What do flesh-eating cell phones, brain-enhancing tacos, and a real live
dead foot have in common?
They’re all tools in the destruction of our world, and a weapons-grade team
of heavily-armed Miskatonic University nerds may be humanity’s last hope.
that of the ancient evils writhing just beyond what we think is
reality. Time is running out for Professors Derrick LeStrand, Howard
Strauss and their team of researchers as they race to hunt down a
mysterious Frenchman who wields Necromantic Death Magic unlike
anything they’ve seen before.
sorcerer is gathering ancient icons of power to pierce the Veil and
bring down the only thing shielding mankind from the relentless
servitude to the Great Old Ones and who will die…and who will
supply Derrick with tacos?
fiction writer, but a Sweep, a special operative trained to protect
the collective sanity of the human race with misinformative blends of
fact and fiction … where the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual is
little more than a slightly skewed Audubon Field Guide, and the
monster movies you grew up with are more documentary than not.
It’s Nerdthulhu Lethal Weapon cranked to eleven.
They turned and moved down the hallway, stopping when they reached the last wooden door. It slumped in its water-bloated uneven frame in the dim hallway. The paint was peeling off in curled strips like a week-old sunburn, exposing the mildew-rotten wood underneath.
Howard rocked his weight onto his back foot and kicked his heavy combat boot against the lock plate in the old door.
With a shattering thud, the frame burst, and the door slammed open, breaking free of its hinges, and flying into the room beyond.
Howard leaped past the threshold, dropping to one knee, the light on his rifle swept the decrepit bedroom. He glanced at the readout on the QQTV scanner. The screen stayed black.
With one hand hovering over the big red button on the Pulsar, Derrick followed Howard into the room.
Moving the rifle and sensor around the room, Howard growled, “Shit. Nothing on scanner.”
Clouds of dust roiled through Howard’s flashlight beam. The broken door leaned against a four-poster bed, the headboard pushed up against the north wall. At one time, there had been a canopy over the bed, but now the wooden planks, which once suspended the canopy from the tall bedposts, lay in a jumbled heap on the bed’s sunken mattress. Some of the rotten fabric still hung from the posts.
The bed cover and canopy looked like they were made from the same red velvet material. Strips of fabric lay in torn and blackened tatters across the bed. What had been pillows were now hollow husks, their feather guts strewn about the mattress and floor in brown rotting lumps thick with a yellow jelly that glistened whenever the light slung beneath Howard’s rifle moved across them. Cracked floral wallpaper drooped in limp and blistered sheets, hanging from the wall plaster like half-peeled banana skin.
The air felt charged, as if a bolt of lightning from the storm outside could blast through the broken window frame at any second. Derrick paused, his stomach churning with fear. Listening, trying to isolate his senses, he said, “I’m still feeling like we’re right on the precipice of something. Something real bad is, like, right here with us, man. Real bad.”
Howard spun the thumbscrews on the sensor box and pulled it off his rifle. He rattled the QQTV and looked at it, front and back, before holding it up to his ear. “You sure this Quadro-shit works?”
“Quantum Quadro-Thermosonic Vector sensor. And, it should be working. Point it at me and check the reading.”
Howard held the box toward Derrick and nodded. “Yep you’re glowing like a goddamn lava lamp.”
Rubbing at his chin, Derrick said, “Well, what the heck? Something’s definitely here …”
Derrick stepped forward, holding out his hand to take the sensor. Howard tossed it toward him and Derrick tried to grab it but felt it bounce off the edge of his thumb.
As if in slow motion, Derrick watched the silver box tumble end over end, to land on one corner on the floor with a flat metallic tink.
“Whoops …” Howard exclaimed as the two halves of the box split the duct tape. A brilliant blue flash shot out from the sensor box, illuminating everything with bright light and black shadows. The room filled with an unworldly sound like Obi Wan Kenobi shutting down the Death Star’s tractor beam. The screen on the sensor flicked off, and the room dropped to dim light punctuated only with the beams of their flashlights.
The floorboards in the entire center of the room suddenly sank as if the kitchen downstairs, directly below them according to Derrick’s flawless directional sense, was sucking in a massive breath. Then the wood planks blasted upward like someone planted a grenade under the middle of the floor.
Derrick was blown back through the door and into the wall in the hallway. His breath whooshed out of his chest in a cloud of white condensation. The temperature dropped so rapidly it felt like someone slapped his cheeks and hands as he gasped to regain his wind.
Derrick watched giant clawed, skeletal hands dig deep gouges in the wooden floor as a massive skull rose from the jagged hole in the center of the room, lifting through a rain of falling ceiling plaster and clattering splinters. Its ragged, yellow teeth looked impossibly large as they gnashed at the wet chunks of dirt slipping through the gaps between its bones, shattered teeth, and remnants of tissue to splat in dark globs of earth that writhed with beige worms and pale maggots.
