's 2020 Horror Write-off:

Night of the Living Ads

Submitted by Centipedal

I really, really hate cigarettes. Ever since I was a kid, the smell would worm its way into my nose and I’d spend the next week coughing, if I was lucky. If I wasn’t, I’d end up in the hospital. The respiratory illnesses didn’t help. And when both my parents died of tobacco-induced lung cancer, I decided that I wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

That’s why it pissed me off that my boss bought some for our office party. It was a celebration of an achievement MY department had made. So of course he had to go and buy the one thing I can’t handle. I couldn’t decide if he was a jackass or just ignorant. I was leaning towards jackass, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Anyways, there I was at my party, eating my little salad in the bathroom because I couldn’t even smell what they were having without dry heaving a little. Jesus, some of the scent was still leaking through the door. Well, that was the other reason I was in here. In case I needed to hurl. Thinking about my boss, I leaned a little more towards jackass. Halfway through my lettuce-dominant meal, a man walked into the urinal right next to my stall.

The moment he unzipped, he started talking. “Did the smoke get you, pal?” His voice was smooth and vaguely accented, like a greaser from an old movie. I could’ve sworn I had heard it before.

“In a way, I guess.” I replied.

“Oh, I know. Once I get smoking, I end up having to piss like a racehorse!” He let out a little chuckle and then zipped back up. Ugh.

“That’s… great. Listen, I’m trying to eat in here so…” I trailed off, unsure if it was okay to force people out of the bathroom because I needed to eat. Well, I didn’t get anywhere by being nice.

“Oh, do you not like it, buddy? Is that little piece of God’s heaven too much for you to handle? That’s so sad. I really hope you come around someday. It’s no good to be a loser.” He finished washing his hands.

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

“Y’know what? Take some. Good luck, friend.” He kicked something towards me, then left. It hit my feet. Ugh, a full pack. That dude was a freak.

I finished eating and then left the bathroom. The office was still hazy, but it looked like everyone had finished up, at least. I suffered through the rest of my day, doing stupid paperwork, and then I went home. I watched a little television, ate dinner, looked at my bills, and then watched some more television.

It was almost eleven when I heard the knock on the door. I opened it and a man walked through the door. He had thick black hair styled into a pompadour, a pair of denim jeans, and an absolutely beautiful leather jacket. He was also wearing a pair of aviators- indoors? Really?

Heywaitasecond this guy just walked into my house! What the hell, man? I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him towards me. “Hey asshole! What are you doing?”

He beamed at me with perfect white teeth. “Aw c’mon, you’re really gonna treat an old friend like that?” His voice- it was the guy from the bathroom. That’s just great.

“You are not an old friend! I barely know you!”

“Whaddaya mean? It’s Nick! You kept a piece of me with you all day today!” He gestured towards the- pack of cigarettes on the table? How did that happen?

“Okay dude, you need to get out of here. Like now.”

“Hey, no kicking people out. Don’t ya know it’s rude?”

Okay, I’m clearly not going to get him out of here. At least, not on my own. The phone’s over by the TV. Just gotta dial in 911 and this will be solved… I nonchalantly walked over, and was suddenly transfixed.

Nick was on it. The TV. He was smoking a cigarette, laughing and smiling and getting tons of girls. He was wearing the exact same clothes too. The commercial ended with a voice talking about side effects and a brand name over a pack of cigarettes.

“Get smokin.’” Nick said behind me.

“Hey, are you an actor?” I asked him.

“Nope. Never gotten a paycheck for it, at least.”

“So then why-” I turned and stopped. There was a cigarette in his outstretched hand, scentless smoke rising up to my nose. “I don’t smoke,” I said, coughing a little.

“C’mon man, just try one. If it makes me like this, think of what you’ll be like! You’ll be so cool.”

“No. Now get out of my house before I call the police.”

He started walking in a small circle around me. “Oh come on. You know you’d never do that to an old friend. Besides, I can get you places. How much happier would your boss be if you just hung around and, y’know, smoked a pack with him every once in a while? How much happier would you be? We both know how much your parents loved me and I can see that this apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What’s the point in dying at eighty if you never truly lived? The smoke lasts forever. The cancer is temp-”

“Shut up! Just shut the fuck up! Leave my house now, or I’ll make you!”

Nick’s perpetual smile became harder. “Alright then. I guess I’ll just have to do this the hard way.” And that was when things went wrong.

His clothes- except for the jacket and aviators- went up in flames, skin blackening with cigar burns. Oozing pores formed across his entire body like a burn victim, leaking some kind of viscous slime. His legs fused together like a fish’s tail and he fell onto his elongating arms. His teeth were a deep yellow, almost black, and there were quite a few missing. His mouth was stuffed with lit cigarettes to the point his jaw looked broken. More sprouted along his back, like two external spines. I couldn’t see behind the aviators, but a wet goo dripped from them. Smoke rose from all over his burnt body, and he rose up to my height, still leaning on his hands. One pulled up to fix his still-immaculate hair. He unhinged his mouth and the cigarettes formed something like a two-foot proboscis or beak, like a conical pyramid ending in a burning point. Its lips puckered around it, like a sphincter pushed to the limit. Smoke leaked out of the beak, filling the room. The fumes spoke to me, and I screamed.

It had only been a few months since the office party and there was cause for a new one. I was sitting with my group in the smoke-filled office, chatting with them until my boss meandered over through the haze. He struck up a conversation, but I spaced out until he said my name.

“Hmm? What?”

“You, uh, you’ve really been going through those. I’m not sure I even bought that many.”

“Well, you know me-” I paused and let out a wet, hacking cough, “-I really, really love cigarettes.”