's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Morning Jaunt

Submitted by Streicher Hennessy (email)

Harold Stanton was having a rather difficult morning. Due to a busy workday on Friday the middle aged man had forgotten to pick up his prescription yesterday, and already the symptoms were showing.

Outside his window Harold couldn't see the morning sun. Instead of the warm mellow rays of morning light entering his room, a pale white light like the glow of a
abyssal jellyfish coated the room. The light was issuing from a massive bloated planetary body in the morning sky, its vast craters and pockmarked surface leering over the city like the face of a dead god. Harold tried not to look directly at it. It was bad enough seeing the horror in the sky without focusing to closely on it. The last time he had done that he had seen worm-like things squirming over the lunar surface.

Coming down into kitchen for his morning breakfast only added to the morbid delights waiting for the balding male. The kitchen was decorated with splashes of blood, as if someone had been slaughtering pigs on the kitchen table. The air smelled of copper and the sickly sweet smell of spilled entrails. Harold sighed and with the air of a man resigned to his fate, pushed aside a pile of viscera on his seat. Harold decided that before he went to the grocer for his prescription he was going to at least have breakfast.

The cereal boxes were where he had left them at least. He browsed the various glyphs on the boxes and finally chose one with a picture of some kind of arachnid on it. The spider-like mascot was wearing a backwards baseball hat, which Harold thought was a nice touch. Pouring it into one of the dirty bowls from the cupboard, he was not surprised to see slivers of glass and building insulation fiber tumble out. There were a small handful of maggot-like insects squirming around in the bowl too. Harold decided that these were evidently the cereal's version of marshmallows.

It felt exactly like it looked. Harold determinately chewed through his meal, blood dripping from his gums and slowly lacerating his tongue into a flayed knobbed sliver of flesh. He did his best to pop the maggots in between his teeth, because the ones he tried to just swallow were already burrowing into his gums, twisting their bodies deeper into the red inflamed tissue. Despite all the carnage happening to his oral cavity, Harold was quite happy, as the meal still tasted like Lucky Charms. That meant that the drugs hadn't worn completely off yet.

Harold grabbed his umbrella and wallet from a nearby skull and headed for the door. It was foolish to drive a car, not in his condition. He was going to have to walk to the grocer. At least it was only a few blocks away. He started off his journey by almost breaking his neck tripping over the blood-drained corpse of a young women that was laying tumbled over in his entryway. Even the mild mannered Harold had to stifle a curse as he kicked the stiffened body out of the way to get outside.

Everything outside was lit by the same throbbing white light from the massive orb in the sky. As he stepped out his front porch onto the street Harold disturbed a small group of pigeons fishing for bits of flesh floating by in the gutter next to the sidewalk. They screeched angrily at him, baring open the gaping mouths built into their chests, and fluttering their membranous wings. Harold swung his umbrella at them, scattering the birds, who made calls like a baby wailing before burrowing into the dirt in the yard.

"Why hello there Harold!" Harold's next door neighbor waved pleasantly from her yard as he passed. She was currently hanging up strips of skin and flesh on her clothesline as her toddler wriggled behind her in the dirt. Harold waved back, hoping he was looking at the right place on her face. It was hard to read her expression, the women's skull appeared as if something had scooped away half of her head, leaving a wet hollow cavity that leaked bits of brain. One eyeball swung lazily from a strand of tissue, flopping around as she waved. Bits of blood spattered her dress with each bounce of the deflated orb into the pool of fluids that was gathering in her caved in face.

"Hello Angelica!" Harold spoke back, trying to keep his eyes level to where hers should have been. "Are you sure you should be hanging up your clothes?" "The
weatherman's forecast called for rain." The women laughed, giggles bubbling up from the hole in her neck. "They have the only job where they can be wrong half the time and still be employed, I'm not worried." The women gave a playful swat of a nearby ball with her foot back to her toddler. Harold didn't quite see the point, as the limbless, headless small torso wasn't able to hold or kick anything back. It simply flailed around in the dirt, making cooing noises and twisting itself up and down in rhythmic movement, like a caterpillar that had been half crushed.

