GreatHites Season 2 Episoide 13

In a time you will forget the horor, and then… That is what this week’s stories are about, the forgotten horror.

We had five stories on the topic of a forgotten horrror by:

Jason A. Steves
Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
Scott Roche
Ashley Redden
And Jeff HIte

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Tim Memorial
By Jason A. Stevens

“Heh, look at the stupid statue!”

“It’s there for a reason, Jack. You don’t have to be such a jerk.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Jack dismissed Rachel as usual, continuing to mock the unusual statue. It appeared vaguely man-shaped, Rachel supposed, but something about it struck a deep chord of wrongness in her. Perhaps it was the lack of any distinguishing features, perhaps the numerous strange protrusions jutting out from it. In any case, listening to Jack criticize it made it all the worse.

She didn’t know why she’d allowed him to talk her into following him down the overgrown path. Arriving at Maria’s to spend the weekend with their friends easily would have trumped walking through the tangled brush, branches snagging painfully on her hair. Jack had remained adamant, though, insisting they’d just make a brief stop, as the pictures he’d found of the abandoned town on the website were, quote ‘wicked cool.’ From what she could see of it past the statue, she had to disagree. It looked much the same as any other town, albeit deserted.

“Let’s just see what you want to see and go.”

Rachel started to push past Jack towards they empty town, but first paused to read the statue’s plaque. The top portion had broken off some time ago and she had to wipe away some excess dirt from what remained in order to be able to read the text. All that revealed themselves were two words, ‘TIM MEMORIAL,’ whatever context they may once have had lost to time. A cursory glance of the ground surrounding the statue didn’t reveal the missing portion, and when she glanced back up, Jack had already gone past the statue and advanced into the town proper, looking impatiently at Rachel and standing by the door of the nearest house.

She sighed and advanced onward, suppressing a chill as she passed the statue. This place didn’t feel right at all, and it was more than the general eeriness she’d felt at visits to other ghost towns. Here, that feeling seemed magnified considerably and she couldn’t get rid of her gooseflesh. She wrapped her arms across her chest, unnerved at her unnatural chill in the nearly eighty-degree air. Jack just laughed and didn’t even bother to show any concern for her. If she had the keys, she would gladly have left him here.

“Come on Rach, don’t wanna keep the ghosts waiting!”

She ignored his condescending statement and walked–slowly–to where he stood, glaring at him the whole way.

“Keep it up, Jack, and you might find yourself among them. I’ll wait for you by the statue.”

“Why, scared?”

“Bored. Now see what you need to see, and let’s get on with our weekend.”

“Live a little, Rach.”

“That’s why I’m trying to get to somewhere there’s life.”

He sighed and entered the house as Rachel walked back over to the statue. She’d not stood there long before she felt a tugging on her arm. Looking down, she was startled to see a nervous little boy, though the look in his eyes bespoke someone far older. As he fixed his eyes on Rachel’s she instantly felt a sense of overwhelming dread, only made worse by the silent tears that started to flow from his eyes. She could see he struggled against something, and when he finally spoke, it was in a robotic monotone incongruous to a child so young.

“You shouldn’t have come here. So many have forgotten. Too many, and they rage. They will–” He broke off, widened his eyes and ran off into the town.

Rachel darted after him and quickly followed into the house the boy had entered. Upon opening the door, however, she saw no trace of the boy. Nothing appeared disturbed, and a layer of dust covered every surface she could see. Reflecting, she realized she hadn’t even heard the door slam despite the boy’s quick movement, and tried to tell herself she had hallucinated the boy. Her logical assurances to herself did little to comfort her, though, and she decided that the sooner they were out of here, the better. She fished her phone from her jeans and was gratified to see five bars, dialing Jack.

“Hunnnngryyyy…”

She dropped the phone, in shock at the deep and rasping voice that had answered rather than Jack. Rachel cursed as it struck the cement porch and broke. She was further unnerved when she noticed that a fine fog had begun to blanket the town, despite no corresponding drop in the sweltering air. She chastised herself for it, but couldn’t help but imagine this as a scenario from a horror movie, in which case it would be smartest to just leave and forget Jack. However, reality did not behave as in movies, and even if it did, Rachel cared too much for Jack to leave him behind, even if he was less than ideal. It would probably amount to nothing anyway, and if she ran off, he’d only laugh.

Mind made up, she jogged over to the house Jack had initially entered. She called his name to no response, then noted his footsteps in the dust coming out as well as from where he’d entered. The next two houses presented the same setup, but the third had only an incoming trail, which led to a basement. She called down to Jack from the top of the steps, but received no answer. He likely remained silent on purpose in order to frighten her when she came down the steps.

Fright did take hold when she had, but Jack certainly hadn’t been the cause. No, for in the middle of the open basement, Jack’s body hung limp and motionless in the air, his feet at least three inches from the floor. He gave no indication of seeing Rachel despite her calling of his name numerous times. She glanced around to find something to use to prod him out from the room’s center, but nothing appeared forthcoming. She quickly ran upstairs and out of the house, towards the woods.

