I hate flying.
Despise it with a burning passion. And why wouldn't I? What's to like about being trapped in a flimsy metal structure that rattles and threatens to fall apart at the seams everytime it encounters a sudden gust of wind? A teeny tiny bird could get sucked into its engines and this hulking monstrosity would immediately crash and explode into a ball of fire.
One second. One error. One slight miscalculation. That's all that it would take for your entire existence to be reduced to a simple statistic. "Lost at sea." "Flight recorder not found." "Search is still on." I do not want my name to be associated with these sentences. No thanks. Gonna call me a pussy for having a perfectly rational fear? Well, that's just fine and dandy with me.
fear isn't the only thing I loathe about flying. It's everything else too. Cramped seats with no leg space, crying babies, surly toddlers kicking the back of my seat, stale air limp with the stench of sweaty socks and warm liquor, loud conversations of drunk middle aged assholes - God, I hate it.
Fate truly has a cruel, cruel sense of irony that I got saddled with a job that involves so much flying. If the pay wasn't so good I swear I would have fucked off a long time ago.
But even money only goes so far. Because no amount of zeroes in my paycheck can convince me to get back inside an aeroplane after what I saw that night. My experience on that flight struck me with such life changing terror that I quit my job the second that damn plane landed, and promised to myself that I would never, ever fly again. Ever.
It was another one of those cheap red eye flights that I liked to catch after my business trips. I marginally prefered travelling at night. Granted, that the noise situation wasn't all that
better. Loud snores that sounded like the sputtering of dying trucks replaced petulant shrieks of little brats. But at least I didn't have to look out at a sea of swollen clouds floating beneath the plane like a thick white mist, reminding me of just how far away I was from solid ground.
I was curled up under a musty blanket, having a fitful sleep full of nightmares of the fuselage being torn apart with my chair and I being sucked out into the air in the blink of an eye. That's when the plane hit a particularly nasty turbulence. The tremors woke me with a jolt, sent my heart racing. I dug my fingers into the armrests, pressed my lips together and squeezed my eyes shut, only blinking them open when the rattling had passed. I let out a deep breath as my eyes wandered.
Fuck, but the old woman next to me just slept through the whole thing. I felt so envious of her open mouthed snores. This jealousy would only get magnified when I would later look back on what happened next.
I turned my neck, looked out the window. Seated near the middle of the plane, I could clearly see the wing outside. It was lit up by wing scan lights, and had a couple of strobe lights flashing beneath it near its tip. Standard stuff. Satisfied that nothing seemed to be wrong, I began to tear my gaze off the view outside, and froze.
There was - something - there.
Startled, I leaned forward. Pressed my face up against the glass and narrowed my eyes. Cold sweat trickled down the back of my neck when I saw it again. A dark sheet of cloth. Tattered, frayed. Fluttering from the edge of the wing like it'd gotten caught on something there.
What the fuck?
How did that get there? How come no-one noticed? And how in the world had it managed to stay up there for so long? No sooner had that thought crossed my mind did that rag disappear. Slithered off the edge and vanished into the velvety sky. My heart pounded in my chest as I waited for the cloth to fly off into the engine, setting it ablaze. But nothing happened.
I could feel the tension releasing from my body in waves, making me shiver. Whatever that was, it was gone. Posed no threat to my safety anymore. I decided to wait until next morning to inform the flight attendants about what I just saw and began slumping back into the chair. And then I saw it again out of the corner of my eye. It was closer this time, about halfway down the length of the wing, just fluttering against the roaring wind, right at the edge.
I rubbed my eyes, pinched my arm. No. I wasn't dreaming. It really was there.
How did it travel halfway up
the wing? Shouldn't that be impossible? My head swam as I saw something breaking all laws of physics that had been the cornerstones of my perception and understanding of reality. But if course, that was just the beginning of this horrendous nightmare.
For right the next second, something shot out from within the waving folds of the black cloth and latched onto the topside of the wing. It was so bizzare, so fucking impossible that it took me a second to recognise it.
It was a human arm.
