All posts by Seth Emery

What Lies Beneath

Epigraph

Part 1

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I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered. I thought I had it all figured out from the moment I got the call. All the signs pointed to a big ferocious werewolf. Maybe my expectations were clouded by my own ambitions. I mean, how cool would Werewolf Slayer look on a resume? From the conflicting witness accounts, the isolated little community and it even happened during a full moon. It was all so… obvious. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of the week leading up to that night. I’ll just say that I wasted my time trying to verify my preconceived notions about a werewolf and its connection to the silver mine.

I’m not proud to admit that I even began to suspect a werewolf conspiracy. Why else would a whole town willfully isolate itself from our ever shrinking world? Wolves are best in packs, right?

I thought I was prepared that Sunday night, the night of the full moon. In a holster attached to the waistband of my pants was a pistol loaded with silver bullets I had made for this very night. I carried two blades made of silver in sheaths strapped to my body, one on my right ankle and the other at my left hip, in case I might have to grapple with some beast. I wore dark slacks and a sport coat to hide the weapon at my back. I was confident I could handle anything the night had in store. I was eager for the impending confrontation. I felt powerful.

I entered town as the sun was setting. I grew inconspicuous in the shadow of the local store. It wasn’t long before I noticed the apparent migration of the town’s inhabitants toward the direction of the church at north end of the town. It seemed that everyone was on foot. I did my best to not draw attention to myself. Little did I know, there was no need to be so stealthy. The townsfolk showed an eagerness for the evenings proceedings that rivaled my own. Without speaking amongst each other they exhibited a single-minded determination to reach their destination and noticed nothing beyond the progress they made.

Confident that I could move about the town without being noticed, I left my half-hearted hiding spot. My intent was to move about the houses in an effort to gain insight to the living conditions of the residents of Dark Ember. I spied a worn footpath between two houses. Curious, I followed the trail into a secluded yard. Trees and overgrown shrubbery acted as a privacy fence from the surrounding houses. Three small dogs of no particular breed darted from between the bushes and ran past me upon the path I had followed. The small dogs were followed by what must surely have been the largest dog in the world. It had an appearance similar to a Great Dane with bits of Rottweiler thrown in. None of the dogs paid me any notice. I now understood what caused the worn path.

I heard what I believed to be singing coming from the direction of the church. The steady chorus of voices was strangely soothing and I found myself mesmerized. I too began walking toward the church. I did not understand the words being sung, but that didn’t matter. It was as though the words were designed to lure. I tried to halt or even slow my pace as I neared the church. I could see a handful of stragglers entering the church, their faces contorted into a grimace of blank rapture. They, too, were singing. I still couldn’t comprehend what they were saying even as they looked directly at me.

Grudgingly and against my better judgment, I stepped up the first step of the church and then the next, with a purpose that was not my own. Dread welled up inside me. I thought my heart would explode from the force of the hammering in my chest. I suddenly did not want to be there anymore. A child-like terror gripped my stomach. I wanted to flee the chanting, for indeed it was chanting, and leave this accursed town. In that too brief moment I think I might have done just that if my left hand had not shot out and grabbed the railing that led up along the church steps. My body acted of its own determination to take me inside the church. With that the option to flee was no longer mine to make. Confusion caused my mind to swim. I lacked the will to resist and resigned myself to the inevitable. I rose to the top step with a conviction I did not believe in. I strode the few final feet toward the door.

I took the handle in my right hand and swung the door open. In that moment I not only knew and understood what it meant to go mad, I embraced it. With the scene of the unfolding horror before me, insanity was my only recourse. Everything I thought I knew was turned inside-out. As I peered through the door of the church at the assembled congregation and the object of their worship, the altar of their belief and the reward of their faith, my sanity officially divorced reality.

The church had little resemblance to what the word implies. There were no pews, no basin of holy water, no cross or depictions of saints. There before me was a large room the size of a small gymnasium, maybe 50 feet by 80 feet. It was almost the size of a small basketball court. At the center of the room was an altar made of a carved block of stone. The stone stood three feet high. It looked about four feet wide and five feet long. Throughout the stone were quarter sized holes with no discernable pattern on every surface. The amassed congregation stood in a circle around the altar. They were bunched closely together. They continued to chant, faces upturned to the thing above the altar.

If they noticed me they showed no sign. I found myself moving further into the room. I stared in horror at the abomination on the altar. Revulsion welled up within me. What is the appropriate response when faced with something that simply should not be?

On the altar stood a man, or what appeared to have once been a man. From the holes in the stone altar oozed an oily black ichor that was neither quite smoke nor liquid but similar to both. The putrid substance impossibly flowed up the altar to the man standing there. As the black miasma covered his body, he ceased his chanting and raised his arms out from his sides. When the effluvium had covered most of his body, his face became visibly excited and he yelled out several times, “Yes! Yes!” as in response to something only he could hear. Around him the assemblage continued to chant.

