"s 2015 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by HISHAM H.

There is a large mall near where I live.

Back then, the owners had big plans for it.

It was huge, with multiple floors.

But then the economy went bad. People didn't want to spend their money on non-essential things.

They opened it unfinished, hoping to recoup some of their losses.

But no stores or franchises came to fill its empty floors, and the few that did had no customers.

It's ruined now, still incomplete.

The escalators are still in place, unmoving stairs connecting floors.

Big parts of the roof are missing, letting the sunlight through. It's still pretty dark.

Rubbish lines the corridors. The storefront windows are empty.

The sound of water dripping fills the place. We get a lot of rain here. When the rainy season comes it rains everyday.

The basement of the mall is flooded. The water level reaches to a grown man's waist.

The people living around here became worried; would the mall become a vast breeding ground for mosquitoes?

Some local merchants had an idea. They dealt in tropical fish for aquariums; they were many fish farms nearby.

So they released all their unwanted stock, the culls, into the mall. So the fish could eat the mosquitoes.

The fish thrived and multiplied.

The main gates to the mall are all blocked off, but there are a few side doors they missed; hidden by panels of woods, or obscured from view by huge piles of rubbish.

The easiest way to get to the basement is from the main lobby. There, the open roof lets the sun and rain in. There are two escalators that lead up, and two that lead downwards.

The last part of the escalators is partially underwater. I like to sit on the step just above the water, and just watch the fish.

I used to do odd jobs on the fish farms, so I knew what some of them were.

There were red devils; big blocky tomato-red fish, some with humps on their heads. There were flowerhorns, with even bigger humps. There was a lot of tilapia. And there were gouramis too, big ones.

There were catfish as well, with long bodies. I knew they could survive out of the water from a long time, and even slither around on land; they were always escaping from the fish ponds.

I sometimes brought food; a little leftover rice from lunch, some chicken skin. I liked feeding them; they would attack the food in a frenzy.

I asked a man on one of the farms; there was nobody to feed the fish, what did they subsist on? Surely it wasn't just mosquitoes and bugs. He told me as long as there was sun and water, algae would grow. Some fish ate the algae directly, then laid eggs that hatched into baby fish that bigger fish would eat.

He also said the rains would sweep all sorts of stuff from the streets and gardens; trash, dead animals, insects, fallen fruit and leaves, all this would end up in the flooded basement and provide food.

The fish were tame, and eagerly took the morsels from my hand. No wonder; waterfowl rarely visited this place, and their only enemies were some of the poorer families who came to catch a few fish for supper. I caught a few myself, but never to eat; I brought one home once, a big handsome tilapia, but my mother refused to cook it once she learned where it had come from. In the end I gave it to the stray cats.

I used to go swimming there, but not anymore. Mother warned me about terrible little worms that bored into skin and settled in your bladder and gut, sucking your blood. Some of the other kids also said they had bad diarrhea after they swam there, but I never did. But in the end, the kids stopped coming, and it was only me feeding the fishes.

Although I knew that place better than anyone, I had never fully explored the basement. For one thing, with the exception of the sunlit lobby, it was very dark. Also, there was a lot of rubble, some hallways were blocked off and some parts of the ground floor had collapsed into the basement. I did not like the idea of a chunk of concrete falling on my head in the dark.

The lobby was mostly safe. The roof above the escalators had already mostly fallen away.

Still, many parents thought the place was dangerous, and warned their children to stay away. After I brought home the fish, my mother forbade from going back. I couldn't help it, but I started going there less and less.

One day I heard my father tell my mother that some officials came and saw the mall, and were finally planning to tear it down. I was sad, but I understood.

I decided to go one last time.

There were a few differences this time. Bright colored tape sealed off the area, and there were big signs that said 'Keep Out!'

There was also a new shiny padlock on the front entrance, and of the side entrances that had been overlooked were now sealed.

But I finally found one they missed, and went in. 

It was a side door that led to the west wing of the mall, and I made my way towards the lobby.

But this time I saw something new to me; part of the ground floor had recently collapsed, revealing a part of the basement I had never seen. That part had been blocked off, and I was surprised that although it was flooded, there seemed to be a bank or island of some sort rising out of the water against the wall.

I was curious and crept closer, but I got a little too close, and the floor beneath my feet crumbled and gave way.

I fell into the water below. 

I was hurt, but luckily, I didn't break any bones.

But I couldn't climb out, and the way back to the lobby was blocked off here. I knew the overall layout, and I assumed the basement would follow the plan of the ground floor. I had to go the long way around to get baxk to the lobby.

As I walked, I noticed the bank rising from the water. It looked it was just garbage; twigs, branches, mud. Rubbish was piled up against both sides of the hallway.

