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corpse of the truck driver as energy surged and crackled along his nerve endings, making him feel invincible. Considering how tough and threatening the guy had been in the bar when Marston had "accidentally" dumped his beer on him, Marston had been shocked when he had caved into the fear within mere hours of Marston's "games". Marston had lain in wait, nursing a bruised rib from where the truck driver had driven his fist into his side, outside the bar.
He had had a feeling the guy wasn't going to let it go after he had put on that show of being so cowed when he had "run" out of the bar after the guy used him for a punching bag. Man, the brawny ones could be so stupid sometimes...all bulk and no brains. The fool had been just drunk enough he had followed Marston, wanting to continue the fight... Marston was waiting for the guy as he had rounded the corner leading to the pitch black back parking area. Marston had shot out the two pitiful bulbs hanging from wires strung across the parking area with a pellet gun he had stashed at the corner of the building before going into the bar. He always targeted bars that were more or less isolated and poorly lit and he always cased them out during the hours when they weren't open, studying possible escape routes and places to hide the pellet gun and
the billy club he had taken off of a cop he had killed about three years earlier. He heard the drunken lunk nailed him with the billy club around the corner. The truck down with no sound save the his lard ass hit the ground. coming and as he came driver went soft thud as
Marston raised up his shirt and begun unwinding the length of slender nylon clothes line he had wrapped around his waist. He had gone into the bar prepared, hunting. This wasn't the first time he had hit a bar for a hunt...you could always count on some hothead following you if you pissed them off. He tied the guy up and gagged him with a rag he took out of his back pocket, then pulled him the few feet to the car he had stolen several states...and multiple murders...back, and locked him in the trunk. Nearly fifty miles of winding back roads
later he pulled into a heavily wooded area. Dragging the guy from the trunk, he tied him to a tree and then began his games. The guy had lasted through several hours of taunts, tiny carefully calculated cutting and gradual loss of certain body parts before he finally kicked the bucket. His muffled screams had filled the wooded area despite the gag and he had soiled himself not once but several times. And then had come the part that Marston liked best...his signature...the brand showing an outline of a diamond and heart overlapping, with the diamond being the upper emblem. Marston branded all of his kills...after all, an artist always signs his work. Marston didn't even bother untying the the guy, he just made sure he left nothing around to identify him and then got in the car and drove off, leaving the guy tied to the tree. It would be a while before he might be
found, and Marston would be long gone by then. He was running out of places in this little burg to "play" and he didn't dare risk many more feedings, for two of his victims had been discovered already and the area residents were getting jumpy. Maybe it was time he pulled up stakes and moved on. After all, he had already been here two weeks past his normal month in any one place. Hmmm, maybe he should just move over a couple of states till this whole area cooled down a little. His decision made, Marston drove back to the motel he had been staying at while he had been pretending to look for work, cleaned up, loaded the bloody clothes in the trash bag he had brought in from the trunk and then gathered all of his stuff and hit the road, headed North. The feeding high stayed with him longer
this time, giving him the energy to stay on the road for nearly four days before the warning signs came that he needed to find a safe place to go to ground for about one or two days, someplace where there wouldn't be much chance of anyone finding him. The lethargy that always followed a feeding hit about midnight of the fourth day after he had killed the truck driver. He knew he had about five hours before he became completely helpless while the nearly trance-like sleep that always followed a feeding took him, so he started keeping a lookout for somewhere he could go to ground without risk of possibly being seen and caught. He had been driving about two hours when all at once, where one moment the air outside the car had been clear as a bell and he had been able to see miles of stars, now he was surrounded by a fog so thick he was reduced to driving with his lights on high at
barely a crawl as he strained to see the road ahead of him. He crested a small rise and then, as he began to move downward, he saw a faint glimmer of light shining through the mist. With the exhaustion pulling at him, and discovering that he was going to need to refill the tank, he was really hoping that that light just happened to be a filling station. He was glad to see that it was, for the car was just about running on fumes, and he still had to find a place to rest. As Marston drove onto the lot of the little station, he gave the place a cursory look over, then sneered at the rundown condition of the single building and the lone gas pump. He got out and began filling the gas tank, then opened the trunk and reached into the duffel bag and got the gun and hunting knife.
