Rite of Spring
by Mike "corpsemonger" Wasion
Sunlight filtered through the iridescent wings of the butterflies fluttering across the meadow. They were everywhere, dancing on the warm breeze as far as the eye could see.
Ants and spiders skittered along the earthen path. Squirrels and birds ran and chirped throughout the tree tops, their chorus punctuated by the the humming of the bumblebees that darted here and there along the trail.
The forest was full of life.
The trees thinned as the path moved into the open field, and the yellow sun reached down onto it's inhabitans like a mother offering her children a blanket. What clouds there were in the ocean blue sky swam away from the sun, not wanting to interfere with its gift.
"....We're going to get a sunburn if we go this way." Tommy Andrews held his hands to his eyes and made an exaggerated grimace.
"Behave yourself", the pretty young girl at his side said gently. A quiet smile had formed in the corners of her mouth, and she seemed to soak up the sun like the very flowers she stood amongst.
Tommy had known Lindy Sue Matlin since 8th grade, and he had often seen her smile that way. She seemed to smile more these days, and when asked why, she responded that it was because Tommy had asked her out.
He took it as a joke.
But the truth was, she looked that way more and more since their first trip to Diamond Lake together a few months ago.
It was a first in many ways.
Not so much for Tom, but most definately for Lindy.
The way she looked up at him from the forest floor that day down by the ravene, was almost enough to make him love her, the way she loved him.
She had told him that that moment was all she had dreamed about since she was thirteen. All she'd thought about for the last four years. She held him so close in that moment that he couldn't bear to let her go.
That wasn't Tom's thing, but that time, with her....it was okay.
It wasn't that he didn't love her....that was just something he didn't really....think about. One of his exes had called him a coward for that very reason, said he was afraid to get close to anyone, to feel anything.
But she was crazy.
He knew he cared for Lindy. Knew she made him feel things, things that were stronger, and different from anything he'd felt with anyone else....he just didn't have the same stars in his eyes that Lindy had, about anything.
That wasn't Tom....that was Lindy.
And as much as it annoyed him sometimes, that was one of the things about her he did love.
Lindy strolled along the path, staring past the meadow and out across Diamond Lake. On the other side, buried somewhere in the forest was the spot by the ravine where they'd spent that day. She couldn't see it, but he knew she was looking right at it. She smiled her gentle smile, bigger than before.
An enormous bee buzzed past Lindy's face, and she yelped with a start. She grabbed her stomach and stepped back with a frightened giggle. The giant yellow thing buzzed past Tom's face, and seemed to like it there, zipping about within a few inches no matter how furiously he swatted.
Finally, it tired of Tom and buzzed off to find something with a more suitable disposition.
"Aaaaggghhh!!! Why did we have to come out here?! It's like a thousand degrees, and these damn things are everywhere!"
"Oh, relax, honey. It's gone now."
"That doesn't change the fact that it's like the Sahara desert out here, and you decided to march us down a trail with no shade," Tom angrily whined.
"....It's eighty degrees, if that. And it's beautiful out here. See all the butterflies?"
Lindy turned and stared at the misty field. Butterflies dotted the landscape like a sparkling orange wave. Lindy tilted her head, struck by the beauty surrounding her. Her eyes sparkled, as if they could see into eternity.
She turned to face her lover.
"....It's beautiful here, Tom. It was all I could think about that day. This place, and you. I had to come here, and it had to be with you. I felt it deep down. when we were down by the river, it felt so right, like it was supposed to be. I had to see it one more time before spring was over. I dreamed about it last night Tommy, dreamed about coming here with you."
Tommy nearly blushed. How could he be mad at that? But he couldn't just drop it....he needed to transition out.
"Well....did we really have to come with all your goon friends? If it was such a special day for us, why didn't we just come alone?"
"They all wanted to go too, they'd been talking about it before I even brought it up." "Annnnd, they had to bring all their boyfriends why?"
Lindy folded her arms across her chest. "Because it's special to them too, Tommy. This place....half the people in town were concieved here, it's the most romantic place in the entire county. Sara said she dreamed about it too. It's just a special place Tommy, who cares if I brought my friends? It's not like they're here now." She strolled over to Tommy, and trailed little circles on his chest with her finger. "We're all by our lonesome, just like you like it. Why do you think I decided to take the long way when I told the others we'd meet them around the lake?"
Tommy sighed. He wanted to keep fighting, but didn't have it in him. She'd melted his resolve.
