Rusty Horror Nights

  • 06 Aug - 12 Aug, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

Jahera’s trembling hand rested on the metal wall of the maze. Her palm slipped on the sweat that poured from her skin with the same exhausted ooze as her tears. She struck out at the wall and fell into her arms sobbing, the cold of the metal burrowing down into her bones. The quivering sobs clawing their way out of her throat echoed. She could make out edges and holes in the walls, all smooth and angular, but she couldn’t see any pattern or ways of escape.

Fragmented ribs stabbed at her with every breath and the call to give up would’ve been all too easy to answer. Her heart rate slowed as she realised there was nowhere to go, a resolute moment of calm as she accepted her fate. She dried away the last of her tears with rags she had used to cover her body. It scratched her face and the image of bent talons entered her mind. The beasts will do more than scratch, she thought.

A self-satisfied growl drifted into the passage. She could hear something moving. Her heart started to beat erratically and the urge to flee kicked in again. You want me to run, don’t you! The smell of rotten meat enveloped her as she turned to face the hot air that crawled on her skin. Through one of the holes in the metal wall, a forked tongue licked out and upwards to where her sweaty palms had been.

The corner of its mouth lifted up in the darkness to reveal dimly lit fangs. It retreated back into black.

Jahera tripped on her bare feet, which were numb on the sandy ground. She knew it wanted her to run, although, she didn’t know why. A white, glasslike, eye with a slice of black fixed on her from the other side of the hole and its hate tore at her soul. A well of hurt and sorrow wriggled inside her, cold hands of death touching her organs as if preparing them for consumption.

She closed her eyes, tried to pretend she wasn’t there, but the beast leapt at her. Too big to fit through, its shoulders crunched against metal and bones popped out of place in an attempt to get at her.

Jahera opened her eyes to see its tongue only a fists’ length away from tasting her, owning her. She ran.

With snap glances, she looked over her shoulder expecting to see the beast on her heels, but it seemed to have retreated back through the hole. Every part of her body ached for the demon’s game to be over. Blood rushed to her head, the thought of running again too much to take. C’mon then, let’s have it!

With a surge of defiance, she stopped and ran back the way she had come. As she approached the hole, it stank of decay, but she climbed in to peer out into the black. It had gone. She imagined the faces of her crew, their screams engrained in her mind, playing symphony to the massacre. She recounted how they had ripped off some of their legs and toyed with them, throwing body parts at her as she ran. It only seemed to excite them more. She looked back through to hole, hesitated, then searched for some kind of weapon.

A shard of metal reflecting the smallest bit of light caught her eye. As she lent down to pick it up, the wounds on her body stretched, the slightly healed slashes splitting even more. Her grip was firm, and her knuckles white as she tried to block out the pain.

Numbness buzzed over her body, and a focus over her mind. She guessed her stalker wouldn’t expect anyone to come up behind it, but she still clung to the darkest shadows, almost walking entirely on her tiptoes.

Jahera smelt the creature before she saw it, as if maggots were crawling up her nose. It hugged the shadows just as she did, but craned its neck and made low, jittering sounds as if calling for help. A cold sweat pricked over her body as she imagined more of them, images of her mutilated shipmates assaulting her sense of courage.

She sprang from the darkness and into the grey, the shard held behind her ready to strike. Aiming for its neck, she threw herself at the creature. She anticipated resistance if the shard were to penetrate its exoskeleton, but her attack lacked the conviction of her mind and her enemy moved to one side. Jahera used the momentum to turn and strike again, but the beast blended into the shadows.

She stopped, the failed attack fuelling her fears, but before her heavy legs could even twitch, the beast extended a claw from the darkness and gripped her by the throat.

She froze.

As cold as the metal walls that kept her at the mercy of the beast, its claw pinched before drawing blood, the warm trickle of life going down onto her chest. The creature started to make those low, jittering sounds again, its throat vibrating its stench all over her. Tiny claw and curious eyes started to emerge from its body, hundreds of them.

Their black plated exoskeleton no different to that of heir mother’s.

Jahera couldn’t scream, she tried, but couldn’t. Her windpipe was close to collapsing and her eyes were bulging. She had failed.

The little creatures travelled from their mother’s body to Jehera, taking little bites at her flesh, licking up the blood that had pooled on her chest.

The mother let go and Jahera collapsed to the sand.

The beasts nibbled at her, tearing off chunks of her flesh. She tried to stab them with the shard but the weak blows bounced off them. Jahera began to stab at the ground instead, to try and move away somehow as the beasts devoured her legs, right down to the bone. She screamed, her hoarse and damaged throat turning the sound into a demonic rage.

The mother started to make the jittering sound again and the smaller ones retreated back to her, croaking out noises of their own. They watched her, all letting out vibrating, hollow sounds to the trickle of her blood.

She knew it wanted her to run. From the first moment it had let her escape she had been running. Jahera’s arms and body trembled, physically weaker than she had ever been before, but as she got onto her feat, her shins ready to snap, she looked the beast in its glass eyes and threw down the shard in front of it.

Holding out both arms, Jahera closed her eyes. The rotting smell that had been haunting her for days circled once again, but instead of fear, all she felt was relief. She smiled. Freedom.