Entering the little station, he began wandering around the pitiful offerings they had in the way of snacks and canned drinks. He had to stock up on plenty of snacks, especially anything high in sugar content, for when he awoke from the feeding sleep, he was going to be very, very hungry, a fact he knew from past experience, and it seemed that the sweeter stuff was what he craved at that time He took his purchases up to the counter and looked around for the clerk. Come to think of it, there hadn't been anyone behind the counter when he had come in, either. He stood there for a moment or two, then gave a shout to see if anyone was there. He was just about to shout out again when an elderly woman came out of a little door next to the cigarette case, muttering under her breath, telling him to just be patient, she wasn't as young as she had used to be.
She moved to stand across from him and then began to ring up his purchases, never once looking directly at him and not saying a word. When she had rung up the last item, she finally looked at him and he was a little shocked to see that her eyes were nearly covered with cataracts. How the old bat had seen to pick up the items he had chosen, much less ring them up, he didn't know. She told him the amount due in a voice that was strangely flat and without inflection, her face emotionless, looking past him rather than at him. Taking out his wallet, he paid for the purchases and then left, looking back at the store just before he got in the car. Man, that old broad had been definitely twilight zone, he thought to himself as he started the car and pulled out of the lot, his tail lights soon lost in the now once again
strangely clear night. And in that store, the old woman's eyes turned an eerie glowing red as a smile of what could almost have been described as smug satisfaction touched her lips and she whispered, "Welcome, Marston Ellis, we've been expecting you!" And as the sound of chilling laughter suddenly filled the empty silence, the station began to fade... Till all that was left was the burned out shell of a building covered in weeds and creeper vines. Marston drove into the small town square about thirty minutes after leaving that really creepy old bat back at the station. Looking around, he spotted a flickering motel sign a little ways ahead. On the way to the motel, he spotted a couple of convenience stores and a bank. He was going to have to get some money, and he knew the bank was out of the
question, so he focused on the two convenience stores, studying their layout, their size, and other things he would need to know if he meant to rob them... Which he did, for the money he had taken off of the truck driver was running out. Marston pulled up to the motel office, then got out and went in and paid for three days in advance. Before leaving the office, he looked the clerk right in the eyes, telling him that under no circumstances was he to be disturbed for anything...that anyone that did would get the crap beat out of them. Once he located the room, he pulled into the slot in front of it, then got out and took just long enough to grab the duffel bag from the trunk. Those bags held had the gun and spare ammo clips. He grabbed the two plastic bags of snacks and drinks he had gotten at the creepy station as well and then went
inside. Entering the room, he set the bags on the floor, then bent over the duffel bag and reached in to get the spare hunting knife. He turned to the door and locked the chain and button on the door and then drove the knife blade into the door jamb as an extra guarantee that he wouldn't be disturbed. Turning from the door, he reached down and picked up the bags and took them over near the bed, sitting them down on the floor by the leg of the nightstand, within easy reach. Reaching into the duffel bag he pulled out the gun and his hunting knife. After placing the gun within easy reach on the nightstand, he placed the knife beneath the pillow. He stood only long enough to remove his jacket and toss it over the back of the only chair in the room, then lay down. He was asleep nearly before his head hit the pillow.
Marston slept through that entire day, not moving an inch, lying there almost like a corpse, and far into the following night. The whispers woke him at midnight, calling his name. Moving for the first time since he had lain down, he began to twist and toss as the nightmare came again. It was always the same...a sensation of falling for what seemed like forever, then landing to find himself surrounded by a circle of eerily glowing red eyes and glimpses of skeletal hands reaching for him. And each time those dreams came, those eyes grew larger and those hands grew closer to touching him. Marston came awake with a gasp, his body drenched in sweat and his heart feeling as it was trying to come out of his chest, his eyes wild as they swung around the room. There was no doubt about it, there was definitely a sense of his not being alone,
though he could see nothing and no one in the room to give him that feeling. Marston sat up then ran his hands over his face, and realized they were trembling. Damn those dreams, they had begun to come every time he fed. But what was really odd was that that was the ONLY time they came. Sitting there he realized that he needed something stronger to drink than the sodas and juices he had gotten at that last stop. He stood and grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair, then got the gun and his good knife and put them in the duffel bag, after which he headed out to the car. He never, ever left that duffel bag behind. He drove around the little town for a while, searching for a bar, but there didn't appear to be any, so since he was now wide awake, he decided to just get on the main thoroughfare and drive out beyond the town limits.