It took her what seemed far too long to find a long and sturdy fallen branch, and when she returned to the basement, the situation had worsened. In the air around Jack, small black tendrils appeared to blink in and out of existence. She stared dumbstruck for a few seconds before gathering her wits and extending her makeshift staff towards Jack.

Almost as soon as she did so, however, the branch was wrenched from her grasp and she fell to the floor. As the branch clattered to the ground on the other side of the room, its scraping against the basement floor revealed something else Rachel hadn’t noticed. A large portion of the floor had been demarcated in a circle, and a number of intricate designs had filled the interior. She could see now where Jack’s foot had initially broken the circle, and winced as she saw the damage to the intricate whorls and patterns the branch had done on its way across the room.

Her stomach sank as she raised her eyes back to Jack. His body now lay virtually invisible under a mass of writhing black, nebulous tentacles. Rachel hurriedly regained her feet and began to hurry up the steps, but something grabbed her ankle from below and she found herself dragged back down. Splinters dug into her resisting fingers and she cried freely in pain and desperation.

All too quickly, however, she found herself pulled within the circle and placed directly in front of Jack. She saw one last glimpse of his face before the writhing blackness encompassed the both of them, soon replacing her terror and fear with a deep peace.

***

The car horn jolted Rachel awake. Her heart pounded as she reflected on the nightmare she’d just exited. The darkness, the overwhelming darkness, and the cold that also burned. The feeling of captivity, of inevitability. All now wiped away with the sound of a car horn, a sound foreign but familiar and comforting all the same. She looked at her arms, admiring the unblemished flesh, free of scars, scabs, or festering wounds, did the same with Jack and smiled.

He noticed and smiled back. Nothing to worry about, his expression seemed to say, and Rachel decided to impart the good news now instead of waiting.

“Jack, we’re pregnant.”

He smiled at her again, newly-minted black irises gleaming in the sunlight.

“And hungry.”

She nodded.

“Yes, so very, very hungry.”

She allowed one of her fingers to elongate out the open window, reveling at how the wind felt against her substance. Maria would ease the hunger, but so much more awaited. Smiling in anticipation, she looked down at the remainder of the statue’s plaque on her lap. ‘TIM MEMORIAL,’ indeed. Rachel let out a laugh and etched the missing letters back into place with the claws on her left hand before throwing the plaque out the window.

It clattered to the road, giving one last message to the sky.

TIME IMMEMORIAL.

Creative Commons License
Tim Memorial by Jason A. Stevens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The 23rd Horror
By Philip (Noral Joe) Carroll

