Monday, October 12, 2015

By Ian Thompson © 2015

“This is 15-Adam-20, calling in from Bachman Heights...”
“Got you, 15-Adam-20. What the hell are you doing out there?”
“We got word from a bunch of street-people about screams in this vicinity...”
“You been listening to winos again?  Man, you’re really wet-behind-the-ears, aren’t you? Your partner should know better.”
“Can the attitude for once, will you? We’ve been patrolling the area for five minutes – and now we’ve stopped because we’ve heard screams. My ears might be wet, but they work just damn fine.”
“Okay, 15-Adam-20, do you need backup?”
“Backup? Send everyone you can. I’ve just looked over the back wall of 512 Bachman and there are skeletons littering the rear garden. Must be at least a dozen amongst the rubble and rubbish.”
“Good God. Backup will be on its way ASAP. Stay put.”
“That’s a negative. You get the backup here, but we’re going in to stop those screams. Can’t take the chance that whoever that is will be dead before help arrives...”
“Proceed with caution, 15-Adam-20...”
*     *     *
Sergeant Conway met me at the entrance to 512 Bachman Heights. He was a tall, wiry-muscled black man, who was as reliable as sunrise. After college, he toured with a theatre group, performing across the state – then, for some reason, Conway became a cop. Over thirty years he grew into a seasoned Sergeant with a wicked sense of humour, who still loved to act.
“Well, let me introduce this property,” he began. This was his real estate agent routine. “A real fixer-upper in an... interesting... area of the city. Began as a two-story, three bedroom option, but was re-graded to a tall bungalow after the upstairs fell in. Air conditioning is the natural kind, on account of all the holes in the walls...”
I didn’t laugh as I crossed the threshold into the hallway of a reeking ruin that was once a family home. Conway didn’t expect it – I’d always reckoned his banter was a way of calming his nerves, and it calmed mine too. The hall was a dozen feet wide and extended back to what I guessed was a kitchen doorway; left and right there were other open doorways; the stairs rose up eight feet to end in a crumbling ruin. Whatever carpets the former owners might have left behind were buried under layers of fallen masonry, deposited junk and rat shit. The stench would have made the average citizen gag – sadly, it’s something you got used to during fifteen years as a uniformed cop and then seven as a detective. I peered up and shined my torch towards the rafters of the roof. A few bats flitted around.
What the hell did you little critters witness? I wondered.
Looking back down, I saw another skeleton, six paces from the doorway. Surrounding it was a circle of plastic pyramids with numbers on them – placed by the crime scene tech’s while they took photos. I knelt down beside the remains.
The bones weren’t arranged in the normal manner. When a person dies and their flesh decomposes, the skeleton tends to be found lying fairly intact. In this case, the skull lay on the hip bone; bones from the arms and legs were mixed together; smaller bones from the hands and feet looked to have been scattered like confetti; sections of spinal column were everywhere. This was just like the fourteen skeletons outside.
And there was another matching characteristic to what we had found outside. The bones were pure white and clean except for a little dust. They looked... polished.
“What’s the count, now?” I asked Conway as I rose.
“Forty-two. Most of them are in there...” He gestured to the open door on the right, beyond which I saw a group of waiting policemen. “...With him.”
Someone strode into the hall from the left. It was the short, white-haired form of the deputy coroner, Tim Jacobs. From the way he limped, I knew his arthritis had him in a vicious grasp that day. When Jacobs saw me, he moved across to join us. No one shook hands – we were all wearing plastic crime-scene gloves. Jacobs took a notebook from his tweed jacket and flipped it open.
“I thought you were watching your grandson play baseball this afternoon, Tim,” I offered.
“Would have been, but some dumb cop called home to tell his wife about this... And his son overheard the details and typed it up on Twitter as fast as his fingers could go. So, the press are crawling up the Mayor’s ass. The Mayor’s up the Commissioner’s ass. The Commissioner’s up the Captain’s ass. The Captain’s up my boss’s ass... It’s like a bloody proctologists’ convention.”
I shrugged. “And your afternoon off got cancelled.”
