The Shrine Part 2 (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Fiction, horror
Tags: , , ,

So this week’s Chuck Wending Challenge is a continuation from last week’s. I decided to take on the slightly Southern Gothic start that darkvirtue posted and added my 500 words to it. I hope he doesn’t mind too much me playing with his toys. (Sadly, no one has picked mine up yet. Sniff.)

Shrine

I don’t know why I have come back to this place.  The old two-story building before me has never been a home in any sense of the word.  It was more of a monument of suffering; a temple of affliction with my father as the high priest.  There isn’t a room in this place that hasn’t been decorated with my blood at one point or another.

Now, he’s gone and this house stands as the last testament to his brutality. So, why am I here?  To find any shred of decency and happiness within and rescue it?  Not likely.  That all died with my mother when I was still an infant.  What, then?  Maybe to get one last look around before I sell it off?  Or maybe, just maybe…to destroy this place.

I push the thoughts of setting the house ablaze aside and make my way up the steps to the porch. My hand grows ice cold with dread as I reach for the doorknob. It turns with a metallic grind and I push the door open.  The smell of age and dust and stale cigarette smoke hits me in the face. My stomach lurches a bit with childhood panic.  My skin prickles in remembrance of each and every cigarette burn mark given to me.

I slowly walk in and look around.  Other than a thin layer of dust, nothing has changed in this place in 15 years.  Every piece of furniture, every picture, every memento is exactly where it was when I was a child. Even the bloodstain on the rug in front of the fireplace is still where I last left it; black with age.  I couldn’t say what I supposedly did or didn’t do to ‘earn’ that particular beating. They all ran together like a flipbook of pain.  Each beating was partnered with the threat of much, much worse if I ever told anyone.

No, I still don’t know why I have come back to this place.  It’s serving as nothing but a bruising reminder of my past.  This place was filled with nothing but rage and fear and, in all the years, I never knew why.

Perhaps it’s best that this place and the past it harbors should be brought to the ground and removed from the world.  Just blow out the pilot lights on the stove and let the place fill with gas.  One spark and this place is consigned to Hell.

My footsteps carry me through the rest of the living room and into the dining room. Like the living room, nothing has changed here.  The familiar setting brings forth the past in my mind once more.  I shove aside the fresh wave of memories and continue to the door that leads to the kitchen.

Pushing it open, I stop short.  Within the center of an otherwise unchanged kitchen is a large, round hole. Cautiously, I approach the edge and look down into the void.

It’s too dark to see much beyond the jagged rim of the hole, even with the light coming through the kitchen window. Enough to tell there’s a tunnel of sorts that goes down, and then bends. I sniff the air, catching a faint smell of something sweet and cloying, but I can’t quite place it.

Opening a drawer, I find the old maglight, right where it always was. My skin crawls as I pick it up, remembering when it was used on my back and thighs with less than tender intentions. It flickers when I turn it on, before deciding to stay on.

The hole is big enough for me to move through as long as I’m hunched over. I drop to my hands and knees, crawling on the dirt. I know I’m moving further down, and I try hard not to think of what will happen if the tunnel collapses behind me. To escape that place, only to be buried beneath it… I push the thought away, and keep crawling, dirt getting into my hair, getting under my nails.

Every ten feet or so, I pass wooden braces supporting the tunnel. Someone went to a great deal of difficulty digging this tunnel out, making sure someone would find it. But who? And why? Were they digging up into the house, or did the hole start in the house and someone dug it out? All those years I spent dreaming of escaping, I never thought of this.

The air gets moister, the tunnel getting wider. The flashlight starts flickering again. On, off, on, off. I don’t know how long I’ve been down here, have no idea how far I’ve crawled. Then I start to hear it.

It starts as a soft murmuring, so quiet I think I’m imaging it at first. Then I think it’s the scratching of underground things, but the sound is too regular. The further I go, the louder it gets and the clearer it sounds. Voices speaking, but the sounds too indistinct through the dirt. The tunnel widens again, this time enough I can stand up without being stooped over. The flashlight flickers off, this time for good, but it doesn’t matter now. Someone has hung up electric lanterns along the walls, casting more than enough light to make my way.

The floor has changed too as it’s smoother now under my feet. I shuffle forward, the voices now turning into a chant, though I still can’t understand the words. I’m so focused on where I am going, I almost don’t see the drop off, only just catching myself in time from stepping off the edge.

Below me, expanding out in a rough semicircle is what I can only describe as a shrine. A large rock with a flat top is the center piece, pictures and candles adorning it. Small bones litter the floor, and candles have been set in the walls. Kneeling before the altar are two figures, oblivious to my intrusion.

What I thought was the drop off was the start of a short flight of stairs down. As I start to make my way down, the two figures stand and turn toward me.

 

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