Kevin shined his flashlight across the brick work and asked his friend, “why do you think they filled a doorway with bricks?”
Jason held his own flashlight in one hand and ran his other over the uneven masonry. “I don’t know. And they didn’t do a very good job either. Look at these bricks compared to the walls in the stairwell, they’re not straight at all.
Kevin stepped up close and shined his light into a gap between two of the poorly lain bricks. “It looks like whoever put the bricks here, didn’t really know what they were doing.”
He peered over the top of his flashlight, trying to see through the small space in the bricks. He continued, “what’s weirder, is I’ve been on the 23rd floor, my cousins girlfriend lives in 2318. I’ve never seen this brick wall. It should be two apartments away from her front door.”
Jason shined his flashlight on the stenciled number on the door. The faded white paint was barely visible in the beam of their flashlights, but was undoubtabley 23.
“I know. Lets go up a floor and take the elevator down one, we can come back and check this wall from the other side,” Jason suggested.
Without further discussion they charged up the stairs through the dimness illuminated by a single skylight twelve more floors above. They leapt up the stairs two steps at a time and in a moment opened the door with the number 24 stenciled in the faded white paint. The two boys began their adventure from Kevin’s apartment on the tenth floor and had counted the number on each door as they climbed.
Without a second thought they pushed through the door and down the hallway to the elevator.
Half way down the passage Kevin shouted, “Jason, wait.”
Jason stopped and walked the few feet back to where Kevin stood looking at an apartment door.
“What’s up,” he asked Kevin?
“Look at the apartment number, Jase,” Kevin said, “2310. According the the apartment numbers, were on the 23rd floor now.”
Kevin turned and walked four apartments back toward the stairwell and knocked at number 2318.
After a few minutes, the peephole darkened as someone inside viewed the two boys. The door opened and a slender, smiling, teenage girl said, “Kevin, what are you doing here? Is Will with you?”
“No, Cindy, Will’s not here. We were just coming up the stairway and ended up on your floor,” Kevin said, when Cindy cut him off.
“The stairway,” she said as she shook her head and wrinkled her nose in an adorable way. Kevin knew what his cousin saw in this girl. She was about the prettiest girl he had ever met, but she was always kind and approachable.
“No one ever uses the stairway. What were you doing in there,” she asked?
“Oh, we were bored, and went exploring. But that’s not what’s important,” Kevin said, “have you never been in the stairway?”
“Nope,” she said, “Dad said we should use the fire escape outside my window, if there was ever an emergency.”
“Cindy,” Kevin asked, an idea dawning, “can we go down your fire escape?”
“I guess so.” She shrugged and asked, “why, what’s up?”
They walked through the small living room and down the hallway to her bedroom. Jason asked, as they reached her door, “do you ever hear people from the floor below you?”
She stopped so abruptly the two boys ran into her.
Even as the color drained from her face, Kevin thought how beautiful Cindy was. A worried expression creased her brow. “Yeah,” she said, “once in a while I hear an child crying. She cries kind of loud, like her parents are ignoring her, and she’s locked in her room. It goes on for an hour or more, late at night. In the morning I’ve asked my parents if they heard her, but they act like I’m being silly. ‘You can’t hear through these floors, they’re five feet thick,'” she ended with an imitation of her father.
They climbed through the window onto the fire escape and descended to the next floor down and peered into the window.
“I can’t see anything,” Jason said, “not even curtains, or blinds.”
Kevin shined his light into the window, the beam reflected back. “It’s painted black on the inside.”
Jason checked the other window with in reach of the fire escape landing, and said, “these ones too. They’re all painted.”
“What’s going on,” Cindy asked, clearly shaken. “Why would someone paint their windows black?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out,” Kevin said, pushing up on the window. If moved a fraction of an inch, but stopped.
“Hey,” Cindy said, “you can’t just climb in someone’s window, and besides, it’s locked. You’re not going to break it are you?”
Kevin was fishing through his wallet.
“Cindy, this floor, right here, is the 23rd floor. We counted as we climbed the stairs. The door from the stairway on this level said it is the 23rd. The door to your floor says 24. When we opened the door the door to 23 the hallway is bricked up. You can’t go in. And when you think about it, the elevator must skip this floor when you go from 22 to 23. The windows are painted over. Something is hidden in there.”
He pulled his student body card from his wallet and said, “if the lock on this window is anything like mine, it’s not hard to open.
Kevin slipped the card through the gap under the window near one edge and slid the card along sideways. Almost halfway the card contacted something. Kevin smiled and withdrew the card a half an inch, slid it an inch further along and then pushed it forward again. There was a click. Kevin withdrew the card and returned it to his wallet.
Jason stepped up to help Kevin push upward on the window.
Silently and effortlessly, the window slid up.
Somewhere, inside, a door slammed. A rapid, wet, thump-slap, thump-slap sound came from something hurrying from the room, and the three teens were assaulted by the overwhelming reek of rot and putrescence. Kevin was only able to control his gorge by sheer force of will, while Jason wasn’t so successful and vomited over the edge of the fire escape.
His head swam, but Kevin had to know what was on this floor. He buried his nose in the crook of his arm to filter the noxious odor, and shined the beam of his flashlight into the room. In size and shape it was very similar to Cindy’s room one floor above. In this room the walls were black and shiny. They seemed to pulse and flow, as if the walls themselves exuded and oozed with ebony ichor.
The only piece of furniture in the otherwise empty room was a child’s crib. In it stood the desiccated, blackened body of an infant, its empty eye sockets a silent appeal as the flashlight beam crossed its tiny jaws frozen open in an eternal scream.
Kevin fell backwards, the flashlight slipped from his hand and skittered across and off the edge of the fire escape. He gasped and shuddered as he tried to regain his feet. He was gibbering, “I dunno, I dunno, what the, what the, what the…”
As soon as Jason and Cindy helped him to his feet, he shakily lurched for the open window, reached inside and up to flip the latch. With both hands he slammed the window shut with such force that several cracks bloomed up and to the sides of the black glass. Three black, oily finger prints remained on the window from the hand he used to flip the latch. He stared at the rancid oily ink on his fingers, unable to move, to wipe it from him. He grasped the wrist of the offensive hand with his other hand and squeezed it as if to strangle a small rabid animal. He held it in front of his face and stared at the fingers like they were some unimaginable, horrifying, foreign objects.
“Come on,” Cindy urged to bring him from his stasis. “I have something in my bathroom that should take that stuff off.”
With the help of Jason, she lead Kevin back up the stairs of the fire escape to her apartment. While she scrubbed at his fingers with make up remover, Jason spoke to his friends reflection in the mirror, “Kevin, you look awful. What did you see in that room?”
Kevin’s own eyes were a reflection of the horror and emptiness he had just witnessed one floor below. He couldn’t tell them what he had seen, and promised himself he never would.

Vicious Cycle
By: Scott Roche

The cold chewed at Bogdan’s coat. The weather in the little seaside village of Yantarny remained constant even if the rest of the world seemed to be going increasingly crazy. He stood before the small, rough stone pyramid that served as a monument to the thousands that died here, gunned down by Nazis almost a hundred years ago. Some said that this was the last act of the Holocaust, one of the many efforts to erase all evidence of the death camps. Whether that was true or not was almost immaterial, especially in light of the fact that almost no one in this village remembered the event. Even in the face of such evidence people turned a blind eye to the uncomfortable facts of history. He tried to cry, but tears wouldn’t come. It was almost as if they were afraid that they would be swept away or frozen by the wind.

He turned away from the reminder and walked towards the ocean, tasting salt as it crystallized on his face. Maybe it was from tears finally falling. Maybe it was sea spray blown in by the gale. He didn’t know. All he did know was that the atrocities of the past had been forgotten, not just here, but increasingly all over the world. It wasn’t just the slaughter of the Jews, Gypsies, Africans, and other “undesriables” by hte German people that had earned holocaust its capital H. Other horrors began to fade in the increasingly artificial light of this brave new world. What use was remembering such “unfortunate” history when we seemed to be on the cusp of such a bright and glorious future?

