Burial Rites
rating: -2+x

Dr. Morrissey

It was Halloween night. No one wanted to be here, but it was almost mandatory. Dr. Morrissey unscrewed the top of his stainless flask, only to find the entire container empty. He looked across the table at Tariq the sheep, who was disinterestedly flipping through a foundation newsletter. He shifted focus to her left, finding the Cheshire Cat, Dr. Atwood. He didn’t particularly care for Atwood, none the least that he somehow was better received than he was. Dr. Atwood, to him, was a negative jackass who would bitch for hours over the littlest of slights. Why he couldn’t just be fine with other people’s faults baffled him. It always worked for him, anyway.

Dr. Argosy though, he fucking detested the man. Argosy was a worm who fed the beast of upper management with his fellow underlings as prey. Morrissey tried not to actively look at him, since he could feel the creep’s eyes boring into him from across the round table. Not even wearing a costume, not like some fifty year-old fuck would care. That ponce, wearing his “transitions” indoors, even though they’re not supposed to always be dark. He just wanted to look intimidating. If that was his goal, he was severely outmatched by the hulk next to him.

Agent Dahmer was 250 pounds of pure muscle. And hate. He was a pit-bull, face permanently scowled, ripped physique showing underneath a sleeveless flannel that was a size too small, probably on purpose, and eyes made for sizing up. He looked even more canine from his wolfman costume. He was trained by the Foundation to blast first, ask questions post-rendezvous. Morrissey glanced down at his hip, noticing the oversized plastic pistol grip poking out the side. Maybe he made some facial tic, since Dahmer shot him a stern look as soon as his gaze went back to eye level. He didn’t need fake prescription lenses to psych someone out, he did that just fine on his own. He had eyes like a corpse, two milky marbles penetrating a thousand miles into Morrissey’s own.

Now Marie, though, she was who he was here for. He thought she looked great as whatever sort of nature nymph, dryad sort of thing. That was mostly because of what was underneath the plastic leaves, though. As one of the lead botanists in charge of several plant-based skips, it was a fitting costume. Fitting in more ways than one. It complimented his outfit, a cheap gorilla suit. He just wish it wasn't so hot and rubbery.

The blip of a keycard drew everyone's attention to the south door, just as Senior Researcher Tarkus entered the room. His bright neon banana suit was met with a light chuckle from Marie, and Morrissey followed suit.

"Woah! Who invited the gorilla? Security breach!" Tarkus quipped, trying his best to lessen the air of apprehension.

Everyone broke out into a chuckle, except for Argosy. Salty old bastard. Dr. Morrissey slid the stifling rubber mask over his head, the grossly smooth inside clinging to his face. He lifted his arms like a Hammer Horror monster. He made a mocking roar, and looked at Marie for some form of approval. She laughed, and he did too.

"Uh-oh, I better watch out!" Tarkus laughed. Everyone else followed suit. Morrissey took off the gorilla mask, wiping away a few beads of sweat from his chin. Tarkus opened a Ziploc bag, and withdrew a rubber-banded set of index cards.

"So, now that I see the 'ab-so-lutely gigantic' crowd gathered for tonight's fun, let's get to the point!"

The statement was met with a few "Yeahs!" and a forced, dry "Woo." from Dr. Tariq. Morrissey joined in with a second, much more jovial "Woo!", he was already a bit lit up. He was determined to turn this into something fun, even if he had to do it here. Tarkus turned to Dr. Argosy, the same stupid summer-camp counselor grin on his face.

"Aw, forgot you're costume? That sucks!"

Dr. Argosy met this with a breath of exasperation, his signature "I'm too old for this shit" move.

"I'm too old to be playing dress up, Tarkus. I'm just here to supervise." Argosy sighed.

"Well, every party has a pooper, that's why we invited you!" He laughed that same forced laugh.

Too bad we didn't invite him. If we had, at least he would've brought a keg. Dr. Tarkus cleared his throat.

"Anyway, tonight we have something incredibly fun planned. Here," Tarkus began passing out the stack of index cards, face down, "This is your 'role' for tonight, I think you'll be familiar with the characters."

Dr. Morrissey took his card, flipping it over in his hand, keeping it away from prying eyes. On the card was a blue dot in the upper corner, with "MRS. PEACOCK" written in sharpie underneath. He already knew what was going on. He looked over at Argosy, who's bushy grey eyebrows furrowed and peeked over the top of his Ray-Bans.

"Who the hell is Reverend Green?"

Dr. Tarkus grinned, "Shush! That's supposed to be secret!"

