Due to technical difficulties, last week’s Fiction Friday has become this week’s Fiction Monday. Enjoy!
L.L. Soares is a man with a mission: to bring reality to horror fiction. A prolific writer within the genre, his work has been published in many anthologies and websites for the past 12 years. He co-wrote In Sickness: Stories from a Very Dark Place with his wife, Laura Cooney. His newest novel, Life Rage is being published this month and he will be joining us on the podcast to talk about it.
In this short story submission we follow some men out for a night to celebrate the finality of a long and messy divorce. We learn about the secrets of a long abandoned public airstrip. We learn about the horror of unknown singing. We learn what lies Beyond The Fog:
When I finally figured out where the singing was coming from, we were at the top of the hill, looking down at the abandoned airplane hangar. The hangar had been there for as long as I could remember, but I didn’t know anyone who could remember when it was actually in use.
Maybe back when planes were a brand new thing and you had to turn the propellers with your hands to get the engines started. Like in the old movies. Maybe that’s when this place was in use.
Now, it was just deserted property. Why hadn’t they torn it down and replaced it with something useful? I’d always thought it was the perfect spot for a baseball diamond.
So here we were, the four of us, at the top of the hill at midnight, and there was strange singing coming from the deserted airplane hangar. I guess it wasn’t deserted anymore.
Harry was drunk out of his mind by then, the worst of us, and he wanted to go down to the airstrip and play some football. He’d even brought his ball. We hadn’t played football together in years, but this was a special night. Harry had found out the divorce was final earlier that day, and he wanted to celebrate with a night out with the boys. We’d been happy to oblige. It had been a long and messy divorce, and we were all glad it was finally over.
I was relieved when Harry suggested the football game. At least he’d stopped ranting about “that cunt” by then.
Tommy raised the bottle of Wild Turkey to his lips and tipped it back, trying to catch up.
“Might as well play one last game,” he said, wiping his lower lip.
“What’s that sound?” I asked, taking the bottle from him. I wasn’t sure yet if they heard it, too. I think I was more sober than they were; my senses were clearer.
“What sound?” Harry asked, looking around. “I don’t hear anything.”
“That singing,” I said. I’d heard it back at the car, when we’d first gotten out and started heading downhill, but I didn’t feel confident enough to mention it until now.
John tried to focus. “Yeah, I hear it, too,” he said. “Faintly.”
“What the hell is it?” Harry asked, staring down at the hangar. He obviously heard it now. “Is it coming from that place?”
“I think so.”
“Let’s go find out,” Harry said. He tossed the football up in the air and caught it again, and then began to run. We did our best to keep up with him.
Light came from some lamp posts, here and there around the site. Some of them still worked, and others had burnt out. They’d been there as long as I could remember, too.
None of us had ever been athletes. We hadn’t had any desire to join the football team when we’d been in high school, that was for sure. None of us had fit in anywhere and just kind of drifted into each other’s orbit. It was funny how strong a bond we’d been able to maintain. Sure, there were times when we wouldn’t see each other for years, but we always stayed in touch; we always knew what the others were up to. Our friendship had outlasted most of our jobs and marriages.
In the old days, we liked to have a game just among ourselves. It didn’t matter if we sucked or not. It was just for fun.
When we reached the air strip at the bottom of the hill, the singing got louder. Now there was no mistaking it.
“Must be some kind of late night choir rehearsal or something,” John said. He was normally the quiet one of the group.
“Let’s get a closer look,” Harry said. He’d dropped the football by now and had lost all interest in a game. Which was fine by me. I joined in because that’s what we did, but I really didn’t care one way or another. Somehow the Wild Turkey bottle had come back to me, and I found that a lot more interesting.
We ran along the airstrip, chasing one another. For some reason we knew we shouldn’t shout out or anything. The only sound we made was that of our feet running along the asphalt, and even that was muffled by the weeds.
When we reached the building, it looked to be closed up pretty tight. There were windows on the side, though, so we went around to find them. They were filthy, and no matter how many times we wiped them with our hands, we couldn’t get a clear look inside.
There was light. We could see that much. But nothing else. No shapes, no shadows. Nothing.
“I can’t believe we can’t see anything,” Tommy said. He had the bottle by then and poured some whiskey on his handkerchief. He wiped harder at the glass.
“The dirt’s on the inside,” I told him. “You can’t clean it from out here.”
