Bogleech.com's 2013 Horror Write-off:
" Eleven at Daryl's "
Submitted by Mr. Weasel
Eleven at night on a Sunday and Daryl’s Gulp and Swill Pub was all but deserted. Sure I sat at my usual spot at the bar, my usual glass of whiskey in one hand and a pen in the other. Marsha wiping down the counters of spit, booze, peanut shells and the smallest bit of blood with a rag that looked more likely to make a mess than clean it. A few locals populated the dimly lit bar in their own secluded pockets of inebriation and thought. Aqualung plays over the jukebox with only a few skips and scratches.
Scritch scratch scritch goes my pen across the napkin, simplistic doodles of animals and geometric shapes covering the stained paper. I don’t really have any shred of artistic talent despite what my teacher said in high school, the scribbling helping calm my fidgety fingers. Glancing to my left I spot the half-empty glass of Guinness just a few stools down. Frowning I try to remember who it was that had been sitting there. I was positive there had been someone enjoying their drink not long before. My unspoken questions suddenly answered by Marsha who walked over to pick up the glass with a scowl. Her brow furrowing in a way that makes her partial unibrow press together into a fuzzy caterpillar, “Where the fuck did that cheapskate go?” she grumbles more to herself than to anyone in particular.
Almost sleepily I quirk a brow, “Who?” bringing my own glass to my lips for a swallow The bartender flashes those seaweed green eyes and her lips twist in distaste, “Fuckin’ David the crabber. I told him I’d ban him from the bar if he skipped out on his check again. Fuckin’ useless git,” she spits as she scooped up the glass to dump it in the overcrowded sink.
Searching my memory I could only vaguely recall a David the Crabber. Big man, big bald spot, an even bigger moustache. Another gulp of my whiskey refreshing my memory, the liquor burning down my throat and filling my belly with warmth. I never talked to him before, not really. He was an old quiet man, the only person I’ve met that I would use the term ‘salty’ to describe. I’d seen him some mornings on the docks when he had gotten up late, from nursing a hang-over probably, loading up his small one man boat to head into the swamp and check his crab traps.
“Maybe he just ducked out to take a piss. You still haven’t fixed the urinals,” I comment against my better judgment, jerking my thumb over my shoulder at the double door of restrooms, both shut down with an Out of Order sign written with sharpie on a piece of yellow construction paper.
Marsha turns her head and her curls swing and bounce around with the motion, shooting me a narrow-eyed look with pursed lips. It was a common and long standing complaint of the patrons but we all knew how old this building was and how unreliable the plumbing was in the whole town really. For a moment I’m afraid she’ll turn her ire over the skipped tab to me but she just lets out a small grunt and resumes wiping down the table. Pete, the retired baker, lifts up his Long Island Ice Tea so the bartender could wipe it up the water rings, never once taking his eyes from the small TV above the bar playing some football game.
“Well why don’ you go outside and see if you can find his sorry hide and tell him to come in and pay his tab?” she says in a way that I knew it wasn’t a question or suggestion. The way she glances knowingly at my nearly empty drink I knew for sure it wasn’t a question or suggestion.
Damn that woman. She’s normally rather nice, if you didn’t cause a ruckus and paid your tab, but some nights, someone would rub her the wrong way and she’d become bitter and somewhat vindictive against anyone that caught her ire.
Nodding in defeat I knock back the last of the drink and shiver. Glancing down at the napkin I frown, my automatic scribbling nearly blacking out the yellowed paper with jagged spirals and twisting serpents. Not my normal designs but then again not the strangest shit I’d accidentally doodled. Clicking my pen and sticking it into my back pocket I pick up my coat from the stool next to me and nod to Marsha, tapping the rim of my drink meaningfully.
The Polish woman just rolls her eyes and nods, making a shooing motion with her hand before turning to another customer and listening to her order.
Shrugging the light coat on as I walk to the exit, pulling a dented silver cigarette case from my pocket and a zippo lighter. Pausing before the heavily stickered door I pop open the case and stick one of the slim cigarillos between my teeth. Backing into the door I push it open and step out into the cold damp night.
Immediately shivering I zip up my coat and tuck away the case. The lighter sparks the darkness, igniting the end of the stick. Nicotine and smoke fill my blackening lungs, holding the burning within until finally exhaling slowly through the corners of my mouth, a childish habit from when I first picked up the habit in high school. Coughing then spitting on the ground I glance up and down the street. Dead as usual, the small town rarely stays up this late on a Sunday. The only place beside the bar with any sign of light or life was the gas station tucked up the hill, the revolving sign of a T-Rex skull flashing a yellowed out white across the trees. A small mist had rolled in from the nearby swamp, making the air heavy and hard to catch your breath.
