Calm yourself, Mister Manson, before another ‘something’ hears you and comes to reunite you with your wife,” Vlad snapped coldly.
His eyes turned onto the adults. “Damon, Maddie, Jack, you’re the strongest of us, so you’re with me. Misses Manson and Mister Sanchez will go in the freezer, with the other bodies. Once that’s done, us four will explore the manor for weapons and some means of communication with the outside world. We’ll rescue Emma, and deal with anything that dares to cross our path. The rest of you will stay together in the kitchen, do you understand?”
Vlad beckoned. “Jack? Please.”
Jazz started, looking up at her father. He looked just as surprised – and slightly offput – as she was. “Come back into the greenhouse with me. To fetch the body…”
Jack hesitated, glancing at his wife…
Then, he nodded, going to Vlad’s side. “Sure.”
Vlad gripped the big man’s sleeve. “You look like you have something to say to me, my friend,” he murmured. “Come on…”
Maddie stepped forward. “I’ll come with you!”
“No. Thanks, honey, but…”
Jack held out a hand, stopping her. “I just need the shotgun.”
His wife’s jaw dropped, almost like she was about to snap at him – but something made her stop. Sighing sharply, she unwrapped the bungee cord from around her waist, disentangled the gun, and gave it to Jack.
Vlad’s eyes darted nervously between the weapon and his supposed friend. The big man cradled the gun in the crook of his elbow and glanced at Vlad.
The two men walked off, back towards the greenhouse.
The next ten minutes were the most silent, frightening ones of Jazz’s life. No one was willing to utter a word besides the hushed tones passed between her mother and Damon. Sam’s now silent tears were far more unnerving than her loud wails, since there weren’t even the sounds of crickets or cicadas to drown her out. Mr. Manson had gone quiet, and the Foleys were no better.
Why wouldn’t anyone SAY anything?
Finally, after what Jazz knew was far too long than what two grown men needed to fetch a body…
Vlad and her father returned. They carried the dead gardener’s body in a large tarp between them, faces stoic but not entirely unaffected by the smell… and feel… of the weeks-old rotting body in their hands.
Jack somberly gave Maddie back the shotgun. Vlad nodded to Damon, signaling they were ready to move on. And yet still… everyone remained silent. Even as they all rose to their feet and proceeded to slowly follow the other’s backs towards the front of the house, no one seemed capable of uttering a sound.
The front doors were wide open. How… how could they be open now when they had seemed bolted from the outside not even thirty minutes ago…?
Damon halted at the steps, gesturing for Maddie to come to the front with him. Jazz watched as her mom and Valerie’s father slowly climbed up the front steps, scoping everything out to make sure it was safe.
The foyer was clear.
They waved for the rest to follow. However, it was while they were climbing up those gleaming marble steps, that Jazz noticed the foul smell from the fountain was still strong… under their feet…
A bloody trail, slick and dark, nearly black with sludge and other vile things, was leading up the stairs and through the foyer, deep into the darkness of the old manor…
Jeremy had been right. There were more, and they were inside…
“We shouldn’t be here,” Angela murmured, voice shaky as she hugged her son to her chest. “It’s not SAFE in here!”
“It’s not safe out there either, madam,” Vlad responded, voice quiet but stern. “We are surrounded by hundreds of acres of swamp and forest before we would reach civilization, even on the roads on foot. Out there, in the open, in the dark… we would be sitting ducks.”
“He’s right, here we have a fighting chance. Now,” Damon gestured towards the well-lit dining area and kitchen. “Mister Foley and Mister Manson, you two lead the others towards the kitchen. There’s only one door in. You will be able to find weapons there and defend yourselves, as well as put these bodies in with the others, while we search for a way out of this mess.”
Maurice and Tucker stepped forward to take the gardener’s corpse from Vlad and Jack, while Jeremy remained silent, hugging his dead wife to his own chest. For once, he was uncaring of the stains forming on his expensive suit. It didn’t matter to him anymore.
Jazz quickly hugged her mom and dad, their whispered assurances that they would be back for her, that she just needed to stay safe, did nothing to ease her fears. She had to drag Val back with her when the others moved on towards the kitchens, the younger girl arguing that she would be more help in the other group, that she wanted to help her father.
