Hump Day Hook is a weekly blog hop where writers are invited to hook readers with just a few paragraphs from a work in progress or published work. Visit their site by clicking on the button below for a list of other participating writers and share the love! Today’s Hook comes from my latest project, Pool, still in the early, early stages of writing. In it, I go back to my B-Movie horror roots as I write about a group of isolated young people being slowly terrorized by monsters. In fact, let’s meet the monster now!
Pool crouched in the rain, slapping himself where the fat drops fell until it registered that this was water, only water. It fell sometimes in other places. Now it was falling here, where it had never fallen before, and there was light above him, which had never shown light before, and these were things that needed thinking about.
The corpse earned none of his attention. Bloated and blackened by early rot, it had been at once identified and disregarded. Not as a dead man, but as a dead something—spoiled meat unfit for eating. Something that would need to be dealt with, in other words, but not a man. It was too different for Pool’s eyes to see as a person, so it was just a thing, not-same.
Looking at the two together, the forty-day corpse and the living man, it was not immediately clear which looked the most human. Their shapes shared enough—two arms, two legs, five fingers to each hand, two eyes that looked curiously out from a thinking mind—but no one would have ever believed they were looking at a man if they had glimpsed Pool at a distance in the dark. Uncounted eons breeding in the deep tunnels under the earth had worked its changes, seen and unseen.
Although he could and sometimes did go upon two legs, he was more apt to prowl about on his belly, his powerful fingers and grasping toes made to pull him through narrow channels and over uneven stone as swiftly as a snake. The body that perched now, guardedly, just beyond the shine of daylight had been carved for this life, bred for it in the blind treachery of the hollow earth; he was small, more than a head shorter than Big Bill had been in life and half the old man’s weight, but every sinewy muscle held a terrible reserve of strength. His skin, pale as pearl and entirely hairless, stretched tight over this deceptively small, powerful frame, showing clearly each coiling muscle as he picked his way across the newly-fallen debris, pausing at every new hand-hold and foot-step to sniff at a shard of rotted wood or rifle barrel. The rain slicked over his naked flesh, but he felt little of it, little of the high mountain cold. Nature had compensated for his kind’s scarcity of body fat with thick skin and a circulatory system that could keep him quite comfortable at temperatures near freezing, although the Hodel mine rarely saw such a need. So the impression overall was perhaps cadaverous, but still essentially human. It was only when one looked at the creature’s face that one realized how widely his kind had diverged.
It was not an evil face, but neither was it, even at an idle glance, at all human. His brow was round and somewhat backwards-slanted into his high, domed skull, proportionately overlarge to human eyes. Likewise, the front of his face seemed to bulge, as with too many teeth, although this slight snout was more to accommodate his millions of smell receptors and the spongy mass just above his mostly-defunct eyes which caught the soundwaves bouncing back from any exploratory clicks he might send out. But he did have more teeth than a human, and with the exception of four molars, they were all long, sharp, carnivore’s teeth. When he showed them, it was not a smile. His eyes were huge, sunken sockets that gave him an oddly fetal, imploring appearance as he looked around, but these looks were as deceptive as his wiry frame. What might be seen as plaintive and helpless was in fact an expression of hostile intent: I see you, those wide-open eyes meant to say, as the slightly-pursed and trembling lips were actually a warning, proof that he was primed for a nasty bite.
But no one was here to see his fierceness, and soon his strange features relaxed.
I know they are watching. A veil of serenity shrouds my emotions, the remaining vestige of my lost privacy. I squeeze my fists to release tension while taking in the unparalleled view unfolding in front of me like a magic carpet made of woven silks and high-priced jewels. I pinch myself just to make sure what I see is real. I feel the self-inflicted pain. I shake my palms and scan for the lenses that must spy my every move from every angle like the glowing eyes of night creatures. Can cameras steal souls? Silly thoughts.
The candelabras and flower bouquets seduce my senses and all my thoughts vanish like a puff of smoke. Lush vegetation climbs over arching walls, torches burn and candles flicker. The building’s stucco walls form a backdrop to overlapping shadows that tremble in the light cast by orange flames. I walk on, inhaling the humid air of tropical spring that slows down my movements and makes each second become more syrupy.
I take another step and hear a thumping grow louder until it vibrates my ears from the inside. I look around only to realize that it is my own heart. It is harder to walk now; my throat is constricting and a drop of sweat trickles down my back. I inhale more air to fight the dizziness that eclipses my eyes and softens my legs. I sense that once I see them beyond the archway, something will happen, something irreversible.
I glance around but can’t spot any lenses.
My pulse quickens.
“I can do this,” I say to myself and holding my breath, cross the threshold.
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Intrigued? Click the button below to find a sneak peek of the first chapter and watch for Venus, by Ava Kallan, coming soon!