As a little treat (heh, I guess that depends on your perspective), here's the short story that The Mara (my horror screenplay that I'm redrafting right now) was based on.
Without further ado, I offer for your consideration... Little Miss Litty (originally written in 1996)
Little Miss Litty
“Little Miss Litty, pretty Miss Litty, all drugged up and nowhere to go!” the figure shrieked at her. She tried to shout out from behind the muzzle, to somehow raise the orderly's attention, but all that would come out were incoherent moans. It was back again, and this time she couldn’t do anything to defend herself.
“Fly away Litty, fly away home, your school is on fire, your children are burned!”
She tried to pull at her restraints, but there was no give in them at all, no slack with which to get away. The creature was at the foot of the bed, but it was beginning to make its way closer to her. It gently ran its finger across her ankle, its touch so light it was almost sensuous, and then closed its hand around the strap binding her legs.
Oh God no, she thought through the pentathol haze. Please, not again. Don’t let it happen again. I’ll go insane if it happens again.
“What’s up Litty? Cat got your tongue? Don’t like being tied down like this do you?”
It ran its claws along the inside of the leather restraints and leered at her.
"Jack of all trades, master of none, young Litty fears that her sanity's gone," it chuckled. She could feel herself losing consciousness as it crawled up alongside her, her mind retreating from the grotesque images it was receiving from her eyes.
The thing raked its talons across her face, slashing away the muzzle and gouging deep into the flesh of her cheeks, pulling her sharply back to reality. Blood streamed in rivers down her face and the pain caused her to cry out – the act of crying itself causing her more pain as it opened the wounds further. She began to sob, little moans as tears ran down her face in an increasing torrent, stinging as they seeped into the gashes that the thing had made.
“Couldn’t let you get away that easy, Litty. That would end the game before it begins,” it said with glee. “And I do know how much you like our little games."
“No, please… no… don't," she cried.
The creature waved an admonishing finger at her.
“Little Litty lectern, sitting in the school, now she's broken the golden rule…"
“What do you want from me?" she gasped at it. The creature smiled.
“The game!” it shouted, dragging its claws across each of her arms, cutting her wrist restraints. Arterial blood gushed up from the slits that the talons left. “All I want is the game. You should at least remember that by now. Every time it’s the game. Nothing less, nothing more. The same game I played with little Anna. You remember Anna, don’t you Litty? She was a pretty thing, but she didn’t play fair.” It grinned, showing its glassy, shard-like teeth.
She moaned, the memory of the little girl and what had happened to her proving painful even now after all she’d been through.
“She didn’t play fair Litty. She could have, but she didn’t. And now it’s your turn. Your turn to play the game with me.” As it said this it scowled, its eyes glowing red momentarily. It lashed out. “But … You … Don't … Know … How … To … Play!” it screamed, slicing deep into her body with each word.
She gave a guttural cry from the shock of the action – the pain wouldn’t hit her for some time. All she could feel was a wave of heat emanating from where it had cut her.
Blood welled up from the wounds the creature had made, spreading in a warm crimson pool across her body. It began to soak into the sheets and drip onto the floor from her right arm which lay hanging over the edge of the bed. With every pulse there was a rhythmic splatter as more blood rippled out of her and into the lake forming below.
As the pain washed over her, Sarah Littern slipped mercifully into unconsciousness.
“Awww…” the creature mocked. “Little Litty gone to sleep, joining Bo to count her sheep.”
It looked at her with glints of pleasure in its eyes. Now was the best time, between awareness and death, before it faded, before she slept too deeply to sustain its presence.
It jumped to the floor, landing surprisingly quietly for its apparent size. It put its mouth to the pool of blood and began to drink, its tongue lashing out into the warm liquid.
Sated, it rose and moved to her head. It bent over her, moving its mouth to hers, and then it kissed her, slipping its long, forked tongue into her bleeding mouth. As if hearing something in the distance, its ears twitched and it sat up, breaking off from the kiss. It pressed a finger to its lips and then to hers, sealing the pact.
It grew transparent, then more so, only its jagged smile hanging in the air, and then it had gone completely.
* * *
"So, Sarah, can you tell me where you got the razor blade from?" the psychiatrist said to the foetal ball in front of him. It didn't have any effect, the same way that it hadn't had any effect the last ten times that he'd asked her. She just carried on rocking back and forth, making murmuring sounds.
"Sarah, you lost a lot of blood this time, much more than the last. If you keep cutting yourself then a time is going to come when an orderly won't get to you in time, and you'll die. You don't want that, do you."
