Free Halloween Reads: Unknown Guardian

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More free Halloween reads to make your Halloween season spooky.

Unknown Guardian
by Louise Bohmer

The snow fell in a thick, feathery blanket around the two men sitting opposite each other, as they huddled near the crackling fire.

“You want to go first?” Roger shivered and smiled. He pointed to Jenny, the bubbly shop girl from Gas-N-Go, now lying bound in a bed of blood and snot stained slush.

Hunkering deeper into his wool coat, Samuel fumbled a cigarette from his top pocket, and lit it with trembling fingers. “Not just yet.”

He scanned the skeletal silhouettes of naked poplars, and the furry bodies of looming pine and fir. “We have to wait until it’s closer to the Guardian’s arrival.”

Roger plucked the small axe from the gnarled, soggy log he sat on. “Always with the excuses, Sammy. Not chickening out now, are you?”

“No.” He shook his head, and the smoke that drifted from his lips hovered about his head like blue ghosts.

“Then pick your offering,” Roger held the handle of the double-headed hatchet out to him, “and put it on the altar. Just like when we were kids.” His sneer was feral.

Sam stared at his brother. He let the now damp Export ‘A’ fall from his lips. “It’s a little different this time, Rog.”

Roger closed his eyes and lifted his head. He sniffed at the slight, cool breeze coming in from the east. “He’s coming.” He nodded, and his face lit with wild, vulnerable terror. “The Guardian is getting close.”

* * *

The Wallis house stood atop Silver Dollar Hill. The bluff was named so by the townsfolk because the chief source of income in Salmon Valley, in those long forgotten, post-pioneer days, was the then thriving Silver Dollar Mine. The old mine had carved a modest chunk out of the mighty knoll, but it still loomed over Salmon Valley, and the Wallis house peered down from it, like an ugly, infected eye.

Jeffery and Lenore Wallis built the oddly constructed, obscene monstrosity in 1978. Despite efforts to run the now adult sons out of Salmon Valley, and demolish the place, the home remained.

With their two boys, Roger and Samuel, the Wallis family came to town to live a reclusive life in the bizarre mansion on the hill. Sam and Roger did not attend the regular, Salmon Valley Secondary, like most kids, but were home schooled instead. The family only ventured into the small, village center once a month, to buy groceries and the usual supplies.

Sure, people talked and speculated over the years. Some reasoned it was nothing more than a peaceful sort of commune going on up at the hill. Others whispered darker possibilities, like child pornography and satanic sects. But no one, except for the family who roamed those cyclopean halls, and slept in rooms built on otherworldly angles, knew the real truth.

Sam remembered the murmurs on those visits to town, and the stares from the store clerks. He’d thought about screaming out, begging one of those slack-jawed, gum popping ladies to take him and his brother away, but the Ancients never let him get that far. They droned within his brain, vibrating the rhythm of primordial secrets, reminding him who he belonged to.

The Unknown Guardian of the Old Ones. Samuel was his disciple, as was Roger, and every nine years, when the vortex that led to the resting place of these cosmic monstrosities waned, the Guardian returned to try and claim them once more.

But this cycle, Sam had a plan. He and Roger had a proposition for the unseen creature that guarded the hidden portal. They were desperate men, and desperate men struck dark deals.

* * *

The wind picked up, and it raked its icy fingers through Samuel’s long, auburn hair, stringing wisps about his face. With slow, steady hands, he took the axe from his brother and tested its weight in his meaty palm.

“Why don’t you go first?” He narrowed his coffee-brown eyes at Roger.

Cocking a sideways grin, Roger splayed his hands outward. “You’re the oldest.”

A great sigh expelled from his burly chest, and Samuel turned his attention to the squirming woman nestled in a bed of crimson flakes. Her large, light blue eyes locked with his, and her face tensed. She begged him, with violent jerks and twists, to be set free.

Sam bent to one knee beside her, and stroked her soft, ash-blonde hair. “Sorry, sweetie, but it’s either you,” he motioned a thumb at himself, and then over his shoulder, “or me and my brother. And we’ve been fighting these demons for twenty-seven years.”

He lowered the blade to her slender arm, just below her elbow, and took aim. “The Guardian will be here soon, and he’ll be looking for a sacrifice.”

The sharp steel bit into her flesh, and she shrieked into her dirty, cloth gag.

