Shadows Over Beacon Preview – A Little Birthday Gift
So today is my birthday, and while that usually means gifts for me, I wanted to give you loyal readers a gift of your own. Being born in October I feel a certain draw to Horror and Halloween, I love the things that go bump in the night, the shadows you can’t be sure are there. Several months ago when I wrote my Lovecraft piece I mentioned my novel, a novel I teased that you might see someday. While this is still an early draft I figured that it would be nice to show you guys some of my fictional work and hopefully you’ll be excited for the full release. So here’s the first chapter preview of Shadows Over Beacon.
Shadows Over Beacon (Working title)
By Mason Caughron
Have you ever stared at the stars wondering if there was more out there? I thought it was all bullshit, I thought it was ridiculous. Karma is one hell of a bitch. I know we aren’t alone in this universe and more than anything I wish we were. I’ve seen horrors that are a mere taste of what is to come. It rises from the deep, ready to reclaim the universe that was once under its heel…
One week earlier
Thomas, Patient Number 34-27B, came in to the office, looking nervous, which was to be expected. His eyes darted to all the corners in the room, looking for anything that his mind had thought was hiding there in its shadowy corners. I sat across from the psychiatrist, pen and paper in hand, waiting for Thomas to speak. The psychiatrist, Dr. Kessler, was quiet, he had a slim build with lank arms and legs as well as what seemed like a lifetime of weariness behind his wire-frame glasses. Kessler rested his head in his thin hands, waiting for Thomas to sit down as well. After taking one final look around the room Thomas eased into the padded chair in the center of the room. Kessler was the first to speak, his voice gravelly from his years on Earth. “Now Thomas the orderlies are saying that you’ve had…complications this week, you’ve been having outbursts and panic attacks. I thought we’d made progress, would you like to tell me what is wrong?” Thomas was becoming more nervous by the second, no doubt he saw me, and a new face during his therapy hour was bound to have thrown him off. He began stammering, searching for his words. “I-I’ve h-h-had…nightmares all t-this we-week.” Kessler raised a thin eyebrow. “Nightmares? Do you remember what these nightmares are about?” Thomas swallowed hard and took a breath. He stopped stammering and screwed his eyes shut, trying to picture the horrible things he’d witnessed in the dreams. “I was cold, so cold, like I was freezing. I tried to breathe but water just flooded into my lungs. Then came the voices.” “Voices”, Kessler asked, “what kind of voices?” “Whispers in the back of my mind, things in a language I didn’t understand. Each sentence made me feel odd, I felt this terrible sense of dread and yet I was very much at peace. Everything around me began shaking and a loud roar sounded through the water. Glowing eyes appeared in front of me, but there weren’t just two, there were six. Then a hand grabbed me, the hand was slimy and rotten, muscle and tendons exposed. The thing in front of me began to speak. ‘The time encroaches mortal; my reign shall begin anew. Rise, join your brothers who welcome my arrival, for the age of Man now fades.’ I thrashed about and woke up screaming. I’ve had this dream every night this week.” Kessler was taken aback, probably surprised by his level of detail. “Thank you, Thomas, we’ll up the dosage of your anti-psychotics this evening, hopefully that will help.” Thomas made a weak smile. “Thank you, doc, that should help.”
