Totara Hill Horror – Part 2

Written by N Jones

Edited by Rachel Rees and Edwin McRae

Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm my son.

I become conscious to my mother’s voice echoing around the slimed cylindrical walls of the well. I am lying on a thick island of mud that is raised higher than the rest of the ground, allowing for only a thin layer of water to cover it. The water is seeping into my mouth, trying to force its way down my throat, but this island, it saves me from drowning.

My limbs are killing me; the drop must have been several metres, enough to knock the wind out of my ribcage. I cough and crawl to my feet. Above me, the lighter shadows of the basement seem too far away. I think I can hear Crowner cackling to himself as he leaves me to die down here.

Already I know that there’s something evil in this water. The small amount that seeped into my lungs has a strange intoxicating effect on me. Like before, I feel a rage build up inside me – anger at that bastard who shot me and threw me down here, anger at my fucking mother for leaving me as a kid, anger at the Falconers for using my pain to fight their ridiculous war, anger at myself for being stupid enough to end up so royally fucked.

I’m up on my feet now, pushing the pain from my shoulder to the back of my head.

“I’m going to fucking kill you!” I scream up at the Seeder above. Adrenaline is pumping through my body. I look around me, vaguely registering that I am in some kind of underground tunnel, and yell unintelligibly before choosing a direction and running for it.

As I sprint, I slip over in the mud and water, which only furthers my explosive anger, fuelling me onwards. Veering round a corner in the dark, seething hate, I slip once again, only this time my body flies forward and smashes into a rocky area of the tunnel. I go limp, fading in and out of consciousness. Sometime later, I wake up and the rage has disappeared from my mind.

“It’s in the water,” I say to myself, thinking about how Crowner was draining this well into his distillery. The murder capital of New Zealand – all because of this evil booze Crowner’s peddling. Just like the Cullers to take us out using our own vices.

I feel the rest of the way down the dark tunnel, my hand rubbing against the rough stone and dirt walls. Eventually I come to a split in the path. A decision needs to be made.

In one direction I can feel a breeze. I can see the unmistakable colour of morning light, and hear the squawking of Pukekos outside in the bush. But in the other direction I hear a deep rumbling noise. The water source appears to have originated in this tunnel; it glows with that same odd light I saw when I first looked into the well.

Something about it makes my skin crawl. Like I am nearing a kind of eldritch truth which threatens to break me open and lay what’s left of my humanity to waste at the foot of some alien god. Naturally, I choose to journey down it.

The tunnel dips sharply, going deep into the earth. I find myself sliding down loose stones, hoping against hope that I can climb my way back up once I’m done investigating.

The tunnel opens up into a large underground cavern to what looks like a huge crater in the centre. I feel like a cymbal has been crashed in my ear. The strangeness of what I’m looking at causes me to shiver uncontrollably and I feel my mind wavering. Something is lodged within the crater. The best I can describe, it is a sphere. This huge, smooth, purple thing, the source of the peculiar glow, it hums loudly, the hum getting caught in the bastion of the subterranean bowel and becoming the cacophonous roar from before. I find myself backing away from the thing. My spine presses up against the cave wall. The sharpness of the wall is enough to bring me back to the physical world, and I turn, vacating my bladder as I do, and run the way I came, clambering up the sleeted rocks, desperately clawing, my hands now bloody and raw.

I lose myself in the confusion of it all and somehow burst from the tunnel system into the bright light of the sun and the chirping of the birds. I get a grip on my surroundings, and head back towards town. I need to fucking sleep.

*

Again, my mother’s voice haunts my dreams. Only now, there’s the hum of the sphere invading the space between my ears. I see her, clinging on for life against the edge of that pit, as the sound of the sphere roars beneath her, overwhelming us, overwhelming her song. Viscous and veined tendrils or tentacles rise up from the hole beneath her, they wrap themselves around what’s left of her waist, my childhood fingers are slipping as this thing below us drags us further apart. I see the look on her face when she realizes I’ve let go.

I wake up.

The bullet wound in my shoulder is shrieking in dark pain, and I convulse onto my side, spitting lumpy vomit across the bedroom floor. Outside the sun is beginning to set. I have been sleeping all afternoon, dreaming of horrors. As the haze of my illness clears, I remember the sphere in my dream and how it tore my mother down into the guts of the planet, and try as I might, I can’t shake the sensation that my nightmare was a memory, rather than a fabrication of a feverish mind.

Déjà vu disturbs the core of my being, thrums in the marrow of my bones. That sphere has something to do with it all. Not just with the poisoning of the water and the wholesale of drunken rage I experienced down in the tunnels, no – that sphere is connected in some way to my entire life. It is the dark shadow that has loomed over my direction since I was a child.

The anxiety brought on from my recollection threatens to overthrow my faculties so I dive for the bedside cabinet and find my bottle of Chlorodyne. I take several shots of the liquid and wait for the dull, familiar warmth to creep over the top of my brain.

Now that my mind has settled, I plan my next move. The Falconers are expecting to hear from me tomorrow morning. Expecting me to report in and advise them of what has been happening in Totara Hill. Knowing the way they operate, they’ll send a group to rush the Distillery. They will kill Crowner (something I’m not at all opposed to) but they will also destroy the sphere, or possibly not even discover it. I want to figure that thing out. It holds the key. It is connected somehow to my life’s quest, and I’m not about to let a cult of monster hunters wipe it out before I can get my answers first.

