's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Rot World

Submitted by Gene Ludwig (email)

My name is Vikki Sanchez and I am 8 years old. Dad bought too many notebooks for me for school this year but he told me I could keep the extras to write in for myself anyway, and I am going to write about ROT WORLD. Zuzu says that ROT WORLD is a weird dumb baby game that I’m too old to play now but it’s not a baby game. It’s real. Zuzu is my big brother. His name is Jesus Sanchez but everyone calls him Zuzu because I couldn’t say his name when I was a baby. He says ROT WORLD is weird and I shouldn’t talk about it anymore but he didn’t say I couldn’t write about it either.

I made up ROT WORLD when I was 5, but I don’t think it stayed made up. I made it up because I was sad after my first day of real school. I thought school would be really fun and I’d make friends but the other kids didn’t like me and Zuzu pretended he didn’t know me all day. He said his friends wouldn’t think he was cool if his little sister kept tagging around him. I said I thought he was cool for being my big brother because I was 5 and I still thought things like that, but he ran away from me and I couldn’t keep up so I sat by myself until they let us into our classes. The other kids thought I was weird because I’m quiet and I like bugs even though I’m a girl, and at recess one kid named Mark threw a dirtball at me.

I was sad and dirty when I got home, and I was still sad even after Dad yelled at Zuzu for ignoring me at school so I drew a picture. I was so sad that I wanted to draw every terrible sad thing I could think of, even though I was 5 and didn’t know that many terrible things. I drew blood and guts and broken bones and dirtballs and slime and dead dogs because I couldn’t think of anything sadder or more terrible than dead dogs. I never cry but I cried all night when Dad said we had to put Goggy to sleep (we called him that because Zuzu couldn’t say doggy yet when Dad brought him home) because even though I was 5 I knew that meant he was dead.

When I was done drawing I thought it needed a title so I just put ROT WORLD in big letters at the top, but I still felt sad. Dad made Zuzu come in and apologize but he didn’t really mean it. I could tell because he never means it usually. But he saw my drawing and said he thought it was really good. He meant that, I think, because he started asking me tons of questions about it and I started making up more and then we started making it bigger and adding more to ROT WORLD when we played together. At least he did until he said he got too old to play games like that with me.


In ROT WORLD everything is old and gross and dead but it’s not bad-- it’s just like that. There’s a lot of slime and gross stuff like that everywhere and a lot of slime molds. I read about them once in a science book and I think they’re really cool. They’re like one big cell but with a lot of nuclei (that’s like the cell’s brain, I think. It tells the rest of it how to grow) because they’re just lots of slime molds that came together into one big one, and instead of just growing in one place they just creep along and cover anything they touch and decompose it and put out spores to make new slime mold. I want to see a real slime mold one day, not just pictures.

ROT WORLD doesn’t really have an outside, I don’t think. When I can see it, it’s just a lot of hallways and rooms put together with things growing from it. I’ve never seen the outside and I’ve never really thought about it. I think ROT WORLD is like a slime mold. It’s not just one world but a whole bunch of them that grew together like that.

Some hallways and rooms are just moldy old rooms made of wood and dirt and others are stone. Some of them look nice and new and clean but somehow I know they’re still part of ROT WORLD, even if they’re not rotting yet.

There’s things that live in ROT WORLD. They move and talk and play and work in the rooms and hallways but I think they’re dead. Some look like they used to be people and some look like animals and some don’t really look like anything. Mostly they’re harmless. Mostly they don’t even notice me, they just keep doing whatever they were doing. The ones that do notice me seem very nice though. Mostly anyway.


The rooms are all different, but all of them are very dark and any lights are very dim. Most of them are old and dusty and have weird old furniture or boxes of things. Some of them look brand new and clean but they’re still dark. Some of the rooms have windows but there’s nothing but black outside. I’ve never tried to open a window. I always feel like I shouldn’t, like something very bad would happen. Some of the rooms are so big you can’t see the end of them, they just fade into the dark. I don’t really go into those. Some are like indoor gardens and have weird plants and old-looking water fountains that still run or ponds, but I don’t think I should try drinking from them. Sometimes the rooms have people in them but most of them are empty.


