This is the blog of Samie Sands, author of Lockdown. There will be many great books and projects reviewed here. For more, check out thelockdown.co.uk.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Monster Attack @SamieSands



Discover the most gruesome beasts from Werewolves to Mermaids and the stories behind them, written by the most talented horror authors. Arnaldo Lopez Jr, Dana Wright, Andy Lockwood, Sharon L. Higa, Kyle Flak, Kevin S. Hall, Josh Walker, Kody Dibble, Matt Mesnard, Mathias Jansson, Lila L. Pinord, John M. Wills, Michael Shaw, Debbie Johnson, Victoria Pagac, Alex Winck, Anthony V. Pugliese, Shakeem Winn, Preston Peet, Randy Attwood, Matthew J. Hamblin, Stefan Vucak, Anthony Modungwo, Cecilia H. Doldan, Samie Sands Vered Ehsani and Robert Tozer.

Monster Attack Sample
7th Gateway to Hell by Samie Sands

The music on the radio fades away to static, which unfortunately means I can now clearly hear all of the strange noises emanating from the engine of this banged up old rental car. I knew the guy who lent it to me was dodgy, but I couldn’t afford anything better. This trip has already cost me my entire mediocre savings.
I let out a deep sigh as the spluttering becomes more of a grinding sound and it isn’t long until the car has come to a complete halt. I bang my fists against the dashboard in frustration. This is slowly becoming just another disaster in the long line of my catastrophic life. I step outside the car and into the blistering heat. My God, America is hot! I think back to the wet and rainy airport in the UK where I was stood only twenty-four hours ago. I can’t believe I have managed to travel so far around the world within that time. If I’d known how easy it was, I might have escaped my crappy existence a lot earlier.
I wonder if my mother has gone crazy with worry yet. I did leave her a note explaining my absence so hopefully, she won’t phone the police. Although after what happened to my younger sister Olivia only months ago, no one would be able to blame her for an overreaction.
I try to imagine Olivia driving past this exact spot, with a group of her friends, happy and carefree on their gap year before starting university. I know for a fact that she came along this road; she emailed me with a photo as they drove. I pull the picture out of my pocket. I passed that exact tree and signpost a few miles back. I re-read the email that accompanies the image for the millionth time.
Hey Annie-bo-bannie,
I miss you super loads! We are having an awesome time though. Wish you could be here – sorry you couldn’t get out of work. We are actually on our way to see something so cool, I’m sure you’d love it. We got talking to a group of guys in a bar last night, and they recommended we go to this tiny little village called Stull. Apparently, it contains a ‘stairway to hell’ or something ridiculous like that. Anyway, it’s supposed to be pretty haunted and full of all sorts of powerful spells––I’m sure it will be a real laugh anyway.
See you in a few weeks. You will have to help me pack for uni, I think I will still be too jetlagged eek!
Love ya forever.
Liv x
Those innocuous words are the last thing I ever heard from her. While she was away, her communication was vague and sporadic so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t hear anything else before she came home. I was shocked however when I went to pick her up from the airport, and she didn’t get off the plane. None of her group did. They’d had these flights booked for a long time before they even left for the trip. Everything had been so meticulously planned out. In fact, the detour to Stull was the only time I had known them to go off of their strict itinerary.
Afterwards me, my parents and the rest of the kid’s families spent weeks on the phone to the police services, the British Embassy, and the American media. Anything to find a clue, a possibility. Five kids just don’t disappear into thin air like that. It just does not happen. But no one could find even the slightest trace of their existence and I know the search was pretty extensive. Once stories like this get into the newspapers, the police are put under far more pressure.
I knew something was wrong, I knew we were missing something, so I decided to research Stull. This was the last place I knew they’d been so it made sense to check it out. All sorts of weird and wonderful stories came up, just as Olivia had described, but the thing I found most shocking is that there are only about twenty residents in the whole place. Surely someone would have seen them? Someone must know if they made it to Stull and if they’d also made it out. I couldn’t let that fact go. I just can’t move on with my life without knowing what happened to her. She will always just be an unanswered question hanging over my head like a black cloud. Of course, I don’t want to find out she has died, but anything is better than not knowing at all.
Our parents are almost divorced over the whole thing. Mum has gone stir crazy; she won’t stop doing things, even for a second. Cleaning, phoning the authorities, making posters. She won’t ever rest, I’m not even sure if she sleeps. My father has gone the opposite way. He has retreated into his shell. Although he is clearly hurting just as much as the rest of us, mum thinks he has gone stoic, that he no longer cares.
I’m not doing very well either, but then my life was falling apart at the seams anyway, this was just the final push. I lost my crappy job as a waitress because I stopped showing up, my boyfriend dumped me because I’d become ‘no fun––I’m sure he’d been cheating on me for years, I was just stuck in too much of a rut to end things. What a coward. I also started drinking far too much. I needed to do this to try and stop that habit alone.
I stare down the long dusty road that is stretched out in front of me. My heart sinks when I realize that I have no other option but to start walking and hopefully hitchhike a lift. I really don’t want to, you hear so many horror stories about that sort of thing, but I don’t see any other options available to me. I can’t imagine this being on a bus route and that bloody car isn’t going to get me anywhere.
I grab the backpack of belongings that I packed yesterday in a hurry and start walking, my feet pounding against the hard floor. I desperately hope this whole trip turns out to be worth it. I hope I find the answers I’m looking for. I feel like my whole life is balancing on a knife edge and this is the catalyst which will decide which way I fall. I’m not ashamed to admit there is still a small piece of hope in my heart that assumes I will find Olivia alive and well, that I will be able to bring her home and fix everything. Logically I know that I’m most likely wrong, but I can’t force myself to quell that feeling.
Eventually, I hear the noise of an engine rumbling past. I nervously stick out my thumb and let a pleading expression fill my eyes. I haven’t got any water or food with me, stupidly, so I don’t know how much longer I can last out here in the elements. Unsurprisingly the car whizzes past, kicking dust up into my face. I mutter profanities under my breath. Why would someone just leave a young girl alone on the side of the road where she could get raped or murdered? Some people are so inconsiderate.

