Read Lords of Salem Online

Authors: Rob Zombie

Tags: #Fiction / Horror, #Speculative Fiction

Lords of Salem

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SEPTEMBER 16, 1692

Chapter One

She awoke. There was pressure on her arms as if they were pinned under something, and then her hands were tugged farther over her head and she realized that they were being held. She opened her eyes, but something was wrong with her vision, everything blurry, everything distorted, everything just wrong. What was happening to her? Was she sick? Had she been poisoned?

She cast her eyes around desperately. She could make out, just behind her, a line of bedposts that slowly resolved into a single bedpost before spreading out again. Had she been drinking? No, she didn’t think so, couldn’t remember having done so. She knew she shouldn’t, because of the danger it would be to the child. But something was wrong. Her heart was beating wrong, fluttering too fast in her chest, and her tongue sat thick in her throat. She tried to speak, but what came out weren’t words and didn’t make much sense at all.

Someone held something sharp and bitter beneath her nose and she drew away in disgust. She shook her head and for a moment things became clear. She was in a room, but it was not her room. It had a strange, earthy smell to it. The walls were rough-hewn, a kind of shack or hovel, nowhere in the town proper—the kind of place you would stumble across deep in the woods, out in the middle of nowhere. It was no place she had ever been before.

Above her, clear for a moment before smearing into several versions of itself, was a wooden birdcage. But instead of holding a finch
or a canary or some other lovely songbird it was stuffed nearly full with a large chicken. It was hard to imagine how it had gotten in there. The creature could hardly move or turn, and she could tell it was alive only because of the way its head kept jerking against the bars. Below the cage, hanging from its base, was something spinning back and forth, twirling, twirling. What was it? It seemed like pieces of bone, bits and gobbets of gore, too, but no, why would it be that? She must be seeing it wrong, must be imagining things.

She tried to will the cage back into focus, until something came between it and her, a distorted, broken face. Again, something was held beneath her nose and the smell thrust like a knife deep into her brain and some things grew clearer and others less so.

The room around her became less clear, seemed now to be shimmering with an odd, uncanny heat. The distorted face grew more distinct, though: a woman’s face, the face itself severe and extreme and frowning slightly. The face was framed by a dark hood, a black expansive cloak that fell long to hide the body below it. From the collar, she could see protruding the fur of an animal, fox perhaps or even wolf, but poorly cured and still bloody.

She shook her head again. She was waking up now, starting to see things clearly. But what she was seeing was incredible.

And then the cloaked woman took a step to the side and raised one hand, something glinting brightly in it. A knife.

Her panic began to grow. She tried to lower her arms, but something held them still. She writhed and looked behind her, saw a pair of grimy hands with broken nails roughly grasping her wrists, as another hand bound those wrists tightly with rope. She felt the nails sink in, drawing blood. She tried to get her legs off the bed so as to stand, but they would hardly move either. She managed to raise her head enough to see there, past her swollen belly, her ankles bound tightly with rope and tied off to the post at the bed’s foot. Then her arms were pulled back hard enough to make them ache painfully in the sockets. She flailed her head back and saw they had been tied to
one of the posts at the top of the bed. She was trussed now, spread taut on the bed, unable to move.

“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked the cloaked figure. Her voice sounded odd and foreign to her own ears, the words muddy and slow, and fear made her voice crack. But the cloaked woman did not answer her. She did not even seem to have heard. She just passed the winking blade back and forth in a sinuous pattern above her body, mumbling a strange sibilant chant.

“Who are you?” she asked.

The cloaked woman still did not answer, but she felt another’s warm and corrupt breath in her ear and heard a low whisper say,
The Devil’s children
. She turned and there was a face there, too close. A woman in a ragged cloak, missing many of her teeth and with a smile of idiocy or ecstasy fixed to her face. Her breath smelled of rotted meat.

She turned away and to the other side, but found a face looming there, too—a rail-thin woman with matted and coarse white hair, her eyes like two burning embers, her body dressed in rags and skins. And indeed, faces now were gathering in a semicircle around the bed, all of them watching her, all of them eager. Mouths were open, some of them mumbling, some slobbering. The woman with the knife was speaking now in a guttural language she couldn’t recognize, the other women beginning to rock and sway, their voices rising and falling.

“Help me!” she shouted.

