's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Young Willy Dun

Submitted by Ian Thompson (email)


The city squatted in a languid haze, under a sullen sky.   


Not patiently. Nor idly. Not without incident. 

Having your head held under water as you kick and bubble screams is a kind of waiting though.

 It was 3:00(or so). A dry wind whipped. Clouds roiled. Birds flew low. And like the previous four days (at 3:00 or so) the storm never broke; merely wrung out a few fat, stubborn raindrops that served only to tease a parched city as they sizzled away on hot steel high-rises or languished on thirsty stone. 

 A plastic lid from a fast food cup skittered across hot asphalt.  One of the plastic bubbles denoting beverage choice was depressed, displaying OTHER. It finally settled in a gutter, caught on a yellowed newspaper full of words like MURDER, RECORD TEMPERATURES, ANOTHER SHOOTING, BUDGET CUTS, TRAGEDY STRUCK, MISSING PERSONS, RAVE REVIEWS, SEEMINGLY UNRELATED VICTIMS and HALF OFF LINGERIE SALE. OTHER was probably in there too.

Willy Dun got off the school bus to the sound of thunder. 

He smiled

 Yes, it's gonna rain today! On my birthday, hecks yeah! Hell fuckin'yes, actually!  He was 15 now after all AND it was Friday AND was going out to dinner tonight to Bennigan's with his family AND had a pretty-much-a-date with Gabby tomorrow WHO TOTALLY HAD HER LICENSE AND WAS BORROWING HER SISTER'S CAR! All of this entitled him to this oh-so-cool casual f-bomb like he did all the time 'cuz he wasn't a huge dork or anything.

In his excitement, Willy failed to notice a man posting flyers. Bumping into him violently, albeit injury-free, he sent papers flying.

"Sorry" said Willy, bending down to help him pick up.

"S'kay" said the man. He  dark skin and piercing hazel gold eyes, he was in his 20s, wearing a dark brown shirt with paler tan striped designs that made Willy think of a skeleton.. Taken aback, Willy  sheepishly handed him back the one flyer he managed to pick up.

"Keep it." He gave Willy a strained smile and walked on.

Willy looked at the flyer, expecting a band notice. On it instead was a detailed drawing of a woman's face, half normal, half a fanged skull and a whole diatribe on how to identify demons among us,  how there are seven types of vampires roughly...analogous(?) (Is that even a word?) to the seven deadly sins...the thing was full of annotations and handwritten corrections. 

He tossed it the next trashcan he passed. 

Too bad Skeleton shirt guy was crazy. He seemed pretty cool.

It was hot, despite the overcast sky. Willy stopped and wiped the sweat from his glasses.  They gleamed, reflecting the strained rays of the cloud-blotted sun.

Car horns blared and tires squealed. A man, seemingly spawned out of alleyway shadow and the clamor of a passing e-train, ran shambling across the busy street. He lurched as his elbow hit the rear view mirror of a car desperately braking. His arm covered in blood, he staggered diligently the rest of the way across the street and fell to his knees directly at Willy's feet. 

In his non-smashed arm he clutched a box to his chest, wrapped in plain brown paper and tied in twine.

"Mister, are you alrig.."

"Shushshooshshusssh" uttered the man, grabbing Willy's wrist as he attempted to help him to his feet.   Something heavy hung from his arms, but they were obscured by an ill-fitting trench coat two sizes too large, one arm of which was soaking in blood. 

He was filthy, reeking of sweat, blood new and old, and urine.And something....too sweet. On his shorn head, anointed in an oil slick, sat a faded Burger King crown. His face was weathered and lined, though he seemed not old, his eyes were colorless, and his teeth were a crenellated ruin. 

Willy's terror could not form words.

The Mad Beggar King's face was split by a smile. As Willy struggled noiselessly the man reached with his bloody hand. As he moved his arm, the heavy whatever-they-were swung gently beneath his coat, hitting Willy softly. 

At that moment, Willy, eyes closed tight, muttering unintelligible prayers, wished fervently to die right there on his feet before he learned what the Things under the coat softly swaying were. 

Instead came a perverse release that comes with the fear of something quick and painful and violent proving itself to be absurd and benign and all together more terrifying in its relative harmlessness. The creature traced shapes with his bloody hand on Willy's forehead in something wet. Blood? Horrifically slow, horrifically gentle. Semi-circle. Two vertical dashes below that. A circle around them. He had drawn an inverted smiley-face.

"You.  You've. Got it, the glow leads to you, I know! .This. Is for you" He rasped haltingly into his ear. Suddenly he broke his clasp, thrusting the package to Willy who took it thoughtlessly lest his mind be forced to think.

