"Khatgakh"
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Posted by Logan the Lobotomizer on: 01:13 AM, 05/ 3/21
Nick stood outside of Shannahan's, smoking a cigarette. The cruel winter air stung his eyes and froze his face.

   Ring Ring.

   "What's up, sweety?" Nick asked.

   "Hey, babe, I'm sorry to bother you, but there's brown water pouring out of the sink, and there's a large wet spot in the ceiling that's dripping water,"

   "I'll call the landlord tomorrow,"

   "Okay, see you when you get home."

Click.

A wave of heat washed over Nick, thawing his nose and cheeks. He pushed past the crowd of drunken patrons staring at the football game on the TV. The combination of drunken chatter and boisterous cheering made it hard for Nick to hear himself think. The smell of sweat, beer, and liquor assaulted his nostrils. Nick ordered two beers, then took a seat at a table in the back.

Pictures of famous athletes hung on the dark brown walls, along with football helmets and a framed signed Tom Brady jersey. A fat man with short blonde hair wearing a Patriots jersey that hardly covered his gut sat next to a tall skinny man. The thin man's Super Bowl fifty-three cap almost covered his entire face. He picked at the nachos in front of him.

"Ya think Brady screwed the Pats by leaving?" The fat man asked.

The thin man popped a jalapeno in his mouth. "Probably not. Brady's washed up; the Bucs probably won't go very far in the playoffs."

The fat man shifted in his chair uncomfortably. "You know what's weird?"

The thin man wiped his mouth with a napkin. "What?"

"Those missing person posters hung up around town. Did you hear anything about that?"

"Something strange is going on. A friend of a friend had a job in Burningham and never came back,"

"No one looked for them?"

"The guys were here illegally. No one knows about them except for a handful of family members,"

A heavy hand landed on Nick's shoulder, breaking his focus on the conversation. Nick glanced up at Jack; he had a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. The lights reflected off his domed head; his double chin bulged like the throat of a bullfrog, a trickle of blood ran down the "X" shaped scar on his forehead.

"Ordered you a drink," Nick said.

Jack sat down and sipped his drink. "Thanks; how are things with your family?"

Nick took a napkin from the holder and handed it to Jack. "Your forehead's bleeding."

Jack wiped the blood away and crumpled the napkin. "Thanks."

"I'm trying to get Chante and Adrian out of the slum. I've been working my ass off, but it feels like no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to dig us out of the hole. I'm just worried we'll be in that apartment forever. I don't want my son to grow up as I did. I want to give him a better life,"

Jack killed the rest of his beer. "I have a job for you if you're interested,"

"What are you talking about?"

Jack leaned in so only Nick could hear him. "There's this place in the boonies, it's abandoned. A guy at the scrap yard told me about it today. The house belonged to an old rich married couple. No one's knocked the place over yet. Are you in?"

"I want to stay on the straight and narrow from here on out. I want to be there for Adrian. Growing up, my dad was in and out of jail, and I didn't have anyone there for me. I want Adrian to have it better than I did,"

"Your family can have it all and more with this score,"

"I just don't feel right about stealing people's stuff anymore,"

Jack placed his hand on Nick's shoulder and grinned. "Look, kid, this place is deserted; there's jewelry and other shit for us to steal. This place is in the sticks; no one will see us, so you don't have to worry about being sent back to prison. We could make a killing, and you and your family can move into a decent place. So, what do you say?"

"I can't let Chante down. If I get locked up again, it'd kill her,"

Jack sighed. "Kid, if you pass this up, you'll be passing up a big opportunity. This score could help lift you and your family out of the poor house, but I can't force you,"

   Jack's words bounced around Nick's mind. He thought back to earlier in the night at his apartment. He sat at the edge of his bed with Chante behind him wrapped up in a blanket, tufts of black hair poked out from the edges of her bonnet. She massaged his shoulders.

   "What's wrong, babe?" Chante asked.

   "This is no place to raise a family," Nick said.

   Chante wrapped her tiny arms around Nick. "I want to get out of here too, but it takes time. I don't want Adrian to struggle."

   "I don't either; I remember going days without food and having to sleep on a mattress with bed bugs,"

Chante kissed Nick on the cheek. "We'll figure it out, baby."

Jack's snapping fingers brought Nick back to reality. "Are you gonna answer me or not, kid? I don't have all night."

Nick stared into his mug as if the beer could decide for him. "I'm in,"

Jack patted Nick hard on the back. "Attaboy," Jack fished his keys out of his jacket pocket. "Wait for me in my van while I take care of the tab."

