fantasy, horror, thriller

Seven Days (the final chapter)

Part 2

THE FINAL CHAPTER…
The tent continued to break down on top of them as it, along with Elizabeth and Kenny, was pulled with the urgent hunger of Murmer Men that hadn’t eaten for years. Keeping their head above the water that had earlier accumulated in the tent was nearly impossible. They were like pieces of meat being shrink-wrapped into a marinade of muddy rain water. They were pulled over bumps, and banged into trees while hearing Connor’s cries outside the tent until the tent stopped and the cries continued to move forward.
They stood to their feet, tent stuck to their backs, coughing the water from their lungs.
Elizabeth found her way out of the suctioned fabric to see Connor being pulled by his legs. “Connor!” she yelled.
Kenny found his way out. “They…” he coughed and then fell into the mud on his knees. “They’re real?”
They watched as the Murmer Men continued on with their friend. The sounds of “mmmmmmrrrrr” were all around them now. There were three of them with Connor. Their bodies appeared tall and muscular, like lumberjack men, although Elizabeth and Kenny could only see half of them. Their legs, if they had any, were underground. Apparently waste up was all they needed to come out of the ground and snatch Connor. As they moved forward through the mud and water, their torsos began to descend deeper into the earth, almost as though they were the earth. And as they descended, so did Connor’s screaming, flailing body. After he was waste deep, his head dropped down, his arms stopped swinging, and his screams stopped. His limp body continued into the mud until his hand was the last Elizabeth and Kenny would ever see of him.
Elizabeth immediately turned and picked up the tent. “Kenny.”
Kenny went from his knees to sitting on his feet.
“Kenny, help me.” She tried lifting the tent, but it was still filled with water. She began rolling it, trying to get the open side to the ground so it could empty. “Kenny!”
“They just. They took Connor. I think he’s dead. Are they going to…eat him?”
“YES Kenny! And they’re going to eat us too if you don’t help me with this tent!” She was able to empty most of the water. She got it back to a standing position. Good enough to hide in anyway, and pulled Kenny in. It filled with water again, but at least it was upright. The only flashlight they had left was damaged when the Murmer Men took Connor. They sat in darkness, but their eyes had already adjusted long ago.
“We’re not safe in here,” said Kenny.
“I know, but it’s safer in here than out there.”
Kenny’s body moved. Not because he wanted to, but because something under him…bumped. “I don’t want to die, Liz. My mom’s going to be so mad at me.”
“I know.” Then she felt a bump. She reached over and put her arms around him. It was a hug because they were terrified…and they were going to be eaten alive…soon.
“What about your mom?” he asked.
“She’s going to kill me too.”
“No! How did she survive?” He pulled free from the hug.
“A tree!” She got to her feet. “She was hiding in a tree when she saw her mom killed! Maybe they can’t leave the mud!” She unzipped the tent and climbed out.
“You’re going out there?”
“We have to get to a tree, Kenny, come on!”
He climbed out as slow as someone being forced to jump from a plane.
“Come on!” she moved him along and started to run towards a tree. She looked back to make sure he was following, which he was. Ahead of her was a tree that didn’t appear as old as the rest and had a good starting limb to get up it. “Over here!” she yelled as she ran, splashing water and mud with every lunge. She grabbed the tree, steadied herself and lifted her leg to the lowest divide. As she pulled her body up she heard Kenny scream and turned. “Nooo!!!” she yelled for him. He was already being pulled under. “Kenny!!” she yelled. They stopped. There were five of them with him, all of them stopped, even the one holding Kenny.
“Liz! Help me!” His legs were already in the mud, and he was letting out screams of pain.
“Leave him alone!” she yelled.