“Rather it you than me, darling.” Sam closed his eyes, and pulled the axe-head out of her torn tissue. He brought it forward again, hacking deeper through the muscle.

* * *

In the gloom of the clearing, the great green stone shone with sickly, oozing light. Roger and Samuel huddled close to one another, holding their black robes tight to their gangly bodies, as they approached the phosphorescent monolith.

“It is your turn, son.” Father yanked young Sam away from his brother, and the child cried out as he snatched at his sibling’s hands. “Make your contribution to the Great Cthulhu, and his Unknown Guardian. Tonight, we join with the unseen protector, the Wendigo.”

Mother held the bloody stump of her wrist into the roaring fire, and cauterized her fresh wound. Her severed hand sat, like a pale spider, atop the glowing stone. She held Roger back from Samuel with her remaining appendage, cooing a gibberish chant of the Ancients in her son’s ear.

Sam accepted the sharpened hatchet. “I’m frightened, Father.” He glanced up at the towering, bearded man.

Jeffery smiled, exposing a row of broken, yellowed teeth. “There is no need for fear, son, when one embraces the forbidden knowledge of the Great Old Ones. We have been chosen as Guardians. Cthulhu grants us a great honor. To become one with the Wendigo, we must make a sacrifice of ourselves to the beast.”

Holding the short axe tight to his chest, Samuel proceeded to the menacing, stone altar. He sat in the cold bank of snow beneath it, and lifted his raven mantle to just above his knee. He aimed the hatchet at his shin, and held his breath. His parents bowed their heads in silent homage to their Dark God.

Sam bolted from his seat near the rock, and sprinted toward his father. With a strangled cry, he buried the wet, steel edge into the towering man’s chest. Mother screeched, and fled toward her fallen husband.

“Get her,” Sam barked, at his younger brother.

Roger’s eyes bulged as he stood frozen, for a moment, and then he bent down to the fire. He fished a sharpened, burning log from the outside of the pyre, and ran at her, with the weapon brandished overhead.

Their mother turned in time to see the length of wood bearing down on her. It connected with her face, and her old world, porcelain features split in a ragged smear of muscle and blood.

The boys descended on their parents like savage, hungry animals. They tore, bit, pummeled, until the groans of the High Priest and Priestess of Cthulhu sputtered and died.

“Never again.” Sam vowed through a face full of gore, tears, and snot. “They’ll never hurt us again, Roger.”

In their furor, the boys failed to notice the wind stirring to a frenzied gust. Sam shuttered, as he now listened to its howls grow. Its furious grip bent back the trees in the clearing, splitting massive trunks with the whim of its swipe.

The Guardian was coming, and he was angry.

Sam felt the humming throb in his head. Its rapid, eons-old pulse beat deep in his brain. He helped Roger from the snow.

“Come on. We need to go.” He pushed his traumatized brother, urging him to move faster. “Now.”

* * *

The swirling gale mimicked a banshee’s wail, as it gathered speed in the clearing. Sam stood over Jenny. Her severed arm dangled from his grip, dripping her life fluid into the fresh snow. She convulsed with shock and blood loss.

He thought about the elaborate wedding dress he’d seen Jenny and her mom fussing over, through the window of Sophie’s Boutique.

Oh well, he thought, one less expense for her parents.

He turned back to the fire, back to his waiting brother.

As he stepped away from his kill, he noticed the deep throbbing in his right shoulder. He scratched at it through his coat, trying to ignore what that hungry itch meant. He sought to calm his racing heart with a deep breath, but it was no use. He could smell the Guardian all around them.

The old bite continued to irritate, and he wrenched his jacket and worn sweatshirt aside, digging his gloved fingers into the faded wound.

He glanced over at his brother, and Roger met his stare with eyes widened by quiet, gnawing fear. His own hand was buried beneath his clothes, tearing at the old scar that marked them as children of the Wendigo.

The Guardian’s bite is forever, my darling. His mother’s voice went slinking through his mind, and Sam whirled about, searching the murky forest for hidden specters.

He crossed the distance between him and Roger quickly, and thrust the axe, handle out, at his sibling. “Go, get your offering now. Make it quick. I can taste him in the air. It’s rank and sweet.”

Roger took the axe with trembling fingers. He pushed off the log and strode, in wide rapid steps, toward the dying woman.

