Ghost stories from hell, p.45

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 45

 

Ghost Stories from Hell
 



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  Lau wasn’t quite certain how he felt about the roads. There were enough stories to give credence to the idea of trapped spirits. He was also able to understand the points of view for both the farmers and the villagers.

  Lau’s nose wrinkled as the scent of iron suddenly filled his nostrils. His steps faltered, then he came to a complete stop. He looked around and listened. Silence hung heavy in the air.

  Lau glanced at the woods on either side of the road, an uncomfortable sense of being watched settled over him.

  The absence of birdsong, the complete void of animal and insect noises, caused his stomach to roil with unease. He cleared his throat to be certain he hadn’t gone deaf in the short time since he had left the monastery.

  He had not.

  Lau took a deep breath, attempted to slow down the quickened beat of his heart and failed.

  His feet refused to move, fear rooting him to the road. After several more breaths and a prayer, Lau was able to walk again, his fear no longer controlling him.

  The smell of iron grew stronger, a scent reminiscent to that of the small village Lau had grown up in. Near Lau’s home had been a butcher, and whenever the man prepared an animal for sale, the entire street had stunk of blood.

  Lau rounded the next curve in the road, and an involuntary gasp escaped his lips.

  There was a man, or the remains of a man, spread out on the road before him.

  Blood and flesh were strewn about the road. The stranger, whose back was to Lau, was suspended several feet above the ground, arms and legs stretched out at angles unnatural to the human body. Curious, braided rope was wrapped around his wrists and his ankles to anchor him securely to the trees.

  Lau took a few, hesitant steps forward. Blood had pooled in several low places in the road, and he avoided the puddles as best he could. The edges of his robes brushed against the ground and became stained a dark, sickening red. When Lau had passed around the man, he came to the realization that the victim before him had not only been stripped of his clothes but of his skin as well.

  With his throat clenching to keep back the vomit, he came to a stop and forced himself to turn and face the man.

  What he saw churned his stomach and weakened his knees.

  The stranger had been disemboweled, and it was not rope that had been used to string the man up.

  Unable to control himself any longer, Lau rushed to the side of the road and fell to his hands and knees, vomiting into the grass. His stomach went into spasms and what little he had eaten was soon in front of him. Trembling, Lau wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes watering as he took in great, shaking breaths.

  He pushed himself onto his haunches and felt his eyes widen as he found himself face to face with the silver fox. It was only a few feet away, head cocked to one side as if curious about his reaction to the murdered man suspended from the trees.

  A heartbeat later, the fox was gone, replaced by an ancient monk. The man’s face was a mask of wickedness and guile. There was neither gentleness nor mercy in the set of his jaw, and the lines that sprawled out from the corners of his eyes spoke of a man who delighted in the suffering of others.

  The ghost monk seemed to understand what Lau could read in him, and he smiled.

  “And what is your name, Brother?” the ghost asked.

  Lau told him.

  The ghost bowed, saying, “I am Brother Feng. I must say, I enjoy your community. Their fear is a joy to behold. Except for this man.”

  Feng gestured toward the body. “Do you know what I found him doing?”

  Lau shook his head, forced himself to remain calm and answered, “No, Brother, I do not.”

  Feng grinned at him with appreciation for Lau’s humbleness and said, “I caught him eating the offering to Buddha.”

  “Ah,” was all Lau replied.

  Feng chuckled. “I imagine you are wondering if I truly care about the offerings to the Buddha.”

  Lau cleared his throat and answered, “I confess, the thought did cross my mind, Brother Feng.”

  “Well, I don’t,” Feng said, sitting down and gesturing for Lau to do the same. “What I do care about is respect. And my own entertainment. Last night, those two concerns were married perfectly in the form of, well, whatever his name was. I didn’t bother to ask him.”

  Lau didn’t know how to respond to the ghost’s statement, so he remained silent.

  Feng watched him in silence for a short time before he said, “You have quite a few monks in your monastery.”

  “We do,” Lau replied.

