Original series Suitable for all readersFantasy/light horror

 

 

 

 

The Accursed

 

A Story for Halloween

By Caroline Smith

 

 

 

On All Hallows Eve, they would come for him.

 

*******

 

He had no idea what drew him there, only that the static in his skull had ceased, and he was once more the corpse drained of blood, an automaton that walked the night, restless, roaming the city.

            Hands deep in the pockets of his black jacket, he wandered the streets of the city, to nowhere in particular. Feral children in costumes ran in whooping packs, knocking on the doors of the terraced houses, demanding treats or tricks in their broad Lancashire accents. Some waved enormous jack o’ lanterns, glowing with the flickering lights within.

            Witches and ghouls and vampires they may have pretended to be, but one riveting glance from his brooding eyes made them instantly wary, skulking around him to get past, as if he was an apparition sent from Satan himself. .

 

 

           

           

His wanderings took him to the edge of the city, where a high walled enclosure invited exploration, and perhaps a place to rest, until his new orders came through. 

            Fingers curled around the edge of one of the rusting wrought-iron gates, to push it open – it gave with a grinding creak, and the movement was accompanied by a long plaintiff sound, like the cawing of a crow taking flight. Dry fallen leaves rustled, stirred by a sudden chill breeze. The cemetery had long been filled to the brim with the bodies of the dead, and reeked with the odour of decay. 

            He passed through the gates, felt the air damp around him, as was the ground, moss-clad earth, spongy beneath his feet. Gaunt trees splayed skeleton limbs into the dark sky; the moon, glimpsed through branches, was a bright disc, waxed full, yet now and again phasing between drifting grey clouds, like cigarette smoke.

 

The gravestones stood in rows, aligned each side of the weed-strewn path, and he spied towards the centre of the abandoned cemetery, a monumental angel on a cracked plinth, her flowing robes and wings frozen in porphyry. Mist swirled around and the leaves fluttered and scattered, as if trying to escape their prison.

            Hooded and deadened eyes scanned the surfaces of each marker to the departed, and stopped at last, in front of one lichen-encrusted slab, at the names inscribed into the flat surface, their edges inked with shadow.

 

He stared for what seemed like a long time, a tiny fragment of his brain settling on the idea that it was of significance – to him. It was very hard to remember what his life had been like – before. But, occasionally, the constant signal – that tether between his mind and that of the entity that held him in cruel thrall - was interrupted; how or why, he never knew, but, within that shard of time, a glimpse of memory would surface, pure and savage in its bright intensity, bringing distress and pain in its wake.  Almost immediately the signal would resume, shutting down brain activity to its minimally functioning steady-state, almost red-lining, not enough to kill him but maintaining his body in a regenerative order.

Although only subliminally aware, he might be absurdly thankful for this paranormal alien morphine, that left him blissfully insensible. A drug-addict who needed the fix to cancel out all the things he’d done, or otherwise tumble into blind insanity.

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t sure at what point he heard the sounds.

Perhaps it was simply the mournful sighing of the wind in the trees.

The notion came to him that perhaps he should leave, but there was little else to do on a night like this, and here, he was safe from recognition by the authorities.

After a while, he heard something else – other sounds, as if within the wind itself.

Like a whisper of moths – fluttering – murmuring.

He strained, trying to make sense of it, not afraid, yet afraid. No fear of death, or life, could still the sudden drumbeat of his heart.

The whispers grew louder in tone and pitch – with a dissonance of tuning musical instruments in an orchestra pit. He knew they were trying to convey something – something important- if only he could decipher it.

They finally coalesced – into meaning – into –

Voices…

Like Babel they chimed and chattered –

He heard his name being called – and repeated, over and over, a mantra that rattled against his skull, worming its way into his brain, all the way into his chest, his heart.

His soul.

 

GO AWAY!”

 

The cry wrenched forth from dry, bloodless lips – a low rumbling bass – a warning; that he wasn’t someone to be trifled with. It echoed into the inky blackness, and for a few long seconds the voices stilled, and he could hear nothing but the keening of the wind in the trees above and the susurration of the leaves against the grave-stones. He shook his dark head, as if to clear the remnants of the noise and took a deep breath, abruptly filled with an inexplicable sadness.

He sank to his knees with the burden of it, onto the mossy-covered bank, right beside the plinth and its angel. Her stony oval face looked down at him, implacable, terrifying.

They started up again – the voices echoing around him, like bats in a church-tower. He put his hands over his ears, trying to drown them out –

– and at that moment,  became aware of them.