"It's. Going to rain today." The man said with a smile, closing his eyes.

The man's arms dropped and his head fell as he knelt there on the curb on his knees, the soiled crown finally slipping to the cracked pavement and rolling away in the dusty wind. 

 Thunder pealed, seemingly directly overhead. The overly big coat fell from his shoulders and slunk off his arms. 

The man spread his arms wide. From them dangled dead birds hanging by their necks with twine.,one on each arm. Those weird water birds...


 Their eyes were shining black beads.  They swung, staring.

Ragged sobs of laughter issued from the man's bowed head as a crowd of concerned idiots finally formed and pulled Willy away.

"What did he say to you? Are you okay, young man?  Did he touch you? What's that on his head? Son? Son!" concerned idiots said. 

Willy staggered back.  A cold tightness welled in his chest and up his throat. His mouth was dry. The eyes of the idiots were full of concern and pity and shock 

He could not see the man. 

He could not see those horrible birds.

 One face stood out among the crowd, staring intently, directly at him, as if they were the only two there. It was the man with the flyers in the skeleton shirt. In his hand he held the Burger King crown. If there was pity in his golden-brown eyes, it was cold.

  Willy ran. His legs were pumping. His blood was hot.  He didn't hear the wailing sirens. He ran through streets and alleys jostling strangers and brushing shoulders.  He ignored the loud Heys and Watch its and angry honks of cars he dashed in front of. 

 He jumped a fence, cutting through a construction site. This was his neighborhood. That was his house. These were his stairs. This was his room.

 Only then, covered in sweat and curled in the fetal position on his bedroom floor,  smeared blood on his forehead(And something else, a syrupy, vaguely translucent green residue that smelled too sweet) did he realize he still had the box.

"Fuck me," said Willy, like he did all the time

*                                              *                                             *

Willy Dun returned from his birthday dinner early. An open box sat on his bed, surrounded by torn brown paper and ragged ends of twine. It was completely empty save for a vaguely translucent red residue.

"You're awfully quiet tonight," his dad had said to him "Something wrong?"

"No" said Willy. All the color of the world seemed dim and drained away.

"He's just got the birthday blues." Said his mother.

"Yeah, yeah. It's his party, he can cry if he wants to. I've just never seen you so glum at Bennigan's, champ. You're hardly touching your chicken tenders." 

They taste like dead birds Willy wanted to tell his dad, but instead he made a noncommittal grunt.

"He's just bummed because Gabby shot him down." said his sister.

"Nah," said his older sister " I talked to her brother. She's all excited to go out with him tomorrow." Their words sounded warped and slowed and stretched. He could still feel the soft slick scrape of bloodied fingernails on his skin.

"Way to go, son!" said his dad, clapping him on the back. Willy felt like vomiting, but he didn't.

He vomited later, when the entire wait staff had gathered around his table with a cake, singing him the Bennigan's Birthday song.

Willy sat on his bed in his room, boring holes into his ceiling with his laser eyes, fueled by the heat of embarrassment of a thousand ruined birthdays and the stifling, stuffy, unrelenting heat.

He had wanted to shut off all the lights and cry in the dark, for the world to just go away. But it was summer evening,  there was never enough dark.Curtains would have to do. Curtains with stars and marketable images from his favorite Space Show Film.

Willy suddenly hated those curtains. He suddenly hated everything.

God, it's so hot.

He found himself fingering the flaps of the empty box, still wet with the residue of the Thing that had been nestled inside. Absently he licked his fingers.

Nothing had ever tasted  sweeter.

He could still smell that heavy, sickly sweet  scent.Why had he found  it so repulsive earlier?

I shouldn't have done it.

Willy was resolute. He knew what he had to do.

Ignoring the Are you okays? and noises of concern of his family, placating them with hollow sorrys and I'll be fines and just need some air he left his house, crossed the street, rounded  a corner, ducked through a gap in the fence, cutting right to the empty lot near the construction site.

His eyes settled on the bushes near the fence, by the pile of cinder blocks.

This is where he left what he found in the box. A half...eaten dead cormorant and... that ...the Thing.

I hope it's still there. I hope its ok. I should never have...

"Hey kid, come check this out. You gotta see this."

"Ew, what is THAT? No, don't poke it again, Kyle, it smells bad"

"Is that what's making that... smell"

"Yeah, it's squirting something see. Eeeeeww, ugh, Kyle let's  leave. I don't like it."

"One sec, Hannah" The Kyle said, staring in disbelief and awe, prodding the Things's jelly like semi-translucent red flesh with a stick." Kid, have you ever seen something like this before?"

