S

Sunday 21st September 2020

Wear the mask

The visible join between flesh and fabric vanished this morning. This hadn't surprised me as I’d been expecting this to happen for quite a while now. The pale screamer, some noisy arsehole who pesters the others on Tempest Street, was the first to go. To be honest, if I hadn't been looking at my reflection at the time, I would have missed the next transformation. I kinda want to say final transformation but I don't think it is.

It's habit. That's why I was staring in the glass. You'd think that's the last thing any of us would want to experience. I guess only a sadist would want a visual reminder of the 'thing' attached to our faces like some fat, slimy, pulsating leech. Fuck, like we don't get that enough every time we stare at each other.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I miss shaving and knowing I'll never be able to press a blade to my face does annoy me a tad. Just annoy me? I guess I should be raging. I know that. In fact, there's lots of extreme emotions that I should have experienced over the past few weeks. Just like shaving, I'll never experience them again either.

I don't feel much of anything these days. That's the first thing the cover did the moment went it revealed its true purpose.  Wait, that's the second event. Revealing its true appearance followed by sealing its wet, corrugated underside to our tender flesh was the first thing it did. The panic and terror I felt surpassed anything I'd experienced. I tried to scream but thick tuber-like appendages slid into my mouth and up my nose. Imagine someone forcing a big handful of slugs into your gob, followed by the same sensations up each nostril. The nose bit was the worst. Oh, the mouth was bad enough. Especially when those slime-coated flexible cylinders pushed down my throat. It wasn't a patch on the sheer, utter helpless panic which ripped through my system when those same tubers forced up my nostrils. Imagine someone forcing a couple of carrots, coated in thick glue up your nose.

I wasn't alone either. I was on the end of Tempest street when it happened. Stood in a socially distanced queue, waiting for the number 8 bus. We all wore our government issue face mask, being sensible and law abiding. To be honest, the prospect of receiving a heavy fine and three months in jail probably had more to do with us all dumping the store bought masks and donning the ones given to us by the local volunteers.

I stood in line with three others. Two, I knew. Well, on nodding terms. Pamela smiley face stood behind me. Such a happy girl, always ready to give anyone a smile. I saw her nametag a few weeks ago, that's why I know her first name. She works in one of the car showrooms on the edge of town. Then there's old Crabeyes. I've know idea what she is called, nor would I dare ask her. She has this annoying tendency to stare at people for longer than is necessary. Not a pleasant experience. She a cleaner for the large supermarket, a couple of miles away.

At the front of the queue was Mr Miseryarse. That old bugger could sour milk with that face. He stood there, in the same place, at the same time, every week day. I've no idea where he worked as he got off after me.

On the day the world found out its fate, my mind was occupied with wondering how well my interview for the operations manager went. The meat processing factory where I worked, had put out the opening a week previous when the last manager left for another job. I had just about convinced myself that I was in with a strong chance when I heard what sounded like a billion snakes hissing. I wasn’t the only one affected either. Both Crabeyes and the young woman spun around. We all gave each other the standard bemused look and the shrug. That’s when the nightmare truly began.

A saw the change a couple of seconds before it happened to me. Their eyes widened, a moment before the panic smacked into them when the surface of their face covering changed. Sticky gel oozed from the tiny holes in the black fabric. It joined together in one wet coat as the material beneath underwent its own transformation. Black cloth became black flesh which hardened into a shell.

The muffled screaming then overwhelmed everything, Not just from the other three but from me too as I then suffered their trauma too. I guess I must have been a late developer. How long did this indescribable agony last?

I’m not sure. At the time, it felt like forever. Change did happen and it couldn’t have been any more extreme. From a living hell to a state of pure bliss in the time it took to blink. Looking back, the ‘whatever the fuck had attached to our faces’ must have flooded our bodies with a mix of an analgesic and an anxiolytic analogue. Combined with a fucking powerful psychoactive substance.

