Face of the Griffin

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A bitter man is new in Slawbad, Arizona. His parents are missing, and he's living in their house while he's in town. It isn't long before strange things start happening around the house, and he hears rumors of some kind of ghost that haunts the mines the town is known for.

Submitted: July 28, 2013

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Submitted: July 28, 2013

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Slawbad, Arizona. A perfectly normal town, for the most part. Every small town has its lunatics, its drunks, its gossips. In Slawbad, the people seemed friendlier towards one another. Less prone to gossip and more geared toward community. At least, from a distance.

Mark Brant, an ordinary layman from Michigan, was new in town. He didn’t know anybody, he didn’t like anybody. To him, the human race was nothing but one big bag full of random pieces of shit. Each individual piece of shit had its own shitty characteristics, but they were all more or less the same. They all argued over the stupidest things, they all laughed at the dumbest jokes, and they all judged each other based on clothing. What the hell was that all about? Who gave some random piece of shit the right to tell another piece of shit that they look ugly, or stupid, or geeky? In reality, Mark Brant believed, no one shithead was better than another. They were all equally stupid; some of them  just thought they were smart because they knew more about math, or science, or God.

Mark was well-built and in his thirties, and he had an awful temper. He wasn’t afraid at all to shout out his opinion in a crowded area. He wasn’t well known in Slawbad yet, but back in his hometown of Crabshaw he had been the town bully. Bully… Whose place was it to call him a bully for stating his opinion? "Isn’t that just the damndest thing you ever heard?" he would ask. Some blowhard who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about can say whatever the hell he wants wherever the hell he wants, but the second someone else says something otherwise, it’s the end of the damned world. Real mature, to think that your opinion is the absolute truth and everyone else is a piece of shit. He purposely ignored the fact that this was exactly what he spent his time doing.

He had come to Slawbad because his parents had moved here and owned a house. They had both recently gone missing. Mark had moved into their house and was using their bank account to pay for it. It was their house, after all. He didn’t worry about them, though; he was sure they were just out on a trip to Yosemite of the Grand Canyon and just forgot to tell the neighbors. After all, their car was gone. What could they have gotten themselves into? Nothing, that’s what. Who cared if they had left all their camping gear behind? They were old and forgetful.

One Wednesday morning, Mark Brant was watching his parents’ tiny television set when the signal died in the middle of the ball game. He was close to the screen because his eyes weren’t very good these days, and he just couldn’t read the score from the couch. He jumped up at the very sudden static sound and the loss of picture. The damned antenna must have fallen, he thought. At first he was going to fix it, but he soon decided that the Tigers were going to lose anyway. He plopped down on the sofa and looked around.

The house was almost one big room, with the exception of a bathroom and one bedroom. Both of these side rooms were tiny. The whole place smelled like dead flowers, and Picasso’s work was all over the walls. That was a real downer, and he wanted them to be taken down at the very least (preferably shot and burned), but he didn’t want to have to put all the paintings back up when his parents got home. Picasso or no Picasso, though, it was still a pretty stupid house. It was relatively new, and it didn’t “settle” very often. The plumbing and electricity were fine, and the yard was fantastic. But there was still something a little off about the place. Mark couldn’t quite tell what it was, but it just felt awkward.

He reached for a book that he had brought with him, but decided against it. He started to get up to fix the antenna, but sat back down. He sighed and settled into the soft, yellow cushions. He kept his eyes open, still absently scanning the house. Little by little they closed. He dozed off. It felt like seconds later when there was a faint thud above his head. He was suddenly awake. A branch must have hit the roof, he thought. No, that wouldn’t be right, because there aren’t any trees around the house. Another thud. He sat up. There it was again, that thudding. What the hell was it?

He got up and walked to the front door. He opened it and stepped outside. He was attacked by a strong wind. Damn, it didn’t sound this strong from inside. He started to go back, but figured he had come this far from the sofa, and he might as well check out the roof. He sighed, although the sound was lost in the wind, and walked out onto the lawn. He turned around and looked up at the roof. Yeah, see? he told himself. Nothing up there. Just some stupid thing that blew over here from-

Wait, what was that? Mark stared hard at a little white circle. The circle hadn’t been there before, or at least he didn’t think so. What was it? Probably a ball or something. Maybe some kids threw it up there. Yeah, that would explain the thudding. He didn’t really feel like chasing down any kids. Case closed.