"Fine. But your friends are still goons."
Lindy rolled her eyes. Tom put his arm around her waist, and they continued down the path. "See there, grumpy bear? The path goes back into the woods. No more thousand degree Sahara desert."
Lindy smiled. "I love you, Tommy."
He looked into her sparkling brown eyes. "....You too."
As they headed back into the woods, something caught Tom's eye through a gap in the trees. Something black, in the distance.
A few moments later, the trees thinned out again off the side of the path, and Tom looked out. In the distance in the meadow, was something black on an old wooden pole. It looked for all the world like a scarecrow.
No more than thirty steps later, the trees thickened out once more, and the forest around them was all they could see.
. . . . .
An hour had passed. It seemed to slip out from under them without either noticing.
The path seemed to wind parallel to the lake, but in such a heavily forested area it was nearly impossible to tell. They were on a path, so someone had to have been here, at some point....they weren't lost; they were just off course a bit.
"Tommy....maybe we should go back the way we came. These woods are huge, we don't wanna get lost." Tom thought about that a moment. She was right....the forest surrounding the lake was enormous, and there were lots of areas they'd never, even been to. If they got lost, for real, they could find themselves in serious trouble.
But, in spite of himself, he was having a wonderful time with Lindy.
She'd been sweeter, more affectionate since their last time there, and being back to this place had brought out a side of her that he'd never seen before. She looked at him with eyes that seemed to want to say so much....he'd hate to have her idiot friends spoil her chance to say it.
"Look....let's just keep going aways. If this path doesn't get us back closer to the lake pretty soon, we'll just turn around and head back the way we came. There hasn't been a fork or a tun-off in the path since we took it, it's a straight shot. We're not lost."
Lindy looked at Tom. She was worried, but she trusted him. "....Okay. But only for a little longer."
They turned a corner in the trail, and the trees began to thin out ahead; a clearing.
"See? This'll probably bring us right back to the lake."
"What's that sme....."
They entered the clearing, and stopped dead in their tracks. Standing in the center of the small clearing was an old, beaten shed. Flies buzzed thickly around it, and around a trough which ran along it's side.
There were a number of heaps laying near the shed. A heap of barbed wire. A heap of rope, and twine.
A heap of old, filthy, baby bottles.
Several old, white sheets, covered with dark stains, were hanging up to dry.
Wedged in the crook a nearby tree was an assortment of large rusty hooks.
"T-Tommy......" Lindy had started to shake, and with good reason. Something was clearly very, very wrong here.
Tom started to sputter some words of reassurance, but could think of none. Before he could think, act, or move, he heard sounds.
Lindy grabbed Tom by the hand and ran toward the path. Tom hesitated.
"Tommy! Tommy, c'mon! We've gotta get outta here!"
"Tommy....? Tommy, we got...."
Tom grabbed Lindy and pulled her into the underbrush alongside the path. "Tommy, what the hell are you doing?!" Lindy was starting to cry.
"Hang on....we have to see what the fuck this is....this could be nothing...."
"This clearly isn't nothing--"
"Exactly! What if something fucked up is going on out here? By the time they find this place, the guy could be gone! We can at least tell 'em what he looks like! We wait 'til he ducks into the shed, then we get the fuck outta here!"
He looked Lindy in the eyes. He had never seen her more afraid. But there was something else in her eyes, something he'd seen a lot.
He ran his hand across her cheek, and gave her a smile. "Shhhh", he said, his finger to his lips. His eyes were soft, but dead serious. It was the same look he'd given her when his dad had almost busted him sneaking her into his room in the middle of the night. She knew to listen.
The footsteps grew louder.
They watched the path around the side of the shed intently. The pictures painted themselves; scruffy rednecks who haven't shaved in days or bathed in weeks....Unabomber-bearded woodsmen sick of hunting mere game....wild-eyed, trucker hat-wearing Viet-vets, looking for a mountain bride....images of Polly Klaas, Henry Lee Lucas, and The Devil's Rejects flooded their heads.
Then he stepped out.
Lindy started to gasp, and Tom threw a hand over her mouth faster than he could even think to do it. He didn't know what he was looking at, he didn't know much of anything in that moment, but he knew one thing for damn sure: Neither of them were making a sound.
From around the old shed came a man....or it was shaped like a man, in the tattered remains of some bizarre tan uniform. At least seven feet tall, the man had a dingy cloth sheet wrapped around his enormous head. There were no holes for eyes, or nose, or mouth. Just a blank, once-white sheet soaked through in the front with what had to be blood.
