As rain hit down angrily upon the Madsen’s weakened roof fear caused the huddled family to crouch closer together. Crying could be heard falling from the small twisted mouths of the children.
Though darkness was playing teasingly about the outside of the cracked covered window Virginia 14, and Caesar 9, had seen too much to entertain the idea of sleeping.
Their quiet, helpless genitors were the only adults left, as they were the only children who remained. Everyone else had expired. They were the only ones left.
Virginia wrapped her hands tightly around her only brother, the one she wouldn’t have given the time of day before the expiring began.
Caesar tried to gather together a little needed comfort from her unusual, but honestly sincere embrace.
Dera Madsen placed a cold maternal hand on both of them as she nervously enjoyed her husband Vin’s body pressed against the back of her. She knew it was almost over for them, for all of them She knew they were about to expire. She could hear the beasts slow, wanton approaching through the pouring, falling mellifluous coming into her ears from the other side of the covered, cracked window.
"Draw close, its almost time," she said aloud into the eerie quietness within the chilly air that readily encompassed their dark shadowy nightmare.
The beast scratched aggressively on the window, before moving in through the glass. HE oozed in like liquid through the opening with his eyes focused in on the boy. There was this awfully sinister smiling which made HIS lips twist up in a hostile, evil way as HE glided across the floor in an unusual, hunched fashion to claim his young flesh and strong bone.
The boy screamed and kicked. He called out for his mother as Satan took away his eyes. He went on to holler and bellow until agile claws dug in and pulled his throat separated.
Warmth from his blood could be felt on the face of his frightened, sobbing sister. She brought her shaking hands up to touch upon his liquid scarlet as it attached itself to her round cheeks before rolling slowly down like tragically misguided weeping.
As Dera and what was left of her almost expired family ran from the musty, box-filled attic, which was used mostly for mansard she cried for the loss of her only son.
She didn’t fall into his rescue. She knew it was already too late for him. She had to concentrate on what remained of her broken apart family.
If they made it through another dark frightening night she would spend most of the next days morning admonishing herself for not doing more, but for the time being, she had to keep moving forward and away with her husband and only living child.
She was the last one to barrel down the stairs. She was also the only one to see Beelzebub do that loud ripping thing to the inside of her boys flab. She watched with clear, sober eyes to see what her broken child looked like from the inside. She saw what the angry dark angel did with his shattered mangled remains.
Tears and grief had to wait as she followed her family into the smallest bedroom in the house. It was Virginia’s, and that room wasn’t randomly chosen.
They needed to be closed within a place with the least amount of windows, and her room only had one, that faced the back of the house. From painstaking experience they learned Beelzebub only entered into human shelters through window glass. That’s why the attic was chosen first, because it only had a single window. Though HE’D still gotten to her boy, had they been in a room with two or more windows HE could have separated himself into different portions to go after more than one of them at a time.
They were desperately trying to play his game the right way. They didn’t want to be the last ones to expire. They hoped to survive by out-smarting the oldest evil to ever roam freely about the planet.
IN THE BEGINNING UNTIL END
Two months before the day Beelzebub reached out for Dera’s boy, people; whole families began to expire. The whole town fell down into a nasty, horrifying panic. Even the local yokel, small town police department got involved in the beginning, but three days into their investigation half of them, and their families were taken into the mouth of the monster.
Word found its way through Molten Shire so quickly that by noon everyone except the Madsen family gathered up their children and attempted to flee for nearby Baltimore, or Rockville Counties. No one packed a stitch of raiment, or water, and for those with infants they made due with the ready made bottles of formula just snatching them carelessly from the fridge.
Slamming car doors, and screeching tires cluttered the orderly peaceful nature which had always shrouded the town before its inhabitants began to expire.
The adults, and their wide eyed, frightened children thought they would be able to outrun the darkness maliciously devouring the frightful devastated residence of Molten Shire.
The drivers of those anxiously fleeing cars, vans, and sports utility vehicles, along with their sanguine, watchful passengers, (at least the ones who were old enough to understand the reason for the sudden road trip) were happily smiling on the inside. It was that huge square sign saying YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE TOWN OF MOLTEN SHIRE which came into view a little ways of distance in front of them that brought about that small comfortable consolation of relief to rest within the inside of their agitated, quivering souls.
They all thought the nightmare was almost over when the ground opened up to suck in the first family unlucky enough to almost leave the town behind them.
Several other families thought they would be the fortunate ones, the ones to make it but soon it becomes excruciatingly clear that no one would be allowed to leave. Once everybody realized there was no place to go and hide all the cars that remained turned around and went back to town.