* * *

It feels like at least an hour has passed before I hear the sound of another car. By this time, sweat is pouring down my forehead, my hair is sticking to my head and I am almost dizzy with dehydration. I wearily stick out my arm, silently pleading with the driver to take pity on me and stop. I shut my eyes expecting to hear the noise whizz passed in the same manner as the previous vehicle, so I’m stunned when it splutters to a stop.
I’m frozen to the spot, unsure of the correct protocol in this situation. I wasn’t expecting this at all. To my relief the door swings open, just missing my cheek as it does. I let out a deep relieved breath and pull myself inside the truck. I turn and smile gratefully at the driver, still panting too hard to form words. He has a large bushy grey beard which covers a lot of his face and a cheered trucker hat pulled over his eyes. I wonder for a moment how he can see the road like that. He is wearing a red checked shirt, with black braces pulled over his shoulders. I almost laugh at the stereotype of this man; I thought these men were a Hollywood horror construct. I’m not afraid; films have never had any sort of effect on me. Olivia was always the one hiding behind the cushions. I lean back against the cold leather seat and listen to the engine rumbling to a start. My eyes immediately feel heavy and I start to drift into sleep.

* * *

Suddenly a gruff voice breaks me out of my slumber. “I am only going as far as Stull little lady. You will have to make your own way from there.”
When my heart finally stops racing from the shock of being woken up in such an abrupt manner, I nod. “That’s where I’m going too so that is perfect, thank you.”
His head slowly turns to face me, and he lifts his hat up so I finally get a better view of his face. I am amazed to see his dark black eyes; they mesmerize me for a second.
“What is someone like you wanting with Stull?” This time any pleasantries have left his tone. He seems strangely angry by my statement.
I start to stutter a reply. “My…err…my sister, and…and her friends were here a few months ago.” Instincts tell me I should start lying at this point, I don’t know why but I go with them anyway. “I am just following her trail, their travels seemed amazing. In a few weeks’ time, we are all going to join together in Florida.” I act as if I’m gushing as if I’m terribly excited about the whole thing.
He eyes me suspiciously, seeing right through my lie. “I think you are wrong. No one ever visits Stull; it’s a tiny village with nothing of interest to tourists. Your sister definitely didn’t come here. Is there anywhere else I can take you instead?”
His change in attitude has me suspicious. Only moments ago, he was pretty insistent that he wouldn’t go further, now he was offering to take me just about anywhere. Obviously, tourists do visit Stull, someone recommended it to Olivia, she wouldn’t just make that up. “Erm…no I’ll be fine. I’m quite tired so I will just find a B and B and carry on my journey in the morn––.”
“There aren’t any B and B’s in Stull. I just told you, it isn’t a place for tourists.” He loudly interrupts me. I start to feel really terrified of this man. I can’t understand his reaction at all. Why doesn’t he want me to go to go anywhere near the place? It all just makes me more convinced that this is where something happened to Olivia. Unwelcome images of murder and torture fill my mind. I wonder if they are all trapped somewhere in someone’s basement tied up, waiting for rescue. My heart starts thumping loudly at this possibility. On the one hand, I could really save them, but on the other, that will take a whole lot of bravery that I’m just not sure I possess.
“Please just drop me off in Stull. I will call my sister from there and rearrange our meet up.” I state this with a very firm tone. My request is reasonable so the man can’t really argue with me. I think I have made it clear that I’m not going to budge on my decision.
