Home for the Holidays (5)

Hey everyone, apologies that it took so long to get this chapter out, but I was spending time with my family and didn’t find much time to write. If you’re enjoying the story, consider checking out my free audio drama A Man of the Mountain. The first four episodes are streaming for free on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and most other streaming platforms! Also, if you are enjoying the story, please let me know by commenting hear or sending me a message on Twitter!

Links to Catch upChapter 1/Chapter 2/Chapter 3 /Chapter 4

Chapter 5 – A Holiday Miracle

Nick slipped and slid his way to the car and fumbled with the ancient trunk. With the freezing cold and the decrepit state of the vehicle, it felt more akin to opening a tomb. The ground shook with thunderous footsteps as the second beast stomped its way out of the house. Despite the cold, sweat ran in rivulets down Nick’s back. “Come on you bastard, open up.” He kicked at the trunk’s lock and it sprung open with a pained groan.

James fired his shotgun again and the cacophony it made was swallowed up by the howling wind that had grown around them. The beast responded with an aggravated roar. Nick looked up from the trunk just in time to see the second wendigo advancing on James. It was larger than the first, and horrible spurs of bone poked through the ragged skin on its back. The creature crossed the distance from the house to James in a few short strides, gripped the barrel of the shotgun and bent it backwards with great, rending force.

“Do you have any idea how much that cost?” asked James, backing away from the creature.

The wendigo chuckled and then spoke in a voice that echoed through several ethereal planes at once. “It’s a small price to pay for what you did to my partner.” The creature held a long and deadly finger out towards the fried wendigo hanging off the roof. “By my mark, you’ve still got a balance for me to collect.”

“Hey, Nick, they talk.” James’s voice was dazed and full of fear.

     “Great, kid, keep him busy!” Nick swept aside holy symbols, a few landmines and a jar of holy water to pop open the trunk’s side panel. Harpoons spilled out, clattering far louder than he would have liked. He picked one up, hands shaking and tried to jam it in the barrel. “Of all the fucking times to get the shakes!” He slammed his hand down on the metal siding of the car, trying to beat the tremor out.  

     “I’ll deal with you in a minute,” called the wendigo in a strange warbling tone.

     Each word vibrated the edges of Nick’s skull, making it feel as though they could crack at any moment. He peaked out from behind the trunk and saw James firmly in the creature’s grasp, growing paler by the moment. The Wendigo looked at James, curious, like a dog about to rip a chew toy to shreds. Nick clenched his fist, trying to keep it steady and jammed a harpoon in the barrel of the rifle. There was a hiss of gas filling the firing chamber and he breathed a brief sigh of relief.

     The wendigo made a strange, high-pitched whistle that carried through the wind as if it weren’t there.

     “Hey, can you keep it down?” shouted Nick. “You’ll wake the neighbors and I have a raging hangover.” He shouldered the harpoon rifle and pointed it at the creature.

     The wendigo turned to him. “Really? Can’t wait your turn?” It flung James without ceremony into the garage door where he crumpled, motionless.

     Nick took a deep breath, steadying the rifle as the wendigo approached. The creature cocked its head inquisitively as if it weren’t staring down the barrel of a weapon. It took a few more lumbering steps and Nick couldn’t wait any longer. He closed his finger around the trigger and let the harpoon fly. With the short distance, it had less time to curve and stuck right between the creature’s ribs.

     The wendigo growled, low and angry, then reached a hand down and plucked the harpoon out. Black blood oozed from the wound, but otherwise, it seemed unaffected. It chuckled. “I thought I asked you to wait.”

     Nick bent down to pick up another harpoon, but the creature moved with surprising speed. By the time his fingers were closing around the shaft, it had him. A cold, clawed hand wrapped around his chest and squeezed, pushing all the air out of his lungs. Holiday stars danced at the edges of his vision, twirling and spinning in a dazzling display of fading consciousness.

     The wendigo turned him, so that Nick was looking at the still-smoldering corpse of the other beast. “Any idea how long we’ve been together?” asked the wendigo in a deep, gravelly voice.

     Nick tried to answer, but nothing more than a wheeze came out.

