Scream and scream again
|The Stuff Screams Are Made Of
People have secrets. Some are even willing to kill to keep them that way. My sweet Beth's secret was so horrible that it could destroy anyone who discovered it. I believe now, that the only reason Beth didn't die when she first found it, was because the secret needed her for a time, and a young naive girl was what it most desired.
I remember the first time I followed my little sister up into the graveyard, it was late in the evening, Halloween, and the sun, as orange as a dragon's egg cracked on the western peaks. The distant mountains wore King's gold for a while, then drew royal-blue night clothes up their slopes as darkness overtook them. Beth followed a twisted path between the dead fields of headstones, her dark cloak flapping behind her like an owl that has settled upon its prey. She moved quickly but every so often would stop, turn, and then stare around checking to see if she was being followed.
In between a cluster of black trees with craggy limbs clawing at the gloom, a decrepit mausoleum scarred the landscape. Beth hurried somewhere behind it, and then disappeared. It was then I arose from my hiding place and continued to follow. I scuddled along behind her like a dead leaf in the wake of her determination.
At the mausoleum entrance I waited, listening. Time seemed to spire from forever to forever, and then I caught the sounds of chanting from somewhere below. Following the curve of the wall, I entered the crumbling mausoleum, and then dropped down into the bowels of an ancient crypt.
The steps were slippery and I had no torch to light my way, all around me the darkness circled upon broad-wings. The crypt was full of a rank stench, an acrid odor with a sickly sweet under-smell of burning sulfur over the reek of rotting flesh. I gagged upon it.
Near the bottom of the stairway, a single torch lit the room. There was my Beth, on her knees before a amber pool filled with a chaotic mishmash of human bones and remains. As I watched, her chanting became more intensified. Her body waved to-and-fro with the rhythm of her mantra, and then something in the putrid, yellow pool began to rise up. Wonder lit my face. At first I thought the sight would stop my heart, but such an easy end was not my fate.
The creature, because I can think of no other word for it, was made of oozing putrescence, rot, and decayed bones of all kinds. It immediately spun its form toward me and I could see its eyes. They were like pools of threat and hatred, but they seemed at the same time to be desolate wells in the lonely depths of which something had drowned.
"I see you there. Scream for me," it said. "I want to hear you scream!"
The deadliness of the voice shocked me. I shuddered violently, as though an icy and invisible presence had for a moment occupied the same space in which I stood before moving through me on its way into some nameless void. I could feel every throb of my pulse distinctly in my temples, as if it were my mind that hammered out my life, not my heart. I was powerless to refuse. The being possessed me.
I heard screaming, and it took awhile to realize it was me. I screamed until the sound that escaped me was like the lament of some dying animal seized in the talons of a predator. I seemed not to collapse so much as shiver to the floor, as if unraveling from my bones, there to shudder uncontrollably and gasp for breath that my lungs would not expand to receive.
I saw the thing in its pool of vomit grow larger, and larger still. Then it moved forward and a fresh chill gripped me, but instead of shivering as I had the previous one, it coiled in my bones to stay awhile.
"Stop!" I heard Beth scream. "Leave him alone!"
The creature paused, and then turned toward her, dripping its pus and old bones. "You've created me," it hissed, "but you are not my Master."
"I have brought you forth with this book," she said holding up the manuscript. "You must obey me, or I will unmake you." Her voice feathered away into silence. Then she focused on me. "Why are you here, Johnathan? Why did you follow me?"
"Nay, you puny sack of flesh!" The deadliness of the voice sounded like murder. He lashed out with an ichorous arm of ancient bones, slapped her, and then clamped her throat. Beth was now drenched in sickly goo as she was brutally lifted from the ground.
"Beth!" I screamed. I stood and ran forward. "Leave her be, you filth!" I launched my body into the glutinous form, ripping at its insides and throwing bones and muck in every direction. The smell was foul and rancid, more than I could stand.
The creature dropped Beth and shrieked, "No!" It slithered back into the pool and tried to reassemble itself. I followed it.
I heard Beth scream, and then wheeled in her direction, stopping my assault. She was holding her throat where the creature had gripped her. Her skin was burning as though on fire, I could see the scorching. "My God, Johnathan, it burns. It burns!"
I knelt beside her, helpless, unable to do anything to ease the pain. Beth screamed, clawing at her throat. I could see the skin was all but gone, and yet it still burned like an acid eating into her exposed larynx. She screamed until she could scream no more, and then fell over dead in my arms.
"Beth! Beth!" I wailed gripping her hard to my chest, as if holding her more tightly could bring her back. "Beth, don't die. Come back to me, darling. Please come back." I rocked her upper body in my arms, lost to the world.
Behind me, the demon was chuckling. "How very touching," it scoffed. "Such pitiful humans."
I whipped around, filled with rage, and faced the evil that had destroyed my true love. "I'm going to kill you."
"No, I don't think so," he chortled. "I can easily possess you, just as I did the woman."
The foul-thing had fully restored itself and now towered over me.
"It was I who led her here," he said. "It was I who showed her where the ancient manuscript lay hidden. Although she believed she had a free will, your Beth was controlled by me from the very start." He began to move toward me. "Just as I can control you. Now scream! Let me feed upon your fear. Scream!"
I couldn't help myself. I screamed, louder than I have ever screamed before. The demon grew in size, still laughing.
As he reached for me I grabbed the manuscript beneath Beth's body. He grabbed the back of my coat and lifted me up to face him.
"And now you will die. human."
Even as he seized my neck I had already placed the manuscript around it. The acid ate through it immediately, and the ancient paper disintegrated.
"No!" he screamed. "No! No!"
He dropped me to the slime covered floor, and then collapsed back into the pool. It bubbled for awhile then went still as whiffs of smoke floated toward the ceiling.
I started to laugh at my triumph, but it was short lived. My neck was burning. The pain was unbearable. I screamed until I could scream no more.