Hey- did the circle just move? Yes, it definitely moved. It moved up the diagonal shingle roof. Now, isn’t that odd? The ball should have rolled down the roof, not up, and the wind is blowing the opposite way. No, it isn’t a ball. What in God’s name is it?

Holy shit, where did it go? It’s gone. That’s just too weird for me. But you know what? Mark thought. I’m gonna take a nap. He grinned to himself and walked back into the house. He eased himself back into the sofa and tried to find where he had been laying so comfortably. He closed his eyes and shifted back and forth. He tried to find the sweet spot for five minutes before he gave up. He opened his eyes.

Holy SHIT!

It was only there for a second. One fleeting second, and it moved quickly to one side and was gone. But there, at his window, had been a very white face. Mark leapt up from the sofa and sprang out the door. He looked around the lawn and saw nothing. What the hell just happened? he thought.

He went back to sleep for a few hours, but then he thought he heard shuffling. He bolted upright and looked around. For another fleeting second, he thought he saw a face, this time near the floor. But it was gone before he could blink. The floor creaked, and then there was a sharp thump. He could see dust settling over where he had seen the face.

Mark Brant slept with the lights on that night.

 

The next morning, he walked casually around the house, shuffling his feet as he went. He was very bored and wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He walked the border of the walls twice and then started to move around in the middle. One of the boards had an awful squeak. He pushed his foot up and down on it several times. He thumped his foot on it and it sounded hollow. Of course, that was probably due to the underground pipe caverns, he told himself. But just then, he thought he felt a small pressure on his foot. He thumped again, and the pressure returned. It felt almost like the boards were pushing back. It was then that he noticed a stay piece of thick string on the ground. He tried to pick it up, but it seemed to be lodged in between the boards. He sighed and decided to get out of the house.

 

He went to the local grocery store. The store was filled with row upon row of fresh produce, all of which came from local gardens. What wasn’t fresh was frozen meat and desserts. What Mark found odd was the lack of price tags on anything. Probably a scam to make loads of cash, he thought. All the same, he picked up all the fruit his cart could carry, along with a gallon of chocolate ice cream. He loved fruit, and he loved ice cream. It took a long time for the older man working the only register to ring everything up. It was an old register, and it didn’t even have a bar code scanner. The old man seemed to know by heart the prices of these items. About three bags of peaches into his job, he asked Mark “Are you new in town?”

“Yeah,” Mark replied. “I assume you’re not, though. How much is all this stuff?”

“Put together, I think it’ll come to about fifty dollars.”

Mark was taken aback. “Seriously? Only fifty?”

“Give or take a few bucks, yes. Farmers around here don’t grow their goods to make money; they grow them to provide food for the community.”

“How much would four peaches be?”

“About ten cents.”

“Damn, you guys have got it made!”

The old man chuckled. “People here would appreciate it if you didn’t swear. I don’t mind it much myself, but everybody else seems to.”

Mark couldn’t bring himself to be angry, with these prices. “Sure. Sorry.”

“No problem. So, are you looking for a job, by any chance?”

“Uh, I guess I couldn’t hurt. Why, you hiring?”

“Well, no, but some of the farmers are. And there’s always the mines.”

“What mines?”

“Don’t you know about the mines? That’s how this here town makes it living in the world! We’ve got one of the country’s biggest coal mines in Slawbad. It’s up the road a mile or two, but they’re always looking for strong young men such as yourself to lend a hand.”

“I’ll be sure to check that out, thanks.”

The man hacked the last bag’s price into his ancient cash register. “That brings the total to fifty-four eighty-six.”

Mark handed the man a fifty and a five. He didn’t want change back; those infernal coins clinking in his pockets irritated him greatly. He took his cart out to the parking lot and started loading the bags into the trunk of his Camry. Just after he started, a boy of about twelve asked if he could help. Mark gladly accepted, and the boy asked for no payment for the job. Smiling to himself, Mark got into his car and drove home.

