Note: This story is an entry to the Derpyspaghetti/Dark Humour Contest

It is also part of an ongoing sequel to Doorway to Darkness series

Subject: Last Moments

The d’ Macabre library had leaded windows of clear glass squares bordered by gold and red stripes. Light from the outside filtered through tall rhododendrons, giving the room a greenish tinge. The windows would have been very attractive, had they been clean and free of spider web.

The books at some time in the distant past had been neatly organized by categories and alphabetized by author. Over the years the books had moved around, climbed down from the shelves and piled themselves on the oak flooring. They were either in untidy stacks up to neck high or lying flat on shelves and cantilevered out in improbable architectural arrangements.

The dust and clutter were overwhelming; the chances of even finding the book you were looking for was minuscule, but that didn't matter. You were sure to run across five other books which were not what you were looking for but were much more interesting and fascinating than the ones you were previously looking for.

It was now eleven and Darcy’s Ovaltine had gone stone cold, but the bogie drank it anyway as a kind of punishment. Lately, it seemed he was the subject of endless punishment; first, his rather abrupt and embarrassing break-up with Reema Zolliffe; then having to babysit his so weird and demanding and recently “living-impaired” cousin Bernie Weinstein; then Griffon, his overly-smart Zimak math tutor, was now missing-in-action (presumably eaten by the monstrous unknown thing that knocked at the back door several hours earlier, nearly scaring them all to death).

He drained the cup and slammed it down hard on the oaken table, hard enough it should have shattered. It didn't shatter, though, didn't even crack. So he slammed it down again and this time, it shattered. It made a noise like a gunshot before the fragments instantly reassembled themselves in a shower of gold sparks. Frustrated, he then slammed shut the book he was searching through, disturbing its thin coating of dust.

“Crud,” he wheezed between coughs. “Been here like two hours searching for an undead cure, and it feels like twenty years!”

Someone thumped him hard on the back, nearly slamming his head into the table.

“Geeze, I’m fine!” he yelled, thrusting a blue clawed hand away. “No need to get medieval on me!”

“Ah! Sorry!” Bernie raised his hands placatingly as he backed away slowly. “Just trying to help.”

Quills bristling, Darcy thrust a scrawny thumb over his left shoulder. “Well, how about being a better help and go search that far corner over there?”

He waited until the fire demon sheepishly shuffled to the shelves before hollering, “Tulla? Tulla? Where’d you go?”

“Yo, I’m in the loft going through the stuff you got up here,” Tullugaq’s voice sounded from an open door at the far end. “You said you wanted some old scrolls on obscure spells and healing magic.”

Darcy nodded. “Oh, yeah. Right. And did you find them?”

“No,” came the reply, “but I found something else just as interesting.” A series of loud crashes and curses followed, and a few moments later, Tullugaq clambered out of the loft door.

“You know, you really should do something with all that stuff up there.” The Churcka rubbed her shin and dust-smeared nose. “Not only is it a fire hazard, but one wrong move and you end up getting buried under boxes and junk.”

“Sorry about that,” Darcy sighed, “I’ll get Andy to do something about.”

Tullugaq gave him a puzzled look. “Don’t you have any other servants besides that Sock Monster?”

Darcy gave a deep sigh and shrugged. “Well, we used to have a lot of servants,” he muttered, “but they all quit.”

“Quit?” said Tullugaq. “Why? Because of the disappearing rooms?”

“Because of Andy eating them?” joined in Bernie.

“No,” Darcy scowled at him. “It wasn’t because of the moving rooms or Andy having appetite issues. It...” He rubbed his hands over his thin face and through his quilled hair. “Look, just forget it...sorry I brought it up in the first place.”

“Darce? If whatever’s bugging you...” began Bernie.

“Forget about it!” said Darcy testily. “Anyway, it’s all in the past now and no longer important....” He then turned to Tullugaq. “So what’cha got that’s so important?”

Tullugaq frowned, but didn’t try to push the subject. If Darcy had a secret to convey, it was a decision he would make in his own time.

She took the newspaper stick from under her arm and set it down in front of Darcy. “Page five.”

The bogie picked it up and looked it over. “The Crow’s Nest? But this is a tabloid paper.”

“Not a tabloid,” said Tullugaq defensively. “Truthful journalism. It’s written by ravens, birds of great wisdom and of prophecy. My totem by the way.”

“I thought the owl was the wisest of birds?” Bernie asked.

