Short Story
                                             Behind Walls
                                                                     John Hawkhead


     Looking back on my decision to offer help, I can see now it was foolhardy. The signs were there but I
just didn’t spot them. It was one of those sour days when clouds sagged over the town like grey distended
bellies; the rain light enough to blow about beneath umbrellas but still full enough to soak through the most
resistant overcoat. I was heading back to my car from an errand at the bank and was keen to get inside.

     Just as I rounded the side entrance to the car park, I spotted him struggling to heave bags of groceries
into the back seat of his vehicle. One bag had fallen over, spilling its contents, and an apple was rolling
across the wet concrete towards me. I picked it up and trotted over to his side.

     “Hey there,” I said “let me give you a hand with that.”

     He looked ancient and exhausted; a heavy wheeze whistling from his mouth as he leant one hand on
the door frame and another on his black walking cane. To be honest, I didn’t think he was fit enough to
drive, let alone carry heavy bags about. I dropped the apple into one of the bags and picked it up ready to
move it into the car.

     “Many, many thanks young man,” he said “I’m just about done in.”

     “No problem, it’s my pleasure.”

     I leaned into the back seat and pushed a bag along it to make room for the others and then stood up
out of the car. He was smiling up at me from his bent stance, I guessed in gratefulness, but something
about his expression was ugly and vaguely unsettling.

     “Do you know something,” he said “you’ll do nicely.” His grin grew wider, revealing slick brown stains
along the top rim of his teeth. With that, he stumbled forward and the tip of his stick came to rest heavily on
my foot. I seem to remember a sudden click, like a light switch turning off, and then a searing pain shooting
through my foot and up into my lower leg.

     “I am sorry,” he said, although the wetness of his smile belied any sincere regret, “oh dear - have I hurt
you?”

     I probably swore at that point but the world seemed loaded with echoes closing in about me with
blurred edges. The pain in my foot had subsided to a throb but it was replaced by a spreading numbness
moving up my body and through my groin to my chest. I was finding it hard to stand.

     “Let me help you.” he said, placing a hand under my arm and guiding me backwards to the open door
of his car. White noise swelled in my ears, my heart was thumping a hard and persistent rhythm and my
legs were collapsing under me. The last I remember was a roaring crescendo like a great red wave rising
behind my eyes and then nothing but darkness.

     When I recovered, I struggled for some moments to understand my situation. I could barely move and
my head hammered as if I had run repeatedly into a brick wall for days. I slowly opened my eyes to a dim
light, which stung nonetheless, and took in the four walls of a small, square, dingy room. A slow horror filled
me as I realised my arms and legs were bound by straps to a steel bed frame and a filthy and misshapen
mattress spread out under me. I was naked except for the bindings and a black plastic bin liner strapped
untidily about my torso with gaffer tape. More gaffer tape covered my mouth and I struggled to pull breath
into my constricted chest through half-clogged nostrils. It was obvious I had been lying comatose for long
enough to soil the mattress with fresh ordure on top of the spattered stains already there.

     I turned my head as far as I could to find any clues to where I was. The bonds were tight and my
repeated, desperate tugs demonstrated I could pull neither feet nor hands free. Only when I was exhausted
and lay silently for a while did I hear the slow creak of steps approaching the room’s paint-chipped door.

     It is hard to describe the shivering chill of panic that consumed me as the old man I had tried to help in
the car park now shuffled into the room. He was entirely naked from the waist down, an old yellowing shirt
and grimy tie flapping loosely over his top half.

     He leered at me. “Awake then.” His statement carried the dreadful unpleasantness of someone in
complete control with dire intentions. “You must be thirsty; would you care for a drink?” He waved a half
empty whisky bottle at me from the end of the bed frame. I stayed silent and tried not to show my fear.

     “No? Well you shan’t have none then.” he chuckled to himself and swayed slightly as he took a swig
and then contemplated his prize.

     “Probably for the best,” he said “when we have such a lot of nice games to play. Wouldn’t want you
drunk and passing out on me now, would we.” At that point, he raised his right knee up and knelt on the
foot of the bed, pulling himself onto the stinking mattress between my legs, and started crawling towards
me. I made an animal noise at the sight and strained harder against the bonds.

     “Shhhh,” he said as he continued towards me “don’t want to wake them yet.” He brought his face up
past my groin, my stomach and then my chest until his rheumy eyes were level with mine and his wrinkled,
flaccid body lay across me. I could see every yellow-grey bristle around his mouth which stank of whisky
and something fetid like a mire of rotting vegetation.

     “Do you like this?” he asked. “I’m enjoying it immensely.” And he started to writhe about on me while
gurgling obscenities in my face. I closed my eyes and tried desperately to shut the situation out of my mind.

     He suddenly laughed out loud, his head thrown back with an abandon and energy I had not thought
possible for a man with such a withered frame. “Time for a party,” he shrieked and brought his face next to
mine again, “time to meet new friends and broaden horizons.” With that he rolled off me and brought his
grubby feet to the ground, his shirt tail sliding back down to cover his exposed backside.

