"s 2015 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by John Bell

I live most days in perfect contentment. It's the exceptions that take their toll.

I don't want to sound like I'm whining. I have it good. It all changed when I met the love of my life. Three years ago, I met lily. A year ago, I proposed. The preparations for the wedding were unexpectedly painless. And in the lead up to the wedding, we both landed terrific new jobs. We got married. For the first time in my 30 years of life, I was looking at actual financial stability. The wedding was perfect. Just perfect. No family fights. My brother's best man speech was a legitimate hit. It was as terrific a day as I could have hoped. We honeymooned in London and Paris, paid for by her family. No issues at customs. No stolen passports. No one even "taking the piss out of us" for being Americans. And I was looking forward to that!

So I guess on the plane ride home, as Lily slept, leaning against my shoulder, I took inventory of my life and found that I didn't really have anything weighing on me. I tried to think of something.
Ah, right. Doctor's appointment. I told Lily I hadn't had a physical in years. She made me go.
Well, I didn't go to the doctor and find that I'd literally become cancer. My doctor did tell me to get more exercise, to eat less salt, but otherwise… I was fine. Well damn. Now I was out of things to worry about for real.

On the way home from the doctor, as I turned onto my street. It suddenly began raining hard, too hard to see. I fiddled for my wipers. I glanced down. Felt and heard a thud.
Oh god. The worst sound and feeling while you're driving.

I stopped my car, and bolted out around the front, expecting to see a dead or injured cat or dog. What I did see was definitely alive. It just wasn't a mammal. I don't know how else to describe it beyond… a sort of bag of guts. I mean it. I thought it was discarded crime scene evidence at first. As I consideredd this pillowcase sized membrane filled with… it looked like too many kidneys but one visible lung and definitely a gall bladder… I realized that it either belonged to somebody or was something that I and possibly no one had ever seen before. Either way, what the hell was it doing here? And how did it not just burst when I hit it with my car?

And it was breathing, because of course it was. How do you think I knew it had a lung? A gray sac, visible through the extremely translucent membrane that I would not call skin, expanded and contracted. The little sac of guts was pulsing. Breathing. The little thing was alive.

Well shit. I can't just leave it here. I can't let it die here.  I ran it over. I didn't know what to do next, though. I was tempted to just leave it. I was two minutes from home. Lily would be wondering where I was.

But goddamnit, I couldn't just leave the little guy there. Mustering my courage, I picked it up. God, it was worse than I worried it'd be. It wasn't just warm. It was burning up, like a fever. The membrane covering the top looked too fragile to touch, so I reached under the bottom and found that covered with what felt like cartilage. I put it in the passenger seat and drove home, the little gut sack sloshing the whole way, breathing more heavily the whole time.

I got home and to my relief I found my wife had left a note on the door. She'd taken her bike to the store to get dinner. I picked up the creature with both arms and awkwardly worked my hands to my keys without dropping it. I ran it upstairs to the bathroom and put it in the tub.
Nothing. Well, its breathing appeared more labored. I wondered what I could do about it. I decided a little water couldn’t hurt. I turned on the tap. The creature suddenly sprang three bright red tentacles. More like external veins than anything I'd seen on an octopus. They reached for the water, touched the tap, and pulled it toward the tap, until the water was pouring directly onto it.

It seemed to like water, then.

I plugged the drain, let the bathtub fill. I don't know how to describe it, but the creature seemed to visibly relax once it began to float. The heavy, pulsing breathing settled into slower pace.
So… what do I do now? How do I explain this to Lily?

Well, I guess when she gets back she'll go through the same process I went through. But she has to know. I went to wait for her down in the living room.
When Lily arrived I told her straight what I had found. I wasn't going to pull some "there's something  I need to show you" and lead her to a bag of guts in the bathtub. I tried to describe it to her. She seemed alarmed. "Are you sure it didn't fall out of a medical waste truck?" she asked. I told her about the tentacles.

She looked away. "Jesus," she muttered. "Well, let's see it then."
I led her up to the bathroom, and opened the door.