After all, a lot of towns did have bars...just not in their city limits for the sake of all the "upstanding" folk. He had been driving for about an hour when he saw a car on the side of the road with its emergency lights flashing. Pulling up behind it he discovered that it was a couple of teenagers, a boy and a girl, evidently out on a jaunt. The kids told him their radiator had blown up and that they had been stranded there for over three hours. Marston, as he stood listening to the two kids explain how they had come to be out that late, felt the hunger begin to stir. For the past four months the hunger had begun to come more and more frequently...and insistently. And Marston knew all too well what happened when he tried to ignore it or fight it.
Oh yes, Marston knew what happened when he tried to fight the hunger...it hurt like hell. He knew because it had happened just recently when he had to walk away from potential prey two states back when a group of the intended victim's friends had shown up just as he had begun to walk away with them towards his pickup. He had met up with the kid at what had appeared to be a town festival of some kind. The kid had literally almost run him down with his bicycle. When the kid had swerved at the last minute he had turned right into a curb and his bike had flipped, throwing him right over the handlebars to land hard on one shoulder. Marston had just been wandering around, searching for a possible target, for the hunger had started the previous afternoon. When Marston happened, and had seen what had he had acted without
thinking. Walking up, he had helped the kid to his feet and then offered to take him to the closest medical facility. The kid had been pretty shaken up and his shoulder had been at an unnatural angle, clearly indicating that he had either thrown it out of joint or broken it. Whatever the case, it had been plain as day that the kid had been in a lot of pain, and he had not even hesitated in accepting Marston's offer. They had just started to walk towards the area where Marston had his truck parked when four or five other kids had ridden up on their bikes, calling the injured boys name and giving suspicious glances at Marston. The kids had taken the injured boy aside and began what had all too plainly been a serious ass grilling for trusting strangers. The boy had hung his head and then after looking at his friends and nodding he had
walked over and gotten his bike and then rejoined the other kids. And Marston had been left standing there, seething in fury, as they had ridden away without a backward glance. Damn the little meddlers to hell and back! He had been so close! He had discovered that the younger the victim was, the greater energy surge he got from their fear and terror. It had taken Marston two days after he lost his chance with the boy to find another victim, and by then he was nearly mad with the hunger. And that time had taught him very well what could happen if he did not feed when the craving first struck, for by the time he finished with the transient he had lured into an abandoned warehouse with the promise of booze, the guy had barely resembled a human being at all. And what had shook Marston up was that
he had not remembered even one moment past when he had chained the guy to the pipe deep in the bowels of that building. He had literally cut the guy to pieces a chunk at a time, leaving nothing but a carcass that looked like a badly put together nightmare of exposed muscles and bone. He had placed the guys body in one of the furnaces in the basement, then cleaned up in a restroom and left, but all the way back to the motel, he had been dwelling on what had happened. And he knew that he must never, ever again let him go that long without feeding, for if he did, he was sure to get caught. Marston told the kids he would give them a ride back into town and tried to look sincere and harmless, but he was already plotting where he could take them. He looked at his watch and then asked the kids if they could excuse him a moment
while he cleared out the back seat, then headed for the car. Opening the driver's side door, Marston grabbed some of the empty snack wrappers and other debris and crammed it into a partially filled garbage bag that had been on the floor board. Carrying the bag, he moved to the back and opened up the trunk, tossed the plastic bag in then opened the duffel bag and got the killing knife and slipped it into the custom sheath he had crafted from an old leather jacket he had taken off of one of his victims. Slamming the trunk, he walked back towards the kids and told them to go ahead and get in the car, he would take them back to town. Over two hours later he stood, recharged, and stared with a sense of accomplishment at all that was left of those two kids... Which was to say, not much.
He was so charged he decided that just this once he wasn't going to try to hide his handiwork, it needed to be appreciated... After all, he had gone to such pains to make sure that the “switches” he had made in both of the bodies looked somewhat natural when he had super glued the part into their new places. All at once he grinned...the boy had actually turned out to be little more than a wuss, and it was only appropriate that his new “equipment” matched his true nature...while the same could be said for what was left of the girl...after all, she HAD been the one with the most balls! But he had one more teensy weensy detail to take care of before he could head back to the motel...his signature. Reached down and pulling the knife once more from the sheath, he walked up to the trees to which the two bodies were tied, and after cutting away some of the bark so
that the mark would show, he gouged his signature symbol into the trees. After replacing the knife, he gave the two bodies a mocking salute and then returned to his car. About two hours later he was back at the motel, cleaned up and gathering his things. He decided to hit the smaller of the two convenience store, as he was now down to only a couple of dollars, then he figured he would find somewhere to lie low for a few days. But that act of vanity he had allowed himself had cost him... Marston cursed virulently beneath his breath as he watched the men moving cautiously on the trail below him...they had finally, it seemed, caught up with him. As he hunkered down on the overhang above the trail, he watched as the dogs went about, noses to ground, trying to pick up his scent.
