's 2019 Horror Write-off:

Deadly Memes

Submitted by Anonymous Anomaly

“He’s here.”

The men tried to shush her, but it wouldn’t work.

“He’s here, he’s here, he’s here,” she repeated in frenzied terror. “He’s he-”

As suddenly as she started, she stopped and slumped over. The man they nicknamed “Brick” bent down and put his fingers to her wrist. The slight nod was all they needed to see.

The rail thin man they called “Cutter” swore under his breath. This was bad. This was very bad. He had no illusions that the situation was a coincidence. Someone or something had orchestrated this. Something had wanted to show one dying human to a group.

“Search the room. Search the house. Search everything.” Cutter glanced at different squadrons of men as he spoke and they moved as a single force. Cutter himself strode through the front door, weapon at the ready. The woman’s house had relatively simple furnishings. An austere table took up most of the kitchen. A wilted flower leaned against some drapery. A tilted picture of a man with a gun hung from the ceiling.

Well that’s odd, Cutter thought.

The man in the frame wasn’t anyone he recognized, but even he knew a deep fried meme when he saw it. The person’s eyes were like miniature suns, and his low-quality grimace unmistakable as he pointed a gun directly at the viewer. Cutter had seen his fair share of similar clones from his children. He could almost imagine the superimposed “delet this” pasted at the bottom. The picture had a little signature, but its scrawl was hard to read. Cutter moved as close as he would allow himself to, and saw that the signature said “Dr. Kill.”

A wave of something approaching trepidation passed through him. He never cared much for memes, or really any sort of joke. His world revolved primarily around what he could understand, the orders he could give, and the people who would follow them. But something about this seemed very important. Important and impossibly elusive. Cutter imagined he would die without ever know the significance, and was suddenly concerned with his own mortality.

“Boss, you should see this,” came a call from another room. He didn’t miss a beat. That wasn’t the kind of man he was.

One of the men gesticulated in the direction of a laptop. “Still running. The battery’s only at 98%. Reckon she was using it not 5 minutes ago.” The screen was open to a social media application he recognized, but he didn’t even bother. It was only more memes, more jokes he wouldn’t understand. Something about the situation nagged him, but it always did. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

“The last text she recieved was this one, right here.” He gesticulated to a smiling emoji in a cowboy hat. “Looks like a server of sorts. It’s only been about four minutes.” Pride was evident in the man’s voice. He was clearly pleased to have been so accurate with his initial prediction. And yet there was something very off.

“Mortar, did you always have a Texan accent?”

The man looked up from the screen, and for a moment something bright yellow flashed across his corneas. “Why, I don’t rightly know what you mean, p-p-p-par-p-”

Mortar never finished his sentence.

Cutter watched in horror as the man he used to know changed rapidly. A series of small pops filled the air, a grisly parody of popping kernels, and Cutter intrinsically knew the sound was thousands of crackling bones. Mortar’s face became something mushy, then restructured into something abhorrently rounded. His skin broke out in writhing nodules and wavered before settling down as a smooth, bright yellow sheen. For a moment his body stood, hesitantly twitching, before it dropped to the floor. Cutter saw only a rounded stump where the end of a severed neck should have been.

As the other men gasped in horror, the rounded face’s features contorted into a crude smile and a foul brown mound grew like twisted hair, assembling into some sort of hat. Something nagged at the end of Cutter’s mind, racing forward to hurl itself to the spotlight.

“Yeeeehawww, pardners,” the floating face boomed, and he knew at once what it was.

Brick was already in action, raising his rifle and firing several shots. All of them hit, but the face only smiled. There was a wet slurp and a spinal column materialized 5 feet above Brick, His eyes glanced up at it almost wonderingly, before his legs gave out and he pitched backwards into a twisted curved shape. He never made a sound.

Another of his men-Steel-sprung forward, baring his fists. “Whoo wee, lil’ critter,” the creature responded, and reality bent before Cutter’s eyes. When he blinked away the spots. Steel was halfway buried in the austere kitchen table, blood welling from his mouth and his bisected midsection.

After that, the rest of Cutter’s men fled. One dove for the door, but the ceiling extended downwards, crushing him into paste. Another tried to break through a window, but the shards reassembled themselves before he made it all the way through. It was not a quick death.

Cutter watched the events with mounting horror. His stomach churned and he fought against the rising bile in his throat. “Who are you?” He tried to project authority into his voice, but he knew it was meaningless. “What do you want?”

The face merely cocked its head to the side, but the movement was somehow aggressive in itself. “Names Cotton Eye Joe, mister. This town here ain’t big enough fer the all of us.” With no distractions, Cutter realized the creature’s voice was normal, jovial even, but he felt no such thing from its aura. Cotton Eye Joe was not angry, nor was he insane. He was evil. He was simply pure evil.

“I hurt people, parrrdner,” Cotton Eye Joe continued, floating closer. “Y’all got yerself a couple of fellers doin’ all sorts of things that fellers do, but I don’t interest myself with none of that, y’hear?” The room seemed to expand slightly to make way for Cotton Eye Joe, as if solids didn’t want to touch him. “I hurt ‘em good and plenty mister. Yessiree.”

Cutter’s next step was cut short as his leg exploded in a mass of blood. He toppled to the side, reaching for his weapon, but his hand had fused to the ground. There was pressure on his chest, but for some reason when he tried to look, he found he couldn’t.

“Wherever you came from mister, wherever y’all go, ya just can’t run, y’hear? Yer just too slow.” Its words spread like waves through every surface.

“Where did you come from? Where did ya go?” He heard it repeat, but was less aware of it this time. Parts of him seemed to no longer work right, but he was past the point of being concerned.

“Ya just can’t hide from Cotton Eye Joe,” it finished.

Cutter’s remains sank into the floor.