The session continued for a while longer. When it ended I sat with Kessler, my notepad filled with hastily scribbled notes. “So, what do you think”, Kessler asked, concern in his voice. “Well that by itself sounds like a recurring nightmare. But from the notes you’ve given me this is the fifth case you’ve had with these kinds of nightmares. What surprised me was Thomas’ level of detail, he very clearly remembers it.” Kessler nodded in agreement. “Yes, that threw me off as well, his level of detail is extraordinary.” “There’s always the possibility that they are lying doc”, I added. He pondered that for a moment. “That is true but here’s where I’m stumped. None of these patients are in the same ward or schedule zones. They have no way to collaborate these dreams, we would know.” I got up from my chair, pulling a cigarette out of my pocket. “Want one”, I asked Kessler. He shook his head. “No, been clean for twenty years, no reason to start again.” I lit the cigarette with a small match from the matchbook I keep on me. The warm flood of tobacco and nicotine filled my lungs. I breathed out gently, enjoying the taste. “Well about this case Doctor, I’ll take it. My rate ain’t cheap though. But this is something I want to see to the end; this scheme is by far the best I’ve investigated in a while.” Kessler sighed. “We’ll pay what we can. But thank you, the staff have been on edge since the second patient came in and I want to assure them that everything is ok. You were the first person I could think of, you did debunk the New Orleans possession scare a few years back.” I chuckled, “That’s the only one to make national headlines. I’ve done seventy-eight cases and all of them I’ve debunked. To be frank, ghosts, angels, demons, aliens, all that shit, is just that, shit. People are the real monsters, preying on the superstitions of others for another five bucks in their fucking wallet.” Kessler nodded, he knew how bad people could be, hell he worked in a fucking funny farm. “But do you really think these patients are trying to get money? Where would they be getting the cash?” “Honestly, I think they are trying to get more drugs off you, I don’t know about Thomas but the others could be trying to up their dosage because they are addicted to whatever you have them on.” It certainly was a possible answer, who knew how many of these patients were addicted to their medications? “Well that remains to be seen but I have full confidence that you’ll figure it out”, Kessler said, thinking on my theory. “I better start checking things out if I want to get a head start on this case, I will talk with you later Dr. Kessler.” He gave a small wave goodbye, opening his medical journal to log this latest session. I walked out of the office into the main hall, closing the wooden door behind me. I was halfway down my cig and took one last long drag before I flicked it into the trash. I slid my hands into my pockets and began to walk to the recreational room that was further in the facility. I was confident that this was going to be another cut and dry case, one that would be done quickly. Boy, was I wrong…
Before I go any further I need to explain a few things. Let’s start with my name, Gabriel McCullen, a paranormal skeptic and investigator. I was obsessed with ghosts as a kid, I thought that every abandoned house I came across was haunted, and I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a ghost hunter. It didn’t help that I had watched Ghostbusters about ten thousand times, I thought that it would be the coolest job in the world. That was my thought process until I was about thirteen, when I experienced my first paranormal hoax. There were rumors going around that a traveling psychic had come into town, many of the students at my school thought it would be cool to have her contact their deceased loved ones so they could talk with them again. I was incredibly excited by this, I lost my mother when I was six and I wanted a chance to talk to her again. I found out that the psychic was staying at a hotel near my house and was holding séances in the ballroom. She had told her clients, my classmates, that there was a ‘student’ discount and she would only charge twenty dollars for a séance. I gathered some money I had earned doing odd jobs and rushed to the hotel. I got there and asked her to contact my mother. As the séance began I felt knots of worry in my stomach, what would I say to my mother? What followed were the most devastating moments of my life, the psychic ‘called’ to my mother, asking her to speak with me through her. She said my mother was present and I could ask my questions. I began asking her about how she was, how heaven was (being a pastor’s son I was strong in my faith), telling her that I missed her and how dad was doing. I felt hot tears rolling down my face as I asked these questions, but these tears didn’t last. I noticed that the answers given and things the psychic said didn’t sound like my mother, dates were mixed around, she didn’t know how old I was, she couldn’t even remember my name half the time. A lump formed in my throat, my mom wasn’t here, she never was to begin with. I left the séance with a sinking heart, feeling numb. Then the rage set in, I wasn’t going to let her get away with this.
Later that evening she closed shop for the day and went back to her room, I snuck into the hotel and followed her to her room, my pocket recorder, a gift from my mother, in hand. I made sure her door didn’t shut all the way and started the recorder, hoping to hear something that would expose her. She sat in her room, drinking a glass of wine flipping the channels on the television. After a few minutes, she grew bored of that and picked up the phone next to her bedside. She punched in a few numbers and waited. Her face lit up as someone must have picked up on the other end of the line. “Terry I’m glad I was able to get you, I’ve missed you!” She paused listening to whoever this Terry was. “Yeah, I’m still pulling the psychic gig, going to smaller towns, seems to be where I get the most customers.” Another pause. Come on, say something already, I thought. “I don’t know the name of this backwoods pile of shit I’m in but I can tell you these kids are suckers, they’ll buy anything. Get this, some kid came in today asking for his mom, the little fucker was crying while he was asking questions. The bastard had some tricky questions but I think I managed-” That was all I needed to hear. I stopped my recorder and snuck out as quietly as I could. The next day I sent the tape anonymously to the local news and by six that evening the parents and students had run her out of town. That made me feel happy, happy that I helped people and stopped a con artist. After that day, I studied investigative techniques and later opened a paranormal investigation service to help those in need. I’ve been doing it for eleven years and I figured that I should wind down soon. This asylum case was going to be my second to last case. But that’s enough about me, what matters is this case.
