This story has been brewing in my head for a couple weeks now, and it took Chuck Wendig’s challenge (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/08/23/flash-fiction-challenge-another-ten-words/ ) to motivate me to type it down. This week’s challenge: Another Ten Words that have to be placed somewhere in the story. This time it clocks in at 1,121 words.
The Demon Graveyard
Talunir woke to the sound of dogs barking. This was the third night in a row. It was beginning to really piss him off. He rolled off his pallet and groaned in displeasure. Tonight he was going to do something about it.
He got up just a bit too fast, triggering the headaches that always seemed to lurk just beneath the surface at all times. He clutched at his head as he dropped back down to his knees. He waited for a few moments until it passed before rising to his feet once more, this time more slowly.
Talunir pushed on the only door to his one-room shack, letting in a wisp of moonlit mist that curled around his leg as if to grasp him, and keep him from taking a step outside.
The mist always seemed to pervade the graveyard this time of night, lending an aura of mystery and foreboding to every evening. Talunir liked living out here. People left him alone… Until someone died. Then they would reluctantly ask for his help.
As the graveyard’s groundskeeper, he lived a simple life. The position was, unfortunately, hereditary. He was only eighteen years old, and had inherited this position from his grandfather not even a month before. He had had to bury the old man himself, under the old willow tree. It had been a simple funeral. He had been the only one to attend, and dug the grave himself.
The second he stepped outside, the dogs stopped their incessant barking, as if they sensed his growing displeasure. In the distance, the small hill topped by the lone willow tree rose up out of the mist like a small island in a sea of fog. Talunir saw a large dog limp up the hill and collapse at the top, underneath the willow. He sighed in annoyance. The poor creature had likely got in a fight with the other dogs, causing all the commotion this evening.
Talunir grabbed the shovel leaning up against the doorframe, and set off for the hill. He would likely have to put the dog out of it’s misery. Not a task he was looking forward to.
His feet sent puffs of mist scurrying away as he trudged through the mud to the hill. The poor dog was whining and squirming in pain as he reached it.
“It’s okay, boy,” he said soothingly as he reached the injured creature. “Let’s take a look at…”
The dog whimpered pitifully, as it’s head ballooned outward, as if air were building up underneath it’s skin. Talunir took a step back in horror as the dog took its last breath and its head popped with an exhalation of gasses. He covered his nose as the smell of brimstone reached his nostrils. He had become used to the smell of death, but this was far worse. The unnatural scent caused him to take another quick step back while holding the shovel before him to protect himself.
The dog suddenly took a shuddering breath and twitched once. Talunir watched, captivated, as the creature got up onto its feet and shook itself, as if it had just had a bath. Pieces of rotting flesh flew off, and it turned toward him with an unearthly growl, an atomic green glow in it’s undead eyes.
Talunir wasn’t stupid. He knew it was time to run, so that’s what he did. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fast enough, as he felt something clamp onto his leg with unearthly force. He screamed as he fell to the ground.
The demon dog growled savagely as it tore into his flesh. Talunir felt his tendons snap, and teeth grinding into bone. By some miracle, he had managed to hold onto the shovel, so he quickly swung with all his might at the beast.
He struck it on the neck, severing it halfway through, and causing black blood to squirt out from the wound. The dog released it’s grip, and Talunir managed to shuffle away from it as it fell, convulsing to the ground.
He used the shovel as a walking stick to lift himself up out of the clay to a standing position, then quickly began to hobble away from the horrific creature. He knew that he had to get to town as quickly as possible before it was too late to save his leg. He didn’t know how he was going to get through Mist Canyon alive, but he had to try. The town mage might be able to heal him up as good as new, but being permanently disfigured was more than a distinct possibility.
Talunir stopped as he heard a growl in front of him. Three hideous, fleshless dogs rose up out of the mist, and blocked his unsteady retreat.
“By the three!” he said, imagining the dogs tearing the entrails from his body, and sharing the rest of his guts out among them. “I don’t want to die!”
He wanted to run, but knew that he would not get far, so he picked up the shovel to defend himself. It seemed much heavier than before, and his injured leg screamed in agony, threatening to drop him to one knee, but by some miracle, he remained standing.
The dogs circled around him, preparing to strike. He knew that this was the end, but through some form of bravery, or stupidity, he stubbornly held his ground.
The first dog, it’s former breed unrecognizable with the flesh on it’s head gone, leaped at it’s prey. Talunir struck it’s face, shattering bone, but the beast struck him with its weight, bowling him over hard onto the ground, letting go of his shovel. It was in that moment that Talunir knew that he was going to die. Knew it with certainty.
He released the last breath of his life and closed his eyes, giving himself over to his fate, but it didn’t come. He heard a yelp and a metallic thud, then another.
He opened his eyes to see someone standing over the corpses of the dogs, the strange, green lights in their eyes gone. Talunir wept in gratitude that the stranger had come just in time.
Then the stranger turned around, and the true horror of the situation became apparent.
It was his grandfather. The flesh on his face falling off, a sickly green light shining out from his eye sockets, and a maggot crawling around in his exposed nasal cavity, but undeniably him.
“You have a strong spirit,” the demon said, speaking in Talunir’s grandfather’s voice, dripping, not with deceit, like the tales of demons would lead him to believe, but with an insatiable hunger instead. “Your soul is mine.”
Talunir didn’t even have time to scream.