The Caged Type

A home for Craig Thomas Boyle's writing and life.

Tag: Short story (page 1 of 2)

The Cost of Greatness

I

The blacksmith worked in the searing, familiar, heat of his forge. Sweat trickled from his brow, rolling down through his thick beard before dripping onto his bare chest as he worked, furious yet methodical. Each hammer blow was a thing of precision, each movement carefully calculated. He folded the glowing hot metal, shaping it. Each strike was accompanied by the slightest draining sensation, and he felt The Stranger’s hand guiding him. 

After all, he thought, it would be a shame to waste this Gift. 

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Dropping By

The scream of pulsing engines made it hard to read the notes on the digiscreen. The flickering text warned me that this planet’s native species had destroyed the first human colony that landed, long ago, and had repurposed our weapons to fight more ferociously than ever. But it’s hard to take in that kind of information when you’re hurtling through the sky at 200 miles per hour. Instead, I just stared at the dim reflection of my eyes in the screen. They were wide with fear.

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The creatures with black eyes [Horror Short]

I write this here in the hope someone will find it.

I know that the chances of someone – anyone, actually reading this note are not good. Dismal, in fact. I know that most likely, my own eyes will be the last pair to ever witness the words I’m hastily scribbling down.

But it matters not. I must warn someone. You must know.

If you have found this and you are reading these note, beware the men with the black eyes. Shun them. Fear them. Destroy them. They will do the same to you in a heartbeat.

My name is Dan Roberts. I am…was, a captain in the American army. During a bleak, dreary April that was devoid of activity aside from playing cards and wishing we were at home with our wives, my battalion received inexplicable orders to abandon the base we were currently stationed in. We had to leave the mainland U.S.A and head out into some shithole in the middle of nowhere, a tiny island in the pacific ocean.

Now, the men were far from stupid. They knew fine well that army units stationed on islands in the middle of the sea were apt to get gassed, nuked or have some other hideous weapon of war tested on them. Questions were raised, anger was rife.

I confronted the commanding officer about it, but was met with stern resolution and steely resolve. All he could tell me was that no questions should be asked. No testing was occurring, he reassured me. For my part, all I could do was nod and agree. After all, he outranked me.

“There’s a situation. We need men there. That’s all.” Said the man I’d followed for five years.

And so we were off. Multiple plane rides to reach guam and then a helicopter ride to the small island we were to be stationed. I was a fan of geography, so I knew we were heading near the Marianas trench – the deepest point of the ocean. The thought of the empty chasm of blackness descending deep into the Earth began to disturb me.

The island itself was small, no larger than two or three square miles of rock and tree and mud. We had to built our own encampment, with tents and fabric shelters alongside some pre-fab structures for pissing in.

We settled in for an uneasy first night. I slept under the canopy of my tent, but for some reason I kept dreaming of the top being torn off. All that I could see were the stars, with two impossibly dark eyes hiding among them.

Staring.

The next morning came and none of us knew what the fuck we were doing here, so the guys began to treat it like a holiday. The sun shone hot and the sea looked inviting. I couldn’t blame them. Despite the dream, I was feeling somewhat relaxed too. What else could we do but wait for orders? There was no naval facility here, so I’d given up on my assumption we’d be assisting a science expedition in the trench.

Then one of the soldiers went missing.

Rico Mendez had been swimming with the others when he’d vanished. Everybody had rushed to help, sprinting to his last position. He’d disappeared without a sound beneath the waves. A strong, able-bodied man who could outsprint most of the unit had just slid below the ocean and vanished.

We slept worse that night. I’d called in the incident and warned the men to stay out of the ocean. I dreamt of the eyes again. This time they were more visible. Black against the black sky, but a far more solid, menacing darkness than the heavens above me. They stared hungrily.

The next morning I awoke to find a unit of grumpy, bitter men. They wanted explanations for Rico and they wanted to swim. It was the only way they could cool off in the sticky pacific heat. It wasn’t like there was much else to do.

Later that evening, another man vanished.

That night, another.

I banned the men from swimming. I called in the incidents. HQ just relayed the same message each time: “Stay tight. We’ll extract in a week.”

Each day got worse.

