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Underneath It All

By Torance Devere All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

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Michael didn’t consider himself a bad person. Morality was a fool’s game when it came to survival. Business was business, and nothing was more important than getting paid. Though, there had been instances in Michael’s travels that caused him to question his nihilism. The time he stole his Grandmother’s jewelry box, for example, or the time he sold the family canine to a dog fighter. Those weren’t proud moments in his, neither was this, Michael thought, as his right hand worked the knife and his left pulled at the skin. “Have I reached a new low?” he pondered, amidst the ominous silence enveloping him.

The heat was stifling, and sweat dripped into his eyes, stinging them. He blinked away the pain, but refrained from wiping, as his hands were busy at work. They were also covered with substances Michael wanted nowhere near his face. He had done his homework after accepting the job, and knew the toxicity of embalming fluids. He had also learned that as leftover bile and urine begin to waste away, harmful bacteria spreads to other parts of the body, causing decomposition problems, and turning the corpse into a festering cavity of disease. Michael’s current acquaintance seemed to be having some of these problems. There was a stench so strong and thick that it possessed a fluid-like quality as it rolled over Michael’s tongue, causing him to gag repeatedly. He had read that as the internal organs rot, gases build up causing the skin of the corpse to bubble and bloat, while producing an awful odor. After a time, the body begins to purge these excesses from the nearest available orifice, usually in the form of black or brown fluids. At this thought, Michael’s eyes darted up to the corpse’s head, noting the darkness gurgling out of its mouth. The mortician had sewn the lips shut, but ooze was still managing to escape nonetheless, from gaps in between the stitches. Michael shuddered, closed his eyes, and gagged again, barely keeping down the contents of his stomach. He hated looking at the face, it was the worst place to look, since it gave an identity and memory to this horrible task. The man’s pale features, stitched mouth and eyes, covered with disgusting black tar, would haunt his mind for years to come.

He shook his head, and refocused on getting the job done and vacating the premises. He had cut away the flesh of the midsection as far as he could manage, until the knife began to grate on the bottom bones of the ribcage. He briefly attempted at wrenching the cage open, but soon gave up. Doctors used a combination of bone saws, clamps, and spreaders to open the ribs during surgery. Michael didn’t have saws and clamps and spreaders. All he had was a hunting knife, a cheap dollar store lantern, and the small military grade shovel he had used to get down here. His tools weren’t right for the job, so he was forced to rely on his bare hands. As the mixture of claustrophobia, heat and rotting stench began to make him woozy; he hastened his efforts, reeling at the thought of passing out inside this nightmare.

Michael thrust his left hand through the gash in the corpse’s midsection. Moving it upwards into the chest cavity, he began feeling around for the item which he had been commissioned to retrieve. As he sat there, six feet underground, straddling the corpse of a young man, whose body he was currently desecrating, Michael began to consider the utter peculiarity of the task he had been given. His reflection was suddenly interrupted as his hand closed on the object of his search. He felt a charge run up his spine as he gripped the heart and pulled it from the motionless corpse. But rather than hastily escaping the hole, prize in hand, he held it up in front of his face. Though it was barely visible in the dim light of his lantern, Michael was sure it was glowing. He had expected it to be reddish in color, but instead it was utterly black. So black that it seemed to radiate darkness. His mind began to recount descriptions of dark holes in space that feasted on light, betraying the physical laws that humanity held so dear. He was holding such a monster, and it was feasting on the light inside him. He could feel it consuming his mind. The darkness was all he wanted. It was everything.

The sound began slowly, hardly noticeable. A faint beat emanating from the darkness. As the volume and pace quickened, Michael felt it move in his hand. The tactile sensation sparked a brief moment of clarity, just enough for Michael to question his sanity.

Was it the smells, the chemicals, the heat getting to him?

Could these things be corrupting his mind, overwhelming his senses and causing hallucinations?

It seemed like a plausible explanation given his circumstances. But soon the demonic beating drowned out his thoughts and Michael refocused on the void he was holding, and the cryptic message it was sending. As his eyes bore deeper into the black pulsating thing, Michael could feel his own heart begin to adjust its beat. Soon he was in perfect rhythm with the vile object; he felt himself becoming one with it. The heart was attuned to his being, and it had such wonderful things to show him. He closed his eyes and fell into a spiraling darkness.

Bill was absolutely tuckered. It had been a long day in the graveyard, with back to back, and sometimes overlapping, burials occurring under his watch. During one, the party decided it necessary to start the wet wake early and opened the casket, emptying flasks into their dead mate’s mouth. It had caused a scene amongst the guests, and Bill had to threaten calling the police before the barbarians stopped fighting and vacated the premises. But finally, the day was done, and Bill could sit down to watch his favorite team, the Cats, trounce those ratbags from Essendon. Just as Geelong connected off a miraculous kick, the phone rang, ruining Bill’s peace. It was the local police department. They were sending an officer down to check out some reports of a strange man seen digging in the cemetery and were expecting Bill to accommodate the officer’s needs. Bill hung up, looked over at the screen filled with cheering Geelong faithful, and cursed loudly in his little trailer.

They had been scouring the grounds for a long time and Bill was hoping he wouldn’t miss the entire game. But things were looking up. The officer had his radio out and was reporting that as nothing seemed out of the ordinary, he would be returning soon. Bill’s spirits lifted. Yet, just as they rounded a mound at the very edge of the graveyard, they noticed movement on the other side of the fence. As they got closer, Bill began to hear a peculiar sound. A squelching noise as though some animal was being eaten. They climbed over the 4 foot wrought iron fence, and began to march up a small hill which concealed most of the view. At the apex, they looked down upon a ghastly picture. A man, covered in dirt, was hunched over with his back facing them. In the side of the hill, Bill could see the hole which the man had obviously emerged from.

“Hello, sir, are you okay?” The officer asked, seemingly oblivious to the moment’s uncanny nature. The sound of his voice startled the man, causing him to cease grunting and slowly turn to face them. As he moved, Bill began to see black gunk running down the man’s arms and chin. In his hands, the man held a large black thing that looked like a heart - a half-eaten heart, by Bill’s estimate. Bill’s eyes darted back and forth between the hole and the man, in disbelief over the realization growing in his mind. He looked at the man’s eyes, which were already fixed directly on his own. Bill’s mind was flooded with images of cannibalism, bodily dismemberment, and other acts of lunacy.

Bill was terrified, but found it impossible to look away. The man, without breaking eye contact, raised the heart to his mouth and gorged on its dark mass, ripping at it like a starving beast. Faintly, Bill overheard the officer yelling into his radio, but the sun laden world was melting away like a dream. Bill only saw the dark. Sounds of chewing filled his ears. Inexplicably, his stomach began to growl. Bill was nauseous and ravenous all at the same time. He lunged for the heart, tearing a chunk off and shoving it into his mouth. As he swallowed it whole, he felt it beating all the way down. He turned toward the officer. The cravings were unsatisfied, Bill needed more. He bared his teeth and pounced.
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