Thrilled to renovate the classic Monroe house, Gene Gibbs responded to Brenda Patton’s personal job offer with great gusto.
Gene pours tender love and care into the terribly neglected house. But the house had no interest in those emotions. Not from him.
Now Gene must find a way out before the horrors behind the walls claim him. Forever.
Reaping a Hateful Harvest
by Ezekiel James Boston
“You’re not going to beat me!” Gene Gibbs couldn’t help but feel crazy yelling at the front door because that’s the kind of shit only crazy people do. But he wasn’t crazy, and if he couldn’t get out of this fucking house, he was going to burn the bitch down.
Shadows played at the corner of his eyes.
Since they’d been doing that for the past three days, he wanted to ignore them, but unlike the other times, this one was large enough to be a person. Or something else.
Having difficulty between knowing if he was awake or in his nightmares, Gene expected the walls and ceiling of the entry hall of the early 1900’s house to be covered in the swirling black tendrilly morass that reeked of death and exuded derision, and to feel That Presence— That Someone. That Something; full of hate and hunger waited in the kitchen. In the walls. In the ceiling. Everywhere.
The walls and ceiling were bare dirty-white plaster. The corkboard flooring in the hallway gave way to tiny white and Gainesboro gray tile flooring; halfway completed in the empty kitchen. The stairs on his left that led up to the landing were upholstered in hunter green, 1970’s shag carpet until they turned right to go to the second floor. Yet another partially completed renovation. Right now, the stairs were just stairs. They didn’t feel like they lead up to death.
In case whatever that was at the corner of his eye had hopped into the living room, Gene took a quick step and peeked in.
Nothing there either. Just more corkboard floor, the lawnmower he had brought in to fix on its side next to his tools, and the wide brick fireplace.
So, it was just him in his navy-blue coveralls. In the hallway. Holding a cool mason jar of gasoline.
He had punctured the lid first to stuff a ripped portion of his flannel pajama bottoms through. The cloth had absorbed some of the gasoline inside and the fumes reminded him of what he had planned on doing.
Gene turned back to the door and narrowed his eyes. “Open up or I’ll burn you down.”
Besides a plane flying overhead, the house was quiet. Listening.
“I mean it.” Gene pulled his Zippo lighter from his pocket. “I’m not fucking around.”
Though he had quit smoking years ago, Gene still carried the plain silver lighter. Most days it was just something to fiddle with. Occasionally, he’d get a chance to show off his ability to pull, open, and strike it in one fluid motion to help a smoker light up.
Today, his Zippo was going to be a force for destroying a house that he thought had so much charm and promise.
Gene shook his head and shrugged. “All right. I warned you.” With a snap, he opened the Zippo and struck it.
A door slammed upstairs.
Gene flinched. He had been alone in the house.
The shower turned on.
Though he had started off casually talking to the house like a friend while doing the landscaping and quick repairs, he had ended up yelling at the house when the doors and windows—which were unlocked—wouldn’t open to let him out. Nothing had happened those other times. Even when he tried to shatter the unbreakable windows.
This time, with gas and fire in hand, the house reacted.
The small comfort he found in knowing that he hadn’t lost his mind was swallowed by the unnerving certainty that either something was in the house with him or the house was sentient and set against him.
Ready to put the flame to the gas-soaked flannel and huck the jar at anything moving, Gene started up the upholstered stairs. As he went, a tingling lit in the back of his head. Instinctually, he felt like he was prey drawing closer to a predator. Consciously, he was armed and prepared to face it.
Set to light and throw, Gene hopped up onto the landing expecting the worst of his tendrilly nightmares.
But only found the last six stairs and the empty hall that turned right to the spacious loft.
The lighter started to heat in his hand.
Knowing that he could have it opened and lit in an instant, he flicked it closed.
Through both doors that flanked the top of the stairs were closed, he eyed the one on the left. That was the one he had left open after his shower this morning and that was the one muffling the sound of the shower running now.
A bitter taste—fear—lit at the back of his throat. The tingling in the back of his head filled his brain and expanded down his neck.
He swallowed, took a deep breath, and took five of the stairs.
Gene leapt past the sixth stair, dashed past the doors, and turned to surprise anything that waited to ambush him from the loft.
But the loft was empty.
