This story is by Daniel Weaver and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It’s happened again. At first, it feels like getting banged by a rhino on the kitchen counter. Then I see things that aren’t real, shapes and colors the likes of which I’ve never seen.My chest begins to puff out twice its size, and the agony of bones cracking and snapping creates a horrid melody.My mustache starts to twitch and I shriek like a banshee to a long-dead god, my limbs flailing about as I float mid-air. The walls around me crumble like stale pastries as my mouth lights up, and I swear I could hear the faint sound of a chattering crowd…
Doc Mitchell put down his pen and notepad, groaning and rubbing his eyes. He wasn’t amused. His fat lips flapped away, his voice drowned out by a ticking clock. I turned to see a monstrous sledgehammer guarding the entrance, and the doc cleared his throat.
“Al? Are you listening, Mr. Brandon?” His booming voice snapped me back, and I could feel the sweats envelop me. The drugs had kicked in, and Doc Mitchell noticed.
I had to say something to clear the air, and fast. One side of his glasses were black, and a scar wrapped around his square jawline. I never met the man, but you’d swear we were related.
“Your eye,” I said. “You lose that in a war or something?”
He frowned. “Nope. Fortunately, daddy was dripping with coin. No, I lost this during a drug-fueled orgy in downtown Las Vegas, 1971. Guy shot me right in the eye with his throbbing snake.”
“And that scar?”
His bushy mustache twitched. “I cut it shaving. Why? Are you stoned, Mr. Brandon?”
I shook my head, sweat pouring like Niagra Falls. The room bled a reddish hue, and behind Doc Mitchell, a shadowy figure arose, long-clawed and smiling a wicked white smile. Give the crowd a treat, it purred.
He wasn’t convinced. “What’d you take?”
I shrugged. “A… myriad of substances. Shrooms, LSD, the Miami Smiler; anything to help with my… condition.”
He nodded. “Yes, I heard about these recent ‘episodes’ you’ve had. That’s why you came today, correct? Clearly, whatever you’ve been snorting doesn’t help. Are you okay? You’re pale as a ghost.”
I tried reaching for his oaken desk, but the damn thing nearly bit my arm off. I reeled back, squealing. “I wanna draw out this… thing, whatever it is. Everyone I’ve told thinks I’m bat-shit, but they don’t know. No one’s seen it.”
The doc scratched his chin, frowning. “This could be some sort of mental breakdown caused by acute stress. But how you described these symptoms paints an entirely different picture. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen.”
Or he could be delusional, the shadow muttered.
“Shut up!” I snapped.
Don’t listen to this chump, doc, it said. His mind’s a cesspool of lies and deceit. Drug-addled, erratic, confused…
I leapt from my seat, my shoes soaked in green goo. Once the doc’s shock evaporated, his face twisted into a scowl. “What’s gotten into you, Al?” he shouted. “I hope you’re not here to waste my time. Now tell me, what do you call these… seizures? Your symptoms – the puffing chest, the floating – sound awfully similar to a–”
He grinned, flashing a golden tooth.
“Here I thought this would be a boring visit.” He waved a hand to the door beside me. The deadbolt locked in place, and the doc stalked toward the hammer, still grinning. “We’ve never met, Mr. Brandon,” he said, “but I’m a man of certain… talents.” He noticed me eyeing that iron beast. “Oh, this? I thought me and Agatha here would get to know you better.” Doc Mitchell put a cold hand on my lap.
“Now,” he continued, “let’s see what we can do about your condition…” He raised the monstrous Agatha, smiling and thrusting downward. The old coot barely missed me!
Chaotic jazz flared in the backdrop as he smashed the chair to smithereens. I slid beneath the desk, my heart pounding, mind racing from the drugs and the savage codger. He shot me a wily glare, his hair a bleached wreck.
“Stop squirming, Mr. Brandon. I’m only trying to trigger this ‘blowfish syndrome,’ understand?” His neck made a gruesome sound as he twisted back his head, revealing a jovial face, with rosy cheeks and a plastic grin.
