"Oh, pity the poor glutton whose troubles all begin in struggling on and on to turn what's out into what's in."
-Walter de la Mare
The pit of my stomach let out a hungering cry. It was unlike anything else I've ever experienced in my life. The feeling was all-encompassing, moving in such a way that I just couldn't fully describe. As I slowly opened my mouth a small part of me called out that something was wrong.
The burning hunger within my gut crushed those thoughts, easily stomping out my misgivings.
Nothing I could muster would allow me to resist it, and so I took one slow bite. Liquid and flesh met my lips as the creature below me whimpered once more, its more human-like features stretched wide in avid horror. Slowly, I rolled my tongue within my mouth.
The taste was divine, filling up the emptiness that seemed to pour from the tattoo on my neck.
Looking over at one of the only people I actually care about in my school, I thought Shit.
Just a short distance away from me Payton pulled himself around one of the many tables within the lunchroom before sitting himself down. Following soon after was someone who I liked to call a blonde-haired prick. Well, in my head of course.
The aforementioned blonde haphazardly threw his tray onto the table before saying, "Well come on then! Let's hear you say it; if you're so smart."
Payton angrily clenched his hand before replying, "J-Just leave m-me the he-hell alone."
The boy's voice came out with its same nervous tilt, with him being barely able to speak let alone get the blonde bastard to leave him be. Doing my best to not get noticed, I subconsciously scratched at the off-colored birthmark on my neck.
"Oh, does little Paypay have something to say?" patronized the blonde, an obnoxious smile planted on his face. The bully had his head tilted to the side with his chin stuck out just enough to make him seem like more of a pompous douche.
I let out a sigh.
It was just how life in our school went I suppose. There was a strict hierarchy to almost everything here. The atmosphere of the place was thick, weighing down on those at the bottom like a hunk of lead on their shoulders. Payton and me? We were at the bottom, which led to a whole host of situations in which one of us end up bloody or bruised.
That's without mentioning the fact that Payton makes himself a bit of an easy target.
The guy was pretty short for our age, being barely five-foot-two. Couple that with the nerdy glasses on his face and his lanky form then you have a recipe for disaster. Not that I have any room to talk anyway. I was just a bit taller than him at five-foot-eight with the same pencil-thin arms and legs.
Well, at least I don't have the glasses... I thought as a loud bang came from in front of me.
My unconcealed stare seemed to be noticed as the wannabe thug shot himself out of his chair. The teenager's eyes roughly stared into my own before he made his way over to where I sat. Without saying a word the boy took an open chair at my table, spinning it around backward in an annoying fashion.
Swallowing a bit of my lunch I asked, "Do you need something?"
The athletic teenager across from me merely smiled before pointing at his left eye. A little confused I shrugged my shoulders, a bit of fear building up in my gut. As he stood up and walked around the table with an unnerving smile stuck onto his face, I let out a curse.
Lightly, I touched at the newly acquired bruises adorning my face. Ken Harrington, the aforementioned blonde-haired son of a bitch, had left them to me as a "reminder." The yellowing splotches still stung even as I took my hand away.
I was standing in what appeared to be a run-down graveyard. All around there were derelict stones and markers showing the world a bit of the past's life.
The gravestone in front of me was shaped like a simple cross; it looked newer than the rest of the old markers here, having no obvious wear and tear from the elements. Sitting off to the grave's side was a small vase filled with water.
Leaning down, I put a new daisy within it.
Just six feet under me lied the body of one of the only real caretakers I had in my life. Her name was Marie Ann. When I first met her I was too young to remember it. The already old woman had run the only orphanage within our town. At first, I thought of her as nothing much but a crotchety old bitch, but in time I saw her as the mother I never had.
Holding in a sigh, I straightened myself up and gazed up into the darkening sky.
I had ended up coming here almost every day since Marie had died. The graveyard was a bit eerie at times, but paying my respects was worth a little scare every now and again.
After Marie died, the orphanage I was in started to shut down. I couldn't really remember it that well, but there were talks about not receiving enough funds before the government workers showed up to take over. One of the only other kids I talked to while I was there, Payton, ended up getting taken in by a family in town. He had just about everything an orphan could have wanted, a family, warm food, and a place to sleep.
Me though? I wasn't so lucky.
After bouncing around to a few places, and promptly getting kicked out due to one reason or another, I ended up within the town's local church. It, like much of everything else in my hometown, was rather run down. The windows of the place were filled with cobwebs while the statues inside were broken, lying around in bits.
