The Malefactor

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: House of Ghosts

In this sequel to "Lord-Servant of Daemon Stars", a wealthy benefactor hires a team of engineers for the strangest job they have ever encountered.

The screams pulse through the compound, rippling through the air almost visibly. The piercing wail shakes every surface before quieting as the gears turn and turbines roar.  It has only been weeks and already I've grown to loathe the thing with each pitched cry of defiance.  The machinations in place do well to keep it subdued, yet that's all they do.  My beautiful wife would be turning in her grave by now if she knew what abominable things I've done and seen.  Ever since she passed away I've sought a new life for myself, but not once did I imagine any of this.  The wealth I was promised does nothing to rid me of the torture I endure within myself.

For years, I served as director of operations for my employer's various projects.  I remember the day he hired us, just a loose collective of naive engineers from various backgrounds.  He calls himself now what he asked to call him then: Mister Song.  To this day, I doubt it to be his real name, but rather an alias to keep his identity from us.  His dress is rich and formal, complete with blue suit and tie.  He wears a crested ring on his right thumb as golden as his slicked-back hair.  He always smiles softly, speaking only few, choice words if any at all.  There's always a sudden calm with his arrival, a pause that precedes his approach.  That, more than anything else, made my skin chill ever so slightly.

Several months ago, he had us build him a prison.  A strange request, made stranger still by its blueprints.  It's not so much a prison as a puzzling network of metal that moved like a self-sorting, bronze Rubix cube.  Its operation and structure could easily crush any man or beast unfortunate enough to enter its shifting folds, yet he called it a prison!  There was one day - in the later stages of its assembly - it became clear its assemblage was too strange to be devised by anyone short of genius or insane.  The parts and their interactions made no sense, yet worked perfectly when tested.  Mister Song additionally instructed we inscribe black lines at specific intervals of its pieces' surfaces, which numbered at two hundred and twenty-four.  I asked him where he found plans for such a bizarre contraption.  His only answer was, "I read many old books.  Every instruction is necessary."  And then, of course, there was the night of its use.

Earlier that afternoon, at least per the clocks Mister Song provided, he showed my staff and I a curious gem.  It was an eye-sized stone with coloration and shape identical to a pearl.  Upon closer examination, it displayed the most bizarre phenomenon I've ever witnessed in a rock.  When left on a surface it spun in place.  Without any interaction, it would continue to spin endlessly.  Mister Song explained it was crucial "bait" for his intended prisoner.  He then instructed we leave it at the center of his machine, accessible only through an opening in its side that virtually ceased to be when activated.  We did so and waited behind reinforced glass outside the room we built it in.

Before Mister Song left us to our task, he handed me a necklace.  From it hung a glass vial containing a small, old, rolled up parchment.  With a serious expression that I had never seen before he whispered that I wear it always and not ask why.  My muscles tensed at his words and I cautiously agreed.  He wouldn't leave until I placed it around my neck and as I did my breath shook under his gaze until his stern frown curved back to a smile.  The whole time his eyes remained unchanged; if I didn't know any better, I would swear he never blinks.

The facility was constructed thousands of feet in the earth with no knowledge of what lies above.  We were blindfolded before guided down here months ago.  We've been provided good food and exercise since then, although I do miss the sun and breeze.  Freedom from this place has been the least of my concerns.  Ever since the night we placed Mister Song's gem in the giant puzzle prison I haven't sleep peacefully.

It erupted above us without warning.  Our seismic readers explained no activity, yet from its vibration and volume we knew it was just beyond the chamber.  A single tile fell from the twenty-foot high ceiling above the prison, followed by silence.  The air was still and everyone held their breath.  We expected, at any second, for whatever it was to descend from beyond what we saw of the opening.  I remember my heart sinking slowly into my stomach before the rupturing metal and a staff member's scream shot in my ears.

