The Stench


In this short excerpt from Braile House, two boys, friends, are working their way through the dark storm drains under the streets of Albuquerque. They encounter real world tragedy and terror. This will be their first encounter with an ancient evil that will define their young lives and return to them years later. I hope you will enjoy this excerpt, and that you will read the book.

Braile House, is available on Kindle for just 99 cents. There are many enthusiastic reader reviews on GoodReads.com (4.14 out of 5 stars) and on Amazon.com (4.8 out of 5 stars). I am working to expand the availability to iTunes and other e-book platforms, and to have a cheaper paperback version available. Thank you.

Much else came to pass. An initiation into horror was to visit Jesse and I. This initiation, though dreadful, would be sufferable because it affronted only the temporal senses. Logic, physical and spiritual reality were not challenged. We approached the chamber as flies in a web, innocent, trapped of our own volition, and being bound more tightly with each movement.

The Stench

The stench was horrible. Familiar, like the dead deer Jesse and I had come upon once beside the road while we hiked one summer morning up to The Dam. This stench was near to the reek of that decomposing deer, but different. I would come to know this stench, but as I carefully picked my way toward it, I did not recognize the peculiar smell.

Leaving our bikes, we had climbed into the round culvert. Ahead of us, an open manhole allowed the day in upon us. Even from a distance our eyes were unprepared for the brightness. We squinted with raised hand and turned away, looking at each other.

— “We should climb up and see where we are.” I spoke for us both.

Our eyes began to adjust to the full light of the upper world flooding in. I thought I could see something protruding from the roof of the culvert. The light flooded around, obscuring it with brightness. Jesse was in the lead and hurried ahead in a trot. I had given up catching him when suddenly he cried out and came to an abrupt stop, his momentum taking him to his toes as he strained to advance no further.

— “Jesus! Oh God!” he screamed and stumbled backward. He lost his footing and twisted around to catch himself with his hands, “Shit!”

He ran toward me.

— “What Jesse? What? What’s wrong?” I screamed at him.

His eyes were open wide in fright as he scrambled toward me over the rocks and debris in the culvert.

— “Wayne! Wayne, there’s a body hanging in the manhole! It’s dead!”

Jesse grabbed hold of me as he reached me. We looked at each other, our eyes wide.

— “It must be that little kid,” Jesse said between gasps for air, “The one that’s lost! On TV!”

— “What little kid?”

— “The one on TV, on the news. He’s been missing. They can’t find him. Had his parents on TV asking for help.” Jesse released his grip on my arms and bent down with his hands on his knees. “Freaked me out! We better go take a look.”

After some discussion we determined to go back and take a closer look. Jesse was sure he was dead, and certainly the smell confirmed it, but some joint desire of the mind or heart beckoned us to gaze upon the dead body. We would have to report our discovery, or so we believed we should, but we were in dread of disclosing our whereabouts today. We had come to no resolution on this dilemma when we turned together and proceeded up the culvert side by side. Inexplicably, we walked as if sneaking up on someone, not speaking and stepping carefully through the debris, making no sound.

Bathed in light, hanging head down, descending from the open manhole, was a body. A small body with arms spread, a yellow jacket draped inside out hung from rotting arms thrust through the sleeves. The draped jacket obscured the head. A blue and white t-shirt was still tucked into blue jeans. One leg and sneakered foot hung at an odd angle from the body. The other seemed lashed to one of the rungs descending. As we stood before the rotting corpse we became insensitive to the stench of human decay. We stared up together, motionless, shallow breaths escaping parted lips, numb with awe and repulsion.

— “God, Jesse.”

— “Shit.”

— “What happened? Who- who is it? Where are we?”

Jesse did not answer. I looked to see him staring up at the hanging corpse with his mouth turned up slightly. I thought he might be smiling.

— “I’ve never seen a dead person before.” Jesse remarked as if in trance, his eyes fixed upon the corpse. “I think it’s that missing kid. They said he was wearing a yellow jacket. It was his favorite. And jeans. His picture was on the news. His leg is stuck on the rung. See? It’s wedged into the rung. It must have slipped through the rung when he was climbing down. He fell over and couldn’t get back up. That must have hurt like hell.”

— “What are we going to do?” I whispered.

— “Don’t worry Wayne, he can’t hear you.”

— “What if someone is around,” I pointed up through the light, “up there, what if they hear us and find us down here.”

