's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Between Walls

Submitted by Robin Cristiano

It was two weeks ago when I first heard the voice from behind the wall. I was lying in bed in my pajamas with a magazine in my hands when it happened. “What are you reading?” The voice said. I heard it clearly, It resonated inside the drywall behind the head of my bedframe with a dull echo. I do not have any neighbors nearby, and as for as I know, I was alone in this age-worn house. The doors are always locked, albeit battered by decades of wear and tear. Perhaps, for this story, I should go back even further-

It was two weeks and one day ago I tried to kill myself. I survived, obviously, but I passed out so I don’t remember much of what happened. When I came too, I was tucked into my bed, with a pillow snug and fluffed behind my head. I thought maybe it was a dream, but the stinging red welts around my neck said otherwise. I put lotion on the sores and wore a scarf the next day at work. People thought I was hiding hickeys and winked at me while they laughed. Back to two weeks ago when the voice spoke for the first time, I was not frightened. The voice felt warm and trustworthy. A voice I wanted to hug and tuck my head into. “Who are you?” I asked.

The voice paused for a bit, as if choosing carefully which words it wanted to use.

“I was one of the construction workers that built this house. I got stuck between the drywall when one of my coworkers accidentally sealed the wall shut and I couldn’t get out. “Well, why don’t you break out?” I replied.

“Oh, this house is too beautiful. I don’t want to damage it.”

That was the last the voice spoke that night, even when I tried to coax him into telling me more. I fell asleep imagining a body to associate with that mellifluous voice. The body was handsome. I felt like a teenager in love again.

The next day I lay in bed and I said: “but you must have a way out. You were the one that cut the noose around my neck, weren’t you?”

The voice didn’t answer for so long, that I thought perhaps maybe there was no voice after all and I was just going crazy.

But just as I was falling asleep, his soft voice broke the silence.

“I couldn’t bare to see you hurt yourself. Please promise me you won’t do it again. Please. Please I can’t bare a world without you.” With those last few words it sounded like the voice was weeping.

“I won’t. I promise you. I won’t ever do it again,” I choked those words out because much to my surprise, I too was sobbing uncontrollably. How could I ever have thought to kill myself and leave this kind soul all by himself?

The next couple of days I would come home from work, and I would spend long nights talking to the voice. I would describe for him what the outside world was like. He had an odd fascination with the trees and the dirt, and the worms and bugs the lived between the trees and in the dirt. The sun, it seemed, even if I was only trying to describe the majesty of its light when it rose or set, made him anxious. I could hear his nervousness via the increased fidgeting between the walls. I would tell him about my life, but when pressed for information on what life was like for himself, however, the answer was mum. That sweet, silky, voice, whose name he himself forgot long ago, was completely silent to my own line of inquiry. He refused to answer my queries like how he ate and drank, or how he avoided going crazy. I grew increasingly curious with every ignored question. One day the voice and I were talking as usual, as I was in my bedroom changing out of my work clothes. He was asking about my day, but now it seemed his fixation was on my office job. He couldn’t quite grasp what computers are for, or why people would need money as a reward for jobs that needed to get done anyway. As I nonchalantly answered the questions, I took a screwdriver and jammed a hole into the wall. I knew if I warned him he’d try to talk me out of it, or perhaps run away to a different part of the house, so I did it without asking. This was very rude of me, I admit.

What I peeped were tufts of ragged fur, Huge green eyes, and legs that clenched him tightly to the inside of the wall like a gecko. He had luscious red lips and a long , wet tongue that coiled out several feet onto the ground, slurping a mouse off the floor, and tucking it back between his teeth with one big crunch. When he caught a glimpse of what I’ve done he shrieked about how I ruined everything and scurried off.

That night all I could hear were the occasional crunch of bones and manic scrambling against the walls and ceilings like a person pacing because they couldn’t fall asleep. Of course he’d be embarrassed, living between the walls for so long had deformed him, horribly so.

But I refuse to let looks get into the way of love. I spoke to him about taking our relationship to the next level. There is an air vent in my bedroom. That night a bright red tongue lolled out between the grates and stretched out for several meters. It licked me up and down my body. I’ve never felt so ecstatic.

