The Quiet Thing That No One Ever Knows

This was my first attempt at horror. I wanted a sense of lull in the first half, with a quick and furious frenzied pace to finish it up. A feeling of finality, viciousness is what I was going for in the ending. – Ramon

 


 

The wind is whipping through his hair, the all black sunglasses casting a pall over the scenery. To his right a sheer cliff ending in sprays of ocean covered rock. The seagulls and their seemingly endless annoying squawking a constant. His red ’67 Mustang cruising down the historic California coast, the Ramones playing “California Sun” cheerily away on the radio. It may not be much, but at least the sun’s out.  He chances a look out at the ocean view, hears tires squealing and quickly turns back to the road. He slams on the brakes, causing the red classic to begin fishtailing to the right as his momentum keeps propelling him violently forward into the truck in front of him. He throws up his arms in a futile attempt to shield himself from the imminent and inevitable wreck that’s about to happen.

That’s odd, thinks Steven. Why do I hear rain? The beautiful blue California sky immediately washes away with the dreary patter of the still dark Pacific Northwest night. Or early morning? He tries to blink his eyes open, testing to see if he’s really going to wake up with the dark still out and what time is it anyway? His eyeballs are burning, almost glued shut. That’s when he notices the wet around his neck and arms. Another wonderfully vivid dream turned nightmare turned sour sweat soaked up by the expensive bed he just had to have. Concluding he probably just needs some water; he forces himself up off the bed and angrily tosses the blanket off him. His shirt is soaked from night sweats, his head is dizzy and full of mucus. Man, not sick again he thinks to himself with an inwards groan.

He gets up from his bed, pulling his shirt off, the wet cloth clinging desperately to his skin. The task nearly impossible in his half-asleep state. He finally gets the red shirt in the fingertips of his right hand and with his left pulls and yanks and shimmies. After a few seconds of scattered thinking, grabs his phone with his left. “But I won’t look at the damn thing,” he says aloud. Steven walks to the bathroom, dumping the disgusting, sopping wet shirt into the tub on his way to the fridge for water. He finds the cup he used only, peering down at his phone through half lidded eyes, THREE HOURS AGO, “Seriously?!?” He exclaims to the dark and silent apartment. Do I really have to be awake at 4:31 in the frickin morning? The furniture, unmoving, responds with silence. Sipping his water, he slams the fridge door a little too hard. Good, that’s what it gets for waking me up he thinks idly to himself.

Eyes fully open yet still burning away, he walks back into his bedroom and pulls a shirt from his dresser. He gropes around in the darkness, having forgotten to turn on a lamp and maybe, just maybe I can go back to sleep he thinks to himself as he pulls on the white shirted prize he’s just fished out of the perverted insomnia’s version of the crane game. Starring yours truly Steven Massey. Go me. He stands in front of the high rectangular window of his bedroom, slightly opening the slats with the fingers of his left hand, sipping cold water from the cup in his right, and peers out into the rainy world below.

Hazy rain is pouring down, casting a thinly sheened veil across the landscape, assisting the dark in obscuring the contents of the world outside. There’s a man walking away from his building on the road below; to the north, he notices. The man has a grey hoodie, blue jeans, what appears to be boots, and gloves on. Nothing peculiar in the wet and cold climate, his business-like strides affording him the benefit of moving quickly through the rain pouring down onto him. He’s walking in the middle of the street instead of the sidewalk.  “How odd,” Steven whispers to himself out loud while turning back towards his bed, letting the slats fall away from his hands. He gets back into bed, pulling the blanket back over him, desperately wanting a few more hours’ sleep before his 7:30 alarm goes off.

The man below immediately stops, standing still in the streetlamp’s orange light, the rain long ago having soaked into the grey hoodie. The man’s feet are planted firmly shoulder width. He slowly starts to turn at the waist towards Steven’s apartment; his shoulders moving first, his head following suit. The hood is pulled completely over his head, the light casting an empty black shadow over his face. His breath is pluming outwards with each exhale as he stares, standing unnaturally still at Steven’s bedroom window. Unknown to him, Steven quickly falls back asleep. The man below turns his back to Steven’s building, and walks the next 50 feet towards the nearest bus stop. The same brisk strides closing him within seconds. Not bothering to wipe the water off the bench, he sits down on the cold water and stares with that same statuesque manner across the street. His breath plumes out in rhythm as cars drive by, unnoticing, seeming as if they couldn’t care less.

Hours go by; the man doesn’t care about the passing of time, doesn’t care about the passing of cars, doesn’t care about anyone sleeping in their homes, wrapped up in blankets and dreaming of lilacs and honey. Or of blood curdling things limping and grasping in the blackest nightmares. It would never have stopped, never have paused, had everyone done what they’d always done and let him be. Let him pace endlessly with those short, brisk strides, hurriedly walking through the world on his way towards an aimless destination. He never wants to be noticed. He never wants to be seen. He only wants to feed on those who dare to whisper him aloud. The man seethes and turns his head seconds before…

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. The alarm blares its staccato rhythm cheerily, signaling Steven it’s time to wake up and get ready for school. Time to make the doughnuts, he thinks to himself, smiling. 30 years that’s been bringing me a smile. God I’m old. He grabs his phone and starts his morning routine. Sit on the toilet and flick through FaceBook, seeing who posted what and Oh no girl, no you didn’t! He chuckles idly to himself as he locks the phone and sets it down, flushes the toilet and takes off his clothes. He turns on the water, chiding himself for not waiting. The building is old and he’s still trying to get adjusted to it. His shivering, cold and naked body forces him to turn on the heat lamp as he waits for the water to heat up.

