Author's note: This is the first horror fiction I’ve ever written (excluding some exercises in middle school and back). Any advice, tips, and constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated, but please do give some supporting details. This is not me being pretentious or refusing to accept bad comments, but me wanting to understand what the readers experience and feel.In the off chance you’re wondering if such a phenomenon is possible, request Part II. Outright revealing my inspirations sucks the fun out of horror and I already have a temporary draft prepared.
“When a ductile material undergoes a tensile, axial load, it experiences a normal stress…” the middle-aged professor droned on. Amanda Mills, the round-eyed sophomore in the front row, casually laid her head into the palm of her hand as she fought to look alert. Why did I pick the boring class to be after lunch? Her eyelids began to weigh heavier.
Buzz. Buzz. The vibration in her jeans continued as her brown eyes popped open. When the professor turned his back against the class, she darted to her phone.
12:41 PM: xXHarperXx has sent you a message.
12:42 PM: xXHarperXx has sent you a message.
12:42 PM: xXHarperXx has sent you a message.
The notifications trailed on and on. Amanda didn’t have time to check the six or so photos her roommate sent her. She flipped down the top menu of her Android and quickly tapped “Do Not Disturb.” She probably is wondering where I am. I’m usually out of class by now. She can wait though. Despite this assumption, Amanda found herself more anxious to leave. All of these tests are making me need to go. Irritated, she returned to her alert-but-bored stance until 12:50 PM.
Amanda fished in her cluttered jean purse for her keys. When her prey was finally caught, she swung the door open to find the usual, slightly disheveled dorm full of basic items and trinkets: two desks, two beds, two computers, scattered pictures of the two students taped around the wall. Amanda felt the familiar buzzes in her jeans. She rolled her eyes and smiled.
“Alright. Alright, Harper. I’ll get there,” she said to the phone.
She laughed to herself. Harper was never that patient, always rushing to things, conclusions even. Amanda grabbed her purse and happily left the dorm.
One of things Amanda loved about central Pennsylvania was that it was totally different than the cities. There were actual forests, wildlife and creeks. Back home, Amanda would go to the roof of her apartment building and pretend the edge was the bank of a river; the busy noises of traffic were crashing waves and rapids. Here, she could really see it.
As Amanda approached the river bank, she kicked off her sandals and flipped her strawberry blonde locks into a bun. Then, she slipped off her jean shorts, letting them fall onto the leafy ground. She sat on the edge of the river and dipped her toes in. The water was a little murkier today, a little greener too. Maybe it was browner? It’s the fall. Who knows what dead plants fell in… Where is she? Did she swim downstream? She never does that.
Amanda stared into the distance, downstream. The wild forest trees stretched out their bare branches like swimmers before a meet. Then, she turned her attention upstream. The brittle, dead leaves rustled and wrestled on the dirt floor. She studied the bleak, abandoned building in the distance. It wore dirty blue and green letters that spelled a once inviting logo: “SureHealth”. I know you like that kind of stuff, but did you really go to that creepy, old place? Silence.
“Harper?” Amanda yelled. Silence.
Oh, screw it! Amanda gripped the soil behind her as she eased slowly into the cold water. The more her legs disappeared into the river, the more she could smell it. A putrid smell, like a mix of rotten meat and used gauze. It filled her head. Amanda wrinkled her nose and squinted her eyes in disgust when she realized, water is odorless. Something slimy gripped her ankle.
Amanda flinched in the water and sent her hand diving for whatever had gripped her. Once her fingers felt the object she pulled hard through the murky mess. The slinky, pale green cord of a stethoscope dangled in her hand. A pair of forceps covered in algae or mold and a dull surgical knife had too slipped in her hand. A tangle of medical equipment? This is a river.
“What the hell—“
“You’re sick.” a soft voice murmured.
Amanda’s head swiveled and her eyes grew wide. Her stomach twisted into tight knots, cramping her. Her lips ran dry, but her mouth filled with saliva as she could barely swallow. Her eyes fixed on the monster standing over her on the bank.
The slender creature stared at the girl with glazed eyes and stood with a slight slump. The thing’s greenish, fair skin was lined with blue veins. Its mouth gaped slightly open just enough to let yellowed teeth be visible. Its left hand was bony and pale, its nails long and fingertips coated with blood. Thin, matted wefts of dark hair dangled from its head.