The setting sun shone through the bayside windows and colored the plaster walls a ruddy orange. Hoping to see someone, Gene rushed to the windows he had admired for giving a commanding view of the extremely long, private front drive.
Tall, ivy veined fichus hedges, hedges he had to use a twenty-foot ladder to trim the top of, lined the property. The wrought iron gate that had been overgrown with ivy that he had cleared, was the only opening at which anyone on foot or in a car could see the house.
No one was out there, and he could barely see the tops of the other two-story houses a city block away.
Hemmed by freshly mowed grass, his van sat near the house with his riding mower still caged in the trailer. The weed whacker he had set against the side of his van three days ago, before taking his small mower in replace the blade, was still there.
His van was hope. He just had to get to it.
Determination rebuilding to get out. Gene went back to the doors.
Instead of going into the bathroom, he opened the door to his bedroom to makes sure nothing would take him from behind.
As it should be, the only things in there were his inflated air mattress, spare clothes, water, and food. When he couldn’t get out, he had moved all of the essentials here.
Gene closed the door and faced the bathroom.
He reached out for the handle.
The tingling crept down his back.
Gene shuddered. He turned the handle, threw open the door, and flicked his Zippo.
Hot steam hung in the air and was the only thing in the otherwise empty bathroom. Standing so that the door could not close him in, Gene leaned over the toilet to see the other side. Nothing.
Dreading having to venture further to face whatever it was, Gene looked at the closed door that led to the small nursery off of the 1900’s version of a master bedroom. Something about both those rooms beyond that door—particularly the master—had made him decide to set up camp in the other room. He didn’t know what it was then, but he felt it now. The menace. The loathing.
The old-fashioned handles in the shower squeaked as they spun off. By themselves.
The shower curtain he had brought lay open and the shower head faced the wall.
Fearful that it would pivot and blast him with scolding hot water, Gene withdrew into the hallway to go back down the stairs.
The handles squeaked and the water turned back on.
When Gene turned back, he caught a message on the mirror.
This morning, resolute to get out of the house, he had used his finger to write his threatening affirmation on the fogged-up mirror. He had written perfect block letters and read it to the house. “If I die, you die.”
Fully fogged up, the mirror didn’t reveal the message that he had written early. In sloppy scrawl, there was only, You die.
Gene had almost not come to work on the house at the end of Monroe Lane. When Brenda Patton, the geekiest freak in high school—shit, since elementary—had sent him a message on Facebook with the job of clearing out the overgrown vegetation and to do minor handyman work, Gene figured it was the weirdo’s way of bringing attention to how well she’d done in the twenty plus years since graduation. Sort of a, you ruined me in high school, but whose laughing now kind of thing. He should’ve unfriended her years ago, but enjoyed the lack of response when he’d make an off comment.
However, after looking at Brenda’s profile again and seeing that she was mid-level management at a rink-a-dink travel agency, Gene decided to show up and show off. He was doing well. Better than her actually. He was his own boss, was about to expand, and didn’t have to kowtow to anyone.
Now that he had seen the message, the water turned off.
He felt like he’d been dismissed.
“Yeah?” Gene yelled, “Well, fuck you!”
He tromped down the stairs to the landing, flicked his Zippo, lit the flannel and hucked the jar at the door.
The door flung open.
The jar sailed out and cracked open on the brick porch. If he’d had oil and powdered detergent to make a proper sticky Molotov cocktail, the fire may have burned long enough or high enough to do damage and call attention. Just gasoline, the fire would spread and burn out.
Ready to go through the fire and leap out of the porch, Gene powered down the stairs.
One stair from freedom, Gene leapt.
The door slammed shut.
Gene crashed into it and whacked his head—
Head throbbing, Gene roused.
A gibbering echoey voice rattled nonsense and vibrated on his skin. He didn’t understand what was being said, but felt the mocking disdain as it pressed on his body. That revolting smell like burnt hair and rotten meat filled the air. And the slick, slimy sound of tendrils writhing on the black walls and ceiling filled his ears.
Gene tried to open his eyes, but dread kept them sealed shut.
If he saw it—the walls, the ceiling, the madness—it’d be real. And he’d be totally fucked. With his eyes closed, there was still hope. Hope of waking up on his air mattress. Or in the back of his van. Or in his own bed.
Anywhere but in Brenda’s house.
Something wrapped around his ankle.
Gene’s eyes flew open.
