If you're in the South, I hope you're staying cool in this summer heat. Here's an opening to a science fiction horror short story I've been working on. Give it a read. I'd like to know what you think. Enjoy.
REFLECTIONS (working title)
1934, Washington State, October
He lit the fuse, blew out the match and surveyed the setup one last time.
This has to work.
As he backed out of the room, he heard it scream. He covered his ears with the palms of his hands. It didn’t lessen the volume one bit. Its cry rattled the wooden frame of the French Eclectic mansion.
It knows what I’m trying to do.
Dread streaked down his spine as he turned. Racing to get to the front door and out of the house, he counted down the seconds to detonation.
14, 13, 12, 11…I don’t know if I’ll make it.
His heart thudded in his chest faster than his feet pounded the hardwood floors.
The creature screamed again as it searched for a portal, a way out of whatever dimension it called home, to walk among the mansion’s halls again.
The man, the only survivor, made sure to destroy every mirror in the house. He even buried the larger sterling silver pieces in the backyard under four feet of earth, just to be sure.
8, 7…there’s the front door.
He leaped from the top of the stairs onto the railing, letting gravity propel him toward the main foyer and the front door.
He rode the banister to its end, where it curved upward, and flew over the planked floor, but he had too much speed. He slammed face first into the windowless oak door but managed to remain on his feet. As he shook his head to clear it, he reached for the door knob and turned.
The first blast vibrated on his ear drums as he pulled open the door. The second blast pushed him forward into the cold, moon-lit evening. The heat of the third blast slammed into his back. Before he could right himself, the final blast propelled him over the front steps. His arms and legs flailed in the air. A blood-curdling wail emanated from the creature’s funeral pyre.
He hit the snow-dusted ground hard; every bit of air punched from his lungs. A rock met the right side of his head making him see stars where none should be.
He didn’t know how long he lay unconscious. He moved an inch and the right side of his head slid off something hard and onto the ground, making a wet swick sound. The smell of fresh blood snaked up his nose. He drew a breath but stopped short when his rib cage on his right side protested.
Head wound, broken ribs. If that’s the worst I have, I thank God for His grace and protection.
Rolling to the left with care and then onto his back, he looked at the mansion’s skeletal frame ablaze against the now night sky. He lay there and listened. The sharp crackle of clapboard, music to his ears. The chill touch of a fall evening, silk against his cheek.
It’s dead. By the will of God that unholy demon is…
Then, it laughed.
The mansion aflame, burned to cinder. The walls full of so many holes they resembled rectangular-shaped Swiss cheese. Every mirror in the mansion shattered to pieces and yet, the creature laughed. The sound grew louder and more hysterical with each passing second.
By all that is holy is there no way to kill this monstrosity?
The man, mindful of his broken ribs, rose to his feet. A sharp-splintered plank of clapwood lay nearby. He squatted and grabbed it with his right hand. With determination, he marched toward the burning wreckage. The splinters piercing his palm and fingers inflamed his burning anger, which fueled his steps. He would see this demon dead. Or join it in hell.
When he reached the bottom step leading up to the covered porch once alive with orange-red Peruvian lilies, he froze. He imagined he saw the silhouette of a man standing inside the smoldering ruins.
But there is no one left. I am the last.
The mid-fall breeze caressed his back and then swirled up the stairs toward the mansion, clearing away smoky tendrils that hid the face of the unknown man standing beyond the doorway. When he saw the face, the blood drained from his own. He stared, at himself.
His face stared back at him but with red-green eyes shining with hideous glee. Even the clothes it wore matched his own.
The face smiled, then laughed.
It was the laugh which snapped the true man back to reality. His rage so intense, his hand bled from its unrelenting grip on the splintered wood.
“You, demon! You refuse to return from the hell which spat you out.”
The demon’s face, his face, smiled wider as it chuckled.
“I cannot return. I am exiled from my home land.” As it talked, it stepped forward across the threshold, stopping at the top step. “And this,” its now-human arms gestured wide to take in its surroundings, “this land is my hell.”
It looked down on the lone human, the last survivor, the one who dared oppose it. “No, human, I am not so easily killed. Were I as fragile as you, I would have died centuries ago.”
The man—the human—raised the wood plank high, pointing the sharp end toward the creature. “No, demon. True hell awaits your arrival.”
Its eyes burned. The smile waned. Its jaw clenched. The fingers flexed.
“Then I shall not arrive alone,” it said.
In one swift movement, the creature leaped toward the man. As it did, its human arms and hands morphed into the creature’s true form—hideous, reptilian-scaled, muscled arms ending in four clawed digits on each hand. The creature still bore the man’s face, but the tongue that sprang from its mouth was far from human.
This is it. Either God will have mercy on me and heaven awaits, or He will not, and this demon and I shall continue our battle in hell. But it shall know pain, and fear, as I do, before I die.
As the creature reached him, the man drew his last hope—a small, round pocket mirror engraved with his initials, a gift from his sister when he opened his law practice. He pulled the beloved trinket from its hiding place in his vest pocket with his left hand.
The monster hit him hard. They slid across the slick grass. The creature drew back its right claw to strike the killing blow.
The man shoved the mirror into the demon’s face. Its arm froze mid-swipe. Its eyes grew wide. A shriek of fear escaped its mouth.
The death strike meant for the man’s throat raked the gold-plated mirror out of the man’s hand tearing away his pinky and ring finger with it. The man screamed but maintained awareness for what he had to do. He seized his last opportunity to inflict pain on this thing that had inflicted so much pain on him. He took firm hold of the splintered plank and stabbed it into the left side of the creature’s head, which still sported a reflection of his own black curls.
The creature wailed in agony but did not rise off the man. Thick, blue-green slime oozed from the wound, the stench of it stronger and fouler than the stink of rotting flesh. The creature reached up, yanked the wood from its head and stared down at the man.
In an instant, the man no longer saw his own face looking back at him. What he saw would have made the devil himself scream with horror. The man shrieked.
In one swift swipe, the creature severed the man’s head at the collar bone. With animal ferocity, the creature devoured its last meal.
When finished, it turned to look at the burned-out husk of a house, which had sat on top of his prison, and adopted a most human gesture—it put its creature arms on its human-shaped hips and sighed.
Marching toward the front steps, it raised a clawed tip to scratch at the flesh regenerating on its head and mulled over in its mind yet another new design for its prison.