We sit in silence for the rest of the trip, the tension thick in the air. I stare out of the window watching the unfamiliar scenery go past. All the time, Olivia is on my mind. I see her passing every feature that I am; I picture imaginary conversations between her and her friends as they whizz past certain things. I am now more convinced than ever that Stull holds the answer. I just know I have done the right thing by coming here. When I got on that plane, I thought it would be a good starting place since it’s the last place I know for a fact that she went; now I am positive that they never left.
Soon I notice an old-fashioned signpost, indicating that we are about to enter the town. A cold chill runs through me as we pass it. I glance around manically, taking it all in. My eyes lock onto a crumbling church and a graveyard that lies beneath it. Once I spot this, I can’t stop staring at it. I know that’s the place they must have intended to go. It’s got a really creepy aura and I’m sure Olivia would have gotten a massive kick out of that. She wasn’t a big believer in the supernatural, although she was very interested in it. Her friends were massive fans and she was always content to go along for the ride.
My vision travels up and down the very long trunk of a pine tree situated within the graveyard. It’s the eeriest thing in the whole place, made worse by the fact that it is growing right through the middle of a gravestone, splitting it in two. I screw up my eyebrows in confusion, why has no one ever done anything about that?
Suddenly I snapped out of my trance by the electronic sound of all the doors locking. I spin around shocked, what is this guy doing? He doesn’t move or acknowledge his actions, he just puts his foot down on the accelerator and the car slowly picks up speed. Within seconds the countryside is whizzing past me faster than ever before and I grab onto the side of the seat, nausea, and bile swilling around in my stomach. I pant heavily, trying to form the words to ask this guy what the hell he’s doing, but for some strange reason, my tongue is twisted, my lips frozen. I’m utterly convinced I’m about to die and I can’t even bring myself to scream.
Just as my brain has slowly melted and has given up on any hope of surviving, the car halts to a stop, the doors all unlock and I am shoved through the door. As I slump to the floor, unable to work my limbs, the guy’s sinister face looms over me and he whispers while spitting. “Just keep on walking girl. Don’t even think about turning around and heading back towards Stull. We don’t want you there and you sure as hell don’t wanna be there.”
I lie on the hot, sandy ground, quietly weeping. I have no idea what just happened, or why, but I have never felt so close to death in my whole life. Despite that, the utterly terrifying man has me more determined to find out the truth about Stull than ever before. Why would anyone be so desperate to get rid of me? I guess that he thought by frightening me, I’d run off like a scared little girl. Little does he know, I don’t exactly have a lot to live for anymore. I can’t continue until I know what has happened to Olivia. I can’t continue in this limbo, so something needs to happen, whatever it may be. However, much I am putting my life in danger.
I heave my weak body off of the ground and turn back to walk the way I have just been warned against. I have more resolve in me now. I will solve this mystery; no one else will get in my way. My mouth is burning with dehydration and my stomach is agonizingly empty. I need to fuel myself soon or I’ll die out here for sure. I pass the signpost, alerting me to the edge of Stull, and a strange thing happens to me as I am next to it. A loud whisper fills my head. It’s made up of far too many voices for me to work out what it is saying, but I don’t need to understand to feel the evil. I shake my head before carrying on; it’s just exhaustion playing mind tricks on me. I can’t let myself be distracted. As soon as I find a shop, I will be able to sort myself out.

