An Urban Myth – David Barber

My next guest in the 13 Days of Horror frightened me with his creepy story on dark folklore. Though he usually writes crime/noir, horror fiction is another genre he conjures skillfully. He has been published at various hotspots, including Thrillers, Killers, ‘n’ Chillers, Blink-Ink, The New Flesh, and The Clairty of Night. Please give a warm welcome to David Barber and his disturbing tale, An Urban Myth.


An Urban Myth
By David Barber

“I know what I saw,” Robert said, “and you’re not going to convince me otherwise.”

“Okay, okay,” Det. Collins said. “Start from the beginning and tell us what happened.”

Det. Collins sat on the edge of the hospital bed and his partner, Det. Higgins, took position at the foot of it. A nurse stood at the other side, recording the readings from the machines hooked up to Robert.

Robert Johnson looked up at the two policemen, took a deep breath, and started the story. Det. Collins took notes.

“There were three of us: myself, Doug and Graham. We’re all experienced climbers and occasionally do a bit of caving and pot-holing. We decided to go up to Scotland for a weekend to do some climbing and someone told us about this urban legend kind of story.”

“Okay, son, what’s the story?” This time it was Det. Higgins who asked the question.

“If you let me carry on without being interrupted, I’ll tell you,” Robert sighed.

Det. Collins held his hand up to his colleague and urged Robert to carry on.

“Okay. We get told this story about some guy named Bean. Sawney Bean. Apparently he lived in a cave with his girlfriend up in Ayrshire hundreds of years ago.”

“What was so special about the place and this…,” Collins checked his notebook, “Sawney Bean?”

“Apparently, legend has it that he was some kind of cannibal. He and his girlfriend used to rob people at night and then drag their bodies down to their cave, kill them, and then eat them. They had kids and then the family grew, you know, through incest and stuff. Something crazy like that and you’ve got to check it out, right?”

“And then what happened?”

Robert coughed, his eyes closing and his face screwing up from the pain. The metal framework around his head stopped him from moving it.

“Nurse, could you scratch my chin for me? Thanks,” he said and then looked at Det. Collins, “I can’t feel anything from the neck down. I can’t use my arms or legs, and I’ve got tubes stuck where tubes shouldn’t be.”

“You’re lucky to be here, Robert. Do you think you could tell us what happened?”

“Yes. Okay, we get up there and head straight for the area. The cave was halfway down this rock face. Years of erosion and the face crumbling away made it a tricky climb, but we made it.”

* * *

“Well, we’re here,” Graham said, dropping his backpack on the ground.

“Let’s have a look around then,” Doug said, throwing his backpack next to Grahams.

“Okay,” Robert said. “We need our flashlights and let’s take a rope as a guide back out, you know, if we get too far or take a wrong turn somewhere.”

“Oh, we’ll be okay. Come on,” Doug said and set off down the main entrance.

“Hey, calm down. Wait a mo…,” Graham said, following the light from Doug’s torch beam.

“Hey, wait up guys,” Robert ran into the cave, following his friends.

The beams of light cast long shadows on the cave walls as they ventured deeper into the darkness.

“Look at these,” Doug said, shining his torch on the wall.

There were strange drawings, badly drawn people, and animals. The torch beam followed them along the wall. There was what looked like people sitting around a fire and a spit roast above the flames, but there wasn’t a suckling pig strapped to it. It looked like a person being cooked.

“What the fuck,” Graham said.

Doug shone the torch further along the wall. The drawings started to get worse. There were people holding severed arms and legs, blood dripping from them.

“Holy shit,” Robert said. “Guys, I think we should get out of here now.”

A sudden noise startled them.

“What was that?” Graham asked.

“Probably a rat or something. Come on,” Doug said, and shone his torch further along the cave wall.

The drawings were getting worse.

“No. Fuck this, I going back,” Robert said.

Doug started laughing. “Look.”

Robert and Graham followed the torch beam and started laughing too. There was one word written at the end of the drawings – ‘suckers.’

“Ooh, let’s go back guys,” Doug said, pushing Robert.

“Yeah, fuck you, Doug,” Robert laughed.

There was a noise again, but louder and nearer. It was followed by another and then another.

“What was that,” Graham said, spinning around and pointing his torch in the direction of the noise.

“Rats, I told you. This place will be crawl…,” Doug was cut short by a blade protruding from his mouth.

“Holy sh…,” Graham dropped to the ground, an axe embedded in the back of his head.

“No…no…no,” Robert shouted. He turned and ran as fast as his legs would carry him, his torch beam bouncing from the ground to the walls. He felt something whiz past his head and something struck his right shoulder, knocking him off balance. He fell to the ground and then something was on his back.

* * *

“And that’s all I remember,” Robert said. A tear ran down his left cheek.

The nurse stepped in and wiped his face.

“I think that’s enough Det. Collins,” she said.

“Yes. Let me assure you, Robert, we’re doing all we can. We’ll be back to check on you tomorrow.”

As the two policemen left the hospital room, Higgins turned to Collins.

“They’ve still not told him then?”

“No,” Collins said, “They want to wait until his parents arrive from New Zealand. He’s going to need a lot of looking after. The doctors don’t know how he survived.”

The shout from the room stopped the two detectives in their tracks. They ran back and shoved open the door. The nurse had her hand over her mouth and tears ran down her face. Robert’s eyes bulged wide.

“He had a flashback,” the nurse cried.

“They…chopped…please no,” Robert cried. “They chopped…my arms and…legs off!”

