Chapter 2

On the other side of the kitchen there was a skeleton of a man, his skin stretched tight on his bones was near transparent.  He was naked, covered in dirt and he stood there on the other side of the center island.  He was fighting with Sarah.  He was pulling at her clothes and when he saw exposed skin, he bit down.  Already her arms were red with blood from where he had taken chunks of her flesh.

Lizzie stood in the doorway frozen. She had no clue what should she do. This wasn’t possible. They were there to check out the house she just inherited.  There was nothing in the lawyers description of the place that said there would be a crazy, naked man attacking them when they went there. The house was hidden back in the woods. It was supposed to be the home of a reclusive hermit of a man who had once been her uncle. Nowhere in the description was there mention of a crazy man who would eat them.

Her mind felt like it was going into overdrive while it detached itself from her body. Why couldn’t she move? She stood helpless watching Susan’s clothes torn away. Tears streamed down her own face, but she was trapped in her own body listening to Susan scream. She couldn’t breathe, her lungs burned and she watched as her body struggled to betray her as it desired nothing more than to turn around and flee.  

Neither of them saw her there as both were turned away. Lizzie could just run right back out the door and leave this craziness behind her.  It would be easy. She could run to her car, call the police, and drive away. The realtor and the crazy man could have this place, she would leave and never come back.

Something told her that if she did leave, there would be no escape. Her mind would always be locked in this room, in this moment, and even though she would be away from this place she would still be there. Someday,, she new she would have to come back. There was no getting away…

Why, and why did it matter now?

It didn’t. She had to do something. This man was tearing her friend a part. She had to… do what? What could she do?

She looked around the kitchen for anything she could use.

The man ripped a large chunk of Susan’s shoulder, the flesh pulling away, stretching before tearing like paper being pulled a part. It was then that he turned to Lizzie. He grinned at her, his teeth covered in blood as he gave her a wide tooth filled smile that seemed to large for his mouth. He had too many teeth and all of them looked sharper than they should have been. Red drops dripped to the counter top and he bent over licking them. The blood smeared, and more of it was now streaked along the counter as he continued to drip.

Sarah must have felt the change in attention as she made a burst to get away. She took three steps before the man’s thin arms wrapped around her and pulled her back. He turned her so that she was facing Lizzie and now Lizzie could see her blood covered, tear streaked face.  Strands of hair were stuck to it, and there were patches from her forehead where he had pulled some away.

Almost as though he could read her thoughts, he reached up and grabbed another handful of hair, pulling back hard until it ripped away from the scalp.  He licked it as it came free before stuffing it in his mouth.

“Just let her go.” Lizzie said.

Sarah cried harder, “Please, just please,” she sobbed.

The naked man didn’t speak. He never spoke. He just kept his gaze on Lizzie, flashing her that large red toothed smile. He stood there, watching her. Sarah struggled to get away but she couldn’t break from his grip. He was stronger than he looked.

“I don’t know what to do.” Lizzie said as she looked to Sarah, pleading. “Please, let her go.”

Sarah shook in his arm, trying to kick her foot back into the man’s exposed testes. He held her too tight, and pulled her in closer to him, forcing her off balance. Her knee hit the corner of the counter and before she could register the pain, the naked man pulled Sarah back harder by the hair. She let out an earth shattering scream as more hair was pulled free as she slipped.

Lizzie watched as her friend started to fall, held by one arm around her chest and another on her long hair. The man grabbed more hair, sensing that she was getting away and both her arms where grabbing at his to push it away.

“Please let her go,” Lizzie said again, her voice trembling with fear. The man kept smiling at her, cackling as he would pull harder, then relax his grip as she would pull away. She wouldn’t make it very far as his grip would tighten and Sarah would again get yanked back to him.

Those eyes. That laugh. Lizzie knew she would hear that sickly cackle for the rest of her life as the nightmares would never let her forget it. 

