's 2018 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Allen Chew (email)


Vials of sickness. Vials of disease. Vials that clattered to the ground as the grasp of her fingers slipped and her eyes widened with childlike fascination. She approached it slowly, tiptoeing in the muddy puddles of the pouring rain, until at long last, she came close enough to observe it.

There it was. Had the legends really been true? There it was, a creature of tremendous rarity and value, a creature whose name was only spoken in fairy tales and long lost wishes.

There it was, the young immortal.

There it was, the young immortal whose hide was pure as snow and stare as innocent as a child, an infant. The young immortal stood; its dwarfish stature, its stubby legs, and thin, needlelike claws towering over the small woman.

Bertrand Gnathy was a woman of science, devoting her research towards cures for illness and disease. It was a time of plague: Earth’s population afflicted with some sort of sickness. Horrible sicknesses, like viruses that would make skin swell in boils and pus, or mysterious forces that would wrack the brain and erupt in thrashing madness. Bertrand made it her lifelong duty to find cures to them all, and here she stumbled upon a miraculous discovery.

Here she was, mucking about in the rain, looking for parasitic worms and infectious sludge, when she stumbled upon the young immortal. She stared at it, and it stared back, its eyes like four empty holes, pulling her into its gaze.

The first thing Bertrand wanted to know was if it could communicate. She approached it, and its head twitched, back and forth, with the rhythm of a ticking clock. Curious, she thought. She brought her gloved hand up to her shoulder, and the great beast, with its needle fingers, reached out and met her open hand.

“Can you speak?” asked Bertrand. It was a silly question, she thought to herself.

To her surprise, the young immortal cocked its head again in response.

“Cornelius,” it said in a broken voice. “My name is Cornelius.”

This was wonderful! Why, this is an incredible discovery! Bertrand's mind was racing with such thoughts of opportunity, fame, wonder that she nearly jumped in excitement. What did this creature eat? How did it sleep? Breathe? See? It was all she ever wanted: to study the possibilities of the body of an immortal. Perhaps, she thought, Perhaps, this creature will aid my search for the cure...Yes! It is an indispensable resource. An asset of great value.

She grinned wickedly as she was hit with the sudden realization that Cornelius the immortal was a creature of unlimited life. Countless experiments! Endless possibilities! The tiny woman shivered in anticipation.

Bertrand looked back up at the beast, and Cornelius stood, with his eyes blank and innocent. She grabbed his hand with both of hers and whispered,

“Cornelius...Oh you poor, poor, thing. Dearie, what are you doing out here in the rain?” Cornelius said nothing.

“I’m going to take you somewhere dry, how would you like that? I’ve got a place not too far from here; you’ll be safe and dry and warm.” Bertrand took off her raincoat, and put it on Cornelius’s back, eliciting a breathy sigh from the creature.

“Please, call me Mother,” said Bertrand.

“Mo...ther.” Cornelius whispered back in his cracked voice.

“Very good, very good!” Bertrand beamed, delighted that this was going so smoothly. She started walking, and Cornelius aptly followed, toddling behind with slow steps, like a duckling and its mother.

The rain poured harder. By the time Bertrand had made it to her house, the both of them were soaking wet. She fumbled for her keys for a bit and jammed them into the door, opening it.

It was noticeably quiet inside, the shutters closed, the patter of the rain muffled, the house, dark.

“Wait here,” said Bertrand, and she rushed to place her equipment elsewhere and grabbed a large towel. She returned, and dried Cornelius off. Then, she bathed him until he was clean, and the sheer white of his fur was now much more spectacular, almost glowing.

“My, my, how clean you are!” Bertrand exclaimed, and then took his hand and led him down the hallway to a set of large, metal doors.

It stood out from the rest of the house; the ancient, rusty steering handle in stark contrast to the mellow yellow of the walls. The tiny woman grasped the handle and turned, straining until the doors burst open with a loud creak.

There lay a dark stairwell, lit only by dim candles.

“Here, this way,” said Bertrand, and motioned for Cornelius to follow. Step by step, down the dark, stony stairwell.

The both of them reached the bottom, and the room was darker and darker still, more and more ominous.

“This is where you’ll be staying, dear,” and she gestured to the far end of the room, where a tattered, decrepit bed was barely visible. A pungent, musty smell perked her nose, and an aura swept over them that evoked something sinister. There was something unsettling about the room, the wide room filled with large jars and empty cages. Cornelius, distraught, began to mumble in an incoherent language.

“I don’t like it in here.”

“Oh, worry not, worry not. You’re safe in here, I assure you.” Bertrand urged him slowly towards the bed. She set him down, and then strapped him with buckles. Cornelius did not resist, but he whimpered quietly.

“Shh, shhh. Do not cry, do not cry. I’m here,” Bertrand stroked his shivering body gingerly. “You’re safe here. I promise, Mother will take care of you.” Bertrand took a flashlight from her pocket and shone a light in the room in search of something. And it was then that Cornelius took notice of the large jars, filled with specimens of many kinds, and the empty cages, empty, save for stains of blood. His eyes widened in horror as he thrashed, his body restrained by the buckles.

