Teaser from “Beecham’s Nightfall” by Casey Carlisle

Just toying around with a new idea – Horror!

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The crack and snap of breaking bones, followed by a pathetic whimper and moan was far more difficult to listen to than the blood-chilling screams of desperation from when the wailing began. My face was wet with tears as I cried silently in my dark hidey-hole. I prayed it wouldn’t find me. The dirt and mud I’d caked all over, a futile attempt to mask my scent, was now a slimy layer of clay mixing with sweat. I cursed my curious nature, my unyielding desire to discover the truth behind any mystery to cross my path. There wasn’t much to riddle out in Beecham Flats, especially in my neighbourhood. Sure I’d sleuthed down a lost dog, nabbed a housebreaker (who turned out to be the owners ten year old son), and researched the back story to not only my family tree, but also the house I lived in. Needless to say I will never sleep in the spare room ever again and put extra locks on the doors and windows. That is what led me to my predicament right now… in a roundabout way.

See, fifty-six years ago, the young family who first lived in my house were the Beecham’s… yes the name behind our illustrious suburb. Well, it was a small farm back then for corn, barley, and goats milk and cheese. The Beecham’s: Eleanor, Jock and their daughter, Nanette, had moved from Adelaide to the rich earth of the Northern Victoria Farming region. It was to be their legacy, starting small, before building up to cattle or sheep. However they never got to realise their dreams. Nanette, a golden-haired sixteen year old beauty had many of the neighbouring boys competing for her affection. And as the story went, jealousy and rage started up between a couple of the young lads, having both been tossed into jail a number of times for scuffling in public streets. Why Nannette continued to consort with either of these ruffians was beyond me – maybe she liked the bad boys? Inevitably, one cold, misty night, the craziest of her suitors, insane with desire, and resentfulness, broke into her home, slitting her throat and then raped her cadaver.

At first, I couldn’t find the name of the perpetrator, or many details surrounding the crime. The whole ugly event much too sour and distasteful for the community, a black spot on their collective soul, and was not mentioned in public. Even the newspaper articles were sparse with facts. But the story had excited my inner detective, how such a gruesome mystery had gone unsolved right under my nose. I poured through local Council’s Enrolment Records for that time, discovering three families had moved away the following year. The Beecham’s, the Royce’s and the Johnstack’s. It was easy to deduce that the two other families belonged to the feuding boys for Nannette’s attention.

My hunch proved correct, Malcolm Royce had been committed to serve life in prison for his gruesome crime. The Johnstack’s re-located to Perth in shame, where their son, William died in a fall from a horse five years later. I found no record of the Beecham’s or where they had moved to. Grief over the loss of their only beloved daughter may have driven them from the country and back to England where so many starry-eyed hopefuls had immigrated from.

So a murder in my own house, and I’d uncovered the story behind it all, peeled back the layers of time to reveal the ugly past. I’d tasted the delicious nectar of victory and wanted more. It wasn’t until I’d happened across the newspaper article of some mutilated pets in the area that my interest was piqued. Granted it wasn’t a murder as such, and I couldn’t dig about in musty old file rooms or stacks of microfiche, this time I’d need to use my feet. I should have stopped then. Alarm bells telling me that I was hunting a wild, ferocious animal preying on weak fluffy domestic pets should have halted me in my tracks. Should have! Taking a sick day from my job at ‘Dawson and Associates,’ where I checked and compiled financial reports all day seemed harmless enough to chase down a lead. I had spoken to, or rather flirted with, an Officer at the Wildlife, Parks and Recreation Headquarters to find out they thought the culprit of the attacks may be a large cat. Like a jaguar or mountain lion – which was ridiculous because there were no such species native to Australia. Maybe someone had imported an exotic feline and it had gotten loose? Maybe the specialists at Wildlife and Parks were pulling my leg?

Working on the assumption that I was not been led up the garden path, I constructed a map and marked out all of the incidents. Large wild cats were territorial, so it would still be in the area around its kills, and would want somewhere to hide, well covered, maybe up high to watch for intruders. I triangulated a point to the centre of the attacks, and made a two kilometre circle and five kilometre concentric circle from that point, using the smaller area as my first choice for locating its sanctum. Beecham Flats, as the name suggested, is flat. Not too many places that aren’t populated at a higher elevation to hide in. I deduced three places: An old church, a burnt out two-story house on a large property and the water tower. The last two were closer and upon investigating turned up no results. The old church became my undoing.

