Thursday, October 29, 2009


My final horror story for October is called "Deeper". This one's a bit longer: 1800 words, but it's definately worth the read. It was inspired by an old time radio drama called "The Thing on the Fourble Board" by the show "Quiet Please", which ran in the 1940s.

"Deeper"- written October 2009
Aaron M. Smith

“Careful with that,” Ronnie said. I nodded as I twisted the wheel exactly four times counter-clockwise.
“I know, I know. Just like at home, right?” I said.
“No, NOT just like at home.” Ronnie said. “Come on man, we’ve been doing this for four months. Yeah, it’s similar, but you’ve got to pay more attention. The Ruskies do this differently.”
Had it really been four months? It was hard for me to believe. I’d been out of work for weeks after the oil rig I worked on laid me and Nick off. His wife Lydia had family in Russia who were apparently well off, or well enough off that they managed their own oil rig. Now I was spending my days freezing my ass off north of Saint Petersburg and trying to learn the most messed up language on the planet.

On the plus side, I was making twice what I was making Texas.
On the down side… well, I was Russia.

At least I had Ronnie to talk to, and he spoke a little Russian.

The Russian rigs had their own intricacies that I had to learn- most of the technology was older than what I worked with in Houston, so I had some back learning to do. Most of the guys were nice, and some of them spoke some English. The foreman was fluent, which was all I needed really. It was a pretty decent life.

“God I’m bored,” Ronnie said, leaning against the railing of the catwalk. We were both bundled up to the eyeballs against the cold. From high above the dense pine barrens, the wind howled as if it was a living thing. Snow whipped about us from time to time, blown off of the nearby mountainside and from where it had piled on the machinery. “All we’ve had to do all day is turn this wheel to regulate the pressure once an hour.”

“Where is everyone else?” I asked. Usually there were more than dozen men at a time on the rig, twenty-four hours a day. It had been me and Nick alone for the last two days.

“This weekend’s the Ruskie 4th of July,” he replied. “They figured they’d leave us cowboys alone up here while they go into town for the weekend and live it up.” He laughed and scratched his thick beard.

“Shit, they drove six hours into town just so they could get wasted?”

“How many times did we drive to Tijuana?” We both laughed.

“How deep you think this thing goes?” I said after a time, looking at the huge rig on which we stood. The churning of the machine was a constant noise, along with the hum of the regulating equipment that kept the machine from shutting down.

“Four miles, five maybe? This is one of the deepest in Russia.”

“Geez,” I mumbled. I leaned against the railing and looked out across the grey, white and dark green forest that spread out below us. The view from the top of the rig really was incredible. It was only early evening, but the sky was so dark and cloudy the sun showed up only as a hazy disk in the sky, providing little light and zero warmth.

“It’s strange to think about, y’know?” I continued. “This oil is millions of years old. Decomposed plants and animals that haven’t seen the light of day since this whole place was covered in ice.”

“Yeah,” was all Ronnie said.

“And we use it to run…everything. Think about it. If that stuff didn’t die all those years ago, we couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t drive, couldn’t heat our homes. Nothing. But it’s been down there for, like, millions of years! I mean, think about it. God knows what’s down there. Didn’t they just blow the shit out of the moon looking for crap living below the surface, like bacteria and stuff?”

“Mmm,” Ronnie said. He seemed to be listening to the machine.

“Well, why’re they spending all that money on the damn moon when we’re digging deeper right here?”

“Who cares?” Ronnie said with genuine disinterest. “You don’t even live in that country anymore, man.”

I was struck by that realization. I hadn’t thought about it like that. Ronnie must’ve noticed, because he laughed heartily, then reached inside his coat and removed a bottle filled with clear liquid.

“You ever had some of this?” I looked at the bottle. “The best Russian vodka money can buy. Christmas gift from Lydia’s parents last year.”

I smiled and took the bottle. It was good; REAL good. In the frigid Russian twilight, it felt like liquid gold sliding down my throat. I took another long drag.

“Don’t bogart it!” Ronnie said, reaching to take it back. I managed to get off another good swig before he got the bottle away from me.

We talked for a long time, but I don’t remember now what we talked about. I don’t remember anything about it, really, except that when I woke up there was an empty bottle of vodka next to me and my skull felt too sizes too small for my brain.

“Ronnie?” I mumbled, squinting my eyes against the orange safety lights on the rig. That must have been really good vodka to give me a hangover so bad. I had no idea what time it was, or how long I’d been out, but it had to have been almost sundown. Ronnie was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, the rig beneath me gave a huge shudder, and the machinery roared like an angry beast.