More men began to go missing. One by one, they slid below the rolling waves without a single sound. No gasps for help, no cries of exhaustion, no struggling.

They vanished.

The dreams were worse then. I couldn’t sleep without seeing the staring black eyes.

Then, on the fifth day, with fifteen men of forty missing, I went for a walk to escape the terrible atmosphere in camp. I heard the chanting before I saw them, and drew my side-arm cautiously as I approached.

Between some thorned trees, I could see a gathering of shapes. They were terrible, inhuman creatures that I can’t bring myself to describe. Cruel contortions of men that wore our skin but did not fit the shape. On each one, I could see the black eyes I had dreamed off, staring at each other intently as they chanted.

“Cthulhu r’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”

I had no idea what ancient language they spoke, but it made no sense to my ears and the sound of it was stuff of nightmare.

Then, to my indescribable horror, one of the creatures turned to look at me. Through the bushes, I could see those terrible eyes. They mocked me with their very existence. Ancient, disgusting globes that bore into my soul. I tried to raise my pistol and faltered. I recognised the skin the creature seemed to wear, pulled over its hideous shape.

It was Rico Mendez.

I could only scream and run, deserting through the forest and screeching my way back to camp. I could hear the sound of gunfire, panic and the terrifying squelch of the creatures.

“What the fuck!? Shoot them! Shoot them!”

“Cthulhu r’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!”

“Help us! Someone help us!”

The noise of the chant and the battle raged, but I slipped out of consciousness as the thought of their awful black eyes burned its way into my mind.

I awoke in a base in Washington D.C. I gave a tearful report to my commanding officer. Apparently I was the only one to survive the island, found alone by the extraction team. I had been curled into a ball, shaking and quivering.

I remember none of this. But what I do remember is my commanding officer. As I gave him the fragile details of what had happened, he stared at me.

Stared at me with empty, terribly black eyes.

They shone like the void.

I write this to you now from the hospital they’ve consigned me to. Beware the black eyed men. They worship someone…something…ancient. It stirs below us. It stirs in the deepest parts of our world. The parts we know less than we know outer space.

They are coming.

A man searches a cupboard (Short Story)

He opened the cupboard door and sighed at the barren landscape that confronted him. His hand pawed inside the emptiness, searching. The man strained with the effort, stood on his toes as he stretched up into the overhead cupboard and tried to grasp what he was looking for.

Finally, he gave up and pulled his hand out. Cemented on his leathery old hand was a fine layer of dust, which he shook off with a frown of absent irritation. He knelt down in the kitchen and opened another cupboard, this one below the worktop. He nodded to himself now.

“It’s got to be here.” He said aloud. He felt anger rise in him as he rifled through the barren cupboards, eager to find it.

His reflection caught in the dusty glass of the oven. For a moment, the man saw himself as he was – an old, tired face with lines of stress and age creasing his features.

Then, he saw himself as he had been. A young man, with a perpetual smile. He saw his wife and him in the kitchen he was in now, but the cupboards had been full. The oven had been gleaming. He saw her cooking noodles on the hob, his body wrapped around her from behind. How she’d laughed softly and fended him off with a wooden spoon as the smell of the chicken noodles had wafted through their new home.

With the weight of memory hanging heavy on him, he paused his search. The man’s shoulders slumped and he looked around the dusty, disused remnants of his kitchen. Of their kitchen. He looked up at the counter-tops and the kettle. He remembered the terrible agony on their faces as they’d poured steaming mugs of tea for one another the night she had miscarried. The steaming hot drink had done little to stir the coldness that had settled in both of them that day.

The man laid his hand on a circular object in the cupboard and he drew it out quickly, as though relieved to have found it. Then his face crumpled in disappointment. It was a bottle of Mexican spices. He didn’t remember her ever cooking with those. He threw the bottle away and resumed his search, more slowly now. The weight of time was upon him and it was like an anchor dragging him down.

After they’d drank tea that night, they’d lived like robots. They’d stopped laughing so often. Stopped holding one another. She still cooked for him, but the distance between them had grown into something physical. Like it could be touched, if only he reached out to grab it. But he didn’t. Neither of them did.

