's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Confrontation at an Inn

Submitted by Emergence

The sun was just setting as Strand’s train arrived at the seaside town. He could see the faint outline of an island on the horizon. As he walked down the main street, he noticed a sign in front of an inn, “Rooms Available, Inquire Within”. Strand opened the door to a sparsely-occupied dining area, the walls and rafters adorned with bits of old sailing equipment and the dried remains of fishermen’s catches. Behind the bar, a weary old innkeeper was pouring drinks for his patrons.

“How much for a room for the night?” Strand asked, walking up to the bar.

“30 notes.” the innkeeper said.

Strand pulled his card out of his wallet and passed it over the bar. As the innkeeper scanned the card at the till, he looked at the symbol on the satchel Strand was carrying, and the assorted tools and instruments strapped to his belt.

“I’m guessing you’re with the institute then?” Asked the innkeeper as he handed Strand’s card back.

“Yeah.” Strand replied. “A few others passed through town a little while back, right?”

“Are you with them?” Asked the innkeeper. “They said they were going out to that island for some kind of project.”

“We’re studying the effects that the rift underneath the island has on the ecosystem.” Strand explained. “We may even isolate new strains of ichor from the local wildlife.”

The innkeeper chuckled to himself. “The fishermen from this town tend to give that island a wide berth. You can imagine the sort of stories people who have visited the island come back with. That probably just makes guys like you want to visit the place more, though.”

Strand’s eyes lit up. “Now I’m really glad I signed on.” He said. “I’d like to hear some of those stories, if you have the time.”

“That sounds fine. Business is a bit slow right now anyway.” Said the innkeeper. “Well, to start with, there’s this one I heard about…!” The innkeeper’s voice caught in his throat when he saw three men open the door to the inn.

“You missed the deadline, innkeeper.” The tallest man said. “I think you know what’s going to happen if we don’t walk out the door with the money”

Inky blue veins crept over the tall man’s right hand, and hooked, barbed talons the size of kitchen knives erupted from his fingers.

“Please Brig, just give me another week!” The innkeeper begged.

Brig sighed, and walked towards the bar. Strand stood up from his seat and turned to face him. Brig raised an eyebrow.

“Walk away, boy.” He said.

Strand walked toward him.

“Do you want to die first then? Fine.” Said Brig, lunging forward and plunging his talons into Strand’s chest. “Now look what you did old man. You got this kid killed to-“

Brig was hurled back and slammed into the far wall. The two other men looked back at Brig, shocked, and then turned to look at Strand. His right arm had erupted into a length of intertwined blue-green hyphae, the end splitting to form a crude hand. The wounds on his chest were already mending themselves together.

Brig scowled as he picked himself up off of the floor, and his right arm began to spasm. The arm split apart into five insect-like limbs, each tipped with a scythe-like talon. He dashed forward towards Strand, and swung at him with the talons.

Strand dodged the swing, and lashed three of Brig’s scythe limbs off with his tendril. Brig roared, the front of his body splitting open, more of the scythe limbs erupting out. He scuttled towards Strand, and then leapt at him.

Strand’s body erupted with branching tendrils and fleshy pods that glowed a pale green. Several gnarled limbs shot out like spears and impaled Brig. Brig’s body convulsed as the tendrils grew into his flesh, and then burst in a shower of dark blue ichor. Strand’s tendrils snaked out, siphoning the ichor from the floor.

The mass of tendrils retracted into Strand’s body. Brig’s two lackeys backed towards the door. “You have no idea what you just did!” Said one of them. “You’re dead when our boss finds out!”

The two men ran out of the inn. Strand turned towards the innkeeper. “W-well, I was wondering why you weren’t afraid of going to that island.” The old man said, his voice quavering. “I should have guessed you were able to use ichor like that.”

“Why was he able to?” Asked Strand. The innkeeper sat down. “That island where your friends are? The gang made a hideout there a while back. I’m not sure what they’re doing there, but ever since then they’ve been sending guys like Brig to town.”

“I don’t think I’ll need that room after all.” Strand said, walking towards the door. “Where are you off to?” Asked the innkeeper. “I’m wondering if I can catch up to those two before they reach their boat.” Strand said.

As Strand was running towards the marina, he pulled a phone out of his bag and opened his contacts. He felt relieved when someone picked up. “Hey, I’m going to get to the island sooner than I thought. We may need to put the project on hold for a little while.”