Hi there, everyone!
It's Marcus, putting together my first blog on this page. Please bear with me, as I'm not too familiar with the process. Some of you may know me as the writer behind Razor Kid, which also has a deviantArt account here. I'm looking forward to putting pen to paper and coming up with some amazing stories for the Burnin' Flamez Studio!
So, without any further ado, here's "Dweller in the Hollow", a short horror story I put together a few months ago.
In a boarding school on the east coast, two students discover that there's someone--or something in the woods surrounding the dorms.
Dweller in the Hollow by Marcus Almand
“Drew, wake up!”
At first, I was simply irritated that someone woke me on a school night. It was dark, and I could only make out a vague shape at the foot of my bed, skinny and pale with red hair. My hand groped weakly for my glasses and pushed several books from the nightstand. It didn’t move while I adjusted my glasses. It stood there, staring blankly at me as it came into focus.
“Get up already! What’s taking so long?” Gavin practically shouted then, and for a moment I was afraid he’d wake the entire dorm. The prefects were almost certainly roaming the halls, and if they had an inkling that two students were planning to sneak out, we’d spend the next day reading through black eyes. I ignored him and hopped out of bed. The cold floor bit through my socks as I pulled on my coat. Gavin kept talking, ribbing me for sleeping in on such an important night. I slipped on my shoes and brought my finger to my lips.
We tied our sheets to the leg of our bunk beds and dangled them out the window. Our room was only a story up, so it was a simple matter to crawl out of the window and climb down to the earth below.
“So who is this kid we’re supposed to meet?” I asked, hoping for a straight answer this time. Gavin just smiled back at me.
“You’ll see.” He said.
We left the school grounds and headed for the woods. I was always impressed by Gavin’s resistance to the cold. He hadn’t bothered to bring a coat at all. The leaves were changing and the night was usually covered in a layer of frost at this hour. We passed a few geese that were too stubborn to leave for the winter. I wondered if Gavin would do the same if he were a bird. He was always much more adventurous than me, and in a way I was jealous of his passion. I doubted he felt the same way about me as I did about him.
“Hey, Corey!” Gavin yelled, waving his hands wildly as we approached the hollow. Below, a boy with wild brown hair danced around a fire. He was clad in only the most basic of garments, and his feet were bare. The boy acknowledged neither of us as we drew nearer. When Gavin tapped him on the shoulder, the dancing abruptly stopped. The boy turned to greet us, and when he smiled I saw that he still had all of his baby teeth.
“Corey, this is Drew. I hope you don’t mind that I brought him along,” Gavin’s voice was stilted, but still friendly. Corey hesitated to speak, no doubt put off by my expression. I was fixated on his hands and feet. There were too many fingers, too many toes. I counted six on each hand and foot. My head lifted and I looked into his eyes, though I do not remember wanting to. I thought he would curse at me for having stared at him, but instead he remained silent, motionless. I could feel his speckled green eyes searching mine.
“Pleasure to meet you, Drew,” Corey spoke at last, flashing his miniature teeth. “Are you hungry?”
Corey presented the both of us with an assortment of fruits. I couldn’t get a clear look at what he held in his hands, it almost seemed to change with the moment. Apples, grapes, oranges, and bananas seemed to come and go as my preference for them waxed and waned. Gavin took something resembling a pear and eagerly began to eat. I decided I wasn’t hungry.
Gavin and Corey spent the night in a blissful, almost drunken state. The three of us strayed deep into the woods, hunting for owls and scaring any animals we came across. Gavin tripped and fell dozens of times, even gashing his knee against a fallen log. At no time did he as much as wince. Corey ignored me for the most part, snickering at Gavin’s clumsiness or dancing by himself whenever Gavin would talk to me. It only felt like a few hours, but soon daybreak was upon us. Corey danced deeper into the hollow, but when Gavin and I approached to excuse ourselves, he had already gone.
The next day of classes proceeded as usual. And, as usual, I spent most of the morning classes reading from my collection of famous plays. I didn’t see Gavin again until lunch.