A bitter laugh chuffed from his lungs. The new New Russian Democratic Movement, the second of its kind in thirty years held that as the new party line. He was sick of it. Sick of hearing how things had changed. Oh he couldn’t deny that in ways mankind had moved on. The children in this country were almost all fed and warm and healthy. The mega-corps, present here as they were in the West, saw to that. The history that they were taught by the soulless machines was every bit as whitewashed as it had been in his grandfather’s day when the Soviet government was in charge. He had no way to be certain, but he guessed that even in his great-great-great-grandfather’s day when the Czars ruled, it was the same. It was that fact that would truly hold people back.

George Santayana said “”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Bogdan was inclined to agree. It was that very thing that put him where he was now. He faced the backs of the company of soldiers. Their uniforms identical to his, black and foreboding. The only difference was the red piping at the edges and the nova-bursts at the points of his jacket’s collar. He led these thirty men into battle. They were equal to a hundred soldiers from decades past in terms of their capacity for destruction. Any one of them could defeat a heavy tank from the late twentieth century. Their weapons were trained on the dissidents kneeling in the snow.

Word had come down that this cell was responsible for taking down a data cluster in this sector. That had cost the government and the mega-corps backers hundreds of billions in the course of hours. He and his men tracked them down, fighting from house to house, neutralizing them. Orders were not to kill them, not right away. No, they were to be made examples of.

Each soldier had a camera integrated into their gun sight and another in their helmet. These recorded in detail the shivering men and women in front of them. This event would be broadcast to the Bureau of Information. From there, once it was properly edited, it would be ready for the general populace. Then and only then, citizens would see what fate befell enemies of the state. So even if he took a stand against the atrocity he was being forced to commit no one would bear witness. Without an audience would it matter? Of course, even if there were an audience and he rebelled, he would fail. What purpose would that failure serve? These questions ate at his soul.

The leader of this crew of rebels locked eyes with him. Sergei Karamazov was his name. Bogdan knew that, knew the name and his dossier by heart thanks to a computer chip that stored what he willed it to, without fail. Everything Karamzov stood for was the practical antithesis of everything Bogdan stood for, at least officially. That man needed to survive even if Bogdan didn’t.

Bogdan gestured at Karamazov. “You. Rise and come here.” Butterflies danced in his stomach. He had no idea what he would do next.

The rebel leader paused, unsure what to do. After a cluster of heartbeats, he did what he was told. The soldiers parted for him. Smooth, mirrored face plates showed no emotion.

Karamazov finally came to stand before the captain, at ease, jaw set firmly. The proximity of his death lent him boldness. There would be no begging for his life. He said nothing, merely waiting for Bogdan to speak.

Bogdan pitched his voice low, even though his soldiers would still be able to hear him. “Why did you do this? Have you not learned that standing up against … what you perceive as tyranny does no good? You will die here on this field as others have before you.”

The resolve on Karamaov’s face became pity, or something very like it. “We will die. But we will do it on our terms, having done what we think is best.”

A thousand martyrs screamed from the abyss. Every one of them died for what they thought was best. How many more would die? How many more men like himself would be responsible for sending them to their graves? Maybe he would break the cycle, maybe not, but he had to at least try. He nodded at the man. “Spoken like a true zealot. We all do what we think is best, don’t we?”

“Maybe, maybe not. All I can say for sure is that you and your government haven’t been doing that in some time. We decided to fix what we could of that. The rest is up to you.”

There was some truth in what the man said, but most of it seemed to be the sort of rhetoric he’d come to expect. “Perhaps if you asked for forgiveness, renounced what you did, and tell us who you did it for, I could show you leniency?” Another scan of the records showed that nothing he had done demanded penalty of death. “If not for you then for your people?”

Of all things a smile creased the man’s face. “You don’t have the power to do that.” He cocked his head. “Look, Captain, you’re not the guilty one here. It’s been decided by those above you that we’re going to die. It’s obvious to me that you don’t want to be responsible, so I hereby absolve you.”

The last four words struck Bogdan’s heart like a dagger. He needed no one to forgive him. It was this scraggly freedom fighter that was in the wrong. After all, he led his people into an unwinnable war against the state. It was him who had too much pride to beg for forgiveness. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Karamzov’s pigheadedness, there would be no need for the slaughter that was about to occur. “Absolve me? It is you that should be seeking absolution.” Anger replaced sadness like a rush of ice water over live coals. “Get back with your men.”

Karamazov nodded and shrugged, returning to take his place on the snow covered ground.

His eyes had a light in them Bogdan did not understand. Under different circumstances the captain would have said that he was laughing at some inside joke. “Men, form ranks.” The soldiers snapped to attention. “Take aim.” Rifle butts slammed against shoulders. He waited, drawing out the moment. At the last, he let his eyes shift to the sea. “Fire.” The flat pops seemed almost anticlimactic, but he knew that rounds would find their targets and bodies would now lie twitching.

