Hinnom maissue 002, p.12
Hinnom Magazine Issue 002, page 12
I realized that the entity’s song had literally caused divides to disappear. Whereas I had seconds ago been exposed to the natural world of earth and sky, I sat again in our house with the ceiling above me and its aged walls. To the left, the stick man on the stair case was fading back into the shadow before my very eyes. His uncanny melody forced to harmonize with the sounds of nature waking to greet the sun. The birds began singing in the trees and the sound of the morning winds rustled through the pines, drowning out the last of the shadow creatures’ sounds. The dawn brought about renewed vigor and the certainty that I would not last another night.
That morning, I placed Ramona on the floor before the hearth so that she could get as much sleep as she could. I would have to wake her for the trek to town soon. I found some bread and cheese in the kitchen and put a kettle on for tea. Ramona slept until mid-morning. When she stirred I greeted her and showed her the plate of food waiting for her on the kitchen table. I wanted her to try to eat something. She stood up weakly from her sleeping position on the floor and shuffled over to the table. The quilt I found her in yesterday was still wrapped around her. “We’ve got to get to the train station in town. We can’t afford to wait at the hollow’s platform. I’m not sure how often the train stops,” I explained as I scrambled to and fro, gathering her belongings and throwing them into my suitcase. “You’ll only need a single change of clothes. We will have to get you new clothes in the city. These are threadbare!” I paused, holding the ratty dress I found up to Ramona. But she had not moved let alone touched her food. “Ramona, are you listening to me? You’ve got to eat.” I watched Ramona gaze out of the window. She wore a glazed expression and nodded her head in rhythm as if hearing a faint song that I could not. “I apologize for insisting. I know you may not be hungry but you’ll need your strength.” She turned her gaze towards me and smiled endearingly.
“Oh Jude! I’m so glad you’re here!” I smiled. She seemed unstable but in good spirits.
“So am I. After last night, I believe this visit has been long overdue. I never could have imagined that the situation had reached this magnitude. I want to know everything but it will have to wait for the train.” I motioned to her breakfast. “Please, finish your breakfast so that you can change out of your nightdress.” Her eyebrows furrowed in a look of confusion.
She shook her head in disbelief. “But Jude, you just got home. Where are we going?” I tried my best not to be impatient with Ramona. She was fragile after the routine violence subjected onto her by the nighttime terrors I had witnessed. Her mind was left tattered and frayed and her body undernourished. These terrors were the only explanation I could think of for her odd behavior and malnourishment. She behaved as if she had not heard a single word I had spoken.
“No, no. We can’t stay here. It’s too dangerous.” But I had already lost her attention. Her gaze had turned towards the kitchen window, once again captivated by some invisible presence. “Come now, we must prepare to leave.” I walked over to the table and assembled a piece of cheese and bread ready to feed her.
“No, Jude!” She swatted the food from my hand and onto the floor. “I’m not leaving! What I wanted was for you to be here with me . . . with us!” Ramona exclaimed. Her choice of words gave me a fright. There was nobody left in the house. What did she mean by us? Was it too late? Had she been permanently afflicted by these nightmarish fiends? “Oh no, please,” I begged. “You’re not making sense. It’s just you and I left now. Father and Mother are dead.” There was no time for eloquence. I had to be blunt. She needed to understand the urgency of the situation with which we were being faced.
“Our parents aren’t dead!” she snorted. She reached for both my hands and cradled them as if explaining to a child that which is so obviously clear. “They’re thriving. They have forgiven you and they want us all to be together.” She patted my hand. “Now let’s go put your things away upstairs in Mother and Father’s room. I’ve already claimed our old room for my own,” she teased.
“Ramona.” I grew frustrated by the preposterousness of the conversation I was having with my older sister. We were wasting precious time. I wanted to demonstrate the impossibility of what she was saying. In the true essence of a younger sibling, I challenged her. “If our parents are alive, take me to them. I want to see them for myself.”