“And in your expert opinion..?”
He pointed at the skeleton on the floor. “Oh, these folks are all dead.”
Sometimes I wanted to strangle the old man. I gave him my patented talk-or-die glare.
“I honestly don’t know how they died. There are a few broken bones – but no signs of gunshots, knife-wounds or blunt-trauma. They may not even have been murdered. They might have died of natural causes, then been brought here and stripped clean of flesh.”
“‘Stripped clean’?” Conway repeated. “I assumed rats had—”
“No. Nothing gnawed on these bones. Something drew all the flesh off in such a way that the bones were left spotless. In fact, the bones don’t even have the usual marks upon them that show where muscles were attached. And it wasn’t done with acid, either. They look...”
“Polished?” I said.
“Hell, it’s as good a term as any. Dunno how it was done, though.”
“How about ID?”
“No wallets, watches, jewellery, clothes... All I’ll have to work with are dental records. I’m just glad that fillings and bridgework did survive.”
Muttering to himself, he left via the front door. Conway and I went to the right – and entered the room where he was.
*     *     *
Four more cops waited inside and I knew them all. Daniels and Perkins had worked with me often; they looked like a pair of linebackers squeezed into police uniforms. Daniels was in his early twenties and still a rookie, looking like a white college kid who has only just begun shaving. Perkins was twice his age, a big black man with greying hair and the face and attitude of a drill sergeant. The other two, who I’d worked alongside recently for the first time, were middle-aged, slightly paunchy, beat-weary cops. Offer either one an early pension and they’d snap it up; they were sick of the job, but had nowhere else to go. Gyeong was Korean-American, easily remembered by his shaven head and irritable nature. Lee was the only woman here, but could probably have out-drunk, out-punched and out-driven most male cops; I couldn’t stand the permanent oh-do-I-really-have-to expression on her face.
The four nodded to me in deference to my rank of detective.
My attention shifted from them to the former living room we were in. It was roughly twenty feet wide by thirty long. To my right, two large windows would have let in light from outside, before the glass was shattered and someone boarded them up. Light was now provided by two Police lamps on tripods, set either side of the doorway, and these illuminated everything in stark detail. The left-hand wall contained a collapsed hearth and a doorway not far from where I had entered. The door was missing from the latter and a pile of rubble prevented access into the room beyond. The walls around us had suffered from an onslaught of damp, so that the plaster had rotted away and the bricks were visible. A white carpet of human bones stretched from halfway into the room to the far wall. They were pure white and had that horrible polished appearance.
When my gaze reached the far wall, it rose up the figure chained to the mould-covered bricks.
He was utterly emaciated. The jeans, T-shirt and jacket hung off him as if he was a living skeleton. His bare feet resembled bird’s claws, for the bones were so pronounced. The head was a narrow skull with skin painted on it and dark eyes deep in their sockets. His hair and beard were wild.
I noted additional details. The man was six-foot-two and might have weighed around a hundred pounds. Four metal spikes had been driven into the wall and short chains ran from these to shackles on his wrists and ankles; this held him in an ‘X’, upright and helpless. By sheer effort, the man was standing rather than hanging off the wall. His eyes shifted left and right to study the cops.
Conway said in a hiss: “How long has the poor bastard been stuck up there?”
I turned my attention to the crowd of policemen.
“Why the hell isn’t he in an ambulance and on the way to hospital?”
Perkins’ heavy baritone voice answered: “Sir, he doesn’t want to be freed. He’s been begging us to leave him here.”
“What?” If it hadn’t been Perkins, I might have thought the comment to be a sick joke.
“Daniels and I came here, following reports of screams,” he went on. “We called in for backup after finding the skeletons, then came in to investigate. We found him, screaming his head off. It took ages just to quieten him down.”
Yet you left him chained up? I considered.
Gyeong added to the report. “Lee and I were the backup... We decided to wait for you, sir.”
“And so I have eight feet in my crime scene?”
“We each tried to talk to him, to calm him... but... Well, try it yourself, sir.”
I walked to the edge of that small field of bones and peered across at the prisoner.
