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Monthly Short Story Winner: Joker Month

We had a lot great contest themes this year and I know that some people didn’t manage to finish their stories on time for some of the contests or didn’t take part for other reasons, so this month I decided to revisit the themes we already had.

Best of 2014

November (because of NaNoWriMo) is a special month for writers. To honor this, I’m going to do something special. 🙂

This month you can choose between any the themes we already did this year. So you started a story but didn’t finish it in time… Or you planned on write one but real life got in the way… Or you discovered this forum and the writing contests too late…

Now you have the chance, again!

Here’s a recap of what we did this year:

January 2014 – Betrayal

February 2014 – Fanfic

March 2014 – Grimdark

April 2014 – Write about Jake/Lynn

May 2014 – Portal Fantasy

June 2014 – Taboos

July 2014 – Apprenticeship

August 2014 – The Seven Deadly Sins

September 2014 – Cliché and Tropes

October 2014 – Abandoned Places

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. The story must follow the rules and briefing from one of the monthly writing contests of 2014.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
6. Your entry can’t be published somewhere else before.

November’s winning story was by Ancalagon and is called “The Mist in their Veins”. The theme he chose was Betryal from January 2014 and it has a Lovecraftian atmosphere.

Congrats, Ancalagon! 🙂

You can find all the other entries here. You can also get updates on our monthly contests on Twitter by following here. And now on with the story!

– – –

The Mist in their Veins
by Ancalagon

I am still unsure whether I should report the event of October 18th, 1899 in the Bloodworth crypt, for I have not been sure of my sanity since that night. Though I feel I should record the event else I will lose whatever sanity remains, if indeed I still hold some.

The event in the Bloodworth crypt would not have happened were I to have kept to the values important to my faith. Through my greed I had become friends with one Thomas Jones who brought me into a world of treasure hunting. We kept our ears open for talk of all sorts of items which, when sold on the right market would yield great pay.

By what I had thought to be chance, Thomas and I came into contact with a man named John Dallas. He was tall and slick, describing himself to us only as a ‘business man’ in the business of rare jewels. He said he yearned for one jewel in particular which he would pay heavily for our assistance retrieving it. The jewel was located in an underground crypt – the Bloodworth crypt I mentioned in the opening of this document.

I took a distrust to the man immediately, unsettled by his snake-like demeanor. I waited until I was alone with my friend before voicing my concerns and was met with a wave of laughter. Thomas told me he had seen none of the behaviors in John of which I had attributed to him and I was being overly cautious with whom I work with. He proposed that we bring the man along with us on a job prior to accepting his request in an effort to build trust.

So it came to be that on October 11th, one week prior to the events in the Bloodworth crypt, I found myself alongside Thomas Jones and John Dallas arriving to a party at the Davenport estate covertly undertaking out latest job. We had been hired by a man claiming to be the rightful recipient of an immensely valuable painting left to him in the will of his late mother but which had landed in the hands of his sister by manipulation of the executor. The job was to attend a party at his sister’s estate, where the painting would be displayed, and retrieve it for him. We attempted no background checks to confirm his heritage and though I think a part of me did not believe the man, the large reward at the end of it all gave me reason to overlook any doubts.

We took turns at the party to either mingle or scout the estate to gain intel for how best to approach the retrieval of the painting. We decided beforehand that attending the party would be no more than reconnaissance, though to my surprise it was announced midway through the party that the painting would be moved to a museum before the conclusion of the night. It then fell upon us to improvise a means of obtaining the painting before this move. We decided to make our move as everyone was called out to the balcony.

It seemed oddly suspicious to me that the painting was left unattended at this time and I urged my friend to consider some last minute recon before we took the painting, but my friend decided it was the perfect opportunity and he was hell-bent on seizing it. John and I waited outside the guest room on lookout while my friend went to retrieve the painting. He emerged from the room shortly after, carrying the painting within a bed sheet. It was then that the lady of the house came into the room with two guards by her side. It was John who made the quick decision to head for the wine cellar. After Thomas and I hurried into the cellar behind him, John quickly barricaded the door.

It was in that darkness, illuminated only by the moonlight filtering through the window, that I saw in John another face overlaid with his own. Flesh on his cheeks and forehead had rotted away in places, revealing teeth and skull. He took on a wraith-like appearance, but as I continued to look at him, his face returned to its human state and I resolved in my mind that it was simply a trick of the sparse light.

It was then that John found a tunnel leading to the outside. At the time, while on the adrenaline high after escaping with the painting, I didn’t think it suspicious for a tunnel to be so conveniently placed. It is only now, thinking back on the event with what I now know of John Dallas, that I find the events of that night rather too coincidental. While I still had my concerns about John, I admitted it was through his efforts at the estate that we had successfully retrieved the painting and collected a large sum for our troubles. I reluctantly agreed to go with my friend and John into the Bloodworth crypt.

A week later I descended into the dark crypt of the Bloodworth family. I carried with me a lantern and – unbeknown to the others – a hunting knife. As we walked through the crypt I was amazed at the immensity of the place and number of bodies stored inside. It seemed to me to be more like a catacomb than a family crypt and there were far too many bodies. I found it curious also that no names were displayed for the deceased.

At last we came to the deepest part of the crypt, the only part with sarcophagi displaying the names of deceased members of the Bloodworth clan. It was the final two sarcophagi at the end of the crypt which planted the first seedlings of madness in my mind. The names given on the sarcophagi revealed the deceased to be Thomas Jones Bloodworth and John Dallas Bloodworth, having died nearly two hundred years ago. I turned to face my companions and saw in both of them what I had seen in John in the wine cellar of the Davenport estate. Their wraith-like bodies were pale and weary in the dim light of my lantern and even though the muscles in their faces appeared to have rotted away long ago, I am still certain that I saw a grin spread across their faces.

It was while I was standing there frozen in horror at what my friend had become, or always was, that I felt it slide past my ankles. I didn’t see it at this time for my only thought was on running. I ran towards the two wraiths and gripped my knife, slashing at them as I approached. I managed to cut deep into their sides, which seemed to stun them enough for me to get passed them. To my horror they did not bleed, but I did not stay to marvel at such wonder.

I ran through the crypt, stumbling as I went. The once silent burial chamber was now filled with a loud hissing. I do not think I ran for long before I realized I was lost. I crawled into a small fissure in the wall and waited, trying to think of a plan for escape. I remember the wraiths calling for me and I detected a hint of panic.

“You must die so that we can live,” I heard them say.

It felt to me an eternity hiding in that fissure and I realized I could not hide there forever. I waited for one of the wraiths to pass by the fissure before lunging out with my knife and decapitating it. The blade cut through with astounding ease. Mist spilled out of the wraiths wounds and it was this mist that I am sure attracted the terrifying thing. The mist seemed to carry light with it and I could see the thing as it approached. It was a large snake of immense proportions dripping with a colourless slime and carrying large bat-like wings on its back. To my surprise it did not attack me, choosing instead to latch onto the wraith’s body and began sucking out vast amounts of mist from it. The wraith thrashed about before finally it was gone, disappeared.

I do not know what then happened to the snake or the other wraith, but from the distant cries in the crypt I can only assume the wraith suffered the same fate as its kin. I do not know how long I remained in that crypt until I finally emerged into daylight.

Upon writing this letter it is now almost a year passed, on October 9th, 1900 and I still hear the hissing of that hideous snake. It grows louder with each day, but that may just be madness slowly taking me. Though I have found since the night in that crypt that I no longer bleed, my wounds only emit a thin, cool mist.

– – –

Congratulations again to Ancalagon! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information. Happy writing!

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