Today is an excerpt from one of my favorite stories, The Dark Secret of Warren House. This story was originally published in Dark Recesses in 2007. I also released it as a single on Amazon last autumn, and it briefly made it as high as #2 on the promotional list for horror. Now, it's part of my collection, THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES -- and that entire collection is on sale now for just 99 cents.
And now, from The Dark Secret of Warren House.
“This doesn’t feel right,” Marcia said.
“Oh, come on Marcia. It must be some sort of initiation. Let’s play along.”
She didn’t move, so Kevin squeezed by and continued, pulling Marcia along.
The air grew cooler and damp. Somewhere ahead water dripped.
“Kevin, let’s go back.”
“No, look,” he said. Marcia peered around him. The light was brighter, much brighter. “Come on, that’s where everyone must be.”
Kevin walked faster. Marcia struggled to keep up. They reached the end of the corridor. Kevin entered a massive round room, its walls arching into a doom-shaped ceiling. The room seemed as big as the entire first floor of the house. Marcia stepped in behind him, then gasped.
Along the wall, ringing the entire room, were a series of alcoves, a torch mounted above each.
“Damn,” he whispered.
Marcia tried to pull him from the room, but Kevin held firm, then moved to the first alcove. Inside was what appeared to have been a body, sunken in on itself, as if the insides had dried up. Its hair was shoulder length, held in place by a rotting headband. A thick mustache hid most of its mouth.
“This is one of the guys I saw upstairs, dressed like a sixties reject. I thought it was a costume.”
Marcia stepped beside him. “I saw him, too,” she said, voice trembling. “Come on Kevin, we have to get out of here.”
The man’s skin, what was visible, was laced with cracks, the body enveloped by gray tentacle-like growths protruding from the alcove’s walls. Some of the growths wrapped around the body, holding it in place. Other clear tentacles had grown right through the skin. Kevin leaned into the alcove. A dark, thick fluid moved, slowly, through the clear tentacles, from the body toward the walls.
Kevin stepped back, grasped Marcia’s hand. She shivered. They moved to the next alcove. Another body, this one in worse shape. Kevin recognized a tattered frock coat. A top hat rested in the alcove, next to the man. This body was nearly flat, its skin as dry as the parchment on which Kevin’s Yuletide invitation had been written.
In the next alcove he recognized the long coat of the Revolutionary War era man, though no color remained. The body was papery thin, the tentacles brown and dry. Kevin reached into the alcove, touched the body. It crumbled.
“Dear god,” Marcia cried.
Kevin looked at her. She was pointing to the next alcove.
There, Kevin saw, sat Lucy Adams. Her face was drawn and pale, eyes staring vacantly. Blood dripped from a dozen different entry wounds where tentacles invaded her body. Kevin reached into the alcove, fingers brushing Lucy’s face, when a tentacle stabbed from the shadows, slicing into his forearm.
Kevin yanked his hand away. The tentacle stretched and then snapped, a sliver still in his arm.
“Get it out,” he screamed, clawing at this skin. “My knife,” he gasped.
“What?” Marcia asked.
“Knife … in my right pocket,” he said through clenched teeth. He continued scratching, peeling the skin away from the wound. Marcia slipped her hand in his pocket, withdrew a small pocketknife, then opened it.
“Cut it out!” he screamed.
“Wha… I can’t do that.”
Kevin grabbed the knife and sliced around the wound. The tentacle was longer now, growing from his arm. Kevin slashed deep into the skin, cutting under the tentacle, like a surgeon removing a tumor. A chunk of flesh, tentacle imbedded in it, fell to the floor.
Kevin stumbled away, the room spinning, gray clouding his vision. He fell to one knee. Marcia knelt next to him, eased him to lying position. Blood trickled from his arm, pooling on the cold stone beneath him.
“We gotta get out of here,” Kevin said. “Help me up.”
Marcia helped him to his feet. Kevin stumbled, dizzy. He looked down, his senses snapping awake when he did. Two tentacles sprouted from the floor where his blood pooled.
“Let’s go,” he said.
Marcia draped Kevin’s uninjured arm over her shoulders to lend support. They staggered from the room, made their way down the long hallway. Each time they stepped in the flickering light of another torch Kevin glanced down, watched blood drip from his arm. Tiny tentacles sprouted from the stone where each drop splashed.
They reached the steps.
“Go,” Kevin said, pulling his arm down, pushing Marcia ahead.
“You need help.”
“Stairway’s too narrow.” Marcia started to protest. He pushed her. “Go. I’m right behind you.”
To read the rest of The Dark Secret of Warren House, and the entire collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, click here for Kindle or here for Nook.