Harold continued his walk down the sidewalk. The normal cement surface was smoothly polished living bone. Each step left a footprint of blood on the spongy surface as his feet compressed the ossified tissue, which was quickly clotted and wicked away. The houses that loomed to the right and left of the man loomed out of the shimmering darkness like teeth in a corpses jaw. Strange shadows and shapes moved behind windows of stained glass. A sprinkler in a nearby yard wrought roughly into the shape of a locust sputtered to life with the normal "click click tchhhhh" and Harold reflexively brought his umbrella up to block the rotating spray of pus and bile that splattered across the dead grass and himself.

Ahead was the street he would have to cross. Plenty dangerous on an ordinary day, but on a day like this it could literally be murder. Harold took a deep breath as he waited by the side of the road, watching the colored lights of the stoplight cycle between magenta, blue, and some sort of yellowish green that made his head hurt and looked like what sadness tasted like. It looked as if luck was with him. As far as he could see on each side of the road it was empty save for the jitterbugging tendrils that swished and wriggled in the storm drains like seaweed in a current. Harold took a deep breath, and started to dart
across the road as fast as his bad knees could take him.

A massive mechanical horror roared up behind Harold before he was even halfway across. The machine sported hundreds of buzz-saws for wheels, a grill of sharpened teeth, and headlights of whirling crazed eyes. Sparks tore from the pavement as bare metal thrashed its way towards Harold, a roaring whine like a jet engine revving up as it sped towards the hapless man. Smoke belched from pipes and wires arcing green sparks of energy clattered and danced across the pavement, leaving welts of bubbling ore on the lava rock roadway. It veered towards Harold, trying to carve the man up
into the jagged blades on the front of it.

With an undignified yelp, Harold jumped up onto the opposite curb, ducking under a crackling rope of wires as it whipped over his head, shearing off the top of a nearby shrub and scattering burning leaves in all directions. The frustrated monster bellowed a shrill "Get out of the street asshole!" as it sped off down the
road, trailing strings of skulls on ropes bouncing along behind it like cans on a wedding limo. Harold took several minutes to get his breath and nerve back, standing in the shadow of a nearby tree and breathing deeply. "Half a block left!" "You've done it before and you can do it again!" the male muttered to himself, before squaring his shoulders and continuing his journey.

The sky was getting darker now, even the pale light from before dimming. Harold could see massive clouds starting to pool above him, devouring what open sky there was. The clouds bulged like the rolls of a waterlogged bloated corpse, looking pregnant with magenta lightning crackling over the grey sodden swells of the cloud banks. Something vast and dark and with sweeping membranous wings swept briefly out of a swell of clouds, a row of glowing markings lighting up a city-block wide back. Apparently the weatherman had been right. Harold hoped that Angelica had brought her laundry in.

He hurried by a male and female in the street next to him. The male was a youth with windswept hair and blackened goggles. There were no eyes behind the darkened rims, and motor oil leaked continuously over his pale face. His bare torso was covered in veins of liquid metal. From the waist down his body split into bars of metal and two spiked black iron wheels, making him look like a modern day urban centaur. The places where metal met his flesh bled a black mixture of boiling blood and burnt flesh.

The female draped lazily over his back, bare legs wrapped around the male's metal body, crushing herself to him, and smearing both their bodies with blood and oil. She was naked, but in her case that meant she was not only devoid of clothes, but skin as well. She flicked a long tongue at Harold while the male sneered at her. "What'cha staring at old man?" the male hissed at Harold with a voice like choking exhaust. Harold sped up, trying to walk faster without looking as if he was worried. "That's what I thought!" the male yelled after him, followed by the burbling laughter of the female, her giggles choking off into wet plops of rending tissue.