“Roger.”

He spun around, as Sam called out to him. Tears in his younger brother’s eyes mirrored Roger’s own. They froze fast to his pale, smooth cheeks.

Roger panted, waiting for Sam to continue.

Sam moved his focus to the grey, cloud shrouded mountains in the distance. “Pray he’ll accept this alternative we’ve given him. I don’t think I can resist the hunger he has put inside of us much longer.”

“I knew we shouldn’t have come here, Sam.” Roger fell to his knees. “We should’ve left town, like last cycle.” The quiet tears became childlike sobs. “We should’ve skipped to Van,” wearily, he dropped his head, “or something. Gotten away from his whispers, the compulsion.”

Sam stalked over to him, and grabbed him by the lapels of his flannel jacket. “If he accepts this deal, there will be no more running, you fool. A fresh life or two, every nine years, in exchange for our freedom. I think that’s a fair trade.”

He shoved Roger against Jenny’s still body. “Now choose your offering, and bring it to the altar.”

Roger glared at him. “You’re beginning to sound like our father did.”

Sam jabbed his hefty fist forward, and connected with Roger’s nose.

The storm around them screamed, and Sam staggered back. A soft, urgent green glow flickered to life behind him, and cast the scene before him in a sickly, phosphorescent hue.

“We’re too late,” he croaked, and the chittering hymns of the Old Ones winked to life in his mind. Sam doubled over, as his brain beat with their repulsive songs, and he vomited.

Roger scrambled to his knees, and hacked at the corpse’s shin.

Sam lurched toward him. “Forget it. We have to get the fuck out of here.” A harsh burst of air-bound snow tried to drag him from his feet. “Now.”

Roger looked up at him. His chin trembled as he dropped the axe and bolted from the body. He was three feet from their black Explorer when the Wendigo grabbed him.

Sam watched as invisible arms jutted his brother into the inky sky, and out of sight. Roger’s cries were swallowed by the whooping wind. Sam fell to the hard slush beneath him, and sobbed to the dark canopy of night above.

He snatched but a brief moment to gather his senses, and then stumbled to his feet. Leaning into the raging gale, he used all his upper body strength to push toward the SUV.

Scant inches from the driver’s side door, his brother’s torn, smoldering legs plummeted to the ground in front of him. Both of Roger’s boots were worn away, exposing blackened toes and charred bones.

Dark laughter, part human, part an animal’s frenzied howl, came from behind him. Sam’s heart thudded hard, threatening to rip from his chest. He shivered and blubbered incoherently, as he turned back to the frigid, ebony eye of the forest.

Come.

The word sounded as if it were spoken by a wolf, or some darker being, beyond the creation of nature. Sam let his eyelids fall shut, as he wished for the axe. Although, he knew it would do him no good now. The beast he was about to face far surpassed the threat of pathetic, human harm.

He followed the low, gurgling growl into the tree line. Past snarls of dead branches, and decaying, hollowed stumps. As he walked, the air grew more oppressive with the heavy stink of the Guardian. And in that stench, Sam could smell, could feel, why the town of Salmon Valley suffered and died like a slow cancer victim. The sinister vortex poisoned the land. Cursed it with the taint of Wendigo, and the Great Old Ones the creature protected. Every nine years, when the oily veil to the void thinned, and the Guardian walked, patrolling this abominable gateway until the cosmic skin thickened once more, the town grew a bit sicker. And its people grew a bit more depraved, sitting in their crumbling houses, mulling over taboo thoughts.

Sam knew these truths, and more, as he shambled through the thick woods. The Wendigo, and the Old Ones, hissed them in his mind. And spectral voices of his mother, father, even Roger now, corroborated the insidious facts.

You cannot control, cannot kill, what is older than the human race.

He knew they were right. Knew it was time to face his fate.

Where a broken, rotten pine barred his way ahead, the path branched left and right. But it took Sam no time to choose. He followed primordial instincts now. Followed the surging, mossy light coming from the left fork, into a border of closely growing, bowed poplars.

He fought to take enough air into his lungs, as the atmosphere around him grew denser. He was traveling in angles and dimensions unknown to man, now.

Round a corner choked by unruly brush, he found the beast. At the sight of his shadowed form, illuminated by only a sliver of winter moon, Sam’s knees weakened. His throat went dry, and he was that twelve-year-old boy again. Fleeing with his younger brother from murdered parents, and a malevolent spirit that would add their souls to his vast collection.

