's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"The Roof"

Submitted by C. Lonnquist

They say the noises are falcons; the screams and squeals that reverberate through the windows top floor are simply birds wheeling through the sky above. I won’t contest these claims; I have seen the raptors diving and flying, looking for food and landing on the roof to nest.

But I swear to you, I have seen evidence to the contrary. I swear to you, there is more above us.
When the sun shines, there is nothing; the birds and the sky and the pebbles placed across the rooftop are all that can be seen. When it rains, when the windows and whipped with a myriad of droplets and the thunder cracks around you, shaking the top floor like the hand of a titan, that is when the birds are joined by something is. That is how I found out. I will tell you what I have seen.

I do not often stay past sunset, but I was working late, silent at my desk aside from the rhythmic tap of fingers against a keyboard. The outside world raged around me, lightning flashing as cars sped by on the highway far below. I paid them no heed. I did not worry myself with anything besides the completion of my work and thoughts of the following drive home. The falcons called above me, wet rasps through the patter of the rain. They were loudest in the storms, defiantly screaming at the low, grey thunderheads that slunk past; dejected, crying specters that dragged wet, misty fingers past the tall glass panes. The clouds were strangely low; obscuring most things below my floor, save for the yellow and white eyes of headlights on the highway.

I paused—I don’t know why, and I wish I hadn’t—and wheeled by chair back to gaze at the street far below. The rain slid down the cool pane of glass as I pressed my forehead against it. I studied the miniscule rivers bend and shift, chaotically changing course and spilling across each other. The patterns entranced me in their randomness as they moved and shifted against the glass, joining and splitting, growing in force and then dwindling to a string of static droplets.

Perhaps I would not have noticed the vibration had I not been so focused on the water. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt the gentle tapping, far too rhythmic to be the rain. There was a drumming, a slight repetition against the glass that shook me from my pondering and pushed my attention above me.

I looked up without much haste, curious but not alarmed. Perhaps if I had been alarmed, I would not have looked.

The rain touched the top of the glass closest to the roof. There was a disturbance there; a distortion too regular to be the rivulets of rain. It took a second for my mind to process what I saw; the outline of something like a hand, but far too large and with fingers of odd length. It wasn’t there; it was simply an outline in the rain, the water replacing the outline as each finger lifted in turn, tapping idly at the window. I gazed at it, the outline fading and reappearing as it drummed on the pane.

I jerked back in my chair, scooting away from the window as the scream of a falcon coincided with a flash of lighting and preceded a roaring thunderclap that shook the entire floor like the fist of something old and angry and huge. The scream hung in the air as the thunder dwindled, and the outline of the hand formed a fist and pounded against the window; pained and sullen.

It’s impossible to say why I stayed. It’s impossible to say why I rolled my chair closer to the window, craning my neck to see where the hand came from. I don’t know what grim fascination forced me from fleeing, though I am not a brave man, and my heart shuddered in my chest with my every movement.

Still, I stayed. Still I gazed upward as the outline pounded against the glass. My fear was beaten back by a primal curiosity, the basest part of my mind demanding answers to alleviate my terror. I pushed both hands to the glass and pressed my cheek to the cool surface, squinting, gazing.

The window buckled with another flash of lightning, another scream, another thunderclap. Cracks like insect legs raced out from the illusionary fist, and again and again it pounded as the howls of falcons intensified. I moved back again as the cracks raced down past my face, ruining the unblemished clarity of the glass. The window flexed, bent inward, and exploded.

I covered my face as the glass fell inward, accompanied by another thunderclap and another agonized howl from above. Water washed over me; the cold spray of fall rain soaking me almost instantly. Something electrical had torn loose as well, and a thick web of cables hung down from above me. No, not just cables, but… chains? Links of metal, of old black iron, clacked against the windowsill. I touched them, surprised to find them warm, almost hot. Blue lines raced out from my fingertips across the metal; jagged, angular symbols that could have been writing hurried up and down the chains as though they were ripples on a pond. They faded almost as quickly as they had appeared, and my entire body felt tinged with electricity.

The energy must have emboldened me further as I stepped out onto the windowsill, wrapping the chains around my hands, my legs. I did not look down.

Slowly, I ascended. Slowly, hand following hand, I clambered up the massive links. Each section was nearly the length of my forearm, providing easy perches for feet and hands. Above me, the screams of falcons cut through the storm, wounded and furious at the elements.

My hands found purchase at the edge of the roof, and had I known what I would find there, I would not have heaved myself onto the rain-slicked metal. The expanse was flat and round, but even as I found my footing, I felt an invisible force pushing me towards the edge. At first, I thought it was the storm itself, as sheets of rain battered me amidst the thunder that echoed through the sky. I stood my ground with an arm slung across my face to keep the rain out of my eyes, and stared at something my waking mind struggled to comprehend.

There was something there; something cyclopean and invisible. I could tell from the unnatural rises of the chains that bound it; the same chains that I had scaled. I could see the strange blue symbols, alien and eldritch, crossing the links again and again.

The center of the roof was capped with something like an antenna; a massive spire, a dark, black obelisk etched with the same symbols as the chains. The bottom of the antenna was distorted, as if something hunkered around the base of it. Falcons, as battered by the rain as I, wheeled and screamed around me, darting back and forth at something unseen that moved slightly at the base of the spire.

And then, the lightning called around me, synonymous with a thunderclap. I saw it then; the thing on the roof, the thing that the chains bound.

It was vaguely the shape of a man, laying face-first on the roof itself, but far, far too large, with long, spindly limbs linked back to the body with a loose web of flesh like the wings of a bat. It was invisible, except when the lightning struck, and in that moment, it roared in pain like Prometheus chained to the rock, the falcons diving and picking at its flesh. It writhed, a mouth as big as my torso opening to reveal long, needle-like teeth that flashed azure in the lightning. I could see eyes—or where eyes were supposed to be—glowering an angry crimson beneath hoods of loose skin that must have blinded it.

And the hand… the hand! It reached towards me with broken, malformed fingers tipped with long claws. Grasping. Beckoning. I must have screamed then, but the storm swallowed up my voice as I stepped back towards the edge of the roof, fearing the fall less than the thing chained there. I could see then that the black spire pierced its body, and as another bolt of lightning struck the antenna the roof lit in those same blue runes. They formed some sort of archaic pattern, but I did not know to what end. To bind the creature? To draw the lightning into it? The building seemed to hum with every strike.

I did not care to know.

I stumbled back the chains, falcons and the monster on the roof screaming as I did. As I neared the edge of the roof, I gazed back at it, and to the city skyline beyond. Another bolt of lightning hit the roof, and the monster howled in anguish.

And as if in response, I heard a hundred other calls from the distant skyscrapers as hundreds of red eyes opened across the horizon and gazed at me hungrily.