If only man could learn from the mistakes of his predecessors. How glorious that would be.

A Little Bit of Faith
By: Ashley Redden

A wave of Baz magic swept over the clerics that made up the third ring of the Thaumaturge. Two of the clerics’ knees buckled and they fell each moaning pitifully as they began the long painful process of dying from Baz magic.
When Baz magic succeeded in planting itself inside a human, simply put, the human, be it man woman or child, rotted from the inside out. The granting of a quick death would have been a mercy, but Baz magic shielded its victim from such things as poison, blade or any other type of rendering of the victim’s life. Death would come from the Baz magic and the Baz magic alone, after days or in the worst cases, weeks of torment. No form of cure or inhibition in the process had ever been found. A death worse than that caused by Baz magic did not exist.
The remaining twelve clerics continued to chant not even glancing back at their fallen comrades. Over twenty of their order had fallen already; two more were of no immediate account. All were prepared to die to rid the world of this abomination, this great historic evil.
The cleric chant wove a magical aura around the half ring that nearly encircled The Baz which roared up and cast another wave of Baz magic outward towards its encroaching enemy. The Elder Boffin stood fast. The four rings continued their advance.
The Elder Boffin called out orders keeping the Thaumaturge operating as a unit simultaneously buffeting The Baz into retreat and protecting the Thaumaturge as the magical army advanced.
“Order of the Samain, send that thing back to whence it came, conjure well and together, do not mind the fallen for they shall be avenged,” said The Elder Boffin. His words were spoken softly, but his voice carried as if bellowed.
“Mages, advance and attack as a unit, use triad magic. Lotans do not cease work on the spells, kill the creature.”
The Elder Boffin watched as five more fell to the Baz magic.
“Move forward brothers of magic, brothers of all that is good. Drive the creature back, kill it. Keep the faith brothers. We will prevail. All that is required is a little bit of faith in your power and together, we shall succeed.”
The words of encouragement and direction continued unabated. The battle had already lasted for many hours and would continue until either The Baz threat was eliminated or all of the Thaumaturge lay dead. When the assault began, the Thaumaturge had consisted of hundreds of magical warriors making up the four rings of assault.
First strode the clerics, whose order used white magic for healing and the benefit of mankind. They had to be nearest the beast to best deflect the powerful magic that The Baz unleashed. The clerics were the buffer, the shield in this attack, were all the clerics to fall, The Baz would win the day.
Next followed the Samain in whose person practiced the mathematical arts. Their magic consisted of the formulation of order from chaos. A strange and enigmatic sect, they were few in number, known for the generations that produced them.
Samain were not trained in the art but born to it. And many were the Samain that lay dead and dying strewn about the ground behind the advancing Thaumaturge, writhing in agony as their insides slowly putrefied from Baz magic. The Samain worked together, moving and working as one. Together, they stripped the magic from The Baz.
After the Samain, marched the Lotans. These sorcerers were adept in the magic of the earth, fire and water. They consorted with and controlled the elemental magics. Endlessly and ceaselessly they worked, spelling the creature with their most powerful magic, that of fire. A small knot, not much bigger than a grown man, at the feet of The Baz glowed as if the air itself was molten.
Dozens and dozens of the Lotans had succumbed to the onslaught of their foe. Most of the Thaumaturge had consisted of Lotans in the beginning. They had proved to be least sturdy. Now, the third ring of sorcerers had been so decimated, that less than ten remained.
The last ring consisted of the Scarlet Mages. These sorcerers practiced magic of the blood. Power, raw and pure, lay at their beck and call. Working in triads, they built magic, bristling with power, and then flung it upon The Baz. Of all the methods of attack so far, each and every bolt of power sent from a triad had elicited a scream of emotion from The Baz. The Elder Boffin sincerely hoped that the screams were of pain, but could not be sure, but hope he did. Though the Scarlet Mages were few, perhaps twenty four in the beginning, none had fallen
When the attack had initiated, the Thaumaturge encircled the creature and began their assault, the magic emitted by the The Baz battered the sorcerers much like a wind driven tide, relentless coming wave after wave after crashing wave of Baz magic. But now, the magic that The Baz threw upon them came in gasps and spurts, but it seemed to be stronger than before, perhaps more desperate?
The Elder Boffin took this as a sign and rallied his troops onward, ever battering The Baz.
Suddenly, as if by animal instinct detecting weakness in its prey, the Scarlet Mages, all eight triads, broke and ran at The Baz. The Elder Boffin was so shocked by this act that he did not for a moment respond but stood pointing, mouth agape. His entourage of four Lesser Boffins paid scant heed and continued to generate the powerful shield that protected the Elder Boffin, the general of the Thaumaturge.
The scarlet mages ran as a loose unit below and what looked like inside of the lower portion of the roaring and gnashing Baz which stood twenty to thirty feet tall it’s ever changing body morphing from one visage to the next as to appear almost molten. As the scarlet mages passed through the legs of their foe, The Baz seemed to waver and flicker somewhat like a coal oil flame during the ides of March.
The mages gathered around the orange glow centered at the feet of The Baz into a tight circle perhaps twenty feet across and began to pound the ground with wave after wave of power. The Elder Boffin, along with the remaining sorcerers of the Thaumaturge stopped attacking and simply watched all startled and dizzy with fatigue.
The image of The Baz shimmered, and then vanished. The scarlet mages began to fire from one triad after the other, proceeding around the circle from left to right. All the triads built power as one fired then the next followed by the next strobing around the circle of mages.
