Here’s another taster of dark thriller The Unlucky Man by H T G Hedges. Don’t scare yourself silly now.
Once, long, long ago, when the world was still young, the beast had stalked its surface and hunted beneath the heat of the sun and the cold of the moon. Its shadow had been cast long over the face of the world and it had known no boundary, its only compulsion was hunger, its only desire to consume.
And then Man came. At first the beast was wary of this new creature, so alike the other beasts it had hunted and yet so different. It watched as Man developed, became increasingly complex, increasingly able, increasingly hungry; and it saw in Man something of itself. And Man fed the beast.
Swiftly it came to realise that, in their actions, these new people could revere the beast, make it strong. With every base action, the beast was worshipped, strengthened, confirmed and it knew in Man a power like no other it had ever known before, and exulted in it.
As the years passed, many came to understand the beast and to fear it and they built fires to keep out his dark and huts to shut out the night. They daubed symbols on the walls of their caves and shunned the dark places of the world. They huddled in the light as their holy-men chanted and burned spices and wove twigs and painted their faces and did everything else they could think of in the hope of keeping it at bay.
Later, they built churches and consecrated the ground and built stronger walls of stone and slept with lights burning to keep out the cold winds of the dark on which the voice of the beast might still be heard. And some of their measures worked and some did not.
There were others though who welcomed the beast with open arms. They worshipped it, built their own churches of bone and blood in its honour, long halls of painted skulls and sharp spikes within which were carried out dark acts in its name that fed and nurtured its dark soul.
To these people the beast was generous, granting them power and dominion, bought at a price, over their peers. Many was the village sheltering in the dark forests of the old world as the shadows lengthened, shutting out the night with candles and lanterns safe behind heavy shutters and doors locked and bolted whilst the tall castles of those who had thrown in their lot with the darkness loomed terrible above them and the night echoed with the screams of those giving their lives in honour of the beast.
In this way, the beast was kept strong without the need to hunt and feed for itself and less and less did it venture abroad beneath either sun or moon and in this lay its undoing. As time passed the beast became ineffable, a thing of legend, an idea out of nightmare, out of superstition. Still fed, bloated on the
supplication of dark deeds, it crawled into the dark like a bulbous fat spider and slept, safe in the knowledge of its own never-ending superiority.
For a long, long time it slept, and when it awoke it was alone.
The world had changed, Man had changed. No longer did it worship the beast for the beast had become a part of its own consciousness. The dark acts of Man were now simply that and no longer an offering to the old dark god. No longer was it fed.
When it emerged from the dark it found it no longer had substance, could no longer rend and tear and alter the minds of men save those already disposed to hear it. For an age it crawled the surface of the earth searching for a way to return to what it once was until at last, defeated, it slunk into the deepest, darkest hole it could find and in the shadows waited sullenly in a state of hibernation for the world to change once more.
As it slept the shadows grew long and deep around it.