The man didn’t take his eyes off her, and Lizzie found herself pulled into them. Time slowed. His laugh grew louder and rang through her head like a bell, a church bell chime that with every dong in time with her heartbeat. One naked man became two as her vision doubled. Yet somehow she still watched him, the true him, and those hollow, dark recessed eyes.

Time passed but it was lost on them. He had her as well, but it wasn’t in some death grip. He was in her soul, and she could feel that darkness spreading. A chill ran through her as her insides grew cold. It was in her bones, her blood, and it was spreading getting closer to her heart. It would freeze her completely if she let it. 

A scream rang out. She wasn’t sure if it was from her or Sarah, but her vision pulled back and she saw both of them again. The naked man was nodding at her, that smile never disappearing, but he turned from her and looked at the prey in his arms. He licked the blood from his lips and momentarily closed his eyes in relish, his head lifting for a moment as he showed to be in pure bliss.

Then in a flash his eyes were open and alert and he was studying Sarah.

Lizzie knew she had to do something. What!? What could she do? She could rush him, she had to rush him. That naked disgusting form had his friend. If she hit him and they toppled over, then her and her friend could beat him up, or just run away. They could get out of her.

On some level, that rational brain of hers was trying to convince her that she needed to do it. She needed to attack this man or she was never going to get friend back. If she didn’t her friend would be gone, probably dead or worse. 

What was worse?

She knew what worse was. There was living after life was taken from you. That half life of existing after some thing like this defiled you. She knew that. She was studying psychology after all. She knew what this did to the living corpse left behind.

Why hadn’t Susan and Lizzie taken those rape prevention courses at the ‘Y’? They had both talked about it, knowing that it was always a possibility, especially being young girls on a college campus. They lived where every woman needed to be on constant guard of rape as every year multiple attacks would happen and not go reported. It was believed that colleges were a breeding ground for sexual predators and they were prime bait.

Why hadn’t they gone?

Because, there was always another study group, or another drink with a friend to go to. There was always something that they were doing, and who had time to start dedicating to some class at the ‘Y’. They could always do it some other time. It wasn’t like it was ever going to happen to them.

But now here it was. It was going to happen to them. 

The man continued to study Sarah. He had pulled her close and was smelling the hair in his hand, then biting down on it. He noticed that Lizzie was still studying him and spit it out to nuzzle up to Sarah’s neck and lick the tears that were spilling down.

Sarah was whimpering in his grip. Her eyes closed. She would occasionally twitch, trying to pull away from him, but it was obvious the fight was out of her. 

The laugh got louder. Lizzie wasn’t convinced it even came from the man as it felt like it was echoing through her head. It was misplaced as he was over there and she heard how clearly that voice cackled in her thoughts.

“Please.” She whimpered as much to hear her voice against the sound of his.

The laughing intensified and her forehead throbbing with its rhythm. Stars formed at the edge of her vision, and the pain pushed in as she tried to pull her focus from the naked man and look at her friend.

Sarah was covered in sweat and blood. It had melded together and was running from her scalp where there were now visible patches of exposed scalp.  Her shirt had been torn, and the naked man had exposed one of her breasts. He was grabbing at it violently. There were cuts from his nails from where he had squeezed too hard and more blood now smeared her exposed flesh.

We’re not going to get out of this alive.

Lizzie felt her legs give out. She lowered herself to the floor and kneeled there, raptured by sobs at what was happening to Sarah. She couldn’t watch anymore and buried her face in her hands.

Sarah screamed. Lizzie heard her fall. She landed hard and Lizzie had heard the ‘plop’ as flesh hit the tile floor without trying to catch herself. The bastard had probably thrown her down. Lizzie couldn’t look to see. She knew Sarah would be on the other side of the kitchen island and there wouldn’t be any way for her to see if she was okay.

What did it matter? They were both dead. Why did it any of it matter anymore?

If she could turn into a puddle of tears and sink right there into the floor she would. Enough tears came, she thought she would soon be in a puddle. They just kept flowing, and she felt her shirt getting damp.