Unfortunately, there was no little boy to help him take the groceries all the way inside. With no shortage of groans, Mark got everything in the two huge refrigerators his parents kept. These were probably his favorite things about the house. If he had to suffer a tiny television set and Picasso, he was very glad he got to store as much food as he could ever eat. Once the fridge was loaded up, he decided that it was about time to fix the TV antenna. He fetched a large ladder out of the garage and set it against the roof. He climbed up with the waist-carried toolbox he had brought to Slawbad with him. When he reached the antenna, his first thought was that the ball had hit it and snapped it. With a little thought, he remembered that the ball had rolled in an impossible direction and he had decided it wasn’t a ball in the first place. As he looked closer, he saw that it wasn’t snapped, but pulled. The wires had come out with it. He shook his head of any fearful thoughts he might have been having and reinstalled the antenna. He had worked as a television repairman in Crabshaw once, so he was confident he knew what he was doing. When finished, he checked the television signal. It worked fine.

He put the tools and ladder away and got into his car. He wasn’t sure where he was driving to, but he was driving all the same. He asked a teenage girl walking down the road if she knew where the local TV station was. Looking a tad nervous about this man’s intentions, she pointed it out to him. Mark wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to remember where it was, and he almost asked her to come with him and show him, but the look on her face made him decide against that. He thanked her and drove off down the road. It took him a while, but he finally found it.

Outside, it looked as old as everything else in town. On the inside, it looked almost exactly like the station back home. A short man in a tidy three-piece suit greeted him with a smile. Mark didn’t wait to ask how he could be helped.

“How much force would it take to pull an antenna out of a roof?” he said.

The salesman wasn’t sure what to say. With a little hesitance, he directed Mark to the company engineer, who was in his office trying to repair a large flat screen. The man reminded Mark of Popeye the Sailor Man, without the anchor tattoo and the pipe, and dressed in a company uniform.

“Yeah?” he said. His voice was high and soft. Mark asked him his question.

“Now why would you wanna know a thing like that?”

“I’d rather not explain at the time.”

The engineer stopped what he was doing and looked Mark up and down. He guffawed.

“Fine, keep it to yourself. I know what house yer talkin’ about, and I put that thing up there. It was intentionally designed to withstand wind storms. If I remember right, it would a body builder to pull that thing out. Good luck with that.”

Mark didn’t take the time to explain that he wasn’t the one ripping out antennas. Mark, with a deep, sudden urge, asked about the mines. When he first asked the question, the engineer looked at him like he was crazy. He asked if Mark was serious, and being answered in the positive, shook his head and told him where to go.

This town is just plain weird, Mark thought. Scarred up old men, overly kind little boys, judgmental engineers, and body builders climbing on people’s roofs. Not that Crabshaw was any better. Kids vanishing at lakes, families turning up dead and the police now allowing anybody to see the bodies. Must be something about little towns that makes them naturally creepy or something.

The drive to the mines was about an hour long, and there was nothing to see but barren rock. Mark almost fell asleep at the wheel, but he managed to stay awake with a cup of coffee. He saw a sign that said the mines were coming up, and he could tell by the fence with a roadblock. The fence stretched for quite a distance before turning and going so far it was out of sight. It surrounded the perimeter of the mine owner’s property, Mark assumed. He saw a high voltage warning on the fence near the roadblock. Damn, pretty tight security.

He stopped at the roadblock and a guard stepped out of a small facility. Mark rolled down his window.

“Name?” the guard said. He pulled a notepad out of his shirt pocket. Mark looked down at the guard’s belt and saw a handgun and a nightstick. He looked back at the man’s face and told him his name. “Why you here?” He told him that he was looking for employment. The guard looked as bewildered as the engineer from the television station. “You sure?” he said. Mark was sure. He was let through. Now I’m just curious as to why these mines are so feared, Mark thought.

He drove for another minute or two before he parked outside a large concrete building. He locked his car and went inside. He was met with a blast of freezing air conditioning. A man in a hardhat stood at a counter, reading a magazine. He looked up and leaned on the counter. “What can I do for you?” he asked.

“I’m looking for a job.”

This man didn’t seem as upset as the last two. “Well, you’ve come to the right place! People have been quittin’ a lot these days.”

“Yeah? Why’s that?”

“Oh, that would be, ah… Well, I’m really not at liberty to say, Mr. Noname.”

“Brant.”

“Mr. Brant, of course. That wouldn’t happen to be the Brants out on Wilhelm Street?”

“Actually, yes.”

“Sorry to hear about your, ah… Folks, I assume?”

“Yeah. No need to worry, really. They probably just went on vacation or something.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, guy.”

