The sights of my snub-nose tracked the oval of illumination from my flashlight as it darted around the huge room, looking for some sign of the cackler. I was well-trained in the use of firearms, and I hoped that my gender might inspire some brazen arrogance from my stalker…and then I’d blow them out of their boots. My heart was racing, and I immediately regretted the decision to open up the mystery behind the tape, and all the nightmares that came tumbling after.
I was proud of myself for clearing out the requisite mental space, from without all that adrenaline-fueled fear, to calculate the situation. If this was some residual member of the Bowers’ clan, skulking around in the dark, waiting for victims, or putting the finishing touches on some homemade monster, he’d likely consider me too overwhelmed with fear to act accordingly. If that was the case, I intended to prove him wrong. Dead wrong.
Something hit the wall behind me and rolled across the floor. A diversion. I kept the gun trained on the spaces in front of me, withholding both a backward glance and a bullet. Fear was trying to shake my aim, but my pigheadedness kept it steady. This was my life on the line, now.
I kept silent, trying to keep as much of myself a mystery as I could manage. I slowly backed up, trying to find a wall to put my back against, disallowing as many paths to my person as possible, save for the straightest approach—right into the sights of my gun.
Something else hit a distant wall. I wasn’t going to bite. But internally I was doing the math, trying to calculate the center point from which the two objects might have been thrown. The silence was absolute, so if the cackler had moved I would have heard. I arrived at a likely location—an area just behind a tall pile of wood—determined how much ammo I had to spare, if any, stepped into the appropriate angle…and fired.
The shot exploded the darkness, overexposing the room for a split second, and most importantly—raising a shriek and a curse from the cackler.
The voice was female, old and cracked, and seemed low to the ground. But, most importantly, the shriek wasn't at all far from where my bullet struck. I decided to push my luck. I stepped behind the stack of wood, my weapon ready to fire. No cackler. But there were tracks in the thick dust—two tire tracks. Was my stalker in a wheelchair?
I carefully followed the tracks until I could hear the sound of thin wheels, turning like crazy, accompanied by the frantic wheezing of a geriatric. That’s when I decided to become the scary one.
“I hear you out there, old woman. Turn those wheels as fast as you’d like, but, sooner or later, I’m gonna get yoooou,” I threatened, finding the role of monster to be exciting. I began to wonder if the cackler was a victim that got trapped down there, and with the death of the Bowers family, got herself abandoned to the underground, indefinitely. But that cackle was too telling, too filled with delight and murder. She was definitely one of them.
She was winding her wheelchair, in and out, between the sprawling ranks of monster-manikins, trying to lose me. I picked up my pace, and started charging through the lines of dead things, smacking the larger obstacles aside with that big, heavy flashlight of mine. And although the old crone knew the terrain far better than I did (so much so that she was managing just fine without a flashlight), I was catching up to her.
Then, abruptly, all sounds of her movement vanished. My light jumped around the chamber, searching. Nothing but piecemeal-monsters. I waited for the inevitable ambush. Still nothing. Realizing that my bullet count was low, I turned off my light and snatched a cleaver from a nearby monster-manikin’s outstretched hand, and then slid the weapon down the back of my pants, just beneath the overhang of my jacket. With my new weapon hidden, I switched the flashlight back on.
She was almost directly in front of me, staring a hot hole through my face.
She was no ordinary old woman, but a bent and withered demoness that dressed in paisleys, bones and blades. Her ‘wheelchair’ was made from steel outlined in animal and human skulls, and all around her nasty little conveyance were built-in blades and spears. The back of her chair was designed to look like a throne of bones; and after I heard the growl of an engine, I realized that the little death-machine was motorized. The old bitch had chosen to push it along for the purpose of keeping quiet.
The woman’s yellow, feral eyes glittered like drops of piss when I struck them with the beam from my flashlight. Suddenly, her chair projected its own rays of light, far brighter than my own, blinding me. The ancient creature came at me from a slight incline recessed into the cavern wall, blades out. Then she began to cackle again, a dusty and broken melody of rehearsed menace. I fired blind, hoping my luck hadn’t run out. But it had. I’d missed completely. She didn’t.
