The process of transmogrification from human to Grave Dog is
a slow and excruciating ordeal with many opportunities for folly; a carefully
crafted form of torture with the aim of erasing personality through pain. To purge the sentient human, uproot the soul
from the frame through extreme pain, and then replace it with a bounty of pure
necro-slime, is a process that can take months even for a witch or warlock with
close ties to the spiritual realm. Preparation
for the grim ritual can take even longer.
Necro-slime is mined from the deepest dead pits; mold choked chambers
where offspring of the old ones pack the ancient dead, lost rulers of the
reclaimed world. A burial mound of at
least fifty cadavers is left to ferment with bundles of spider moss and albino
bat droppings for years, even decades, slowly rotting, the flesh eventually coagulates
into a green slime on the cold dungeon floor.
The chamber must be made of strong stone or granite or lime, none of the
noxious gases from the exposed decay can be allowed to slip away into the Earth. If the necro-slime is exposed to fresh air
before it has properly fermented it will lose its deadly potency. Many witches and vampires of the new world
have spent years using zombies and other indentured slaves carving out these chambers
in the deep Earth with their bare hands, scabbed palms, and bent back fingernails;
many were left to rot in the same spot they died toiling under the witch’s watchful
gaze, their bodies dropping dead from complete exhaustion in these dark subterranean
chambers. If the witches let their slaves
eat at all their feast would likely be a hardy plate of rat guts and insect
stew, or even a cannibalized fellow worker, most witches are happy to let their
slaves starve to death and replace them with fresh meat.
The victim to be transformed into a Grave Dog is placed in a
metal contraption that should invoke images of the medieval iron maiden; after
the chalk board of the mind’s eye is erased by horror they are strapped inside
and encased within the artfully crafted metal casket. These devices are said to resemble gargoyles
and demons whose names have been lost in time along with the tongue of their
language. After the mortal mind withers and
dies as it retreats from the horror of this realm and is replaced by the chaos
mind induced by necro-slime. This imbues
the master with total authority over the Grave Dog vessel. The slime is carefully poured through inseam holes
in the mouth, nose, and eyes; great caution is taken to ensure none of the
precious burial chamber sludge is lost in the process. The slime is also said to cause total
seething madness if ingested or if left on exposed skin for a short duration,
the only remedy for it is suicide or death.
All of the slime is used during the ceremony to ensure successful
transformation. Incantations are intoned
in a semicircle around it to impress its master’s name deep into the flailing
psyche of the victim. The screams of the
victim are slowly replaced with more bestial tones, it is said that leaving the
victim exposed to pure moonlight will also strengthen the blood bond of the
The future Grave Dog is left in a heavy steel cage for
several days as the process winds down; its un-needed internal organs bubble
into mush. A Grave Dog has no need for
lungs or a stomach; it will no longer draw air or attain sustenance from food
for it is an instrument of death; it only needs blood. The flesh grows pale, almost translucent, the
muscles bind and form knots under the skin.
The Grave Dog’s head is covered and concealed by an ancient ceremonial
helmet or magic bound leather straps to bind it from biting at its handlers in
its rabidity; a muzzle to stiffen its strength until unleashed. While a proper Grave Dog will never attack
its true master its ferocious nature will lead it to attack anything and
everything that moves around it. The
mere hint of life can cause a Grave Dog to roar with quaking anger; it is only
content with absolute still silence, perhaps a reflection of their nature as
undead, for the dead seek the comfort of the quiet eternity of the grave to reflect
on life. In this way the Grave Dog is
like the ancient ones, the old ones, the space eaters who raged at the
intrusion of light into their dark realm after the explosion of the Big Bang,
and vowed vengeance on all life for its noisy trespass.
But Clarissa died silently screaming in the dark at what she
found at the bottom of the old well. Her
mind could barely comprehend such a creature, the mummified remains of a
giant. And it moved and spoke to her in
her mind; each thought nails on the chalk board. It’s intelligence old and reptilian. The treasure clutched to his chest, the promise
it made, all a dark lie. It promised to
grant her wish, just like the old fairy tales.
Clarissa could hardly resist; I never want to be lonely again. The mummy never moved, but its rictus grin
grew wide in Clarissa’s minds eye. A
cold blanket of air drew over her, she screamed but no sound came out, she
could feel her heart beating wildly, threatening to burst from her ribs, then
the dark. Her wish was granted.
The red haired giants of the Si-Te-Cah had troubled the dreams
and startled the curiosity of the Paiutes tribes for long enough; soon the
fragile vision of the noble savage would be dispelled. They seemed to have appeared all at once in
the great lake of their ancestors, carried by large rafts held together by
leathery strips of Tule, a plant which they were also seen eating in great
quantity. The most trusted scouts
reported the absurd impossibility of their long limbs and bright red hair, an exotic
prize of nature sought after by the Paiute chiefs. Shamans warned of demon
plague, all were cautious of approach.
