THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 52
(ATTENTION! This is the one where the werewolf attacks the haunted attraction! I promised to give you all a heads-up.)
Every year, the Lawrence family “Haunted Corn Maze” proved one of the County’s most popular attractions, as people drove all the way from Birmingham to wander through the acres of corn at night, menaced by costumed ghouls, monsters, and movie slashers. The Lawrences employed their teenage children and those children’s friends to make up the cast, and young people comprised the larger percentage of the site’s patrons. Each night in October–excepting Sundays–the sounds of chainsaws (chains removed, of course, for safety) and delighted squeals filled the night air as hundreds wound their way through the maze, everyone getting lost, everyone in time finding their way out. From the air, the maze depicted the Alabama State seal, but no one ever saw that. At night, no one ever saw anything, the rows of corn being eight feet or more tall, and the rows between being so dark. Only the occasional electric light mounted atop a pole or the many flashlights that danced amidst the stalks helped alleviate the darkness. And the Moon. The full, fat, orange blob of the Moon.
A little over a mile away, the Beast cocked its head, listening. The screams attracted its attention. It sniffed the air, the breeze carrying new scents. That same maddening perfume still tormented it, but other smells came from the same direction. Exhaust fumes, corn, dust, dew, sweat. People. Many people. The Beast shook its head. Its tail swished.
It had to find the source of that damnable stench. But these people were in its way. It could satisfy its curiosity as it passed. It could take a moment or two to investigate this intriguing mixture of sound and smell, could it not?
The Beast could spare a few minutes to play.
From where it stopped on a low hilltop, all the flashlights bobbing around looked like fireflies, the cornstalks like stiff brown weeds. The Beast could make out the trails weaving and winding throughout the field. The far side of the field must be the entrance to the maze, it recognized, because there the most people congregated. Taking a moment to absorb all it could see, hear, smell, the Beast saw the row of blue plastic outhouses and the short lines of people waiting to use them. It could smell the reek of feces and urine emanating from that direction.
There were several giant luminaries, balloons with fabric skins and spotlights inside them: a Jack-o-lantern with a cartoonish ghost climbing out of its head, a grinning Frankenstein’s monster, a witch standing over her cauldron. There were two white, wheeled trailers with open fronts, bleeding yellow light. One of these sold foodstuffs; the Beast smelled popcorn, cotton candy, grilling meat, stale bread, sugary concoctions to drink. More people standing in lines. Off to the right, a series of speakers perched atop squares of hay pumped out dance music, while disco lights went spinning out over the gathered crowd. Generators hummed, stinking of diesel fuel, as did the chainsaws carried by some of the people moving around inside the corn. Here and there in the field, a patch of neon light. An old building–a barn?–had been festooned with strings of orange and red; a strobe light flashed inside it, spilling out through the open doorways at both ends.
All of this the Beast took in, cataloging all the sensory information in a matter of seconds. Most of all, the Beast took note of the people. So many. Not as many as had been at the Miner Days celebration, true. But still hundreds or better. Most of them still outside the cornfields, on the far side, but plenty were inside. And the Beast would have to cross that field anyway.
With a bound, it reached the bottom of the hill. People were laughing, squealing. So many smells to take in. Their sweat, perfumes and aftershaves, a young female menstruating, a man passing flatulence. A few strides and the Beast leapt the barbed wire fence that enclosed the field. The brittle brown stalks snapped and bent before it as it entered the corn.
The Beast decided to leave Chaney Kidde here. It dropped her from its jaws. She hit the ground with a grunt. The Beast pressed one of its massive paws on her chest, staring down into her wide, hysterical eyes.
Now don’t you run away, the Beast cautioned her, knowing that she could not. Or, if she did, could not get far, and it, the Beast, would be able to find her again without much effort. Then it stepped over her and left her bleeding on a bed of flattened cornstalks.
The air still buzzed with that damned obnoxious stench. It irritated like a swarm of flies. The Beast could not spare much time here. But then it would not require much time. And the Beast could not pass up such an opportunity.
Voices, just ahead and through the corn.
“I didn’t think I’d get so dirty.” A female.
“It’s a cornfield, stupid.” A male. “What’d you expect?”
“If I’d known I was gonna get this dirty, I never would’a come.”
“Well, I like dirty girls, myself.” A new voice, male, also adolescent.
“Are we almost through?” Another female. “I’m scared.”
“Now what is there to be scared of?” The first male again. “This is so lame.”
In its mind, the Beast laughed. There’s me, it said. You should be scared of me.
It broke through the stalks into the trail just ahead of them. The females screamed.
“Freakin’ awesome!” the first male said.
“Now that’s a cool get-up!” The second male.
The Beast reached the latter first. It disemboweled him with one downward swipe. The boy collapsed onto a mound of his own steaming innards. The other male stood gaping, looking confused. The Beast reared up and brought a paw down on his head, crushing his skull like an eggshell.
The girls were running away, still following the trail of the maze. The Beast closed the distance between them in three strides. It sank teeth into one girl’s upper leg, biting it off. She screamed. The other girl screamed as she ran off and left her friend.
But people were screaming all over the Lawrence family Haunted Corn Maze.
The second girl collided with a chubby man in a sleeveless undershirt and baseball cap. The woman with him, bone thin and stringy-haired, guffawed.
“Easy,” the man said.
“It’s right behind me oh God it killed Casey it killed Casey!”
