Nightmare Fuel: Day 21

Last night I had that dream again. I have had it nearly every night for so many nights now, and I do not know why it keeps happening.

In this dream, I am walking through the garden, and I come upon the apple tree, and it is heavy with fruit. The apples are red and rich and sway faintly in the breeze, and I draw close and they are so pretty that I reach out to touch one.

When I do, the skin of the fruit splits beneath my fingertips, peeling open to reveal not the flesh of the fruit, but a fanged and toothy mouth with a long tongue that laps a taste of my finger before I can pull my hand away. It has the taste of me then, and begins to shudder and shake upon its branch until its stem snaps free, and it throws itself toward me. I turn to run but I cannot, and the fangs sink into me; different places each night, and last night it was the upper curve of my calf.

It bites deep, and it hurts. I cry out, and I fall, and it releases, only to land upon my waist, biting a deep chunk from my side. I cannot even roll away as it bites again and again – my buttock, my shoulder, my cheek, my breast, my thighs, my thumb, my ankle, my spine. Biting away at me bit by bit and piece by piece until all that is left of me is pain and tears, and only then do I wake.

This morning I told Adam of the dream, and he hugged me and told me it was nothing. Even so, today I will go to the Tree. Just to be sure.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, by Burning Shark of DeviantArt.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 20

They moved into the house on a Saturday, and despite the worries from the weather reports that it was going to be raining all the while, the Muddletons got all their things moved in with nary a drop upon the carefully taped cardboard boxes. Lara and Merve Yes-That’s-Really-My-Name were relieved once the door on the back of the van slammed shut and the moving men drove away, and they were able to tell Joseph that yes they were all excited about the new house but there was no reason on God’s Green earth why there should be Legos littering the corner of the staircase already. They set up his bed and gave him permission to open any boxes he wanted IN HIS ROOM as long as everything he took out of each box found its way when he was done onto its proper shelf or into one of the plastic toy bins. They had pizza for dinner that night sitting on the wood floor in front of the unlit black fireplace with its high carved wood mantle and called it a picnic, and Lara and Merve got their own bed set up and started unpacking the boxes in the kitchen and the bathroom, respectively. At bedtime they discovered Joseph’s floor a landline of legos and toy cars, but they were too tired to do anything more than to tell him to go to sleep and pick up in the morning. They did not make love.

On Sunday Lara picked through the boxes in the kitchen until she found enough things to make pancakes on the stove, and the dishes went into the sink to soak until she could figure out which box the dishsoap had ended up in. Merve told her with quizzical pride that Joseph must have picked up his room before they all woke up because the toys were gone from the floor when he went to fetch the boy for breakfast. He finished unpacking the bathroom much to Lara’s delight, and Joseph opened another box and found it disappointingly full of clothes instead of toys, which he put away more to get them out of the way of his fun than out of any dutiful sense of helping. He was, after all, only seven. In the garage, Lara found a large mirror that she was sure hadn’t come from the old house, and was very concerned it had been left behind by accident by the old owners, until Merve suggested that perhaps it had been a gift from the real estate agent like they did on those property newbie shows, and actually wasn’t it just right to go over the fireplace between the two old-fashioned lights? They slept with their backs to each other.

On Monday they all went to work and to school. When they got home, Lara found the dishsoap, and Merve hung the mirror over the fireplace. The room, in the reflection, looked quite barren he realized, although he could see the reflection of some of Joseph’s toys through the reflected doorway. Resolving to set the boy to cleaning up yet again, Merve went looking for him, only to get distracted by the task of unpacking delicate odds and ends to decorate the bare walls instead. Joseph complained that he couldn’t find his things, for which his mother admonished him and sent him to his room to unpack more. Lara broke a dish when she was washing and Merve made her a cup of tea before bed and gave her a tissue to dry her tears. After all, it was a big move, broken plates happened, didn’t they? She fell asleep before he got to bed.

On Tuesday, Joseph didn’t answer his parents when they kept calling into his room to wake him for school, and they kept reminding each other to go get him up. When finally they heard the bus come and go, Lara went into Joseph’s room to find the bed unmade, but empty. His floor was still clean, at least, and his shoes were gone. He must have actually gotten ready on his own for once, she told her husband with a wry smile, and sent him out the door with a kiss on the cheek. In the mirror over the mantle she could see how bare the room still looked, as well as several of Joseph’s toys and a plate, and resolved to have a talk with Merve about making sure he finished putting away one thing before moving on to the next. When Merve got home from work, the house was very quiet. No lights were on, and he couldn’t smell dinner cooking. Lara did not answer his call, nor did Joseph. Had there been a parent meeting at the new school? He couldn’t remember and was too tired to drive over there. He ate a sandwich, unpacked a box of linens, and went to bed alone.