"Yes" said Willy, letting loose a cinder block he never remembered lifting against the Kyle's head.

The Hannah was screaming for a while, it took several hits to make the Kyle stop moving. There was more blood than Willy knew in a Kyle.

His eyes were dull and lifeless. Like a dead cormorants'.


The Smell was thick in the air, sweeter than ever. Willy had never known he was color blind before, but he had to be have been. The world swirled with colors he had no names for, in fluid waves in pulses, in time with the thick wafting swirls of Smell painting the sky. Why could he never see this before?

The Hannah was on her hands and knees, coughing violently.

"There, there, it's ok" He tsked and made soothing noises as his cradled the Thing. It was soft and sticky, with a warm, gently elastic give as it pulsed, softly extending and retracting kaleidoscopically colorful branching, tree-like quills that pricked his arms and wrapped around him. An Embrace.

 So thats's what love feels like. 

*                                              *                                             *

Willy knew he shouldn't open the box. Everything today had gone so. So. Wrong.

That man. The Cormorant Man.

Why didn't the car just kill him.

Why didn't anyone stop him.

Willy was pulling the twine until it ripped.

A lump in this throat sent shivers, through his arms, his neck, feeding a dark pit of cold fear growing deep in his stomach.

Willy was unwrapping the brown paper.

There was a chill. This was not the relief from the heat he wanted.

Willy stared at the flaps. He didn't want to look.

Willy swallowed a dry, helpless swallow.

Willy opened the flaps. A shadow passed over the sun.


The box was lined with a slick, sticky coating, an irridescent pinkish red or green sheen depending on how the dim light caught it.

A strong, spicy, pungent scent immediately stung his nostrils, burning, tingling, suffusing him with warmth. Willy coughed and sputtered.

Wiping tears from his eyes, he finally focused on what he dreaded to see.

At this moment, he had a chance, one last chance to unsee. To live happily.



Willy looked in the box.

A dead cormorant. 

The pit in his stomach widened into a bottomless, cold sea

 It's feathers were matted and ruffled  and dull. Dull as its black eyes.It's body was ...wet and slick and chewed on... from...

Willy had always liked bugs.

He did not like this bug.

It was like...and well, completely unlike really...those big green horn worm caterpillars, with those orange antlers that came out of its head, and dark spots that looked like eyes.

This...Thing...had all those things. The colors were wrong, though. And the placement, the shape. And the size. This gelatinous worm filled the box. It quivered, sending out feelers in what seemed like stop motion, feather like, tree-like  branching  quills. It's color shifted from red brown to yellow green, eyespots ringed with virulent orange and electric blue  sprouting into existence, widening, opening suddenly.

Looking at him. him?

Willy threw the box against the wall in revulsion, the neck of the cormorant spilled out limply. Its black bead eyes shown with accusing, reflected light. 


The thing..whimpered and trembled pitiably. Will's eyes misted over and that heavy, sweet, spicy scent dulled his reaction time and sent him staggering.

Queasy and light headed, Willy pushed the...thing... and bird back in the box, flinching and squirming as he.. his fingers touched it's soft, quivering, translucent flesh, now a bright red violent with eyespots pulsing in repeating, flashing rings of yellow and black.

Warning coloration.

Willy had to get this thing in the box. Away.

He took the stairs by threes, bounding, slamming against the wall.

"Woah, champ, slow down, I know you're excited for Bennigans, but you're shaking the whole house."

Thunder pealed. Both he and his dad looked up. For a second Willy forgot what he was holding.

"Hey" His father sniffed,"You smell something."

"N,no nothing. Cologne.Um..." he bounced on his heels, hairs on end. "Dad, I'll be right back, there's something I have to take care of"

His Dad smiled a dad smile."You going to see Gabby?"

"Um...yeah?" Willy nodded"I'll be real quick."

"Okay, but train leaves in ten minutes."

Willy was out the door.

The construction site. He could bury  it there, somewhere deep and dark and where he could forget it...

No. Wait.

This thing was wet and soft. The sun. He needed to dry it out. Burn it out off the face of the planet. Let it shrivel away until all it's terrible colors went grey.

Willy  unceremoniously dumped it  and the sticky, half eaten cormorant in a bush.

It squirmed pathetically, recoiling in the sun, trying to get small.

Willy stared, panting. He grabbed a stick and hit it twice, the second time  wetting the end with gel from a weeping pink and green wound. It even smelled pink?


Willy lurched as his knees gave out, holding his head as another burst of sweet, acrid...pheromone? left him light headed and seeing spots.