Tullugaq snorted and rolled her eyes. “Unless they’re spirits or witches in disguise, your average owl is about as bright as a forty-watt light bulb.”

Bernie cocked an eyebrow. “Oh yeah? Well, what about pigeons then?”

Tullugaq rolled her eyes. “Hmph, even your average rock dove can fly circles around the so-called ‘wise old owl’ of the woods.”

“Well, that’s great to know,” said Darcy, trying to regain control of the conversation. “But I’m still trying to see what so important about page five.”

Tullugaq sighed. “Well, go on then. See what you think.”

Darcy frowned as he flipped the yellowed pages.

Missing Local Girl Last Seen With Mysterious Man

Police have unearthed fresh facts connected with the disappearance 17 days ago of former kitchen maid--Lucille Simone-Hervey.

On the day of her disappearance near the Haverhinkle Wood, she was seen alighting from a coach with a young man who had paid her fare.

They went into the woods together and since then no trace of Miss Lucille Simone-Hervey has ever been found.

Although she was employed at the Moffat Boarding House, she didn’t live there, rather preferring the Old Yarbro Place as her permanent address.

“We didn’t want her living there,” says Rose Moffat. “Too out of the way and then there’s the bad history swirling around that place what with that Yarbro elf artist turning up dead and looking like one of them dried museum corpses. But in spite of what we and others would say to dissuade her, she insisted on making that pesthouse her home; said it was nice and quaint with no one around to poke fun at her singing. She always wanted to go into show business, the poor thing.”

Yeah, poor thing indeed, Darcy thought as he studied the grainy photograph. The closest thing to show biz for you would be in a slapstick act. Probably getting smacked with pies and sprayed with seltzer bottles.

In Lucille’s round, uncomely features, he saw every kid who’d ever been bullied since elementary school. Every kid who didn’t have a sharp wit or strong will, who was a total miserable loser, a doormat and punching bag rather than the most popular, socially suave ones. He knew because he used to be one of those pathetic types, until he grew a thicker skin and learnt how to punch back.

The article continued on with a lengthy segment of her life prior to her disappearance. It read like the plotline to a dime-store tragic melodrama. Abandoned by her beatnik parents to a dragon of a grandmother who, convinced that Lucille needed some firm discipline, packed her off to an elite boarding school in Montpierre. A shy and socially-awkward child, she was bullied relentlessly by both staff and fellow pupils. Eventually, she managed to escape this bastion of cruelty, and went to live with her widowed aunt in Port Bognar.

Although not particularly bright with her lessons, Lucille was hard working when it came to chores and running errands. Eventually at the age of thirteen, with her aunt’s encouragement, she entered service as a maid to another middle-class dragon, Lady Marjorie Zolliffe.

“Only two years working for that tyrant?” Darcy muttered. “Surprising she lasted that long. Hhhmm just turned sixteen shortly before she went to work for the Moffats. The same age as I when she went missing.”

“Yeah, I heard she wanted to begin a career as a music hall entertainer,” said Tullugaq, scratching her nose. “Then make it big on Broadway.”

“Was she any good?” Bernie asked.

“Heck no!” Tullugaq shook her head. “Heard she had an absolutely dreadful voice, kind of like a loud squalling sound like a goose, especially when she tried to sing. Really sad when you think about it. Here was this simple gentle soul who got lost in a dreamworld of fame and fortune and might have lived longer had she stayed a simple drudge.”

Darcy squinted at her. “Well, how do you know she’s actually dead? She could have just walked away from everything and changed her identity. I mean, who wants to be a drudge the rest of her life? I know I don’t!”

“Believe me, that Lucille girl’s dead,” Tullugaq told them. “Just like those others that went missing earlier.” She pointed to the last section of the article. “Proof.”

Proof of what? Darcy scowled at the print. Foul play? Don’t you need a body or a large bloodstain for that? Yet when his mind went back to what had happened to Bernie, a slight chill ran down his spine. Supposing Bernie wasn’t the only victim of a zombification attack. Suppose somewhere deep in Haverhinkle Woods, there moldered the mortal remains of eight other people. Great, he thought. Just what we need right now, more freaking zombies!

He skimmed through the part telling about the dark history of the Haverhinkle Woods. Yeah, yeah, Undead Leshy probably responsible for turning an eccentric elf artist into a dried stick of jerky. Bladdie-blah, everyone knows that jazz already.