“Whatever,” he said, but he’d already figured out it was futile and had given up.
“Only one way to find out then,” Harry said, taking the bottle from Tommy. “We have to go inside.”
“You sure about that?” I asked. “What if they see us?”
“So what?” Harry said. “It’s not like this is a private house or anything. It’s an abandoned building. Public property. No harm in just checking it out.”
“I guess not,” I said, not really sure of his logic. But hell, we were all drinking, and it made sense at the moment. It didn’t occur to any of us that maybe someone had bought the property and this place was now off limits to trespassers. Not the way we felt that night.
“There’s a door right over here,” John said, leading the way.
It was locked, but Harry didn’t waste any time jimmying it. I remember he was a whiz at getting laundry machine coin boxes open back when we were kids.
The first thing we noticed when he got the door open a bit, was the fog. There was this strange mist in the air, making it hard to see. You could still see the light, emanating from the center of it, but not much else. This made me think that it wasn’t dirt that kept us from seeing in the windows, but this thick fog.
“What the fuck is this?” Harry asked. “Looks like someone’s running a fog machine in here or something.”
“Maybe we should just go back to the car,” Tommy said.
We could all hear the singing now, and it was much louder, but muffled.
“Yeah,” John said. “Nobody’s seen us yet. Maybe it’s a good time to cut out.”
They felt it. I could feel it, too. A sense that we shouldn’t move forward. That we should cut our losses and just get out of there, while the going was good.
Harry was so numbed out; he probably didn’t feel it. Or maybe he just didn’t care. He was always doing things to show the rest of us how fearless he was.
“No,” he said. “I want to see what the singing is all about. Are you guys with me, or not?”
I can’t imagine any of us would have felt right leaving him there. We stuck together, even when it was stupid to do so. There’d been a few run-ins with the law because of this code we had. But nothing serious, so far.
“Come on, Harry,” I said, trying to reason with him. “There’s nothing here to see. Let’s do something else.”
“This fog has got me curious,” he said. “It’s got to be covering something. Let’s see what.”
There was a chance that someone might see us now, if we went inside. I thought there was something brazen about going that far to see what the singing was all about. But we were all liquored up and Harry was good at getting us to go along with what he wanted to do, even now. He was just the same when we were kids. Funny how some things didn’t change.
He moved forward and we were close behind. And then we lost sight of him as he went into the fog and disappeared. We kept moving and followed him inside. I’d like to say we’d follow Harry to hell and back, but that’s a lie. There were limits. But that night, the limits weren’t all that clear.
There was a moment or two when we lost track of each other, and we called out so that we knew we were all still there, but we could barely hear each other over the din of the singing. It had gotten much louder, almost deafening, and at one point I had to cover my ears.
And then we came through on the other side of the fog.
We saw each other first, and I felt a wave of relief knowing that we hadn’t lost anybody, that there was an end to the fog. That it wasn’t anything dangerous. Here we were, just as we’d been before we’d walked through it. Despite the sense of dread some of us had felt following Harry inside.
But then, after we saw each other, the fog moved and we saw the rest of it.
Bodies. It looked like hundreds of them. They were all impaled on sharp shafts that jutted up from the floor. Or was it dirt beneath our feet? I couldn’t see for sure. The bodies reminded me of accounts I’d read of the kinds of things Vlad the Impaler did to his victims. The real-life guy who was the inspiration for Dracula.
I’m not really sure if bodies was the right word in this case, though, because they weren’t actually dead. They should have been, the way those strange shafts ripped through them. But, you see, the sounds we’d heard, the singing, was coming from them. Except, now that we were inside the hangar, I wasn’t so sure it was singing anymore. It could have been the wailing of people being tortured. People in pain. But there was also a melody to it all.
The hangar was full of these people. More than it would seem could fit in that place. And yet, there they were. Their sounds louder than ever.
“What’s going on here?” Harry said, trying to talk over the wails. We could hear him faintly, but I had to watch his lips when he spoke. I could tell he wasn’t fully grasping what was happening. Maybe he thought he’d passed out and was having some kind of dream.
Tommy and John just stood there, as shocked by the sight as I was. It really looked like a scene out of hell. Except it was here, in front of us. And none of us remembered dying.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Tommy said. I watched his lips, because it really wasn’t easy to hear each other in this howling place. And I knew that he was right. We shouldn’t linger there any longer than we already had.