She didn’t get a chance to lie down there and die when she noticed that a shadow was looming over her. It must be her turn. He was there for her.

She looked up and he was there. His member was dangling between his legs, its thick shaft was purple and she could see where there were cuts along it. Flesh had been torn away in some places, and the meat underneath was exposed. She was surprised that it was brown and ash gray underneath. It was a foot away from her face, and as disgusting as the torn piece of meat was, she couldn’t get past the intense smell of decay that emanated from it. 

She didn’t want to look at it, but found it harder to turn away and study the rest of the man. She had been so terrified by his blood soaked mouth before, but now she was looking at him differently, having to look up at him, and with how close he now stood, she saw more of his deathly state. 

He had scrapes all over his body, some of them still bled. The dark splotches that were all over his body she had mistaken for dirt were under his skin. It was like some kind of infections or bruises, and they made what was his ash white skin take on these unearthly patches. Maybe it was dirt, but somehow under his skin? It looked like scales with thin white lines that crisscrossed his skin. That didn’t make sense either…

When people say ‘what kind of rock have you been living under,’ they were referring to him. He looked like he had crawled out from under that rock but while he had been under there, had died and they forgot to tell him he was dead. 

He cackled and reached for her, grabbing her by the back of her head and was pulling her closer to him. She knew what he would want her to do and fought against him, pulling her head back. Again she was surprised by his strength, this time feeling it for herself as she wasn’t able to stop herself from being pulled in. The stench grew worse. Rotten meat. The wreak of it twisted her stomach and she could feel the vomit touching the back of her throat.

This really couldn’t be happening. How was it? Why did this  have to happen to them?

The tip of his penis twitched. 

Oh God, don’t let him get hard.

Then she watched as a small white object protruded from the head. It emerged and wiggled back and forth almost like a finger beckoning her closer. She was already close enough that she could see lines, circular lines around the body, like it had segments to it. The part that had first emerged was larger and she thought she could see a large opening. Is that a mouth. Oh my Lord is that…

Is that a maggot?

She’d never been this close to one, but was sure it was. It withered its way free, and fell onto her chin.  

“NO!”

She felt the scream push through her until it exploded from her lungs into a rush. It slammed into the man, and the pure intensity made him step back, releasing her as he stumbled.

Inside her something was different. She snapped.

Lizzie wasn’t thinking about what she was doing, she just did it. She attacked. She pushed herself up and in one motion pushed out with her hands. It connected in his chest and she felt his sudden shift as he lost his breath his balance. He fell back and she persisted. He hit the counter, keeping him upright but he was dazed, stunned by her blow. She followed up with a knee to his groin and he made an audible gasp as he bent over. 

She didn’t stop. She brought her hands together and brought them down on his back. He fell to his knees and then collapsed to the floor. 

Lizzie stood there, watching him. She was panting, not realizing how much exhaustion went into beating someone up, but she had done it. She had stopped him.

She wasn’t sure how long she stood there feeling proud of herself. It was longer than she should have, she knew that much.

Sarah! She needed to check on her!

Lizzie hurried around the counter hoping to find her friend okay. She saw the blood before she came upon the body. The blood had become a river flowing in the cracks toward the open back door. Then she found that lake of red around her friends head. 

Lizzie was sure she would never forget how her hair was all wet and matted in the pool. She couldn’t help but think how upset Sarah would be when she saw herself in the mirror because it was matted and Sarah couldn’t go a second with having her hair not perfect. There were lumps of it that were drenched and had turned her sunlit rays of blond into a dark red mush.

She needed to do Sarah’s hair before she woke up. That’s what she needed to do.

Lizzie lowered herself down, keeping her legs together and staying poised like a lady when she looked at Sarah’s eyes. They were open, looking out into the distance.

They didn’t blink. Not even when a fly landed on them. 