  “It is always a pleasure to see our brethren working together, is it not?” Feng asked, reaching a hand out to the Mala that hung around his neck. The ghost fingered the beads as he waited for Lau to respond.

  “I agree,” Lau said, trying to ascertain what it was the ghost was implying. He doubted Feng said or did anything without some ulterior motive. And, judging from the corpse hanging from the trees, Lau didn’t believe the outcome would be pleasant.

  Finally, Feng dropped the Mala and smiled. “You are a perceptive young man. I appreciate intelligence. It is far more entertaining than stupidity. Stupid people can be afraid, but they cannot be truly terrorized.”

  Feng leaned closer, saying in a soft voice, “No, only the intelligent ones can know terror in its purest forms. I believe you can know what that is. I can sense your strength as well, Brother Lau. I will tell you this, to see if you can overcome your fear. To see if you will survive because I find it an interesting test. The Ghost Festival will be upon you soon. My power grows and will reach its zenith on that night, as you should know. I will come for our brethren, Brother Lau. But not for you. You must convince them of what you have seen and heard. You must learn where I am, and stop me.”

  Before Lau could respond, Feng shifted into the silver fox, and trotted away.

  Lau glanced over his shoulder at the traveler’s corpse, wondering if the ghost would do the same to everyone in the monastery.

  Feng, Lau feared, would certainly try.

  Bonus Scene Chapter 7: At the Home of Farmer Jiang

  For seventeen years, Jiang had been alone with his dogs on his farm. His wife had passed away, and she waited for him in the next life. Not a day went by where he did not think of her. By the time the silver fox had killed four of his chickens, Jiang had only one dog left. The dog’s name was Gou, and he was as wise as he was fierce.

  Jiang took Brother Lau’s advice and kept Gou with him at all times.

  On the second evening after having gone to the monastery, Jiang went outside of his home. Gou followed close to him as Jiang checked on the chickens and the geese. He made sure the locks were secure and that the animals were all bedded down for the evening. When he had finished, Jiang went back to the house and gathered up what he needed.

  With the imminent arrival of the Ghost Festival, he knew it was time to leave the regular offerings for the dead. Jiang felt it was necessary to leave more than he had in the past. On a table he had built for that purpose, he set out the offerings of food and drink by the well. He had taken some of his emergency money and bought the finest meats and liquors available. The food he prepared for the dead was better than what he had eaten throughout the entire previous year.

  But if he wanted to continue to eat food, Jiang knew what he had to do in order to survive.

  Like everyone else nearby, he had heard about the traveler’s death. More importantly, he had learned of the gruesome nature of the man’s death, and it made him think of the way the silver fox had tortured the last of the chickens.

  When the meal was positioned properly on the table, Jiang stepped back to examine the setting. All looked well, and while he had no desire to be outside with the dead about, he knew the offering had to be perfect.

  And from what he could see, it was.

  Satisfied, Jiang hurried back into his house, Gou trotting along beside him. Once they were both inside, Jiang slammed the door shut, barred it, and retreated to hi
s bed. He sat down and ran his hands through Gou’s hair, rubbing the dog down while lost deep in thought.

  A knock on the door shook him out of his daze and fear made certain he was wide awake as he called out, “Who is it?”

  “Brother Bohai,” the young monk answered.

  Jiang frowned. It was not like Bohai to visit. Lau did quite often, but not many of the other Brothers were as willing to do so.

  “What is it, Brother Bohai?” Jiang asked, not getting up. Gou had turned and faced the door.

  “I wish to come in, Jiang,” the monk replied, and Jiang frowned.

  Gou faced the door, a low growl emanating from him. The dog’s forelegs were stiff and stuck out slightly to either side. His teeth were bared, and saliva gathered in the corners of his mouth.

  “I am tired, Brother Bohai,” Jiang said, “I will come and speak with you tomorrow.”

  “No,” the monk replied, “I would have you speak to me now.”

  Jiang stiffened. He understood why the monk’s voice was strange. He was trying to hide an accent.

