The Devil Inside by William Cook
The shrill scream woke Tim from his drunken stupor. “Jesus! What the fuck was that?” he mumbled, sitting bolt upright in bed.
“It’s Jacob,” said Bron, “another fucking nightmare!” She rubbed her eyes and brushed her bleached-blond hair from her face before pulling the pillow over her head and resuming her drunken sleep.
Tim dragged his ample frame out of bed, still half pissed as he stumbled into the hallway, rubbing his bulging belly, cursing his son every step of the way.
He flicked the light switch on. Jacob crouched in the foetal position in the corner of his room, shaking uncontrollably with fear.
“What the fuck’s wrong with you this time? We’re trying to get some sleep for Chis'sakes!”
“N-n-n-n-n-nothing. S-s-s-s-s-sorry,” sobbed Jacob.
“Christ, harden up boy you’re nearly a teenager for god’s sake.” Tim briefly felt sorry for the boy, but then remembered he had work in four hours and the anger rose within him again. “Seriously, you woke me and your mother up – what the fuck’s wrong with you?” Tim demanded.
“T-t-t-t-t-there’s s-s-something under the bed,” Jacob’s breath hitched as he tried hard to get the words out.
Tim slapped him across the face and gave him a kick towards the bed.
“Go to fucking sleep. If I hear another sound from you tonight, you’ll get a proper belting. UNDERSTAND?” Tim flicked the light switch off and slammed the door, shambling back down the hallway to the bedroom and his snoring drunk wife.
Jacob listened to his father’s footsteps retreat. Numb to the swollen eye he had just received, he remained in the corner of his room, watching the blue light of the moon through the thin curtains, until his breathing calmed. Something moved in the darkness under the bed. Jacob leapt to his feet and onto the bed in a fluid movement, his heart pounding in his chest as he wrapped a blanket around his quivering body. He sat silently, not daring to breathe, in case the thing emerged from the dark beneath him.
His back was cold against the wall as he peered into the shadows of his small bedroom. He looked at the closet, making sure the door was shut. He strained his tired eyes, making out the shapes of his dresser drawers, the lamp on top, his schoolbag hanging from the back of a chair. He let a breath slip from his mouth as he gulped air, trying to relax, to push back the fear that gripped his young mind.
‘There’s nothing there. There’s nothing there. No such thing as . . .’
Jacob froze, in the mirror above his dresser he saw his darkened silhouette hunched on the bed, underneath the moonlit window. But there was something else. He thought it was his shadow but when it moved he realized it was behind him, coming out of the wall. Looming larger and blacker, until two red orbs burned in the darkness above him. Jacob could feel hot breath on the back of his neck. He pulled the blankets over his head and prayed to a god he didn’t believe existed.
The next morning as Jacob came down the stairs, Bron stopped him before he went through the kitchen and out the back door. She was feeling guilty about not stopping Tim from losing it last night, but she knew he was a good father and she agreed the boy needed some discipline. But she knew Jacob was different. He was a sensitive boy and had suffered from horrible nightmares for the past year or so. Before now, things had been easier, Tim and her hadn’t drunk so much and they tried for a little brother to keep Jacob company, but it was not to be. Tim became abusive to her and Jacob and she just accepted it as her lot in life. She liked his other strengths and put up with the bad times, knowing that with each new day, a better life was just around the corner.
But Jacob, she didn’t know what to do with him. She’d wanted to take him to a shrink but Tim refused. She was worried; the nightmares were getting worse. He kept talking about monsters and things under the bed or in the closet. She used to have nightmare’s herself but the drink helped her sleep. Tim was getting more pissed off as the episodes became more frequent and intense. It seemed as if things were due to explode in the Yates’ household soon enough.
She looked at Jacob, his twelve-year old body gaunt and pale, draped with an ill-fitting grey school uniform, his sad face, the dark rings around his eyes making his face look skeletal. He looked skinny and tired. She felt sorry for him and gave him an awkward hug as he stood there, long arms dangling at his sides.
“Make sure you buy something for breakfast on the way to school babe,” she slipped a ten dollar note from her thin purse and pushed it in his hand.
“Sure mom,” replied Jacob, as he turned and shambled out the back door like a zombie.
Jacob sat in class and stared out the window at nothing in particular. Miss Myrtle’s words droned in the background and he was no more interested in what she had to say in his tired state than he would have been if he was half awake. She was a short stout brick of a woman, with the soul of a repressed man. Her short-cropped hair, loud clothes and trouser-braces, screamed stereotypical lesbian. Jacob had hated her for a while now and she was under no illusion about his feelings towards her. He had made the mistake of calling her a bitch under his breath one day after a particularly bad night at home. She had heard of course and as a result, she had since enjoyed making him squirm with snide remarks and academic questions she knew he was incapable of answering.