The only thing that actually looked well taken care of was Father John's room.
The man ended up being something of an actual father to me too. He was a jolly guy with his mirth only being matched by the size of his growing belly. To this day I still have no idea how he got so big, eating nothing but the scraps given through the donation box and with what little money he had.
After moving my meager possessions into one of the church's extra rooms I stayed there ever since.
The only real thing I could complain about was the lack of good food and John forcing me to learn about being a Christian. I accidentally let it slip that I didn't really worship anyone or anything, and after a bit of talking the man decided that he wouldn't let a heathen live under his roof, not that I was ever that good of one.
Scratching at the birthmark on my neck, I turned away from the stone and back towards the fence-gate leading to the church.
The sides of the graveyard were surrounded by a seven-foot-tall wrought-iron fence. It perfectly enclosed the space, adding on even further to its gloomy atmosphere. The only other thing that stood out was the abandoned groundkeeper's shack in the back.
According to John, the whole church's grounds used to be in tip-top shape back in the day. It only ever reached its current state of disrepair after the great depression hit, and ever since the grounds have been their dreary selves.
While slowly starting to walk over towards the graveyard's main gate I thought to myself, I wonder what the old man got for us to eat tonight?
Pulling me out of my thoughts was a low-pitched groan coming from behind. Quickly, I turned my head back to see what it was. Meeting my eyes was nothing other than a few thinly spread graves and the gravel path on which I walked.
For a few seconds, I stood with my blue eyes darting back and forth as my heart beat faster.
Letting out a breath of air, I started to turn back around only for the out of place noise to reach my ears once again. It sounded like some type of living creature. The noise came out akin to that of something I used to hear in one of Payton's old zombie movies, but this time it was loud and visceral.
Trying to still my furiously beating heart I called out, "Come on out already! I swear to God Harrington you blonde-haired prick if that's you I-I'll kick your ass!"
The only thing that met my yell was complete and utter silence. Swallowing a bit of my saliva, I turned up the pace hoping to get past the gate before nightfall. I was never that lucky.
Just a short distance away, within the groundkeeper's shack, another loud groan rang out into the graveyard like nails on a chalkboard. Following soon after, a loud crash hit my ears as I peaked my head around the corner to see it.
It was towering over me at a good seven feet tall. The creature, if you would call it that, looked like something straight out of H.P. Lovecraft's wet dreams. It was a large amalgamation of human bodies mix-mashed together into a hulking monstrosity, dripping drool over my head.
There were limbs poking out in every direction. Some were small, almost childlike in the way they haphazardly flailed about in the air. Others were gargantuan with bulging muscles bared to the night, having no skin left behind to cover them. The creature appeared to be held together by a patchwork of sutures and burnt flesh, clearing marking each one of its extraneous limbs.
I continued to stare on like a deer in the headlights as the thing slowly brought down one of its bulbous limbs towards me. Acting as quickly as I could, I tried to run only to stumble onto the ground, a loose tree branch caught on my foot. Fire burned through my veins as I stared up at the thing in horror.
It seemed to be methodical with its movements, lethargically bringing its gait about as it advanced on me. Once again it let out another low groan as a small child-like head, one of three, unhinged its mouth. Flipping over on the ground I let out a scream.
Morbid thoughts raced through my mind as I tried to flee, only to be caught in the side by one of the monster's many legs. The limb set me flying, arcing a good twenty feet through the air before landing on top of a wooden grave marker. Something coppery hit my lips as tears began to drip from my eyes.
I gurgled a bit as more blood built up in my mouth. The creature continued to silently stalk towards me. Each of its legs thumping along the ground in a sort of dance as they tried to support the thing's weight. As I began to pull my battered body across the ground a single thought ran through my mind.
This is how I die.
After a few scarce seconds, it caught up to me with its menagerie of arms latching onto my shoulders. I let out another pathetic cry as the horrid creature ripped into my torso, tearing off my flesh. My shoulder let out a few ominous creaks as it roughly brought me to my feet.
My scared eyes met the creature's own only for a bit of surprise to interrupt my mortal terror.
Its bulging eyes had intelligence in them. Each of the monstrosity's three faces had their eyes trained on my own while their faces were brought down into an assembly of twitching grins. A little bit of heat built up in my stomach at the thing's stare before rushing upwards, bringing warmth into my neck and cheeks.
With what little courage I had I thought to myself, I-If this thing is gonna kill me, I'm not going without a fight!
