The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Legend of Old Joe
by Alyson Faye
‘Mum can I climb up and play at being the engine driver?’ Ellie’s youngest squealed, scuffing at the black paint and rust tattoos with her sneakers.
Ellie, one eye on her phone and the other on the kids, sighed. ‘No, that rust will stain everything and won’t come out. Let’s go.’
As the family disappeared into the trees, the engine casing shivered, its metal skin rippling. Its ancient welded heart longed for love and steam, but it would accept skin and blood as sacrifices too.
Dusk crept over the woods and inside the engine house something stirred and awoke.
Voices drifted over to it – lights flickered amongst the trees, torches, the blazing orange of fag tips, and the glimmer of moonlight off flesh.
‘Whassa bout here?’
Rucksacks hit the ground, a lighter clicked and a fire flickered to life, bags of weed were opened and spliffs lit. The smell drifted in the languorous anticipatory darkness.
‘What’s that?’ A girl’s voice. High, but chilled.
‘Old Joe’s rusted out engine . . .’ a lad’s voice answered.
‘He wassa the last engine driver ever in this town, and he died – by his own hand . . .’ the voice swooped down a gear, into spooky storytelling mode.
The rust stains on the casing began to liquidise and run, dripping reddish streams down the metal torso of the casing.
The voice continued, ‘ . . . Old Joe was found inside his wheel room, with his wrists slit – just bleeding out . . . or so’s I heard from me Granny.’
There was a collective intake of breaths, the odd ‘whoop’ and ‘fuck, no way,’ before the group of six teens settled into silence.
‘His blood had leaked all over the wheel, and the floor. Total blood bath.’
Behind the group, a few feet away, trickles of dark liquid seeped down the metal flanks onto the grass and a shape took form in the shadows of the interior. More fluid was oozing from the cracks and holes of the casing, coating the husk with a slimy, viscous skin.
A thin whistling shriek erupted from the wheel house, as though a breath was being expired.
‘What the fuck?’ A girl’s voice.
‘Who or what?’
‘Over there – look . . .’
A light glowed, dull red, and a figure stumbled down the steps – faceless, amorphous, slipping onto the grass and then, as though it could smell the kids, and their weed, it recalibrated direction, snaking toward the camp-site.
The first kid to be touched by the shadowy tentacles, collapsed screaming, grabbing his face whilst the skin bubbled and burned. The next kid made it a few feet before he was lassoed around his ankles and crashed to the ground, knocking himself out cold. The shadowy figure gobbled up his exposed facial skin. The remaining four teens, scattered, screaming and howling into the greenery.
The remnants of Old Joe could smell their sweat and fear, but it knew the woods better than they did. It/he was older, more experienced, so much more determined.
It fed on the organs and body fluids of the first fallen pair then slid onwards, tasting the air and welcoming its tangy feral scent.
Fiction © Copyright Alyson Faye
Image courtesy of Rie Sheridan Rose
More from Alyson Faye:
The Lost Girl & Spindleshanks
The Lost Girl
A nailed-up door. An inheritance which comes with a ghost. A missing girl. A fifty-year-old mystery. Parapsychologist Berkley Osgood is hired to investigate. What he uncovers reveals secrets the living want to hide and the dead will never forgive.
Adam is having nightmares about a skeletal shadow figure, who he calls Spindleshanks. Soon his whole class are sharing the same nightmare. Adam’s dad, Rob, knows that Spindleshanks can’t be real. But is he? One terrible night Rob has to face his son’s nightmare creature and fight for his son’s life. What would you sacrifice to have your child back safe?
“A decent two-for-one. Alyson Faye brings the engaging and eerie in equal measure.” CC Adams – horror / dark fiction author