“So, want to go back tonight?” Gavin asked as he sat across from me. The crowded cafeteria was a sea of distraction, howls and whistles crashed against the sound of insults and flying fists. I didn’t hear him at first, too wrapped up in The Importance of Being Earnest. Gavin snatched my glasses away.
“Drew, what’s the matter?” he chuckled, pulling the glasses just out of my reach. “Answer the question. Do you want to go back tonight or not?”
“Yes, all right!” I snapped. “My glasses, if you don’t mind!”
“Here,” he dropped them on the table. “What, didn’t you have fun last night?”
“It was fun, I suppose,” I admitted. “I just felt like maybe you’d have been better off without me.”
“And what makes you say that?” Gavin gave me a hurt look that told me I was misjudging him again. I’d been at this school too long. All of the little Machiavellis I’d encountered my first two years at Redford had made me too cautious, too slow to trust people even when they gave me reason to.
“Well?” he continued, crossing his arms. I hated it when this happened. It always made me feel guilty to know I’d hurt his feelings. In a weird way, I was angry with him for letting me hurt his feelings. After all, he’d brought me along to meet Corey because he wanted all of us to share a fun time together. What did I think he was trying to do? Gain leverage over me somehow? Humiliate me? He hadn’t done anything to suggest that. Gavin never did.
“Nothing, sorry,” I said, glaring down at my lunch. My face felt warm. I didn’t want to think about it.
“So what do you think of Corey?” Gavin asked. His lopsided smile returned.
“He’s a little odd, but it’s all right,” I said, trying to choose my words carefully. “I’ve never met someone with six fingers and toes before.”
“You’re full of it, he has not,” Gavin laughed. “It wasn’t that dark out last night, was it?”
“Didn’t you see them?” I was perplexed at first. It was clear as day that Corey’s hands and feet had extra digits. “It wasn’t as though he was trying to hide them or anything.”
“Okay, you have to come tonight, then,” Gavin said, poking me with his finger. “Want to bet on it?”
“Not really,” I sunk back into my chair a little. “But you’ll see.”
“Drew, I’ve been meeting him out there for over a month,” Gavin reached into his pocket and dropped a few pennies into my glass of milk. “If Corey has six fingers—“
“Twelve, really,” I wasn’t really thinking, just rattling off facts. “He’s got six on each hand.”
“If Corey has twelve fingers,” Gavin continued. “Then you can keep those pennies.”
“You ruined my milk,” I said.
The rest of the day’s classes came and went, and at last it was time for bed. It was even colder that night, with frost blurring the windows as well as the ground. Gavin woke me up, and like the last night, we snuck out of the dormitories in the dead of night to meet Corey in the hollow. This time, even Gavin wore an overcoat and winter boots. The two of us stumbled upon Corey, missing him entirely before he called for us from the branches of an old willow tree.
“Welcome back, Gavin! I see you brought Drew again,” Corey grinned widely at us. I still couldn’t get used to his mouth full of baby teeth. I looked at him closely. He was wearing the same clothes as the night before, and still lacked shoes or socks despite the cold. As I expected, there were six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand. How could Gavin have missed it?
Corey jumped down from the tree, doing a somersault and landing perfectly on his feet. Gavin began to clap. I grinned smugly, knowing I’d won a bet that I honestly hadn’t cared to make.
“Drew, are you hungry?” Corey asked, offering a hand to me and looking into my eyes. I broke eye contact, focusing on his hand instead. I couldn’t tell what he was holding. I tried to look at it directly, but something was wrong. It was as though the object he held was in the corner of my eye, just barely out of focus. Then I had trouble seeing properly; even looking at Corey’s face was like looking into the sun. For an instant, I couldn’t see at all. I was trying to sit down when I fell. My head was pounding and my eyes were full of dots, tender as though I’d just had my picture taken.
“Are you all right?” I heard Gavin’s voice before I could see again, felt his hand on my shoulder as I sat there rubbing my eyes. “Drew, what happened?”