Amanda eyed the creature and noticed the feature that added an extra twist in her stomach. Its skin was covered in bumps and holes. They were scattered everywhere, like small mountain ranges, on its face, arms, and legs. The fleshy holes bore deep into the thing’s skin, dripping blood from each crevice. Some were like craters. That’s when she noticed it, on the thing’s abdomen. A cluster of swollen, raised, pearl-white bumps twitched and wriggled under the skin. The area was no larger than the lid of a jar.
From under the thin veiny layer, they burst through. Lively, squirming white worms began chewing through the creature’s skin, burrowing through, and blood bubbling in between them. The thing screamed in agony as the colony of maggots created a window for their home. It clutched its side and began clawing at the parasite-packed wound. The nails shredded the larvae into a slimy, pink mess.
Amanda took her chance. In those brief seconds, she darted from the river bank towards the campus’s outermost trail. The thing noticed. It turned its head and raced toward the scared girl.
“You’re sick!” it screeched.
Amanda looked behind her and saw the corpselike thing gaining speed. She darted to the left into a bundle of trees, then right into another. Right, right, forward, left, right, forward.
She screamed in pain. A strain in her leg pained her muscles as she ran, jogged, and then limped. The fresh, rural scent of forest reached her nose. She darted her head all around her…clear. Gasping for air, Amanda rested her hands on her knees and heaved. Once again, slower this time, she looked around her. It was clear alright, even clear of any trails or roads. Damn it.
Rotting meat and used gauze filled her nose again. It’s just a memory, a horrific nightmare. In her moment of rest, she reached a hand behind her and went to rub her sore leg. Her fingertips felt the writhing, slimy bumps in her calf. The bone in her bottom leg felt numb until the more daring parasites burrowed deeper into the tendons. It was then that the muscles felt the sharp stab of the scalpel as The Carver dug deep to heal its sick friend.
Dan was new at the job, but he was young and proud. It showed. His stride was strong and quick, black boots crushing the sticks and leaves below him. His shoulders stood broad and firm and his hand gripped his flashlight. The light swung from left to right, left to right. His left hand held the picture from the girls’ room. Two girls, one with strawberry blonde hair, the other with black. Chocolate brown eyes and pale hazels. He brought the picture to his face once again. A curl formed in the side of his smile.
“Pretty,” the young man remarked. I’ll find them. I’ll save them.
His face was proud too. His mouth pulled tight with anticipation. His eyes burned with eagerness and confidence, but weren’t keen. A slender figure stalked, dark and veiled by the foliage beside the officer. Unfortunately, only Dan’s nose proved alert.
A foul smell reached his nose. It smelled like used gauze and rotting flesh. Dan looked up and noted the hazy, dim blue sky. He pocketed his flashlight. With his now free hand he pulled the collar of his shirt over his nose.
“Oh, God,” he muttered, “What is that sm—?”
“You’re sick,” it screeched.”
The surgical knife dug deep into his back. Dan screamed and fell onto the ground. The creature towered over the officer’s body. The pain spread from the wound, pulling every nerve in Dan’s body tense then numb. The Carver pulled and pulled, slicing his skin with a dedicated fury.
“You’re sick,” it screeched again.
The pulling stopped. An odd shape was carved into his back, some unnamed polygon. The knife dug deep under the carved skin and pushed upward. The piece of flesh loosened and lifted. Strings in the muscle desperately tried to keep itself together, only to be ripped apart during the extraction. A rough, fleshy crater had been made in the body. Blood pooled in the gaping hole as The Carver moved to another area.
“You’re sick. You’re sick…” it kept muttering.
The pain was numbing. Dan could do nothing but wail. His hands clutched the soil as if it would subdue the pain, end the torture. The missing girls’ photo in his hand tore and ripped with every carving. Eventually, Dan’s grip on his grave released.
“All better,” it said.
The Carver stood over its patient and sighed. One could even say its sores didn’t twitch as much. The officer’s body was barely recognizable, shredded. Gashes, crevices and craters covered it, but Dan was cured.
“Amanda…Harper!” a voice called.
The Carver’s head swiveled.
“Amanda…Harper!” echoed through the trees once again.
“You’re sick!!” it screeched.
The Carver bounded through the Pennsylvanian forest, off to cure another patient.
Written by TaylorE628