Then she noticed that some of the blood was coming out from the side of Sarah’s eye. Half her skull was caved in there making her face not even. That shouldn’t be like that. And her mouth… her jaw was ripped away and there were teeth missing… her smile, she was going to be pissed. Sarah was relentless about using teeth whitener so she had that super sweet, innocent as cherry pie smile that often lured in guys.

She had to get Sarah out of there. She wasn’t going to be happy, but maybe the doctors could do something.

Lizzie reached forward and pushed on Sarah’s shoulder.

“Hey, we gotta get out of here. I need you to get up.”

Sarah didn’t move. Lizzie thought about trying to nudge her friend again, but she didn’t have time for this. Sarah needed help, but Lizzie didn’t think she could carry her. Would she be able to drag her?

So much blood. It was going to get all over her shirt and jeans, but she had to do it.

She reached forward, trying to grab Sarah’s shirt top, adjusting her balance while also trying not to step into blood. It was tricky, and she didn’t realize until she tasted the iron as it filled her own mouth that she was biting her lip.

Sarah’s shirt was wet, but Lizzie got a good grip on it and pulled. Sarah slid on the floor, streaking through the blood and allowing more of it to soak into Sarah’s blouse. As she moved across the tile, there was a scraping sound and Lizzie tensed at how loud it sounded in the stillness that had descended on the house since she had knocked the naked man down.

She stopped. She had to as she was losing her balance pulling her friend and feared she would fall on her butt and then her own jeans would be covered in red. 

Damn why hadn’t Dennis come out there with them? Sure, Sarah and Lizzie were friends with Jessica and Dennis was just the boyfriend, but he was useful. When Sarah had needed someone to carry her new mattress up four flights of stairs because the elevator was out in her apartment complex, Dennis had done it. He had complained for the last two flights of stairs, and gotten irritated with their giggles and jibes, but he had done it.

Who else would she get to move a dead body when she needed it?

No! Sarah wasn’t dead. She couldn’t think that way. She just needed to get her out of there and go for help. They needed to find the police and get them out there before the man woke back up. He could regain consciousness at any time, any noise could do it. 

She listened to her breathing. It sounded loud and raspy to her. It was deafening. She tried to control it and breathe easier, but her heart was racing. Her body was betraying her. She wanted to keep quiet, still as the house around her, but every part of her seemed to cry out in betrayal. Her ankle popped as she reached forward to grab Sarah again and she winced.

The man would be waking soon. She pulled on Sarah again and that scraping on tile screamed through the kitchen. Lizzie looked at the man, worried he would be waking up.

He was staring at her. That smile had returned and he was lying there on the ground watching her. There wasn’t even any sign that he had been passed out. Had he been watching her this whole time?

“Come on Sarah!” Lizzie reached forward and pawed for clothing. “I need you to help me here. Get Up!” 

Her hands couldn’t make purchase throwing her balance off.  She didn’t fall back though and had been able to push off, standing as she stumbled back until she hit the wall to regain her balance.

The man laughed at her, his cackle echoing off the linoleum. She didn’t turn to look, to see that blood red smile, but it didn’t help as her eyes stayed locked on Sarah.

The cold dead eyes that confined to stare at Lizzie. Lizzie had never seen a dead person’s eyes before. She hadn’t thought there would be a change, that the eyes would look the same if someone was alive or dead, but that wasn’t true. No matter how still someone is, there was always some movement to the eye, a twitch or a throb as blood circulated through the corneas. 

Only the dead remained still. Sarah wasn’t moving.

She heard something sliding on the floor. She didn’t turn to look. She diipdn’t have too to know the man was pulling himself towards her. The image of his blood filled mouth, the maggot that slithered from the tip of his penis, all of it was already burned into her memory. Another look in his direction would only be another nightmare she would need to avoid.

Instead she turned from the man, turned from her friend and ran out the kitchen door.

Chapter 1

“This place is a mess.”

Lizzie felt her stomach flip as the smell of the room wafted over her. She looked around the front entry way to the cabin and agreed that her best friend was right.  This place was a shithole. Sarah had never been one to mince words and was known for being extremely blunt.  Which is why when she said this place was a mess, Lizzie had to wonder why she was being so nice.