Today she saw the yellowed bruise under his left eye and she knew he had reason to be difficult, but this in itself was no excuse for bad behaviour. After calling her a bitch, any small sympathies she might have held for the boy quickly evaporated. She watched him slump at his desk in his usual spot at the back of the class and stare out the window until his eyes began to close with obvious fatigue.
“Jacob? Jacob, can you hear me? Hello,” Miss Myrtle’s deep voice chimed, over the chuckles of his classmates. He sat up and looked around at the other students staring and pointing at him. A flush of embarrassment reddened his cheeks as he stared down at his unopened workbook.
“Care to join us today Jacob?” she smirked. Jacob shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, considering a quick exit from the classroom. He felt a deep burning hatred for her. ‘How dare she make fun of him in front of the other students!’ He looked up at her with hate in his eyes and froze. Behind the bitch stood a great black shape, bristling with energy, stooped against the ceiling, red eyes glowing like hot coals, huge black claws poised and ready to rip her limb from fat limb. It had the giant head of a wolf, its cavernous jaw hung open revealing a set of the biggest, sharpest, teeth Jacob had ever seen. Its black shaggy body looked as if it had been burnt and blackened by the fires of hell.
Jacob had no doubt as to what it was, it was the night-Beast under his bed, that lurked in his closet – the Beast that now raged before him, out in the light of day. It had escaped. He wished it would kill his teacher and dismember her violently there in front of his classmates. He heard a deep guttural laugh omit from the Beast as his vision swam and time hitched and rearranged itself. He became half-aware of Miss Myrtle gathering his books and bag and pushing him towards the principal’s office, a disturbed look on her face as Jacob heard himself yelling “You’re gonna die bitch. You’re gonna die!” over and over again.
Tim arrived home, drunker than usual. Bron could smell the rum on his breath before he tried to kiss her. “No babe, you’re drunk,” she said.
“No shit,” he replied belligerently, “so what?”
“Look I don’t want any trouble Tim, it’s been a long day. The school Principal has been on the phone, Jake’s been in trouble again only this time it’s more . . .”
He backhanded her so hard one of her front teeth flew across the kitchen before she slumped to the ground, holding her bleeding mouth.
Tim took a beer out of the fridge and popped the tab.
“Where the fuck’s that pussy son of mine?” he demanded.
He steadied himself against the kitchen table as he swigged his beer. Tim looked at his wife curled up on the floor sobbing and knew he had stepped over the line. He didn’t give a fuck. He was sick of everything, his job, his wife, and most of all, his snivelling son. He crumpled the can in his fist and threw it at his wife’s head, pulled a hipflask from his back pocket and took a long swig.
Tim stumbled up the stairs, pulling his belt from his jeans as he went, heading for his son’s bedroom, bellowing his name. He booted the door from its latch, not even bothering to use the handle. He tore the curtains from the window, ripped Jacob’s meagre comic-book collection to shreds, smashed his reading lamp on the floor, pulled the boys few clothes from the wardrobe and threw them from the upstairs window onto the lawn below.
Tim collapsed on the bed, exhausted with his anger, and waited for his son to return home from wherever he was. ‘This time,’ his rage simmering, ‘he would teach the brat a lesson he would never forget!’ He thought about the many ways he would beat his son for embarrassing him, for tarnishing the family name. ‘Shit if he couldn’t be strong physically, he could at least be good academically.’ He was too tired to think of all the ways his son disappointed him, he just knew he must hurt him to show him the error of his ways.
Tim closed his eyes, his legs hanging off the end of Jacob’s small bed, his gut rising and falling as he began to snore, oblivious to the hulking creature at the head of the bed, tracing a jagged claw in the shape of a cross on his forehead.
They found Miss Myrtle’s mutilated corpse in the field behind the school gym. She had been dismembered by what police at first thought was a pack of stray dogs. Many of Portvale’s feral dogs, that escaped the city warden’s infrequent attempts to cull their numbers, hunted in packs amongst the rubbish bins behind the shops and restaurants that bordered the highway near the school. The teacher had deep lacerations to her body the coroner later described as ‘animalistic in nature.’ Her head was found a body’s length away from the rest of her torso and limbs. It looked like it had been thrown into a wood-chipper and spat out the other end, a bloody mass of crushed bone and shredded flesh. If it hadn’t been for the word ‘BITCH,’ carved deeply into her lacerated chest, the death would have probably been attributed to misadventure.
