's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" The Hole "

Submitted by Sly Devil

When I first moved into my new apartment, I was elated.

I had just had my first book, 'Love and Death: Modern reflections on the golden age of cinematography' published, and even though it might not sound interesting, it made it into the New York Times bestseller's list, and the royalties were rolling in. I was finally moving up in the world, people were contacting me for other book deals, I had finally made it as an author, and it was time for me to move out of my rathole (Bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, radiator in the kitchen) and into some better living conditions.

I had found this apartment listed in the local paper-there had been no postings of it online, and it seemed like I was the first to respond, because after I called them I immediately recieved an invitation to check the place out. The woman over the phone said she'd leave the apartment unlocked at a certain time and that I could check it out on my own, which I found a little odd. Regardless, the apartment had been flawless-great view, close to the elevator, roomy and spacious, fresh coat of paint. Plus it was on the fifteenth floor of its building, and I sort of liked being that high up. Room 1508, it was.

So I called back and told the rental agency I was interested. They were a little odd about it...they would never meet me in person. Instead they mailed me the rental agreement, and I mailed it back to them signed, and they mailed me the keys. I should have hesitated. I should have been suspicious. But I wasn't. I just thought it was odd, at the time. I don't know. Maybe I never could have saved myself. It was little things at first. I had my office set up near the window, so I could work on my next book. I spent most of my day in the apartment, I'd only leave to go to restaurants with my friend Greg-my only friend in the city-or to go for a walk. It's nice to work from home.

I'd be sitting there, typing away, and suddenly I'd lose all will to type. Everyone's experienced writer's block, but this was...different. I'd be in the middle of a train of thought, getting a lot of good work done, and then my thoughts would just...stop. And I'd get an uneasy sense of being watched. I shrugged it off at first, and when it happened, I'd just go out for a walk. But it started happening more and more frequently.

There were other little things. I'd hear scurrying in the night, and assumed it was rats, or some other type of animal. I set traps, but never catch anything, though sometimes the food I'd put in them would disappear.

The nightmares began, I think, around this time. It's hard to tell, because I'd never remember them at first. I'd just wake up screaming, or drenched in sweat, my heart pounding in my chest, the last few moments of horror fading away in my mind.

About a week after these nightmares began, the mildew appeared in the bathroom. At first it looked like normal mildew-nothing out of the ordinary, just a cluster of black stains on the wall next to the toilet, although I had no idea why it would form there. I scrubbed at it with a sponge, but it didn't seem to do much. Worse, it was spreading rapidly-the next day the section of wall it covered doubled, and then it tripled by the next time I looked at it, after a day of writing. I resolved to go buy some antifungal spray, or whatever, something to take care of it.

That night, the nightmares were terrible, but again, I couldn't remember them. I just woke up feeling absolutely drained and lifeless, my body still feeling the effects of too much adrenaline. When I finally summoned the strength to stand up and stagger over to the bathroom, my mouth dropped open in shock.

The black mildew had spread again. It was formed in a rough circular shape in the wall, about a foot and a half in diameter. And in the middle of the circle, the wall was beginning to sag inward. I pressed my fingers to it, and immediately regretted it-the wall was warm, damp, and my fingers pushed the plaster inward. I watched as some black fluid dribbled down the side of the wall from this indentation. It must have been a leaking pipe. That's what I thought, anyway. I gave building maintenance a call and told them about it. They asked me my room number, and said they'd be up to check it out later that day.

I didn't feel like writing much that day, so I went out for a walk, and out to eat with Greg. I thought it odd, he hadn't called me for about a week. We went to a sushi place but he didn't really seem in the mood to talk, he kept looking around, as if he was distracted, he seemed a little confused. I even asked him if anything was wrong. He said no, but I wasn't so sure. I figured he must not be ready to talk about it, whatever it was, and I told him to call me.

When I got home, the mildew was still there. In fact, it looked like it had gotten worse-the wall was sagging in even more. I called maintenance to ask if they had come up to look at it, but they didn't answer. It didn't seem like they had been there.

