By Rob Zombie
With B. K. Evenson
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From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood…
The Lords of Salem
Heidi Hawthorne is a thirty-seven-year-old FM radio DJ and a recovering drug addict. Struggling with her newfound sobriety and creeping depression, Heidi suddenly receives an anonymous gift at the station-a mysteriously shaped wooden box branded with a strange symbol. Inside the box is a promotional record for a band that identifies themselves only as The Lords. There is no other information.
She decides to play it on the radio show as a joke, and the moment she does, horrible things begin to happen. The strange music awakens something evil in the town. Soon enough, terrifying murders begin to happen all around Heidi. Who are The Lords? What do they want?
As old bloodlines are awakened and the bodies start to pile up, only one thing seems certain: all hell is about to break loose.
Table of Contents
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SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS SEPTEMBER 16, 1692
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. Her child, she dimly realized. What would they do to him? she wondered. And then she died.
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!"
Morgan turned back to the flames and tilted the now-screaming baby toward the fire. "Help me breed this new world with your blessed spawn of glory," she said.
A pale-faced woman with long and tangled dark hair stepped forward, swooning as if in a trance. "I am ready!" she said.
"And for what is it that you are ready?" asked Morgan of her. "Shall you commend yourself to our Dark Lord and Master, Mary?"
Mary nodded, her eyes sliding back and forth independently in the sockets, unfocused. "I am ready to abandon this mortal existence and deny Christ Jesus, the deceiver of all mankind!"
The fire climbed higher, the burning figure seemingly larger than before. Morgan nodded at Mary in approval. "What others among us are ready?" she asked. "Who among you shall abandon the deceiver of all mankind and embrace the one true Lord of Darkness?"
A plump woman, her face spread with large, seeping boils, stepped forward, swaying. "I, too, am ready," she said.
"Speak, Abigail," said Morgan. "He presses his ear against the wall of Hell and listens to you."
Abigail took a deep breath. When she spoke, it was all in a single burst, the words tripping over one another. "I hold in contempt all of the symbols of the Creator. I swear on this day to be a faithful servant to the prince Lucifer."
The fire rose again with a deep hissing sound. Impossibly, the flaming figure made of wood seemed to move as if it were coming to life. Again Morgan nodded. She began to reiterate the invitation to join, but one of the other women had already stepped forward. She was a hunched woman who looked closer to a beast than a human. Her dirty mane of hair was twisted with leaves and ribbons and seemed as if it had never been washed. She threw her arms upward.
"Speak, Sarah," said Morgan. "The Dark Lord has thrust his head through the breach we have created in the walls of Hell and waits for you to beckon him forth and birth him into this world of pain."
Sarah let out a burst of raucous laughter. "I pledge myself mind, body, and soul to fulfill the designs of our Lord Satan and his disciples!"
The fire rose again, and the figure, wreathed in flames, now seemed to writhe. "He comes," hissed Morgan. "He comes!"
Two others stepped forward, hand in hand. At first, in the flickering flames, they looked like a mother and her child, but when they entered fully into the light it was apparent that one was a crusty old hag and the other a tiny dwarven woman. "Speak, Martha. Speak, Elizabeth," Morgan said.
The dwarf spoke in a high, quavering voice. "We trample on the cross!" she screeched.
The crone's voice was deeper but broken, as if half her vocal cords had been torn out. "We spit upon the book of lies!" she said.
For a moment the fire guttered. And then it rose higher than before, the whole hovel in danger of igniting. The wooden figure was suddenly, as if instantly, consumed and the flames took on a ruddy hue. And though the wooden figure was gone, the flames now seemed to flex and turn like limbs, a strange, flitting humanlike shape flashing here and there over coals that were long expired and yet continued to burn.
Morgan slowly lowered the baby until it rode in her hands just beside the flames. The flames themselves seemed to sense it there, the fire bending toward the child, licking out at it, as if preparing to consume it.
Morgan had to shout now to be heard over the roaring of the flames. "In our allegiance to our Master Satan we promise contempt to the faiths of all others. Stand ready to desecrate these false bodies! Show yourselves!"
Around her the coven began to cast aside their filthy clothing and rags and furs, stripping rapidly and quickly down until they stood stark naked before the roaring flames. Their bodies had been daubed with blood and painted with uncanny symbols. They had the appearance of letters, but not of any human alphabet, and they seemed almost alive, winding and wriggling on the skin as the coven swayed and moved. They were runes, but again of no recognizable system, and when one of the women came too close to the fire the flames licked out and imbued them for a moment with an unearthly glow. They were all varied except that they all had the same symbol between their breasts: a circle holding an inverted cross, mounted by an upturned semicircle with a downturned semicircle. The mark of their coven.
Morgan gave a curt nod and abruptly they began to speak in unison, the flames leaping and dancing as if in time to the words.
"Together we desecrate the virgin whore! Together we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Together we laugh at the false redeemer's suffering!"
"Sisters!" yelled Morgan. "Gather your tools and release the master!"
