May 16

Apocalyptic Excerpt from Life in a Haunted House

 

[Author’s Note:  The following is an excerpt from my novel, Life in a Haunted House. Inspired by the movies of his favorite director, the protagonist dreams that his school and hometown are being attacked by movie monsters.]

 

Tonight I am a director. At my command the monsters take over Graysonville.

The door bursts open, interrupting the tedium of Camen’s English class. The Lake Monster stands in the doorframe, brackish water dripping off its scale-covered body and onto the floor. All the students scream.

This Lake Monster is especially terrifying. Instead of a simple mask and hands, with the rest of the actor covered by everyday clothes, the makeup department has spared no expense. Thick tentacles undulate in place of arms, with lamprey mouths hungry at the center of each awful suction pad. The Monster’s eyes blink realistically at the ends of animated stalks as they search the room for potential food.

The mouth on the Monster’s face opens like the jaws of a shark, revealing several rows of large teeth. Mr. Camen tries unsuccessfully to push first-row Denny toward the creature, but it rejects the offer in favor of a larger meal. Tentacles python-wrap around the teacher’s waist, jaws widen, and a dreadful amber ichor drips over Camen’s head, paralyzing him. And with a loud crunch of bones, the Lake Monster begins to feed.

Panicked students race outside the classroom, pushing into each other, nearly slipping on a wet trail of slime in the doorway.

The closest exit leads to the playground, and the perimeter Melissa and I used to walk at lunch. As students rush outdoors, their screams rise in the open air.

A strange hum drowns them out. The sound is like a tremendous airplane engine, mixed with the hint of wailing, torturous music. Almost as one, the students glance upward.

A shadow arcs over the sun, and the schoolyard drops into darkness. Above them hovers, not a tin-foil flying saucer, but an uprooted alien city—buildings of impossible geometric shapes, connected with long transparent tubes.

As the city-ship moves closer, figures become visible within the transparent tubes. These living beings are not friendly humanoid visitors. Their thorn-covered bodies undulate in a sickening ambulation. Above the engine’s thrum, the voice of an alien crowd transmits through a monstrous amplifier. Nothing could translate the clicks from these creatures’ sharp mouths, but the general sense conveys a universally recognizable emotion: cruelty.

The city-ship descends, and the schoolyard is not large enough to contain it. Groups of students flee in different directions. Many of them are crushed, but the school building itself slows the craft’s descent along one edge, allowing a select few to escape harm. For the moment.

Red-hot blasts of rocket exhaust shoot from the craft’s underside, baking the school building’s brick and glass and cinderblock, cooking crushed mounds of flesh and bone and clothing.

We follow the dozen students who escaped the alien attack, as they emerge at the front of the crumbling, burning school. A lone orange bus awaits, and they pile inside and beg the driver to transport them to safety.

– Where’s that?

– Anywhere but here. Please hurry!

The bus speeds away. In the retreating horizon, several more city-ships appear in the sky.

One student wonders aloud if her family is safe. A senior boy suggests that the driver take them to the city square.

– It’s where everyone will meet. We can figure out how to fight back against this deadly alien threat.

As the bus heads down a flat stretch of road with guard rails on either side, a heavy dead tree suddenly falls across the path and blocks their passage forward. The driver shifts into reverse, and the wheels grind loudly, but the bus stays still.

– Why aren’t we moving?

– We’re caught on something. Branches tangled in the front axle, maybe?

A thick dead limb flails across the front windows, animated by the fruitless spinning of the vehicle’s tires. The branches wriggle like grasping fingers.

– Oh God, look! Look! There’s a face in the tree!

– I don’t see it

– Right there, halfway up the trunk. See the nose and mouth? The closed eyes? Like a sleeping giant.

The eyes open.

Branches scratch at windows all around the bus…

 

#

 

Meanwhile, in the next town over, the Twisted Face strains against the straps of a custom-designed straightjacket. Local officials have charged him with multiple homicides, and they’ve placed him in a mental institution. His unconventional body is more flexible than his captors realize. The fabric of his restraints begin to loosen, just enough.

He plans revenge against the nurse, first, then the supervising doctor. Into town, he will find the arresting officer, the incompetent public defender, then the corrupt judge. They have called him a monster, and he will live up to their label.

The straps strain and release, strain and release, and with a pop, a misshapen shoulder dislocates from its socket. The straightjacket falls to the padded floor, and the Twisted Face smiles a grim smile.

 

#

 

[For more, please consider purchasing my brand new novel, Life in a Haunted House now available at Amazon, and discounted to 99 cents during its first week!]