     “It was rhetorical. I come from a long line of creatures just like me, and we all grow up knowing your name. You think we look scary? Imagine what our people think of you.” The creature spat a black gob of something awful into the snow.

     “Thank. You,” managed Nick, seeing spots jump up before his eyes. “Flattered. Very flattered.”

     James groaned in the snow, trying to make his way over to them.

     “Don’t even think about it, child. Try to relax, it’ll all be over soon.”

     A black tunnel closed in on the edges of Nick’s vision, chasing the features of the snowy world around him away.

     “Oh no, you’re not getting off that easy.” The wendigo loosened its grip, allowing sweet oxygen to flood Nick’s lungs.

     “Five pages,” Nick panted. “Five pages, and never once did he mention wendigos love god-damned monologuing.”

     The creature clucked its tongue and turned Nick to face it. The stink of decay and rot was overpowering, and Nick watched as a maggot circled the inside of the beast’s eye. “You don’t like creatures like me, do you?” The wendigo’s voice was soft and almost playful.

     “No shit, Sherlock. Don’t have to be a psychic being to figure that out.” Nick tried to look away from the rotting face, but it kept moving to be in his eyeline.

     “Let’s take a look at what we have in store for you.” The creature’s eyes glowed hot like fire.

     James found his feet and ran towards the wendigo, knife in one hand. With a lazy sweep, the wendigo batted him away and sent him crashing into the car door. “Please, stop trying to do that. You got lucky with my partner.”

     James moaned and then fell still.

     The wendigo huffed. “Now, back to business.” The glow in its eyes grew to a fiery, deep red and Nick felt it burning into his own gaze. It was a strange feeling, like a hot poker had been shoved in the back of his brain. He could feel something reaching backward through memories and then forward through a substance he couldn’t quite understand.

     An image of a mountaintop covered in blood flashed before his eyes. Liquid dripped down the pristine white slopes, carving deep, red trenches down its side. The image changed and he was sitting in his childhood body, hiding underneath a table while a thunderous shouting match played out overhead. He could feel the fear as if it were happening in the present moment rather than a memory. The scene shifted a final time, filling the air with the hot, sickly stink of the jungle. Insects buzzed about around and his skin felt like it was on fire.

     “My, my,” the wendigo exhaled heavily, breathing the cold fury of a winter storm back into Nick’s world. Disappointment and malice flickered across the creature’s face, vying for dominance.

     “What the hell was that?” gasped Nick, his heart pounding furiously.

     “I’m in a bit of a quandary here, Mr. Ventner. While killing you would bring me great joy, your future holds so much pain. It would be a shame to rob you of it.” The wendigo’s body shuddered as it took a contemplative breath.

     “Get it over with you Ghost of Christmas Past, Dickensian fuck.” Nick spat bile and blood into the snow.

     “A decision like this requires deliberation.” The red glow in the wendigo’s eyes darkened. The horrible stench of its breath enveloped every word. “No, I think you should live, Mr. Ventner.” The words clearly caused the creature great pain. “You will live to experience the horrors I have just seen.”

     “Well, I wish I could say that was true for both of us.”

     The wendigo recoiled as James pushed the barrel of a pistol against the back of its neck.

     “Stronger than he looks,” commented Nick and shut his eyes tight.

     “And I always pack a spare.” James couldn’t help but grin. “Bend this.” He pulled the trigger, spewing red hot fire and a thermite-loaded, hollow point slug from the end of the pistol’s barrel. The wendigo’s surprise quickly turned to pain as its skin melted away, exploding outward. Fire and blood coated the fresh, white snow.

     Nick felt the creature’s claw loosen just as warm goo blanketed him in an all-too-familiar, unpleasant fashion. He fell backward, landing hard on the driveway. The wind went out of him. Stars flashed in the darkness of his closed eyes, but they quickly faded as he regained his breath. With a freezing hand, he wiped the gore from his face and opened his eyes.

     The body of the headless wendigo toppled backward and caught fire like a tinderbox. Soon it was blazing on the front lawn like an ancient bon fire. Nick coughed and spluttered, wanting nothing more than to be curled up with a fresh handle back in his flat watching television re-runs. “Bend this? Really?” he managed through labored breaths.