“Mister, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through,” I started, “but it’s over now...”
He fixed his eyes upon me and his thin lips moved. It took a second attempt for him to manage to form words.
“You can’t free me. It’ll begin again...” He wept like a child. “Oh, God, don’t let it begin again...”
“You’re safe. You’re surrounded by cops. An ambulance is outside...”
The prisoner cut me off. “You don’t understand. If you free me, you’ll all die. I won’t be able to stop it.”
“You think the killer is still here?” I asked.
Exasperated, he replied: “Still here? He’s shackled to the fucking wall, you dumb shit. You’re looking right at him.”
I was lost. “You’re saying you killed all these people... and then chained yourself up?”
“Yes. I regained control. I did the only thing that would stop me killing. Don’t undo what I have done.”
Lee muttered, “See, he’s screwball nuts.”
Ignoring her, I asked: “Why did you kill them?”
“Hungry,” he answered. “Hungry for human flesh. I sucked down every morsel of it.”
I didn’t know if the man had really killed anyone, but I knew he was deeply disturbed. Then again, chained to a wall, surrounded by human skeletons, maybe at the mercy of some mass murderer... who wouldn’t lose their mind? I decided to carry on talking: perhaps I could gain his confidence, establish a feeling of trust.
“I need to know exactly what happened, buddy. How did all this start..?”
I began to cross the array of bones, stepping between the whitened remains.
“Keep back...” He shook his head. “Keep back. Don’t let me smell your flesh.”
I stopped, not wanting to alarm him further.
“Fine, I’ll stay here. Talk to me.”
The prisoner hesitated.
“Start with your name,” I prompted.
“David Howard,” he replied. “I was David Howard. I used to work for a conservation group, monitoring pollution effects in the state forests... I remember, so long ago, being attacked in one of the forests... I was bitten...”
“By a wildcat or something?” Sergeant Conway threw in.
I motioned for him to keep quiet. It would be easier for Howard to focus on just one voice.
“No... Not a wildcat. I didn’t know what it was then. I barely survived, kicking free of the thing, getting to my car and driving away... Later, I discovered the thing was a ghoul.”
I eyed Conway, who gave me a ‘what-the-hell?’ grimace.
“A ghoul?” I said. “You were bitten by a monster, like in some horror movie?
He nodded sharply. “And now my life is a fucking horror movie. I got the hunger in less than a week. I’d murdered and eaten my roommate within a fortnight. Then I moved here, out of control, and made a lair for myself.”
Some shrink was going to make a fortune writing a book about this guy.
“Are you telling me you’ve become a ghoul too?”
Howard’s head hung briefly. He knew that I didn’t believe him.
“I did research. A survivor of a ghoul bite becomes a meta-ghoul. He literally has a ghoul inside him, wearing him like a f*cking suit. When the ghoul in you gets hungry, it takes over... changes you... makes you feed... You can’t stop it.”
“And that’s why you chained yourself up?”
“Yes. I’ve blessed these chains with holy oil, to weaken the creature. All it can do right now is scream. While I’m held here, everyone else is safe...”
“And how long have you been here?”
“I’ve seen the sun rise two hundred and sixty-four times through cracks in the window-boards.”
Lee hissed the word “bullshit”. I shot her a glare.
“So why aren’t you dead from starvation?” I asked Howard.
“It can’t die from starvation and it won’t let me die either. It’s been sustaining me, waiting for a chance... Now for God’s sake, don’t give it that chance.”
I was running out of questions for the crazy son-of-a-bitch. I found another.
“Why didn’t you kill it, to make sure?”
“The only way to kill a ghoul is via the head. Shoot it in the head, stab it, crush the thing flat...”
“So? You could have shot yourself in the head...”
“I said its head. Its. Not mine. Shooting myself in my head wouldn’t do any good. And when it’s here, out in the open, it’s in control so I can’t act. This was the only way.”
You poor lunatic bastard, I thought. What made you believe this shit? What took you so far from reality?