The musky smell of the swamp always seems to pervade the town, especially on misty nights like this. It smelt of fish, mud, rot, and eggs.
Puffing on the tobacco, billows of gray smoke drifting lazily through the air. Finally after a few minutes I really start my search for the drunk. Left and right down the streets were deserted, every store locked up and I am not about to hike my cold ass up to the gas station to look for him. Really I’m just stalling so it seems I tried searching for David before returning inside to my stool and drink.
My breath visible in the chill air even without being fortified by the obscuring smoke I walk towards the alley everyone started using as the replacement bathroom. Near the corner I suddenly feel one of my feet lose any sense of traction, sliding forward dramatically and nearly sending me into the splits as I slip, nearly dropping the brown cigarillo from my lips. A hand thrust out to the crumbling brick wall stops my graceful tumble and I grunt as I struggle back to my feet.
Cursing under my breath I look down at what nearly caused me to break my neck. It’s too dark to see but it was clear it’s some kind dark puddle of something slick. Too dark to tell what it is and there is no way I’m going to reach down to deduce what it was. Stamping my foot clean of the slime I realize someone else had stepped in it. There were smears and a faint trail of the dark stuff leading into the alleyway. My hand begins to sting and looking at it sees that it was skinned and bloodied from the rough wall.
With my luck David vomited and then hobbled his way over into the alley to complete his business. The whiskey turns in my stomach, my head swims and gets light, and I have to look away and stop thinking about the puddle. Ever since I was a child vomit and puking would induce my own severe nausea. Several times growing up I had ended up being the second in a chain reaction of puking kids. Never liked roller coasters. Turning down the alley I peer around for the Crabber, “’Oy! David you back here? Masha isn’t happy with you,” I call out to the old crates and trashcans. The alley seems bare and that David didn’t answer. Perhaps he had staggered home or somewhere to sleep off his drink. Maybe crawling into his boat again like I’d heard gossip say.
Ready to turn back to the welcoming warmth of the bar and my booze I stop partway in the alley. It’s dark back here and quiet. There was a side-door into the back area of the bar, only opened from the inside and the light above long burnt out and shattered. While I’m not exactly afraid of the dark I still don’t like the idea of walking down an abandoned dark alley.
Starting to turn back I think I hear the faintest groan of a voice from down in the dark. Turning back I strain my eyes, trying to see into the gloom, “David, that you? You pass out and hit your head?” Not like he could answer me if he did. Slowly I start walking down the narrow passage, letting my eyes adjust slowly. There, near the other end of the alley where it met the back road where the business’s stuck their giant dumpsters I can hear something. It sounds like muffled movements and the rustle of clothing.
Chuckling as I smell the stink of beer and piss tinged with an acrid ammonia scent coming from down the alley,
“Wake up, David, Marsha’s rather upset with…you…”
Coming to a slow stop I wait for my brain to make sense of what my eyes beheld. The whiskey clouding my brain doing nothing to clear up this puzzle. Perhaps I was looking at a rat or a raccoon, the shadowed mass quaking and shaking in the shadow next to a dumpster. Those strange moans and an odd wet slurping sound seem to be coming from it or whatever is behind that dumpster.
Pulling the zippo from my pocket I flick the flame to life and nearly drop it instantly in shock, the mini-cigar falling to the ground to sizzle out on the wet pavement. That shape wasn’t a raccoon or rat at all. The small flickering flame barely lighting the face of David who looks sprawled out on the wet ground. I thought he was knocked out but his eyes, great vibrant blue things stare at me, his mouth open and slack but working weakly, his moans strangled in his throat.
“Fuck! David are you-shit!” I yell out, not loud enough to be heard inside, as my feet nearly go out from under me again. Saving myself by clutching at a stack of empty beer crates, my light source going out I swear and struggle to get my feet underneath myself. Those four glasses of whiskey not doing a lick of help in my struggle. Finally I stand triumphant and reflick the lighter.
Looking down I see another puddle of slick liquid on the ground. Only now did I realize it was actually clear and looked like Vaseline or some other gel. Rather, it wasn’t a puddle at all; it was a trail leading from the street all the way back to where David lay, “Jesus, what did you eat…” I mutter as I carefully make my way over to help the drunk up so he didn’t drown on his own vomit.
