Contest Winner: “Salem’s Testament” by Ostin Webb

Contest Winner

When Ian’s sister disappears in a small, Massachusetts town, Ian goes on a terrifying journey to find her. However, the inhabitants of this bay-side village are after him and he has no clue as to why, what they want with him, or what has happened to his sister. Join Ian on him chilling escape through this religious hell called, “Salem’s Testament.”

Salem’s Testament

by Ostin Webb

A faint sprinkle of rain covered the windows of the SUV Ian had rented from the airport an hour and a half beforehand, causing him to groan at how distracted he would be whenever the windshield would brush past his vision. That was a normal thing for Ian, always getting distracted at the smallest of things. He leaned forward to get a better view of the sky above and his face squinted in disappointment realizing that the weather wasn’t going to recover, but worsen as time progressed.

“Well, that’s just great.” Ian expressed by thrusting his back into the driver’s seat, causing the car to swivel with carelessly.

After regaining control, and taking a few moments to gather his thoughts, he flipped on the radio to get his mind off both the rain and trauma of almost driving himself to Death’s doorstep. He kept his eyes on the road as he searched for a station but all that was heard was static and the off-rhythm beat of heavy raindrops hitting the vehicle. Finally, he spun the knob and found a station playing music from the early 1920s. He gave a puzzled look to the radio but surrendered to the beat, tapping his hands on the steering wheel to match the sound of the drums. As if cued, the windshield pushed the rain to reveal a historical marker that read, “Salem’s Testament: Where the lost find their way.”

It looked rather odd compared to most of the signs Ian had seen on his travels, and he would know, his profession was that of a history professor teaching at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As he drove past the sign, Ian felt sudden insecurity, feeling that every physical and mental action he took was being watched from the prying eyes of something not human. As he drove down the main street of Salem’s Testament, he could see no residents but could feel their presence. Slowly he sank down into his chair in hopes that it would save him from the hidden watcher’s soul-piercing gaze but efforts were meaningless. He found a small parking lot able to house about eighteen cars including his so he parked and gathered his suitcase with haste. Ian had a strange feeling crawling across his skin has he stepped onto the side walk in this small rustic looking town in Massachusetts, that for some unknown reason couldn’t be found on any map. Everywhere Ian went, he could feel the cold gaze of the locals’ unblinking, watery eyes on his back. In every alleyway, on every street corner, he could feel the presence of the stooped, pallid residents following him, watching from a distance.

He came to this coastal town for answers about his sister, Melanie, a journalist who had been looking for a new story to report on and had somehow gotten information on this eerie bay-side village. Melanie had been telling Ian of this new-found information and discussed it daily over email. These said emails had gotten worse in terms of Melanie’s mental state and had started to lose her confident composure from when she had started this adventure, exaggerating the unearthly nature of the townspeople and that she felt as though she was being closely watched much like he was now. That was the last of the emails Ian had received from her and this was only three weeks ago. However, only being in this town for little under half an hour of walking the streets like a lost dog looking for its owner, all he could think about was leaving this unnerving place along with its residents far behind him.

After some time of walking in the cold, heavy rain with only a business trench coat to protect his lower body from his ankles up to his upper neck and his suitcase raised to protect his head as his flat cap was doing nothing to keep the rain out of his face. The grey evening sky turned dark with the environment surrounding him, and with a struck of luck, he found an Inn to rest at. The building looked like a ratty hole-in-the-wall motel from the outside, located on the back streets near the shore. He walked through the glass door to have a warm sensation flow throughout him with the sound of a running heater struggling to stay powered, his eyes locked with the inn’s keeper and suddenly grow colder than from when Ian was outside. The old man stared intently at him, not blinking and had no emotion across his wrinkled, aged face. The raspy voice broke the silence between the two gentlemen.

“What can I do for you?” the old man asked, seemingly upset by something.

“I’d like to purchase a room for the night, sir,” Ian responded, his voice beginning to shake.