     James wiped bits of wendigo off the end of the pistol with a dirty rag. “It’s a work in progress.”

     “Clearly an early prototype.”

     “Fuck off, Nick. Show a little gratitude.”

     Next door, the neighbor’s front door opened again. “What the hell, Bill? You can’t barbecue on the—” The man stopped mid-sentence, staring at the carnage. With both wendigos dead, there was nothing preventing him from seeing it all. Once corpse still smoldered, hanging from the roof, and the other decorated the lawn in horrifying globs and bits. “I-I-“ he started, and faltered. “Martha, call the police!” He slammed the front door.

     “That’s our cue.” Nick stood up. “James, get the car running.”

     James looked to the car, and to the mess on the front lawn. “Right, probably smart.” Both men did their best to clean off what they could, but the second they climbed into the sedan, it was clear, some smells would never leave. James turned the key and the engine guttered to life. “Small miracles,” he said.

     “This is why we never do charity work.” In the absence of immediate pressing danger, a furious pain returned to Nick temples. “Let’s head back to my flat. I’d say we’ve each earned a bottle after this.”

     James looked out the window as they backed away. Childhood memories of the house and time spent with his aunt and uncle flooded back. “Yeah, a bottle sounds nice.” He stepped on the gas and they sped out of the suburbs. Houses flashed by in a blur and as they neared the freeway, James saw the pulsing red and blue lights of police cars. “Wonder how they’re going to explain that.”

     Nick sighed. “Oh, they’ll find a way.” He put his head against the cold window. “Mutated bears from a nuclear test site is my bet.”

     James scoffed. “You really think they’ll buy that?”

     “People will believe anything to avoid a scarier truth.” Nick watched the flakes fall out of the sky and thought about what the wendigo had seen. Enough pain to let me live. Only one way to chase off a prophecy like that. “James, let’s get a road beer along the way. The Haven has to be open.”

     James shook his head. “Whatever you say, master.” There was heavy sarcasm, but also obedience in the words. Despite his best efforts, the apprentice was learning.     

     “Wake me when we get there.” Nick shut his eyes.

     “Sure thing.”

     “And James,” Nick started, nearly falling into sleep mid-sentence, “happy holidays.”

The End

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Home for the Holidays (3)

We’re getting very close to Christmas now, and what’s better to spread holiday cheer than a story about Wendigos and a sweet, old couple in the suburbs? Enter Chapter 3 of my newest Nick Ventner tale, Home for the Holidays. If you need to catch up, here’s a link to Chapter 1/Chapter 2!

Excuse the makeshift cover art!

If you’re an artist and are feeling this story, please send halp for this cover!

3 – A Few More Cups

Nick was drunker than he had been in a long time. One of his least favorite parts of lacking income was the inability to get good and truly tossed without a fair share of guilt. Sharing booze with ‘family’, he had no such obligation. From the moment Bill had handed him his first cup, Nick had taken on a singular goal: Forget any misgivings, and possibly the rest of the evening.  

     Luckily for him, it turned out Bill and Marie could really throw them back. What started as a quick game of cards with several convoluted drinking rules he couldn’t remember, quickly turned into a straight drinking contest. The alcohol turned on him before he even noticed, and the room took on the pulsating, spinning blur quality that only existed on the other side of the line.  

     As he sat back in a plush armchair, there wasn’t much else in the world he cared about beyond himself. His fingertips were numb, but there was a fresh cup of something brain-smashing between them. Was there anything else that mattered? An instinct, more than anything, tilted his head to look at James. The kid was curled up under an electric blanket, brooding. His eyes flicked watchfully between the three of them, and Nick felt he was missing something important.   

     When he couldn’t figure it out, Marie took notice and prodded. “What’s going on, James? Don’t want to join in all the festivities?”

     James worked his hands, trying to keep the cold out of them. “Sorry, I think I just had a bad burger or something on the road.”

     Nick looked at him quizzically. Years ago, he had implemented a simple rule: No stopping for apprentices. They hadn’t stopped for burgers anymore than they had traveled through a magical candy-cane village. Nick sipped his drink. Candy canes! That’s what this is made of.

     “Where’s the bathroom again?” asked James. His face looked gaunt in the dim light of the living room.

