A/N: I was tempted to wait on this one for my one year anniversary, but since my anniversary fics are all one-shots (or two chapters posted at once), I think I will keep to tradition. I would like to thank everyone who has read this and encouraged me to post. And so this one begins. I'll warn you now, this one is dark, even for me. Sometimes things happen that have the potential to destroy us, some people become victims, others survivors.
WARNING: This story contains disturbing images and references to drug use (forced), human sacrifice and torture. I promise you now, it is not death fic.
A/N II: I'm playing with mythology again and mixing it up, I mean no offense. Title and chapter quotes are from John Dowland's "Funeral Teares."
In Darkness Let Me Dwell
Pale ghosts and frightful shades shall my acquaintance be
The house sat on the end of a dead end road. It looked normal—yellow with white trim, a small flower garden out front, a white fence backed by peonies and roses. A four-door sedan was parked in the driveway. From somewhere down the block Sam could hear children's voices raised in playful laughter. There were little things that seemed out of place, the windows were dark, nothing was moving on the property but over all it didn't seem out of place, everything seemed right, normal—perfectly normal.
Except for the smell.
The smell of death rippled and flowed around Sam as he stood in front of the house. It filled the air like a physical presence, announcing that for all the apparent normality, something was wrong—something terrible, something so horrific that it was impossible to describe.
"Ready?" CJ asked.
Sam looked down at the small woman. "No."
"I know, I never am either." She handed him a surgical mask before putting one on herself.
"Thanks." Sam put the mask on and took a deep breath, the scent of eucalyptus and lavender filled his lungs. With another breath, he opened the gate and walked to the front door. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the rest of the team moving in as well. Sam tried the door, it wasn't locked. They never are by the time we get here. He opened the door and the stench hit him like a physical blow. He paused for a moment, letting his gag reflex settle down before stepping into the house.
There were two rooms off the entryway. Sam headed to the right, knowing what he would find, but needing to check anyway. The remnants of the altar stood against the back wall, flies gathered so thickly on the remains that it looked like the altar and floor were moving. The buzzing was palpable, the audible aspect of the overwhelming smell. Sam walked to the altar, flies filling the air like a black cloud. Without pausing, he shoved the altar over and watched with satisfaction as it shattered.
"Sam?" CJ called.
"Coming." Sam walked out of the room and across the entryway. CJ was standing in the room what they'd come to call the antechamber. The remains of sacrifices piled against the wall like slowly melting timber. CJ was standing by one body, a young man, unlike the others his chest was still intact, the gaping hole marking the others missing from his body, only a single wound at the base of his sternum, congealed blood flecking the white skin.
"He died before it was finished with him, and recently, too," Sam said dispassionately. "What's the mix? You checked yet?"
"I was just starting when I found this one. Is the altar…?"
"Destroyed." Sam walked over to the pile of bodies. Pulling on a pair of latex gloves, he started turning them over. Most bore the tell-tale signs of sacrifice, the chest had been split open with a sharp blade and the heart removed. "I've got five," Sam said, counting the bodies with their chests ripped open from the inside, ribcage fanned out like a gruesome flower.
"Three more here, and another that died before it was finished," CJ said, walking to Sam.
"Two that died before it was over? Odd, I wonder what's happened? It's using them faster." Sam looked around the room. "Oldest of these is what? Three weeks?"
"They're moving more often, too." Sam looked at her. "Trying to stay ahead of us," he said, his voice loud in the quiet room. She nodded and they turned to leave the room. Sam cast a final glance at the bodies before following CJ down the hall towards the back of the house. The kitchen was empty, a jade bowl lay smashed on the floor. They didn't take it this time. We surprised them. He opened the back door and looked into the yard—it was empty, nothing moving except a single wasp buzzing against the side of the house. Usually there are more bees. Sam carefully closed the door and moved on through the house.
"I found more," CJ's voice came out of the room on Sam's left.
