's 2019 Horror Write-off:

The Other Side

Submitted by Carolinne Sagaz

Marco’s old bedroom looked exactly the same, although he hadn’t stepped foot in there for almost twenty years. It was a little bit dustier than he remembered, of course, especially with his mother being so ill lately, but there they were: the cheap bed and the terrible mattress, the empty dresser, and a few yellowish books that he had left behind on the shelves. It was a cramped, dingy space, which didn’t evoque him good recollections. Even so, the nostalgia one feels when goes back home was there, mixed with a deep desire of going away never to return. 

He was staring at the window, paying attention at the spots of mold on the curtains when the door slammed behind him. Lilly had entered the room and was giggling at her brother’s terrified face. 

“I can’t believe you’re still afraid of the closed door.”

“The sound scared me, that’s all,” he explained, a little hurt because of her mocking tone.

The truth is that he was still afraid; just like if he was seven again and had woken up a moment ago from a nightmare he couldn’t recall, soaked in sweat, staring at that bright neon green goo running down the wall immediately behind the door. 

“There’s someone inside the wall, mom,” he would cry. “There’s someone stuck into the gook.”

“What gook, Marco? There’s nothing there,” she used to say while following his finger to where it was point at. “Just go back to sleep.”

Eulalia was not the warmest of the mothers and never managed to calm her son down. There was a part of her that thought he was just trying to call for attention. After her oldest had died, the grief made her a little colder and she grew distant from the other two kids. Apparently, all that situation was being harder on Marco.

Lilly couldn’t be very empathetic with him either. Even then she was already so rational and self sufficient. It was hard for her to comprehend what he was going through. She tried, though. 

“It’s just a nightmare. Sometimes they stick longer, so when we wake up, we still see some things.”

“But it looks so real.”

“Even so, it can’t hurt you.”

Marco thought those words were empty. He could tell, like all children, when grown ups or older siblings didn’t believe him. So, every night, after the house had fallen asleep, he would get off the bed and open the door as wide as possible. But, every night, when he woke up from the bad dreams, it was closed again. It was impossible to tell how: if it was his mother who used to do that while he was unconscious or if it was someone — or something else. 

Eventually, Marco aged a little and started to consider the goo like a harmless part of his frequent nightmares too. By the time he was a teenager, his bad dreams didn’t bother him that much anymore and he would be able to simply go back to sleep after they happened, being careful not to look at the wall behind the door. Soon, his sister and him were out of the house, living as far from their mother (and the resentment for her) as they could and the nighttime occurrences stopped. But now Eulali was dead, just like their brother, and the two of them had to face the house and the shabby furniture one last time. 

“Philip was actually lucky,” Marco had told Lilly when they arrived there after the funeral. “He didn’t have to live here for long”. 

When Lilly scared Marco, they had already packed the important things they wanted or needed to keep like some documents and the few family pictures they had left (most of them showing Philip with his happy face full of freckles). Next, they just had to fill the boxes with the objects that would be donated and they could be out of there for good.

“I’m going to get rid of the stuffed animals in my bedroom,” Lilly announced. “You’re not going to cry if I leave you alone, right?”

“I’ll be fine,” he replied, again upset with her inflection.

Marco was finishing packing the old books, sitting on the floor, in the room lit by the pale light of the sunset, when the door slammed shut violently, making him shiver.

“Very funny, Lilly,” he yelled.

He got up and reached the door, but it was locked. His breath instantly become more difficult and the room got darker, as if the twilight was ending faster than normal. 

“Lilly,” he called, with a high pitch of fear.

No response.

“Como’n, Lilly. That’s not funny,” he insisted, now punching the door.

Instead of hearing his sister either laughing or coming to his help, Marco’s ears captured a squeaky sound. In the fading sunlight, he could see the shadow of a rat running through the bedroom. The place was not even lit enough for him to tell what color the animal was, but then a flash illuminated all around, making the rat’s eyes glow and its fur irradiate a green shade. Marco didn’t need to turn his head to acknowledge that the greenish light was coming from the goo behind the door, right next to where he was.