The walls were the wriggling black vines of his deepest fears. A long spindly bastard from up the stairs had ahold of him and tugged.
Gene pulled against it. He was stronger than it.
But another had slithered into view on the landing and turned to start down the stairs.
“Oh fuck.” Gene jumped up to his feet and pulled against the tendril into the living room.
Almost to the mower, the second tendril grabbed onto the same ankle. Together, they yanked.
Gene swiveled to put his weight on his other leg, and to keep from pitching face first to the corkboard flooring that had turned bone white.
Almost evenly matched, they pulled on him.
Using his body weight, Gene struggled against them. Inching closer to the old mower blade.
He glanced back and flopped to the ground to kick at them with his free leg.
The second tendril let loose to grab his other ankle.
Gene scrambled. He seized the blade, sat up, and whacked the tendril still holding him. He gashed it good.
It let go. Dark, purplish-blue ooze seeped out of the wound.
The gibbering voice turned into an angry squeal.
“Fuck you, too!” Leg free, Gene pulled it in and stood. He faced down the two tendrils.
“Come on.” Jaw set, Gene bounced in place.
Enraged, Gene whacked.
He not only kept them at bay, but—little by little—he beat them back to the hallway.
Gouged and oozing, the tendrils managed to level attack after attack, but were losing strength as rapidly as they were losing ground to the stairs.
Gene grunted, “Get some.”
He whacked one, the first one, and it withdrew up three steps.
Gene smacked the other and it did the same.
Before the either could get back on the attack, he tried the front door. It didn’t open.
Adrenaline fueled, Gene grinned. He was glad it didn’t. Now he had reason to stalk these little shits back into the master bedroom and kill the thing with his own hands instead of burning the fucking place down.
If it wasn’t in there, he’d kill it wherever it was.
Gene gnashed his teeth. “Should’ve let me out, fucker.” Giving no other warning, he pressed the attack. He beat them to the landing and could see that they came from the bathroom.
Confidence at full-peak, he was ready to face and murder whatever this thing was.
Oozing, the tendrils tried to fend him off, but their high offense had turned more into low defensive strokes as Gene forced them all the way up the stairs and made them retreat into the bathroom.
Giving both tendrils a quick one-two hit, Gene glanced beyond them. Sure as shit, they curled from the nursery doorjamb back to the master bedroom.
“Daddy’s coming.” He crossed onto the tile and pressed a savage attack to get to the nursery.
The shower handles squeaked on.
Scorching water soaked his back.
Gene bellowed and redoubled his attack to get beyond the water’s arc.
About to press into the nursery proper, six more tendrils snaked up to meet him. The two he’d been beating back reared up to waver in the air with the others.
About to retreat, strong tendrils—from behind—slithered around his ankles and seized him.
Gene spun to give them the business and gaped.
Dozens of long tendrils and perhaps hundreds of smaller ones extended from the black morass of the walls and waited for him to try and get back out.
From behind, tendrils wrapped his waist and whacking arm.
Gene took hold of the mower blade with this other hand.
Before he could swing once, a tendril, one of the ones he had beat up the stairs, arrested his other wrist. Alone there, it had more than enough strength to keep him from moving an inch.
“They lured me.” Stupefied, Gene whimpered, “They were just fucking with me.”
Directed by tendrils, the shower head angled to the tub. Steam emanated from the blistering stream, as it came out of the old spout and began to fill the tub.
More tendrils enwrapped his torso and legs. Together they lifted him from the ground and eased him toward the tub.
“No.” Gene shook his head and shouted, “No!”
They held him aloft as he pleaded for his life and the tub filled.
The water cut off.
They turned him to face the mirror.
The black things wrapped several times around his waist, his ankles, and his wrists to have him spread-eagled and arms raised in a vee.
The top of the mirror had fogged up and there was one word. Apologize.
“I’m sorry.” Gene gave it up without a moment’s hesitation. His chest filled with life-fearing sorrow and he tried to express it. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
They reeled him back over the water.
“No! I’m sorry!” Frantic, he tried to fight them and apologized like mad.
His babbling apologies turned into wails as the heat emanating from the water warmed his back. Heated his back. Burned his back.
They plunged him in.
The air in the basement of the Monroe house was pregnant with the putrid stench of burning incense made from blood-soaked black roses. Though the smell was prominent, there was an undertone stink of human waste.