The old man grunted as he rose from his rickety, worn down chair and gathered a key along with a hard-covered journal that Ian assumed to be the log book. The old man asked for Ian’s name, and given the circumstances of the past hour in this forsaken town, to which Ian gave a false name with the resolve to “whole-up” until morning. He made his way to the room with haste and securely latched the door, reassuring himself that he had was safe from the inquisitive eyes surrounding him. The room was cramped and furnished with a lone bed with threadbare sheets, an end table with a lamp placed on the left-hand side topped with a silver-chained cross to accompany it. On the other side of the room was placed a bookshelf that was filled to the brim of religious text, it surprised him at how many there were. Beside the shelving compartment, was a small window that looked to the wall of the building next of the inn. Ian walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, contemplating over the recent events that had occurred. Lost in his train of thought, he grew dreary and soon found himself lying down and drifted into a “much-needed” slumber.

Ian’s peaceful slumber was disturbed by the sound of the door handle being vigorously jiggled and the murmur of angry voices, slowly growing in intensity one second at a time. He jumped to the sounds but stayed as silent as possible. Soon the rattling stopped, and a long pause followed, then a deep, gurgling voice had spoken,

“Outsider! Surrender yourself!”

At the words, Ian got out of bed and looked around the room for something to protect himself with. Then, the rattling occurred once more, becoming more violent than before. Banging could then be heard with sudden jolts from the door as though the unknown intruders were trying to break their way inside. Sweat formed on his brow, his breathing became erratic and his head began to spin. Looking to the bookshelf he leaped to the far side of it and pushed the shelf in front of the door. The door along with the shelf shook back and forth with each thud that followed. Grabbing his coat and hat he looked out the window. It was rather foggy and dark out and judging that the rain had stopped he supposed it was either midnight to early morning.Below was a cobblestone path leading to the harbor and behind the Inn.

With no other choice, he squeezed himself through the narrow window of the two-story building and fell outside. Upon landing on the ground, Ian had slipped and hurt his leg on impact but gritted through the pain and limped down the alleyway. As soon as he rounded the corner to get out of sight, he could hear the loud crash of the bookshelf falling over and the door breaking open followed by a mob of angered voices each arguing about the whereabouts of the “Sinner of all.” Ian limped as fast as he could and fumbled with the car keys in his coat pocket. He dove into an alleyway and hid behind a dumpster to regain his stamina and recover his mental state. Church bells could be heard throughout the town and intercoms that was attached to street lamps that carried a raspy voice that was deeper than the man at the door but younger than the old Innkeeper.

“We will root out what has brought this darkness to our good earth! The tribulations are upon us my children and we must make ready for retched violence in the name of the Lord!”

Screams and yells told Ian that these words boosted the heretic’s morale and only strengthened his resolve to escape this hell.

“God give me voice! God guide my hand!” the voice continued.

These same words repeated and only got louder with every passing moment, every step taken and every breath. Over and over, these words replayed in his mind, driving him mad. He wanted to scream, shout, yell, anything to hear something other than the dreaded words that were lodged inside of his mind but he resisted the urge knowing that if he made the slightest of noises, he would most likely die. The voice coming from outside the alleyway quieted for only but a moment and the shifting of a pair of feet could be heard. Ian knew that whoever, whatever was outside that alleyway was coming for him. Steps could be heard coming towards him and he had to act quickly. Looking around him Ian found a rusty broken pipe that had dents and was warped in many different places but would still serve its purpose if and when the time came.

A mumbled voice was heard closing into Ian’s position. It wasn’t English that much was certain, but it wasn’t that of any tongue that he had ever heard before.

“God give me voice… God guide my hand…”          

Ian grasped the metal pipe tighter, shaking with absolute terror.

The entity walked right up beside Ian, looking directly at the dead end in front of him. Ian sat there as still as a mountain with a look of absolute fear carved upon his face. His heart was beating so vigorously that it was like a pair of drums was being played inside of his head. After a split moment, the entity gave a wide grin, turns its head to look at Ian, and said in a soft, almost welcoming voice, “Welcome to your mortification”

Ian, with all the strength left in his body, thrust the metal pipe at the entities head making it fall to the ground. He got over the man’s body and bashed its head in. With ever fluid motion that Ian made with the pipe was full of fear, anger, even emotions that he had never felt or even known about until now. And with one last motion, Ian took the broken, sharp end of the pipe, and said only three words before thrusting it into the devoted worshipper’s skull.