“We need you here, with us,” Jazz told him, even though the words felt hollow in her ears. “Your father can’t be worrying about you, right?”
Valerie just frowned, nodded once, then moved to help open doors and scout ahead. Jazz looked back once more at her parents, Vlad, and Damon, before finally following the others into the dining hall.
“This manor is very old,” Vlad finally said in hushed tones as he lead them in the opposite direction. “Some rooms I have yet to clean out and I believe, upstairs near the attics, I saw an old radio. Looked like it may have been used during the war, but… if it still works…”
“Then we might be able to reach someone from the outside!” Maddie concluded, smiling. “And even if it doesn’t work, it might be fixable!”
“Yes, of course…” Vlad agreed, a little more somberly. “But first, we must go see to Emma. I refuse to leave her alone now that my own manor has become a slaughter house…”
The others had nothing to say to that and simply followed him, deeper into the mansion.
“Watch her head…” Jeremy pleaded, helping Maurice carry his wife into the freezer. Mr. Foley bit back a bit of sarcasm that would have been drastically insensitive and complied, while his wife, Sam, Tucker, Valerie, and Jazz looked on. Each person was armed with a kitchen knife, huddled in the corner farthest from the door.
Sam had stopped crying now, and was staring emptily at the blade in her hand.
A gentle hand lay on her shoulder. She looked over at Tucker, who gave her a feeble, if encouraging smile. “It’s gonna be fine,” he told her, shaking her shoulder in an attempt to cheer her up. “You’ll see. I don’t know about that Masters guy, but if anything Mrs. Fenton is gonna find a way out of this!”
Jazz snorted, overhearing that. “Yeah… my mom’s tough as nails. In more than one way.”
To the remaining fathers of the group, Tucker’s voice echoed like it was far, far away from inside the freezer. Maurice lay down the woman’s body on a rack meant for storing meat, feeling almost numb to it all; Jeremy sobbed dryly, folding his hands and whispering in prayer for the first time in years. “Now… I lay me down to sleep…” he whispered.
Mr. Foley squeezed his shoulder sympathetically, and turned to leave.
Then, slowly, he came to a stop. He blinked… then, his eyes went wide in terror.
Where were the other bodies?
“I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” the other man’s voice echoed – falling away in Maurice’s ears as he turned, searching for the corpses of the butler and the cook. They had been here! Not even half an hour ago! He’d placed the disemboweled butler right on that rack–!
Maurice froze at a sound like crackling bark.
“Guide us safely through the night…” Jeremy whispered.
Mr. Foley trembled like a leaf as he slowly turned his head, staring into the darkest part of the freezer. Something moved there, crouched over a limp form lying on the icy floor… and that was when the smell reached him. He hadn’t noticed it before, in the chill…
It was the same smell as the willow trees outside, oddly tranquil, and calming…
Only, it was mixed heavily with the stench of rotting flesh.
Glowing red eyes turned away from Lancer’s disassembled remains… and locked onto Maurice.
“And wake me with the morning light,” Jeremy finished. Sniffing, he unclasped his hands and wiped at his eyes. “Amen.”
“RUN!” Maurice yelled.
He grabbed Jeremy’s remaining arm – the other twitching on the freezer floor, immediately snatched by the spiked vine that had ripped it from his body – and yanked the screaming blond back into the kitchen. Thorn-like teeth sank into the arm, gorging on it like a carnival turkey leg.
Everyone in the kitchen quickly jumped to their feet as Maurice and a screaming Jeremy came tumbling out of the freezer. Sam moved almost numbly to catch her father, staring at his severed arm like she couldn’t understand it. Why was there so much blood…?
“Oh my LORD!” Angela screamed, grabbing a kitchen towel and wrapping it around the bloody stump that was once Jeremy’s arm. The man was no longer screaming, simply wailing in soft, sobbing gasps.
“What on earth happened?!”
“One of those, those THINGS was in there!” Maurice cried, slamming the freezer door shut and bolting it. He turned and grabbed onto a nearby china cabinet and upended it in front of the door, barricading the way. “It was eating the god damned BODIES! Ripped his arm off like it was paper!”
“Oh my god…” Val moaned, clutching her knife tighter. “Oh my go–”
“It’s trying to get in!” Tucker cried, backing away from the door. Maurice held his ground a little longer, butcher knife held out in front of him.