And now, here they were. He almost laughed at the bitterness of it. Forty years of unhappiness together, where they should have separated but couldn’t. And now she was gone, asleep in some mortuary a few streets away. Eternally at peace, perhaps with their infant son from all those years ago.

The old man’s search ended. He found the circular grip of the revolver in the back of yet another cupboard. With tears of remembrance, he closed his eyes and thought of her at the hob, cooking noodles for them in their brand new home, with the swell of their child on her belly. The promise of their future.

The old man pulled the trigger.

 

The Yearbook Prophecies – Short Story

When I first pulled it out of the box in my attic, I had to do a double take. I hadn’t seen it in years, but it seemed so familiar. It was an object of such fondness to me that even though I’d just found it again, I felt I’d had it by my side all of these years.

But I hadn’t. Not really. It’d been up here, in the box of memories like the rest of my aging junk. Nestled there, amongst the skateboard and roller blades, between the paintings I’d done when I was 15. The pages still felt crisp, despite all the times I’d read the book through the years when I’d missed those formative years.

Here it was, my school yearbook. Chock full to the brim with pictures of people I’d called friends. Some who I’d called my enemies, too. A tome that I’d taken with me to college and even now remained. Even with me moving to a new house with my second wife, it was still stored in the attic instead of discarded in the trash like most people’s memories.

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The Edge.

The man had always been afraid. For as long as he could remember he’d been scared of the dark. Scared of loud noises. Scared of other people. Scared of himself. Now he stood in the darkness and let it hold him in its cold embrace. He let the wind whip up under his jacket and bite through to the bone. His jaw clenched against the urge to shiver but he held it in. He wondered if in another life he’d have been less of wimp. He looked down over the street below. It ran in zig-zags like a children’s toy, with the tiny glow of car headlamps and street lights casting thin spheres of light through the night. Another gust of wind blew and he pulled back from the edge of the building. He felt himself shiver. This time he couldn’t suppress it.

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[Halloween Short Story] They live amongst us.

 

I’ve never been a big believer in fairy tales. I’ve never enjoyed flights of fancy. I’m not a fan of horror films, ghost stories or urban legends. Hell, I don’t even like the wizard of Oz. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty grounded guy. It’s why I decided to take Biology at university. Science is the study of reason, so believe me when I tell you that what is happening…defies reason.

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The Warehouse (Part 8) – Short Fiction

Part Seven HERE (This is the final chapter of this story. I began it in earnest after a writingprompts thread blew up and people asked me too. I’ve enjoyed the series and I’m grateful for the feedback you guys have given me. I hope you enjoyed the ride. If you’ve enjoyed this series please subscribe. This story is available in a handy ebook format HERE at $0.99. Buying a copy would be a nice gesture, but the story will always be available for free here.)

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Circumstances change – Part Six

Part Five HERE

The rifle was awkward to carry, even loaded like it was in the gym bag. The Hitman lugged it over his shoulder, almost limping on one side from the weight. Not as heavy as the barbells he lifted in his routine, but sluggish and unwieldy like full bags of groceries. He remembered the assault rifle he’d carried in the army, and how light they’d felt compared to this.

No matter, he thought, a heavy burden requires an equally heavy cure.

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Beginning the Purge: Part five

Part four available HERE

The storm raged. The violence came back to him. The men died in droves and screamed, pleaded, begged. He paid them no heed, his rifle a barking cannon in the raging heat of the desert.

The Hitman awoke soaked in sweat. He felt the cool air of his apartment assault his body, an alien sensation next to the fire that raged on his skin. He groped in the darkness and flicked the light switch. The bedroom was a chamber of protection, a mirrored wall the only luxury. Everything else was sterile, defensive. He got to his feet and dressed quickly, picking a suit from the many similar styles in his wardrobe. His white shirt pulled taut over his toned frame. He stared into the mirror for a moment, his sunken eyes analysing the man that stood there. The stranger.

He studied the Teacher’s laptop. Through it, he found the names and addresses of their sick little chatroom. He read the chats they’d had. They were all above suspicion, people that existed in the middle class and higher – people you’d trust your children with. One of them was a policeman. That could cause issues. Continue reading

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