Gruesome Beauty

Hey, it’s Halloween tomorrow, in case you hadn’t noticed. And I’m delighted to host a suitably terrifying guest story from horror writer Nick Stead. Are you brave enough to read on?

Gruesome Beauty

Rotting leaves blanketed the forest floor, dull brown and pale yellow. A far cry from the vibrant greens of summer, this was nature’s decomposing carpet to welcome Death as he rode in on the cold winds of the coming winter.

Rain turned the carpet to a thick mulch, riddled with all manner of unwholesome creatures. Worms wriggled their way through the sodden vegetation and maggots fed on this free banquet gifted by the turning of the seasons. And as the carpet shifted and changed, something new began to appear beneath the surface.

Lifeless as the leaves themselves, its unblinking stare should have been horrifying to all passers-by. Except there were none. This was private land, closed off to the general public. Only the wildlife would look into that milky gaze as they moved through the forest, and look away again moments later. Even the ravens had not descended on the scavenger’s feast it promised.

A man strode across the mulch, his boots squelching with every step he took. He came to a stop beside the dead eye and sank into a crouch. The land was his. No human visitor would ever discover its secrets unless he invited them in, not even the police. There would be no interfering from the outside world.

“I’m here, my sweet,” he said. “I know it’s been a while but life has been hectic. The days pass and time slips away.”

Trees stirred as a light gust of wind whispered through the bare branches, and a bird took flight with a startled caw. The man frowned.

“Is that disappointment I sense?”

The sky seemed to darken and his frown deepened.

“Surely you did not think I’d leave you out here to rest in peace?”

The dead eye rolled in its socket to fix him with its clouded gaze.

“Ah, forgive me, my sweet. I admit, that was a poor turn of phrase. You’re not at peace, are you?” He brushed away the leaves to reveal a face made repulsive with decay. The sight of it turned his frown to a smile. Pulling a mirror out of his pocket, he held it over the corpse’s skull. “Don’t be sad. See how death has transformed your pretty face into a new kind of grotesque beauty? This gift isn’t for just anyone. I picked you specially.”

The face stared at its reflection but only its eyes moved, though to say they widened in terror would not be entirely accurate as there was no longer any flesh surrounding them to express terror with. But terror is what she felt, this poor cursed soul condemned to an eternity of imprisonment inside her own rotting corpse.

“Soon the whole world will know your beauty. But you must be patient a while longer, my sweet. The world is not quite ready for your vision of ghoulishness, so we will wait a while longer.”

She wanted to scream, but her wasted muscles no longer obeyed her soul’s commands. His power over her was absolute. Only her eyes worked. They followed him as he raised himself up and began to walk away, this mad man in command of forces the modern world no longer believed in. Yet even when he left her alone, her terror never waned.

This was a special kind of hell her tormentor had devised for her. And most terrifying of all, it was one without any foreseeable end. Would she be trapped like this for all eternity? That thought was too much. The wind was beginning to pick up, and nature voiced her scream for her.


Nick specialises in supernatural horror and dark fantasy, and is best known for his Hybrid series about a Yorkshire werewolf struggling to survive in a world which would rather see him dead. He lives with his two cats in Huddersfield, where he spends most days chained to his desk, writing to the scream of heavy metal guitars. When he does get out, he has been known to terrorise local libraries and give talks in schools, as well as making appearances at various horror and comic conventions across the country. He is just putting the finishing touches on his first non-Hybrid book, a horror based on the infamous Pendle witch trials of 1612, and has already begun work on his sixth novel – a new project which has yet to be revealed!

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