We’d passed out. Nobody had been around to turn the valve.

I ran as quickly as my nauseated head would let me to the valve and began to twist it. It was four twists an hour, right? So if we’d been out for two hours, did that mean eight? What if it had been longer than that? I had no idea.

I began to rotate the wheel and didn’t stop. After ten or so (I forgot to count I was so freaked out) the wracking of the pipes began to subside, and the fighting spasms of the rig slowed and stopped. Something must have been damaged when the rig shook like that. They’re going to find it, and I’m going to lose my job. I’m going to be homeless and jobless in Russia.

“Ronnie!” I called, panic beginning to rise in my voice. Where the hell was he? He must have woken up before I did. Maybe he went to go check the rig. I headed for the stairs and clambered down flight after flight. If Ronnie thought the rig was damaged, there was one place he’d check first.

I finally made my way to the rotary hose and the turntable, the closest someone on the surface of a rig can actually get to the bore hole. The monstrous cylinder spun lazily in place as I stepped off of the stairs, just as I had seen it do countless times before.

The surface of the rig all around it was drenched with shiny, new crude oil.
“Oh shit oh shit oh shit,” I swore. If we’d damaged the bit or the conductor pipe, not only would we be fired, but we’d probably be arrested. I couldn’t imagine what a Russian prison would be like. “Ronnie!” I called again.

Something in the oil moved. I screamed and jumped back.

Only then did I notice that there was something on the ground, near the spinning turntable, covered in oil.

“Ronnie!” I called, and carefully made my way across the drenched concrete to the prone, oil-covered figure. “Ronnie, how the hell’d you get down here!? We’ve got to get that stuff off you,” I touched the figured, and stopped. Something was wrong.

I felt Ronnie’s jacket under my gloved hands. I lifted it up, examined it. It was his jacket, all right. And those were his pants, and his boots. And that ridiculous fur hat of his. All of Ronnie’s clothes were here, covered in oil. But they were empty. Where the hell Ronnie? And why would he leave his clothes?

Something strong grasped my ankle where I crouched, and I screamed. My balance was lost, and I fell on my butt on the oil-soaked concrete. I yanked at my leg, trying to get away, but an iron-strong weight was latched around it. I reached to try to free my leg and touched the black thing- and pulled my hand back. It was warm.

And it had fingers, like a fist.

Another weight was pulling at my coat. Something else grasped at my arms. Warm, wet oil began to seep through my pants and my socks. All around me, grasping, dark hands were reaching out of the oil and clutching at me with superhuman strength. I began to scream. I tried to twist and roll away, but there were just so many of them. My other leg was entangled now. A dark, shining arm, the arm of a full grown man reached around my stomach and pulled with the force of a truck, yanking my back to the soaked concrete. The hands were reaching farther now, extending to arms and shoulders. Some didn’t seem to be coming out right- one arm struggled, its elbow bending the wrong way. The hand grasping at my coat had a thumb on each side. Some were disjointed, flailing madly, and others were wholly rigid with no joints at all.

The sheer horror of it made my blood run cold, and I screamed involuntarily. A primal fear welled up in me, an animal fear that millions of years of evolution couldn’t suppress, as if something deep inside me knew that nothing in heaven or on earth was supposed to look like that. I fought and struggled, ignoring the pain in my shoulders and hips. A muscle in my forearm tore- I ignored it, my fear overriding the lancing pain shooting through my body. I struggled and thrashed, but there were too many hands on me now. I screamed until my throat went raw.

Warm oil was seeping down the neck of my coat, penetrating the zipper on the front as if it wasn’t there. I could feel it inside my gloves, under my nails, good god, in my hair. A warm wave of oil, slick fingers, slid across my scalp, into my beard. I could taste the oil now.

The oil around me began to shake, and the primeval roar I had heard earlier blotted out all other sound as oil began to slide into my ears. As my vision dimmed, I saw the rotary hose wrenching violently, as if someone was grasping it and shaking it with both hands from far underground.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Written October 2009
Aaron M. Smith

“Okay, I think this is it. Rodney, get that camera over here.” Dave said, his eyes locked on the blinking piece of equipment in his hands. He checked the microphone clipped on his jacket then looked directly into the camera as the red light on its side came on.

“We’re back, and this time I think we’ve really found the center of this haunting.” He raised the hand-held device up to the camera to show the viewers at home the series of blinking green lights across its surface. “The endoplasmic reticulator is going haywire; there’s a huge temporal disturbance in this room.”

