Lee Hughes has been away from TKnC for a while, and I for one have been patiently tapping my fingernails, counting the days, cracking my knuckles... And oh! - friend, horror writer extraordinaire and previous Horror Editor at Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers - is back.
Lee's writing style is unique; Clive Barkeresque with a demonic hard edge. If you're not familiar with Lee's work then I recommend his incredible series The Osseous Box which, by pure coincidence, can be read in entirety here on TKnC, starting with episode 1 - The Jesus People.
Lee has written a disturbing tale especially for you, Mirum Pubertatem - a special, longer length tale to herald the long awaited return of his writing which we just know you're going to enjoy.
“You’ve got to be kidding me? Where’s Aunty Jane? Why can’t you do it?”
“Because, Aunty Jane has an appointment at the hospital today and someone has to sit with GeeGee.”
GeeGee was their name for Thomas’ great-grandmother, she’d been on the television when she’d hit the ton and ten mark, eight years previous.
Tommy had been five when he’d been forced to smile for the camera.
He got nothing from GeeGee, she didn’t even know who he was half of the time. And now he was going to have to sit with her, the human leaky-tap.
Tommy curled a lip. “Again, why can’t you do it?”
“Because I’m driving Aunty Jane, then going to have to wait for her. It’ll only be for a few hours.”
“What if I’ve got plans?”
It was the summer holidays; the world was his oyster, only now he was at the grit stage.
Tommy said hello and plopped down on the sofa. GeeGee didn’t notice him. She was drooped in her chair and gawping at the television.
The news was on. The Prime Minister was jawing about the age that folks could retire, explaining that there wasn’t enough in the pot to let people retire at the current age. They were complaining that people were living longer yet they were coming down heavy on the bad things; less salt in food, fatty food taxes and making cigarettes and booze more expensive. Not doing those things could solve the problem.
“You watching this GeeGee?”
She was nearly deaf but caught some of his noise and looked. She didn’t say anything she just turned away.
Tommy wandered into the kitchen.
Food wise, there were Tupperware boxes filled with what looked like regurgitated puke and he lost his appetite.
She’d started drooling. He knew Aunty Jane usually went to work with a bit of bog-roll.
He pretended he hadn’t noticed and went for a piss instead.
Tommy admired his newest pube, it took the tally up to four. Every day less a boy, more of a man he thought. His voice was starting to break; it was the early stages so there weren’t too many words that came out sounding like an old door on rusty hinges.
He stopped in the doorway, GeeGee was sat where he’d left her only now she’d lifted a weathered hand to her mouth and was smearing spit about her face.
“GeeGee, you okay?”
She didn’t reply.
She dribbled some more and put her left hand to work at spreading the saliva about her dial and down her neck.
Tommy got his phone out and rang his mother.
She’d turned it off.
“I’ll get you a towel.”
He tried to mop her slippery face but she pushed away his fussing hands.
“Fine, crack on.”
Once her face was fashioned with slobber she took her hair to the same task.
He dialed up his dad’s number instead.
His dad’s was a no go too. His dad was on the golf course and would have his turned off out of courtesy. Tommy was slipping it back into his pocket when it started to ring.
It was Steve.
-What-up Dick-Lick, where are you?
“I’m babysitting my great-grandmother.”
-Ditch her, she won’t even know you’re gone.
Tommy watched as she lathered her hair with spittle.
-What do you mean, can’t?
“I don’t know she’s acting all weird.”
-She’s like two-hundred years old, of course she’s crazy.
“She’s a hundred and eighteen and I mean she is being proper weird. She’s covering herself in spit.”
-So, my gramps used to shit his pants and pretended he could speak Eskimo.
“This is a bit different.”
-Don’t see how, so you coming out, or not?
“I’ll catch up with you later.”
Steve hung up.
All thoughts of doing a bunk fled as he re-entered the living-room to find GeeGee topless with everything hanging south and running thick spit about her overly-ripened skin. He looked up fast and wished he hadn’t as he saw where she’d already toiled. The spit had dried a dull white, blurring her features like a veil.
It was too much.
He dashed from the room.
If he couldn’t reach his parents the next best thing was the warden. There was a panic pull-string in the bathroom for if she slipped.
He made for it.
The fear made him clumsy. He tripped over the coat-stand, his landing cushioned by his head.
Tommy opened his eyes and felt a throbbing deep in his skull. It took a moment to realize where he was. He touched where it hurt and his fingertips came back wet.
He staggered to the bathroom and dabbed at the spot with a flannel. It was more of a bump with a scrape than a cut proper. The emergency string was beside him. He reached for it before becoming unsure of what he actually saw.