Metal and dirt caved in where one of my staff stood and crushed him instantly.  From the shadows of the ceiling's cavity sprung tendrils like ribbons of pale flesh.  They impaled two more of us and dragged their convulsing bodies into the darkness above.  I fell to the ground in panic, mouth open and speechless.  The others fled to the one door that led to the remainder of the facility where we slept, ate, and bathed, but found it would no longer open for them.  The eight men clawed the steel door in a frenzy fueled by the primal instinct to survive.  Meanwhile, there I was, my ass practically glued to the floor as I waited, unblinking, for what awaited me.  That was when I laid eyes on the thing.

It held itself midair by the previous, murderous appendages like leg stalks, descending itself slowly.  Its main body was that of a severely malnourished man.  His hair and beard were brown, long, and haggard, and his nails unkemptly long.  It constantly gritted its teeth in a forced smile and bore the most unearthly absence of pupils in its sunken eyes.  The tape-like flesh extended from it as dozens of extra limbs, which otherwise wrapped themselves around its body like clothing.  Although he revealed himself mere feet from me, his direction was fixed on the rest of the men whom vainly tore at the door.

With one of its flat tendrils it hoisted a large, metal sheet from the debris.  My eyes darted back and forth between my men and the creature.  As unsure as I was of this thing, its intention pulsed sickeningly into my chest.  I felt all color and heat fade from my face as it tossed the chunk of metal at them with such a velocity that it flattened them beneath it, so much so I couldn't distinguish space between the door and flat projectile.  It turned to the reinforced glass and burst itself through effortlessly.  For some reason it left me alone.

The last thing I remember that night is watching the thing pull itself into the prison, which activated when its torso entered.  That was the first time the roar of gears and turbines echoed throughout the facility, as well as when I first noticed the black runes carved into every section of its bronze surface.  They were not apparent until it closed and shifted, which made sense of the answer Mister Song gave to my earlier question.  Nothing that inhuman could have been held by metalwork and gears alone.  Atheist as I was, there was something preternatural about it I couldn't deny.  I passed out, awoken by a calm Mister Song hours later.

Its bones and flesh crush with every cycle of the machine's operation, initiating every hour to ensure it has no time to recuperate.  I'm the sole survivor of the staff, tasked with the simple duty of keeping watch.  Mister Song visits from time to time with the same question of, "How is our friend doing?"  His smile is much wider and his eyes beam with excitement, all the while retaining his professional composure.  Eleven men are dead, yet still he glows with delighted expectation.  What purpose could he have for this madness?

I spent a long time cleaning up my staff's crushed remains.  Even with a hazmat suit I could not prevent myself from lifting my mask to vomit intensely, though I eventually gathered enough stomach to commit to the cleanup.  I apologized profusely to them between sobs as I swept, washed, and scraped their viscera from every surface I found them to be.  I had come to know these men, each with families and lives on the surface.  We shared laughs and drink as we shared what we missed and looked forward to returning to.  All good men, left as nothing but a bloody mess to clean.

I awake again to the hourly start of the machine.  How long have I been here?  I've long since stopped looking at the clock.  I've barely bathed or ate.  My body and mind seem to fray apart more with each passing hour.  Mister Song is stopping by again.  What does he have there with him?

I rub my eyes and blink at a long cylindrical container of black glass on wheels.  His attention doesn't leave the sight of the creature's prison.  His eyes are wide and his teeth show through an unnaturally wide smile.  His once smooth hair is slicked back sloppily, leaving stray strands across his head.  His tie is loose and his collar unbuttoned.  He doesn't speak a word to me for a long while, only muttering, "another down" each time the turbines work to silence its prisoner.  His occasional utterances make my skin crawl and sweat.

Mister Song suddenly exclaims, "One thousand and seventy-six!  One thousand and seventy-six! One more to go, my love!  One more!"

An hour passes and, on cue, the creature shrieks as the turbines kick in.  This time the entire chamber rumbles violently.  From above us echoes the roar of a far-off beast, but that can't be possible!  My attention fixes on Mister Song and my teeth grind as my blood boils.