It was holding me with two of its arms. The larger of the two was gripped onto my left shoulder while the other was holding me by my hoodie. Not even having the time to think, I looked down at the arm latched onto my shoulder and bit into it with all my might. Surprisingly, I didn't feel much resistance at all.
Something warm and wet met my lips as the creature suddenly let out a cry, dropping me onto the ground. The heat present on my neck and face started to build up even more as I heaved out a few breaths on the ground. I winced a bit as my lungs reached their full capacity only to be followed by a dull pain coming from my rib cage.
Standing back up to my full height, I turned my eyes back towards the monster in front of me.
The amalgamation was between me and the gate, perfectly blocking the gravel path with its size. The muscular hand that I bit was protectively wrapped around its body as copious amounts of some black fluid leaked onto the mixed stones below. Nervously, I eyed the gravestone-filled paths on the creature's left and right.
Pulling me out of my relative safety was the Goliath of flesh, it let out a harrowing cry before rushing down the gravel pathway at me. Once again, I moved to get out of the way only to notice something. The creature was much slower this time.
I could still see the thing make its legs bounce across the ground but they seemed to be moving in slow motion. Almost as if the beast was moving through water. My eyes flashed to the side as I tried to move out of the way.
Unfortunately, my body couldn't keep up with my thoughts.
It only took a single second for me to notice something was wrong. My limbs felt thick and heavy, like weighted balls of lead were on their ends. As the creature's body impacted into my own, I went flying once again.
Surprisingly, I didn't feel any worse for wear as I started to push myself up off of the ground. Still, It felt like I was trying to move through molasses, but other than the dull pain coming from ribs I was fine.
The amalgamation kept up its attack, stalking after me as I tried my best to get away from it. As soon as the unnatural slowness appeared, it fled with the supernatural weight surrounding my body disappearing into the night.
I hobbled along the graveyard's fence with the monster following behind. My breath came out in heaves with the pain in my ribs increasing with each one. Despite the situation, I still felt the now unsettling warmth on my neck. It was almost as if the top layer of skin on my birthmark was set on fire.
The sensation was not painful, yet it felt completely unnatural. It started to crescendo as I walked, slowly building up more and more heat with each step. Biting my lower lip I thought Come on, I'm almost there!
Pitifully, I reached out my right hand towards the gate. For a single second, hope came into my heart. Soon after, it was wrenched away by the skinless hand of the monstrosity behind me which promptly pulled me to the ground.
"W-Why won't you just leave me alone?" I cried.
Its answer was a barrage of limbs which started to pummel me to a pulp. The dull aches from before were overshadowed as my flesh was shredded by its grasping hands. One last surge of adrenaline hit me as I gave out my final effort to survive.
In the inane attempt, I kept both of my arms between me and it hoping for some way out.
Something began to draw me away from the scene. A sensation of blankness started to spread out into my body. It drew me away from everything. The emptiness continued to build and build as it spread out from my neck before centering in on my stomach. The crushing realization of my own death hit me once more. Moisture built in my mouth.
My half-glazed-over eyes stared up into the monster rending the flesh from my bones. Suddenly, I realized; I couldn't feel the pain anymore. I couldn't feel anything at all. There was nothing, just an absolute sense of pure desolation.
Then, something inside me broke.
All at once, the bleak feeling of emptiness cried. I could hear it, the call. It wanted to be filled, to be whole, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It asked, no it demanded to be full again. It was something familiar to me yet entirely alien all the same. A sensation of abstract hunger overtook my mind as the more rational part of my brain screamed out in horror. My earlier fear was lost in the wayside.
It was all-encompassing, making my entire being need something more. I couldn't comprehend its cries as vicious pangs of hunger rushed out from my gut. Looking up at the creature holding me to the ground, it cried out once again.
The part of me resisting its call grew quieter.
The monster on top of me became confused. I could see the three faces making up its head staring down on me as it suddenly stopped its assault, each one of the semi-intelligent heads seemingly mesmerized by something on my neck. Of its own accord, my mouth opened into a threatening gape.
A bit of drool mixed with blood stained my usually white teeth. Louder, a pang of hunger called out to me. It beckoned me to give in, to just trust my instincts, to reach out and pull. The thing, whatever it was, comforted me, saying that everything would be alright. A small part of me said that something was wrong. That part of me was filled with an almost primal fear, screaming that whatever was calling out to me wasn't to be trusted. I gave in.
Another wave of emptiness washed over me; my body moved of its own accord.