The dark contagion had nearly covered the man’s entire body. The tar-like tendrils coalesced and tightened pulling the man’s arms together in front of him. His legs were also pulled together until he resembled a rigid and upright mummy. The nebulous corruption covered his face and head. The malignancy flowed over his encased body like inky soup. The form rose into the air several feet above the altar. A vertical slit appeared in the contamination where the man’s face once was. Abruptly, the slit split as wide as the man’s head to reveal a large and terrible eye. The iris of the eye was long and slitted like a serpent’s, but horizontal. The iris was dark green with luminous streaks of yellow throughout. The area around the iris was dark blue, like cold-fire. The most horrible aspect of that repugnant eye, the thing that will surely haunt my nightmares the rest of my life, was that it was looking directly at me.

My grasp of reality shattered and fragmented. I felt as though I was no longer in my body. I watched the next several moments as if from some point across the room. I saw the gun in my hand pointed at the monstrosity as it slowly drifted in my direction. I saw myself thumb the hammer back. The gun fired.

A Look at the Surface

Epigraph

A series of notes from Seth Emery

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Saturday May, 23 9:13 am

I received a tip from a friend in the bureau about a strange attack on a family in West Texas, about five miles south of Dark Ember, TX. He informed me that the local authorities have been uncooperative and there is not enough details or evidence for the federal authorities to conduct a proper investigation.

Thursday May, 28 1:36 pm

I am in Fort Worth, TX. I just spoke with the mother (Lucy age 35) and daughter (Amber age 16) involved in the attack near Dark Ember. After showing Lucy my credentials as a federal contract investigator, I requested she allow me to speak to Amber and herself, separately. Lucy told me a story about a man that tried to grab Amber from the passenger seat of her car as they pulled away from a gas station off the interstate on the night of May 9. She described the man as dirty, unshaven with light brown hair. About his attitude, she used the word rabid. I then spoke with Amber. Her story is quite different from her mothers and I sensed there was some hard feelings between them because of this. Amber said she saw an animal roaming around behind the gas station while her mother pumped gas. When her mother got back in the car and started the engine, this animal darted straight for the open passenger window and tried to pull Amber out. She described the animal as dog-like, but instead of paws this animal had claws. She said the animal was covered in black fur. Lucy walked me out when I was done speaking with Amber. Lucy informed me that Amber has been in shock since this incident and she is having trouble understanding what really happened. Lucy tried to get me to understand that Amber made up this story about a wild dog creature as a means to cope with what had happened. I told her I understood as I walked to my car.

Monday June, 1 2:09 pm

I just arrived in Dark Ember, TX. It is a little more than five miles North of Interstate 20. I almost missed the turn off about half a mile West of the gas station where Lucy and Amber were attacked. I made a quick pass through town. A sign just outside of town states a population of 735. From the little of the town there was to see I can believe it. Can a town be described as Spartan? I saw one school, one church, a small grocery store and tiny building designated as the Sheriff’s department. The town is so small it doesn’t have a movie theater, a motel, a gas station or even a Wal-Mart. I’ll have to drive east to Odessa to find a decent hotel. Tomorrow I’ll find a library and do some research on Dark Ember.

Tuesday June 2. 3:45 pm

I found some interesting facts about Dark Ember at the library. The town was originally built near a silver mine in 1866. The mine was suddenly closed after a harsh winter in 1867. Records indicate that at the time that the mine closed, the town boasted some 800+ settlers. As far as the reference material at the Odessa Public Library indicates that most if not all of the families of the original settlers have chosen to remain in Dark Ember. That can’t be true, can it?

Thursday June, 4. 7:51 pm

I’ve been doing some legwork and so far I’ve discovered that Dark Ember has no exports and very little imports. Aside from food and other necessities shipped to the local grocery store and gas lines throughout the area, the town seems largely self sufficient. The town produces it’s own electricity and they have a water reservoir. What I haven’t been able to find out is why anyone chooses to live there or what caused them to close the silver mine a hundred and forty years ago. Why does this town even exist?

Friday June, 5. 6:03 pm

I decided to take a look around Dark Ember and see what impressions I can get from it. I didn’t notice it the first time I went thru, but the town starts out wide and then narrows as you get to the other side. The town is shaped like an arrow head with the church as the point. I think the church may be the oldest existing structure in Dark Ember. Is it possible that the town was built this way on purpose? Is the church what holds this town together?

Saturday June, 6. 2:36 pm

I was trying to find the location of the silver mine in the area surrounding Dark Ember when I met the local sheriff, Daniel Warner. I told him I was a land surveyor and that I worked for a company in Dallas that was looking for a place to build a factory to make super small microprocessors or some such. 1.) I don’t think he believed me, and 2.) He strongly suggested I inform my company to look elsewhere.

Sunday June, 7. 1:18 pm

Just got back to the hotel. I wanted to take another look around town during the church services, but my earlier thoughts about the church being the fulcrum of the town didn’t pan out. No one attended church this morning.

