Friday, 5 August 2011

Rise of Doc Mortis - Part Four: Suffer the Little Children

The basement was long and narrow, with dirty mattresses lining the walls. Doc entered to a chorus of hacking coughs and raw, raspy breathing.

‘There’s eleven of us,’ Adam explained, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb the few children lucky enough to be asleep. ‘Nine kids, me and Lori, my… well, I suppose you could call her my wife. She’s out looking for food, like I was.’

‘Nine little children,’ sang Doc, quietly, ‘lying in a row. What shall become of them? I don’t know.’

He turned and Adam a nod. ‘I will do what I can, but I must ask you to leave.’

‘Leave, but—?’

‘No “buts”, no “whys”. If I am to make these children better, you must leave me to work.’

Adam’s gaze went past Doc, to the children on the mattresses. He and Lori had saved them all from fates worse than death. They weren’t just kids, they were his kids. His and Lori’s.

‘I’ll just stand over in the corner and keep my mouth shut. You won’t know I’m here.’

Doc adjusted his glasses. ‘I have told you my terms,’ he said, moving to step past Adam. ‘Perhaps, once you are able to agree to them, I shall come back, yes?’

Down on the closest mattress, a child – boy, girl, it was impossible to say – coughed. It was a sound like the barking of a seal. Doc looked down at the frail body, then back to Adam. ‘I just pray it is not too late.’

‘OK, OK, whatever you want,’ Adam said quickly. He held up his hands and began walking backwards towards the door. ‘I’ll wait right outside. Just… just shout me if you need me. And please… do what you can for them.’

Doc gave his case a pat. ‘Oh, do not worry,’ he said, his fish-lips pulling into a smile. ‘Trust me. By the time I’m done, you won’t even recognise them.’

He walked forwards, ushering Adam the final few steps to the door.

‘I’ll, uh, I’ll be waiting right here,’ he said, before the door was closed in his face.

There was an old dining-room chair by the door. Doc lifted it quietly, and wedged the back against the door handle. Only then did he turn and give his full attention to the figures on the beds.

There were nine of them, as Adam had said. Three girls, four boys, two which could have been either. They looked normal, if such a word applied here. Not twisted and freakish like Bubba or the scarecrow. At least, not yet.

Doc’s shoes clacked softly on the bare concrete floor as he slowly paced between the cots.

‘If you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone,’ he mumbled. ‘It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home.’

His gaze went from child to child. A few of them looked back up at him, their eyes blinking sleepily. Only one spoke as he passed by.

‘Who are you?’

Doc looked over his glasses at a boy of around eight or nine years old, dressed in grey rags. He was sitting up on his mattress, his knees pulled to his chest. His matted fringe hung down over his eyes, giving him the appearance of an animal peering out from behind long grass.

‘Who do you think I am?’

The boy shrugged his narrow shoulders. ‘A dentist or something?’

‘Close,’ Doc said. ‘Very close.’ He crouched down next to the boy and sat his case on the floor. ‘I am not a dentist, no. But I do have a drill. It is a very fine drill. I have used it many times.’ His voice became a whisper of excitement. ‘Would you like to see it?’

Without a word, the boy shook his head.

Doc’s smile broadened into a toothy grin. ‘I think, perhaps, I will show it to you anyway. I think, perhaps, I will show you all of the wonderful things in my little brown bag.’

The metal clasp unclipped with a faint click. The leather creaked softly as Doc eased the bag open. ‘Tell me, what is your name, my child?’ Doc asked.

The boy didn’t reply.

‘It’s OK. You can trust me. I’m a doctor.’

‘D-Dan Dan,’ said the boy.

‘Dan Dan, I’m going to tell you a little secret,’ said Doc. His hand reached inside the bag. ‘You are very sick, Dan Dan. Without help, you will almost certainly die.’

Panic flared in the boy’s eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but Doc raised a finger to his lips.

‘Do not worry,’ Mortis said, softly. ‘I can fix you. I can make you better than you have ever been. I can save your life, Dan Dan.’ The hand came out of the bag. A hacksaw came with it, the blade rusted and blunt. ‘All I ask is that you scream.’

But Dan Dan couldn’t scream. Not when the hand caught him by the hair. Not when he was thrown face-first to the filthy floor. And not when the saw blade pressed against the back of his neck and a giggle burst like spit on Doc’s lips.

There were others in the room, though, wide awake now. Scared, but not frozen like Dan Dan. They screamed. All of them. A caterwauled chorus of terror and despair.

‘Do not worry, my little ones,’ Doc told them. ‘You will all get your turn.’

As the screams grew louder, the door gave a sudden jerk. The chair wedging it close held fast and Adam cried out in panic.

‘What’s happening?’ he demanded, hammering against the wood. ‘What are you doing to them?’

‘I am making them better,’ Doc called. ‘Like I promised.’

He leaned down so his face was close to Dan Dan’s. ‘Don’t worry. It might not hurt for long.’

‘Open this door! Open the damn door!’

‘P-please,’ croaked Dan Dan. ‘D-don’t.’

Doc cleared his throat with a cough, forced Dan Dan’s head harder against the floor, and positioned his grip on the saw. ‘For every bear that ever there was, is gathered there for certain because...’ He took a deep breath, savouring the screams of the children around him. ‘…today’s the day the teddy bears have their—’


The door was pulled outwards, the old wood splintering as it was torn from the hinges. Something female-looking, but only vaguely, ducked through the doorway. She was bald, with skin the colour of raw meat. Tattoos snaked over her broad frame, up her muscular arms and over her enlarged skull.

‘Lori!’ yelped one of the other kids. Doc didn’t move as the giantess thundered towards him, Adam trailing behind her, a baseball bat in his hands.

‘Not another step,’ Doc warned. ‘Unless you want little Dan Dan here to go to pieces.’

Lori stopped. Her lips moved, but the sounds that emerged weren’t words. Not ones Doc could understand, at least.

‘Let him go,’ Adam said. ‘Let him go, we can talk about this.’

‘I will talk,’ Doc said. ‘You will listen.’

He stood up, pulling Dan Dan with him, and placed the saw against the boy’s throat. ‘I am leaving now. And I am taking the child with me.’

‘Like Hell you are,’ Adam snapped.

‘Very well, then I shall cut his throat right now, and we shall watch him bleed.’

‘No, wait, don’t!’ cried Adam. He let the baseball bat fall to the floor with a thonk. ‘Just don’t hurt him. It’s going to be OK, Dan Dan. Everything’s going to be OK.’

Doc smirked as he leaned in and whispered into Dan Dan’s ear. ‘Don’t listen to him child,’ he said. ‘Everything is very much not going to be OK.’

Words: Barry Hutchinson

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