Why I had decided to hunt down a large, unpredictable wild animal by myself, with no protection is beyond idiotic. But that was because I did not believe a lion, cheetah, or whatever species of cat could possibly be the guilty party.

It had started to get dark as I parked my reliable gold coloured Ford Laser on the side of the road and hiked across the overgrown grounds of the dilapidated Church. Doors and windows had been pulled out or smashed, graffiti covered every surface, and the distinct odour of piss wafted in the warm evening breeze. Strike three, I thought, until inside, where I found a door from the small antechamber behind the pulpit that the priest used to change and get ready for the sermons long gone. It was padlocked and the solid looking door was not of the original architecture. Interesting. But not related to my investigation.

It was then I heard a noise. Someone was coming! I quickly scanned the area for somewhere to hide, after all I was trespassing. Or more than likely I was about to stumble upon a drug dealer or user – a person I definitely did not wan to tangle with! Adjacent to the chained door was an open stairway to the basement, a service tunnel I suspected… and my only way out besides the way I had entered… and the same way footsteps crunched over the detritus covered floor becoming incrementally louder. There might be a way out down there, or I could be trapped with whom ever trudged in this direction?

With no time to deliberate on the pros and cons of my situation, I reacted on instinct and shot headfirst down the dark stairs, wishing I wasn’t about to stumble in the blackness and break an arm or leg, or snag my flesh on something sharp and insanitary that required a Tetanus shot. It was a small room, a little shorter than me, so I had to hunch, a few disused piles of wood and an old furnace that was used to heat the building. I turned to face the light coming from the entrance as the footsteps stopped near the opening. My heart thudded in my ears and I felt a dribble of sweat run down the length of my spine. Rattling of the chain. They were unlocking the door and heading down a similar set of stairs next door. More metal scraping and clinking. And then silence. I waited a few more minutes in the pitch black. Still no sound.

It would have to be completely dark outside, which made the visibility inside the Church down to nil. I fished my mobile phone from a back pocket and used it to illuminate a safe path back to the antechamber. Who ever had gone through the padlocked door had chained and locked it behind. Definitely a drug dealer, and that had to be their growing room or something. Time to get the hell out of here!

Two steps towards the exit and the main hall of the church and a God-awful scream echoed from behind the thick wooden, and thankfully, secured, door. It was followed by the noise of chains. Chains being dragged across a concrete floor. What had I stumbled across? Without a second waisted to think, I bolted, no – fled out of the church. I tripped twice across the overrun yard, but was moving too fast to fall, righting myself and staggering towards the car. I could have yanked the door off its hinges, and once safely inside, took far too long to get the key into the ignition hampered by the uncontrollable shaking. And then finally I was off, speeding through the moonlit streets, mounting a curb until arriving at an intersection where I could see people walking, busy stores and cars coasting by. Did all that really just happen?

Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I decided to drive through a fast food joint, and ordered a large chicken meal before heading home. With all the doors and windows bolted I stooped over the kitchen table in my ‘historical kill shack’ and inhaled a burger until the tremors ceased. My mind had gone blank. No thought to call the cops. Nothing.

Eventually, snapping out of it, I ran a hot bath to warm my frozen skeleton and ease the fear. I was letting my imagination run away with me. There was no evidence to point to what it was I had heard. As the circulation returned to my extremities, steam rising from the water, I pushed all the nightmare scenarios from my head. All this gum-shoeing was sending me batty! From this moment on, that hobby was officially over. No more nutting out the secrets of the past.

After tossing and turning for an hour in bed, I took two sleeping tablets and passed out into a drooling sleep.

My job was coma-inducing at the best of times, but with the left over affects from indulgent use of sedatives last night, I looked, and felt like a zombie. Thankfully, my fabrication of being sick yesterday played in my favour.

“Oh, Ida! You look terrible. Are you sure you should be at work?” Mr Dawson fluttered over my desk.

“I’m feeling much better thank you. Just a little tired. I’m okay for work. I’d much rather be productive, idle hands and all that.” And I didn’t want to be sitting in my empty house driving myself crazy rehashing over last nights events.

