Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lovecraftian Southern Gothic (part 3)

(Part 1,Part 2)

Derek sped all the way to the abandoned manor.

Anderson followed all the way.

The manor sat far from the road with a winding drive that led to it. Empty pastures sat beside the driveway with wooden fences sitting in disrepair. Even from the road, the house looked past its prime, the windows shattered and the front doors hanging off their hinges. One corner of the expansive residence had collapsed within itself, a mismatched pile of broken debris.

Derek pulled up the driveway and skidded to a stop in front of a set of wide stone steps that led to the front doors. He got out and waited.

Sheriff Anderson parked behind the flashy rental and get out, adjusting his hat.

"You going to arrest me?"

"I decided the simplest thing to do would be to help you. Satisfy your curiosity." He said, walking up, spurs on his boots jingling.

"After all that, you're going to help me?"

"I figured if you're anything like your brother, you won't be satisfied until you see what there is to see." Anderson entered the house.

Derek followed.

The interior looked drab and run-down. Peeling paint marred by juvenile graffiti. Dust covered surfaces. It felt empty, devoid of furniture and the signs of human life. Rubble consumed an entire room from the collapse.

"What happened here?"

"Rich man had it built for his family. After it was built, bad things started happening in town."

"Bad things?"

Anderson went to a locked door in the central hallway and pulled out a key from his pocket. "What you want is through here," he said.

The door was bolted shut with a padlock lock that had been installed after the house had been built.

The only sounds within were the hollow thumps of their boots on the floor and their hushed conversation. Derek realized what it felt like, inside. The emptiness, the ever-present silence, the feeling of death. It felt like a tomb.

"What's in there?"

"The basement." Anderson slipped the key into the padlock and unlocked it. The door opened with a squeal.

Stone steps led down into darkness.

Anderson pulled a small flashlight from his belt and flicked it on. "Your brother noticed this place and asked around about it. Nobody had many answers for him, either. He came here himself."

"You first," Derek said.

Anderson nodded and started down, still talking. "At first he just visited a few times, looked around. He came down here. Then, he started living here."

Derek followed the sheriff down the steps, the darkness pressing about him. He took quick breaths. Below, in the basement he saw a camping cot and a gas grill. A gas lantern stood next to it and a dusty backpack.

"He stayed here?" Derek asked, walking over to his brother's things. He grabbed the backpack, recognizing it. "Why would he do that? I thought he stayed at the farm."

"He did, at first. It was about a year ago that he moved down here."

"But why, why live in this crummy place?"

Anderson nodded into the direction and flicked his flashlight that way, revealing a doorway that led farther on. "In there, come on."

"Hold on," Derek said. He found a pack of matches in the backpack. He turned on the gas lamp and lit it, giving more light to the basement. It was unfinished, the walls bare concrete. An ancient water-heater stood in the corner and pipes littered the beams above.

Anderson headed farther into the basement. "The rich man, for whatever reason, wanted a bigger basement and tried to expand it. He hit ledge, and went through it. He found a cave."

"A cave?"

"A natural cavern underground." Anderson stepped through the doorway into a cramped tunnel that led to  a large space about the size of the basement room behind them. The floor and walls were solid rock. It looked bare.

In the middle of the room stood what looked like a stone well. A circular cut of thick stone lay atop it, covering the hole.

"Bad things started happening in town after the man opened this. Folk got sickly. Died. Others went sick in the head, neighbors and friends becoming murderers at the drop of a hat."

Derek shook his head. "I don't get it. Any of it."

"Help me with this," Anderson said, flicking off his flashlight and putting it back on his belt. He put his hands on the stone covering.

Derek put the lantern on the floor. "What's in there?"

"Answers," Anderson said. "Isn't that what you want? You want the truth about your brother?"

"Fine," Derek said, stepping forward. "But after we push this off, you're going to tell me where the hell he went."

They pushed, the heavy stone slowly shifting and moving.

As soon as there was an opening, Derek looked down and forgot about everything. He looked into utter darkness. It was not merely the absence of light, it was substantial. It had depth and form, it flowed and swirled. He couldn't move, couldn't think. He felt something immense, something beyond comprehension stared up through the hole and saw him. Saw his insignificance in all things, his pettiness. He saw his worthlessness. Not even a fly compared to the thing within, the atrocity, the horrifyingly pure evil inside.

Anderson got the rest of the stone off by himself.

Derek held on to the edge of the well and looked down, his body shaking.

"Yeah, it's always like that the first time." The sheriff walked up behind Derek. "The rich man opened the way to It and your brother found out our way of keeping It satisfied. It leaves us alone, long as it's fed." Anderson grabbed the back of Derek's shirt and threw him into the well.

Derek didn't even scream. He was gone.

The sheriff had one hell of a time getting the stone back on by himself, but he got it done. He took the lantern and went back upstairs. He closed the door and locked it again. He walked outside and got into his car. He grabbed his phone and made a call.

"Hey, Henderson, I need a tow. You know where from. Yeah, bring it back to the rental place. Tell them it was found at the bus station. Yeah. Thanks."

He hung up and drove to town.

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