's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Crawling "

Submitted by Ryan Oleynik

About a week ago, my mother and I went to some garage sales to look for furniture for my new apartment. I had my own place now and it is cheaper to go with the “unfurnished” option. During our browsing we came across an odd item. It was a mannequin from a clothing store, but not a complete as you would first picture. It was just the chest and arms, a neck with no head and hips with no legs. The arms were in a V shape, so that the hands rested where the hips should be. It was the kind you would see wearing t-shirts. We joked about it at first, but then my mother got the idea of buying it. She said I could use it to hang all the medals I won. I was at first hesitant at this idea, as it would be quite creepy to have such a thing in the house. But after a while, I kind of liked the concept. It was a new way to show off my medals, and it was an interesting idea (Plus it was also cheap). So I bought the mannequin along with some dining room chairs and we went along our way.

After some more searching, we finally had had enough and decided to call it a day. With the help of my dad, we moved my purchases into my apartment. The mannequin went into my bedroom for the time being, until I decided where to put it. My folks left after the work was done and I went to work fixing up my place. I decked out my new mannequin with my running and swimming medals. Things went on like any normal day, dinner, errands and the sort. Later, I had to go to work for the night shift, so I locked up my place and left.

After work, I returned to my apartment really late. It was about 2pm when I finally got home and I quickly headed for my bed. I don’t think I would have noticed anything on my quest for sleep if I did not kick one of my swimming medals across the room. I stopped and took a real look at my bedroom and finally noticed that my medals were strewn across the floor. The mannequin they hung on was nowhere in sight. At first I thought I was robbed, but my computer and TV were still in the room. A quick search of the house resulted in me finding the mannequin wedged behind my easy chair. I found it odd, but my first thought was that one of my friends played a prank on me. I recently gave one of my spare keys to my friend Ken, in case I needed him to feed Cain, my Leopard gecko, whose tank was in the living room. I laughed at the simple joke and put it back in its rightful place. I went to bed that night without any problems. It was the next night that things got weird.

I awoke to the clanging of metal together, and an odd rubbing sound. I fumbled for the light; half-awake and convinced I was dreaming. When the light flicked on, what I saw froze my body. The medals lay in the corner, but the mannequin was not there. Instead, the mannequin was halfway through my doorway, heading out into the hall. It was not sitting in its usual pose, no, it was crawling. The plaster arms were slowly dragging the legless torso across the floor. The headless neck was twitching, as if it was some bug looking for prey. All I could do was stare at the thing as it crawled out of the bedroom, too afraid to move and too shocked to scream. The rubbing sound of its abdomen against the carpet continued on, heading towards my living room. I had no idea where it was going, heck, I had no idea what the hell was going on. It felt like eternity before I even thought of leaving the safety of my bed, unsure of what the “thing” was going to do. Whatever the thing was, I had to see what it was doing. The only freakier thing than a moving mannequin, is not knowing where it is. I grabbed a heavy book from my bed stand (it was the only thing nearby) and cautiously left my room, making sure not to stumble upon the headless creature. It was in the hallway leading to the living room, groping its way around with its hands. It felt any object it touched, like a blind man trying to read Braille, and then would continue on its way. It did not seem to be affected by the light, as it did not react at all when I began to turn on every light in the apartment. It just continued its aimless journey, it either was too busy to notice me, or it just didn’t care. No matter the reason, I was not about to catch its attention. I quietly made my way back to my room and locked my door. My front door was bolted, so it could not get out, and it was impossible for it to reach a window. My reasoning was that it was trapped in my apartment and that I was safe in my room. Even with that thought, I barricaded my door with my bookshelf before attempting to sleep.

In the morning, I found it in front of Cain’s tank, sitting in its usual pose. There was no movement from it, no evidence that anything occurred at all last night. It just sat there with its fists on its hips, as if proud of its freakish feat. I was too scared to go near it; I had no clue if it was still “alive,” if that’s the word you would use for it. After a few minutes of hesitating, I finally got close enough to touch it. I was expecting it to feel like flesh, or for it to be warm, but it was just cold, plaster. Whatever brought to life was now gone, but I was betting it would be back. I picked up the mannequin to lock it in a closet when I felt something. It was a faint feeling, one that could easily be missed if I wasn’t paying attention. It seemed to be coming from inside the thing, and it had a rhythm. There was no mistaking it; we have all felt it before. The familiar “Thump-Thump” we feel in our chests. The mannequin had one as well.