©2010 David Barber

BIO: David Barber is Manchester born and bred, but now lives in Crieff, Scotland with his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters. He wrote some years ago but has recently been inspired to write again by an old friend and the beauty that surrounds him. He has been published on numerous e-zines, including Thriller, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, A Twist Of Noir, The New Flesh, Blink Ink and his own blog. He has a couple of pieces appearing in two forthcoming anthologies. He is currently working on a few projects including a novel.

He blogs at http://davidbarberfiction.blogspot.com

46 thoughts on “An Urban Myth – David Barber

  1. As soon as you said pot-holing I felt my claustrophobic skin crawl. Then that dreadful name Sawney Bean… shudder. I swear he and that family lived – and still does. This urban myth is one of the best; thanks for regurgitating it. Great piece of horror David, with distinctive Barber delivery. Topped off with a terrifying final flash back.

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  2. Lily, Michael & Paul – Thanks for taking the time to read my story and comment. As soon as I heard about Sawney Bean (Quite a while ago) I just wanted to write something up about him and Erin's Halloween special seemed perfect. Thanks guys!Erin – A big thanks to you for doing this and, more importantly for me, thanks for accepting my story. I'm glad I could put a shiver up the spine of the Queen Of Horror!! :-)

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  3. Great story, Mr Barber, sir! I liked the transition from the 'narration' to the action sequence. And what a punchline!(…I think I shall strike pot-holing off my 'bucket-list'!) :-o

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  4. That was awesome, David. The set-up was great, and had touches of your crime / noir in it, which always makes for a fun read, then, when you kicked into the horror, you upped the pace so seamlessly, I didn't realize I was actually holding my breath until the end. I'd heard the name Sawney Bean before, but not the legend. This could well be the version people are telling from now on.

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  5. There isn't an exclaimation invented to describe what I thought of this story. This was pure awesomeness. I heard the Sawney Bean story as a kid and it scared the bejabbers out of me. This story was a step beyond. Loved every grusome detail.

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  6. PnP – Thanks guys. We'll be getting over there to see you as soon as I've sold some stories. :-)Alan G – Thanks, mate. I'm honoured to be in such great company.Sue H – Thanks young lady. Laura – Glad to be able to give a horror writer the chills. :-)Paul – Thanks fella!Chris – Thaks a lot, mate. Praise like that from a horror writer is good enough for me.Laurita – "Pure awesomeness" I'll take any day of the week. Thank you.Roland – Thank you, sir. Glad you liked it.

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  7. Chop Chop! Supper time kids! and he lived to tell the tale. I wnder if the poor family will starve to daeth this winter? I thnk I just lost my apetite for finger food. LOL. Snappy tale, David. Great halloween fun!

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  8. David, your story is a winner – the ending was superb (cleverly crafted with subtle clues in the beginning). I also loved the voice in your dialogue and Robert's flashback of what happened to them was a brilliant addition.Excellent penning!

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  9. Jodi & Erin – Comments like that from 2 great horror writers is awesome. As I normally write crime/noir, I enjoyed this jaunt over to the horror genre. Something I'm going to do more often.Eric – Thank you. Mike – Great to have you pop over. Thanks, mate. As usual you flatter me. :-)

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  10. Creepy as hell, David. I haven't heard any specific story, but grew up with the understanding that some of the ancient Scots liked to chew on a limb now and then. Sport to them was roasting Campbells over open spits. Fantastic job here, mate!

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  11. Lewis – Thans, mate. Comment much appreciated.Nancy – Thanks. I may do a follow up which may go on my own blog.G.P. – Glad I made you say "ewwww". :-) Happy Halloween!Cormac – Thanks, bud. Your comment, as usual, is much appreciated. Alan – Thank you, sir! There's a link on my blog to info on Sawney Bean.To all, Happy Halloween. Have a great weekend!!

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  12. Sawney Bean. Always wanted to do a tale featuring him and his family. Being an ex-pat from Scotland, I grew up on tales of Sawney and his clan, as well as Jeannie Greenteeth and Rawty. Don't think I will do a Sawney one now, because this one will take some beating. Maybe Jeannie and Rawty will make an appearance over at TKnC, though. Good stuff, David.

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  13. So David, did you hear the suburban tale about the clown in Chris's globe being gnawed on by your Sawney Bean team? There was a noise and then someone burped out, "Does this taste funny to you?"Yikes – sorry, couldn't resist. I felt G.P.'s "ewwwww" when the bejabbers from Laurita flew. Staying true to your dialogue, (I took notes with the detectives), this was definitely a "What the Fuck" gory story. Still bejabbered, ~ Absolutely*Kate(Damn – that nurse had nerves, huh?)

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  14. David – Thank you, sir!Kate – Thank you so much. Glad I could be of service in giving you a scare.F.D. – Thanks a lot mate. Glad you enjoyed it.Erin – Once again, thanks for accepting my story. It was an honour being involved.Thank you and Happy Halloween!!!

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  15. I remember the reading the tale of the Sawney Bean when I was younger. It’s nice to know that they’re still up to their old tricks! I really like the beginning assumption of caving accident and paralysis, with the realisation at the end that he’s narrowly escaped being turned into a complete lunch. I don’t know what’s creepier – the loss of his friends, or the restraint shown by their attackers in leaving him mostly alive.

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  16. Having one's arms and legs chopped off is a particular horror — imagine being trapped, essentially, in your own body. Ironic for the guy who climbed there, eh? This almost read like a movie! I could see it all happening. Especially the gory bits. Good work.

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