“All right, Mr Howard. I want you to take some deep breaths and calm yourself.” I was already helping myself to some such breaths myself. “This is what we’re gonna do. Two of my officers, Daniels and Perkins, are going to handcuff themselves to you: one to each wrist...”
He began shaking his head, twisting his body in a frenzy.
“Oh no.... no.... no.... no...” The pleading just wouldn’t stop.
“...Then, we’ll use bolt cutters on those chains and get you free.” I looked to Gyeong, who nodded and ran to fetch the cutters from his patrol car. “We’re going to escort you outside to the ambulance...”
“NO!” he bellowed. “I don’t wanna kill you all! Please, don’t make me kill you!”
“No one will get killed,” I assured him. “Things are going to get much, much better.”
His words devolved into a desperate begging. “Please... Please... Don’t... No...”
I motioned to the two policemen who had discovered Howard. It was not by accident that I had selected the two biggest, strongest men of our group. Whatever struggles Howard made when we dragged him out would be child’s play to this pair.
Conway leaned close to my right. “Sir, should we get him tranquillized him first?”
“No. His veins could be shot full of all kinds. The medics will want to run a full range of blood tests before they give him as much as an aspirin.”
Daniels and Perkins advanced along the sides of the chamber, cuffs ready. I saw Daniels scowl as a length of bone snapped under his feet. Howard looked quickly from one to the other as the pair closed in.
“Detective!” he cried. “Do you understand, you’re sentencing these men to their deaths?”
The pair were in position. They looked across to me and I nodded.
A series of clicks sounded as the officers each fastened one of their wrists to one of Howard’s.
The prisoner’s head drooped and his cries faded. Now only miserable sobs left him.
Gyeong returned. At my signal, he moved across the bed of bones and got to work on the chains.
I looked left. Conway and Lee each had one hand ready on their sidearm, prepared to draw. For a moment, I mentally scoffed at them: did they really think..? Then I realised that my own hand was on my weapon and I had unfastened the button at the top of the holster...
Ssh-nick... Ssh-nick...
Both of Howard’s legs were unchained now, plus his left arm. He let the freed upper limb sag limply.
Gyeong moved to stand in front of Howard again and positioned the cutter’s jaws on the final chain. Part of me wanted to call for him not to make the cut – however, I knew that would have been ludicrous.
Howard was free.
*     *     *
I can only compare the next sound I heard to the noise of wrapping paper being torn from a parcel. That fast shredding noise caused by a child who is desperate to see what lies inside...
Yet there was something horrible and discordant about this version of that sound.
In a split-second, Lee, Conway and myself tried to see what was happening. I side-stepped to the right and the other two went left. We all tried to peer past Gyeong.
Had something happened to Howard..?
Then Perkins, Daniels and Gyeong all screamed together. It was a sound even more awful than the previous one. It was three grown, tough-as-hell men screaming in utter terror.
We ran towards the foursome, drawing our weapons as our boots shattered bones beneath us...
Daniels and Perkins tried to separate from Howard. The two pairs of handcuffed arms were drawn to full extent—
Something wet and pale green flooded over Gyeong’s bald head with a splashing motion. He dropped the bolt cutters and attempted to grasp at the mass, his screams abruptly cut off. His whole body started to flex as if he were being electrocuted...
I was halfway to the group now, coming in at an angle from the right. Lee and the Sergeant were doing the same from the left.
Howard’s outstretched arms suddenly arced upwards, over his head with unbelievable speed and ferocity—
Now Lee, Conway and myself screamed: we saw the handcuffed arms of Daniels and Perkins ripped away from their bodies in twin eruptions of blood. The separated limbs flew up high over Howard in the manner of grotesque banners.
Worse still, the three of us were now close enough to see what was happening to Gyeong...
