's 2020 Horror Write-off:

Lumps and Strings

Submitted by Anomalous Anomaly

I met an old and dusty writer, sitting at an old and dusty desk. His tone was the tone of a man waiting for this moment. Every muscle of his tensed with anticipation, while his small and suffering chair creaked in silence.

“Everything I put to the page,” he said, “is a mutation of my experience. The characters are concepts of mind, and in that way they achieve a measure of sentience. They are their own, and yet I own them.”

I thought to myself that this man, this old and dusty man, was broken; unfixable. His illegible scrawl choked every corner of this forgotten room. I touched these sigils with my hand to feel the stories untold, but there was no substance or strength to these words. And as I turned back to him I realized there was nothing he had written, no single mark of word or image that mattered, no ownership worth owning. These thoughts bubbled up in me as if not my own. And perhaps they were.


The street across town was one I had never seen, but stories abound, and I was one to look for them. They were waiting in crumpled newspapers and soaked tabloids and defunct radio stations, for the eye that saw or the hand that turned. I listened to them speak of this street, the one I had never seen. And I would grow fearful and alive.

My town and my life was always a stagnant stature; a choking smog of lies and webs. But underneath its surface was a darker luminance that threatened to overwhelm. My friends fancied themselves unique, like none had been before. And yet for their brazen steps, they would wander wayward and be gone. I was different because I was shrewd. I knew what could not be done.


In my bed I would often lie in wait, facing the dull ceiling. I would watch the flicker of the fluorescent lights and divulge their patterns. And for one night, one night only, I dreamed they were blackened things; expired and inert, dangling from my ceiling like old and rotten teeth. When I awoke, my eyes would soothe the dark shapes from my mind. They cooed and gibbered away the teeth, the gummy surface of the ceiling. Told me the world was as it claimed itself to be. I trusted them then. Before the lies. The writer and the signs.


When next I returned he was gone; his desk a barren, fruitless slab. In his place sat a wholly different creature: one of lumps and strings and worming protrusions. It did not see me, not as one human would see another, and I came to know its nature. This creature felt no pain, no thoughts of hesitation or queries of reformation. It felt nothing like that. And as I stared into its various holes I knew it could never be owned; was not anyone’s character or experience to claim.

Yet as I came to these conclusions, I realized there were greater secrets. Beyond this hungry creature were ones I would never know, in worlds I would never conceive. They would never be mine to control. But I could be theirs. All too easily, I could be theirs.


As a child is born, their first actions are a desperate, inchoate screaming of the mind. They do not yell with purpose; there is no signal to another, no plan to convey their feelings. There are only reactions to what they have seen, and what they cannot understand. They do not hide themselves to the world, and it has not hid itself from them. As children grow their minds will heal in crooked, twisting ways, but the scarring will always, always remain. It is why we are taught to fear the street across town, and why I fear the creature across the dusty, dirty room.

There are no endings to a child’s story. The brain does not heal its torn state. It is never freed from the confines of its creation. There is only a single moment of clarity, as one’s breath leaves their lungs, and their eyes turn glazed with realization, before the world opens its yawning maw, and they tumble down its recesses.


I received a poem once from a daughter of a neighbor. She held it up with a turn of the foot and a downcast expression I first confused for coy embarrassment. In her poem a woman spoke to a strange little character, a thin stick figure of flames. I found this poem of hers very peculiar and drole, and wished to tell her such. But I was stopped by the fear in her eyes, and the liminal thoughts swimming past them. I knew then this strange little character was not a character, and she did not own it.

I am not one to mince words, and I told her I was sorry for the things that had happened; for the things that would soon happen. Someday perhaps I will see her again, waving from the window of a monster’s story.


I saw a distortion of form near a corner of an alley. It was a guise worn to dispel pleasantries, those of greetings or shouts or screams. I asked why it was here, and it told me it wished to see the eyes of this world. The eyes of birds, of mammals, of tiny scurrying things living transient surface lives. It wished to see the intelligence, the predatory natures, the selfish, affectionless gazes of cold camera lenses. And though it was not an evil creature, it wished to see its quarry succumb: to witness the look of eyes that failed their master. To see such things, it told me, was a gift unlike no other.

I suspected this distortion felt it imparted some manner of wisdom to me. But it's advice was useless in its entirety. My monster did not have these emotions; it did not play by those rules. There were no eyes on its frame, and none who willingly served it. ---

All plays must have an ending, and I knew when mine had come. I felt it one cool summer day, when the sun stood still and silent in the sky. A gentle tugging of sorts; a chemical reaction reaching its climax. The walls in the corners of my vision drew nearer, exponentially faster, exponentially hungrier. And when the dull planes filled my world, I watched for the perpetrator.

But I did not see a blackened void, nor a convergence of light. There was only one entity waiting, with its lumps and strings and flowing teeth. It was all it could be and no more; one of many anomalies prowling the faded spaces of our world. But for me, it would be everything.

I was its character. No more.