That night I put the mannequin in a spare closet and barricaded the door. The next morning I took it out, I could never sleep with that thing in there. Apparently the thing does not like confined spaces and tried to break the door down. The lethargic mood it was in the previous night changed and it started wailing on the closet door. The thumps and bangs did not cease for a second throughout the whole night. So I came up with a different plan. The mannequin’s limbs were removable, its hands and arms could be detached from the torso. I took off the hands and threw them into the closet. The arms and torso were left in my room, now robbed of their only mode of transportation. I finally felt like I had won the battle, that I could get a good night’s sleep. But my triumph was spoiled even before the sun went down.

Just a few hours later, the mannequin came back to life. I was preparing dinner at the time when I heard the racket. The torso was thrashing about like an upside-down insect trying to right itself. The arms were running into furniture and walls, flopping around the room like fish out of water. At that point, I was lost on what to do. I definitely was not going to touch them in that state. I was just thankful that I locked the hands away; I could hear them moving around in the closet. There was a rapid tapping sound coming from the closet, and I could only imagine them skittering about like giant spiders. Defeated, I ended up sleeping on the couch that night. In the morning, the mannequin had reverted back to its normal state. I wasted no time putting the thing back together. It was much better when it quietly crawled around, instead of the circus that occurred last night. Not much more happened that day, the mannequin remained lifeless while I was home. I left for work in the afternoon and would not be back until night. I also made sure the mannequin was sealed in my room before I left.

I returned to the apartment at about 11 pm, exhausted from my tedious job. When I got into the apartment, it was silent. I assumed the mannequin was “sleeping” at the time. I flicked on the light to the living room and closed the door behind me. The first thing that caught my eye was a shard of glass on the floor. The next thing I noticed was that Cain’s tank was broken on the ground. It looked like it had been slammed into the ground, pieces of glass were scattered everywhere. There was dirt, crickets and water, but no Cain. I looked around the living room, but he was nowhere to be found. It was clear that this was the mannequin’s fault. The door to my bedroom was open, revealing that the creature was not there. I heard a scrapping sound coming from the bathroom, and that is where I found it.

The mannequin was sitting in my bathtub, back turned to me, picking through a pile of junk. It appeared that it had been pillaging the apartment in my absence; there were pieces of glass, shreds of rug, pages of books, etc. It was meticulously picking through this pile of scraps, looking for specific pieces. When it found what it was looking for, it would add it to the circle of scraps that it had arranged around it. It reminded me of a bird building a nest out of twigs and leaves. I pushed the door open more so I could get closer, but the old hinges betrayed me. A squeak from the door caught the mannequin’s attention, and it swung its body around to face me. The twitching neck pointed towards me, showing me the patch of dried blood on it. It was the answer to my lizard’s fate. I don’t know how it did it, but the mannequin killed Cain. Before I could react, the mannequin grabbed the edge of the tub and launched itself at me.

The impact sent me tumbling out of the bathroom with the thing latching onto me like some parasite. I tried to pry it off my body, but its grip was like a vice. The thing was trying to grab my throat and I had to fight with all my strength to keep it from succeeding. Only by slamming it against the wall did it finally release me, and I dashed into the kitchen. Arming myself with a carving knife, I went back to face my adversary. I had dealt with the thing long enough. Tonight would be its last night here. It was slowly feeling around for me in the hallway, trying to find its lost prey. Sneaking up from behind, I plunged the blade into its back. The explosion of movement caught me off guard, and a flailing arm sent me stumbling back with a bloody nose. The mannequin’s behavior flipped from methodical to insane in a split-second. Its arms were thrashing at its sides and its torso was going into convulsions, like some wounded insect trying to escape. The freakist part of this crazed thrashing was that it made no sound. No screams, no cries. Just violent thrashing. I backed up into the wall, and that dull thud was enough for the frantic creature to target me. Its hands planted themselves into the floor, lifting the torso clear of the ground. It bounded towards me like a crazed ape, but I sidestepped the attack. Its collision with the wall was enough to keep it writhing on the ground for a few moments, long enough for me to realize I needed a better weapon. The buried knife drew a dark, purple liquid from the creature, but it did nothing to hinder its movement. The solution to this was in my toolbox. I just had to get away from this monstrosity first.