She seemed to speak, but too quiet to be heard.
"I'm sorry, Sarah. I can't hear what you're saying."
"It's…" she said hoarsely. “It's not me. It's the creature. The creature does it."
She began to uncurl, looking around tentatively as if searching for something.
"You still believe in this creature then, Sarah?" he asked her calmly.
"Yes!" she said emphatically.
"How did it cut you? What did it use?"
Sarah looked down at herself, at the bandages around her arms and wrists. It had been much worse this time.
"It used its claws. It has sharp claws at least two inches long, six on each hand. It scraped them across me and cut me." Her voice wavered as she began to verge on hysteria.
Doctor Forrester shook his head slowly.
"Sarah, if it used its claws on you, why were you clutching a razor-blade in your hand when we found you? Are you sure that you didn’t obtain it somehow off another of the patients here, or one of the orderlies and hide it in your room to use later?”
Sarah shook her head. “No!” she shouted, “No! No! No! It was the creature. I don’t know where this razor came from! You have to believe me! You’ve got to!”
She got up from her seat and started hammering on the table, shouting “It’s real!” over and over. The two orderlies who had been standing back on the Doctor’s orders moved to restrain her, but Forrester waved them away.
“Sarah…” he began quietly, putting his hands on her shoulders. She ignored him and carried on screaming and hitting the table with her fists. “Sarah!” he shouted. “Stop that this minute!”
Oddly, this snapped her back into focus.
“It’ll be back. I don’t want to go back in there alone. It always comes when I’m alone. It’ll want to play the game again, but I don’t know what it is! I just don’t know!”
She began to sob. Forrester made a motion to the orderlies to take her back to her room, and they moved towards her in unison.
“Sarah, we’ll talk about this more when you’ve calmed down a little. But just to make you feel happier, I’ll ask Mike here to keep a close watch on you and make sure that this demon you insist exists doesn’t attack you in the night.”
She nodded slightly, as if she were a small child being told by her father that the boogey-man didn’t exist. It was a nod which had a certain indefinable quality about it, one which explained that even though she didn’t believe what she was being told, she’d play along.
Forrester called one of the orderlies over and whispered to him. “Twenty cc’s of thorazine, another five if she gets restless. Keep an eye on her, Mike? I don’t know where she got that razor blade from, and I know that you turned the place over from top to toe, but she got one in, so she could have got another. I’d feel happier if at least for tonight there was someone watching her.”
He looked over at Sarah and smiled at her.
“Sarah, I don’t believe in this demon of yours, but we’ll see what we can do. It may take time, but we’ll get rid of it eventually. You’ve got to help me though – I can’t get rid of it alone.”
She looked pleadingly at him as she was led off out of the room and down the corridor.
Forrester looked down at his notes. Sarah Littern had been here for nearly a month now, and the incidents had been getting more frequent and more… disturbing. The latest of these had occurred two days ago. She was being taken to a recreation area by Denise Carter – one of the orderlies – when she’d panicked and started to scream about the creature again. She’d wrestled herself free of the woman, and had run down the corridor. When Denise caught up with her she was sobbing, crouched in a foetal ball against one of the doors, blood on the floor nearby. As Denise tried to comfort her, Sarah lashed out, clawing, scratching, kicking and biting. It had taken three orderlies to get her back under control.
Forrester slowly shook his head. It was still touch and go as to whether or not Denise would regain her sight, and she would need reconstructive surgery on her face regardless.
He would have felt a lot better if he could work out where she’d got the razor blade from though. The fact that something like that could be smuggled by an unstable and dangerous patient into a highly secure area was very worrying indeed.
* * *
Sarah slept fitfully, even with the drugs in her system. The creature’s image wouldn’t leave her mind. She rolled over in her bed and moaned a little. The orderly at the door heard the noise and opened the viewing panel to find out what the cause was.
Mike looked in through the hatchway and shrugged. Bad dream, he thought. I’m not surprised with what she’s been through. If I’d killed a school full of kids I’d be having them myself.
He closed the hatch and sat back down on the chair with a sigh. A few more weeks of overtime and he’d be able to take his wife on a second honeymoon. But in the meantime, more overtime. Which meant late, solitary nights on corridors in E Ward. Still, at least this one was quiet at the moment. He’d worked on C Ward once – never again. He shuddered at the memory.
In the room, Sarah slipped into REM sleep. Beneath her lidded eyes she began to dream, images flitting across her visual cortex as her brain assimilated the day’s memories and events. With this increased activity the creature, previously dormant, took form, the images providing a hook, a way in while she was still unconscious. Still intangible but not impotent, it delved into her naked brain, pulling and twisting neurons, raking at her ego and id, bringing the precise images it required to the fore. It controlled the show – all Sarah could do was lie back and watch.