The hinges gave with a loud groan.
Everyone made a run for it, Jeremy dragging his daughter with him as he made a hasty retreat, almost slipping in his own blood. Val and Jazz were ahead of the group, Angela and Tucker not far behind with Maurice bringing up the rear.
The fridge door flew off its hinges and into the opposite wall, taking the china cabinet with it. A dry, rasping, angry shriek filled the air.
Maurice booked it fast, sliding around a corner after the others as they all turned down a dark hallway. He caught up with his wife and grabbed her arm, urging her to run faster. Just then, Tucker stumbled in the dark, dropping his knife when he ran right into a side table. He grunted in pain, doubling over, glasses nearly tumbling off his face. Angela whirled around, eyes widening; immediately, she shook off Maurice’s hand and doubled back, grabbing her son and pushing him down the hall.
“Don’t stop, keep running!” she screamed, falling in behind him. “Don’t sto–!”
“Ah…” Angela stopped dead in her tracks, a splash of blood appearing on her cheek. Slowly, she looked down…
Sticking out of her gut was a long, thorny vine, the ashen grey of a willow trunk and as thick as a man’s forearm.
The vine curled up like a fist at Angela’s back, pulled back an inch, and completely eviscerated the woman – the force of its hooked thorns ripping her in two and painting the walls with red. Her intestines uncoiled as they struck the carpet and swelled, pumping blood and half-formed feces onto the carpet; its stench filled the air in waves.
Tucker could see his mother’s dark eyes wide open – still alive and filled with indescribable agony – but her diaphragm had been torn to shreds. She couldn’t even scream, just lay there… waiting out those last eternal seconds until her heart stopped, and blood filled her lungs, but until the very end, she didn’t so much as break eye contact. As if she was trying to say one last thing to him.
Then, the light faded from his mother’s eyes.
Tucker fainted, collapsing into the spreading pool of blood.
Ashen claws gripped Mrs. Foley, dragged her off the floor, held her high, and squeezed. Gore poured anew out of her steaming, mutilated corpse, dripping down over the shoulders of another monstrous creature.
She was completely nude, more of a humanoid size than the last one but still over six feet tall. Her hair was branches, sprouting dark black succulents, and twining into two tips, like horns. Her bare feet each had a thorn that extended her arches, not unlike stiletto heels that grew straight out of one’s skin. However, she was not made of flesh or mist, but unforgiving wood, and thorns, and thick, black sap – with a horrendous scar extending from the bottom of her jaw, straight down, to where human beings were naturally split – and from there did that horrific, bloody vine sprout.
Screams split the air. The tree-like monster continued to peacefully squeeze Angela’s remains dry over her head as Jeremy stumbled away, pulling a deadly silent Sam down another hallway. Valerie dared to grab Tucker – drenched with his mom’s blood – out from under the monster’s feet, and fled for their lives; she snatched Mr. Foley and shoved him through a door.
Jazz run after them, trying to follow, but the door slammed in her face. SLAM! “NO! LET ME IN, LET ME–!”
The woman creature lowered Angela’s top half, twisted her head off, and began to gorge on her insides. “AHHHHHHHHHHHH PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE LET ME IN PLEEEEEEAAAASE!!” the redhead sobbed. “I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!”
When the door didn’t open, Jazz pushed away from it and tore down the hallway, screaming and crying. “MOM! DAD! ANYBODY!”
She felt like she couldn’t run fast enough to save herself – but before she knew it, she had left the horrific scene far behind. She didn’t even know where she was going, but she just ran; taking turn after turn and pounding up any staircase she came across. Eventually, she reached a dead end. Jazz pounded her fists against the wall, not even registering that she had no idea where she was in the manor anymore, and was almost hyperventilating before she noticed a string dangling down from the ceiling.
The attic. Breathing hard, Jazz jumped for it, no other goal in her mind but to get far, far away from the killers, those MONSTERS!
Her fingers tangled in the string, and she pulled down the steps. Jazz scrambled up into the dark, dusty, hot space – sobbing – and closed the trapdoor behind her. She ducked behind a set of drawers that was layered in twenty years of dust and dead spiders. There, she curled into a ball… and cried.