“I don’t know,” I said, blinking hard to banish the last of the dots from my vision.
“You’ll be fine,” Corey smiled, spinning in place and looking up at the stars. “Follow me.”
Gavin and I followed Corey to a clearing near the edge of the woods. Corey didn’t lead us so much as he wandered in circles, dancing garishly over tree roots and hopping into half-frozen puddles. Gavin joined him enthusiastically, even soaking his boots in ice water as he copied everything Corey did. I stayed back, following them from what I considered a safe distance. Maybe they’re just two of a kind, I thought. Maybe I really was in the way.
The clearing was wonderful, I had to admit. It had perfect grass for lying in and an extraordinary view of the stars. I thought about asking Corey whether or not he ever felt the cold, but something seemed to stop me. I’m not sure why I was afraid to ask him. Perhaps I thought Gavin would think it hostile of me to question his friend when I was just a guest.
“Would you like to see a miracle?” Corey asked, suddenly nose-to-nose with me. He smelled of spoiled milk. His eyes flashed into mine, and I felt my body tense up. I tried to shuffle backwards, but I couldn’t move. I wasn’t even in control of my breathing. My nose was stuffy from the cold, and I was sucking in air much too slowly! I was afraid I would pass out.
“Sure!” Gavin chirped, unaware of what was happening to me.
“Watch carefully, then,” Corey continued to keep eye contact with me, smirking as he released his hold on my body. My muscles relaxed all at once and I dropped to a sitting position. Corey’s smirk hardened into a frown. “Did you miss it?”
I was dumbstruck. I didn’t say a word as Corey downplayed his comments as a joke. Gavin seemed to forget all about me. Almost immediately, the two of them took off running and almost left me behind. I could barely keep them in eyesight, and I was out of breath by the time they reached the pond on the west end of the forest. I found Gavin and Corey hopping across the stones that poked out of the water, risking hypothermia or death were they to fall in.
“Gavin!” I yelled. He ignored me and leapt from a flat stone onto an egg-shaped one. Corey danced effortlessly from rock to rock, content to watch me screaming for my friend in vain. I cried out to Gavin again and again, but he carried on without acknowledging me at all. I don’t know when Corey got behind me.
“He can’t hear you. You don’t matter, you see,” the stench of sour milk burned my nostrils. “None of you do.”
I found myself back in the room Gavin and I shared, tucked into my sheets. My face went chilly as I looked at the clock. Four hours had passed. I scrambled out of bed and crept up to Gavin’s bunk, my heart pounding in my chest for fear of finding it empty. My heart stopped thumping, but my stomach squirmed and my hands began to shake when I saw Gavin asleep above the covers. He was still wearing his coat and boots.
I didn’t sleep at all for the rest of the night. Why couldn’t it have been a bad dream? Why did Gavin ignore me? Why was this happening to me, to Gavin? Most importantly, who was Corey, really? I tried several times to wake Gavin up, but he kept pushing me away and going back to sleep. When he finally awoke on his own, the sun was up and our morning classes were only minutes away. I was sitting on my bed, absently looking down at my feet on the hardwood floor.
“Morning, Drew!” Gavin was cheery as ever as he threw his boots in a corner and jumped down from his bunk. He barely missed landing on my feet. I didn’t want to reply at first. What if he didn’t respond? Was he still under Corey’s sway? I said the only thing that came to mind.
“I won the bet,” I whispered.
“Ha!” Gavin pulled off his coat and started rummaging through the closet for a clean uniform. “You really do need new glasses.”
“He had twelve fingers and twelve toes,” I said. “And he still has all his baby teeth, did you notice that?”
“Did you notice that you’re wrong?” Gavin laughed. “Seriously, I think you’re looking at other guys’ bodies too much.”
“What?” I stammered, wanting to say everything that happened last night all at once. But nothing came out. I tried to say something, anything about the way he paralyzed me, the weird food I couldn’t look at, or the way Gavin just stopped recognizing me.
