Bogleech.com's 2014 Horror Write-off:
" Honey, This is It "
J I L
She stares at the cricket leg, floating in her water. She swirls the water a few times, watching it spin around. She turns to me, "We need to fix the plumbing."
I set down my plate, then slowly push the chair back. Its legs drag on the floor to make it clear I'm in no mood to check the faucets. When I groan and stretch out she snaps, "Please just take a look."
I bring my plate into the kitchen. This was probably once a closet with the door knocked off, there is barely enough room for the sink and few shelves we have. I set the plate down and toggle the water, it comes through in a thin stream - clear. I rinse off the plate and store it and shut the water off again. The pipes scream for a moment then quiet to a gurgle. I step to the door and pull open the undercarriage of the sink, reviewing the pipe work inside. No dripping, nothing is out of order. For good measure I tighten the valves. "It's fine." I yell back.
"Thank you." She holds my shoulders and leads me away, pouring her water down the drain. I collect her plate and push up the iron board we'd used as a table. I can hear the faucet coming back on.
"I'd of gotten you some more water if you'd asked."
I hand her the plate and go into the other room. I lay down, curled up on the little mat we're using as a bed. We had difficulty finding a clean one, and haven't been in the mood to leave.
I can hear the water rush through pipes built dead below me, and through that I can hear and old Irish sailing song. My auntie sits in the room in a rocking chair, humming.
I wake up to find her sleeping in the chair. I can see her frame in the dark. She was once a thick, strong woman, but now she is thin and emaciated. I place the blanket over her and grab my bag. I'm going exploring. Considering where the sun is, I should be able to return soon.
We've been here for a while, trying to find if any other communities exist. My uncle passed a while back, if I walked towards the South of this gutted city, I'd find the grave. We dug it out, framed it in bricks from all around and wrote his story for hours.
I glance at the sun, considering if I had enough time to plant a few flowers there. My aunt would prefer that I find food, packets of food that others haven't gotten to.
For me, this city isn't very unusual. I grew up in a distant farm where everything was always golden. This city is tall and grey, with some of the structures crumbling. We were visiting my parents when we got stuck here, otherwise the three of us would never vacation here. I climb into a thin window, smashing off the glass before pressing my back into. I did that the first time, to hide, and my back still smarts.
There is a sort of stale smell in death, I waited until my eyes adjusted before I moved any further in - this building looked like a restaurant from what I could tell, I wasn't expecting much luck.
It was always a chance about the type of building you'll find. Some places were wrecked by people who think this is some movie. Other places stand just find. Of coarse, this means the locks are still in place. This place is in the second catagory, a small building with almost cubist designs for the tables and chairs. It looks as if it just closed up for the night, awaiting the day staff.
I'm distant, thinking, while I bust open a lock into the walk-in freezer, and the blast of cool air slams into me. The strangest thing about all of this is how it feels, everything still works. I just feel like I've been torn out of the world and placed inside of a new one. Everyone else must still be wandering around the old world, living their content lives.
Her eyes are so distant, her face so sunken. She doesn't touch the food I brought, so lost in her thoughts. I pick up my plate and bring it to our kitchen, washing it while watching her. "Won't you eat Tante?"
Slowly she looks to me, her face contorts as she tries to speak, "No, honey."
I take the plate and store the food the best I can, feigning a bright energy, "Then I'll save it up for you to enjoy later."
"Yes, honey. Help me to my chair." I lift her arm gingerly, the few steps to the chair stretch into miles, I am so worried she will break and shatter... I bring the blanket over and wrap it around her, she nods, barely.
"Good night tante." I give her forehead a kiss before lying on the mat, my bones cold. I turn, struggling to sleep at all, staring at the worn ceiling above me. I don't know how long it is until I hear the slow dirge of her voice, crackling and wavering to sing.
"Child? You awake?" I jump to attention, my mind only drifting off, the biting cold having kept me awake. I press myself to her side, kneeling to face her.
"Listen very closely. I will be gone soon, but listen. You need to leave, travel until you find any survivor, travel until the world stops being crazy. And I'll be here, waiting for that. Come back when you've found safety, if you still miss your Tante."
"Tante, I'll always miss you-"
"Then go, load the bag and go. You're smart baby, you'll do just fine." She breathes hard, her words coming difficult. I wrap the blanket around her tightly and pack my bag, distracting my mind from her labor. I let my mind wander off, wondering where to go. We came from the country to the left, if I push to the Right I just might find a city. I think about where to find another blanket, little houses dot the landscape between each city, and these may be generous. I grab a pan, a pot, stringing them on my pack so they won't clang together, I store what food I can underneath a spare set of clothing. I take both canteens of water, filling them to the brim. I even fill a few of our empty containers, to be safe. I don't know for how long I'll travel.
