Part VI – Chapter 36 – Calls of the Night

Whip opened his eyes to a splitting headache and a gap in his memory. It had been a whirlwind and he couldn’t quite place the order of events. Whip continued to open and close his eyes slowly looking up above him trying to will the memories back. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was clearly laying on the floor, in the dark, staring up at the bottom of a house. Except, it didn’t feel like the floor. It felt like he was laying outside in the dirt with roots wrapped and twisted over the ground. There seemed to be a light dancing above him. It was swinging too regularly for it to be the moon but it could be a lamp swinging in someone’s hands or maybe someone was using a light to signal for help.

“Hello?” called Whip into the darkness. No response.

Whip began to think through his various muscles and became aware that something was pressing into his back from below as if he were laying on something. Was that a foot digging in his back? Whip tried to move but found it difficult. Maybe if he could recall the events leading up to this moment, he could figure out where he was and why he was having issues moving his limbs. He closed his eyes and allowed the memories to slowly replay.

Reynolds was shouting some kind of odd chants as he walked towards the center of the basement area and so two of the men ran after Reynolds in an attempt to calm him. There was the sound of Viva shouting followed by two gunshots. Whip and the other man took a few steps to follow the sound of gunshots when the foreman blocked their way. “They’re beyond help, get the hell out of here!” he commanded.

Someone or something knocked over a lantern which made the trio jump. Whip took a look around the room slightly disoriented but noticed that there was a deep darkness moving towards the group from Reynolds direction. It seemed a sort of evil that Whip could not place. Why did he leave his gun by the entrance? The foreman again told Whip and the other workman to get out of the basement and then the screams began. It was from the two original men who had run after Reynolds.

“You heard the foreman! Get out of here!” yelled Whip as he shoved the other man towards the entrance.

“Those are my friends-“ hissed the workman as he shoved Whip back before running past the foreman and further under the house.

“You fool! They’re already dead and gone!” called the foreman. He sighed in despair before turning back towards Whip and pushing him in a direction opposite of the commotion. “We need to move now!”

Whip did not need to be told again and moved as quickly as he could but soon heard the screams of the final workman. Sweat began pouring down his back and he knew that it would not be long before this evil darkness would catch up to him. Even if they got out from under the mansion, how would they be protected from whatever was chasing them?

Whip tripped in the darkness. It was not a mild-mannered stumble, but the full force of his body hit the ground as his foot stayed rooted in its spot. Whip let out a grimace of pain and a few curses for good measure. He leaned over his foot to inspect it before noticing that in the darkness it looked like a couple of roots had crept out of the floor and wrapped around his ankle, like a skeletal hand. As Whip held the lamp up, he noticed several branches, roots, and vines were beginning to blanket the floor, each seemed to have a dark ooze leaking out, including the couple that held his foot hostage. A few minutes ago, the floor had been bare and now it looked like an underbrush was growing on the foundation.

Whip looked around for the foreman and saw that he had run past Whip and had continued moving towards an exit. Whip called for the foreman but the man kept running away. Whip knew that the man could clearly hear Whip as he had not moved far enough away to be out of earshot. Whip realized that he would be on his own. Whip began looking through his pockets for his knife and upon finding it, he glanced up at the foreman one last time to see how far the foreman had moved. Right as Whip identified the figure of the foreman, several long roots, which seemed more like vines, shot up from the ground and past Whip. One of the vines lassoed the foreman’s foot and anchored him in place while simultaneously another root shot up from the ground and pierced through the foreman’s back like a spear. Whip could hear the sound of the impact and the grunt of the foreman as he was stabbed. The last one moved a bit higher and lassoed his wrist and pulled the foreman down to the ground with a heavy thud.

For a moment Whip could not move. He was so shocked. Did the dark vines and branches kill the foreman? Whip squinted his eyes but could not see anything.

“Well fuck this!” murmured Whip resolved to escape from the underbelly of the mansion and at the very least get away from roots, books, and darkness. Sitting in a well-lit bathroom away from windows and trees seemed a much better option than hiding down here. Whip began to frantically cut through the root. It was much thicker than it appeared and the knife was taking much too long to break through. Sweat was dripping down Whip’s forehead and as he took a moment to wipe his face he became aware of a sound. Almost like something was being drug along the ground. It was getting closer and closer. Whip kept frantically using the knife almost stabbing the viney root instead of merely sawing at it. Finally, the noise was upon Whip and he looked over to see what was being drug. To his horror, it was the body of the foreman.

Whip held up his flashlight that had only been dimly lighting Whip’s sawing progress closer to his face to get a better look at the man. There was blood all over the man’s torso and one of the roots had moved from a wrist and now was wrapped around the man’s neck like a noose. Since one root was holding the head, one pierced through the torso, and a final one wrapped around the feet, the body looked more like a marionette puppet than a living being. As Whip studied the man, he was horrified to realize that the man was still alive. More than that, the man’s lips were moving. At first Whip thought the whispered request was simply, “Help me!” which caused an indignant anger in Whip as he continued to cut at the root. How dare the man who refused to stop and help me, ask for help? But as the body continued to pass by at a slow pace and the whisper became louder and more desperate, Whip could finally make out what the foreman was saying.

