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by David Greske
Category: Horror/Suspense/Thriller Dirk A. Wolf Award Winner
Description: Something evil.... To save his failing marriage, Jim Anderson moves his family to Prairie Rest, Wisconsin where he has bought a house that is in dire need of repair. Thinking restoring the home with his wife, Diane, will mend their shattered relationship, he soon discovers he's purchased more than just a parcel of land and an old building. In the woods on his property is a cave where evil lives; and after a series of tragic events, Anderson knows that to insure his survival, as well as the town's, he must join forces with the town elders. Armed with the tools of the Lord, the group enters the place where evil dwells and the battle between good and evil begins ... has been unleashed.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: January 2008
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [298 KB]
Reading time: 186-260 min.
"Author David E. Greske grabs readers in a stranglehold from the very first page and does not let go until the last page. This shudder-inducing horror story is overwhelming in its intensity. Anathema is a spell binding book that is full of twists and turn. This book is not for the faint of heart but one fans of this genre will enjoy. I certainly did and I can hardly wait to read his next!"--Alisha, Two Lips Reviews
* * * *
A moonless, starless night six men entered the woods armed with weapons of the Lord and things they'd taken from the hardware store. The only illumination came from the jaundiced light that shone from the flashlights the men carried.
A gentle breeze soughed through the treetops and rustled the leaves, making them sing the songs of the dead and sending shivers crawling up the men's spines.
"Do you think this'll work?" Jarvis hitched the canvas backpack higher on his shoulder and wiped the sweat from his forehead with a red bandanna. That morning's downpour failed to drive away the choking humidity, only managing to muddy the ground and make walking difficult.
At twenty-seven years old, Jarvis Clark was the youngest member of the team. His violet eyes were deep-set in his skull, and thick, black hair cascaded to his shoulders and framed his chiseled, angular face.
He was the owner and operator of one of the town's two taverns, the Stumble Inn Bar and Grill. During his brief tenure, Jarvis quickly realized there was nothing quite as frightening, or dangerous, as a couple of angry drunks--especially if one of them started flashing a weapon around. More than once, Jarvis had a knife pulled on him or a pistol pointed in his direction, but at two hundred pounds, plus the strength of a weightlifter, not a whole lot frightened him.
He was scared now, though. So scared that his balls had crawled up inside him and his mouth felt full of sand.
"If this don't work, we'll be up shit creek," Robert Stevens responded, "and we ain't gonna have a fuckin' paddle, either."
"Watch your mouth, Stevens," the old man said. "The Reverend don't need to hear that kind of talk."
Whoever said 'nothing bad ever happened in quiet, little towns' never visited Prairie Rest, Wisconsin. * * * *
No one really knew how long they'd been walking, but they knew a great deal of time had passed. They knew this for two reasons: First, they were deep enough into the woods they could no longer see the lights of the town; and second, the old man's arthritic knees hurt like a sonofabitch. And dem ole bones only caused him pain if he stood too long, or walked farther than his joints could handle.
He stopped, leaned forward, and rubbed his rebellious knees through the thick denim of his jeans. Wincing, he wished he would've remembered to bring his ointment. Not that he would've really had time to rub any of it on, but he thought there would've been some kind of comfort just knowing he had it with him.
"You okay?" Jarvis put his hand on the old man's shoulder.
"I'm fine. Knees just giving me a little trouble, that's all." He was too stubborn to admit he was in agony.
A widower, the seventy-eight-year-old was the oldest member of the group and one of the Town Elders for as long as anyone could remember. He was also considered by many to be the wisest.
"We can leave you here and pick you up on our way back," Jarvis suggested.
If we make it back, Jarvis's mind reminded.
"And let you guys have all the fun. I may be old, but I ain't dead."
But you might be before this is all over, old-timer, a voice in the old man's head cackled.
He took a couple more minutes to massage his knees, and then picked up his sack of explosives. They were on their way again.
On the western horizon, thick, leaded storm clouds tumbled toward town. * * * *
Miller's Creek was a small stream fed by an underground river. The creek dumped into an old swimming hole known as Miller's Pond. Once, the water was clear and cold. Although no one ever did, it was pure enough to drink. Vegetation grew lush and green around the banks, and it could've easily doubled as a South American rain forest in a dozen Hollywood films.
On hot summer days, the swimming hole was filled shoulder-to-shoulder as town kids tried to cool down in the fresh water. Their laughter filled the woods with precious music.
But things had changed Miller's Pond into a dank and poisoned cesspool. Vegetation had withered and dried, and turned black with a thick, stinking slime. Not an animal or insect dared drink the water or eat the foliage. The only laughter heard came from the haunted cries of the wind overhead.
The travelers knew when they made it to this point they were halfway to their destination and, perhaps, their destiny.
"Which way, Reverend?" Rusty McCormick swung around and shined the flashlight beam in the good pastor's face.
The reverend brought his hands up in front of him, shielding the light from his eyes. "That way. The cave's over that way."
Last night, Reverend Timothy Cole had a vision. It came to him in a dream, and the voice of the Lord told him what they needed to do.
"Are you sure?" Jarvis asked. "Are you sure this is the way?"
