Been Stalk

Hide behind.

He’s behind you.

Put it behind you.

Sometimes there are footsteps. Sometimes there are no footsteps. It’s a game. It’s a tune. Diegetic. Non-diegetic.

This one screams. That one didn’t. Savour the differences. He appreciates the small things.

He leans over her. Leans in close. Puts his hand on her chest above her heart. Breathes his sweet sickly breath into her face. His smile is rotten teeth. She cannot move.

The word sexy has never scared her so much, like a zipper of cold unzipping down her back. He embraces all that she is, and then she is no more.

At the playground he drops candy trails to bring the children closer. He tells them they are never going home. He likes to let the fear settle in, and only when the screaming stops does he enfold them in the sleep they will never wake form.

He has been following him since the club, and part of him is thinking this may be someone that is too shy to come out and tell him they like him. He looks back and sees nothing. Part of him is aroused.

When the moment comes it is teeth. It is teeth and talons. There is a swift motion below the waist, and then all is waste. The slow spreading heat of a pulsing tide that carries him into darkness.

When the klieglight pins him he seems to grow taller. Ink in water. A cloud obscuring a squid. He is moving upwards. Escape isn’t easy. Hung at the limits of the torch’s beam – they look at him and his body starts to stutter and glitch.

He had been tracked whilst hunting a female agent who had delivered a chemical marker into his body when he had touched her. It had been a risk, because they didn’t fully understand what he was or how his biology worked. It was pure luck that they were here now.

They steered him into a box full of light, and then he was removed.

Out beyond the reach of the light a noise sounded. The mouths he had been feeding were now scared and alone, soon they would be hungry.

Weighting

There were weird gravitational fluctuations around him. Exotic physics in the room. He did not have the slightest idea why, and neither did anyone else.

She looked uncomfortable as he approached her, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. Her lower back felt like it might burst. He walked past, and he didn’t look back. He wouldn’t have seen her.

His footsteps were light. He was Gene Kelly. He was a skimming stone. He danced through the streets, his heels clicking as he skittered across the cobblestones.

He watched the man as he fell – a sack of spuds. A body in a crumple zone. The girl stopped walking, knelt, curled foetal, folded out through some point of reference he couldn’t think with.

The world folded down. The world packed away. The world buried under. Around him a city fell, and a sky shook, and he remained unaffected.

A fist of space closed around the child and there was an explosion of red. He turned to the mother and she bloomed like a rose.

How do you know the world is ending? How do you know you aren’t the beginning of something else? The broken toys of the now absent spirits that he had freed from their bodily existence littered the ground.

Why was it only affecting people? Why was the damage not wreaked upon the objects around them? He had no explanation.

A weight of karma? He sensed that the story of who he was had disintegrated, and that right now he lacked a history. He had become a thing; a weapon. He was a protocol in the system that had activated to eradicate problematic elements of the system.

Day after day he wandered. He would look at someone, and they would tumble into their own footprint like demolished buildings. Red stains on the ground. So much death. Time a tattered flag in his mind.

When the last day came he did not know that was what it was. There were no big fanfares, there was a strange absence of people. A murder of crows landed in his pathway, one of them hopping forward as if to greet him. Its rusty hinge voice unpacked in a noise that told him the door was closing.

All the waiting was at an end. The weighting of that moment was a sudden vertiginous crush of all the weight of the world moving down upon him. He collapsed into a red memory of himself.

Pun

He moved around the rotational axis of the word and jabbed through its Achilles Heel so that the blade punctured her left lung just above the third vertebrae.

Spare Ribs. He licked his fingers, messy bloody things. Hard to scream when you can’t breathe.

Last week he had talked someone to death at the end of the road. He lived in the warm crux of a notional hinge.

He had awoken in The Grey Area fifteen years ago, empty as a caesura, some weird inertial enjambement translating into a perpetual hunger.

He liked words you could move around in, like fuck, which bristled with possibility. Idioms tasted great.

