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Suspense Horror Holiday

Everything was ready for the Ritual of Slumber. A stone pillar sprouted from the center of a dome circle of a room. Flickering candle light hummed a warm glow of light, but warmth was scarce. On the pillar, canal grooves spiraled into a single path which fed into a black hole. Stood around this single feature were a dozen human silhouettes with silver masks and white robes. One man wearing a golden mask stepped into the crowd. 

“Come, Lily.” his bellowing voice echoed.

Barefoot, she stepped forward, and removed her mask. Light flickered in her blue youthful eyes before she laid herself on the stone pillar, her arms at her side. The man approached, and ran his hand over her brown hair.

“Thank you.” He whispered into her ear. Another cultist brought him a black case. On red felt laid a gnarled twisted dagger with an ivory hilt. He took it and held it over her face. His mumbling brushed across her face as echoes of chanting drifted in the air. She closed her eyes.

Chanting became moaning, as the dagger reached its zenith, ready to plunge into eager soft flesh. Silence engulfed the moment before the dagger fell. A small cylinder clanked down a slender stairway at the chambers north end. Executioner and audience were distracted for a brief moment, before it exploded. 

  Lily’s eyes seared with pain from the flash. It flooded the dim chamber with bright white light, drowning out any shadow for an instant. It followed a bang which left her deaf, save for a high pitch ringing. Unsure, she rolled off the pillar, and crashed into the stone beneath. Dust clung to tears on her face. When she forced an eyelid apart, it stung unbearably. Shouting voices echoed around her, with each passing second they became clearer.

“Oun.. ow!”

“Reeze!”

“Hands up!”

Once her senses were back to her well enough, she understood. They had been betrayed to the regulars. Officers in riot gear swarmed inside. Pinning each cultist to the floor or wall. In a matter of minutes the room became a solemn line of handcuffed men and women being escorted up a stairwell and out of sight. Lily’s head pressed against her palms, she sat with her back to a wall, watching their ritual fall apart. A large hand fell on her right shoulder, and a man knelt beside her.

“You are safe now kid.” A calm deep voice said. To her dismay, it soothed her. 

“Officer Cliff.” a young officer called out to him. 

“What is it?” he said.

“Each floor has been swept. No more of these cultists. Evidence teams are going to start collection.” 

“Go ahead Brandy. Have someone bring me a pair of shoes for this poor girl.” He wrapped her in an itchy blanket. 

“You people have no idea what you’ve done.” Lily muttered under her breath. 

“No need to talk, kid. We will do all the talking after you are warm and safe.” 

Laying in the dust to Lily’s immediate left, perhaps a step or two away was the dagger which hung over her face mere moments ago. Her eyes widened, and she lept for it. Cliff reacted to her sudden movement, watching her grab the dagger. She plunged it toward her inner arm, but froze before she could slice her flesh open. Despite her effort, Cliff’s grip on her was far too strong for her to struggle against. Her voice cracked as she shrieked. 

“You don’t know what you are doing!” She screamed, kicking her legs. 

Cliff twisted her wrist and the dagger plummeted, bouncing on the cold dusty floor. He held her tight , as her legs sliced through air, screaming until her voice went coarse and rough. Before she could regain her composure, Lily was laid in the back of a police cruiser. Raindrops plopped against the rear windows, and she wept. 

“Jesus, that cult really did a number on her?” Brandy said, thick raindrops collided with her waterproof police vest.

“I suppose, I want these evil people to fry. Also there is a dagger in the cellar, make sure evidence teams grab it. She tried to slash herself with it.”

“Is that why she was screaming?”

“She kept saying we don’t understand. Poor girl.” Cliff looked at his cruiser, and could see Lily crying solemnly. “Can you come back to the station with her and I? It might be better if you talk to her. Might be more comfortable talking to a woman.”

Brandy nodded.

A caravan of cruisers and prisoner transports lit the rainy night sky with blue and red sirens. Cliff looked over his shoulder frequently to check on the girl. She laid across the hard bench, shivering. 

“You need to sit up, kid.”

She ignored him. 

“I have the heat on full blast, it should be warming up.”

Again silence.

Hood River’s police station had never been this crowded before. The horrors of cults and organized crime had typically been reserved for big cities. Cliff stepped out of his cruiser, and opened an umbrella. He opened the back door, but Lily made no signs of life. He knelt, drops of rain found their way onto his neck, and slithered down his back.

“Let’s go inside, kid.” She glared at him, and laid limp. Forcing his hand, he reached inside and grabbed her. Carrying her into the station, he found a comfortable seat for her in a questioning room. He turned to a coffee maker, and proceeded to boil water for a packet of hot chocolate. Brandy entered the room, with a pair of slip-on shoes. 

“Hey there.” Brandy whispered in her best comfort tone. Kneeling to put the shoes on Lily’s feet. “Could you tell us your name?” 

“Lily.”

“What a very pretty name. I am very jealous, my parents named me after their favorite drink. What grade are you in?”