"I'm not sure of anything anymore," Pastor Timothy replied. There were tears in his eyes.
The six men joined hands and walked east through a tangle of overgrown weeds and yellowed vines.
In the sky, bolts of silver-blue lightning flashed in the belly of the approaching storm. * * * *
The cave entrance was well-hidden by a tangle of thorns and brambles. The wind had increased, animating the brush and daring the six men to come closer.
The raggedy group propped their flashlights on rocks and wedged them in the crotches of nearby trees so the light beams pointed at the cave opening.
Stevens opened his canvas bag and took out a pair of hedge trimmers. Jarvis opened his backpack and took out a hatchet.
The two men hacked and chopped at the brush. The others, their hands protected by thick leather gloves, worked diligently to move the debris out of the way. Although they couldn't be certain, they all would've sworn that as the brush was cut and hauled away, it screamed in agony and tried to wiggle from their grips.
A lightning bolt lit up the sky and made the thicket look like a pile of human bones. When the thunderclap followed, the men nearly jumped out of their skins. Goosebumps rippled up their spines, and the tiny, invisible hairs in their necks stood on end. The air was charged with static electricity; it smelled like burnt plastic.
They were running out of time.
Working as fast as they could, it still took them twenty minutes to clear the brush from the front of the cave. Now the yellow beams of the flashlights shone into the gaping mouth and were swallowed up by the dark abyss within.
"Do we have to go in there?" Ronald, Rusty's twin asked.
"I'm afraid so," the reverend responded and saw the terror in Ronald's eyes. "But God will be in there with us."
"Then let's get it done." Ronald picked up his sack and retrieved his flashlight from the V of the nearby oak tree. The others gathered their belongings as well, and as they did so, Reverend Timothy clasped his hands around the cache that hung from his neck, closed his eyes, and asked the Lord for His guidance and protection. Then, one-by-one, the men stepped into the waiting mouth of the cave.
Above them, the sky rumbled; beneath their feet, the ground trembled. And somewhere in the distance, the wind howled, sounding like death.
"We need to go to the left," the pastor said once they were in the main room of the cave. "That's where we will find it."
"Lead on, then, Reverend," Jarvis encouraged, and they followed like chicks trailing their mother, into the narrow passageway.
About a hundred feet into the corridor, the reverend stopped and tilted his flashlight to the ground. A hole, about eight inches in diameter, was bored into the cave floor.
"So, this is where it lives." Jarvis peered over the reverend's shoulder and into the slick blackness.
"No," the reverend corrected, his eyes sparkling with the light of Goodness, "this is where it exists."
"What is it, Reverend?" Rusty whispered.
"A diabolical evil that has existed for millennia. It is an abomination of all that is just and good. It is an anathema.
"Now, let us begin, and rid the world of such a curse."
The six men circled the hole. The old man opened his bag, took out The Book, and handed it to the preacher. Then he took out four bundles of dynamite held together with a length of twine.
Reverend Timothy opened the cache and removed from it six silver crosses on thin leather thongs. He handed each men one of the necklaces.
"Put these on," Reverend Timothy said. "For we shall need the Lord's protection now."
With his right hand, he held The Book above the hole and placed his cross on top of it. He took a deep breath and spoke The Words. The ritual had begun.
"Zamba, toit, izpac, allah, ichnow..."
Suddenly, the ground quaked, and a fissure opened beneath the McCormick brothers. A tongue of cold green light issued from the chasm and enveloped them in an unholy brilliance. Their eyes popped from their skulls. The skin melted from their bones And the McCormick brothers didn't even have time to scream before they were swallowed up.
Reverend Timothy dropped The Book. The cross bounced on the black leather cover then fell to the ground. The Book and the cross burst into flames.
"We're fucked!" Jarvis rasped as he watched Rusty and Ronald disappear.
The old man fumbled with the lighter, lit the end of the fuse, and dropped the bundle of explosives down the hole. "Let's get the hell out of here!"
The men ran out of the cave, the flashlight beams bouncing in front of them in an epileptic seizure.
A hard rain sliced through the trees like steel needles, stripping the leaves and turning the ground into viscous brown goo.
Panicked, Robert Stevens wandered off the path that would take him out of this hell and found himself lost in a thicket of brush. He turned, trying to move toward the path, but a thick vine shot out from a craggy, old oak and wrapped itself around his ankle. He tripped and fell to the ground. As he stared at the sky, the trees seemed to move in on him, and through the canopy of leaves, he saw a dozen yellow eyes looking back at him.
Stevens opened his mouth to scream, but it was immediately filled with rotted leaves and debris. So he closed his eyes and hoped the end would come soon.
The old man tripped on a tree root and went down hard. The flashlight flew from his grip, and shanks of pain ripped through his knees. He scrambled to his feet.
A finger of lightning etched across the sky, struck a nearby tree, and snapped it off near the base of the trunk.
The old man watched as the tree fell in his direction, but he was too old and too slow to move out of the way before he was crushed.
Reverend Timothy and Jarvis heard the snap of the tree, smelled the cooked wood, and cringed when they heard the old man scream, but neither man looked back. In fact, they hadn't even looked at each other. It had become every man for himself.