Tim O'Rourke

Dead Flesh


She thought it would hurt, but in fact, dying was agony. It felt as if her entire being had been stretched, pulled and twisted out of shape and then sucked in on itself. There was blackness and it rushed at her like a wall. Solid and unbreakable. She looked into the darkness and it was as if she were standing at the very edge of the universe and staring down into nothingness. The silence was deafening and it made her want to scream.

There was a crashing sound. The noise cut through the darkness. Her lungs emptied as the air was forced from them like a balloon being strangled. Branches clawed at her like hands trying to break her fall as she appeared in the night sky above the trees. Dropping like a stone, she cut a jagged path through the leaves and branches as she tumbled to the woodland floor below.

The young girl hit the ground, her head bouncing off the leaf-covered floor with a gut-wrenching thud. She cried out, throwing her hands to her face and rolling over onto her back. Opening her eyes, she noticed something had gone wrong. Her hands didn’t feel right against her face. The young girl counted the fingers on her right hand. One, two, three….


Turning, she looked at her left hand — it was worse.

Two! What’s happened to my fingers?

She staggered to her knees like a drunk and touched her face with her three-fingered hand.

“NO!” she screamed, and this time it wasn’t inside her head; her voice had forced its way out of her throat. Patting her face with her hands, she knew that she was in trouble. The lower half of her face had slipped. Her face, once beautiful and perfect was now grotesque; nose and mouth were now imbedded into her left cheek. Her face looked distorted, like a child’s painting that had been hung upside down while wet and the colours and shapes had bled across the paper.

Her blond fringe swung in front of her eyes like a curtain and she knocked it away. Moonlight shone through the canopy of trees above her head in milky shafts. Then she was startled by the sound of a dog barking in the distance.

Or was that the sound of a bigger creature? A wolf perhaps?

The noise came again, which was followed by another and another. Cocking her head to one side, the young girl listened. The barking came again and it was followed by the sound of snapping jaws and woofing. She knew there was more than just one of these creatures, there were several of them, and they were getting closer.

Spinning round, the young girl peered into the darkness. In the distance and weaving towards her amongst the trees, she could see torchlight. The beams of light sliced through the night and splashed against the tree trunks.

“This way!” A voice barked. “This way!”

The barking and howling grew louder and keener as the creatures raced towards the area of the wood where the girl had appeared. She looked back one last time, then ran deeper into the woods.

The sound of woofing and snarling came from the throats of the young girl’s pursuers. They had reached the area where she had appeared, but she had gone.

“I want this entire area locked down!” one of them ordered. Then wheeling around, he hissed at the others, “Don’t just

stand there! Get after her!”

Without question, the others in the pack set off after the young girl, ferocious-looking, whining, and slobbering.

She raced amongst the trees with the agility and speed of a wild horse. Her long hair billowed out behind her like a mane, and her brilliant green eyes glinted in the moonlight. In the distance she could hear the sound of howling as they raced after her. Her legs propelled her forward as she stumbled and staggered through the woods. Her arms whispered by her side, working like pistons.

She broke into a clearing, and ahead in the distance she could see turrets spiralling up towards the moon like giant ogres. The building sat on a hill and was surrounded by trees and a stone wall.

With sweat streaming into her eyes, the young girl raced across the field towards it, leaving her would-be captors deep in the woods. Reaching the wall, she looked up at it towering above her. The wall was at least twenty foot tall and she wondered if it had been built to keep something out or to keep something locked in. With her three-fingered hands, she gripped hold of the wall and began to climb. And as she went, the young girl stifled the urge to scream out in agony as her hands bled. Once at the top, she held on with hands that looked like bloody claws.

What she had believed to be turrets, she could now see were search towers. There were four, and each was manned by a hooded figure. Their faces were hidden by the robes draped over their heads and shoulders. The search towers cast beams of light across the grounds like giant lighthouses.

The sound of barking and woofing echoed in the distance. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see her pursuers run free of the woods and start across the field towards her. Turning her back on them, the young girl leapt from the wall and into the grounds of the strange-looking building.

Pressing her back against the wall, she inched her way around the circumference of the building. She watched the hooded figures high up in their towers as they covered the grounds with their searchlights. Small plumes of breath leaked from her cheek and disappeared into the darkness like small clouds. The building itself was in total darkness, not one light burnt from inside. Apart from the odd rustle high in the trees above her, the building and its grounds were silent.

What could this place be?

She reached a set of black iron gates in the wall, which were padlocked. They stretched up into the night sky like bony black fingers. To the right of the gates stood a wooden sign, and engraved upon it were the words:

Welcome to Ravenwood School

Before she had the chance to even ask herself what sort of school would be surrounded by twenty foot high walls and searchlights, an alarm had started to sound. Covering her ears with her deformed hands, the girl winced at the sound of the alarm that wailed across the grounds like a World War Two siren. The hooded figures swung the searchlights, picking out a figure that was running away from the far side of the school. It headed towards the trees which lent against the wall like drunks propping up a bar.

Screwing up her eyes to get a better look at the figure, she could see it was a man. His face was panic-stricken and his eyes bulged from their sockets in fear. But he looked overweight, and with several chins wobbling like whale blubber, he was no match for the four hooded figures that raced across the grounds behind him.

The figures howled, leaping through the air and snatching hold of the escapee. The noise which came from the figures was nothing like she had ever heard before. It sounded as if they were choking on their own tongues.

“Pleeeaaassee,” the male screeched, his voice sounding as if his throat had been cut. “I just want my son!” Then he fell silent.

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