On Wednesday he awoke to an unnervingly silent house and crept through it it feeling like he was in the wrong place. Nobody answered him, and his stomach turned unhappily. Where were they? He looked around the still mostly empty dining room and began to mull over calling the police when a bit of movement caught his eye and he turned toward the mirror. There he could see Joseph through the doorway running a car around the bottom of the stairs, and Lara appeared from beyond, looking frightfully haggardly at her husband. Whirling he began to demand why she had not answered him – but there was nobody in the doorway. He turned back to the mirror and saw her there, and she walked past Joseph, past him, right up to the reflection, but she wasn’t between him and the mirror as she should have been. Merve walked close to the mirror, and he could see the tracks of Lara’s tears as she reached out toward the mirror. Her mouth was moving, and he could not make out what she was saying. He reached out too. The crash of the mirror shattering on the floor was very satisfying. He went to work and when the school called asking about Joseph, he told them that his wife was supposed to bring their son to school when the boy missed the bus.

On Thursday, the house was very, very quiet.

On Saturday a pair of uniforms went to the house and found the front door unlocked, a mirror shattered in the dining room, and no sign of the Muddletons any newer than a half-eaten piece of pizza catching flies on the kitchen counter. They called in a missing person’s report, investigate the whole house, and finally left it to be closed up until some sign of the family turned up. The Forensics team was so interested in the lack of fingerprints on the frame of the mirror that nobody noticed the several pairs of eyes peering out at them out of the shards.

Eventually the house was foreclosed and put up for sale, and all the Muddleton’s belongings sold to pay for as much as possible of the loan. Somehow the bank’s realtor missed the oblong mirror leaning against the wall in the garage.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, by Burning Shark of DeviantArt.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 19

It was a full moon that night, of course. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s kind of foolishness to go walking through the woods at night, but I could SEE, you know? And I’d played in that section of the woods when I was a kid, so I knew it pretty well. A few new fallen down trees here or there, but largely it remained unchanged from what I was familiar with.

But when I came over the ridge to cut along toward the path down the slope on the other side, the big furry creature crouched on all fours on some sunken boulders, head tilted back to look up toward the moon? THAT was new. It was big, and furry, and I could see pointed ears and immediately stopped to go back the way I came (because hi, I’m not a complete moron, I’m not going to fuck with a big animal on its own turf, especially a wolf). I’d gone too far though; when I stopped my sneakers were already on top of the pebbled scree that surrounds the boulders, and the little rocks scraped and scratched underfoot. A person wouldn’t have heard it, but this wasn’t a person.

The ears shot up, and its head swung around – carrying the top half of it with it, and I could see that it wasn’t JUST a wolf. A wolf has a trunk of a body with legs underneath and the head thrust forward upon its neck; this creature had a body far too much like a human’s, heavily muscled in a V-shape like a swimmer, crouching on bent back legs with clawed arms that reached out to curl over the tops of the boulders, its head atop its shoulders. It was all-over fur, and the eyes that glowered at me looked yellowy, set behind an elongated snout that curled back into a snarl.

That was all I saw before I took two steps back under the trees and turned to run. Behind me the snarl bellowed into a throaty howl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I just ran dodging between trees and shoving back through undergrowth I’d just gone through in climbing up the hill. I didn’t look back, although I could hear its… feet? Hands and feet? pounding into the leaves and the dirt behind me, getting closer. I didn’t look back, I just forgot to look out for one of the newfallen trees. There was a branch that stretched across the path and it sent me flying. I saw a hint of huge shadow looming over mind and for a quick, sure moment I knew that the thing had caught up with me and was about to land on me.