“Mother! Mother! I don’t like it in here!” He screamed and wailed, and Bertrand, who had found what she was looking for, ran by his side, stroking him again.

“Hush now, dearie. Shhhh. Please stay still.” She carried a syringe in her hand and gripped his arm.

“What are you going to do to me, Mother?” His voice was quiet and frightened. Bertrand did not answer, and suddenly, jabbed the syringe into Cornelius’s arm. He yelped in pain, as the spot where Bertrand injected with the needle began to swell immensely.

“IT HURTS!! IT HURTS!!” He screamed as his voice shattered, as the swelling grew larger, bulging in a veiny mass that pulsated and burbled with pus and blood, oozing, dripping. Bertrand watched, and stroked Cornelius once more.

“It’s going to be over soon, the hurt will stop soon,” she whispered. The pulsing growth travelled up the beast’s arm, and he cried in alarm as he thrashed against the buckles of the bed, the pockets of sickly green fluids ready to burst. But the boils died down, and the initial panic stopped. Bertrand continued to stroke, and the room was silent except for Cornelius’s choked voice.


“It’s ok now. See? The hurting has stopped. You need not worry now,” she said, her voice soothing and hushed. She took a clean towel and wiped off the blood and pus from his body. She bent over the bed and planted a kiss on the whimpering mess, then whispered a lullaby until the young immortal cried himself to sleep.


I didn’t know any of this. Nor did I question it.

I didn’t question when Mother came home, soaking, in the late hours of the afternoon.

I didn’t question when she brought a large, white creature out from the woods and into the quiet of the home.

I didn’t question when she led the beast to the large metal doors, for I knew its fate was sealed the moment it stepped into the darkness.

I didn’t question when I lie awake at night, hearing the cries echoing from the room in the dark. For I knew the room was where mother did her horrible experiments.

For science! She’d say. It was every so often that she’d collect both specimens and diseases alike from the ill wilderness and bring them home to study. I’ve heard the room was once an empty hollow, decorated with wild vines, before she turned it into her laboratory.

I was curious, once. I was small. The metal doors had been there as long as I’d been alive, and it was always so strange how they seemed so out of place compared to the rest of the house.

“Momma? What’s in there?” I pointed intently to the metal doors. She looked back at me with a sweet smile and said, “Come, I’ll show you.”

She took my small hand and led me down that dark corridor, with the dimly lit candles, into the room that smelled of death and sickness. And it was there I was horrified at what I saw, the large jars of the dead bodies and the cages of stained blood. But what revolted me the most was a cage in the far back of the room, a mangled creature with its body mutilated beyond belief, its organs spilling out of its stomach and curling around the bars of the cage like snakes, writhing. I caught a glimpse of it, and it looked dead into my eyes, still breathing, as if it were crying for help.

Mother gestured for me to go back up, but I could not look away from its bulging, lifeless eyes.

When we stepped out of the darkness and into the familiar warmth of the house, Mother then gripped the back of my neck and smiled coldly.

“Now, you mustn't go down there. Ever. Understand?” I nodded.

I got used to the shrieks. Mother would excuse herself some nights and return to the depths to conduct her research, and I’d lay awake in bed, listening as I imagined what kind of torturous treatments the poor creatures had to endure. The screams never lasted for more than three days.

So when I heard the fresh cries echoing on the first night, I closed my eyes and thought, It’ll be over soon. Just a few more days, and the screams will be gone. I thought about the large, white creature with its blank eyes and shuddered. A second night passed. And a third. And a fourth.

Mother made dinner on the fifth night. I stared blankly at my plate.

“Something the matter, dear?” She looked at me from across the table.

“No, mother. Nothing,” I said as I excused myself from the table and rushed to get ready to sleep before Mother went to the chambers to work for the night. I hoped to fall asleep before I would have to hear the shrieks of the tortured creature.

But by the end of 2 weeks of nightly screams, I was puzzled. It’s never lasted this long and then I began to ponder. Something’s wrong, something’s wrong, I thought.

It was when Mother announced that she was departing for the yearly research convention for a few weeks that I felt opportunity staring me in the face. She packed her bags and got ready to go, and before she left, she said to me,

“Take care of yourself, dear. I’ll be gone for a few weeks for important business. You know the rules: don’t sleep too late, don’t break anything, and…?” She motioned me to finish her sentence.

“...Don’t go into the basement. Yes, mother. I know.” It was a rule she took to heart. It was a rule we both lived by. It wasn’t as if I needed a rule to remind me not to wander into the depths.

