Fiction: A Halloween Chiller
Silently sinister, The Tomb had a fetid aura emanating from it. A vile power throbbed like a demonic heartbeat that only Wally Butchowski could hear.
It had haunted him terribly, had preyed upon his mind and played dastardly tricks with his sleep for as long as he could remember, but tonight he would know its darkest secrets.
There could be no other way to end the cadence that relentlessly pounded against his eardrums than to pry open the crypt to discover the source of its breathing and surging evil.
His curiosity primed to a nearly hysterical level, Wally Butchowski had a healthy amount of firewater swirling in his belly. Courage was jacked up and fluttering in his lungs.
The reclusive bachelor trembled, and stamped his feet against the chill, like a stallion pawing at the ground in the starting gate.
The calendar read October but the weather had gone haywire and was all wrong for autumn. Winter was in complete command—nasty tentacles clutched and choked at nature, holding it in an icy deathgrip.
A shrill wind was howling out of the north, sounding like the bizarre and confused screeching of badly tuned violins stroked and strummed by an orchestra of madmen.
A full moon hung high in the clear black sky—vapid and remote, sallow and mystical. It resembled a knobby orb of scraped bone.
A skull picked clean by vultures, he thought morbidly.
Standing on a shroud of snow beside his small shack of a house, he stared across the desolate country road. The Tomb, a shadowy playground for ghosts, glowered back at him.
Wally was already perspiring profusely, with bourbon seeping out of every pore. Beneath his grungy long-johns, clammy sweat was slithering like maggots amongst fear stiffened body hairs.
A hooded parka was bundled around his stout and flabby frame, but his hands were bare, clinging like arthritic claws to a hammer and chisel.
Determination was scratching its talons against the walls of a deep gully in his soul. He sucked in a gulp of frigid air, and then began to slowly trudge toward his villainous obsession. Thin plumes of whiskey-scented breath trailed behind him.
Tormenting him day in and day out for his entire forty years, The Tomb loomed at the front corner of Lakeview Cemetery. The graveyard held the decayed remains of hundred year old gypsies, along with the rotting shells of a smattering of respectable former citizens.
The Tomb’s history had been obscured by time, and the elements had erased the name of its occupant off the marker above the door.
None of that mattered to Wally Butchowski. The chestnut-haired caretaker of the marble orchard desired only to uncover the nucleus of the mausoleum’s sordid power over him. He had a crazed belief that his actions would shatter the shackles that marred his existence—all he really wanted was to silence the pulsing vibrations that pierced him.
His lungs tightened drastically as he crossed the road and approached the thigh-high cast-iron fence that ran around the perimeter of the somber building. He unhooked the gate, his palm momentarily sticking to the iron handle, and then entered the courtyard that was a square moat of real estate.
A place for skeletons to lounge, his mind quipped acidly.
Ten yards separated him from the door of the vault. A panicky cramp rifled through his innards.
Snatching in air, he warily crept close to The Tomb, his eyes spreading wide and his intestines groaning a loud complaint. He wasted no time surveying his nemesis, for he knew exactly what had to be done.
There was a bolt—a steel-shaft six inches long—that ran from the spot on the door where one would expect to find a knob into the stone frame, effectively sealing the sepulcher.
A thousand times he’d planned each move, stewed over every detail, and now, he took the chisel and jammed its business end against the frame, placing it just above where the bolt was cemented into it.
He tossed a glance skyward, and then swung the hammer hard and the clink of the blow echoed in the darkness. A gurgle of nervous laughter scratched its way out of his throat as craziness tickled his brain.
Again and again the hammer struck the head of the chisel, his right arm working methodically, rising and falling like an oiled piston. Chunks of concrete and stone flew, scattering at his feet, and bits of dust puffed with each clacking whack.
For five full minutes he labored, never slowing the mechanical rhythm, never pausing to examine the progress until a deadly moan whispered past him. He cocked his head and swallowed audibly.