“Well, only if you are sure. And go home if it starts to get too much. You need to look after yourself.” Mr Dawson shot me a pitying look, waiting at the corner of my desk momentarily, judging my resolve and then disappeared into his office.

He was a great boss. Granted, punching in numbers and staring at spreadsheets all day was mundane, but Mr Dawson made coming to work that much easier to stomach. I’d been working here nearly three years now. He’d hired me straight after completing my course in Accounting and Finance, and I couldn’t turn down his Grandfatherly affection. The small firm consisted of three partners, two assistants, a receptionist, and me. Mr Dawson employed me as his assistant, which consisted of turning shoeboxes or envelopes full of receipts into glossy, neat spreadsheets. Occasionally I’d get to do a few reports, but that was pretty much it. I knew his Christian name to be Errol, but I only ever called him ‘Mr Dawson,’ as did everyone else.

Occasionally he’d bring in containers of Tupperware filled casseroles, pies, lasagne and the like, he claimed his wife had over-cooked and asked he pass on to me. I suspected it a rouse, as after forty-five plus years of marriage and even longer cooking, Mrs Dawson would have surely worked out the correct portions for meals by now. It was their way of making sure I was eating properly.

So I pushed through a day of thought-blurring data entry until I made it home and sat staring at my corkboard of clippings, pictures, research and the marked map. Should I dare visit the Church again, this time armed with camera, torch, tyre-iron and a lock pick? Gather the truth before I make an unfounded and hysterical call to the police? I glowered at the collection as I ate my microwaved frozen dinner, refusing to admit defeat. Finally at 7pm, I caved, and fuelled with false bravado, packed a bag and headed back to the decrepit Chantry.

There was no sign of movement while I watched the building for ten minutes before braving an approach. The inside was just as vacant. Placing the torch on the ground, I put my hand to picking the lock with a piece of bent wire, then a bobbypin, and then attempted my own set of keys. It was steadfast in its resolve to remain secured to the chunky steel chain. I’d never make a good locksmith.

I returned to the spot I’d hidden next to the furnace the night before, pulling out a blanket and settled in for an hour or so in hopes the chain-rattler would return.    After waiting half an hour I began to realise how stupid this was. For all I knew someone could still be in the room next door, or worse yet, a dead body, chained up and rotting away. Just as I lost my nerve and began packing away the blanket, I heard familiar approaching foot falls. I fastened the bag and doused the light. This idea had not only been stupid, but negligent and foolhardy! What if I ended up dead? Would anyone find my corpse? Who would Mrs Dawson give all her extra portions of food to then?

Again the metal bindings were untethered and re-secured from the inside. Similar sounds of shackles clinked away for a short period before all noise desisted. And once more I was left in the dark with my over-active imagination. Determined for it not to get the best of me, I crept back up to the locked door, and tried to peep through the small opening where the large knuckle-like steel chain threaded through. Nothing but darkness. I dared not shine the torch through. Inspiration struck when I realised my camera had a night vision setting on it! I slowly pulled open the zipper of my bag, careful not to make too much noise and withdrew my camera. My heart nearly stopped when the digital beep sounded so loud from turning it on. I was sure I’d given away my position… but no metallic rattle or shuffling, no approaching footsteps or call followed.

Poking the lens through the small opening, the screen showed four steps and open middle, a mirrored reflection of the room I’d hidden in. Except, instead of a furnace was an empty space, half recessed into the wall. There was only an old rag on the floor. Where did the person go? Where was the drug stash? How disappointing. Slight movement caught my attention as the rag twitched ever so slightly. Only it wasn’t discarded fabric at all, it was a human foot! Two seconds later it abruptly retreated away from sight followed by an ear splitting shriek.

I fell back, dropping my camera, the light from the digital display cracked and blinked out. The screams increased in both pitch and intensity as I scrambled for my bag. It should be right next to me! Desperately fumbling about in the darkness, my hand connected with the recognisable canvas of the back pack. Feeling for the zip I yanked it down, groping for the torch. When I connected with the glorious object, an instant before turning it on, my blood ran cold. A deep guttural growl echoed from the inside of the Cathedral. The cat story wasn’t a fake after all. It was here!