Jesse continued to stare at the corpse. He moved his head slightly as if examining details from different angles, but he remained rooted to the same spot. There was dark dried blood on a white sock. It did not seem like very much blood. It looked like the iron rung and the white sock had been pressed into the flesh of the leg. It reminded me of a tree branch that had grown around a metal fence post. A blue Keds sneaker with laces untied decorated the foot.

— “I think I can hear traffic. Cars. We must still be under the freeway.”

Jesse lifted his eyes from the corpse and looked up into the light pouring through the open manhole. He turned to face me.

— “We need to look at the face. We need to see if it is the kid from the TV.” He said.

My mouth dropped open and I regarded Jesse with a mixture of shock and amazement. The thought of looking upon the face of the dead boy was terrifying. An image of a cold white face with large black eyes sprang to mind. I saw the mouth gaping open. My brain would not assert the simple logic of him hanging upside down, his mouth would not be open.

— “Jesse, let’s leave it alone. Let’s get out of here. We can call someone from a phone and tell them where to look.”

My voice was still soft but had risen above a whisper.

— “I want to see the face.”

Jesse extended his hand toward the yellow jacket. His fingers touched the fabric and paused, as if regarding texture. A finger slipped under the edge and the thumb came to pinch the yellow material. He was going to lift the draping coat to reveal the head. I looked on in absolute dread, transfixed as each minute movement magnified, exposing every detail, each movement of Jesse’s fingers measured, yet pressing forward. The fingers rose and the jacket followed, then the procession stopped. I must have stopped breathing for I gasped air involuntarily. I turned my eyes to Jesse’s face. The corners of his mouth turned up.

— “This is the back of his head, we’ll have to go around to the front.”

His fingers released the yellow fabric. As it fell, the present moment raced in on me, the spell lifted.

— “You look at it! I’m not looking!” my voice exploded in a shout and echoed in the small chamber created by the manhole.

Jesse looked at me with a smile.

— “Baby.”

He stepped between the body and me as he began to make his way to the other side of the chamber.

His foot settled upon something loose. He teetered backwards, eyes wide as his head came into contact with the yellow jacket and against the dead mass. Jesse flung his arms out toward me and cried out as he fell hard against the corpse. My hand reached his and he pivoted in my grasp, pulling me forward and dipping beneath the suspended body. We both crashed against the side of the culvert and landed in a heap in the full light passing through the open manhole.

A shadow passed before us, and back again. I looked up in horror to see the body swaying in a small arc. The side of the head was visible but shrouded in the shadow cast by the jacket. The soul sickening sound of the knee joint dislocating fell down upon us and we watched in terror as the body jerked down slightly and slowly turned. The dead face came into view, lit grotesquely by the light coming from above it. Bloated features worked to cast hideous shadows upon it. An evolution of blue gray and slate white surrounded wide black eyes staring down almost directly upon us.

We screamed. Our feet churned wildly against the floor of the culvert. A muted tearing sound reached through our screams as the decaying skin at the knee separated. The body fell at our frantic feet into the small stream of water flowing through the culvert. It slammed face first into the wet concrete; flesh tore from the forehead exposing the skull roughly. The neck snapped and the body piled grotesquely upon itself, finishing at an odd angle, head to torso. The arms splayed to the sides and one whole leg bore itself up stubbornly hovering above the concrete floor. The other leg, to the knee, lay properly aligned to the trunk and flat to the concrete. The face rested on its side.

We gained our feet and pressed ourselves against the culvert. The light flooded in more fully now. Another shadow remained, and it too began to move. I looked up to see the remainder of the little boy’s leg slip off of the rung and fall, landing next to the face, which now stared up at us from one black eye. We screamed anew at the fallen tibia. The blood stained sock still wrapping the dead foot. The blue sneaker was gone, having separated from the foot. A horrible stretch of almost blue bone, surrounded by decaying flesh, lay exposed from just above the sock to the missing knee. Consuming terror threatened to overtake us. Jesse pushed against me and screamed for me to move, he wanted to flee and I blocked the way past the decomposing corpse. Terror overwhelmed me and I turned on Jesse as he pushed against me again. I drove my open hands against his chest. The blow pushed him back. His eyes were wide with fear and surprise. He gathered himself to come at me, when suddenly a loud piercing sound came in upon us.

Sirens wailed overhead. We stood with the boy’s body between us, staring wildly at each other. It sounded like the whole police force must be above us. We both looked up through the open manhole. I turned and ran. Jesse’s pounding run followed behind me but he would never overtake me.

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