...."Al?" she called out, a note of fear creeping into her voice. "Al?"
The soft, scuffling noises continued in the total darkness. It sounded like Al was making funny wheezing sounds as he dug in the ground with his bare hands. Feeling around blindly, Jenny finally found the missing pair of pants and realized she had been mistaken before. These were Al's. She reached into the side pocket and found the book of matches. Her fingers were shaking as she opened the book, tore off a match, and then struck it. After four attempts, the match blossomed into orange flame.
What she saw in that momentary burst of light turned her blood to ice water. Something—a whole pile of small, brown things—was piled on top of Al. His pale legs, streaked with ribbons of blood, thrust out from underneath the seething pile. Hooked claws flashed overhead and then swung viciously down. Chunks of pink flesh and splatters of blood flew into the air and slapped like wet cloth against the stone wall.
One of the things paused and, turning, glared at her, but the light apparently hurt its eyes. It turned away quickly with an angry squeal. Jenny barely noticed the sting as the match burned down to her fingers. But when the cave suddenly plunged into darkness again made all the deeper from the sudden loss of light, her frozen muscles responded to her frantic thoughts. Get the fuck out of here!
She turned, her eyes barely registering the star- studded night sky beyond the cave opening. Her muscles suddenly exploded as she propelled herself at the opening. Time turned into a sludgy blur as she moved forward, her hands outstretched reaching for freedom beyond the cave door.
From behind, there came another, louder squeal. She thought of the time her father had trapped a rat in their barn. The poor creature had been caught in a vise-like leg hold and hadn't had time to gnaw off its leg so it could drag itself away and die alone. Without flinching, her father had brought his boot down, slowly and firmly on the trapped creature. As it died, it had made a similar sound like the one she heard now coming from behind her in the darkness—
Only this time, the sound was much louder, and it came from more than one throat.
She hit the ground less than three feet from the cave entrance. The impact knocked the wind out of her, but she barely noticed any pain as she scrambled to escape. She caught the side of the entrance and started to pull herself out, but when she was halfway through and was just starting to think she might actually make it, a fiery pain suddenly ripped into the backs of her legs. With a single wailing scream, she twisted around and looked up at the stars, glimmering above her so far away.
And as the pain spread upward, as her stomach was ripped open and as her intestines uncoiled onto the ground, the stars overhead began to grow dim until they blurred and finally faded.
Rick Hautala's 1988 novel Little Brothers has been swallowed up in a generous 2010 ebook omnibus called Untcigahunk: The Complete Little Brothers.
Little Brothers might not be superb horror fiction (Simon Raven, Arthur Machen), but it is superb 1980s Horror Boom fiction.
A family falling apart after profound trauma of Mom's murder five years before action begins.
Juvenile delinquency of the "he's just acting out but he's really gonna be fine" variety.
Juvenile delinquency of the "he's headed for the Green Mile now" variety.
Cabin in the woods.
Nasty land developer.
Nice police chief.
Exposed cellar of burned-out 17th century witch's house.
Hautala observes the for-then genre maturities: no judgment about pot and teenage sex in a musty old cave.
It's nice to go back to 1988 and enjoy a straight-arrow plot. Hautala knew he was writing 1980s Brand Horror.©
And he did it well.
3 May 2018