Mark squinted slightly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know what, I’m gonna shut up. Come with me, I’ll show you where you’ll be working.”

“I don’t need to fill anything out?”

“That’s not how this place is run. You come, you mine coal, you get paid when the day’s done. Everyone gets paid the same, doesn’t matter whether you started at six or noon. If you like it, you can come back tomorrow; if not, then stay home.”

“There aren’t any permanent workers?”

“There’s a few guys who’ve been here so long your could consider them permanent, but technically no. We used to have hundreds of miners in here before- Wait, no. Never mind.” The man smiled and clapped Mark on the shoulder. “Just follow me.”

Mark was more curious than ever about just what had happened here. Probably a cave-in or something, he thought. But those happen all the time; they don’t scare people away from the business.

He was led into a room that was currently half-full of aged men and three young men. All of them were silent. A few of them were asleep.

“Hey, guys!” shouted the man in the hardhat. All at once, they jumped back into consciousness. One of them cried out as he woke up from his nap.

“You’ve got a new buddy! Keep the hellos short, break’s almost over.”

With that, the man was gone. The door closed behind him.

“Hiya,” said one of the men. He looked to be in his fifties or so, and his face sagged. His eyes were bright and his smile was warm. Everyone else in the room seemed to die right at that point, besides the three young men. They looked awkward, and one of them twiddled his thumbs.

“Hi there,” Mark said. He sat down in the nearest chair. He looked around at the older men and saw that they were all very dull-looking, even sad. Yep, Mark thought, there was something weird going on here.

“I’m Joe,” the bright-eyed man said.

“Hey Joe, I’m Mark.”

“Mark Brant?”

“Yep.”

“Sorry about your folks, kid.”

“Don’t worry about it; I’m sure they’re fine.”

Joe’s eyes dimmed. “I don’t think I’d bet on it.”

“Why do people keep telling me that?”

“’Cause they’re fucked,” one of the dull old men said.

Mark stood up. “What’d you just say?” he said. His eyes flared viciously.

“Hey, Mark, settle down now,” Joe said. “That’s Grover, and he doesn’t… He’s not… Let’s just say he’s not a people’s person.”

“Nope,” Grover said.

Mark chuckled without humor. “That hardhat guy sure seemed to be.”

“Oh, that’s Little Stevie. He hates it when we call him that, which is why we do. That hat’s about the only strong thing on him.”

“Yeah, now what about my parents?” Mark said. The jokes about Stevie’s preferences hadn’t amused him. No one said anything. Mark looked around at all of them, but mostly at Grover. “Well?”

“I’ll tell you later,” Joe said. He wasn’t smiling.

There is definitely something screwy going on, Mark thought as he sat back down.

 

Five minutes, the work crew was being ushered into what looked like an airlock from a science-fiction movie. They entered through an iron door with a complex lock system that took Stevie a full minute to open. On the other side of the room, the entire was a steel gate with a small and obviously bulletproof window. Inside the room were hundreds of miner’s suits and hardhats. There were pickaxes, coils of rope, and compasses. Mark noticed a large crate labeled HIGHLY EXLPOSIVE. Once everyone had put their mining suits on over their clothes and put large lights on their hardhats, two of the men grabbed the crate and put it on a trolley. The trolley was on a rail that led under the massive iron gate. Mark heard the iron door begin to close, and he looked at Stevie. Stevie’s eyes widened and he began to sweat profusely. Mark thought he saw the man mouth the word “sorry” before he shut the door. The locks could be heard as they moved back into position. Mark didn’t have time to say anything about Stevie; the gate was rising.

 

“These mines go miles underground,” Joe was saying to Mark as they followed the tunnel with the rail. The trolley whistled and bumped as it was pushed along by one of the young men. Mark imagined it could be heard all the way back at the gate. There had been three tunnels when they had left the equipment room, but only the one of the right had had a rail and lights. The other two were too dark for Mark to see into.

“-lots of different minerals, too,” Joe said. Mark hadn’t been listening.

“What was down those other two tunnels?” he said.

“Oh, the one on the left leads down into an old gold vein, but we got all of it out sometime last year, so they didn’t bother lighting it any more.” Joe said nothing more.

“What about the one in the middle?”

