's 2018 Horror Write-off:

The Boxes: Worm Castle

Submitted by Sam Miller (email)

The hunched old farmer drags his wheelbarrow full of barley up the smooth stone ramp leading up to the great looming door to the castle-keep, grunting and struggling to pull its weight up the smooth surface. He steps before the door, gazing up its great height, past the meaty red coloration and the rusted metal bands that stretch across it, reaching up his knobbly aged hand to knock on the golden knocker, a pretty little piece of decor in the shape of a crow’s skull. The old man knocks once, then knocks twice, but when he reaches up his hand for a third knock, the looming gate opens wide, swinging inward to reveal the tall cloaked figure behind it.

“Ah, greetings, peasant peon Probar! I trust that you have brought us the grain requested?” The ragged grey cloak of the lanky form drapes on their body like a smooth silk, a hood like a veil hiding the face. Just as the peasant Probar begins to nod, they continue, “Good good! Do come in, peasant peon, won’t you join us for a gift in return for the gift that you have brought us?” The old man tries to back away, but is pushed forward by something thick and slimy behind him. He tries to turn around, tries to resist, but he is through the door in a moment and stumbles forward as the great heavy door slams behind him. The tall cloaked servant wriggles past the wide imposing flights of stairs and to a second set of doors, opening them without even so much as a touch and beckoning to Probar the farmer. He collects himself and grabs the handles on his wheelbarrow, pushing it along the red carpeted floor and into the doorway ahead of him.

The halls seem to wriggle and meander as they walk through them, following no course that could be deduced from outside. There are no windows, there are no branches, the carpet is soft and slick. The walls papered with a light green wood, imported from some foreign box. The only thing which decorates the walls of this verminous hall are the paintings, the paintings of forgotten ancestors and aristocratic family, pale and with eyes red-veined and pinhole-pupiled. The tall and lanky servant stays many steps ahead of Probar at all times, soundlessly sliding along the carpeted floor. After some time of walking, the peasant knows not how long, the pair reaches another strange door, one made of the same greenish faded wood that lines the walls of the meandering corridor. He leans on his aching knees, catching breath after so long of walking, as the unresponsive servant simply strides forward, the doors opening without his so much as touching them.

Stepping his boot-clad foot through the green doorway, Probar the peasant peon sees a great table arrayed before him. It is a pale off-white, rooted in the red floor like a tooth in gums, and at the other end of this great banquet table there is the patron who requested the grain in the first place. They wear a pale off-white mask with only three simple holes, and a beauteous silken robe of many colors. Beckoning to the table, they stand to their full height, greeting the peasant.

“Hello Probar, we have been expecting you, yes we have! We hope that the journey from the door to here was no major issue, haha! Well, well, we would very much like to see the requested gift, now wouldn’t we? Then, once you have given us this, you shall sit at our table and feast with us!” The cloaked patron throws their arms open wide, their face remaining an emotionless mask. Probar steps forward, pushing the wheelbarrow of barley ahead of him, bowing before the masked lord as he presents the grain to them.

The masked lord reaches down and picks up a clump of the barley, examining it and letting out a grotesque burbling sound. “Ohohoho, yes! It is the right stuff, yes it is yes it is!” Probar stands there, unmoving, as they open the grain wide to look closer at it, bringing the third hole, the one that would be where a mouth should be, to look at the fungal growths which have spread across much of the barley. “Yes, it has it alright! Delicious stuff, this is, love it! We thank you very sincerely for this fine gift, yes we do!” Probar bows once again, then steps back over to the far seat of the table, sitting in it as the cloaked servant brings in platter upon platter of food.

Probar sweats nervously at seeing what is on those plates. Live animals, chained to nails driven through wooden boards. Slimy things with no eyes and slimy things with many eyes. He sees a black sphere of darkness so deep that he sees himself in its depths, reflected in unflattering ways. Piles upon piles of purple and green eggs, translucent and with wriggling embryos within. About the only appetizing thing is a silver platter piled high with squirming pink worms, though even that stinks an unappetizing stench. His host gestures to the food as it is steadily brought in, inviting Probar to eat it. “Come, eat of our treats and treasures that our polyps have brought for you.”

He picks up a bowl before him, scooping piles of sweaty eggs onto his plate, taking up his chopsticks to pick up one, bringing it to his mouth, but unable to bite into it. “Does our cooking displease you, Probar? You petty peasant, Probar! Our polyps have been toiling over this food for cycles upon cycles, Probar, and you reject it! Did your egg mother not tell you simple manners?” Their voice grows steadily louder and louder, angrier and angrier, their long red tongues poking out of the three holes in their mask. Probar gets to his feet, fearful of the wrath of the angered host, and begins to back toward the door. “And you dare begin to leave without my permission? Yet again, manners you silly old man, manners!” Two cloaked polyps slide behind Probar and block the door, and he is forced to watch as the robed host grows taller, looming over the long pale table, his mask falling off to reveal a gaping toothless hole, seven long red tongues flailing about wildly in the brisk chamber air.

Probar pushes his way between the polyps, struggling to fit between their cloaked forms, but he is ultimately able to push through them, tearing off their cloaks in the process. He struggles to force open the greenish doorway, but his strong muscles from years of farm life come to his aid, as he forces it open and turns back only to see the two vaguely humanoid clumps of reddish and slimy flesh, unmoving for just a moment before they sink back into the ground below. He starts to run, rushing toward the looming door which he entered just hours before, but the hall begins to close in around him. A loud slimy squeezing sound coupled by the breaking of wood is all that he can hear as the paintings fall to the floor and the green boards crack and buckle under the force, revealing the sphincter-like innards of some verminous thing, lined with waggling cilia and the staring veiny eyes of the paintings, now faceless. His shoe is caught in some snag of the curling carpet, but he slides his foot out of it and continues on, caved in on all sides by the tightening tunnel. He can feel the slime on his skin now, the heat on his skin, making him sweat and pant hard. It steadily tightens more, encasing him in the tight wetness of the deep innards, as he struggles to wiggle forward, no longer able to take steps in this tight darkness. He reaches forward as his last breath is squeezed out of him, the tunnel staying tightened for a while longer until they can be certain of his death. When it loosens once again, his stiff corpse falls to the ground, picked up by scrubbing parasites that begin to clean up the fallen wood and pictureframes.