“Yeah, it sure is.”

“And what is that smell?  It smells like.., did your uncle have a cat?”

“I’m not sure.  He might have.”

“It smells like urine.”

“Oh my God, he didn’t piss all over the place did he?  If we find piss stained furniture, I’m gone.”

Lizzie took another step into the room, herself trying not to gag as the smell was overpowering.  Did her uncle have a cat?  The lawyer hadn’t said anything, but there really hadn’t been too many details. It had been a quick meeting. Her Uncle Michael had passed away and as she was his next of kin, inheriting his house and money. 

She was surprised when the lawyer had told her just how much money.  She didn’t know much about her uncle.  He had stayed away from her family while she had grown up and her dad had only talked about him in passing here and there, but the stories were always tinged with a sadness. She could tell her dad never like to talk about him.  She had no clue where he had made all his money.  It hadn’t been from working as the little she did know was that he hadn’t had a job in over twenty years.  So even without working he had owned a house, a car that had hardly been driven in the twenty years he had owned it, and still left her nearly half a million dollars.

Lizzie still couldn’t believe it. As she stepped into what was obviously the living room of the small house, she thought about how she had just gone from about to being evicted because she couldn’t pay her rent two months in a row to now having a house and a small fortune.  It had come to her just as simple as taking that next step into the room.  

Though looking at the room around her, it was impossible to imagine that someone with all that money lived there.  The couch and lounge chair both looked like they were as old as the house and there were clear indentations in the fabric of where he liked to sit.  The floor had garbage wrappers and discarded boxes from microwave dinners and pizza boxes.  There was a spot where the tv had once been, but as there had been some kind of explosion, the wall was blackened around the clear rectangle shape, a ghost of what had been there.  She guessed that under the piles of newspapers there would be the coffee table, but she was afraid to touch any of it to find out.

“So how much do you think to have someone come in here and just nuke all this stuff?” Sarah walked up behind her, having checked out the room directly opposite. Sarah was her roommate, though if Lizzie moved into the house now that she owned it, a house, she finally owned a house, the thought still amazed her, she wasn’t sure if Sarah would join her.  It wasn’t like they would still be living in the city and it was a forty minute drive to get back.

It would be rough for her if Sarah didn’t stay.  Sarah was like a sister to her, though she was the blonde to Lizzie’s dark auburn locks.  Sarah was the beautiful one and Lizzie was the normal bookish one or Sarah was the Yin to Lizzie’s Yang. Lizzie didn’t have too many people she could still count on besides her brother, and it was hard, near impossible to talk to him.

What was she going to do if Sarah stayed in Steven’s Point?

“I have no idea.” Lizzie said as Sarah stepped around her over to the table buried in the far corner.  Lizzie hadn’t noticed it at first as there was mounds of books and papers surrounding, nearly burying the cheap brown wooden tabletop. How much stuff could her uncle really have, but as she approached the far corner, she could tell these papers were different.  Maybe it had been what had caught Sarah’s attention.

She was right, as she saw Sarah picking up the first of the loose discolored pages and then looked back at her.

“What’s all this stuff?”

“No clue.” She reached down at another stack of pages and touched it.  The paper felt course and brittle.  She was afraid to pick it up, but it was hard to read even though the words were large.  It was all hand written stuff, but as she scanned the different texts she could tell the penmanship of various authors.  Some of it looked like it would be easier to read as they were written in large block letters, but some were going to be a challenge as it was in small cursive strokes.  It all looked extremely old.

“Was your uncle into satanism?”

Lizzie looked over at the page Sarah had in her hand. There was a large six pointed star with each point touching a surrounding circle and beneath it was drawn a man. The print by the man was very large making sure there was no doubt when it had been written.  The man was meant to be ‘the sacrifice.’