Joe frowned and walked faster. Mark didn’t bother to try catching up. He took his time near the back of the group. Grover eventually caught up to him and started to pass, but Mark had another question.

“What’re we doing today?”

“I think we’re goin’ back to a big gem dig we came across the other day, but I could be wrong,” Grover replied in his rough voice. “It’s been known ta happen.”

“What kind of gems are they?”

“Some kinda quartz. I think it’s amethyst, but we didn’ get a good look at it. Sure looked like it though.”

“My birthstone,” Mark said in a offhand tone.

“Really now? Mine too. Never met ‘nother February person ‘fore.”

“They’re not all too hard to find.”

“Yeah, but if ye recall, I don’ like meeting people.”

Mark nodded. Grover jogged up to the trolley and began to talk to the man pushing it. The explosives suddenly struck Mark as odd; why would one use explosives to mine quartz? It took about a half-hour to reach the point where lights were no longer mounted on the walls. The crew turned their headlamps on and proceeded. Another fifteen minutes and they reached an elevator. Half the crew went off into a side tunnel. Joe went with them, as did the explosives. Mark started to follow, but Grover grabbed his shoulder.

“We’re goin’ down ta the quartz,” he said. One of the young men was with the remaining ten crewmen. He moaned and covered his face. Something is gonna go wrong, Mark thought.

Grover pushed a button and the elevator’s doors opened. There was a rack on the wall of the lift. Mark saw that it was filled with rifles and handguns.

“What the hell is that for?” he asked with wide eyes.

“What, Joe didn’ tell you on the way down here? Huh, no wonder yer not scared yet.” Grover hustled everyone into the elevator. The young man, whose name was apparently Max, had to be almost dragged in.

“All right, I think it’s about damn time someone told me what the hell’s got everyone’s pants in a knot,” Mark said as the door closed. Grover sighed.

“Ain’t no reason he should go down there unawares,” said one of the men. “After all, he is working here now.”

Grover sighed again. “Fine,” he said. He reached out for the elevator button and pressed it reluctantly. “Ye wanna know why we’re scared? We’re scared because of 1989. That was the year of the Explosion. We don’ talk ‘bout it much. It were the worst thing ta ever happen in this town.” He swallowed and cleared his throat, then swallowed again. “I don’ have time to start from the very beginnin’, but I’ll tell ye as much as I can.

“In 1989, we had hundreds of miners in here, workin’ our asses off in every corridor there were. Things were goin’ splendid. Ye know the three tunnels at the entrance? This one, the left one, were the only one ever to have a rail for a trolley. That was because the minerals in the other two was far too pure and valuable to blow up.

“Well, one day, a man named Jack Griffin, who was about twenty at the time, said he got fed up with diggin’ out those minerals little by little. I remember that day well, because I were on the same crew as him. Ye shoulda seen me; I were the nicest guy in the whole damn mine. Never griped, never worried, always optimistic… ‘Course, that were before Jack’s plan went wrong and showed me how reality worked. See, he stole a whole cartload of explosives and we smuggled ‘em into our tunnel. I know ye can’ see very far back there now, but it’s not really that long. About half as long as this one. After digging for fifteen minutes, we came across a hint of a gold vein. Purest sample we’d seen yet. We dug around it for a while, but Jack finally got us to use the dynamite. Stuck it all around the vein, we did. Figgered the gold’d be strong enough to hold up. Dunno where we got the idea, but it were in our heads all the same. We lit the candles up and stepped back for the show.

“It didn’ work quite the way we’d wanted it to. When the stuff blew, it blew. Not the way we’d seen it in the left tunnel, no, not at all. This stuff could’ve knocked over a herd of elephants. We all flew back. Two of our boys lost their helmets along the way and their heads was dashed against the rock walls. I lost my hat, too, but I landed on my back and managed to keep my head up. I had been further away from the shit than most everyone else. Another guy landed next to me, but he weren’ breathin’. I got up real slow-like and had a look around. I realized that I couldn’ hear very well, which I still can’t, by the way. My vision were real blurry. What I managed to see was ol’ Jack steppin’ out from behind a big wood support beam. He was perfectly unharmed. He walked over to a miner who, I think, were screaming. He were missin’ a leg. Jack reached down, and it looked like he was goin’ fer the leg. Thank God he weren’, but he grabbed a pickaxe. He turned it over in his hands a few times and looked back at the miner. Guy named Bob Carpenter, I think. Jack grinned real wide. I weren’ sure what was about to happen, but my instinct told me ta lie back down. I did, real fast. I heard the scream even over the ringin’ in my ears. I also heard a sicknin’ kinda thwack. I knew what happened, because I heard another one, another scream. I shut my eyes and quit breathin’, let my mouth hang open, ‘n’ all that. Jack checked all the bodies for signs of life. I guess he didn’t feel my pulse when he put his evil hand on my neck, ‘cause he stood up and went over to the guy next to me. I dared to open my eyes.