In the dark, I can make out her form, folded up and quiet. The crickets sing an old Irish sailing song as I stow out of that tiny abode. I stare at the street names and burn them into my memory, inscribing them on the stone tablet of my mind. I promise to be back.
The city is empty, the land is empty. I see stray animals picking through the wreckage. I pass by an overturned car. A deer on the other side of it watches me, unafraid. I do not know how to kill, we farmed but the animals were docile in their death, facing the butcher's block with naiveté.
It begins to breathe hard, I can see it in its throat. I'm taking a step back, wondering if it will try to trample me like the horses would before my uncle pulled them away with their reins. I press my hand on my bag, to steady it if I have to run. The panting becomes audible, filling the silence. I can feel a lump in my own throat forming, I'm trying hard not to breathe or move quickly, not to set it off.
It starts to twitch, starting from its nose, like a bunny. Slowly, slowly it ripples down through its face, spasming and throwing its body around. Each short pant becomes like a scream, loud and fierce. My body shakes in response, my legs feeling soft and rubbery.
A split begins under the eyes, a dark line and it throws its head violently, shaking off the spasms of an unwelcome ghost, its eyes pouring out through the lines, pure black liquid being flung around to coat its face. The screams are all I can hear now, reverberating through my soul.
The deer stops.
It stares at me, now purely silent. Its lip curls upwards, wriggling into a pale, fleshy lip, "Run." it begs hoarsely. The noise of my body hurling itself away does nothing to cover the screaming as it begins again. I fling myself into a car, smashed on its side and wait in the backseat.
Papa was so happy to see me. He hugged me, held me in his arms. I patted him, pushing him off, I didn't tell him I was too old to be loved. I told him I missed my mother. He did too. Tante knew where in the city she was, and privately told me that we would see her next.
"It the way the world be. Sometimes, if you love her, you got to let her her own way. Like you, child."
We watched the television and ate gumbo in the afternoon. Mama took us to a small restaurant for dinner, where she knew the cook. I tried some of the hot pot there, mentioning that it was so similar to something she would prepare. A shared recipe. She knew what dish I meant.
"Sometimes baby, you can't keep going. And sometimes you can. I love you too much to stop going."
I shiver, there is darkness in the car I slept in. I peek out to see the city blanketed in it, slowly crawling out. I hear something metal fall and duck back down, covering my mouth. I see the split lines of black covering the world, coating it under my feet and blink it away.
A man's face, he's scruffy and tired. He offers me his hand and I stare at him for a while before accepting, he lifts me out.
He studies me over and I grow angry, pulling my body tight and tensed.
"No, sorry. I recognized your hair from when you were eating at Tupela. You were the last person I saw before..." he looks away, "Like an angel."
He smells like flowers and I grimace, saying through a mouth full of caution, "I'm a survivor."
A brief nod, "Me too." We begin to walk down the road, listening only to our shoes. My eyes are sensitive to any movement. I watch the stars, trying to determine which way we are heading. "Will you help me? I knew some people and they need some help."
I say nothing but follow him, watching his back sag. He leads me to a small courtyard, once part of an apartment, the houses around breaking into triangles. I follow him to where two bodies lay. Three bodies, counting the pair of legs. He holds his arm out, hitting me in the gut, "Rob, Tamar, Lana and-" I can hear his breath catch, he spins me around and we run, hiding behind the slanted wall of an office, "Milka is missing."
"You last saw her there?"
"Yeah she was. Missing her face. In no condition to..."
I grip the straps of my backpack tightly, "Gotta wait it out somewhere safe."
I stand up, he grabs my leg, and I grab his hand, digging my nails into it. He doesn't wince. "Please just stay here. I don't want her to see you."
"This isn't safe. You call me angel then think you can do better?"
"What if it went to Tamar or the others? What if there are four of them?"
I struggle to rip off his hand, "Then let's move!"
He finally stands and I turn to run, smacking into a taller man. I can see his eyes, huge, white particles floating in the pitch darkness of his face. "Hey Wes." his lower jaw moves and clicks though there is nothing to connect it. I shove him down, his head angled to smash into wood. Instead, it floats above it, nothing just eyes and a jaw. I grab Wes' hand when the head begins to scream, dragging him out through the parking lot, jumping over car hoods, with him laboriously running around them.