Or that was my plan until I approach closer and see that David wasn’t alone. It looks like someone was hunched over the man, body shuddering and the slurping gross noises coming from the shape. My face twists in a grimace, how the hell did he find someone out here this late to do -that- to -him-?
Embarrassed I make to turn away, hastily muttering an apology, glancing down at David on last time. His expression freezes me in place. His blue eyes were wide, not out of bliss or drunken stupor, but frightened and panicked, darting madly about.
Something is wrong here I think to myself even as the pungent scent of rot and ammonia waft off the figure. It was David that kicks me into action. I see him weakly try to move his arm, hand reaching out to me as his lips work feebly, mouthing what could only be, “help…” in a guttural croak.
Before I know what I was doing I was shouting and reaching down to grab whoever it was that was hurting the man. My hand grabs their shoulder and I feel the cloth of a jacket, my wildly flicking flame showing someone in a large trench coat with a hood tossed up over their head. Expecting a bony shoulder under the coat I gape as my fingers sink into their body like putty, gripping a fistful of flesh and clothing. Whoever this was they don’t even seem to notice my grip and only now did I see the reflection of the flame off the crimson surface of the Crabber’s blood starting to pool beneath him and mix with the puddle of slime the stranger was kneeling in. “Hey! Get the fuck off him!” I shout, trying to attract the attention of the bar as well as stop whoever this was. A yank and I don’t know how, but his flesh slips from my grip and all I’m left with is his coat. Undeterred I start yanking at their clothing and shouting even louder, aiming a kick square in their side, my boot burying itself in their spongy hide.
This seemed to get their attention, the attacker pulling back from David. There’s a sound that reminds me of a tape measure suddenly being retracted. With hardly any time to react the person moves unlike anything I’d ever seen. Their upper half twists nearly completely around, a long arm swinging and hitting me in the chest, sending me falling onto my back across the alley.
My lighter goes sailing from my hand, skittering across the cement floor into the darkness, its light snuffed. Dazed I shake my head to clear the stars and haze of alcohol from my vision and gaze up at the shape looming over me. Still shrouded in darkness I can’t see who our attacker was, or what they were. The only thing I could see was the darkness inside their coat, arms hanging limply at their sides with the hands hidden in cuffs.
Yet, peering into the hood I swear I can see a glow. The color is faint, it looks red or green, I can’t tell. Shaking my head I try hurriedly pushing myself to my feet but the hooded man crouches to the floor and with a strong grip grips me by my coat and hauls me to my feet and through the air, slamming against the brick wall of the alley. My breath knocked free from my chest my vision swims and black spots swarm. It feels like warm blood runs down the back of my head and neck.
My feet dangle inches from the floor and I’m shocked. I’m a good six foot four and yet this…thing was holding me aloft like a plaything. Eventually I regain my senses to try kicking out at the bastard. It feels like kicking a giant bag of gelatin, my foot sinking into the yielding form but having no effect. I can hear their wet, raspy breathing but it seems to come from their chest, not their face.
Gazing into the hood now as they looked up at me my struggling slows. I can barely make out his chin, if you could call it that. I couldn’t see what color this thing was but its skin shimmered wetly in the faint light spilling down the alley and that strange glow from the depths of its hood. The smell of shit, rotting matter and ammonia was so strong it almost gagged me as I dangled. Gripping their arms was like trying to hold onto massive snakes. While the rest of their body seemed oddly pliant their arms were as strong as steel and undenting. Or it seemed they were, switching to one hand grabbing and holding me by my jacket the other loses any semblance of a human limb and starts to wrap around my neck, circling and squeezing slowly like the python I had as a kid. Choking and coughing my struggles renew, kicking at the doughy man frantically I feel my pen in my back pocket scratch against the brick.
Desperately I reach back and pull it free, clicking the point out before swinging it down into its face and darkness of the hood. Oh I wish that worked, but of course it didn’t, hardly reacting to the improvised shank imbedded in its slimy skin. No amount of struggling seemed to deter my attacker and my air was slowly running out.
It was only then as my vision starts to turn black at the edges did I realize how brilliant that glow was. Not just a mere glow anymore, it was pure light rushing like waves off a single massive eye. It was so bright and red. No green. Now back to red
Everything is suddenly ok. Why was I fighting my friend here? He only wants to show me these amazing colors.
