What Nature Never Allowed
that hung from the chimney-breast in Ben Hackett’s living room chimed the
witching hour; and just as the light bong-ing! faded away to nothing, a
blood-dripping hand rose out of the fish tank.
No sooner had the long, triple-jointed fingers clasped the top edge of the tank, than another hand rose up from the bubbling water. Of course, at this point, all of Ben’s zebra-danio fish were dead; boiled alive as the water became super-heated. The second hand gripped the tank’s upper edge with fingers that slathered and oozed blood. The nails on each were pointed; razor sharp.
There was a sudden eruption of water, as if a tiny depth-charge had been deployed. It splattered the pine unit on which the fish tank sat and left scarlet puddles all over the white carpet. A blood-glistening head and broad, muscular shoulders rose slowly from the churning water inside the tank. The face was featureless, aside from two slanted yellow eyes and a shark-like mouth. It issued a deep, rattling growl as it heaved its powerful frame up out of the water. The chest and torso came next, then the stomach that was square-ridged with abs. It casually swung out one leg and stepped upon the soft white carpet, before swinging out its second.
Free of the fish tank, the creature looked around the dark living room with quick, jerking motions. Even in the absence of natural light the creature glistened ruddily; like some fathomless fish unseen by scientific eyes. For a lengthy moment it remained still, listening. As it listened, it did not consider why or what, but instead homed in on a yearning instinct within its core. To kill; destroy.
Moving, the creature slinked into the kitchen where Ben Hackett’s mastiff, Lucy-Lou, was sleeping in its wicker basket. The dog snored and huffed through its nose and occasionally twitched a leg. The creature leaned over the dog and inhaled deeply. Its yellow eyes glowed brighter at the scent of warm meat and pulsing blood.
Like a striking cat, the creature lashed out with its left hand. The pointed nails on its finger-ends, each one over five inches in length, were moving at approximately fifty miles per hour when they slammed into Lucy-Lou’s flank. Skin and muscle tore apart easily; peeling back layers of white fat and skimming sinew from bone like a butcher’s blade. Blood spurted out in a tight upward arc, spattering the ceiling with crazy zigzag patterns.
Lucy-Lou managed to utter only one pitiful howl of shock before the creature seized her head in both hands and wrenched it right the way round, snapping her spinal column as if it were a tree branch. The dog slumped ungainly in her bed, her bowels releasing with a sad hiss.
The creature tore at her exposed innards without mercy; ripping them out like grey linked sausages. It crammed them into its gaping mouth, chewing and swallowing noisily. Even as it did this, the creature was still listening, its senses so acute that even a pin drop would have sounded explosive to it. It could hear noises upstairs. The sound of something breathing.
The creature dropped what was left of Lucy-Lou’s intestines, where they hit the linoleum with a wet slap. It turned and skulked out of the kitchen, trailing bright red blood behind it. At the foot of the stairs the creature looked up and tilted its head on one side. The sound of breathing was louder, regular, and it knew it was hearing the noises associated with sleep. The creature began to climb the stairs, issuing a deep and throaty snarl as it did so. On the wall to its left hung photograph’s of smiling people in frames; moments of time snapped from Ben Hackett’s life. The creature scanned them without a care. It did not feel a shred of empathy towards these frozen memories, and as it passed by it swiped them all off the wall, sending them crashing down the stairs.
The sound of regular breathing suddenly changed as the sleeper became roused by the sound of photo-frames and glass breaking. Yet the creature remained undaunted as it swung round on the landing and, with eyes blazing, stalked towards the sleeper’s bedroom. The door was shut but the creature rammed it open with such force it broke free of its top set of hinges and the wooden panels splintered.
Ben Hackett, lying alone in his double bed, was propelled upright by the terrible noise. Propped up on his elbows, he blinked groggily at the huge, glistening figure that strode to the foot of the bed and glared down at him.
‘What in the name of fuck?’ were the very last words to be spoken by Ben Hackett before the creature pounced at him. The weight of it drove the mattress down, and Ben was knocked flat on his back as the creature rammed a knee into the centre of his chest. Winded, pinned down, Ben hopelessly tried to free himself, but the creature clenched both hands into fists and instantly began to pummel him like a pneumatic tamper. The first blow was horrifically painful, the second enough to make his head squeal like radio interference, but by the time the third blow arrived Ben Hackett was already dying; his upper body pulverised into the sheets. The creature didn’t stop. It tore at Ben’s body like a combine harvester; shredding him so bad it was hard to tell what was bed sheet and what was human flesh. It crammed blood-dripping meat into its mouth and swallowed greedily. There was no savouring or enjoyment; just a primitive need to swallow and to be full. It tore off Ben’s arms at the shoulders and stripped the flesh from them. It tossed the white bones aside and tugged out Ben’s stomach; a steaming vein-riddled grey sack, and started to eat again.
By the time it was done the bedroom resembled a slaughter-house. It reeked of death and warm innards. Unconcerned, the creature slid off the bloodied covers and walked out of the room. It stopped in the corridor and cocked its head, listening.
There were no more sounds.
No more humans for it to kill.
Still undaunted, the creature headed back down the stairs and stopped in the living room near the sofa. Something was happening. It could feel a strange creeping coldness emanating from the centre of its being. It began to shudder as the coldness increased; washing through its every limb. The creature lifted a hand up in front of its face and stared at the splayed digits.
From the finger-ends down they were starting to vanish. It happened quickly, too. In less than six seconds its entire right hand was gone; leaving behind a bloodless stump. The creature did not flinch. Did not care. It watched, detached, as its whole arm first went transparent, then wispy, then gone. There is an unwritten law in life. Certain things are allowed to live, to thrive, whereas other things – things like the creature – are very much not. There had been a time when many of its kind roamed the planet, butchering for the sake of it. They had been able to grow from simple algae or plankton within a moments instead of millennia, but how quickly mother-nature had seen to that!
And sometimes – only sometimes – that balance shifts and a creature is allowed to grow. To grow, but not to survive. Life has an uncanny way of realising its mistake and rectifying the matter quickly; before too much damage is done.
In a matter of twenty-seven seconds the creature turned to wispy-white steam and vanished into nothing; leaving no trace of itself apart from a murder that would never, ever, be solved; even by the most imaginative of detectives.