ROT WORLD has a lot of animals. A lot of times they look like animals here in this world but also not. Some of them look like someone tried to build a regular animal but put it all together wrong, with legs where heads should be and mouths where eyes should be. Or they look like someone took some animals and jumbled them all together. Most times the animals don’t really pay attention to me. I don’t think they always can. They wander around the hallways, and sometimes you can find them in the rooms, but they always seem like they don’t belong in those. I think the hallways are the closest thing ROT WORLD has to an “outside”. Some of the animals are built so wrong they can’t really move too good and those just try to crawl along the best they can.

I have seen:

Precious Puppy

Precious Puppy looks like Goggy looked like when he was alive except Precious Puppy is kinda rotten looking. He’s missing some skin and an eye and he’s always dripping something. He can’t help it though, and he’s the nicest thing I’ve met from ROT WORLD. He looks like Goggy but he isn’t really Goggy, I don’t think. He wants to be, though. I think he knows how much I miss the real Goggy.

When Precious Puppy sees me he runs up and wags his tail. Sometimes he wags it so hard it falls off and he looks sad about that so I help him put it back on. I use a needle and thread. I’m pretty good at fixing him now. Precious Puppy stays with me when I’m in ROT WORLD. He used to only be in ROT WORLD, but now he can be in this world too. Dad and Zuzu say Precious Puppy is imaginary but imaginary things don’t leave stains in the house. He smells pretty bad but I like knowing he’s close by when I sleep because I know he wants to keep me safe.


ROT WORLD has some really great bugs. I already talked about the beetle-mice, but there’s all sorts of worms wriggling out from the walls before they suck themselves back in when I pass by, and big inchworms with horns that inch through the hallways. The biggest one I saw was even bigger than me and it stopped and ate some of the wall-worms. There’s big spiders that like to cuddle up to me and be pet. They’re almost like cats the way they do it. They even purr. I like them.

Then there’s ones that look like those old fossil sea creatures from before the dinosaurs. The Cambrian period, I think. We didn’t really learn about them in school yet but I read about them in books about fossils. Dad and I go to the library every week and he lets me pick out any books I want and sometimes we read them together. Anyway, those ones float quietly through the air or squirm through the halls. I know those aren’t really bugs but they’re still invertebrates and they act like ROT WORLD’s version of bugs anyway. They look like worms on spikes and they crawl along the floor with the spikes and go in and out of the walls. Some of them just look like macaroni with long skinny legs.

Unlike the other animals, bugs aren’t always only in the hallways. I see them in rooms a lot too. The people mostly think of them like pests when they notice them at all, but I think they’re just bugs. The ones in the rooms are smaller than the ones in the hall. You can see them carrying things to their burrows in the walls sometimes.


There’s also people who live in ROT WORLD but they’re not like people here. I think they’re dead like the other things in ROT WORLD are dead. The people are usually in rooms but sometimes I see them walking in the hallways too. People usually notice me but not always. Sometimes they just keep doing whatever they were doing like I’m not even there and nothing I do gets their attention.

The ones who do notice me will talk with me. They don’t always make sense though. Sometimes I wonder if those aren’t really in ROT WORLD yet, or maybe I’m the one who isn’t. Sometimes it’s like when someone tries to talk to you when you’re underwater. You can hear them yelling, but you can’t make out any words. Sometimes you can understand but it still all sounds like nonsense.

The people are like the animals. They look like people that were put together wrong, like someone was told what a person looked like, but they didn’t really understand and had to guess. They have too many eyes or their teeth are too sharp or they don’t even look human but you can tell they’re not an animal either. They’re just people.

There’s a few different types of people:

The Grub Man

The Grub Man is one of the things I think used to be a person but now he’s a big grub in a sunhat. Zuzu thought he was a maggot when he could still see ROT WORLD, but I knew he was a beetle grub because I’ve dug them up outside before and Dad showed me how to tell the difference. The Grub Man is very pale and yellowish-white and looks like beetle grub except for his face. His face is almost human except its really wide and his eyes are sinking in and look like little bubbles on his face and his lips don’t cover his teeth all the way because they’re so long and straight. The Grub Man has a fat segmented body and six hard small arms like an insect, but an extra pair of thin human legs right before his abdomen. Regular beetle grubs curl up under ground with the abdomen in front but the Grub Man lets his drag on the ground behind him and I wonder if it hurts him. He looks very scary but he’s very nice.