It was now starting to rain as Harold finally got the the entrance of the grocer. The skies rumbled and precipitation started to spatter over everything with soft clicking noises. Harold opened his umbrella and watched the small white objects bounce of the pavement and skitter around on the ground, his feet slipping on the greasy feeling things. His first thought was that it was hail, but holding a hand out and catching one of the small objects in his hand revealed a single baby tooth, a bit of pulp tissue still adhering to the end. Harold mentally shrugged, it was still better then the urine and tears that had fallen last month.

His goal was in sight, and Harold hurried to get to the in-store pharmacy. Stacks of rusting cans and boxes were piled in vast arcs and towers, reaching impossibly high towards a ceiling that seemed miles above him. Other shoppers slithered and jerked through the crannies and isles of the store, pushing rusted carts of various supplies.

The layout had changed the last time Harold had been here. He was always worried that one day, he would enter this vast place and be unable to find a way out, trapped forever in twisting hallways of supplies, never finding an exit or the pharmacy, forced to open up random dirty cans for food and hoping it was something organic and edible.

But it appeared as if yet again his luck was to hold. There by a display case of what looked to be dog snouts layered on ice and a shelf of strange fossils was the glaring neon sign of the pharmacy. One of the workers was waiting there for Harold, ready to serve him, her compound eyes reflecting Harold's worried and grateful face in a sea of glimmering hexagons. "______________" She stated in a burst of squealing noise that sounded like a television blowing out its cathode ray. Her name tag pinned directly into one greying flabby breast stated that her name was "Mindy".

"Prescription Pickup." "Should be Clozapine for Harold Stanton." Harold stammered nervously. The pharmacist turned her back to Harold, rummaging among bottles of pickled organs and small creatures, turning over dusty boxes and knocking over glass jars with her claws. Harold was beginning to think she was never going to find what he was seeking when she turned to Harold with a filth encrusted bag. "Thank you" Harold murmured, opening up his flesh-hide wallet and sliding a square jade coin at her for pavement. For his change he received a chunk of scalp, its underside glistening with the rounded knobs of oily hair follicles.

Harold wasted no time. He pulled a water bottle from his coat, and carefully counted out several pills from the bag before washing them down. He then waited there in the store, listening to the thunder outside and the deep booming bellows of some vast thing wandering outside.

There was a vast ripple, as if someone had stretched out the whole world and shook it. Waves of colors and lights darted before Harold's sight, obscuring the details of the world around him as if someone was pouring paint over his eyes. There was a feeling of vertigo as if everything was dropping down below the poor man, and Harold could hear countless screams, as if every citizen of this vast horrible city was being pulled apart. The voices slowly vanished one by one, before Harold finally shook his head and opened his eyes.

The supermarket was no longer miles of hallways, but carefully organized foodstuffs. The busy shoppers were no longer monstrous. There was no longer strange sights and smells assaulting Harold's senses. The small man quivered with relief, happy that once again the nightmare had been banished. He exited the store happily with a smile on his face and a bounce to his step, whistling as he headed back home.

It was no longer raining, some time having past in the store. Puddles of fresh water were evaporating in the sun, and several small birds splashed happily in the gutters. He passed the punk on his motorbike with the girl still on the backseat. They were too busy necking to notice Harold this time around, but he was pleased to see that she did indeed come equipped with clothes. Harold was quite used to morbid sights during his episodes but nudity was something all together different and repugnant.

Harold crossed the intersection without incident, this time able to see the normal stoplight patterns of red yellow and green. No metal monsters tried to run him down. He gave a cheerful wave to poor Angelica, who was now taking down her bedraggled and soaked laundry from her clothesline. Harold even took the time to catch the round red ball her toddler rolled at him and sent it back to the gleeful child, who caught it with both arms and a beaming grin.

With the happy feeling that all was right with the world, Harold entered his house, stepped carefully over the dead women in his foyer, and went to make himself a cup of well deserved tea.