* * *

Except, after I have trailed up and down a few times, there doesn’t seem to be any shops. I start to panic, wondering what I’m going to do. I only have a few items of clothing in my backpack, I figured I’d find somewhere to stay with no trouble, or I’d at least have a car to sleep in. Now I have nothing.
My attention keeps flicking towards the church and graveyard. It’s a bit like a magnet that I can’t stop myself from being drawn towards. This time, however, I see a lone figure of what looks like a young lady, just stood there. Before I realize what I’m doing, my feet have taken control of my body and I’m walking towards her. I am stumbling along, almost as if I’m sleepwalking, staring at the woman, rapt. I don’t feel like I have any power over myself.
It isn’t long before I’m stood right in front of her. I snap out of my daze at the very moment she turns to look at me and panic courses through my veins. That man couldn’t have made it more obvious that tourists weren’t welcome here in Stull, so how is she going to react to me? Surprisingly, she smiles brightly in my direction.
“Can I help you?” She is softly spoken and sounds particularly kind. When I don’t immediately answer, she edges carefully towards me and reaches an arm out to touch my shoulder. As soon as our skin meets, a calming sensation runs through my whole body. I suddenly feel extremely comfortable around her, as if we have known each other for years. Before I can stop myself, my whole sorry saga has spilled out of my mouth and tears are leaking from my eyes. I have become so dizzy and dazed that I no longer know what I’m doing at all. Taking pity on me the woman rests my head upon her shoulder and takes me into her small cottage nearby.

* * *

One I have food and water in my system, I feel much better. My head has cleared and I feel more awake. I feel regret that I told this woman everything; from Olivia’s disappearance to the crushing disappointment that has become my life. I wonder how much she judges me. Instead of dwelling on my problems, I try and grab an opportunity. I ask the woman about the church and its surroundings.
To my utmost relief, she laughs. “Oh, I suppose you have been fooled by the rumors as well? The Internet has a lot to answer for.” I laugh guiltily. “Yes, we have become quite the beacon for fans of witchcraft and the occult. They seem to think that although the church has no roof, it never rains inside and that it contains all sorts of links to the devil. It’s madness – just some silly story someone came up with a long time back. Unfortunately, nothing exciting ever happens here, we all inherited our houses from generations back and cannot
afford to leave. That’s all.”
Of course, she’s right; I hope she doesn’t think I actually bought into any of that nonsense. I was just curious. “There is one other thing….” I wonder if I should take it this last step. The way she is looking at me, I can’t help but trust her. “This guy picked me up a few miles back. He was really weird about me coming here; he pretty much tried to force me to leave…”
“Oh, that’ll be crazy old Bob.” She interrupts quickly. “Take no notice of him, he has lived far too long and become a grouchy old man. I remember in the old days––he actually used to be good fun! No, he just gets sick of all of the thrill seekers coming here trying to catch a glimpse of the devil. The graffiti and cause damage to the headstones. It really has become a nightmare; all our relatives are buried there so it’s hard sometimes to not take it personally.”
I try and push my uneasy feelings aside and take her at her word. He is just worried that I may have come to deface something. Even as I think these words, they seem hollow and fake.
I am over the moon to be offered a bed for the night, just as the fatigue is really beginning to kick in. As I walk into the room, I can barely keep my eyes open. I crash down onto the camp bed, not even bothering to clean my face or change my clothes. This day has been one of the longest in my entire existence. My brain shuts off before my head hits the pillow.

