by "Splatter" Joe Solmo
"Aw, shit!" Joshua said as he watched the far horizon, the dark storm clouds were just now visible in the sky over the mountains and heading in his direction. It looked like he still had some time before the cold spring rain overran his newly plowed cornfield. Almost his whole life Joshua spent working on this particular thirty acre farm; he even bought it from his parents a few years ago so they could retire to a warmer climate. Joshua and his wife have lived in the farmhouse almost ten years now, and finally were blessed with a son only a month ago, Josh Junior, or JJ for short. He always felt at peace working this land, and the farm life seemed to agree also with his wife, Emily, who was taking online courses in her spare time and was only one semester from getting her BA.
Throwing a cigarette down into the freshly plowed dirt, Joshua hiked up his Wrangler jeans and turned towards the house about a hundred yards away. A smile crossed his face as he thought about how he got away with still smoking. He promised Emily that he would quit once the baby was born, but it was too damn hard. He really tried, and almost made it a week the first time. The second time was only three days, after that he started to smoke again when he got stressed. Every time a piece of equipment broke or a bill came in he couldn't pay, he found himself reaching for the pack he hid in the barn. He spent a lot more time out in that ancient barn since Josh junior was born.
Suddenly the wind shifted direction, blowing his hat off his balding head. Joshua shivered in the suddenly cold breeze, and snagged his hat off the ground, looking back up at the clouds that were now starting to cross over to his side of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains that practically surrounded his land. Just then something caught the farmer's eye near the barn. Was it movement? He wasn't sure. It went by too fast for his eyes to really see what it was. Emily should be finishing up dinner and watching JJ, she has no reason to be out at the barn, she should be too busy inside. Maybe something was blowing around in the breeze that picked up, he thought as he popped some gum into his mouth, to cover the smell of smoke. He headed towards the barn to hide his cigarettes and change his flannel shirt before going inside for dinner.
Once inside the barn he headed to the work bench he had helped his father build almost twenty years ago and opened one of the drawers under the table’s surface. He placed his pack of cigarettes inside one of his work gloves and put them back into the drawer, stuffing them into the back of it. He then hung up his flannel shirt and switched it out with the one he wore as he left the house. It paid to buy more than one shirt of the same color and design, he thought. The local tractor supply store only had a limited number of choices, and that worked to his favor. He turned to head back into the farmhouse when he noticed that all the yard tools were lying on the barn floor. As if something knocked them off of the rack he had also built into the side of the barn to hang as his shovels and rakes.
Joshua looked around but didn't see anyone or any explanation why the tools had fallen off of their metal hooks on the wall of the barn. Mumbling under his breath, Joshua picked up a rake and a hoe and hung them back up on their assigned hooks. He had the entire tool rack labeled so that he could keep things organized. While he was hanging a snow shovel up at the end of the rack he noticed the side door in the barn was open. He almost never used that door, and as best as he could remember it had been both closed and latched for several weeks. He closed and latched the barn side door, looking into the yard as he did. Usually, when he got up in the morning he just used the giant barn door to get inside to the tractor in the morning, not the side door. So it was possible it's been open for a while. He made a mental note to talk to Emily about it over dinner as he headed for the front door of his home, just in case.
As he wandered up the old rickety steps of his wraparound porch, he turned back to the barn and got an odd feeling. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up by themselves, and once again he shivered, but this time he was sure it wasn't the breeze. He looked once again at the side door of the barn, it was open again. Maybe the latch is broken, he thought, but that creepy feeling wouldn't go away. Trying to pass it off as nonsense he entered the house, never seeing the pairs of eyes watching him from the darkness within the barn.
As soon as he entered the house the smells of Emily's cooking hit him in the face, pot roast, his favorite. He began to salivate, thinking of sinking his teeth into it as he headed down the hall to the bathroom to wash up. After ten years of marriage he knew better than to show up to the table covered in dirt.
"Josh, is that you?" Emily called from their living room.
"Who else would it be," he chided a smile on his face.
"A serial killer, maybe," she said with a little mirth in her voice. Josh smile widened.
"Hasn't been one of those around here in over twenty years," he replied to his wife.
"I am feeding junior, then I will finish dinner," she said.
"It smells good," he answered. "Did my parents call today?" There was no immediate reply from the living room. Josh just figured that Emily was busy feeding Junior. He looked at his face in the mirror and decided to wash it off as well, the breeze outside must have kicked up some dust into his face. He knew Emily wouldn't put up with that. He grabbed a washcloth from the linen drawer next to the sink and wet it.
What was that? He thought as he rinsed off the day’s work dust. The water wasn't quite warm yet and he mentally bitched to himself to take the time to look over the water heater and make sure it was working properly.
"You okay Em?" he asked.
"I was just going to ask you the same thing, what was that banging?" Emily asked from the other room.