I gasped. Loudly - I think, because I didn't notice it. The only thing I could hear at that time was the muscle tearing beat of my heart against my sternum. Was that - a person there? My question was immediately answered as another arm shot up and landed on the top of the wing. My tongue darted out of my mouth, licked my cracked lips as I wondered how in the ever loving fuck this person was maintaining their grip on the smooth surface of a plane that was shooting through the air 35,000 ft above the ground.
I watched the veins on the two thin arms get stretched to the point of snapping as the entire body got gradually pulled up. A head popped up. Small, round, with long dark hair spilling all over the face, trying to tear themselves off her scalp and fly off to the side. It was a woman. She had thick, blood red lips framing a mouth that was opening and closing. Opening and closing. Fast, so damn fast that it was pretty much a blur. Was she speaking? No. The movement was too fast, too rhythmic for that. She pulled her torso up, then her legs, until she was lying flat on the wing. Her mouth never stopped moving, even as her matted locks flew into it and got crushed between her teeth.
And her eyes. Dear god, her eyes. Full of rage. Every blood vessel in them had popped.
I was terrified. And confused. Did she need my help? Or was I in danger? The sight was making my brain short circuit.
Then she moved. Towards me. Like a lizard. A really fucking fast lizard, one whose mouth never stopped its bizzare motion. Within seconds she was on me. Stood up outside my window, pressed her face up against the glass, hair lashing around wildly. And that's when I heard it, and finally understood what she was doing with her mouth.
It was her teeth. They were chattering. Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack.
I don't know how, but I was able to hear the sound of her teeth gnashing, repeatedly. Rhythmically.
A sob escaped my throat as I shut my eyes and reached overhead for the emergency call button. No way was I going to watch this shit for even a second more. I needed it to end. My finger kept jabbing the the button, not stopping even when the chattering seemed to have ended..
"Sir. Are you okay?"
I jumped. My heart nearly gave out at the sound of that voice. With extreme caution, I opened my eyes, and saw a flight attendant leaning over me with a look of concern on her face.
"Is everything alright?" She asked again.
"Yes!" I exclaimed. "There's a woman outside."
"Outside?" She asked, disbelief clear in her voice.
"Yes," I said, "right there." I pointed out the window, and felt my stomach sink when I realised that no-one was there. I leaned against the glass, turned my neck around but there was absolutely no sign of her. She'd vanished. And it didn't surprise me.
"Sir. Are you sure you're okay? Are you in need of medical assistance?"
I shook my head. Forcefully. "No. It's fine. Just had a very vivid nightmare. I apologise for disturbing you."
She smiled. "It's okay. Please don't hesitate to call if you need help."
As she walked away I rested my head on the seat and sighed. What had I just seen? Was it a nightmare? A hallucination? Must've been. There was no other rational explanation. Couldn't be. I glanced at the old woman seated next to me. She was still snoring. Slept right through everything. Yeah, a nightmare,
I mused and turned off the light overhead, plunging the cabin into darkness once again.
Little did I know that the worst was yet to come.
I was snuggled under the sweat soaked blanket and my nerves had just begun to settle when I heard it again. It started off low, distant, like it was coming from the top of a cliff far away. But it got louder. Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack.
The chattering of teeth, like the noise an angry rattlesnake makes, but much more metallic and predatory. I sat up straight. Tense shoulders, eyes wide, I listened closely, trying to trace the source of that sound. It sounded like she was inside the cabin. I tried to swallow whatever spit was left in my mouth, but the lump in my throat refused to allow that to happen.
No. It was the same last time. It'd sounded like she was in the cabin then too, but she'd been outside. I whipped my neck around, scanned the cabin as much as my eyes and my position would allow. There was no sign of her.
But of course there wasn't. She'd been lying down on the wing when she first starting moving towards me.
Just then, almost as if she could hear what I was thinking, I felt a hand on my leg. My mouth dropped open. I tried to scream, but I was so scared no sound came out. A pale white hand was gripping my shin. Tightly, twisting my leg muscles and making my very bones ache. Then another hand, on the other leg this time. The vice like grip on my legs tightened, forcing them apart. And that's when I saw her. Sliding out from under the seat in front of me, she began climbing up. On
me. Her teeth continued to chatter maddeningly.