I was in the bath of warm blue, oily water. At peace, my thoughts calm and as still as the strange fluid my naked body was floating in. Some weird as fuck being sit on the other side of the bath, its blue tentacle-like appendages were rolling up and down my arms. I then heard words. I knew they were words but in no language I had ever heard. It sounded more like a cross between the buzzing of a bees wings and the report of a silenced pistol.

My eyes opened. The feeling of bliss had diminished somewhat but not enough to cause me to panic at our dire situation. I hadn’t moved, nor had my fellow busstop companions. During the change, the old man at the front had voided himself. It had congealed around his feet and stuck the bottom of his trousers to his ankles. He didn’t seem to mind and I don’t think the others had noticed.

The only movement I saw were the birds. They fluttered from rooftop to rooftop, occasionally landing on the head of one of the other immobile people on the street. The arms belonging to the town hall clock moved too. It showed me that just seven minutes had passed since our existence came to an end. I noticed flames too. The bus we were all hoping to catch had crashed into the side of the dry cleaners. Several bodies were scattered over the road. Some were moving. All wore the masks.

It’s been five days now since it happened. I’m still at the busstop. We all are. We are free to move around. Some on Tempest street have done just that. Most people stayed where they were. I guess, like me, they had no inclination to go anywhere. The only one of us to against the grain had been the Pale Screamer but even he slowed down and came to an abrupt halt yesterday. I think the entity covering his mouth and nose finally figured out how to placate the young man. See, I have a theory that the time between the agony and the drug injection had been longer in the screamer’s case and it just sent him fucking mental and no amount of psychotropic medicine was going to fix his insanity. Then again, I’ve been proven wrong there.

The old man is dead by the way. I think he went some time last night. His body is kinda flopped against Crabeyes and the metal bus shelter. Crabeyes doesn’t seem to mind. The young girl has stopped smiling too. That happened a few minutes ago. I’m not sure why.

I feel a change in the air, like a charge of static. There’s flashes of green lightning jumping from cloud to cloud. I think I can see something now. Yeah, there it is. An impossibly huge wet, black object has just pushed through the cloud. It’s massive, shaped like half a broken dinner plate and larger than our town. I think it’s alive. I tear my gaze away from this organic behemoth and discover that it’s not alone. The sky is black with them.

As I watch them descend, I kinda wonder if our species has a future. I also wonder why I never asked the woman next to me her last name. Crabeyes has just moved a step backwards. The dead man crashes to the floor. His mask slips off his face. Its dissolved skin, soft tissue, muscle and bone. All that remains is a wet crimson hole. These organic machines are now closer enough for us to reach up and touch their undersides.

There’s more movement now. It’s coming from our face coverings. I think…

The End

 

Sunday, September 19, 2020

The Carrot and the Steak

It took Denise Sellars exactly one minute to eat the pie I made for her. One minute, can you believe that? This is the woman who always stressed the need to chew (mouth shut, young man. Less noise, if you will) each mouthful before taking another bite. Did I count? Sure I did. One to sixty know a high falsetto voice. If only you could have seen the look on her face! A mix of terror, hunger, and lust.

Can you believe that? This nasty old fuck didn't even display lust when we were dating all those decades ago. Yeah, the lust she displayed for the pie fair shocked me. Granted, her last meal was a plate of crackers and cheese and I hadn't fed the bitch since dragging her down here and chaining Denise to the old water pipe. That was five days ago.

Maybe I should have done the same when we were both teens? I don't mean the bondage bit. Wait, strike that. Her chained up could have been a serious turn on for this young man. I mean the denial. See, believe or not, this dried up old fuck, whose thought that having sex was now akin to murder, actually loved sex. Basic stuff, mind. Nothing too adventurous. Not that I complained, not back then. Now though? If I had denied her, I bet I could have done anything to her.

Maybe our lives would have turned out a little brighter if I had been more assertive and not allowed her to stamp me into the ground. Oh, she's now glaring at me. There's no lust in those poisoned orbs. The terror has vanished too, only the hate remains. That's fine by me. It's probably the only thing left we have in common.