In a way it was lucky that I was falling downhill and landed headfirst on a rock in the path. My skull was cracked open and my brains spilling into the dirt before it landed on my body and started tearing into it. I know this because somehow I was knocked out of myself. I stood there on the path just downhill, and watched as my body slide under the weight of its landing, my skull wrenched further open and a bunch of my ribs cracking. With a snarl like the one it had greeted me with on the top of the hill, it leaned down and sank its teeth into my throat, yanking back to tear it out in a spray of blood and shredding flesh. Its head snapped back and I could see the gobbets of my own throat in its jaws before they disappeared down its gullet, and it bayed triumphantly at the moon that now dappled our bodies through the trees.

I wanted to vomit, but really, how could I do that? It was standing with one foot on my stomach, and after its wild cry it slid back to sink claws and fangs into my middle, yanking already-broken ribs out of the way as it delved into my cavity, jerking loose my entrails to get at the bloody richness of my kidneys and driving one hand up into my chest to find my heart. I guess it did me the favor of spilling my stomach as well as its half-digested contents for me, since I couldn’t. I could only stand there, watching, until it was sated and, with one last snarl in my direction, loped off from the hollowed, shredded remains of my body.

I stayed there by daybreak, wanting to cry when a couple of kids came up the path just like I used to and found my body, screaming bloody murder as they ran back down for help. I watched the emergency services come. I watched my remains get packed up, and I peered over the inspecting detective’s shoulder as he wrote “Death By Misadventure” on the pad attached to his clipboard, quickly repeated by the coroner.

I’ve stayed here for the full month since then, watching hikers and lovers and kids taking the shortcut over the ridge, watching the remnants of my blood sink into the dirt and wash away until the spot hasn’t even a bit of passing interest for stray dogs. People can’t see me. Regular animals avoid where I am standing, but they really can’t see me either. Only that thing could see me.

And you can see me. What’s bringing you up the mountain tonight?

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, original artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 18

First I just thought my eyes were dry.

I was at work, and the HVAC system had finally just switched over from the summer air conditioning to the winter heating (The receptionist was joking to one of the IT guys that morning that the maintenance man had to do some sort of secret maintenance voodoo over it) and my eyes were starting to itch. It was just the dry air, I figured. I went out on my lunch break and snagged a bottle of vision, and that seemed to make things a little better whenever I used them.

But when I got up the next day, my eyes were still really itchy, especially the left one. Soon it was itchy even when I put the vision, and rubbing it only seemed to make it hurt worse. I left it alone as much as I could, just trying to make it through the day, because it was definitely one of those days where everyone assumed that an empty spot on my calendar totally meant that I needed my time filled with meetings. When I got home my eye was positively throbbing, and I went to check it in the mirror to see if there was an eyelash trapped. There, between my iris and the outer corner of my eye, there was a tiny dark spot, and that was where it hurt. I closed my eye and pressed gently, just to make sure. Maybe my cornea was scratched or something. I’d call my doctor the next day and get it checked out, I figured.

When I woke up the next morning my eye felt as if it wanted to explode. I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom, peeling my eye open to see if the spot looked worse. It wasn’t just a spot anymore. It had gotten bigger, and it was like a heart right under the surface of my eye – like a real heart, like should be in your chest, and with veins snaking away from it through the rest of my eye, and it was pulsating, gently. When I closed my eye I could feel it pulsating against the inside of my eyelid.

I called out sick to work and I’ve been hovering between the couch and the bathroom. The veins are getting thicker, and my eye feels weird, like it’s trying to dislodge itself from the socket whenever I have my eye open. And my other eye is starting to itch.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, original artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 17

I wish the weirdest part of my story was how I came to be abandoned in the middle of the Cement Desert. I wish it was how I got dragged into a deal over my head and things went pearshaped and I was sent out into the sun-seared, shadeless waste to die and take that whole story with me. I kind of wish it had succeeded, that I had just walked and walked and walked until I couldn’t walk anymore and then crawled until I didn’t have the energy for THAT any more and then fell asleep until the sun dried me out and flaked off my skin and flayed my flesh and bleached my bones until I matched the cement underneath me.

It almost happened that way. I walked, and walked, and walked, and night was not much better than day because all the sun that spilled across the cement during the day baked heat back up out of it to cook me slowly. It only took two days before I wasn’t even feeling myself sweating anymore because I was just too dry. The headache was massive. I wonder if this was the kind of pain mom talked about when I was small and she had migraines that landed her on the couch in the dark. I felt like there was something inside my skull that was too large for that space. I felt like my eyeballs wanted to burst, and it was hard to focus, even squinting against the light. Not that there was much to focus on. Horizon, just the horizon, walking as if I had any chance in hell of making the far side of the desert. Going back to find my escorts and the bullet-end of their guns was sounding better the further I walked.

