Lying on a cot in his nameless village in the rolling hills of the Guangxi province, Kwan moaned in agony. He was sick, far sicker than he’d ever been.
The night before, he’d been walking the perimeter of his village, lantern held high so that he could see through the smothering darkness. They’d just had a birth in their community of seventy—now seventy-one—souls, and there were creatures that stalked the night hungering for young, unspoiled flesh.
Kwan had turned a corner and was heading back into the center of the village when he saw it sliding out of the village well.
It was vaguely humanoid in that it had two legs and stood upright, though the legs were malformed. Thicker than normal legs with corded muscle, the pallid things ended in a total of three toes, one long toe on the right leg and two stubby ones on the left. Its skin was a pulsating pink that seemed swollen with fluid, straining against its hide as if it were about to burst. It had eight tentacles instead of arms, three sprouting from one side, five from the other, each ending in a four-fingered hand. Veins throbbed visibly as the creature clambered out of the well, leaving behind a trail of viscous fluid that shined a brilliant fuchsia and brown.
Most horrifying of all was its face. The head had twisted until it was completely upside down, flesh bubbling up to replace the neck and lower jaw. An open maw dominated the upper torso; it didn’t seem to be able to close. Saliva dribbled from the lipless mouth in great rivulets over the face; the eyes looked about wildly before they’d focused on Kwan. On its hunched back it had two multi-jointed arms that ended on pitted orbs, one of which turned as if regarding Kwan. Kwan had pulled the Soviet pistol from his belt and raised it as quickly as he could.
“Demon!” he’d shouted, alerting the village of the creature in their midst.
His yell had appeared to startle the demon. The pitted orbs had convulsed at the end of the limbs, spewing into the air clouds of noxious gas that rolled with the gentle wind, washing over Kwan as he aimed his pistol at the creature’s head. Firing off two shots, the bullets tore through the exposed flesh which bled chunky rivulets of fat mixed with pus.
But the wounds quickly opened and split, forming mouths where the bullets had pierced, gaping toothless things that clapped open and closed as if they’d been taunting Kwan.
The creature had stumbled forward in an ungainly fashion, whipping its tentacles about to gain better balance. Kwan, who’d been coughing from the cloud it had discharged, had run behind it, almost slipping in the slime trail, and fired another round into the area where he thought the monster’s spine would be.
The beast had swiveled in place, its body flexing as if it were made of rubber as it rounded on Kwan. The gurgling mouth atop the beast had discharged a great deal of spittle as it had roared at Kwan before rushing at him, dropping to the ground and clambering toward him on its eight tentacles as a spider might crawl along its web. Far quicker than Kwan had expected, the creature had set upon him, clubbing him with its thick, fleshy tentacles. One of the hands had grabbed Kwan by the hair, yanking off his feet.
He’d unloaded the rest of his bullets into the creature’s swollen belly, hoping to drive it off, but all that resulted in was more of the foul-smelling fat rolling out of the wounds which had quickly sprouted into mouths.
By then, several other men had been awakened and run from their homes, farming implements in hand to do battle with the demon. Kwan’s neighbor Chang had stuck the beast in the back with a pitchfork, tearing away one of the stalks with a savage twist. This had enraged the monster, leading to Kwan being beaten harder, being drug along as the monster turned its attention to Chang. One of the Ho boys had a rifle, and had fired several shots into the “head” of the creature, rupturing its forehead and the rolling eyes, effectively splitting its only human feature in half.
The creature had dropped Kwan by this point. He had lain in the slime that oozed from the creature’s legs as it began to grapple Chang, lifting him off the ground. Kwan had witnessed the maw expand, the ruined head splitting vertically to allow the jaws to open further as it rammed Chang’s shrieking form into the toothless hole. Tentacles had battered everyone away, preventing them from coming to Chang’s aid, as the creature straightened up and swallowed Chang whole, its bloated belly distending as a human outline pressed from within the strained envelope of flesh.
Everyone had gasped as Chang, who could be easily seen through the demon’s thin skin, screamed from within. Lumps like serpents moving across the abdomen and grabbed onto Chang. His screams became an agonized gurgle as one of the tentacles audibly snapped his jawbone, breaking teeth as it forced its way into Chang’s throat and deeper. Chang’s screams, muffled as they were, had only grown in intensity with each passing moment.
Kwan, struggling with a broken arm, gripped his lantern and had swung up into the crook between the creature’s legs, shattering the glass and dousing it, and himself, in flaming oil.
The creature howled again, this time with fresh pain as the fires licked all over its body. It shuffled backwards as its legs burned out from beneath it. The other villagers caught on and fetched oil canisters from their homes, splashing the creature’s shapeless form with oil to fuel the flames that were crawling up the stinking mass.
The split maw had spit up a chunky soup of raw bloody matter, as well as an internal tentacle popping out to lob Chang’s bloody broken pelvis, before retreating to the well, dropping itself into the underground river that flowed beneath the village. With steam running from the well like a factory’s smokestack, the villagers had tended to Kwan as best they could, putting out the flames that had climbed up his arms.