Derrick could hear the thing’s wheezing breath that, even without lungs behind the massive cracked and splintered rib cage, exhaled a charnel stench of rotting viscera mingled with the copper tang of old blood. The smell was putrescent, a thick miasma that coated Derrick’s tongue, crawling to the back of his throat. As the thing heaved itself bit by bit, through the tear in reality, he turned his head and vomited the remnants of his Burger Queen lunch.
Ah man, why is a skeleton breathing?
Derrick’s thoughts were slippery and faded almost as quick as they came. He tried to lever himself up against the wall but a pain worse than he’d ever felt exploded from his thigh and his body refused to get up. His vision split and swam, a slow spin that rotated left then snapped back. Double vision and vomiting … that’s not good.
Derrick tried to look down at his legs. There was blood, but he couldn’t focus. He shook his head and regretted it when a wicked pain lanced from the base of his skull to rip at his optic nerves.
Squinting his eyes, he tried to resolve the two giant skeletal figures into one. The creature was pushing its body up through the shattered floorboards. Grave dirt pattered a tattoo matching the wet slopping sounds of torn and pulped organs falling free from the bones, the earthen placenta of an obscenely large desecrated grave.
Derrick fought to remain coherent against the mental assault of what he was seeing. Too many organs, he thought watching thick ropes of intestine spill to the floor, loops catching and tearing on the splintered jagged edges of the hole. Then more, tumbling out with slick masses of wet earth … and more.
Where’s that dirt coming from … we’re on the second floor?
Why can I only see black beneath the floorboards? What if it grabs Howard and pulls him into that abyss?
Seeing the rip in reality was like staring at a sheet of black carbon nanotubes … flat-black, nothing. There was no howling sound, but an opening, a void, a gate … to somewhere else.
With a thick sucking sound, the colossus pulled its giant rotten emaciated feet from the hole in the floor. Chunks of gelatinous flesh sloughed from the bones, sounding like jello squeezed through fingers. The peeling flesh looked strange with skin of different colors mixed with the gray-green pallor of rot. Loose muscle stripped off like string cheese, but didn’t seem to match the bones and tendons. The thing squatted, covering the shrinking rip in reality that had birthed it, hunched in the squalid room that was much too small to contain it. Derrick gasped as the gate between its feet snapped shut.
All he could hear was his own rapid breath and blood shushing through his inner ear … then the sound of a grinding stone mill rumbled, and the massive skeletal head swiveled toward Derrick.
Broken antlers jutted from the sides of its head, and where eye sockets and nasal cavity should be, the cracked and yellowed bone was rough but featureless. A dim glow like swamp light poured from the thing’s jagged mouth, rotated about the room, casting sulfurous beams through the thick swirling dust.
What the heck is that? No, wait. Where’s Howard? Derrick thought. A vision of half of Howard’s skull, spilling brains and blood as it rocked on the ground where the open gate had been flashed through his mind, and he called Howard’s name, but he couldn’t hear his own voice over the ringing in his ears. One or both of his earplugs must have fallen free when he was blown through the door.
Derrick’s head lolled forward, as his sight began to fade.
Was Howard still teaching his afternoon class? Derrick tried to focus, the sound of clattering and grinding bones just audible over the keening whine; his ears ached. He tried to raise his head, to look toward the sound, but his head felt impossibly heavy.
No, not in class. We were on a road trip … and … oh man, we’re in some kind of a real fix, aren’t we?
How the heck did we get into this situation anyway … oh yeah, Derrick thought, as his brain dipped further into the enticing blackness, that’s right …. We drove here in that stupid VW Bus that Sarah always makes us take on these bug hunts. Never the helicopter, oh no, always the frakkin’ bus.
I hate …
that stupid bus …
Derrick could only see contrast variations, grays on blacks. But the darkness was coming. He could hear the chalky grind of bone against wood getting ever closer. The cloying scent of rotting flesh and marrow was so strong that Derrick was panting to avoid breathing deep. His empty stomach clenched again right before he passed out.
the science fiction, horror, fantasy and crime genres. Born in South
Dakota, he grew up in the Southern California beach town of
Huntington Beach. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated
with a degree in English from UC Berkeley, and has been living in the
wild lands north of San Francisco ever since. After nearly two
decades of creating artwork in the visual effects industry for
feature films, he returned to his first passion: writing speculative fiction.
Honey, and in the anthologies Urban Temples of Cthulhu, Dreams of the
Miskatonic and It’s All Trumped Up.
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