     With that, he stepped out of the room. I could hear a drawer open and close again, and then he
returned, a heavy hunting knife swinging loosely from one hand, a black ceramic bowl in the other. I tried
again to shout out but the gaffer tape stifled my cries. He sneered and took a couple of paces to my left.

     “I like it when you jerk about,” he said “it makes it better, really it does.” With that he stuck the knife
point into my thigh and slashed downwards towards my knee. I screamed through the tape over my mouth.

     “What’s that?” he said. “You’re not making much sense!” He then reached over and slashed my other
thigh in a similar way to the first. I was at the extreme of panic, my breath tearing through my nostrils in a
desperate snorting for air as the pain coursed through me. Further jagged slashes followed in my arms,
chest and stomach after which he jammed the black bowl under each of the blood flows going out of me
onto the mattress.

     When he had filled the bowl with my blood, he turned and walked over to face the opposite wall where
he rested the knife and bowl on the floor and crouched above them. I was exhausted with pain and the
efforts of struggling against the bonds, but I was still conscious enough to be aware of his actions. With a
growing disgust, I could see that he was dipping his hand into the blood, bringing it up under his shirt and
was rubbing it back and forth repeatedly over his genitals. All the time he was muttering a jumble of grunts,
squeals and nonsensical babble. He was breathing heavily and he seemed to lurch over the bowl as if
drunk on depravity.

     After some seconds, he raised himself slowly into a standing position, the knife and bowl in his hands. I
could see that his eyes had rolled back into his head, their yellow-white orbs glistening in the dim light. He
raised the knife and bowl to the ceiling and started to utter seemingly meaningless words again, repeating
the same crazed sounds over and again as he moved to face each wall in turn. Finally, he dipped the knife
blade into the blood and then flicked it across the walls and the floor, his voice now a constant drone of
incantation. Chaotic spatter-marks flecked all the surfaces but he kept working until the bowl was empty
and he fell into silence.

     For a while, all I could hear was my heart’s weakening beat but a sudden crack from the corner of the
room snapped me to attention. The old man’s eyes rolled down and he raised his arms again.

     “Come! Come! Come now and serve me.” His call was a high but firm command. Another sharp sound
from the wall to my left and the brickwork started to push outwards, a cascade of brown dust erupting and
then floating from it to the floor. Behind the old man, a set of floorboards shrieked against their nails and
then flew upwards into the room. I could smell it now; a malodorous stench attacking my nostrils. The
unmistakeable reek of bodily corruption filled the room and I saw, with almost mind-crushing horror, a
rotting hand grip the crack in the wall from inside and start to push it outwards.

     My screams were useless, but scream I did. The old man seemed giddy with delight as a mouldering
corpse stepped from the wall into the room. Behind him another cadaver was hauling its way up from
beneath the floorboards and started to stumble towards me. Now the wall above my head squealed apart,
bursting red-brown dust over my face. A skeleton with just a few tatters of dry flesh hanging from its
forehead fell forward to stop just above me. Its rictus grin started to snap a mindless jabbering as it slowly
lowered towards me. I vomited into my mouth, the pressure forcing jets of bile out of my nostrils so I was
choking on my fluids. I had to swallow hard to drag air into my lungs although the effort in my weakened
condition was almost too much. At that point, the right wall split open disgorging two more corpses into a
tangle of flailing limbs on the floor. They thrashed about in a glutinous mess as they fought to stand. As
they did so, the old man hit them repeatedly with the flat of the knife, terrible slaps of metal on flesh filling
the room.

     “Get up, get up you bastards,” he cursed, “take the prize!”

     Now five corpses surrounded me and they started to lean in, wet slurping grunts coming from those
with half or partly decayed mouths, their oozing flesh dripping ichor onto me. They were all in various
stages of corruption, their combined stench a cloying nauseous gas that permeated everything.

     I remember my wrenching screams against the gag tape as they inserted disgusting hands into my
wounds to obey the old man’s shrieked commands and started to pull at muscles, tendons and organs. I
remember more shouted orders before they nuzzled hideous features into the damage and started to suck
and bite… and then I slipped into the abyssal darkness.

     I am aware but motionless. Unknown time has passed since he sealed me into the fourth wall, a
formless hum issuing from him as he mortared the final bricks in place to seal me in this black tomb. I wait.
Time has no place here. I wait for the sounds of torment that will surely come. I wait for the blood-spattered
wall to crack. I wait for the commands I must obey, the compulsion to do his grim bidding with my brethren.
I wait. I wait for his new prize.
About John Hawkhead

John Hawkhead is a writer of
short fiction, poetry and plays.
His work has been published
previously in Dark Moon Eclipse,
Boston Literary Magazine,
Grievous Angel, Dark Horizons
and many other
websites/magazines. He exists
in a shadowland on the far edge
of reality – otherwise known as
England.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.