One man, the village doctor, had examined the mutilated hips and buttocks, all of it covered in scratches and burns, the sphincter torn and dribbling some of the yellowed fat that had apparently been pumped into Chang before he was torn into pieces. The doctor didn’t have long to evaluate the remains as they’d quickly begun to dissolve into a frothy mess of fat and molten bone.
Kwan had been given the next few days off from tending to his fields to try and recuperate from the attack. His broken arm ached horribly but had been set and wrapped tight with a splint, and his burns throbbed with even the slightest of movements.
Now, as he sweated in the cool bedroom of his home, all he could think about was the well, the running water and what lay beneath it. He imagined great things in his fevered dreams; villages of bruised skin and gaping maws with impossible architecture, all centered around a pyramid. Hundreds of the shapeless demons, no two alike, moved about the homes, the cavern floor thick with their slime, the air their stench, stretching beneath their feet like rubbery skin. The trees in the place—if they could be called that—were also made of the same pallid flesh, the branches ending in pitted orbs that would occasionally discharge spores and fluids that the others would flock to, lapping it all up in abject pleasure.
What haunted him the most was the low gong that rang through the cavern which signaled a halt to all activity. Kwan wiped his brow, his bones aching as he felt this strange dream’s gong ring in his mind. He got off his cot to go and relieve himself, his body feeling sluggish as if he were ill. Stumbling to his chamber pot, he squatted over it and sighed as he did his business. Looking down at his arm, his eyes widened. The skin of his left arm seemed to ripple, as if it were melting wax.
On the verge of a scream, Kwan finished his bathroom break in record time.
* * *
The next few days saw Kwan getting sicker. He refused to have the village doctor come and see him and he barred his windows and doors from the inside, sealing himself in as if it were to be his tomb. His neighbors grew worried, so on the third day, the Ho boys brought their tools and with the help of the village carpenter, An Wong, they took to task the job of dismantling the front door to Kwan’s home. It took them little time as, for some reason, the wood seemed to have rotted.
As they pulled the door free, revealing boards nailed over the entryway, they were assaulted by the stench of rotting meat and feces. An stood by as Bai Ho and Jin Ho emptied their stomachs into the nearby bushes that straddled the porch. After they wiped their faces clean An passed them each a white cloth to affix over their noses, just as he began to tie one over his.
“The smell will be tolerable if we cover ourselves,” he said. They each quickly wrapped the strips of cloth over their faces, now resembling bandits of old. Bai, partly due to frustration, took the crowbar they’d used to pry open the door and smashed one of the wooden boards apart. It crumpled like wet paper, falling with a squishy splat to the ground, causing the men to all look down at it.
Covering the wood was a thick layer of fleshy growths, pulsing with life and dribbling yellowed fat like molten butter from tears on the ends of the board. The smashed wood, much to the men’s growing horror, began to mend itself, strands of fleshy veins growing out to reconnect the splintered wood, pulling and knitting the flesh and wood together as a bone might heal, only this took half a minute instead of months of recuperation.
“What in the world…?” An said, low enough that the Ho boys barely heard him. An had served in the army during the Japanese invasion, and had seen horrible things done to his fellow countrymen. He’d endured, and come out stronger because of it. To hear him startled frightened the young men.
A low sucking noise came from the darkness within the home, drawing their attention to the partially opened doorway. Through the remaining boards and the waning sunlight, they could see Kwan moving in the darkness, shying away from the light.
“Kwan!” An shouted. “We’re here to help! Come, let us take you to Doctor Jingshu! He can help!”
“No… help… leave now!” Kwan’s raspy voice growled, the words sounding odd as if Kwan were speaking with his mouth full.
An looked to Bai and Jin, who nodded, and they began tearing away at the fleshy boards, kicking them off to the side into the bushes so that they could enter the wooden structure. Their sandals met with a mushy, muddy flooring of the same pulpy flesh, veins pumping fluids through the strange membrane. Looking around, they saw the flesh had grown over the walls and ceiling, and that in some places it split off into small limbs, each with three or four fingers, which opened and closed of their own accord. Jin nearly squealed when an eye opened on the wall next to him, the pupil spilt into a three-pronged crosshair, purple with flecks of gold.
Kwan was over by his cot, leaning over it as if he were eating. An took a careful step forward, crowbar in hand.
“Kwan?” An said trying to get the man’s attention, his voice barely above a whisper.
In the dim light, Kwan was barely visible, but when he stood up all three men shouted in surprise. He no longer had arms, only a long fleshy tentacle extending from where his head had been, a lamprey-like mouth underneath it. The body was riddled with sores and openings that all opened and closed like a gasping fish, letting out wheezing noises as Kwan struggled to rise to his feet, his legs thick and powerful now.
“Told you… to leave!” Kwan shouted from the orifices, a multitude of voices crying a symphony of obvious pain. He lashed out with the tentacle, slamming An in the chest and knocking him to the ground.