He let go of the string.
He hadn’t dreamt it.
It was worse. She was naked with her clothes pooled beside her. Not an inch of skin was visible through the thick mucus sheeting.
Tommy fumbled for his phone, Steve was on speed-dial.
-Ha, knew it. Caved. Where shall I meet you?
“Come over here.”
-To your great-grandmother’s?
-Why’d I wanna do that?
“I need you to tell me I’m not going crazy.”
-What you’ve been having a sneaky grope, sicko!
“Just come over, please.”
-This better be worth it.
He opened the door to Steve.
“So, what’s the deal? What happened to your head? She hit you when you went for the bad touch?”
“Just come see.”
“This’d better be good.”
“I don’t know what it is.”
He led Steve into the living room.
Steve stopped and stared at the sight, for once lost for words, apart from.
Steve edged closer.
Tommy grabbed his arm; Steve shook it loose and moved further.
“She dead in there?” He’d made it to within a few feet of the chair.
“I have no idea, what should I do?”
Steve didn't look back. “You got something I can poke her with?”
“You phoned for an ambulance?”
Steve looked back and grinned. “You phoned me instead, what the fuck did you think I could do?”
“Let me poke her, see if she moves.”
“Then how’re we gonna know if she’s still alive?”
Steve had a point.
Tommy went and got the poker from beside the electric fire and handed it over.
Steve prodded her in the side.
The cocooned shape wriggled a little.
Steve summed up that. “She’s not dead.”
“Then what is she?”
Steve poked her again.
The form fidgeted some more.
“Haven’t the foggiest.” He scratched at his head. “This could be like some second puberty thing. Not many people have made it to her age. What if we’re just like the pupae stage, caterpillar like, that’d be sweet, get wings and be like a super-hero.”
“I don’t know why I phoned you. She’s just, just…”
“Wrapped up in a cocoon? Because that happens to everyone? It is cool though.” He gave GeeGee another jab and in return she gave a wriggle.
“What should I do?”
“What can you do? You’ll probably get on the telly, me too because I was here. Mum’s always said I’d get on the telly but she was probably thinking more of Crimewatch, this is just amazing. Mind if I?” He lifted the poker and jabbed the air.
“Yes I do.”
“You know what?”
“What?” Tommy was starting to sweat.
“Maybe you’ve got it too, you know, your grandmother lived to be nearly ninety before the bus thing. You could end up like this.” He prodded again without permission.
“Stop it and just shut up.”
“Then stop asking me questions.” Steve broke into a grin. “Your mum is gonna freak when she sees this…probably blame me too.” He got out his phone and switched the camera on. “This is gonna get so many hits on my YouTube channel, more than the video I put up of you busting your nuts on your handlebars.”
“This is not going on YouTube!”
Steve tooled with his phone for a few seconds. “Too late, uploading now.”
Tommy made for the phone.
Steve hoisted the poker. “Come on, this is huge!”
Tommy stopped trying for the poker, his jaw dropped slowly. “No that is huge!”
Steve turned and watched in awe as the surface of the cocoon shifted as whatever was within pulsated and grew, stretching the exterior like a fat-ass entrapped in lycra. He dropped the poker and started dialing a number.
Tommy nodded. “Good idea, you are calling the police, right?” The question came at the end as Steve had punched in more than three digits.
“Jack, he has to see this…”
“Steve, just call the fucking police, that…” He pointed at the still swelling cocoon. “That’s my GeeGee.”
“Not any…” He raised a forefinger. “Hey Jack, you know where Tommy’s great-grandmother lives?... It’s the old folk’s community…Yeah, just past the cemetery.” Steve laughed. “Just get here as quickly as you can…Remember the dead rabbit we found with the two heads?...Well, yeah, this one beats it hands down…His gram’s made herself a sort of cocoon, it’s freaky and she’s changing inside of it…I don’t know what into…I’m not fuckin’ with you. You’ll be sorry if you miss it…” Steve ended the call and looked to Tommy. “He’s on his way.”
“We need to call an adult.”
“What do you reckon they’d do? They’d probably take her away.”
“And get her some help.”
“Like a bit of bandaging, a course of antibiotics? More likely they’ll go at her with a scalpel and do experiments and shit.”
Tommy scratched his head. He’d seen enough films to know what happens to freaks and oddities. Worst still, they might take him along for the ride for sharing the same D.N.A as her. “Think we should just wait and see what happens? She might be fine soon.”
Steve nodded gravely.
Though inside, he was laughing at talking Tommy into not calling anyone from the authorities.