     Be it imaginary burgers or moodiness, something was wrong with the kid, even Nick could see it. A flash bulb went off in the corner of his mind showing a mess of fur in the snow, but it was gone too quickly to grasp fully. Suspicion crept back into Nick’s booze-addled brain. He couldn’t figure out why, but it was getting stronger every second.   

     “Just down the hall on the first floor. Can’t miss it.” Bill pointed in the direction Nick had been exploring earlier.

     “Thanks, hopefully it’s just indigestion.” James slunk off in the direction of the bathroom looking more melancholy than food sick.  

     “He’s a good kid, you know?” Nick’s words were thick, dripping from his mouth like a decadent sauce. “Always does—” Nick faltered, “mostly does what he’s told. One of the better apprentices I’ve ever had.” James was many things, but he wasn’t a liar. Nick knew there was something to the burger comment, but in his current state of half awareness, he was having more than a little trouble connecting the dots.

     Bill’s eyes narrowed. “Do they have apprentices in accounting now?”

     Nick hiccupped, only half realizing his mistake. “Oh yes, accounting, loads of numbers. Have to get them all figured out somehow, don’t we?” The room was starting to spin. Why was the room starting to spin? Nick’s stomach turned and he felt the horrible rush of bile come bubbling up into his throat. “Oh god, will you excuse me.” Nick took off running for the bathroom. “For the love of god, James, I hope you—” his sentence was cut off by vomit spewing forth from him like a vengeful internal volcano.

     “Oh god, I’m sorry about that, I’ll clean it up!” Nick fell to his knees, holding his head between his hands. A great pain had come barreling back from the corner of consciousness he tried to banish. “Oh god, don’t get sober on me now,” slurred Nick, trying to convince his own brain.

     James stepped out of the bathroom. “I wouldn’t worry about the floor.” His tone was dead and flat.

     “No, come on now, I won’t be a rude house guest.”

     “Too late for that.”

     “Why are you being so pissy, my boy, aren’t we having a good time.”

     “For someone with so many rules, you don’t seem to pay much attention to them.” James pulled a shotgun from behind his back and pumped it, loading a shell.

     “What the fuck?” Nick backed away reflexively and tried to pull the harpoon gun from his jacket. A switch snagged and the weapon extended, pushing through his coat pocket and sending a harpoon flying into the ceiling. Plaster rained down, mixing with Nick’s vomit on the floor and forming a grey-brown slurry. “Oh god, I’ll pay for that too, but in fairness, you did pull a gun on me.”

“I’m not pulling it on you, idiot.”

Nick shook his head. “Wait, then who’s it for? Is Bill a hunter?”

     “Bill and Marie have been sober for over a decade.” James held up Nick’s tome. “You dog-eared the page. Turns out, much like you, wendigos like their liquor.”

     “Wendi-what?” A roar cut through the house and all at once, the lights went out.

     “You just had to make a scene, didn’t you?” James turned on a flashlight attached to the end of the shotgun. “And to think, you didn’t want me to spring for the extra tactical gear.

     “Hey, who’s the apprentice and who’s the?” A clawed hand caught Nick from behind and threw him in the air. He collided with the ceiling, missing the embedded harpoon by inches. The concealed rifle tore the rest of the way through his jacket and clattered down the hallway. Nick landed in a squelching pile of his own sick and the smell almost made him vomit again.  

     Thunder roared through the entryway as James fired the shotgun. Pellets of bright white fire spread out in a cone, briefly illuminating Bill whose eyes glowed red in the darkened house. The pellets ripped through his skin, starting little fires wherever they touched, and spraying brown-black liquid onto the floor.  

     Nick rolled to his side and watched as Bill batted at the fire, his skin tearing where it had touched. From somewhere beneath the human formerly known as Bill, a larger creature began to emerge. His bones creaked, growing and pushing against the taught cover of skin. Fur sprouted in ugly patches, tearing and rending his human form. A horrible crunching filled the room as two bloody elk horns extended from the man’s skull.

     “Ahhhhh!” Screamed Nick. “James, it’s a Krampus!”