He silently chuckled to himself, fat chance of that. He had come across a dead deer and had what, to him at least, had seemed the brilliant idea of using the carrion to throw the search dogs off of the trail. So he had used his hunting knife to carve a different kind of meat than it was normally wont to. And then he had stripped and rubbed the chunk of rotting meat everywhere he could reach on his body and then over his clothes. He had nearly gagged while doing it, but to his way of thinking, nausea was preferable to what would happen if he were caught. Besides, by the following night he was no longer aware of the smell at all. He guessed his nose had gotten used to it. And he took the hide and put it in the cave, storing his clothes with it so that the smell soaked into them.
That had been two weeks ago, and he had tried to be careful about getting wet and risk washing away the scent, for he had finally had to get rid of the hide when it begun to turn maggoty. But life was a real bitch...the rainstorm two nights back had pretty much drenched him before he could reach the caves where he had been holed up for the past three months, and he had run out of the clothes that had been "doctored", so had been reduced to wearing clothes which allowed his own scent to fill them for the past two days. As he watched the activity on the trail below, his thoughts drifted back to what had brought him to this point... He had stumbled onto the caves after a close run in with the law after they had found the kids. His car had broken down not far from a heavily wooded area, above which could be
seen what appeared to be some large mountains. He had left the car sitting on the road, taking time only to grab his gun, the satchel of ammo, the canteen, all incriminating paper work that might identify him and the satchel containing the junk food that he had managed to steal along the way at a couple of the gas stations and convenience stores he had robbed. He had wandered, totally lost, for about three days when he had stumbled onto the caves, which went far back into the mountains in which they were located. And that was where he had set up temporary camp. Water had been no problem, as there was a stream not far from the caves, but food was another thing altogether. He had had to resort to sneaking down into the closest town, which lay only about two or three miles from the entry to the forest
surrounded the caves, in the dead of night and raiding the dumpster behind the two grocery stores and the three local eateries. He hadn't wanted to call any more attention to his presence than he had to. As for clothes...and a few beat up pots and cooking utensils and dishes...he raided the local charity bin that sat on the edge of town. He couldn't carry much at one time and still hike all the way back to the caves, so he had learned to be very selective in what and how much he took. The garments that didn't fit he simply dumped down a shaft he had found while exploring the cave he was in, and food that went bad went the same way, as did his bodily waste. He never, ever lit a fire in the main cave, but rather used one that was further back, which had a really high ceiling that allowed the smoke to dissipate without choking him, as actual living space.
All in all, it had proven to be a fairly cozy little set up, and for the first time in longer than he could remember he had actually stayed in one place for longer than two or three weeks. And then the hunger had come and ruined it all. Women...oh how he hated them...that little tramp he had carved up along with her boyfriend had scratched him... And the cops had evidently gotten hold of some of his DNA from old medical records back after they had found that damn engraved watch his dad had given him. Marston hated all women on principal... Especially that bitch who had brought him into this miserable cess pit of a world. But he had returned that little favor by taking her out of it on his eighteenth birthday after she had snuck into his bedroom, drunk off of her ass, and tried to seduce him.
Not that he would have ever touched the fat, child beating whore even if she had been sober, he had too much class for that. Marston had been his mother's punching bag more than once in the past...and she had not had to be drunk, either, to find cause to beat him... Taking her rage at his father running off with his secretary about four months after Marston's fifteenth birthday out on him. Truth be told, that secretary had been a total knockout, so Marston couldn't really blame his old man for his actions... No, Marston couldn't blame his father for leaving...but there was one thing he DID hold a grudge against his father for... He just wished the selfish bastard could have taken him with him, and not left him with that fat, sloshed sow who had given him birth. And that was the night he learned that he could gain strength from fear and terror.