The Elder Boffin blinked away tears of exhaustion as he watched the mages pound away at the ground within their tight circle. It began slowly at first, perhaps a slow blink or long heartbeat between each bolt, but soon the magic ripped the ground in a torrent of power, one after another faster than the Elder Boffin could count or keep up with. The light from each of those powerful strikes grew and grew until it was nearly impossible to look upon.
The bombardment went on and on, the barrage from the scarlet mages seemed never to end. And then, just as quickly as it started, the onslaught stopped. Most of the mages fell upon the ground bonelessly, some dead from exhaustion, many others very nearly so. Those few that stood wavered as if drunk.
The Elder Boffin pushed past his retinue of lesser Boffin, those four charged with his personal protection, and moved forward as if a moth drawn to a flame. He stepped gently over the mages that lay sprawled upon the ground and gazed at the crater. Within a blasted hole lay a thing that was the size of a small man, maybe five feet when standing. It resembled a human in that it had two feet, two legs and a head, but that was where the resemblance ceased. The creature was a hazy opalescent gray in color and its skin had the look of being covered in mucous.
As the Elder Boffin stared, it looked up and into his eyes and he knew without a doubt, the Elder Boffin knew that here lay the enemy of mankind in its true shape. The Elder Boffin gasped. The Baz snarled and tried to rise, but fell meekly back on its side breathing loudly, raggedly.
Without requesting that it be done, the melding chains were brought forth by the lesser Boffin and flung upon the creature in the hole. It twisted and wheezed as it grappled with the magic permeated chains that seemed to come to life upon contact with the creature.
The Baz spat, but did not speak as the chains pulled tight around its flaccid body.
“Behold, we came as sorcerers to stop or kill an ancient enemy of mankind, a thing that has fed upon our ancestors since before know history. We came as sorcerers, united in our task. We shed our life blood upon the chains, forging a link that cannot be broken so long as the five magical disciplines remain intact, practiced and remembered. We came here as members of the great Thaumaturge, the great magical army, but we leave as brothers.” The Elder Boffin looked slowly around at those still alive and said, “We leave closer than brothers.”
Snickering drifted up from the crater followed by a slurred inhuman voice
The Baz said, “I am timeless. I am the undying. I am The Baz. I can not be exterminated as if some mangy rat found gorging upon your siloed grain. No, fools, I am perpetual. Even after all of humanity is devoured either by me or itself or some other less worthy ephemeral thing, I will endure.”
The Baz laughed again, a wretched hair raising sound. Though not loud, the sound of the laughter was sinister and mocking and carried on the wind like a bad smell.
The Baz closed its eyes and said, “Do your worst. I care not. I will speak no more to those who are less than I. Now, I feed.”
The Elder Boffin blinked at the creature huddled in the hole, wrapped by now glowing chains. His eyes narrowed, and then widened. He looked back over his shoulder at the dozens of men lying where they fell, rolling and moaning, some crying out. Several of the sorcerers standing near the Elder Boffin followed his gaze to the men, their brothers, slowly dying from the rotting torment of the Baz magic.
“He’s feeding on them, even while bound by magic, he’s feeding on our fellow sorcerers, our brothers” said the Elder Boffin as he looked at several of the sorcerers standing in his immediate vicinity. He looked down upon the prone creature in the hole. The Baz wore a smile of pure malevolent joy. The lip of the Elder Boffin drew back baring teeth.
“Together, we will find a way to kill this evil once and for all,” he said looking from man to man, fierce determination in his eyes. Another snicker drifted up from the crater. Despite his anger and disgust, the Elder Boffin shuddered. He noticed several others do the same.
One, a scarlet mage, leapt into the hole and with a mighty swing smote The Baz upon the head with a short sword that suddenly appeared into the mage’s hand from somewhere beneath his billowing scarlet robes.
The elder Boffin blinked in surprise, he hadn’t even known that any of his fellow sorcerers were carrying conventional weapons. The strike landed solidly but stopped abruptly as if the mage had struck a large tree, enough to bite and rock the mans shoulders but not rebound.
The mage picked up his sword which lay upon the head of The Baz on edge. The mage looked upon the creature, no mark shown; The Baz had not even stirred. He gazed upon the sword as he turned it before his face. The scarlet mage found no mark upon the blade, whole and hale, undented and gleaming. The scarlet mage looked at his fellows gathered around the hole and shook his head. He cast a final lecherous parting glance upon The Baz, the hate and disgust for his enemy clearly evident in his eyes, and turned smartly and walked away.
The elder Boffin looked at the sorcerers gathered around the crater. The sorcerers gathered around the crater looked back. They all stared at each other for a long moment, no words were spoken. Then all eyes fell upon The Baz, several swallowed. Though none looked beaten, not a face gathered above the bound creature wore any expression of victory either.
In the days that followed, killing The Baz though magical means turned out to be more difficult than expected, in truth, beyond the ability of any sorcerer that currently walked among the living. So they gathered in council and decided to imprison the beast since that was essentially the only choice available.
The Elder Boffin knew already of a suitable site for imprisonment, a honeycombed cave deep within a remote mountain. The remainder of the Thaumaturge took their enemy, bound in magical chains, down into the bowels of the earth and left it there. They sealed the entrances and placed magical traps for those who would attempt entry. Here they left The Baz to rot and hopefully, to die.
The Thaumaturge vowed to never again let the evil of The Baz walk upon the land. They made oaths of each discipline, bound in blood and spirit that as long as the purveyors of the five magic’s lived, the chains holding and subduing The Baz would remain secure. They, the members of the Thaumaturge, would make it so henceforth, forever. They had faith.
After all, faith in each other had won the day against the godlike evil of the Baz. The battle had brought together the bickering magical factions. Yes, together the sorcerers of the five magics had faith. The Baz would trouble mankind no longer.