Lily did not respond, she watched the officer dry her cold wet feet, and slide ill fitting slippers on her feet. Her long hair stuck to her shoulders with rain. It made her shiver, but she did her best to ignore it. It did not matter anymore. Cliff returned to them, with a steaming Hood River Police Department mug. He pulled a chair out from a table and sat across from her.

“It’s hot, so blow on it. I have some marshmallows here too, if you want them.” he said, setting it in a chair beside her.

“It doesn’t matter.” Lily said loud enough for them to hear. Her voice fought back tears.

“What do you mean?” Brandy held Lily’s hand. “You can tell us.” 

“You wouldn't understand, or want to. It is always the same with Regulars.” Lily sniffled. 

The two officers exchanged worried glances. Cliff leaned in.

“Try us. Explain what you mean.” His elbows were on his knees.

“Fine.” She took a sip of cocoa, and cleared her throat as best she could. “Underneath the Earth’s crust is a super massive organism. It mostly feeds off the extreme heat from the Earth’s core. However it also craves blood. Small amounts are enough to satisfy it for a decade. My blood was next.”

Brandy’s eyebrow was so high on her face, it was attempting to invade her hair line. Cliff rubbed his eyes, and took in what the stone faced young girl had told him. 

“Because you Regulars stopped the ritual, it will probably awaken. It has been shifting more and more in recent years, maybe this was inevitable.” Lily played with Brandy’s wedding ring, spinning it around her finger.

“I am sure the cult told you all of this. I am not sure how to break this to you, but none of that is true.” Brandy said.

Lily stayed quiet.

“People are conned or forced into believing things all the time.’ I am sorry, but those people were simply trying to kill you to satisfy their own perverted desire.” Brandy ran her fingers over Lily’s wet hair. “I’m grabbing her a towel.” Brandy hoped to her feet.

“Why not use an animal’s blood? Or if it has to be human blood, use blood donations. Why did they have to kill you?” Cliff said.

“Because it picks. And it picked me.” Lily squeezed her hands together. 

“It? Does it have a name?

“I don’t know.” she said.

“Have you seen it?”

“No.”

“If you have never seen it, how do you know it's really real?”  Cliff revealed another steaming mug sat on a table behind him.

“It doesn't matter. You will know how real it is soon.” Lily sipped her cocoa.

“I’m sure I will. You are safe now. And that matters.” Cliff took a slug of coffee, and held the warm mug in his gloved hands. Brandy returned with a bath towel, and wrapped around Lily’s head.

Cliff took the opportunity to escape. Unsurprisingly his desk remained as messy as it had been that morning. He pushed stacks of paper to one side, making room for his mug. He removed his gloves, and sat. Requests, testimonies, witness reports, and evidence reports were a small sample of his work. When a document was complete, he moved it to the drawer for filing. After some time his usual file drawer had become overpopulated, forcing him to the other side of his desk. Inside the bottom most drawer, he noticed a familiar face down picture frame. 

“Shit.” he said under his breath, there was a reason he had not used this drawer, and it had just come back to him. He held the picture, a photo of a smiling woman and girl. The former holding the latter. A door opened, and his attention was stolen. Brandy had her arm full of folders.

“Some of the suspects interview transcripts.” She said with a smile. “You should read some of these.” 

She plopped the documents on his recently cleared desk. Cliff took one and began to flick through it, at a speed which suggested skimming. 

“These lunatics really believed in this giant monster at the center of the Earth crap.” Cliff said, continuing to the next folder.

“You don’t have to skim too much, they all say the same thing. ‘You don’t understand’ ‘It doesn't matter anymore.’ I say we let the feds take over.” Brandy sat in a chair beside his desk.

“Wait which one of these is Lily’s?” Cliff said.

“Bottom of the stack.” Brandy said. Cliff dug to the bottom, and began to read. “Poor girl, fourteen years old, and trafficked up to Oregon from Texas. She didn’t say anything about her care, but she told me about her dreams.”

“Did she?” Cliff looked around the half populated police office, and back to Brandy. “What did she say?”

“Every night a deep voice talks at her.” Brandy rubbed her eyes.

“What does it say?” Cliff inquired. Brandy stretched, and put her hand to her chin.

“It told her to do what the cultists say, and it really wanted her. She told me its tone was the same way people talk to farm animals.”

Cliff took a deep breath, and skimmed through more unsettling transcripts. Each one identical to the last, save for some turn of phrase or peculiar reference. 

“The operation is over, and I want to go home.” Brandy stood, her eyes traced over the picture frame. She leaned in to grab it, and spoke. “What’s this picture of?”

“My dead wife and daughter.” 

Brandy fingers cringed.

“Sorry, no one ever told me.”

“It’s alright. No need for you to be sorry.” Cliff looked at her. “Car accident three years ago. Drunk drivers, you never think it would happen to you, until it does.”

“I’ll treat you to some pancakes in the morning.” she said.

“I thought you were heading home?” 

“I feel bad now. Like I stepped on your foot.”

“If you really want to make yourself feel better, then I suggest you stay and finish your paperwork.” He made a finger gun, pointing to her desk. Which sat in a similar condition to his.