Trapped between the huntress and her prey. I retreated to the only other space I could, and yanked open the heavy iron door to the furnace. It hesitated and most probably screeched as rusty hinges flaked, but I could not hear it over the continual howling from next door. It would be a tight squeeze, but I would fit! Throwing my bag to the other corner of the room, keeping the torch and mobile phone, I wriggled into the cramped space. I could feel skin graze off from several places on my elbows, knees and shins, but ignored the pain. Something crawled across my hand – a spider or cockroach, but at this point I had bigger things to worry about. The door took much more effort to close from the inside, and I had to use the blunt end of the torch to hammer the inside latch to a locked position.

Here I hid, entombed in an iron prison as a giant cat paced just outside, and an unidentified person was living through inexplicable torture. Had my curiosity led me to be killed by a cat?  Quickly I rolled about in the grime coating the inside of the boiler in a lame attempt to dampen down the strong scent of fear I’d no doubt be giving off. If the door could be clawed off, I may as well be a tin of Whiskers under a neon sign, begging to be made into a meal.

The cries next door broke, becoming more pathetic and drawn out, I gagged on the dust stirred up in attempt to cover myself in charcoal and grime. I could hear the chink of metal links, wether it was from next door or something trying to get through the door at the entrance, I was not sure. Wedging my torch under the latch to the grate, it would open by either turning the handle up or down, but I could at least take away the easiest option.

A new noise harmonised with the tired pleas, a snap, like breaking a twig or branch, then another. Screaming stared anew in desperation. Whoever it was, they were in the most unimaginable pain. Over and over the crack-snap and yelling went, until I realised; that noise was of bones breaking. I held back the bile rising in my throat. Had the cat gotten inside the room next door and was eating someone alive?

The screaming abruptly cut off, the silence pressed in from all sides and I wondered if I should make a run for it? The distinct sound of something being dragged across the floor, very close, alerted me to something just on the other side of the furnace’s door. It was rummaging through my bag. How did it get in here so quick?

Chains clanged loudly again from next door, and a deep throaty growl-purr-hiss followed. Whatever was in the room with me growled a response. The hairs on my arms and neck prickled. Another fleeting second of utter calm before an orchestra of metal banging erupted from the neighbouring room. At first I thought someone was bound next door, but maybe I had been mistaken, and an animal was tied up? Was some idiot keeping the animal I’d been tracking down shackled up here? Could there be two? There was too much noise to hear if the beast from my bag had gone or was still there, but the one next door suddenly broke free of it’s binds and was taking a run at the door. Each impact sounded like a cannon going off. Would anyone be able to hear this cacophony from outside and come to investigate? It would only be to meet their doom, like the wailing person from the darkness in the Church basement. I had descended into Hell.

Given this was a House of God, maybe he would hear my prayers clearer? Muttering under my breath, with every ounce of my being. Please be safe, please be safe. Don’t let what ever that thing is get out! God? Please help me! But I don’t think he heard me. My anguish turned to hopelessness as the unmistakeable sound of the door busting off the hinges and crashing to the ground echoed through the room. I covered my ears as the blast amplified in my iron cave.

At first I imagined the furnace door being ripped of and I’d been discovered by the tortured, twisting, metallic shrieks; however, it emanated from directly outside the burner. An animalistic battle was taking place, the inhuman sounds, threatening and painful utterances of its combatants. I buried my head beneath hands, curling up into a tight ball and wished myself away.

The barrage ended quickly with a doggy-like whimper. Panting filled the room and although I could not hear any paws pad across the floor, the light breeze of sniffing at the grate had me cringing away in terror.

It huffed, like clearing its nose. And then quiet.

I remained still, painfully curled up in my secret spot for what seemed like hours, unwilling to breathe, unwilling to move. If I could have stopped my heart from beating lest it alert what was lurking outside, I would have. An eternity of agonising, crushing, waiting in the darkness. My bladder insisted for emptying. I could not risk relieving myself here. The smell would only make matters worse.

Unsure if I had passed out for hours, of simply remained frozen the entire time, but the telltale glow of sunrise brought a rectangle of light through the doorway. It was enough to witness the carnage through the holes in the grate. Chunks of fur and flesh scattered across the dirt… and blood everywhere. This time I was unable to hold back the rising vomit. I retched over myself, my hair and the miniscule space I’d found refuge in. The resulting sound reverberated out like a bull horn. If there was anything outside, it would be coming for me now, honing on the acrid fumes of regurgitation. But ten, twenty minutes later, nothing!

