Carefully I took the crumbling instruments out of the small room, setting their pieces down as gently as I could and pausing every few seconds to listen for the five footfalls of whatever thing was outside. But whenever I paused I only heard the occasional twitter of a bird. When I went back to removing the instruments, though, I always thought I heard something shuffling around in the dead pine needles that covered the forest floor. It might’ve been a delusion, but it was just enough to keep me from going back out there.
But it barely was. Each instrument was full of the snaking grooves and pinholes that denoted the presence of woodworms. When I got down to the lower layers of instruments, I saw the things moving around and wriggling in the holes they’d bored through the instruments, white larval bodies squirming through their self-made miniature piles of saw-dust. I had to force the bile rising in my throat back down, force myself to keep clearing out the room to see what that bone-like thing was attached to.
When I’d cleared out the room some, I found there were more bone-like spines jutting from among instruments. Curious, I looked closer at them, finding them shaped in a spiral, and containing the bleached whiteness and small scratches characteristic of bone.
My stomach felt full of unease as I wondered just what it was I’d found. Images of crazy backwoods murderers doing God could only imagine to a hapless idiot like me that stumbled onto their secret stash of bones. Then I began to think that maybe that’s what was making those strange footsteps. Horrible visions of my person being subjected to an austere series of tortures and violence ran through my head, and trailing these thoughts was an urge deep in my spine to get out and run until I was free from the trees.
I opened the shack door to the beginning of dusk. The woods had just started to become that mixture of dark and dim light where you only see things in silhouettes, and one of these shadow shapes was coming at me. An abstract piece of the oncoming night rushing forward and closing upon me, it moved on five thick legs supporting its round body, causing my mind to misfire every thought except to slam the door and to hold it closed against the creature. It hit the door with enough force to make the old wood give forth a cracking sound, and I sat pushing myself against it, praying to it not to give way and let the bestial thing on the other side in, and all the while whatever it was that pounded and clawed at the door, saying “Let me in, let me in, give me you and give me him, give me him and I’ll let you live, open the door open it now” in a voice unused to forming human words.
I tried to ignore the edge in the raspy voice on the other side of the old door, wishing I could take my hands away to plug my ears against the thing that issued forth such a horrible voice. I afforded myself a shaky sigh of relief when the thing stopped pounding and scratching on the door and went away. I waited until I heard the sound of its five legs receding in the distance to take myself away from the door.
My mind was wading in chaos. If it’d been a person it still would’ve been terrifying, but at least I’d have known what it was I was facing. But this, this was different, something totally unexpected and incomprehensible. And why was it talking to me like there was a second person in here?