After a number of enquiries, police came up with a list of suspects, at the head of which was Jacob Yates. His behaviour the day before was definite cause for suspicion, especially in regards to the threats he had made towards Miss Myrtle. A detective was despatched to the Yates’ house. Apparently, Jacob had been at home all evening with his parents. The alibi was solid and investigators had no choice but to erase his name from the suspect list.
Jacob arrived home to find his father snoring loudly on his bed. He closed the bedroom door quietly and sat on the couch in front of the TV. Bron stumbled home from the bar around ten pm and ruffled Jacob’s hair, collapsing in the easy chair next to him. “What ya watching kiddo?” she slurred.
“Nothin’ much, just some old movie,” he replied.
His mother shrugged and lit a cigarette. Before she finished it, she was asleep in the chair. Jacob leaned across, removed the smouldering butt from her fingers, and took a drag before stubbing it out on the hardwood floor. He was glad she was snoring next to him because he knew if his old man woke up before dawn, he would be due a severe beating if he were alone. He tried not to think about such an event tonight and attempted to watch the end of the movie.
Across the room from him sat the Beast, it was obvious to Jacob now that only he could see the creature. That made it no less real; every sense was throbbing with its presence. He could smell the fetid vapour of the its breath from where he sat on the couch. He could hear its guttural growls churn in the creature’s thick chest. He could feel its eyes upon him, never faltering in their demonic gaze. He could even taste the Beast’s acrid sweat, in the back of his mouth. He could also feel the heat emanating from its huge body. It was like sitting next to a furnace Jacob thought, as he stripped down to his t-shirt and shorts. It watched him intently with those burning red eyes, a pool of black saliva rippling at its clawed feet as more spittle dripped from its abyssal mouth.
‘It’s strange,’ thought Jacob, ‘I feel safe for the first time in my whole life. I feel powerful.’ He closed his eyes and fell into a deep dark sleep, a curious smile cast upon his face in the flickering glow of the TV screen.
Tim was late for work and dashed past his wife and son in the lounge, tugging on his work cap and boots as he hobbled towards the back door, hangover banging in his skull.
“I’ll fucking deal with you later you little shit,” he hissed at Jacob, as he slammed the back door and headed for the garage.
Bron took a deep drag on a cigarette. She was in the middle of questioning Jacob about the visit from the detective the night before. “We covered for you Jake. Where the hell were you?” Jacob seemed unconcerned.
“I was asleep on the couch all night, I told you Ma. Honest,” he tried to sound convincing but could only look at the Beast standing behind her, leering down the top of her open blouse at her tattooed breasts. Jacob couldn’t understand why Bron couldn’t smell or feel the presence of the Beast. It was huge. Jacob swore it had grown overnight; its huge shoulders brushed cobwebs from the ceiling as it moved about. But Jacob knew it was not of this world, he had seen the Beast pass through walls, invisible to other people.
His mother kept talking as Jacob became aware of whispering. It was coming from the Beast who was now grinning insanely, almost dancing a strange jig behind Bron’s chair, its huge jagged teeth opening and closing like a shark.
“Killllllll herrrrrr. Killllllllllllllll herrrrrrrrrr,” it hissed terribly.
Jacob felt compelled to beat her with his fists but restrained himself.
“I have to go now Ma,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Do whatever you want,” she replied with a shrug, reaching over and snatching the TV remote off the coffee table.
Jacob grabbed his coat and left the house, heading out the front gate and down the street in the opposite direction of school, towards the river. ‘Fuck school,’ he thought, ‘and fuck everyone!” He failed to notice the Beast was no longer with him.
Jacob spent a peaceful day at the River’s edge. He had a place he liked to go when things got bad at home. In a slight rise on the riverbank sat a grove of trees providing sanctuary from the weather and prying eyes of adults who might see him as he played truant from school. Surrounded by dense bush and undergrowth, Jacob discovered the sanctuary while running from a couple of stray dogs. He retreated backwards through the thorns and bramble, throwing stones and whatever he could get his scratched hands on until the dogs had tired of their game and left. Catching his breath, he realized he was through the worst of the bush and he may as well push through to the trees that rose up behind him.
He thought about leaving home and living down here by the river. He could fish and there was plenty of fresh water. He made himself a comfortable bed out of leaves and soft brush under a couple of old blankets. He had a decent supply of comics and ‘stick mags’ stolen from the local corner store. After sleeping most of the day on his makeshift bed and reading comics, the light began to fade to night. He knew he’d get a beating from his father and that it was going to be bad. He didn’t know if he could handle it anymore, he felt like he was going insane.