Okay, great. Some stupid party games before he could walk back to his place, with Dr. Louise clinging to him like a life preserver. That's all he was actually after.

"Tonight, there has been…" Dr. Tarkus paused for dramatic effect.

The lights switched off. There was still a slight blade of light from under the security door, but it was completely dark. Dr. Louise squealed, before giggling.

"A murder!"

Dr. Tarkus switched on a flashlight underneath his chin, giving himself a narrator's lighting. He flipped the light switch back on, revealing the previously empty metal table to have a stack of manilla envelopes, each with a certain color. Dr. Morrissey instinctively reached for the one with blue sharpie scribbles.The others grabbed their corresponding document. He tried to open the butterfly clasps with his gorilla hands, before tucking the envelope under his arm to take both of the gloves off. The second try was a lot more successful. Inside was a single sheet of printed paper. He pulled it out.

"Now," Tarkus gestured to the group, turning himself to get everyone, "Inside you will find a list of locations, locations you know to be inside our friendly Site-65. It is of the utmost importance that you follow these rules…”

Morrissey’s head began to swim. What was he going on about? His cheap costume felt like someone pinning him down. His mouth was dry. He began to slide out of his folding chair when the darkness finally overtook him.

Medical Officer Tariq

Arwa Tariq could taste the sharp strips of grass inside her mouth. The cotton balls glued to her skirt had either swelled with dew or fallen off. She pushed up, her entire body felt bruised. The soft amber light of a porch backlit her as she leaned against a support timber. She pushed the sheep-horn headband off of her eyes. Taking in her surroundings, it seemed she was somewhere in the American Midwest, outside a house overlooking some sort of cornfield.

The stars were wrong. There was something resembling an aurora and it was wrong. As she stared up at an alien sky, she heard something moving in the brush near the entrance of the cornfield. The stalks parted as a lank, furred biped emerged from the brush. It wore some kind of animal skull, and it’s arms went down to its feet. It stopped. It’s left arm raised slowly, with an audible creaking, pointing directly to her. It seemed to elongate as it rose, stretching itself to meet her. Tariq froze, watching the clawed tip of it’s finger come centimeters from her eyes. It slowly swung it’s arm away from her, towards the path leading into the cornfield. As he pointed into the field, Tariq could make out a column of smoke flowing up. Tariq started walking.

The creature stuck close to her as they walked. She assumed it had taken five minutes of walking through a winding path cut into the rows. As the two reached the clearing, she stared wonder what she had stumbled into.

The clearing was roughly circular, half containing more creatures, and the semicircle behind, held back by more creatures, were people who weren’t. They had no flesh, just muscles, dressed like extras on an episode of Little House on the Prairie. The pitchforks and torches, as well as the agitated shouting showed they weren’t there to help. They were being held back by more of the creatures like the one that had led Arwa here.

In the center of the semicircle was a badly beaten Morrissey, dressed only in a bloodsoaked t-shirt and boxers. His arms were being twisted behind his back by another creature. Tariq scanned the crowd, and saw a similar scene of the others. Argosy, Atwood, Marie, Dahmer, and Tarkus all stood in similar ways, restrained by more creatures. Tariq felt her “guide” step up behind her, and grabbed her arms, pulling them behind her.

They all stood for a few minutes, unable to hear each other over the violent din of the mob. The bonfire grew higher, until it seemed it reached into the skies for miles. A ring of smoke forms around the base of the fire, reaching into a single smoke tower extending outwards into a single wisp, of roughly human proportions. The smoke formed itself into a young girl, roughly 8-10 years old. The riot behind her died abruptly, as they all quieted and kneeled. The ashen girl spoke.


One of the creatures moved forward, no different than the others. The two locked eyes for a few moments, before she scanned the semicircle. As she passed over Tariq, she saw her face was filled with a quizzical malice. Once she reached the end, she snapped her head to Morrissey, still being restrained.

“W-what the fuck do you want?” Morrissey was struggling under the creature. He jerked out towards the girl, throwing his upper body further out. His legs splayed outwards, beginning to lose his balance. A sharp snapping crunch sounded out from Morrissey, and he audibly screamed in pain. The crowd cheered.


The behemoth released Morrissey, who fell forwards onto the ground. He lifted his clawed fist up, and brought it down onto the back of Morrissey’s skull. It sounded like a wet pumpkin, a squelching crack. Tariq wasn’t too late to look away, but it seemed she was the only one who had. From a distance, she could hear Dahmer yelling.

“You sons of bitches! You motherfuckers!”

