Minimalist but sophisticated design with supreme attention to detail and placement. Color palette is open, but please keep in mind this is a horror short.
Here's another excerpt from a further chapter:
As he turned and started down the stairs, I noticed his hands.
Torn and blistered, caked with grimy dirt. One of his nails looked as though it was falling off, hanging by a thread of skin. I thought about saying something, like “Hey man, did you notice your hands?” but instead kept my head down and walked slowly. His knuckles and forearms looked as though he'd been clawing at the ground, and as we descended and I took in my unfamiliar surroundings, I realized that was exactly what he’d been doing.
Clawing and digging, to be precise. No machines or appliances were being repaired here.
The basement is large. About thirty feet wide by twenty feet long, and the floor is all dirt. There are shelves on each side, and metal workbenches in the back that Gary keeps all of his tools and stuff on, and a small door in the very back of the room which leads to a storage room that has (according to Gary) a "bunch of old junk" in it. Windows near the top of the ceiling on opposite sides of the room, although small, let light into the basement in grey rays through the dust. A few of them had cardboard taped up against their frames, covering the glass and keeping the light out.
In the middle of the basement was a hole about ten feet around. There was a shovel, pickaxe, and a couple of iron bars around the perimeter of the blast-zone, and dirt was piled up in miniature hills all around the exterior.
Gary pointed to the epicenter of his handiwork, and my eyes followed toward the strange object within. A small pyramid shape, maybe one foot on each side and rising to a point from the ground, was jutting from the hole which he had dug. It looked to be made of a blackish metal, glossy like onyx, and the way the dirt rose in waves around the bottom gave the impression that it went further down into the ground.
The strangest part, though, were the dark-red scratches, barely visible, etched into each side of the thing in swirling patterns, spiraling up to the top and continuing down into the dirt which had a rust-colored tint to it. They weren't hieroglyphs or anything like that; at least, I think they weren't. I remember watching a show on the History Channel about this guy who found some alien spaceship that crashed into the country side, and he broke off a piece of it before the cops could show up and tell him it was a weather balloon. These “runes” looked kinda similar – weird dots and slashes, circles and chevrons.
We stood for about two minutes in dead silence before Gary, as though he were breaking from a trance, turned around and looked at me, his eyes narrowing.
He told me that, one night when mom and him were fighting a few days ago, he'd come down here to "cool off" for a minute. He was sitting on the ground with a beer in his hand, and had just crushed the can under his foot when all of a sudden he felt an extreme pain in his head, like a giant, piercing needle going through both ears. He blacked out, and the next thing he remembers is waking up with his head on the ground, staring perpendicularly at the steel workbenches in the back of the basement. Paralyzed, his muscles refused to budge and he couldn't stand up.
He says that he heard something, a whisper or maybe a loud hum with changing tones, as he lay on the dirty floor, and that the sound continued on for a while until he blacked out again.
When he finally did come to, he was pulsing with a strange energy, a fanatical compulsion. That's when, he says, the digging began. That night. He wasn't sure why he started, only that he needed to "relieve some stress" and that exercise was a good way to do it… he felt better after going at it for a couple hours.
Well, today when I stared at that hole and the thing down inside it, I felt pretty strange, too. I guess I could say that I wanted to help Gary dig it out; really find out what the thing is. At the same time, though, I gotta be honest; I was scared at the prospect of ripping my fingernails off in the process.
I walked around the perimeter of the hole, looking at the object from each side and trying to think of what it might be. I still have no idea. Gary picked up a shovel and handed it to me as I walked by him, but I handed it back and said that I had homework to do. He smiled and took it, and immediately went back to work, plunging the thing into the dirt.
I backed off, turned, and ran up the steps towards the kitchen. When I was down by the pit I felt strange… angry, combined with a sense of urgency. Like I needed to get things done. Which is all good, I guess, because I've got a crap load of math homework.
Clang, clang, clang.
In the dream, I was walking across a forest floor but it was not the same as the one near our house. This forest was much lighter, with ferns coming up to my waist and brushing against my hips, softly, as I made my way through them. Light came through a heavy upward canopy and danced off of the watery fern fronds, and leaves, and before long I was entirely soaked. The trees here were massive redwoods, with trunks larger than a school bus, and they towered over me like protective guardians from the harsh wind that seemed to jostle their upper limbs.
There was no path to follow, just endless golden green ferns as far as the eye could see. Then, suddenly, there was a beam of light in front of me. A pillar of white nothingness that bounded from the floor of the forest all the way up to the sky beyond the canopy, cutting through the tops of the trees and out into the atmosphere beyond. I could feel… almost an electricity about the light, like a pulsing conduit of some highly charged air. I was afraid to touch it, or to take another step towards it, so I turned around.
That’s when I saw it.
Though barely perceptible, I could make out the dark outlines of a torso and shoulder jutting out from behind one of the massive trees, standing deadly still. It was giant, much taller than me and just by judging from the size of the shoulder I assumed it be about half the width of the great tree. It was covered in a black coat of sparse bristles. Not a bear, I thought, but rather some kind of beast with a non-beast intellect. After all, what sort of bear stands perfectly still like that? None that I've ever seen.
A massive black hand curled around the tree’s trunk. I could make out six fingers, each of them grasping at the bark and digging in, deep. Slowly, the monster stepped to the side and out from behind the sheltering redwood. The head emerged and I remember myself gasping in the dream at the thought of something so wickedly nasty, even from my distance I could make out the pits where its eyes once were, and the worms that crawled in-and-out of its dark, leathery skin. Faster than a lumbering monster of that size should be able to move, it lurched and launched itself towards me in a lightning flash. Only then did I notice that it was not alone. Dozens of the things sprang from nowhere and began to rush in my direction. I recall turning – too slowly, I thought – towards the light and stepping into it, and then… I was gripping my pillow, my knuckles turning white in the moonlight that filtered in through the window.
Outside, one of the branches of our maple tree was swaying lightly back and forth in the wind and casting moon-lit shadows on my bed. For a moment, I thought one of those shadows resembled the monstrous black hand, digging its claws into the bed and then releasing in the blink of an eye.