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Safe Haven

by Denis Bushlatov

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4


“To the brim?” he heard. He stared at Lampreyin.

“I say, do you want your brandy glass full to the brim?”

“Well... No, nothing at all. I’m driving.” Avdeyev forced the words out, glancing back.

Thinking about it, he did not notice how they had gotten up to the second floor. A staircase led them into the center of a narrow dark hallway, on both sides of which were numerous doors. There was an unmistakable smell of rotten meat.

“Here we are! Please, follow me to the right.” Lampreyin swayed, making inviting gestures.

Avdeyev followed him obediently, trying not to breathe. The entire floor seemed to have died out. In the echoing silence, Avdeyev could hear his own heart beating and the noisy wheezing of Lampreyin.

“You won’t regret it, Vladimir Stepanovich, believe me,” the receptionist continued. “This hotel is like the Hilton! Not just the Hilton; it is a notch above it! Well, here we are!”

They stopped in front of a narrow door, rolled roughly over with brown paint. Right in its center, the word “Lux” was handwritten in black marker.

“Luxation!” shrieked Lampreyin. With a theatrical gesture, he fished out a heavy key from his back pocket and put it into the keyhole. The tight lock creaked and had to be forced open. It was obvious the door hadn’t been opened in a long time.

“We are going to heat up the sauna, of course. And why not, for the distinguished guests!” Lampreyin rasped amiably, wrestling with the key.

Finally, the door opened with an infernal screeching. A stench of carrion rolled out of the suite.

Lampreyin, like a snake, darted through the doorway, fumbled in the darkness for a few seconds, clicked on a light switch, and the room was instantly filled with a yellow light.

“Ta-da!” yelled Lampreyin. “Welcome to our humble abode, Vladimir Stepanovich!”

Avdeyev, in a state of deep shock, slowly, on rubber feet, walked into a small doorway, made a few more steps and found himself in the room.

In a corner of the room stood a sofa with a caved-in back. Two torn tuffets were laying nearby. In the opposite corner, a huge black and white television, of domestic manufacture, was standing on a once-polished, wooden nightstand.

In the center of the room stood a large rectangular table on four long, thin legs. On the table was a bulging decanter, half-full of greenish liquid. A turned-over glass was collecting dust near the decanter.

There were also two chairs by the table: one was a tattered, faux leather desk chair; the second was wooden, without any upholstery. A swear word in large letters was scratched on the back of the wooden chair.

The wallpaper was coloured poison-yellow and ornamented with small pink flowers. The ceiling with rusty stains was scary to look at.

But the most shocking of all was a huge picture hanging to Avdeyev’s left. On a fly-specked canvas was portrayed a naked and tortured old man sitting on a chair. His right leg was tied to a leg of the chair, and he was stretching out his left leg, which was cut off at the knee. Around him, standing hand in hand, were obese and rosy-cheeked babies, each one twice the size of the old man.

The old man smiled affably.

Trying not to show his emotions, Avdeyev turned around and slowly walked out of the suite.

Cheerful Lampreyin was awaiting him in the hallway. Behind the receptionist, Avdeyev saw a large man with a fleshy, cruel face in a chef’s hat.

“So, what do you think?” yelped Lampreyin. “First class? Just like Paris?”

Avdeyev began moving backwards. I have to say something, he thought feverishly, to put his mind at ease... And then, I get to the car, to the police, to the hospital, just get the hell away from here!

A phone rang somewhere far away.

And suddenly he got it. Before he had time to pull himself together, the words started flying right out of his mouth. “The phone!” he gasped, backing away ever faster. “You said it does not work... A cell phone doesn’t receive any signals, right?”

Lampreyin and his sinister companion remained motionless. The distance between them and Avdeyev increased rapidly. “Of course, Vladimir Stepanovich, that is what I said,” replied the receptionist condescendingly. “Do my words give you any reason for doubt?”

“Of course not.” Now he was almost running backwards. “But, pray tell me, how could Proskurnya call you a week ago?”

Lampreyin shrugged. “That’s true. How? Who the hell knows? However, allow me to explain. You see, your chief editor is not Proskurnya, but Proshrgrnragrnya, and you ought to listen to the true semantics of the words, Vladimir Offeringovich!”

The receptionist stepped aside, and his quiet companion rushed forward, moving with inhumanly fast leaps from shadow to shadow.

Avdeyev squealed, turned around and dashed for the stairs at full speed. He almost made it when a huge paw grabbed him by the hair and tore him away from the ground, like a puppy.

“Don’t kill him, Alexey!” Adveyev heard the words while writhing in mid-air.

With a grunt, the cook threw him headfirst against the wall. Avdeyev heard a loud crack and then someone turned off the lights.

The realization of self came out of the darkness. He existed. He breathed. He felt pain and fear. He heard a low growl of voices, reminiscent of a distant thunder, of ringing, metallic clanging, crunching. He was impaired, but still felt his body: crippled, broken and wet. He was naked.

