Episode 3 – Transcendence

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(c) Malicia Frost

[Earlier episodes here]

 

It was the only time she’d seen a mirror at the facility.
Upon arriving at the gates, they took her to the black room.
The room only visited once.
There was no furniture, no light. Only the silvery glass beaming into the darkness.
That’s where they left here alone. To ponder on her hideous reflection, glowing,
leaving a burning impression on her sore eyes.
They called it the transcendence.

She ran her hands over her body.
Her fingertips had gone black and limp from the disease, lost their sensitivity long time ago.
She couldn’t feel the pain, nor the fiery ache. It didn’t hurt as she touched the blisters, pinched every abscess until it cried yellow ichor.
All her features were distorted, the buboes like lumps of wet flour between her fingers.
Her hand rested on her inner thigh for a brief moment.
She bothered not to check.
She wasn’t a woman anymore.
She was a brief thought stuck in time,
between dead and alive,
with only one purpose.
To prevail.

She wasn’t going to take it. Not go out there as a failure, something for the others to laugh at.
If this was her destiny, it was going to happen her way.
She grasped her brittle skin with both hands, dug her nails in and pulled until it came off in huge slices. The buboes had mainly settled onto her forearms, neck area, thighs and the left side of her face. She tore off all of those pieces, threw them to the floor at her feet. Even with her muscles and veins exposed, it looked better without the ulcers.
She may not be poetic.
She may not be pretty.
But she was one thing.
Angry.

It’s what’d made her accept Morthanathos’ offer in the first place. It’s why she’d taken the leap, although she didn’t know where it would bring her. It was why she was still standing upright, heart beating in her open chest, skin ripped off her very bones. She was angry.
And anger would be her guide.
Her only way to face the waiting crowd.
She smiled towards the figure in the mirror as she heard
the hushed whisper, perhaps emanating from the other side of the glass.
“Come on. Let’s go be monsters.”

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So, this is kind of an in-between episode. I promise the next one to be longer and more “writey”. However, having a hard time balancing school/friends/mental illness with my novel progress as well as all my little side projects. Hope you’re still somewhat happy with this. 

Malicia

 

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Episode 2 – Show Time

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(c) Malicia Frost

[Note: This is the second part of my little writing project called Morthanathos Merry Monsters. If you’re not familiar with part one, I recommend you read it first.]

 

Performing tonight

Morthanathos and his Merry Monsters

Live in the flesh

The most hair-raising creepshow you’ve ever seen

Guaranteed to take your breath away

”Ladies and gentlemen, I bid ye the most macabre welcome!”

Morthanathos had entered the stage. His hooded, black cloak swung around his enormous hooves as he moved, emanating a low, thumping sound. The eyes of the crowd widened at the sight of the half-man. He was tall, taller than any human, and utterly horrifying in his full figure.

”Now, I hope ye all took yer calming pills today.” Morthanathos chuckled playfully, his face hidden underneath the dark hood. ”For what we have to show ye may exceed yer wildest fantasies!”

He suddenly changed his voice from the thundering, dramatic shouts into a laid-back one that reminded of a cheerful salesman.

”And please,” he said, pointing down the hallway, ”if ye wish to vomit, do use the bathroom. It’s down on the right. Thank you!” He nodded. ”Now then. About time for an appetizer, isn’t it? Very well. Let me present to ye – the girl of yer most gruesome nightmares. Ye know of whom I’m talkin’, right?”

Waves of motion were spreading through the crowd, people pushing and shoving each other to get a better view. The excitement was building quickly inside the ragged, makeshift tent that surrounded them.

”Oh, all ye heard is true, I ensure ye.” Morthanathos twisted his fingers secretively. ”Born in 19th century London, she fell to the bubonic plague that claimed millions of souls back then. Lost her sanity to the fever. Lost her dignity to the deformities. Lost her very humanity to the ravaging disease! But now, she’s risen from her hospital bed to give us a show we’ll never forget.”