You’re into me had never seemed like such a dangerous phrase. His eyes burned in his skull, and he jammed his first deep into her stomach, following his hand and arm into her like some impossible Daliesque perspective manipulation.

When Cage, who changed his name by depoll in tribute to his idol Nicholas Cage, appeared on the scene, he should have seen it as a sign.

He was arrogant, and when he asked Cage, think you have a shot at me? The distortion of the space he brought with him, added to Cage’s well placed confidence as a marksman, made a silver bullet out of an average shot, and he dropped dead on the ground.

Prick

He held up his finger to show them the pinprick of blood there. He held up his finger to get them all to pause, so that he might give them a toast.

There was a joke he told about Mike: that he pricked his finger on a gramophone needle, slept for a hundred years, and woke up as the most out of touch deejay alive.

There was that test. Blood sugar. That other test. Something else.

People hated Jove. Prick.

Two puncture wounds by the neck. Turns out sparkly vampires are dangerous, and don’t just beget other sparkly vampires.

Several girls had described him as date rapey. Melissa thought she was prepared. Music Festivals Saved My Life was the tshirt she would have printed later. She had borrowed her dad’s old tent, so when the taser and the pepper spray didn’t work, and she spotted the fugly overgrown fangs, those old wooden tent pegs seemed like the best thing in the world.

Melissa surprised herself. She yanked that She-Ra rug out from under him, was on top of him, and hammering a peg into his chest before she had pause to draw breath. People thought they had Jove pegged, but Melissa really did.

He was Lost Boys vampire explosive, and the copious amounts of blood ruined her rug and the whole damned room. Her favourite top too. Fuck Jove. Prick.

A Developing Picture

He watched her take the photograph and screw it up and put it in her mouth. What did it mean? He stepped away into the shadows and moved off in the direction of the nearest bar to try and figure that out. Eval Durken at once hated most of the cases he found himself working on , and loved them.

The Flipped Eight was a place he had been to before. Cunning Charlie greeted him at the door, and ushered him into the snug. Garland piled in there too, and they were indeed snug.

‘Here about Toggle, I suppose, eh, Durken?’

‘Why do you ask, Garland?’

‘This is my territory. Don’t like you hanging around snapping up my jobs.’

‘If it were your job, you’d be doing it, no? They stepped over you for a reason, you human turd.’

‘No need to be rude, Durken. Charlie here can testify, I’ve been nothing but polite.’

‘You haven’t bought me a drink, have you?’

‘Nor am I likely to.’

‘Good – just as likely as me discussing a case I am working on with you.’

Charlie and Garland left, very obviously dissatisfied with the response they had received. He got what he needed anyway – a name. Why did they call her Toggle? Who he could ask, he wondered.

There had been bodies, hadn’t there? But they were unable to establish a time of death, a method of killing, or any real motive. He decided he needed go and see the scenes of the crimes for himself.

The first one was in a reed bed by the side of The Wind. What was there to see? What could you judge from the place this long after an event? The reeds were broken towards the centre, in the shape of a small body. They were the only reeds broken – there was no pathway to the scene of the crime. That had him wondering how the cops had got the body out of there. He smiled. Well, there was no crime scene tape anymore, so no one was maintaining the integrity of the site – he might as well just blunder in there, right?

He found what he had been expecting in the centre of the broken reeds, and he wondered how it had been missed. Did they solve the problem of lifting the body out and not disturbing the crime scene, and then just failed to sweep the area?

He uncrumpled it. A little Polaroid picture. He thought they had gone out of vogue. He looked it over and he was sure there was something a little different about it – maybe this was a close approximation of a Polaroid, but not the real McCoy. Something clicked for him – a solution,

He found Officer Cheng in The Blue Light, which made him chuckle, because wasn’t that fucker just as likely to be in The Red Light? Cheng had a gambling problem, and he was so desperate for any cash that Durken didn’t need to have too deep pockets.

