This story is by ROB HUNT and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
When officers Daniels and Martin got hold of the guy under the railway bridge on South Pennsylvania Street, he was hysterical with panic. It needed both police officers to deploy a taser on the man who had reportedly been running through night traffic, screaming that something was after him. He’d been seen running up North Meridian before doubling back into Washington and then onto South Pennsylvania. Officers Daniels and Martin had already got a call over the radio when they saw the guy run past the front of their cruiser. He, the man who had voided himself at some point back there, was wearing a janitor’s uniform. He evidently worked at the Hilton Garden Inn. Officer Martin called for medical assistance.
They found some I.D. His name was Boris, and he was fifty years old. The paramedics had to strap the guy down before administering drugs.
As they loaded him into the back of the rig, Boris stretched out his arm, which was suddenly free of the restraints and pointed back at the dark. “There, something there! He had shouted. Paramedics put ten milligrams of Triperidol into him and then another ten. “We’ll find out whatever it is he has ingested, but for now, Boris is going to take a little nap,” said the senior medic as they closed the doors of Boris’ horizontal taxi on its way to IU.
The duty nurse stood near the body while he waited for an orderly. Boris was dead. He had suffered a major heart attack after screaming the place down. The medics had done everything that they could. A detective had swung by not long after. She had been seriously interested in Boris since another body had been discovered at the fire exit of the Hotel where Boris worked. The body had shown signs of strangulation as if by hanging.
Teal looked at Boris. Donny Teal had seen many a body in the three years of working here, yet this one was especially difficult to look at. The face was horribly contorted. Blue lips were pulled back from teeth. Teal recalled the ear-shattering scream that came from that mouth. As he looked, Teal saw the horror. With each passing moment, he could see it more clearly. Then, that rictus of fear seemed to change. It was not due to any movement. Muscle tissue had paralysed into a changeless expression. It was the eyes. The pupils began to dilate. There was a rage in them. Teal swallowed drying spittle as his heart began to beat faster.
The horror and the anger were palpable. Now it was a presence in the room. The face of the dead man was stark with it. Teal went to the door of the room. The handle didn’t budge at first. It was always a little stiff after an intern had crashed a gurney into it a few months ago. A tiny whimper escaped Teal’s mouth. It was in the room, the horror.
Prescient knowledge of Teal’s life unravelling from his body in a single scarlet thread made panic race up from his heart. Teal, at last, got out after wrenching the door handle down so hard it left a pain in his hand. Marching quickly toward the long corridor that went left to right, he had to make a choice. He chose right. Sweat had popped all over his body as Boris’s dead face leered from behind his widening eyes. It was in the corridor. He knew he could not see it, but it was there. The icy clay of that dead face held a secret curse that wanted to be whispered unto the soul of Teal. Teal broke into a run as he crashed through the swing doors. At the end was the fire escape. He bolted for it. The horror was after him. Teal’s heart thumped wickedly into his throat, and with every beat, the terrible visage, the face of death, leapt inside the dementing chaos of Teal’s mind. He staggered as he ran. Through the exit and into the dark, Teal was screaming, a high shrieking begging for help. It was pitiful for the onlookers, but no one tried to stop him. Through the traffic, he ran. A pick-up swerved; car horns blared. He ran and ran. Every exhale of panicked breath was made with a long, agonised cry. Then the main highway beyond the chain link fence. Long distance trucks cannoned by with horns blaring. If he could, Teal was ready to jump into the grill of one of those trucks because then it would be over, and most of all, the horror would not get him. Teal threw himself at the chain link. The fence was too high, and after a few tries, he stopped. It was also too late. He had been found, and the horror made itself known in all its nightmarish glory.
Police detective Gale Brooks remained with the body by the highway. The cops first on the scene had gotten Teal’s I.D and were taking witness statements from the few who had witnessed a man matching Teal’s description running through town. There was no mention of an attacker or of anyone near him. Gale stood over the body for a while and stared into its stricken face. After a while, she wished she had not. With giddy steps, she moved away, and she, with her breath catching in her chest, began to run.