I made it to the recreation room, a room full of noise and people. It wasn’t particularly loud, mostly low murmurs, the sound of cards shuffling and the clack-clack-clack of checkers on a board. The hum died as I entered the room, they knew I didn’t belong here. It didn’t help that I wasn’t dressed like any of them. Of the 30 people in the rec room I was the only one wearing street clothes. The patients wore a clinical white outfit, what it lacked in style it made up in comfortability from the looks of it. Then there were two nurses, in medical attire, at opposite sides of the room. I wore a brown canvas long coat, black slacks, a creamed colored button-up shirt, and leather shoes, no doubt I looked as cliché as it sounds. All eyes were still on me as I cleared my throat. “Can I speak with Michael Atikus? My name is Gabriel, I’m an investigator. There’s something I want to discuss with you.” Everyone turned to look at a man hunched over playing cards, moving them erratically. Well that wasn’t hard, I thought. Even in a house of the insane he stood out. I quietly walked over to him and sat down in a chair opposite him. I tapped the table with two of my fingers, trying to get Michael’s attention. He looked up from his cards. “The time of reckoning…the pieces…they need to be brought together…unholy union of heaven and hell…” I was taken aback by his gibberish but regained my composure. He’s really trying to sell this bullshit, I thought. “Michael, I’m an investigator, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on here. I heard you’re having strange dreams, why don’t we talk about those?” He shot me a cold look, “Fuck off, I know who you are Mr. McCullen, he warned me about you, he told me that you didn’t believe.” Now this was interesting. “How do you know who I am? And who is this he you are talking about?” Michael only looked angrier that I was asking him questions. “You are here thinking you can expose what’s happening as a hoax, but my master is no hoax. He is my master, one with a name long-forgotten to man.” How could he know what exactly I was here to do? I mean Kessler had seen my New Orleans debunk on the news so it was entirely possible that Atikus might have seen it too. But this master thing, probably part of the scam. “What is your master exactly? Where is he?” He chuckled, which built into a roaring, insane laughter. It was near deafening in the silence of the rec room. His eyes were wild and his teeth unnaturally bright. His laughter faded but the demonic smile remained plastered on his face. “He is older than you or me, much older. You cannot begin to comprehend what he is. He sleeps beneath the waves, waiting patiently for us to finish his summons and let him rise once more.” Alright enough of this crap, I thought. “Listen, I’m not here to play fucking myths and monsters, I’m here to show your bullshit for what it is. I want clear answers starting now!” He grew stern once again. “I have nothing more to say to you Mr. McCullen, your eyes are shut, blind to things bigger than yourself.” He returned to his cards, silent. I’m getting nowhere with him, the others will probably be the same, I thought. My best bet is to do some digging. I got up and walked out of the rec room, hoping that something would be there for me in records.
Several hours later
I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room with stacks of files scattered all over. Man, this part is always boring. I started with the most promising lead I had, Thomas. I opened the manila folder and scanned the contents within. Thomas admitted himself to the facility apparently, diagnosis: extreme anxiety and stress. No surprise, in this day and age it’s hard not to be stressed. He was an office grunt, paperwork and a cubicle. One day he had a mental breakdown, he was shouting, acting hysterical, and even threw things at his fellow employees. The next day he admitted himself. That was six months ago, his condition had actually been improving. His blood pressure was down, he was in stress therapy, and he was on a light dosage of anti-psychotics. All signs pointed to a full recovery. Something had to have triggered these nightmares, but what could have pushed him away from him steadying condition? Maybe something in Atikus’ file could give me a hint. I opened his file and saw all sorts of stamps and markings in red ink. Atikus was a real piece of work. He was admitted to the facility six years ago, by court order. This sick fucker was claiming to be some sort of prophet who developed a small following and he was found performing sacrifices to appease his God. Fortunately, he was only killing goats and cats, but his notebook detailed his plan to sacrifice his ‘wives’ newborns. He was determined to be mentally unfit by both his legal representative and the DA’s shrink. His records indicate an attitude shift in the last six months. He opened up more to the psychologists and began to improve little by little, but his records also indicated he had a major religious shift as well. He denounced Christ and God himself, saying that there was no God only Him. What Him was no one knew, the doctors believed that he had some sort of delusion, making up some sort of deity to provide him comfort. Around this time the nightmares started, but surprisingly Atikus wasn’t the first one to have the nightmares.