She bid me farewell and shut the door behind her. And then, the room was deathly silent. Then, it dawned upon me, the realization that something was awry in the basement, and it piqued my curiosity. The yellow of the walls pushed me, urged me, towards the large metal doors that I promised myself I’d never set foot into. Never again. And yet, everything in me was begging for me to wander, however much I didn’t want to face the dreaded laboratory. Suddenly, I found myself turning the rusty handle of the doors, and when they finally bust open, staring into the darkness, lit by the dim, flickering candles. I lit a lantern with the fire and made my way down the stairwell.

It was as if with each step, the air around me got colder and colder, and the dread of coming back to the forbidden room sent chills down my spine. It was 10 years ago since I was last there, and the memory of the mangled creature had me frozen dead still.

The room was the same as before, with the large jars and empty cages and the diseases contained within small vials lined up neatly on a countertop. In the light of the lantern, I noticed more; a box of dirty syringes, a refrigerator with various animal parts, and a large furnace in the darkest corner of the room. Oh god, that’s where she… I was afraid to finish the thought. I neared closer, and then I saw the piles of little jars. They were about the size of my hand, and I picked one of the tiny jars and noticed a label with a name. “Abel,” I whispered as I read the name aloud. I saw other names, Trenton, Abigail, MacKenzie, Julio, Simon, Gregory...Many names. I put the jars back in a careful stack, and then I heard a noise. It was a heavy, wheezing noise, and suddenly, I realized that I was not alone.

How did I not notice? There in the very back of the room was the large, white creature, strapped to the tattered bed with buckled straps. Its breathing was jolted in hiccups, and exhaled in long, deep sighs. Cautious, I approached closer, and then I saw something horrible.

Its body was crawling with huge parasitic worms that burrowed into the flesh, boring huge clusters of holes that splattered blood onto the bed and the floor. I watched in disgust as they squirmed, and with each movement the creature howled in pain and arched its back, wracked with terror.

“Mother put worms in me,” the creature said, and its crackled voice surprised me, and I was then saddened because I knew it could tell me its pain.

“Oh…” I sighed, and I reached out and placed my hand on its forehead. It flinched from the touch, but then soon relaxed. “I’m...sorry.”

The room went quiet, except for the sound of the creature’s erratic breathing. Then, it raised its hand, shaky and trembling, and lunged for its stomach, grabbing ahold of a large, wriggling worm. It came out with a squelch, covered in blood and its own horrible slime, and the beast crushed it, squeezing it until it moved no more, letting the lifeless parasite slip from its hand and lie dead on the floor.

“They’ve been growing. Inside me. And now they are too big,” whispered the creature, its voice choked with pain.

I gasped, looking at the dead worm, then stared back at the white creature. How on earth has it been alive for so long? It’s been sitting down here in the dark, gloomy laboratory, hosting parasites and other diseases I didn't want to imagine. It was a question I didn’t want to ask, but I found myself whispering,

“How are you still alive?”

The room became deathly silent. The creature thought for a moment, then replied,

“I am immortal.”

I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, the thought of Mother bringing home this great and ethereal being and confining it to mere buckles was disheartening, but nonetheless, I was stunned. The sheen of its white fur was noticeably more luscious, and in the dark room, the creature illuminated innocence when all else was shrouded in death.

Here it was, a creature that could not die, and the horror set in once I thought about the endless nights where Mother inflicted pain upon it.

“I am immortal,” the creature whispered again. “I cannot die.” Then, the beast’s breathing became jagged and jolted, heaving heavily and trembling. It began to sob, and I saw the dark black tears falling, dripping, from its eyes.

“I cannot die! I cannot die! I CANNOT DIE!!” The creature gripped the edge of the bed, and arched its back against the buckles in pain as the worms in its body began moving again. I stood there, watching, as the white beast helplessly thrashed and its wails echoed in the dark room.

I couldn’t take the noise, its screams were so eerie and uncanny, sounding like a dying child. It made me sick to my stomach, and I held my hands over my ears as the creature’s broken voice struck through my soul. Then, the sobbing quieted, and the room was silent again.

“I cannot die,” it sniffled. The beast plunged its hand into its body and pulled out another worm. Slowly, slowly, slowly.

I covered my eyes as the worm fell to the floor, still squirming. This wasn’t right, I knew what mother was doing and I did nothing to stop her. In truth, I was deathly afraid of her, and some nights I wondered if she’d inject me with toxins if I ever went against her. But there I stood, in front of the creature doomed to eternal suffering, frantic. Was there anything I could do?

“I-I’ve got to get you out of here. I’ve got to help you, I-“

“You mustn’t.” The creature cut me off. “Shan’t.”

I reached for its buckles, but the beast grasped my hand with its needlelike fingers, and pushed it away.

“Mother….She...Mother will surely punish you,” it croaked, saddened.

I began to choke up. I’d only known it for a few minutes but it was already concerned for me. Concerned that I too, will be subject to mother’s torture.

“Will you be alright?” I whispered.

“I will heal,” it said, pulling out a third worm. “I will heal, and mother will come back, and I will hurt again.”

I almost didn’t want to leave the room that plagued my sleep, but I couldn’t bear to stay. The truth was too much. I got up to leave.