Ramona reciprocated in the manner of an older sibling prepared for such a squabble; she confidently headed up the stairs and so I followed. The staircase was so rickety it forced me to pay close attention to each step. I observed that the stairs were covered by a thick layer of dust. On the second floor, there was even more dust and even small debris that had fallen from the decaying roof. However, all of the footprints belonged to the same person, Ramona. There were no other footprints to indicate that anyone else had been on the second floor but her. It was still and dark as all the windows had been boarded up. The entire second floor was veiled in darkness with very little light entering from the sun that shone outside. Had my father boarded up the windows and why?
Ramona, barefoot and still in her nightdress, led me into our parents’ room which reeked of mildew and the unpleasant stench of fermented vegetation. I brushed thick cobwebs out of my hair as I crossed the threshold. Tiny translucent spiders skittered across the back of my neck. Ramona presented the room to me excitedly. The bed was made but appeared to have sat untouched for years. The covers were vermin-eaten, dank, and dusty. “You can’t expect me to stay here. This room is uninhabitable.” She appeared to be surprised by my remark, offended even. This prompted me to act with caution and I asked again slowly, “Where are mother and father?”
Sensing condescension, Ramona angrily spat, “Ugh! Here!” She turned on her heels and marched across the hall to our old bedroom. I coughed as all the commotion disturbed the dust on the floor. The lack of ventilation made it stuffy and hard to breathe. Again, the room was covered in grime, unused for many years. Spider webs blanketed every inch of furniture and ferns grew in pockets in the corners of the ceilings. She could not possibly be sleeping up here. My sister was crouched on the floor reaching for something under the bed and she emerged holding a large bundle wrapped in black fabric. She placed the bundle carefully on the bed. “See?”
I gasped in horror as she pulled the last bits of fabric away revealing the bundle’s contents. There lay a pile of bones, the larger of which were arranged neatly to fit into the fabric. Smaller bones tumbled out onto the bed. The skull was missing. A putrid stench wafted up my nostrils, causing me to wretch in front of my smiling sister. I grabbed Ramona by her shoulders and shook her fiercely. “What have you done?” I screamed.
“Jude! Let go of me!” She was so feeble that my fierce grasp hurt her. She crumpled to the floor when I released her. “It’s mother! It’s mother!” she sobbed on the ground.
“This isn’t our mother! This is a corpse, Ramona! What is the matter with you?”
“No! Father’s here too! You must’ve seen them for yourself? Last night!” She shook her head at me in confusion. She was convinced that they were alive. “They were so pleased to have another person in the house. I just know they were up here visiting last night and I missed it because of this thing I’m trapped in!” Ramona pulled at the skin of her face resentfully.
I remembered hearing the footsteps and the floor boards above me creak amongst the whispers of the shadow beings. It was as if someone with physical weight were walking around. This realization must have shown on my face because Ramona nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes! You see? You remember! And I’ve kept their bones nicely. Here’s mother’s and let me get father for you . . .”
“No! Ramona!” I yelled, snatching her by the arm before she could crouch under the bed again. “We’re leaving!” I growled. She struggled against me like a child in the midst of a fit. I dragged her through the bedroom door and back towards the stair case. Out of the corner of my eye, wispy black smoke appeared in the air at the far end of the hall. It began moving in a swirl
“No! Listen to me, you idiot! You’re not listening to me!” she screeched. I scooped her up and threw her over my shoulder in one swift movement. A glance behind me, as I tore down the stairs away from the darkness of the second floor, revealed the two legs and torso of a shadow figure. They can only manifest in darkness. Someone was helping them to materialize. A pang of fear sent my heart racing as I realized the fiend was attempting to take shape. On my way out, I picked up my suitcase in my free hand and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind us. Ramona was screaming like a lunatic. She punched, clawed at my face, and tried to tear at my hair. “Listen to me!” she screamed. I threw her down in front of our crumbling picket fence.