The Grub Man wears an old beat-up sunhat and a vest and you can tell he likes them because they are very clean for something in ROT WORLD. I don’t know why he wears a sunhat when I’ve never seen sun in ROT WORLD, but he’s always wearing it. I always find him gardening in a room or one of the hallways. He’s really good at gardening, I think. He’s always working on one when I find him. He doesn’t grow flowers or vegetables, he just grows all different kinds of mushrooms right out of the walls. He pulls wall-worms out so they don’t eat them, and he rubs different slimy stuff into the walls to make them grow better. He says he eats the mushrooms but they don’t look edible to me. He gave me some to eat but instead I put them in a basket in my room. They look normal in the light but they glow faintly in the dark. They’re starting to look dried out but they still glow anyway.

Pete saw the mushrooms once and asked me if I knew what kind they were. Pete is one of Dad’s dates and he is my favorite of all of the ones Dad’s brought home because Pete takes us out for ice cream sometimes and says he likes my stories even when they aren’t that good and he doesn’t just think I’m weird. I told him I didn’t know what they are, and I lied and said I found them by the playground at school because I don’t want him to think I’m weird and go away like some of Dad’s other dates did. He helped me look them up online but we couldn’t find anything like them. But they grow all over ROT WORLD.

The Fishing Lady

I think she’s a lady, anyway. Its hard to tell with some of the hallway people, and Dad says its rude to ask that kind of question. She seems like a nice lady to me, though.

The Fishing Lady is really tall and has grey skin and long black hair that’s all clumped together from slime and algae and ROT WORLD water. It looks really gross but I would never tell her that. I don’t think they have baths in ROT WORLD anyway. I’ve never seen one. Her eyes are very big and solid black. I think they’re weird but pretty anyway. There are just 2 slits for her nostrils, and she can close them up completely. The Fishing Lady doesn’t have a mouth, the skin is just stretched over where it should be, but somehow I can hear her talking to me just fine. Her legs are long but her arms are even longer.

The Fishing Lady wears those rubber fishing waders and a really old and stained shirt underneath. I don’t think she has other clothes. She carries a fishing pole and tacklebox with her, and another bag that smells pretty bad. That’s where she puts the things she catches. I usually find her in the wettest parts of ROT WORLD. Some parts of ROT WORLD are so wet it’s almost like being in a swamp, but it’s still hallways and rooms. Most of these are made of wood and are covered in slime and puddles and things that hang and drip from the ceiling.

One time I followed the Fishing Lady into an old room. It was one of the really big rooms I usually don’t go in, but I thought it would be ok if I was with the Fishing Lady. Inside the room, there was a big pond full of black water. She cast her fishing pole in there and we waited. While we waited for a bite she asked me about my world, which I thought was weird because none of the people in ROT WORLD have ever asked me that before. I told her about Dad and Zuzu and Pete and she looked very sad for a second. But then she smiled (or at least it felt like she was—it’s hard to tell with someone who doesn’t have a mouth) and said it sounded like I have a good family and she’s very happy for me.

Her line got a bite soon after that and she reeled in something that looked like a soggy piece of leather with guts hanging out of it. As soon as the Fishing Lady cut it from the line it fell and twitched and flopped around on the ground with big wet slaps and it smelled horrible. I could see its slit-mouth gasping on one side before the Fishing Lady pulled out some of the guts and it stopped moving. I think she could tell it was making me sick because she quickly threw it in her bag and cleaned off her hands the best she could. She held my shoulder and stroked my hair with her webbed fingers and said it’s ok, I’m not supposed to like things like that since I’m a living thing and living things aren’t supposed to be in ROT WORLD anyway.