Darcy then scanned the section--INQUIRIES HERE

This is part of the Commonwealth-wide search which is being made for her. Local detectives have started inquires.

According to the report from the Port Bognar police department, Miss Lucille Simone-Hervey had left the Moffat Boarding house, Bellamy-Street at 7 P. M. on Dec. 21 for the farmer’s market.

An hour later she was seen to leave a coach at Lower River Crossing.

She was in the company of a young man who had been seen to pay her fare and carry some of her groceries.

His identity has not yet been established, but the police have a fairly complete description of him.

The girl was wearing a black woolen dress, a long dark coat, a straw boater hat, black stockings, brown work boots, a dark colored petticoat, and white wool gloves.

She had a brooch in the shape of a terrier fastened at the collar (a gift from her grandmother).


The man seen in her company was between 18 and 20, 5‘9 ft in height, approximately 60 lbs. He had short curly blonde hair and was wearing a khaki-colored waistcoat with notched lapels, a white shirt, a patterned puffed cravat, brown, knee-length knickerbockers with thin red and blue squares, a brown newsboy cap and argyle-patterned wool stockings.

“No," Darcy shook his head in dismay. “It can’t be.”

“What?” Bernie asked, baffled.

Tullugaq put her hands on her hips. “See, what I tell you? Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he came back from the dead as something malevolent...a vampire or a drug.”

Bernie shook his cousin’s shoulder. “Who? Darcy? Who came back from the dead...Well, besides me?”

“Tod Winnokur,” Tullugaq replied, “alias--The Grim Creeper.”

“Why that name?” Bernie asked her.

“Because calling him a ‘mean kid’ would be an understatement,” Tullugaq replied darkly. “Tod Winnokur was a killer croc in elf’s clothing and among his nastier habits was creeping up behind people and dumping bugs and snakes down the backs of their shirts. Even snuck a couple large centipedes into some poor kid’s flapjacks; man, you should have heard that poor blighter scream.”

“Why they called him ‘The Grim Creeper,’” Darcy chimed in, “cause like Baron Death, you never see or hear him coming till it’s too late.”

Tullugaq nodded in agreement. “Ahh-yep, he was this sixth grade sadist at K. WrenChester Elementary. Mostly tormented the fourth graders, the oddballs, nerds and rejects. The populars adored him though because he was super-rich and always playing the coolest kid in school. Never once got in trouble with the teachers, because he was also so good at playing the goody-two-shoes, teacher’s pet role. All the while, he reveled in making the less popular ones live in misery...and this went on even into middle school.”

“I find that hard to believe.” Bernie leaned over Darcy’s shoulder for a closer look. “No major jerk’s going get off scott-free that easily, especially when a lot of people are harboring a what the heck happened to this guy? Did his folks finally got sick and tired of his antics and set him off to military school?”

Darcy rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, he didn’t make it to his freshman year of high school.”

“He got expelled?”

Tullugaq shook her head as she folded her arms. “Nah, someone whacked him or something.”

Bernie stared at her, astonished. “What? Like a mob hit?”

Frowning, Tullugaq shook her head a second time. “Nobody knows for sure. Three years ago, we were seventh graders going into the eighth, and Tod was going into the ninth. We both had to take summer school on account of our ADHA and dyslexia...”

Darcy rolled his eyes. “Tulla, he doesn’t need to know about that part.”

Tullugaq scowled. “Hey, I’m telling the story here!”

“He doesn’t need to know,” Darcy repeated, gritting his teeth.

“Hey, what difference does it make if you have some mental hang-up or not,” said Bernie impatiently. “What I want to know is how exactly did this scum bag die...and if he’s the very same guy in the police sketch?”

Tullugaq gave a baffled shrug. “Well, I don’t know for sure if that’s really Tod Winnokur in the article; for all we know that could just be some look-alike. What I do know is how that slimy piece of worm filth finally bit the dust.”

Darcy cleared his throat. “Uh, maybe you should let me tell him the tale.”

She had her bad temper and he knew she had a tendency to rant and rave whenever it came to the subject of Tod Winnokur.

There was a tense silence.

“Yeah, okay,” said Tullugaq reluctantly.

Bernie sat down at the edge of the table, watching his cousin closely.

“Started shortly after summer break,” said Darcy after a minute. “One of Tod’s cronies, a guy by the name of Jasper Sills, decided to throw this massive house party. Every pedigree blue blood and nouveau riche kid whose name was included on the two hundred invitations that had been sent as well as the several hundred extras that weren’t came flocking to the Puck Hill Estate.”