I was fired from my job. I had missed too many days of work, staying home and talking to the voice. Even when I sitting in my cubicle, I was always distant. Sometimes my boss would have to say my name three or four times before I could finally snap out of it and acknowledge her. I had a project due the next day, and she wanted to see the progress. The only thing I had open on the screen were images of tongues from different animals, ranging from echidnas to chameleons. I was thinking about last night. I was let go that very same day.

He stopped talking to me. He thinks he has ruined my life. “No!” I exclaimed. “My life has only improved since I met you!” But he was silent. I heard scurrying further up the wall, to the far reaches just below the attic.

Of course. The attic. I’ve never been to the attic since I rented this house. I don’t own too many possessions and I just never had the curiosity to explore. But sure enough when I lugged myself up those precarious attic steps, I saw in one far corner of the dusty attic, a crevice. I could just barely squeeze between the jagged wood of the broken floorboard as I lowered myself deeper into the hole. I lacerated my skin and gave myself many splinters and rashes in the process. I landed with a thud in a closet on the second story of the house. I never knew about this closet, and I was astounded that I could have a room in my own home that I never knew about. But then of course I realized the explanation. It was blocked off by a bookshelf. This must be how he rescued me that fateful night.

In the closet, which was barren except for some rat droppings and shelf space that I wish I knew about ages ago, was a hole in the wall. It looked like the hole of a gopher tortoise, known for burrowing into peoples houses down here in Louisiana with their strong beaks and claws. Except this hole was human sized. I ventured further in, until I was in the thin space between walls. I felt claustrophobic. Due to my large size, wood was pushing in on me on both sides, and giving me even more splinters that I would need to pluck out later. Eventually after enough uncomfortable stumbling around, I could just barely see a blurry shape in the distance. Was this my lover? Finally I could see him in all his beauty.

“Hello!” I bellowed and shone my flashlight onto my lover.

Instead he only hissed. His saucer green eyes stared back at me for the briefest of seconds, and then scurried deeper into the house. I trudged on. I was sweating and finding it difficult to breathe with all the particulates of dust in the air. Eventually I found him hunched over in a corner.

He had black scales. His arms and toes had three digits each ending with a suction cups On his knuckles there were bulges that I suspect hid pairs of sharp retractable claws. His green saucer shaped eyes seemed like they were just for decoration, until they flashed before me and I realized they could light up on command for the sole purpose of attracting moths that he may snatch and eat when the insects fly too close. Most of his sensory input, I figured, was gathered by his pronounced snout, combined with a hardy beak that could make any tortoise jealous. There were holes in the side of his head covered in a spongy membrane that absorbed all sound, as if it evolved specifically for pressing against walls and listening. The tufts of hair I originally saw were actually cobwebs that he adorned with dirt and wore like a shawl.

He sniffed the air rapidly and then shrank deeper into his corner. He flicked his eyes off so now we were in complete darkness except for my flashlight. “Now you will never like me. Now you know I’m a monster,” he said.

“How could I ever think you are a monster?” I asked. “You are the most beautiful and kind soul I’ve ever laid eyes on,” I continued. With these words he seemed to brighten a little bit, both literally and figuratively. His green eyes turned on. The gleam of light attracted a moth that was previously fixated on my flashlight, and in one deft moment he snapped at it with his tongue.

“I’m not really a construction worker,” he said.

“Yes, I can see that,” I replied. I walked a little closer and sat down next to him.

“My kind evolved to exist in the liminal spaces between walls, ever since humans evolved to build houses. We have always been the ones responsible for the loud bangs and strange thuds you humans blame on pipes,” he explained. There was a strange, but not uncomfortable silence between the two of us as we sat with our backs against the splintery wall.

“Without a job, I might not be able to pay rent for this upcoming month,” I said with a sigh. “You might have found yourself a new roommate,” I continued. “Though I could serve to lose a few pounds if this is going to work.” I let out a laugh while grabbing at my extra flab.

“I ruined your life,” the creature said, and it began to sob.

“That’s ok,” I said, scooching in closer, burying my head deep into his coarse, scaly chest, "Because I think I love you.”