He turned around. The curtain behind him fell as the lights turned around, pointing at the stage entrance.

“She’s wild! She’s ferocious! She’s a fright to look upon! Now give it up for her!”

The crowd pulled a unison gasp whilst terrified cries broke out. A creature had entered the stage. To some extent it still resembled a young girl, but its movements were more like those of a wild animal. She crawled on all fours, moving across the stage fitfully but incredibly fast. When approaching the crowd, the screams increased in volume, people stumbling into one another in an attempt to get away.

”She’s Lympheta!” yelled Morthanathos. “Survivor of the black plague! Don’t ye get too close. Ye don’t wanna catch what she’s got!”

The creature seemed to enjoy the attention it received from the crowd. She jerked at the front liners playfully, laughing as they flinched and pulled back in terror at her approach. She then stood up on two, allowing everyone’s eyes to witness her full, ghostly apparition. The scabbed hospital dress fell to her knees.

The sight of her truly was repelling. Large sections of the skin seemed to have been ripped off, exposing the pink, flushing muscles beneath. Veins and arteries were pulsating along with her heavy breathing. Her face appeared split in half, half of which was still human, half of which looked molten, decomposed as on an old corpse.

But worst of all was her… rib cage. The skin over her chest had long since been scratched off, it seemed, and one could see her very insides – from the tainted muscles, to the bones, down to her very heart which was, visibly, still beating in it’s cage.

The faces of the crowd were all but green as they followed the creature’s sly movements around the stage. She notably enjoyed herself in her action as she screeched and taunted the crowd with loud, hair raising noises.

Morthanathos turned his head around to the backstage and gave a slight nod.

“Release the rats,” he ordered.

In the next second, the stage was swarming with little rodents. Red eyed devils with tick, greasy fur, their tales slithering behind them as they scurried between his legs. Two of them climbed their way up the girls back, taking seat on her respective shoulders. She giggled and kissed them both on their filthy mouths, whereon she let them go with the others, charging into the terrified crowd. People screamed and moved around to avoid the vermin swarming around their feet, the floor seemed to come alive – turning into a waving ocean of fur.

”Don’t ye worry!” the man on hooves shouted cheerfully. ”The plague is quite curable nowadays. But she?” He pointed at the monstrous girl, shaking his head. ”Nothing we can do for her anymore. Poor bastard’s gone feral. She is, indeed, as heartless as seems!”

Simultaneously as he spoke, the girl behind him performed a hideous action. She dug her nails in between the bones of her chest, trough muscles and flesh which parted with a nasty, wet sound, and cupped her very own heart in her hand. Then with a sharp movement, she pulled it out trough the hole in her chest, and held it out like a trophy for everyone to see.

Watching the slimy, pink muscle still beating in her hand, several more in the crowd fainted. Some even started to run for the exit. Still, the majority of the people followed the happenings on the stage with a burning excitement in their eyes. Fear mixed with awe. They were wondering if this was some sort of trick. A staged act. The effects were, although, horribly lifelike.

”Oh why, don’t ye quit on us now!” the man on hooves called out. ”The show’s only just begun! ”Ladies and gentlemen! I present to ye – Morthanatos and me Merry Monsters!”

With that, the music began to play as more creatures entered the stage. The melody was out of tune, twisted and bone-chilling to the core, no less than the performers themselves.

They were a hideous lot, the stuff of nightmares. Some of them lacked several body parts, others had grown such malformations that they barely resembled human beings. Morthanathos joyfully introduced them one by one.

“Bitterbreath!” A young man with a huge chasm in his face, as if someone ran a knife trough it, splitting his skin from one cheek to the other. The tear bared his few remaining teeth and giving him a deviant grin permanently.

“Autopsy!” A hairless creature with stitches covering its naked body, distorting its features. It may have once been a woman, but there were no telling for sure, since it displayed no gender specific organs whatsoever, much like a mannequin.

