A pair of eyes sit on the floor next to me. They probably used to be attached to something, but now they lie discarded on the chipped tile floor, the blood-stained spheres slowly deflating and a red pool oozing out of the severed optic nerve. The eyes are too bright a blue - electric almost - but are gradually turning gray as time passes.
I’ve been here for hours, hiding and trembling in the dark from the unknown monster that’s hunting me unrelentingly through the mansion, and I’ve only just noticed the eyes. Barely three feet away, and I’ve just now noticed them. I’d scooch away, but my back is already pressed into the corner of the room as I crouch and hug my knees to my chest. There’s nowhere else to go.
The blue irises twitch erratically in their white frames, spinning and spinning, and I feel my blood freeze as they fix on me, pulsing. My knees lock before I can even think about moving, and my grip on my legs tightens. I begin to shake uncontrollably, my teeth chattering. Not again.
In the hall outside my hiding place, I can hear the thud of heavy footsteps. It won’t be long. The monster will reach the door, turn the knob with a click, and enter the room, its rotting smell proceeding it.
I should be gone before the monster comes. I don’t want to get eaten or raped - or whatever it is monsters do - by this thing. Powered by that thought, I brace my hands against the wall and shove myself into a standing position, wobbling on jellied legs. My confidence grows the longer I remain upright until I can hurry across the room in the hopes of finding a second door, one away from the monster.
I step on the eyes as I go, taking pleasure in how they squish and pop beneath my foot, and the grimy blood squirts out across the floor.
The castle appeared out of the fog without warning the instant after the thought about clichéd horror movies crossed my mind. It sat atop a lonely hill, white fog curling around its gray stone base and birds flocking about the tall pointed towers, black dots in the sky. I could see the frames of the windows, but the glass itself was invisible, and the tall double doors were beginning to crumble in on themselves.
You have got to be kidding me, I thought to myself, rolling my eyes as I adjusted my grip on the steering wheel, knuckles white.
And then my car broke down.
F-- I stopped myself before the thought finished; I was trying to work on my language. It was one of my many steps to try and make myself a better person.
Angrily, I slammed my hands against the steering wheel and turned the key in the ignition, hoping for a response. I didn’t even get a whine or a growl. “Peachy,” I muttered to myself sarcastically. “Luckily, there’s a nice, welcoming castle up on top of that hill where I can get help!”
But I couldn’t convince myself that things would turn out that way.
I left the car with a sigh and shut the door behind me, making sure to hit the locks, because someone was totally going to try to steal my junker of a car in the middle of nowhere. Shivering, I pulled my short leather coat closer around me and started up the long hill towards the castle. It quickly grew steeper than it looked, and I had to lean into it and dig my feet into the ground. I soon began to pant. My fitness level was not very impressive, and the grass was slick from the fog. Mud churned and slipped beneath my shoes, and I struggled to keep my balance, staring unwaveringly at the castle to keep myself going.
I didn’t notice that the hill was ending, focused on the castle as I was, until I overbalanced and tumbled to the muddy ground, my palms sinking with a squelch. The water instantly soaked through my jeans. I grimaced and stood up again as quickly as I could, looking down at the wet patches with disdain. Just great; these were my favorite jeans.
There had better be someone inside, I thought. Or I’m going to kill something. The bottom right corner of the door had disintegrated completely, leaving behind a dark hole that was just big enough for me to squeeze through. I bent down and cautiously peered inside; I was not going inside with no idea about what lurked within. But there was nothing to see, nothing but blackness.
Rolling my eyes, I pulled out my phone and turned on its flashlight as I ducked inside, bending my head to keep it from brushing the rotting wood. Once in, I straightened, my knees protesting, and raised my phone to take a look around. I was in a large main entrance with a gray tiled floor and walls that disappeared beyond the range of my light. Cobwebs hung in the corners, and a thick layer of dust covered the floor and floated in the air. My heart fell; I knew that the castle would be empty, but some small part of me couldn’t help but hope that I would find someone inside anyway.
A sharp crack split the air. I whirled around just in time to see the rotten wood of the door give way completely and collapse, sending dusty shrapnel into the air and blotting out the little light from outside as it locked me in the empty castle.