Holding the sheet in place was a thick, frayed noose, burying itself and the sheet into the man's bull neck, which probably had something to do with why his head spasmed & lolled about uncontrolably the way it did.
What the sheet was hiding was anyone's guess, as was why he even bothered; his body alone was enough to make a butcher vomit. It looked like four hundred pounds of raw meat with a yeast infection. He had no skin to speak of....just exposed, infected muscle, beet red and glistening in the noonday sun. Too many muscles at that, like someone had just slapped random muscles onto a skeleton.
He looked like something that came from a slaughterhouse. But if he did, he was as much an employee as a byproduct.
Erupting from the swollen, pustulent stumps where once may have been hands were enormous, rusty chainsaw blades. Twice as long and twice as wide as any normal chainsaw blades, they were more like absurd, nightmare exaggerations, with teeth that rose a full three inches from the chain.
It didn't make any sense; it was inconceivable.
It was standing twenty feet away from them.
Tommy's urge to turn immedaitely and run faster down that trail than he'd ever run anywhere in his entire life was second only to his urge to stay as still as a rock and never move or make a sound again.
He knew he could do neither....their best, only choice was to stick to the original plan; wait 'til whatever the hell they were looking at ducked into the shed, slip out onto the path as quietly as possible, and run for their lives without once looking back.
Get in the shed, Tommy though to himself, beads of sweat rolling down his forhead. Get in the shed, get in the shed, get in the shed, get in the....
The man stopped.
Tom's heart felt like it was going to explode. He couldn't have....heard me....that's impossible....
As if what he was looking at wasn't....
The man jerked in frustration. His head twitched and lolled off to one side, and he let out a wet grunt of dissatisfaction. He jerked again, and it became apparent that he was caught on something behind the shed.
As he managed to step a few feet closer, another detail revealed itself. There was something attatched to the man's right arm, burried deeply in the gnarled, enflamed tissue and stretched taught past the enormous saw blade. The meat had grown over it in parts, like it had been coiled 'round the trunk of a tree and left there for years.
The man let out an angry sound and jerked a final time, freeing himself from whatever obstacle lay out of view. As he rounded the shed into the clearing, it became obvious what he was doing.
Lindy started to hyperventilate, and while Tom understood with every ounce of his being why she would, he knew that he couldn't let her. It would be the end for both of them.
He kept his hand over her mouth and pulled her as close as he could. He was shaking.
Tears streamed down her cheeks, and he buried her face in his chest. Tears were streaming down his face too, soaking her reddish brown hair.
"Don't look at it, baby. Don't look at it. Everything's going to be okay. Everything's going to be okay."
He squeezed her as tight as he could, and hoped to Christ he was telling the truth.
The man dragged Lindy's friends, and a few girls Tom didn't recognize, into the center of the clearing. Six girls in all, apparently dead or unconcious, and broken regardless. One or two were missing limbs, and several had bear traps clamped on to their pale skin. Barbed wire was bundled around their ankles in a tangled knot that ensured they would most likely lose their feet in the process of getting it removed.
The man cocked his left arm, and his chainsaw revved up without hesitation. A spray of blood and pus showered from the healed-over meat surrounding the rusty thing, shredded again for the countless time.
Tom didn't have time to consider how impossible this was....the gravelly shrieking of the chainsaw blade had him locked inside a Pavlovian response as sharp as a needle and cold as ice.
We're going to die. If he gets near us , he's going to kill us. He can't see us. If he sees us, however he can see, we're dead.
The man severed the wire with a spark, and again the blade went quiet. He wedged his saw blades inbetween the bear traps on the girls's bodies, either snapping them open or tearing them off with massive chunks of meat trapped inside, and kicked them into a pile nearby.
Tommy was frozen. Paralyzed. He didn't know what to do. There was nothing to do. Even though the thing had had a bag over it's head, it had bagged half a dozen human beings, and was preparing to do God-knows-what with them right in front of him.
There was no running away from this thing. They were going to have to stay there until it left, and he was going to have to watch whatever it was about to do to these girls.
What the hell?!
The man looked up in time to see a boy about Tommy's age emerge from the path around the shed. His hands were held out in front of him, and in them, clutched tighter than a rosary, was a gun.
Chris Brandt...Sara's boyfriend!
Any other time Tommy would hate to even see him, let alone have him around. But standing there, with that gun in his hand, he had never been happier to see anyone.