They turned to her, their eyes yellow with flashes of red. They looked back at each other and “mmmmmmrrrrr”ed to each other. The one holding Kenny and another one moved forward again, Kenny continued screaming and trying to push himself away. The rest turned toward Elizabeth, opened their mouths until their jaws hit where their Adam’s apple should be. There were rows of teeth to the back of their throats, similar to a shark’s two rows, but all the way back. Then they let out a high pitched scream as their bodies pushed through the muddy water, rushing toward Elizabeth. She turned back to the tree and started climbing. She heard more “mmmmmmrrrrr”’s, like she was in the middle of a swarm of bees. She looked out and saw them rising from the muck in all directions. The scream from the Murmer Men must have been a siren, to let the others know there was food. To let them know that she was food. She climbed higher and listened to Kenny behind her until he made no other sound.
There must have been at least thirty of them down there. She was as high as she could get without climbing onto the branches that she knew would break from her weight. She straddled her branch with her legs and held on with her arms, praying that the rain would stop. Mom said they went away when the rain stopped. Three of the Murmer Men continued to protrude from the earth until she saw their legs and feet. Close up she could see that as the rain hit them, they would dissolve only to regrow that spot as quickly as the rain washed it away. She was no longer certain they couldn’t leave the mud. Her body was vibrating electric fear in a bubble all around her. Don’t let go. “Go away!” she screamed with tears falling down her face. “Go away!” The Men with legs glided across the mud to the tree. They put their hands on the tree and then leaned like they were trying to push it. They “mmmmmmrrrrr”ed to each other, then dropped their mouths and screamed again. Elizabeth started sobbing. She looked out and saw more of them swarming to her tree. The three stayed out, pushing on the tree while the others in the mud began going forward and backward, zig-zagging through the mud around the tree and under the tree until she felt a slight jerk in the tree. And then another. “Stop it!” she cried. The tree began moving back and forth. They were tearing the roots from underneath, chopping it down from its strongest point.
She came to, coughing water from her lungs while on the back of one of the Murmer Men who was fully out of the ground. She was gliding with him, growing lower to the ground as they moved. He was mushy and slimy underneath her body. She wriggled and pushed his body away until she broke free of his shoulder and was then being pulled by her feet, her face in the water and mud. She used her arms to hold herself up, which was difficult at first, but as the Man lowered into the ground, the angle was less drastic. She screamed between coughs and found a rock to grab onto which slowed the ride enough for her to notice that the rain was finally stopping. There were still a few drips, but they were slowing. The Murmer Men began picking up speed, but she grabbed another rock to slow her down. If she could only delay going under the ground until the rain stopped, she might survive. They were moving again. She felt her feet being pushed into the mud. There was tightness around them. She let out a scream that grew larger as the tightness grew stronger. She felt her feet being twisted, like they were in a grinder. The tearing and ripping continued up her legs the further she went in. It felt like the mud beneath her was nothing but a giant grinder filled with teeth, ripping and grinding at her flesh. As hard as she tried to pull out of the mud, they kept pulling her in. Eating her like a pack of piranhas. Somehow, in her terror, she was able to notice the rain stop and the pulling into the mud slowing to a stop. She ended in a raised area, with no accumulation of rain. She tried pulling herself away, but the tops of her legs were too deep into the mud for her to pull out. She didn’t have any strength. Her body felt cold and light. Then everything fizzled to black.

