All Roads Lead to Terror: Chapter Eight

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present

Chapter 8

They fanned out across the small living room, carefully checking each room of the house until they were confident they were alone. In the back of the house they found the kitchen, and against the back wall of the screened in back porch they came upon an old wood fire cook stove that was still operational.

It was obvious someone had used the stove sometime in the recent past, as ashes were still present in the firebox. On the flat surface a cast iron skillet, its bottom coated by a thin layer of old grease, sat abandoned.

Meat sniffed the pan, noting how the grease was still relatively fresh, and as his eyes scanned the small kitchen he noticed signs that someone had recently used the kitchen as a shelter. He hoped it had been someone passing through, not someone who was using the house as a shelter and would return any moment to find them invading their space. 

Situations like that had a tendency to spiral out of control rather quickly with gunplay entering the equation more often than not. Anymore it was easier to just shoot your problem than deal with it in a rational manner. Compromise had given way to a wild west attitude.

In no time they had built a small fire that provided warmth and heat for cooking. In the cast iron skillet they prepared a feast of venison stew from the deer jerky they all carried, boiling it down as best they could in rainwater. Adding potatoes and carrots from the garden they maintained year round, along with several spring onions they’d picked up along the way.

Though they were young they had been taught at an early age to fend for themselves. They gave little thought to the fact that what they were doing would have been unheard of fourteen years before, unless they belonged to a Boy Scout troop, or some other wilderness preparatory organization. Of course each of them would have been equally lost in that world of instant gratification where a fast food restaurant occupied nearly every corner.

With their bellies full they sat around the stove as night descended and the rain continued to tap against the roof in a steady rhythm that served to lull them into a false sense of security. Without posting a guard they soon nodded off to sleep.

Einstein was the first to stir, it had become colder, and he awakened to find the fire out. As he was starting another, the rest of the group sleeping around him, he heard the sound of movement coming from beneath their feet. Window stirred on his right as he turned his ear to the house, straining to hear more.

A distinct thump came from below them.

“What was that?” Window said, struggling to sit up, “whose on guard?”

“Ssshhh.” Einstein put his finger to his lips to quiet him. To Window’s right Meat and Billie Bob slept soundly, their breathing coming in that steady rhythm indicative of deep sleep. Beyond them, curled up next to the wall, lost in his dreams of what once was, Gregory lay wrapped in a dirty blanket.

The thump came again and Window pushed himself up from his seat. He leaned over to wake Meat but Einstein stopped him. “It’s probably nothing, I’ll go check it out.”

“I’ll come with you,” Window said as he strapped on his holster and checked the chambers of his revolver.

Lighting a candle from the fire he’d started, Einstein led the way, holding the candle high, his hand cupped to protect the flame as they cautiously crossed the kitchen floor. The sound of movement came from beneath their feet.

“It’s in the basement,” Einstein said. He reached a door and opened it to reveal a small pantry, its shelves bare. Moving to the next door he opened it to reveal a yawning black pit. From the inky well of darkness came the sound of movement and Einstein knelt down on the top step to try and shed some light into the basement. At the very edge of that faint pool of illumination they saw a couch sitting against the wall. The basement was finished, and what they were looking at had once served as a family room for those who had occupied the house in the past.

Followed closely by Window, Einstein carefully moved down the steps. Reaching the bottom they saw the entire room in the fain glow of the candle. Two easy chairs occupied the wall next to the couch, across from it stood a massive flat panel television and on the rack next to it were several pieces of recording equipment along with two game consoles. A thick layer of dust covered everything, and the wires connecting it all together had been chewed clean through leaving nubs protruding from the rear of the components.

To the left of the easy chairs a narrow hallway vanished into the emptiness that was crowding around the small pool of light provided by the candle. The sound of movement came from those shadowy depths and Einstein glanced back at Window with a worried expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Window said.

“I don’t think I want to go down there.”

“I’m right behind you.”

“That’s what worries me.”

“Go on, you’ve brought us this far, we might as well finish.”

“You’re right,” Einstein said before turning back to the hallway. As he moved forward the leading edge of the faint light cast by the candle illuminated the floor. Just inside the hallway a pair of bare feet was exposed, the soles flat against the floor, the nails cracked and jagged, the flesh gray with death.

Einstein stopped, his heart climbing into his throat as he lifted the candle higher to expose more of the person standing there. Her dress was filthy and torn, the front stained with a large swath of dried blood that was black in the candlelight.

She lurched forward, drawn by the light, her hands stretched out before her as she stumbled forward. With a moan of fear Einstein stumbled back into Window, knocking him back against the couch, forcing Window to sit down as Einstein plopped down beside him.

“Shoot her, dammit,” Einstein shouted.

Window clawed his pistol from its holster and lifted the muzzle, aiming at the woman’s head.

“Shoot her,” Einstein screamed as he struggled to back away from the woman, clawing his way up the back of the sofa, the flame of the candle fluttering in response to his movement, sending shadows dancing across the walls as shouts and pounding footsteps came from upstairs. Footsteps pounded pounded down the steps. Einstein’s yell had obviously awakened the others.

Window sat stationary next to Einstein’s squirming figure, the pistol forgotten in his hand, his eyes fixed on the woman’s face as a single word formed on his lips.


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