The house around Kurt was extraordinarily silent now that Steven and Rachel were dead. Usually, there would be the thumping of Steve’s music, or the tinkle of Rachel’s laughter, but no more. Kurt had exchanged his friends’ lives for several blood-stained duffel bags, and he didn’t regret it for one moment.
The trio of childhood friends had robbed the bank according to plan – dressed as security guards, they had stormed the building, killed the staff, blown through the huge vault doors, bagged up almost a million pounds, then escaped unseen in an old ice cream van. They had served schoolchildren with ice lollies as police cars screamed by, smiling hopefully to each other as the minutes stretched into hours without incident. Finally, with the sun setting red in the sky, Rachel had driven them back to the abandoned warehouse. And that’s when Kurt had pounced.
Steve had been first. Kurt wanted to kill them separately so he could revel in their surprise and pain, to make them know why he was killing them, and so when Rachel jumped out to open the warehouse doors, Kurt had plunged a knife into Steve’s neck. “I know you’ve been sleeping with Rachel,” whispered Kurt. He watched Steve’s surprised expression, blood gushing over his security uniform, and grinned. “I’m going to have her.” Steve tried to scream a warning, but he died very suddenly – much to Kurt’s disappointment. He’d let Steve’s body slump onto the narrow floor of the ice cream van, blood flowing around the bags of money, then had hopped into the driver’s seat and nonchalantly drove the van inside the warehouse.
“Thanks sweetie,” called Rachel as she closed the doors, then ran up and hugged him, her soft breasts pressing into his chest. “I can’t believe we got away with it! We’re rich!” She looked around suddenly, her delicate face confused by Kurt’s sudden rough grasp. “Where’s Steve? What’s that blood on your hands? Kurt?”
She had yielded to him without a struggle, the bloodied knife enough to gain her obedience. During the whole assault, she had stared directly into Kurt’s face with a determined hatred, trying to deny him any additional pleasure from her body. It had initially troubled Kurt but, afterwards, as he watched flames cleanse the warehouse of all evidence, he had felt pleased to have satisfied all of his perverse needs in only a few hours. He had then hefted the bags of loot over his shoulder and walked home.
Snapping out of his reverie, Kurt dropped the bad-tasting spliff into a beer can and staggered through the chaotic living room to the sofa. He started flicking through the boring TV channels, but then noticed something – someone was standing in the corner of the room, watching him! He leapt to his feet. “Who are you?” he yelled, but then fell backwards in fright as the intruder slowly raised its arms that almost touched each side of the room with its fingers. Kurt stared hard, trying to make out a face, but there was none – just a half-transparent blob on a gradually-tapered body, a silent whirlwind of shadow. Slowly, Kurt crawled to the cabinet where he kept his magnum, feeling reassured by the compact weight of it. The figure didn’t move an inch as Kurt raised the weapon and advanced with a scowl of hatred. “I said who are you? Answer me or I’ll kill you!”
The thing charged.
Kurt managed to get off a round before the ghost wrapped him in its arms, enveloping him in a dark clammy mist. Kurt reeled, unable to think coherently, his vision spinning. His stomach was in knots, his heart was racing and his skin tingled; his body and mind was being attacked! He fell to the floor, whimpering in fear and panic, trying to rub the pain away in his chest while screaming wildly. Too slowly, the feelings ebbed away to nothing and the mist dissipated. Timidly, Kurt raised his head and scanned the room through tears; the thing had disappeared. He pulled himself onto the sofa and tried to calm down. What had just happened? Was that thing real? The memory of it sure felt real. He retrieved his gun and slowly checked each room of the house; he was alone. Relax, he told himself; I’m stoned, drunk, very tired, and stressed from the murders and robbery. It was an illusion, a hoax, my mind firing off random images as a release. He trudged upstairs, cleared the various porno mags and knives off his bed, and then fell asleep eventually, the image of those frightening arms still playing in his mind.
It was still dark when Kurt awoke. He felt a lot better, yesterday’s events a more-manageable memory. He turned onto his side, his gaze resting on the curtains glowing from the orange streetlights. He noticed a thin hazy line intersecting the curtains, three quarters of the way up. Was it a spider’s web? A telephone line blown down outside, perhaps? He couldn’t figure it out, so fumbled the lamp on.
It was an arm, stretching out from the being standing at the foot of his bed.
Kurt screamed in terror as the thing charged at him once again, panic and fear tearing up his body like electricity. He voided his bowels violently, and then passed out.