* * *

Suddenly I’m in the garden outside our old house, messing about with Olivia. We are sat on sun loungers, trying to get a tan and drinking cocktails. She is telling me a funny story about a terrible date she recently had and I am laughing loudly to her words. She looks at me and her facial features begin to change. They twist and turn, going green and black. Her words become evil whispers and growls. She stands up, looming over me; her fingers have become claws which pierce into my neck. Pain radiates down my entire left-hand side and blood spurts out everywhere. Her sharp teeth come towards my face and spittle is flying out of her mouth. She opens wide, showing me all of her insides and clamps down onto my head.

* * *

I jump up, gasping for air. My heart is racing and my brain is whizzing faster than it’s ever gone before. I gulp down some water which has been thoughtfully placed on the nightstand and the realization that the whole thing was a dream finally hits me. I look over to the clock, 2.30am. Typical, bloody jetlag, now I’m more awake than ever. I won’t be able to switch off now, so I may as well get up. I quickly change my clothes and take a walk around the tiny house, looking carefully at all of the odd knickknacks. Outside one of the windows, the full moon sits right on top of the church, illuminating it very brightly. It’s so intriguing, and it’s practically daylight over there.
On a whim, I decide to go and visit it right now, while it’s still night time. I might as well use the time I am awake usefully and I’m less likely to be disturbed or spotted at the hour. I’ll be back before my host wakes up so I won’t even have to explain my absence. I quietly click the door behind me and spin around in the cool, crisp air. It’s such a change in temperature from earlier today, but it’s much more pleasant and refreshing now. Preferable to an English girl like me, who is very used to the cold.
I try and keep my steps light and quiet as I walk, the last thing I want to do is alert anyone else to my presence. I need to do this by myself, to find out as much as I can about Olivia’s visit. If I could just find some sign that they were here and maybe even a clue that they also left, I can move on quickly. I am pretty sure that according to their plans and location, they would have headed to Oklahoma next. If it comes to it, I am more than happy to go there next. In fact, I’d much rather be there than here, even if that search will be like finding a needle in a haystack.
The air seems to get colder, the closer to the church I get. Chills run up and down my spine. My mind goes fuzzy and my senses heighten. I feel like something strange is here. The grass is icy and crispy beneath my feet; the gravestones are deteriorating, crumbling away before my very eyes. The mist clings in the air as if a magic force is keeping it still. I try and picture Olivia in this place, I try and imagine the boys that sent them here, what the hell were they all thinking? This place is nothing, just a normal graveyard in a tiny village. But at the same time, there is something very unusual about it. It’s a pit of evil. I don’t know what makes me feel that way, but I can’t stop it.
I walk inside the small, insignificant crumbling church wondering what is supposed to be so important about this place. Buildings like this are so common near where I live and no one pays any attention to them, so I can’t see how this would be different. But as my feet pass the threshold, something shoots through me. A peculiar, invigorating sensation. I spin around trying to see whatever could have caused it, but I’m faced with nothing. Maybe I just imagined it? Maybe I created that feeling through my own fear.
“Hello?” I timidly call out, unsure if I am going to seem crazy. Silence. Yes, I’m just imagining things. I need to get a grip on myself. I continue to step forward. The air seems thick around me. There’s no wind, no breeze, no nothing. In fact, the atmosphere is completely non-existent. As I run my fingers along the brickwork, shoots of electricity burning through my skin. I pull my hand back gasping and suck on my fingers trying to take away some of the sting. I push my way outside, gulping in air and desperate to escape. The change in atmosphere is so dramatic; I can’t get my head around it. As I stand there, staring into the building, confused by my experience, a scream cuts right through me. I recognize it immediately.
“Olivia!” I cry out. She’s here? I can’t believe it. I’ve actually found her. “Olivia, where are you?” My heart starts racing at the prospect of seeing her again, of rescuing her and getting the fuck away from here. “Olivia, come on, where are you?” I rush into the church eyes darting side to side. No one. “Olivia, come on now, come out?! Liv?”
“Annie? Annie help!” I spin around rushing towards the voice. “Annie!” I don’t know what to do; it’s coming from everywhere, all around me. The scream is high pitched and terrified. What is going on here?
I rush around to the back of the building, pushing my hands over my ears to block out the sound. It’s distracting me, confusing me. Tears start to roll down my cheeks and I can’t stop them. Something bad has happened to Olivia, I can tell. I have never ever heard her scream in that way and sound so frightened. What if crazy Bob has her trapped somewhere? What if he’s been doing nasty, unspeakable things to her?
“Annie, what are you waiting for, please….?” Her voice fades away into nothing. I can’t stop the scream that bursts out of my chest. I’ve lost her; I’ll never find her now. My knees give way and I hit the ground with a thud. My mind starts blurring and my vision goes funny. I try and cry out but everything just spins into blackness.