“Vargas!” A bewildered looking man who still, despite dirt and scars, seemed quite human. Until he pulled up his shirt and revealed a huge set of mandibles sticking out of his abdomen like a mouth.

“Medousa!” A girl with dozens of slick, human hands growing out of her back, slithering behind her like snakes. They seemed to have a life of their own, waving and pointing their fingers at the crowd, making rude gestures and hints.

“Spawn! Crimson! Behemoth!” The list went on and on, one creature more hideous than the other. Morthanathos observed it all and smirked to himself. Once again they’d pulled off a hell of a show. The people of the village would be talking about it for the coming years – if not decades. And if they ever returned to this place, people would surely pay thrice the money to see it again.

Morthanathos’ smile grew wider. Say what you want about death, but it sure was good business.

 

***

 

After the last of the crowd had left the building, Lympheta finally let her grin drop. She turned around and yawned. She was tired. Oh, so tired.

”Good show tonight, eh?” Crimson said cheerfully as he walked by, holding a big cage in his arms. He put it down to the floor. ”Well, summon your little minions, and quick. Morthanatos want’s us to clear out in ten.”

She nodded and sighed. Then, careful not to break any veins, she put her heart back in her ribcage. It’s familiar beating against her bones felt comforting to her. She whistled upon her rats, who immediately came running, entering the cage on her demand. She kissed her favorite two goodbye lovingly before closing it. A piece of fabric from her skirt got stuck between the bars.

”Damn this dress.” She furiously tore it loose, ripping the cloth in two.

”Blast!” She hated the filthy, slime covered hospital gown. It was too short for her to be comfortable in it. And it itched, too.

”I can’t believe he’s making me wear this,” she muttered. ”If only Morthanathos wasn’t so dramatic.”

”It’s part of the business, I believe,” a dry voice behind her said. She turned around to see Bitterbreath leaning against the wall, a smug smile on his face and a cigarette rolling between his bony fingers.

”But boy, do I admire his determination,” he continued. “Turning you from the little wretch you were into this heart-stopping sensation. Pardon the expression,” he added, laughing. “I mean, the whole poor-girl-infested-with-the-plague-now-coming-back-to-haunt-us-thing? You’re really rocking it. No wonder they’re running away from you, because you, my dear, are beyond monstrous. Actually, calling you a monster is an insult to the rest of us. All that flesh… exposed. The way you crawled around on that stage.” He looked at her with distaste. ”You’re an animal. It’s a miracle Morthanatos doesn’t keep you on a leash.”

She turned around furiously and hissed.

”Shut that filthy gum of yours, BitterBreath.”

”Can’t,” he said and pointed at his mouth, where the skin and lips had been ripped off, showing his few remaining teeth. ”See? Impossible.”

”Just get lost.”

“Yeah, knock it off, Bitter,” Vengeance agreed as he passed by, carrying a set of stage lights. The cut-off noose around his badly lacerated neck dangled back and forth with his movements. “We’ve all had a tough week, with Morthanathos making us do double shifts, but this aint helping. Now pack it up so we can get back home.”

He wore an old suit, torn and discolored by time – and quite the amount of dried in blood and mold, too. It was impossible to distinguish its origin. He carried around him a cloud of frowzy odor, an atmosphere of decomposition.

“Oh, great.” BitterBreath turned around and frowned. ”The noble hero’s here to save the damsel, is that it? Whatever you say, Lancelot. I’m outta here anyway. Wouldn’t wanna miss the banquet tonight, eh? I heard Morthanathos has prepared something quite spectacular.” He elongated the last word sarcastically. Then he spat on the floor between his feet and left with sauntering steps.

Lympheta looked after him in disgust.

“I swear he gets worse by every show.”

“He’s just jealous since you took his spot as headliner,” Vengeance said, shrugging his shoulders. “You ask me? You’re a lot better than he ever were.”