Finally finding my strength, I let out a scream so piercing it woke up everyone in the cabin. And that woman slithered off, somehow disappearing under the very same seat she had crawled out off, like water swirling down an unclogged drain.
Lights began to get switched off one by one, and slowly scared whispers and grumbling filled the cabin.
I stayed awake the rest of the night. Had to apologise profusely to the flight attendants and my fellow passengers. I told them that I wasn't well. That the stress was getting to me. But I wouldn't be troubling them anymore. Someone a couple of rows back even offered me a pill for my anxiety. I declined, and sat on an empty seat near the flight attendants, scared out of my wits but not letting it show. By this time I had already made my decision to never get on a plane ever again, but something else happened. One last chapter of this nightmare that cemented my decision.
Morning had come. The flight had landed. The passengers were getting off one by one. I was last. Wanted to take my time and apologise to, and thank the flight attendants for all their help. The one I spoke to was the same one who had come to my help the previous night. She smiled as I stammered through my grovelling apology and told me it was okay and that I need to take better care of myself. I smiled and began walking off.
Chills racked my spine.
A sound. That
I turned around and saw the flight attendant staring at me with wide, dead eyes. Her mouth was moving. Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack-Clack. M
- IX You can leave the house, but never sleep anywhere else.
As I drove down the highway, theories buzzed through my head like a swarm of locusts. Did Paul kill Zack in a drunk driving accident? Did Paul wire up the shattered the coat-rack, crawl through the tunnel, and set it back in my house? Was Paul a servant of the intruder? Was I becoming a servant of the intruder?
After my cluster fuck of a vision, at least a few things made more sense. Not only was the intruder connected to its victims, the intruder's victims were connected to each other. Maybe it was some kind of hive mind; Maybe it was turning people into intruders themselves. At this point, it seemed like anything was possible.
And the way Paul's eyes moved outside the diner all those days ago: like somebody had jumped into his head, taken a quick look around, then jumped back out again. Now I knew that It was me, I'm the one who jumped into Paul's head. The nightmare logic or everything made me nauseous — like a carnival ride with no exits. A paradox web of chaos and madness with answers always hiding one step out of reach.
Above all was another question. Exactly who was the supposed 'old friend' in Paul's house? The person he owed a favor, the person he was 'taking care of.' Was it my childhood friend, Zack?
During my sporadic visions, I saw a green bike through Paul's eyes. The exact same bike my friend Zack was riding when he supposedly died. Did Paul hit him all those years ago? Did he find Zack barely alive on the side of the road, bring him back home? Was he keeping him alive to this day with his medical equipment and military training? Did the timelines even match up? It was possible, but crazy even to consider.
What are the chances? Paul happening to live across the street from me all these years later. Was the intruder orchestrating everything from the start? Perhaps this entity had been involved in my life far longer than the last few weeks. Now that I thought about it, there was a vague familiarity about everything, almost like deja vu.
Like that feeling one gets around death. You'll know it if you've ever survived a bad car accident or faced something potentially terminal. You see part of the abyss. You finally realize, maybe for the first time, that at some point you won't exist anymore. You barely existed to begin with. In the words of Max Schumacher from Network: "death becomes a perceptible thing, with definable features." Before all this, I never really feared death. There were times I welcomed it; That's easy to say when it's sitting off in the distance, caged behind bars. But when the end of everything is standing just ten feet away, looking you in the eyes...
My phone started buzzing in a cup holder, slowly spinning around as the screen lit up. I pulled into the parking lot of a nearby gas station: Buster's Better Gas. I parked the car, grabbed my phone, and called the missed number back.
"Bradley?" said the voice on the other end.
"Oh, Brandon, D'oh!" It was Howie, of course.
"What's up?" I said.
"Not much, just uhh, checking to see if you're okay. Haven't seen you in a while."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just been running some errands."