The feeling that he had gotten that night while he was beating his mother to death with his football trophy kept him going, not even requiring eating or sleep, for two days before it wore off. The downside was that he had slept for nearly twelve hours straight, almost like a corpse, not even moving from the position he passed out in. And he had eaten like a horse for about a two days afterwords. But he had liked that feeling of power...oh, he had liked it very much! He had drug his mother's body out to his pickup...ironically a seventeenth birthday gift from the old bat...an attempted sop to her conscious for the crappy way she treated him, he had guessed. After tossing her body callously in the back he drove out to the rock quarry at the edge of town. He had driven far back into the quarry, then had dug a hole and dumped his mother's body into it.
Appropriating one of the front end earth scooping machines, he had loaded about four or five scoops of gravel on top of the grave...it would be a while before anyone found her, he had thought with vindictive glee. After making sure there was nothing around to link to him, he had left the quarry and headed home, where he started packing and gathering the things he would be taking with him when he left that miserable little hole in the road. A day or two after he had returned from the quarry, he had gone through all of her papers and computer files till he found a copy of her signature and her bank account number. Then he had sent the bank an email notifying them that "she" was going to be going on a road trip, and was taking him with her, and that there would be funds drawn on various ATM machines out of state.
He told the bank that "she" did not have a defined date of return, and that "she" would contact them when they got back. Then he dollars. had withdrawn two thousand
He had gone to the bank with a withdrawal strip on which he had forged her signature, telling them that she had asked him to pick up the money while she finished packing and getting ready, since he was going to be in town anyway. The bank saw nothing suspicious in this, for his mother had signed papers allowing him to perform transactions in her name and he had been doing it ever since getting his license when he was seventeen. He had avoided going into town any more than necessary in order to avoid the possibility of anyone asking why his mother wasn't seen around for the next two or three weeks as he had tried to think of all of the things he might need to take care of
before he left. But he had one more thing to take care of before shaking the dust of that town from his feet...he had a little "date" with Natasha Pensworth and that geeky science nerd, Merrick Nash, she had dumped him for. Marston had stalked his cheating whore of an ex girlfriend and her new “lover boy” for the two weeks following the murder of his mother, carefully noting their movements and patterns, even slipping a tracking device beneath the bumper of his two timing little slut of a former girlfriend's car, and then, on a night as cold as a witch's heart, he had followed them to an old hunting cabin up in the hills about sixty miles from town. He had gone to the cabin time and time again while he stalked the two lovebirds, sealing all of the windows and drilling holes on both sides of the door frame into which he fitted holders that he had custom created himself (Whoever knew that taking
shop class could come in so handy!) that, once in place and a bar dropped between them, blocked the door completely. Then had come the night he had been waiting for them when the two lovers had gone up to the cabin for a tryst. He had tracked them as they had headed for the cabin, then, after taking some back roads to get there ahead of them, he had waited patiently till almost midnight, watching from his hiding place till he had been fairly sure that they were down for the night, and then he had made his move. He had gone to the little pile of brush to one side of the cabin where he had hidden the beam that would go across the door and the canvas bag holding the brackets, doing his best to make as little noise as possible... After all, he hadn't wanted to spoil the surprise, now had he? Creeping up to the door, he felt along the
edges till he found the holes he had drilled and then placed the brackets in them, then added the beam. And then he had doused the entire cabin in gasoline from the stock of cans he had been surreptitiously sneaking up and concealing with brush the same way he had the beam and brackets. Then he had gotten the tiki torch he had hidden with the rest of the stuff and the aluminum baseball bat and returned to the cabin... And using the aluminum baseball bat he had begun going around the entire cabin banging on the walls and shouting, calling the little tramp and her lover everything he could think of, mocking them, driving them to a state of panic. And as their panic had built, his strength had begun to grow, and he had begun to feel invincible. But the rush he had gotten at the wave of
sheer terror that had emanated from that cabin when he had begun lighting the gasoline drenched wood, yelling the entire time that he was going to send their cheating, two timing asses to hell, had been almost enough to overload his system. Oh how he had reveled in their screams and the sounds of pounding and shattering glass as they had tried to escape! How he had howled with manic, glorious, vindicated laughter when he had seen their terrified faces at the sealed windows...windows across which he had mounted steel bars that had fit into the brackets he had so carefully custom created and placed over every single window, and which were padlocked! Luckily for him the cabin had had only had five windows, two in the front, one in the bedroom, one in the bathroom and one over the kitchen sink, and that they all had been fairly small, for it meant that the bars had not required much lifting to mount.