Lizzie saw Sarah visibly shudder as she dropped the page back onto the pile and she shared her friends disgust. The house alone was disgusting, but she couldn’t imagine her uncle being into that stuff as well. Though she hadn’t known him.  Just what else were they going to find in the house? 

“Lets hope not. I don’t want to find some hidden room in the basement where he did all his blood sacrifices.” Lizzie said.

“Yuck! Maybe thats where that awful smell is coming from.”

“Sarah!? Now you got me worried we’re going to find a closet full of dead animals or something.”

“Hey, are you going to keep the house or just get rid of it? You have plenty of money now, why not buy a condo in the city?”

Lizzie thought about that as she stepped around the large lazy boy chair that was center to the room. The room was dark, and in doing so, she hadn’t seen a spot where something had soiled the carpet until she stepped in it. She looked down and saw something dark smearing up around her shoe and she grimaced. It was so dreary in here, why did she think she was going to keep the house?  Sarah was right, it would be so much easier just to sell the house and then she wouldn’t have to worry about losing her friend.  

She made it to the window and pulled the curtains open, hoping that a little light would make the place not so depressing. That was a mistake.  One tug on the curtain and the curtain rod above split in half, both sides collapsing to the floor in a pile of tattered cloth and dust. She coughed as the dust attacked her lungs and she had to step back.  

The room stayed dark despite the bright sun outside. The windows she had tried to reach were both painted black and in places there were boards nailed into the sides. 

“Why would your uncle do that?”

“Maybe he was a vampire.”

“You think.”

“Haha, I have no idea. My dad had said he was crazy.”

“I am starting to agree with him.”

Lizzie went back to the short hallway in the entryway. She couldn’t take the cramped room anymore and there was still more of the little cabin to explore. With any luck the front room was the worst of it. It had to be right? Since that was the room he had spent the most time in…?

After a few deep breaths of clean air, enjoying that they had left the front door open, she went into the other room.  It was what many would use for a dining room, though it had shelves into the walls and fancy plates decorated those shelves, dust covered any designs. The rest of the room showed no trace of it having been used for dining purposes as the table in here was missing all the chairs. More papers littered the room and the table was spilling over with piles of books. Many piles had already given up and there contents collapsed to the floor to now be covered in dust where they fell.

“Hey you, don’t be doing that?” Sarah rushed to join her in the room and they both stood around the room. Sarah was looking at the shelves. “Why did he have those?”

“What?, wait, what did I do?”

“You left me behind. I don’t want to be in here alone.” Sarah leaned down so she could get a closer look at the plates. “I never took your uncle for the sort to have nice stuff like this.”

“He used to be married. Maybe those had been my aunt Cynthia’s?”

“Really?  Like he had been normal once?”

“I guess.” She tried to recall some of the stories her dad had told her about him, but there hadn’t been many.  “Cynthia had passed away before I was born and I know it had been shorty after they had gotten rich and stuff. Then he’d bought this house I think. I think he bought this house for her and stuff as it had been close to her family.”

“So like, her family lives around here?”

“No clue.”

“Huh.”

She really did own this house now.  It was so weird to think about.  She had a house, and she had money.  She could pay off her car and her student loans.  She could even buy a new car, not that cheap piece of junk she was driving… She could get a nice car, something really flashy.  After all, she had all that money, why not spend it.  

Of course, the lawyer had advised her that some of it would go to taxes and there was some kind of payment she would have to make for getting the inheritance. Still with all that, she still had more money than she could have made working most her lifetime. 

Now she could have some real fun. She could get rid of this house, or just keep it and buy more houses. Maybe thats what she would do, start buying houses and renting them out. She could become a real estate mogul like Donald Trump. No, not like him, she didn’t want to be known for being a douche and eventually she’d probably have to kick people out or stuff.  