Ian had never killed before, nor had he ever thought about killing anyone in his entire life. But now that he had, he didn’t know what to do. Ian got off the man and took deep breaths, looking at the face of his victim. His face turned pale at the sight of the heretic’s mangled face, still grinning from when he when he first found him. Stumbling back, Ian looked at his hands. they were covered in blood and so were his clothes. Dropping down to his knees, Ian’s eyes were filled with tears.

“I… I’m not a murderer…” He said trying to reassure himself that he wasn’t in the wrong.

Everything was quiet at that moment with the exception of the man on the intercoms.

“There is no innocence among the outsider in our midst, God rejoices in the spilling of wicked blood! There’s no more perfect faith than that my children! We are the hands of the Lord, we cannot fail!” blared the man from the intercoms.

Standing, he looked out to the water wiping the tears from his eyes, then limped out of the alleyway with one thought in his mind. Get to the car. After wondering the streets Ian eventually found his car. It was untouched with no one around, he felt as though his heart was about to leap out of his chest he was so relieved. He pulled the keys from his pocket and quickly jogged to the car. As soon as he got in, he put the key in the ignition and turned it with haste. After a few moments, the car turned on and soon found himself speeding throughout the town trying to escape. He was almost out of town when he found the townspeople once again. They all just stood still in the center of the road facing him without a glimpse of emotion. Some had torches, others held crosses similar to the one in the Inn Ian stayed at.

One man stepped forward in front of the population. His attire seemed that of a priest. He stood halfway between the town and Ian’s car, staring at him with eyes full of hatred and disgust. This priest then turned to the town’s people and spread his arms wide open, as though he were to catch an invisible person.

“The Lord has gifted me with the power of absolute clairvoyance and has spoken to me, shown me visions yet to come! Two of the same skin and blood will travel to our glorious paradise and with them, its destruction…”

Even though it was pitch black with the exception of the moonlight the shone through the mist and clouds above, along with the torches, Ian could feel the hatred of these worshippers set on his imminent destruction. Slowly he put the car into reverse knowing that where this scenario was going wasn’t going to end well for him.

“He gifted this land to our ancestors for his arrival, the ‘Modern Christ’ of all to guide our lost souls in the aftermath of the end times!”

Suddenly, Ian realized his voice was similar to the man preaching on the intercoms, bellowing the grasp of the lord upon these people’s minds. He shifted in his chair and looked behind him slowly going in reverse, but then there was banging on the driver side window. One of the townspeople tried to break the window, continuously punching the window with full force. Then there were more people, bashing on the car to retrieve the foretold Anti-Christ to save their beloved paradise. He stomped the pedal and the car roared with power, throwing the worshippers around as they were dragged and could no longer hold on. Although this helped, it didn’t completely solve the issue, as there were still people on the vehicle trying to break the glass. On the passenger side window, a crack was heard and then the shattering of glass. Ian turned to see an older man, his skin a pale grey, reaching for him and yelling the same unknown language that he had heard before.

Ian could tell that the man was directing some sort of religious insult towards him as the words did not sound pleasant, but he didn’t care, his only thought was getting these people off his car. Quickly, he put the car in drive and swung the car down the intersection, now facing the forest at least three blocks away. A body could be heard tumbling on the roof of the car with the dark outline of a silhouette slamming onto the ground. While the car was stopped for a split second, the worshipper took his chance and leaned in the window putting a cold grasp on Ian’s upper arm. As gas was applied with haste, the man’s body slid, receiving small shards of glass into his kidney side and abdomen but showed no physical pain although Ian couldn’t tell as the man had a very angered expression and a good amount of yelling was very loudly expressed into his right ear.

As the man pulled Ian’s arm to try and rip him out of the moving vehicle, Ian did his best to try and keep the car steady, as well as fight back as to not suffer a fate worse than he could perceive by the inhabitants of this “paradise.” They were about halfway down what Ian believed to have been the second block on his frivolous journey to reach the forest and the determined worshipper showed no signs of giving up so easily. He had to think fast, and act twice as quick but had no idea of what to do. Ian’s mind was in a sort of overdrive trying to think of a solution to issue about a man stuck in the door trying to kill him. The door, that was the key component. Looking back to the road he noticed a lamp post was coming up and he didn’t know how much longer he could keep this fight going. Looking to the door, Ian kicked the door, gritting through the pain as he was using his injured leg to forcefully push the door open. While doing so he was using his opposite leg for the gas and break during a straight away, sharp turn, and any curves that involving slowing down.