*****

Karen watched from the distance as the police went to Elizabeth’s fallen body, the EMT’s rushed in behind them, and Tom rushed in behind the EMT’s. Two EMT’s hunched over her, one feeling her neck, the other her wrist. Everything moved in slow motion. She watched the slow movement of the EMT’s gaze from Elizabeth’s wrist up to Tom’s urgent eyes, the EMT shook her head “no”. She saw Tom fall to his knees, grabbing Elizabeth’s lifeless body, and the police pulling him off so he didn’t disrupt any evidence.
Karen’s body fell. The people around her caught her and held her up, but she couldn’t feel them. She felt nothing but the complete emptiness inside her as though she were literally a balloon made of one thin layer with nothing on the inside. She felt nothing. She was set down on the ground. Different people were yelling around her and to her, but she could only feel the emptiness trying to push its way out, trying to shatter the thin layer of her body holding it in. “Get her some water!” “Is she okay?” “Karen, I’m so sorry.” “Someone get an EMT over here!”
Karen was moved to an ambulance truck and spared the visual of her daughter being pulled from the mud. The bottoms of her legs were gone and replaced with dangling shreds of flesh.

***

Karen barely survived on her doctor’s depressant-drug-of-choice for the next eight years, waiting for the seventh day to come again.
It had not only been raining for seven days, it had been storming. She drove to the forest, stepped out of her car, and did not shut the door behind her. She wasn’t equipped with a tent, or food, or a flashlight. Her purse and phone were on the kitchen counter at home. She walked through the cold, whipping rain, into the forest where she sat, and waited to die. She could no longer stand to be alive, and she desperately wanted to take away the pain her daughter felt eight years ago. Although she couldn’t go back in time and be in her daughter’s place, this was the closest thing she could do…feel the same pain. So, she waited. And they came.

“mmmmmmrrrrr”

…end… (for now)

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fantasy, horror, thriller

Seven Days – Part 1 (Horror)

Seven Days – Part 1

It had only been fifteen minutes, but Karen was already wiping a layer of dirty sweat and humidity from her braless chest. She had run from the house while still in her pajamas, her eyes bruised from last night’s makeup, hair a mess, and head pounding from her alcohol exploits. It was the phone call at 11:15 am that sent her straight from bed to the car within seconds…the phone call asking if Connor and Kenny stayed over last night. It was that phone call that let her know that her daughter Elizabeth was not at Connor’s where she said she would be. By 11:45, the parents, along with police and what seemed to be the entire neighborhood, were trudging through the woods a mile away. Boots slapping and sticking in the earth that was trying to dry after the seven days of rain had finally ceased.

It was a night alone with Tom, and now she felt guilty. She cherished the nights Elizabeth would stay with a friend. Freedom. Sex with Tom the way it used to be, alcohol, maybe a joint, staying out until she damn well chose to come home. Whenever the opportunity arose for Elizabeth to stay at Connor’s Karen took it. She knew it had been raining for days, but refused to count how many. Because if she had counted, she would have known it was seven, and that it would have been safer for Elizabeth to stay home that night. And now Elizabeth was missing. This was her fault. Her selfish fault.

Everything in her body told her Elizabeth was gone. “Elizabeth! Connor! Kenny!” She yelled every so often into the woods that surrounded her. Every time she yelled, she felt the squeeze of emptiness grow tighter around her body, strangling her with the thought of never seeing her daughter again. The “reassurance” from people walking around her was not reassuring at all. The three best friends have pulled stunts like this before. But they have always been sure to be home on time, if not early, to minimize the scolding.

She saw something blue in the distance. The top of the kiddie tent Elizabeth used when she was younger.

“Tom!” Karen could barely yell out as she ran toward the tent. “There!”

Tom and the mob followed Karen’s direction until there was a sudden stop. No one moved, and silence echoed between the people and the trees that surrounded them. A crow cawed in the distance. The police were the first to move toward the body. Only the sounds of their mud-smacking boots and rustling, pocketed pants filled the air. Karen couldn’t move, didn’t want to move. It was Elizabeth. She recognized her brown wavy hair and the Detroit Tigers pajamas. She was face down with her arms sprawled out as though she were lying in their king-sized bed. Her legs…her legs were… She moved up just a little, just enough to see that Elizabeth’s legs were missing. No, that wasn’t right. She moved a little closer. They were in the ground as though Elizabeth had been standing and the earth had formed around her, stopping mid-thigh. And the rest of her body, toppled over the earth silent, still, lifeless.

***

A loud bang stopped Kenny from finishing his story about why his mom took his phone away for the day, something about ignoring her when he was on it. Him and Elizabeth looked up to see a muddy handprint on the window, raindrops already creating trails that ran through it. The camper door opened, and Connor stood in the doorway with his face covered in mud.

“They’re coming!” he growled. “They’re going to eat us alive! First our feet.” He stomped into the camper. “Then our legs!” He did his best decrepit walk towards Elizabeth. “Then our…ouch!” He rubbed his head where the basketball bounced off, courtesy of Elizabeth.

“You’re an idiot, Connor” she said.

“It is day seven,” Kenny said, bouncing closer to Elizabeth on the couch before grabbing her in his arms. “I’ll protect you!”

She looked down at him. “Yeah, if anything happens, more like I’ll be protecting you two.” She rolled her eyes while pushing Kenny off of her. At age eleven, it was only natural that she was the tallest of the three. She was also better at basketball, baseball, and throwing crab apples at the other neighborhood kids.

Connor pulled her to her side, looping his arms around hers from the back and pulled her to the ground. “Get her!” he yelled to Kenny. Kenny straddled her and began tickling her stomach.