"Did you enjoy your food, dear"

I didn't expect a reply and I didn't receive one.

"What's wrong? Cat got your tongue?" A laughter bubble escaped. I'm sorry, but that was fucking hilarious. She obviously didn't agree. Judging from the grey fur she's just picked out from between her teeth, my soon to be dead wife has figured what I put in that pie.

No, that can’t be right. Of all the things she is, Denise is not stupid. She must have known that when I did feed her, Captain Jet would be on the menu. The moment her nose picked up the stench of boiling cat meat would have told her that food was imminent too.

You know, there aren’t suitable words in the dictionary to describe this feeling which now courses through my body. It’s like a cross between freedom and retribution. With each step I take helps to slice  this vile specimen has used over the decades to keep me in my place. Now that I killed her stupid cat and fed the carcass to her, there's only one task left.

Denise has to die.

I blinked. I blinked again. Wait, why is she smiling now? She shouldn't be doing that. She has just consumed the only true love. Slaughtered by her one true hate. I did too, you know. Oh, guess what? My wife would have heard the noise. Fuck, I bet the whole street heard it.

Killing Captain Jet took some doing. That cat hated me. No shock there, so I couldn't really call it, start stroking it then break its neck. I would have shot the fucker if I had a gun, or thrown axes at it. We had no axes either. The kitchen, her domain, is packed with expensive and very sharp knives so I threw them instead.

The first knife pinning the little bastard to the floor. The metal sliced through its tail and buried intself into the wooden floorboards. I might have giggled while watching it scream while running rings around the knife while doing everything it could to get free. Well, I wasn’t going to allow that. I dropped the two remaining knives, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to perform another fluke shot. Instead, I pulled Denise’s standard lamp towards me, ripped the cord out of the plug socket then smashed the base down on the cat’s head. That stopped the noise.

She is still fucking smiling at me! My self-confidence is already starting to crumble. I know the look, you see. It’s the same one I receive when I have done something wrong and she’s already thought up of a punishment. Like when I left my pants on the bedroom floor or forgetting to close the living-room window, or leaving more than seven white cat hairs on the carpet after I finished vaccing it.

Yeah well, fuck her. She’s just trying to get under my skin, that’s all. That shit-eating grin will be on the other side of her face when I tell her what I’m going to do next. I already have the hose pipe, the scissors, the bucket of piss and the gaffa tape at the top of the stairs.

I can’t turn my back on her, it’ll look like she’s won.

God. I just have to fucking ask. “What’s with the grinning. You know this isn’t going to end well for you, Denise.”

She rested the back of her head on the pipe and looked at the white paint peeling off the rafters. “You have my steak.”

It wasn’t an accusation but a statement.

“Too fucking right I did. I broke off the freezer padlock, pulled out the largest steak I could find, defrosted it and fried the meat before eating it between two slices of bread.” I grinned back at her. “Best meal I’ve had for decades.” Not exactly a shock there. While she has steak with Captain Jet, I have to make to with supermarket value hotdogs. “I’m going to eat the rest too. You know, perhaps I should have fed you to the cat instead of vice-versa?”

I frowned. That should have taken the grin right off her face. If anything, the grin got wider. My self confidence started wobbling now.

“How do you feel, Tony?” She picked out a bit more fur from between her teeth. “I’m not all that bothered about the cat anyway. He was starting to get on my tits.” She thrust her head towards me. “How do you feel? You’re starting to shake. Don’t deny it, I can see the vibrations in your fingers.”

Was this witchcraft? She had a point, I had started to come over all queer. Oh, God. The pain had started now, right ion the pit of my stomach. I put my hand out, my fingers finding the brick surface. No, this was all rubbish, just the power of suggestion. She’s pulled this trick on my loads of times.

“See, I know you, Tony Sellars. Better than you know yourself. I also know that you’ve been planning this ultimate act of betrayal for weeks. Just like I know about the secret porn files on the tablet you think I don’t know you have hidden under the floorboards. Just like the pictures of the pretty girls across the road you keep on the top of the cupboard in the bathroom. Just like the occasional pubic hair that you drop in my morning coffee. I know these things and let you carry on with your devious behaviour in the hope that you will find redemption.”