Fear toyed with him—it fondled and abused his vitals. Violent snapshots of gory horror splattered against the walls of his skull. He shook weakly, coughed up a dose of reckless bravery, and then dropped his tools into the snow and crouched down to study his handiwork.
Outrageous glee filled him—a triumphant smile slanted his lips because there was a gaping hole all around the bolt. Wheezing and hacking, he grabbed hold of the steel rod and leaned his considerable weight against it, jiggling it sideways until it was free of the stone, and then he slid it across the door. It came sluggishly, creaking and grating like diabolical spikes being yanked out of the boards of purgatory.
Since there was no knob to latch onto he did his best with the bolt, jerking and tugging at it, expecting the portal to give in to his strength, but it refused to budge. He cussed thickly and kicked at the door, digging his numb fingers along its side. He toiled compulsively, goaded on by his incredibly irrational need to know The Tomb’s secrets.
Over and over he dug his stubby fingers into the thin gap between the door and its frame, prying and pulling, breaking one fingernail after another, ripping out jagged gouges of flesh until his hands were bleeding as though they’d passed through a shredder.
Banging his damaged fists against the door, he swore vulgarly—again and again and again. The flood of obscenity flowed like sludge from a sewer in his soul.
Suddenly his stubborn work was rewarded. He felt the door give a little, he heard the hinges croak. Giggling insanely, he clapped his bloody hands, and launched another assault. He forced the fingers of both paws into the crack and prayed, but not to any heavenly being.
Gnashing his teeth, he wrestled with the solid barrier, summoning every ounce of vigor his rubbery muscles could supply. He yelped as the rusted hinges barked and crackled.
The door buckled open and sent him sprawling off balance. He teetered drunkenly, and then plunged face first into a snow drift.
Hurriedly scrambling to his feet, he rushed back to The Tomb, gazing into the voracious looking orifice. Vinegary sulphur scalded his nostrils—keen spasms tore through his belly.
Puddles of sweat soaked his underclothes.
“I did it. . .I did it!” he panted, his flushed face blazing. Tears on his cheeks were immediately freezing into salty ice droplets. “Looky here, I did it!”
The sense of victory didn’t last long—thirty seconds, a minute maybe. Then it disappeared and he quaked with a fearful wave of raw panic—the paralyzed blast of frightening emotions peaked off the Richter scale of terror.
The putrid stench of all that is unholy became overwhelmingly intense. From the dingy floor of the mausoleum a noxious light shone—a baleful red glow that was heated.
Then out of the concrete, as easily as though it was emerging from a swampy bog, a frightful entity materialized. It sparkled abstractly, and then took a gruesome shape.
The tubby man wailed stridently, but the alarmed cry stuck in his lungs as though his throat was packed with peanut butter. Hunched against the roof of The Tomb, the immense creature towered over him.
It was a ghastly, lip-smacking brute from the smoldering abyss of the earth—the foul progeny of Satan. Sickly blue tongues of fire shimmered like a hood around a triangular head that was scabrous and scaly. Fibrous runners of burnt cells hung across its brow like strings of wormy putty.
Its depraved eyes skewered Wally Butchowski. “Get out!” the beast roared, its snorting voice a clattering of bones in its throat.
Wally Butchowski whimpered helplessly. His body sagged, his complexion paled, his skin crinkled—his adrenals exploded in rapid machinegun bursts. Pain whipped through his torso—his bowels discharged their contents and his bladder burst like a pin-pricked balloon.
His feet spun, his arms windmilled, and his lungs were straining as he released shriek after silent shriek. He whirled and ran, his chunky legs operating about as efficiently as broken rubber bands.
Sensing the horrid fiend barreling down on him, he heaved and leapt the three foot fence, somewhat surprised his bulk cleared the cast-iron spindles with plenty of room to spare.
Galloping crookedly toward his yard, he cast bulging eyes over a shoulder and saw the beast drifting near him. It hovered close, its saber teeth glistening with blood-speckled saliva, and he could feel its rank breath comb his face.