He half believed the Beast was real but doubted the sanity of his visions. He wished the Beast were real, just to prove he wasn’t mad. It still frightened him beyond anything else he’d experienced. He wondered now where the Beast was, although he had enjoyed a day alone giving him a chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Jacob slowly made his way home in the dark. Reaching the front gate, he saw his father’s work truck parked in the driveway. A feeling of dread washed over him as he made his way down the side of the house towards the back door. The kitchen door was swinging gently on its hinge in the evening breeze. He tried to see through the open door but all the lights were off, the only thing he could make out was a ghostly flickering glow, coming from the living room doorway.
Jacob reached into the darkened kitchen and flicked the light switch on. As he pulled his hand into the light, he saw the blood. He hesitated, and then stepped inside, slipping in the congealing sea of gore on the kitchen floor. The dim light illuminated the scene around him with a sickening reality. As he lay on his back in the blood, he saw arcs of dark red staining the ceiling and the cupboards. It was a blood bath. Jacob slipped again as he tried to stand but managed to regain his footing, the stench of death overpowering, making him gag. The trail of blood led to the living room, and he knew what he would find there.
The light bulb had blown but the source of the flickering light allowed him enough visibility to make out what lay before him. On the couch sat the decapitated bodies of his parents. The drag marks led directly to his mother’s corpse who sat upright next to his father, glistening entrails pooled on the floor where her feet should have been. The static glow of the TV cast an eerie light over the grisly scene. The headless torso of his father sat rigid, dismembered legs lying neatly between his corpse and the mutilated body of Jacob’s mother.
He began to puke uncontrollably, steadying himself against the blood-splattered wall until all that was left in him was bile. As his eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light and the shock of what he had seen, he looked again at the nude bodies of his parents and noticed their genitalia had been viciously removed. Jacob scanned the room, noting the removed genitals were conspicuously absent, as were his parents’ heads, mother’s arms and legs, and father’s arms and internal organs. A gaping hole that reached from Tim’s chest to a gored hollow between his legs yawned blackly. The pink flesh of his father’s once ample gut, hung limp in folds like bloodied butcher’s aprons, either side of the gaping wound.
Jacob steadied himself again as the room began to sway, another flood of bile in the back of his throat. After wiping spittle from his mouth, other things revealed themselves as his eyes adjusted to the poor light. The bloodied eyeless heads of his parents, sat perched like bizarre owls on top of the buzzing TV set. The old family crucifix hanging on the bare wall of the lounge, now inverted. He thought of the Beast and knew he had done this terrible thing. Where was he? Was he waiting for him?
Jacob held his breath, mind racing, all he could hear was the beating of his heart and the faint drip, drip, drip of blood as it pooled under the buzzing TV set. As the blood ran down the screen, the glow it cast became a red hue, making the arcs of splattered blood on the walls turn black in the dimming light. Jacob approached the TV, stretching his arm out carefully, as if it might suddenly attack and swallow him whole. He turned his head to avoid the dreadful sight of his parents’ lacerated heads, and switched the TV off at the wall.
He felt suddenly very afraid and very alone. He thought of the Beast and Miss Myrtle and he knew why the police had been questioning his parents. He looked at the mutilated remains of them on the couch, on the floor, on the TV, and he knew he should be very afraid. Jacob’s first instinct was to run but he knew there was no escape. The Beast had been with him for a long time and he knew it would not let him go. Making his way to the stairs, he tried to avoid the blood and gore covering the floorboards. Either side of the narrow stairwell, bloodied claw marks climbed the length of the stairs.
As he climbed, Jacob knew the Beast was waiting for him in his room. It was where it had always been and he took comfort from this knowledge, that he was not alone. The fear he had felt when he had first seen the Beast in his room late one night a year ago, had gone now. The Beast that lurked under his bed and in his closet were no greater threat than his father had been. He was the powerful one now.
Unafraid, he opened his bedroom door and entered the room. It was still and deep with shadow, nothing moved. Jacob realized he could see in the dark – there was no moon to cast light into his room but everything was visible. He felt strong for the first time in his life, his shoulders felt muscular and as he flexed his young muscles Jacob felt as though he was capable of anything. He looked at himself in the mirror on his bedroom wall and grinned. The Beast was not under his bed. It was not waiting for him in the closet or on the end of his father’s fist. The devil was inside him. Jacob’s grin widened into a frightening smile as he tilted his head at the reflection in the mirror, his eyes burning bright red in the darkness, as if aflame with the very fires of hell.
William Cook is a writer and illustrator from NZ. 'Devil Inside' published in Masters of Horror Anthology 2010. Cover artist and writer for Putrid Poetry & Sickening Sketches 2011. ‘Playing The Game’ accepted for Seven Archons Press, ‘Writings on the Wall Anthology,’ Dec ’10. Upcoming debut novel: 'Blood Related,' to be published by Angelic Knight Press December 2011.