It was all too fast. Tariq felt the bile well up in her throat before it let loose all down the front of her white wool jacket. She kept coughing and retching, bringing up a few rancid strands with it. Tears flowed down her face more and more as she stood there. Her knees had grown stale and weak, forcing her to fall. The guide released Tariq, letting her drop. The rest of them released their hostages, dropping Dahmer, Argosy, Atwood, and Louise.

Dahmer stood up into a kneeling position, wrenching the silver Beretta from his hip. Several sharp gunshots broke out, aimed at the Smoke girl and the behemoth that killed Morrissey. The rushing crowd behind the ring of creatures broke out from the arm-link barricade, surging towards the group of scientists. Tariq scrambled back away from the horde, and felt someone grab her arms.

“Let’s fucking go!”

Tariq looked up at Atwood, who was pulling her up. He helped Arwa to her feet, before fleeing into the corn. Her muscles ached in dull ripples.

“Where the fuck are we going?” Martin asked her as they stumbled through the tall corn.

She remembered where she woke up, where she started from. They were already headed in semi-correct direction.

“There’s a farmhouse up ahead, it’s fucking huge!”

It was the only safe bet, even if it was the only structure visible to just about anyone within God-knows-how-many miles from here. She could only hope Marie and Don could make it.

Atwood breached the end of the field, falling forwards when he was anticipating more brush. Arwa dropped too, rolling in the light, powdery dirt. She was gasping for air, she had never been on a track team. Martin was still laying on his back, making a sort of rasping, choking noise. She rolled over to him, throwing her arms over him.

"Martin, Martin! We're here, we're fuckin' here!" Arwa grabbed at the fabric of his turtleneck. Dr. Atwood got to his knees, beginning to crawl towards the porch, rising from his knees to his feet the closer he got. Arwa lagged close behind.

They reached the front door, shutting it, and dropping the security bar.

"Get me something heavy to cover this… fucking door." Atwood said, searching the room for anything useful. In lieu of anything heavy enough, they wedged a wooden dining chair under the knob.

"Let's look for anything, a weapon, someone friendly, uh, I dunno, a fucking portal?"

"We can't wait here, we gotta take what we need and move on." Tariq looked outside the window, seeing nothing but stalks reaching up to the sky, like a martyr's hands.

Atwood nodded, grabbing a butcher knife from inside of a sink. Tariq moved into the next room, some kind of living space. Up on the fireplace, a heavy wooden rifle decorated the mantelpiece. Jackpot. She picked it up, working the swivel to check for a single unfired shell. There was one in the tube. In the main room was a large, silver mirror. Although coated in a thick layer of grey dust, she could still see the two of them. She started laughing.

"Look at us, I'm a fucking lamb holding a shotgun, and you're a purple cat with a butcher's knife. Happy Halloween, everybody."

Atwood looked at himself in the mirror, seeing and smiled a bit. Something caught Tariq's eye in the reflection. From behind the two, in the moonlit window, a skull. She turned to look, without the time to speak.

The wood wall splintered open, as a familiar clawed fist extended through. It was followed by more of the the creature, pushing the planks apart. Tariq lifted the shotgun, firing it at the dark mass of fur. The magnum slug slammed into the behemoth like a bolt, knocking it back a bit. From where the it fell, several of the fleshless farmers crawled over it. Martin swung the cleaver at the one closest, embedding the wide edge into it's shoulder. No blood spurted.

The man-thing became enraged, swinging it's sickle across Atwood's neck. It sent a crimson comb of blood running down his neck. He crumpled, a hand clutching the wound. The wounded farmer fell upon him.

Arwa staggered backwards, trying to reach the staircase. As she crawled backwards up the flight, she used the shotgun as a staff, repelling those coming closer. A mass of three approached. She thrust the buttstock at one with a straw hat, knocking it off. Before she could keep climbing, she saw the spines of a metal pitchfork.

The tips poked up under her rib cage like push pins. She stopped moving, the rusty spines keeping her pinned to the floor. Her vision blurred as her mouth filled with blood.

Medical Officer Tariq

Arwa Tariq could taste the sharp strips of grass inside her mouth. The cotton balls glued to her skirt had either swelled with dew or fallen off. She pushed up, her entire body felt bruised. The soft amber light of a porch backlit her as she leaned against a support timber. She pushed the sheep-horn headband off of her eyes. Taking in her surroundings, it seemed she was somewhere in the American Midwest, outside a house overlooking some sort of cornfield.

This was wrong. She saw the tall stalks in front of her shift. She looked up to the sky and saw that the stars were wrong.

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