's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Necromancer "

Submitted by Sly Devil

It began with a relentless...pounding. A ceaseless throbbing, like the beating of gargantuan drum, that I could feel all the way down to my bones.

And next was the screeching, the peeling, like shrieking metal. I could see behind the masks, see. I don't know who puts them there. Maybe THEY do. Or maybe it's just how our brain forces us to look at the world. Maybe if we saw things without the masks, we wouldn't be able to handle life, handle reality.

I don't know what it was that made me able to see behind the masks. Just everything began peeling. I'd be watching television, watching some politician give a speech, and suddenly the edge of their face would curl, lift, peel away with a metal shriek. And beneath it, these sagging, worn, terrible things, howling lights in their eyes, their faces drifting away to ragged edges.

They were always proposing building new things. Soon, in addition to the constant throbbing, there was a terrible stretching, groaning, all around me, buildings as if growing out of the concrete, as if the concrete itself was stretching, and the machines they used! The machines, awful, wiry, the slick black metal and the whirring blades. And their workers, the deformed faces, the empty eyes, and the city shrieking, growing, groaning, clawing at the sky.

It all leapt up so fast, and they built it all so close, it seemed that every day I went out I saw less and less of the sky. And the awful shrieking, peeling continued. The masks weren't just on people, they were on the world. Clean sidewalks shook, vibrated before my eyes, became cracked, pitted, bloodstained. Buildings became dark monoliths, and more and more, everything crowded around me, and on the television the politicians with their sagging faces and hollow eyes full of hell-lights cried for more, more buildings, more of them, and all around me faces peeled back and revealed deformities, empty sockets, open wounds, until it finally happened, they built so closely that I could not find my way outside, I could not see the sky.

All around me for as far as I could see it was concrete, and glass, and brick, so tall you'd feel crushed just by staring at the immensity of it – it was too huge, it went up further than you could see, it disappeared into the bridges between all the buildings, it was so much more than you. The streets had disappeared into the tangle of these bridges as well. The world was no longer there, we were trapped in an endless maze of steel and linoleum and off-white paint.

That night I went to bed, and in the middle of the night when I got up to go to the bathroom, there in my doorway was a face. Not any normal face – literally a face the size of my doorway, a deformed and twisted one, with no discernible nose and two empy eye-sockets set off-kilter, red lips, flesh that was so pink it looked inflamed, infected, and a lolling tongue over gravestone teeth, its rancid breath filling up my room.

I pressed myself into the corner of my room, sick with fear, knees weak, not daring to scream, barely daring to breathe, frozen staring at the humongous face as it stared vacantly back at me. I spent so long frozen in that position that I almost jumped out of my skin when it spoke.

“You're very sick,” it said, and then with sudden speed withdrew itself from my doorway. I still didn't dare to move until daylight filtered in through the window. When I finally found the courage to throw open the door, there was no sign that it had ever been there.

I decided that I had to escape, I had to get out of this world, this world of endless, throbbing noise, shrieking metal, buildings crowding in on each other, I had to get outside, I had to leave. I had to find a way outside. In panic and terror, I threw myself through the hallways of my world. The buildings were so thick around me they seemed to block out the sun. I could always see crowds of people, distinctly, in the distance, or walking through one of the other bridges between the buildings, but I never seemed to be able to reach them. I found myself lost in my panic, inside a buiding that appeared to be a hospital of some sort.

Looking out the window, I noted that I was still so high up that the street could not be seen. I had to get down, down until the level where I could see the ground. Through empty, cobweb-tangled stairs I vaulted down. The light coming in from the windows began to die. The throbbing grew louder, more intense. Eventually I came to a flight of stairs where the door that opened up to the next flight down was locked. I tried to run back up and open the door above me, but it turned out that someone must have locked that behind me. The only way to continue was out, onto the floor on which I was currently trapped. The way it always is.

I kicked the door open, feeling like a fascist. The floor was apparently still part of the hospital, dedicated to brain medicine. Dimly lit x-rays of skulls lined the walls. Large, inexplicable machines whirred and hummed behind wire-lined glass. Carts with preserved brains silently floating in a clear, greenish liquid lay abandoned.

I noticed sudden movement behind the wire-lined glass, in the room with the machines. Peering in, I was startled to see a beautiful woman, fully nude, standing behind the glass, staring in intently at me, flanked by two humongous, metallic boxes, machines of indiscriminate purpose. I didn't recognize her. She pounded on the glass, but it was simply too thick for her to even make a sound. She was shouting something at me, looking like she was trying to tell me something. I shrugged. She breathed on the glass, fogging it with her breath, and wrote “I love you” on it. I had no idea how to react, and I never had the chance to before the machines around her whirred to life.

There was no pause, no moment of respite, no hesitation whatsoever. The machines worked with expert movement, with fluidity, even grace, as two metallic claws extended from each one, seizing her by the arms and the legs. Moving so fast I could barely see them, blades flashed out, severing her limbs.