Figures a meth-dealer poser bad boy would bring a gun to a picnic....
The man's head fell to one side, and it was impossible to tell if it went limp or he had tilted it....Tom was guessing the latter.
"S-sara....are you over there baby?" Tears poured down his face. "Are you okay honey? Please say something, baby...."
From the pile of girls came a cough. A slender blonde girl coughed blood onto her face. Her head rose slightly at the sound of her boyfriend's voice. She had no right leg a few inches below the knee. Her left leg was severly damaged, shattered and tangled from the shin down. She pulled her shredded ankle free of the barbed wire, ruining it completely.
But she was free.
Some of the other girls were moving too, as if Sara's freedom had awoken some nearly-dead survival instinct in them that hadn't been completely snuffed out.
Jesus Christ, Tommy gasped. They're alive!
"Chris?" Sara's voice was sleepy and frail, barely above a whisper. She sounded like a five year old girl with the flu, asking her mommy for some water.
Lindy flinched. Sara was her best friend. Tom knew that she would look if she could, maybe even try to help. His grip tightened. His shirt was soaked-through with her tears.
"Sara? Sara, baby?" Chris began to shudder violently.
"Chris?" Sara began to pull herself toward the sound of Chris' voice. She could barely move, but she was going to use every ounce of strength in her body to get as close to Chris as she could.
"Oh baby....oh baby, look what they did to you...."
In an instant the enormous meat-man was rushing him. In a panic Chris began firing wildly, several shots finding their mark, hitting the creature in the abdomen, square in the chest, and even grazing his head.
It didn't slow him down a bit.
In a single movement, the man ran a blade through Chris' midsection, and lifted him into the air. He dropped his gun uselessly to the forest floor. The man walked calmly over to the nearest tree, and rammed his saw through it, pinning Chris helplessly to it like a butterfly.
Sara was still feebly crawling in the dirt.
"S....S....S...." Chris was trying to call to her. Tell her to get away.
The man turned his sheeted head toward the girl, and ran his other saw through her back, and into the earth below. He pulled the blade free, and hoisted her up. He brought her in close, and put her face to face with Chris. Chris was barely concious, and fading fast. He looked at Sara with a face like a hurt little boy.
The man held her there. Rubbed their forheads together. Chris began to sob.
The man cocked his saw, starting it up inside of Sara. Her blood showered Chris, and in a single moment what little life left in her was gone. He pressed her blood stained face against Chris', as if to give them a final kiss.
Then he pumped his other arm and did the same to him.
Screaming silently under the roar of the saws, Chris tore at the man's sheet like a dying animal. Which is exactly what he was. His flailing hand caught the bullet hole he'd made earlier, clenching its ragged edge in his dying grasp.
Twisting the sheet up in his fist, he made a final, thoughtless yank.
And tore it clean off.
The enormous man's chainsaws came to a halt. He stood there, frozen. With the tentative, stunned speed of someone who'd been deeply offended, he pulled his right saw out of the tree. Chris' ribcage was embedded in the wood, so he stayed put. With a quick, almost offhanded motion, he jerked his left saw and Sara came off it in two mangled pieces, falling wetly to the earth below.
He stumbled backward aimlessly a few steps, and began rubbing his wrists against the sides of his red, dripping head. The rubbing became angry, desperate thumps, and it became apparent that he was trying to grab at the sides of his head without any hands.
He began to make panicked wheezing sounds, and the blood red skin of his head began to bubble. The wheezing rose into a high-pitched, gurgling, train-whistle scream.
The saws started up again; he spun around.
Tommy's eyes widened as big as they could. The vessels burst. He felt light-headed. He came damn close....damn close....to just letting go of Lindy and running down the trail. But he didn't. He'd be dead in a heartbeat, and he knew it. They'd both be dead. Both.
He held her tighter, as tight as anyone could hold anything, crushed her head agains his chest so that it couldn't move.
There was no way in hell he was going to let her see what he was looking at.
There was no way in hell he wanted to see what he was looking at.
But he had to. Had to watch for an opening. He had to get them both the fuck out of there.
He held back the bile pushing it's way into his throat, filling his mouth, and looked on.
The thing's head was round, like a meatball. A spoiled meatball, a skinned, kicked-testicle of a thing with a surface like cranberry sauce. It didn't have a nose, so much as a snout; two raw, uneven holes gummed-over with a thick, off-yellow fluid that appeared to be utterly useless for the purpose of breathing. It's eyes resembled two bloated sacs of congealed blood, bulging from puckered eye sockets nearly swallowed by a hateful, gnarled brow.