My planning is cut short by a small sound that by all reasoning I should not have been able to hear – a rattling of the keyhole in my bedroom door. There’s a clinking noise as a bobby pin is placed in the lock and jiggled around trying to get it to open. My senses culminate and I grab my father’s straight razor from beside the bed. I dart across the bedroom floor on my tip toes so as to not alert the invader crouch to the side of the door, and hide behind a cabinet for storing clothes.

The lock finally clicks into place and the door glides open softly. I watch as a pair of well-tailored shoes step into the room. The looming figure of that fucking Seeder walks confidently into the bedroom. His arrogance brought on by the obvious assumption that I am dead in a hole on the other side of town. He begins to rustle around in my draws, looking through my stuff. For what, I’m not sure. Not finding what he’s after, he walks through the gloom, not seeing me in the shadows, and heads toward the bathroom. I decide to make my move.

I dive out across the floor, my gold razor open, the sharpened edge slicing with clinical precision through Crowner’s foot tendons. A liquid akin to blood spurts from the wounds and he collapses to the ground, screaming and writhing in pain. I don’t want his wailing to draw attention so I jam my hand into his open mouth, muffling the cry and grip the lower part of his jaw, yanking down, dislocating it from the rest of his skull. His cry turns to a low gurgle.

I realize I have to move fast. He is a Seeder after all – a hive of bugs, come together to form the humanoid before me. To buy some time, I grab an ornament from the cabinet top and smack it down on his head, knocking him out instantly.

*

When Crowner awakes, he’s tied to a chair in the bathroom, stripped absolutely naked, and I am dousing him with the Paris Green Insecticide Powder from my hunting tool kit. Crowner begins to moan in his dislocated way as I’m doing this, the powder – a combination of copper and arsenic singes the skin as it dusts him.

“I wouldn’t move too much if I were you,” I tell him, “and don’t even think about transforming. You’re covered with a pretty thick layer of insecticide right now. The only thing that’s standing between you and an agonizing death is that human skin you’ve generated to hide your true form.”

Crowner moans again in anger.

“What’s that?” I ask, then pause. “I’m going to let you talk, but if you start hollering, I’ll put you down faster than you can even imagine. Understand?”

Crowner nods. I grip his chin with my hands and in a sudden sharp crack, relocate his jaw.

“You fucker,” he growls at me, “you’ve got no idea what you’re messing with.”

“Well, that’s why you’re still alive Mr Crowner. Or rather, Mr Crowner’s Doppelgänger.”

Crowner just glares at me.

“What were you rummaging around in my room for anyway?” I ask him, pulling up a seat in front of him and perching myself on it.

“So easy you should be able to discern it for yourself Falconer.”

“A recon mission then?” I ask. “You wanted information on the Falconers.”

His silence acts as a yes.

“Who do you work for? I thought your kind acted more as a hive mind, but you seem surprisingly…individual.”

“You forget that I am more than the sum of my parts Falconer. There are many of us in here, we are legion, and we are all directed towards the same goals within this body. In that sense, we are still a glorious hive mind.”

“Tell me about the tunnels beneath the distillery. About what’s down there. Whatever it is, you obviously thought it would kill me. I’m curious as to why it didn’t.”

“Fuck you, Falconer.” He spits at me. I stand up from my chair and confront him. I remove one of his ears with my blade. He doesn’t make a noise, but I can see it hurts him, bad. His eyes are at first filled with fear, then anger.

“You know, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to resort to torture,” I tell him, tossing the ear aside. That same foreign blood oozes out of the side of his head. Amidst the flesh, I think I see the crawling of a thousand tiny legs.

“I’m going to ask again, Crowner. The Sphere, what is it?”

He laughs a manic, desperate cackle.

“It is a void,” he tells me. “You can’t understand it.”

“A void. What do you mean?”

“Go to hell.” He turns his head from me. I take his other ear and feed it to him, stuffing it into his mouth, he chokes on it and dry heaves it back up onto the floor.

“Tell me what it is,” I demand.

“The void cannot be understood. You will die pondering its being.”

He howls as I take his right hand and cut his pinkie finger from it. The finger drops to the floor amidst the blood and other body parts beginning to pile up.

“Every time you don’t answer my question, you lose part of your being. Understand that I have all the time in the world to do this, Mr Crowner.”

The Seeder doesn’t respond. He stares glassily off over my shoulder, as if I’m not even there, as if his limbs aren’t about to be separated from his body.

“You are going to tell me what I want to know!” I grab the half empty can of Paris Green and begin to empty it into his mouth. The emerald powder erupts in a plume of colour above his face, burning and suffocating his breathing passages. He coughs and screams, trying to spit as much of the poison out of his mouth as possible. Blood as black as tar erupts from his mouth. It splatters down his chin and chest, dribbling across his nude body. He looks up at me and hisses through the gore:

“I won’t betray my God. Make the pilgrimage to the tunnels yourself if you want answers.”

His eyes glaze over. There’s a horrid bubbling noise as his true form dissolves his human skin. The insecticide resting on his body dissolves with it and the millions of little bugs holding his form together clatter and shriek as they twist and shrivel up in the throes of their death.

“Shit,” I whisper to myself, as my victim tumbles from his ropes to the floor, divided into thousands of dead husks that are no longer any use to anyone.

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