When Steve Nurburn finally found the place, he whispered silent thanks to a deity he didn’t really believe in. He had gotten lost three times on his way here. Four if you counted the point when Steve took the wrong exit on the motorway. That little detour had cost him nearly 35 minutes. But that one had been Steve’s own fault. The other three were almost definitely owed to the fact that the farm was in the middle of nowhere; to call what he had been driving on for the last three quarters of an hour a dirt track would be mightily generous. Even a driver less geographically challenged than Steve would have had trouble. Or so Steve told himself.
Steve squinted through the windshield. All around him were miles upon miles of luscious fields. Even a city boy like Steve had to admit, it was rather beautiful. He didn’t even know there were that many different shades of green and brown. To his right, Steve could see a few metres of a pen that disappeared behind a wall of hedges and shrubbery. The fences of the pen looked frighteningly large. There was no sign of the man who was supposed to meet him here.
Steve opened the door to his car and got out. He stretched his legs appreciatively. He’d been in the car for hours. He was a tall and overweight man who didn’t enjoy being in such cramped conditions for so long. Whilst reawakening his body, he inspected the mud that caked the lower half of his blue BMW M5 and tutted.
He scanned the area. There was nobody. There were almost no sounds. Up above, birds tweeted cheerfully, and somewhere in the grass, insects buzzed. “Hello?” he called; a bit uncertain. “Mr Rondal?”
Steve looked down at his smart leather shoes, then at the muddy fields. He grumbled to himself. He leaned back into his car and reached over to the passenger seat, to retrieve the pregnant brown envelope that sat there. He wasn’t sure why it had to be cash, but then again, what did he know about animals?
Steve jumped and banged his head on the ceiling of the car. “Bugger!” He backed away, one hand holding the envelope, the other rubbing his crown. Oh, I hope I don’t get a bruise there.
Grinning foolishly, Steve turned around and nodded at the man who had appeared behind him. “Ah, Mr Rondal! I was just about to come looking for you!”
“Sorry, Mr Nurburn!” said the man, his West Country accent was so thick it was almost impenetrable. “I do most sincerely apologise!” He then bowed, theatrically, with one arm across his torso and the other extended. Steve wasn’t sure if he was being made fun of, and his smile faltered.
“Er… not a problem, Mr Rondal. It’s fine.” He forced the grin.
The man straightened up. “Call me Gerald.” He extended a grubby hand that was caked with dirt. Steve had to stop himself from recoiling. With an internal grimace, he shook the offered hand.
“Steve,” he said.
The man was short, fat, and stank. He had long, thin hair, and his complexion screamed alcoholic. And his eyes… there was something wrong with his eyes.
“So, I understands that the horse is for your lil’ girl, ‘en?”
“That’s correct. Her name’s Raquel.” The thought of his daughter helped Steve in feigning his smile. “She’s always dreamed of owning a horse, but…”
Gerald winked at Steve. “The cheapest an’ best ‘orses you can find are roight here, Steve-O! Roight here!” He began to walk towards the pen, beckoning Steve. “Roight this way, sir. Roight this way!”
The stable was gigantic and impossibly long. Looking at it straight on, the walls and roof made the shape of a pentagon. Inside the building lingered a hungry darkness.
Steve was standing in the now-open doorway, staring inside. His eyes were adjusting to the gloom, and his heart was racing. The stench was awful; rot and decay.
“Mother of God…” said Steve. “What are they?”
Gerald smiled; his yellow teeth awfully visible. “A new breed,” he purred, as he flicked through the envelope of cash. Why, oh why, had he handed over the cash straight away?
“What’s wrong with them?” Steve was dimly aware that his voice had acquired a wavering, high-pitched quality.
“Oh, there’s nuffin’ wrong with them,” said Gerald with a humourless chuckle. “Moighty strong beasts, they are!”
Something ahead in the darkness whinnied. The noise was deep, primal, and somehow intelligent.
“Are—are you sure they’re okay?”
“Oh, they’re foine! They’re jus’ ‘ungry! Tha’s all!”
Steve span around, about to ask why on earth he would buy an animal that had not been properly fed, when Gerald kicked him firmly in the chest.
As he went sprawling backwards into the darkness, the main thought in Steve’s surprised mind was: He’s quite limber for a fat man.
Steve hit the dusty floor as the stable door shut with a metallic clang, followed by frantic clicking sounds that could only be the locks.
Something thudded in the shadows. The floor vibrated.
“Wha–?” asked a disoriented and winded Steve.
Something breathed heavily to his left.
“O—open the door, Rondal!” he wheezed.
“Oh, I did forget to mention one thing, Mr Nurburn!” Steve could hear the maniacal grin in his voice.
The shadows were closer.
He took a deep breath. “OH, GOD. PLEASE, LET ME OUT!”
Things were moving all around him. Faster now. Closing in.
“The thing I forgot to mention,” he said, ignoring Steve’s pleas, “is that these ‘ticular ‘orses… well, they’re carnivorous.” Gerald pronounced this last word very carefully.
“Carniv—Oh Jesus Christ.” Steve whimpered.
He caught a glimpse of something in a sliver of light from the door. Something with too many teeth.
“MR RONDAL!” He was squealing now. “MR RONDAL! PLEASE! PLEASE! I’LL—”
Something clamped around his leg and he screamed in agony. Something else grabbed his arm and his flesh tore. Steve heard splintering sounds that he knew were his own bones snapping.
Scott Thimberton – for that was his real name – chuckled as he counted the money to the fading cacophony of Steve Nurburn’s screams. He knew from experience that the wet, ripping sounds would continue for a while.
22nd July 2019
Written for the July 2019 #BlogBattle