He was dying.

Avdeyev tried to move his arms, but they seemed to be glued to a surface. The effort caused severe pain in his forearms. He screamed, but nothing escaped his throat, just a hoarse croak. Losing all control, he thrashed like one possessed; he felt his torso lift off the rough, wet surface, but his arms still stayed in the same place.

They tied me down, was his first flash of conscious thought. Lampreyin... and that cook-thing. They tied me down, beat me and... Now what?

Sounds around him harmonized into a hubbub of joyous voices, laughter, clinking of wineglasses and what sounded like a clatter of forks on plates. He tried to open his eyelids. They opened with difficulty, as if his eyelids were glued together. He immediately closed his eyes against the glare. He slowly opened his eyes again to stare in horror and disbelief at what was only a few meters away from him.

Only after a while he realized that abhorrent entwinement of claws and tentacles was a lamp, cleverly made of metallic constructions. He was looking at a low stone ceiling, at the center of which was a blinding, profane chandelier.

Avdeyev instinctively tried to cover his eyes and again failed to lift his arms up. He turned his head slowly.

And then he saw them.

He was lying on a long wooden table, stretched out along the boards. The monsters were standing above him. Much taller than human beings, fat, slick, anthropomorphic creatures that looked like gigantic babies. Their toothy smiles were so wide that their faces seemed to be cut in half. They were drooling.

There were some people next to them. In the bright light of the horrible chandelier, Avdeyev recognized Lampreyin and the man with the buzzing mouth that he had met on the way, and the gorilla-like cook, who was standing in a corner, holding a cleaver. And a bit further... No, it was a mistake, it couldn’t be!

But it was. Standing to the left of the creatures was the chief editor of Marine Messenger in a full suit and tie, arms akimbo, Leonid Petrovich Proskurnya. Looking out from behind his back was Mikhael Nevadovich Scarabich, proofreader and cannibal.

Avdeyev felt that he was losing consciousness. Moaning, he lunged again, screaming in pain and looking down, he saw himself. They had undressed him and fixed him to the table with large bolts.

“Would you look at that, our Offeringovich is awake!” squeaked Lampreyin, bowing subserviently. “All ready for our Distinguished Guests!”

“Oh, goody, goody,” rasped one of the creatures. It licked its lips, revealing a fat, rotten tongue. It stared at Avdeyev with dull fish eyes.

“Did he... came hissself?” rustled the second monster.

“Sure... I mean, yes he did,” Lampreyin anwsered quickly. “We only showed him the way, the direction if you will, but he inspected the room by himself, and was presented to the likeness of the Young Ones. Just as he was supposed to.” He wiped his forehead.

“I would like to add,” peeped Scarabich jumping with anticipation, “that our Food has graduated with two diplomas: a PhD in Philology. And he is my friend!” He sobbed theatrically and wiped his nose. Proskurnya shushed him and Scarabich stared at the floor.

“Comrades!” — the chief editor saluted with his right hand — “on this glorious day, on behalf of the Zealots of True Faith Consortium, as well as the editorial board of the Marine Messenger, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our friends, patrons and sponsors from the great empire of Rats, thank them for their tolerance for our mistakes, their patience and infinite kindness, their generosity and understanding. We, Olium’s children, vermin at the feet of the Abiding, your slaves and followers, we praise you!” He fell onto his knees in front of the monsters.

“Welcome to our table, gentlemen. Bon appétit.” Lampreyin leaned back imploringly.

Wait a minute! someone squealed belatedly in Avdeyev’s head. But the Poles...

“To hell with the Poles! And Black Sea Fleet! I’m going to be slaughtered like a sheep!” he whimpered and arched his whole body, but all in vain. It was already over.

“GOOOOD!!! VERY GOOOOD!” roared the first monster. It snorted and, with one unnatural movement, wormed over to the table. It reached out its fat arms, gripped Avdeyev’s left hand and, with tremendous force, ripped the tendons with a sickening crunch. Then it opened its huge black mouth, sent the terrible trophy into the nauseating darkness and began chewing it with gusto, loudly crunching the bones.

Avdeyev felt an unbearable, animal pain. He opened his mouth to scream, but the second monster had slithered itself beside him, took his jaw and twisted it off along with a strip of skin from his neck.

“In the name of the brotherly cooperation between the underground city of Olium and the Lords of Rats!” roared the creature, waving the jaw.

“And the eternal prosperity of our nations!” echoed Proskurnya.

The black world, bleak and dismal, was fading into a bloody mist around Avdeyev. He was cold, but he perceived that cold indirectly, much like pain, as if all of this wasn’t really happening to him and concerned him very little. He knew that in a moment he would be dead; he would bleed out before those abominable creatures could devour his body, but it didn’t seem important to him now.

Waves of death were gently rocking him. He shuddered only once. He sobbed. And let go, lulled by the waters of the quiet safe haven.

Copyright © 2015 by Denis Bushlatov

Proceed to Challenge 643...

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