This story is by Whitnie A Bauer and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The creature had chosen life the day it died; now it took life gladly.
It was a moonless night in the city. Bodies everywhere, their voices and thoughts, hopes and dreams, surrounded him; it was disgusting. So many happy lives, greedily breathing in and polluting the dark air. The creature stood in the shadows. Taking in the feel of yet another city. His master had sent him here, had told him to feast. His first night in a new place was always the greatest meal. A new flavor of terror and pain. This place would work perfectly.
The creature stalked through the streets. Passing lonely hearts cluttered in alleyways through long hours of darkness. The pathetic souls had already given up, they would not quench the creatures thirst for life. It found itself in front of a hotel. Old but clean, and the perfect place to find the hopeful masses. It moved through the halls like a bullet tearing through flesh. It’s victim was here; the creature could smell it. Hope, dreams, love, spreading a perfume through the halls like a roast cooked all day. Delicious. It moved under the door in the shadows cast by hall lights. The man was lying on the still-made bed, holding his small device above him. The creature listened to him speak to it. The man’s happiness oozed out of him. The thought of ripping and tasting flesh made the creature’s mouth water.
Sara sat on her bed, tucked in for the night. She had been counting the minutes all day to this moment, a video chat with Mike until the two of them fell asleep. He had only been gone a few days and would be back at the start of next week, but with their wedding fast approaching she felt every second apart was an eternity.
“Don’t laugh,” she said, suppressing a giggle. “I’m serious, we need to get a great gift for your mother at the rehearsal because I swear she hates me.”
“Sara, she doesn’t hate you. But if it is that important we should get her a tea set. She loves her fancy teas.” Mike said.
“Okay, if you really think that’s good enough.”
Both of them yawned, falling asleep in mid-thought.
“We should hang up,” Mike said.
“Not yet, you didn’t get to tell me how your meeting went. Will this travel thing be a one-off, or will we be moving after the honeymoon?”
“It went pretty well.” Mike said, “But I really won’t know anything until the deal goes through on Monday.”
“Hmm, okay. Well regardless of what happens with the deal, I am so proud of you, so happy for you. I can’t wait to marry you.”
Sara smiled widely, “One month.”
She stretched out on the bed, enjoying the feel of the cool sheets over her skin. They sat just staring at each other a moment. She could not get enough of his soft blue-gray eyes. They were so gentle, loving, peaceful. Whenever she had a bad day or was beyond stressed out, all she needed was to look into those eyes and feel at peace.
“I love you, Sara.”
“Anch’io ti amo.”
He laughed at her poorly pronounced Italian. “Practicing for the honeymoon are we?”
“Yes.” she stuck out her tongue. “I am getting there.”
“Well just remember, we won’t need too many words if we stay in the room all day.”
Sara laughed at him again, lord how she loved this man.
She readjusted herself on the bed, looking away as she pulled the covers over her shoulder and propped the phone up on the side table. An odd shadow passed across Mike’s face when she looked back. As if someone, or something, were in the room with him.
“Did you end up having to share a room?” she asked.
“Huh? Share a room? No. Why?”
“I thought I saw a shadow, I figured it was a roommate coming in.”
“Nope, just little ol’ me.” he flipped the camera view so she was looking at the small room. “Not really any space in here for another person. I think they gave me the broom cupboard.” He laughed as he turned the camera to his face.
“Oh, trick of the light I…” she stopped. The strangely shaped shadow had attached itself to his face, covering his right ear and a little of his cheek. “What is that?”
“What is what?”
“Did you knock the light or something? There is a strange mark on your face. Don’t you see it?” The shape was twisted, grotesque. It looked like the silhouette of a man swinging on the gallows.
“Honey there is no strange shadow. It must be something up with your phone. So, tell me what you are up to tomorrow, and maybe make it interesting,” he winked “you know, so I don’t fall asleep.”
“Yeah, I guess it must be my phone. Well if that’s the case then I guess I’m going to trade this stupid thing in. It’s old anyway. But I do have to run to the dress shop, they said they need to remeasure to be sure the boning in the dress…” the shadow grew into the shape of two men, the hanging one, and a slick, red-tinted thing. “Are you using some sort of filter on your video?”
“What are you talking about?” Mike said, his voice sharp.
“There are shadows of two men taking over your face. Like one of those dumb filters. One of the shadows looks red. You can’t tell me you don’t see that.” The shadows were taking over half of his face now, playing out some strange tableau. The second man faded away into the shape of flames, the hanged man fell to his knees, the rope dangling from his neck.
“Sara you are being ridiculous. There is nothing on my face. There is no shadow, no red, nothing.”
The shadow had taken over the entire right half of his face, all but his eye covered in a deep dark, bloody crimson.
“Mike please stop messing around.” This had to be the worst filter she had ever seen. The shadow of the kneeling man changed into a misshapen tortured creature. The light began to burn a brighter red. She noticed Mike’s skin singe and fade away. He looked gaunt and pale.
Mike sat up, his beautiful blue eyes the only part of him not in shadow. “Stop being stupid Sara. Such a dumb bitch.” He yelled at her. He never yelled at her.
“Mike?” A red light took over the entire background, like a scarf thrown over a lamp in one of those old movies; there was nothing to see but shadow, red light, and Mike’s blue eyes. He twisted his head to an unnatural angle. Dark, growling laughter filled the speakers. His skin was all but gone, he had no color left on his face. The shadow grew larger, to the size of a man, then to the size of some mythical beast. It was a hideous thing, stretched out of human proportion.
“Mike!” Sara screamed. He smiled at her. Putrid, rotting teeth; sharp as daggers, dripping with thick crimson saliva. She could hear crunching, ripping, breaking. She saw Mike’s blue eyes screaming in terror.
She sat up quickly in bed. “Michael! Please talk to me! Michael! What is going on?”
The laughter grew louder. The ripping echoed in her mind. Mike’s eyes wide with fear, pain, and pleading.
Mike’s phone flew upward, she saw the bed, surrounded by red. She could make out shapes, wet and dripping on the sheets. The shadow was real, huge; flesh hanging from jagged bones, greasy thin strips of what was once hair plastered to the creature’s face. It had bright red eyes, a yellow smile, and blood dripped from its jowls. It reached to pull a shape from the bed and hold it to the phone camera. The wet mass slowly came into focus. Sara gripped the phone in horror as she realized what the thing held up for her to see. It was a hand with a ring. Mike’s ring.
Her heart was pounding, drowning out all other sounds. She wanted to scream, but she could not find her voice, tears streamed from her eyes. Michael’s name whispered in her mind, anguish-filled sobs choked her. The creature held something else up, as it laughed at her. Mike’s head.
“Michael!” Her voice echoed off the walls in her bedroom. The phone went black. The laughter grew louder. She did not notice the light in her room go out. She did not notice the red glow take over the space around her. She did not even feel the first rip of her skin. All she could see were Mike’s soft gray-blue eyes, screaming in terror.
Another feast for the creature. It relished the salty thick taste of fresh blood on its lips. It had chosen life again tonight, and it was amazing.