The shrouded form became too big for the chair and spilled drunkenly to the floor. Steve took more footage from as many angles as he could muster.
Tommy felt like crying.
His hopes that GeeGee would emerge as her old self faded into the forgotten as the form became more and more a torment of the misshapen.
Tommy closed his ears to the commentary that Steve was adding to his anomalous documentary as the cocoon began to tear.
“Think we should help free her?” asked Tommy.
“You willing to get close to it?”
Steve found resolve. “Be right back.” He headed out of the room.
“It’s gonna be okay GeeGee, we’re gonna help you out of there,” said Tommy.
Steve returned with a steak knife roughly taped to a broom handle. “This should do the trick, ready?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“Too late now!” Was the war cry as he went to work on the membrane with the precision of an alcoholic surgeon going through the DTs.
Steve rent it open lengthways.
The thing within howled with surprise at its premature birthing.
Both of them took a step back.
Steve kept the makeshift tool leveled at the wailing form. “Don’t think we ought to have done that,” he conceded.
“Me, neither,” said Tommy, bolting for the door. Steve went for retreat in the same manner but a crooked and claw-ended fist reached out and grabbed his ankle with no intention of letting go.
Steve’s mouth contorted to an agape twist of agony.
Tommy spun at the doorway to see the scaled and gnarled hand tightening its grip. “GeeGee,” he ventured, although he knew it was no longer her.
Steve through the tears and the pain realized that the monstrosity wasn’t going to let go of his leg and started to jab at it with the business end of his broom.
The thing didn’t scream.
It tightened its grip until the ankle and the shin bone became more than mere brother and sister and became a mixture of the two.
None of the noises worked and he let go of his weapon and surrendered himself to the floor.
The thing sidled its way up Steve’s body, pausing at the knees to crumple them.
“Tommy. Help me Tommy!” Steve managed as the monstrosity's hands climbed higher and higher whilst providing ruination on their travels.
Tommy didn’t have a clue what to do. There was something still inside that tried to convince him that somewhere beneath the misshapen thing still lingered a GeeGee.
The creature’s crooked grip had made it north to Steve’s chest. The talons planted no flags of victory but continued north to the body’s summit.
It became too late for him to decide to go to his friend’s aid. All he could do was gawp at the hunched form and twisted legs. He was sure that there couldn’t be anything left of GeeGee, no little corner where she could have found solace.
A panting came from the creature’s maw, a loud drawing of breath as if it were about to submerge itself. It bit down into Steve’s throat. The sides of its mouth closed around the teeth making the bond air tight.
Any words of horror that Tommy had were left hanging by the vocal-chords on the gallows within his trachea.
The beast drank heartily.
Tommy watched as the rising of Steve’s chest began to slow and then stop. The beast refused to cease with its feeding. It reached down and clawed open Steve’s t-shirt and delved the hand in the front of the ribcage and tore it open revealing an inert heart.
Tommy expected it to rip free the static heart. Instead it almost gently wrapped its corrupt fingers about and around the muscle and began to massage it. Tommy could see from the thing's throat as it began to swallow again that it intended to literally bleed Steve’s body dry.
Tommy pissed himself. The only part of the act that surprised him was that he hadn’t let loose his bodily functions earlier, much earlier.
When there was nothing left to sup on it squeezed the heart until it burst.
It looked up at Tommy, who raised his hands and made begging noises.
It moved over the rug-of-a-body that had been Steve.
It almost looked human-like, yet at the same time, far from it. A creature drawn by the deranged hand of a narcotic-fuelled artist in the latter stages of syphilis showing his hatred for women through his designs.
Tommy found the eyes distracting. Angular and bulging, the pupils a perfect black that showed his own pathetic reflection, one that made him feel ashamed of his cowardice.
The eyes blinked slowly like shutters being drawn closed and opened once more at leisure.
The mouth drooped open, the notched teeth centre-stage. Mumbled words spilled like sewage from its blackened lips.
He recognized the cadence. It was similar to GeeGee's, though the tone was animalistic.
“More…” It moved closer still, hunched over, too tall for the ceiling of the room.
Tommy stood static.
It wanted more. It was asking for more and it was far from Dickensian.
“I haven’t got…”
The doorbell rang.
Tommy looked over towards the door.
It would be Jack.
Tommy looked back at the monster, then back at the door.
Nonna quello che sta succedendo a te?
Lee Hughes lives on the Isle of Man and has had short stories published about the web and also in print anthologies. He has a blog, but it’s been seldom used of late but it holds links to past stories and he may start using the blog more. Find the stories and more about him at -