“Wait,” said the creature. “Wait.”

What for? What could the beast want? I waited for its shaky breathing to slow.

“Have you got a name?”

Oh. I thought for a moment, almost forgetting my own name.

“Maurice,” I said at last, and I smiled. How endearing.

The creature cocked its head. “My name is Cornelius.” He raised his hand and waved at me.

“Till morrow.”


Cornelius dreamt.

He dreamt of the second night. Vivid. Disturbed. Cornelius tossed in his sleep, alone.

He dreamt of mother, coming down the stony stairwell, the light from the house like a beacon until the door shut and they were plummeted into the darkness again.

“How are you, dear?” She said, her voice gentle and soothing. Cornelius did not reply. Mother came closer, stroking the arm inflicted with swells and boils the day before, now clear as if nothing happened.

“You have healed! Why, how wonderful!” She grinned and clapped with excitement.

The hurt had stopped, hadn’t it? Just like she said it would. Just like mother had said.

She took an empty syringe from her pocket, and Cornelius’s eyes grew wide with fear.

“No more pain, no more!!” He screamed as he remembered the night before.

“Shhh, shhh. Worry not. I only need a little of your blood,” she said as she pushed the needle into his flesh. Cornelius flinched, but the pain was not as bad.

“See? Not so bad. Not so bad.” She stroked his head tenderly, softly. It was comforting.

Cornelius had never felt comfort before. Warmth. Closeness. It was all just so pleasant.

That’s right. Mother had given him comfort, hasn’t she? She cared for him, didn’t she? A good mother. Dreams.

Mother went to go store his blood somewhere, but then she returned with another vial. A vial of tiny worms.

She emptied the vial of worms onto a gloved hand. They were so small. So helpless. Then, she took a worm in hand, and hovered it over Cornelius’s eyes. And then she let it go.

“Oh…!” Cornelius yelped at the strange sensation. The worm wriggled its way into the holes, lost in the flesh. Mother dropped another, one by one, until all the worms were nested inside Cornelius’s body.

“Now, we let them grow.” She stroked his soft fur again, and Cornelius purred.

It didn’t hurt. It was alright. Mother was there, always comforting. He’d grown attached to her soft talk. She was a good mother. Yes.

He’d let them grow, for mother.

And then he dreamt of the worms again, hungry and voracious, eating away at his insides and erupting, bursting from his body, and all of a sudden the sharpness of the pain returned and Cornelius snapped wide awake with a cry. The worms, the worms, they were real and alive and they were devouring his body. Great, black tears bled from his eyes as he wept.


I stood in front of the metal doors. Did I want to go back? In all these years I’ve never found myself ever wanting to return but here I was, standing there with a sense of conviction, wanting to check on the creature called Cornelius.

Into the depths I went, early in the morning, with a lantern in hand. I neared the bottom of the stairwell, and rushed to the end of the room to find Cornelius sleeping soundly. I looked at the floor, and was disgusted by the sight of many worms, all dead and covered in blood. Cornelius’s body was speckled with deep holes, blood oozing out with every breath.

I looked around the room, and found a cabinet with some clean towels. Grabbing as many as I could, I ran back to Cornelius and filled up his holes with the towels, soaking in blood. And then he awoke.

“Are you alright…?” I grasped his hand gently. The young immortal lie there, breathing slowly.

“No more worms,” he said. “No more worms for mother.” He pointed to the pile on the floor.

“Did she...did she do that to you?” I asked, horrified.

Cornelius sighed. “It didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt then. Had to let them grow. Had to let them grow for mother.” He coughed, and blood spurted out from his stomach as his breathing became more unstable.

“She’s horrible!” I cried. “You can’t let her keep doing this.”

“Mother...Mother is not horrible. She is kind, kind,” he said, cocking his head in confusion.

“You can’t let her keep doing this to you,” I whispered. I wanted to cry, I didn’t want to let mother take advantage of this creature’s innocence.

“I can. I can let her, and she is kind to me. Or else, she says, I will suffer worse. She says I am lucky she isn’t doing worse. Says it’s for my own good.”

I didn’t know what to say. It’s been two weeks since Cornelius had been living here, it’s been two weeks of wails and screams and somehow he believed that mother was doing good for him. I didn’t even want to believe she was doing good for science; part of me wanted to believe that she was fulfilling her own twisted, sadistic pleasure.

“Should have left them in there,” he said, poking the towels on his belly. “Should have left them in there!” He snarled, and pointed to the pile of worms.

“She’ll be angry. She’ll be very, very angry. Was supposed to let them grow. Wanted to see how big they could get.” His head started to tick, back and forth, like a metronome. Confused. Angry.

“Felt sad for you,” he spoke again. “You were kind, and I didn’t want to let you see me in pain.”

I was startled. He felt bad? For me? And there was so much more going on on his head than I thought. He was too trusting, too innocent.