Anyway, this time it was an easy ask – he wasn’t looking for something from the evidence locker. What he needed was some copies of the crime scene photos, and some of the autopsy.

Cheng was quick. He sat there looking at the pictures and he wondered if Cheng had glanced at them – probably not, the guy had a notoriously weak stomach.

The body looked like it had suffered some kind of indescribable impact. The body looked like the crumpled picture.

What was Toggle? Not something that your run of the mill cop was going to be able to arrest – of that much he was sure.

He needed something before he confronted her. He had that little portable printer with him that hooked up to his phone. It didn’t take long to track her down, and stood across the road, thankful for the megapixel zoom on his phone camera, he took a picture. He’d made sure the phone and the printer were well charged before he brought them out, and when he plugged the printer in and got that little picture printed, he was proud of the snap he had taken.

She was watching him as he approached her from across the street. He was languid, a practiced lackadaisical stroll as he made his way towards her. Right up close to her, holding her gaze, he was glad that he had been right about the kind of creature that she was … they liked to watch; they weren’t so good at handling fast actions.

He grabbed her by her throat in such a way that he knew her mouth was going to be forced open by the need to breathe – pretend to be human and there are some physiological traps you fall into. As her jaws parted he jammed that little picture in , held her mouth and nose closed, knowing that she would have to swallow.

As he observed the swallowing motion in her throat he stepped back. He got to see something quite special in that moment – the space around her body, like a crumple zone, crushed down to nothing, and the thing that had been Toggle blinked out of existence.

Inside Creepy Forrester’s …

We were always being told never to go down to the house at the end of the street, and to never speak to the old man that lived there. Creepy Forrester they called him. The house was dilapidated though – not horror story scary. No one had died there, and being creepy didn’t make you dangerous.

It was summer, and school was out, so the big kids that used to be shut inside other class rooms for half the day were now let loose to roam the neighbourhoods in search of prey. We were all told to get out from under foot – that only boring people got bored. It was annoying, and kind of made it pointless having cool things at home to do.

I am not sure why I became fascinated with that house. I had started writing little stories for the school magazine, and I was reading more – and a lot of the best stories explored the way people survived or navigated the damage that their lives had done to them.

How can you read Frankenstein and not read into every monster story and wonder what the scoop is on the monster’s own thoughts?

I was watching the house for a while before he noticed me. I’d been keeping notes, and he shouted out that he would like to know what I was doing. I held up the notebook and told him I was making notes for a story. He asked about what, and I told him he was the inspiration.

When Forrester smiled at me it did creep me out. I couldn’t work out whether it was because there was something extra in that smile, or something missing. He beckoned me over and I complied. What do you want to know? That was what he asked me. How do you start that conversation?

‘Why do people call you Creepy?’ I asked.

He smiled, and I felt like I had wasted the question. Wasn’t it obvious?

‘Because,’ he said ‘No one really knows what I did, but they figure that someone that looks like me must have done something.’

‘And I guess you’re telling me that isn’t true? That you did nothing?’

‘How do you win in this scenario, kid? If I didn’t it’s disappointing. If I did you’re in danger.’

He offered me something to eat and drink. I didn’t want to be rude, so I sat down and took him up on the offer.

‘I don’t think you’d be talking to me if you had done something bad.’

He smiled. ‘Or precisely because I wanted to do something bad. You know, being creepy isn’t the worst thing. My brother is something else entirely. You’ve eaten, and he needs to as well.’

First comes the double take, wondering if I had heard him correctly. Then comes the realisation that the numbness in my legs and behind is not caused by how I have been sitting. The bastard slipped me something in my food.

Then I am wondering, how no one knows that he has a brother. I swear I can see the shadow moving independently, and something buts its head against what I take to be the inside of the mirror.