"I thought that was you out there. You didn't drop JJ did you?" Joshua asked jokingly as he left the bathroom and headed towards the living room on the other side of the house. Once he was in the hall he noticed that the front door was open, the sound must have been the screen door banging the frame in the wind, he thought. "I was sure I shut this," he said quietly, as he approached the large wooden door with a window in the top half. He knew the door should be replaced with a newer aluminum one with insulation inside, for the cold winter months, but a part of him liked the old wooden one, because it reminded him of his childhood.
"Come in here when you’re done, I want to show you something before dinner," Emily said from the living room. Her voice distracted Joshua as he closed the door. He turned towards the living room and never noticed the shadows moving silently on the porch.
"Coming," he said and walked towards the doorway into the living room.
"I am almost done," Emily said looking down with a loving smile at the small child attached to her breast. Junior was the best thing that ever happened to her. She absolutely loved being a mother, and the child had brought so much happiness into their home. Also it made them both think about the future and having a baby had finally convinced Joshua to quit smoking, she thought. She couldn't be prouder of her husband. It was only two years ago that she had quit herself and she remembered all too well the struggle she had with nicotine, but Joshua was so strong, she thought admirably.
Her husband entered the room and sat on the couch next to her, a smile emerged from his weathered, sun tanned face as his gaze fell to the wrapped bundle in Emily's arms. His eyes didn't leave their child, the center of their world, but her eyes saw past her husband and to the window that overlooked the porch and she swore someone was out there. With a gasp she grabbed her husband's arm and pointed towards the window once she had his attention.
"I think I just saw someone out there on the porch," she said.
"Who the hell would be out here bothering us at dinner time?" he said waving off her statement.
"I don't know. Why don't you look?" she said, as she pulled her shirt up covering her breast and clutching JJ to her tighter. Just then a shadow passed the window, followed by another a second later. This time Joshua saw it too, as JJ began to cry out.
"Weird, I didn't hear any car pull up," Josh said and began to get that creepy feeling again, like when he was looking at the barn door. He could see the light was fading outside, either from the storm or the evening he wasn't sure, but he wanted to get this resolved before it got dark. Some part of him, in the back of his mind, screamed at him to grab his shotgun from the rack hanging above the television. He reached for the twelve gauge, and his wife gave him a confused look.
"What are you going to do with that?" she asked.
"Better safe than sorry," he said and loaded a shell into each barrel, pocketing a few more in his shirt pocket. Truth be told, he did feel a little silly holding the shotgun in his hand, but that creepy feeling would not go away. With the gun in hand he walked towards the front door just outside the living room. From where he was it looked like a man's shadow was standing at the door, slowly swaying left to right, like someone placing their weight back and forth between each leg. Weird, he thought. Why would someone come all the way out to the farm then stand on the porch and not knock? Maybe it was bill collectors; he thought and glanced down at the shotgun again. Well this ought to frighten the shit outta them, he thought, but that uneasy feeling was growing inside of him still, as he approached the curtained window that took up the top half of his wooden front door.
He heard it again, it definitely came from outside on the porch, this time to the right of the door, closer to the living room.
"Stay in there, Emily," he said over his shoulder as he leveled the shotgun at waste height and reached with his free hand for the door handle, the weight of the gun making the barrel shake a little bit. This is foolish, he thought. This is my home, in the middle of nowhere in rural upstate New York. The chances that danger lurked outside my front door are slim to none. He reached out and grabbed the door handle and turned it. Summoning up a moment of courage, he yanked the door open, keeping that shotgun leveled and pointing towards the porch.
A lot of things happened at once at this point, a crash and the sound of broken glass came from the living room as Joshua heard his wife scream, that was the first thing to register in the farmers mind, because what he saw in front of him didn't make sense, and as if by instinct, his mind dismissed it. He took his eyes off the strange humanoid shapes standing in the doorway to his home to glance at his wife and baby to make sure they were ok, which they were not.
As the danger finally traveled from his eyes to his brain, Josh squeezed the trigger on the shotgun, but in that instant he had taken his eyes away they had moved and his shot missed completely. The horrid man things in front of him shrieked from the noise and rushed into the doorway so fast, Joshua didn't have time to react. As he prepared another shot, the gun was wrenched from his hands by one of the creatures, while another grabbed his arm in a vise-like grip in its pale gray fleshed hand. Three large fingers applied pressure to the farmers forearm, but Josh didn't notice. His gaze was locked on the face of the impossible thing in front of him. A mouth of sharp, yellow-green teeth opened wide, from sunken cheeks, almost in an evil grin as its cat-like eyes focused on the farmer's face. Joshua stared at his own horrified reflection in those eyes. The things body was rail thin, it looked emaciated, but its strong grip on Joshua proved otherwise, and he knew he was facing death.