The warrior stood upon the hill and stared silently at the small hole that marked the entrance to the cave of the eater. The warrior sighed. He would have to crawl until he reached the end of the tunnel which opened up into the larger caverns beneath the mountain.
Going into battle against man or beast or creeping into the realm of an enemy and dispatching a target were all tasks that the warrior would revel in, but this? He shook his head and took a deep breath looked around a final time and with a great sigh, got down on his hands and knees.
He carrier no light as the tunnel was too restrictive and the gale of wind that screamed out of the hole in the mountainside allowed no flame to remain lit. The warrior knew not where or how the wind came; no doubt it was caused by the magic of the eater who dwelt deep within the mountain. No matter.
The warrior entered the tunnel, the noxious wind billowing his hair. He closed his eyes and attempted to ignore the smell upon the wind. The smell was unlike any he had ever encountered anywhere else in the world. It was not terrible as the rancid aroma of the many varieties of decay can be. No this singular smell was not unendurable, but it was not pleasant either. He associated this smell with the eater. With this last thought on his mind, the warrior entered the hole and disappeared from the mountainside.
Deep within the mountain, the nameless warrior reached the cavern to which he journeyed. Inside the cavern, small whirl winds danced here and there, swaying back and forth but not moving across the floor. The warrior was careful to avoid touching anything that reeked of magic. The whirl winds he avoided with great care.
At the center of the cavern, a diminutive creature lay bound in chains. The thing appeared as a naked smallish human that had been liberated of all its hair then oiled, or perhaps coated in slime. The color of the skin upon the whole of the creature always reminded the warrior of a plucked goose, hazy grey. But the resemblance was in color alone, for the skin was as devoid of imperfections as a placid pool of water, liquid smooth. The warrior fell to one knee and bowed deeply to the eater.

The Baz watched placidly as his minion approached and bowed before him. He did not move. The minion reported that his task was fulfilled, the human targets lay dead. The Baz sighed a happy sigh.
He said to his minion, “You have done well, my child. Upon you and you alone do I grant the most high of prizes. For your unwavering service you shall receive the greatest gift of which I possess.”
The minion did not look up, he remained submissive.
The Baz whispered, “I grant you the great honor of feeding the eater.” The last came out with a hiss. The minion looked up suddenly, his eyes wide with surprise. He stared into the eyes of The Baz, now known only as the eater, for less than a heartbeat. The Baz flicked his finger towards his minion and the look of surprise turned to anger then the cold withering shock of pain. The minion fell and began to writhe, his agony becoming absolute.
The Baz smiled as he fed, smiled as he thought of the continued fruition of his plan. Systematically, he was ridding the world of those that practiced the five magics through his minions. Already the five magics were scarce in the world of men a world of technology that had sprung up from the bowels of the magically laden Earth upon which The Baz walked thousands of human years ago.
Very soon, all of those that practiced or even had knowledge of the five magics would be dust. Then The Baz would again walk upon the surface of the world and feed upon the humans which were his cattle. And feed well he would for the humans had gone forth and multiplied. Yes, once the knowledge that had trapped him here, deep in the recesses of the world, was lost, he would be The Baz no longer. When he left this cave for good, The Baz would remain. He would go forth as the eater, taking no chance that his erstwhile name would lead those who would surely oppose him to the magical weapons, the knowledge, that had been his downfall in the war with the ancient Thaumaturge.
The Baz would soon be free. After thousands of years what were a few decades or centuries to wait? He smiled as the screams of his minion began in earnest. The Baz would consume this victim, completely, clothes and all. How could he ever recruit new minions if there were bodies laying about?
His smile deepened as he thought of his growing number of minions loose upon the world of men hastening his return one execution at a time. The Baz could wait; time was his ever present companion.
Soon, he would be free. All that was required was patience and a little bit of faith. The Baz settled in to feed and dream of better days to come.

The Horror
By Jeff Hite

With so many people on board the small vessel, there really was not much room to get things done, but despite that I was not about to complain. They needed to be here, if they were not here they would be on the planet below and that really would not do at all. They had to be here. So many people on the planet had died already there was no need for more to die as well. Not, down there, not alone in space, away from their home world.