The naked women turned briefly away, groping along the dirt floor behind them to come up with half-broken and makeshift musical instruments. One had a sort of violin missing half its strings, which she played with a knobbed stick that made it utter an unearthly screeching, like a cat being tortured. Another had a flute carved from a bone that let out a high piercing sound. Another still had a basin whose top had been covered with an animal skin, which she beat in time to the baby's screams. Each of them played to a different tune, the resulting cacophony swirling about the fire and melding with the newborn's cries like the utterance of chaos itself.
Morgan moved the infant yet closer to the fire and now the flames leaped out and licked at its body, touching it for only the merest moment but leaving always in its wake a glowing, faded symbol not unlike those on the witches' bodies.
Soon, the infant's whole body was blistered and colored by these symbols and the screams and music had risen to a fever pitch. The fire contracted and seemed to gather itself, and suddenly an acrid red smoke began to billow from the coals. The shape that had been flitting through the flames suddenly resolved into a hideous creature, a demonic presence. Its body of flame shifted, becoming something made out of coils of the reddish smoke, and then that suddenly stiffened, hardened into leathery red flesh. Its face was uneven, its jaw drooping and slavering. It had horns, one of which had turned back on itself to penetrate its temple, and its eyes, one of them much larger than the other, were glowing red like a pair of coals.
It snarled, blood dripping from its mouth, and quickly reached out, taking hold of the infant. Morgan released it, and the creature dragged it back into the fire.
The child immediately caught flame but continued shrieking. The creature toyed with it, dangling it by one foot and regarding it with its smaller eye with curiosity and hunger. And then with a single sharp movement it snapped the child like a whip. The newborn suddenly fell silent, its neck broken. The creature dashed its head against the floor once, hard, and when it came up again, the flaming head was loose and pulpy and dripping blood. The creature held the baby up again, looking at it now with its larger eye, and gave a hideous smile. With the dirty red nails of its other hand, it began to scrape away the child's skin.
All around the fire the coven swayed, now lost in a trance. Some mumbled and babbled; others raised their hands high above their heads with their hands flopping on the ends of their wrists like birds with broken wings; others frothed at the mouth, their eyes rolled far back into their heads. First one and then slowly all the others began to drool, long strings of spittle slipping from their mouths, as if they were having a fit. And then the spittle grew dark, became a sticky black substance that descended in thick cords down their chins to drip along their naked flesh.
Justice Samuel Mather strode quickly down the rutted wagon path and toward the town, his stick-thin body moving jerkily. He was waving his walking stick about, gesticulating with it rather than using it for walking. It had finally happened. Before, there had been rumors, a sense that evil was afoot, but he had never managed to catch the women in the act of pledging themselves to Satan. But all the nights of waiting and watching, sitting hidden in the woods outside of Margaret Morgan's hovel until the midnight hour and even long past, hidden and shivering in his dark cloak, his thin hands clenched tight against the cold, had finally paid off. Or would, if he managed to gather the others in time.
He had watched the other women enter, one by one, each of them cloaked or dressed strangely, often in furs or rags. And then he had waited until the smoke began to rise from a chimney placed, oddly enough, in the center of the hovel, not near a wall like a chimney should be. Even still he had waited, not wanting to believe that what he and Hawthorne had feared to be the case was finally to be proven real. But when the smoke rising from the chimney had taken on a reddish tinge, he knew there was no denying what was happening.
He had reached the bridge, Salem lying just on the other side of it. The fog was rising off the river and obscuring the bridge itself, making it seem as if it dissolved halfway across the water. He hesitated for a moment before crossing over it, his footsteps echoing against the planks. The bridge slowly appeared out of the mist in front of him, becoming firmer, becoming real. But when he turned and looked back behind him it had begun to vanish. He hurried his steps, breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally on solid ground again.
He hurried through the muddy streets of town, past some of the newer and smaller dwellings, many of them still unfinished, until he came to a saltbox house with a long sloping roof. Well-made and painted a dark red, it was the largest house on the street and perhaps in the town. He pounded on its door with the knob of his walking stick. He waited impatiently, and when there was no answer, he knocked again.
After a moment the door swung open. Behind it was a man in his early fifties, nearly large enough to fill the doorway. John Hawthorne. He held a candle. He had shoulder-length hair and his feet were bare. He was dressed in a nightshirt made of rough linen, held gathered by strings at the neck and the wrists, and though he appeared to have been awoken from sleep, his appearance was not befuddled but focused and sharp.
"Brother Mather," he said. "What cheer?"
Justice Mather shook his head. "None," he said. "I have seen the smoke. I was right to suspect Margaret Morgan. It is happening. It is happening even now."
Hawthorne's lips thinned, his brow furrowed. "The red smoke of death," he said, his voice heavy. "Then it is as we feared."
"Aye, brother. I can only pray the angels protect us in our quest to drive this vile serpent from this township."
Hawthorne took a deep breath, nodded. "I fear the Devil himself walks among us. I fear the Lord has turned a deaf ear to our most desperate prayers." He reached out and placed his hand on the other man's shoulder. "Brother Mather, the plague has returned to Salem."
