The prolific Lee's latest...
THE JESUS PEOPLE
Billy had needed clean clothes so he'd made the victim strip. He'd left the fool doubled over, naked, winded in the road. He stood before the building. He made sure he looked presentable.
Carol answered. She looked happy to see him. "Billy, we’re just having some refreshments, come in."
Billy smiled and stepped inside. He was surprised to see that the interior wasn’t all decked out with God-stuff. Billy followed her to the lounge. There were eleven other people in the room. A handsome man leant again the fireplace. A few women in the room ogled him. Billy figured it all out. The handsome man was the one that used his looks to suck in the girls. Carol was the one that led the men in by their cocks. He sighed. Her job was to hook the fish and reel them in.
Billy sat down ignoring the rest of the catch. He looked for things to steal. Silence fell when a man walked in. There was an air of confidence about him. Carol and the handsome man looked at him with lust. Behind, was his entourage, three of them.
The man's smile grew wider. "Welcome, I’m Quinn. . . and Jesus loves you."
His tone rode through the air. Somehow managing to pick everyone up and put them in the saddle of his words. This was preposterous. He might just be a low-life criminal, but he was smart enough to understand that the man was running a cult.
Billy stood up adjusting his pants as though he was a stranger to them. "Where's the bathroom?"
Quinn smiled. "Up the stairs, second door upon the left."
He didn’t need to piss. He just wanted to take something away from this farce, other than nonsense spilt from the bible. Billy went to the bathroom. He opened it and closed it to give the impression that he'd entered.
Down the hallway he moved, praying that the floorboards didn’t tell tales on him. Billy listened at the wood of the door. He opened it and slipped inside. Once the door was shut he flicked the switch. His eyes widened. The room was a myriad of sexual toys. From whips and chains to items that would kill during sex, or afterwards.
There was a loud crash from the hallway and screaming from downstairs. Billy knew the loud crash was someone kicking in the bathroom door. He looked for a weapon. He settled for a baseball-bat that had been wrapped diligently with barbed wire. The barbs were decorated with dried blood. He was already lifting it up. He could hear the footfalls of people outside.
His heart thumping drowned out the screams. Billy started towards the door. It door swung open, two men rushed in. Each gripped a soiled machete.
"Seems this one has some balls on him," said one.
"The question is whether he gets to use them before I chop the fuckers off," said the other.
Billy knew his chances of surviving this were slim. These lunatics were dripping with blood. Billy swung the bat.
The barbs whistled through the air. "You better believe I’m willing to use em."
He had a flashback of half-killing the night-watchman. Billy took a step forward. Another step, they'd be in swinging distance. Billy was about to swing when a voice from the doorway swept in, "Wait!"
It was Quinn, the false Messiah. The thugs stopped. Carol was talking in his ear. Her hands and face smeared with blood.
"It appears daughter Carol believes that you might be different. Are you a wolf, or a lamb?" Quinn said.
Billy didn’t put much thought into it. "I’m no one's sacrifice." He kept his bat aloft.
"Will you prove it?"
"Yeah," said Billy.
He knew enthusiasm would be what kept his blood in his veins. Quinn left with Carol still at his shoulder. Carol smiled at Billy. It differed from earlier. This new smile was sly, like the cat that had caught the mouse, but was keeping it for later.
They paraded down the stairs and into the lounge. It was a mess. There were bodies strewn upon the floor. Another was bound and blindfolded. Ghouls worked blood art upon the walls. A hand fell upon his shoulder.
A mouth teased his ear, whispering, "Which are you Billy?"
The blood started to fire up the cylinders in his body and the engine came alive. Just as it had when he had bashed in the watchman's skull. The hand on his shoulder began to stroke where neck became shoulder. Instead of calming the burgeoning fire of anger it was stoking it, getting him excited, it broke him.
He ran at the blindfolded man, his barbed-bat high. The man was silenced as his head caved in. Billy didn’t blink as the bat knocked the jaw away. The barbs stripped flesh as they rioted across the skin. Billy kept swinging. He felt like a winner. Everyone that had slammed him for being useless were silenced. Billy was more than the sum of his past life. He was greater, something that only gods could possibly fathom.
He swung that bat longer than needed. His arms burned and his face was flushed. He couldn’t remember when he had started to get the stitch in his side. All he could think about was this new echelon of being that he had ascended. Shoulder to shoulder with the gods.
Billy let the bat fall from sprained fingers. The stench of excrement mixed with the stink of the blood conjured up a perfume that swamped the room.
Whispers rode the tiny distance between lip and lobe, "Do you feel fantastic?"
"Yes," he panted.
Her hand slipped from his neck. Downwards until her fingers met his. She lowered him. She manipulated his arm like an amateur puppeteer. Dipping his hand into the blood. She ran his hand upon the wall in far from delicate designs. The art was childish, stray strokes and lopsided crosses. Truly childlike, but the innocence had been aborted. Once Carol had deemed the art done she licked at his fingers.
"You know why we just did that?" Carol asked.
Billy wasn't sure of anything. "No." His mouth was too dry for anything more than monosyllabic answers.
Quinn stepped forward, "We can now move forward."
The gathered smiled at Billy.
Billy watched from the floor. He was dizzy with the exertion and could hear a continuous pealing of dull and rusty bells. The bells rang out in moody exultation. Billy closed his eyes to hear the cacophony of tolls, he fell asleep to its lullaby.
Billy awoke. He could still hear the noise of another realm letting out joy at his arrival. He knew the noises came from a faltering mental health.
Carol’s voice broke through his musings, "Do you like the new you?"
He could hear her voice but he couldn’t see her. He rolled onto his back. She was standing naked and scarred. He spied the maps of injuries old and new that lapped at her skin. The stains marred only those parts that could be wrapped in secrecy beneath the folds of dresses and sleeves of blouses.