“Besides, there was more than enough time for both of us to get a good look, and I don’t need a magnifying glass to see,” Gavin motioned to his eyes and finished dressing. I kept quiet.
Gavin and I met for lunch again, sitting at a table far out of range of the food fight that had erupted behind us. We ate in silence at first. Most of our words would have been drowned out by the yelling, swearing, and the ‘splat’ sounds of food hitting the walls, anyway.
“Drew,” Gavin spoke only after most of the offending students had been hauled away by the prefects. “You do have fun with us, right?”
“Huh?” I tried to play dumb. “With who?”
“Me and Corey,” he said. “You aren’t yourself today. You haven’t been since I started bringing you with me to the woods.”
“Well… You trust me, right?” I said, avoiding Gavin’s eyes. I couldn’t tell him the truth about what Corey said. How could I, when Gavin couldn’t even see his extra fingers?
“’Course I do,” Gavin replied.
“I don’t think we should see Corey again,” I blurted out. Gavin started to scowl, but I cut him off before he could speak. “There’s something wrong with him. He does such weird things. Unnatural things.”
“What are you talking about?” Gavin shook his head at me. “What has he ever done to you except offer us food and played with us?”
“He—he,” I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. How was I supposed to just tell him that Corey paralyzed me with a look? That I didn’t believe his “food” was food at all? That I no longer thought of Corey as a human being? “Never mind. Just don’t go out with him again, all right?”
“What, are you jealous?” Gavin snorted loudly. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”
“I am not!” I cried. My voice cracked.
“Well, if it means that much to you, I’ll stay here tonight,” Gavin said, smugly patting me on the head. I didn’t argue the point. It was good enough to know he’d stay.
I woke up in the middle of the night freezing through my covers. I searched the room through blurry eyes to find the window wide open and falling snow collecting on the floor. I stopped dead when the stink of spoiled milk hit my nostrils.
“He’s ours now,” a voice said, its hot breath behind my ear. I spun around and tried to scream when I saw Corey standing before me. His face was twisted with rage, pearl-like teeth gnashing at me from behind his spotted green eyes. He didn’t say anything more, but merely stood there. My stomach churned. Finally, I spoke.
“What are you?” My voice broke again.
“You don’t deserve to know,” Corey growled. He gestured angrily to Gavin, who still slept on the bunk above us. “He’s ours now.”
“But you can’t just—“ I started, but my muscles tensed up and froze as Corey locked onto my eyes again. He remained silent, narrowing his eyes as he crawled up to Gavin’s bunk. Corey placed a hand over Gavin’s mouth and disappeared, leaving me to fall to the ground. Before I knew what was happening, my face had scrunched up and grown hot, and I began to cry.
Gavin must have left early that morning, because he was gone when I got dressed for school. I looked out the window to see if he had left to meet Corey, or if Corey had returned after I’d fallen asleep. The window was untouched, and there were no footprints in the freshly fallen snow. A set of Gavin’s school clothes were missing from our closet, so I assumed I’d just missed him.
Lunch time came and went, but no Gavin. We never shared classes, so it wasn’t unusual for me not to see him for the rest of the day. When it was time for bed and Gavin was still missing, I began to panic. I ran to the prefects to report his disappearance, but they brushed me off, making lewd jokes I shudder to remember. Neither the instructors nor the administrators were of any help. At best, they intentionally mistook my intentions, promising to punish Gavin when he returned. At last, I gave up and went back to our room.
I found Gavin waiting for me in his nightshirt. He seemed oblivious as ever, joyful despite missing an entire day of classes.
“Drew, you’re back!” he giggled, hopping from foot to foot. “What took you so long?”
“Where were you?” I shrieked, hopping onto my bed. The cushions felt so soothing, I just wanted to lie down and fall asleep. Gavin sat next to me. My heart nearly stopped when I felt his hand grab mine.
Gavin had six fingers on each of his hands, and six toes on each of his feet.