“Kill me! Kill me! Kill me!” the foreman’s pleas were becoming more insistent and fearful. In fact, it almost sounded as though the man were crying in the dark. Whip could not look at the man’s face as he was afraid that he would see tears in the foreman’s eyes. If only he had not left the gun near the entrance!

Just then Whip was able to finally free his foot. He felt a rush of air as relief washed over him but it was too late. Just as Whip put a bit of weight to test for damage on his freed ankle, another root came whooshing up and encircled his other ankle. Whip knelt to begin the process of freeing himself but was only able to stab at the vine once in frustration before he felt something loop around his neck and pull him flat on his back. It began to tighten its hold and as Whip gasped for air, a familiar darkness began to engulf him. Not one of evil but merely a starry darkness that accompanies a lack of oxygen.

Having finally recalled the series of events, Whip opened his eyes. Having a better understanding of events, he was able to put together a bit more of his situation. The noose was still about his neck but no longer cutting off the flow of oxygen. Based on the lack of feeling in his legs, the root must have cut off circulation to his legs causing them to fall asleep. Whip tested his arms and found that they were restricted by roots and unable to move. He checked his torso and while there were branches holding him down, they had not pierced him in anyway. Aside from the noose, it would almost look like the iconic Gulliver’s Travel’s scene.

Whip could partially move his head about. While he could not angle his head to see who was beneath him, he could at least confirm that there was another body with him. Whip flexed his abdominal muscles so he could look just over his toes. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness and he could trace the path of the overgrowth. It looked as if in a matter of minutes, vines, roots, and branches had threaded their way through every pipe and crack beneath the house. To make matters worse, everything was still sliding through and into the room, like a mountain of snakes slithering across a jungle floor. Whip laid his head back for a second to give his abdomen a rest. He couldn’t be sure but it almost looked like a tree had sprung from the ground and was looming over his head. Whip shook the thought away as he was sure that it was simply an overreactive imagination in a terrifying situation.

Whip flexed his abdominals again to do a half sit-up, this time pushing his upper body up as high as it could go. He pushed himself until he could finally spot who was holding the lamp and call over to his rescuer for help. As he exhaled up, he hollered, “Help! Over here!”

Just as Whip was finally high enough to look around, all hope within Whip died and he let his head fall to the ground. There was a lamp swinging about two-to-three feet off the ground as if it were a human naturally swinging it as they walked and from a distance it would look like a light signal for help. But to Whip’s horror the lamp was merely swinging on a branch that was sticking out of the ground. It was not a rescuer nor a fellow prisoner but a lure to imprison more people stupid enough to climb beneath the house.

Whip was bait for this evil tree and all of its branches, vines, and roots. There would be no escape and if someone were to attempt such a rescue, he would not be able to warn them of the trap that awaited.

And then the sinister cackles came from the darkness. “Help us! Free us!” the voices mocked in the darkness. Whip pushed himself up to determine where the voices were coming from and saw that the voices were from the 3 other workmen who had been attacked first.

Whip leaned back and attempted to calculate how long he would have until he died just as the harrowing voices began to sing, “We’re going to get them…”

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ellie, Brisco, and Pete had moved beneath a statue and were hiding in its nearby bushes. Pete and Brisco took a quick inventory of the weapons and began to split up the weapons evenly between the group. Meanwhile, Ellie was trying to examine Brisco’s injured head and wrist.

Brisco brushed her aside before stating, “First you want to kill me, then you want to kiss me… Blow!”

Ellie let go of his head, turned away from the men, and began to gather her weapons, determined to not let Brisco see the hurt in her eyes.

“Smooth, Brisco”, Pete taunted before changing the subject, “Much as I dislike being the voice of reason in group settings but, do we have any sort of a plan? As you know, I am a stickler for gun safety and I would rather not accidentally shoot Lenore or James.”

“Pete, I appreciate what you’re saying,” began Ellie. “But right now, we don’t know if James has arrived, where anyone else might be hiding, if they are together or separate, and what kind of trouble that they are in. So, why don’t you pontificate less, grab the guns, and move your ass towards and into that house!”

At that moment, an odd screech sounded above them. They looked above to see a skeleton in military garb riding a flying beast made of bones. If Brisco had to guess, he would assume that when it was alive it was a winged dinosaur or dragon. But as it was merely the bones, who could really tell? The skeleton scout above began to blow a bugle as if to call an army to attack.

The skeleton bugler caught sight of Pete, Brisco, and Ellie in the darkness and swooped low to look each of them in the eyes. As it passed, a shiver went down Ellie’s back as she could not imagine what evil would bring such a darkness to life. As it closed in on Ellie, it’s face twisted into a blood curdling smile and he tipped his hat. Brisco immediately stepped in front of Ellie to protect her from the boney aviator. The skeleton laughed before lifting the bugle and continuing his wartime melody. It did one more lap around the mansion in the air before disappearing to the other side of the dome.

“What in darnation is that?” asked Pete.

“Let’s not find out. Move, Move, MOVE!!!” shouted Brisco as he continued to keep his arm protectively around Ellie. The trio quickly gathered their weapons and gear and ran into the mansion.

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