"Oh… you weren't here last night?"
"Well somebody tore down your… 'art' thing."
"Art thing?" I'd already forgotten about my excuse for the barricaded door.
"The …basement door," he said, "Whole thing's gone, frame too."
"Oh…" I said, trying to sound calm, "Yeah, I uh... paid some guys to take it out." I lied.
"The middle of the night?"
"Yeah, I guess so if that's when they showed up."
"I went to bed and the door was there, and I woke up, and the door was gone."
"I guess they were quiet…" I said, the lie growing more absurd by the second.
"Yeah, I'm a light sleeper too." He chuckled, "Anyways," Howie continued, "I'm just calling to ask if it's cool I crash a few more weeks. I'll pay you rent once I get the money."
"Yeah, Howie don't worry about it." I said, "That's it?"
"Yeah, see ya Brandon. Thanks again, it really means a lot man."
I hung up. *Fantastic.* Now the basement door was gone.
In all the confusion, I still hadn't realized my violation of rule 8: You can leave the house, but never sleep anywhere else.
My thoughts drifted back to Mitch. He knew a lot more than he was letting on. I still didn't trust him, but I trusted him more than Paul. Low bar, I know. I pulled out my phone and dialed his number. Five tones rang out, straight to voicemail. Mailbox full. I called again — same thing. I called again. Three tones rang out, then silence. He cut the call short. Mitch was ignoring me. I tucked my phone away and stepped out into the parking lot.
Inside the gas station, I bought a cheap burner phone and a pack of smokes. Sure, I quit a few months back, but I needed something to calm my nerves. Besides, I'd quit again after this pack. Stop judging me. Back in my car, I lit up a dart, and called Mitch on the burner phone. He wouldn't recognize the number this way. I hated being stalkerish, but my life literally depended on it.
Three tones rang out, and… Mitch answered:
"Mitch, please don't hang up."
Silence, and then:
"What do you want?"
"I'm sorry I spoke with your-" I stopped myself from saying dad, "with the neighbor, I just-"
"-What do you want?" Said Mitch, losing patience.
"I just need to talk, one more time, in person."
"I don't know…" he sighed, "I've already said too much. Just keep following the rules, ignore everything else."
"Mitch. Please. I'm literally losing my mind here. Just one more talk."
"What'd you tell the neighbor?"
"Barely anything, I just said-"
"-You know what, never mind," he sighed again, "3*** Baker street. Ring me when you get here-"
-he ended the call.
Mitch lived about forty minutes away in a small town off the interstate. One of those towns where main street's nothing but a graveyard of pre-walmart family shops. Survival of the cheapest. I pulled up to an old and gray concrete apartment building that looked straight out of Soviet Russia. This was the place.
Lugging my crutches out of the back seat, I climbed out of the car, and shut the door. Thanks to crashing into the roadside barrier, a heavy indent was scraped into the side of my car. Great. I double checked my pockets. Phone: check. Switchblade: check. I brought my chrome switchblade everywhere now, just in case.
It was already dark out; The days were getting shorter. The air was cold, and my breath was foggy. I crutched up to the building and rung in Mitch's room number. Rubbing my freezing hands together, I waited.
The door buzzed open.
Mitch's place looked early 70's to me. Open design, cut down the middle, half-kitchen, half-living room. Between them, a bar with rickety stools. Mitch looked a little better than the last time I saw him. Still tired though.
"Hey Mitch," I said, forcing a smile.
Silent, Mitch stood about six feet away. He half smiled, strode back into the kitchen, and started scrubbing dishes in the sink. I took off my coat, and pulled the door shut behind me. Mitch scraped grime off a cast-iron frying pan, his back turned to me. I walked up to the edge of the kitchen and looked around. His place was tidy, like a hotel room.
"What'd the neighbor tell you?" said Mitch, referring to his' father'.
"You believe him?"
"I don't know."
Mitch sighed, tossed the dishes down, and turned off the sink. Shaking water off his hands, he turned around and leaned back against the countertop, "So what do you want from me?" he said, wiping his hands onto his shirt.