I pull him through a back alley, bringing down and small ladder hard. We climb it and I have to drag him up by his pants. I hear a disfigured woman mutter "That's my apartment." when I crack open the window and jump inside. Wes follows me, and while we're in the small studio apartment I hear him dragging something over the window.
"Thanks." I whisper, standing there I grab my curls, pulling and worrying at them. Planning. "Next time please don't scream. We don't know how many there is." He gulps in the stale air, nodding. "I think we can wait them out."
I sink down to the floor, pulling off the bag to rub my legs. "So your name is Wes?"
"Yes." I can barely make him out, the blinds let some light from the opposite wall cover him in stripes.
"Why aren't you scared?"
I crawl over to him, leaning against the same wall as he, turning my head to look at him. "I was there when this started."
"What was it like?"
I tell him. We turned on the cheap television in the room we rented, my uncle and tante slept in the single bed. I curled up with my clothing on the floor. It was late and we did not want to drive back on those lonely dark roads just yet. Mama was going to show me around tomorrow, it was her day off. I leaned up on the wall, like I was right now, and watched as these thin lines played across the ceiling. I thought they were from the street lamps outside, moths playing around.
I noticed the television dimming, these thin straight lines covering the picture. They crept across, closing in on each other until the room was pitch. They pulled away to form a mouth of straight even lines, opening and closing as it spoke. I did not share what it told me. Only that it spoke in a language I could not understand. Once it had finished, the room began shaking. I led my bleary-eyed family outside and we watched as these innocent streaks coated things, tearing them in pieces with the sheer strength.
"And possessing people." Wes muttered.
"And entering people." I repeated.
"What do they exactly do?"
"I don't know Wes. Eat away at them?" I neglected to mention how the deer had shook and stared at me, waiting.
I didn't respond.
"She has seizures you know, so we propped up her head and kept an eye on her. When she..."
He looked over at me, waiting to know if he should continue. I gave him no indication that I wanted to hear what he had to say.
"When she exploded we didn't know what to think."
We waited until first light and left the apartment, cautiously following the main street. It's silent and cold. We have already made plans to head to the East. He knew I had come from the South, following it across the river. My home was far beyond the concrete, but I hesitated to travel through the people-thick parts of the city. Wes was especially on edge, holding on to a pipe he had found, his knuckles so white. It must have hurt to hold it like that.
We found the edge of the woods and I found a trail. I paused, staring at him with wild eyes before we entered. "Wes, there may be something in there you don't like."
"Like what? I've already seen bad enough things."
"A real corpse."
I followed the multicolored trail, Wes tried to keep up, but I had traveled it many times and he had never. Where he stumbled or a branch was too low, I knew exactly when to jump and when to duck.
My uncle and auntie never let me in the woods around our farm, I explained to him. He was tense when I spoke loudly, but I didn't care. Here was safe. I saw him look down, noticing what created the colouration of the wood. They wouldn't let me in the woods, until one day I wandered in. I found a body that looked just like me, face down.
"Since then, every time I enter, I find the body."
"How is this safe?"
"Don't you get it Wes? If that unmakes, this is the one thing that it can never unmake." We stop, it is laying there, a gigantic corpse, smelling of flowers. He gags and covers his mouth.
"What if it just hasn't gotten here?"
"I would bury this body, and then return the next year to find it again. Whatever is unmaking the world is a curse or something evil, and this area, it's safe."
"No, it's not."
I can't explain it to him. That's fine. I sit down and drink some water as the leaves play across the trees, "Let's go then." I push him back through, with him complaining about the waste, I step out to see a new skyline and he hesitates. "Even if it isn't safe it brought us somewhere safe."
A barn, an empty pasture. I lead him inside, finding the spare key we hid in a pillow on the porch. I tell him can sleep in the guest room, to the left of my room, and I throw down my bag. I can hear him in there, groaning and stretching. He shows up in my door as I'm tearing off my boots, he's wearing nearly nothing.
"Is the water working?"
"Of course it is. Shower is to your right." He wanders away and I lock my door before lying down.
The first time I found it, I was enraptured. I dragged it out from where it lay to bury it, the small grave was still visible to me, as if we had buried it yesterday and not fourteen years ago. Next to it was a slightly larger grave, and more followed, each growing in size. Though I had not grown much after I turned sixteen, the bodies continued to grow and expand. The one we had passed was the size of a small horse.
