's 2017 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Jackson Gilbert

I was in one helluva party. It was everything right with the world- blaring music, throngs of people, skimpy clothing, and a lot of alcohol. It was the hottest, hippest club in town, and everyone I knew was there. A lot of people I didn't know, either. Obvious teenagers were in the same space as fifty year-olds in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Some kind of business meeting was happening in one of the quieter corners, while a college kid vomited in the middle of the floor. People didn't care.

I walked into the middle of the horde, shoved around by the veritable army of people. Immediately, I began dancing, jumping up and down in place. Soon, my ears started to ring. My body started to ache. I doubled over in pain. At that point, some kind of surge in the mob shoved me over. It wasn't much fun anymore. I hobbled to the bar, acutely aware of the chaos around me. I had no idea how someone could maneuver in this place.

At the bar, I ordered a stiff drink. Something to numb the nerves. Then, I began my second favorite activity: people watching. Sure, train stations are cool to watch at, but when almost everyone is drunk? It's something to cherish. After an hour of sitting and drinking, I watched someone elbow his partner in the face. The accident made me burst out into high-pitched, drunken laughter.

Right next to the injured woman was a peculiar man. He wore a business suit, all black. The tie was an intricate knot, something I hadn't seen before. His suit was immaculate. Even though the woman's face was leaking blood, there was nothing on the suit. If I hadn't seen his face, I'd have thought he was one of the businessmen. He wore a mask- it looked like some kind of shiny rubber. The mask covered his face, and I could only see his eyes through it. They were big and wet, bright blue. With a steely intensity, they stared straight ahead. The mask itself was a simplistic rendition of a wolf. It looked like it was snarling a little, showing its yellow teeth. The man deftly stepped through the crowd. He dodged anyone stumbling into him. I saw a drunken man suddenly fall in front of him. A full second before the man fell, the wolf guy stopped. He stepped over the prone man before moving to the right. A teenager was shoved back where the man used to be, and he stumbled over the drunk guy. I was in awe. How the hell do you do something like that?

Over the next thirty minutes, I saw similar people. Although everything about them was different- hair, clothes, gender, size- they all moved the same, sinuous like a snake. They all operated in tandem, each one somehow informing the others of the dangers. They would weave through the crowd, and I would sometimes lose sight of them. Due to this, I had no idea how many there were. My best estimate was about ten.

Suddenly, my vision swam. I rushed to the restroom, retching. A little bread and a lot of beer was regurgitated. It was time to go home. I waddled out to the parking lot, tripping over myself many times. In a drunken stupor, I decided to walk home. I stuck my thumb out and walked along the road. On my side was the thick woods. There were all kinds of stupid local legends about them. A Bigfoot here, a serial killer there. Yeah, right. All the weird stuff happened in the city- balloon demons and nasty sludge was much more plausible than a werewolf.

An eighteen-wheeler swerved past me. I overreacted, falling into the thick undergrowth. After a minute of terrified silence, I stood up. That was when I saw them. The people from the club- about five of them. They were about twenty paces behind me and on the other side of the road. As one, they crossed it. In the silence of the forest, I heard a clicking noise. As they got closer, it got louder. Every click coincided with an adjustment by one of the pursuers.

I kept running through the forest as clicks echoed behind me. The not-people ran through the tangles, fallen trees, and bushes with the same efficiency as they had at the party. They were quickly gaining ground. I may have had a lot of adrenaline, but I also had a lot of alcohol. I kept tripping, and almost ran into a tree.

Suddenly, I heard a new kind of click. It was longer than the others, and something about it worked its way into my brain. I felt a little sick. As I kept running, something big, dark, and quadrupedal slammed into me. I flew into a tree, and my ribs cracked. It faded into the forest at the behest of more clicks.

I somehow managed to get to my feet. The not-men were around me, gathered like a pack of wolves. I could feel the hunger exuding off of them. Now, I was never that strong. But I somehow managed to lift a tree branch, slamming it into one of their faces. The mask came off. The clicking intensified. For the briefest instant, I saw something under there. Even though it was bathed in shadow, I could tell the face wasn't human. It looked down at the mask and shrugged. It emitted a series of clicks, and the things around me dropped their masks. They melted into the ground, and there was a flash of... something. It reminded me of building blocks, all linked together, yet separate. However, these blocks moved. They crawled- I think- in perfect unity. None of them moved in a way that blocked another. Their movement was sinuous, like a snake.

I couldn't see much else, as it quickly vanished. Instead, something else filled my view. It was five feet tall at the shoulder, and had a canine build. Its skin was grey, shiny, and rubbery. Its eyes had a thin covering of skin over them, so I could only see the silhouettes of the orbs. The thing had a few open sores on it, and I thought I could see maggots in there. It had about five open holes on its neck, and no external ears. Everything about it was tensed- it reacted to any and all stimuli. The thing constantly twitched. Then, it opened its mouth. Small chitinous limbs, like those of a cricket, filled the toothless maw. They scraped against one another, producing hundreds of clicking sounds a second.

It slowly walked towards me, and I stumbled back. I turned, only to face another monster. A great clicking erupted around me, like a hurricane of locusts. The one in front of me lowered itself down. Then, it pounced. It knocked me down, and I hit my head. Hard. I felt numb and delirious. Fortunately, I lost consciousness quickly. I didn't have to feel the Wolves rend my flesh.