“Thanks.” She nervously pulled at the edges of her tainted hospital gown. BitterBreath’s comment made itself reminded in her head and she added: “I didn’t need rescuing. I can handle him on my own.”

“You think I don’t know?” Vengeance asked. “Trust me, you’re the last person I’d consider in need of being rescued.”

Lympheta bit her lip.

“We all were rescued,” she said lowly, then looked down at her feet in shame. She shouldn’t have said that.

”Yeah, but unlike us, he didn’t deserve it.” Vengeance glared at the spot BitterBreath had vanished. ”Whoever ran his face trough with a fillet knife, is my hero.” He gave a dry chuckle.

Lympheta gasped. There was a sudden, sharp sting of pain in her chest as he spoke, and she quickly pressed her hands against it, forcing her traitorous heart to lie still.

Don’t do that.

Morthanathos had rescued her. That much she knew. But apart from that, she had very few memories of her previous life. Every one of them seemed to be pulled from her very last minutes. The unbearable stench. The hospital bed. Her body, slowly falling apart before her eyes. And something more. A tune, a silly jingle that kept repeating.

Ring, ring, ring around the rosies.

“You okay?” Vengeance lifted an eyebrow.

She nodded.

“Look, I need to warn you.” After a moment of silence, Vengeance spoke again. He softly grabbed her shoulder, forcing here to turn around. “I’ve seen you sneaking up to the forbidden section of the castle at night.” His concerned gaze searched for hers. ”I know what you’re looking for. You best hope you don’t find it.”

Lympheta snorted, unwilling to let her uneasiness show.

“And what am I looking for?” she said insolently.

Vengeance’s face wrinkled in pity. He reached out and, before she could react, penetrated the hanging tendons, digging deeper in, and then snapping his fist around her heart. A shiver went trough her body at the intruding touch. He carefully eased it out trough the layers of flesh and held it firmly before her face. She stared at the beating muscle.

“You are strong,” he said lowly. “But your heart is weak. You’d better not let them know.” He gave her a menacing look, then carefully placed the heart back in her rib cage before leaving the room, leaving the scent of blood and mold in the air behind him.

 

So, it took ages, but I finished this piece. What do you think about the story development? Please let me know if you enjoyed this. Oh, and sorry for any possible grammatical errors.

Malicia

Episode I – We All Fall Down

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London, 1899

Outside the children had started to sing. Their voices penetrated the haze of fever, and her eyelids flickered open.

Ring, ring, ring around the rosies,
Pocket full of posies;
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

She groaned and writhed among her dirty sheets. Children, those little angels of death, chattering and crying as they danced hand in hand around the funeral pyre. The warmth of the consumed flesh attracted them, like moths they sought out the only light they could find. If only they could keep quiet.

Ring, ring, ring around the rosies…

She looked around the quarantine room. How long? The fever rendered her clueless about time. She could remember them dragging her through the door, her legs limp against the cold floor. She had been delirious. Crying.

When they stripped her of her clothes, her skin followed. It hurt so bad to be scraped bare. She struggled as her caretakers forced her down into a tub of ice water. Instead of feeling cold, it burnt like fire. Nothing made sense anymore.

She lay in her bed, listening to moans and whimpers. The small room was filled to its brim with patients, the sour stench of disease unbearable. Death itself lingered in the air. This wasn’t a place to get well. She’d understood that in the moment she was brought here. This was a graveyard.

Her days were characterized by the clattering of hooves and the chimes of the brass bell as the body carriage rolled back and forth outside her window. Cling, clong. They dragged out the limp bodies of the deceased, piled them up like firewood on the barrow. Then they drove away before returning to fetch the next load.

And all the time, this odious song.

Ashes, ashes!
We all fall down.

They were waiting for her. Counting her remaining hours. Soon it’ll be your turn. Your fumes shall keep us warm. We’ll breathe you, we’ll eat you.