I wasn't able to sleep much that night, and when I did, it was in fitful, worried bursts, haunted by terrible nightmares. I could remember a few things from them. I think it had something to do with drowning.

When I woke up, the mildew in the bathroom had collapsed into a fist sized hole. I was stunned. Inside was nothing but glistening black. Whatever that mildew was had started to eat away at the inside of the wall. I stuck my towel rod in the hole, and it went all the way in. That didn't seem to make sense-the walls couldn't be that thick, could they? Wouldn't I be able to see into the room across next to mine? I tried walking across the hallway to ask my neighbor if they had noticed anything in their walls, but their room was locked. I also noticed that the carpet was sort of a mess. It looked like no one had vaccuumed in months. But that was impossible, because they had been spotless yesterday.

I placed another call in to maintenance, but no one answered. Between having barely any sleep and the nightmares when I did, I was feeling extremely uneasy. I went out for a walk again.

While walking, I noticed...something was off. I really couldn't put my finger on it at first. It was something with the people around me. I walked all over the city, I ordered a hot dog. I had to bang on the counter to even get the guys attention. It was when his eyes finally focused on me that I realized what had been wrong. Nobody had been looking at me. I'm not saying that people should be staring at me all the time. But no one had so much as glanced in my direction.

What could I do? My mind rationalized it. It was just the nightmares, and the lack of sleep, making you paranoid, I told myself.

When I got back, the hallway looked even dirtier. It looked like the walls needed a good scrubbing too. I checked in my bathroom. The hole was definitely getting bigger, and oozing a foul-smelling black liquid that ran down my wall and pooled on the floor. I called maintenance again. Again no answer. I resolved to call a plumber of my own tomorrow if maintenance didn't answer my call again tomorrow.

I slept again. I got more sleep this night, but the nightmares came again, and I could remember more details this time. I remembered looking up at the pale sun through clouded water as I breathed my last breath. That's the image that really stuck with me.

Checked the bathroom. Hole was even bigger. Almost a foot across now. Maintenance didn't answer my call, so I called a plumber of my own. He said the soonest he could get there was in three days.

I resolved to do some writing today, so I opened up my laptop. First I hopped on the internet so I could check how my book sales were doing. Unfortunately, it was off the Bestseller's list top 100. In fact, I couldn't find it anywhere on the list. I wondered what had happened. I called up the publishing office, but couldn't get past the secretary. I must have seen her at least a dozen times going in and out of that office, but she couldn't remember me.

I couldn't write. I forced myself to sit at the computer, trying to think of something to write, but in the end all I wound up with was a blank page. At least I had tried. I was beginning to think that this writer's block might end up being more serious. I hadn't written anything for a while.

That night, as I lay in bed, I heard noises. Much louder than any rat scurrying could possibly be. Something was moving around my apartment.

I wanted to get up. I wanted to check it out. But I was frozen with fear. But it turns out, I didn't have to go check it out. It came to me.

It wasn't subtle. My bedroom door did not slowly creak open. It was bruskly knocked open. There in the doorframe stood a human figure, but in the dim light I couldn't make anything out about their features, other than the whites of their wide, unblinking eyes. They seemed so much larger than any eyes should be.

It didn't make any move further into my room. It just stood there at the threshhold, rocking back and forth, staring at me with those eyes. Well, no. It wasn't just staring at me. I was awake and on my back, frozen with fear, staring at it. It was staring me in the eyes.

It stood there, rocking back and forth, just staring, never blinking, for upwards of an hour, though it felt like an eternity of frozen, endless fear. I couldn't even think about what it might do to me, or motivate myself to get up, to try to escape or resist-I was frozen in a state of sheer animal panic.

Eventually it left the doorway. I heard it rattling around my kitchen, and even though I thought it might be looking for a knife, I couldn't force myself to move. I lay frozen, listening to it rummage around my house the entire night. Eventually the noises stopped. Had it left? I hadn't heard any doors opening or closing. Was it still there in my apartment?