“But now she’ll be angry!” He howled. “Worry, worry, worry, worry!” He shook his head wildly and arched against the buckles. This was too much. I couldn’t let him keep going like this.

“Look,” I said. “I’m gonna help you, ok? I can’t free you but the least I can do is take care of you.”

“Mother will-Mother surely will-“

“Mother left for two weeks. It’s only been two days. I will take care of you.”

The room was quiet. I thought about it. It wouldn’t be so hard, would it? Feed him. Talk to him. Anything I could do to ease his pain. And then, Cornelius asked the words I didn’t want to hear.

“What will you do when she comes back?” He whispered.

“...I don’t know.” I feared it, yes, but I knew I was breaking the rules the moment my hands grasped the handle of the door. The creature looked back at me, awaiting a response.

I sighed. “Let me get you something to eat.”


I decided to write things about Cornelius in this journal as the days pass by. It’s been 6 days since Mother left, and I’ve noticed a lot of interesting things.

For starters, the four holes on his face act as his eyes, mouth, and nose. As far as I’m concerned, everything I’ve fed him just gets absorbed through the holes.

And he’s really picky about food. He won’t eat solids because he doesn’t have any teeth, and he’s very particular about the taste. I’ve been feeding him nothing but mustard and the juice from canned sardines. I just hope mother won’t notice.

He’s quite talkative. I find myself having conversations with him for hours before realizing how much time has passed. His thoughts seem coherent and clear, although he tends to leave out a lot of words. Especially when referring to mother.

I am scared for her return. What will happen when she comes back and things are not as expected? I’ll admit that I have never really upset her enough for her to hurt me but I know what she’s capable of.

I’m just confounded by Cornelius. How can it be that he tolerates mother’s abuse? God, he’s just like a child. Doesn’t know any better.

He hasn’t been worrying about Mother as much, but I surely haven’t stopped. It’s always in the back of my mind.

I had an interesting conversation with Cornelius the other day. I was curious about his kind, so I asked him what other immortals are like.

“They are all very different,” he said, lying in bed.

“Really? How so?”

“Start out looking like me.” Cornelius pointed to himself.

“Like you? How long have you been alive?”

“Only 10 years. I haven’t been around long.”

“Wow..I’m older than you, then. So, what happens as they get older?”

“Depends...change as time passes. Some roam the land as beasts. Some discard their conscious and become a part of the inanimate world. Trees. Mountains. Some travel far, far away, to new places, like space. Some…” His voice trailed off a bit. “I’ve heard that some of us rid of their corporeal bodies and become spirits that guide, protect, and plague us. Forever.”

“Can you...see spirits?”

“I don’t know. Never met one.”

It was then that Cornelius seemed lost in thought. He simply looked up.

“Say that in the beginning, we shaped the earth and its beings.”


“Others. More of us. They raised me, told me things I ought to know. Told me that I would take the form of whatever I chose.”

“What do you think will become of you?” I asked. Cornelius thought for a moment.

“I don’t know. Haven’t got a clue. For now, I’m just me right now.”

I can’t even fathom what being immortal would be like. An eternity of watching the world around change, die, and live again.

“They told me one more thing. Before I left.”

“What’s that?”

“They told me to beware of Bertrand. I’m not sure what that means.”

My heart caught in my throat. I couldn’t tell him. Not yet. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that mother’s name was Bertrand. I didn’t want to frighten him; I didn’t know how he’d respond.

“Glad I’m here, Mother can keep me safe from Bertrand. I’ve heard things from the others and small critters.”

“...Like what?”

“I don’t know. I just noticed that creatures were disappearing. I’ve never heard descriptions. Only whispers passed on from one to another about...something bad.”

I sat there, and I couldn’t really say anything back. This conversation was recorded, and that was the last thing he said before he drifted off to sleep. I’m trying to gather my thoughts, but all I can think about is what will happen when mother gets home.

What does it mean to live? I was told that some immortals stop being conscious and become inanimate. Then, are they still the same being? Do they think? If one becomes a tree and they are cut down, do they die?

I’m curious, but I’m afraid to ask.


He lie awake. Cornelius lie awake in bed.

He couldn’t sleep. No, he couldn’t sleep. Not because of pain. Not because of anything plaguing his mind.

No, it wasn’t any of that.

There it was, hovering over Cornelius’s body, draping over like a canopy of writhing organs. The innards, connecting to a crumpled body, erupted from its belly, and snaked around to touch Cornelius’s face.

The body: canid in nature with browned, matted fur and mismatched teeth, its eyes bloodshot and nearly bulging out of the sockets. Its legs were all of different lengths, and all with some too many bends. The entire thing looked like some kind of horrible jellyfish. It was transparent, ghostly, but slimy in texture, so it glimmered as if belonging to a corporeal body.

“Poor soul. Naive. Innocent,” the thing crooned, and reached out to Cornelius with an intestine-like tentacle, dripping fluids as it moved. Cornelius lie frozen still, unmoving as the thing continued to prod at his body.

At long last, he whispered, “Who are you?”