Twenty inches in front of the officer, Howard’s head had folded open as if it were some elasticised contraption. The lower jaw had dropped down to the top of Howard’s chest; the rest of the head had arched back past his shoulders to drape down his own spine. Neither Howard’s skin nor the flesh underneath had split or bled – it had all stretched. Out of the extended hole of Howard’s throat had emerged another head. This one was inhuman, the head of a ghoul. In shape, it was similar to the head of a seal: having the same rounded outline and large dark eyes. The skin was a sickly greyish green. Where a seal’s mouth would have been, there was a loose fleshy opening, more like a vertical wound than a maw. From the mouth had extended eight, saliva-dripping flaps of flesh. I’ll call them tongues for simplicity, but tongues do not grasp prey and suck the flesh away from it...
And as we closed-in, we all heard the ghoul’s repulsive slobbering...
Then the tongue-things whiplashed back to hang in front of the ghoul’s face...
Gyeong fell backwards, still twitching. His head was now a pure-white skull, pristine and polished in appearance.
Perkins and Daniels both collapsed to the ground, near opposite corners of the room. They used their surviving hands to clutch futilely at the blood spurting from their ravaged shoulders. Their screams reached an almost insane pitch.
Lee fired her automatic pistol first. Its explosive roars drowned out her enraged swearing.
Bullets struck Howard square in the chest. His filthy T-shirt shredded and he was thrown against the brick wall. Yet there was no blood – it was as if the rounds just sank into lifeless clay. The only effect upon Howard was him being driven back...
Conway and myself were aiming by the time Lee’s third bullet struck – she hit him dead-centre in the chest, what should have been a perfect kill-shot – but we never got to fire. Howard’s upraised arms came lashing down and the attached torn-away limbs of Perkins and Daniels were swung like medieval flails.
I was struck across the right shoulder while Lee was struck in the left arm. She was sent hurtling sideways into Conway, who in turn shoulder-slammed me. Then Howard’s right foot came up with the speed and precision of a dancer, to catch the Sergeant under his chin. I heard his jaws come together with a nauseating clack and he was thrown backwards as if hit by a truck.
The two flesh-flails came arcing again, unbelievably fast and this time in an outward sweep. Lee ducked the one aimed for her and started to fire again from a crouch. I took the full force of the other bloody weapon across the left side of my head and was sent flying across the room...
I crashed into a mass of bones. Some shattered, others slammed into my back and legs. I twisted around into a sitting position to see...
The ghoul-head lunging towards Lee’s outstretched right arm, even as the gun in her right hand fired and sent bullets into Howard’s upper chest and neck—
Tongue-flesh smothered Lee’s forearm with a liquid rush and she shrieked. A moment after, the tongues retracted and Lee found herself staring at the clean-white bones of her hand and wrist – before those bones fell apart.
I got off two rounds in quick succession, but missed Howard as the thing lunged once more. Its tongues wrapped around Lee’s head and silenced her forever.
Shifting onto one knee, I took more careful aim and fired again. Bullets smashed into Howard’s left shoulder, upper arm and chest. He didn’t even react. His next action was to release the white-skulled corpse of his latest victim and twist about to face me...
And he leapt like some wild beast – with Perkins’ and Daniels’ arms trailing behind him like streamers.
I kept firing. I struck him twice more in the chest – and my weapon clicked empty.
Howard crashed down amongst the bones just three feet away from me. He was on all fours and that obscene ghoul-head fixed me with its dark eyes. Those eyes were voids, utterly soulless.
All I could do was lurch backwards and throw my arms out in front of me. I knew it was futile.
As if in slow-motion, the Howard-thing rushed forwards—
Then, to my amazement, a pistol appeared to the left of its head. The muzzle pressed into the ghoul’s grey-green flesh. I saw the trigger pulled and the upper half of Howard’s second head exploded into black syrupy pulp.
Howard crumpled to the floor.
My eyesight traced along the arm of my saviour... Up past the shoulder, to the wise-ass grin covering Sergeant Conway’s face.
“Well, detective, you know what I always say. If a man tells me to shoot the monster in the head, I shoot the f*cker in the head.”
I nodded, grateful beyond comprehension.
“Can’t disagree with you there.”
*     *     *
FIVE ECOPIES of Ian Thompson’s  GOD OF WAR!!!
To win: go to the Official FB Event Page; find the post announcing  today’s giveaway; and comment, “I WANT TO WIN” in that post and you just might!!!