It's mouth was like a newborn's mouth, though distorted & overlarge....the swollen, infected gums overtaking the jagged teeth, the tips of which were poking out of the bleeding tissue in putrid nubs.
It seemed likely that these features would be impossible to make out were it not screaming like a burn victim.
And a burn victim it may as well have been, the way it's skin was bubbling.
Dozens of golf ball-sized boils were forming over every inch of it's mis-shapen head, growing and pulsating by the second. It's nightmare eye-sacs were slowly filling with a butter-colored liquid that threatened to spill out of the rancid orbs at any given second.
Before Tom's disbelieving eyes, the giant abomination opened it's twisted mouth and ejected a stream of the same viscous yellow substance....but the screaming continued. It was impossible for the thing to scream with the septic river flowing out of it's throat, but the screaming persisted.
It was only a moment later that Tom could see why. When the boils on the creature's head got big enough to see that each one had an individual face.
The screaming of the hateful little faces hightened in pitch and anger, and the giant man began to growl. The growling evolved into a series of desperate grunts and crescendoed into a rage-fueled, feral scream.
He flailed about with his saws, screaming at nothing and everything. He spotted his catch of young girls lying on the ground. He raced over to them, and held up his rigid, shaking arms as if he had fists to ball. With a spittle-spraying, beyond-rational, primal howl he dropped to his knees and began to beat at them with his saws.
Some screamed, some mumbled nonsense, and some feebly held up their hands hoping that the big man would stop; he did not.
The girls lay in pieces.
Tom saw one girl who'd been cut in half roll over and stare in his direction with unseeing eyes. As she breathed her last breath, a final tear rolled down her soft cheek.
Shuddering like a child in the rain, the giant man stopped. His head teetered back and forth, lolled back as he stared into the sun. His sharp, rapid breaths began to slow down a bit, and it sounded like the little faces were whispering. His head rolled forward, and he looked at his saws as if he'd never seen them before. He held them to his face and began to lick the blood off.
When there was nothing left, he leaned in like a kitten and began to lap blood from the girls' ruined bodies. Bits of meat got tangled on his tongue, and when he tasted this, the tongue pushed itself out of his face, a huge, pink slab as big as a loaf of bread and rough, like an animal's. The fat, seeping gums pulled back and the enormous stoney teeth unsheethed themselves.
Finally, the man was calm.
Tommy saw this, and realized two things. One, the creature would be perched in the middle of the clearing until there was no piece of meat left. Two, at the moment, he was docile. This was the time to escape. This could be their only chance.
Just as he turned to tell Lindy that it was time to go, to convice her that this was their only chance, to tell her not to dare make a sound, he saw something out of the corner of his eye.
Something in the trees, behind the kneeling woodsman.
Something big. Something black as coal.
It arose from the shrubbery without making a sound. Without touching the ground.
It dropped a big burlap sack it was holding with a....with what should have been a thump. But again, no sound came.
As it floated toward one of the hanging sheets, Tom could see clearly what it was, but could believe it even less than the impossible nightmare feeding on Lindy's friends.
It was like something from a fairytale, a Halloween decoration. Such an abstraction, it's very existance in the real, grown-up world was more of an offense to reality than even a chainsaw-handed butcher.
It was the scarecrow he'd seen earlier.
Floating above the ground as gracefully as a dream, and making no sound, no matter what it did. It wore what looked like a burial shroud, more black than anything Tom had ever seen, and a....witch's hat. An honest-to-God, dime store Halloween costume witch's hat, except it looked real for lack of a better word, like something that had come from a museum.
It's face was a skull, held together with the tattered remnants of ancient, leathery skin. There were no eyes, but somehow Tom knew that it could see. Not just because it seemed to move with purpose and ease....Tom just knew somehow.
Looking at it made him feel cold. The sight of it made him finally question if any of it were real, if he'd gone insane, if he were in a coma somewhere, bleeding and wrapped around his bike in a ditch.
He wished that he was. Knew that he had to be.
Knew that he wasn't.
The scarecrow silently plucked a sheet from the clothesline and drifted behind the woodsman, still grazing on the slaughtered remains of the young girls, completely unaware of his presence. He wrapped it swiftly and firmly around the woodsman's head, with such force that it yanked the giant to his feet. The beast thrashed, but could not move in the scarecrow's iron grip. It leaned in to where the man's ear would be, if he had any.