It let out a rattling growl of laughter that raked past him and sent him spiraling to the highest zone of madness. The lunatic orchestra of the wind was everywhere, buzzing and screeching, pummeling him pitilessly.
As the hideous monster reached out to grip his shoulders he catapulted into a dead faint. A blinding kaleidoscope blanketed his eyes and he felt himself falling weightlessly, spinning spread-eagled and then there was nothing but a black void.
Wally Butchowski had no idea how long he stayed embedded in the stupor of unconsciousness or how it had happened, but when he came to he was on his bed in his ramshackle room.
Curdled blood jack-hammered to his brain—claws of dizziness molested his heart. Cold and shivering, it took several frenzied moments for him to orient himself to the familiar surroundings—he checked his relationship with reality.
It was a nightmare! his mind reasoned.
Yes, he nodded desperately, wanting to accept that quick explanation. He eased his breathing, taking long bites of oxygen.
His mouth puckered—the aroma of an outhouse seeped into his flared nostrils and he felt the sticky glue of excrement squishing against his backside. He looked down at himself, seeing that he was bundled up in his parka and flannel-lined work pants.
Gasping and slobbering, he hurled himself off the bed and stared at his ravaged hands, then rushed into the bathroom to gaze into the mirror. Shock and denial steamrollered down his backbone.
“No,” he whined, clutching at his face. He had changed, had aged at least thirty years. Wally felt lost and forsaken. His hair was wispy snow-white strands, and his skin was puckered into slabs of withered flesh. The eyes reflecting at him were dull and insipid—lifeless—as if they weren’t actually screwed into their sockets.
He worriedly dragged his bleeding palms over the heavy folds of his cheeks, and began to make queer, gurgling noises in his belly.
Hyperventilating, he crashed to a window and flung open the curtains, peering at The Tomb that was bathed in waxy beams of moonlight. Twitchy-eyed, he pressed his face against the frosty glass.
The door is open! his mind shouted wildly.
There could be no mistake—the door was open. Wally grunted a huge animal sound of grief and wept hopelessly. The freakish creature appeared in the doorway and shot a callous grin at him.
Butchowski lurched in his footsteps as the monstrosity floated across the expanse of barren landscape, coming toward him with bony arms outstretched.
His soul released a thunderous scream—so hard that it indented the soles of his feet and coursed up his legs burning from the inside out.
The screeching was endless—it tore corpuscles away from the lining of his lungs and was so high-pitched that it was soundless, but his mouth remained wrenched open, his fists continued battering against his thighs and his body shuddered.
Inflated blood vessels began popping inside his head as air scorched his throat, until he finally passed out, but there was no blessed comfort for him—it was only a wink of time.
When the fog of nothingness vaporized, he was completely transformed, loitering in a flaming subway station. For you see, the custodian of the graveyard had been scared to death—he awaited a meeting with the serpentine guardian of the busy turnstiles of hell.
Wally Butchowski was now a heartbeat of the surging evil.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
- Fiction: Gumshoe Extraordinaire
Yo, listen up guys and dolls, because I've got a tale to fork over that you just won't want to swallow. Who am I? Good question, but I suppose it depends on to whom you lend your ears. There has been talk that I'm as crazy as a loon. . .
- Wanted Man: Cash and Dylan
It was nighttime in the last week of March 1970 when I first heard Wanted Man. Pain had become a constant companion. My legs were on fire. I was in traction, laying flat on my back at a slight angle. . .
More by this Author
Xenia, Ohio has a long and rich history. This piece is a thumbnail sketch that goes back to its earliest beginnings. It also looks at the disastrous tornadoes of April, 1974.
Morrison, Illinois is a great place to visit. It is also a wonderful place to live. This piece presents a postcard profile of the small town.
God has a mark for each of us to hit. This essay explores that from the context of Scripture. It offers much encouragement to be courageous and proceed forward in the process of discipleship.