I can hear the water shut off and wonder if he is having troubles with crickets, he knocks on my door. "Can I come in?" I hesitate, the sun is dimming in my room and I pull on a new shirt before opening the door wide. "Can I sit down?" I drag a desk chair over and then sit down on the opposite edge of the bed, ready to bolt if he comes near me. "I wanted to thank you for bringing me here. It was, horrifying to me. Everything there, Tamar, Lana, Milka..."
"Rob..." He grimaces and rubs his ankles involuntarily. "Everyone changing."
"It's going to get worse, Wes."
His eyes look drained, his face sags and pulls itself downwards, "Worse?"
"We know nothing about it, how it spreads, where it is, what to expect..."
"That's it Wes. That's all we know."
"We could live out in your grove, build a house far away from It."
"It doesn't work that way. If we built a house, it would be under the ladder." I involuntarily look out the window. He follows my gaze.
"You said you buried it? Are those where it is?"
"Is it like a ghost?"
"I don't know Wes."
He waits a while, staring at his hands, folding them over and over. "Did you lose anyone?"
The question hits me like a punch, "It's none of your business who I lost."
He nods then fiddles with his hands again. I wait in the silence for him to move, and it takes him a while to walk out. I lock the door again and try to sleep. I can hear him moving around for a while, until I finally drift off.
It took a while, but I was able to convince him to stay here and help with the land as the cold set in. We weren't ready to walk with this weather. We would sit there, covered in the light of our dining room. We don't know or understand why water and electricity still works. Wes tries to see if there is anyone else through the television and radio, but I don't care.
I tend to stay away from the tele when it's on, I don't want it to turn to me, shifting on the stand to whisper those unintelligible words again, "We return."
The sunlight filters in as I stare out at the golden grass. I hear chirping and rise out of my thoughts, "Wes?"
He looks up from the blender he's repairing, fiddling with his hands like always. "Something wrong?"
"I just remembered." I rub my face, "Well, not just remembered. My auntie, she wanted me to come back when I found someone else."
"Back to the city? Do you think it's safe?"
I shrug, "As safe as it was when we were there the first time."
He gets up and leaves the room. I watch through the window as he heads to the barn. I sip from my cup, just watching him. He's changed, in good ways. Stronger, less afraid. He says I haven't changed much, that I've always been an angel - wise and powerful.
I have a laugh when I see him pull out the tractor, walking over to him as he tries to drag it. "It's too loud Wes."
"That's okay, we can just maybe take some parts of-"
"What if we need them later on? What if we need this to harvest?" I feel myself staring him down like I had when we met. I see something new in his eyes too, something that has overtaken that nonsensical urge he had before - the urge to enter the courtyard. "Wes, do you think we go into that city and everything will be normal? Everyone will be there, minding they business?"
He steps away from the tractor, wiping his hands on his shirt, and walks past me. I push it back in, in the event of rain. I wander over to the gravesite and stare. There is no body for this year, Wes refused to help me move the huge corpse, and I think that's fair enough. The sun is still high, and I glance back to see him in the kitchen again. I yell that I'll be right back and stumble into the woods.
The branches close in again, the warmth of the soil radiates through my shoes and through my hands as they graze the bark. I can hear buzzing every so often, flitting by. The smell is overpowering, the corpse now fills the grove, the face still buried in the mud.
I know she still looks like me.
"Hey there." Wes smiles at me when I return, "I was getting worried."
"I just went to..." he nods, "It's still there."
"That's fine. I, uh, did some thinking. It's probably half a day's walk in, we can bring enough to eat for maybe three days and scavenge the rest. Maybe even grab some jerky."
I stick my tongue out, "I hate jerky." He laughs.
"So I found this." It's this print out sheet of where Mama's house was, traveling instructions to ours. It has aged, the red pen on it is crisp. I can read the margin where my uncle wrote the name of the hotel in thick lettering. I squint at it, partially trying not to cry. I point at a spot and he circles it with a ballpoint pen, his mark being light and wispy. "A bit closer than I thought. And I know the area around there, there's a theatre right about here-" he points a few blocks to the left "-with a huge statue, so we can use that if we get turned around."
I nod, we agree to leave in the morning. Before we go to sleep, we find light weight weapons to bring along with us. Wes packs a small journal and his pen.
As we wander down the road, pollen floats off of the parked and wrecked cars. The doors are all locked and no one remains inside. "It's like everything just left us." Wes whispers, reaching out to touch and car, and then pulling his hand back just before. As if he doesn't want to disturb the scene.