Suddenly pain raced up his arm and a scream escaped his lips. He heard a tearing sound, like when removing a turkey leg from the bird on Thanksgiving, but louder, and he glanced down at his arm and was shocked to find only half of it there, the creature had twisted it until it had separated at the elbow. Blood flowed freely from the wound that ended in empty skin, like a popped balloon, just flapping with his movements. The creature now held his forearm and hand in front of its face, as if examining it. He gave the appendage a couple of sniffs before biting off a hunk of flesh from the upper forearm.
"Emily, run," he called out, a little weaker than he would have liked, and tried to turn but the second creature grabbed his head in both of its strong hands and twisted. Joshua's body hit the floor as the creature held the farmer's head high like a grisly trophy, eyes still blinking in disbelief. Growing bored with the arm the first creature tossed it aside and entered the living room, where the Screaming One was still making noise.
Emily held JJ tight against her chest in an iron grip. "Josh?" she called out to the foyer, but there was no reply. After the shotgun went off, her husband had screamed and that was the last she had heard of him. She was cornered; there was no other way out of the room she was in. A thump sounded from the foyer where her husband was. She wished her husband would come back into the room and tell her everything was going to be ok, but instead another one of those creatures entered the room. The first was bad enough, crashing through the window, and backing her into the corner menacingly. It just stood there now, watching her. Its head cocked to the side like a dog when it is trying to reason something out. She could see an intelligence behind it's eyes, and it was studying her, which made her even more uneasy. She feared for her and her husband’s safety, but her biggest fear was for her son JJ. Her mind raced with ideas to escape the room, but nothing seemed feasible, she was boxed in.
The creature that entered through the window approached closer and reached out a long pale gray arm, longer that what was proportional to his body. Tears streaked down Emily's face as she realized the monster's eyes were not transfixed on her, but on her baby, only one month old. "No," she said between sobs. Now two more creatures stood around her, from the foyer closing her in, and still nothing from her husband. The reality of that started to sink in and she knew she would never see her husband again in this life, what little that might be left of it. There was now no chance for her to run, she had waited too long. "NO!" she screamed into the monsters face defiantly.
"NARRRGH!" the creature screamed back at her, mocking her tone pretty convincingly. With a fast grab that was almost too quick for the eye to follow, the creature latched its fingers on the baby's arm, and started to pull it towards it.
"Leave my baby alone!" she screamed and tried to pull her child back to her chest, protectively, but the creature's grip was too strong. JJ started to wail from the tug-of-war between his mother and the monster. Another creature joined the fight and grabbed a chubby little leg. Every instinct in Emily's mind told her to pull that child to her, to coddle it, and protect it, to take it away from harm, but every time the creatures pulled she could see the pain on her child's face. Her heart broke knowing that this new human being was only one month old and already knew so much pain.
Once again they tugged, and the baby cried out, but she still wouldn't let go, she could hear something tearing and hoped it was JJ's clothing, not his skin. She cried out, unable to take it any longer. Maybe they only wanted to look at her baby and they would give it back. The one that studied her did show intelligence, after all. Maybe the child was only experiencing pain because she was being hesitant, and if she let go they would just look him over. It was her fault JJ was crying out. With great reluctance she let go of her child's arms and let the creatures take him.
The third creature pushed Emily down onto the couch and placed his foot upon her chest, pinning her there on the cushions. "No,' she said, crying. She knew now she had made the wrong decision, the worst decision of her life, but it was too late. The two remaining creatures were still tugging on JJ's limbs. Emily wailed as her baby screamed, red-faced. Feebly she tried to reach up towards her son, but he was too far out of reach. She watched in horror as the two creatures separated, each holding a part of her child. The creature on the left held his leg in his hand, the femur sticking out of the end of the fleshy thigh. With a quick sniff, the monster chewed on the small limb, crunching the bone and tearing the flesh as blood dripped down its chin.
The other creature, holding the majority of the baby, tried to turn away with its prize, but the third creature grabbed it's torso and pulled against the first creature who had it by the head., Junior's wails were finally silenced as his one month old head was removed from his body, warm blood spraying all over Emily's face and chest.
The creature holding the head of the infant sniffed at its face and shook it, like a Magic 8-ball. Quizzically it looked the small face over, as if wondering why it had stopped making noise. After sniffing around the head it seemed to find what it was looking for and began to search the room for something. In a few seconds it found what it was looking for and slammed the head on the edge of the end table three times, like cracking an egg. It plunged its fingers deep inside the crack it made and pulled the cranium apart, exposing the soft brain tissue underneath. With a quick movement it scooped out the tissue and devoured it, gore and brain smothered all over his face. Some bits had fallen from his face, being a sloppy eater, and fell on top of the terrified Emily. She started to hyperventilate, unable to deal with the traumatic event happening in front of her, her child, her pride in joy, was now in three pieces being devoured by some monstrous creatures. It was too bizarre to believe and her mind started to recede inside of itself to deal with the stress as the world turned black...
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