I didn’t believe there even was anything at first; I figured the slow-growing lump was just a figment, a what-do-you-call-it? A mirage, that’s right. Like that place in vegas. It was like that place for sure. Walking across the desert, watching it slowly get bigger, it was shining and impossible but it was SOMETHING, that lump, and I couldn’t conceive of not going to check it out. It took a long time to get to, longer than I expected. When there’s that much empty space, it’s hard to tell how far away anything is any more. The only thing that feels close is death.

The sun went down and I slept the night, and got up with my head pounding so bad it could have provided the beat for a Brit techno group, and the first thing I looked for was the lump. Still there, and it actually had a shape, now. It was round on the top, and taller than it was wide. And dark on one side – oh blessed mercy, that meant maybe there was shade, at least early and late in the day! So now I had a goal, and I got up, and I walked.

I walked. I walked.

I walked until it was close enough in front of me that I could see it was made of cement just like the desert. It was rounded as smoothly as the rest of the Cement Desert was flat. It was, as I staggered very close, twice as tall as I was, and with the sun behind me the shade had to be on the other side. I won’t lie, I was totally leaning against it as I made my way around, and I was so out of it that when the rounded surface stopped abruptly, I slid a little. Chevy Chase would been proud. I kept my feet, and oh the shade, the lovely shade! I know it wasn’t really doing anything for my skin, which going by my hands was totally red all over by now, but just being out of the sun made the constant flame of it ease down to an awful prickling.

The lump wasn’t just a lump; it was a half-shell, hollow inside, curved like the interior of an egg, and set into it was a huge shell that was the same color as the statue of liberty, and above it a weird statue that I guess was some kind of mermaid. Its tail was on top, belly against the wall, but instead of being the usual gorgeous chick mermaid (y’know, like Starbucks used to have on their sign before people got offended that she had tits) it was sort of… mostly a fish, long sinuous body and two fins sticking out the side.

The face was all human, though; it was a man, with a wide open grin, very careful even teeth, and it even had hair. Not wild merman hair, but really smooth, slick, side-parted hair that waved just so over the forehead. It was the kind of hair you see on a VP in some office building somewhere, not on a merman statue. But there it was.

“And here you are.”

Given everything else, seeing the mouth move and hearing it talk was pretty much all it took for my knees to buckle and my ass to hit the pavement.

“I imagine you are thirsty, aren’t you?”

It was too bizarre, seeing that metal mouth move and bend like flesh; it was like the animatronics of early 90’s movies, and I wondered if somehow I was being had, except what the hell would be the point of a toy statue way the hell out here? Although even that was more likely than-

“Magic fish, magic bowl, look, do you want some damn water or not?”

“Ye-heh-heh-heh-hehs,” I managed, coughing the word out raspily. I’d barely even opened my mouth in a day, since I realized it was drying me out worse to try to lick my lips.

“Marvelous. Good. So here’s the deal. Make a wish, and then you get the water.”

“I don’t-” I stopped, coughing to clear my throat uselessly. “I don’t wish for the water?”

“No sir, the water comes after the wishing. What way did you come from, anyway?”

I lifted a shaky hand to point. “Two days’ walk that way. Drove me out and dumped me.”

The metal almost looked as if it was melting around his head, the way it shifted to let him nod. “Right then. So what is your wish?”

“I wish…” I looked down at my hands, burned and cracked and thick with sun poisoning. Christ, they looked like effing sausages. I wished I hadn’t gotten in the middle of this mess. I wish I knew how to say no. I wish I’d had a gun of my own when Alaina and Mauricio showed up. “I wish they were dead,” I mumbled sourly, and coughed again.

“Who?”

“Alaina and Mauricio. They work for the Big Girl.”

“Are they the ones that… dumped you?”

“Yeah.” Even as I nodded, the merman’s head went still, mouth opening wide in a weird, yawing grin. There was a sound almost like a burp, and a gout of water burst forth to splash in the bowl, staining the oxidized copper with wet. I could SMELL the water, not a bad smell, but like when you’re a kid going to the seaside and you can’t see the beach or the ocean yet, but you can feel it in the way the wind is cool and damp. It was like that, an impossible burst of wet air in the middle of that cement oven.