He stared at the miserable lump of jelly. That would have to do. 

The sun will kill it. The sun always kills monsters.

Willy had a couple false starts, staring back at the bush, before running home, no looking back. It was good as dead. 

The pit in his stomach didn't ebb. He felt cold. He hadn't even noticed he brought the box back with him. Tossing it absently onto his bed, he remembered dinner.





*                                              *                                             *


The Hannah sputtered coughs, feebly trying to wave Smell away  from her mouth and nose.

The Willy felt bad for the Hannah and calmly walked over to her, holding the soft Thing gently, carefully in his arm. It was a pearlescent, iridescent soft minty green now. It issued some contented noises. Purrs.

Safe now.

Happy now.

The Willy smeared a sopping handful of the sticky nectar covering him, oozing from his lovely Thing, into the pleading Hannah's ridiculous face.

He took his finger and drew an inverted smily face on her forehead, gently brushing away strands of  hair, now sticky and clinging with Nectar.

The Hannah didn't like that.

...At first.

The Hannah did some funny, noisy things before staring at the sky with dumb, rapt delight. Pretty.. and ooh fairies. I see fairies!  and OH noises were much better than screaming. 


Laughing was good. 

The Hannah was laughing.

The Hannah ran, then fell, than crawled then got back up and ran. Laughing into the summer evening, on all fours if she had to, painted in more colors than there  were words for yet. 

The Hannah was better now.

*                                              *                                             *

The Kyle Meat was heavy, but the Willy needed someplace dark, someplace quiet some place safe.  The Willy was stronger now though, and saw paths of many glowing colors leading the way. Past  big climbs and crawl holes,  and metal tracks ,a maze of fences led to a ditch lined with metal, slick and wet, running water, slimy stones. A barred ..gate under a...human thing led to someplace hidden, someplace dark and dirty and wet.

The bars were strong, but Willy was stronger now.  His head scraped against concrete and slime and spider webs as he pulled the Meat through  and over broken bars and watched with a proud, dumb smile as his Love slowly fed in the dark, quiet, safety. He found it.

A good nest. 

The Willy would need more Meat though. There would be several molts. The Willy Knew.

Somewhere in the above, there were sirens and the sounds of the Hannah's laughter. Willy couldn't regular hear it, but the Love could. Love heard for the Willy now. It did lots of things for the Willy.

Willy had to do things for it now.

Only fair.


 It was nice of her to try to make meat, but that wasn't the Hannah's role. The Willy was chosen. The Hannah was a distraction, a sacrifice, a cast off leg still twitching. The Hannah gave them time.

The Willy smiled as thunder rattled the foundations of  the Love's nest. He blissfully, slowly brought his hand, slick with blood, and grime, and sweet Nectar, through the bars, awaiting the new heavy drops to  wash away everything old and dirty.

The Love said it was going to rain.



The Rain helps things to  grow.

*                                              *                                             *

A handsome, dark skinned man looked at  his blurry reflection in the bus stop plastic , and the city beyond it, sadly, as people pushed and grumbled and stomped through puddles. It's rained for two weeks straight.

A wet newspaper full of headlines like  MORE MISSING and FOUND DEAD and ads for lingerie sales sat sodden in a pile. OTHER was probably in there too. He saw the name Willy Dun, and another picture of the kid. He winced, hopefully he wasn't too late but..

Damn. No need to torture himself over missed chances. He was so close before but, well, he could be getting close again.

The man sighed and put up more posters. Tonight he'd try looking for nesting  sites in another block, but right now he'd do what he'd always done, try to make people aware. If maybe one person believed him, learned something, it would help. People shouldn't be ignorant of what's hunting them.

 A pre-teen girl bumped him, sending a few posters flying.

"Sorry" she said, picking a few up.

"S'kay" he muttered.

"Here" she said handing him one of the new ones,  with photos of the most recent batch of missing people, the ones detailing the hallucinogenic larva, fairy worms he'd called them, and what he regretfully conceded to call the imago...Glam Moths. 

Well, hopefully there hadn't been enough time to reach Imago yet.

"Keep it" he said 

The girl frowned, looking at the poster, then, perhaps catching a familiar face, changed her tune with a look both surprised and sad.

"Good luck"  Gabby said finally, sniffling. Ruefully, tearfully, she pocketed the poster,"I hope you find...everyone  who went missing"

The man smiled, partly at the prospect of a new lead, that was clearly the look of recognition, partly because the rain was letting up. A ray of sunlight was cutting through the clouds. Mostly though, he smiled because they all needed it.

Hope was a good beginning.

Things could grow from hope.

And besides.

The sun always kills monsters