* * *

I wake up, a sticky, warm liquid holding my hair to my face. I touch it and realize that it’s red and clumpy. Blood. How is my head bleeding? I didn’t fall that badly. I try and sit up, but the throbbing becomes too much. What has happened to me? Did someone do something to me as I was passed out? A figure comes slowly into focus. A shadowy, dark person. Fear immediately shoots through me and I try and scoot backward, trying to escape. A voice starts circulating in my confused brain. I try and yell, but my throat is dry and nothing but a low groan comes out.
“Hey, hey…” The voice eventually penetrates my shock barrier. I recognize this voice. Where from? I try and sit up; my body feels weary and broken but I don’t know why. Have I lost a whole chunk of time somewhere along the line? Is that possible? A hand reaches out to me and grabs me before I have a chance to recoil. Finally, I get a clear view of who it is, the woman, the lovely lady who let me stay at her house. Grateful for a familiar face I grab her and pull her in for a hug. I’m not an overly affectionate person with anyone so this display shocks even me. I pull back, ready to thank her profusely when I notice something almost alien about her. Her irises are completely red.
As I back away further I can see she is wearing very strange attire. Almost that of a stereotypical witch. I laugh nervously, is this some sort of trick? “I––” I try and stutter out words, but they get caught in my throat. I feel as though something has grabbed hold of my voice box, warning me not to speak.
“Tonight, he is coming tonight.” This time her voice is very different. In fact, it could almost be six people speaking all at once. I cock my head to the side confused. What is she doing? Is she trying to freak me out? I really don’t need her to do that, I am doing it well enough to myself.
“Who––?” I decide to humor her for now. She stares at me but doesn’t answer. “Who is coming?”
“The great lord. The great master.” This puzzles me; I guess I didn’t assume she was a religious woman. There was no Bible or cross in her house. Is she talking about the second coming of Jesus?
She disputes this thought before I can even voice it. “I’m talking about Satan, the great lord of the underworld.”
“Um…ok lady; I’m just going to––” I point randomly behind me and turn to start walking. I don’t have time for all of this. The loving tone in her voice as she spoke about the devil made me feel sick. Wasn’t she the one who was mocking this very idea only hours earlier? A finger tapping on my shoulder causes me to spin back, but to my surprise, she is nowhere near me, she is much too far away to reach me. She is pointing up to the top of the pine tree, so without thinking I follow her finger. There I see a vision of her hanging limply from the tree, blood dripping to the ground. The black coagulated blood falls onto the split gravestone that sits below.
“No…no…” I glance wildly back and forth. Even though she is upon the tree, she is also still stood next to me cackling madly. “What…what are you? What is all of this?” She shakes her head at me as if I am missing the point entirely. “Do you have Olivia?” I finally whisper. It hits me that whatever the hell is wrong with this place, this woman obviously knows all about it. Why didn’t she just tell me before?
“She’s gone.” The woman states as if it completely obvious. Spotting my confused face, she continues. “No one who goes down the steps comes back up. Once you have entered the great lord’s realm, you cannot simply return to Earth.” My facial expression must show my disbelief. “He has her now.” She says this with a comforting tone as if I have just received some good news.
“Do you mean my sister’s dead?” I feel hysteria rise up through my body. Whatever I expected to find when I came here, this was not it. Not at all. Of course, a small part of me was mentally prepared for bad news, you have to be when someone has been missing for months on end––but this just makes no sense.
“Just because she’s gone” Her tone becomes soft and loving. “Doesn’t mean she’s dead. I myself only get to see my child twice a year, Halloween and the Spring Equinox. You are very lucky to be here for one of these visits. He spends most of his life in the realm where his kind is accepted readily. Humans just don’t…understand, if you know what I mean.” She winks at me and I pull a disgusted face back. I have no idea what she means. I haven’t had a clue since she opened her mouth in this graveyard.