With a smirk the creature pulled its presence from her mind, its work done for now. It sat back on the periphery of her subconscious, watching the drama it had invoked unfold.
Sarah screamed. Abruptly she found herself in a dark passageway, the walls damp and dripping, the ceiling impossibly high. She reached out to the wall nearest to her – it was cold and there were handholds, covered in a fleshy moss that pulsed under her fingers. She drew her hand back quickly, not liking the feel of it. It was too much like flesh for her to bear, as if the wall itself were alive. Her breathing, louder now with fear, echoed between the two walls, acoustic reflections confusing her senses. She walked along the corridor, trying to find an end to the walls, but there was none. She looked back – a dead end. Where there had been infinite corridor stretching off into the dark there was now another wall.
She looked in the other direction – darkness to infinity. She looked back. Now the wall was against her side, cold and wet, the stone almost grinding into her shoulder. This was too much. She screamed, turned and ran. Her breathing became hoarse with exertion, but she kept running. She ran until the pain in her legs and chest became unbearable. She bent over, her head down by her knees as she gathered her breath back. The pain in her chest from the running subsided, and she chanced a look back in the direction she had come from.
Her cheek, nose and forehead scraped across the wall. Some of the moss detached as her face rubbed across it, clinging to her lips. She screamed, and as her mouth opened some of the moss fell between her lips. Her screaming increased in urgency and amplitude as the moss began to rhythmically contract and stretch across her tongue, making its way to her throat. She turned from the wall, bringing her hands to her mouth, desperately trying to grab the foreign body before it was too late. She grabbed one end of it, but it was too slippery. Its peristaltic motion increased in vigor at her touch, and it slipped through her larynx, past the opening to her bronchial tract, forcing open her esophagus. She gagged, the moss making her want to vomit as it filled her throat. It slipped down past her heart and lungs, a small writhing body, pushing its way down past the movements of her muscles as she retched.
Sarah doubled up in pain and dropped to the floor as it swelled on its way to her stomach. It made its way in, falling into the cavity. It was unaffected by the acids it found there; in fact, it began to feed on them, growing in size as it ingested the hydrochloric acid. It settled there, a heavy weight on her intestines. She moaned, sobbing to herself, trying to expel the intruder which was raping her body from the inside, trying to bring it up and out of her.
She heard a noise and looked down the corridor. Roughly fifteen feet away from her there were two yellow points in the darkness. She started to try and drag herself away from them, and then realized that behind her was the solid wall. She knew better than to try facing it again – after the last time, she could not begin to imagine what it would be like, what damage it would cause. She curled into a ball in one of the corners, the flesh-moss undulating across her back and neck. The points moved nearer to her, and the moss in her stomach suddenly expanded, causing her to breathe in sharply with pain and to dig her nails deep into her arms where they were folded across her abdomen.
“One, two… buckle my shoe…” the voice behind the lights said. “Three, four… knock at the door…” As the voice began to move into the light, she could make out the form of its owner. “Five, Six… pick up sticks…”
Sarah pushed herself back against the wall as she realized what it was. The moss yielded under the pressure, and then began to creep across her back, probing and following the contours of her flesh.
“Seven, Eight… Litty meets her fate…” the monster said, moving forwards. It was completely visible now, the mottled red of its skin contrasting fiercely with its luminous eyes. “Nine, Ten…” The demon smirked at Sarah, and moved so that its mouth was near her ear. The smell of sulphur was thick in the air as it breathed on the side of her face. She tried to move out of the way, to somehow get past it, but as she did so it grasped her arms and held her fast with preternatural strength.
“Nooooooo!” she screamed. It began to scream in unison with her, mocking her, and then clamped one of its hands firmly across her mouth.
“Nine… Ten… Let’s play the game again!” it shouted gleefully. It released her, leaping backwards away from her into the darkness.
In her stomach, the moss which had temporarily been dormant began to pulsate. Already filling her stomach to capacity, it stretched her stomach lining. Sarah buckled over in pain, clutching at her stomach. Tears streamed from her eyes and she screamed, the throbbing pain increasing with each cycle of expansion and contraction. The lining of her stomach tore, blood and the acid which the moss had not absorbed mixing in her body cavity. The acid began to eat through her intestinal tract and her lungs, the pain amplifying horribly. She did not lose consciousness, rather the pain made her acutely aware of the sensations around her. She began to gag, coughing up blood and stomach acid, mixed with small pieces of the flesh-moss. The moss in her stomach continued to grow, squashing her lungs and internal organs, making it hard for her to breath.