Justice Mather nodded curtly. "I fear the same," he said. "But we must proceed as best we can. Dress yourself. We must do our best to nip this evil in its hellish bud. If we act with the conviction that God be with us, then so shall He be."
"We will do what we can," said Hawthorne.
"We must fetch the brothers," said Mather. "There is no better pair for tonight's work."
"As you say," said Hawthorne, turning back into the house and beckoning Mather to follow him. "But even the brothers have their limits."
The house was off the beaten path. It was a rough-hewn but well-built hodgepodge, a canny construction of wood, cut stone, and thick pond reeds. The chimney was a seemingly precarious pile of rough brick from which smoke belched out to thicken the darkness.
The man standing in the light of the doorway peering out was huge and lumbering, more like a bear than a man. His left eye was covered with a thick leathern patch that had once been dyed black but now had faded. His gray hair and lined face suggested he was in his sixties, but his thick and well-muscled body would have seemed to have been borrowed from a younger man were it not for the scars that crisscrossed his hands and arms. He squinted out into the darkness a moment more before grunting and returning inside, clapping the door shut behind him.
Dean Magnus walked to the fire, over which the carcass of an animal hung on a spit—a deer perhaps. The meat was blackened and charred on the outside but when he cut into it with his knife and sliced off a chunk of flesh, the inside was still bloody, nearly raw. He began to eat, tearing off mouthfuls of it, the juices and blood of the meat flowing down to stain his already-filthy beard and drip onto his shirt.
Behind him, sitting at a small wooden table whose surface was nicked and charred, was his brother Virgil. The family resemblance was clearly visible, despite Dean's eye patch and the fact that a good half of Virgil's face was torn by deep scars, the result of the swipe of a bear's claws. The bear's skin was lying on the packed dirt floor beside the table, and Virgil rested his feet on its head. Beside it, next to the table, was a goat chained to the wall, eating from a large bale of straw. On the table before him was a battered pewter plate in which sat part of a haunch of meat, charred on the edge and raw in the middle.
"Anything?" asked Virgil. He reached out and caressed the goat, which baaed once, then continued to eat its straw.
Dean shook his head. "Something's happening," he said, "but not too close. Maybe nothing much."
Virgil nodded. "You're starting to see ghosts," he said.
"Aye, brother," Dean said, and continued to chew on his chunk of meat, stopping only to spit out a bit of buckshot still lodged in it.
Virgil turned back to his plate, slicing off a bit of the haunch and swallowing it all in one gulp—gristle, tendon, and all.
"I noticed," said Dean, and then swallowed deeply before continuing. "During morning services, I noticed the Widow Parsons was looking my way again. I think her mourning period might well be coming to an end."
Virgil shook his head. "Hallucination of a lustful mind, my brother," he said. Then he laughed. "That widow will be mourning 'til you are sleeping in a dirt hole feeding worms."
Dean regarded him with irritation. "Don't be so sure," he said. "I'll take down that woman just as I did this young doe. Once I set my sights, brother, my aim is true."
Virgil smiled. He shook his knife at Dean, the piece of meat impaled on the end of it shivering. "I doubt Widow Parsons would be as delicious to the taste as this blackened flesh," he claimed.
Dean relaxed a little, even smiled. "Don't be so sure," he said. "Nothing more delicious than a healthy woman craving meat."
"True," said Virgil. "Too true."
There came a loud pounding at the front door. Both brothers froze. Dean finished his piece of meat and then wiped the blade of his knife clean on his trousers.
"Not ghosts after all," said Virgil.
"No," said Dean. "Told you there was something out there."
"Maybe it's the widow come a-calling, ready to be courted. Either that or someone just realized they're missing a goat."
"Mark my word, the widow awaits behind that door. The stench of finely roasted meat has done its job and brought her hither."
But Dean did not pocket his knife as he approached the door, instead holding it casually but at the ready in his hand.
Behind the door were Hawthorne and Mather, both dressed in black traveling garb now. Mather had lifted his cane again, was preparing once more to rap on the door with it. He stopped when Dean opened. The latter smiled, wiped his beard with the back of his hand, the other hand quickly sheathing the knife.
"Greetings," he said. "And to what honor do I owe this nocturnal intrusion?"
"It is time," said Hawthorne.
For a moment Dean stood there motionless, a questioning expression on his face. And then suddenly his expression changed, his eyes narrowing.
"You are certain? When we wanted to proceed before, you preached caution. What has changed?" he asked. "You have proof?"
"As much proof as we need," said Mather. "I have seen the red smoke."
Dean turned again to Hawthorne, who simply nodded. "Now is the time to act," he said.
Dean nodded, turned, and called back into the room, "Virgil!"
"Aye, brother," said Virgil, still slowly eating the haunch of meat.
"Our brothers in God are here. Reverend Hawthorne claims it is time."
- On Sale
- Mar 12, 2013
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Grand Central Publishing