“What, Ramona? What possible explanation could you have for what you’ve just shown me? What?” I roared.
Trembling from head to toe and sobbing, she began in a tiny voice, “Jude, p-please. Don’t leave, please. I took care of mother and father as best I could. I did everything they asked.” Genuine tears were streaming down her face. “When they grew too weak to get out of bed, I honored their wishes and stopped feeding them. At first, I refused to obey because I didn’t understand what it meant to feel trapped within your own body. Remember the ghosts in our bedroom? Mother and father were able to communicate with them, Jude. Actual contact with the other side. It’s unheard of! Haven’t you ever wondered why we have not been able to unravel the mystery of life after death? It’s because anyone who uncovers the mystery chooses death in the end!”
I grew weak and my knees gave out. I fell to the ground before my sister. I was going to be sick. Ramona, who was already on the ground, crawled towards me and continued her deranged rant. “I choose death. But they’ve requested another person to take my place when I have passed.” Ramona smiled and stroked my cheek with her dirt-covered hand. “Now you must do for me what I’ve done for our beloved parents so that I can join them in the darkness from which everything is born. Look at me, Jude. It’s only a matter of time before I die. I can feel the life draining from my body with every day that passes. Come with me, my dearest brother. With your wit, you could be the first to return and reveal to the nonbelievers the secrets of the chilling voices in the night, the things that inexplicably move, or being touched by something that isn’t there. You must want answers or justice for what we’ve gone through, Jude.” Disgusted, I rose from the ground. She grabbed my pant leg in a panic and began begging, “Please stay, Jude! You must prepare my body, keep my bones, and give my skull to . . .”
“No! I want both answers and justice but not enough to resort to sacrilege! What have these creatures done to you?” I hissed. I grabbed my sister’s face and squeezed it so I could look into her eyes. Her expression appeared hurt, confused, and desperate as a child attempting to convince an adult of something they want more than anything in the world. I began to yell at her, hoping to be heard through her insanity. “You are a murderer. You made our mother and father ill by starving them to death. You made them suffer a cruel and inhumane death. You gave them a damnable departure into the afterlife.”
“N-No. That’s not. Please, Jude.” She sputtered and threw herself at my feet, prostrating before me. Her display meant nothing to me. I continued.
“I will never forgive myself for deserting my family. I will never forgive you for murdering our mother and father.” Tears now streamed freely down my face. My heart ached with the knowledge of my parents’ grisly death at the hands of my maniacal sister. “And I’ll never forgive myself for what I’m about to do now.” The last bit was barely a whisper. Before I realized it, I was sprinting, suitcase tucked under my arm, back up Manigault Lane. My sister was still struggling after me. When I glanced back, Ramona had stumbled into the mud of the street, still calling my name.
I ran from the house until I had departed Manigault Lane. Before these events, I believed my trip home would prove a sort of spiritual pilgrimage. I wanted to wash myself clean of the wrongs I had committed in the embrace of my courageous caretaker and older sister. I had hoped to be presented to my elderly parents who would absolve me from the disappointment I had caused them. Most of all, I wanted to return to my home and dispel the supernatural legacy with a battery of amateur scientific theory. My intent was that my journey home would spur internal healing. With everything that had just transpired, I had never been so disappointed in my life. That I had ever dared to hold onto a glimmer of hope was humiliating.