We all fall down.

She never saw her family. Perhaps they were already dead. Or just too scared to come visit her. The only ones keeping her company were the strange men in bird masks and mantles. They came by occasionally, dancing through the room while chanting incantations, flapping their arms like giant crows feasting on their prey.

She wished for them to go away. They disrupted her sleep.

After some time, she didn’t know how long, men in white coats came to move her into a new room. It was a very lonely room, without any children crying, people coughing, vomiting or scratching rashes. No one came to visit her in this lonely room. Not the doctors, not the bird men dressed in their grotesque beaks. It was quiet, quiet enough for her to hear the rustle of her buboes bursting, the soft moans of flesh falling off bone. She was but an old corpse that no one wanted to acknowledge. Disgusting, smelly, all covered in different kinds of secretion.

On the last night, her skin was so brittle she could dig her hands through her rib cage and cup them around her heart. It was pounding weak and pitiful against her fingers. She held it tenderly like a child, cradled it while whispering the words as a lullaby.

Ring around the rosies,
Pockets full of posies;
You, me,
We too shall fall down.

When the sound of hooves clattering first reached her ears she first thought it was the body carriage, coming to take her away. Panic grabbed hold of her. No, she thought desperately. Don’t burn me. I’m not dead yet! But she couldn’t make out the sound of the bell or the wheels. Only the rhythmic rattling of hooves.

Clunc. Clunc.
She held her heart firmly, seeking comfort.

After a while she became aware of someone’s presence. A voice behind her cleared its throat. She turned her head to discover who it was.

A large, black figure was crouching right on her windowsill. She’d never seen anything quite like it. The creature had the torso of a man, but its legs ended in a couple of sturdy hooves, as on a devil sprung from hell.

She tried to scream, but only a brief whisper escaped her throat:

“Who are you? What do you want?” Her voice was but a hoarse croaking, but her visitor seemed to understand her nevertheless.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” it said with a cheerfully jingling tune and stood up on the ledge. “I am Phantos Morthanatos, macabrian, and I must say that I am fascinated by your wee little talent there. How hideous, yes, how utterly disgusting! I’m sure it would make an impression on the crowd. Perhaps even cause someone in the frontline to faint.” He nodded contently to himself.

Alarmed, she let go of the heart and pulled up her covers to shield her terrible, buboe-coated body from view.

“What are you talking about?” she whispered.

The black figure leapt down from the window shelf and walked across the room. He wore a big cloak covering his face and a matching black coat which twisted around his enormous hooves.

She took a deep breath and thereby almost choked on the slime gathered in the back of her throat. After coughing for a good while she quacked out:

“You are… you are not human.”

The man let out a low chuckle under his hood.

“Much better,” he said. “I may have been once like you, but as you can see, I’ve been given an invaluable blessing.”

She looked at him questioningly. Were he calling his condition, whatever it was, a blessing?

“My only wish,” he said with the cheerful voice which reminded her of a salesman, “is to share this gift with anyone who might need it. Tell me, would you like to be a part of my show?”

She coughed. A blood bubble grew between her lips and then burst.

S-show?” she stuttered, convinced she’d misheard him somehow.

“Yes. You see, I’m the master of a very skillful and auspicious circus.” The man on hooves took a few steps to the left. Clunc. Clunc. She followed him suspiciously with her gaze.

“We are the most sought out show of them all,” the creature continued. “People travel far across land and sea just to see us perform. Imagine it!” He slammed his hooves at the floor suddenly and she flinched. “You, standing in the spotlight! The roar of the crowd beneath! All eyes on you!” He gestured wildly with his long arms. “And best of all – seeing their reactions as you enter the stage. The naked terror in the bared white of their eyes!” He clenched his fist so that the long nails screeched against each other with a hair-raising sound. “To squeeze all their arrogant beliefs out of them. Breathe life into every tale, every forgotten legend of creatures that go bump in the night! Make them fear you! Make them bow to you!”