"I have some questions." I said. *Some* was an understatement.
"Uhm..." I didn't know where to start, "Last night, I almost ran into a bear. Swerved, hit my head on the window. Almost blacked out and then-"
"-You snapped into other people's minds? Saw things from the past, maybe even the future?" said Mitch, crossing his arms.
I looked at him, surprised, "Yeah, I mean more than that but-"
Mitch shook his head as if to say, I expected as much.
"What does it mean?" I said.
"Look, what you're doing right now, you being here, this whole rabbit hole of finding the 'truth.' It's not healthy. The more obsessed you get, the more crazy you become. The crazier you are, the easier it is to control you."
Mitch ignored the question, "Stop expecting some priest, or medium to come in and explain what's going on. Nobody's gonna show up and tell you how this thing spawned from an ancient curse or some other bullshit, and the only way to kill is to sacrifice a dog or pray to Jesus." he said, mockingly, "That's not what this is. You can't reason with something that doesn't think. The only thing you can do is keep following the rules and put off more time between now and..." He trailed into morbid silence, "If you think this is gonna end - all tied-up with a neat little bow; you're gonna end up severely fucking traumatized." As if I wasn't already.
Mitch looked up at the ceiling, considering his next words carefully. "There's a good reason I've been so vague about everything. The more involved you are, the more you know, the more you share, the more you search for answers; The more it slithers into your life. Into your thoughts, your dreams, everything."
Mitch rubbed his jaw, "I barely escaped it myself." he said, looking across the room staring at the door behind me. I glanced back over my shoulder, there was floor length mirror on the door, partially obscured by my coat.
"After it took my dad," Mitch continued, "I almost got pulled in. I started researching, investigating. That's when the visions started - like what happened with you in the car. The intruder feeds you these little snippets of random moments. All of them feel like they might be connected, like they should have a reason, and maybe they do. But just because something has a reason doesn't mean it's a good one."
"… What's gonna happen to me?" I said.
"It's already happening," said Mitch, "You're becoming a servant of the tulpa or whatever it is. The worst part is you'll still feel in control, but you won't be. Soon enough, you'll start breaking into people's houses at night, leaving coat racks in the basements. Just like my dad. Maybe you've already done it, and you forgot. Then you'll be telling people to not worry about it, telling them to work on themselves. Telling them there's no such thing as ghosts."
"...How do you know all this?"
"I don't. It's all theory. At the end of the day who the fuck knows anything about anything. Who knows what tulpa wants? Maybe it feeds off the chaos. Maybe it's working towards something bigger. I don't know, I don't want to."
"How did Paul really die?"
Mitch grit his teeth. Then he just stared at me, shaking his head, eyes filled with *fuck it, you really wanna know?* "When I was a kid," he said, "after mom took us and moved out, a few years went by and, Dad started getting his life together, stopped drinking, stopped leaving creepy notes in people's shoes, got on some good meds ecetera. So mom, after some gentle pushing from my sister, calls him up, asks him out for coffee."
Mitch went silent, eyes flicking back and forth across the wall behind me. "That same night, after the phone call, Dad gets shit-faced, drives up to the Bawlry cliffs. Same lookout he and mom use to go stargazing at." Mitch grimaced, "So he drives full speed towards the cliff edge and slams bumper first into a barrier post." He shook his head, "Believe it or not, he wasn't the first person to drive a car off the bawlry cliffs. City put up the posts a few months prior," Mitch pressed his tongue into the side of his cheek, thinking, "So anyways, Dad's still drunk as hell, passed out, face in the airbag." Mitch pushed off from the counter, stepped over to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat down, "Gas leak catches fire; Dad burns alive." Mitch tapped his knuckles against the table a few times, "Police said he was out cold, didn't feel a thing, but I knew enough to know that wasn't true. Saw a photo of the corpse on accident: mouth wide open," Mitch opened his own mouth to show, "I'm no expert, but people don't generally scream when they're asleep."