My back arched off the ground as I quickly brought my head up towards the creature's scarred neck. Already, my mouth was open. As I bit down a shiver ran down my spine. Something warm and wet rushed between my lips as I tore my head back.
A bit of the slowness from before started to spread through my being as instinct took over.
One of my battered arms swung to the side, crashing into the beast's head. Despite my lanky stature, its flesh crumpled underneath as it, rolling to the side. Hurriedly, I pushed myself to my feet before gripping onto the monstrosity's flesh. A good tug easily tore it off. What I was doing felt natural; it felt right. A new emotion started to show within the beast before me.
A now dying part of my mind told me in a last-ditch effort that what I was about to do was wrong. The burning hunger in my gut crushed those thoughts, easily stomping out the rest of my misgivings. I brought the lump of flesh towards my mouth.
The taste was divine. It tasted almost like pork, with a mix of some flavoring that I instinctively knew nothing else could match. The semi-intelligent creature below me held one of its many hands over the profusely bleeding holes on its neck before letting out a shrill scream. A sense of strength filled my body.
I felt perfect. I felt happy. Without much conscious effort of my own, my face settled back down into a blood-filled smile.
The thing below me let out another cry as two of its faces looked on in fear. I could see the last one's eyes darting around before it suddenly zeroed in on the treeline just a short distance away. As quickly as it could, the monster brought itself up, barreling towards the wrought-iron fence. Easily, the gargantuan creature broke through it.
A few feet away from me, metal screeched as a menagerie of body parts pushed their way through leaving a large hole in their wake. My instincts cried out demanding that I give chase, but the aching pain all over my body said otherwise. A feeling of weakness started to spread through my limbs.
Slowly, the sense of emptiness started to fade as I felt a slight burn on my neck. Like a puppet with its strings cut I fell to one knee, breathing heavily all the while. Small wounds covered my body while my hoodie and jeans were in shambles. Out of all my injuries, my forearms were the worst, large tinges of red in place of the usually tan skin. Lightly touching my scalp, I could feel a copious amount of blood staining my brown hair dark.
The earlier scene played itself out in my mind as I kneeled there on the ground. An almost sickening sense of nausea built up in my stomach as I remembered the taste. My left hand shot up to my mouth, covering it, as I gagged. The reassuring emptiness from before was entirely absent.
"O-Oh, God. W-What did..." I rasped.
The feeling of disgust started to boil as something traveled up my throat. I brought my hand down and tightly grasped my stomach as I spewed my impromptu dinner all over the ground. Stomach bile was mixed in with beige colored flesh and blood. If I were to be more observant I would have seen a wide-eyed man staring at me from the roof of the groundkeeper's shack, wings on his back.
Soon after I threw up my guts on the ground, I succumbed to exhaustion. A mixture of blood loss, tiredness, and mental fatigue hit me like a waterfall. By the time I awoke, all I could feel was a dull ache coming from my entire body as well as a distant ringing in my ears.
"Boy, what happened to you?"
Standing next to my bed was my adoptive father. For a second I wondered how I got here before I saw his face. I could see a look of grave concern on it, mixed in with a smidgen of dread. He was wearing his usual plain black robes with nothing much standing out on him besides the cross on his neck and the gray patches in his hair.
Slowly, I tried to move my arms only to feel fire shoot up it. My eyes slowly brought themselves down to see a sea of bandages covering my two limbs. My brain started to process the situation as John continued to stare at me with worry. Subconsciously, I noted that the bandages on my arms seemed to a bit wet. The liquid kept sending shivers of cool relief up my spine as the dull aching started to fade.
Bringing my head over I tried to explain, "I-I don't know. The graveyard. I was..."
Suddenly, I stopped as a rough cough left my lips. I could feel the same pain from before light up my rib cage as my father quickly rushed about the room. The girthy man leaned down towards the wooden desk propped up against the wall, grabbing something off of it.
"James, be still." chided the man as he lightly grasped the back of my head to lift it up. Blearily, I felt something cold touch my lips as some water filtered through them. All of a sudden, the pain ravaging my body seemed to fade a bit as the cold liquid went down my throat.
John pulled back what appeared to be a small vial from my lips before stashing it within his robes. Slowly, he began to lower me back onto the bed. Having finished his task, my father looked down with a curious look on his face before asking, "So?"
"There was this...this thing in the graveyard. I-It attacked me and I-"
Memories flashed through my mind of the hulking creature attacking me. I could still feel its appendages grasping at my skin, its cries ripping into my ears. Then the taste came back and with it a familiar sensation from my neck.