Surprisingly that exodus back into town went along in an orderly fashion. Everyone was frightened, but overwhelmingly polite. They just wanted to get back to the limited safety of their homes, though they were little more than sitting ducks, especially when the rain came down from the sky.
During the rainy periods screaming could be heard. The screaming was creepy because the voices attached to it were usually familiar. The screaming was especially horrifying when it came out of the mouths of the children.
After the stoppage of the rain some people mostly fathers left their homes to run extremely necessary errands. Low on food, daughter needed medication; you know just everyday things that weren’t usually such a big deal, but more of an annoying chore no one really wanted to bother with if they didn’t have to.
On the other hand since the beginnings of the expiring errands were a dangerous thing that could cost the task runner his or her life. Being in doors wasn’t any safer, but at least shelter gave the hecatombs a chance to run away and make it more difficult for the prince of the underneath to take them.
As for the ones that ventured out, they got a first hand look at the blood and mutilated flesh of those that decided to leave their homes during the raining period. As for the ones who ventured out, they got to see the twisted, pale faces of those who had tried to escape the thick black claws of the devil-monster.
The only reason why the Madsen’s were still around, and remaining except for the youngest boy Caesar was because they never left the house not once. The parents explained to their children how they had to ration the food so it would last longer, and they also had something else in their favor. They had a huge square freezer that sat almost three and a half inches off the floor in the basement packed with food.
Dera had been adamant and obsessively anal about keeping it full every since the threat of war had been heavily spoken about in the news, and on the Internet. She had a fanatical personality and wanted to make sure that if anything went down her family wouldn’t have to worry about aliment, at least they would be able to eat. She also had almost thirty gallons of water lining the basement walls, so they wouldn’t be thirsty either. Oh yes she’d been preparing for quite some time, though she found herself in the midst of a different, more dangerous kind of war.
Something else they had over everyone else in town was the fact that Vin didn’t worry about making it to work. He called his boss and told him something really bad was going on so Mr. Stein told him he could Tele-commute for a week or two until the situation could be resolved. After he asked his faithful employee what the deal was. When he started explaining about the strange and bloody activities going on the line went dead. Of course the Internet was the next thing to go. That’s when they began to understand a little about how to survive the expiring.
Rule # 1: No outside contact with anybody who didn’t live in The Shire.
Telling his boss what was going on caused the demon to snatch the phone and Internet away. His boss lived in Rockville County. He was considered an inconnu.
`Rule # 2: Don’t leave the house, for any reason, because that’s what those evil hands waited for.
Rule # 3: Observe Beelzebub’s nasty vengeful wrath during the raining period.
And finally Rule # 4: Once HE had a victim in hand never attempt to rescue them.
For two whole months the Madsen’s remained protected and secure that way until they were the only ones left to expire.
They knew it was their turn when the screaming on the other side of their closed windows stopped. That’s when Beelzebub began scratching about the outside of their overlaid windowpanes. That was just before little precious Cesar met his awful, bloody end at the hands of the beast.
Vin herded his family into the daughters room as his mind tried to buy them some more living time. "Quickly! The bed, get her bed up to that window. Come on Dera help me!" though his efforts were futile as the man of the house he felt the need to do something, anything in defense of his remaining loved ones.
Angry rustling movements were already pushing forcefully against the closed, covered windowpane in a boisterous heart-stopping fashion before it split wide open all over their hastily bungled aegis.
That’s when Beelzebub claimed the father.
Dera didn’t even bother to scream. She did what she could, which was draw her daughters shaking sweat-soaked body into her as she searched the room with her weary eyes for a way away from her husbands blood. It, all of it was gathering all over her and Virginia. Only that time she didn’t look. She didn’t care to see at the end of him, the man she’d love since forever. Immediately she put him out of her mind in the same way as she’d done their only son. She knew in the morning, or when the rain stopped her mind would be weighed down with a significant amount of quilt, and regret, but for the time being it was just the two of them, the only ones left alive in Molten Shire.
She turned the fragile-minded child to face her and said, "Look baby, we have to get out of this room. I want you to go first. I want you to be my brave girl. You must run right past Beelzebub. Go to your daddy’s study. You should be safe for a while in there. No matter what, don’t leave this house during the raining period," she could see mountains of questions building up in her daughters eyes as she continued on. "Mommy will be right behind you," she had to fight back tears that were brimming at the corners of her red watery eyes. She didn’t think she’d see her Virginia again. She was about to sacrifice herself so her daughter would have a chance to survive the expiring. "Use the rules, HIS rules and I’ll see you real soon. No questions just GO!"
She knew there was no reasoning with her mother when she felt that strongly about something, so she kissed her on the right cheek, and breezed past the monster. She didn’t look back. She just ran like a bat out of hell away from Beelzebub.
