Tod Slaughter's

Tod Slaughter's

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Tomb on the Hill

Wrote this one forever ago. If it sucks, bear with me; I was young and stupid. - T.S.

            Through drifting breaks in the gray night clouds, moonlight played on the few remaining leaves of what trees the loggers had left standing, dancing among denuded branches, breaking and rippling across the torn ground like alkaline water.
            “So it’s right around here?” Luke asked. He finished his beer and flung the can into the darkness.
            “Yeah,” Matthew replied, “We found it when we were cutting a hill today. Johnny's dumb ass hit it with the backhoe, but he didn't knock it down or anything.”
            The silence of the night seemed to kill their voices. What Luke couldn’t believe was that he was six miles down a pulp wood trail at 1:30 in the morning. Either it would be worth it, or Matthew would get his ass kicked back to the truck.

            A lone moonbeam pierced the clouds and shone through a fresh crack in the marble wall, a scar from the incident with the backhoe. The crack channeled the pale shaft of light, shooting a soft white replica of the crack’s jagged edges into the center of a room cloaked in darkness. It landed on a rotted wooden coffin resting beneath a fine film of dust on a massive stone table. Particles of dust, long resigned to a black existence, danced between the dark and the light.

            They rounded a bend and Luke saw the low hill outlined against pale gray clouds. At the top of the hill, next to a gnarled and dead oak tree, loomed the glistening white structure. Its marble walls gleamed like raw bone in the moon light. From its low roof, a cross pointed to the heavens. The ragged remains of a wrought iron fence careened close around the building at various angles, each iron bar topped with a dimly perceptible crucifix. There were no windows.
            "You drug me out here to see this?" Luke said.

            The crumbling, rotted wood of the coffin fragmented the moonbeam into a hundred pin-points, spraying them throughout the coffin’s interior.  Clouds rolled past, causing the light to shift and dance, a hundred little stars drifting in the casket dark like luminous plankton riding the waves of a black night sea.

            “Come on man,” Matthew whispered. Last one to touch it buys more beer.”
            “Why are you whispering?” Luke asked and his voice was loud in the stillness. I think you’re scared. I think I’m going to beat you up this hill. And then I'm going to beat your ass back to the truck.” He took off, immediately followed by his friend.
            They raced up the hill, the rippling moonlight showing the way, and the skeletal fingers of the oak tree beckoned with the breeze.
            To Luke’s dismay, Matthew was the first to the old fence. Matthew slowed to negotiate the rail and Luke seized his chance, grabbing the ancient iron with one hand and vaulting over. A rusty cross raked his forearm, but he lunged forward, slapping the white marble an instant before Matthew. Red rivulets ran down from a handprint of blood.
            “Jesus. Luke, look at your arm.”
            “Yeah. And look who’s buying.”

            Dancing light played on the inside of the coffin, moving back and forth over that which lay within. Through the tattered vestiges of black cloth, soft beads of moonlight played across pale drawn skin. A faint coppery scent wafted in from somewhere and a pallid aquiline nose drew in a deep ragged breath.  Thin colorless lips pulled back from pointed teeth and long-nailed fingers unfurled themselves from clenched fists.

           Luke lit a cigarette and took a long drag. They were standing in front of a heavy marble door which was attached top and bottom, and on both sides, by a gigantic iron cross secured to the marble walls with stout iron pegs.
            “Guess they didn’t want anybody getting in there,” Luke said, running a bloody finger along the metal’s edge.
            “Or getting out,” Matthew said. “You got any idea what that means?” He pointed above the doorway to a large marble plaque. Even in the flitting moon light, they could read the carved letters.

monstrum hic requiescit;
hoc sepulcrum neque luna neque sanguis numquam intrent

            Luke looked at for a minute.
            “Yeah, it means you owe me a case of beer.”

            Memories floated in on the moonlight. An angry mob of villagers, brandishing torches and pitchforks. Shackles and chains of silver.
            Through the cobwebs of centuries, it all came slowly back. In the light of day they had found his lair, cuffed his wrists with horrid silver. Thinking to kill him, they seized a chain and drug him into the light of the sun, but the mindless fanatics were fueled only by myth and superstition. The silver weakened his arms, and the sun’s rays burned his flesh and sapped his strength, but he knew he could never be destroyed. Kneeling on the sun-soaked cobblestones, he turned his head down to hide sensitive eyes from the blinding rays, awaiting their next efforts.
            A fat man, perhaps the mayor, with buckles on his shoes and his hat, drove a pine stake through his heart right there in the town square.  He laughed while the fat man swung the hammer, spraying blood in his fat face with each blow.
            They threw him over the trough that the horses drank from and the blacksmith tried to cut off his head with a handsaw. With each push and pull, the ragged wound sealed up behind the hacking blade.
            And so they sealed him here. They knew that without the light of the moon to wake him or blood to nourish his appetite he could not rise, and in so weakened a state he would be unable to break his silver bonds.
            But now, now he could no longer feel the toxic burning of the silver.  Through the dormant centuries, it had been coated with a thick shield of tarnish protecting him from the metal. 
            The moonlight. He could feel it dancing on him, and he smelled blood. Blood. With a push of his arms, he snapped the corroded silver bonds and threw the rotted coffin lid to the floor.

            Matthew and Luke leaned against the cold stone, watching the spectral oak’s talons weave in the night breeze. Despite the bandana wrapped around his arm in a makeshift tourniquet, Luke’s wound dripped blood onto the white stairs.

            A dull thud echoed from inside the crypt.

            Matthew’s eyes, wide with horror, met Luke’s and as they turned to flee the little hill, the cross-laden door exploded outward in a hail of marble, throwing both men through the air.
            Luke landed in a crumpled heap, rolled onto his back, and scurried backward, kicking frantically with his legs like an injured mouse. Looking to his left he saw Matthew bent backward over the iron fence at an impossible angle, black blood dripping from the corner of his open mouth.
            A cloud of moon-lit dust settled in the shattered doorway.  The massive iron cross hung away, bent to one side and curled outward. In the recesses of his mind, Luke realized that Matthew was dead and that he should run, flee, but another voice told him that escape was pointless. He felt beneath his hand a cold piece of metal, a cross broken from a rail of the fence.
            A demon beyond nightmares stood in the dusty entrance. Hair fell past its shoulders in long gray waves.  It stretched out its arms, and Luke could see the long points of black fingernails contrasted against the pallid stone. Rotted remains of an ancient burial suit hung in ribbons from a rail thin frame. Pale lips curled back, revealing gleaming pointed teeth.
            The clouds parted and a shaft of light fell directly on the demon. To Luke’s horror, the thing raised its outstretched arms. The deathly skin, riddled with blue veins, seemed to drink in the light. Its eyes fell on Matthew, and instantly, the creature was at his body without seeming to move. It bent over him, sucking and gurgling.
            And then it looked up.
            Its eyes fixed on Luke as a long tongue wiped gore from its chin.
            “Stop!” Luke shouted and thrust out the concealed cross. It was close to him now, the horror from the crypt, very close, and he had never seen it move.
            It plucked the metal from his hand. The bony fist clenched, shattering the iron to fragments.
            “A cross,” spoke the terror in a thick accent, its mouth dripping. “That has been tried before.”
            Luke made a strange whimpering sound. His knees shook as the creature reached out, cradling the back of his neck with an icy white hand. He stared blindly at the apathetic moon as the little daggers pierced his neck.

No comments:

Post a Comment