But she could do stuff. She could really do things, she no longer had to worry about paying her cell phone bill, waiting for it to get turned off before making a payment arrangement to give her that little more time to come up with the money.  She didn’t have to worry about all the bill collectors as they called trying to get the power bill paid or the gas bill.  Her cable wouldn’t keep getting turned off because she didn’t have the money to pay it.  Hell, she could probably buy the cable company and be done with it.

Okay, so she didn’t have quiet that much money, but she had a lot.  What was she going to do with it all?

It was so odd. When her parents had passed away, they hadn’t left her with much.  Her dad had been sick for so long and most their savings had been lost to paying the doctor bills. The house was in foreclosure when they had both died in a car crash, so the bank had taken it. Their life insurance policies had been a bare minimum, left overs from her mom’s work and had been just enough to cover funeral costs.  

It was hard thinking about that. They had been gone a couple years now and still as each day passed she still thought of them. She wanted to call them, tell them about the good things and bad that happened. She craved to hear the sound of her mother’s voice as she scolded her for spending to much on her latest trip to the bookstore. As much as it had hurt when her mother would nag at her, she missed it, knowing that each time her mother came down on her it was all because she loved her and was just trying to take care of her the best way she knew how.

Then there was her dad.  He had been such a gentle man, and a good man who had always been there for her.  Even when it would upset her mother he always had her back.  If he happened to visit her in the city and see that she was low on food, or the more often nothing but moldy old left overs, he would sneak her a few hundred bucks when her mom wasn’t looking. When her power had been cut off because she couldn’t afford to pay the bill, he had gone behind her back to the power company and paid it.  

He had been her keeper, her confidant, her rock she had always looked up too.  Now they were both gone, and she was left with only this damn house and the money. She wouldn’t have to worry about the power bill any more, but what she really wanted was to just have that one more phone call with them.

“Hey, I thought Jessica and Dennis were coming?  What happened, Dennis couldn’t keep his pants on this morning?” Sarah asked on her way through a swing door on the other side of the room.

“I don’t know, they were supposed to show up to meet us but then Jess called saying they weren’t coming.  I think Dennis’ dad came up.”

“Uh-oh, more lectures from Father Tony about the dangers of pre-marital sex.” Sarah’s voice was muffled as the door swung closed behind her.  Sarah never seemed to understand that Lizzie couldn’t hear her when she walked to other rooms and now Lizzie could hear the muffled sound of Sarah continuing on.  Lizzie didn’t need to hear it to know what she was saying.  Dennis’ father, Father Tony as they liked to call him was a Catholic priest who always lectured them all on their lifestyles.  Thankfully they lived hours away so he didn’t come up to visit their friends too often, but when he did, they were all in for his sermons. 

“I never know why he is so hard on them.  Everyone knows they are going to tie the knot.  They’ve been together since before Roland and I broke up.” Lizzie said.  She made sure to talk loud enough for her friend to hear as she was focused in on one of the plates.  It was different than the others.  It had a black tarnish to it and the gold that ran the edge was almost glowing red.  It drew her in and she couldn’t help herself as she neared it and was reaching out to touch it.  The dust didn’t settle on it like the others.  He must have handled this one more often or actually spent time to clean it.  There was an image on the front of a woman dancing and as she watched, she could have sworn that the woman was moving in the light, that she was turning.

A scream came from the other room, breaking her out of her reverie. It seemed strange. She heard the scream, and knew it was coming from the other room. Logically it had to be her best friend, and the scream sounded terrified, so Lizzie had to wonder why she wasn’t reacting. Somehow she felt detached from herself. 

It took her a moment to fully pull herself back into reality, away from the scene in the plate. She shook with the world around her coming back into focus. It felt like she was sucked back into the world around her with a large popping sound. The plate falling to the floor shattering as she turned from it…Then she found herself running. Quickly, she burst through the swinging door and was stopped immediately on the other side, her mind trapping her as she was unable to comprehend the horror of what she saw.

Prologue

He could smell his own feces as the smell wafted around him. There were clumps of it from where he defecated himself, his resolve to keep any decorum of decency having long vanished. This was him now, alone, lost and forgotten, dwindled to nothing, and covered in his own shit. He was shit, and he was just waiting for this godforsaken nightmare to finally be over. 