He waited for about thirty minutes after it went silent, then he gathered all of the plastic gas containers up and dumped them on the huge pile of brush he had set up for just that purpose, after which he set it ablaze. Anyone investigating the scene would play hell getting finger prints, for he had also worn heavy leather gloves to hang the bars on the windows and the one on the door. And he had gloves when cabin and incrimination there. always made sure to wear he had been preparing the to remove any possibly evidence of his having been
He had whistled all the way back to the truck... Totally unaware that the watch with its custom family crest engraved on the face that his father had given him as a graduation present had fallen off of his wrist into a flower bed beneath the
bedroom window of the cottage... A watch that had been engraved with the words "To my son, Marston, the graduate". Marston had driven back to town and returned home only long enough to pitch the tent, storage chests and suitcases that he had packed and prepared for this occasion into the back of his pickup, then he had headed out of town without once looking back. That had been eleven years ago. Since that time he had left a trail of bodies across the entire fifty states, everything from housewives who caught him when he broke in looking for food and things to steal and sell to campers to joggers to homeless people... And all of them had been tortured in order to obtain the maximum level of fear before they died. And it was now getting harder and harder to stay that one step ahead of the law.
It was such a pity he simply could not resist marking his victims with his "trademark"...a linked outline of a diamond and a heart, which to him stood for what he had taken to calling himself...Diamondheart. After all, all true artist's signed their work, didn't they? It was the same mark he had left branded into a tree near the cabin with the miniature brand he had himself created...once again sardonically thanking shop class as he had made it...and which was small enough to fit in his shirt pocket. All he had to do was hold it over the flame of the lighter he had had engraved with his “sign” and it was ready to use. As that thought passed through his head as he knelt, watching the trail, he let out another string of low curses...he had been so careful, attending to each and every detail, and it had all been undone by a broken watch clasp!
No one would have known to possibly link him to that brand when it showed up on his later victims if it hadn't been for that damn watch! The fire at the cabin had, of course, been investigated, and they had been very, very thorough...and found the watch...with his name on it... And the brand. Thinking of the watch infuriated him, for that engraving was one of the little vanity perks that his father had been prone to... Just as that brand was his. It was one of the few times he really hated his father for his damn pride in the fact that his family actually had a crest and a traceable lineage. His dad's family gave the term "old money" a whole new meaning. The face on that watch had been custom engraved with the family crest, a symbol
that had been well known in not only his town...purely for the fact that his family were the town founders and it was on every police car, courthouse wall and a lot of other places as well...but in nearly every county for about a hundred mile radius. And his name was known by the law enforcement in his town due to his having put a police officer in the hospital over a parking ticket about two months after he got his license. The only reason he had been able to keep his license and gotten off on a smaller charge had been due to his family's influence and money. Marston's mind was jerked back to the present by the sudden sound of excited baying as one of the dogs picked up his scent. Scooting back, careful to make as little noise as possible, he only stood when he reached the little ravine below the ridge on which he had been watching the searchers.
No sooner had he stood than he took off for the caves, for he knew that even if they found the one he had been staying in, he could lose them in the ones further in. As he ran, he was cursing mentally, damn it to hell, he should have been more careful and not taken the chance of leaving the body of that drifter in the basement of that old abandoned factory at the edge of town. He had needed a terror fix so desperately he had been actually aching with the craving for it, for it had seemed so long since the one that had forced him to flee and brought him to this place. But by the time he had gotten through with the guy, it had been nearly dawn and he knew he hadn't had much time to get out of town and back safely to the caves before daylight. He had been doing his best to never, ever be seen by anyone. But someone must have been in the building and heard the screams of his
victim, for he had just reached the edge of the woods leading to the caves when he heard the sirens...and they seemed to be getting closer. Marston made it to the caves and immediately went straight to the one in which he had been staying and grabbed the flashlight, the gun, the satchel of ammo and then headed deeper into the network of offshoots that he had come to know fairly well during his stay there. He spent some time going in and out of ones which all were interlinked by openings to each other, deliberately running his hand over the walls and rocks, laying down a trail of scent to confuse the dogs. Then he headed back towards a part that he hadn't really explored fully, but where he felt the dogs wouldn't track him as well, for he doubted that many of the search party would have flashlights. He was far back in the tunnel system when
he heard the echoes of the dogs baying and the shouts of the men when they evidently located the caves. And he knew by the change in the voices just about when they found his particular cave. Moving quickly, Marston continued deeper into the tunnels, always keeping part of his mind focused on his pursuers even as he tried to focus on the twists and turns as he followed the tunnels. A person could get lost very easily in that complex system. He heard the dogs suddenly start baying again and guessed they must have picked up the false trail he had left...that would keep them busy for a short time going around in circles. He had only gone a little further after hearing the dogs when all at once he began to get the feeling that someone...or something...was not only watching him...
