Dave tapped the brakes, trying to slow the SUV down in anticipation of the sharp curve coming up. It had been a long time since he had been home, thankful to finally escape the torment of his drunken stepfather, but he remembered how treacherous the roads were. The pouring rain wasn't helping matters any, his nerves already on edge from the frantic phone call he had received from his mother.
"We're in danger, Davie", she had whispered, calling him at two in the morning. "Danny's done something terrible."
Torn between wanting to just call the police and let them deal with it, and going to his mom's aid, Dave had finally decided to make the two hour trip home. He had borrowed his girlfriend's jeep, after a half hour of assuring her that everything would be okay, and had left for Glennville with a head filled with dark memories of his brutal childhood.
At the young age of six, Dave had become fatherless, his dad killed in an auto accident on his way home from work. Even now, seventeen years later, Dave had a vivid memory of his mother's face when they had received the news, delivered by a police officer that seemed indifferent and a social worker offering forced pity.
His mother had also died that day, in spirit, the smile that use to constantly shine on her face gone forever. Oh, Dave had seen her smile since then, but it was not the deep, heartwarming smile that she use to wear; the smile that use to bring light to his mornings and comfort to his evenings. No, it was a smile that was as false as the man who had replaced their father, worn whenever it was expected, no emotion or feeling behind it all.
Tim had shown up in their lives almost a year later, the first man to display any interest in the widowed woman with two children, and his mother had latched onto the man, desperate to have back in her life the solidity that she had lost. Within three months his mom had married Tim, the man then revealing that they were moving back to his hometown so that he could take over the repair business left to him by his father.
It soon became clear how things would be. Tim, the great provider. Tim, the king of the house. Tim, the Lord of the manner. Tim was God to their world, controlling them with fear and intimidation, using physical force when he thought it was necessary.
Tim, the bastard that spiraled their lives downward into an ever-darkening abyss of pain, hatred, and violence. He was always careful not to beat them too much, not to leave a mark where it would be visible. His capability for violence was drilled into the boys time and again, the threat of killing their mom sealing any voice they might have thought of raising in accusation.
Dave had never understood why his mother had stayed with the man. Between the drunken rages and the beatings just because he felt like it, the man had battered every member of the family more times than Dave could remember. It was after he had awoken in the hospital, with a broken arm and two broken ribs, that Dave had decided that he had had enough.
Dave had kept silent about the entire incident while being interviewed at the hospital, the concerned questions from the staff not seeming near as sincere as Tim's gaze seemed threatening. Tim would whisper in the boy's ear, when they were alone, telling him how he would kill his mom and brother if he even thought Dave had hinted at the truth to anyone.
His first night home from the hospital, Dave had gathered what few things he possessed and left to live with friends that his family didn't know about. He had tried to talk Danny into going with him, but the little boy would not leave their mother. Danny didn't care that their stepfather had come close to killing his brother; he was determined to see that one of them was there to protect their mom.
It had been six years since he had left them all far behind, occasionally calling his mom to let her know that he was okay, and where he was. Several times he had thought of coming home; his mother's stories of his little brother's obsession with the occult getting more and more frantic each time he talked to her.
Dave constantly tried to talk his mom into leaving the man, tried to reason with her about the situation, but she never listened. She had given up the day his dad had died, Tim replacing the void in her life in a horrifying way. Dave doubted that, even with intervention, his mother would ever be able to free herself from the man's control. He had beaten it into her way before he had started on the kids, and in the six years that he had been gone, Dave was certain the man's grip had only tightened on his family.
Glennville had a lot to do with it also, of that Dave was sure. The tiny town had never seemed alive; had never had that air of tranquility that most small, rural towns did. The people were friendly enough, the children mostly happy, but everyone had a tendency to keep to themselves, not bothering with other people's business. There were no social gatherings, no festivals as was common with other towns such as Glennville.
The rain was finally beginning to lessen, and Dave relaxed a bit. The road up Glenn's Peak was not particularly bad, during the day, but couple the road with darkness and throw in bad weather, and you had the making of an accident. The light drizzle was easier to navigate in, patches of hard, white light making occasional appearances through breaks in the clouds.
The fact that it was a full moon did not help Dave's nerves any.