Where the tendril had struck, there was now a tear in An’s cotton shirt, the ripped fabric sticking to the tentacle, slowly being absorbed into the mass. Kwan charged forward, spittle flying from his spiral mouth as he hissed angrily.
Bai reacted first, choking up on his crowbar as the tentacle reared at him. He swung, knocking a foot off the stubby end of the tongue-like muscle with his tool. He didn’t notice how the tentacle reacted until it was too late, when it twisted and came at him again, this time with the split forming a two-fingered hand. It gripped him around the chest, crushing his biceps into his frame with a horrid snapping noise.
Bai screamed as his bones splintered beneath the strength of the monster that Kwan had become. His scream cut short as he was stuffed into Kwan’s distended jaws. What they had thought to be small teeth lining the mouth proved to be flexible nodules the size of a big toe, which wriggled about, moving Bai’s body quickly down the gullet and into Kwan, who bulged in the midsection as he consumed the young man.
An pulled an old pistol from his belt and fired into Kwan’s groin. A low hanging tendril that had once been Kwan’s penis flopped out as the pistol shots blasted holes into Kwan’s legs and crotch. The tentacle lashed forward like a viper, biting into An’s arm with a fleshy barb that began pumping… something into An. It made his right arm numb and heavy.
Bringing his pistol to bear, he shot the tentacle in half, liquid fat spattering out in a torrent before the tentacle reshaped, sealing itself up. An ripped the severed half off his arm, which was taking on a waxy look and swelling painfully. He looked at Jin, who had yet to move as he watched all this unfold.
“Go!” he screamed at him, waking him from his stupor. “Get help! Bring fire like we did with the demon!”
Jin nodded before turning to go, falling flat on his face into the writhing floor. Looking down, he gasped at the sight of the floor, pulpy and pallid, having grown up over his sandals and onto his pants. Sucking at his legs like a child at his mother’s teat, the floor was slowly pulling him into it, as if it didn’t have a bottom.
“I can’t move!” Jin cried, tugging at his right leg with visible strain. “S-something just bit me! Oh, spirits, something just bit me, and I can feel it pumping something into me!”
“Kwan!” An cried, raising a hand to cover his face. “Why are you doing this? We are your friends!”
“Friends…? No… not friend… offerings… offerings to Father!” Kwan cried out as the last of Bai’s sandals slid down Kwan’s gullet, disappearing within the man-monster. “He will be… pleased. So very pleased…”
Bai’s screams grew muffled as the muscles contracted, pushing his lower half against the wall of skin separating Bai and the foul air. A writhing tentacle wriggled from below him, striking as fast as a serpent before pushing into him, despite Bai’s screams of pain.
“Kwan, no! Don’t do this!” An pleaded before the head-tentacle reached down and grabbed him, lifting him up high into the air. An raised his pistol and fired three rounds into the top of Kwan’s shapeless body. The rivulets of fat that drained from the wounds quickly formed into miniature tentacles, which writhed happily from their sprouting points above the bullet holes.
An screamed in agony as his right arm twisted, snapping with the sound of dry timber popping in a bonfire, as the swollen limb curled. He looked over at it and in what little light there was, he could see that his fingers were purple and straining, looking like over-stuffed sausages, while his wrist had split open, bleeding out a watery slime in place of blood.
An watched, horrified as his biceps began to swell, ripping his sleeve before popping once more and growing longer, distending away from the bone within, which felt as if it were on fire.
“Soon… you will all see… soon,” Kwan said, gently rocking An in the air as if he were a toddler, despite the man’s screams.
The rest of the villagers heard the screams and had come to investigate, stopping at the door to peer in at the strange battle taking place. The elderly, who had survived so many wars, told their children to pack their belongings quickly. Those that listened ran home while their elders watched in morbid fascination as blue and red veins extended up from the floor and jabbed into Jin, piercing his flesh like a knife before visibly joining with his circulation.
Jin’s screams, louder than An’s by far, began to wane as he lost what little blood was left within his body. Most of it was being replaced with a viscous fluid that was pasty white and pink, his body bulging where the veins connected. An was slamming his pistol down onto Kwan’s vice grip, trying desperately to free himself.
The villagers cried out as they heard a sickening snap and a final cry from An, watching as his shadowed form bent at an awkward angle, his back clearly broken. A low grumbling from within the cabin made all the villagers shudder with just the one raspy word.
“Run…” Kwan hissed, Bai’s howls of agony doubling in intensity, broken only by his retching sounds.
AUTHORS NOTE: This is the first chapter of my 2017 novel "The Father of Flesh", the first part of a series I've dubbed "The Broken Gods Saga". For those of you that enjoyed this excerpt and want to see where this goes, grab a copy of the book here on Amazon. Please leave a review if you can, as it let's me know what you think! By the by, the above art was done by the amazing Jeanette Androme (@Horror_Made on Twitter) so stare in awe and be amazed by her prodigious talent!