“Yeah,” said Bernie, pricking his ears.

“Before long, there were all these hover cars, winged beasts and carriages parked up and down the long winding street. Like most high school parties without parental supervision, it was wild, loud and lasted till late in the morning, and during that time people lost track of Tod.”

“So when did they find out about his death?” Bernie asked impatiently.

“I was just getting to that part,” Darcy replied. “So after everyone left, Jasper Sills started cleaning up the mess along with his kid brothers (whom he threatened to take down with him should they dare tattle on him for his party idea).”

“And they found Tod lying underneath all that trash...?”

“Dammit, Bernie,” Tullugaq sighed exasperatingly. “Just listen to the story, will ya?”

“No, no,” Darcy shook his head, “they didn’t find anybody under all the mess. In fact, nobody found out that Tod was even missing till about two weeks later...”

“Two weeks?” Bernie looked at him with wide eyes. “Two weeks? What kind of parents wait around that long to call the police while their perfect Grade-A bully boy’s missing in action?”

Tullugaq made a derisive sound. “Yeah, well, Tod’s folks thought their golden boy was at summer camp, but apparently he bribed some similar-looking kid to go in his place. Nobody even found out about it until the imposter got ratted out by one of his cabin mates.”

Darcy nodded gravely before continuing. “So that’s why it took a while to get the word out, and eventually Jasper had to fess up to throwing that wild party...not only to Mom and Dad, but to the police as well.

“Two more weeks passed and still no sign of Tod, and those that suffered a lot from him and his toadies breathed a deep sigh of relief. There were various rumors swirling around as to the reason of his disappearance. One of the most popular ones was that he got some girl in trouble and hit the road to escape the wrath of her parents.

“Blazing headlines around the Commonwealth heralded the mystery of the missing honor student. There was a massive search underway with lots of volunteers, candle light vigils, fund-raisers with flyers being handed out and plastered on every lamp post and store window, you name it, all devoted in finding this one rotten apple. But time passed as well as money and interest...until finally the search was called off and the story was relegated to the back pages.”

“So no clues, no ransom notes, no leads?” Bernie asked.

“Nothing,” Tullugaq stated. “Nah-da, zip, which was fine by us geeks and nerds. We were all glad he was finally gone for good.” She took off her pearlie hat to rack one hand through her black locks. “Might have been a pretty normal school year too if it hadn’t been for Luis Davis taking that dare from Phillip Brandeis.”

“Dare?” Bernie murmured, looking from her to Darcy.

“Yeah, dare,” Darcy sighed deeply before continuing.

“The school year barely began when these two seventh graders, Luis Davis and Phillip Brandeis, started arguing where the mummified corpse of Ivan Haverhinkle shambled off to. Nobody saw him leave town for the woods; it was like he vanished into thin air.”

“Yeah, I remember hearing about the museum monster heist,” Bernie muttered. “I was cooped up in Aughisky Prison at the time.”

“For what?” Tullugaq asked.

“Trying to steal Dali’s Resurrection of the Flesh in Oozwere City.”

“The one with the zombies?”

“That’s the one.”

Darcy scowled. “If you two don’t want me to continue...”

“No, don’t stop!” Bernie cried.

“Yeah,” said Tullugaq. “We wanna know what happens next!”

“Well, okay,” said Darcy finally. “But not one more peep out of both of you while I’m telling you the rest of the tale.”

“We promise,” they assured him.

“Okay.” Darcy paused long enough to stretch before continuing. “So as I was saying...Luis Davis and Phillip Brandeis got in this big argument about where the undead Leshy escaped to. While Luis thought the mummy was taken by a mad scientist or wizard, engaged in nefarious research, Phillip Brandeis thought the Leshy walked out on his own accord, and is now hiding in a secret chamber somewhere in the dank, dark passages of the Underground.

“Now this thing about the Secret Chamber was already well known long before Ivan Haverhinkle made an appearance. Although the story varied wildly, depending on the individual speaker, there was always an element of similarity.

“After what seemed like ages of descending through a long passage, damp and cold with dripping stalactites coating the ceiling, you finally come to a door. Some say it is of solid oak, while others say thick steel, yet all agree that it was painted a blood-red and a feeling of extreme dread, despair and sadness permeated the area, as well as the feeling of great relief that some immense burden had been lifted.