Dave gestured to the almost boringly normal kitchen in which they stood. Yellow linoleum, white countertops, an old white refrigerator, light blue curtains. “Don’t let the cute chicken towels fool you, ladies and gentlemen. This regular suburban kitchen is a hotbed of paranormal activity.”
“Can we, uh, turn some lights on?” A woman from off camera said. Rodney swung the camera around to her, shining the light mounted on its side directly in her face. She shielded herself from the glare with one hand, knocking her horn-rimmed glasses askew.

“Afraid not, Mrs. McGillicuddy.” Dave whispered, stepping into the frame with the middle-aged homeowner. She backpeddled, slightly startled. “Ghosts are often sensitive to electrical disturbances.”

“Then how come your equipment don’t bother them?” She said.

“Shh! Listen!” Dave’s ghost-hunting assistant Kim hissed. Rodney swung the camera around to the tattooed twenty-something in the black jeans and pink Hello Kitty sweatshirt. She was crouched at the base of a series of cabinets, her head-mounted flashlight pointed in the direction she was looking. The yellow pool of light fell on a cabinet in the corner of the room, beneath the countertop.

The four of them held their breath. Nothing moved for a long moment.
Then, the smallest of clanging noises shuddered from the closed cabinet.

Mrs. McGillicuddy shrieked. Rodney lost track of the others as he ran to the safety of the adjacent room, the camera swinging and bobbing, its light creating dancing shadows from all the appliances in the room.

When the chaos had calmed, Dave and Kim had found the front of the camera again.
“Did you hear that!? Did you hear that!?!” Kim hissed at Dave, her mascara-heavy eyes wide with horror.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just had a major development. We’ve definitely found the focus of this apparition.” Dave panted into the camera.

“That’s where I keep my pots and pans!” Mrs. McGillicuddy interrupted.

Dave gave one more brave glance into the camera and began to creep slowly back into the kitchen, taking slow, long strides like a cat sneaking up on a mouse. He reached the island when another rattle of metal, louder this time, sounded from the cabinet. After a series of muted screams and curses from the others, he continued on.

When he was within arms reach of the cabinet, Dave reached up and removed an oversized decorative wooden spoon from the wall. He carefully lowered his night-vision goggles and turned to the camera. He mouthed the words ‘here we go’, then threw open the cabinet with the wooden spoon.

Behind him, Kim screamed preemptively.

The cabinet was completely empty except for a single stainless steel kettle, complete with lid.
“Oh!” Mrs. McGillicuddy said. The three ghost hunters turned to look at the middle-aged woman. “That’s the kettle I bought from that old gypsy lady who lived down the street!”

“You bought a kettle from a gypsy?” Kim asked, incredulous.

“Well, bought, not exactly.” Mrs. McGillicuddy clarified. “Well, she kept letting her dog poop on my lawn, so when she was moving out, she was having a garage sale, and well… I sort of just took it.”

Dave and Kim stared at the woman open-mouthed.
In the cabinet, the kettle hopped in place, its lid clanking up and down.

“This kettle is possessed by a foul spirit!” Dave announced, backing carefully away from the cabinet. His breath was coming in heavy pants.

The kettle began to hop and dance, finally bouncing itself out of the cabinet and onto the linoleum floor. This time, everyone screamed.

Dave threw himself onto the demonic cookware, holding the lid down with his body. The pot was angry- Dave’s body bounced with the force of the fighting object.

“Kim!” He shouted unnecessarily. “Get to the van! Get the exorcism kit! We’re going to need the holy water, the prayer beads, the whole shibbang!”

The kettle gave a powerful shudder, throwing Dave from it. Its lid clattered in place, beating out a staccato rhythm like a hellish pressure cooker. Kim and Dave both jumped onto the pot, the two of them holding the lid down with both hands.

“I’ll go get the supplies!” Rodney offered.

“Don’t you dare! Keep rolling!” Dave instructed, as he and Kim kept wrestling with the stainless steel terror. “We’ll have to find another way to drive out the demonic spirit!”

“Demonic spirit?” Mrs. McGillicuddy said quietly. Then, louder, “I know! I know what to do!” She rushed to her cabinets and began to pull things out- flour, sugar, oil. Rodney was torn between filming the strange behavior of the woman (and providing her light by which to search the cabinets) and watching the unearthly fight between his two comrades and the malevolent dish.

Moments later, Mrs. McGillicuddy had a pile of ingredients on the countertop and had begun adding them to a bowl. She was beating the concoction with a wisk when Kim was thrown to the floor by the thrashings of the evil kettle.