“Stop…”, she laughed, “…stop…I’m gonna…”, she screamed and kicked. “Stop it!”

Kenny stopped and held his hands above her, taunting her. She felt like she was going to vomit, but in a good way. She threw up once after going on the most amazing carnival ride ever, and compared her feelings for Kenny to that. Nauseating, yet amazing. “Get off me!”

Kenny and Connor looked at each other for approval before letting her go. She pounced on Kenny, knocked him to the ground and then straddled him, holding both his shoulders down.

“Help?” he said to Connor who was in the corner of his parent’s camper, laughing.

She sucked together a wad of spit and let it slowly drip from her mouth, then slurped it back up right before it landed on his face. Drop, slurp, repeat…it was a loogy-yoyo, and a pretty fine one in her mind.

Connor interrupted the torture with, “We should sneak out to the woods tonight. See if the Murmer Men come.”

“What?” She climbed off Kenny. “Are you serious?”

“It’s been seven straight days of rain. If the stories are true, they will come out tonight to feast on human flesh. I want to see what they look like.”

“They aren’t real, Connor,” Kenny said. “It’s just a fairy tale. There is no such thing as men made out of mud that eat humans. That’s ridiculous.”

“Oh yeah? Then there should be no problem hanging out in the woods then.”

Elizabeth could see a flash of fear in Kenny’s eyes, and felt one in her own. Unwilling to play the girl, Elizabeth said, “Done. I’ll grab my tent from when I was little that my mom refuses to throw away. We tell our parents that we’re staying over each other’s houses?”

“Yep,” said Connor. “Kenny?”

“Yeah, why not. Nothing’s going to happen anyways.”

***

Elizabeth reached to the bottom of her nightstand drawer and pulled out the picture of Kenny that she cut from last year’s year book. Her cheeks rose high as she took a breath in and held it to her heart. With an exhale, she pulled it from her chest and took in every last pixel of brown hair and brown eyes before placing it back in the drawer.

“What are you doing with that tent?” her mom asked. Elizabeth did realize it was a little odd, grabbing her tent she hadn’t played with since she was five. And, honestly, what would an eleven-year-old do with a baby tent anyway.

“Oh, I told Connor I was going to give it to his little sister.” Her mouth lifted with a charity-filled smile. In her mind, she heard a ding while a sparkle formed on her teeth…an Orbit commercial at its best.

“Are you sure? You may want to play in it again one day.”

Elizabeth smirked while raising her eyebrows. “Really, Mom?”

Karen sighed. “Go have fun. You sure you don’t want me to drive you over?”

“Nah, I can walk. It’s just rain.” She slipped into her poncho and threw the tent over her shoulders before leaving the house.

Kenny and Connor were waiting at the corner of Lindell and West Street. Each had their own items to lug. Kenny carried a backpack filled with sodas, cookies, jerky, flashlights and any other small items of necessity. Connor carried a garbage bag that held two blankets. Based on the size of the tent, though, they would only be using one.

They learned from their last adventure to take side streets to the woods. Last time they were caught walking down one of the main streets after dark, a concerned citizen thought it would be helpful to question them and then call the police to escort them to their homes. Their homes, of course, had very angry parents to greet them. That mistake would definitely not happen again.

The steady raindrops hitting their ponchos chilled as the night sky crept in, letting the children know that it was only a few hours before midnight. A few hours before the Murmer Men would finally rise for their feast.

“How far in should we go?” asked Kenny as they stood just outside the forest.

“Right to the middle. I want to make sure we see them rise from the mud,” said Connor before seeking his way ahead.

End part 1.

PART 2

Chicky, Heavenly, love

The Mist – flash fiction-drama

It was the first time in months that I felt joy. The further I ran, the happier I was. The wet chill reminded me of fresh grass clippings while running through the sprinkler during the summer. It clung to my bare feet and held on for the ride, wherever it would lead. I felt free. The order from my dad to stay in the yard was nothing more than a mere whisper that was washed away by the thin mist that surrounded me. Laughter bubbled up through my five-year-old self. And when it finally escaped me, it traveled through the field and was lost somewhere in the fog. I stopped running and yelled into the barely-there cloud. “Ha!” I guess I expected an echo. “Hello!” There was no return of my voice. I looked around. I was further out than I had ever been. In every direction I looked, I could only see grass, a tree or two, and a white blanket that consumed the distance, consumed my house. My laughter ceased. I felt the chill of the morning, and my toes were aching from the cold. I wanted to go home, but didn’t know which way. Panic filled me as I began to cry for my dad. Tear’s covered my face while I cried to no one. That’s when I felt her.

