SPAWN OF HELL
Copyright © 1987
In the small town of Hadlysburg in northern Michigan a funeral is being held. It is the last funeral to take place in Hadlysburg because the cemetery is full. The vacant land beside the cemetery is being developed for condominiums.
On the southern coast of Australia one hundred and ten sperm whales have beached themselves for no understandable reason and are presently being crushed to death by their own enormous weight. Dr. Herman Von Donner, a big man in his early forties, stands watching and taking notes. He is the author of several bestselling books on strange, unexplainable phenomena. He watches as tugboats with winches drag several whales back into the ocean where they immediately swim back on shore to die.
At the construction site beside the cemetery in Hadlysburg, workers unearth a large metallic object which no one can identify, nor dislodge from the rocky soil. A crane can't lift it and torches will not cut it.
A woman who lives next to the construction site searches for her dog, but it is nowhere to be found. The next morning she finds the dog's skeleton in her shrubs, without a trace of skin, hair or flesh on it.
On a desolate atoll in the Pacific Ocean Dr. Von Donner looks at the remains of thousands of sea turtle which, instead of going out to sea to spawn, have instead all gone inland and died in the hot sun. Sea gulls have taken up residence in their shells.
The caretaker from the cemetery tries to convince the land developer who owns the lot beside the cemetery to abandon his plans for construction and let the cemetery keep going. The developer is not interested. He is behind schedule and angry.
Several other household pets have been discovered completely skinned. A break-in at the local funeral home is reported in the newspaper and a body is missing. Two days later the skeleton of a small child is found near the construction site. An uproar begins about a psychotic killer loose in Hadlysburg.
Present at the coroner's inquest of the murdered child is Dr. Von Donner. The townspeople are in a frenzy about the psychotic killer. Dr. Von Donner mentions that similar attacks and murders have been recorded in Hadlysburg in 1937, 1901 and 1863, thus indicating that whatever is perpetrating the murders might well not be human. No one pays him any attention. Several look at the stranger suspiciously.
That night Dr. Von Donner stations himself in the woods beside the construction site and the cemetery and sets up a 35mm camera on a tripod with a large flash attachment. In the middle of the night there is movement in the graveyard and the doctor snaps a shot, the flash illuminating everything in a large radius. Accompanying the flash is a horrid inhuman shriek.
The next day he takes his film to a one hour processor and while he waits he sees a mob of townspeople drag the cemetery caretaker into the center of town and attempt to hang him from a lamppost. Dr. Von Donner intercedes and saves the man's life.
The caretaker tells Von Donner that he is one of a long line of caretakers of that cemetery. The one thing that he was supposed to never let happen was to have the cemetery stop being used, which has indeed happened, therefore he is responsible for the child's death. Why he cannot directly explain, however, in all three other instances of murders, in 1937, 1901, and 1863, all had come after two to three week stretches of no dying or being buried in Hadlysburg. The caretaker explains that in any populated area people die most every day. However, every now and then people just will stop dying for a week or two. It just happens.
Von Donner gets his photographs back and in the background of one of them is a misshapen form of some strange creature. When he shows it around no one believes that it is real. It looks like a shot from the National Enquirer.
That night the caretaker is besieged by something in his house on the cemetery grounds. He finally barricades himself in the cellar and the dirt floor caves in beneath him, sucking him below.
Dr. Von Donner studies the large, immovable metallic object at the construction site and realizes that it clearly resembles a hieroglyphic drawing that he has a photograph of from the wall of an Aztec ruin in Central America. The hieroglyph distinctly resembles a spaceship.
With his camera, a large flashlight and a .45 caliber pistol, Dr. Von Donner ventures down through the hole in the caretaker's cellar floor. He finds himself in a large, twisting, underground cavern. He sees tunnels winding off in all directions and hundreds of tunnels in the ceiling with broken shreds of coffins hanging from many of them. He snaps many photos. Entering a large vault, he finds shrines and monuments built of human bones. Suddenly something grabs him. He spins around, pistol in hand, and finds the caretaker hanging over a steaming crack in the stone. His left arm and left leg are both gone. Both the arm and leg lie half eaten nearby.
"Kill me," the caretaker croaks. "For God's sake, please kill me…"
"What has done this to you?" asks Von Donner. "What kind of creature is it?"
The caretaker's face twists in unspeakable horror. Von Donner turns and right behind him is the creature: seven feet tall, stoop-shouldered, covered with hair and baring huge gaping teeth and sharp claws which are two feet from Von Donner's face. Von Donner fires several shots at the thing, causing it to stagger back, but then it comes right back toward him. The doctor lifts his camera and hits the shutter, the large flash illuminating the entire vault. The monster is literally knocked over backward by the bright light and howls in pain. The doctor grabs the caretaker and runs. The monster gets to its feet and pursues.
The tunnels wind and twist and get progressively thinner. Some tunnels are full to the ceiling with bones, others have millions of bugs feasting on remains. Finally the tunnel is so thin and the monster so near that Dr. Von Donner gives it the caretaker and escapes.
He digs his way out and finds himself in someone's basement. It is the developer's house and upstairs a big party is going on.
Dr. Von Donner, covered with dirt and the caretaker's blood, camera and pistol in hand, makes a grand entrance into the party. All of the people of Hadlysburg go silent and listen as the doctor explains what is going on.
At some point in the unknown past an alien landed here. Being of a mole-like burrowing nature on its own planet it naturally went below ground here. This alien and the people of Hadlysburg have had a perfect symbiotic relationship for many years. The people buried their dead in the cemetery and the alien creature burrowed up from the cavern below and fed on the corpses. The shrines and monuments built of human bones show indicate a religious connection, as though the creature views the bodies as offerings. In 1863, 1901 and 1937 no one in town died for periods in excess of two weeks. Each time people and animals disappeared. Sightings of a creature were made in both 1863 and 1901 and were attributed to Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Dr. Von Donner pauses for a moment, then recommends dynamiting the cavern immediately.
The developer disagrees. That might loosen the moorings of every building in town.
At that moment, the lights go out in the house.
"It followed me," states the doctor.
Outside the lights in every house and building begin blinking off, then the ground begins to tremble and holes begin tearing open all around in the streets and lawns.
"Ah yes, as I might have known," says Von Donner.
"What?" ask the people around him.
Von Donner nods. "No one creature could consume that much food. There are obviously quite a few of these things."
This, as it turns out, is an understatement.
From every hole a monstrous creature emerges and begins attacking and devouring whoever is nearest.
Von Donner and several others make their way to the construction site, get dynamite and detonators, put charges down as many holes as possible while battling with the creatures, then wait until dawn.
As the dawn breaks the creatures begin howling and shrieking, carrying the carcasses of their prey back into the cavern.
Von Donner hits the plunger and in the wake of a thunderous explosion the entire town of Hadlysburg disappears into the cavern below.
Dr. Von Donner stands, collects his belongings together and starts to leave. The developer, now totally filthy and wild-eyed, asks where he's going?
"I've got a book to write," says Von Donner and walks away.