“The flu.” the doctor announced suddenly
“The flu?”
“Yeah, can you believe it, they were dieing of the flu. This is the first case of it that I have seen, I will have to check the medical records archive to find out f any other colonies have ever experienced it.”
“Are we at risk here?”
“Frankly, yes, but since we know what it is, we can counteract it. I already have the cultures growing to vacinace the crew. I suspect that we will end up with a few cases, but only a few. and like I said, knowing what it is means that I can keep the problem to a minimum.”
“Alright keep me informed. I don’t want any more deaths from the flu. Of all things. Hey, Doc do you know of any cases of the flu being reported. Not just on the colonies, but in the fleet as a whole in the last say ten fifteen years?”
“Hmmm, well now that you mention it, no.”
“I wonder how it got down there.” He walked out of the sick bay and toward the bridge. He would have to keep a closer eye on his crew, to see if any of them seemed to be coming down with the flu. What did the flu look like, no one he knew had had the flu in his life time, and he was not even sure that he would know what the symptoms would look like. He made a mental note to look it up from his station on the bridge so he would know what to look for. With all these people in such close proximity, he hoped the vacine would be ready soon.

When we left the planet it was for home. A home we had never seen, like bird leaving the nest, or a newly married couple leaving their parents homes to go to thier newly rented apartment. It was a new world, but it would be home. But then we all started getting sick, we wanted to be held by our mother.

“What seems to be the problem?” The Captain knew he was sick, but there was no rest of him. He had to keep the ship going. They had to get home.
“The Problem Captain is that all but two of my crew are sick with the flu. The Doc gave most of them meds and sent them to bed. I am not feeling the greatest, and the ship needs people to keep her running. The engines are running on auto, They always do, but the air systems and the heating and cooling, have needed constant attention since we left the planet. It is too much for just a couple of folks.”
“Alright I will see what I can do about getting more people down here. I will send whatever extra people the other teams can spare, can you handle telling them what needs to be done?”
“Yes sir, It is not hard work, just work that needs to be done.”
“Alrighty then. I will see what I can do for you.”
“Thank you Captain.” The captain, left the engineering section for what seemed like the third time today. He had been down there this morning when no one had showed up for duty, to help relieve the two men that were sick.
As you turned a corner to head to the medical bay, he swung his head around too fast and nearly crashed into the wall as his head began to swim from the extra movement. He caught himself and made a note not to do that again. He would have to ask the doc if there was anything he could take for the constant feeling of nausea.

The new planets offered new hope, a chance to grow and expand. Like a new life, a baby being born, each day was a new adventure. There was nothing we could not do. Then the baby died, and there was nothing we could do, and we despaired. It was time to go home. It was time to return to the home planet. It was as it should be. People should not leave. Family is your support system, without family what could you do. You have to return home eventually. My work was hard, and most people would not like it if they found out, but it was necessary. carefully pulled my mask over my face and dumped the contents of the vial into the air recycler. This ship would be a sick for a very long time.

“This is not going to be easy to explain admiral. We have a ship full of sick people. They are from the planet in the Nextilian system. They want to um, come home. There were so many deaths, and after three generations they have had enough. I don’t know of any settlers who have ever wanted to come home but these folks do.”
“You are right about one thing Captain, I don’t know of anyone else who has tried this. I guess there is no harm in them coming back home. the last reports I read said that earth was back to a sustainable population. What are a few tens of people. What is it that every one is sick with?”
“Can you believe it. We have the flu.”
“The Flu? As in influenza?”
“That’s the one.”
“What are you doing about it?”
“We have all been vaccinated but most of just were sick before that could happen. at least if we run into this again we won’t get sick.”
“That is true. Do you think the rest of the fleet should work on a flu program.”
“That would probably be a good idea. The Doctor said that all but the smallest ships should have everything they need to make the vaccine, and the docks should be able to provide those with them with what they need. I have a file here from the doc on how to make it.”
“Alright, send it over and I will start sending it out to everyone in the fleet. Meanwhile you continue on your journey home. I see no reason why these people cannot go home if that is what they really want.”
“Thank you sir.” He signed off his terminal and lay down on his bed, at least the room was not spinning this time and he had not vomited all day. Maybe he was finally getting better. He hoped that after six days he was going to finally be able to get back to normal. It had only been six days but he could barely remember what normal felt like.

We we return home, we will bring with us the things that we learned while we were away. Our parents will treat us like children for a while but they will soon understand that we are not. They will have to reset their expectations. It will take time, but we will work our way through it. And we will show them that we are strong and we have grown.

“Admiral, it is worse that any of us could have feared. The Virus is spreading like wild fire. The only people who do not have it are the folks we brought with us from the planet, because they have already had it. So many people are sick, earth seems to be crippled. We have tired bringing folks in from the moon and Mars to help, but even thought we vaccinate them they seem to get sick, and it just seems to exasterbate the problem.”
“Who would have thought that the flu something nearly forgotten would be able to do this.”

And the parents will learn, they will learn that they should not scorn their children, and send them away. They are strong now and the parents are weak. They have grown old and well need us to take care of them in their illness. This time we will show them what it means to be ruled over with such a tight grip, and why they should not treat their children in such a way. This time I will show them.

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