I am trying to see where his brother might be coming from, and then he stands, turns around, and there is someone else there entirely. The thing stood before seems to be borrowing something from Forrester’s voice, but it is entirely guttural, and it doesn’t need any words, because I understand what it is telling me – it is hungry. From the seam where Forrester is joined to his brother, tendrils burst forth, and their sharp-tipped ends latch onto me. I am pulled towards it; I am pulled inside it. Wherever it is taking me the journey is too much to bear.

I wake. I don’t know when, and I don’t know where, but I know that I am nowhere near that house. The only thing I can sense nearby is Forrester’s brother. The drug is wearing off, the numbness is receding, and in the moment I think that I might escape, the creature is upon me,and I am wishing that I was still numb.

Get Inside Your Head

He stood behind her and he touched her head. He had been weirdly familiar with her before, but there was some uncertainty as to whether or not it might be something to do with the therapy. He had, after all, been described to her as interesting.

Was he measuring her skull?

When she asked him why the questions all appeared to be non-sequitur and not to be driving in any particular direction he had paused, and smiled at her. After the pause he had explained that they liked to come at the problem from unexpected angles, and that they found this was most effective in springing the locks on the psyche.

When she had asked what school he considered himself to be a part of, he had likewise been somewhat cagey.

How long was he going to hold her head? Was he massaging her scalp? Had his breathing become heavy and ragged? The instruction to keep her eyes closed no matter what was now beginning to seem like a very bad idea.

And then it stopped. It went very quiet. He said nothing at all.

She felt the rush of the air and perceived the motion. The message that something had collided with her head took a lot longer to arrive.

What was this about? He still wasn’t saying anything, and now she couldn’t open her eyes. She was aware of a dampness spreading under he head, warm at first, then cooling down. Her head throbbed.

Therapists weren’t supposed to get triggered like this, were they? Weren’t they supposed to go through some kind of screening process? What was likely to be the outcome of this? Where could it go from here? Nowhere good.

He was soft shoeing it around the office. No noise. No noise. And then the last thought to go through her mind was surprise that a foot without a shoe could crush a skull.

The Residents

They all sat around like they were waiting for something. Some of them raised their claws, pointing to something that no longer existed. They could not express their loss except in grunts, and an investment in their eyes. The poverty of their communication struck him.

When this had been the only job he qualified for out of all those that he applied for, he had been hesitant about taking it. One of his friends had worked here for a summer, years back, and he told him that these were not really anything more than bodies to anchor and jail spirits here. What made them human had withered and died, like the vessels that trapped them. He had told his friend to quit being so melodramatic.

Mr Iverson let out a noise like a rusty hinge. Mrs Watters picked it up and elborated upon it. John Johnson broke it into tiny pieces and scattered it across the rest of the day. Were they communicating, or was it just noise? He felt a weird compulsion to mimic them, but held back – it was strange, like it was engaging some reptilian part of his brain. It made him feel a little queasy.

Sometimes they started to flock and wheel around like slow motion starlings, and he had at first though it was somehow graceful and balletic, until he had caught the slack-jawed expressions on their faces. This was not what one would describe as an Active Senior Facility – it was almost the exact opposite. One of the other workers had told him how atypical all this behaviour was.

Some of those who were chronically bed-ridden had been sitting bolt upright and seemingly speaking in tongues. The workers had been asked to start keeping a log of all the strange occurences, and to try and back track and see if they could identify at all when it had all started.

Some of the workers were starting to get nervous, and Tom was wondering whether he should start looking for work elsewhere. The pay wasn’t enough to compensate for all this weirdness, and he was starting to dream about the residents.

When the first of his friends disappeared without trace he just put tit down to them leaving because of the stress of the job, and he figured they would show up on his radar at some later point. He used the same excuse for the second and third person who bailed. By the fourth he was getting suspicious, and by the fifth, the excuse of a high turnover rate seemed ridiculous.

He decided to stay late, and they weren’t going to argue, because they now had a pretty obvious staffing issue. Some of the residents seemed agitated that he was there – perhaps the change in routine? A couple of them seemed to be following him around as he performed his duties.