“There was a single porthole window, its glass encrusted in dirt, mildew and slick lichen. The only clean area was at the bottom, wiped clean by previous visitors.

“Those foolish enough to make it this far and not be caught by the police tasked with patrolling the tunnels always pushed warning aside and peered into the room beyond

“The outcome was always tragic and the same. The tunnel patrols, making their routine rounds, will find the viewer sometimes fallen backwards, but more often frozen in place, hands still pressed against the door, staring through the small porthole. On closer inspection, their faces revealed the results of their curiosity, eyes bulging out while their mouths contorted into a ghastly dead scream.”

Bernie’s teeth chattered loudly as he looked about the cluttered room. Tullugaq meanwhile stood stark still, her hair rising straight on end like a porcupine’s quills.

“Phillip Brandeis ultimately issued Luis a ‘triple decker double dog dare’ and in order to save face and not get labeled a chicken for life, Luis had to go into the Underground and snap a photo of the infamous door.

“Now Luis may have been a bit of a hothead but he certainly wasn’t any fool when it came to descending into the city’s dark and dank bowels.

“So after getting together some trusted buddies of his, they got down to work assembling their supplies and spelunking equipment--much of it they later filched from various relatives or from the nearest outdoor surplus store.

“Eventually the top secret group managed to go deep underground, illegally and unsupervised. With help of stolen maps and street names etched into the walls, they navigated their way slowly through the labyrinth of old caves, tunnels and quarries--much of it filled with the skulls and bones of the dead.”

Bernie’s brows knitted together as he chewed his claws nervously.

“I...I...don’t think I like this story,” he stammered.

“Quiet,” Tullugaq muttered out one side of her mouth. “I wanna hear this.”

“After what seemed like ages of walking,” Darcy went on, “they finally came to a metal access door, heavily coated with rust with a small round window near the the one mentioned in the legend.

“One of the boys quickly snapped a couple pictures and as the flashbulb illuminated the cramped space, they noticed something that shook them to their very core--the door was slightly ajar.

“Oh hell!” Bernie exclaimed. “And was there a monster behind it?”

“That’s what the guys thought until Tris Florence, the only girl in the group--”

“My cousin, by the way,” Tullugaq quickly reminded.

“Yeah,” Darcy muttered with a roll of eyes before resuming. “So she said that 'they were all a bunch of lily-livered wussy willow wimps’ before giving the door a big shove.”

“That’s Tris for you,” Tullugaq whispered to Bernie. “Never afraid of anything.”

“Sshhh,” said Bernie, not wanting Darcy to overhear and be irate.

Darcy, however, continued on without comment. “Everyone drew back, bats and cudgels at the ready, but nothing gruesome came lurching out. Then in the steady glow of their head lamps and electric torches, they saw an iron staircase spiraling towards possibly upper levels.

“Curiosity and eagerness to get back to the familiar surface world compelled them to make the ascent, and after a lengthy climb, they finally emerged through a secret opening in back of a small cave-like fireplace.

“The room they had just entered was vast and every square foot of it was taken up with haphazardly placed piles of antique and vintage clutter and ponderous furniture covered with drop cloths. Although the temperature was uncomfortably chilly, it certainly wasn’t the clammy wet cold of the Underground.

“The thick carpet, old and moth-eaten, felt grotty and gross beneath their feet, and then there was the smell. Faint at first, but as they walked further into the room, it became a penetrating, eye-watering stench. It reminded some of them of the formaldehyde infused frogs that they had to dissect in biology class.

“It was enough to make Luis gag, but he soon steeled himself with the thought that it was probably from some moldy stuffed animal. He took a confident step forward and felt something crunch beneath his feet.

“Sickened, he stared at the massive tangle of both skeletal and mummified remains. Behind him, he heard exclamations of disgusts; apparently the others had noticed them too.

“Clasping his nose against the foul, acrid reek, he studied the rats more closely.

“Strangely, they all faced one direction, away from the piles of clutter and towards the opening in the fireplace. It was like they were fleeing from the something when death eventually caught up with them...and judging from their contorted limbs and knotted together tails, their death wasn’t an easy one.

Rat king, Luis thought, recalling the old legends of writhing balls of screeching, tangled-up rats, the stuff of nightmares since the dark ages.

“Lifting his gaze towards the center of the room, he wondered if the thing that prompted this mass exodus was still there. Forcing himself forward, he started clambering over the piles of stuff. His friends huddled along the edges of the room, pleading for him to stop, but still Luis carried on. Finally he reached the center of the room where the smell was nearly unbearable.