“You’ve never come when I’ve called before, Samuel.” The Wendigo spoke in a voice part human, part feral, and part unutterable by any living thing known to the human world. “Why do you grace me with your presence now, on this waning of the veil to R’lyeh?”

Sam bowed before the monstrosity, and, with trembling hands held out the dainty, severed arm of young Jenny, still clutched in his tight grip.

“I’ve,” he swallowed back his nausea,” I’ve come to offer you an alternative.”

The creature cocked its shaggy head, and adjusted itself in its throne made of oozing stone. It rubbed a horn, thoughtfully, with a clawed finger. “A deal, you say? Hmmm, go on, Sam.”

“I’ll bring you a life.” He shimmied closer to the Guardian, dropping the seeping arm to the ground at the monster’s feet, like a proud prize. “I’ll bring you two or three, if that’s what you want, every nine years, in exchange for my freedom.”

The Guardian rose. Its massive, furry shoulders blotted out the splinter of moon, as it stepped down to the snow-covered earth on hooves as large as Sam’s head.

From the darkness, it reached out and touched Sam’s cheek. He shuddered, but he dare not show his revulsion.

“Why not you, Sam?” It moved to the left, just a step or two, into the shaft of cold light that spilled through the trees. “Why not you?”

A slithering came, like a phantasm. Sam’s eyes darted to the cold earth beneath him, but it was empty. His gaze slowly traveled higher.

The tips of sleek, jet tentacles wormed their way out from under the clumps of dirty fur at the Wendigo’s midriff. The beast lowered his vulpine head, and a guttural hum issued from his throat.

Come see R’lyeh, Sammy. It was the voice of Jenny, the shop girl.

A squirming feeler lashed out, and Sam staggered away, tumbling into the snow. He crab crawled backwards, as the serpentine limbs of the Guardian pursued him.

We are all one inside the Guardian, son. His father this time.

Sam wailed like a little child, as one of the tentacles coiled around him, embedding sharp, hooked suction cups into his leg. The round, spongy suckers sank rows of saw-like teeth into his shin, and they chewed frantically.

“Eat with me, Sam.” The beast held out his shaggy arms like a welcoming father. “Has the hunger not gnawed at you these many years past? Has the compulsion to join, to become one with me and give yourself to the Great Cthulhu, to taste the forbidden meat that will give you power, not ached in your belly?”

The creature leaned down, and grabbed Sam’s severed leg from the snapping tentacles. “Come.” He held the joint out. “Eat with me, as you, your brother, and your parents were meant to do so long ago. Come taste the flesh that will make you Wendigo. You will see worlds, dimensions, a human mind could never fathom.”

Sam scrambled forward and accepted his sticky, shredded limb. He sank his teeth into the thick muscle of his shin, and tore at it ravenously.

“Worlds I’ve never known,” he mumbled, between chews on large gobs of sinew. “Worlds I’ve never known.”

* * *

With the spring thaw, folks in Salmon Valley finally got their wish. After Roger and Samuel Wallis, missing now for five months, were declared dead, the vulgar structure that was the Wallis house came down. And with its demolition, three construction workers also lost their lives.

Some grumbled about poor work safety practices. Others muttered about drinking on the job. But some whispered of darker possibilities. About tentacles and hooves, and a long, bloody trail that led to a clearing about two miles back from the gutted house.

But only those, now gone, who once roamed those destroyed, cyclopean halls, knew what really happened.


Copyright © 2011 Louise Bohmer. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be distributed, shared, or posted online without the publisher and author’s written permission.


Like these free Halloween reads? Want more spooky Louise fiction? Why not check out Old School? Fourteen short tales offered by David Dunwoody, Jackie Gamber, R. Scott McCoy,Natalie L. Sin, Horace James, Gregory L. Hall, and Louise Bohmer, all tied together by selected poems from Zombie Zak – Old School reminds one of terrors best not forgotten.

Within these pages, evil children terrorize, witches gather the teeth of the young, cosmic blobs eat the world, while creepy crawlies ruin a man’s life and a headless ghost seeks revenge. Wander down this spooky path with poems and stories that revive our nightmares about golems, harpies, and other creatures.

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