     “It’s not a Krampus, dumbass.” James fired another blast from the shotgun. The creature screamed and turned away. With a single, hulking blow, it ran through the front door, sending the weak, wooden rectangle flying off and into the snow storm. Before James could get another shot off, it was out of range and lumbering through the storm.

     “It’s not?” Nick asked, watching the door resentfully. “I’ve always wanted to fight a Krampus.”

     James held up the tome again. “Wendigo, remember?” He shook the book like someone would shake keys for a small toddler.

     Nick vomited again. “Oh, right, right, of course, the wendigo.” He wiped his mouth. “Well, either way, that leaves us with a pretty significant problem.”

     “What’s that?”

     “Well, you’ve pissed one of them off, but where’s his dear partner?”

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Enjoy what you’ve read so far? Please share it with your friends or anyone else that might enjoy it. Also consider checking out my published works for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/Ashton-Macaulay/e/B07C1J3V8P

Link to Next Chapter!

Book Review in Brief – IT – Stephen King

It

It by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Going in to this novel, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve seen the trailers for the movies, but never actually watched them. As a huge fan of Stephen King, I can say this is one of his best. IT stands as a unique horror novel that thrives by focusing on the lives of people in a small town. Mich like Salem’s lot, the horror lives in the character’s reactions and emotion moreso than the thing itself.

Throughout the book, King manages dual timelines without confusing the reader, and developed a memorable set of characters that are instantly recognizable. My only complaint is the length. While the first two thirds feel like every page is necessary, some of the later chapters end up feeling like they could have used more brevity. All the same, the fact that King manages to keep the book engaging for a thousand pages is mind blowing in its own right.

Overall, if you can commit to the length, it’s worth your time. Also worth noting, the audio version can make it difficult to discern when the book switches timelines, but is very well read.

4/5 Stars

View all my reviews

Wrongful Possession

This is the short story based on September’s suggested prompt, which came in the form of a meme:

So anyways, here’s a story about a demon possessing the wrong person. Please like, subscribe, comment, or do something to let me know if you enjoyed reading it!

Wrongful Possession

Ken was taking a lonely walk through a particularly dreary cemetery on a Friday afternoon. His colleagues had left work early to prepare for a party that he hadn’t been invited to, and as a result, he was feeling more than a little lonely. For a while, he considered wandering the streets aimlessly, but the bustling crowds only made him feel more alone. At least at the cemetery he was technically surrounded by people, and he was quite sure none of them minded him being there.

     Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Ken wasn’t the only animated life in the cemetery that afternoon. A large, stone church reached toward the heavens, peeking out from between mausoleums. It was an old, sad-looking building with a massive bell tower that hadn’t clanged since a pair of bad riots in the eighties nearly tore the structure down. Ashley was hiding on the top of that bell tower.

     Not to put too fine a point on it, Ashley was a demon recently escaped from Hell. Like most other freshly escaped demonic entities, she was on the hunt for an easy possession. While she would certainly be on Hell’s shit list for leaving in the first place, entering a mortal was one of the few loopholes that would keep her off their radar. It wasn’t an intentional blind spot per se, but Hell certainly wasn’t putting their best engineers on demon tracking.

     As she sat on top of the church, she counted the passing seconds, wondering how long she had before enforcement would arrive. She had no doubt that her name was already being broadcast to every demon hunter in the Midway area, it was just a matter of how busy they were. Either way, there wasn’t much time to find a host.

Originally, she had chosen the church out of hubris, hoping to prove her skills by possessing one of the clergy. After several failed attempts that had ended in painful repulsion by the holy-hot spray bottle that was blind faith, Ashley opted for a new approach. The church was filled with the pious, sure, but the cemetery would likely have mourners, and mourners were vulnerable to say the least. However, there was a problem with this plan. Apparently, no one liked to bury a loved one on a Friday afternoon.

Ashley was near giving up and turning herself in when she spied Ken shuffling through the gravestones. He was the bipedal equivalent of a seedy motel she didn’t want to stay in but was the last place with available rooms. Knowing time was short, she leapt off the tower with a practiced flourish and swan dived into Ken’s head. To her surprise, there was no resistance, and a mere second later she was at the wheel, so to speak.

