No One But the Blackbirds

Excerpt from Addleberg Lang: Revamped –

This is my first straight up horror story and I think Bram Stoker would be proud of me. I was listening to Leave Luann from 35MM; A Musical Exhibition when I had the idea for this. If you go an listen to the song, you’ll see exactly how I got the idea. I mean, abusive husbands, swamps, ghosts…..

The death of Judith Bly was painfully simple, a type of death all too common. She was pregnant and her boyfriend, Phil, didn’t want to keep the baby. Judith did. Phil got drunk, they fought, he hit her- and it all escalated from there. 

He didn’t have much trouble hiding the body. He worked construction, and had plenty of tools at his disposal. A little bit of Judith left one day, a little left another day, until she was gone. There was no one to miss her.

For months, Phil was afraid someone would find out what he’d done, but no one did. Gradually, his fear left and he went on with his life. He kept working, he kept drinking, he shacked up with other women who all left the morning after and never spoke to him again. He wasn’t so good at hiding his personality anymore. 

And then he saw her. 

Judith.

She was standing on the corner of the street as he walked to his car. It was dark, and he had been drinking, so he passed it off as nothing. After all, she was gone as soon as he looked back. 

The next morning he was shaving. As he leaned down to wash his face, a cold draft crept into the bathroom. Maybe I left a window open. He stood up to go look. 

Judith was standing behind him. Her reflection was warped, darkened. Her once blue eyes were black, dripping down her face. Phil screamed, whipping around- and saw he was alone. 

His hands shook as he placed his razor on the edge of the sink. He’d heard of this happening. Murderers became so consumed with guilt that they went crazy. But he didn’t feel guilty. He didn’t. Judith had been a whiny bitch who’d got what she deserved. If she’d just done as she was told she’d still be alive. 

Phil calmed his nerves with a shot of whiskey and went to work. 

But Judith was there too. 

He saw her sitting in the cab of a truck. He saw her standing in the corner of each room he entered. When he walked to his truck after work, she walked after him, a few feet away, breath icy cold. She was in the bar too, sitting on the stool farthest from him. Anytime a new customer came in, they avoided that stool. They didn’t know why. 

And Judith wasn’t the only thing he saw. Every now and then, he glimpsed a young man. He never drew near as Judith did, but he vanished just as quickly. 

Phil was dead drunk when he left the bar. He staggered across the parking lot, breath catching in his throat as he fumbled for he keys, desperate to unlock his truck before Judith caught up with him. He stumbled, his keys falling to the ground.

“Damn it!” he growled as he crouched down. He stood again, and there was the young man.

He stood beside Phil’s truck, calmly looking over Phil’s shoulder where Judith stood. 

“She’s been following you, hasn’t she?” 

“What? You can see her?”

“Yes,” the young man answered, nodding. “I’ve always been able to see ghosts.”

“Whaddas she want?” Phil asked, his words slurring together. He backed towards his truck, keeping Judith well in sight. She was in the t-shirt and shorts she’d died in. They were torn and bloody, just like her face. 

“What all ghosts want. Peace. I’m afraid your death is the only thing that will bring it.”

“W-what? How- How do I get rid of her? You can do that, can’t you?”

“Yes, there are ways to get rid of ghosts.” 

“Tell me!” Phile went to grab the young man’s collar, meaning to shake the answer out of him. But his fist grabbed only air; the boy was quicker than he’d expected. 

“Where did you bury her heart?” 

It was lucky Phil had to drive down abandoned dirt roads to get to the swamp. Had he been on main roads, he would’ve caused a wreck. He drove too fast, took too sharp of turns, swerved wildly. 

His passenger didn’t seem worried a bit. He sat, deadly calm, in the seat beside Phil. They screeched to a stop on the edge of the swamp. Wan moonlight glowed balefully above, and Phil’s headlights cut two yellow paths in the night, catching on the gently swaying grasses and reeds. 

There was a large dead tree have submerged in the swamp, this was why Phil had dumped most of Judith here. There had been some chatter for many years of putting up a housing development on the edge of the swamp. Phil didn’t think it would happen, but just in case it did, he wanted to know where Judith was so he could move her if need be. 

“Now what?” he asked, standing at the swamp’s edge. 

“You half to retrieve the body so we can burn it. It’s the only way.” Phil was in his work boots and jeans, not proper clothes to go wading in the swamp with. He could come back tomorrow, prepared. 

But what if Judith decided to take her revenge that very night? Phil stepped into the swamp without a second thought. He missed the cold smile that flitted across the young man’s face. 

There was something different about the swamp that night. It clung to his legs, holding him still, it clutched at his feet, pulling him down. 

“Hurry, I can feel her coming,” the young man called. Phil struggled forward. Sweat was trickling down his face, goosebumps appeared across his arms. He moved a bit faster through the sludge, a bit more carelessly. 

And he slipped. 

For a few nightmarish moments, he was totally submerged, the swamp oozing into his nose and crawling down his throat. He thrashed and flailed and finally managed to gain his footing again. 

Gasping for air, he swiped at the muck on his face, blinking hard until he could see again. The young man stood calmly on the banks and-

 Judith stood at his side, her hand resting on his shoulder. 

“She’s right there!” Phil yelled, still coughing up the swamp. 

“Oh, I know.” The young man wrapped an arm around Judith. Phil struggled to make his way back to the banks. Surely the swamp hadn’t been this deep before? His foot caught on something large beneath the murky depths and he fell again. 

“Don’t just stand there!” He screamed, hands clawing at the air for something to grab. “Help me! Help me!” The young man walked forward. When he took his first step into the swamp, he didn’t sink. 

He floated just a few centimeters above the surface. He stepped closer and closer, and with each step he changed. His complexion became waxy and his skin clung to his bones. His hands morphed into claws and his eyes darkened, expanding, and finally dripping black ooze down his face. 

Phil still screamed for help, but he was no longer trying to reach the bank. The creature before him grinned, his mouth splitting open far too wide and revealing jagged teeth. 

“There’s no one who can hear you; this spot is quite secluded. That is why you chose to bury us here.”

“I didn’t do anything to you! I only killed Judith! It was only Judith!”

“Really? What about your unborn son?” For a moment, Phil became still, more horror gathering in his heart than he thought was possible. “That’s right, father…” the creature hissed, crouching before Phil, the reek of death hanging on his every word. “This is what I would’ve looked like in twenty years. Well,” he glanced down at his clawed hands. “Not this exactly. But who knows if I would’ve reached twenty, even if I was born. You probably would’ve beaten me to death long before that.” 

“I didn’t know-” Phil sobbed. “I didn’t think-”

“You didn’t care.” 

“I’m sorry, I’m s-sorry.”

Phil’s son shook his head slowly. “No you’re not.” He put his hands on Phil’s shoulders and began to push him farther in the swamp. 

“Stop! What are you doing? Please-”

“Goodbye father.”

“No! NO!” The swamp boiled and bubbled, a hellish heat rising from its depths. Slimy hands reached up grabbed Phil’s ankles, then his legs, then his arms, then his shoulders. His screams were cut short as the swamp forced its way down his throat. 

The swamp rippled once and then became still, hiding all its horrors beneath its surface. For a brief moment, pure, bright moonlight pierced the night. Had anyone been there, they would’ve caught a glimpse of a young woman with bright eyes holding the hand of a small, rosy-cheeked boy. 

But there was no one there but the blackbirds. They had watched the whole ordeal with approval, and had no intention on telling the world what had happened to Phil. 

The two figures stood on the edge of the swamp a moment longer. Then, a cloud passed over the moon, and when it was gone, so were the mother and child.

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