“It happened right there in the blown-up tunnel, the thing that most people are scared of. I’m the only witness, but there’s quite a bit o’ proof to back me up. He pulled somethin’ white and floppy outta ‘is shirt pocket, and then somethin’ shiny and silver after it. He put the floppy thing on his face and held it there. He turned around, but I didn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t. He had on a white rubber mask that didn’ have no mouth. The eye holes was small. It had a big long stitched-up scar across it, runnin’ from the left temple to the right side o’ the chin. He took the silver thing in his hand and put it up to his forehead. Holy shit… Sorry, lost it fer a sec there. Anyway, it were a big stapler. I heard it punch into his skin, and he screamed. By this time, I heard the iron gate opnin’ up. Guards was comin’. He stapled the damn thing all the way around. Dropped the stapler when he were done. He picked up another miner’s pickaxe and walked off. That was the last I ever seen of ‘im, but I heard the guards gettin’ killed. They weren’t armed very well. I mean, they weren’t expectin’ to find that in the tunnel, that was fer sure. After that, Jack left the mines and headed into town. Killed dozens, he did. And he didn’ just kill ‘em, no sir. He-” Grover stopped suddenly. “Elevator’s down. Arm yerselves, boys. Everyone grabbed one rifle and one handgun. Mark was trembling now. He was glad to see that Max was, too.

The tunnel was pitch-black and smelled foul. Mark couldn’t figure out exactly what that smell was, but damn, it was strong. It was familiar, too, but he couldn’t quite nail it. The beams of light from the ten hardhats seemed duller than they had in the tunnel above.

“Hey, what the hell’s that smell?” Grover said.

“You mean it’s not a normal smell?” Mark said with wide eyes that no one could see.

“Nope.”

“Shit,” said one of the old men. “Why’d I have to go down here?”

The group went down the corridor. They walked for twice as long as they had before, and the smell grew stronger with every step. The walls began to look shiny in the light.

“Quartz,” Grover said. He leaned his rifle against the wall. A box full of mining tools was next to it. “Grab somethin’.” And so they mined. They mined for a long time, hours it seemed, before Grover’s watch beeped. That meant it was break time. Mark wiped his forehead.

“Anyone wanna head over to my place for break?” Max said. “My parents are away on vacation and they left a bunch of deserts.”

Parents. Holy shit, Mark thought. His mind began to race, temples pulsing, and he inhaled deeply through his nose. That smell… He knew what it was now. Dead flowers.

Mark let out a small yelp and looked around.

“What’s up kid?” Grover said.

“That smell!” Mark said. “That’s what my parents smell like! My parents that went missing!

He looked at Grover. The old man’s face was stricken with sick horror. He didn’t bother to shield his eyes from Mark’s light.

Get out of here!” he bellowed. No one argued. All at once, they dropped their tools, grabbed their rifles, and sprinted down the tunnel. They couldn’t see the end of the tunnel, but they knew it was a very long way off. After only a minute of running, Max tripped. He flew forward and his hat fell off. The light went out. His rifle skidded across the ground and tripped one of the other men. Mark, Grover, and another man stopped to help the old man, but the other five kept running.

“Hey!” Mark called after them.

“Let ‘em go,” Grover said. “Better they get out now. Just hold the elevator for us!” he yelled.

“We will!” came the response. They were out of the range of Mark’s light now. As they bent down to the old man, they heard shuffling behind them.

“C’mon, kid, get the fuck up,” Grover said. He was answered by a bloodcurdling scream. Mark whipped around. He saw Max on the ground, on his back. Standing over him was a man with a white face. The face had no features other than the tiny eyes and a long scar. The face was at first looking down at Max, but it shot up and stared at Mark. Mark saw in his hand a pickaxe. The pickaxe lashed through the air so fast one might not have known it was there. Max screamed again but was very suddenly silenced. Mark aimed his rifle, but the man was gone. Mark paled and looked frantically about himself. There was no one.