“Strangely, the center of the room was devoid of any clutter...all except for a single chair draped with a dusty, yellowed bed sheet.

“Luis froze where he stood, his blood quickly turning to ice water. Peeking out from the bottom of the sheet was a pair of polished shoes with adjustable buckle straps.

“He knew those shoes. He had seen them plenty of times strolling down the halls of WrenChester Middle School, sometimes planted firmly on the hands of a scared little sixth or seventh grader.

“Carefully, Luis reached out and slowly pulled the sheet off. And what he saw next made him fall backwards with shock. Rushing up to his side, the others soon saw what he had revealed.

“Despite being missing for three whole months, Tod Winnokur didn’t appear to have been dead long. Although the flesh of his cheeks had been somewhat eaten away by rats, revealing some of the teeth inside, the rest of him was surprisingly intact. His mummified flesh was stretched tautly over bone, and it was a blue-gray flesh. With his eyes sunken and closed, he seemed to be asleep. Yet like the rats, his wasn’t a peaceful end.”

“Oh? Why was that?” Bernie groaned as he huddled into a tight ball.

“Because he was riddled with lamia poison,” Darcy answered. “The same stuff that farmer used to kill that Yazdern monster so many centuries ago. Completely soaked in that stuff, that was what had killed the rats and made that rancid stink. Even made his skin turn blue just like that monster in the story.”

“Hecate almighty,” Bernie murmured. “What the hell kind of a monster would do that to a kid? You don’t suppose it’s that undead Leshy again?”

Tullugaq wrinkled her nose as she stared at the floor. “Not unless he could squeeze through a fireplace the size of a rain barrel. I’ve seen photos of that secret door in the newspapers, and I’ve seen that Yazdern mummy on a fourth grade field trip.”

“He was big, this Ivan?” Bernie asked.

“Huge.” Tullugaq narrowed her eyes. “Nearly twelve feet tall he was, covered all over with thick, ropey, spiky muscle. Scared the hell out of me when I first saw him. How in Raven’s name was this creepy freak ever going to fit down in the cramped Underground tunnels let alone through a small fireplace?”

Bernie straightened out of his scared huddle. “So where was this fireplace where the kids came through?”

Darcy folded his hands and at the ceiling before replying. “The attic of Jasper Sills’s residence; apparently Tod Winnokur hadn’t left since the June house party.”

“Bloody hell...” Bernie mumbled.

Bloody hell, indeed, Darcy thought as he leaned back in his seat. Possibly more bloody hell yet to come.

Meanwhile, several miles away into town at the Tyee Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, which was actually a group of rustic and ramshackle wooden rental buildings located at Soggy Bottoms Pasture in the north-west corner of Port Bognar, the brownie Clifford Ratchet was removing some wallpaper…and having very little success at it. For beneath the first layer of wallpaper was yet another thick layer of wallpaper. Beneath that layer, another, this one painted over with a thick yellow emulsion, making it almost immune to the effects of the industrial-strength steamer Clifford had borrowed from his sky smuggler brother-in-law. After about an hour, Clifford was forced to give up entirely on modern elfin technology and resort to sheer brute force and a sturdy craft knife.

When his Churcka wife Marie appeared holding two tall glasses of iced tea and said, "What's that?" Clifford stepped back and was about to say, "No doubt another damn layer of that disgusting puke-yellow wallpaper."

Instead, he found himself saying with a baffled shrug, "Well, I don't really know. It’s old, that’s for sure."

"Looks like some kind of mural," said Marie, being a former artist herself. “Maybe an oil portrait of some kind.” She placed the iced teas on Clifford’s work bench, stepped toward the wall and wrenched away a broad sheet of wallpaper that resembled the thick, yellow, leathery hide of some long-dead elephantine creature.

"What the hell is that?" said Clifford. Then, his voice dropping to a whisper, "Hey, isn’t that that missing maid?”

Meanwhile, next door…

"What’s that?" said James.

Paul just shrugged as he poked at the small pale thing with the stick of bamboo he'd stolen from Don Jones's garden, when everything had been normal.

"I don't think it's anything," Veronica muttered. "I mean, it doesn't look like anything. Not really."

"Well, it’s gotta to be something," said James. "It can't be anything. Can it?"

"Whatever it is," said Paul, still staring, still poking, "I think it's bleeding."

The ear oozed.

Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart
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