Drawing of a "Frankenstein monster" with green mottled skin. Caption reads: "This was a person?"

Ghoul short story by Iris Carden

Five storeys below Brisbane’s Roma Street Police Station, is the headquarters for the Human Defence Unit. Its members are drawn from among the highest performing members of military, intelligence, and police forces throughout Australia, along with select highly specialised members of the civilian population. The Human Defence Unit and its elite staff are neither police, military nor intelligence. They do not exist.

Pathologist Helen Thompson called HDU Senior Agent Jo Burns to her lab.

“You’re going to have to see what I’ve got on the slab to believe it,” she said.

When Jo arrived, she saw a human-shaped thing, with green skin, numerous stitched lacerations, a flat-topped bald head, with strange bolt-like projections from the sides of the head.

“This was a person?” Jo asked.

“Multiple people,” Helen answered. “The green colour of the skin is dye, it’s mottled because of decomposition.”

“So someone tried to recreate Frankenstein’s monster? And those projections from the side of the head?”

“Shaped from ear tissue as far as I can tell.”

“Was it alive?”

“The individuals used to be, but the agglomeration, no.”

“That’s some consolation. Where was the body found?”

“Frederick Street, Toowong.”

“Near the cemetery?”

“Yes. You know who did this?”

“I’ve got a theory.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s a ghoul, playing with its food.”

“I wish you hadn’t told me. Do you want me to run DNA on the parts?”

“No need. The only use for the information would be to notify relatives, and they don’t need to know this. Cremate it. Put the ashes somewhere nice.”

Toowong Cemetery was a huge area for the HDU agents to search.

Jo ordered them to spread out, and look for any signs of ghoul activity. She’d issued all agents net launchers. When the trigger was pulled the net would launch and, if aimed properly, would trap whatever they were fired at.

It was late afternoon, moving into evening, the sun starting to go down. This was when ghouls began their day, moving out from their hiding places, searching for the grave they would rob for the night’s meal.

Agents checked in over the radio from different parts of the cemetery: “No sightings.” Over and over again: “No sightings.”

Jo began to despair of finding their quarry, when Trainee Agent Harry Smythe’s excited voice announced: “Hey, there’s a dingo here. I didn’t know we had dingoes in Brisbane!”

“Net it!” Jo commanded, running toward his location.

Harry shot the dingo with a net as it ran away. He approached, and pulled the ropes of the net together to prevent the dingo from escaping.

Jo pulled a sandwich out of a pack she’d been carrying on her back.

“A sandwich?” Harry asked.

“Normal food.” Jo answered. “Help me force it to eat.”

Through the net they pulled the dingo’s mouth opened, forced the sandwich in, and then held the mouth closed.

“My father used to rub the dog’s nose to make it swallow its pills,” Jo said. “Let’s see if this works.”

While Harry held the mouth closed, Jo rubbed the nose.

The dingo convulsed, stretched and contracted, and eventually there was a creature, shaped like an emaciated human man, with grey skin, lying in the net.

“Wow,” Harry said. “So we’re arresting it?”

“Nope,” Jo answered. “Ghouls aren’t like the other creatures we hunt. There’s nothing human about them. They’re miserable, starving, demons, forced into our dimension, and condemned to feed on the dead. There’s only one thing to do with them. Stand back.”

Jo kept a boot on the ghoul, holding it on the ground, while Harry moved back as commanded.

Jo pulled out her standard service weapon, and ordinary gun with ordinary bullets.

“Once they’ve eaten normal food, they’re projection into this reality is weak,” she said.

She squeezed the trigger.

The grey head exploded, and then the ghoul’s whole body vanished.

“It’s dead?” Harry asked. “Or is it just back wherever demons come from?”

“Hopefully both,” Jo answered.

Human Defence Unit Stories

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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