A spear entered my upper thigh, tearing in and out of it; and I could feel the torn flap of skin slapping against my knee. I couldn’t believe it—I was going to be killed by a psychopathic geriatric who rode me down in a satanic wheelchair.
Thank God I’m not a waif and have a bit of meat to me (thanks to my home gym and a healthy amount of strength training), because the wheelchair’s impact with me knocked it off course, causing it to skid out of control. The old demon started screaming and swearing as she tried to bring her evil vehicle back under control. Despite the pain, I couldn’t help but laugh at the whole situation.
But now it was my turn. With her lights out of my face, I could see to fire a properly aimed shot. Despite my want to conserve ammo, I emptied my weapon into the monstrous old hag. I didn’t know if I’d hit her, but the engine powering her death-chair was thoroughly out of commission. As the motor whined it’s last, I took out my cleaver and limped towards the pile of old evil bones that had spilled, spitting and swearing, from its throne of death.
“You crazy, nasty old bitch! I ought to put this cleaver right between your eyes!” I spat, as I stood over the prone lunatic, bleeding.
“Heh, do your worse, missy! But ol’ Grammy Rose will chew on them purty little eyes of yers, when the world goes all evil and dark. You can bet yer sweet little ass o’ that, I kin tell ya!” she hurled her words at me like she thought they might do physical harm.
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot. You morons think that your little army of Frankensteins is going to wake up and take marching orders, right?” I said, mocking the hag who had yet to turn over and look me in the eyes.
“You just wait, missy. You’ll see…and you’ll wish to Hell you hadn’t…” There was something dreadful mixed-up into her words. Down there in the dark, surrounded by monsters and death, it seemed like she was telling me an awful, and absolutely truthful, secret.
“Well, if you’re right, you’ll be the only one calling the shots, because the rest of your merry band of nut-jobs is dead. Your friend Charlie went and stuffed all of their murdering a$$es up into the guts of that big ol’ dog of theirs,” I said, wanting desperately to see her reaction.
The woman seemed to shrivel into herself, as grief took her quickly. She began to weep softly, and I almost felt sorry for the old monster. But that’s when she said what I came to hear.
“It… it was that…BITCH! She did this to him…to all of us! She killed everything…everyone. Poor, poor Grammy Rose. What am I gonna do, now? None of us had a chance,” she wept, finally turning over to face me. Her face was horrid. Time had done quite the hatchet-job on her looks. Old age had twisted her features so completely that she showed absolutely no sign of ever possessing youth. Her eyes were feral and savage, but they contained shrewdness, too. She was completely deadly, even without her little killing-machine.
“Who is ‘she,’ old woman? You’ll tell me, or so help me, I’ll leave you in little red pieces. You got me?” I growled, raising my cleaver. I was nearly electric with anticipation.
The old woman’s expression changed. Her wrinkles flowed like currents of dust across her hideous face, collecting into a little grin. Then her beady yellow eyes pissed their dim light against the flashlight’s glow, and she croaked, “Seen her, have ya? Heh, heh, then you’ll know all too soon, witch. She’s already got ya, I’d wager.”
“Got more bad news, then. She’s dead, too. Along with all the rest of her freak-job ‘family.’ I guess it’s not a good time to start up a family business in serial killing,” I countered.
The old monster just looked at me, widening her already huge, toothless grin, hissing, “Evil like that don’t die, honey. You’ll learn that, too. And probably far, far too late, at that.”
“Who the fuck is she, dammit!” I yelled, surprising myself with a hidden desperation.
“Why, she’s death, girly. Pure, sweet, and deadly. Like venom an’ honey. An’ you already went and drank her in, dincha?” The hag's next words were formed almost completely from her, now all too familiar, cackling.
"An’ now you ain’t got no chance at all, missy! Not a chance in Hell!”
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