| Shaun Hutson, the author of 'The Slugs@, wrote the first part of this story (1200 words) and the challenge was to finish it.
The story opened with Frank Tate, a professional killer, carefully cutting the thumb of a man he's just strangled to death with a piece of electrical wire. There is an eye tattood on the thumb and Tate needs it as proof of his kill.
He almost misses his train but manages to board the last carriage. There is a woman working on her laptop, a man reading a magazine and a young girl writing in a notebook. A woman brings around coffee and after drinking his, Tate dozes off.
When he awakes he notices that the train seems to be travelling in some kind of tunnel and whem he looks around his fellow travellers are gone. But the laptop is on the womans table, the man's magazine and his mobille phone, that is ringing, are on his.
Tate decides to find them and sees a message in Latin on the laptop's monitor. 'Teribilus est loscu iste'. Tate wished he knew what it meant when he finds the same message scrawled across the pages of the man's magazine.
He finds an engaged sign on a toilet door but the door swings open. It's empty but what Tate saw made his blood run cold. (Over to me to conclude the story.}
The tunnel - end of Story
In the yellow glow of the overhead light the huge eye that had been drawn on the wall glared at him. Drawn in fresh blood it was a larger version of the one tattooed on the severed thumb in his pocket. He had just made the association when from the periphery of his vision he glimpsed something leaping at him from a coat hook on the door. A thin black snake hit his shoulder and embedded its fangs firmly into Tate’s cheek. He cried out in shock and pain and with a curse he grabbed the snake and hurled it against the far wall, but the thing that hit the wall before dropping to the floor was no snake. It was the same short length of black electrical flex that he had used to strangle his target.
Tate realised that the train was now stationary and that’s when the thumb in his pocket moved. At almost the same instant the rubber-covered wire became snake-like again and reared up to expose two copper wire fangs. It struck at his leg, but Tate leapt to one side and ran out of the toilet. He slammed the door shut behind him and leant heavily against it and fighting to quell his terror.
Perhaps there was something in this voodoo or whatever it was after all. His employers had said his target was an Obeah Man? Yes that was it. The man he’d killed had been some kind of Afro-Caribbean witch doctor. The Yardies had been terrified of the guy, otherwise they’d have killed him themselves rather than pay Tate ten grand to do the job for them.
He studied the carriages on either side of him, but as far as he could see they remained unoccupied. He returned to his carriage and picked up the abandoned mobile phone, which was still ringing.
“Terribilis est locus iste,” someone replied, and cut the connection.
The same message had been written on the computer screen and scrawled across magazine. “Whatever it means – it’s obviously some kind of threat,” he said, voicing his thoughts.
“It mean, ‘Run while you can’, Mr Tate.”
The voice came from behind him. Tate turned and saw a woman standing at the far end of the carriage. In her mid-twenties she had the same ebony coloured skin and pale blue eyes as the man that he’d killed.
“My Papa, am cum fi get im thumb,” she crooned, with an Afro-Caribbean lilt. “You betta give mi it.” She held out a hand towards him, but with the toilet door between him and that crazy piece of wire, Tate had regained his nerve. Without the thumb he wouldn’t get paid, and he wasn’t about to hand over ten-grand.
He remembered her now. She had poured his coffee from out of one of her jugs. “My drink was drugged wasn’t it? That’s how you got me off the other train and put me onto this one. You duplicated the laptop and all the other stuff that I would have remembered seeing and put them on this train. Why bother? Why not just kill me and take the thumb?”
“’Cos’ you must give it up you-self.” She pointed to the toilet door. “That's why im use his magic and make your wire change into snake. Im be a warning you, Mr. Tate. Give back ‘eye’ thumb now, and den maybe im let you live.”
“He’s dead, you stupid bitch!”
She shook her head. “Im dead, but im back now. Just need im eye thumb, is all.”
“Tell him to come and get it.” Tate wrenched the carriage door open and jumped down onto the track.
On his left the tunnel stretched as far as he could see. On his right the train disappeared into the gloom of the tunnel. Tate decided to go left and not risk being attacked by someone in one of the train’s carriages.
Fortunately every few yards there were heavy-duty lights fixed to the tunnel walls, otherwise he would had to grope his way along in the dark. Tate started walking away from the train. He glanced back over his shoulder. Inside his pocket the thumb moved again.
Behind him Tate saw a sight that was so macabre that he found himself incapable of looking away.
Illuminated by the light of the carriages the man that he’d killed was standing in the middle of the tracks. He and his daughter were naked and she began beating her hands on a small drum. It sounded like a heart beat. But it was the man’s blank fish-dead eyes and the tongue protruding grotesquely from his mouth that held Tate transfixed.
The corpse held its right hand aloft and it was missing its thumb. In Tate’s pocket the thumb writhed. Terrified, he grabbed the polythene bag and tore it open. The tattooed eye on the thumb was gleaming blue and staring up at him. Tate screamed and hurled it towards its owner. The thumb hit a rail, fell to the ground and then began worming itself towards the waiting corpse. Eventually it crawled over the hand that the man had extended towards it and he pressed the thumb into place.
Tate was still unable to move.
Then the man’s tongue retracted and his dead eyes flared blue. “Terribilis est locus iste!” The man’s deep baritone voice boomed from the tunnel while the drumbeat grew louder. “Let di darkness of D’Lawrence eat yu soul!” His mouth opened Wide. From it gushed a torrent of blackness, which rapidly filled the area in front of him from the ground to the roof. Tate could no longer see the man, his daughter or the train. It was only when the wall lights were blotted out one by one that he realised the darkness was now flowing towards him.
A rat shot out from under the tracks but it was enveloped by the writhing blackness. The substance drew back a moment, to reveal the rodent’s gleaming white skeleton. Then it surged forward again.
Tate turned and ran for his life.
The darkness was within a couple of yards of him when Tate saw ahead of him a deserted station. Ignoring the nagging pain in his side, Tate sprinted towards the platform and hauled himself up. He ran for the exit but was too late. The darkness had divided and cut him off.
Behind and in front of him now it closed in for the kill.
Trapped, Tate turned to face the larger mass behind him. In an act of bravado he lit a cigarette. As his lighter flared the darkness hesitated.
“You’re afraid of fire,” he muttered.
Snatching a discarded newspaper from a rubbish bin he twisted it and lit the brand. It blazed and the darkness drew back. On a bench lay another newspaper, which he also twisted and lit. Using his twin fires Tate herded the swirling blackness along the platform and into the lobby. Now the exit was just a few strides away.
He turned to face the tunnel. “I’ve beaten you,” he cried, raising his paper torches in triumph.
That’s when the sprinklers came on. Tate didn’t even have time to scream.