My father's eyes went wide as he muttered something underneath his breath. Looking up I could still see the same concern from before, but now he looked all the more worried. No, worried didn't even begin to describe it. For the first time in my life, I saw my father's fear.
Slowly, I brought my eyes down towards my neck upon which the familiar sensation sat. I used to have an off-white splotch of skin that was seemingly darker than the rest. Now? Sitting a good six inches below my chin there was a lifelike tattoo of a human mouth.
Looking at it, I could see the mouth had no real defining features beyond a full set of whitened teeth and the endless expanse of black behind them. It appeared to be shut tight with each of the pearly teeth held close together. My pupils turned to pin dots as I continued to stare at the mark. Confusion rang within my mind. Then it began to move.
The mouth was slowly starting to open. I could feel it writhing on my skin as the warmth building on it just screamed to me how unnatural the thing was. My heartbeat quickened. Absentmindedly, I brought up one of my bandaged hands to touch it.
John slapped my arm to the side and scolded, "No, leave it be!"
The pastor's hands were shaking as he brought them back. I could see an almost soul-sucking fear bleeding through his eyes. He appeared to steel himself for a second before going deathly quiet. Looking at the floor, he muttered, "Why'd it have to be you?"
I looked up from my bed with a blank stare on my face. The usually jolly man seemed to have some sort of switch flipped in him at the sight of the mark on my skin. The entire atmosphere surrounding him appeared to suddenly change when his stony eyes met mine.
"James, stay here. I-I need to make a phone call." ordered the man before animatedly walking towards the door. I could still see both of his hands clenched, whether in fear or anger I did not know.
With a bit of dread eating its way into my stomach I asked, "B-But wait! Father, the monster...What's going on?"
He didn't deem me with a response.
I felt my blood freeze as the door slammed shut, only to be followed by a loud set of thunderous footsteps. As quickly as my battered body would allow, I pulled myself up from my cot, a burning pain shooting up my spine. Biting my lower lip, I tried to ignore it.
The church in which I lived was fairly small. It had one main entranceway with pews lining either side of it. At the end of that main room stood a dilapidated podium on which I'm sure John used to speak. At the building's end, there were two doors on the back wall behind the podium. The left led to my humble abode while the right led to Father John's old room.
When I reached the door, I heard faint yelling coming from the other side of it. My heart raced as my hand went towards the handle. The wooden door let out a small creak as it swung to the side. The shouting got louder.
"I don't care; Get my brother on the phone or so help me God I'll excommunicate you myself!"
Brother? I thought. As John continued his screaming match with whoever was on the other end of the phone, I crept further down along the wall. He was standing near an old broken statue. The poor thing's head was laid down on the ground by the pastor's feet while its wings were clipped. It seemed that angel wouldn't be flying any time soon.
"Just...wait? Finally! Get him on the phone."
With a bandaged hand, I scratched at the burning sensation on my neck wishing for it to stop. Surprisingly, it did. I felt the unnatural mark stop its writhing as the burning heat suddenly disappeared. Looking down I saw that once again the mouth was tightly shut.
"Brother? Thank the lord. What do I need? I-I need you to come-"
Standing just a short distance away from John now, I could barely make out a male voice on the other side interrupt him yelling something that I couldn't understand. John let out his own bit in the same speech before sighing. A bit of curiosity stirred itself within me as I thought, What language is that?
"I understand that but there's something here, in Minnesota! Please, just take a flight. I know you have a lot of work-"
The other voice cut him off once again yelling something in a gravelly tone. I saw John's eyebrows swoop down for a second. The two started to mix in English with the same language in a sort of back and forth. Luckily, I was able to understand the basic flow...well the English parts at least. A melancholy look washed over my father's face before it was replaced by one last bastion of hope.
"No don't, just think of it as a vacation. T-There's something else that could use your expertise as well. I know I said I was done with all of this years ago, but...Vasco It involves my son."
AN: How are you doing folks? I hit a bit of a block in writing one of my other stories so I decided to take a break on it. This one came about like most of my others. I had a basic idea and ran with it. I think you all will like how this one turns out. Other than that though I'm going to keep any commentary after this to a minimum unless I'm responding to reviews.
Like Always, I am open to any and all criticism so if you have any (or anything you want to suggest/ask) go ahead and leave me a review. Hell, you get bonus points if you can figure out what all actually happened in this chapter. There was a lot, but most of it was left purposefully vague on the finer details. I will respond to them all in the next chapter. I'll be seeing you all soonish!