But following him. Marston paused for a moment to grab his breath, his heart beating hard as he strained to listen for any sound of movement, but only silence met his ears. He had barely moved a few yards further into the tunnels when the whispers began, always saying the same thing over and over again...voices that sounded strangely hollow and echoing... His name. Now beginning to feel a little spooked, he continued on, and began to notice that the ground now seemed to be sloping downward. He had reached a cavern of some kind which had a huge pit not far from the entrance to it when he once again got the feeling that he was not alone. He moved a little ways into the cavern, then turned to face the entrance and bent over, placing his hands on his knees as he tried
to catch his breath and to listen for sounds of the searchers and dogs. But only silence met his ears once more... And then a slight movement in the shadows by the entrance caught his attention. Pulling the handgun from the shoulder holster, he made sure it was loaded then turned the flashlight on the area he thought he had seen the movement in... And then gave a gasp of sheer horror, for the apparitions that he saw were now beginning to advance slowly towards him he knew could not possibly be real...for they were none other than all of the people he had tortured and murdered. With eyes wide and heart beginning to beat like it was trying to come out of his chest, Marston watched as the figures drew closer and closer, reciting his name in whispering voices that turned his blood to ice. By now totally spooked, he began firing wildly at them...only to watch the bullets
connect... And yet the figures simply kept coming, closer and closer. As those grisly figures approached, Marston began to back up slowly, trying his best to reload the gun while still keeping an eye on them. All at once he felt his heel totter on the edge of the pit and knew that he could go no further. He placed the final bullet in the gun and began firing into the group of ghostly figures that were advancing on him. Marston kept pulling the trigger for several moments after the last bullet was fired as his stalkers shuffled closer and closer. His wild eyes searched frantically for a path of escape, and found none. He did not see the skeletal hands that reached up from the edge of the pit to grab his ankles and pull... Causing him to lose his balance and fall
backwards, right down to the bottom, where he landed with a thud that knocked the breath out of him. Shakily getting to his feet, he immediately glanced around, seeking a way out of the pit, but there didn't appear to be any, for the sides were sheer rock and the top was too far to reach and pull himself out. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out one of the multitude of cheap lighters he had stolen from various stores he had robbed over the years, and which he always kept on him, igniting the flame with hands that trembled visibly. He realized that he could no longer hear that eerie recitation of his name and he looked up at the rim of the pit, expecting to see those ghastly figures peering down at him, mocking him, but they appeared to have disappeared. Drawing a shaky breath of relief, he walked up the wall, looking upwards to see if there
were any possible handholds he might be able to use to get out. All around the perimeter he searched, seeking a way out, but he seemed to be well and truly stuck, for the walls were nearly completely smooth. Frustrated, cursing under his breath, he began to pace, and that was when the whispers began again, whispering in eerie echoing tones, whispering of atrocities he had committed. And then something moved in the shadows outside the fast dimming glow of the lighter he had once more held up and ignited when the first whispers came. And as he watched, his heart nearly stopping with horror as those shadows began to form and move all around him, drawing closer even as they multiplied in number. Backing away, holding the lighter up and once again searching for a way of escape,
Marston's heels connected with something on the floor behind him, sending him reeling backwards, arms flailing for balance. Once more getting shakily to his feet, Marston looked down to see what had tripped him... And his eyes went wide in horror as he stared at his body, lying, twisted in unnatural order, at his feet. And he looked up and around as those ghostly, skeletal figures that surrounded him began to approach, their bony hands outstretched, their fingers clawed, their sightless eyes set in decaying faces locked on him and glowing red, lips drawn back over sharp edged, jagged teeth in parodies of grins as their voices began to fill the cavern, repeating one word over and over again... Vengeance. And as the figures closed in and began to tear him apart, he began to scream as he
learned for himself the meaning of terror... A lesson he would be learning for eternity.
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