     Ken, who didn’t notice most things, felt an odd sensation like all his skin was prickling at the same time. There was a brief feeling of vertigo, and his vision tunneled out, giving the impression that he was sitting far behind his own eyes. Cackling demonic laughter echoed off the now cavernous walls of his skull. He didn’t have much of an opinion about it and waited for the situation to sort itself out.

     Ashley attempted to adjust to her new skin but felt lances of pain and discomfort as she did so. She looked down at the body, ensuring she wasn’t poking out in any odd directions, but no, everything was normal. “Hell, what is that?” she said aloud, grasping at a dull, throbbing pain in her lower back.

     “Oh yeah, that tends to flare up when its raining. Doctors don’t really know what it is,” said Ken from the back of his brain.  

     There was an awkward pause. Ashley had never been confronted by a host before. “Silence fool, your body is mine!”

     Ken fluffed the folds of his brain like a pillow and leaned back in thought; He didn’t really much care for his body. “Yeah, alright then. Am I being possessed?” Religion was never something that had tickled Ken’s fancy, but he had seen The Exorcist a few times.

     “Am I being possessed?” mocked the demon in a singsong voice. “Agh!” she exclaimed, clapping a hand to the side of her head. A sharp pain shot across it like a lightning bolt. “What the fuck was that?”

     Ken hadn’t felt a thing. “Probably a cluster headache,” he admitted. “The doctors say there’s not much to be done about them. Told me to reduce stress, but I tried to tell them I don’t have much stre—”

     “Are you not at all concerned about your current predicament?” Ashley had one hand to her back, and the other on her temple. The pain in her head was easing, but there was a lingering sensation reminding her that it might come back.

     Ken thought about the question. Being possessed wasn’t exactly ideal, but then again, what had been recently? “It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” he admitted.

     Ashley let out a low growl. “Nothing about possession is supposed to be nice.” She suddenly felt a wave of sadness wash over her. All her years trying to find a way out of Hell, only to be wasted on this useless flesh bag. Tears sprang to her eyes unbidden. I might be the most useless demon in the world.

     Ashley’s thoughts echoed through Ken’s head and he couldn’t help but chuckle.

     “What’s so funny?!” Ashley snapped.

     “Well, see, that’s the depression talking. It’s funny to see it from the outside for once.”

     He’s laughing at you because you’re a pathetic excuse for a demonic entity. He’d be more frightened of a newborn than you.

     “I’m really not saying that.” Ken stifled another laugh. For the first time in years, he wasn’t the victim of his own consciousness, and it felt great. A weight had been lifted from him the second the demon stepped in.

     “What have you done to my mind, mortal?!”

     “Well, it’s not what I’ve done, is it?”

Ashley tried to growl at him, but it came out as a whimper.

“Ease up a bit.” Ken had never been so care-free. “Like I said, that’s just depression. Apparently, it’s attached to my brain, which you currently inhabit.”

     “Fuck this!” screamed Ashley.

     “You could try exercising; the doctors say that might help! Or maybe pick up a new hobby.” Ken couldn’t help it, he burst out laughing. All the idiotic solutions people had proposed came rushing back to him. He would have felt bad, but she was a demon after all, right?

     A horrible, crushing weight constricted on Ashley’s new chest and she sat down, propping her back up against a tombstone. Tears were running down her cheeks in wide rivers. “I’m from Hell, but damn. Do you ever get used to this?” she asked, feeling a rare moment of vulnerability.

     “Ehhhh,” ken hesitated. “Not really, no, but sometimes it’s less horrible than others.”

     Ashley thought about it. She had been in the mortal’s body for under a minute and had never felt worse. “Screw it.” She coiled her ethereal legs and sprang out, landing back in her demon form on the cemetery path.

     Ken was thrown violently back into his body, nearly keeling over from the impact. Standing before him was a horrible winged creature with jet black eyes and horns to match. She turned towards him and opened her mouth, revealing hundreds of pointed, white teeth. “Well, doesn’t that feel better?” She stretched muscled limbs and they cracked horribly, echoing off the graves. “I’m going to do you a kindness, mortal.” She crouched, ready to pounce and widened her mouth.