The thing uttered an indignant laugh and scoffed. “Are you an idiot? I’m one of you. Ain’t it obvious?” The creature hissed with its hoarse, raspy voice.

“I know that,” said Cornelius bluntly. “I asked, who are you?”

“Ha-ha. Clever boy. Clever.” The creature grinned. “I’m Abel.” He pointed to himself with another appendage; long and curly. Abel gave a toothy smile. “Who are you, then?”

“I’m Cornelius,” said the young immortal, and twitched his head.

“Ah..Cornelius. What a lovely name. Lovely, lovely.” Abel’s grinning face warped into a scowl. “Pray tell, what are you doing in a place like this?” he said, and the room then felt darker.

“Mother brought me here.” Cornelius gripped the belt buckles. “You’re a spirit, aren’t you?”

“True, that is!” Abel locked his eyes with Cornelius’s, and his dead gaze met his blank stare. “I’ve been watching you, Cornelius. Watching.” The writhing mass of tentacles neared closer, anchoring onto the bed frame. Abel sneered, his face inches away from Cornelius’s.

“And you’ve been so foolish! Foolish, foolish, foolish to stay here. Foolish to submit to that unbearable human husk of a monster.”

“You don’t know Mother. She’s protected me from whatever’s out there,” said Cornelius, unblinking.

“Whatever’s out there? Ha! You’re a being without a brain, ain’t ya? A cretin in immortal skin. Blind!” Abel let out a sharp cackle. “There’s nothing out there worse than what you let happen down here.”

“You wouldn’t know that,” said Cornelius, but there was uncertainty in his voice.

“Oh, you think I wouldn’t know? You think I wouldn’t know the torture and pain I endured down here!?” Abel snarled. He pointed to a cage nearby with a fleshy appendage.

“I WAS IN THERE!” roared Abel. “She didn’t know I was immortal. Thought I was just another simple beast, gave me the name Abel like I was some sort of pet. Countless times and experiments that I sat through and endured because I was like you! Stupid, ignorant, and trusting! Yes, I sat in that damn cage thinking that I was safe for a moment, until it became so unbearable that I couldn’t stay in that body any longer. I rid of it! Ripped myself from that cowardly vessel. But I lived on, invisible to those puny mortal eyes.” The great beast sighed and looked back at Cornelius with pity.

“She burned my body,” he said. “And now it lie in ashes in a little jar. Pathetic.”

“Why do you stay, then?” Cornelius whispered. The hairs on Abel’s ghostly body pricked up and he snarled again.

“BECAUSE I’M LOOKING OUT FOR FOOLS LIKE YOU!” He turned away, bitter. “I’m tellin’ ya, kid. I’m warning you. Whatever’s out there ain’t nothing compared to the monster that lives here. You’ve got to break free by yourself.”

“Mother isn’t! She isn’t, isn’t, isn’t! Not a monster. No.” Cornelius insisted, muttering, but Abel’s words tugged against him. He clung, clung to Mother’s softness and warmth, begging for it. The illness, the plague, it was out there, too. What made it different?

“That’s how it’s going to be, is it?” Abel hissed. “You’ll be sorry. Oh, you’ll be very, very sorry. You’ll become something ugly, if you stay like this. You’ll become weak, fragile, unable to push back. Pathetic! There’s no reasoning with you, is there? What’s it gotta take to rid of these lies...You’re so young, young, young…” Abel towered over Cornelius, his beastly form much grander.

“So small…” he cried. “I don’t know what will become of you. I’m sorry.” Abel retreated, floating towards the ceiling, slinking away, dragging his innards with him.

“Only you can decide what to do. And you better decide fast.” With that, the ghost of Abel disappeared and Cornelius found himself unable to sleep.


She was back.

Bertrand was home once again after a long trip overseas, collecting rare specimens and discussing research. But now that she was standing in front of the door, she grinned, awaiting the results of her...experiment. Every year the trip had tired her, she was older, frailer. The equipment box was heavy. But no matter! This was much more important.

She opened the door, and rushed to place her equipment somewhere. She didn’t even notice the terrified Maurice, who stood still as his mother burst through the door for the first time in two weeks. Things have changed.

Looking, looking, looking. Aha! Found. A tiny vial of stark black liquid. Carefully, she slipped it in her pocket and made her way towards the metal doors.

With one turn of the handle, the door burst open, and it was then that she noticed that it was easier this time around.

Ah, so that’s how it is...she smiled, but her eyes said otherwise. Slits. Snakelike. That’s how it’s going to be, is it? Very well.

Step by step, down the dark, stony stairwell. The light from the house, a beacon to her wondrous room of progress. Open. Shut. And then the room was shrouded in darkness once more.

“Cornelius, have you been?” Her steps echoed, tick tock, like the hands of a clock. Closer, closer. Cornelius did not answer.

No worms. There weren’t any there. They seemed to be absent, or rather...discarded.

“What happened to your worms?” Cornelius did not answer.