Nick watched from the van as Jack flirted a bit with the blonde-haired, blue-eyed bartender. She fake laughed at his stupid jokes. Jack's old enough to be that girl's father. Jack gave a wave and left the bar. A dark-haired server joined her at the bar. Nick couldn't hear what they were saying, but by how their lips moved, he could tell they were talking about Jack. The pair erupted into laughter as soon as he left. Jack opened the door, a gust of ice-cold wind hit Nick in the face like a sucker punch. He scooted into the driver's seat, and the engine roared to life as Jack turned the key.

A grin spread across his face. "I've got a date with a couple of ripe young things next week."

Ring Ring.

"Hello?"

"Hey, do you mind picking up the baby formula on your way home?"

"Yeah, no problem,"

"Thanks. I love you,"

"Love you too."

Click.

Jack made a whipping motion with his hand and a whipping sound with his mouth.

Nick shoved his phone back in his pocket. "Whatever, man, at least I'm getting laid, unlike you. How old were those girls you were hitting on, sixteen?"

"They're old enough,"

"They laughed at your geriatric ass as soon as you turned around,"

Jack pulled onto the road and started driving. "Watch your mouth, kid. I like you, but that doesn't mean I won't whoop your ass."

"In your dreams, old man,"

"I was kicking people's asses before you were born, kid."

Nick rolled his eyes. "So, this place is in Burningham? I overheard the guys at the table over talking about a work crew going missing there,"

Jack scoffed. "People love to make up bullshit."

Nick gazed at the pine trees as they sped down the road. He hadn't been this close to nature since a field trip to Yellow Brook Trail when he was in grade school. The van turned down the long icy driveway. The house was so tall it nearly touched the sky. Jack reached behind the seat and grabbed two duffle bags. He unzipped it and handed Nick a pistol and flashlight.

Nick considered the gun. "You said they abandoned this place,"

Jack tapped the scar on his forehead with the barrel of his pistol. "Experience dictates never go into a job unprepared. Trust me, there's nothing worse than being caught with your pants down and with your dick in your hand."

Nick tucked his gun away. "What tricks do you have in that bag?"

Jack reached into the bag and pulled out a crowbar and hammer. "Just tools. Let's get moving. I don't want to spend any more time out here than I have to."

They trudged through ankle-deep snow toward the front door. Jack tried the door, but it wouldn't budge. Nick stepped back, then kicked the door. He took a few more steps back, rushed at the door, and kicked it off its hinges. They strolled around the door into the kitchen.

Jack flicked on his flashlight. "Good job, kid."

Mouse droppings littered the yellow flower-patterned linoleum floor. A green substance coated the walls and porcelain countertop. Black mold covered most of the ceiling. The air tasted like dead leaves. A black leather-bound notebook with a symbol of a scorpion on the front caught Nick's interest. He opened it and began to read.

Entry 1
My husband has cancer. I knew something was wrong when Henry started skipping meals and losing weight out of nowhere. In the forty years of marriage, I've never seen that man miss a meal. Henry complained about his back and stomach hurting. After being a doctor for thirty years, I could easily spot the signs of cancer. I forced Henry to make an appointment after I found him writhing on the floor in agony.


"We didn't come here to read their diary, kid," Nick said as he pulled a box of cornflakes off the fridge.

"You're going to steal their cornflakes?" Nick asked.

Jack opened the box and pulled out four wads of money. "You do this for as long as I have, kid, and you learn all sorts of crap about people," Jack threw two wads into his bag and tossed the other two to Nick. "People think they're clever with their hiding spots. There's no hiding spot I haven't seen."

"I'll search upstairs,"

"I'm going to search the bathroom,"

"When you're finished, meet me in the living room."

Nick's flashlight illuminated the darkness. Blood covered the smashed tile floor. Nick squeaked open the medicine cabinet, revealing the floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and perfume bottles lined the shelves. Coming up with nothing, he shut the cupboard. Something black landed on Nick's foot. Nick shined the light on his shoe to see a small scorpion staring back at him with its pinchers raised. He kicked his foot, launching the creature into the hallway. He crouched down and opened the vanity. Empty plastic shopping bags, an old hairdryer, and a tampon box filled the cabinet. He grabbed the box and pulled out a wad of cash.

Entry 2
During breakfast this morning, wads of money fell into my cereal bowl. Henry laughed as I put the fake cereal box back on top of the fridge. That man thinks he's so clever with his hiding spots. I didn't have the heart to tell him that a cereal box is one of the most obvious hiding places. It felt good to see him smile; I can't remember the last time he smiled since he started chemo. To cheer him up, I took him to the antique shop we frequented before he got sick. While Henry browsed, I spotted an odd statue. The statue had a scorpion's body, batwings, snake's head, rubies for eyes, and an emerald in the center of its forehead. The thing was dreadful, but there was Something about the bizarre work of art that intrigued me.
I asked the owner about it, and he said that the statue was a depiction created by a follower of the Cult of  Khatgakh. As odd as it sounds, the idol's beauty captivated me. To Henry's dismay, I bought the sculpture.