  An accent Bohai had never spoken with before.

  “Good night, Brother Bohai,” Jiang said, keeping his voice steady, “I shall speak with you in the morning.”

  The door shook in its frame as Bohai slammed it.

  “You will speak with me now!” the monk screamed. “Come outside and speak to me!”

  What followed next was a torrent of screams and profanity, curses and vulgarities Jiang had never imagined could be known by one man alone.

  Gou began to bark, a frenzied, insane sound that sent chills racing up Jiang’s spine. The piece of wood serving as a bar on the door showed a hairline crack, then another as Bohai continued to pound upon it.

  Jiang fought back the panic as it rose to a screaming crescendo in his mind, forcing himself to remain calm. He needed a weapon for protection against Brother Bohai, who seemed to be possessed by an angry ghost.

  But Jiang had none. He was a farmer, and his father had been a farmer, and so on for generations. But his family had not always been farmers.

  Then Jiang’s frantic mind calmed, and he got to his feet.

  He went to the corner where he kept the small shrine to his ancestors. A single, and simple incense burner and a faded wooden golden flower lay on a small table. Behind the table, wrapped in ancient cloth was the item Jiang sought.

  Behind him, he heard the door crack over the profanities that still spewed from Brother Bohai’s mouth, and Jiang stripped the fabric off the heirloom.

  It was an edged weapon set atop the end of a weighted length of wood. Its head was long, wide, and curved. The edge of the blade was dull, but still sharp enough to pierce someone’s flesh.

  His father had called it a ‘reclining moon blade,’ and altogether the weapon was as tall as Jiang. As a child, he had listened as his father told tales of an ancestor who had wielded it in battles fought long ago. But Jiang didn’t need it to fight ancient bandits or invading enemies.

  He needed it to kill a possessed Buddhist monk, and his hands shook as he turned to face the threat.

  The wooden brace he had placed across the doorframe for extra protection shattered, as did the door itself. Gou lunged forward, jaws snapping. Bohai recoiled but remained in the house even after the dog had sunk his teeth into the man’s calf.

  A mad, crazed smile spread across the monk’s face as he reached his hands out for Jiang. Hands bloody and shattered after his relentless assault on the door. Bohai continued forward, dragging the snarling Gou along with him, the dog refusing to let go of the man’s leg.

  Jiang steadied himself, brought the long weapon up and stepped forward. With a strength built from a life of disciplined work on the farm, he drove the spear deep into Bohai’s chest. The weapon went in with surprising ease, a dark stain erupting on the monk’s orange robes and spreading.

  Bohai’s chin dropped to his chest, his shoulders sagged, and Jiang found himself bearing the weight of the man at the end of the blade.

  Then the monk’s head snapped up, bloody teeth revealed in a gruesome smile as he said, “Alive or dead does not matter to me, I can move his flesh all the same.”

  The dead monk grabbed the shaft of the weapon with one broken hand and reached for Jiang with the other.

  Jiang fought the urge to run blindly in fear, casting his eyes about his small home and searching for a way to escape the dead man. But the weight of the spear shifted and Jiang stumbled back.

  Bohai had pulled the blade out of himself, and still dragging the dog along with him, the monk advanced on Jiang.

  Bonus Scene Chapter 8: A Horrific Event

  Lau hurried alongside of Brother Zhu as they made their way towards Farmer Jiang’s home. One of the younger monks had reported to Lau that Bohai had left the monastery. It was an act so out of character for the anti-social Bohai that Lau had raced to Zhu’s room and told him of it.

  Lau had a nagging suspicion that the oddly acting man was on his way to Jiang’s home, and he was fearful that his brother monk had not left of his own accord.

  For several days, fear had gnawed at Lau. After the discovery of the traveler’s body, and the terrifying conversation with the dead Feng, Lau had done his best to warn his fellow monks.

  He had not been rewarded for his efforts.

  Instead, he had been ridiculed and mocked. Granted it had been done in a gentle fashion, but the sentiment behind the statements and the looks had cut deeply. All Lau wanted to do was keep them safe. All of them.

