's 2018 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Charred Newt

Desmond's sleepy sunday morning was suddenly interrupted by a hail of knocks on his door. He instinctively tried to shield himself from the noise with the heavy blanket. After a brief resistance, he got up and stumbled to the door, mumbling a half-munched curse.

"Listen man, this better be real fucking important, or I swear this time-" he started yelling, but the anger in his voice died out when he saw the person he had opened to. Rob, his roomie, was the first person -if not the only one- he expected to see that early on a week-end, but what had made Desmond pause himself in surprise was Rob's face: he was pale with a grey tinge that spoke of illness or at least a seriously rough night. In place of his usual goofy, sometimes infuriating hey-what-can-ya-do-about-it-right smile was a stretched grin that was wavering with tension as he spoke:

"Hey man, Des, look I'm sorry about the hassle, man, I know we talked about this whole waking-people-up thing before, but I really gotta talk to you about something. I parked myself on your couch here, is it alright? It's kind of a mess right now." Desmond could see the blanket and pillow tossed haphazardly on the sofa in their common living-room, just behind his roommate. This was a new one. Rob could be noisy, have weird sleeping schedules and be an all-around improviser, but he had never failed to keep all of his stuff confined to his bedroom upstairs. In these regards he had maybe been the best of the long list of renters in the small two-stories house, to Desmond's memory.

"Rob, are you alright? You look like someone just dragged you out of your grave!"

"Yeah, alright, sorta." Rob's attention had shifted to the bedroom's ceiling, though there did not seem to be anything weird going on there. His eyes were nonetheless darting back and forth, like he was looking for something in the divots of the white plaster. Desmond raised his voice.

"Rob, man, come on! Don't leave me hanging here! What did you wanna talk me about? If it's the coach it's fine, you can use it for a bit, but is there something wrong with your room?". It worked: he was met again with that strange tired smile. He was once more surprised to notice just how deep the shadows were under his friend's eyes.

"Jesus, did you actually get any sleep tonight?"

"More or less, more or less." Rob said, waving his hand.

"Let's just get sitting here a bit, and I'll tell you everything."

They moved aside the pillow and the crumpled blanket and sat down on the couch. Rob shook his head lightly.

"Believe me, Des, I wouldn't have woken you up. I thought hey, maybe after a good night’s sleep I wouldn't have seen it anymore, but then I went up to check and BAM, nothing again."

"Nothing? Then why-"

"No, no, sorry, I sped up a bit too much. I mean that there is NOTHING in my room! Last night I came home like usual, went up the stairs, opened my door and just... It had no floor anymore. And I don't mean that I was seeing tubes, beams, wood and whatnot: it was just a big ole' black nothing! I'm lucky I had the reflexes to grab the wall or I would have fallen into that- that- that pit, yes. You can figure a pit, right?"

"Yes, I think I get it."

"Good. It was just like that. I could see the walls of my room just go on and on in the darkness. I even turned on the light -'cause the floor and all the forniture ended up fuck me if I know where but the ceiling is fine, can you believe it?- and I still could not see the end of it. Just this square tunnel into nothingness. But... well, after a bit it wasn't only black void anymore. I started seeing this swirly things all over the place, kind of like when you close your eyes and shut them as tight as you can. Those shapes that make less sense the longer you look at them. I don't know, man, but I immediately started feeling like shit. Just seeing those things, it felt... wrong. It felt as if just looking at them was messing my eyes up, like fire does to glass. That was... that was when I decided to shut that damn door, go sleep on the sofa and hope I had been sold one really bad, rotten can of beer. Or anything else I ate yesterday; god, I can barely remember what I had." He held his head between his hands, with a grip strong enough to withen the knuckles. Desmond patted his shoulders slowly, listening to his roommate's rapid breathing.

"That sounds awful, Rob. And you tell me nothing had changed this morning?" Rob shuddered, a slow tremble that rose from his back and made his head shake for a moment.

"Not a damn thing. That's why I wanted to check how's up with you, if maybe there was something going wrong with your room too, but your ceiling looks fine. You look fine." He took a long breath.

"I really think I oughta show you. You're more likely to figure out something about it than I am, that's for sure. At least you've got those books and whatnot, maybe you can tell me what kind of drug I've been slipped or what ancient demon I pissed off." Desmond felt himself frown a little: Rob had always joked about the treasured collection of occult tomes that his landlord had inherited along with the house, calling it the

"edgy conversation-starter". That sort of flippancy had often ticked Desmond off, but the thought that the other man could be taking the books and their content seriously, all of a sudden, was somewhat alarming. No, he rationalized as they went up the narrow staircase to the second floor, Rob was just grasping at anything that could make him overcome the shock of what he had seen. Besides, the really interesting tomes were safely hidden in Desmond's bedroom, not in the display case in the living room with the others. He had made sure to cover up all the other accidents of the past and Rob had never brought up anything of the like; this didn't sound like it would take more time than the rest, but it could mean that he would need to look for another roommate soon, one way or the other. That was a bummer: he liked Rob.

They reached the door, at the end of the long corridor the staircase ended on; it felt even longer than it normally was, but such things were to be expected. There was a faint trembling in the air, a buzzing wail that resonated inside the teeth and behind the eyes.

"You weren't kidding, man, there's a real nasty atmosphere up here." Rob nodded curtly, his fist clenched; it was probably worse for him, with the night he had passed. Desmond reached for the handle, shaking from the tension and, why not, the excitement.

"I'm sorry, Des." Desmond's hand grasped the brass handle and found it freezing cold, to the point of burning. He clenched it as he stopped and turned to the other man:

"Sorry? What-". He was jerked forward violently as the door opened, revealing a towering face that filled the room from wall to wall, where the floor once had been: its skin was alabaster, white and translucent, its expression fixed and solemn. A crown of round and unblinking eyes sat high on its forehead; vivid colors fought on their liquid surface, like trapped creatures. The giant mouth opened and a pale hand, big enough to completely engulf a person, darted out on a many-elbowed arm and grabbed Desmond, lifting him right off the floor; he had barely the time to give out a whimper before the air was squeezed out of him. The hand retracted into the opened mouth and Desmond was swallowed by the darkness.

"I'm sorry, Des, I lied. It asked for you, and it kept demanding, it kept hurting..." Rob said softly to no one, after the mouth closed back again. The face began retreating and finally flowed back among the stars and the awful shapes that dotted the abyss on the bottom of the room-shaped pit, disappearing to Rob's sight. He felt cold, like his bones had turned to ice. But the floor had come back and the screaming in his head had stopped; for the moment being, there were no colors clawing at his sanity. He didn't feel like testing the solidity of the floor: when he first had seen the void, he had fell for what had seemed like ages. Though, apparently, it had really been just the previous night. He closed the door: a lone fingertip fell down from the handle, having been frozen there along with a few shreds of skin. He didn't register it: there was a whisper in his head menacing to turn back into burning screams.

"Yes, yes, I will bring more. Give me time, I beg you! Just, don’t…". It worked, for now. The pain didn't flare up. He went down the stairs, wiping the sweat off his brow, to finally get the sleep he had desperately needed. Then, he guessed, he would have to start looking for a new roommate.