The Fishing Lady helped me find my way back home after that and before I left she asked me to tell Dad she thinks he’s a good dad and to tell Zuzu she loves us both and to tell Pete to take care of us. I thought that was weird but I agreed. I told Dad and he hugged me and said “That’s nice, now go wash your hands for dinner”. I told Zuzu but he said he didn’t care what my imaginary friends think. I didn’t tell Pete anything because I don’t want him to think I’m too weird and go away. I think the Fishing Lady’s like Precious Puppy. She’s not my mom now but she wishes she was.

The Burned Man

I don’t like the Burned Man.

He hasn’t done anything to me. Not yet, anyway. But he scares me more than anything in ROT WORLD. Precious Puppy doesn’t like him either. He barks and snarls and growls at the Burned Man whenever he’s near.

The Burned Man is all charred up and crispy looking and his eyes are white and he has no lips but he talks to me. I don’t listen to him if I can help it. When he touches things they start to turn into ash. He talks about how good things burn.

He scares me the most because I didn’t see him in ROT WORLD first. I don’t think he’s part of ROT WORLD actually. I think Precious Puppy started coming to this world to keep me safe from him. The first time I saw him I was 7. Dad was out for the night (he didn’t say it was a date but I know it was a date) and me and Zuzu got left alone. We weren’t supposed to be alone but the babysitter took the money Dad left behind and left as soon as she couldn’t see his car anymore. Dad was really mad and sorry about that, but I think I did ok taking care of Zuzu on my own. I knew Dad said not to touch the stove but I figured out how to microwave leftovers for us for dinner and then we played video games all night until we got too tired.

Later that night after we went to bed, Zuzu came in my room and said he felt scared about being in the house alone without Dad and he asked if he could sleep with me, even though he’s older. I said he could and Precious Puppy moved to the floor so there’d be enough room. Before we could fall back to sleep, though, Precious Puppy started growling at the corner of the room. Zuzu says he doesn’t believe in Precious Puppy anymore, but I think he heard it too because I could feel him hold onto me tighter.

Soon I saw what looked like a big black stain spreading from the corner and the room felt hotter. Precious Puppy sounded angrier than ever and kept growling. That’s when we saw the Burned Man. He grinned at us from the corner of the room, but it wasn’t like he was trying to be nice and happy. It was like we were toys he couldn’t wait to break. He said he’d like to see us burn. He said children burn the best. Precious Puppy charged at him but the Burned Man just touched his back and part of him burned away and Precious Puppy laid down quietly after that. The Burned Man kept grinning at us, then he touched the wall and I could see it turn black there too. Then he stepped back into the stain and disappeared with it.

Zuzu was crying but I had to check on Precious Puppy first. He whined a bit when I touched where the Burned Man touched him, but he seemed ok otherwise. That part of his body never healed no matter what I did.

Zuzu pointed at the wall and asked “What’s that?” and I saw the handprint the Burned Man left behind. I know Zuzu knows the Burned Man is real but he pretends he’s not. I think he just doesn’t want to admit it. He’s scared. We went and stayed in Dad’s bed after that and waited for him to get home, but I don’t think either of us slept the rest of the night. After that night, Zuzu said he was too old for ROT WORLD and wouldn’t talk about it with me anymore.

When Dad saw the handprint on my wall he was really really mad and he wouldn’t believe me about the Burned Man, and Zuzu pretended he didn’t know about it. Dad wanted to be mad at me, I think, but he saw how upset I was, and blamed the babysitter for leaving us all alone instead.

I’ve seen the Burned Man in ROT WORLD a few times now, too. There’s always a bunch of burned places and ash around where he is and it gets hotter the closer you are to him. He keeps talking about burning things. There’s never anything in the halls with him, not even bugs. The people won’t talk about him, and they pretend they didn’t hear me, but I know some of them know what I’m talking about. Precious Puppy growls at him, but now he just backs up behind me instead of charging. I always leave ROT WORLD after I see him.

I don’t know if the Burned Man came from ROT WORLD, or if I let him in there in the first place. He says once Precious Puppy’s gone I won’t be safe anymore.