     “Sorry miss,” came a voice from the side, “but I don’t believe you have a license to be on this plane.” The deafening roar of a shotgun blast cut through the quiet cemetery.

     Ken watched as the demon was shredded by a hundred pellets that burned anything they touched. Black gook sprayed him, leaving a clear impression of his silhouette on the gravestone behind him. He looked to his left and saw a man dressed in all black cleaning a triple-barrel shotgun.

     “Sorry about that.” The man tipped his black hat politely. “Good job getting her out though. Father,” he motioned to another man who was cowering behind a mausoleum a few hundred feet away. “Good news, no exorcisms needed today.”

     A shaking man in priest’s robes stepped out crossing himself.

     The other man put his shotgun in a leather holster and brushed what was left of Ashley off his coat. “This one could probably use tending to though.” He tipped his head toward Ken.

     The priest nodded and bustled over. “Why don’t we get you cleaned up, my boy? Come inside.”

     “T-thanks,” Ken managed, still in shock.

     The priest wrapped an arm around his shoulder and together they walked toward the church. Despite it all, Ken had one thought: I miss her already.

Take Me to Your Leader

Every month, members of my Patreon submit short story topics for me to write. Last month, a friend of mine had a very intriguing prompt about the Area 51 raid that garnered the most votes. I hope you enjoy it!

Original Prompt: ” Hundreds of thousands of people gather to storm the gates of Area 51, meanwhile, the ringleaders of the whole ordeal are using it as a distraction for something else… ”

Take Me to Your Leader

Suggested by: Check541

A loud bass-heavy beat thumped across the temperate night air of the Nevada desert. Mitch and his associates looked out from behind their clutch of rocks in disbelief. Technicolor lights shot into the sky and occasionally a crowd cheered over the slight wind that had picked up. Meanwhile, the blinking, barbed-wire perimeter of Area 51 was dead silent.

     The three of them had sat and watched all day as guards patrolled the exterior, stacking up towards the music festival that had congregated mere miles from the facility’s gate. Whatever they had said publicly, it was clear the guards were ready for a crowd of fanatics to swarm the installation at any time. All this from a poorly worded Facebook invite, thought Mitch. Things had progressed so rapidly that he hadn’t had time to bask in their success.   

     “Are you sure this is going to work?” Kira’s eyes flickered in the dark, glowing yellow.

     “We’re going to get him back,” soothed Mitch. “Our man on the inside is going to take care of everything.” Their man on the inside was a 21-year-old college student. Months ago they had abducted him, and on a whim tried a new hypnosis technique they were working. For his money, Mitch thought they had botched it a little, but after they set the kid down in a corn field, he did almost exactly as he was told. Sure, there had been some creative liberties taken with the message, Mitch didn’t know what a ‘Naruto’ was, but in the end, it worked.

     “Run it by me again,” hissed Kira, growing impatient.

     Mitch held out a placating hand. She had been on edge ever since her husband’s kidnapping, and he supposed he’d be on edge too if the situation were reversed. “It’s very simple. We’ve studied the behavior of the youth on this planet for a long time, right, Bill?”

     Bill was a full head taller than the rest of them and had clearly not taken much care in his human transformation. His neck was still far too long, and his head looked as though it had been over-inflated. Oddly enough, no one seemed to notice. When he spoke, it was with an uneasy baritone that sounded a bit like a freshman learning to play a tuba. “Mitch is right. I’ve watched these youth interact at festivals before. As soon as a few things go wrong in the right order, they will riot.” He smiled and clasped his hands before him. “Remember Fyre?”

     Mitch nodded. “Exactly, and our man on the inside is going to make sure more than a few things go wrong. This may have been converted into a music festival, but when the lights go out…” He let out a low, warbling whistle. “Well, then the chanting will start, and soon after they’ll start to wonder why they haven’t stormed the base. Shortly after that, they’ll carry through the event’s original purpose.”

     “To ‘see them aliens’,” quoted Bill, laughing.

     Even Kira cracked a smile at this. “You couldn’t have tried a little harder to learn the human language before the hypnotism?” she asked.

     Mitch sighed. “I don’t see a problem, do you?” As he said it, the music at the festival grew suddenly to a fever pitch, and stopped abruptly.