This last call had made his decision to return home easier, his mother telling him how Danny had sacrificed the neighbor's dog over a pile of burning pumpkins. Tim had gone on a rampage, beating the boy so severely that he was black and blue all over, refusing to let their mom call an ambulance. She had managed to sneak a phone call to Dave, pleading for him to come do something.
"You have to come help us, Davie," his mom had begged. "Tim…Tim beat him a long time, Davie. I think he hurt him bad."
Thoughts of the current situation were pushed from Dave's mind as his old homestead came into view. The three-story structure was entirely dark, its windows barely reflecting the pools of light from the street lamps. Dave pulled into the drive way and followed it around to the rear of the house, his headlights revealing the smoldering pile of smashed out pumpkins with the carcass of a dog on top of it.
"Dear, God," whispered Dave, shocked that his little brother had actually done such a thing. He couldn't believe that Tim hadn't already removed the abomination, eager to keep his name unsullied in the eyes of the community.
Dave choked down the bile that he felt clawing at the back of his throat and climbed out of his SUV, not casting another glance at the sickening sight. Dave trotted up the stairs, found the back door to be unlocked, and went on into the house. The apprehension that he was feeling at facing down his stepfather intensified as he flicked the light switch to find that it was not working.
"Mom?" he called out, venturing further into the house. He shivered violently, his nerves getting the better of him for a few seconds, and took a deep breath to calm himself.
In his mind he saw images of Tim striking him over and over again, using the thick leather strap that he so cherished. The visions were a mishmash of memories; scenes of his mother or brother or him getting beat, or struck repeatedly with the strap. The time Tim had pushed him down the basement stairs, locking him down there for two days. A cold sweat broke out across his forehead, his breath coming in ragged gasps until he was finally able to regain his composure, driving the horrible replays from his mind.
"He can't beat me anymore," spoke Dave to himself, steeling his nerves as he stepped through the doorway and into the dinning room.
His fear of confronting his stepfather was replaced with fear of what had happen to his family. The thin shafts of moonlight coming through the wide bay window of the dinning room revealed splashes of blood on the walls and table. Bloody handprints were all around the doorframe leading out to the living room, looking as if who ever had left them had been pulled from the room.
"Tim!" he screamed.
What the hell had that sociopath done? Had he gone into a fit of rage after finding out his mom had called him? Had he finally killed them like he had kept threatening to do?
Dave charged through the swinging door that let out into the living room, his feet suddenly slipping in something wet on the hard wood floors. He went down with a solid thud, the air forced out of his lungs as pain shot through his shoulder. Dave rolled over gasping, his breath catching in his throat as he found he had slipped in a wide pool of blood. The dark red liquid was spread across the floor so far that Dave had no doubt that who ever it had come from was certainly dead.
Nearly vomiting, Dave stood up, the semi-sticky blood covering his back and side in splotches that left him nauseated. Panic was beginning to set in, his eyes growing wide as he desperately looked around for any sign of what had happen. His gaze fell on a bare foot sticking out from behind the sofa, which he noticed was at a slight angle.
Careful not to slip in the blood again, Dave bolted over to the sofa and leaned over it, terrified that he would see his mom's lifeless body stowed there. The bile that he had been fighting down came up in a burning wave as he vomited down the back of the sofa, his mind registering that he was seeing only a foot and calf. The limb ended in a stringy, blood-encrusted pulp that reminded Dave of the time he had seen a dog bite into a squirrel.
"Oh, God," he gasped, the convulsions finally stopping as he sat down heavily on the sofa. It was a man's foot, of that he was sure. His mind reeled as he thought of what that could mean. It had to be Tim. It just had to be.
But what if it wasn't? What if someone had tried to come to his mother's aid; a friend or neighbor? What if Tim had gone completely psycho, killing everyone that crossed his path? What if the bastard was still in the house, somewhere upstairs in the process of killing his family?
Dave grabbed a poker from next to the fireplace and headed for the stairs, intent on finding out what had happen. The stairway also trailed blood, more handprints indicating that someone had been drug upstairs, and small pools of blood thickening on several of the steps.