I waited until the sunlight was streaming through my windows before I felt secure enough to investigate. I grabbed an old wooden bat I had lying in the back of my closet and rushed around the house, looking everywhere, but there was no sign of the intruder, so they must have left during the night. Nothing had been stolen. When I looked in the bathroom, the hole looked like it had doubled in size. Despite this, I still couldn't see the back of it-it was still all rotten, moist blackness. It was beginning to smell, too.

I tried getting the cops on my cellphone, but there was so much static that I couldn't talk to them whatsoever. I called the building's manger, too, to let him know someone had broken into my apartment, and to complain about the hole. When I told him my room number, he interrupted me. He told me I was crazy. There was no fifteenth floor.

I asked him what the fuck he was talking about. He hung up on me. Shaking, I threw on my jacket and decided to head out-I'd take a walk to the nearest police precinct to report a break in. When I opened my door, I stared in shock. I was in the middle of a subway tunnel. I turned back to glance at my room, and it was nothing but a janitor's closet.

What the fuck? What had happened? How had I gotten here? I felt like I was losing my mind.

I called up Greg, and asked him to meet me at a coffee shop nearby. He agreed only reluctantly. When I met him, I told him about what had happened. About how much I was freaking out. My best friend stared at me blankly. Then he asked how he knew me. Asked if we had met at a party last week that he had been at.

I told him I'd known him for years. He got uneasy and threw away his coffee and asked me not to call him again.

I went to the cops, told them about my break in. They checked in their database and said they didn't have that address on record. Told me not to file false reports with the police. Told me it was a crime.

I wandered around in a daze. My whole world felt disconnected. I hadn't had good sleep in so long. No matter how much I stumbled and staggered, people never looked at me unless I specifically addressed them and tried to get their attention first.

I didn't want to go back to my apartment. Not with the break in, and that hole in the bathroom wall. Sometime in the afternoon, I collapsed on a park bench for a light nap. I dreamt of being in the middle of a black, stinking sea, and then something grabbing my legs and pulling me under.

When I woke up, it was night, and I was in my bed at my apartment. Something was rustling around in the kitchen again. I knew. I knew right away it was that thing with the wide, white eyes. I sprang out of bed and slammed my bedroom door and locked it. I heard it running towards me as I locked the door, and it slammed into the door, hard, just as I got it locked. It wordlessly rattled the handle, then shook the whole door, violently. I had crawled back into my bed and was curled up in a fetal position, sobbing. Eventually it left the door and went back to stomping around the rest of the apartment.

Again in the morning, I couldn't find it, or anything stolen.

I knew today was the day the plumber was supposed to come, but to be honest I didn't have a whole lot of hope of that happening. My entire apartment looked radically different. It was undoubtedly the same apartment, but the paint was peeling, the walls were filthy, the couch covered in mold. The hole was at least three feet wide now, and it stank like low tide, constantly drooling a thin stream of black liquid to the floor.

I was surprised to find I could still get on the internet. Out of an impulse, I googled my name. No results. I googled the name of my book. No results. I pulled up the old saved files for my book. Blank.

Like they had never existed.

I tried walking out the front door, but the lock jammed, and I couldn't force the door open. I tried calling maintenance. The building manager. The police. None of them could hear me. They said hello a couple of times, and despite my desperate, fearful sobbing, they hung up.

I turned on all the lights, left them on, and locked myself in my bedroom. Exhausted, I fell asleep.

I had the most horrifying, terrible nightmare of all. I was in the middle of a black sea, beneath a gray sky. The sea full of small grains of the mildew that grew on my bathroom wall, that was what made it black. I felt something wrap its hands around my legs and pull me under, and I screamed as my head disappeared beneath the waves. Looking down, all I could see was a pair of pale, slender arms attached to a pair of hands wrapped around my legs.

And a pair of wide, wide eyes, rocking back and forth in the murk.