It would be wrong to say they tore her apart. They disassembled her, delicately enough to keep most of the pieces preserved but with a shocking, brutal efficiency. Skin was flayed from muscle, muscle was stripped from bone. They kept her alive – at least, they kept her head on – long enough for her to see what was happening, and then they sliced that cleanly from her neck and quickly stripped the flesh and removed the sockets from those as well. They worked so quickly that the lungs were still breathing and the heart still beating when they removed those. All the pieces were quickly arranged into a peculiar radial pattern on the floor, and the entire process took less than a minute. The entire operation was so clinical, so silent, so surreal. At the end of it I looked down at the arrangement of human remains left behind and felt a deep dread knowing that they had been a living human being merely seconds before.

I fled. I had to leave. I had to get away. The world was peeling again. The throbbing noise was growing louder and louder. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw quick, precise-moving shadows, and imagined the machines were pursuing me.

I don't remember how I wound up in the hallway. I just remember the horror and the dread, and the running, and then suddenly I was in a dark hallway, and the door would not open behind me. I could see nothing ahead of me. I took a few steps forward, and felt the distinctive crunch of dead grass beneath my feet. I could feel the cool breeze of the night on my face. I was outside, but still trapped by the walls that surrounded me. What had happened? Had they walled off the world itself?

I could also hear something ahead of me, breathing raggedly, and the breeze bought with it the scent of preservative chemicals. I stepped forward and my thigh bumped painfully into something cold, solid. I reached down and femt a smooth stone face and rough, hewn edges. Feeling blindly in the dark, I found carved grooves in the smooth surface. I suddenly realized that the object was a gravestone. I reached out to my right, and felt another one. I was in a graveyard.

Ahead of me, I heard whatever it was that was breathing raggedly shift, heard the dry rustle of dead leaves. Dread filled me. Whatever it was that was breathing, I did not want to see it. I stepped backwards, groping for the door I had come through, only to find nothing – it had disappeared. I was trapped here, in this massive, monumental, completely blinding darkness, trapped with whatever it was that was breathing.

The throbbing noise became worse than ever before. I ran. Ran in the opposite direction of the ragged, awful breathing.

But no matter where I ran, the sound only grew louder. And it quickly became clear that whatever was breathing was immense. Its long, rattling breaths synced up with the throbbing in my head. Its breath was a gust of foul wind, sending the dead leaves whipping around me, heavy with the scent of rot and a faint chemical aroma.

In a blind panic I flew, knocking over gravestones, gasping for breath, crawling on my hands and knees, until the ragged, endless wheezing was my entire world, and I could imagine the vast, tattered lungs, filled with the dead air, like the sails of a ghost ship, like the broken wings of a long-dead moth, shattering and flaking with each sickening breath, a plague, a mockery of life in a dead, dead land.

My hands hit water. I looked up, blasted by the dead breath, and noticed that I was at the edge of a vast, dark lake. There was a light source somewhere at the center of it, suffusing everything with a very faint glow, a soft white light, as if from the moon.

There was a rowboat. I climbed in it, and began paddling toward the source of light.

It was too late that I noticed something gargantuan watching me from beneath the water. Something with large, unblinking eyes, and a mile-long smile. The rest of its leviathan form was concealed by the dark, and it soon passed out of my sight, but while it was beneath me ice ran in my veins.

I was soon able to make out what the source of light at the center of the lake was. It was a small island, on which stood a massive grandfather clock, easily hundreds of feet tall, whose face was like a small moon. The mechanical ticking of the clock soon became audible, and synced up with the throbbing in my skull, the wheezing breath that surrounded me.

As I pulled closer to the island, I noted a figure lying by the base of the clock tower.

It was a mammoth corpse, well over thirty feet high lying down, whose body curled into a fetal position around the entire island, a filthy, half-bald skull resting lightly on its arm, the rotting flesh melting into each other. It was breathing, it was from this that the awful wheezing originated, the rattling breaths, the sickening breeze.

And as I came closer, I noticed that not only was it breathing, but it was murmuring something indistinct between those dry, gray, cracked lips. I loathed the idea of walking on that shore, but I had to know what it was saying.

I grounded the rowboat, and staggered out into the freezing water, slowly making my way ashore, approaching the gargantuan skull. When I got within ten feet, I was able to hear what it was saying, a dry whisper beneath its breath:

“We're losing him....we're losing him....we're losing him...”

And then, with a sudden jolt, the ticking of the clock tower stopped. The wheezing of the gargantuan corpse stopped. The endless, hellish throbbing in my skull stopped. The world, with a metallic shriek, peeled back.

I was on my stomach, and long, blue curtains surrounded me, behind which there was a light so blinding it hurt my eyes. Shadowy figures flitted in and out at the edges of my vision. I was aware of a dull pain in my skull, but that was the only sensation I felt. There was a chaos of noise, but no more of the pounding.

Suddenly, the world peeled back again.

The island was gone. The clock tower's light no longer shone out over the lake. I was treading water in the middle of an endless, dark, freezing body of water. I could see nothing, I could hear nothing, I could taste nothing, I could feel nothing but the endless chill.

But slowly, slowly something came into vision in the endless black around me. It was the face I had seen earlier, beneath the water. Two eyes that gleamed as if the moonlight was reflecting off them, though there was no light. A chaos of teeth that shone out through the darkness. Larger and larger it grew beneath me. I lost all sense of direction, all sense of gravity. The face was above me. It was beneath me. It was humongous, vast, larger than the sun, it was the entire world.

And I knew it. I knew I was dead. And it was just me and this face forever.

And then it began to speak.