Sam walked into the medium sized room. It was behind the room where he had destroyed the altar. The corpses were older here, Sam guessed nearly a week older than the ones in the antechamber. He turned one over and another. "Sacrifices. All of them," he said to CJ.
"We've got a live one," Dirk's shout echoed down the hallway.
Sam looked up from the last half rotten body. With a quick glance at CJ he turned and ran down the hallway, pausing at the top of the stairs to the basement. "Dirk?"
"Down here, Sam."
Sam stepped quickly down the stairs, he could see Ronny waiting outside a room at the end of a long hallway. The young man looked up as Sam approached, his eyes haunted, tears threatening to spill down his cheeks. Sam gave Ronny's shoulder a squeeze before turning to the door, he stopped, his foot on the threshold. Dirk was standing halfway across the room, a blanket in his hand. Sam walked slowly in.
The room was filthy. A crumpled blanket lay on the floor. Only a tiny ray of light filtered into the room from a slit in a boarded over window. The room stank. Sam saw a body near the door, a piece of metal protruding from its chest. The room was filled with the sick-sweet smell of rotting flesh—stronger here than anywhere else but the corpse filled rooms on the main floor. There was also an acrid stench that hung in the room. But worse, far worse, the room smelled of fear, of hopelessness, of the loss of all humanity.
When Sam reached Dirk, he noticed a figure, half naked, huddled in the corner. The figure, a man, was curled in on himself, as small as he could be, longish hair matted against his skull. Sam could see a beard where the arms covering the head failed to completely conceal the face. He'd been starved, each bone defined against skin that seemed too tight to hold them. The man was covered in the wounds Sam had come to recognize so well over the last months. Tracks of the needle were visible on one arm. Some wounds were infected, some still bloody on the naked back. Though he couldn't see it, Sam knew there would be a single wound below the sternum, the mark of a host. Sam could see the edge of a partially cured slash on one wrist. Sometimes I think Dirk is right, it would be better if none of them lived. How many more will there be? How many more will we find?
"You handle these creatures so much better than I do," Dirk said, almost a whisper. The man tried to curl in on himself more, hiding from the sound of voices. "How many more? Jesus, this makes me sick."
"Me, too, Dirk," he said softly. Sam stripped the gloves off his hands and pulled the mask off his face and handed it to Dirk.
"Don't know how you can stand the stink without the mask."
"They need human contact. They need to know we aren't the others," Sam said, keeping his voice quiet.
"It doesn't make any difference, Sam. Contact or not, he's not human anymore." Dirk rested a hand on Sam's back. "They need help, I know that, Sam. I do. It's just… Well… Sometimes I think it would be better to just put a bullet in them now, and end this horror before it's too late."
"I know. I do too, sometimes," Sam said.
Dirk held the blanket out. Sam looked at him for a long moment before taking the blanket and walking over to where the man was crouched against the wall. "My name is Sam. I'm here to help," Sam said gently, pitching his voice low, talking to the man as if he were a terrified animal. Which is all he is now. Sam reached out to put the blanket over the man's shoulders, wincing as the man reacted in pain, pulling away from the touch of the fabric. Sam pulled the blanket away and held it behind the man's back, letting him get used to its presence. "It's okay, we're here to get you out of here." He put the blanket back over the thin shoulders.
Moving slowly, Sam squatted down in front of the man, speaking in a soft sing-song, still keeping his voice calm, a hard lesson he'd learned these last weeks. He reached a cautious hand out, the man pulled away from the contact. Sam persisted, gently trying to get the man to look at him. He finally lifted the face up enough to look into the man's eyes. The look he knew so well—feral, terrified, lost. There was no spark of humanity, empty eyes looking out of a human shell. There was nothing—nothing left to mark the man as ever having been a human being, no recognition of anything but pain, terror and never ending torture.
Sam's heart stopped.
Oh my god.
To Be Continued