The city is just as we left it, the quietness of everything feels so wrong, like waiting for something to happen. Occasionally I see marks in the dust, thin drag lines, Wes holds out his hand and points ahead of us. A brilliant blue butterfly flits away from flowers that have managed to stay in the little decorative planter. He sort of smiles at me, and we enter this building, closing the door politely behind us. We rest upstairs, Wes stays on edge to watch over the stairwell.
I wake a few hours later to see him curled up, asleep.
The crickets chirp so loudly tonight, and peering out the window I let small tears fall, running off of my cheeks so still, I drift away like that, hearing the crickets and feeling the warm summer air.
The door is overtaken by vines now, leaning at an angle that prevents entering unless I was to crawl. I hand Wes my bag, he stammers and insists that he come with until I stare him in the eyes and tell him no. Then he hands me a chair leg, one of the weapons he had grabbed.
I hold this stiffly by my left side as I crawl through, so that it won't bang around. It is dark and musty - I pull my right hand to my face and try to breathe. I can hear whispers, over my heart, and slight thuds and thumps; I begin to inch backwards, hoping that I can drag myself out before it can get me, whatever mutation of a human is waiting for me.
"Surprise!" The voices are scratchy, but musical. A light clicks on in the apartment and I see three people in costumes with their first pair of hands in the air. "Come over, come over."
I don't move, "What is the occasion?"
They're wearing these giant insect outfits, I realize. One is hunched over and grey toned, another is much taller and brown. The one that waves her first and second pair of hands (the third pair is how they manage to stand) at me is a beautiful shade of green. "We did not want to startle you." she explains, "By being here in the dark."
"I came to pay respects to my auntie." I grip the chair leg tightly, ready to swing.
"We know." The green one reaches where my auntie still sits in the chair, despite a year having past she looks exactly the same, and gently brushes a strand of hair from her face. "We know everything that she has experienced."
I step closer, her antenna twitch to follow me, "Are you wearing cricket suits?"
She pauses, bring her first pair up to her mouth parts, as if she were nervous, "No dear."
"Did you cause those," I can't think of how to define the unmaking, "That darkness, to destroy things?"
"I think, I think we should start from the beginning. May I?" I nod at the cricket, she seems relieved and comes closer to me, "We, you see we are from far away. Long before you humans sent it out, we received a message. We came to you, as you had requested. It was not time, and so a population of us stayed and watched you wonderful humans."
She gestures to my aunt, "There are many of you who shared your experiences with us, such as your dear auntie." this cricket became morose, her voice drifting down an octave, "When we felt it was time to come back and have a formal meeting, we did not expect our technology to do... This amount of destruction." I can hear a ripping in her voice, and see her figure pull itself inwards, "I, and the rest of my kind, regret that we have done this. We wanted to meet humans, to live with them in peace." Her compounded eyes meet mine, I can see myself, a tendon of a person, my dark skin stretched taught over muscles.
My face streaked with tears and sweat.
The grey one moves closer, holding out a very human medal, "Do you accept this, our formal apology, and the title of Ambassador?"
"You were the very first human being we ever spoke to, when we first landed."
I hear a gasp behind me and spin around, Wes stands there, his arm weakly holding the pipe. "What is this?"
"It's, well," I bite my lip, trying to think of how to explain what my brain is barely able to synthesize, "Cricket alien people want to be friends?"
My green cricket has been clapping, "You did find another! Oh, we are overjoyed!"
Wes grabs my hand, pulling me away. I turn back to her, "Wait, Wes. Wait." I shake off his hand; he clings to my arm like a small child. "Are there other humans?"
"There are more that we sent out, more humans who are trying to find other survivors. We want all humans to join us, to reestablish a human population."
"What if we just go back to my farm? And live our lives there and grow old?" Wes grips my arm when I ask that, nodding into my back.
"We would let you. We power the water and electric plants for you, and would continue to do so."
"And if I accept to being your Ambassador?"
"We would welcome you into our world," she gestures down the crevice in the side of the room, now a huge gash that reveals an intricate archway, the deeper down I stare the deeper the hues. No light premeates to reveal what kind of world it is.
I can feel Wes breathing heavily, and can see the cricket's anticipation.
The farm is lovely and serene. It was the peace that I always dreamed of. The Cricket's would be able to take care of themselves without me.
I want to be part of the Cricket's work - I want to be part of the future. I want to explore the Cricket's world.