Mom placed her hand on my cheek. Her touch was soft, just like it always was, and it tickled, just like it always did. “It’s okay, Dear, I’m here. Look,” she directed me to look to my right. My pink tea-time table was set in the field, complete with my flowered tea set. I ran to it, and I sat. She sat with me. In that moment, I had forgotten that she had been gone for so long. But that no longer mattered because we were going to have tea at my table. Just like we did every morning until she left.

“I like your dress,” she said as I passed her a cup of imaginary tea. It was a white, lacy dress that Dad had recently bought me for church. “It’s beautiful, just like you.”

I smiled. Mom always told me I was beautiful. Every day. I missed that. “Are you going to stay, Mommy?” I asked. A flower appeared on the table. I picked it up and smelled rose. It reminded me of the previous summer when I helped her trim the rose bush. “I didn’t like when you were gone.”

She placed her hand on mine. It was lighter than normal. “I missed you too, sweetheart,” she smiled and stared at me. I don’t remember how long she stared; I was too busy passing out the pretend cookies. “Baby, I need you to know that even though you don’t see me every day, I am here, watching over you and I will be for the rest of your life.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know I went to Heaven, right?”

“Yeah, but you’re here now,” excitement tickled a smile onto my face.

“When the fog leaves, you won’t be able to see or hear me anymore, but I need you to know that I will still be with you, okay?”

And just like that, my excitement was gone. I stood up from my chair and moved to Mom’s lap. I held her, and she held me, until the fog lifted.

My father dismissed that day as a child’s overactive imagination. My aunt insisted I get grievance counseling, which I never did. Eventually, I also dismissed it as imagination. Whatever it was, it helped the younger me get through the passing of my mother from cancer.

But today…today feels so much like that day thirty-five years ago. I find myself in the field, distant my back yard. The sun has barely risen. I feel a slight chill. Everything is the same, except this morning is crisp and clear. There is no fog in sight.   I don’t know why, but every inch of me feels the same as I did that day. Stranger yet, I’m not sure why I am in the field or how I got here. I feel a soft touch on my cheek that leaves a tickle. “It’s okay, Dear, I’m here.” I look toward the touch, and I see her. My mom, who is just as beautiful as she was thirty-five years ago when she died, is standing next to me.

“Mom?”

She smiles and moves her hand from my cheek to my hand. “It’s over,” she says. “It’s finally over.”

My memories of the past six months come back to me. Pancreatic cancer. The pain. Secretly wishing I would die quicker to end the misery, and to end the burden I was on everyone. Wishing I would survive to be there for Declan. Knowing survival was not an option. Feeling angry. Feeling sad. Feeling… beaten. I remember leaving my body. Lingering. I lingered here for…

“Two months, sweetheart,” Mom answers my thought. “Once you pass, your spirit stays until the weather is just right for fog. It’s the fog that lifts us to Heaven.”

“But I don’t see any fog.”

You are the fog,” she says with a knowing smile.

“But fog is just moisture accumulation.”

“Partially. When fog forms, any lingering spirits on earth are gathered into it, and then raised to Heaven once it dissipates.” She nods her head to my left. I turn to see my six-year-old son who is, like I was when my mom died, crying and lost. “It also acts as a window,” she says, “allowing the living to see us if we choose. He is very handsome, dear.”

“Declan, his name is Declan,” I say, excited to finally share my son with my mom.

“It’s time to say goodbye, Amanda,” she says as she looks from me to my son.

I reach out and touch him. “It’s okay, Baby,” I say. “I’m here.” I think about our mornings that we played with his train track, and it appears. I guide him to his favorite toy as we play and say our goodbyes. He nestles into my lap and we sit on the earth, holding each other, until I begin to feel lighter.   Thinner.  And I leave this world behind, following my mother to a place called Heaven.
~~~
Written by Sheryl Marasi
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The photograph (above) that inspired this story is by Jessica Musser Photography.

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