I woke up screaming. The apartment reeked. I could hear running water. I looked down at the floor, and saw that black water pouring in underneath the door to my bedroom. I screamed and flung the door open.

The entire apartment was rapidly being covered by this black water. It came in through the overflowing sink, which I couldn't turn off, and the bathtub. Attempts to turn that off made it spurt out even faster. It also seemed to be coming from beneath all the doors. I hated that water touching me. I tried leaving the apartment, but the lock was still broken. The water was rising unnaturally fast. It would soon be a foot high. Just the feel of it on my skin was enough to make me squirm. So my attention turned to the only thing that didn't seem to be leaking black water.

The hole.

I don't know what compelled me to squeeze in there. I just wanted to get away, away from being trapped in that apartment with all that water. And it was the only place to go. So I grabbed my flashlight.

I slid into the hole, noting again how damp and warm it was. It was a tough squeeze for my shoulders, but once I got those in I was able to pull myself the rest of the way into the hole. And it seemed to open up a bit once you were further in. So I turned on my flashlight, and pointed it forward. There was no end to the tunnel, really. Just endless damp, warm, rotted wood. After I was a good dozen feet in, I could easily get up on my hands and knees. The hole smelled like low tide, awful, but the sound of rushing water from my apartment propelled me forward.

I crawled for hours through the tunnel. I didn't know where I was going. After what felt like half a day I came across the corpse.

It was a naked woman, covered in matted hair. Her skin was extremely pale, and she was cold to the touch. She was lying on her face, head turned toward the side. Shivering, I shined the light on her face.

And saw those wide, wide eyes. And her lips. Her lips were moving.

I shrieked. I fled. I crawled as far away as I could. I heard her start to get up behind me. I dropped my flashlight. The tunnel branched, and I took the right. The tunnel branched again, and I took the left. I heard her crawling behind me. I looked back and I saw those wide eyes in the dark, not far behind. The tunnels branched and split and turned. I crawled randomly, just trying to avoid her. Eventually, I did lose her. Or not, I didn't know. All I knew was I couldn't see those eyes anymore.

I continued crawling forward until I saw a spot of light in the distance. Desperate to be out of these tunnels-as desperate as I first was to enter them to get away from the black water-I crawled toward it.

It was another hole.

It opened up into another bedroom apartment. This one was significantly smaller than mine. And filthy, covered in a thick layer of dust. There was an odd sound in the distance, like metal rubbing up against metal. I could smell what was unmistakably the thick odor of rotting flesh. When I opened up the door to the bedroom, I noticed the source: A corpse, putrefying and rotting into the mattress. I closed the door, then went into the kitchen-the linoleum cracked and stained and yellowed, and looked out the window.

This wasn't my city. This wasn't any city I knew, in fact. Old, rotten, half-collapsed buildings stood haphazardly. Down in the street, a black ocean lapped at them. I was a good four or five stories above the water. Looking to my right, I could see what the metal scraping sound was. What looked like an old, rusted aircraft carrier floated on the waves, scraping its side against one of the buildings.

Suddenly I had the uneasy feeling of being watched. I turned around.

There was the woman, in the doorway of the kitchen. Except the way she moved, the way she looked-those wide eyes, that rocking motion-it wasn't human at all. I screamed, and backed up against the window. I heard it crack, felt the ancient wood frame splinter, and then I was falling, falling, down into the black sea.

I went insane with fear as soon as the water hit me. I had to get out of it. I had to swim to the nearest apartment and....


I recognized this from my nightmares. This was the exact sky I looked up at right before-

And then two hands wrapped around my ankles and pulled me under. I didn't have to look down to know I'd see two wide, staring eyes, but I did. I thrashed and struggled and pissed myself in fear, but when my breath ran out, and my consciousness began to fade, I was kind of at peace. After all, my life had become a terrible nightmare recently. Nothing about it made sense. Either I was mad or life was so horrifying that it wasn't worth living. At least with death, I thought, as I watched my last exhale bubble up to the surface, is a relief. Then it all went dark.

I woke up in my apartment.