With one final kick, the door flung open and along with it the doomed worshipper. As the man went flying, his grip on Ian’s arm was as tight as a vice so when he went flying, so did some of Ian’s skin. Blood started to sputter out from where the scratches were but it was all worth it, as the door swung open, he jerked the wheel over and drove the door into the lamp post causing the heretic to be sandwiched between the pole and the door. Ian never saw what happened but he believed his efforts succeeded when the door was ripped from the car and a loud snap came from the man’s spine. With many deep breaths later Ian was at the forest, luckily the trees weren’t too close together and spread apart enough to fit the SUV and a little bit of leg room to spare. Looking back, he sighed with relief reassuring himself that he was safe from the terrors that haunted him in that forsaken hell.

Just as he looked forward he thought he could see something in the distance, what he believed was a light of some sort. He turned off his headlights to see if he could make out what it was but he was too far away to make anything out. Getting closer to the light, he noticed many more similar lights appearing and with it, something that nearly drove him to the brink of insanity. Crosses with rotting corpses nailed from their hands and their wrists tied were placed all throughout the area, lit up with bonfires everywhere. Ian quickly maneuvered around the terrifying obstacles but it was too much for him to bare, he grew lightheaded and could barely concentrate. Wavering throughout the forest wasn’t the smartest idea and by the time Ian realized that he should slow down and regain his senses, it was already too late. The SUV’s tail end had clipped a tree and the result of such sent the car flipping over and crashing into many other trees, crosses, and with a final flip, the front bumper right in the middle of a fiery blaze.

Dreary and blinded by the flames, Ian covered his eyes and regained what bit of vision he could. Whilst blocking the light with his hands, he looked to the left and then to the right. Immediately he realized that the world was upside down, and when he looked to the right again, he could see a liquid flowing from the side traveling to the flames ahead. Ian’s consciousness knew what this was instantly – gasoline. Shifting in his chair, Ian’s seat belt snapped and his head dropped onto the roof and pain flowed throughout this body, everything ached especially his leg. He tried to angle his body to where he could pull himself out of the window, or at least the doorway but the window was still intact. Ian could smell the smoke more vividly now, burning his lungs causing him to choke on seemingly nothing but the polluted air that surrounded him. He had no other choice but to break the window, bashing the glass with his weak, bloodied hands. With each forceful action placed on the window, he could hear it break even more so. With one last throw of his arm, he broke the window and began to force himself out the opening.

As he slid out the window, glass shards pierced his clothing and cut into his skin. He screamed whilst pulling, his efforts proving its worth. With the exception of his ankles down to the bottom of his feet, he managed to escape the metal prison. As he was on his back he flipped his body over and begun to stand. He placed his foot forward but all that could be heard was a disturbing snap coming from his leg. Ian fell to the floor in excruciating pain. When he looked, his lower leg was broken at an angle and blood was soaked up from his pants turning the denim into an unrecognizable red color.

Dragging himself across the dirt, he pulled himself as far was from the car as he possibly could. He didn’t get very far from the vehicle before it exploded, as it lifted him from the ground ripping his injured leg off. As he was thrown into the air he watched as his leg was torn from its muscles and fragments of metal struck his body in various places. Everything went dark when he hit the ground, and the smell of chard skin and gasoline was the only thing he could recall. When his blinded eyes opened, he could see the ground moving in front of him with the firm grasp on both arms along with the faint voice of a man preaching what sounded to be the words of God.

He was then laid on his back on a thin piece of wood, arms spread wide. Ian could feel sharp, cold, thin pieces of metal on the palms of his hands. Before he could figure out what it was, sharp pains struck his palms with a reaction that filled the air with a blood-curdling scream. Cheering drowned the screams of agony as he was raised into the air. Looking around in terror, he could see the faces of each and every man, woman, and child in that terrifying hell called “Salem’s Testament.” An erg caused Ian to look beside him, an action that took his very sanity as we saw the rotting corpse of his sister Melanie, nailed to a wooden cross similar to his. The only thing that could be heard was a scream of absolute agony.

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