The Forever House by Tim Waggoner

 The Forever House

The Forever House by Tim Waggoner
English | 2020 | Fantasy > Horror| ePUB | 6.3 MB

Tim Waggoner has published nearly fifty novels and seven short story collections, and his articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and Writers’ Journal, among others. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award and has been a finalist for both the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award. He teaches creative writing at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.

In Rockridge, Ohio, a sinister family moves into a sleepy cul de sac. The Eldreds feed on the negative emotions of humans, creating nightmarish realms within their house to entrap their prey. Neighbors are lured into the Eldreds’ home and faced with challenges designed to heighten their darkest emotions so their inhuman captors can feed and feed well. If the humans are to have any hope of survival, they’ll have to learn to overcome their prejudices and resentments toward one another and work together. But which will prove more deadly in the end, the Eldreds . . . or each other?

An orifice opens on the side of Car where the driver’s door would be on a real vehicle, and Father Hunger emerges. He carries the metal object tucked beneath an arm as he walks across the grass toward where the dead jogger lies. He kneels and places the object – which resembles a crude, almost cartoonish, robotic head – on the ground next to the corpse. Father Hunger then takes a moment to assess the damage the body has sustained. It’s more broken than he would like, but he thinks their old friend will be able to make use of it.

He fastens the multijointed bony fingers of one hand around the dead man’s neck and grips one of his shoulders with the other. Then he pulls in opposite directions. In his natural form, Father Hunger looks like a skeleton covered with a thin veneer of flesh, with no muscle at all. But he’s able to separate the head from the body with ease, flesh and bone parting as if the jogger is a well-cooked chicken, the meat falling easily off the bone. The moist tearing sound as skin and muscle parts is music to Father Hunger’s ears and the smell of released blood is the finest of perfumes.

Father Hunger grips the jogger’s head by the hair as he stands. He fixes his gaze on the metal head and waits.

Nothing happens for a moment, then green lights begin to glow in the head’s empty sockets. Spider-like legs emerge from the bottom and lift the head several inches off the ground. The head then scuttles toward the jogger’s body, maneuvers itself until it stands next to the ragged, bloody stump where the man’s head was connected to his neck. The legs stretch toward the stump, sink into the flesh, and when they have a solid grip, they pull the mechanical head onto the jogger’s body. There’s a clicking and whirring as the head connects to the dead man’s nervous system, and the body spasms several times, arms and legs flailing, as the head tests its new nerves and muscles. Then the body falls still, and the green light in the metal eye sockets dims and goes out.

Father Hunger frowns. Has the body been too damaged?

But then the eyelights blaze to life once more, stronger this time, and Machine Head sits up.

Father Hunger smiles, desiccated lips drawing back from dry yellow teeth, their skin cracking. He crouches next to Machine Head and puts a featherlight hand on his shoulder.

“Welcome back,” he says.

The robotic head swivels to look at Father Hunger then inclines once in a nod of acknowledgement. Machine Head is a creature of few words.

They both stand, and Father Hunger – still holding on to the jogger’s head – remains close to Machine Head in case he needs some support as they walk to Car. There’s always a transition period when Machine Head takes a new body, and the jogger was extensively damaged when Car struck him. Machine Head wobbles a bit as he walks – especially on the left leg, which appears to be damaged – but he manages well enough. The front of his T-shirt is covered with blood, and Father Hunger wonders if they should get him a new shirt, but he decides against it. The look suits his old friend.

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