Finally having enough courage to attempt the door and crawl free of the cast iron coffin, I dislodged my torch and bashed at the latch. The door heaved aside loudly, and as soon as I stuck out my head, the sickly-coppery odour of aging blood slaughtered my olfactory senses, resulting in yet further stomach heaving. My limbs barely worked, circulation being restricted for most of the night. It was if someone had poured acid all over me. So instead of a calculated emergence out of the dark hole in which I hid, I slid, slipped, and grazed onto the floor where the revolting, congealing blood coated every part of me. Pop on a tiara and call me Carrie!

Progress to the car was painstakingly slow. Recovering the blanket, which was relatively clean, I wrapped myself up in it. Taking photos of the room with my phone, since my digital camera was kaput, and parts of what had turned out to be a German Sheppard before I braved the second room. Expecting to see a body, possibly in pieces, but thankfully, it was empty. Broken weighty thick chain littered the floor, as did four massive bolts, still coated in concrete. Holes in the recessed wall where they had been embedded gaped silently at me. I snapped pics of everything. Discovering some hair caught in the links, I pocketed it.

The door-that-was, reduced kindling and strewn across the Rectory, showed parts looking like it had been clawed. More evidence! I grabbed a chunk of timber and wincing at the searing pain of limbs forced to work again. Making it to the outer door without incident, I surveyed the scruffy Lot to my car. It looked clear. I moved like an ANZAC Veteran, hobbling through the scrub, flinching every step until I manoeuvred into the driver’s seat and locked the door. It felt ineffective given whatever was out there had barraged through a three inch thick chained door and ripped apart a rather large canine like it was crepe paper.

I drove directly home. Surprisingly calm, keeping below the speed limit and obeying all the traffic regulations, and was pulling into my driveway less than ten minutes later. Dropping everything on the kitchen table, I bee-lined for the toilet. Much like aching muscles, my bladder took some coaxing before relief wafted up my body. After that, the longest shower I’d ever had, together with half a bottle of shower gel and plenty of scrubbing. My hair was matted into dreadlocks of soot, soil, vomit and dried blood. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a few insects washed down the drain with the rust coloured water. Skin scoured pink, and hair detangled I wrapped myself up in a floral smelling terry-towelling bathrobe and sat back in front of my pin board with a steaming hot cup of tea and packet of ginger nut biscuits. So what had actually happened last night?

The sound of my morning alarm snapped me from the daze, I turned it off and phoned Mr Dawson. There is no way I could go into work today. It was Friday, and if he was keeping to his regular schedule, both Mr and Mrs Dawson would be at the golf club. He didn’t answer, so I left a voicemail.

What rational explanations supported the facts I had gathered? There was an animal, or something that wanted us to think it was an animal, prowling the neighbourhood and tearing apart family pets. It would have to be big, and strong! I say ‘something’, because after last night, I had theories of some mentally deranged person, armed with a small knife – or similar – entering into a wild frenzy and slaughtering innocent creatures. There was no humanity in that.

I created a list, point by point of what I had witnessed, keeping it factual and removed of any emotion and wild conjecture. Then I called the police. I told them how I thought I heard someone call for help as I drove past the old church and went inside. There I found the locked room, and the screaming, the chains. I heard another noise and hid… and the rest, pretty much as it had unfolded. Although the Constable who listened to my story on the phone remained detached and professional, there was still that impression that he was dealing with another irresponsible, irrational, female. I was assured by the end of the phone call that a patrol would be sent out to investigate the site, and an Officer would pay me a visit in the next day or so.

Infuriated with the lack of understanding of what I witnessed, I pulled a face at the phone, missing the old rotary handsets that I could have slammed down in his ear. Let them walk into the room full of vomit and blood and dog parts and see how they feel then!

I was beginning to get a headache from the frustrations in dealing with a monotone, unforgiving Cop. I’d polished off my entire packet of biscuits and drained the tea from the mug. Dry swallowing a Panadol I moved to the lounge and lay down with a pillow over my eyes to block out the light. Within seconds I was asleep.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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