Her desk began to shake, papers falling from its sides. Cliff suddenly realized his desk also shook, until the entire office tossed back and forth, like a ship on turbulent seas. Pictures and clocks fell from walls, and glass windows cracked. Both officers went to their knees and covered their heads. The earthquake shook their senses, the suspended lights in the ceiling swung violently, cracking white ceiling tiles and letting gravity drag them down. After a few moments, the tremors passed. Leaving the officers in a silent room, with a thin cloud of unsettled dust. 

“Earthquake?” Brandy smirked. “Maybe those cultists were right?”

Cliff grimaced. 

“I just cleaned this desk.” He said, grabbing broken ceiling tiles.

Loud footsteps clambered down the hall toward them. A uniformed officer swung into the room, desperately searching over the half occupied room.

“Thank you for your concern, but we are alright.” Cliff waved to him.

“Sir, no, it’s the girl!” he shouted.

Inside her questioning cell, Lily had shattered her mug and held the sharpest piece to her arm.

“Let me go now!” she demanded.

“Lily, please relax.” Brandy spoke to her on the other side of the door. Their voices muffled through wood and glass.

“You felt it didn't you?!” Lily had lost what composure she had. Desperate to flee. “Please, let me leave!”

“You need to listen to us, we will not hurt you. Put the broken mug down, and talk to us.” Cliff attempted negotiation. 

“No, you need to listen to me! It is awakening, if it does, then human civilization will be set back thousands of years, if not wiped out entirely.” Her eyes welled with tears. “Release me!” 

Cliff entered the room, and slowly stepped closer. She dug the sharp end into her arm, but not far. He came within arms reach, then lunged and flung her into the air by her arm. She shrieked in pain, her arm almost being yanked from it’s socket, but it was for her own good. For the second time tonight, Cliff had to stop a young girl from bleeding herself out. Somehow he felt very uneasy about it. She thrashed for a few moments. Her kicks aimed for his groin, knees, and stomach, every weak spot on a man she could think of. As if out of battery life, she went limp. More officers rushed in, and pinned her arms behind her back. 

“Put her in a proper cell, and get a suicide watch. In the morning we will need to have a child psychiatrist speak with her, this is beyond us.” Cliff said.

This time Cliff felt it in his feet first. For a split second it felt as if the concrete beneath his feet heaved down, then the rumbling came. His feet lost contact with the ground for a moment, and he felt gravity pull him to unprepared knees. Other officers tumbled into him as the station heaved and cracked. It had been the first time he heard concrete snap. It snapped under tremendous force and crumbled in on itself, crushing two officers. 

Cliff shuffled his way toward an exit, Brandy in tow. A brief moment of peace gave them the opportunity to shove themselves out of the collapsing police station. The two were greeted by a sheer cliff. It rose out of the ground like dough rises in an oven. It grew to twice the height of the police station before losing momentum. As it did so did the violent earthquake. Behind them the station collapsed in on itself as if it were made of twig and duct tape.

Asphalt dripped from the newly grown cliff. Brandy was on her knees in the mud, rain drops wriggling down her cheeks. The road they drove in on had been split in two.

“What the hell?” she said, putting her weight on her knees and forcing herself up. 

“We need to look for survivors, put out a general alert for ems.” Cliff groped at the rubble.

“Be careful! You could cause a cave in.” Brady grabbed his arm, yanking him back. Her smartphone chirped to life, delivering emergency alert after alert. Led light reflected off of the rain on her face as she read. “I don’t think this was isolated.” 

“I wouldn’t guess so, that was the worst earthquake I have ever felt.” 

“No.” She said, showing him her phone. A green map of the United States flashed red along the entire west coast, and western half of the country. Ranging past the rocky mountains, past the great plains, as far east as Michigan. 

He looked at her confused, before a sudden rumble stole his attention. He lurched his head around, and caught a glimpse of a white dress. Desperately he set off after them.

“Where are you going?” shouted Brandy.

“It’s Lily! I can't let those bastards hurt her!” he scrambled through a cracked and broken parking lot. He closed the gap quickly, and tackled Lily. 

“Let me go!” Lily shouted. 

“No! This is over. You are safe!” He lifted her off the ground. 

A few strides further he noticed his cruiser, beside it a yawning black pit. 

“You think jumping in that pit is going to stop these earthquakes?” he shouted at her. 

“Yes!” she retorted. “It is awakening, and this is the only way to stop it!” 

Cliff felt a sudden strike against the back of his head. In a heartbeat he tasted mud and grit and blood. His eyes rolled in their sockets, and his vision split in two. Brandy stepped into view. She pointed to the pit and yelled at Lily, who took her moment and jumped. He felt himself being dragged. His hands lazily, but desperately reaching for anything. Brandy hoisted him forward, and leaned him against his cruiser. 

“But why?” Cliff mumbled.

“Not all of us have dead daughters, some of us have living ones.” Brandy said, sitting next to him as the rain finally died.

October 26, 2021 00:00

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1 comment

Ping Pong
23:30 Nov 03, 2021

epic

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