Dera didn’t intend to follow her daughter. She was going to stay, and wait for Beelzebub to claim her flesh. With her back against the wall she focused her fears on the horns atop HIS glabrous, reptilian head, just so she wouldn’t have to look upon the hollow spaces where her husband’s eyes use to be. She directed her afraid towards HIS black craggy lingua as it slid in and out of his mouth, to avoid looking at the noisy separating of Vin’s middle section. She allowed her ears to zone directly in on the raspy, congested sound coming from HIS exposed, protruding rib cage, just so she didn’t have to hear the moist, meaty sound of her departed soul mates tearing flesh.
When her husband’s body was piled into three different piles, (one for his mangled organs, a second for his twisted, unrecognizable flesh, and a third for his broken, and split bones) she thought Beelzebub would come for her.
She had her eyes on Beelzebub as heat oozed out of HIS denounced, protuberant rib cage to take the monstrous chill out of the air between them. She saw the smiling. She saw the sick yellowish-gray teeth. She saw all of him, though it wasn’t what she was honestly expecting, which was intent, and a thirst for her flesh.
Immediately her heart dropped way down into her bowels. Something was wrong. Beelzebub should have been on her. She should have been halfway closer to becoming human sushi.
Clearly she’d done something wrong. Had there been a rule she’d overlooked? She wasn’t sure about that, but she was certain Beelzebub had no intentions towards her flesh. She knew it was Virginia Moloch HE had an unmistakable taste for.
Feeling entirely powerless she watched the demon with many names turn to hunch HIS body before gliding out of the room. She pushed aside her fear, and afraid because of Virginia. That child was what remained of her family. She gingerly moved away from the wall and said, "What do you want with my daughter?" when HIS body turned back into her, a startled gasp fell out into the heated air from her wide open maw. She stood static as he spoke over into her.
HE felt the strong urge to be a little closer to the mortal female who had been impudent enough to voice sinewy words at him in the form of a direct question before he desired to open his rancid diseased mouth for her listening. "YOU’RE OUTWARD, VOCAL EXPRESSION OF FRIGHT, AND CONCERN INTEREST ME. THE WAY YOU REMAIN THERE LIKE THAT TO ROLL AROUND WITHIN YOU OBVIOUS TERROR FANCIES ME. OH, AND AS FOR YOUR DAUGHTER, YOU KNOW GOOD AND WELL WHAT I WANT FROM HER, IT’S FLESH, HER TENDER ADOLESCENT FLESH." When he was finished speaking, his strong spur to be diminutively adjacent to the evanescent female drew Beelzebub further into the faint fragrant smell of her feminine epidermis. HE could feel the fast, reckless beating of her blood pump as she brought forth more words for HIS hearing.
"What happens after, you know once she’s expired, then are you coming for me?" she asked though her heart already knew the answer to that.
"Foolish, foolish woman, I’m already swimming around on the inside of your head, feeding you pieces of my thoughts. You already know what will become of the rest of your forever." Beelzebub had warm, intense arms around her, as he eased his tongue all about the sweet smell of her tender gullet. HE knew what she wanted, but she had to say the words before her will could be done. Now of course, her will came with a price, one that both she and her only living female child would have to endure unconditionally. "Now we must go to her. Now we must tell her that she’s going to continue on."
Little frightened Virginia had huddled herself away into the corner of the only closet in the small cluttered space within her fathers work room, also known as the studio. She had mounds of quietly flowing tears running down her face to gather up within the wrinkled folds of her thick plump neck.
She wasn’t expecting to see her mother again, so when she heard footsteps coming her way she assumed it was Beelzebub coming for her. She assumed her mother had already expired, so when the door swung open as though it had been pushed in by invisible ghost-like hands she pushed her head down in between her legs and waited for the end of her short young life.
She was shivering like a wet, scared dog left out in a cold, incessant rain. The closer the footsteps approached, the crazier she felt on the inside, until she felt her head was about to explode way before he got to tear into her.
As the closets sliding door eased open she used the surprising force present within the tips of her stubby, wide fingers to rip whole entire portions of hair away from her normally sensitive scalp. She looked up to face the nightmare from the below with sincere, generous amounts of blood and meaty strands of hair within the palms of her cupped hands to see her mothers ashy, wincing face.
She got up and put her little hands around her mother as the reason for her pouring tears changed to those of love, and happiness. "Oh mother, I thought I’d never see you again. I thought you were going to die for me. I thou-," The excitable cannonade of rambled words coming from her mouth stopped stunted when she saw Beelzebub standing directly behind the woman that was her mother.