"Are you done in there?" Jacked called.

"Yeah."

Nick returned to the living room to find Jack tearing up a black leather sofa. He sunk his hands into the gashes and pulled out clumps of yellow foam. "Find anything in the bathroom?"

Nick gazed at the pictures of an elderly couple on the wall. "I found more cash also, and I found a scorpion in the bathroom,"

Jack stretched and cracked his back. "I found it in the bedroom and found a shit ton of jewelry too. Don't worry; you'll get your cut. See what you can find in here."

Entry 3
I had the most peculiar dream last night. I woke up in a dark abyss, cold, naked, and afraid. Two red orbs hovered in the sky next to each other. Above the orbs was a green glowing rhombus shape. The smell of rot and decay assailed my senses. Hissing and clicking filled the air. As my eyes adjusted, I realized the bizarre shapes belonged to Something my fragile mind could hardly comprehend. It promised that if I worship him and offered sacrifice, he'd heal Henry's cancer.


Entry 4
The following day I woke up to the smell of bacon and eggs. I followed the scent to the kitchen, where there was a plate of food waiting for me. Immediately, I caught Henry eating a mouse. Even more disturbing was his appearance. His skin had turned a blackish-green color and had a rough exterior like a body of a scorpion.


Entry 5
Last night a man tried to break into my house. He pounded on the door, demanding to come in, and there had been a terrible car crash outside. Stupidly, I cracked the door open; the man forced his way in and shoved a gun in my face. As he demanded money, I noticed Henry crept up on him and impaled him with a large stinger that burst from his back. Henry dragged the dead man away without saying a word.


Jack pointed to a lever attached to the bookcase. "What do you think that does?"

Nick pulled the lever, but it didn't budge. "Shit, I'm going to need a hand with this."

Jack chuckled. "Oh, come on, put a little elbow grease into it,"

"Just come over here and help me!" Nick barked.

Jack strolled over. "Never send a boy to do a man's job."

Jack grabbed the lever, and they pulled it. The sound of gears clicking and shifting rang in their ears. Nick pushed the shelf aside, revealing the spiral staircase behind it.

  Jack cracked his neck and stretched his arms. "Alright, let's check this out."

"I'm not going down there," Nick said.

"Why?"

"Man, I think it's time to get out of here,"

"You know what I see?"

"What?"

"Opportunity,"

"Opportunity? I see a trap."

"Think of what else could be down there. I won't force you to go; you can leave,"

Jack grabbed his duffle bag and wandered into the darkness. "See ya on the flip side."

Entry 6
Henry told me he needs to eat. Rodents aren't cutting it anymore; It's hard to look Henry in the eye. I hate how he looks at me, and I feel like he sees me as a piece of meat rather than his wife. Deep in my heart, I know I should leave, but where will I go? Henry's the only family I have, and I have faith the man I married is still in there somewhere. Forever or worse, right?


Nick ran his fingers through his hair, then followed Jack into the darkness. The bottom of the staircase was a small chapel. Torches fastened to the stone walls brightened the room. Mutilated men laid against either side of the border, some of them impaled through their midsections as rats fed on their organs, small scorpions crawled in and out of the gaping holes where the men's eyes used to be, and the rest had their arms or legs torn off—a dying man laid on an altar.

Entry 7
I deserve to die for what I've done. I hired a crew to build an extra room. Once the crew finished, I locked the men down there so Henry could feed. I'll never get their screams out of my head. I can't do this anymore; I have to leave Henry for my sanity.


Nick stared at the corpse in horror. "Jesus…"

"Jesus doesn't exist here," Jack said.

"We need to get out of here now,"

Jack pointed at the statue. "Opportunity."

Nick pointed at the pile of bodies. "Death."

Jack removed the hammer crowbar from his bag. "Those gems are worth money. If you don't want to help me, that's fine, more cash for me."

"See if that guy has any cash on him. I'll get to work on the gems," Jack said.

Greenish-yellow ooze dripped from a hole in the man's chest. Nick pulled the dead man's wallet from his pocket. He flipped it open and pocketed a one-hundred-dollar bill. An icy hand clasped around Nick's wrist. The man was still alive; hampered breaths left his mouth.

"Kill me..." He croaked.

The rubies fell from the statue's eyes. "Come to poppa," Jack forced the crowbar into a crevice that surrounded the emerald. "Now, it's your turn, my shiny little friend."