The man chuckled. “Settle down, honey. This ain’t real.”
The Beast burst out of the stalks and bit the gangly woman in half. A swipe from a claw snapped the man’s neck. The teenager couldn’t run fast enough in her skirt. The Beast leapt on her, dragging her down, and laid bare her backbone from neck to buttocks.
Into the corn again. Towards the sound of more screaming. Through the stalks it could see a man in dark coveralls and a hockey mask chasing a woman with his chainsaw, pretending to cut her legs out from under her. The Beast waited as she ran towards it, then reached out of the stalks to tear her face from her skull.
The man tried to use the chainsaw to defend himself, bawling through his goalie mask. The saw had no chain. None of them did. But he managed to use it to parry one claw strike before the Beast stood up, grabbing him. Blood splashed all over the Beast and the ground, the corn. The chainsaw hit the ground, coughed and died.
Standing, the Beast could just see over the stalks. A pathway ran parallel to the one in which the Beast stood. It could see a group of four people coming in its direction.
“Damn, what stinks?” a man asked.
A woman saw its head above the rows and pointed. “Look!”
The Beast charged. Like a great scythe, the swipe of its paw arced through the cornstalks, laid them flat. Stained, distended talons cut the people down, opened their bodies to the night.
The Beast cocked its head, listening.
“Get out of here!”
The voice of Chaney Kidde stood out from all other sounds.
“You have to get out!”
The bitch had gotten up, after all. But she hadn’t run away.
“There’s a monster loose in here!”
She was trying to shoo away the Beast’s prey. Spoil its fun. The beast headed towards the sound of her voice. It dropped down on all fours, able to run faster that way. Then it saw her at the foot of a scarecrow’s crucifix, holding on to the straw legs to stand up.
“Please!” Chaney said. “Listen to me!”
A man grinned at her, his arms around two women.
“She’s good!” One of the women said. “A real actress.”
Chaney screamed as the Beast fell on them from behind.
*I should kill you now, bitch, and have done with it.* The Beast raised a paw. *But I want to take my time with you.* It struck her a light blow to the side of the head that sent her reeling. *Now stay put.*
The Beast crossed the field. More people died. And no one seemed to notice. One boy came upon the ruins of a kill, poking at them with a stick.
“Man, that looks real,” he said. Then the Beast rushed out through the stalks to pull him down.
The Beast paused, seeing the barn ahead. Though it did not like the lights, the music blaring inside attracted it. A song Vale recognized.
“Awwwwoooo! Werewolves of London! Awwwwooooo!”
Warren Zevon, Vale’s memory offered. Very appropriate, the Beast replied.
“I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand . . . ”
The Beast followed a group into the barn. A false tunnel had been created using black tarpaulin. The floor, false walls and a false ceiling, all black and draped with canvas. Strobe lights mounted on the barn’s support beams, fog machines exhaling blue smoke at intervals on the ground, false cobwebs. No, it did not like the strobe lights, and the smoke belching out of the fog machines made its eyes water. But it followed the people, its curiosity piqued by their jerky, slow-motion movements caused by the effects of the strobe.
LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU!!! a sign in day-glow colors warned. The people stopped. A man dressed in a black robe and wearing a vampire mask stepped through an opening in the tarpaulin, coming out between the people and the Beast. The group turned in unison. A woman screamed.
“Check out Dracula!” a man said.
“Forget him. Check out that!”
The Beast stood. The group stared. Count Dracula turned to look.
“Now that is cool!”
“What the hell?!” Dracula said.
” . . . stay away from him, he’ll rip your lungs out, Jim. I’d like to meet his tailor.”
The sounds of screams filled the barn. The Beast howled, struck again and again in slow motion as the strobe revealed the scene. Human blood glowed a strange bluish color in the strobe light.
The Beast dropped to all fours. It pressed its snout to the ground and covered its head with its front paws. Its brain felt on fire. Its pulse pounded in its ears like a drumbeat. And that stench . . .
“Bring it in, Lord,” the Beast heard a woman’s voice whisper. The stench in the air made it want to vomit. “Brings it on in.”
Someone had worked magic on it, then. That explained it. Someone who knew how, someone with great skill. “Bring it on in.”
The Beast roared in fury. It tore down the tarpaulin, charged across the barn and smashed through the wall. It shook its head to try and dislodge the swarm of mosquitoes inside it.
No more fun, the Beast said. Not until I find who is doing this.
The Beast ran at full gallop. It found Chaney Kidde where it had left her. She had not moved. The Beast picked her up in its mouth.
Somewhere out there.
The Beast exited the corn maze at the front of the field. It stopped near one of the luminaries to get a better grip on Chaney. The crowd gathered around it, drawn to it, silence spreading as a contagion amongst the group.
“Look at that thing!” someone whispered.
“How’d they do that?” Another.
“Check out the size of it!”
The Beast dropped Chaney and reared up onto its hind legs. It raised its head towards the Moon and howled. People covered their ears at the sound. A car alarm activated out in the parking area.
At the edge of a cornfield, on the outskirts of the small town of Ironwood, Alabama, a gathering of human beings looked upon a monster of the abyss, a horrible, unseen reality now given form. And they cowered. And they would never forget.
The Beast dropped, snapped up Chaney Kidde and charged through the crowd, through the parked vehicles, across the highway and into the woods beyond. Towards the stench and the sound of drums. Towards the challenge these presented.
The Beast headed for the mines.
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!