Marco just stood against the door, observing the radioactive looking rat getting closer. The animal stopped in front of him while he felt something sticky running down his fingers. As if it understood what was happening, the rat screeched at Marco’s face at the same time he restrained a scream. The neon substance was now dripping, leaving coin size green stains on the floor. 

The rat seemed suddenly curious and approached the goo that was soaking the carpet. Marco saw when the small creature touched its nose on the fluid and simply disappeared. Shaken, he turned to the wall, to the spot where the goo was infiltrating through the concrete and put one of his hands on it. His body was abruptly vacuumed and landed on the floor, covered in green ooze. He could tell that was the other side, because all of his furniture were there, on the opposite side of the room. When Marco stood up on his wobbling legs, with the rat passing by him, he realised he didn’t have one of his shoes on. 

“I was waiting for you,” said a kid’s voice near him.

Marco looked at the boy who had just arrived. The face was familiar, although he hadn’t seen it in so long. It was not difficult to recognize the freckles and the gentle face. Philip was staring at him from the hallway, by the door that was now open. 

“Am I dead?” Marco asked.

“No, just trapped”.

“How do I get out?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be here to tell you,” said Philip, in a curiously calm voice. “Come, I want to show you something.”

Philip reached out for his hand and Marco wanted to get closer and tell his brother how much he was missed. But an intense feeling of imminent danger kept him from moving.

“Is it safe for me to leave the room?”

“Of course.”

Hesitating, Marco walked to his brother and touched his hand. Cold invaded his limbs and he felt weak. His sight got faded and his hearing less accurate. It was like the perception of the real world was now more distant. Even so, he couldn’t let go of Philip’s hand and the kid made him walk a few steps away from the bedroom.

They got to the living room, and the vision Marco had made him lose his breath. In the center of the room, there was a coffin. Their mother was lying there, wearing the same clothes she was put on earlier that morning. Except now she was looking different, not as peaceful as the people from the funeral home had made her. Her body was decrepit. 

“I know you’re mad at her” Philip started, in an absolutely casual tone. “But we can all be together now. Isn’t that great? The whole family.”

“What about Lilly?” Marco inquired, both concerned and relieved that she was not there.

“We can go for her. But she’s difficult. She wouldn’t easily believe like you and mom.”

“I have to go back.” Marco said a little incongruously, like he had suddenly remembered the real world and realised how absurd was that conversation.

“But you can’t”, Philip shouted, for the first time sounding upset.

Marco tried to get rid of his brother, but the boy, with surprisingly strength, wouldn’t let go of his hand. They fought a bit, while their mother slowly got up from her coffin. She started walking wobbly like a zombie in the boys direction. Marco felt a wave of nausea invaded him as her dead body approached. The second he thought the corpse was about to touch him, she saw the rat passing by and grabbed it. Marco was finally able to set himself free from Philip and started running back toward the bedroom. However, he was not fast enough to avoid seeing his dead mother putting the entire alive rat in her mouth. The sound of the animal squeaking and being crunched filled the air dreadfully. 

He ran as fast as possible, with his undead mother and brother chasing him closely. He had no idea how to escape, and, just when Philip was about to catch him by his shirt, a hand covered in green goo showed up through the wall behind the door, from the real side of the world. Marco jumped forward and grabbed the hand. One second later, he was back to his normal bedroom, holding on Lilly. She was gazing astonished at him and the single male shoe she was carrying. 

Lilly and Marco ran out of the house without a word. She didn’t ask and he didn’t mention anything that had happened in the other side. It was already a great deal of confusion for her to acknowledge the existence of the ooze and the passage through the wall, not mentioning undead relatives.

Marco got home feeling disoriented. Still covered in green sticky fluid, he undressed in his bedroom and left the dirty clothes on the floor. While he was showering, a small portion of the goo ran down his shirt and slither over the carpet to the wall. A greyish hand slipped through the ooze and threw a handful of tiny rat bones into the room.