     “And just like that,” said Bill, clearly pleased with himself.

     For a few minutes, there was silence, apart from the wind rustling across the desert. There was a hollow click and an electrical whine as Area 51’s perimeter lights turned off. Mitch’s eyes adjusted, and with his impeccable dark vision, he saw soldiers moving around the edge of the base. They were dressed in all black, wearing slim, night-vision goggles, and wielding heavy rifles.

     “Think those are loaded with non-lethal rounds?” asked Bill. “Usually when it’s a protest, it’s non-lethal.”

     “This isn’t a protest.” Mitch felt some responsibility for the fate of the humans, but then remembered what they had done to Kira’s husband and refocused. “And that’s not a peacekeeping force, it’s a secret branch of the U.S. military. We know what’s in there and so do they.”

     Bill nodded in agreement and the three of them watched in silence as the soldiers passed. They were all congregating on the far side of the base, filling out foxholes and barricades that had been erected in preparation for the event. It was a formidable defense by any stretch. Even as the last soldiers moved into place, boos and jeers rang out from the festival venue.

     “Is it time?” asked Kira, impatiently.

     “Not yet, wait a minute.” Bill had his eyes trained on the horizon, looking directly at where the festival lights had been. A few short minutes later, hundreds of white lights appeared on the horizon. “I can’t be sure, but I think those are cell phones.” Bill grinned again. “I can’t believe it, but we did it.”
     “ATTENTION FESTIVAL-GOERS,” boomed a woman’s voice from what felt like a hundred loudspeakers. “RETURN TO THE FESTIVAL SITE IMMEDIATELY.”

     From a much weaker microphone across the desert came the voice of the assault. “WE ARE HERE TO SEE THEM ALIENS. YOU CAN’T STOP US ALL.”

     There was an audible click as hundreds of rifles were racked at once. “PLEASE, DON’T DO THIS. COME CLOSER AND YOU WILL BE FIRED UPON.” The woman’s voice was tired and conflicted.

     “That’s our cue,” said Bill, standing.

     Kira sprinted toward the fence as they had planned, keeping an eye out for guards along the way.

     Mitch pulled a razor-thin stick from his back. From a distance, it would have been hard to spot, but it wasn’t the size that mattered. He pushed a small button and a red, holographic targeting system appeared in the air above the stick.

     Kira began cutting through the facility’s electric fence, ignoring the low hum from beneath her gloved fingers.

     Above her, a sniper in all black appeared, checking the perimeter. Mitch got the man in his sights, muttered a quick apology, and with a snap-hiss, dispatched him. The man vaporized, leaving a thin, red mist behind him that quickly dispersed in the evening breeze.

     “Good shot.” Bill clapped him on the shoulder.

     Mitch laughed. “I never imagined it could be this easy.”

     Kira finished cutting open the fence and motioned for them to come in. Bill and Mitch ran forward and hopped through the small hole she had made, taking care not to bump the exposed fence that crackled with violent electricity. Once through, they rounded a corner to a service entrance. Mitch silently praised the man who had given them the intel, albeit unwillingly.

     In the distance, the crowd roared and charged. Everything was going exactly to plan. “Praise Facebook,” muttered Bill and pushed the service door open.

     On the other side, three soldiers stood with their weapons ready. One fired, but Mitch was quick, dispatching him with another snap-hiss. Red spackled the hallway in minute specks. He looked at the remaining two soldiers, saw one was beginning to shake, and shot the other. The bolt caught him on the side, causing more spray than the first, and splattering the remaining soldier.

     Mitch trained his rifle to fire again but waited with his finger rested on the trigger. The soldier was no longer in firing position. His mouth had dropped open and his gun was pointing at the floor.

     “Drop your weapon,” hissed Kira.

     The soldier did so without thinking, the black assault rifle clattering to the hallway’s smooth, concrete floor.

     “Very good.” Again, Mitch couldn’t believe just how easy it was. Slowly, he sidled up closer to the soldier, making sure his gun-barrel never left its target. When he was close enough to speak comfortably with the solider, he whispered: “Now, take me to your leader.”

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Cover image: “Area 51 Nevada”by tdeckard2000 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0