Outside in the street below, the man stands up, balling his gloved hands into fists, making the leather groan as its pressed against itself. Without looking, he crosses the street and the blare of a horn emanates from a car that swerves to not hit him. The man doesn’t even slow his stride, doesn’t even flinch or give notice. He knows where he needs to be. The hooded man crosses through the parking lot on his way to Steven’s apartment building door. He pulls on the door but it’s locked. He turns back around, making his way back to the bench, settling back down he stares once again at nothing in front of him. He waits, his hood still casting a black endless void across his features. The breath still pluming out its rhythm.

Steven’s already in his clothes he picked out the night before, then decides to change to the grey shirt. Haven’t worn this one this week. He turns on the random shuffle on his Spotify playlist and cooks a couple of eggs. He eats them down heartily in a quick rush to get everything ready before he heads out the door. Don’t forget your Sociology paper, Geoff was kind enough to grant you another day after forgetting yesterday and oh crap I almost forgot the essay I was writing for Miko. Phew. He puts on his backpack and heads for the door, vaguely registering the 304 as he locks it. He hums to himself as he goes down the stairs, eager to start his day.

The hooded man is standing outside his apartment door, hands still balled into fists. Breath pluming even though the sun is out and the rain has stopped and it shouldn’t be cold enough for that. “That’s odd,” Steven says out loud. I can’t see his face Steven thinks as the hooded man too quickly covers the 20 feet distance of the parking lot to his apartment building door. The hooded man is now only inches away and Steven can smell the stink on him. Something so foul and so wrong it permeates the very air around him. The air is literally reeking in waves, causing a haze and bending the reality around him. To say the stench is week old baby diapers dunked in rotten fish heads would be a disservice.

Steven doesn’t even register the urine as it leaves his body. Somewhere the primal part of his brain is screaming at the logical part to SWING AND RUN! GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE! The whimpers are reminiscent of a pig’s that’s headed to the butcher’s block. The right leather gloved hand slowly unfurls and reaches out, grabbing Steven’s sweater, slowly closing around the blue fabric. The man reaches up to his hood and slowly pulls it back. Steven’s involuntary whimpering and the cars on the street somewhat muffle the sound of the hood pulling back, the sound of pulling a bandage that’s been on skin so long you can almost feel the sound as it’s being pulled away.

The teeth gleaming in the sun are what he notices first. Sharp, vicious things that are too long and too pointed for any person. His squealing intensifies as Steven registers there’s no lips, just the bone protruding from the skull with skin stretched down over it, jutting out into the shape of teeth. The man’s skin is pale white scales with orange spots randomly dotting its face. Its nose are just slits in the bone through which its breath continues to plume. Red, slightly bulbous eyes with dozens of octagonal flat surfaces juts out from its skull. Finally, the hood goes up over a set of horns, the same bone protruding out as the ones making the teeth stand so jagged and sharp against the trees in the background.

The thing masquerading as a man reaches down with his left arm and grabs Steven’s left arm, pulling it up to its mouth. It opens its jaws, spittle billowing out on the currents of festering rot that is its breath and bites into Steven’s forearm, tearing easily through the muscle and tendons and sinew. Steven’s mouth twists into a grimace of pain, his body well beyond the paralyzing grip of fear. It begins to chew in a side to side motion not unlike a cow, grinding the flesh in its mouth. Blood sprays in an arc across its face and dribbles down its chin. Like a bird, it tilts its head upwards and greedily gulps the chewed bits down.

Steven doesn’t remember when the screaming started, or even when he registered it. His throat is raw from the force of the air leaving his lungs, a high-pitched cry of fear and anguish and incomprehension at this thing that’s utterly and completely wrong. Somehow he can hear it laughing inside his head. He can feel the triumph and pleasure it gets from feeding off the primal fear and panic its causes.

The blood flowing freely from the open wound on his forearm, the patter of the drops is lost in the screams his throat is violently producing. He pulls Steven’s arm again towards his mouth, this time biting off his hand. The blood spurts out with each heartbeat, pumping out in an arc from the artery now tattered and frayed at the end of his stump. It seems to grin as the bones are slowly crushed and pulverized to powder in its mouth, the sound of shoes on gravel crunching away.

Scream. Cry. Beg. I will eat you up. I will devour you. It tells him as it chews on Steven’s hand. The bone grinding and crackling, more blood spilling over out of its mouth. The wet, squishy noise of it, the vicious guttural screams of Steven all combine and are almost drowned out as the sounds of the bustling city herald everyone going about their day.

 

©Ramon Sturdivant

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