Ex-Special Forces soldier Tim Galton and History Professor Alexander Hall are adventurers and paranormal investigators. But they don’t just investigate haunted houses, they search out the darkest, most dangerous of creatures and do battle. Now they’re in Romania, facing a deadly alliance between Satanists and Vampires and heading inexorably towards an encounter with the most evil creature they’ve ever faced, deep in Transylvania.
Inspired by an original story from Colin P Davies
I was in complete darkness the moment the door behind me slammed shut and locked.
From the brief glimpse I’d had when entering, the corridor seemed straight and uncluttered. Nevertheless, I shuffled my way cautiously forward with my hands on the wall. I just hoped the door I had seen at the other end was unlocked.
It was a cold night outside, but the air in the corridor was growing unnaturally hot and stifling. Sweat bristled all over my body, pooled at the base of my spine and stuck my shirt to my back.
Even shuffling slowly forward, it jarred me when my foot finally met the door. I felt for and grabbed the handle, breathing slowly, hesitating, hoping it would be unlocked and, if it were, wondering what might be waiting for me on the other side.
I turned the handle and pushed. The latch clicked. The door began to move. It was unlocked! Now I could get out of that corridor and investigate more of the old house. With some relief I pushed harder and stepped through.
My foot fell but there was nothing to meet it. Emptiness.
I tumbled out, automatically gripping the door handle tighter in my fist, my whole body-weight jerking to a sudden stop, my shoulder jabbing red hot pain through me as it was pulled to near dislocation.
I hung from the door handle with no idea if there was any floor beneath me, or, if there was, how far away it might be. I didn’t like the idea of letting go to find out. There was a cool breeze circling up from below and a feeling of emptiness about me that suggested an open pit. Either that or it was one hell of a first step.
It took a moment for me to marshal my thoughts, but my time in the military had prepared me to react to the unexpected, to improvise in unknown situations. I took quick stock of what I knew.
Directly above me was the door, apparently solid and thankfully with good, strong hinges. I was hanging below that door, suspended from the handle by one hand and one very sore shoulder. There was no way I could tell if there was a floor below me, but I had to presume the worst and say not. Equally, I could not say what lay on the other side of the space, whether the corridor continued or there was another door or nothing. On the side I had just stepped out of I knew there was a corridor with a solid floor, even if it was some way above my feet at the moment.
Step one; do something about the strain on my shoulder.
I reached up with my other arm, pulling as best I could with the hand gripping the handle at the same time. The agony that shot through my shoulder caused me to shout out, an uncontrollable cry of pain. I pulled, I reached and I grabbed, finally holding onto the handle with both hands. The pain eased slightly with the extra support. It was a start.
Step two; somehow get back into that corridor.
I started to swing my legs, back and forth, back and forth. It would be slow going, presuming it worked at all, and the pain in my bad shoulder increased with each swing. Deal with it. There weren’t a lot of options. Gradually I began to build some momentum, but it was slow and tough going.
As the arc of the swings increased, I begin to lift my legs, pushing towards the opening above my head, an opening that seemed further away each time I looked.
Swing. Push. Swing. Push. Kick!
My toe almost touched the lip of the doorway. It wasn’t much, but it was the encouragement I needed as even my good shoulder began to ache and my leg muscles cramped with the effort of lifting and kicking. I knew I was in pretty good shape, had tried to maintain my exercise regime even after I’d left active duty, and never had I been more grateful for that discipline than at that moment, hanging from a door handle, swinging above a probable abyss, trying to do something I could not convince myself was actually possible. But I was getting tired and the pain grew steadily worse.
Another swing, another push and kick. Put more effort into it. Force every last bit of energy from those aching muscles. Swing. Push. Kick!
The heel of my right boot caught on the doorframe. If only it would hold!
For a moment I hung there, not daring to move, my right leg stretched to its limit, the heel hanging on desperately.
I swung the left leg up. Managed to get my heel into the corridor. Both feet now precariously holding on.
With a final, grating cry of pain torn from my throat, I pulled with everything I had, with my arms, my body, dragging the door back towards its frame, scrambling forwards with my boots which slipped on the corridor floor. Inch by painfully slow inch I crawled myself to safety, finally sprawling full length on the floor of the corridor as the door swung back open behind me. It still dangled over the black abyss, but now, thankfully, without me hanging below it.