I’m in luck. There’s a little back door in the corner of the room, set behind a dusty shelf. Hopefully, it’s not locked. I reach for the rusty knob as something behind me clicks and rattles. The other door. I frantically turn the knob, but it barely twitches, stuck in its layer of decades old rust. I grab it with both hands and shake it, banging my knee against the wood as I begin to panic.
The other door cracks open. The sound slips and swims across the room like a thread, coiling into my ears and then my head. I freeze, unable to breathe, and my heart begins to pound loudly to drown out the thud of the slow footsteps behind me. I give up on the rusted door and turn to face the monster, shaking. It’s too dark to see. I’ve never seen the monster, just its dark outline, bulky and misshapen. Its head seems too large despite its broad shoulders that never narrow until its feet. The arms hang limply at the monster’s sides and will stay there until it gets close, and then they’ll lunge up to grab, to rip, to tear.
The stench is almost overwhelming. I want to gag and fall to my knees, curl into a ball and throw up. I want to claw my nose off and then reach down my throat and rip out my lungs to get rid of the stench completely.
Too close. It’s too close. The monster is suddenly only a few feet away, almost in grabbing distance. I'd let myself get distracted. And now I’m dead. Monster chow. I don’t want to die.
The shelf. I see it out of the corner of my eye, flimsy and just waiting to be tipped over. I grab its side and pull, closing my eyes as I shout. It comes away from the wall easily, lighter than I expected, and I fling it in the direction of the monster, ducking behind it and running across the room before I even know that I’ve succeeded.
I hear a crash and a thump as the monster hits the floor. The roar that fills the air shakes my vision, making my steps wobble. The monster left the door open, so I grab the handle as I run and slam it shut behind me. The hallway is black as ink, and I skid to a stop, terrified of running into the wall and terrified of what might be waiting for me in the dark.
I fumble for my phone in the front pocket of my jacket and pull it out with shaking hands. I almost drop it as it jumps and bounces on my trembling fingers, but I clamp it tightly between my palms before it can get away, finally managing to turn the light on and shining it around. I’m in a narrow, empty hallway with walls covered in rotting wallpaper and a chipped tile floor. I point my phone at the shut door, wondering if the monster has freed itself from the shelf yet. Is it coming for me already? Did I manage to hurt it even a little?
I need to go, to leave before I find out if the monster has managed to get loose. I look ahead of me and behind, trying to decide which way I want to go. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? I hurry away from the monster, trying to convince myself that the thud I hear is just the house settling.
“Hello?” I called carefully, stepping further into the dark house as I shone my light around. My voice echoed around and around the huge room until it was swallowed by the silence. I realized a second after the last ‘o’ died away that the sound had been the dumbest thing I could have done, and I cursed myself. I was just like any stupid kid in a horror flick.
But the creepy growl – the one I wasn’t even sure if I’d heard in the first place - didn’t come again. My steps left deep footprints in the dust as I headed deeper into the house, trying to hide my light at the same time as I tried to use it. There was a cold draft coming from somewhere hidden that sent a shiver running down my spine.
The floor shook from a heavy thud, one that I felt all the way to my teeth. I whirled around, eyes searching the darkness, but colored spots danced before my eyes, leftover from the light of my phone, and I couldn’t see a thing. I turned off the light. The room instantly became almost completely black, but somewhere above me, the roof was broken, letting in pale shafts of dusty light to illuminate patches of the floor. I held absolutely still, didn’t even breathe as I clutched my phone like a lifeline. So much time passed in silence that I began to think I had imagined it. It was just my nerves being stupid.
This one came from right behind me.
I spun around, almost tripping over my feet. There was a patch of light, watery and barely distinguishable from all the dust in the air. I let out a long, relieved breath; just the house settling. Then something moved into the light and blocked it out.
And then I could smell it, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed the stench before; it was so horrible and overpowering like a dead thing left out too long. A sharp draft of air blew past my face as the dark silhouette moved. I staggered away, gagging and almost sobbing in fear. The shaft of light reappeared, and I felt my blood run cold. There was a monster in here with me - I just knew it was. There was a great big fu- (even in my terror the swear block I drilled into my head took hold) - reaking monster in here with me, and I couldn’t see it. It was probably only inches away, ready to reach out and wrap its massive claws around my neck and squeeze until my head popped off in a shower of crimson blood. And no one would ever know.