As wide as the manse above, a third of the room was filled with the tendrils of Uog-Toth, a lesser servant known to relay power to Yog-Sothoth. With vacant stares, at least fifty people were held fast by the tendrils with a domed tentacle wrapped over their crown. Their moans of discomfort were a constant drone with an occasional shriek breaking through. Held in the air by tendrils, each person had an IV rig in their arm that allowed for three tubes to feed the body. The tubes went to massive bags that hung from an administration pole that was held close to the body.
The only person without an IV was Gene Gibbs who had gone from babbling apologies to a heart-wrenching screaming jag. The rig and pole were next to him, but he wasn’t hooked up.
Initiate Brenda Patton’s breath hitched. Though she thought she hated this man for constantly embarrassing her in school, most notably holding her down in seventh grade to spit a loogie in her mouth; which got all the popular girls to constantly snipe at her through high school, Brenda couldn’t help but feel empathetic horror at seeing him actually in the physical and psychic grip of Uog-Toth.
Compared to some of the truly revolting stories she’d heard Elder Initiates tell of the targets of their hate-sacrifice, Brenda’s felt petty. But once she had joined the cult, she didn’t know how to get out.
A rather pleased exhalation came from directly behind Brenda. Mistress Fa’Orasla’s light voice held a delighted heft. “You’ve done well in choosing, Initiate.” The cult leader’s long fingers squeezed Brenda’s shoulders through her heavy cotton robes and rubbed the back of her head through her hood. “Go. Insert the needle and utter aloud the name Uog-Toth grants you for this grand hate-sacrifice.”
Swallowing quietly, Brenda eyed the various tendrils as she walked into the mass to get to Gene and the IV rig.
A tendril that felt like a slimy garden hose took gentle hold of her right hand to guide her in. When she was next to Gene, it slithered up her arm inside her sleeve, across her shoulder blades, and up behind her ear.
Trembling inside, Brenda fought the urge to twist away from it. She took hold of Gene’s arm. His skin was cool to the touch. She turned his arms so that she could see the roadmap of bulging veins in his muscled arm.
She took hold of the needle.
Something warm and slick slid from the tip of the tendril behind her ear. Though she had witnessed four Elder Initiates perform this ritual, and twitch, their hoods obscured this particular part of the ceremony.
That warm slick rounded her ear, snaked down past her forward helix piercing, past her daith piercing, and slithered into her ear canal. Physically, it stopped. But something ephemeral—and slimy—pressed through her eardrum into her tympanic cavity and pressed on to explore further.
Reluctantly, her mouth gapped as she shudder-filched away from it.
Brenda had the wherewithal not to pull.
Her pulse raced, her breathing quickened, and she felt every ounce of fluid in her bladder beg for release.
She focused to steel her nerves.
Brenda laid the needle on one of Gene’s veins and pushed it in.
A word played on her lips as that ephemeral feeling crowded in on her soul. Uog-Toth had joined her in her body. Next to Its power, next to Its true loathing, she was nothing.
Her life was nothing.
All life was nothing.
But some of Its power could become hers. She just had to let go to utter the word.
Ready to hear her new name, her cosmic name, Brenda relinquished control. Her vocal cords and lips moved.
With her mouth, Uog-Toth said, “Unworthy.”
Fear seized her heart.
Brenda wanted to protest, but her body wasn’t hers anymore. She had handed control over to a being of much greater power and It wasn’t giving up anything.
Mistress Fa’Orasla walked into the tendrils.
They slid along her robes. Held her hands. Stroked her face. She didn’t even blink when one tendril slid along her lower eyelid and a bright purple tongue came from the tip to lick her eyeball.
The tendrils pulled Brenda’s sleeve up.
“Welcome.” Mistress Fa’Orasla took the needle from Gene’s arm and stuck it into Brenda’s. “To the Monroe House.”
Brenda winced. Her vision began to blur.
Mistress Fa’Orasla called for another IV rig.
Brenda found herself on the landing looking down at Gene holding a mason jar that he’d made into a Molotov cocktail.
He yelled at the door, “You’re not going to beat me!”
She said, “Gene?”
Gene turned. There was a wild look in his eyes. “Brenda! I can’t get out of this house. We gotta get out of this house!”
Crushing fear overwhelmed Brenda.
Pleased, Uog-Toth fed.
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