I wish I could say I didn’t crawl to get to it, but I did, and dragged myself up on the edge of the bowl to shove my hands in. The water was cool and it was wet and felt so good and yet it HURT in the cracks in my skin and I screamed, and christ if that even wasn’t a wimpy sound, dry and thin and ragged. Then I was able to drag myself up almost to standing – really, I just sort of draped myself over the side of the huge shell-shaped bowl – and shoved my whole face into the water. That hurt too, and I screamed right into the water before backing out. Just a breath, and then I started drinking. Too much, too fast, and my stomach twisted and cramped around it and set it back up. I had to sling my head aside to vomit it out onto the hot cement. Even in the shade it was so hot that where it it, pink-stained, it hissed and began to steam.

That first run slowed me down, then, and I went for a few careful shaky gulps before sitting back down and catching my breath. “I think maybe you’re saving my life,” I pointed out, not really able to think much past the headache beyond pointing out the obvious.

“I am,” the creature grinned, and gouted a little more water out into the bowl. “Here, take this.”

Its mouth yawned impossibly huge, and a Ruger clattered out into the bowl, landing with its nose in the water. “You will go make Alaina and Mauricio dead,” it said simply, and I stared.

“Like hell!”

“You will. Or you will stay here with me.”

“Well, it’s not like I can walk two more days back like this, and even if I do it’s not like they’ll just sit there and wait for me to shoot them!” Even so, I reached a shaky hand in to gingerly pluck the gun from the shell bowl.

“You will.” The creature was implacable, lapsing back into that broad weird grin each time it spoke, and the gun lurched around in my grasp, wrenching my arm upward to slam the nose of it against my temple. “Or you will stay here with me.”

“JESUS CHRIST!” I yelped, my hand shaking, but I couldn’t pull my arm down, couldn’t let go of the gun, and my finger quivered on the trigger.

“You will go make them dead. Then you will come back. I will give you water. And you will grant my wish.”

Which is how I ended up walking back across the Cement Desert, holding myself at gunpoint. I can see the road in the distance, and I can see a car, and the sun is winking off of someone. I don’t even know if it’s them, but I’m going to do it. I will. And then maybe I can get myself before I need to go back there and find out what that thing could wish for. I have a terrible feeling that it’s going to want to leave with me next time.

 

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by Carabou of Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons license.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 16

It appeared on my fifth birthday.

It wasn’t given to me, exactly. On my fifth birthday, of course, my parents had a party and there was cake and there were present and the children my parents invited to play with me loved the pinnate we all got to whack at. And at some point amidst the streamers and blowing out the candles and playing tag in the yard, Bear appeared.

My parents insist that Bear must have been a gift from someone at the party, but everyone’s gifts were neatly wrapped and labelled to me from TimmyMaryJoeySusieMarkusDevoneMumnDad. Bear was just sort of sitting in the middle of the pile with no wrapping, no ribbon bow. No tag. I opened everything else I could before finally picking it up and looking it over.

Bear was just that, a teddy bear. But unlike most bears, it wasn’t fuzzy, it didn’t have shining button eyes, and it didn’t feel squishy. At least, not squishy with proper fluff. Bear’s exterior was a strange honey-colored leather, worn smooth to almost shining, and it was constructed in oblong, almost awkward pieces that were stitched together along the edges with big dark thread like they use on coats and couches. The arms were almost like paddles. The ears stuck up near enough like Mickey Mouse’s and yet still different as to seem wrong. There was no mouth, no nose, no eyes; the stitches ran from the back of the head under the ears, over the top, to meet at the front in a point along with the seam that ran up from under the chin.

Nobody claimed credit for bringing me bear, and even though my parents finally decided that either someone was embarrassed at giving it in comparison to all the other toys I had been given, I knew better. When I picked up Bear, it was warm. There was almost a sensation of pulse underneath that smooth, tough leather, and I hugged it close. Bear had come to me on its own. Bear had picked me to be with, and I was glad.

The monsters under my bed had been getting bold, you see.

