's 2014 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Charred Newt

It is way too early. Nobody should ever have to wake up at 5 am.

I peek at the half-closed window. Itís still dark outside. It doesnít feel right, getting out of bed when the world tells you itís still night. But stalling wonít get me anywhere.

Iím out. My knees crack as I straighten myself. The chilly air clutches me like an iron grip, shaking a fraction of the sleep away. I guess Iíll have to get used to this.

Shaving is not an easy task. My hands are sluggish and unsteady; moving them is like controlling a clumsy robot. My skin feels dry and harsh under the razorís blade. It doesnít take long before I cut myself.

It doesnít hurt. Iím probably too drowsy for pain right now. Man, I really hope I can adapt to this new schedule, because right now I barely feel human. I turn the tap on, getting ready to clean the blood off.

But there is no blood.

I have to stare for a moment at the mirror, before I realize it. The cut is small, with sharp, clean edges and, under the bathroomís neon light, looks pitch black. I prod it gently, bracing myself for the sting. It doesnít come. The rim raises up slightly, still showing no blood or flesh. Only darkness. I shouldnít, but I touch it again, stretching the skin sideways: I catch a glimpse of white. Was that bone?

A shiver of revulsion creeps up my spine: how deep is that thing? Lucky me itís such a tiny wound, or it could get infected very easily. I face the mirror again: now that Iím leaving it alone, the cut is practically invisible. Iíll get some alcohol, just in case.

This lighting is not kind to me. I look pale, almost gaunt; every angle of my body casts pointy, hungry shadows. I slap myself lightly, trying to let some color onto my face. Doesnít work.

My other hand scratches my belly absentmindedly; the skin feels thin and tense under the drumming fingers. Then, suddenly, it collapses. The index sinks into my stomach, all the way to the palm.

I stumble back in horror, letting out a strangled gasp, while my hand flies away from my abdomen and smashes painfully into the wall behind me. Itís probably the only thing keeping me on my feet, right now.

The skin around the freshly-made hole crumbles, curls up like burnt paper. The gash grows to almost take up half of my midriff, then stops.

I should be dead. I should be seeing my intestines roll out and splat on the floor. Instead, all I can see is darkness, barely contained by a flimsy layer of skin. And there is still no pain.

Oh God, this must be a dream. I am still asleep in my bed, and the only thing going wrong is that Iím going to be late.

But my left hand is still numb and slightly bruised from the impact with the wall, and Iím not waking up.

My eyes are irresistibly drawn to the hole in my stomach. The surrounding skin raises and descends following the troubled rhythm of my breaths, as if there was no interruption. The brims tremble slightly with every movement. I feel a sudden urge growing, and I can already tell itís a bad idea. Everybody would say that. Every fiber of my body is telling me to stop, but I canít resist.

I plunge my hand into the darkness.

My insides are empty, like I was starting to suspect. I move my fingers freely, without encountering any obstacle. Warm air moves with them.

Without really believing what I am doing, filled with a mixture of disgust and curiosity, I explore upwards, until I find a dry, pleasantly smooth surface, not wider than the point of my index. I follow its curve: itís a rib, completely clean of anything else. My fingertip runs a couple of times over its long shape. Touching it feels delightfully wrong.

Where has the flesh gone? Where has everything else gone?

I cannot go much further up, my arm is already at an awkward angle; I barely brush the next rib. I could try and reach for the spine, but I know that could be dangerous, and I feel pretty dizzy already.

Iím retracting my hand, when I touch something different. Something that touches me in return.

My fingers slip out of the gash, but the thing follows them. I feel it drag itself upwards, pulling on the walls of my body. There is a wet gleam in the darkness.

Then, a pinkish, squirming mass erupts from the hole, filling it to the brims; for a moment I fear itís going to rip me in half. It stays there, hanging upon my lap in a cluster of thin, twitching tentacles. I canít tell if thereís anything else, underneath: they writhe without a pause, tasting the air, binding themselves in loose knots with a revolting kissing-like noise. Some of them bend in many points, some move fluidly, some branch in hair-thin appendages. Some start creeping on my exposed skin.

I want to scream, but canít find the breath. Iím almost curled up into a ball. My body is completely contracted, bringing my face closer to the thing than I would ever want to be. My jaws clench painfully, every spasm makes the teeth grind against each other. Theyíre going to break, I know theyíre going to break.

The creature in my abdomen doesnít seem to mind. ItÖ tickles. It tickles so much. There is something disgusting wriggling inside me, and all I can do is fight not to burst into laughter. If I did, I know it would spill out. And Iíve seen enough of it already.

The tangled being stays there for I canít say how long. It keeps exploring the surface of my stomach, leaving it cold and clammy. Now I notice that, on every tip, there is a roughly circular disc, almost translucent and nail-like. I feel them lightly scratching the surrounding skin, as if they were drawing on it. Maybe it will hurt later. I donít know anymore.

At last, the thing retracts into my body. I feel it chittering between my empty bones. Its tentacles move faster and faster under the edges of the gash. Soon they blur into a frantic pink haze, until everything stops.

I blink a couple of times. My limbs are finally released, and melt onto the floor. I feel numb, as cold as the linoleum beneath me. Walking is not going to be an option for a while. Straightening my neck to look down takes several seconds, and most of my energy.

The cut is gone, completely. In its place there is a patch of pristine, slightly reddened skin.

Youíd say nothing happened, if not for what is scratched just below.

As I read the message, I can hear it booming between my ears in a ridiculous paternalistic tone:


I lie breathless on the bathroom floor.

I just want to go back to sleep.