The Dark Beneath

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Clack! Clack! Clack! The pick strikes time after time, rendering stone to rubble. Annette paces the floorboards nervously, as her husband works through day and night, deep in the cellar below. This
house in the country was to be their adventure together, but what Malcolm has found in the foundations of its decaying cellar, could spell doom for their marriage, sanity, and far worse.



'The Dark Beneath' is a Lovecraftian tale of horror and torment set against England's isolated moorlands.




 

Clack! Clack! Clack!

 

Worried that pacing the room any further would leave a permanent mark on the bedroom floor, Annette seated herself. Outside the sun sank from smothering grey to rest behind rolling country hills, casting the bare trees of Saddleworth moor in a ghostly silhouette. To Annette's eye, their branches took the ominous form of twisted skeletal hands reaching out to heavens they would never grasp. Long shadows crept through the window and into the bedroom, inching across the floor. Annette countered the growing darkness with a further two notches on the gaslight lantern. The room danced in a warming orange glow, forcing the night back. For the time being, at least.

 

Clack! Clack! Clack!

 

The now familiar clacking of metal against stone brought Annette’s thoughts to more immediate matters. Malcolm had disappeared into the cellar with a shovel and pick in hand and nary a word spoken but for a hurried mumble. To her ear, he had worked through the light of day without a thought for stopping. Annette had little idea as to Malcolm’s end, though the sound of metal against stone alerted her to the fact he had reached the old manors’ foundations.

 

Clack! Clack! Clack!

 

“I shouldn’t even be here,” Annette thought to herself. It had been Malcolm’s work that had brought the pair so far north, bedding them deep within this barren wilderness. He had always been a keen studier of the past though it seemed to Annette that the history which enraptured Malcolm’s mind had occurred only in the bleakest corners of the world. Annette missed her sea view on the south-east coast. She missed the snapping reds and mellowing yellows of her garden and the freshness afforded by an ocean breeze. Here the air seemed choked by the constantly churning machine of industry. The cogs turned ash to the air; beyond the rolling hills on which it would settle. If her home county Kent was indeed the garden of England, Annette reasoned Saddleworth moor to be the chimney. “Nothing good can grow here,” her thoughts concluded.

 

Annette ground to a sudden halt. She was overcome by a feeling of peculiarity. An oddness. It was not a sound that gripped her, but the complete lack of it. Malcolm had finally stopped. Footsteps moved rapidly through the house, echoing within the empty vastness of its stone walls. Within seconds Malcolm was at the bedroom door, his chest heaving with exhaustion. He reached out from his rolled sleeves and beckoned Annette to him with a smile and a dirty hand.

 

“You have to come!” he demanded, his voice wavering with excitement “, You have to see what I have found!”. Before she could utter a word in response, Malcolm had seized her hand and was leading her through a maze of dark hallways with a lantern in his grip. He stopped before the cellar door, his face wracked with sweaty anticipation. Finally, he turned to his wife.

 

“Close your eyes,” Malcolm urged.

 

“Why? What’s going on?” A storm of confusion, anxiety, and excitement raged within Annette’s stomach.

 

“You have to see it as I did.” Malcolm continued, the glint in his eyes sparked like fireworks. The same as when they’d first met. It reminded her of the sane man she had fallen in love with. Not the unhinged rakish-thing that now stood before her.  Annette stepped back from the cellar door, pulling free from Malcolm’s grip.

 

“Trust me, Annette. Please.” Malcolm wrapped his hands around hers once more. It had always amazed Annette that no matter the extremes in which he worked, there was an unfaltering warmth to Malcolm’s touch.

 

“Perhaps a shred of the man I loved lives in this stranger,” Annette silently hoped before closing her eyes. Her feet passed over stone steps until landing with a falter on the loose ground of the cellar floor. Annette deduced she was walking over the labours of Malcolm’s long day. They continued for no more than thirty seconds before Malcolm brought her to a halt.