I’m not sure how long I stayed there, just lying on the floor, gasping, letting the ache in my muscles throb, the pain in my shoulder stab. I had no concept of time other than the gradual dissipation of the aches. I couldn’t even say how long I had been hearing the low, rhythmic chanting before I became slowly aware of it. But gradually it wormed its way into my mind, overlaying the pain, replacing the throb of my muscles with its own throbbing repetition. That’s when I realised I had to get up. That the danger had not passed, just changed.
As I climbed wearily to my feet, the first breath of sulphurous air wafted over me, and with it a noticeable increase in the volume of the chanting. I tried to listen closely, to discern the actual words, but it was impossible. The low sound began to vary. First a drone, then a rhythmic chant, back and forth with no obvious regularity. And always unintelligible
The smell grew stronger, but now there was something else mixed in there too. The smell of dampness, of mould. And then, rising up behind it, an overwhelming odour of rot and decay.
I could feel the vomit rising in my throat and forced it back. However strong the smell, I had to concentrate. It was not the first time I’d encountered something similar. The smell reminded me of the killing fields, of rotting corpses, of days-old victims of executions lying stiff, twisted and headless in roadside ditches. It was the smell of death and I was all too familiar with that.
A faint glow began to force back the darkness. A glow, building to a bright, flickering light. Its source was behind me, in the doorway that led to nowhere.
I turned quickly. This was no time for caution. If there was danger behind me I needed to know and fast.
What I saw was not a man holding a lamp or torch, as I’d half expected, but a thickening mist, glowing and billowing in the blackness beyond the door.
The chanting grew louder, the smell stronger, the mist thicker, until it was hard to focus on the manifestation before me. As the mist rolled so it also took on shape. The shape of a man.
Even now, thinking back, I don’t know exactly when the mist disappeared and the man was there. He just was. Seven foot of grey, thickset, naked and snarling man. Snarling. It’s the only word for his expression. The lips drawn back, the teeth bared, yellowing, the sharp, elongated canine teeth indenting the bottom lip. And his eyes, glowing red, burning into my mind.
I couldn’t move!
I tried. I struggled. But those eyes held me, transfixed me, as he stepped forwards, heavy footed, slowly, a long, grey tongue licking around those sharp teeth. I don’t believe I would have survived had I not seen the other corridor, or perhaps the continuation of the current one, on the far side of the abyss.
The glow that still emanated from around the monster was enough to faintly illuminate the doorway opposite. The open doorway. It gave me another focus, drew my concentration away from those eyes just long enough for me to break their hold.
There was no time for subtlety. I pulled the Glock from its holster at my hip and unloaded five bullets into the thing’s chest. I saw them hit, the skin splitting under the impact, the holes drilled into the body, the surprisingly small amount of blood that oozed out.
He didn’t drop as he should have. He didn’t die. He didn’t even cry out in pain. But he did hesitate and take a few, staggering steps backwards. The bullets may not have killed him, but they stunned him. It was all I needed.
I kicked, putting every bit of strength and energy I had into it. My boot hit him full in the chest, pushing a slight spray of blood from the bullet-holes.
The impact lifted his feet off the ground and pushed him backwards. He fell through the doorway into the abyss without a sound.
I didn’t wait to see if his body ever hit the distant floor or whether he simply floated. I took a few steps back and ran for it.
I left the push off until the last possible moment, making use of the doorframe itself. I hit the doorway opposite with the top half of my body, my torso falling into the frame, my legs dangling over the blackness. Gasping from the impact on my stomach, I pulled myself into the corridor, dragged my legs inside with fingertips scraping the stone flooring.
I didn’t look back. The glow was dying but had not yet completely gone. I could see that the way ahead seemed straight and clear, so I ran.
By the time I hit the door at the other end, the glow had gone, and when I say hit I mean hit! I ran into it, giving myself a bump on the head to remember the place by. I scrambled for the door handle, hoping it would not be locked. It wasn’t! I was out into the main house, dawn breaking over the horizon through one of the large bay windows.
I kept running.