She smiled as though the white-puffed marks were awards and merits for all things deviant. "Each one reminds me of a pleasure." She ran a finger down a six inch track of damaged skin. "This was a gift from a man on my eighteenth birthday." Her finger strayed and circled a nipple that quickly grew erect, "Do you want me?"
He wanted to read her scars like Braille and to decide what art of his own to add to her atlas of horrors.
His soul had been awakened by murder and his sexual awakening had arrived through the medium of pain and bondage. They spent the whole of the next day in bed fornicating. In the evening, she led him downstairs.
They dined and the conversation was candid. Quinn asked, "What do you know of the great battle?"
Quinn seemed surprised, "And yet he still granted you a place in his ranks. We're going to pave the path for his arrival."
"How?" Billy asked.
"The hordes cannot move like us. We will lend them our bodies and we shall set the world afire."
Billy didn't believe in Heaven and Hell. Yes, he had felt like he had been instilled with greatness through his act, but the act was his own doing.
Breakfast was a simple affair. Billy noticed the door to where he'd committed murder was closed.
"Where are the bodies?" Billy asked.
Quinn looked up from his newspaper. "Disposed of. We'll be performing the ritual tonight and we'll be gone by the morning."
Quinn asked that Billy did neither of two things. The first was to leave the house. The second was that he didn't enter the front room.
Billy found himself bored in the kitchen. He winced as he put pressure on an unhealed wound. It had been ecstasy when the lash had swiped through his skin. Now it annoyed and pained him every-time he leant against something. Carol was preparing candles the colour of midnight. She brushed him off as she was busy.
Billy was about to say bollocks to it all when a warmth rode over his skin. It felt like a multitude of hands switching between massaging and gripping. His head became heavy once more with the chorus of the damned. Billy found himself paralysed. A whisper started in his skull, Chosen as my finder. Billy’s legs gave out. The obscene whispers continued. The whispering began to stroke pain into his legs. It stroked until it broke them. In that single solitary second between consciousness and the void he realised that the Devil was real and had made him his creature to be.
Billy awoke in the front room. The walls were still daubed with the scribbling. They had long ago ceased to be crimson and had drifted through the rainbow to shit-brown. He tried to sit up, pain creased his legs.
"I did tell you not to try and leave," Quinn said.
Billy looked about. Everyone was there. All wearing robes of red. He glanced down at himself. He too was wearing a red gown. He legs were straightened with homemade splints.
The light in the room came from the slippy lids of black candles. Billy didn’t want the Devil to redecorate his soul.
Quinn began muttering beneath his breath. Billy strained his ears to try and unlock the secret to it but couldn't. The others took up the black prayer. It reached a volume that was angry and filled with fervour. He knew he was in too deep.
The candles suddenly raged to life. Tall and robust flames of deepest red danced upon the candles. A breeze came alive in the room. Frolicking about the robes, lifting them in dark merriment. Billy could feel the touch of the other-world. They worked themselves into a frenzy. Billy looked away from the lunatic faces to the walls. Those symbols that had been developed with blood were coming alive. Seeming to slide all over the walls.
Billy pushed himself across the carpet to the corner. He huddled and watched as the Devil’s champions began to convulse as if electricity was being poured into their mouths. One of the nameless ones broke first. He was snapping his head as if fitting. His arms outstretched, his fingers drawn into tight claws. Tumours broke out like leprosy over his features. Billy gawped as he watched rips evolve in the man’s cheeks.
The nameless sinner turned his head, he was staring right into Billy’s eyes. There was no look of pain, it was pleasure. Billy saw something in the man’s eyes, fire. Bright tongues of flame wiped away the blue of the iris. The rips in the cheek grew. Widening until teeth could be seen. Needle-point teeth. Pushing and pecking like a hatchling prodding at its shell. The sinner pulled at his robe. Dragging it from his skin until he was naked. Busy in the throes of bestial labour, birthing something diabolical.
Others were beginning to show signs of their short devilled pregnancies coming. Quinn was shaking with holes being punched through his flesh. His head arced back, he screamed once as the demonic thing tore through his abdomen, the waste of Quinn toppling backwards. The demon collapsed to the floor. The demon that had been chewing its way to freedom through the man’s cheek did the same. The others were finding their demises in the same manner. Carol's devil-child was still born, leaving her ruined.
Billy felt something. It started like a hunger in his stomach. Billy didn’t need to eat. Satan fed him his own fiery meat. His children, His misfits, His thieves, His pride, and His fall. Billy howled as the demon took control of him. The demon put him to sleep as it stretched its limbs. His broken bones mended. It carved Billy, working him until it was something resembling a dog, more a cur. Something ragged that you’d have on a rope or didn’t mind kicking. The hound knew it was the favoured one in its master’s eyes. It moved, sniffing at its brethren, lapping now and again at the loose blood. Its front legs were too long to be a true quadruped. Its Master had designed it for a new role, hunter. The work to be conducted by the swell of the moon.
It scratched at the wood of the door, howling in frustration. Again and again it struck its head against the door. It turned, spied the windows. With badly proportioned muscles bunched, it struck glass. Its weight and momentum kept it going right through the pane. It landed with a sprawl upon the pavement. It panted and wheezed. It stretched its legs and took off at a lumbering speed. To the spectators the dog looked a mutt, a misused animal that belonged more to the gutter than the hearth of a family fire.
The Beast was free.
Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared in or is due to appear in the anthology Cern Zoo Nemonymous 9, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, MicroHorror.com, The Daily Tourniquet and Powder Flash Burn. To find out more visit: leehugheswrites.blogspot.com.