No one!

Grover and the others had gone. Mark could just see them leaving his light’s range.

“Wait the fuck for me!” he screamed after them. In his panic to run, he dropped his rifle. He ran as fast as his legs would carry him, and he started to catch up to the group. He saw the elevator.

No… NO!

It was gone. Where it should have been there was only a gaping hole. Grover cursed the five cowards violently, pressed the elevator button, and turned around. He aimed his rifle at Mark, who waved his hands in the air. Grover signaled for Mark to move to the side. Mark was at first confused, but he did so all the same. Grover fired. The shot rang horribly in Mark’s ears, and it echoed through the tunnel. Gun smoke clouded his vision. He could just make out something rushing past him. He heard another shot.

“Griffin!” Grover cried. “JACK! NOOOOO!” Shuffling. A thud on the wall. Screams. A sickening thwack. And then, the worst sound of all. It sounded vaguely like a scream, but it rattled and scratched, as if its owner was breathing in instead of out. It was the most inhuman sound Mark had ever heard. He heard the elevator coming down. Through the smoke, he could see it reach the bottom and open. He saw only one man step in. This man had no head light. He turned around and Mark saw that it was indeed Jack Griffin. Griffin looked at Mark and raised his pickaxe, but the elevator started moving upward before he could get out.

Mark wasted no time in stumbling down the tunnel back to the quartz. He had no place else to go, and he could at least try to find another way out. He passed Max’s body, which was marked by a large bloody crater in its forehead. He reached the quartz and all of the dropped tools. He saw that his own pickaxe was missing. His own pickaxe had murdered four people. He continued down the tunnel.

After a long, long time, his light began to grow dimmer still. He was still continuing, without any sort of variation in the tunnel. It was just one long corridor. He began to think that wherever this turned out, it wasn’t going to be pleasant. He wished dearly for his own bed, back in little Crabshaw. He wanted to tell all those people that he was sorry for being such an ass, and start becoming, instead of the town bully, the town nice-guy. Oh, how he wished.

Apparently he wished longer than he had thought. His headlamp shone on solid wall not too far ahead. He lurched forward and began to cry. Dead end. He stayed focused on the wall, unable to think of anything else. And then, he tripped over something. Something soft. His head crashed into the wall, but the hardhat saved him from being killed. He looked down at his feet.

It was a body. No, it was two bodies. They were both horribly mangled. Their limbs lay apart from them. Their chests were ripped open. The internal organs were not inside. Where faces should have been, there was only skull. He looked around the ground. It was then that he noticed there was no smell of rotting flesh. The dominant smell was instead dead flowers. Daisies, roses, lilacs, and petunias littered the ground. He moaned and looked at the wall. The sight that assaulted him forced vomit onto the floor, covering the flowers.

Faces. Faces everywhere. They were all across the wall, with nails around the borders. Faces that had been cut off of dead bodies, nailed across the wall. And in the center, two faces in particular stood out to Mark. They were the faces of his parents.

 

He had no idea how long he had been unconscious, lying in the bed of dead flowers. When he came to, he remembered why he was there. He rolled onto his back and saw that the ceiling was not made of stone. It was wooden boards. He stood up and saw that they were blue. His headlamp had just enough light left for him to push on the wood. As the light went out, the wood gave way and opened on a hinge. Mark gasped and then saw a ladder between the collection of faces. He pushed the trap door all the way open and climbed the ladder in a frenzy. The light assaulted his eyes when he came into it. He closed his eyes and blinked twice. When he adjusted to the light, he realized that he was looking at a terrible Picasso painting. And another. And yet another.

He was inside his parent’s house. He let out a small moan and lifted himself out of the tunnel. It was exactly as he had left it. He walked around, but his knees were weak. He sat down on the couch and began to weep. He cried more than he ever had in his life. And when he was done, he heard a squeak. A familiar squeak. He turned around and saw a man with small eyes, no mouth, and a long scar standing above the trap door. With one swift kick, the door closed. Jack Griffin drew in a long, deep breath and let out an awful, rattling, primal scream.


© Copyright 2018 Zak Magick. All rights reserved.

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