"Calm yourself, Kinderhüter," it whispered in a voice that wasn't heard so much as felt. If it sounded like anything, it sounded like a record being played backward.
Instantly, the giant man stopped struggling.
Lindy, however, rocked as if hit with a cattle prod....something about the scarecrow's voice affected her violently, and for a moment Tom thought they'd be found.
But he held her tighter still, his hand clamped so tight around her mouth he knew he had to be hurting her, but he'd seen how they'd be hurt if they were discovered.
There was no comparison.
The scarecrow effortlessly untied the noose around the giant's neck with a single taloned hand, and placed it around the sheet. He made a fresh slipknot, leaving a little slack. He would replace it with fresh rope soon enough; this would do for now.
He let go of the giant a floated down to the destroyed remains of the girls. He shook his head.
"Tsk tsk. You've ruined this crop, Kinderhüter."
He reached inside the torso of the cut-in-half girl, rooted through her shredded abdomen. After a moment, he plucked out a small red object. "These seeds will never bear fruit."
He reached inside a similarly eviscerated girl with pretty red hair, and plucked out another of the little red objects, this one a bit larger than the last.
He set it aside.
He continued his inspection. "These three have lost their seed to your wrath, but they still have their wombs. Luckily for you this one was big enough for the tree. But this one", he picked up the first fetus, no bigger than a walnut, "this one is meat, like the rest."
He tossed it amongst the other discarded limbs and organs lying in the dirt. "One for the tree, three for the trough....it could be worse."
Suddenly, the scarecrow sniffed at the air.
He brushed aside the remains to find that the girl on the bottom of the pile was reasonably intact, at least compared to the others. He sniffed her like a hound, and placed his hand on her stomach.
"This one is gone....but her child still lives. He pulled her open like a handbag, and removed the child. He severed the umbilical chord with his teeth. Cradling the child gently in the crook of his arm, he reached in and tore out a large piece of the womb.
The scarecrow floated back over to the sheeted man, who had not moved an inch from the spot the scarecrow left him. He loosened the slipknot and pulled the back of the sheet over the man's head, careful not to uncover his eyes. He wrapped two of his talons around one of the larger boils, and peeled it off of the woodsman's head. The face on the boil squealed as he did so. The scarecrow tucked the boil into his shroud.
He then took the fetus and placed it on the raw spot left in the boil's wake. He held the piece of womb over the fetus and squeezed it like a sponge, pouring blood over it and the surrounding area. He then lifted the front of the sheet up just enough to reveal the mouth, and fed the womb to the woodsman.
A transparent sac was starting to form around the fetus like a blister. Within moments, it was a fully functioning womb.
"Take this one back to the house when you're done feeding the little ones, Kinderhüter." The scarecrow pulled the sheet back down and tightened the noose. "He will be very pleased.
The sheeted giant walked over to the tree with the hooks. He stopped at one in particular, wedged firmly between two branches. He held up his right arm, lined it up, and shoved the bottom of the hook deep into his wrist. The tissue began to heal around it almost instantly.
He worked the hook loose from the tree, and then used the hook to work Chris from it's trunk. He dragged the body over to the shed, rammed the hook deep into the gaping hole made by the saw, and hoisted Chris up. He then walked the body face-first into the shed.
Tommy's heart began to pound. The big freak finally went into the shed!
The scarecrow, however, had not.
Fuck....just leave, whatever you are....
Tom was startled by a loud noise from the shed. It sounded like a sqealing pig.
At least that's the closest sound he could compare it to....it sounded enraged and abnormal, but enough like a pig to make him think of one. More pig sounds chimned in, followed by wet sounds of tearing and popping.
Soon it was a chorus.
The scarecrow, meanwhile, had floated over to the heap of baby bottles. He popped the lid off of one, and shoved the screaming boil from his shroud inside. The scarecrow made some kind of sound, and at this the boil swelled up like a bratwurst in a microwave and exploded with a final squeal, filling the bottle with a pulpy liquid.
He then returned to the fetus he had set aside earlier, stuck the bottle in it's rudimentary mouth and squeezed.