The sight of Beelzebub, all familiar and intimate, with his clawed hands bearing heavily down on either side of her mothers shoulders was the last straw. It took her to the point of being full. She couldn’t take anymore. Her eyes fell closed in a slow drowsy laggard way, then her head, and body slopped down and to one side.
Dera wanted to scoop the child up into her arms as she told her about the deal she’d made with the devil. She preferred to speak into the softness of her daughters right ear as she held her limp catalepsy body because she was afraid to tell the child how far she’d gone to save the only remaining member of her broken family in the presence of Virginia’s astute awake clarity. All her wants, and preferences didn’t mean anything anymore. Part of that price was the loss of free will, so she just looked down at her baby with tears of sorrow building up within the cold, lonely place that use to own her soul.
She could have stared into the child as regret pummeled through her veins until the end of the earth but Beelzebub moved her gently out of the way to wake the child. He wanted to be the one who told her how far her mother had gone to save the only member left in her family.
Beelzebub wasn’t a patient soul. HE had no intentions on waiting until the child woke from her serene restfulness to give the girl HIS good news. He touched with hot heavy hands on top of the child’s forehead to mark her as his own. HE knew that would bring her back into the painful ever after of her present reality.
Using one of HIS talons Beelzebub drew a circle with a triangle over the top of it right into her flesh. As blood came out of the mark HE’D given her she jerked into consciousness to find HIM standing above her. She began hyperventilating as her eyes grew wide, and fearful, but HE didn’t care about any of that. HE was only concerned with the words HE wanted her to hear.
"Oh stop all that noise you pudgy little girl, and listen carefully to what I have to say. You’re mother made a deal with me, which will allow the two of you to remain together always, though that continuos existence won’t be enjoyed or shared with the living. You and your selfish mother will be my minions, the first two officers enlisted in my army of destruction. Molten Shire is just the first sleepy eyed town to expire. I desire all of them! Every town with a church, and a fucking steeple I want them all. Molten shire was just a test that went rather well, then there’s Dera and you Virginia, the icing on my torte. As long as you and that Madsen women follow me, and do as I say you can keep you’re little twosome family and if you don’t I will make you both into tiny little fragmented pieces. I will make you into different parts of the stuff that nightmares are made of." HE picked her up from the cold closet floor, and gently handed the child to her mother. "Take that which is yours, though the both of you will always belong to me."
Beelzebub and the two who didn’t expire left the inside of the Madsen house through the walls. The demon was ready to show them how much fun pain could truly be, there’s and that which belonged to others. The journey through the walls onto the other side excited the monster because it was the first time anyone from the human place had experienced the agonizing pulling apart of the organs inside their bodies as they separated apart, then bond back together.
Beelzebub didn’t have to look. HE could feel their pain coursing through HIM to blend, and bond well within HIS own exquisite throe.
Dera held tight to her daughters hand, though she could feel the child’s honest resistance of her embrace. She fully understood the child’s opposition, but there was nothing she could do about that. All she could do was offer her an explanation, one which she didn’t think her daughter would ever accept. "This was the only way to be together. I did this for you, for the sake of us. We will be together like a family again. We won’t expire, HE promised," she said with quiet, tearful words as she looked down to see hate mounting well, and defined with her daughters dark hollow eyes.
"We could have been together, all of us, in a better place. I could have seen my father, and brother again!" she wasn’t whispering. She had to shout at the woman she didn't want to claim as her mother anymore. "You did this for the same reason that Beelzebub said. You made this deal with HIM because you’re selfish! You stupid lady, we’ll never be a family again," she said as she watched the ground before them open, and spread apart.
"Come now, we’ll travel under ground, Grady’s Rise is on the other side of Rockville County, that’s our next destination. It’s time to claim more flesh. It will be your job to make neat piles out of their tissue, bones, and organs."
Once Beelzebub satisfied them with HIS words HE took hold to both their hands. They made a haphazardly, imperfect circle as the three of them were sucked into the massive opening from the inside out starting with the heart, which went busting right out of the skin, still very whole and intact, followed by the remaining organs. Blood sandwiched neatly around a continuos line of bone, and veins flowed out just before the skin slipped down into the dark jagged chasm of the underneath. What remained were three sets of eyeballs that were virtually dangling just above the nasty cleft below.
Beelzebub eyes were the first to descend towards HIS fiery hamlet, but there wasn’t a need to worry. HE knew what remained of them would follow right along behind HIM.
What remained of Virginia, and her selfish mother looked upon the blood smeared ghost town known as Molten Shire for the last time before all of their existence was pulled into the demons lair for the kind of while that would last well past the beginning of their forever nightmare.
Bio:Monica is the author of "After the Fall," reviewed by Dan Hollifield in the February 2004 issue of Aphelion.
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