Mr Kaplin was a long cycle – you had to clean all the places where the tubes went in, and empty all of the bags where fluid emptied out. One might charitably say that Mr Kaplin was an intriguing exercise in mortality engineering. Tom smiled to himself.

He was turned around emptying the urine into the bucket when he heard the weight of Mr Kaplin’s body shift on his bed – a sound he immediately identified as the sound of someone sitting up, but which he just as immediately dismissed as impossible.

The hand that fell on his shoulder possessed more strength than anyone but another staff member would have been able to muster, so when he turned and saw Mr Kaplin risen and holding him so he couldn’t run his first reaction was total confusion.

That singular movement that brought the other residents piling into the room, their old yellow fangs bared, and their hands even more claw-like than he had thought them before, now seemed anything but grateful. As they dragged him to the ground and he felt their jaws clamp upon him, and begin tearing his flesh, he had the stupid thought that he had never really liked old people.

Feed The Baby

It wouldn’t stop crying. It would stare at him and he would swear that it did not blink. It was not the same as when his wife brought it home. How long had it been that he had been thinking of it as an it?

He wouldn’t refer to it by the name they had chosen, and his wife was starting to notice. His wife did not notice how strange the little thing was though. She kept telling him that it was advanced for its age, and that the fact that it would siut up and stare at him was, in fact, cute.

His mother had taken him aside to talk to him – to ask him what was wrong. And when he tried to explain it to her she just didn’t understand. She told him it was crazy and he needed to get himself handled, because he was upsetting the baby, and he was upsetting his wife.

So he decided to try. It looked at him in a way he perceived as sly, but he decided to ignore it. Whatever it did seemed disconnected from the efforts he made to subdue it, and to make it happy. Was it this way because he saw through it’s enchantment? Where was his son?

Still he tried to persist and take more responsibility. She had been pumping during the day to build up a surplus, so that he could feed it if it woke in the night. It was screaming its head off, he went in and he picked a bottle up for it. It refused to drink or quieten down. He asked it what it wanted.

It smiled. It finally gave him a smile. Since when had it had teeth? Wasn’t too young to have teeth? His wife had told him that the baby was hungry, and he needed to feed it.

In the morning she found the baby quiet, like it had fed recently. She must have slept heavily. Her husband was gone, and though she waited, he never came back from wherever he ran away to. John Mazick Jr grew strong … a strange child to become a strange adult. Always hungry.

On The Way Home

Mummy walks behind you. You have told her that you do not like her and you wish that she was dead. Mummy is upset and crying, and she has been crying for much longer than she does when daddy hits her with his big hands.

No one listens to you – that is what you think. And it is true – there is not one singular thing occupying the dark.

The journey home seems much longer than it normally does, but then mummy is usually holding your hand. Mummy is very quiet. When you shout for her and she doesn’t answer back, and you stare back along the path to see where she might be, you think for a moment that she is mad with you and trying to scare you.

It hasn’t rained, but the path is wet. The path looks shiny under the street lamp. Surely you would have heard something if something bad had happened to her. You hear nothing. You pull off your mitten and you touch the dark pool with your index finger, and you bring it closer to your face so you can see what the sticky stuff is. It is red. Doesn’t mean nothing though – Kayleigh told you that she heard that all the blood used in movies is ketchup or strawberry stuff that you put on ice cream. You taste it. You remember sucking your finger when you cut it in arts and crafts, and it tastes like that.

‘Say thank you, Mary,’ says a voice that you do not recognise. It comes from the part just off the path where you can’t see anything, because there is no light.

‘For what?’ you say.

‘We helped Mummy get some extra sleep,’ says the voice, sounding scarily like Daddy when he is angry.

‘Why would Mummy sleep out here?’ you say.

You don’t understand the laughter. It trails away. You don’t remember the way home.

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