It undulated and swelled up like a balloon, bubbling and warping into something it was not supposed to be. Looking like a bloated, skinned something, with an angry distorted face not unlike the woodsman's own, it whipped and squirmed in the scarecrow's arms. The scarecrow grabbed a nearby piece of errant meat, and dangled it above the creature's face, droplets of blood dripping into it's mouth. It shrieked, the same angry pig-shriek that was coming from the shed. It was desperate to feed, but the scarecrow held it just out of the thing's reach. Finally, a rough pink tongue nearly as big as it's head erupted out of it's distorted mouth and snatched the meat from the scarecrow's talons. It swallowed the meat whole.
It wanted more.
The scarecrow looked around, and spotted the discarded fetus, too young, too small to be fed, and snatched it up. He held it before the hateful, squirming thing. Like a mousetrap, it snapped the fetus into it's mouth and swallowed it like a snake swallowing a rabbit.
The creature settled down.
The scarecrow grabbed some twine from a nearby pile, and a shred of cloth from the woodsman's torn sheet, and wrapped it aroud the creature's deformed head, tying a little noose tightly around it's neck.
He then hung it from a branch of the hook-tree, where it writhed litely, apparently content.
The giant re-emerged from the old shed, a bloody, stripped ribcage dangling on the end of his hook.
He smacked the ribcage against the ground, shattering it off of the hook. He then looked to the scarecrow for instruction.
"Before you go up to the house, get these wombs in the trough," said the scarecrow, pointing at the three girls with viable midsections. The sheeted giant dragged them side by side, and started a saw. He cut them in half and removed their legs. Then, one by one, he hooked the dismembered lower torsos and tossed them in the trough.
"Keep them all to one side."
The scarecrow grabbed up the burlap sack he'd dropped earlier, and floated over to the trough, where he dumped the sack's contents on the side oposite the girls' pelvises. The unrecognizable remains of the girls' bofriends splashed into the trough like so much uncooked hamburger.
The scarecrow pointed at the baby-thing squirming in the tree. "We're running out of space, Kinderhüter. You'll have to let some of the older ones out of the shed tonight to make room for the younglings." He pointed at the trough. "Let them feed tonight, but don't let them nip at the wombs. If they nip at the wombs, they'll have to be punished."
The big man took a step back.
"No, you punish them, Kinderhüter. Punish the little ones if they step out of line."
Satisfied that the giant understood, the scarecrow hovered over the remains of the three girls who's pelvises lined the trough. He threw his arms open and made a hollow, horrible sound.
And the girls woke up.
Lindy threw up. She couldn't stand the sound of the scarecrow's voice.
NONONO, goddamnit not NOW....
"That's the same voice I heard, Tommy....the voice in my dream....the one that told me to come here, with you....it sounded so pretty then...."
Before Tom could stop her, she looked up, only to see the hacked up remains of her friends looking around the forest with gleaming eyes.
Lindy made a hurt sound. The kind of sound heard at funerals, and divorces.
A broken, given-up sound.
It was done. Lindy had snapped.
The scarecrow's head snapped up. His empty eyes looked straight into the shrubbery where they were hiding. He made a sound like a strangled cougar. It was the most hateful sound they'd ever heard, hateful beyond imagining. He held up his hand, and on the end of each finger was a coathanger.
The giant kickstarted his saws.
Lindy curled up and whimpered, clutching her stomach.
No....God no, sweet Jesus please no....
Tommy thought about the bee, how she had grabbed her stomach when it flew by....about how all the other girls he'd seen sliced to ribbons had been pregnant....
Before he could even form the thought, he heard the scarecrow's choked-animal scream not two feet away. He looked at Lindy, curled up on the ground, immobile, sobbing hysterically....he looked at the trail, which he knew he couldn't get to without being seen....and with no time, no time whatsoever to think of what to do, he did the only thing he could....
He moved further back into the shrubbery. Out of sight.
The coathangered hand reached into the undergrowth, and yanked her away. She didn't scream. She just gasped and looked into the bushes where Tommy was, hoping he would do something. Tommy looked back at her.
And didn't make a sound.
. . . . .
Hours had passed. It was almost dusk.
The scarecrow and the chainsaw-man had been in the shed with her all day.
She had screamed, and screamed, and screamed, and screamed.
He had listened to her screaming for what seemed like a lifetime. He listened to the scarecrow saying something about how much work there was to be done, and the screaming got worse.
The screaming stopped some time ago. There hadn't been a scream in at least an hour.
But Tommy didn't think she was dead. In fact he knew she wasn't. They wanted her and the baby alive, for reasons he couldn't imagine, couldn't bring himself to imagine.