Arrows had been given flight, keeping the intruders off shore, but under
the shroud of the night it was feared the giants stalked Paitue prey. Their monstrous girth and appearance gave
rise to stories of cannibalism. They called
them flesh eaters.
The truth was the Si-Te-Cah giants were famished; driven to a
more bestial means of survival by extreme starvation; they feasted on the dead
of their own tribe, cracked open bones and suckled on the marrows of their own brethren
to etch out a few more days of survival.
Their large frames required more sustenance than their prized Tule would
provide. Their lungs sought a more
oxygen than the dust choked planes of the surrounding desert would afford. These once proud tribes of warrior kings,
descendants of ancient Babylonia, were on the brink.
The attack came swiftly, the Paiutes gathered the best
warriors, 2000 strong, and under secret sign launched a volley of fire branded
arrows at the Si-Te-Cah’s river community.
Despite being on water their makeshift huts burst into flames
immediately, the tinder of their boats kindled for hours like a funeral barge. Hundreds of giants burned, red hair aflame,
screaming as their family’s charred carcasses sunk into the murk of the lake
below. No respite was given to the
survivors that managed to swim ashore, many with arrows poking out of their
backs like bloody porcupines. Frantic warriors
with blue face paint descended on them from all directions. Some Si-Te-Cah had large spears which quickly
became barbed in the flesh of their attackers; one Paiute would impale himself
on the weapon in brutal self-sacrifice brought on by a high of peyote and
violence, the others would circle the giant with hatchets, hacking at the legs
then scalping flesh for the precious red prize secured to their skulls as they
dropped to their knees.
This hair would be used for mourning dress and trophy, trade
and commerce; proof of the Paiute conquering spirit and nobility. After purging the land of the Si-Te-Cah all that
remained was bundles of the crimson stained hair, to be passed from generation
to generation for hundreds of years, along with the lie of the red haired
cannibal monsters that faced the noble savage and lost.
Madame Web began as the shape of a human, for all anyone in
town could tell she was born Clarissa Clarmont, lovely heir to the Clarmont
fortune, in a life that Madame Web couldn't even remember, but could only feel
like a phantom pain. Clarissa had a
miscarriage; the respected and very public Clarmont family tried their best to
cover it up. Gossip ran amok in the
prude town. Speculation that she had sex
with a vagrant from out of town ran through the phone wires, that the baby was
misshapen and deformed. Clarissa had
been pulled from school and all but disappeared from town life. Her friends were denied visitation by her
staunch Christian father, Christopher Clarmont.
Chris was with her now, so was everyone that has ever been to
the house and died in its cold embrace.
She could call on him anytime she wants, but he always says the same
thing. They all do, and they are so
boring and annoying. They all just want
to leave her like everybody ever has, until now. They know the answer to their query. Escape?
Clarissa spent her lonely life looking out windows, always
waiting for people, always wanting company.
Her childhood was spent in the secluded Cider House manor, one of the
first houses built in town, taking advantage of the deep well thought to be dug
by the very first Dutch colonists that settled the land. Her great grandfather and his family of 12
sons built several additions to the old house in the late 1800’s, many of which
survived through the Great Depression.
Some of the additions never made sense to Clarissa. There were doors that led to steep drops to
the basement. Some rooms seem uneven and
tilted; earning the nick name the “Slanty Shanty” from some of the maids that
toiled there. There was a hand cart that
went up from the first floor instead of down to the basement. When she asked her father about all the
strange dimensions of the house he only offered a glib reply and sardonic
smile; something to the effect of “old gramps was quite the prankster”.
To many people around town her great grandfather was more
than an idle prankster. Some speculated
that he made a deal with the devil, got greedy and traded his soul for smiling
Clarissa was home tutored and kept from school. Her parents treated her as their own personal
treasure, not to be shared or touched. Her
entire universe was the house but she was not allowed to explore it all in the
day time with adult eyes watching. That
was her great secret; during the night she would slip from her covers and
explore the house in the gloom, carefully avoiding the creaky steps and
floorboards she committed to memory, just like a Nancy Drew detective novel she
read. This was her proudest
accomplishment; to slip around the house freely and undetected like a night
shade. Sometimes Clarissa fancied
herself a ghost. Maybe then she could
leave her suburban confines and explore the world beyond the mortar and dry
wall of this aging relic of a house. As
a ghost she could sneak right out the door, maybe visit the local matinee and
see some, oh my gosh, real live boys that seemed to populate her more
perversely colored dreams of late. She
blushed at the thought as her undercarriage moistened, sex was beyond her
nubile understanding but her body reacted to her perversions none the less.