What the fuck was she banging on about?” I drop to my knees and wrap my arms around my guts. No way is this suggested. I feel like my stomach is on fire! I manage to lift my head and through tear-blurred vision, I see she is still fucking smiling! “What the fuck is this?”

The smile grew even wider. “It’s rat poison, Tony. I laced all the steaks with the stuff before popping them in the freezer. Like I said. I knew what you were going to do.”

“You evil bitch!”

The woman then stood up. Oh hell. She must have had the keys all this time! She kneels down in front of me, placed her hands on my shoulders and pulls me over to the pipe. Through the agony, I feel the cold metal around my wrists.

“No, Tony. I’m not the evil one in this saga. You chose to eat the steaks, just as you chose to assault me and then starve me for five days. I am the injured party, not you. The question now remains, finding the correct punishment to fit the crime. Oh, don’t start crying. The rat poison won’t kill you. So, finding the correct punishment? It stands to reason that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, yes?”

I hear her climb the cellar stairs, There’s a burst of laughter followed by footsteps on those steps again. I open my eyes. I see the bucket…

The End

 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

 

Ground Feelings

 

I bring good news and bad news. What, you want the bad news first? Sandra, you’re ever the optimist. Did I ever tell you how much your sunny smile brightens up my morning when you bring me a cup of tea? I didn’t? I’m sure I did.

Not that it matters anymore. Sorry. Getting sidetracked. So, bad news time. Brace yourself, cos you ain’t going to like this. You’re not going to like this one bit. Do you remember, a couple of days ago, before all this started when your Jackie came around, asking to borrow your plate set. Remember? The one your mum bought us for Christmas a few years back? There. I see the eyes light up. You do remember! That’s a bloody relief.

Jackie is still here. Look, don’t look at me like that. I don’t know either. I honestly thought that she had left the house. No, I really did. Where is she? Oh, she’s down in the cellar.

No, that’s not the bad news, honey. I know how much she pisses you off just by existing. The bad news is that she’s not leaving. Well, she can’t, see, the thing under the ground has her now.

Yeah, it proper shit me up when I turned on the light and saw those huge eyeballs staring back at me. To be honest, it did take me a while to figure out who it even was underneath all those wet vines. How did I know it was her? It’s the shoe which gave it away. One single shoe laying apart from the main clump. A few threads wrapped around bone connected them together. I bet that your sister must have tried to get away. She hadn’t anticipated just how fast the chemicals it injects into the flesh take to start softening the bone and tissue.

Which shoe? Oh, that’s the good news. The pair which she stole the last time she came around. The barbecue we had a couple of months ago. Yeah, that’s the one. She kinda invited herself and while we were all in the back garden, she took it upon herself to have a nosy in our bedroom and while she was in there, decided to help herself to the shoes.

No, I don’t have a clue what the sneaky bitch was doing down there. I can only guess that it’s the one place in our home that she hadn’t explored. Well, the thieving bitch got more than she bargained for, that’s for sure!

There’s not much left of her now, my sweet. From what little original flesh I could see, the stuff is also inside her. The skin stretches and contracts as the vines travel through her body.

No, don’t cry, Sandra. Look, we’re not feeling any pain, so I reckon the thing under the ground must have some way to neutralise all the pain responses. No, I’m not saying that to make you feel any better. I’m just going by observation. The thing under the ground has already reached your knees and you’re in no discomfort. It’s got to my ankles. There’s no pain for me either.

How long? Not sure, I think maybe a few more hours for your sister, three more days for us. No, please. Don’t cry. I know it’s not exactly how we planned on spending the weekend but at least we’ll be going out together. At least we do have each other, honey and you’ve also got your favourite shoes back!

I mean, spare a thought for your sister. I made a point of turning out the light. She’s going to die alone and in the dark

The End

© 2020 Ian Woodhead

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