A rush of regret overcomes me. This whole trip was a mistake. I should be at home, trying to fix my parents problems, trying to sort out my own life. Being here, in this nightmare isn’t going to solve a single thing. Why did I ever think that it would? I’m not needed here; I’m needed miles away, in England. The woman’s nails rip into my skin, firmly holding me in place. I can almost feel them growing, embedding themselves deeply within me. My heart is pounding in my mouth and my palms are thick with sweat. I wish I knew what to do, I wish my legs weren’t frozen to the spot.
Suddenly a howl in the distance seems to distract the insane woman; she turns away from me, seemingly unaware that she is releasing me as she does. Blood trickles down my shoulder from the holes she has pierced and its agony. Unfortunately, I still can’t get my legs to move, so I decide to try a different tactic.
“Erm…what was that?” My mouth is so dry, the words come out parched and cracked.
“It’s him…my son.” She replies. I wait for her to continue, I sense that she is going to whether I speak or not. “He’s here. He’s finally here.” She claps her hand together in excitement. “His father will soon follow,”
“Who…who is his father?”
“The dark lord of course.” She says this as if I’m completely stupid. Maybe I am, maybe I should have guessed that a lot earlier. “That’s why he isn’t suitable for this land. Werewolves are hunted savagely by humans. Even though I know my little one could defeat them all with no problems, I wouldn’t want to put him through the persecution.” She turns to face me again, her eyes shining with joy. “So instead, for the last three hundred and fourteen years I have come to the site where he was conceived, and the spot where I was hung for crimes of witchcraft, and we all meet. It’s a sacrifice any mother would be willing to make of course. My son’s happiness is the most important thing.”
Ok, this woman is definitely crazy. She seems to believe that she is some sort of witch-ghost with a werewolf son who was fathered by the devil. That’s the weirdest story I have ever heard. I don’t know why I allowed myself to get sucked into her nonsense. I’m normally more level-headed than that. The desperation to find Olivia has sent me into a sort of madness. My legs free up, so I mumble something under my breath and start to walk away. She is too distracted to follow. Her fantasy werewolf son and his devil father have taken over her mind.
I shake my head as I continue to move. It must be living in such a small community. Nothing ever happens, so she has been forced to create her own amusement. I look up from my feet and notice that although I have been walking in a straight line for quite a while now, I have not yet left the cemetery. How is that possible? I start to focus on my steps, but that doesn’t make any difference either. I’m somehow walking round and round the crumbling church, always stopping in the same place.
I keep going, unsure of what else to do. Suddenly something catches my eye. A large bush, which seems to be covering up some sort of secret. I have a strange feeling that it will answer all of my questions. I think about Olivia, also finding this. Her voice screams out again, but this time it doesn’t distract me. It’s only in my head after all. I brush the leaves to one side, watching them crumble beneath my fingertips, turning into brown ashes before my eyes. I can’t believe what they reveal.
Steps.
The steps. The ones I read about, the ones the crazy witch lady said Olivia went down. The supposed ‘Seventh Gateway to Hell’. I look down the deep dark hole that the steps travel down. I call out quietly. “Hello?”
“Hello? Hello?” A panicked voice calls out in reply. “Annie, is that you? Annie help us, please! We’re stuck down here and we can’t get back out.” My heart drops through my stomach. Olivia.
She’s here, she is really here. Her and her friends just got stuck doing something stupid. How they’ve survived for so long I’ll never know. Against my better judgment, I tenderly place my foot on the first step, but before I can apply any pressure, the entire thing crumbles beneath me.
The screams echo throughout the entire town. “Olivia? Liv are you ok? I’m sorry I don’t know––”
Before I can finish my sentence, fingertips grab my ankle and pull lightly. I stand there frozen, confused and panicked. What the hell? Suddenly, I snap into action and grab the hand. I pull it with full force, and the body that materializes from the ground looks very familiar. One of the girls from Olivia’s group, Kyra I think her name is. I grab her and hug her without even thinking. I’m just so relieved to see someone normal, someone, on my side, but instead, she dissolves in my arms. Grey ash covers my whole body and sobs scream through me. What the hell is happening now?