Clarissa would never know what it felt like to have sex with
a man. Clarissa died in her own bed
under her pink polka dot blankets at the age of twenty, still a shut in to the
adult world. The diagnosis was pneumonia
but everyone seemed to think it happened too quickly for that slow
disease. She was her typical plucky self
the day before, practically bursting with youthful energy. Now she was silent and stiff, cadaver showing
no sign of struggle, the maids agreed “at least she died in peace”.
The house on Cider Hill grew from the shadows like a tumorous
lump on the landscape. Its menace
greeted new comers to the sleepy suburb; the once prominent family household
sat on a hill overlooking the interstate exit leading into the town; for many
it was the first thing they saw coming into town and the last thing they saw
leaving. For many winding down the
interstate road the house itself piqued the curiosity and stirred images of the
ghostly inhabitants in the mind’s eye.
Weary travelers might imagine some yellow eyed ghoul peering from behind
the slats of one of its boarded up windows; a chill running down their spine. It was the house the children always pumped
their bike pedals a little faster as they rode by, fear triggered by a silent
animal alarm within. The elders of the town, who could still see
farmland where municipal buildings now stood, would offer strange stories of a
lone widow that used to live there, but even their fanciest yarns and wildest
recollections would not do the true story any justice. The being that denned inside the house on
Cider Hill, the one the dead called “Madame Web” in whispers spoken into the
midnight wind, was a night creature without comparison, the only kind on this continent
and certainly this century.
The guilty walked slowly as their heads were covered in white
linen, they could only see their feet as they awkwardly stumble walked to their
hanging fate. Their motorization
restricted by tightly bound ropes which twist in the dirt and rake the skin red
on their bare legs, goose pimpled from their short but cold journey. They are covered by dirt smudged sheets, like
pretend ghosts; some rank drunk offering foul repentance for any approaching
onlookers, others chillingly quiet and resolved as they make their death march.
The warden leads them one by one into a cart,
led by pike and sword to be dragged behind a horse’s ass and displayed to the
carnival that waits. More indignation
before the end; the town is crossed, a half mile march to the gibbet. They can smell the thunderous aroma of horse shit;
hear the gaffs of the quant village folk further condemning them, mind split
between the spectacle passing by in the street and their morning choirs. A chaplain sings verses and offers
final salvation expertly ignoring the bellow of the buzzing crowd assaulting
the cart from all sides, natives now thirsty to see the final act of the bloody
ritual. As the fevered pitch of slurs
peaks the chaplain hits an even higher octave, until at last all singing is
done, and there are no more psalms to offer.
The noose is placed, the cart is pulled, and all hang as
one. The friends and relatives of the
damned pull at their feet to ease their way to death’s embrace. After a few moments the sky dance ends, and
it is over.
But the hangman’s job is never done, he strips the clothes
from the bodies of a few, sells their final fur to relatives, and the rest of
the mess goes to surgeons. Teeth are
pulled by pliers and placed in decorative baubles to be used later as
dentures. The truly damned are left to
hang, covered in fat and tallow, bound by heavy chains; there they rot in
public until they are reclaimed by dust.
Loyal protectors and stalwart sentinels of the tomb, the
grave dogs were the result of an ancient black magic that would enslave the
victim, ensnaring their thoughts and bending their desires to one purpose;
protect their sleeping undead masters.
These graveyard warriors would stand guard over their vampire lords, a
waking nightmare of transmogrified flesh, protecting against any foreign
invader. Their skin a pale reflection of
moon light, their eyes give a faint crimson glow from the necro-slime imbued in
their being. Grave dogs have given rise
to legends of the un-killable serial killer backwoods slashers of the past. Patrolling
sleepy campsites for human meat to mutilate, suffering grievous injury but
never stopping, these monsters made flesh protected the hidden crypts and
sarcophagi of their deterred masters as they wait out the long sleep. While most vampires deliberately placed their
resting places far from the sprawl of society there have still been occurrences
over the ages where ignorant wanderers stumble on to grave dog territory and
are promptly eviscerated for their trespass.
Grave Dogs have been mistaken for Bigfoot and Sasquatch in
the remote and empty places of the world, almost every culture has some
familiarity with them but few can guess at their true purpose; steadfast
protection of the undead. Their sense of
identity and past life erased by the torturous and shocking means of
transforming a mortal into a grave dog; it is said that grave dogs are
typically fierce enemies of their eventual vampire master during life, forced
to serve them for all eternity after death as a sadistic revenge. During the dark ages hundreds of grave dogs
were employed by vampire warlocks from all around the old country, most were
ghoul hunters or town executioners who fell upon the vampire’s malice.