“WITHIN” A Horror Short Story

Warning: this story contains explicit language and body-horror!

The following short story was written for submission to 6E Publication’s “Tiny Globule” e-book sci-fi anthology publication. It was selected and published. 

WITHIN

© Ian Laskey, 2011/2015

The mosquito speared its razor-sharp proboscis through the layers of human skin and started to feast on the warm, iron-laced blood beneath. Within moments, its abdomen was starting to darken and swell.

Houseman watched the parasite sullenly before smacking its bulbous body flat against his forearm. Wiping the mashed body from his hand against his hip, he took another draw on his cigarette and watched the Huey land.

Even the artificial tornado whipped up by the machine’s rotor blades couldn’t cool the surgeon. The heat was stifling, the humidity inhumane, even as dusk fast approached. Houseman’s back was slick with sweat under his blood-caked scrubs, turning the pale green material a dark grey.

What he wouldn’t give for an air conditioned bar and an ice cold Bud.

He flicked his spent cigarette stub to the ground, crushing it under foot against the parched earth, and cursed his luck at being drafted into such a hellhole.

Medics swarmed around the open side of the Huey as they lowered the stretcher out. Strapped atop was a Marine, probably no older than eighteen, his left leg ending in a tattered pulp above the stump of his knee. The oxygen mask over his mouth, and the roar of the helicopter, were not enough to quash the soldier’s screams of agony as they rushed him inside the field hospital.

What a fucking waste.

Houseman watched the Huey’s green body rise into the air and soar off over the horizon. It would be back shortly.

Flies swarmed around him, awoken by the cooling dusk air. Houseman walked back into the hellish bowels of the hospital. A three inch beetle, it’s carapace a glinting red, scuttled across his right foot, eliciting a grunt of disgust from the surgeon as he tried to kick it away. Its wings opened and it brushed his head as it buzzed past, avoiding the hand that tried to swat it dead.

Fucking vermin.

Around him young men lay slain in beds, tendered to by over worked and under resourced medics. The victims of a pointless war, their bodies splintered and punctured by bullets and bombs, most of who would never return home alive. The smell of rotting flesh hung low under the canvas of the long tent, gangrene rampant in this climate.

How the hell were you supposed to keep a place sterile in such a tropical shit hole?

Screams, groans and moans. All had been the soundtrack to his daily life these last eighteen months. That and the chorus of Hueys constantly strafing the roof of this hastily erected sanctuary. A never-ending conveyor-belt of the butchered and mutilated collected like fresh carrion from the field of battle.

Field of battle.

How fucking funny. It was less a field and more a fetid swamp. This place was worse than the damn Keys in the heat of summer.

A nurse, her smock stained from a multitude of blood spatters, bent over the leg of a wounded pilot. She was deep in concentration, her movements slow and deliberate. In her fingers she slowly turned a slim Q-tip. Wrapped around the stick was a sickly pale, pulsing ribbon of noodle. As she turned the Q-tip towards her so more of this living, blood smeared noodle was pulled out from the puss dripping sore on the man’s leg.

Enterobius vermicularis.

Thread worm.

Houseman watched the nurse delicately remove more of the parasite from the poor bastard’s leg, careful that she didn’t snap the worm in two and leave a living mass still inside its host. Eventually the skin around the sore puckered and the last segment of worm plopped free. The nurse dropped the uncurling body into a metal kidney-bowel where it snuggled up against another two-dozen such parasitic bastards. Houseman could see a dozen more raised sores on the soldier’s leg and discerned the movement of worms beneath skin.

For a moment, Houseman wondered how it must have felt to have a creature moving around beneath your own flesh. He shuddered at the unpleasantness of it all. Best not to think about such matters, he’d learned. Not amongst this overwhelming tide of carnage. Do so and you’d end up going fucking insane, walking out into the jungle in a delirious haze, and watch your lower body spill out from under you as you step on a landmine. He’d lost one of his best registrars after six months to such a moment of crazed hysteria.

A roach the size of a softball scuttled out from under a gurney and Houseman crunched his heel down on its carcass and watched the yellow innards spill out. Even cut in half the rancid little shit battled for life for a disquieting length of time.

These soldiers weren’t just battling bullets and shrapnel. Sure, limbs had been torn apart, and faces cratered in by the weapons of warfare and improvised booby-traps. But they also faced a battle against disease.

Malaria, yellow fever, both were rampant.

This was as much a war against nature as it was against the damn Cong. And they were losing both.

In this heat and humidity, in these conditions, parasitic killers feasted unhindered. By the time the wounded had been airlifted here, those microscopic killers had already taken hold inside the gaping wounds and flowing blood.

Of course, it wasn’t just the slain that fell ill. Even those lucky enough to avoid injury succumbed. It was impossible not to. Just try wiping your ass after shitting in a jungle burrow without getting something painful burrowing up into your lower intestine; or try eating days old food off plates washed only with a wipe of a spat-upon palm; or try sleeping in a hammock without mosquito netting.

Then, of course, there was what these boys caught from the whores in town. Venereal disease was rampant amongst these horny fuckers, who seemed incapable of the simple act of using rubbers.