Well, it liked water.

The organ bag was a bag no longer.  It was stretched out now, the tentacles (six now) grasping the sides of the tub, suspending it over the water. I peered into the tub and saw something else entirely. A long, fleshy tube had pulled the plug and gone down the drain. In its… natural state, I suppose, the creature was no longer a jumble of organs either. It looked sort of like one of those transparent frogs, minus the legs. A clear set of intestines, lungs, and a heart.
"I think it's an alien," I said.

"No," Lily said. "It has the internal organs of any animal you'd find on earth. My guess is that it's just really good at hiding. Where did you find this again?"
"I ran over it driving home. It was where I turn onto our street."
"Huh," Lily said. I could almost hear her thinking.
"How did it not die?" she whispered.
The creature was pretty clearly ingesting something. The tube that was down our tub was sucking something. "Maybe it's a sewer barnacle of some kind," Lily said.
"You think this is just some weird species no one's seen before?"
"I'm saying it's a big world, Jeff."

Well, I guess she had me there. I pulled out my phone and immediately googled "flesh barnacle". It was a decision I immediately regretted, as the results featured ample gangrene and no solutions. I tried "fleshy tentacle" expecting porn. I got very little, in fact, and was hopeful at the first link which said something about a "mystery squid". However, said squid bore no resemblance to the fleshy pillow currently suspended above my full bathtub.

"It looks… happy?" Lily said. "I guess I'm just concerned about sleeping with it here. You ever hear about how sometimes people get strangled in their sleep by their pet pythons?"

"We can sleep in shifts," I said. "I want to do more research on this thing."

Six hours I spent, shifting from my phone to my computer. I Googled every possibly adjective combination I could think of to describe the suspended membrane of fluid and organs in my bathroom. I dove deep into corners of the internet I had no desire to explore. I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Sweetie, get some sleep. I'll take the shift."

"What time is it?" Only then did I think to check. I glanced down at the lower right hand of my computer screen. It was 2 am. I'd been searching for six solid hours without a lead. "Have you checked on the thing again?" Lily asked.

"Shit, I haven't," I said, sitting up from my computer with a jolt. I went into the bathroom.
The interior of the tub had been made flesh. Have you ever eaten mussels, and gotten a freak that all meat on the entire inside of the shell? I got one like that once. The grossest thing I've ever seen. Never ate mussels again.

This was having the same effect on bathtubs for me. I touched the rim of the tub, indented the flesh. It quivered. I felt my stomach shrivel, but I kept whatever was still in there down.
"Turn the water off!" Lily said. I reached for the handle. It wasn't there. Completely covered in flesh.

"What do we do?" I asked.
"Kill it?" Lily said, sounding perplexed as to how to actually do that.
Something about that was wrong to me. It'd be like just killing some stray dog that ended up trapped in your garage. This thing wasn't harming us. It was just consuming our bathtub.
"We can't do that, Lily. It's alive. We can't kill a living thing. Not something this… big."
"Are you kidding me?" Lily said. "Seriously? Really? For real? Honestly? You're attached to this thing?"
"It's alive. That's all I'm saying. It's alive."
"And the water bill is skyrocketing," said. "Oh Christ. Christ. Look at the sink."

A white, sticky tendril was working its way up the drainpipe. It latched onto the faucet. Lily poked at it gently and recoiled, shivering. "Honey, let's do something. Please."
"I… I think this is beyond us. Let's get out of the house," I said. "Stay at your parents."
"What the hell will we tell them?" Lily said."

"I don't know. Surprise visit. Let's just wait this out for a day. See what happens."

We stayed at Lily's parents' place that night. I think they, and Lily, were spared, because of that. The world is lonelier now. But I think it was grateful that I spared it, so it did the same for me, as best it knew how. There are some who fled to the desert, wherever there is desert to be found. I'm not going anywhere. It really likes salt water, but it left Lily and me an uncovered spot on the nearby beach. We have it to ourselves. As I said, my life is pretty good. That's what happens when you feed it first.