I walked on for a few miles in the late afternoon sun up the main road to town. I would have preferred the solitude and bird song of the forest but could not risk waiting at the stone platform as dusk approached. I would rather die than live through another night in the godforsaken woods. I promised myself that this would be the last time I ever laid eyes on the hollow. I managed to bribe an old farmer passing with a horse and cart. At the sight of the money he reluctantly obliged although he eyed me with suspicion the whole way. He never attempted to engage me in conversation and I was grateful. Once we got into town, I thanked the stranger and considered seeking the help of the authorities. They always offered more ridicule than assistance whenever my parents had attempted to reach out to them. This of course was when the ghostly disturbances first occurred. Despite the entertainment they enjoyed at my parent’s expense, they never stayed at our house past the afternoon hours. I wondered if any of those men remained to see the ruined state of the hollow and determine whether its desertion by others was in any way related to the foredoomed fate of my family. Was this a psychosis or was my family being manipulated by some unexplainable evil influence? I sat in the town’s empty station contemplating all these things waiting for the last train to anywhere else. As twilight descended, once more I thought of Ramona. I thought about the nighttime world of specters that would be emerging to swallow her whole. They are out there among the trees, patiently waiting and coercing their next victim. Again, I have deserted Ramona. In doing so, I shall soon be just as guilty of murder as she.
Joanna Costello is a horror writer who favors dark poetry and short stories. In addition to Hinnom Magazine, her work has been featured by FunDead Publications out of Salem, Massachusetts. She is originally from Pāhoa, Hawaii.
NOTHING BUT DANS, ALL THE WAY DOWN
By Konstantine Paradias
"So that's it? You don't even care?" Lumberjack Dan asks from the living room, trans-dimensional goo still clinging on him. By the time I'm back from the kitchen, he's made himself cozy, picking ectoplasm off his plaid shirt.
"Watch out for Invisible Dan," I warn him. Lumberjack Dan hops onto his feet, searching for the slight sag on the couch, the depression that a pair of feet would make on the carpet. By the time I've come back, he's run around in circles, before plopping himself down.
"Watch it!" Invisible Dan shouts. I'm bringing in the nachos and salsa, when I catch the familiar rumble of Invisible Dan fumbling his way across the living room, searching for the edges of the dining table. The plates have come tumbling down and one of the paintings has been torn from the wall and trampled before Invisible Dan's rampage finally stops.
"Is he . . . is he going to be okay?" Lumberjack Dan says, head cocked to search for the sound of Invisible Dan stomping around.
"He's gonna be fine. He just can't see himself, so he's got trouble orienting. Science Dan promised to make him a pair of refracting light goggles to help with that, but he's been slacking," I say, before dipping a half-dozen nachos into the spicy mix.
"Then the rest have already got here before me?" Lumberjack Dan asks.
"Oh my, yes. There was Wizard Dan, Astronaut Dan, and Olympian Dan and Cyborg Dan, three Crimefighter Dans, an Elf Dan, a Giant Hunter Dan, a Wolfman Dan, and a Vampire Dan. And then there was Just There Dan, but he didn't do much."
"Was there a Batman Dan?" Lumberjack Dan says, halfway through stuffing his face with a handful of nach
"Well, duh," I say "tortured billionaire, gadgets, the works. Burst right through my garage, spouted some nonsense and ran for it. He was back, two weeks later. Turns out, his money isn't legal tender in this universe and police don't have any patience for masked avengers over here."
"But he did tell you, didn't he? Why he came all the way here?" Lumberjack Dan says, struggling with the cap on his beer bottle. I let him sweat for a while, before I finally help him twist it off.
"Something about a Grand Conjecture. Didn't pay too much attention, if I'm honest. Had my hands full trying to keep my landlord from kicking me out, what with my garage exploding and all that."
"It's called the Grand Conjunction, Dan. And we need you," Lumberjack Dan says somberly, before stuffing another handful of nachos into his face. "The Multiverse is in dire peril. The Anti-Dan is . . ."
"For Pete's sake, not you too! Why can't you weirdos get it, I'm nobody," I say, pushing myself out of my couch. Lumberjack Dan shoots up behind me, nachos and salsa firmly at hand.
"Then why do you think we all come here? Why do we all attempt this weird journey, across countless universes, trudging through . . . that thing," Lumberjack Dan says, pointing at the howling non-space above where my TV used to be, "only to find you?”
by C. P. Dunphey have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes