Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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The Hill with an Evil Heart

by C. B. Lovas



In a driving rain, Kyle passes over the bridge before his turn and looks over the railing at the swollen river. The water nearly touches the bottom of the bridge and has broken over its bank in various places down river. Kyle shakes his head and touches the brake to slow for his turn. He downshifts, revs the engine, and begins the long, winding climb up the hill. While Kyle makes his way to the isolated neighborhood perched atop a hill that overlooks the river valley, somewhere along the valley a large slab of earth slips from the bedrock and carries trees and rocks into the river below. The earthen hillside looks like an ocean wave coming to shore, as it flows into valley and consumes the bridge -- the only way off the hill.

As the earth leaves its home, it reveals in the bedrock an abyss -- a black, broad chasm deep into the hill's wicked heart. From the darkness march minions that only could be from hell and answer only to Satan. Their ashen skin glistens in the rain while it rinses off centuries of dirt. They leap over cracks and chasms opening under their bony feet while the earth continues to slip into the river. As they make their way through the forest, the small band of demons grabs stones and large sticks for this is all they will need to capture their quarry. The roar of the rain drowns out the march of the demons toward the stately homes perched on the rim of the river valley.

As the wipers beat and squeak barely able to manage the downpour, Kyle reaches to the crest and sees his majestic brick home among a few others. As he pulls in front the first house, his own, he glances across the street to his brother's house to see if he made it home. Noticing the lights on in the living room and a brief wave from his sister-in-law, he pulls up his drive and into the garage. He hops out of his decked out Jeep Wrangler, which he had fitted with extra large knobby tires, flood lights on the roll bar, and jacked up high so he could take it off road. He smirks at the spectacle, knowing how his brother hates the beast, saying it was a waste of time and money.

It looks ridiculous in the driveway in this neighborhood, especially with you and it covered in mud, he would say while standing next to his newly waxed Porsche Cayenne with the baby seat and a booster in the back seat.

Kyle stands in his garage, peering through the deluge at the other houses on the hill and at their well-manicured lawns and tidy flowerbeds unaware they are all trapped. He sees his brother, William, frantically waving at him through his large window in his great room with his cell telephone in his hand. The roaring rain was drowning out Kyle's phone. He reaches in pocket and begins to hear his ring tone "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd -- his theme song.

"Hey, little bro'. Some storm, huh?" Kyle says, while he looks over the neighborhood at the other brick colonials with lights on in all of them.

"Yeah, no kidding. Did you hear that roaring sound in the woods on the way up here?" William asks, as he walks away from the window toward the large flat screen television, which is tuned to the Weather Channel, in the living room.

"Nope, you know you can't hear anything with the soft top in a rain like this. By the way, I sent everyone home early at the office. The power went out and the streets were floodin'. The parking lot had six inches of water in it easy," Kyle says, while he watches a river form in the street from the runoff from driveways and downspouts from all the residences.

"I heard on the news that it was bad. I am surprised we still have power up here. How did everything go today at the office," he says while watching the weatherwoman pointing to green blobs on the weather radar.

"Same old, same old. Frank sold the shopping center to an out-of-towner for ten less than what they were asking. We made 15 on that. Some other sales people got some calls. But, after the rain came it was all over. Hey, I bet you wish you bought that generator when I got mine. You said you would never need it," he says, as he walks into the house and heads for the refrigerator for a beer.

"Very funny. You know I would never buy something like that. I don't have a place to store it, and besides it is too loud and smells when you use it. I am surprised you're home. I figured you would be driving that Jeep through some high water somewhere," he says, while shaking his head and glancing at his brother's house with the Jeep in the garage and the thirty-foot Coleman camper in the driveway.

"I sense a little attitude. No hard feelings, bro'. Before it gets worse and the power goes, do you want me to bring over my smelly, useless generator for you and the kids? I bet the kids would get scared in the dark. I can put it the back of my oversized Jeep that easily could cross the river that was our road," he says with a grin and then he takes a long drink from his Bud Light in a bottle.

Laughing, "Thank you, Kyle. That is nice of you. I think that would be a good idea. Will you need any help?

"No, you don't need to go out there. It's real bad. Besides, I can get it in the Jeep on my own. I will be over in a bit. Just open the garage for me. You need anything else?" he says while finishing his beer.

"No, I think we have all we need. Luckily, Sarah went to the store today, so we have food. See you in a bit," William says.

Kyle disconnects the call, sets the phone on the counter, and grabs another beer. He takes a long drink and heads back to the garage passing his sliding glass patio doors.

Through his speckled doors, he overlooks the creatures from the hellish pit striding from the forest through his neighbor's yard toward their deck. They walk up onto the soaked deck. One of the beasts without a single hesitation raises a gnarled branch and strikes their patio door, shattering it. The brood strolls into the regal brick home and searches for their first kill.

Within minutes, they come upon a medium built man with glasses, investigating the din from the kitchen. The littlest monster wields back an arm and hurls a rock. The rock strikes the nerdy accountant directly on the bridge of the nose. His face erupts in blood. He falls to the floor, groaning. Two creatures jump on his back and begin to beat him with rocks in both of their clawed hands.

The rest of the clan searches the house for others, their claws clicking on the hardwood floors. When they find his plump wife fleeing down the hall with a phone in her hand, the littlest one chucks another well-placed stone and strikes her in the temple. She tumbles to the floor. A demon scampers to her lifeless body and raises a thick limb. It strikes her. Blood sprays along the wall. It strikes her again and again, while the remainder of the team scours the house for more prey. When they find no one, some of the team drags the bodies through the yard, skipping over the growing cracks in the yard and into the woods to the abyss while the rest head to the next house on the street.

The rain pounds the roof of Kyle's garage and beats the pavement while he shuts the back door on the Jeep. The din of the rain conceals the horrors next door. He jumps up into the Jeep, checks his mirror, and sees William's garage door opening. He starts the SUV, shifts into reverse, and backs down his driveway. The Jeep enters the road and makes a wake in gentle flowing water as if it was a boat in a river. Kyle steers the Wrangler up William's drive without taking his eyes off the reflection of the garage in the mirror. He stops, turns it off, and depresses the parking brake. Rain immediately cascades down the windshield blurring the picture of his house and the others, shrouding his view of the beasts strolling toward the next house.

Kyle hops out of the Wrangler and hurries into the garage. William meets him at the back and opens the door, and they retrieve the gas-powered generator. They briefly discuss a plan and begin setting it up. While they tinker in the garage, Sarah and the kids quickly stop out to say hello and the kids hug their uncle. As they are working, the power goes out and Kyle must get a flashlight from the Jeep. In the dark and the rain, they finish and Kyle pulls the cord, restoring limited power to the house. Kyle wipes his brow with his arm while William pulls a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his. The rain falls, the generator roars, and nightfall draws closer while the dregs from hell stalk the isolated neighborhood of the wealthy and elite.

While the men worked, the brood has cleared out two more houses and now stalks a house on the cul-de-sac. Leaving the door open for the exhaust, Kyle and William enter the house and head down to the rec room in the basement. A television, radio, and a small fridge already reside downstairs. Sarah brings down some blankets and pillows to prepare to ride out the storm, as if they were camping. They soon begin watching TV and playing pool.

As the sound of billiard balls breaking for their first game echo up the stairs, the demons march toward William's neighbor's house with a sledgehammer they took from the Wilsons and an ax they lifted from the Callahans. The little one now has stashed its ammunition of stones in a large purse that could pass as an old newspaper boy's sack if not for the zebra design on it. The squad of death nonchalantly strolls up the front walk and up on the front porch. A beast raises the blood-encrusted sledgehammer and shatters the door jam and lock. They enter to kill again.

The kids lie on the couch and watch "Shriek" while Sarah reads the most recent Danielle Steele novel. William breaks to begin another pool game while Kyle retrieves two beers from the refrigerator upstairs.

Kyle cracks open a beer and strolls out into the great room to check on the storm. Peering through the torrential rain, he watches the water cascading down driveways and flowing down the road, which looks like the swollen river he crossed earlier with waves now breaking its concrete banks and spilling over into some yards. Then he glances up at the house and notices something odd.

The front door of the Wilsons' house next door stands wide open. He glances down to the Callahans' and sees their door open as well, and so on down the block, dark rectangles into which the heavy rain disappears. He feels a sense of panic rising in his chest, a tightness that makes it hard to breathe. He slowly looks over his shoulder toward the basement door and the giggles of the kids.

Something is wrong here. I have to tell William without Sarah and kids finding out. We need to find out what is going on, Kyle thinks while walking slowly back toward the basement. It takes all his concentration to construct a façade of calm. He does not notice that the Wilsons' house is leaning toward his.

Kyle walks down stairs and hands his brother the beer. He shoots a quick look to the couch. Sarah and the children are not looking.

Kyle whispers, "I need you to come upstairs with me and look at something."

William notices the strained expression on Kyle's face, leans over the pool table toward him, and in a concerned tone says, "What? Is there something wrong? This is not like you."

Kyle stands up straight. His uncharacteristic nerves cause him to speak louder than he needed, "Sorry, but I couldn't find your gas can for the generator. You will need to come show me where it is at."

Before William can say anything, Kyle grabs his arm and pulls him toward the stairs. Seconds later, they stand in the great room, stunned, staring at the gaping doors of the houses. William points out the broken windows in the Callahan's and some undetermined debris in the drive of house on the cul-de-sac. William reaches for his cell phone. Gone. He left it in the basement.

"Kyle, call the police."

"Use your phone. Mine is at my house."

"Mine is down stairs."

"Go get it!" Kyle snaps.

Stunned at his brother's attitude, William explains "Calm down, why don't you? It's on the table next to Sarah. If I get it, I can't come back up here. If she asks what you are doing, tell her you need to call someone. Then, come back up."

"Ok, good thinking. That is why we designated you the brains of this operation," he says with a nervous smile while he heads for the basement.

Kyle reaches the top of the stairs and takes a deep breath. He puts on his classic smile and strolls down the stairs. He strolls behind the couch and picks up the cell. He flips it open.

"Kyle, can you please call your girlfriend upstairs. I am reading and the kids are watching their movie," she says with a typical mother's glare.

He nods to acknowledge her request and slips up the stairs. Staring at the phone's display, he walks through the kitchen and into the great room. While dialing, he reaches the window before he presses send and looks up to find his brother gone. He lowers the phone.

"William, where did you go?" he whispers. He leans to look around the corner toward the foyer.

A stone whizzes by Kyle's ears, rattles off a wall and ricochets into the next room. Kyle ducks. He looks over his shoulder to see a short, sneering demon. It reaches into a striped purse to grasp another stone. Kyle looks down at the cell and searches for the send button.

"Where's 'Send'?" he shouts at the phone.

He glances at the miniature fiend who now has cocked his arm back with another stone. Behind it, a taller creature walks through the kitchen with a sledgehammer in a clawed hand. Kyle turns and runs into the foyer. A stone glances off an oak railing and clatters around the hardwood stairs. He staggers into the living room.

Forgetting about the phone, he worries about his brother, "William! Where are you? What the hell are these things!"

William whispers, "Over here. Keep it down. I don't want Sarah and the kids to come upstairs."

Kyle looks down the hall. Hiding in the closet, William peeks out and waves to his brother. Kyle looks back to the foyer and hears the clicking of the creatures' claws on the wooden floor. They draw closer.

"You are trapped. I am not going in there. They will get both of us," he says and gently slides the cell over to the closet. "Just press send. I am running to my house. I am getting my gun."

William shakes his head, "No. They will get you. Get over here. Hide in here."

But Kyle has already turned and sprinted to the far window in the room.

The two beasts enter the room. The short one cocks its pitching arm again and lets another rock go. This one finds Kyle in the middle of the back.

Kyle arches his back, staggers, and stumbles into the wall.

The sledgehammer welding creature starts for Kyle with the rest of the clan filing in behind it.

Kyle glances back to see the brood growing in numbers. He retrieves the Tiffany lamp from the coffee table. He tosses it through the window.

The brood hisses and sneers. They reach out for him. They leap at him.

Kyle jumps up and out the window. He falls on the wet ground. He clambers to his feet and sprints across the soaked yard.

He glances over one shoulder at the window and sees arms and legs flailing as their squirming bodies jam in the window frame. The broken glass scrapes and cuts them, but they do not seem to care. When he twists the other way toward the house, he sees William through the front picture window, sneaking down the hall and looking back toward the living room with look of terror on his face. Kyle peers harder through the downpour to see Sarah and the kids coming out of the basement, looking around in awe. William hushes them and points to the garage. Kyle checks his pursuers. He knows what he must do. Lure them away.

He waits for the first demon to tumble to the ground and begins to shout and wave, "Over here. Come and get me!"

He runs out into the raging river that once was a road. The current surprises him and nearly knocks him down. He wades toward his house in murky water almost to his knees. He looks over his shoulder to see sledgehammer demon step into the water. Kyle marches onward. A high-pitched screech comes from behind him. Kyle's skins crawls as the primal shriek draws away. He glances back to see it thrashing, as it is swept down river toward the hill. The remainder of the brood stands on the curb and watches their member be carried around the turn, down the hill, and out of sight.

Kyle walks up his drive and stands, staring at his adversaries. They glare at Kyle. He grins and waves them to chase him.

"Come on you ugly beasts. Kill me!" Kyle sneers and begins to walk up the drive backwards, not taking his eyes off them.

Now, let's see how dumb these things are, he thinks. All I need to do is to get them to follow me to my Glock, and I can use these things as target practice. Thirteen rounds to a clip, two spares loaded and ready to go -- I'll teach these buggers to bring stones and clubs to a gunfight. And if it doesn't go my way, at least William and Sarah will have a chance to escape. He looks at the demons; they look at the rushing water, sniffing at it, striking it with their miscellaneous weapons, as if they expect it to part like the Red Sea.

Kyle glances over to the garage, moving only his eyes, and sees his family wandering around like lost dogs looking for their master. All Kyle could hope for was that William would look in the Jeep and see the keys still in the ignition.

Come on, William, Kyle thinks. You should know me well enough to know that I would leave my keys in the Jeep. It was in your garage, in the middle of the second Great Flood, for chrissakes -- nobody was going to steal it!

The demon clan stares at each other as if they were having a conversation, but with the storm, Kyle cannot hear anything -- not that he would understand their language. They look back at the house and then to Kyle and point at him.

The stone thrower slings the zebra bag over its shoulder and climbs on the back of the largest demon with the ax. They clasp hands and enter the furious river. They look up and sneer and hiss at Kyle, as if to say, "Gotcha!"

Kyle grins back and sees his plan working. Either they will be swept down the hill or his gun will kill them. He resumes his slow retreat, luring them to his house.

They wade past the half waypoint.

Kyle reaches his open garage door. He waits.

They leave the water and zebra bag climbs down from his perch. Kyle waits. The rain pours.

They begin to stalk up the drive.

Kyle takes a couple of steps back and comes even with the door that leads into the house.

The ax beast takes the lead and sprints up the drive with its claws clicking on the wet pavement.

Kyle darts for the door.

The ax demon swings.

Kyle pushes through the door and slips and staggers across his kitchen. His shoes slip on the floor and he slams into the counter. He hears the beast prying the ax from the door jamb and runs through the dining room.

The clan creeps behind ax demon and fill the kitchen.

Kyle sprints up the stairs to his bedroom, where the Glock and spare magazines wait in a hidden compartment in the bedside table.

Ax demon tilts its head, as a dog trying to hear, and follows Kyle's footsteps. With its bloodstained ax, it gestures foreword. The stone thrower sprints ahead and reaches the stairs first. It reaches into the zebra bag for its next rock.

BANG! The back of its head explodes and a black liquid splatters over the wall behind stone thrower. Its lifeless body collapses to the floor, as Kyle stands atop the staircase with his Glock extended in a shooting range grip, left hand gripping his right wrist. Blue smoke curls from the barrel.

The clan halts in the dining room. They hiss. They raise their bony arms over their heads and -- scream. A battle cry from the depths of hell.

Kyle's skin crawls again. He shudders and shakes of the chills. He creeps down the stairs with the gun still extended -- shaking -- but still extended.

Ax demon peers around the corner and sees Kyle and his gun. He waves his squad to retreat.

Kyle takes a few more steps.

The clan reaches the patio doors, and ax demon shatters the windows. They exit.

Kyle swings the gun around the corner and aims for the patio doors. No one.

He slips up to the broken doors without lowering his weapon. He takes a quick glance and sees the pack lurching across his yard toward the forest. He steps through the doorway and takes aim. Then he notices something and lowers the gun. In the distance just beyond the tree line, Kyle sees through the downpour what is left of his neighbors, the Wilsons, Callahans, and others. His neighbors stand awaiting the rest of the pack to join them. Shuddering, Kyle staggers back through the doorway. He flips the safety on the weapon and leans against the jamb to gather himself. He watches the clan disappear into the rain and depths of the forest. He stares at the gray mist and hears a slight roar in the distance.

He looks up and notices his neighbor's house is leaning toward his. He peers over the railing of his patio and sees the earth is cracking and sliding toward the woods. He slowly looks up and sees that the forest is collapsing in upon itself and that the field is sliding toward the forest.

SNAP! CRACK! He staggers back as he watches the house next door collapse into his. The loose siding and beams are caught in the cascading water and swept away. His side yard is erased by mud and the water from the road rushes in like raging rapids in a canyon. Kyle turns and runs through the house and out the front door. He leaps off the front porch and sprints for William's garage. He high steps across the road and staggers up the yard into the garage. He finds everyone huddling in the back of the garage with William holding a pick-ax.

"Let's get the hell out of here. The hill...The hill is falling...a landslide!" Kyle shouts, as he waves them toward to the Jeep and opens the rear door.

Everyone hops up into the SUV while Kyle shifts it into four-wheel drive. It revs to life and he squeals the tires as he drops it into gear. As they turn onto the road, they watch Kyle's house slide away from the road and toward the forest, as if it was a ship heading out to sea. As they head for the hill, the entire neighborhood slowly drifts on an ocean of mud toward the abyss, which is now a consuming vortex of mud, wood, and shattered lives.

He drives down the hill as fast he feels comfortable doing. When they reach the bottom and the bridge, they find it covered in mud and fallen trees. The other side of the bridge was completely flooded. The river has broken its banks and inundated the lowlands along the river basin. Kyle creeps up to the bridge, and with a grin that he directs toward William, he slowly crosses the bridge, the Jeep climbing over the fallen trees and pushing through the mud. Minutes later, the Jeep carries them through the floodwaters to town, away from hill with an evil heart.

THE END


© 2011 C. B. Lovas

Bio: During the day, Chris Lovas works in a dark, isolated warehouse where "They" walk among the living -— ghosts, that is. During the night, he writes in a safe, warm home with his wife and three sons. His work has also appeared in The Absent Willow Review.

E-mail: C. B. Lovas

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