Short Story
                                              The Crypt Dweller
                                                                      By Ita Ekhaletruo


      The eyes opened, and as consciousness slowly returned, their beholder came to realise he was no
longer in his soft bed at home. Instead he found himself lain against a hard cold surface, surrounded
everywhere by an impenetrable darkness. He knew he must have been here for a long time now as his
back ached severely and his skin oozed with cold. Where he was however he did not know. Hands, rigid
and clammy, began to explore the surroundings. They did not need to seek far however. To his left, to his
right and above all they met was the same unyielding chill as presently touched his back. He tried to sit up,
but could not, as his forehead very quickly collided with the ceiling. There was in fact so little room that he
could not even shift from his current position.

      For some time, he just lay there within the shadowy durance, trying to keep fear and panic at bay. He
needed to make sense of everything first. Where he was and how he was wherever he was. When he
jogged his memory, the last thing that came to him was of having gone to bed. He had been extremely
tired, but beyond that he could not recall anything odd happening. Yet, now he was trapped here, with
nothing but what felt like a thin gown over an otherwise naked body.

      Then the thought of the frail cloth suddenly clicked something in his head. The idea was morbid,
though plausible. Could he have been buried? But why, he was not dead. He did not feel it, whatever the
sensation of being dead was. Furthermore, he was unconvinced that where he was now could be either
heaven or hell, though a third option did present itself. Perhaps his soul had entered purgatory, his
penance to lie here till the Day of Judgment. However, the more he entertained these various afterlife
scenarios, the more strongly he felt that he was alive. Even now, the cold was seeping through his flesh
and into the bones, causing his teeth chatter and body to shiver. This was enough to convince his soul still
remained within its body.

      He was forced however to return to the original question. If he was not dead, why was he here? Why
would they bury a man who was still alive? Some sick practical joke, or did his cousins really hate him so
much because of one silly will. Without clues, there was little to say and less to ponder. For now, he wanted
out. The hands began to press against the ceiling with all their might. But to no avail, as the weight of the
lid was enormous to which his strength was no answer.

      He realised any further attempts to escape by himself would be useless, for if he was so to say dead
and buried, he would be lying in the family crypt. There placed in a stone sarcophagus in his own personal
vault. As he listened out, he could not hear anyone about and it would likely be some time before anyone
would visit. He realised the hopelessness of the situation, for it would seem that he would expire in his own
tomb before help would come. The irony did not escape him either. The lurking panic which he had fought
so hard to resist began its creep, as he imagined what his fate might be. Would he simply suffocate within
this stony prison or then agonise in starvation for days before the end finally came.

      His fearful imaginations were stopped however when the stillness of the crypt was disturbed. Sounds
which emanated from nearby filled the narrow underground corridors, reaching all the way to his vault, as
faint as they were when heard through thick stone. The sounds became ever closer. His immediate,
natural reaction was to shout for help. Yet for some reason, a deeper and more contemplative part of him
bade him to keep quiet, overcoming his baser instincts. The sounds were headed towards him, soon so
close that even through the stone he could begin to discern them.

      Someone was walking, but it was not shoes that stamped the hard floor, rather it sounded to him like
naked feet tapping against stone. Still, despite the confirmation of another living being near him, he chose
to remain silent. The footsteps came to a stop right by him, renewing the quiet of the crypt, until a new
sound broke it quickly after. It was the ceiling, his ceiling, which suddenly began to move. He watched as it
was gradually shifted aside. Despite this, the darkness was alleviated only slightly, the vault not much
better lit than his hard prison. He waited in anxious trepidation as to who this person was.

      When enough of the lid had been moved aside, they came into view, a shadow looming over him. His
eyes, quickly able to function in the low-light, perceived the stranger. When they did, he nearly yelped. It
was no person, discernible from the head and torso that hovered over the sarcophagus, rather it was
some bestial aberration. Although its shape was humanoid, there was not much human to it. The gaunt
face struck him first, a bizarre mixture of man and dog, while the greenish skin that covered it was taut and
leathery as if its body had suffered severe immolation. The arms that held the sides of his stony prison
were spindly, the body itself extremely emaciated and the creature carried with it a most putrid stench,
causing him to gag and his eyes to water. Red eyes gleamed at him in the dark, a predatory keenness
evident in them, which however upon glimpsing him turned to confused.

      “Not dead?” the thing puzzled in a voice which was very guttural, speaking the words slowly like a child.

      The confusion in the glowing eyes became mixed with curiosity and the odious head stuck itself in to
better peer at him.

      “Not wight. Too pretty.” the thing said as it examined him. “Maybe Lilith’s child?”

      This question it seemed to ponder for a moment, until one of the spider-like arms reached into the
sarcophagus, claw-like fingers coming to touch his face. Upon contact with his skin, he felt his entire body
grow numb, whereby he could not even blink though he tried.

      “Not us.” It said, withdrawing its hideous appendage.

      The creature seemed greatly puzzled by him, the red eyes narrowed to a slit as it continued to observe
him. Then it began to sniff the air through the two vertical slits on its face.

      “Human.” tt said, then sniffed a bit more. “Not dead.”

      It had now satisfactorily confirmed what he was. The earlier uncertainty gave way to a new disturbing
quality in the gleaming eyes. Its mouth widened into a hideous grin, revealing to him an upper row of nasty
serrated teeth. The paralysation which had held him inanimate had begun to relent, yet he was now frozen
in place by fear as he lay staring up at the creature. A long wormy tongue extended out of its mouth, licking
the discoloured lips, while rancid saliva began to drip onto him.

      Sweeps of nausea coursed through his body, and he could feel his innards begin to wretch. Yet he
could not take his eyes off this thing. It too stared at him, the red eyes seeming to appraise him like a
morsel. Even the slightest doubt as to its intentions were erased when those words were uttered from its
horrid mouth, evoking in him a fear he could not have ever believed possible.

      “Long time. Fresh meat.”
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About Ita Ekhaletruo

'Ita Ekhaletruo was born in
warm and sunny Helsinki.
He has since lived in a
number of other just as
exotic countries but
currently resides in Leeds.
He is an aspiring writer,
dabbling in
science-fiction, fantasy
and horror. For the last
two mixing them together
seems to produce the best
results.'