"What have you done?!" I shout.

Mister Song's entire body stiffens before turning his head to me.  For the first time since this visit, our eyes meet.  The pupils of his unblinking eyes fluctuate between wide and pinned, churning the fire in my veins to a near-crippling chill.  His gaze feels physical as I take a flinched step back.

He gleefully asks, "Do you enjoy death, good director?"

I pause, waiting for him to continue.

"Of course not.  Death is horrible.  Just look what happened to your co-workers!"

He dares to speak of them, yet I cannot bring myself to retaliate.  His gaze has me fixed in place, like a harpoon to both legs.  I shake as I attempt defiance, but still can't move.  It's like my mind wishes to attack, but my body knows better.  How can such a despicable human being have me so trapped?

"I too have lost someone..."

Without taking his sight off me, he caresses his hand on the glass of the black container.

"In an age before ancient times, death had no sway on mankind.  Beings of size and shape, so alien and beyond comprehension, their mere presence gave pause to the Endless Cycle!  And if they can stop death, then I can have my beloved Eurydice back..."

"You're mad!"

"Am I?  I just want what I lost!  Wouldn't you do the same?"

I think back to my wife - her smile, her embrace, her carefree attitude toward the world.  I wish every day she could return to me.  She asked me to continue living a good life before she passed, but this wasn't living.  This isn't what she wanted for me, or for anyone - and certainly not at this cost.

The earth above us quakes again, this time more violently than before.  The ceiling above the main chamber gives way to a column of black tentacles.  They thrash and tear at the turbines surrounding the puzzle-box prison before receding back.  The opening leaves a faint ray of light cast on the room, illuminating the machine as it falls apart by the strength of its occupant's own tendrils.  Mister Song, always poised - even when clearly out of his mind - loses all composure at the sight.

"No... No!  Not like this!"

Mister Song slides open the glass container, exposing the preserved corpse of a woman in a flowing, white dress.  He embraces her and sobs uncontrollably.

"Eurydice, my darling...  Wake up!  They're here!  You can finally wake up now!  Open your eyes!  Please, Euryd-"

A single tendril impales him through his back and into the chest of the corpse.  Disbelief overtakes his face, his eyes wide with shock rather than madness.  His grip tightens around her as blood from his wound and mouth mix with his tears and drip onto her white dress.

"Eurydice... I'm... I..."

The fatal appendage jerks away from them.  Mister Song's body limps over the corpse he held so dear, his eyes cold and face frozen in final moments of regret.  I turn my sight to the prison, only to see the last trailing tendrils disappear into the tunnel above.  The same bestial roar, clearer than before, resonates from beyond it.  Everything is in ruin.  There is nothing left for me here.

I eventually find myself able to move again.  I take the key card to the elevator Mister Song kept in his suit pocket and stumble my way to the only exit from this forsaken place.  Fortunately, the elevator is operational, despite the catastrophic events that ensued.  I swipe the key card, enter, and press the button for the surface.

I know nothing of what awaits me above - if anything remains at all.

Submitted: April 04, 2017

© Copyright 2021 The Eldritch Author. All rights reserved.

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T. E. Jackson

Once again a masterpiece. Great job. I only noticed one error, where you mentioned the main characters lack of sleep, you wrote "Ever since the night we placed Mister Song's gem in the giant puzzle prison I haven't sleep peacefully" I believe you mean't to write slept. I tried to Icomment it but it wouldn't work for some odd reason. Other than that it was impeccable to my eyes. Perhaps you could have placed a few commas every now and again but it wasn't required. Great job!

Sat, April 8th, 2017 7:26am


Thank you! I greatly appreciate your input on grammar and punctuation, and I am delighted you enjoyed it! I'll get to those corrections soon. Again, thank you so much!

Sat, April 8th, 2017 1:44am

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