“Hi there!” he said. “I’m Doc Marty!” He opened his arms. “Coffee?”
The doc pulled up a chair before proceeding to brew coffee. He whistled to himself as the machine hissed and smoked. The jazz faded away whilst a flurry of violins crept up behind me.
My body shivered as the walls melted before me, and from the puddle rose a buxom babe with a shaved head and skin the color of mocha. Her cinnamon scent made me gag.
“Carmen?” I gasped. “You can’t be real. It’s the drugs, baby, I knew what they’d do if–” She put a finger to my lips.
“You’re sick,” she said. “Let this hombre help you! This… thing has torn us apart head to hip. Please, Al, if not for me, do it for your son. I’m begging you, bring Taylor back home!”
I shook my head wildly. “Carmen, this guy, he’s fucking insane,” I whispered, pushing her away. “Besides, ex-wives don’t spawn from walls!”
That’ll make quote of the year, the shadow said.
She shrieked, lunging and digging her claws into my back, cackling. “Then dance with me, baby-cakes!” she growled. She opened her gaping black hole, and three creatures ripped their way out. The first was a wooden man engulfed in flame, then a furious feline riding its zorse. Lastly came a golden pineapple, baring its sharp gilded chompers.
I fell into my chair when Doc Marty turned to me. He sighed. “Perhaps we got off on the wrong… FOOT!” He knocked the legs from under my chair before I could react, sending me crashing to the ground.
“Now,” he screeched, “who wants to play Whack-A-Brandon?!”
CRACK! He giggled as he brought Agatha down on my leg, crushing it. A seizure of colors accompanied the shock and pain, and the music became a symphony of chaos as the pineapple took a bite from my face. I upchucked on that wretched twat-goblin, melting its fugly mug. I hid behind the desk as the wooden man set it ablaze, and a clock fell from the wall and bonked my noggin.
Smiling, I tossed the clock like a frisbee at the wooden man, shouting, “Your time’s just run out!”
I missed, knocking the calico off its zorse. The flaming man screamed in horror before exploding violently, piercing the zorse like a bloody pin-cushion.
“Bastard!” the cat shouted. “His weakness was bad puns, you… monster…” Doc Marty tittered with glee, smashing in the poor cat’s face before yanking me to the floor.
“Let me help you!” Doc Marty screamed, pinning me down and reeling back for the final blow. I fought under the doctor’s weight, somehow managing to grab his chubby face and twist it back.
The old doctor returned, and I snatched Agatha away as he toppled forth. Doc Mitchell looked at me and gasped, dragging himself backward before breaking down to tears.
“I tried making this easy, Mr. Brandon,” I said.
We both paused. “Wait… that was my line!”
Silly kids, mocked the shadow, are you forgetting you’re the same person?
“All I wanted was a normal life,” the doc said. “A family, a nice house, a room to watch kiddie porn and wank off in peace.”
I brought the doctor to his knees, shouting and bitch-slapping him. “Why did you say my lines?!” I yelled, terrified and confused. Behind the walls, I could hear the mocking laughter. I turned back to see the shadow.
“Is this what you wanted?” I said in the doctor’s voice.
It smiled again. I only want what they want, it whispered. A good show, a side-splitting performance. And that you delivered. You can’t kill me because I am nothing… and everything. I am love, and I am joy and pain and sorrow and grief. I am abstract, Mr. Brandon; an idea, if you will. I am the dream and the reality. I am the show…
The doctor disappeared. The laughing intensified, driving me past the edge of sanity. The voices were coming from that wall, I realized.
With Agatha in hand, I ran screaming toward the center wall. BANG! BANG! The wall crumbled like a cookie, and I was blinded by a sudden light.
There was a deafening roar as I stepped back, and I looked out to behold a sea of terrified faces, each wanting something different. Then came the staggering wave of applause.
It’s happening again. I began to float, throwing back my head and shrieking, my bones snapping as my chest grew. The crowd roared with furious glee. But all I saw was the shadow, grinning, grinning; the god behind the curtains.