Idiots.

Houseman would castrate the whole army if he could.

Another soldier was rushed in on a gurney, his head rocking back and forth in agony, one of his arms held separately by an attending medic. They barged past Houseman who shrugged and left the main tent, walking towards the private bays. Above him the material of the roof fluttered under the down draft of another departing helicopter, the conveyor belt of victims in full swing.

Two mosquitoes landed on Houseman’s greasy neck before being obliterated with a reflex slap that induced a wince.

The first bay was empty, though the creosote infused scent of death still clung to its four walls. Poor kid had been napalmed by his own unit. If only such fuckups had been a rarity. One more butchered son for the black body bag pile.

The nurse inside smiled wearily at Houseman who rubbed his scratched neck, mundanely. Small talk had been exhausted months ago. Instead, he just turned his back and walked into the adjacent bay whilst the nurse readied herself for the next cadaver-to-be.

A distinct smell of shit greeted Houseman as he traipsed towards the bed. A young man, groaning in his half sleep, lay propped up on a yellow pillow, his hands clutching his distended abdomen, his knees propped high and wide. A hospital smock barely covered his knees, his lower half naked and exposed to all.

A brown rubber tube poked out from between his buttocks, up across the bed, into the hands of a nurse. A siphon poked into the rim of the tube and the she poured the enema down.

“How’s he doing?” Houseman asked, rhetorically.

“I’ve managed to flush out some small fragments, but not the whole thing yet.”

Houseman wandered round to the foot of the bed. The young soldier watched him, his face red and sweating, and mouth lax in delirium. Arms and legs were puckered with insect bites and scratches and the tell-tale scars of thread worms. Dark blood clotted and scabbed in pustules across his skin.

The surgeon examined the stretched bump of the man’s stomach, swollen with putrid gas. As he pressed his fingers down and massaged he felt movement, as though something was turning, but a shriek of agonised pain from his patient forced him to cease.

“The pain’s worse?” Houseman asked, and both nurse and patient nodded.

Houseman examined the bowl propped upon the bed end. Lumps of black faeces lay within and, amongst the clumps, translucent strands of spaghetti-like matter.

“There’s the damn culprit.”

The nurse nodded in agreement. “Just as we thought, tape worm”

Houseman sighed. No doubt ingested by the soldier whilst on leave, eating from some local road-side vendor, probably being served up week old dog. How many times had he tried to warn the damn men against doing that? If you don’t see it killed and cooked, don’t trust it enough to eat!

“Could break our record, what do you think?” the nurse pondered.

“I wouldn’t bet against it.”

Last month they’d flushed a twenty-one foot long tapeworm from a Marine who’d later died from peritonitis in his lower intestines. Houseman had nearly vomited as the fucker was pulled free from the sphincter with a gaseous pop, its segmented length stained with faeces and blood. He’d considered pickling the bastard and keeping it in a jar on his table, as some kind of morbid trophy, but his nurse had disposed of it before he could act. Still, as this poor wretch was proving, there were plenty more specimens out there to collect.

“How’s his fever?”

The nurse pointed to the bed chart. “No improvement. I’d say it’s getting worse.”

Houseman sighed. All signs pointed to the onset of malaria.

“You want me to give him fifty cc more?”

“Can’t do any harm. Might flush him out quicker? We could use the bed space.”

The nurse passed the tube and siphon.

“Here, finish pouring this up him. We’ll flush him out both ends.”

Houseman sneered as the nurse went to measure up the dosage. A few minutes later, she held a beaker to the soldier’s parched lips and helped him swallow the bitter contents down. As he eased back against the pillow, she wiped the sweat from his brow. At the same time, Houseman finished pouring the enema.

They didn’t have to wait long.

It sounded like a low gurgle at first, as from a stomach hungry for food.

On cue, the nurse pulled the tubing from the soldier’s rectum and helped ease him a little lower down the bed. Trapped wind escaped as the nurse propped the bucket close, ready to catch the rush of intestinal contents flushed forth.

“There, there,” she hushed as the other hand gently massaged the swollen stomach.

More wind escaped and Houseman stood back, a hand covering his nose and mouth. It smelt like months old rotten meat.

The soldier groaned and shuddered as the first of the liquid faeces erupted out from him.

Shit!” the nurse proclaimed with zero irony as the fetid mess missed her bucket and splattered her legs and feet. As more crap spewed forth so she manoeuvred the bucket to catch it all.

It seemed like the stream of faeces would never end. It was treacly black as it plopped into the bucket and Houseman retched at the flecks of white moving around in the dark lumps.

They weren’t tapeworm segments.

They were maggots.

The soldier suddenly arched his back into the mattress and screamed in hellish agony. Hands clenched the material of the sheets as the spasm racked through him like a surge of electricity.

“Oh my God!” the nurse gasped as the metal bucket fell from her hand and she jumped back, disgusted.

For the torrent of shit had turned a grainy white as a deluge of maggots sprayed out from the man’s asshole.

Hundreds, of them.

Houseman was horrified as the putrid smelling parasites piled up around his feet.