Mitch slapped the table and ran his hand back and forth a couple times, "So we make arrangements to sell dad's house. It's the weekend, we're moving stuff out and then-" he paused, looked directly at me, "There comes dad, riding a brand new motorcycle. He's all confused too, what're we doing with his stuff, y'know?" Mitch breathed out his nose, "Said he was on a trip out of county. Course mom loses her mind, hell we all lose our minds. Dad's back from the fuckin' grave and all." Mitch looked away, his eyes watering slightly now. He stamped his foot against the laminate flooring. "The coroner's report, the police, it's like none of it even happened. Mom was hysterical, screaming at the police station saying they were trying to gaslight us. They weren't. Documents never existed; At least not anymore. State almost took us away from her for insanity, so she stopped talking about it. We all did. Telling people you believe in ghost's lands you in an awkward conversation; telling people your dad is back from the dead, lands you in a psych ward." He scoffed, "The thing that really fucked with me, aside from the obvious, was his hands." Mitch held up his hands and spread his fingers, "Ten fingers. Including the one he shot off in the basement."
Mitch looked at me again, "This thing bent reality over us like a fucking wire. Like it bumped us into a parallel world or something." Mitch looked away again, staring at the kitchen cupboards as he spoke, "Dad, or whatever replaced him, kept trying to reconnect with us, but we wouldn't have it. Moved cross-country, cut off all ties." Mitch sighed, "Things got a little better after that. Distance helped, especially back then." He trailed off into silence.
"What made you come back?"
"I dunno, guilt maybe. Morbid curiosity."
"Why the notes?"
"I started asking around his neighborhood, low profile, if people had seen anything, heard anything, y'know off, about my dad. Everyone there was so fucking weird, and similar. Weird ticks like-" Mitch rubbed his forehead with the back of his thumb to show, "People unable to remember basic words. Their eyes lighting up randomly and looking around as if somebody else was in there. Same stuff I noticed with my dad. Like the thing from his basement was spreading. Taking over the whole neighborhood, like a virus." He said, shifting his weight slightly.
"...How'd you figure out the rules?"
"I didn't. I mean... not fully, those were just things that seemed to slow it down, at least in my dad's case. Before we left him, I found it all scribbled up on a napkin. Dad, for all his flaws, he's really fucking smart. Logical. He would have tested things out, experimented. Figured out exactly what the entity reacts to, doesn't react to ecetera."
"So all this to say: the more you know, the more he controls you?"
"Maybe. It's only a theory."
"And I'm basically fucked no matter what I do?"
Mitch stepped up from the table, strode over to the kitchen sink, and stared out at a brick-wall view.
He sighed, "Look. Brandon. I should've been more honest with you before, but you wanna know the truth, right?"
"This has been over and done with from the start."
I didn't respond.
"Ever since you snapped the coat-rack in half" he continued, "It was game over."
He looked back at me over his shoulder, "I didn't tell you that cause I didn't want you to panic. The more calm you are, the more sane you are, the longer it takes for this thing to get a hold of you."
"Get a hold of me?"
"You're becoming part of it now, just like my dad, just like the neighbors."
"And there's nothing I can do to stop it?"
Mitch shook his head, and looked back out the window.
"You should leave." He said, posture slumped as he set his hands onto the counter top.
"But I still don't-"
"LEAVE." He snapped, his voice booming with surprising loudness.
I shook my head, crutched back for the door, pulled on my coat, and wrapped my hand around the door knob.
"Thanks for the help," I said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
I turned the knob; It was locked. Weird. I unlocked it and tried again. Still locked. "Uh, Mitch," I said, looking at him in the mirror on the door. Mitch, back-turned, now with pin-straight posture, stood in the center of the kitchen now. Hands covering his face; like somebody playing 4peekaboo.
"M-mitch?" I said, looking back over my shoulder.
Suddenly, the room shifted darker, but the lights didn't go out. Like a camera shifting aperture, everything dimmed into a slow-motion nightmare. Mitch's left hand shot straight up into the air, as if being pulled from above. Then his right hand. Both hands straight up in the air. Standing on his tiptoes like a cursed ballerina. I watched in wide-eyed horror. Paralyzed.