 

“Open your eyes”

 

Annette obliged. The lantern light illuminated several masses of dirt and stone rubble before giving way to the darkness. The foundations were a ruin of holes, some deep enough to bury a man as tall as Malcolm. Annette gasped in utter shock.

 

“It astounded me as well,” Malcolm beamed proudly at an achievement Annette had failed to recognise.

 

“Malcolm, what have you done?” She eventually managed.

 

Malcolm ruffled his brow in confusion before breaking a smile. “No dear,” he began to laugh “, Here.” Malcolm tenderly fixed her gaze with his warm hands. Six feet below the cellar’s floor, in a crude hole shaped by a man of questionable sanity, sat an old wooden hatch. Malcolm leaped ahead and climbed into the hole, the gaslight lantern revealing rusted chains and bolts locking the hatch shut.

 

“This is what you’ve been looking for?” Annette worried aloud as her husband worked the lock over; his movements a frenzied blur of motion.

 

“Yes! Yes. And no. I didn’t know it at the time. But now that I’ve found it- this!- I know for sure.” Malcolm turned to her sharply. “The pick. Please.”

 

“Do you even know what’s on the other side? “ Annette puzzled as she passed the tool down to him.

 

“That’s what I intend to find out.” Without further warning, Malcolm raised the axe above his head and brought it down hard on the lock. The old metal gave out instantly, snapping cleanly in a fury of sparks. Malcolm began to laugh as he pulled the chains free.

 

Annette watched on, transfixed by both awe and horror as her husband reached for the hatch door. She wanted to tell him to stop but the words choked her. Malcolm struggled with the weight of the wooden hatch and heaved it on. The ancient hinges creaked to life as the door finally swung open. A pit of absolute darkness lay on the other side. And a smell. Rotting meat on a summers day.

 

Annette gagged back her disgust as Malcolm peered in, bewitched by the black. He held the lantern out to illuminate- nothing. The light seemed to penetrate very little at all, as if the darkness sat thick like a heavy fog. Malcolm hurriedly unhitched a coil of rope from his muddied waistcoat and began to tie a loop around his waist.

 

“You’re going in there? Malcolm, come to your senses!” Annette protested, with an unusual anger in her voice, though it did not register in Malcolm’s ears.

 

“Fix the other end to the nearest beam,” Malcolm demanded and threw an end of rope up to Annette. He braced himself on the wooden frame “, Quickly now! Before they go!”

 

They? Malcolm, I demand to know what’s happening,” Annette exclaimed and dug her heels sharply into the uneven ground.

 

“Do as I say! Or do you wish I should break my legs?” For what Annette displayed in strong action, Malcolm matched in tone. For a seconds thought Annette wondered if it best for them both he would hurt himself and put an end to this childishness. Instead, she dutifully relented. Annette returned from the wooden beam to find Malcolm half engulfed in darkness, the rope coiled around his arms and the lantern fixed below. Within moments he was vanished but for the cracking and creaking of the rope.

 

“Malcolm!” Annette panicked. Silence and worry followed for several long minutes. Annette thought of running and leaving Malcolm to his adventure, but fear kept her still. If only she’d have known the reckless man Malcolm was to become. Perhaps she would have never married him and have been saved this torment. In the silence Annette indulged in fantasy and for a moment, she was free.

 

“I’m okay,” His voice finally came back to her, childlike in its excitement “, I’m at the bottom. The ground is hard to stand on. It moves beneath my feet. It’s unnatural!”

 

“Come back,” Annette pleaded “, You’ve seen everything you wanted to!”

“I’m in a corridor of some fashion,” Malcolm continued, oblivious to his wife’s pleas  “, and, there’s something else! There’s another light down here, Annette! It’s a lantern! There’s someone else!” Malcolm’s voice increased with confusion and concern. Another beat passed without word. Annette inched over the open hole in the cellar floor, peering ceaselessly into darkness. It wasn’t until she noticed tears falling into the black that Annette realised she was crying. A sudden commotion brought the air to life.