Desperation drove him on, he had to find his mom and his little brother, he just had to. They had never been able to defend themselves from Tim, had constantly had to suffer his abuse. Just like him. He also had never had the nerve to stand up to the man, to seek help from an outside source lest Tim vent his wrath before intervention came.
Not this time.
Not any longer.
A short scream cried out from upstairs, ending abruptly with a wet thud. He knew that it was his mother, that she had been silenced by one of Tim's powerful blows, and he ran up the stairs to stop any further abuse. He hesitated when he reached the second floor, unsure of where the cry had come from, and looked about in uncertainty.
From the end of the hall way, behind the door to his brother's room, came more sounds of something being hit upon. Heavy, wet sounding thuds that were full of violence and driven by intense anger. Dave ran down the short hall, heedless of the squishing sounds his shoes were making on the blood soaked carpet, and threw open his brother's door.
Dave had had many nightmares through the years. Dark visions of his stepfather beating one of them to death with his bare hands or, worse yet, with the leather strap. He had also had pleasant dreams in which his stepfather had gotten what he deserved, beaten back by a family that finally stood up to him. Blood and violence had been a powerful force in every one of these fantasies, but it had been no where near as intense as the scene that Dave found playing out before him in Danny's room.
"Hi, Davie," squeaked Danny through a mouth that was red, swollen and bloody.
Dave dropped the poker in shock, his mind nearly overwhelmed at what he saw.
The boy was setting cross-legged, staring at his older brother through two eyes that were black and blue, and just as swollen as the rest of his face. His shirt was slightly torn; his sleeveless arms showing dark welts were he had been repeatedly struck with that damn leather strap. He smiled at his brother, revealing that several teeth were now missing from his once friendly smile, the remaining ones outlined in blood.
The image of his brother, as heart wrenching as it was, was nothing compared to the other sight within the room. Their mother; their sweet, misguided, fearful mother. She was hanging upside down, her midsection torn open to spill her insides on the floor, being held there by an eight-foot tall incarnation of pure terror.
Black eyes set into a round, oblong head sporting a wide mouth filled with dozens of adamine teeth sat atop a skeletal looking frame that was both sinewy and radiating incredible strength. The things lengthy arms ended in massive claws tipped with talons that looked like they could slice through anything, and had been the source of the woman's disembowelment. Its legs were inverted, bending backwards like some obscenely giant grasshopper.
"He's going to protect me from now on, Davie," spoke Danny. His eyes had an emptiness to them that sent a chill running through Dave's soul. "He killed Tim," he continued. "Ate him almost all up!"
"Mom," gasped Dave, the horror deadening his senses.
"He had to kill her too, Davie," informed Danny, still smiling that irritating smile of psychotic contentment. "She let him hurt me all the time."
"Danny…What have you done?"
"I summoned him, silly." Danny sounded like an adult talking down to a child. "I had to have somebody to protect me."
"My God, Danny. How…how could you do this? You let this thing kill mom!"
"He explained it all to me, Davie," spoke Danny as he slowly stood up. "You shouldn't have left us here, Davie. He says you deserted us. He says that you have to die now, too."
"Danny, no, listen to me!" screamed Dave, the demon letting the body of their mother drop to the floor.
"Then all the rest that picked on me."
The demon stepped forward, smiling wide to show off all of its pointy teeth. Flexing its claws, it drew closer to the fear-paralyzed Dave, drool mixed with blood dripping off its wide maw.
"Danny!" cried Dave, finally taking a step backwards. "Danny, I came to help you!"
"Sorry, Davie," replied Danny. "You shouldn't have left us."
Dave turned to run but it was too late. He was slammed to the ground as the demon leapt onto his back, the sharp crack of breaking bones ringing in his ears. Pain shot through him, thundering in his head, and he realized that he couldn't feel his legs, the impact of the creature having broken his back.
The demon rolled him over, his body unable to resist in any way, and he found himself staring into the black eyes with terror. Spittle dripped onto his face, the demon smiling as it touched a talon to his chest and applied enough pressure to slice into Dave.
The screams continued for a while longer as the demon slowly sliced Dave apart into pieces just small enough not to kill him right away. Dimly, somewhere in the back of his mind, Dave's senses registered his little brother's voice the entire time, telling him over and over how sorry he was.