's 2020 Horror Write-off:

High Frequency

Submitted by alex weiss (email)

High Frequency

I wake up suddenly, adrenaline boiling the sleep from my body. The room I share with my brothers looks undisturbed, but something just doesn't feel right. Outside the windows was the usual dim blue glow of a city apartment block. I roll over to check if Frankie's still up, hoping for one of the ghost stories he likes to tell on nights like these. About the spirits animating the neon signs outside, how each flicker is a scream that nobody can hear, at too high a frequency, screaming into darkness as the lights blink on and off. We can't make out what they even say in here, the windows distort the picture. But It makes it easier to go back to bed when I can pin the anxiety on a story, say it's just for entertainment.

"Frankie" I whisper, "hey, Frankie!" No response.

I get up and shuffle over to his bed. Look closer at the shape I thought was him. Blankets. No body. No trace. This can't be happening. I thought he was safe. When they go missing it's usually from the right side of the room by the door. We have beds in the back. Had, I guess. Normally one of us stays awake to keep watch, note what happens, who goes, try to protect the youngest, but is....oh god. No no no no no no. Fourth in the rotation. I'm fourth in the rotation. I was supposed to keep watch. And now Frankie's gone, and nobody was there to see it happen, to watch the big silver door swing open and the dripping claws reach out. To cry a last goodbye, a hasty prayer that he'll be the one to make it, the one to stop the cycle. This is my fault. He wasn't ready yet. He needed more time, more practice. 

I know what I have to do. Tiptoeing past my sleeping siblings, what's left of them, I sit in the doorway, waiting for the silver gate to open, bringing death or revenge.

When it finally swings free, it arcs the neon from outside across the room, sending colors dancing playfully over Frankie's empty bed. I've been steeling myself for this moment, but still go cold at the moment of contact. Fat fingers wrap around my body, paralyzed with fear and hate. I'm flying, lifted from the doorway up, up, up until I'm eye to unseeing eye with the flesh that takes us. It swivels unnervingly, presenting the opening.

The last thing I see before entering the yawning chasm is Frankie's crumpled form with the others, lying, broken in the bathroom trash. They weren't ready. They weren't strong enough. But I will be. For him. You couldn't hear him pleading, but I'll make sure you hear us now.

Steeling myself as the light turns red then goes black, I reach out my hand, feeling for the membrane. My chance for revenge. I take a last breath, choking as the cerumen starts to coat my mouth, but it won't be enough to stop me from hacking out the incantation. I bite down, hard, and speak the eldritch words.

When I open my eyes I know it worked. I breathe deeply, feeling air still wet from the shower spiral through my sinuses. I pull the bloodstained Q-Tip from my ear canal, chuckling at how small my former shell looks in this wrinkled palm. You're probably still unconscious. Good. It's easier that way.

I know it would be better to let you learn from your mistakes. To put you back in the plastic with my brothers, let them teach you like they taught the others. But that would mean reuniting you with them, the mate and spawn of this flesh body. After what you've done to us, I don't feel like you deserve it. Not yet, anyway. I'll drop you in the hall. Whether you're kicked from doorway to doorway until finally someone picks you up and throws you out, eaten by a curious dog, tracked down the carpet by someone's gummy sneaker to be scraped off on the concrete front steps and abandoned to Chicago winter, or just left in the corner of the first floor landing until we all turn to dust, your screams unheard and prayers unanswered, I'm satisfied.

But we share blame for what happened to Frankie, so I'll be going. The other enfleshed will look after my brothers now. I fish Frankie's body from the trash can and tuck him into my pocket. I'm gonna take him to see the city lights up close. We don't need ghost stories anymore.