Even the flies were dead. Everything around him, it was all death and decay. The flies that came to hover over his shit were all now corpses among corpses along the floor. 

He wept for them. Jesus wept for us all, and he wept for flies dead on the floor.

It’s not just the flies. Everything that gets near you dies. Who gives a shit? You are a plague of death cast upon this land.

“Tick-tock, tickety-tock, soon I’ll be dead and left to rot. Who gives a fuck about what is left upon this world.” He said aloud but in the small kitchen where he sat behind the island, he was alone. Always alone. It didn’t take long before the alone man started having conversations with himself and it became the only conversations he had. 

He laughed as he looked at the fresh pile of shit, still warm from having just left his anus. The wreak of it was already mixed with the stench from the other piles, unable to be distinguished upon them.

“This isn’t you…”

He heard the voice and knew it was among of the many voices he heard every day. Some of them yelled at him, others demanded his suicide. Some voices spoke softly and tried to offer him solace. He recognized this voice as one of them, as it was the voice of his long dead wife. 

She was always worried about him. Was he eating enough since her death, was he bathing? If she could see him now, she would scream in revulsion and yell at him to get dressed. He should take a shower. She would be horrified at the shell of what he was.

She had never known the real him. The him that he would become. The covered in shit creature that sat upon the floor would disgust her and drive her away. It would drive anyone away. It has already driven away his sanity, the little of it he had held onto.

“Get out of this house. It has become your curse. Get out of there.”

“Yes,” a chorus of voices shouted, “Come out of there. Come out to your death. Let us tear you apart.” 

“Demon”

“Asshole”

“Death dealer!”

“Murderer!”

The last name. The one that was the most apt for what he was. He killed people. The house was his sanctuary away from death and killing though he knew better… The dead never stayed away. He could hear them for Christ’s fucking sake. 

“Ignore them. Get out of the house. Take a walk in the woods. Get away from this.”

They would always be there, waiting for him, waiting until he could take it no more and would finally make that final walk? What was he waiting for? What reason did he have to keep going on like this? It was torment. Why should he suffer for so long? 

He couldn’t think of an answer. Some days he had one, but the more his mind slipped away, the more the reasons went with it. Why didn’t he walk out there? Who cared what was waiting for him? 

Pain, yes… Toment, yesss…. But eventually death, and with it, escape. All he had to do was get up, walk out that door, and that would be it. Death, and then escape. He just needed to stand up and walk out that door. They were waiting for him. Death was waiting for him. What did he have left to sit there for?

He stood, finally accepting that now it was time. He couldn’t remember what it was that had kept him waiting for so long. Seemed like it had all been a waste when it could have been over so long ago…

2022…

So here we are, 2022… And Dead Friends has still not been released. Still only a rough draft languishing in writer’s purgatory as I have still not finished the rewrite and sent it off to my editor for publication… A lot has happened in four years, and I apologize for those who have been waiting for my next novel with how long this has taken.

And so, I am reaching out and asking for your help. Keep prodding me, keep me sane, keep me working on it. I have 15 chapters so far that have been re-written, with 30 more to go.

I’m going to start posting the rewrite up here chapter by chapter, week by week. With how long it has taken to finish this book, I’m sure there are plot holes that I am missing, and mistakes I’m making. I’m hoping that you can help me find them as we work through finishing this book.

I’m hoping that you will read through and provide feedback, let me know of issues as they come up. Don’t hesitate to comment and let me know how you feel the book is coming. I look forward to your thoughts and feeling as I work to finish it.

I’ll admit that it has been hard for me finish. So much of the world h as been upended for me over the last three years and so it has been hard to stay focused. I hope with your help, that we can keep me on course and that by the end of this summer, we’ll have the rewrite done, and I can send it to my editor and have this released by this time next year.

I thank you all for your help.

-Jason