Suddenly his arms dropped to his sides. Like an invisible straight jacket was wrapped around him. He stood there, motionless. Then he burst into coughing, hunched over and staggered towards the sink, rubbing his forehead as he went. Thank god his body language was normal again.
"You okay?" I said, taking a few careful steps forward. He threw a hand up, motioning me to stay back. I did. But his desperate wheezing and coughs only grew worse, like he was choking. He thumped his chest until finally, something flew out of his mouth, and plopped into the dirty sink water.
"I'm okay…" he said, gasping for breath, "I'm okay…"
I glanced back towards the door.
Mitch, back still turned to me, plunged his hand into the soapy water. Fishing around for whatever came out of his throat. He froze, and his eyebrows raised. Slowly, he lifted something out of the water:
An object about the size of a chap stick, but I couldn't tell what it was from this distance, "What the fuck?" Mitch whispered. His hands suddenly swung to his sides again. The object flew to the floor, slid across the kitchen, and slowed to a stop in front of me. It was a dismembered finger. What the fuck?
Mitch staggered back from the sink, seven quick steps. He straightened up into pin straight posture again. Tried to speak, but only gargled whimpers escaped, like he was being suffocated.
I stepped backwards to the door, eyes darting around the room for another escape. There was no balcony, but I was too many floors up for that anyways.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" Mitch screamed, "WHAT THE-" his voice cut off into choking mess. Suddenly his throat swelled up, like something was pushing on it from the inside out. His head snapped back, forcing him to look straight up at the ceiling. And then - something pushed out from his mouth. Several somethings. Long and wriggling, like worms:
Long fingers slid out from his mouth and wrapped around his face like leeches. Gaunt hands, unnaturally large, squeezed together as they wriggled their way out of his mouth. Pig-colored skin. Like a face-hugger. The same hands I saw wrapped around the coat-rack all those nights ago. Pulling his mouth wider and wider until it started ripping at the corner's of the lips.
Enough was enough, I spun around and shouldered into the door. Using all my weight to crash into it again and again. All the while witnessing the horrific sight behind me reflected on the door mirror. Hidden by shadows, something tall and fetus-like, was climbing out of Mitch's body. Naked and dripping with guts, pushing what was left of Mitch's skin down like somebody climbing out of an undersized wet suit.
Finally, the door broke open. I stumbled into the hallway, and slammed into the opposite wall. One of my crutches fell back into Mitch's apartment. Goodbye crutch.
I single crutched the fuck out of there. But the hallway was different now; Stretching on for eternity in both directions -growing darker and darker. I didn't have time to think about it. I just kept pushing forward, hobbling down the increasingly narrow passage. Behind me, the sound of staggering footsteps getting closer all the while.
That's when I realized the hallway's increased length was partially illusion. A forced perspective miniature gradually getting smaller and smaller as it went. I kept pushing forward. The ever-lower ceiling scraping against my head, forcing me into crouching, forcing me onto hands and knees. Crawling through this miniature apartment hallway as the walls, and whatever was chasing me inched closer. The smell of burnt hair and gasoline growing stronger all the while.
The air changed, from dry air-conditioned cool, to humid and dark. I didn't care, I just kept crawling, shuffling forward bit by bit. My back scraping against the dirt ceiling as I went. Light suddenly appeared, less than twenty feet away. A room. Exhausted, I crawled faster. The sound of own breath bouncing off the walls around me. Finally, I broke into the room, spun around, and looked back into tunnel. Empty. As far as I could see, whatever had been chasing me, was gone. For now. Crutchless, I pulled myself to a nearby wall, slumped against it, and caught my breath. Eyes locked on the dark tunnel all the while.
Just in case.
After a few minutes of catching my breath and calming myself down. I looked around. Dirt floors. Plywood Walls. This impossibly shifting tunnel had led me into the back corner of a basement. Not just any basement.
Paul's basement. More updates on the way