She stared at him blankly. What kind of a feverish dream was this?

“Are you crazy?” She coughed. “How am I supposed to do all of that? Can’t you see I’m dying? I’m d…” She choked, bending over the edge of her bed. A blood covered lump of slime flew out of her throat and landed on the floor.

“Oh yes, you are. Dying.” The monstrous male nodded, as if the fact couldn’t interfere with his plans. “And it’ll happen soon, too. What is it, day eleven after contamination? Most don’t make it past seven.”

He shook his head.

“A peculiarly strong life force you’ve got,” he said. “But it won’t help you now. You’ll die anyway, just like the others. Die and be forgotten as another nameless corpse in the pit. No one’s going to cry for you. No one’s going to care. And you know what’s worse than all of this?”

He leaned in closer.

“You are already dead,” he whispered in her ear. “To them – ” He pointed at the door. “You were dead in the moment you were brought here. Look, they’ve even stopped coming to check on you. They won’t give you a chance, because they know you’ve got none. They’ve left you here to rot, smeared in your own… body fluids!”

She furrowed her face out of pain and humiliation. It made one of the buboes burst and a drop of secretion hit her chin. She bit her bottom lip hard not to cry.

“Oh, but you’re a fighter.” The creature sounded leery. He took a couple of steps back. “A survivor, I can tell. Your heart craves for vengeance. To lie here, secretly hoping for death? No. That won’t do. You’re not done here. You wish for them to notice you, to fear you. And I can give you the chance.”

He reached out a hand. The forearm was covered by thick, black straws of hair.

She didn’t know what to say. Her feverish brain was working annoyingly slow.

“Are you offering to… to take me with you?” she whispered. “Even though I’m…” She took a deep, gargling breath. “Do you want me like… like this?”

The man laughed elatedly.

“Trust me,” he said. “You’ll score a huge success. All you need is a fitting name. Don’t tell me,” he added rigorously when she opened her mouth. “I don’t want to know your name. It’s all in the past now. I’m not interested in your life or who you used to be until now. I don’t care about the people you’ve disappointed, the boys you’ve kissed or anyone who has ever meant anything to you. From now on, you’re going to be someone else. More accurately, one of Morthanatos Merry Monsters! You’ll like it. It’s so very different from this life. Like being reborn. But I need your consent. Do you accept my terms?”

She lay silently for a while, pondering on the things she’d been told. A new life. A chance to begin again. To run away and… join a circus. Become applauded, maybe even celebrated. Provided that the man was telling the truth, she saw no harm in it for her part. And what did she have to lose anyway? There was nothing left for her here except disease and death.

Outside she could hear the children sing Ring around the rosies again.

She nodded.

“I accept.”

Even though she couldn’t see the mans face, she was certain he was smiling. He leaned in over her slowly. From the shoulder blades two enormous, black sails shot out. Leathery, like a bat. She stared at him in awe and considered she might be hallucinating this, after all.

Other figures appeared before her. Men and women with grotesque deformities in their faces and bodies. Some of them were pure monstrosities. Extra pairs of eyes and arms. Tails. Horns. Tentacles. Tainted, decomposing flesh.

The monsters gathered in a circle around her sickbed, as in a ritual they placed their slimy, bony hands on her covers. One after another. She felt their touch through the fabric, and it hurt, but not in the way the plague had hurt her, no, this was a purifying pain, pulling the sickness out. The wings of the man closed around them all in a chilly embrace and just then the world, as she knew it, ceased to exist.

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So, I hope you all enjoyed this. It’s an idea for a short story I’ve had in my mind for quite some time, and finally managed to post here. This part has been translated from Swedish, so I apologize for any linguistic errors. The next part I’ll write directly in English so hopefully I won’t have that problem.
Please, let me know what you think, and if I should post the continuation here as well!

/Malicia