Bertrand began to grow frustrated. Clearly, he was not cooperating. But she wouldn’t let Cornelius know that. No, she had to earn his trust.

“Very well then, dearie. I’m your Mother, aren’t I? You can tell me what happened. You can trust me, can’t you?” She stroked Cornelius’s soft body, and he began to purr.

“It’s alright, shhhhh. I’m here, aren’t I? Tell me, dearie.” And then there was a sudden shift in tone, a drop of the hat.

“Have you met anybody else in here?”

Cornelius could not move. He could not tell mother of Maurice. He couldn’t. Even if mother threatened him he wouldn’t open his mouth. He’d endure the worst.

But he could not lie. He couldn’t lie to Mother.

Through his crackled, strained voice he whispered, “Abel.”

With that, the room became silent, until it was broken by Mother’s laughter. But it wasn’t a warm laugh. It was a cold, sickly cackle.

“Oh, Cornelius! You must be delusional. Of're head isn’t on straight, is it? Abel’s been dead for 10 years. You mustn’t be worrying about him.”

It didn’t matter. Bertrand knew anyways. Her child had disobeyed the rules, but more importantly, Cornelius lied to her.

“Mother’s got a present for you.” She slipped her hand into her pocket and pulled out the tiny vial of black liquid. It was no bigger than her smallest finger.

Cornelius did not move. Cornelius could not move. She emptied the contents of the vial into the holes.

At first, nothing happened. The room was still.

But suddenly, Cornelius emitted a harsh cry as his body violently thrashed about, jolting against the buckles, trembling as if something was desperate to emerge. His body swelled and swelled and swelled until it erupted in blood, a beast that clawed out of his body and slammed upwards to the ceiling, draining all of his blood and exposing his innards. Cornelius made a horrible retching noise, begging, screaming, coughing up blood, but Bertrand stood there and did nothing. The blood became an endless sea, spouting wildly like a fountain, taking the form of screaming faces and desperate hands before merging back into the whirlpool of blood.

It poured out, dripping onto the floor and soaking Bertrand’s lab coat. Endless pooling. The stream of blood quieted down until it became a steady waterfall, dripping from the ceiling and from Cornelius’s body, onto the floor. Ruptured.

It was too much, the pain was sharp and immensely agonizing. He sat there, helpless, crying, wheezing as his body was exposed to the musty air of the lab. It stung like a thousand needles.

“No...more…” He cried, but he didn’t even have the energy to scream. He wanted to beg for help but Bertrand sat next to him. No comfort. No words. No whispers.

“It was so difficult to obtain that one,” she said, looking at the writhing pool of blood. “A case of the Bloodbeast. We had to track it down for days until it finally burst from its host and left the husk if a body behind. They can’t survive without a body, but the human form only has so much blood.” She cupped her hand under the blood fountain, and it drained from her hands, squirming.

“What does it take to crush a Bloodbeast? A human doesn’t live long enough for us to figure that out,” she grinned. “And you’re just sufficient enough for the job.”

Cornelius wailed, for he knew that once he healed, the blood would burst and ravage his body again, and again, and again, until Mother found a way to rid of it. It was too much, it hurt too much.


A spirit cannot touch anything in the material world. Abel knew that. But he couldn’t help but reach out to stop the flow of blood. No use. Phasing through, as if he weren’t there.

That’s right. That’s what he was to her. Nothing. He let her break him. He let her inject whatever it was that made his organs writhe like snakes. And he couldn’t fight back. He ran from the pain but now he could do nothing but let her continue.

I’m so cowardly. So weak. So pathetic. Abel could only watch as the other of his kind screamed, begging for it to end.


No, no, it’s my fault. I should have never gone down there. It’s my fault, and now Cornelius is being punished.

What would have happened if I had never showed up? Would the worms have grown? Perhaps, but now I fear a much worse fate befalls him as I cower in bed, listening to his cries.

I cannot escape from it. The noise is everywhere. Echoing, echoing, echoing off the walls. It chokes me, it hurts.

I wonder if he clings to Mother even now.


Ironic..isn’t it? Thinking that mother was protecting him from the very beast he feared.

But now I felt more hopeless than ever. What could I do? If I went down there Mother will surely punish me.

Bertrand...Bertrand. The name sounded like a military march.

I have to tell him. I’ve got to. I can’t let mother lock him up forever. She’ll pass away and he’ll carry those memories with him forever.

I rushed, ran, ran, ran to the metal doors, desperately turning the handle until it swung open, my hands slipping from my sweat. I didn’t bother to light the lantern, the dim candles were bright enough in the dark and the bleak.

There I saw her. Mother. And then I saw Cornelius, and the blood on the ceiling and the moving pool on the floor, and the dark streams of tears pouring from Cornelius’s eyes. I rushed towards them, but I slipped, and a hand emerged from the blood, grasping me, coiling around me like snakes. I couldn’t move, but I looked up at mother. She towered over me.