Oh how beautiful it was, there was no need to struggle, why was I fighting? The impossible color washes over me, flooding me with a euphoria I had never felt in my shallow existence. My face splits into a silly grin as I see the man’s ‘face’ split down the middle then pull out into an upside down Y.
Giggling with choking gasps I see the light reflect off what looked like some kind of eel uncoiling from their face, how bizarre but so perfectly normal and okay!
Hehe that’s no eel. I think it might’ve been a whip, or a long chain of teeth. It looked like one of those dorky shark fossils, Heli-…Helllioco…Ah fuckit, who cares! Not me!
Distantly I briefly think I hear a door slam nearby but so far away and a strange buzzing voice shouting. “What in all that’s glorious in Hell going on here?!” a female voice cries as bright white light highlights my friend from behind. The white light was nothing compared to the pillar of splendid fluctuating impossible light and color my bestest friend was sharing with me.
I couldn’t, can’t, won’t look away, it’s too beautiful, I think I’m finally-
Suddenly my happiness is yanked from me with the crash of thunder and an inhuman shriek of pain. I’m released and I crumple to the floor under my own weight, my head throbbing from a sudden migraine. Slumping in a pile against the wall I see the stranger whip around, that tongue of teeth whipping around him, sending a spray of warm crimson blood across the alley and my face.
I was too dazed, my vision swimming, to get a good look at the attacker now that he stood in the light of the bar’s side door flung wide open.
“I said git the fuck away from him!” Marsha shrieks like a mad banshee. Lifting that sawn off shotgun again she cocks it and lets loose another volley into the chest of the coated man.
That same scream of animal pain echoes in the alley as the man starts scrambling at his chest with sleeved hands, suddenly twisting inhumanly and bolting down the darkened alley. I watch as it flees, dropping big heavy wet chunks of itself as it went rushing past David’s motionless form.
“David!” I manage to croak out, blood spitting out onto my chin and scraggly beard. Glancing back to Marsha who stood in the doorway, looking as shocked and dead-eyed as I felt, staring off after our attacker. Eventually Pete and some of the other patrons gather the courage now that the shots have stopped to crowd behind her then push past the dazed woman.
Slowly pushing myself up to my feet using the wall against my back for support, groggily pointing down the alley, “He went…that way, left…David’s hurt, call 911…” I feel a warm wetness running down my front and I look down at my chest, my coat and jacket shredded and flayed open to the skin, which shared the same wounds nearly shaved down to the bone, “Me too…”
Groaning I try clutching what remains of my jacket to my chest as the drunk patrons all rush out. Mrs. Olaf, the not so old widow who lived in the same apartments as I, hurried over to me and pressed her hands against my jacket, trying to help stem the flow of blood.
A handful of others rush over to help David. Two of the largest men keep running past, after our attacker. The others stopped to check on the unmoving crabber, dragging him into the light. Two of them instantly turn to void themselves of their drink and dinner, retching noisily. The third just kneeled next to him, staring in shock. Even from here I could see the scarlet, brown and green mess the man’s once round gut had become, his stomach and intestines hollowed out and missing. I could smell the shit that had once been inside the man’s body.
Soon the two men who went after the murderer returned, alone. One starts to speak, “We foun’ a pile o’ clothing down by tha’ storm drain, all slimed…up…oh god, Davey…” he trails off as he looks at the ruin that was once an acquaintance.
In the other man’s hand I saw the glint of a long hunting knife. That thing wouldn’t work, my pen didn’t even work, only…
I turn my head to look at Marsha who was leaning against the door post like it was the only thing holding her up. Her face was pale and I’d never seen her so unnerved. Perhaps it was her first time shooting a man, or…whatever that was.
“Marsha…” I croak out and she doesn’t seem to hear me.
“Marsha! Look at me!” I try louder, shouting causing the raw shredded muscle to tense and pull sending a flare of pain across my chest.
She responds finally, turning wide eyes to look at me, “What…what was that…thing?” she whispered. I could only shake my head then wince, my neck already bruising nicely where his boneless arm squeezed and strangled, “I-I don’t know…it’s so hard to think, my head hurts…” I nod to the shotgun hanging limping from her hand, “Good thing you had that buckshot…” Mrs. Oglaf clicks her tongue and starts to chastise me as she tries staunching the blood flow, Pete talking rapidly on his cellphone for the hospital.
I look back up to Marsha who was looking at David, “Salt. It keep rocksalt in the gun. I don’t use buckshot…”