Be Not Afraid, a Terrifying Tale by John Hansen and Chris Mills
A Short Story Collaboration for Halloween
With Halloween fast approaching I thought it an opportune time to approach my friend and colleague Chris Mills (cam8510) to ask if he was interested in collaborating on another short fiction story together. As our previous partnerships have resulted in tales on the darker side I felt Halloween would be the perfect inspiration for us to create a story.
"Be Not Afraid!" is the result. We hope you enjoy it.
His memory wasn’t very good. He wondered who he was, where he came from. The word Gerald often entered his mind, then vanished. Was he Gerald?
Be Not Afraid
“Come to me my sweet. Be not afraid. Yes, like that.”
She responded to his gentle encouragement and crept forward, fearful, tantalized, mesmerized.
“Such a lovely being.” His hunger nearly drove him insane. With lightning-quick movements, her neck was in his hands and her head sailed off into the alley. He feasted until not even a bone was left. He was so famished, he retrieved the head.
His diet of rabbits and rats was simply not enough. He needed larger game. There were deer in the park. But they ran so fast, he had no chance of grabbing one. Maybe in the spring he could catch a fawn.
His memory wasn’t very good. He wondered who he was, where he came from. The word Gerald often entered his mind, then vanished. Was he Gerald? Was it even a name? He discarded the thought as he did the rabbit’s head, knowing he’d retrieve it as well.
A few nights later, he was sheltered in the darkness behind a dumpster at the entrance to an alley. A street light illuminated the area which hindered his quest for a meal. A brick lay beside him, the latest to fall from the crumbling roofline. He picked it up and ventured out into the vacant street. The light cast his shadow onto the building’s brick wall, and for the first time, he got a clue about his appearance.
It frightened even him.
He turned back to his task and hurled the brick. It struck the street light with such force, the reflective shield that covered it flew off and landed with a clang in the middle of the street. He retreated to his hideout and waited. His hunger was as real as a constant, unwelcome companion.
Many of the buildings and stores in this street were now locked and abandoned. Shopping Centers had sprung up nearby attracting most shoppers away from what once was the town hub. Though, none of this crossed his mind as he waited silently. His stomach pained him and grumbled its displeasure at the meagre sustenance it had been provided.
His patience was beginning to wear thin when suddenly his acute hearing detected the “clip-clop” sound of heels on the sidewalk. He crouched behind the dumpster, his legs tense and feeling like coiled springs as he waited for the perfect moment.
Beth Turner had her phone pressed to her ear as she strode impatiently along the street. “Thanks for the promised ride home… not!” she hissed sarcastically to whoever she was talking to. They obviously gave some excuse that didn’t satisfy her and she ended the call in a huff. It was unusually dark in this part of town, she thought, feeling nervous now, and quickened her pace.
As she passed the battered dumpster Beth felt something powerful slam into her back, and she was catapulted forward, face-down onto the sidewalk. She tried to scream but it was stifled by a huge hand clamped firmly over her mouth. Her feeble struggles to no avail as she was dragged effortlessly into the alley.
“Shhh! Shhh! Be not afraid.” he soothed, “Such a lovely creature you are.” Her wide eyes stared in terror, and his stomach growled.
The eyes glowed, and he felt the power and hunger surge through him.
“Gerald?” said the woman.
He flinched. How did she know his word?
Beth tried to run. He grabbed her arm and threw her against the bricks of the building.
“Gerald, where have you been? What happened? My god, look at you. You’re twisted, deformed.”
He backed away. For once, since he had become a conscious being that prowled the night streets of the city, he felt hope. This woman had known him as something other than—twisted, deformed.
He left her and ran back to the dank, dark cellar of an abandoned warehouse. He pulled out a stone figurine. In his darkened mind, he knew all that he had become was tied up in this sculpted rock that featured a grotesquely twisted body, a huge mouth, and teeth that would send a hyena fleeing for its life.
He held the figurine in front of his face. The eyes glowed, and he felt the power and hunger surge through him. He quickly stuffed it back into the oilcloth bag and placed it in a hole in the crumbling foundation. He wanted his mind to clear, which meant staying away from the figurine. But the power, the hunger, the desire for flesh was addicting.
His mind cleared as the hours passed. He had visions of himself digging in the dry dirt. He would pick up pieces of stone, some that looked as if they had been shaped. Then, in one of the visions, he saw himself lift the figurine from a hole in the ground wrapped in the oilskin.
One thing was clear to him. The figurine’s power had overwhelmed him and turned him into a living beast in its own likeness. Could he tear himself away? Could he be normal again? Untwisted? Undeformed?
Beth just stood staring in shock and confusion as she watched the creature, or the man she once knew as Gerald, flee. Was it him? It had to be … his distinctive hazel eyes and the cleft chin she could still make out, but what had happened to make him so deformed, so grotesque?
She slowly gathered her composure and resumed her journey home without further incident.
Once back at her apartment Beth went through her normal routine. She fed her cat Phoebe, showered and changed, and then began preparing her evening meal, but she couldn’t get Gerald out of her head. They had met while studying Archaeology together at University and quickly struck up a friendship. They had even dated for a year.
The last contact they had would have been about two years ago. She could clearly remember the events of those last few months. Gerald had travelled to Asia (Burma, Thailand and Cambodia she recalled) to pursue his passion and visit archaeological sites. He had even asked her to accompany him, but she had just bought a car, couldn’t leave her part-time job, and couldn’t afford it anyway.
On his return, three months later, he just wasn’t the same person. Initially he was excited about some find he had made and promised to show her, but instead, he became increasingly reclusive and suddenly, just seemed to disappear. His flat became vacant, and all her attempts to contact him failed, his phone saying “The number you have called is no longer available.”
“Gerald,” that word kept spinning in his head. She had called him that…it must be his name, and the other word, “Beth,” where had that come from? It seemed to conjure vague but pleasant memories, however, and his wide deformed mouth formed into a smile of sorts.
The longer he stayed away from the figurine the clearer his thoughts became and memories began to return. But, with every passing minute, so did the urge to retrieve the oilcloth bag and unveil its contents... and he was hungry, so hungry.
Other Collaborations by John and Chris
- Number Eleven: A Short Fiction Story by John Hansen and Chris Mills
Clark was happily remembering the special date he had with a woman the night before when a man attacked him in the hallway of his hotel and attempted to cut him to ribbons. Clark fought back and fled to the safety of a nearby monastery where he learn
- An Ordinary Day, With Peanuts: Poetry by Chris Mills and John Hansen
A poetry collaboration between John Hansen (Jodah) and Chris Mills (cam8510). This is our third collaboration but the first in the poetry genre. Hopefully an enjoyable read.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 John Hansen