“My, my, my! What a sight. Recognize this, Cornelius?” Mother’s piercing gaze made me turn away, and Cornelius’s even more so.

“Mau...reeeeese,” he moaned, mustering the strength he could to reach out to me.

“I thought so,” Mother hissed, and as I reached out to meet Cornelius’s hand, she stomped a bloody boot into my fingers, and I howled in pain. “I thought you were obedient enough to stay out, dear. Miss the lab after 10 years?” She chuckled. “Oh, but you're just in time! I wouldn’t want you to miss this.” The hands of blood restricted more, and I coughed at the taste of metal.

“You’ve got to tell him,” I choked, and by then the hands wrapped around my neck. “T-tell him your name…”

“Oh? What for?”

“For his own good.”

She smiled coyly.

“My name is Bertrand.”

It was as if with those words it was suddenly clear to Cornelius, the thing he feared most, the thing that he thought would protect him. Mother.


It was then that I heard a loud snap. Cornelius had broken free of the buckles. And I watched as the grasp of his blood released me, the pools and fountains draining back into his body as he trembled with great rigor. And I watched as the holes that were his face suddenly erupted in pitch black arms, gnarled and grasping, wanting to break free. And I watched as his belly ruptured once more, snarling teeth that growled in hunger. I watched as the white from his body was enveloped in black, and I listened as the childlike cry of him voice became deeply inhuman. Was this another horrible disease? No, it was something much more than that.

There he stood, Cornelius, free from his shackles. It was then I stood agape, and for the first time, I was terrified.

There he stood, a dark figure with one bright eye staring straight at me. A creature that plagued my nightmares and screamed the horrible screams that echoed from that room at night. He’d scream in my nightmares, and then I’d wake, ringing in my ears. A spirit of vengeance.

But Cornelius did not touch me; he turned towards mother, who cowered and trembled. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her afraid.

“S-so, it’s going to be like this, is it?” She said, still arrogant in the face of danger.

“YOU LIED TO ME.” Cornelius snarled in his low voice. “YOU SAID I’D BE SAFE!” He lunged forward to throw a punch, but mother leaped to the side and looked back at the great beast, shaking.

The immortal let out a howl, and the arms sprouted in a ring around his face, a tangle of dark, whiplike claws, an eye in the middle of the storm.

“YOU ARE A HORRIBLE MOTHER. HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE!” Cornelius screamed at her, his voice filled with vengeance and rage.


She didn’t even have a chance to respond. Cornelius plunged his arms into her body, straight into her heart. She gasped, as blood flowed from her chest and began to pool on the ground. Then, she was limp, but it didn’t stop Cornelius from ripping apart her body until she was nothing more than shreds of flesh and crushed bones.

“NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!” He shouted with every tear, clawing at the pieces of mother. His hands collectively came together and grasped something.


He held her beating heart in her hands and stared at it wildly.

He brought the heart to his mouth, and it burst when he bit into it. He snarled as the blood dribbled down was his throat, like a wild animal.

My heart was beating much too fast, lest it jump out of my body and into the monster’s mouth. He really did it..! Oh my god, he killed mother..and now she lay in pieces. As much as I hated mother, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the pile of flesh that sat before me.

“FIRST BLOOD…” he said. It was his first meat. He had teeth now.

I didn’t want to speak to him. I was too afraid. But the large dark creature turned towards me, and held his arms out for me to hold. I took them.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice hushed and quiet. “I’m sorry I couldn’t break free sooner.” He took me into his many arms, and I found myself staring into his eye. A tender gaze.

He pulled apart and turned away from me. And then he began to whisper.

“I’ve done it, Abel. She’s gone.” With that, a ghostly figure appeared, and I gasped. The creature from the cage. The name on the jar of ashes.

“You...I remember you,” said Abel in his ragged voice. It was bittersweet. It was like seeing an old friend. “Heh,” he chuckled. “Who woulda thought?”

“I’m sorry, Abel.”

“Sorry? Pah! Not like there was anything you could have done, kid.” Abel dragged his long body to the pieces of mother. “Christ...You done ripped her good.”

It was strange, standing alone in a room together with two immortals, two victims of Mother’s abuse, and countless others, whose bodies lie in jars and ashes. And now it was fate that she’d meet her end in the very room where others lost theirs. Cornelius picked up every piece of mother and threw them into the furnace, where her body was consumed by the flames.

“What now?” asked the young immortal.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, she’s gone now, ain’t she? I don’t have to look out for anyone anymore,” said Abel.

I took Cornelius’s hand, and we walked up the stony stairwell. Abel followed.

People were dying out there. People were suffering from bloodbeasts and swelling boils. But at least, I know, it ends for them. Pain ends. The immortals...they live on, carrying their pain with them.

We reached the top of the stairs. I looked back down at the laboratory, dark, except for the burning flame of the furnace, hissing with smoke and the smell of flesh.

And then, Cornelius the immortal took my hand and shut the metal doors for the last time.