They had begun slow, when I was a little smaller, just before I turned four. There would be a tiny creak from the wardrobe, or the shadows would move on the wall even though there was no wind moving the tree outside my window. Little things, and easily explained away by my parents when finally I did start calling for them.Then the little creaks became scrapes and groans, from the wardrobe and from under my bed. The moving shadows became more deliberate, becoming terrible leering grins and huge alien eyes upon the wall. Something was beginning to snake out from under my bed and move my toys; it was getting very good at flinging things up onto my bed to make me shriek, so that mom or dad would come running and trip over the truck the monster put just inside the bedroom door.

Mom and dad yelled at me for playing with toys instead of sleeping. They started taking things away that they found on my bed. They even talked about sending me to a counselor when they started coming in to find me curled up under the blankets and crying. “Big girls don’t cry at nothing,” they told me. “Don’t you want to be a big girl?”

I did want to be a big girl. But I wasn’t big yet, and there were monsters, and they WERE big.

That night I went to bed with the new toys still stacked up against the wall waiting to get fully unpacked, and I brought Bear to bed with me. It was warm, and if it squished kind of funny when I hugged it close, well, that was just what Bear was, wasn’t it? My parents kissed me good night, and turned on the nightlight in the hall for me, and mom tugged on Bear until I finally let go, and she set it on the shelf above my bed.

When she shut the door, I turned around and knelt to grab Bear, but it was already moving. Its head tilted slightly to one side, one of those wrong ears cocked as if listening for something, and I didn’t even have to hold my breath yet before I heard a scrape from under the bed. It pushed outward as I huddled down onto the pillow, hugging my knees, and this time I saw it. It was like a snake, but the back end of a snake, long and scaly and wriggling across the rug until the slender end of it was able to curl around the new dump truck I’d been given from Joey so that I could bring it to his house and make castles and forts in his sandbox. The snake-end slid under it and dragged the truck halfway across the room, and then it went tight and the truck crunched, the middle buckling in half and something snapping and a wheel rolling off across the room.

My new truck was broken, and it went slithering back across the carpet to grab another thing; the tutu from Timmy, or maybe it was from Susie (they were twins and they gave me both their presents together). As it dragged back across the carpet, another snake-end pushed out from under the bed to meet it near the broken truck, and I reached for my blanket to pull it tight around me. They didn’t usually make faces or throw things unless they knew I was awake and watching them.

As I watched, the end of one of the tentacles split open, yawning a nasty hiss over several rows of conical teeth, and it snapped shut on the tutu. The first one did the same, and wrenching sharply away from each other, they ripped the tutu in two. The sound of tearing tulle was loud in my bedroom, and I couldn’t help a little gasp. They dropped the tutu and went quite still. I knew they’d heard me, I knew it, and gathered my blanket around me like cotton candy, wanting something, anything to protect me.

The eyes appeared over the end of my bed and the blanket muffled my scream. There were three of them, all different sizes and on long stalks, all fixing firmly upon my face which was the only part of me sticking out of the blanket. I saw one of the tentacles rear up behind the eyes, and it was diving for me as I rolled face-down to bury myself under my blanket entirely. I felt something thud against the blanket on my back and roll down, halting by my hip. It was way too small to be a tentacle, and holding my breath, I dared to peek. From under the folds of cloth, I watched Bear slowly right itself to sitting with a little shake of its head. Then it reached up one of those weird paddle-like arms and, ever so delicately, picked loose a thread where the three seams joined at the point where its nose should have been. With a tug, it started to unravel, the three smooth points of leather starting to curl away, and one arm stretched out to thrust the thread in my direction.

Mutely, I dared stick an arm out from the blanket to pinch the thread, trying to look at and yet unable to quite understand the wet, red pulsating mass that I was seeing under the curled-back leather. It shifted a little, revealing a wee length of tiny, gleaming white needle-teeth that curved into an impossibly white grin at me. Then Bear pushed to its feet and, with me holding the thread so that the stitches unraveled as it walked, it tootled toward the end of the bed, toward the hissing horror that I could not see.

At the end of the bed, Bear shrugged out of its skin and dove, even as one of the tentacles darted at me again. I could not see what happened, only hear the hissing and the thumps and feel how my whole mattress shifted and rocked, and then there was a hiss worse than all the others, long and angry and ragged. It cut off abruptly into a gurgling, and then there was no more struggle. After a minute, I could hear a sound, a wet and meaty chewing like when I was having steak right before mom would tell me to stop being gross and close my mouth. It went on for a long, long time, and I held onto the thread while I watched the tentacle that had fallen upon the corner of my bed get pulled down to the carpet, and then inch by inch out of sight under the bed.

