Excerpt: The Cult

Our eFestival of Words Halloween Party continues with another horror excerpt for your pleasure.

About the Book

When the Dadan Indians discovered what grew in the underground caves, they made it a sacrament. When the Ashton family re-discovered it a century later, they used it as a doorway. Now something waits on the other side of that doorway, a vast and malefic intelligence that feeds on human potential and threatens all existence. Can seven college students on summer break stop this primal force from reshaping reality in it’s own image, or will they be the first to fall before it’s limitless power?

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The night lasted forever. There were times Baxter was sure he’d gone mad, but it was wishful thinking on his part: madness would have been sweet relief in the face of what had occurred. It had all gone so wrong…

While his body was fine, Adam’s mind seemed to have been damaged by his experience, leaving him in shock. Chloe and Erica had attempted to bring him around but he proved unresponsive. Meanwhile, Zak had been driven to build a fire at the circle’s center; with the aid of Metathias a good-sized blaze was started and maintained at a hellish intensity throughout the night. Around it Zak danced, sometimes with the girls but mostly alone. He’d picked up a small drum from somewhere in the house and banged on it incessantly, only stopping to smoke pot with Ashton. He did his best to ignore Annie; her transformation was unbearable to behold and no one would look at her. She babbled a mix of heresy and prophecy, laughing, weeping, her veil of eyes staring, staring…

Baxter had enough. He tried to reconcile himself to Annie’s transformation. He could not. The change was… too painful. But it was her true self, Ashton explained, it was why she stood with them in the first place.

“Annie is our oracle, the lens through which we see out past and future paths. She is the First, and has been sent to guide us.”

No one bothered to dispute him.

“We should get them both to a hospital,” Erica said, staring down at Adam’s trembling form.

Ashton shook his head dismissively. “Impossible. No doctor can help them.”

“I think he is going into shock!”

Ashton rose, his irritation evident.

“No one is going anywhere. Anything we might need is here at the Manor.” Ashton knelt down beside Adam.

“Adam. Snap out of it.” Adam looked up uncomprehending, then stared down at his right hand. It was intact, unchanged, though the fingers were curled in a grim rictus, Ashton seized it.

“See? You’re fine. Get up, now. Join the party.”

Adam looked away, his face rashed with shame.

“Go away,” he said in a small voice.

Disgusted, Ashton pushed his hand aside and rose. “Adam is our knight,” he said, his voice thick with disgust. “Or was, anyway. Perhaps you would like to be knight, Erica?”

Wordlessly Erica stormed off. Ashton swore under his breath and returned to his chair, to drink from a small silver flask. After a moment Chloe joined him and the two fell into a quiet but intense conversation. Zak continued to dance around the circle, thumping away on his drum and looking all the world like a certain behooved deity of the Spring. His black mane swung and swirled, an ever-changing shadow tattoo across his face. He moved in time with the music, jumping, leaping, twisting wildly in the air only to land effortlessly on his already-moving feet. His shredded pant-legs took on the appearance of coarse black hair, obscuring his movements and allowing him to seemingly change direction in mid-air. His was a mad dance, spurred on by the Paq’qa and the unrelenting music of the night.

Baxter watched his friend in both wonder and apprehension; would Zak make it back from something like this? He’d heard of people going on acid trips and never coming down – the Paq’qa made acid look like candy. Still, Baxter figured it was best to let Zak dance it out of his system. What to do about Annie, though… that was another story.

That she now wore some sort of bizarre veil was undeniable; it was the reality of the thing itself that was questionable. Was it simply a silk scarf she’d draped over her head, transformed by the power of suggestion into the now-hideous caul? Or was it some sort of astral thing? Baxter tried to remember his esoteric lore, but realized he wouldn’t know a chakra from a hole in his head. No luck there. He refused to entertain the third possibility. It couldn’t possibly be…

“Baaaxter.” Annie called to him, her voice a strained whisper. He tried to ignore her but could not, compelled to again look her way. She was staring at him with dozens of unblinking eyes. They were blue, green, hazel and otherwise, indescribable hues that had no place in nature. Held in place by a network of countless tiny veins, the eyes darted about independently, with an almost gluttonous need for sensation. Baxter found himself ensnared, unable to look away.

“What? What do you want, damn it?” he said, raising an arm as if to ward her off. It weighed a ton, proved impossible to move above his collarbone. She giggled and the veil rippled wetly, billowing with her expelled breath. Sickened, Baxter staggered backwards. The grass was slick beneath his feet and he realized he was stepping through Zak’s old vomit. Annie raised her hands in sudden prostration, then leaned forward to whisper in his ear.

“I can’t see.” From beneath her veil Annie let out an ice-cracking note, the frightful precursor to the peals of mad laughter which followed. Shaken, Baxter turned from her and ran wildly out of the garden, into the blessed shadows beyond.

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