 

“Cut the rope, Annette! Cut it now!” Malcolm’s voice was laced with terror- his childlike energy vanished without a trace.

 

“I don’t understand! What’s happening!” Annette called frantically.

 

“There’s no time! Cut the rope and bolt the hatch! Quickly! CUT THE ROPE! CUT THE ROPE! CUT THE ROPE!” Malcolm blared. A terrified screech punctuated his final demand.

 

“Malcolm! Malcolm!” Annette called back into the darkness to no response. She moved her hand to the rope and gave it a tug. It hung without weight or resistance. She pulled again and again, expecting sign of his being. She called to him one last time, her voice cracking with fear. Malcolm was gone and Annette began to openly sob. Until the rope pulled back.

 

The coil shot out of her hands and into the darkness, cracking tight with sudden tension.

 

“Malcolm?” Annette whispered into the black. There came no response. The line creaked with stress as it tightened in the fog beyond the hatch. “Malcolm? Is that you?” Annette asked fruitlessly. The rope continued creaking and cracking.

 

Overcome, Annette hurriedly scanned the room, her eyes falling onto the pick besides the pit. Exactly where Malcolm had left it. The rope continued creaking and cracking. Annette’s legs shook against the ruined foundations as she lowered herself beside the door. She thought of nothing but her husband’s final demands. Cut the rope. Close the hatch. There was only evil in that darkness- Annette knew it. She gripped the pick and aimed it at the line. It continued creaking and cracking.

 

“What if it is Malcolm?” Annette’s thoughts raced on. “What if he is injured and unable to speak?” The pick hovered above her head, gripped in her shaking hands. With sweat pouring from her brow, Annette peered into the darkness. The rope continued creaking and cracking- and a voice began to whisper. The words were inaudible but the tone was familiar. Annette heaved a sigh of relief and dropped the pick.

 

“Is that you, Malcolm?” She dropped to her knees and turned an ear to the fog. The whispering continued but the words were a ramble of nonsense. The rope continued creaking and cracking. Annette turned back to the darkness. It seemed to retreat, revealing a shifting shade mere feet below the door’s frame. Malcolm’s pale face pushed through the black, followed by his reaching hand. Annette smiled at the sight of him.

 

“H-help me,” Malcolm whispered, his voice harsh and small. Without thought, Annette reached back and gripped her husband’s outstretched hand. His skin was cold to the touch and crawled as if his flesh was host to a thousand insects and worms.

 

“Malcolm?” Annette managed one last time before the hand pulled her into the black.

 

The hatch slammed shut behind her.

  

 




Submitted: April 02, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Gareth D. Green. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

A well-written and creepy story.

Fri, April 13th, 2018 9:07pm

Spyguy

Eerie & creepy, but an engaging read!

Sun, April 15th, 2018 4:59am

C. J. Davis

I love Lovecraft, you've done a great job honoring his writing style here! The ending, where the monster/evil force/bad guy/cosmic horror of some sort is never fully revealed (leaving the reader mentally yelling 'No! What was that???') was executed very well.

Now for my suggestions:

You can't tell what time period this is, and there's no real description of the characters, aside from the fact that Malcolm has warm hands. I can see how these might be a style choice - this story could fit in just about any time period from the 1700s to more modern times, and any reader could picture themself as one of the two characters. If that's what you're going for, it works well that way.

If you choose to keep the characters this way, perhaps consider describing the scene a bit more. Is it a decrepit old cottage? A spacious and well kept, but dusty, family manor? Reading through again, I see that it's a described as a manor, but still, I'd suggest more scene descriptions.

In the paragraph where Malcolm first appears, you have a few errors with the dialog punctuation; specifically a comma outside the quotation marks, and a space before an ending quote mark. I've noticed a few more mistakes like this throughout the story, so watch for that when you go through and revise.

I've left some comments throughout the story, pointing out specific examples of things you might want to take a look at again. Overall, it's a very well done story!

Mon, April 23rd, 2018 9:43pm

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