The soldier was bucking wildly against the gurney, threatening to topple it. The nurse threw herself against the man and mattress, trying to use her weight to brace him down. Houseman was thrown backwards as the patient’s leg kicked upwards, catching the surgeon below his ribs.

The spray of maggots turned from a yellowish-white to a dark red, replaced by a river of dark intestinal blood that now oozed out onto the debris on the floor.

Christ!” Houseman raced towards the bed, his feet slipping in the mass of blood, shit and maggots, the small squirming bodies popping beneath his weight. He fell onto the bed, his face inches from the red stained sphincter of the soldier, which suddenly opened up as a black, wet shaft pushed outwards.

The soldier had stopped screaming but his body was now shaking uncontrollably. His swollen stomach was pulsing, the flesh rolling obscenely as something moved beneath.

Houseman gagged and his hand clasped his mouth as bile rose.

What he saw defied belief.

A spindly, black shaft, an inch or so in diameter and covered in thick wet hairs, pushed outward from the man’s sphincter. Multi-jointed, it hooked itself against the edge of the bed and levered itself outwards.

A second black shaft pushed forth, tearing open the skin around the soldier’s sphincter. The escaping smell was unbearable.

Houseman stumbled back and slipped against the wet floor, his hands thudding down into the shitty mass of maggots. He tried to crawl backwards as the two black legs extended further from the soldier, touching the floor.

It was now the nurse’s screams that filled the room as she lurched away from the dying man beneath her.

With a sickening tear, the man’s sphincter ripped wide open and a third and forth leg thrust outwards, pulling out a large, sickly red bulbous mass. Blood flowed as the parasitic body emerged, two feet in length and as thick as a bowling ball. Another two long, black, hair-covered legs emerged from the rear as it plopped to the floor, intestinal mucous smeared across its translucent body.

Houseman couldn’t move, his body was fixed with fear as the creature throbbed on the floor between his out-stretched legs. The six black legs arched against the ground and tried to raise the sickening mass upwards, faltering like a new born lamb trying to stand.

What the fuck was it?!

Houseman was transfixed as two transparent membranes unfurled from atop the monstrous parasite, and started to flutter rapidly, splashing blood and mucous across the surgeon’s face.

Wings! They were fucking wings!

It was then that Houseman noticed the razor-sharp proboscis curling out from the tip of the ghastly body, the segmented eyes just above it. The insect stretched itself out to full length and lifted itself up on strengthening legs, human blood and intestinal fragments falling to the floor. It was fucking huge.

Even though repulsed, Houseman marvelled. Now this would make a fine fucking specimen! He watched the creature stutter upwards into the air, its body quivering with new life, hovering inches above his head.

It was too much for the nurse. Screaming in terror she escaped the room, her mind ablaze with the horror she had just witnessed. She drew attention immediately and panic rushed through the consoling staff. The guards that raced to her could make no sense of her hysterical shrieking. But the blood and faeces splattered all over her face drew action from them.

When they burst into the private bay, automatic weapons drawn, they feared the worst. What they saw was barely comprehensible.

A dead soldier lay on the hospital gurney, his death mask a taut, frozen, agonised scream. His legs lay open at an unnaturally wide angle, a loop of intestine spilled to the floor.

The guards stared down across the carpet of bloody maggots that crawled across the shit-smeared floor, and their gaze fell upon human feet.

Houseman lay supine on the floor, his arms and legs outstretched and pulsing rhythmically, as though all the liquid inside him was slowly being drained upward by a pump.

Atop the surgeon’s body was… well, at first the guards couldn’t make any sense of what the fuck it was!

It was a living nightmare standing upon the dead man’s chest. Six black legs around a giant, dark red segmented body; a head, thorax and abdomen that pulsed as it absorbed its prey’s blood. Its head was bent over Houseman’s and a proboscis was forced firm into the flesh of the surgeon’s neck, deep into his carotid artery.

The guards watched the dark red blood journey from the man’s body, up the translucent proboscis and into the expanding body of the freakish insect.

It was drinking him dry.

The fucking mosquito had doubled – no, trebled – in size as it feasted off the dying surgeon.

The guards watched, mesmerised, as the insect withdrew its proboscis, the last drops of blood dripped onto the pale, sunken flesh of the surgeon. Its wings thrashed into motion and, clumsily, the giant insect hovered above the ground, its gorged belly gurgling like a giant water-balloon as it tried to lift itself fully off the ground.

The closest guard stepped forward to fire but he ducked backwards as the insect suddenly roared to life and lurched ferociously at him.

Pandemonium ensued as the insect skittered around the room, displacing equipment, the guards firing wildly, unable to aim clearly on the manic creature, tearing the tent roof apart with their bullets.

Liquid splashed down on the men in a hot viscous torrent as a bullet pealed open the belly of the beast, spilling Houseman’s life blood. But this just angered the beast further who stabbed down at the soldiers with its razor-sharp proboscis, scaring them to cover, before spinning up through the rented hole in the roof.

The men watched its silhouette disappear against the red, blistered sky, to be joined by a converging swarm of its parasitic brethren.

 

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