Ian Thompson was born in Liverpool, England, but has lived most of his life in a small town in Cheshire. He pursued a career in textiles, including laboratory testing and quality control. Give him some fibres from a carpet, item of clothing or curtain, plus a microscope and some chemicals, and he’ll quickly tell you all about them!
Throughout his life, Ian has loved good tales - whether in the form of novels and short stories, TV shows, movies, comics or video games. He likes fast-paced adventures, strong and unusual characters, gritty action and twists he wasn't expecting. Being taken away into the realm of someone's imagination has always appealed to him and has driven him to create realms of his own.
His debut novel, PARADISE EXHUMED, was released in February 2015 – a murderous whodunit thriller, set in modern-day Britain, with a pair of investigative reporters hunting a brutal and seemingly unstoppable killer. PARADISE EXHUMED is the first novel of the Ray Hammett Thriller series.
For his second novel, Ian released the first part of a war-torn action fantasy: ERA OF DARKNESS – VOLUME I : THE APOCALYPSE BEGINS.  This has been followed by three Short Tales From The Era Of Darkness: BLOODFURY & FEAR, OUT OF THE LIGHT and THE FATE OF LUMINAR. A spin-off series of Era Of Darkness Novellas began with SURVIVAL I: SLAUGHTER AT GHASTAR.
Ian’s third novel is a dark horror tale. GOD OF WAR is a story of cause and effect, in which events two thousand years ago have terrible repercussions today. In Ancient Britain, during the Roman Occupation, an ambitious man seeks to create ‘something special’ for Nero’s gladiatorial arenas. In modern-day Britain, a group of cavers discover the results of Roman endeavors... and find themselves hunted by a monstrosity that kills both to feed and to satiate its sadistic desires.
His next release will be the first in a series of short horror stories, entitled "Glancing Blow". Future projects include the conclusion of ERA OF DARKNESS, VOLUME II: EXTINCTION.
Visit Ian Thompson’s website for more information about him and his work.
He also Tweets when he can and struggles to keep up with Facebook:

Horror of the Past. Terror of Today.

Roman ambition created something almost two millennia ago. That creation still lives – starving and eager to inflict suffering and carnage... Trapped underground, a group of modern-day cavers find themselves hunted by a behemoth from beyond their darkest nightmares...

Is there any escape from this subterranean hell? Can the God Of War ever be stopped..?

God Of War (Alternative Longer Blurb):   ("as-is" from Amazon)
Horror of the Past. Terror of Today.
Roman greed and ambition created something almost two millennia ago. That creation still lives – starving, lusting for blood, eager to inflict suffering and carnage...
From 5-Star Reviews for Ian Thompson:
 “...extremely well written and very dark... Highly recommended.”
 “I was completely sucked in and captivated from the first page”
 “Wonderful characters and an even better story”
 “I was impressed by the quality of the storytelling... an enthralling mix... a solid read”
 “...a thriller... you can’t stop reading”
 “...characters were interesting and real... full of twists and turns”
 “ absolutely awesome, intense read.”
During the Roman Occupation of Britain, Gaius Pertinax embarks on a quest to provide “something special” for Nero’s gladiatorial arenas. The ever-worsening consequences of his actions will threaten his life, his sanity and even his soul...
A group of modern-day cavers discover the results of Gaius Pertinax’s ancient endeavours. They are trapped deep underground... Running out of food, supplies and power for their lights... Hunted by a behemoth worse than their darkest nightmares: a gigantic creature that kills both to feed and to satiate its sadistic desires...
Is there any escape from this subterranean hell? Can the God Of War ever be stopped..?



  1. Whoo-hoo!

    What a ride! And I love the humor.

  2. I don't see Glancing Blow on Amazon?

  3. Glad you enjoyed Chained!
    Glancing Blow should be out next week on Amazon (and elsewhere). It was delayed a little by some "real world" trouble, but things are happily back to normal now.
    You might also like my full-length horror novel God Of War, which I released recently.
    Best wishes - Ian