I kept walking, and came to an open area, which was probably a parking lot. And it was a strange sight.

Garbage and mud was piled into a giant heap in the middle of flooded room. Even more rubbish; mostly fish bones.

At the very top, there was a limp stem, bent over. Bright, long green leaves sprout from its length and base. From each leaf tip there was a long tentacle. Most ended in withered, shriveled tips.

But one tentacle stretched down the hill of garbage, and at the base of the hill it ended in a huge shape. A huge shape, like a big melon, but the color of the inside of a ripe papaya. It was open at one end, like a barrel, and it had a big lid hanging over it.

I saw plants like this one before, but much smaller. I sometimes saw them growing in gardens and hanging pots. My mother used to have one on the balcony.

There was a crack in the roof, and it let some sunlight through. There were a lot of holes in the upper floors, so it wasn't strange for light to come through. It looked like the light would shine right on the plant at certain times of the day.

I approached the giant thing.

It was full of some glistening, bright yellow slimy liquid. It was full to overflowing, dripping from the rim.

As I looked at it, more and more dripped down its sides. The flow increased, the liquid now streaming.

And the liquid did something very strange.

It flowed uphill.

I never knew any liquid could flow upwards like that.

And the higher it climbed the hill of garbage, the more it divided into channels and branches. It became like a glistening spider web covering the hillside.

The hillside started to move.

Jumbled fish bones, dead leaves and other garbage gathered in clumps.

It looked like the slime, thinned and branched out, had spread tiny threads throughout the rubbish and was now pulling it all together.

It collected into a mass that rose higher and higher.

Two protrusions appeared, stretching out. As if it was trying to form arms.

For one, panicked moment, I backed up, getting ready to run back the way I came.

But I remembered the way back was blocked.

The only way I knew of to get back upstairs was through the lobby.

I had to go past the hulking shape.

I struggled through the water, half-swimming, half-running.

I concentrated on moving forward. I couldn't let fear paralyze me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something reach out.

I took a deep breath and dove beneath the surface.

I kicked wildly, desperately trying to get distance. My heart thudded with fear and exertion.

The pain in my lungs was too much. I surfaced, but did not pause.

I had managed to slip out of its grasp.

I did not look back. Over the sound of my splashing, I could hear something else, a rushing, surging sound like a wave.

It felt like an eternity, struggling through the water while something lurched behind.

My body was in agony by the time I reached the sunlit lobby.

I staggered torwards the escalator. 

My limbs felt heavy. I felt like I was trying to run in mud.

I took a look back, and saw that it had reach the basement lobby.

A massive rounded shape made of garbage. No legs, no head, two arms sweeping the water as if blindly searching for me.

And all over it I saw the glistening threads.

I was gasping as I grabbed the handrail. Lifting my foot onto the step was like lifting a boulder.

And as I raised myself out of the water, I saw why.

My waist and legs were covered with looked like thin, slimy threads. It writhed and pulsed.

The yellow slimy liquid must have spread its threads throughout the pool. The short way back was blocked to me, but it could send its threads through the rubble.

It was pulling me back. I lunged upwards, but it felt like I had stepped in glue.

Each step I took was a struggle. It took an enormous effort to free each foot. But I managed to climb the escalator.

The mass had reach the bottom of the escalator. And one arm started surging upwards towards me.

The sticky liquid became even stickier. I scrubbed my feet, hoping to free them more easily. My hands and fingers only got gummed up.

The arm surged ever closer. I was only halfway up.

My hands started to stick to the hand rails. My movement was slowing.

I stumbled. My hands stuck to the step.

I looked back. The arm had almost reached me. It was forming extensions like fingers. It looked like it was opening up like a mouth.

I squeezed my eyes shut.

Then a loud crack, then a rumble. I opened my eyes to see a big piece of the roof come falling down.

With all my strength I leaped upwards from all fours.

A loud crash, a whoosh of air as the chunk smashed into the escalator behind.

I felt the escalator give way; I saw the center section collapse, dragging with it most of the arm as it splashed into the basement.

There were some torn chunks left behind.

I scrambled up the remaining steps, scraping my hands and feet to get as much of threads off as I could.

I finally reached the top. I glanced back.

The top part of the escalator was still attached, but it looked like it could fall at any moment.

The chunks left behind seemed undecided as to whether drop down and rejoin the main mass or continue their pursuit.

As I got up I looked downwards.

The mass was sending another arm up the second escalator.

I ran.

And as I ran, the sticky stuff on my feet and hands seemed to dry up or fall off.

I never went back.

They haven't torn down the mall yet. I think I know why.