The first person to have nightmares was another patient by the name of George Claytoc. Now we are finally getting somewhere, I thought. I opened George’s file and he takes the cake. George has been in this facility most of his life, he was diagnosed with major Schizophrenia at nineteen, and has been in this facility for around ten years. At first the nightmares were just seen as just manifestations of his illness, after all he had nightmares before. It wasn’t until he started screaming in the middle night and slamming his head against a wall that they realized something was wrong. He was put in isolated confinement, padded room and all. From the looks of things, he was still in there. Maybe I can get some information out of him, I thought. I’ll call in the morning and schedule a meeting. Scanning the rest of the patient files I confirmed that there was no way for these patients to have interacted with each other. George was in isolation, Thomas was in general population, and Atikus was under special supervisions. Of the remaining three patients, Luke Hauser, Brian McDonald, and Graham Lovenweld, they were also in general but in different schedule slots. I figured that was all I was going to get from the patient files, I needed to talk with them.
I slid the papers back into their envelopes and flipped on the TV. Maybe there’s a movie on, I thought, this place has free HBO after all. After fifteen minutes of channel surfing I put on some stupid action movie, just some noise to zone out to. I was wracking my brains, trying to figure out what exactly this case was. What kind of scam could they pulling? Is this for money, drugs, both or something else altogether? There didn’t seem to be an endgame here, at least not one that made sense. Maybe this could be Atikus banking on the fears of the other patients, he could be building up his cult again. But even if that were the case, where does George fit in, he was the first one to have nightmares. My mind chewed over everything, soon I grew tired. I looked at the clock, it read 1:30 in the morning. God, I need rest. I laid down and shut my eyes, slowly falling asleep…
Suddenly everything felt warm. Then a steady drip, almost rhythmic; plink, plink, plink. The air was humid, thick, and metallic. My eyes slowly opened, only to find myself in hell. The room was dimly lit, candlelight flickered softly in the corners of the room. The walls were concrete, scratches cut deep into them, with dark stains that I could only imagine was blood. It seemed I was alone in the room. I stood up and studied my surroundings more. The floor had strange symbols marked in blood. In the corners of the room there looked to be small objects of different sizes and shapes. I approached the shapes and almost threw up as I saw what those shapes were. Body parts, legs, arms, organs, everything were all over the floor. In the middle of it all, a severed child’s head sat in a look of perpetual horror, blood streaming for her eyes. That look, that was enough to make my stomach lurch. I threw up, bile mixing with the blood on the floor. As I heaved a low banging noise began to pulse; slow, steady, hypnotizing. Then voices, almost like a choir, began to sing, their voices high and shrill, screaming in an unknown language. The room shook as the chanting grew to a fever pitch, the sound so loud it began to hurt my ears. I couldn’t move, my body was stiff, I felt as heavy as a stone. The floor cracked and the stones fell away. Under the floor was billions of stars, the entire universe below me, swirling slowly. It looked almost beautiful, until my eyes caught something. In the center was a dark mass of green and black, with countless eyes, mouths, and tentacles. My heart froze, my breath got tight. The thing began to reach for me, the tentacles looking real but not at the same time. I began to scream as they reached me…
I threw myself out of bed, my body covered in cold sweat. Panting, I looked around the room, everything seemed normal, the movie had ended, a generic rock song playing during the credits. My stomach was twisting from the nightmare and I ran to the toilet. I dry heaved several times, my body trembling. “Fucking hell, what was that?” Finally, I threw up, the bile burning my throat. My body locked and my muscles convulsed. After a minute or so I finally relaxed. I collapsed on the floor, light-headed and feverish. I felt like absolute shit. The cold tiles of the bathroom floor cooled my body as I lay there. My vision was blurry, no doubt I was tearing up slightly. I couldn’t get up, nor did I want to. I curled up and passed out.
The annoying trill of the alarm I set woke me. I pushed myself off the floor, slowly as every movement felt stiff. My head felt like it was hit with a freight train. I looked in the bathroom mirror to see how fucked up I looked. I was sickly pale, my eyes red, and my eyelids dark and sallow. Jesus, I thought. I walked over to the shower in the corner of the room and turned the water to hot. This is nothing a shower can’t fix, I thought to myself. The hot water felt nice, loosening my stiff shoulders. After I finished showering I checked myself again in the mirror. I still look pretty messed up, hopefully no one notices. I grabbed all that I would need for the day and headed out. On the way to the asylum I stopped by the local drug store and grabbed a bottle of painkillers. Downing to two to help with my migraine, I headed for the asylum. Today was going to be a long day.
So what did you think? Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed my gift to you all. If you have any suggestions, critiques, or questions feel free to comment below!