I told the Fishing Lady about the Burned Man, and she hugged me and told me to ignore him. She told me that he can’t hurt me as long as I ignore him. But it’s hard to ignore someone that scary and bad feeling. I don’t know if I should believe the Fishing Lady, either. I think she’s just saying that because she doesn’t know what to do about him either. I think she believes it, but only because she hopes it’s true.

I’m starting to think Zuzu’s right about forgetting about ROT WORLD, and the Fishing Lady said we’re not supposed to be there anyway. And I don’t want Dad and Pete to break up because of me either. But I’m worried that the Burned Man is my fault and you can’t just ignore things that are your fault.


I guess I should talk about things in ROT WORLD after I go there now because I’ve already written just about everything I already know. Yesterday I went there after school because there wasn’t anything good on TV and Zuzu was a one of his friends’ houses. I wanted to find the Grub Man and ask him more about the mushrooms he gave me since Pete wanted to know more about them but I couldn’t find him. I watched Precious Puppy chase after one of the animals a bit, another one of the gut-balls. It kinda stood up (can guts stand up?) and hissed at him so I told him to leave it alone and he went to go roll around in a puddle. I wonder if gut-balls are like cats here? Goggy used to love chasing after cats when he was alive, too.

Then I realized I was in one of the wet parts of ROT WORLD so I looked for the Fishing Lady. I found her in one of the bigger rooms. This one had another pond in it, but it was smaller than the one I already wrote about and not pitch black, and it had some weird plants growing around it. They were like reeds, but dark purple and red and the top had a big bubble at the top that kind of throbbed and there was a light in them.

The Fishing Lady was swimming in the pond when I got there. I was about to ask her how she swam so well with the fishing waders on, but then I saw them on the ground, so I think she was skinny-dipping because I don’t think they have swim suits in ROT WORLD. She looked really pretty when she was swimming though. Her hair flowed behind her and it didn’t look nearly as gross as it does when she’s out of the water. Dad says my mom liked to swim a lot when she was still alive, and I wonder if she was as good as the Fishing Lady. I bet she was, because Dad says she won a lot of swimming competitions in college. We still have some of her trophies at home.

I watched her swimming for awhile before she finally noticed me. She apologized for not seeing me sooner. She said she was hunting. I asked her why she wasn’t fishing instead, and she said she prefers swimming. It feels more natural to her and if ROT WORLD was connected by rivers and streams she’s probably never get out of the water. I don’t blame her because I’ve never seen her look that happy before. I asked her why she doesn’t always hunt like that, and she said not all of the water in ROT WORLD is safe to swim in, so she has to fish sometimes. I kinda want to go swimming with her someday because I like swimming too, but I remember the last time I fell in water in ROT WORLD I didn’t dry off enough by the time I got home and Dad got mad at me for tracking water everywhere.

I watched her swimming for a little longer but then I had to go home for dinner so I told her bye. She said she loved me and asked me to give Dad and Zuzu hugs for her. I hugged Dad alright but Zuzu said he was told old for me to hug him and I’m gross (but he’s the gross one) so I chased him around the house until Dad said dinner was ready.


Today I didn’t have time go to ROT WORLD. Dad said that Pete is gonna move in with us! So I have to be more careful about it so he doesn’t leave us because of me.

Pete and Dad were looking at the hand print the Burned Man left on my wall because it’s still there. They asked how I did it and I said it wasn’t me, but I didn’t tell them about the Burned Man, even though Dad asked about him. I wish he didn’t because I didn’t want Pete to know about the Burned Man or ROT WORLD. They asked Zuzu, too, but he lied and said he didn’t know anything about it and then hid in his room.

Pete tried painting over it, but it just bled through. Dad told him we’d already tried that, and nothing seems to work so they’re probably gonna have to take out the dry wall. I hope that works because I don’t like looking at it. It’s all burned and warped looking and crispy but it never comes off. It’s the same with where he touched Precious Puppy. That one won’t heal either.

Pete and Dad are going to the hardware store to get some things to fix the house, but they said when they get home we’re all gonna go out to dinner together. I’m going to go check on Zuzu and see if I can get him to agree on a restaurant because he never lets me pick but sometimes I can trick him in to picking the same one as me anyway.

I wonder how Pete’s cat is gonna get along with Precious Puppy?