  His brethren, on the other hand, told him he was superstitious, that while ghosts most certainly existed, they could do nothing as horrible as what had been done to the traveler.

  After several days of repeated rebukes, he had been spoken to by the Abbott, and Lau had been told that he needed to stop. If he did not, the Abbott would be forced to send Lau away merely to maintain the harmony within the monastery.

  The other monks had increased their teasing as the Ghost Festival approached, and Lau’s uneasiness became more apparent.

  And since Bohai’s disappearance coincided with the eve of the Ghost Festival, Lau’s fear for the man was a burning knot in his stomach. He remembered Feng’s statement about an increase in power with the arrival of the festival.

  Although Zhu disagreed with the idea that Bohai was on his way to see Jiang because of Feng, Zhu did believe they would find the man on the road leading toward the village.

  As they neared the path that led off to Jiang’s farm, a terrific shout rang out in the dim light of the evening. A dog could be heard barking, the sound both ferocious and frantic. Without waiting for Zhu, Lau sprinted along the path toward Jiang’s house. When he reached it, he skidded to a halt. Jiang was in front of his home, the door shattered.

  The farmer’s dog lunged at Brother Bohai and tore a large chunk of flesh out of the man’s leg, but Bohai did nothing more than stumble. Jiang had armed himself with an ancient-looking weapon, handling it with surprising ease. Yet every blow he landed was ineffectual.

  Bohai was as unfazed by the weapon as he was by the dog, and it was quite obvious the man was dead.

  Zhu arrived beside Lau and made a grunt of surprise as he stared at Bohai.

  “We have to drive the ghost out,” Lau said, forcing his voice to remain level and without revealing his fear.

  “There is no ghost possessing him!” Zhu snapped.

  Bohai glanced over at them, his eyes showing nothing but whites. A bloody grin spread across his face.

  “No, Little One, there is no him. This farmer here has slain the monk and sent him on,” the ghost said. “I alone remain. And once I am done with this peasant, I shall deal with you.”

  Zhu’s face paled and he shuddered as he said in disbelief, “Get out.”

  The ghost let out a deep, bitter laugh and replied, “No.”

  Jiang lunged at the dead man, but the blade was slapped away.

  “Get out!” Zhu shrieked.

  Lau re
ached out a hand, put it on Zhu’s shoulder, and said in a soft voice, “I will deal with this.”

  A sense of calm had settled onto Lau, and the sound of the dog and Zhu faded into the background. The ghost grabbed hold of Jiang’s weapon and wrenched it free. As the dead man swung the blade towards the farmer, Lau whispered, “Leave us.”

  Bohai stiffened. The weapon dropped to the ground with a thud, and then the dead monk did the same.

  A silence filled the farm, broken after only a moment by Jiang’s dog, who let out a whine, and hurried to stand beside the man. Lau glanced at Zhu and found his brother monk staring at him with surprise.

  “How?” Zhu asked.

  Lau shook his head. “I do not know, but I do know that we have to hurry back to the monastery.”

  “I fear it is too late for the monastery,” Jiang said, gesturing behind the men.

  Lau turned around, and a moan of despair arose from Zhu’s throat as they stared at their home.

  From where they stood, parts of the monastery were illuminated. Not by the light of the rising moon, but by fires that consumed some of the outlying buildings. The flames were tall and bright, the edges tinged with a light blue that reminded Lau of lightening.

  The wind shifted, carrying the smell of ash and flame as well as the faint sounds of laughter mingled with screams.

  Feng and his kind were butchering the monks.

  Lau turned toward the path that would return him to the road.

  “Where are you going?” Zhu whispered, his voice raw with fear.

  “I am going home,” Lau replied, pausing only for a moment. “Our brethren need us.”

  Jiang leaned over, picked up his weapon, and called his dog to him. Several steps carried him to Lau’s side.

  “Will you stay here, my friend?” Lau asked. There was no condemnation in his voice. No ridicule in the question.

 
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