The mannequin ceased its frantic squirming and began to awkwardly swing its arms around. It looked like a panicking conductor trying to regain control of an uncoordinated band. Though a ridiculous sight, I knew the dark intent of this act. It was once again trying to find me; hoping one of its arms would hit me and reveal my location. Its twitching neck stump was pointing in random directions, as if it had eyes to see. The flailing statue had me cornered, and its arms were getting closer. If one of its hands found me, it would latch onto me again and strangle me. I had no tools on me or nearby, I had nothing to throw or strike with. My only hope rested in one stupid plan. As the freakish torso swung closer, I stretched my arm to the side as far as I could. Once I was at maximum reach, I curled my hand into a fist and struck the wall I was leaning on. The mannequin reacted instantly and threw itself towards me. But its path was not directly toward me, the sound I had made drew its attention to my right side. Instead of landing directly on me, only half of its body made contact. Its hand scrabbled for purchase, and its other arm began to reach for me. I bolted with the thing hanging off me, trying my best to swing it into every surface I could find. Without both hands firmly on me, it was easier to knock off this time, but it still took a chunk of my shirt with it. As it tumbled onto the carpet, I made my way to the closet and found my toolbox inside. My Dad had gotten it for me, because “you never know when you will have to fix something.” My Dad was right; I did have a problem to fix. And with a hammer in my hand, I set out to go fix it.

An hour later, I was standing in the middle of a field, which was in the middle of nowhere. My next step required me to be alone, and also a nice fire. I had stopped by a gas station to grab some supplies before heading out here. With newspaper, lighter fluid, a bundle of firewood and matches, I had all I needed to finish the job. Battered and blooded, I went to my car and popped open the trunk. Inside laid my special cargo, the meat for this special barbecue. Though I had the advantage with my hammer, the fight was still a long one. Even as I crushed its chest it was throwing punches, many of which landed on me. I had to pound the thing hundreds of times until it ceased fighting. When I was done, the mannequin was a heap of crushed plaster with the faint outline of what it once was. I had stuffed its remains in a garbage bag and brought it out here for its execution. Though broken beyond repair, the thing in the bag still quivered and trembled, trying to find some way to propel its ruined body. I yanked the bag from the trunk and slammed it shut. It was time to finish what I came for. I tossed the bagged corpse on the ground and began to build a fire. Like in the bathtub, I built the mannequin a nice nest around it, but this one was made of wood and newspaper soaked in lighter fluid. For good measure, I tossed some soaked newspaper balls into the garbage bag. They stuck to the wreckage, glued on by the purple liquid that oozed from its wounds. With that, I struck a match and held it next to the combustible pile. At that moment, all I could think of was what I had seen and what I had done. No one would believe me if I told them, and I was about to burn the only evidence I had. The temptation came and the temptation passed, I tossed the match onto the pile. As the wood and bag lit up with flames, I watched with a smile on my face. The only proof that this thing existed, and I enjoyed removing it.

Time has passed, and so has the events that occurred with it. The mannequin that once roamed my apartment was now a pile of ash. With this I should be thankful, relieved. But I am not. I thought I would be, as I watched the wretched thing burn. I believed that I would feel better after the creature was destroyed. But that belief perished the same time the mannequin did. While I was watching the fire consume everything, the creature rose up one last time. No longer hindered by the melted bag, it used its last bit of strength to raise its wrecked limbs towards the heavens. Those two ruined arms thrust from the flames, like an unfortunate soul trying to climb free from hell. I thought it was its last act on earth, but it was actually a final taunt to me. When I saw those arms in the air, I noticed something that made my blood run cold. Attached to one arm was a pulverized hand, its fingers snapped like twigs. But on the other arm was nothing at all. It had no hand attached to it. As I tried to think of an explanation for this, I realized the truth. During our vicious final battle, one of its hands must have been knocked free from its arm. I had too much adrenaline running through me at the time to notice, too busy pulverizing it to see that a piece was missing. With the thing crushed beyond recognition, how would I notice that the hand was not there? I must have assumed that both the arm and hand were too damaged to hold on to each other. Its final taunt, its silent way of telling me that I have not won yet. It was still alive.

I tore my place apart, checking every cupboard and closet for the hand. But after hours of searching, I have not found it. I can only imagine it galloping about my apartment on its fingers, slipping away in the shadows as I search. It must know what I did to its body, how I destroyed its counterpart. At night when I sleep, I can almost see it skittering towards me, like a scorpion closing in on weakened prey. It will want revenge; it will want to wrap its cold finger around my throat. My death is its only goal now, and I will never be safe here while it still moves. I am leaving this place; I can no longer live here. I spend my days searching and my nights barricading myself in my room. I can’t live like this anymore. I just hope that the person who moves in after me is careful. To a blind creature, a human is a human, a throat is a throat. It wants revenge, but it doesn’t really know on whom.