Eventually, there was silence – and then a tugging on my covers that made me burrow back under my blankets again, still clinging desperately to the dark thread connecting me to the limp pile of leather down by the foot of my bed. The thing that dragged itself up onto my bed was more disgusting than any of the yuck Devone had brought out of the swamp that was behind our back yard; it looked red and wet all over and had way too many arms and legs, more than a crab. Its head sat on top of it like a lump. It pulled itself up on top of the rumpled sheet, and then rolled upright in a movement that I abruptly realized was just like when Bear went to sit up.

As if knowing that I new it for what it was, it bared those teeth at me, grinning again. Then one of its weird limbs went to its mouth to curl around one of those teeth and yank it out with a sucking sound, just like when I pulled out one of my own teeth two months ago even though it wasn’t really ready because I wanted the quarter from the tooth fairy. It pushed upright and toddled toward me, and when it tugged on the thread I let it take it. It tied the end of the string around the wide end of the tooth, and placed it back between my outstretched fingers. Down the length of the bed it went, to climb back into the discarded skin; too many arms and too many legs it pushed itself inside the skin, filling out the shape again, and then waddled back with leather flapping to sit itself down in front of me. One paddle-arm guided my hand to slide the needle through the holes in the leather and pull the thread tight, until I had the rhythm of it and sewed bit by bit and stitch by stitch. Big, shaky child stitches, just like it’d had before, slowly closing the leather over it until all I could see was a gleam of that sharp smile.

Then I tucked the last little twitch in and pulled out the needle, left with Bear again.

I hid the needle in a little ledge under my shelf and straightened out my blankets, and nestled down under them to sleep with Bear in my arms. It was warm, and I could feel it pulsing in my arms like the beat of my own heart.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

Nightmare Fuel: Day 15

They can’t live in the light, can’t touch the light, so you’re safe once you know that, because you can stay safe as long as you have light. They like the shadows, they thrive in them.

When there were still scientists trying to figure them out there were a lot of them trying to convince the world that they were us, just like us, but they’d taken a different evolutionary path. Thousands and thousands of years ago some of them must have gotten trapped in that warren of underground caves and they grew in number, they lived and hunted and fought and spawned and died just like we did on top of the earth, out in the sun. But they were under so long, so very many generations, they went pale, like those fish that glow in pools.

Not that the shadowpeople phosphoresce. They’re just pale, so pale. It helps to find them, really, because any bit of light will glint off their skin, like blacklight would off of teeth and eyes and white clothing in nightclubs.

God, nightclubs. Remember them? Remember when we liked to be all pressed together in dark places and it was fun not knowing who all was there with you?

Funny how things change.

Like nobody goes anywhere anymore without at least one or two flashlights in a hip holster. I always have two, because it pays to be safe, right? Except when I came down into this cellar in this house to see if maybe they had any food or batteries stored down here, I was only two steps off the bottom of the stair when I got hit hard, and I am pretty sure it was teeth that scraped across the back of my neck when I went down and rolled and my flashlight went clattering away into the dim.

Just dumb luck, really, that I rolled into this one patch of sunlight that slanted from the big windows upstairs through the trapdoor at the top of the stairs, and it shrieked and scrambled off into the dark. I thought I could use my second flashlight to keep it back while I got out, but the damn thing broke. I should have gotten those Maglites, even if they are heavy. You can beat the hell out of them and they keep going.

My neck hurts like hell, and I think it’s still bleeding a little. I’ve been keeping myself in this patch of light, watching that pale shape pacing in the deep shadows at the far end of the cellar. I was thinking that I could just stick in the light until it got to the bottom of the steps, but it’s afternoon. The light is making me inch away from the stairs, and I’m only maybe a foot away from the wall now.

I’m going to have to make a break for it, I know that – but I know that thing is watching me, too. It looks like it’s going to be four running steps, and hopefully by the time I get there, enough light will still be on the stairs, but that creature keeps creeping toward the shadows underneath the steps.

I was hoping the beam my flashlight was still throwing would help give me a path, but the thing shut it off. First things first, I’m going to toss this up through the trapdoor, I can probably make it from here. So if you find this on the floor outside the cellar, I didn’t make it, and you better shine your torch REAL good around the cellar before you go down.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, artist unknown.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.