During a discussion, I suggested to my son that it is not possible in these days of blood and gore horror, to write a horror story that could actually scare the reader. He suggested that maybe by attacking the readers five senses, one might still be able to scare them. Hence, "Night Wind". I still think I fell short. Don't you?
The night wind swirled in the darkness, howling with the sound of multiple shouting voices. It caught hold of the things of nature, casting them about and using the twiggy fingers of a tree to scrape eerily across the only window in my poorly constructed shelter. It sent the same shiver through my spine as does the sound of fingernails scraping against a blackboard.
Lightning struck so close, it left a taste of iron in my mouth and irritated the nerve endings of my teeth. I lay awake wishing I could put an end to the calamity that stole away my courage, but no matter how deep I reached inside myself, I found no mettle left within me. The wind continued to rage like an incessant wild animal, pushing hard against the roof as if attempting to lift it from the body of the cabin.
Suddenly, the sound of scratching at the door drew my attention. It came softly at first, mixing with the wind that seemed to slip through the very glass of the window to skirt clandestinely about the rafters. The scratching became louder, more desperate and seemed to keep pace with the rhythm of the wind-song without. I heard the blood pounding in my head, pulsing through my veins like the narrowing of a river gathering for its long trek over a great fall. I lurched straight up as the scratching turned to pounding and an agonizing cry followed.
“Help me…” a tiny voice called softly. Or so I thought.
It was hard to tell if I really heard it or if it was only my imagination, just sounds playing games with the wind and the pulse, which swam past my temple on its way to my crumbling nervous system. That was, until I heard it again, only this time the long drawn out word—please—preceded it. It came again, louder.
I heard a thud, like a body slumping and falling on my doorstep. It blotted out the dim porch light that sifted in under the door. I gasped as I saw a thick, dark-red sludge slowly mixing with the slight flow of rainwater moving in to soak the floor. It added a red stain to the already mottled surface of the rug. This was more than I could take.
I slipped my shaking legs over the side of the bed and apprehensively rose onto my feet. I jumped at a blinding white flash and the deafening clap of thunder that accompanied it. Reaching out for something stable—anything—I knocked over the lamp with a crash and jumped again at my own calamity. Gripping my t-shirt with steel fingers against my heart, I inched my way over to the door.
“Is someone there?” I called out, leaning in toward the door taking great care not to get too close. There was no reply except the downpour of rain and the eerie whistling of the wind. “Anyone? Hello?” Still there came no answer.
Grabbing the rifle I kept standing next to the door, I dreaded doing what I knew needed to be done. With shaky hands I gripped the latch and slid the bar open. Gripping the handle I tried one more time, “Who is out there? Speak up.” Still no reply, so I resorted to a threat. “I warn you, I have a gun.”
I turned the knob slowly and reiterated my threat. “Don’t try anything or I’ll shoot.”
I opened the door only slightly when the screaming wind pushed hard against it, throwing it open, the knob slipping from my tentative grip and slamming it against the wall. At that moment my whole world came apart like every piece of finery slipping from the shelves of a china shop, all in a single instant. I do not know what I heard first or saw last; it all came at me at once, flooding my soul with cold, stark horror. There came a rush of nausea as the wind carried with it the putrid smell of rotted flesh. I heard thunder and lightning, wind and pounding rain…and a wolfish howl. I saw flashes of light, slashing rain, a bloody body, fiery eyes, long sharp teeth dripping with froth and a large towering beast standing in front of me with mouth agape and long, sharp claws raised threateningly high. All these images pushed against my heart and mind in soul-clenching pulses. And then…silence…and darkness.
When I awoke, slight as it was, I felt the sensation of floating on air toward the bed. I fought for air but, through terrible pain, could only gurgle as something thick and warm blocked my airway and oozed down to coat my shoulders and chest. Upon the bed, I thought I saw another body. Was that Carl, my hunting partner from the cabin next door? His throat was slashed with several stripes. Then my breath gave out completely.
I was surprised and relieved when I woke again, but only briefly. I could breathe but my head and throat were sore. Yes sore—not throbbing painfully and gushing blood as before. My vision was foggy, to say the least, but I could see that the door was shut, the storm had subsided and the sun flowed through the window lighting up the bed. Carl laid asleep at my feet…I think. There were no cuts on his throat and no blood. Had I only been dreaming and now just touching upon dots and tittles of a nightmare playing at the edge of sleep-dazed memories? But before I could reason it out, I again lost consciousness; only this time it was more of a slumber, and I slept a deep and dreamless sleep.