“Hurry!” Dave cried, sitting on top of the kettle to keep the lid in place. Kim scrambled across the floor, her converse sliding on the linoleum, and wrapped her arms around the body of the pot to hold it still. “We can’t hold it forever!”

“Quiet!” Mrs. McGillicuddy said. “You do your job, I’ll do mine!” Dave’s eyes were wide with shock, unused to being told what to do on his own TV show. “There! Put the pot on the countertop, hurry! You, cameraman! Pre-heat the oven!”

They did as they were told, Kim and Dave fighting against the unnatural strength of the animated object. No sooner had they placed it onto the counter than Mrs. McGillicuddy snatched off the lid of the kettle. A series of eerie, warbling cries rolled out of the open pot, like the sound of winter wind whistling through a leaky window. She quickly dumped the contents of the bowl she’d been beating into the kettle. The sound from the pot instantly changed, shrieking in a demonic how that made Rodney want to cover his ears and hide.

Mrs. McGillicuddy slammed the lid onto the pot and threw open the oven. Dave and Kim, with a tremendous effort of combined strength and will, thrust the corrupted cookware into the hot oven. Dave slammed the door closed with his foot as he stood up, leaning his full weight on the door to keep it closed. The entire cooktop rattled with the force of the monster within, odd warbling cries shrieking from within the oven.

An eternity seemed to pass for the group of four huddled in the kitchen. For nearly half an hour, nobody said anything. Gradually, the rattling of the stove slowed and the horrifying cries become quieter and quieter, until the entire room was still. They all cried out in alarm when the egg timer on the stove went off with a loud ding!

Rodney panned the camera around the room at the ragged group. Dave’s face was red, though whether it was from, fear, exertion or sitting too close to the hot oven, he didn’t know. Kim’s mascara had run in deep tracks down her face, making her look rather ghoulish. Mrs. McGillicuddy was pulling on a pair of oven mitts. She reached for the oven.

“Don’t open it!” Dave insisted. “Did you see what it did to us?!”

“It’s okay now,” she said. “It’s done.”

“How can you be sure?” Kim asked quietly.

“Because, we made the one thing no demonic force can stand against.” Mrs. McGillicuddy answered. She pulled open the door and instead of howls of fury, the group was treated to the delicious smell of vanilla. Mrs. McGillicuddy reached inside and carefully removed the kettle, which was steaming.

“Angel food cake, anyone?”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


This is a first- a simulpost to this blog and my other, more casual blog. I'm going to go on a horror/thriller kick for the rest of the month. Don't worry, the heartwarming stories that you love so much will be back soon.

Aaron M. Smith - written October 2009

The carcasses were everywhere. There were soldiers milling all about in the aftermath of the attack, most looking for survivors. I knew somewhere deep inside that they wouldn’t find any.

“Lieutenant,” someone behind me said, and I turned to see the sandy-haired man in black combat gear jogging up to meet me, rifle slung over one shoulder. I saluted as he approached, and he returned the gesture.

“Captain Briggs, sir,” I said. It wasn’t often the captain came down to the front lines.
“Do you have a status report, Sawyer?” he gestured to the massacre around us; about a dozen or so of the soldiers under my command were coming into and out of the treeline here and there.
“It was nothing short of an ambush, sir.” I wanted to add more, but I couldn’t. My voice choked in my throat as one of my troops reached into the edge of the undergrowth to pull free a body trapped there- only to have the arm he was pulling slide free of the brush, severed cleanly just above the elbow. He turned and vomited into the weeds.

Captain Briggs walked to the nearest carcass and bent down to examine it, turning it over with the toe of his boot. I could hardly look at the nightmarish creature.
The body was chitinous and segmented, like a beetle the size of a great dane. It had mandibles that looked something like those of a spider (though it had been a while since I’d looked that closely at a spider) with tiny tusk-like pincers near its mouth. The mouth was little more than a maw filled with teeth in no apparent order. Its six legs stuck straight out at odd angles, a black ooze that looked disturbingly like motor oil oozing from its demolished thorax (I was pretty sure that part was called the thorax).

“What the hell did we get ourselves into?” I murmured. Captain Briggs turned to look at me.
“What were you expecting?” He said darkly. “A magic world of cupcakes and fairy tales?”
“Not this,” I muttered, turning away from the carcass. It did no good- there were half a dozen such scattered around the clearing where my troop had been marching when we’d been attacked. The captain stood and walked closer so that we wouldn’t be overheard.