 The smell of death and rot got stronger.
Nick tore away from the dying man's grasp and pulled his gun out. "Hurry. I don't want to be here more than I have to."

A heavy thump resounded from behind the two men. Nick looked over his shoulder to see the horror. Its flesh black plated armor, a large stinger protruded from her back, its mandibles clicked and clacked as drool dripped from its mouth onto the cobblestone floor, two red eyes were on her forehead, and two sets of five blue eyes were on either side of her cheeks, the stinger that protruded from the beast's back squirted green ooze, its pinchers snapped open.

Nick pointed his gun at the monster. "Jack, we have a situation."

Jack pried the emerald from the statue and tucked it away. "Hold on,"
He turned around to see the terror that stood before them. Without a second of hesitation, he brandished his pistol and opened fire.
Arches of blue blood sprayed from its body as bullets punched holes through its abdomen. They fired until their guns clicked. Cautiously, Jack approached the corpse. He balefully kicked the body. "She's de-"

The stinger sprang to life and speared Jack through the stomach. He gripped the slimy appendage as he dropped to his knees. Jack pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. Tears cascaded down his face. He opened his mouth to let out a sob, but blood erupted from his mouth, followed by gurgles. He pathetically aimed the gun at the abomination. In one swift motion, the atrocity tore Jack's hand off with its pinchers. Jack's eyes widened as crimson spouted from his stump.

Nick slung Jack's duffle bag over his shoulder then picked up the crowbar. He rushed the freak from behind and smashed it over the head. It let out an ear-shattering wail and dropped to its knees. Nick raised the bar, ready to deliver the killing blow, then the stinger came to life and buried itself in Nick's knee. Shockwaves of pain traveled up and down his knee. The appendage violently ripped itself from Nick's leg; he clasped his hands around the wound as blood gushed down the limb.

The stinger rocketed for Nick's chest; he rolled out of the way and grabbed the crowbar with his bloody hand, and swung it at the abominations knee. A sickening crack along with a hideous shriek from the monstrosity bounced off the walls of the chapel. It collapsed to the ground with a heavy thud; Nick forced himself to his feet, raised the bar over his head, and brought it down over and over until the creature's chunky, blue viscera covered him. He hobbled over to Jack's corpse, ripped a section of his shirt off, and tied it around his knee. Nick limped to the van with both duffle bags in hand. As he drove away from the house of horrors, he felt himself getting sleepy. He veered off the road and crashed into a tree.

Nick woke up, not sure how long he had been out. He slowly sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. His back was stiff and ached severely. It took him a moment to realize where he was. Blue walls surrounded him, and pictures of him and Chante hung on the walls. Nick hadn't dreamt of that awful night in years; the medicine wasn't helping with the nightmares. He was an old man with a potbelly and gray hair. Nick peeled himself off the bed and limped into the kitchen. A plate of chocolate chip pancakes and a cup of black coffee waited for him at his spot at the table. Jay, his grandson, sat at the table with his head buried in an entomology book. He was the spitting image of his father: tall, lanky, black curly hair. Chante stood at the stove frying bacon.

"Do you want any more bacon, Jay?" Chante asked.

Jay glanced up from his book. "No, thank you."

Nick sipped his coffee. "What book are you reading?"

"It's a book dad brought home from work. I'm reading about scorpions. Did you know scorpions can control how much venom they release when they sting their prey?"

"No, I didn't," Nick said.

Chante turned the stove burner off and joined her family at the table. "Are you excited to start high school, Jay?"
"Not really,"

"You'd rather stay home and read about bugs all day, don't you?" Nick chuckled. "If you ask me, all bugs should die. I didn't like school either, but school is important. Get yourself a good education, and you'll be just like your old man."

Nick felt Something crawl up his leg. He glanced down to see a scorpion staring up at him. His heart pounded, and he sprang from his chair, knocking it down in the process. Nick swiped the arachnid onto the floor and raised his foot to stomp the creature. Flashbacks of the dead bodies, Jack dying, and the grotesque monster flashed through his head like lightning.

"Stop!" Jay rushed over and scooped the scorpion up off the ground.

Nick stabbed his finger in Jay's chest. "What is that thing doing here?!"

"Nick, stop!" Chante interjected.

Jay backed away. "I thought I locked his cage. I don't know how Aiden got out; I'm sorry!"

Nick picked his chair off the ground and plopped down as beads of sweat poured down his wrinkled face. "If you're going to bring your pets here, you need to make sure they can't get out."

           "Okay," Jay said as he walked off.

"It's too bad that the boy doesn't want to be an exterminator," Nick said.






























Posted by Logan the Lobotomizer on: 01:57 PM, 06/12/21
If you wanna read my other work follow me here:https://www.reddit.com/r/TheLagoon/





 

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