She struggled against the ropes and screamed once, then again. The knife rose and fell and she felt a line of fire slicing into her side and through it and there was a dull, wet sound that it took her a moment to realize was the sound of her own flesh being cut. She lifted her head and watched the bony hand pull the knife farther through her belly, sawing the blade up and down. The flesh tore painfully and slowly, the blood spraying the arm holding the knife and then welling up slowly and inexorably. The knife kept sawing, and the flesh pulled along with it. She screamed again, much louder this time, but a withered hand
clamped down hard over her mouth, muffling her screams, cutting off her breath.

She felt hands pushing their way into her, fingers forcing the lips of the wound wider, the flesh tearing, and then the knife pierced something deeper inside her. There was a slick torrent of fluid and blood, and then it was as if she had been turned inside out. She tasted blood in her mouth and felt a chunk of slick flesh. It took her a moment to realize she’d bitten through her tongue. She struggled again to free her head and managed to lift it just long enough to see her own torso cut open and spread out, hands gripping the edges of the wound and holding them open as the leader of the women, her hands up to the elbows in blood and gore, felt around inside her. A loop of intestine jiggled its way out, smeared with blood flux, then something smaller, a veined and ridged tube, and then, among it all, a tiny and flexing hand.

She tried to move her arms, her feet, but she was weaker now and her limbs seemed so distant, hardly subject to her control. She struggled weakly against the hand clamped over her face. When the hand was removed she found she had no energy to scream.

She lay there on the bed, the life leaking out of her.

The last sounds she heard were the cries of a child.
child, she dimly realized.
What would they do to him?
she wondered. And then she died.

Chapter Two

The newborn child struggled, yowling still, uncomfortable in the twisted hands that awkwardly clutched it. The woman in the hooded, dark cloak had turned away from the bed now and moved toward the center of the room. She drew back her hood and crouched there now, bent over a fire pit in the floor, where over a surface of dying embers she was creating a figure out of woven branches and sticks, making an effigy of a man with her still-bloody hands. The other members of the coven watched her, slowly drifting away from the bed and the bloody, dead woman lying there with her insides, and turned out to gather around the fire pit. The rail-thin woman holding the child approached the cloaked one deferentially from behind, leaned toward her ear.

“We have it, Mistress Morgan,” she said in a loud whisper. “Still slick and bloody from its birth from death into life. Shall we make it bloody with its own blood and let the life ooze back out of it and make our summoning?”

“All in good time, Clovis,” said Margaret Morgan, not looking away from the figure she had arranged. She had steady, brown eyes so dark that in the low light they seemed nearly black. They were set in an austere face with high, almost aristocratic cheekbones. Her mouth was cruel, her lips bloodless, and her face, too, was pale, as if drained of blood. She blew steadily before speaking again, the gray embers beginning to glow red. “All in good time.”

Clovis bowed and stepped back, the baby still wailing. Morgan blew steadily again and the embers grew redder and in a sudden rush the legs of the wooden man came aflame.

Once she was satisfied the fire had caught, she stood and stepped back. She inscribed an unholy figure in the air with the bloody tip of her knife, her dark eyes steady but shining with zeal.

“In the name of Satan, Ruler of the Earth, the King of the World, the Lord of the Oppressed,” she intoned, gesturing to the motley collection of witches gathered around her, dressed in cloaks of skins and rags, “I command the forces of darkness to bestow their infernal power upon the wretched vessels I have set before you.”

Behind her, Clovis held the baby like a chicken, dangling it now head down by its feet, both ankles gripped in her fist. It continued to squeal, its face deep red, its body tensed and its arms spread. Slowly, Clovis stepped forward, moving nearer to the fire. She bowed slightly and swung the child out before her, presenting it to Margaret Morgan, the leader of the coven.

“I beg of thee,” Clovis said, her head still bowed as she recited the memorized words, “take this gift and heal me of these mortal wounds inflicted by the Christian faith.”

Morgan slid the knife into her belt and accepted the child. She held it coldly in front of her, frowning slightly, her gaze hard and stony. When she began to speak, her voice had a deep crooning quality, almost hypnotic.

“O Lord Satan, Spirit of the Earth,” she said, “open wide the gates of Hell and issue forth from your blessed abyss.”

She raised the child high above her head, her eyes glittering. Before her the flames surged up and seemed to become a living thing. The flaming effigy within the fire seemed to give utterance to moans and wails, as if the wall between this world and Hell had begun to collapse, allowing Hell to ooze its sickly way through.

“Sisters!” said Morgan, casting her gaze on the coven gathered
around her. “Reveal yourself to the master of our Lords! I am but your humble servant in this land of misery.”

The coven answered her in one voice, the fire casting their distorted shadows in a dark dance along the walls of the hut. “All hail!” they proclaimed. “Unholy Father, make your presence known this night!”

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