Sunday June, 7. 6:15 pm

I came back to Dark Ember in time to see the townspeople going into the church! At approximately 5:30 they started going into the church. I think by 6:00 the whole town must have been inside. They seem to be a spirited bunch. I can hear singing and chanting from half a mile away. I’m going to see if I can get a look around while everyone seems to be in one place. I should have at least 30 minutes before the service is over.

Sunday June, 7. 6:28 pm

I just saw the biggest dog I’ve ever seen!

The preceding was received in the form of emails from a phone belonging to Seth Emery. There have been no further emails.

Deeper Fears

Epigraph

A rare moment when Seth shows a bit of introspection

Main Content

The dream always starts the same way, with the day I almost died. I’m riding a bicycle. It is an old 10-speed, with the U-shaped handle bars and a narrow seat. I am on the sidewalk going down a steep hill towards a busy intersection. I know I should slow down, but my momentum coupled with the wind in my face is too exhilarating.

As I near the intersection, I grasp the hand brakes a moment before I would jump off the curb and into the street. Only the brakes don’t catch the way they are supposed to. Oh, how I hated to change the tires on my bike. I was never very good at reattaching the brakes. I had the hardest time getting the brake pads into the proper position.

This is where the dream differs from the actual events of that day. Instead of swerving into a hard right turn and falling to the ground inches from the street, the bike leapt off the curb into the path of an oncoming bus. I hear the blare of the bus horn right as I impact with the front of the bus. There is no impact.

I find myself standing on the bus next to the driver. He is calmly looking forward. His eyes never leave the road. I look down the aisle and see dozens of people sitting calmly in their seats. I make my way down the aisle to find a seat. As I pass each row of seats, I notice that something isn’t right. The people on the bus are wrong in some way that should be obvious, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.

I’m halfway down the aisle, trying to keep my balance, as the bus sways with the motion of the road. I look down at a person sitting alone on the right side of the bus. He is wearing a dirty brown coat and a strange hat. The hat draws my attention. It is brown and dirty like his coat and it is also tattered and worn through in a couple of places. The hat looks as though it has seen many miles.

Then the man in the hat looks up at me. He has piercing blue eyes that look wild with madness. His face is covered in unkempt facial hair. He opens his mouth and my blood turns to ice for fear of what he will say. “Tick,” he declares. I try to look away. I must get further down the aisle. “Tock,” he commands. I’m pulling myself along by grabbing the seat backs.

I find an empty seat at the second to the last row on the buses left side. I throw my ass into the seat and slide against the window. I look at where the man in the hat sits. I’m relieved he is not looking at me. Then I hear it. Faint, but unmistakable. “Tick.” I’m filled with dread, knowing what comes next. “Tock.”

That’s when it dawns on me. I realize what is wrong with the people on the bus. They are all dead. Each and everyone is a corpse. No one is talking, or reading, listening to music, looking out the window. Nothing. Not a single sign of life in any of them. Just that one man, if he is really a man. “Tick,” much louder now. I know I have to get off this bus. “Tock!” I must find a way out.

I’m looking out the window and I see up ahead. I see myself riding my 10-speed down that steep hill. I see the impending collision as it is about to occur. I see myself grasp the brakes and swerve just as the bus should have hit me. I see this other me escape death by less than an inch. Had I been able to reach my arm out the window I could have touched myself as the bus went by. I watch as my other self shrinks in the distance. I hear my own maniacal laughter from far away.

Why am I on this bus when I know I was never hit by it. If I’m on the bus, who is in my body. Why are they laughing. “Tick,” is whispered directly into my ear. I cringe as I turn toward the voice. The man in the hat is standing in the aisle, crouched down with his arms spread, elbows resting on the seat backs. The smell of body odor, dirt and something like rotting meat emanates from him like waves of radiation. I feel like I’m dying from exposure to him. “Tock.”

I want to lash out at him, to kick and punch, but I can’t bare the thought of actually touching him. He leans in close to me and I squeeze against the wall. He opens his mouth. I hear a sound like the buzzing of flies and maggots squirming. I expect to hear him utter that mantra of madness. “Time catches everyone, eventually.” He moved in closer. “Tick.”

Without fail, I wake up screaming from this dream, as I have every time I’ve had it over the last 13 years. I had the dream every night for several weeks after that day I almost got creamed by that bus. My parents, David and June, took me to see a psychiatrist when they noticed I stopped sleeping. Things got better for a time. Then, even the therapy and the drugs couldn’t keep the dream away. The dream didn’t return as repetitious as those first few weeks. I have it maybe once every couple weeks, but it hasn’t left me completely.

I think about that day. I think it may have been my last day of real happiness. Of course, I think of the dream often, also. I wonder if I’m somehow different than I was before that day, if maybe I lost something vital as that bus nearly ended my life. I wonder if maybe it was my soul that didn’t escape the path of that bus.

“Tock.”