The ghostly attacks continued throughout the night and the following day. Kurt pleaded with the entity, tried to fight it, even performed some rituals downloaded from fanatical websites, but nothing seemed to hinder the ghostly apparition. Kurt resorted to drinking vodka to nullify the fear, which seemed to work for a time, but the physical symptoms – the racing heart, the prickly skin, the feeling that his stomach was tearing apart – could not be avoided. After three days of sleep deprivation, drink, drugs, and ghostly attacks, he desperately called the only person he trusted – his sister.
Kurt gratefully accepted a mug of steaming tea from Jennifer, spilling on the various Tarot cards spread out on her table. He didn’t care. She sat opposite him and pursed her lips. “So apart from looking like crap, how is my baby brother doing?”
“Terrible,” he admitted, and took a sip from the mug. Although he was a chemically-dependent, violent, sexual pervert, Jennifer’s quiet house was pure heaven. “I’m falling apart, Jenny.’
“What’s new? Wanna tell me about it?” she said, dealing cards in a set pattern in front of her.
“Something’s after me. A ghost.”
Jen smiled. “Have you started taking coke again?”
“This is real,” he said shakily, “It feels like death when it touches me. It grabs me with its long arms, rushing at me again and again!”
Jenny had stopped dealing cards and was staring at him with eyes wide. “A ghost with long arms? Kurt, are you joking?” She quickly retrieved an old tome from a battered bookcase and held it up. There was a crude but recognisable drawing of Kurt’s tormentor. Underneath, it said Shadowmass.
“That’s it Jen! That’s the thing I keep seeing!”
She shook her head and closed the book. “What terrible thing have you done, Kurt?”
“Nothing,” he replied, but failed to convince his sister.
“Shadowmass tortures and steals the minds of those who have done wicked things for wicked reasons,” she explained. “Tell me, what have you done?”
He ignored the question. “I need to know how to get rid of it.”
“There is no getting rid of it, Kurt.” she said sadly. “Whatever evil thing you’ve done, Shadowmass will make sure you pay for it.”
“Whatever,” growled Kurt, “I’ll find a way to kill it.”
Knowing the name of his enemy gave Kurt fresh energy, and so he started devising different ways to cheat his fate. He tried running from Shadowmass, racing down the motorway at 165mph, yet Shadowmass caught up with him easily. He also tried escaping on an aeroplane, yet Shadowmass pounced on Kurt from the cockpit, his screaming fit enough to force an emergency landing. Kurt resorted to attacking the fiend instead. He tried pipebombs, blades made of various materials, even ice and chemicals – Shadowmass was simply unaffected by the physical world. Kurt felt his sanity slipping away; he actually cherished the moments straight after an attack because it was the furthest moment from the next appearance. He drank more and more vodka to calm his nerves, but the more he drank, the more he needed. His heart was working overtime thanks to anxiety, alcohol, and copious amounts of cocaine. In desperation, he tried calling priests and self-professed ghost hunters, but all dismissed his drunken nonsensical ramblings.
One evening, Kurt was huddled on his bed, running a knife softly down his arms as he waited for Shadowmass to appear. He started to sing a nursery rhyme; he found that singing prevented him from panicking, an old distraction technique used by anxiety sufferers. Suddenly, the corner of the room darkened; Shadowmass had arrived. It raised his arms as usual, rushed towards Kurt – but then stopped a few inches from him.
Kurt stopped singing and looked in bewilderment at the ghost. “What’s going on here?” he slurred.
Tendrils twisted within Shadowmass’ head; it formed a face, instantly recognisable by Kurt. Rachel glowered at Kurt with an evil grin, then spoke in a guttural rasping voice. “Remember me?”
Kurt rose to his feet – so this was all her doing! In his stress-addled mind, Shadowmass had always been her, trying to get him back for killing Steve, and probably after the loot from the heist too. “You old witch,” he muttered, gripping his knife, “You’ll never get the money! I’m glad I killed you!”
“No remorse for my death,” she croaked, “I can make good use of you.” Shadowmass wrapped its long fingers round Kurt’s head, and decapitated him with a wet crack. Rachel examined Kurt’s face gasping for air like a fish. “Shadowmass owns you now,” she said. Other heads appeared on Shadowmass’ body, their faces contorted in eternal pain and fear. Kurt’s heads joined them, then the fiend disappeared.