The shadows.

Lurking at the edges of his vision.

Indistinct at first, as if seen through gauze.  One by one they coalesced into half-shapes. Male and female, dressed in the clothes they’d died in. They loomed at him, wraiths of terrible torment, unsubstantial as the mist that drifted around them.

 

Too soon…soon…soon…

 

You killed my baby….baby…baby…

 

Had so much more to give…give…give…

 

Why didn’t you give me more time…time…time…

 

Wasn’t ready to die…die…die…

 

Murderer…murderer…murderer….

 

“No...” he gasped, chest tightening, lungs burning. Something in this place inexplicably affected the tether; he began to panic, sensing the haze clouding and enclosing his awareness lifting, dissipating, so that all those repressed memories might be free to surface.

Waves of inconsolable loss hammered at him, driving him into the ground.

 

Justice…justice…justice…

 

One by one they spoke, and he had to listen, even as the tears began to leak from his eyes.

 

I’m Eddie Wilson.   I had a wife and a family; it was our tenth wedding anniversary this year, a month before you killed me in Frost Line. You know, I can still hear her crying to herself in the bedroom when she thinks the kids aren’t listening

 

I’m Judith Chapman.  I was six weeks pregnant with our first child, when you murdered me. My fiancé’s drinking himself into an early grave so he can join us

 

I’m Jim Mason, and I can still feel the weight of the metal pressing down on me.  First my ribs shattered, the shards punctured my lungs; I was drowning in my own blood, couldn’t even scream as I was crushed to death.

 

Do you know what its like to drown?  I’m Harris Soames, and I died like a chained up dog lashed to the submarine. Drowning is like being filled up with burning lava, and the panic, knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop that lava cooling, and solidifying, like a plug in a volcano…bam…there it goes…I’m dead.

 

“Stop, you – must stop,” he pleaded, in that deep-toned, sepulchre voice.

 

They didn’t listen.

 

I’d always meant to thank you for sparing me goddam pink, at least indigo was a half-decent colour, but you never were the approachable sort.  Shame the rest of my life didn’t turn out so good. I had a lot of promise, and I could have made a damn decent field agent if you’d given me a chance. I’m so fucking angry at you, at the mess you made of things, of the right royal screw-up of the world because you couldn’t keep your finger off the godamned trigger.

 

You remember me, don’t you? I lay bleeding out, underneath the wheels of the SSC, unable to move, my spine shattered from the crash, the fire licking at my uniform. Do you know what it’s like to be burned alive? To feel your skin crisp and peel away from scorched flesh? The worst thing is the smell, like roast pork – I’ll always remember that smell, even in purgatory…

 

More and more wraiths appeared, crowding him, pressing their frigid auras against his body, enveloping him, their voices joining in a swell – an enormous sighing and sobbing.

 

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!” 

 

The sob was jerked from him, and he wanted nothing more than the morphine back, for that deadened existence once more, so he cannot feel this overwhelming agonising guilt of lives stolen.

All of it his fault.

 

Justice…Justice…Justice…..Justice…..Justice!

 

They vanished.

Like a door slamming shut, all noise ceased, to leave not even the rustle of leaves or the creaking of the trees.

 

He wiped the tears from his pale face, barely registered his soaked knees from the sodden earth – all he wanted was for that fog in his brain to return, to render him insensible – the only way he could go on.

A faint light flickered at the edges of his downcast eyes, and some further dread clutched his heart.

Two figures, man and woman, appeared in indistinct presence behind the first gravestone he’d first hesitated by. Two more to torment him, but their youthful faces accompanied no jagged spike of recollection. He hadn’t had a hand in their murder.

 

But the man’s mouth moved, the words echoing in his mind. Traitor…traitor…traitor…

 

The woman’s mouth moved: Cursed…. Cursed…cursed….

 

Then both together:  For eternity…eternity….eternity…..

 

He stared again at the tombstone, at the names inscribed, and though no memory rose up to inflict its usual pain, he knew who these phantoms were.

He was truly accursed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

This very short story was inspired by Chris Bishop’s marvellous picture for this year’s Halloween challenge – ‘Tormented Soul’.

 

I want to thank Marion Woods for reviewing (any mistakes in text are entirely mine) and to Chris for continuing to let us wax lyrical on our favourite subject!

 

The usual disclaimers apply: I do not own the character of Captain Black and write for my own pleasure, not profit.

 

Happy Halloween 2017

 

 

 

Other stories from Caroline Smith

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