When I woke once more, it was in the darkness of the night. My head was clear but I did not feel rested as one would expect after so many hours of sleep. Carl was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom. I could see him from behind as the bathroom light lit up the area around him, causing his form to appear distorted around the edges. He seemed to be staring at himself. He was not moving except for the slight shaking of his shoulders.
Lightning lit up the room as I rubbed the back of my neck in an attempt to chase the sleep from my head and sat up just as thunder rolled across the sky. My mouth tasted like an army had just fought World War III in it and I wanted to brush my teeth.
“What do you say Carl, you going to stay in there all night?” I asked.
He did not say a word but backed out of the bathroom until he was little more than a silhouette. As he turned around lightning flashed and for a split second its glow flooded the room. In that moment I got a glimpse of his face.
“On second thought,” I laughed in spite of myself, “maybe you should go back in there and shave. You have one face full of beard to deal with there.”
Just as I spoke those words, thunder sounded so loudly that it shook our tiny shelter, and with it came a new burst of lightning. It flashed on and off quickly and held Carl’s image in its light long enough for me to get a better look at him. At his face, his eyes, his…fangs?
He stood there before the bed looking down at me, fire in his eyes. My heart jumped and caught in my throat and bile threatened to follow it. My horror electrified me in a panic and I stiffened, then back-peddled desperately until my back pressed hard against the wall. I would have climbed the wall in a desperate attempt to escape if only I was able, and in my panic, attempted to do just that. I clawed at it with my fingernails like a cat would claw a tree trunk.
Then, as a strong gust of night wind broke through the window, sending shards of glass flying everywhere and set the rust-colored curtains aflutter—he spoke. And with those words, I knew his fate had become my own, for he said, with an evil grin…
“You could use a shave yourself, my friend.”
Kogel was born in Canton, Ohio where he grew up intrigued with the arts, reading and writing. Then, the fantasy genre was his point of interest, now it is his passion. He is the proud father of two boys and resides in Central Florida with is lovely wife Marlena. Drawing on influences such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Hancock and John Marco, Kogel has completed the next chapter in "The Dylarian Chronicles" called "The Mage of Dylar". He is currently working on the first book, “The Child of Promise”, in his next fantasy series called “The Crystal Serpent”.For a sample of Kogel’s writing style, visit his short works, which are available now in Amazon.com’s short story program or visit him on line at: www.paulkogel.com
Also read these other best selling short stories by Paul H. Kogel:
This Dreadful Deed The billowing low-lying fog hid the cold stone steps from my view, but I instinctively knew they were there, leading down into the bowels of the earth. This story will remind you of the old black and white horror films.
Werewolf Made The transformation is a messy one, wrought with agony. Froth drips from my fangs, coating my chin and chest like ocean foam. A man is changed into a werewolf by a machine called ‘Crane’s Bell’.
Creation of the Gad Fly Of all the creatures that have entered Kur, few have ever returned. But none of them return unchanged, and so it was with the two agents of the Lord of Wisdom. This story was inspired by the fascinating myth of Inanna.
The Ancients So it came to pass that the Sleeper awakened. He saw the handy-work of His dream and smiled, for He was greatly pleased. Though I am a Christian, I made up this Myth story of creation as it happened in my otherwise sick little mind so that it was in keeping with my other mythology “The Creation of the Gad Fly”.
Double Cross Richey was good, very good, but you could never be good enough to thwart the inevitable once the Don’s finger pointed your way. A man had signed an agreement with the Don of a New York syndicate crime family to fulfill his recently killed father’s obligation to the family of six more years of contract killings. Now, that obligation is fulfilled. He is released and moves to Miami to be with his fiancé. Unfortunately, things often do not go according to plan. He is tricked and pulled back in for one last job. He finishes that job in a most unusual way. The twist (the mystery) is not revealed until the very last line of the story. It has a very wild twist that most readers won’t see coming.
Night Wind gave me the shivers. Not just any shivers. I recognized these particular shivers. They were the same particular shivers I got long ago whilst reading Poe. Well done, Paul. Well done, indeed. :-)