“No,” Harry said, “We have to help them,” and he’d already started moving toward the impaled people, moving awkwardly, not sure how to go about it.
“We have to leave,” Tommy said, walking back toward the fog, back toward the way out of this place.
I grabbed his arm. “Help me with Harry,” I mouthed, because I wasn’t sure if he’d hear me. He shook his head. Then he pulled his arm away and kept walking.
He didn’t make it very far. Something large and sharp came up from the floor without warning and forced its way through his body as he stood there. It was an angle that was painful to look at, and he started screaming almost immediately.
John stood frozen beside me. We watched as Tommy wriggled in agony, trying to get free of the thing that tore through him, literally nailing him to the spot.
I looked over at John, hoping he might have an idea of how to proceed, and seeing that he was as clueless, and as scared, as I was.
All through this, Harry continued to try to pull people free of their shafts. He’d seemed to have forgotten we were there with him. Or maybe he just assumed we were trying to save people, too.
But all John and I were concerned with, at this point, was saving ourselves.
I tried to go out the way we’d come through, but I couldn’t find the way we’d come through. Every time I stepped through the fog, trying to find an exit, I found myself bumping into a wall. At one point, I walked into the mist for what seemed like ten minutes, until I ended up right where I’d started.
“I can’t find the way out of here,” John said, his mouth close to my ear. “What the fuck is this place?”
There was a new sound then. And I knew without looking that Harry was now in the same position as those he’d tried to help. I turned and saw him impaled, wriggling madly, trying in vain to free himself.
“We have to help Harry,” I said. “And Tommy.”
“No, we have to get out here, before it happens to us,” John said, as desperate and confused as I was. “There has to be a way out.”
I turned. Harry was still struggling, and now he’d joined in on the screaming. He was a part of this great agonized choir. And so was Tommy. Blood trickling from his lips as he howled.
“What are you doing?” John said, grabbing my shoulder. “If you stay too long, it’ll happen to you, too.”
But even as he said the words, a shaft slid up from the floor, plunging through him. It looked as if it entered in through his anus and ripped up through the top of his head. It happened so fast, he didn’t even have time to struggle. Blood poured out of him like some kind of obscene fountain. But he wasn’t dead. His mouth was moving, though his lips were stained with red. His eyes stared at me, pleading.
He tried to speak, but couldn’t form the words. Blood splattered his clothes.
I turned back to face the mist. It obscured the dimensions of the room. I had a general idea of how big an airplane hangar should be, but I was disoriented. There was nothing about this place that was logical. The rules of physics did not seem to apply here. There were so many more impaled bodies in here than there should have been. The more I looked, the further they spread in all directions.
I thought of why we’d come here. Harry had been in a funk; the divorce had clearly broken something inside him, despite his bravado. Now, the late night football game we’d planned seemed so far away.
I stood there, staring, not knowing which way to go. Part of me wanted to just run as fast as I could, but another part of me knew that sudden flight would probably mean a collision with an unseen wall. But I had to try again to get out of this place. I couldn’t let what happened to my friends happen to me.
It was then that I heard the hiss of a shaft shooting up through the floor. Not that I could actually see a floor. A layer of fog covered where I’d been walking. Fog, and, I knew, blood.
The shaft penetrated my skin, and as I struggled to get away before it ripped through me completely, it moved faster, surging more forcefully through me. I couldn’t feel any pain, but I knew what was happening to me. I could feel the pressure of the shaft ripping through my innards.
I stared into Harry’s face. His contorted, howling face. And I realized that I, too, was howling. But it didn’t sound like howling to me anymore. It really did sound like singing. My voice melded with those of the others, and it was almost beautiful, the way we cried out in unison. Our voices embraced and enhanced each other’s. Turned many sounds into one.
And then, I felt my mind open. The shaft must have pierced my brain by that point. These gigantic thorns ripped through us as if they had their own agenda. As if this was all planned somehow, and they weren’t simply random, mindless things, but living things. I could feel movement inside me, pulsating energy. I felt my mind open to the other victims around me, and I could hear their thoughts, and they could hear mine. And there were two choruses being sung then. One by our mouths, and one in our heads. All in unison.
The fog seemed to be churning towards us, making it harder to see one another, but we each knew the others were there. The fog didn’t block out the sounds, or the thoughts. It simply enhanced them. Nothing else mattered.
I could feel blood dripping down my back, and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.
– the end –
© Copyright 2002 by L.L. Soares