The scarecrow and the saw-man had left a while ago.
She was alive, in the shed, unguarded, but he couldn't move. He was afraid. Afraid of what she looked like, afraid of what they'd done to her. He looked at the empty doorway....and listened to the silence....and knew he couldn't handle what was waiting there for him.
It wasn't so much the squealers the shed was apparently full of....it was whatever the two fiends had done to her. He knew he couldn't take it, couldn't see it. He could help her....but instead, he left her alone.
Besides. It didn't matter. The girls were moving again. After they'd woken up, left to their own devices, they'd eaten the remains of the girls who hadn't, the girls whose shredded wombs were useless. He'd had his chance; when the girls were feeding, and the shed was quiet, and the two monsters were gone. He could have saved her, could have tried to save her. But he didn't.
He just stayed in the little hiding place that'd become his whole world.
Now, all of their food gone and forbidden from the trough (that was for the little ones the scarecrow had angrily told them), they were crawling about the forest floor, prowling for whatever else they could find.
One seemed, in fact, to be crawling right toward him. He didn't care. If it killed him, fine. He deserved it.
The lifeless torso of Jenny Schultz pulled itself over to undergrowth were Tommy crouched, dragging what remained of it's entrails behind it. It's eye's gleamed like a cat's in the increasingly dim light.
It fixed it's eyes on Tom, stared right at him through the branches and vines.
"Where's Mark?" she said, expressionless.
Tom didn't know what to do. It was either answer, or don't. He figured he was dead either way.
"O-over there." He pointed to the trough.
"Oh", she said, a hint of disappointment on her dead face.
She rolled onto her back and looked up at the tree tops. She went to put her hands on her stomach, and realized she had none. "It's so pretty here. I dreamed about it. I heard the voice, and it was beautiful. I hear the same voice now, but it doesn't sound the same. It says to me, you'll see your baby. You're alive now so it can grow, and be with us. I hear Lindy, too."
Tom realized that he could find out what they were doing to her. Find out what was happening to her in the shed, find out why any of this was happening.
But then he realized he didn't want to know.
It didn't matter anyway. Not anymore.
"Why didn't she scream for me? Why didn't she scream my name?"
"Because she didn't want them to find you," Jenny said. "Because she thought, they won't find him, and he'll come for me." She twirled her finger around a tangle of entrail, the way she used to twirl her hair around her finger thinking about Mark.
"Because she trusted you."
. . . . .
Nightfall was coming soon, but there was still a bit of daylight left. The sunlight was a deep orange, and it spread through the forest like a fire.
Jenny had crawled off after some small animal, and the other girls had pulled their broken and twisted bodies off into the forest after their own prey.
Tommy was alone.
He thought, in the orange silence. Just leaned up against an old log in the underbrush, and thought.
He thought about Chris Brandt, and how he tried to save Sara, even though it was hopeless. Thought about how he was a meth dealer, and a 'banger, and a scumbag.
How he was a hero.
He thought about how Jenny's make up still remained largely unharmed on her dead face, and how pretty she looked that day, and how proud of herself she must have been when she put it on that morning, and back to how it looked on her dead face.
He thought about how Lindy looked that day down by the ravine when she held him so close, the look in her eyes when she said she loved him. He thought about the look in her eyes when she stared back at him when they were pulling her away.
He thought about how he was a coward.
He thought about how she had told him she loved him that day, and he didn't say it back.
He thought about how she wanted to turn around on the trail and just head back.
And how he didn't.
That was his bad choice; he was hers.
He noticed something in the edge of the shrubbery. Something small, and black, and odd-shaped and metal.
It was Chris' gun.
He crawled slowly forward and picked it up.
He looked up at the shed. Looked at its empty doorway. The silence was crushing. He looked down at the gun, and back again. Lindy was inside. Alone. Helpless.
Carrying their child.
An eternity seemed to go by.
He looked at the empty doorway.
He couldn't move.
I'm a coward. I'm a fucking coward.
He looked down at the gun.
I love you, Tommy.
He looked back up at the empty doorway.
He put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
A burst of crimson sprayed the leaves behind him.
The sound of thunder ceased it's echo, and Diamond Lake was quiet again.
Ants crawled from the earthen floor of the clearing onto Tommy, looking for any suitable food source his body may contain. Flies began to land around the rim of his head, looking for a place for their young.
Some landed on the nearby leaves to investigate the familiar red pattern they knew so well.
The forest was full of life.
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