I turned and ran, stumbling over my feet as I ran blindly from whatever it was that stalked me through the darkness. I couldn’t see it, but I could smell it and hear it. It had heavy footsteps, and it panted, and I was sure it was breathing right down my neck. It wheezed when it exhaled, a low one like the growl I had heard earlier.
My hands hit something hard and cold, gritty with a layer of grime. A wall. And if there was a wall, there was a door; I could find it. With one hand on the wall, I began to run to what I thought was the left. My heart pounded in my ears, competing with my wheezing breath for the loudest sound. My chest hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. I was going to die. Oh God, I was going to die.
Suddenly, my feet disappeared from under me, and I crashed to the ground, smacking my cheek hard on the tile. I could feel something wrapped around my ankle, squeezing so tight the bones ground against each other, and I screamed in pain. I flailed my free leg desperately and somehow sat up, whacking at my ankle with my hands.
The thudding footsteps grew closer.
My warm fingers met a set of cold, slimy ones. There was a hand wrapped around my ankle, wet and strong and trap-like. A hand. There was a hand wrapped around my ankle, but the footsteps were still somewhere to my right.
I dared to turn on the light and pointed it at my foot. The beam of light shook then fell to the floor with a clatter as I dropped the phone.
It was a severed arm. I’d only gotten a glimpse, but it had definitely been a severed arm holding onto my ankle. It was gray with black spots of rot on the skin that wasn’t covered by a dirty white sleeve. The nails were long and sharp, and I was lucky they weren’t digging into my flesh. The hand was clamped around my ankle, and the arm flopped about around the axis of the elbow, dark red blood oozing from the gaping wound that was the end of the arm.
Oh God, oh God. There was a severed arm, and it was moving, and it was holding onto my leg.
I kicked at it with my free foot and kicked at it and kicked at it, hitting my own leg more often than not, and smashed my caught foot against the wall again and again, but the arm just wouldn’t let go.
And the footsteps grew closer.
I was sobbing now, tears streaming down my face, chest hitching as I struggled for breath. Let go, let go, let go! My flailing hand hit a fallen wooden plank and closed around it. I grabbed at the board and picked it up, swinging it at the spot where the monster arm was. Something shredded and crunched, and my leg was soaked, but it wasn’t my own blood. The weight of the hand disappeared, and I scrambled back, still flinging the board around. My heel knocked into the rectangle of my phone, and I snatched it up before standing and running away from the pounding footsteps that still pursued me and would pursue me until they caught me tore me limb from limb.
Finally, after running and running and cursing and bawling and searching frantically behind me in the darkness for the monster that I could still hear coming even though there was no noise in the silent house, I found a little door. I yanked it open and threw myself inside. I couldn’t run anymore. I had to hide and hope it didn’t find me.
Thump. Thud. Thump.
I wasn’t wrong when I heard the thuds. The monster is free, and it’s coming after me. Hopefully, I’m far enough ahead of it that I can keep my light on without it seeing. I don’t like the darkness anymore; who knows what could be hiding in it.
My face is tacky from the remains of my tears as I run a hand across my tired eyes. I need a weapon. The monster will catch up with me eventually, and then I’ll have to fight. I don’t want to fight, though; I’ve never liked violence. Not that it matters anymore, I realize, since I’m going to die in here.
The hallway turns sharply to the right and ends at a closed door. Great, I’m trapped again. When I open that, I’ll probably find another tiny little room with nothing in it like the first one I hid in. But I can’t go back either; the monster is coming from that direction. I feel like I can already hear it pounding and wheezing, groaning, as it stomps down the corridor. No choice left, I open the door and step inside carefully.
The room isn’t little at all. My phone doesn’t have the power or range to illuminate its expanse, but from what I can tell, it’s a huge storage room. There are shapes piled on the floor, just lumps in the gloom, and more hanging from the ceiling. I step forward, and my footsteps ring around the room in an echo. I raise my light high and sweep it around, searching, and instantly wish I hadn’t.