More fingers follow, but these are brown, lumpy and covered in slime. A rotten stench fills the air and I back away slowly, unsure if I’ll be able to escape. Before my disbelieving eyes, a disgusting monster materializes. The brown lumpy beast grows much larger than a human and bile rises to tip of my tongue. I can’t grasp that this is reality. This is really happening. Things like this aren’t just from books and films. Yellow teeth bear down towards me. My brain is screaming at me to run, but still, my legs feel sluggish. A loud screeching sound bursts from its mouth, forcing me to cover my ears as the noise gets progressively louder.
I look around and see a group of people have gathered. The locals, it must be. “Help!” I cry out to them as I am backed into a corner. “Help me.” A figure moves towards me, a man. The one that tried to make me leave. He shakes his head sadly at me, and I grasp his meaning immediately. He knew all along what happened to my sister, he knew the same would happen to me if I stayed. He wanted to help, he tried to. He was actually the good guy. I wish he had just told me, but of course I wouldn’t have believed him. Who would believe this? I nod knowingly at him. I want him to know that I understand. This isn’t his fault, he tried to warn me, but I was too stubborn to listen to his hidden meaning.
More of the monsters follow, as if that screech was summoning them. I wonder if these are the devil’s minions, I wonder if he really is on his way up to Earth. I try to run, I try to find an escape but there isn’t one. I don’t want to be here to witness any more. One of the locals grabs me, pinning my arms behind my back. A sultry voice whispers in my ear. “You can’t go now; the best bit is yet to come.”
I thrash, I struggle, but all to no avail. I’m stuck. I’m going to die here as a sacrifice, just like Olivia. I tell myself to calm down, to accept my fate with pride. There is nothing left I can do to save myself so I can at least die with dignity, but my mother’s sobbing face keeps running through my mind. This will tear my parents apart for sure. Their marriage will never survive the loss of another child. I whisper the word “Sorry” even though I know there is no way they’ll hear it.
The devil rises. He looks nothing like I expected, he is far more terrifying. He is brown, lumpy and slimy, just like the others, but he is so much bigger, with a much more petrifying aura. He switches and changes shape on a whim, as if to prove to us all that he is not restricted by bones and bodily structure that us mere mortals are. Cheers rise up from the crowd as he performs to us. Blood splatters across the town with every movement he makes. It seems to be a big exciting event for everyone involved. The minions all gather at his feet, the witch and her werewolf son join the town’s people. Everyone is gathered here for the spectacle.
The woman pushes me forwards and I fall roughly to the ground. My knees throb, and my head is in agony. He lifts me high above the ground; a tentacle is wrapped around my torso. I try and force my emotions away, I want to remain calm, but it is impossible in such a bizarre, life-threatening situation. I try and imagine this happening to Olivia. Did all the locals stand and watch her death as they are mine? Don’t they feel guilty for what they’re doing?
A tearing sensation, a ripping occurs down at my waist. I squeeze my eyes tight, trying to stay silent, but a scream bursts through me. The agony, the pain. I’m on fire. I try and wriggle my toes, but they are no longer there. My whole body has been ripped in half and yet my brain is still switched on. I feel weak and woozy. I can hear the braying cheers below. I look down to try and focus on the people– –how can they just allow this to happen? Don’t they want to stop it?
Then I remember what I read online with skeptical eyes. They are forced sacrifice twice a year to stop the evil spreading into the rest of the world, to prevent the devil from going on a rampage and consuming the entire population. If this weren’t happening to me right now, I would be forced to think of them as the good guys. That’s why only a few of them can bear to stay––to carry on the legacy of their town. To keep the rest of the world safe.
Sharp teeth sink down into my neck and one last tear falls down my check. Soon I am rushing down, down the steps, down into hell where I will stay for eternity, reunited with Olivia at last.

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