At Fear's Altar

At Fear's Altar by Richard Gavin Read Free Book Online

Book: At Fear's Altar by Richard Gavin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Gavin
Tags: Fiction, Horror, Short Stories (Single Author)
delicately replaced the head in its nest, watching as the bugs writhed over it in delight.
    An instant stark terror shot through him. All Colin could think was ‘What have I done?’
    The old man began to run. The paths held their form, enabling Colin’s race back to the main road to be a thoughtless one. He narrowly missed being struck by a truck that was barrelling down the main road. The driver must have spotted Colin at the last instant, affording him just enough time to swerve and stir up a great fog of dust. The driver laid on his horn and screamed something as he sped on.
    Winded and drenched with sweat, Colin did his best to run for the remainder of the trek. He barely noted that a pale woman was gently rocking on her porch swing as he passed by her home. He shouted something to get her to stop staring at him, then jabbed his key into the front door. After several fumbling attempts he finally managed to gain entry and immediately locked the door and then drew every shade over every window. In that dim, impregnable cottage he hunched down and trembled. Much like yesterday morning, everything seemed to be moving with dizzying swiftness. Colin wondered if he would ever again feel centered, placed in the world.
    He had almost managed to calm himself when a knock at his front door caused him to shriek. He scuttled against the wall, unable even to entertain the thought of opening the door.
    A woman’s voice called out “Hello?” Though the words were muffled by wood, Colin was certain that the woman was now calling his name. Another knock. Colin held his breath. He could then hear the soft grinding sound of someone walking on his gravel driveway.
    A silhouette darkened the blind. Again his name was spoken. Colin began to scream, unsure whether what was emerging from his throat were even words or just some animal reflex to scare off his stalker. Perhaps he was simply trying to drown out the awful voice.
    When the shadow regressed and the noises ceased Colin almost wept with relief. It was only late afternoon, but he was exhausted by the day’s activities and decided to retire early. He undressed and crawled under the sheet, leaving the ceiling light on like a nyctophobic child.
    Anxious that his dreams might drag him back to the paths or, God help him, someplace even worse, Colin slipped into sleep with remarkable ease.
    He might have slept soundly until the following morning had it not been for a disruption that not only roused him, but petrified him to the point where he felt his bowels vacating.
    The disruption had begun as noises; once again of someone prowling around his property. It was dark outside, and under the stark glow of his bedroom light Colin felt all the more vulnerable and exposed. He was sure that the defilers of the church had tracked him down. They had somehow intuited that he had breached their temple, had discovered the awful secrets of their faith.
    Colin slithered out from beneath the soiled sheets, taking care to hunch out of sight of his open doorway.
    From the front of the house came the telltale sound of his door opening.
    Colin charged for the bedroom window. It was open to admit the cooling breeze, but he still had to plunge his naked frame right through the mesh screen. He landed in Bev’s fallow flowerbed with a thud that made his back and jaw ache. Scrabbling like some weird arachnid across the lawn, Colin bolted ahead, oblivious to where he might be headed.
    A vehicle was parked in his driveway, and a passing impression of another figure on his lawn whipped past Colin’s periphery as he ran. He heard a woman screaming behind him. He raced across the road. Panicked, filthy, and stark naked, Colin charged on. If he could just make it around the main bend in the road, just enough to get out of sight, he could hide for a few seconds and collect his thoughts.
    But his name was continually being shouted, and the terribleness of it made Colin run even harder.
    He was in the woods now. It was

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