's 2018 Horror Write-off:

The Stalked

Submitted by Ellen "Space Lizard" Edwards (email)

They found bodies outside the walls. Their flesh melted. More people complaining of strange, itchy bites. Wanting them. Leaving to join the swarm outside. They don't even move in secret anymore.

The world is ending. Their world is beginning. When the last human draws their last goddamn breath, know that FreeSpeechBoards - "uncensored! unmoderated! unfiltered" - is why. Remember that a fucking image board ruined the world.

We found him like we found all the objects of our collective mockery. Another freak to turn into a source of drama, a source for Wikis cataloging his every move, another dweeb ignorant of his own infamy. His called himself TI_Truth_91, and he thought someone was targeting him for constant harassment. Who was targeting him? Who wasn't?

His videos followed a pattern: blow some personal gripe into a vast conspiracy. Lose your job? That's their work. Get a ticket? Them. Neighbors too loud? Them. Stub your toe? Illumin-fucking-nati.

His most popular vid showed him rooting around a neighbor's yard, yelling about some loud noise they were making. The only problem was none of us could hear anything. We even used programs to analyze the sound, and we found nothing. We laughed at him.

Mocked him.

I wish we had warned him.

Over time, his videos turned more extreme. He shut himself inside - not that he was ever a social butterfly, but he went full Salinger (piss bottles thankfully unconfirmed). He closed his blinds and never opened them again. And he started to give the grand, all-consuming "they" a name: feminists, SJWs, pretty much everyone else. The usual suspects.

Honestly, most people stopped caring then. Before, he'd been almost charming in his stupidity. Now, he was just another shut-in. Dime-a-dozen; hell, that described everyone mocking him, too. A little too close to home. At least before we could think: hey, we're bad, but we aren't as bad as him.

Those who kept watching couldn't understand what we saw next. We tossed around explanations - an ARG? A prank? Some horror series?

None of us thought it was real. Anyone who ditched the ironic facade was mocked even worse than he was. Don't care. Don't feel. Don't ever feel.

First he complained about a bug bite. Every single video, he whined about an itchy bite. He itched it, moaned about it, said it wasn't going away. Said it was sent by the UN, or the Freemasons, or a chemtrail drone. Eventually he settled on it being a tracking device, planted by everyone and no one.

But then he began to change. At first he seemed a bit hairier than before; but even with his shitty webcam and phone, we knew this hair wasn't normal hair. It was tough. Toughening, and growing together in thick patches. Turning into something else. More like little spurs than hairs.

That was when he became a shut-in. It was too damn dark to make out anything. Four months after the shut-in phase started, he made his first new vids outside. Some joked about TI_Truth_91 becoming homeless. Others were just fascinated.

He only went out at night, and he avoided people. When strangers did intrude on his walks, they only stared and ran. He mumbled his conspiracy theories to himself - every rando on the street at 3 AM is on the payroll of They, apparently - and ran.

But he never showed us his face.

You may have seen his next vid. It burst through our little Wiki cult and made it onto all the shock sites. Even his most ardent followers never expected to see him devour a raw roadkill rabbit on-camera. Ten excruciating minutes.

And no one could explain why his bite marks sizzled, and why they singed and melted the rabbit's flesh.

TI_Truth_91 went back to stalking the streets, scaring strangers and ranting to no one. But his voice started to change. It became harsher, like something crawled down his throat and died. It was so hard to make out what he said that some of us started to make subtitles. We were obsessive in our documentation, right til the end.

But we never told anyone who could have stopped him.

He became angrier and angrier. He moved from his shitty little apartment to an old warehouse, and he started to upload daily. Not just daily, but often hourly. Frenzied multi-day blitzkriegs of content. In some, he ranted. In some, he cursed whoever "made him like this". And in some, he named targets.

We only saw his face once. He always avoided reflections: almost every mirror and window in his apartment, and later the warehouse, was covered or broken. All except one.

The vid wasn't given a title - by then, none of them were. It was just IMG_71694.AVI, and it was the first time we saw TI_Truth_91, and the next-to-last video he ever made.

He was pointing out the window to claim passing men, women and literal children were part of the New World Order out to destroy him. So far, so normal. But he caught a glimpse of himself in the glass. And so did we. It's burnt into my mind.

He had one normal, human eye, and one hideously bulged out. It was shattered into a dozen different frames, each with its own chunk of pupil, but almost human. His face was half-covered in these hard plates that looked like the patches of hair sent into overdrive. In places they pushed out over his skin, but in others fragments of skin and pulsing veins ran right over them. The veins were drawn taut, like the plates were still pushing at them, like they were under pressure, still desperately pumping blood but ready to burst at any moment.

But what really burnt into my mind was the teeth. His mouth was open: wide-open and slackjawed, and ringed with tiny, sharp teeth. But they hadn't replaced his human teeth. Every now and then, one of his old, normal teeth jutted out from the rows of tiny, sharp, piercing teeth. Some were jagged and chipped, and others had the new teeth growing half-formed right on top of them. Through them. But some were perfectly normal - little relics of humanity tossed in with whatever he was now.

He screamed, and a gob of acid shot out of his mouth. It burnt the glass - when the video cut to black, smoke was rising from an already-forming hole. End video.

We screencapped it. Used it as a jumpscare. Debated if it was makeup. Did anything but fear it.

His last vid was a rant. Forty minutes, all him naming his enemies. Politicians, "mean" locals, everyone who insulted him online. Guess he found us eventually. He was so angry we could hardly understand a word. The camera  was in his hand, lurching nauseously around as he ranted.

Then uploads stopped. When a month passed, we figured he'd finally frozen to death. Or maybe it was all some stupid art project and he'd gotten bored. Moved on. And so did we.

I don't remember who found the first story. But when they did, we all knew what it meant.

The people he ranted against online started to turn up dead. Acid attacks, the cops called them. They suspected a terrorist. We knew better. And when the cops showed up in time to see acid getting spat all over the Mayor's face, they knew too. They knew a predator was at work.

And finally, we did too.

Why didn't we tell anyone? Why did we sit by and laugh as a man become a monster before our eyes?

The attacks only increased. They got bolder. More started to appear. We thought they were tricked, or victims, bitten like he was. But no. They weren't tricked. They wanted to join him.

European Parliament, melted into goo. A college campus torn apart by crowd of monsters joining one man's petty vengeance. Serial killings on the streets of New York, Chicago, a dozen other cities - whole families murdered in one fell swoop. Tiny fiefdoms popping up around the world, where the creatures rule over humans, killing any who break their arbitrary rules. Eventually, after millions of atrocities large and small, the cities became theirs. The world became theirs. And we were pushed back.

I'm in one of the last strongholds. But yesterday, the bite came to me. I can already feel myself changing. I'm starting to see the world in pieces. This computer screen is in seven fragments. It gives me a headache to process it all.

I wish I had done something when I had the chance. I wish I had stopped him before he came to burn the world. They will only grow in number. They will only grow, and all of us will die or join them.

And it is because of us who did nothing.