“You knew we had no intelligence on this zone when you signed on, Marine.” The captain said. “You were offered this chance because you were one of the best minds we had in Afghanistan.”
“An opportunity to explore an alien world? Going headlong into a different dimension?” I parroted the e-mail that I’d received six months ago. “Who the hell turns down an opportunity like that?”

“Somebody had to be the first.” Captain Briggs said, his piercing blue eyes meeting my own. “You, and all the rest of these men, knew the risks.”
I hung my head, and knew that he was right. Of course, word of the discovery hadn’t been exposed to the general population yet. Civilians couldn’t know that inter-dimensional travel was no longer science fiction, not until further exploration and study had been done. Naturally, the grunt work went to the military. And naturally, the military made it sound like the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance you’d have to be a fool to pass up.

We were the first troop to explore beyond the base camp. We’d been gone about nine days (it’s so hard to tell time when the sun never sets) when we’d been attacked.
“Lieutenant!” A voice cried from somewhere within the trees to my right, instantly followed by the sound of automatic rifle fire. Six rounds had gone off before I’d brought my own gun to bear and charged in the direction of the voice.

Thirty feet from the edge of the clearing, a man named McNeil lay on his side on the ground, a vicious-looking wound on his left thigh oozing scarlet. He was propped up on one shoulder, his rifle in his hands.

“Look out! It’s invisible!” He cried, and then something moved to our right, shaking the leaves on a thick green tree.

I turned and opened fire into the brush, shredding the leaves and most of the tree trunk almost instantly. There was a horrible growl and hiss, like the sound of a tire blowing out, and before my eyes a torrent of motor oil-like fluid filled the air. A creature like the ones that lay dead in the clearing appeared for a moment, perched on the tree like a grasshopper on a screen door. Faster than I could blink, it leapt at me, hitting me in the chest with the speed and force of an NFL linebacker.

I cried out as it knocked me from my feet and slammed me to the ground, knocking the wind from my lungs as one of its clawed legs tore at my unarmored left shoulder. It hissed and spat at me, the horrible mandibles snapping hungrily at my face like a starving dog after a bone. I screamed and punched at it impotently with my right hand- it had a shell, like an insect. It didn’t seem to notice I was putting up a struggle at all.

There was an explosion of sound and heat from somewhere above me, and a tide of the thick viscous blood poured across my body. An instant later, Captain Briggs was kicking the monster’s mutilated body from off of me, the tip of his rifle still red hot. I tried to roll over and cried out- the wound in my shoulder was deep.

Briggs slipped my good arm around his shoulder and helped me to my feet, then did his best to get McNair into a standing position. I could hear the rest of the troop calling out their own names- they must have heard the gunfire and were calling out to see who was unaccounted for. They would no doubt be looking for us.

“Sawyer! Briggs! McNair!” I shouted, tearing a strip of cloth from the t-shirt I wore under my body armor. “Targets may still be in the area- they possess some kind of stealth! Multiple injuries!”

“Shit,” Briggs said as he slid under McNair’s arm, taking the weight off of his bad leg. “We’re going to have to use thermal imaging to find them.”

“We have bigger problems, sir.” McNair said, his voice tiny. Briggs and I both looked at the young man, whose freckled face was ashen. “Look at what I found. Over there.” He pointed, and the three of us took a few careful steps through the brush. I held my rifle as best I could with one hand.

Just out of sight was what appeared to be a narrow dirt path cut out of the underbrush. The path was beaten down with deep, jagged ruts.

“What is this? A marching path?” Briggs said. “Those look like claw marks, like their feet.”
A second later, it dawned on me. “Oh, God.” Briggs looked at me, his blue eyes wide. “They have a marching path. Which means, they march.” The blood drained out of Briggs face.
“They’re intelligent.” He said. “And not only intelligent, but organized. If they march, then there’s a marching order, and a chain of command.”

“Sir!” Someone shouted, and I turned to see two or three of the survivors of the attack walking through the brush to where the three of us stood.
“Turn back, soldier!” Captain Briggs shouted, his voice ringing with authority. “Get everyone to the clearing, now! Regroup, prepare to march out.” He turned to me as the other soldiers followed their commands. “Not a word of this to the others. There may be more of them headed here right now. We’ve got to get back to base camp.”

We trudged back the way we had come to meet the others in the clearing. I shuddered as I passed the carcass of the creature that had attacked me. How could we fight an enemy that we couldn’t see, couldn’t predict, and that knew the terrain better?