The shapes are bodies, mutilated, gnawed on, rotting bodies of all shapes and sizes. They’re all a uniform color, gray. Some are missing limbs, others eyes or entire faces. They hang from the ceiling as well, dripped dry into black puddles pooled beneath their missing feet. Sharp hooks are jammed in their backs, attached to chains that stretch away to the ceiling. The stench that fills the room is the monster’s, rotting, dead. I close my eyes and turn off the light; I don’t want to see this. This is my fate. I’ll end up another faceless body on the floor, forgotten and left to rot.
And there it is, right on time, the thudding of footsteps in the hallway. I turn the light back on, keeping it well away from the carnage, and head for the edge of the room. I keep my eyes fixed on the wall in front of me, but they won’t stop flicking back to the pile of bodies; something about them is strangely fascinating and captivating.
I hear the door creak open and the scuff of feet entering. It clicks shut again, and a hungry wheezing fills the air. I go cold, but my light falls on a small red case attached to the wall, its glass glinting. Inside it is one of those emergency fire axes. It has a red head and a long wooden handle. For the first time in a long time, a smile splits my face. I use my elbow to smash the glass and grab the axe. It’s heavy in my hand, fitting perfectly in my palm.
I turn around carefully, the light pointed down. The footsteps are coming towards me, still slow. I take a deep breath as I lift the axe. A bulky form takes shape in the shadows outside my phone light. I back away to the right, jostling the phone on accident, and the light falls fully on the monster. I almost drop the axe.
It was once human. A middle aged man, he probably used to be an athlete or a bodybuilder, but now the muscles are turning limp and slack beneath his tattered clothes. His eyes are different colors, one green and one brown, and they look squished and bruised like they had been forced into the sockets. One arm doesn’t match the other; it’s smaller and feminine. There’s blood on his mouth and spilled down his front.
He grins when he realizes I’ve seen him. I bite my lip, and the axe trembles, its handle slick with the sweat from my hand. The monster’s arms snap up and swipe at my head. I stumble back, and the monster disappears into the dark as the light swings wildly. I flail with the axe and feel it hit something with a squelchy thunk. The monster roars. My phone falls from my hand and clatters to the ground, illuminating our fight.
I grab the axe with both hands and rip it out of the body of the monster. A cold spray splatters my face. I swing again, taking great pleasure in the crunch the axe makes when it slams into the torso of the monster and the give of his body. The monster presses forward, unfazed, and lashes out at me with his larger arm. Sharp nails rake my face in a fiery flash of pain. I scream, warm liquid running down my cheeks in a torrent.
I pull the axe free and swing again, aiming higher. The blade sinks into the thick gray neck, and the wound oozes black blood. The monster doesn’t stop, doesn’t slow. I stagger back, face throbbing. When the hooked hand comes out again, I swing the axe at it and cut straight through the wrist. The severed hand sails away into the darkness. The monster snarls and growls, his ugly face contorting into a grimace.
I can beat it. I can rip and tear it into tiny bloody bits like it wanted to do to me. I can cleave its limbs from its body and bathe in its blood to celebrate my victory.
The axe rises and falls and rises and falls. The light turns red as flying blood lands on the screen of my phone. The monster loses an arm, then the other, and then part of his face. With each piece that falls, I feel myself grow stronger and stronger, a red-hot rage filling me from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I love this; I love this gore and this violence and this power I wield with my hands. Finally, I abandon the axe and attack the monster with my bare hands. They lock around his throat, slick with blood, and we crash to the floor. My teeth find his shoulder and bite. The flesh parts easily before them, and the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted fills my mouth. I shudder with pleasure and burrow deeper. The monster howls with pain, sounding almost human.
The monster struggles beneath me, but he grows weaker and weaker as I take more of his flesh, his blood, his life. When I’m finally done, I take the body and drag it over to join the others. I drop it and lick my lips. I win. The monster always wins.
Somewhere at the front of the house, there’s a loud crash and a shout of surprise. My head snaps around and zeros in on the direction of the commotion.
Fresh meat. Let the hunt begin.