The imp looked on from the darkness at the form of Sarah’s body as she convulsed involuntarily on the floor, blood dribbling down her lips as she coughed it up. It smiled, and clenched its fist.
The flesh-moss which she had coughed up moved together and coalesced into a single entity in her mouth. It pulled itself caterpillar-like along her tongue until it reached her throat, at which point it started to squeeze its way past her palate and into her nasal cavity, seeking her brain.
This was all lost on Sarah, she was concentrating too much on trying to breathe, her lungs being eaten away by acid and compressed by the moss.
In the darkness, the demon reveled in what it had created, but its control over the situation was waning. Sarah’s pain was beginning to awaken her, to override its control over her dreams. Well, it would let that happen. But it would give her something more worthwhile to wake up to first. It drew its hands apart, and then pounded its fist into its palm.
Inside Sarah, the moss stopped its incessant shrinking and growing. According to the demon’s command, now it grew without stopping.
Moss oozed out of her nose as it started to make its way up into her brain, compressing the delicate matter within. In her chest, the moss there expanded also, crushing her heart quickly, reducing her liver and lungs to a pulp. The pressure continued until her rib cage could no longer contain it. The ribs tore apart, splintering as they opened, her sternum still attached to some of them as they ripped through her skin, spraying blood into the air.
The sound of violent choking ripped through the silence that had moments ago enfolded the corridor. Mike ran to the door. Through the window he could see Sarah convulsing violently on the bed. Shit, he thought, not tonight. He grabbed the keys from his belt loop, fumbled briefly with the lock, and ran into the room. A thin trail of vomit ran down Sarah’s neck from her mouth. Quickly, he held open her mouth, feeling for the blockage in her throat. He pulled it out – a strange, pulpy mass – and threw it out of the way. Grabbing her head, he tilted it back so that he could create an airway, and then, bracing himself against the smell of vomit, he blew precious air into her lungs.
Suddenly she coughed, vomit welling up in her mouth, flying up into Mike’s own. He broke away, spitting it out all over the floor, trying to get rid of the invading material. Oh God, he thought – I think I swallowed some.
He checked that she was okay, and went to wash his mouth out. He didn’t notice that Sarah’s stomach had swelled to twice its normal size – nor did he see it quickly shrink to normal size when he left the room.
Inside his stomach, a tiny fragment of glowing, flesh-like moss gently pulsed in the warmth.
* * *
Anna was a quiet girl; a golden-haired four-year-old who was kind and generous, and who had the most piercingly blue of blue eyes. She had a face that would light up when she found something funny, and an odd little frown that curled over her forehead when she was doing something that required concentration. All in all, Anna was a cute little princess… you couldn’t help but to like her.
… but for some reason, all of the other children in the class shied away from her. Sarah couldn’t work out why; it was as if they were afraid of something – it wasn’t as if the girl was cruel, or nasty – but no-one would play with her.
Anna smiled up at the teacher, noticing that she was standing over her. “Please Miss… I’ve finished it!”, she beamed.
Sarah looked down to see what she had drawn, her breath halting for a moment in shock. The little girl’s picture was technically brilliant; a drawing of what she assumed was the Cheshire Cat (either that or Garfield) that could have been copied from a wood-cut illustration found in most copies of Alice in Wonderland. All of the elements were there – the grin, the stripes… -- but it was the other things that worried her. Such as that the cat had bulbous yellow eyes with no pupils, and its teeth were covered in red crayon, as if stained with blood.
“Anna… I’m curious sweetheart… what are these?” she asked, pointing to the red… claw marks? … in the middle of the paper.
“That’s where it used its claws,” the girl said, pointing at them. “It likes to use them a lot.”
Anna nodded to her teacher matter-of-factly. “That’s what it does”.
“What do you mean Anna?”
“It wants to play the game,” she said, pausing to look into her teacher’s eyes. “I don’t know what the game is, but it wants me to play with it.”
She picked up another red crayon -- having worn the last down to a small nub – and started to draw more claw marks on the paper.
“But it uses its claws? Anna?”
Possibilities were running through Sarah’s mind about exactly what had happened to the child… had she been abused at home? Some kind of traumatic experience in her past? Children just didn’t draw pictures that looked like something out of a Clive Barker movie… not unless they were terribly disturbed.
“Only when I don’t play the game right.”
Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.
The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).