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Tool of the Trade
/ / /
Dean found himself rolled into a ball on a floor. His throat was dry, nearly closed shut. He tried to move, but the fog in his head kept him from making any motion.
Where am I?
“It worked! It’s so old, I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did!”
“Ow!” Dean said. Or at least he tried to say it, but all that came out was a short grunt as he twitched from the pain of the voice shouting near him. How drunk did I get last night? I don’t even remember drinking...where am I, anyway?
The breaking and uneven voice of a teen boy started yammering again, making his head hurt even worse. Would he please just shut up before I make him?
"Oh, he's moving. Quickly, get something for him to drink."
A different male voice, this one with a high nasal sound to it, asked, "Get what?"
Teen Boy answered, sounding flustered. "I don't know, water, ale, something! Ah, forget it, I'll go." Dean felt the pound of the running steps in his head as much as he heard them when Teen Boy left.
Another young voice, pleasant and feminine this time. "Such odd clothing. His jacket looks like leaves, and what is that on his head!"
"It's a ball cap," Dean muttered, his eyes clenched shut while trying to roll over upright.
"Eek!" she squeaked, jumping back as he managed to sit up. The move seemed to drain him, as he slumped back against the wall behind him while wincing at her high pitched squeal.
The other male voice, Nasal Guy, spoke up. "He can barely move. How is he supposed to help us?"
Dean finally opened his eyes, momentarily happy that the room was dimly lit, until a brunette woman stooped close in front of him and made his eyes strain from trying to focus on her. He thought she might be pretty but couldn't tell in the light. The lack of focus didn’t help, either, so he closed his eyes in an effort to push back the ache that had begun near the base of his skull.
"I don't know, Derel. He's just been summoned and is already moving. I'd say there's more to him than you seem to think."
It sounded like Nasal Guy, or Derel, according to Maybe Pretty, pulled her upright and away from him. "And I say anyone who is to be summoned in a time of great need should be ready to act immediately, Diana."
Dean worked his tongue to build up a little saliva and forced it down his parched throat. He whispered, "Hey," as he moved a hand in a small beckoning motion. Derel gave a startled jerk at the sound before looking to where he was sitting. He repeated the motion, whispering “‘mere”, drawing Derel in closer to him. Dean cracked his eyes open to slits, gauged the distance between them, and flashed his hand out to grab Derel by the...what the hell, was he wearing a robe? Letting that drop from his mind for the time being, he pulled Derel in close to meet his gaze, ignoring the nasally whine he was making.
“Derel, right?” he asked in a hoarse whisper. Derel nodded, shaking in his grip. “Ok, Derel. You’re going to shut...the fuck...up. Got it?” The young man shook more but nodded again. “Good,” Dean said before letting him go with a little shove.
Derel sprawled back onto the floor and scrambled back away from him. Dean turned his attention to Diana, who had stepped back and to the side during the exchange. He felt more drained than he wanted to admit, so he chose to go for dramatic pause. Just as he thought he was going to have to strain out more speech, Teen Boy came back with a mug in his hands.
“Len, thank the Ancients you’re back! Look, he’s already moving and he shoved Derel across the room! I know he’ll be able to help us,” Diana exclaimed.
“He did not!” Derel crawled. “I fell as I tried to get away...I mean, as I tried to help him.”
Teen Boy, who Dean guessed had to be Len, looked at Derel, then back to Dean, before shaking his head. “Will you try to harm me if I give you a drink?” he asked.
Dean tried to clear his throat but gave up. “Give me a drink and I’ll kiss you.”
Len actually blushed and glanced toward Diana. “There’s no need for that. I only want to help you.” He passed the mug to Dean, who put the mug to his lips and paused as the cool liquid touched them. After a couple of slow, small sips to wet his throat, he took a deep breath and drained the mug in one long pull.
He squeezed his eyes tight, trying to work up some moisture behind them to get rid of the gritty feeling on his eyeballs. Once he opened them fully, he noticed the three young people around him, each of them seeming to be shaken. Derel, who actually was wearing a robe like that kid from the wizard movies, looked to be thin and had a pinched look to add to his bucked teeth. Dean saw that Diana was wearing a gown and actually was pretty, though he wasn’t sure she knew it yet. Len, wearing what Dean could only describe as Robin Hood clothes, had that appearance all teen boys did once they hit their growth spurts, all gangly limbs and awkwardness.
His frequent looks toward Diana told Dean everything he wanted to know about them and he made the decision that humor was the best approach before focusing his attention on Len. “Thanks. Offer still stands.”
Len grew even redder. Guess he’s never kissed anyone then, not even that girl. Shame, her looks back say she’s waiting for him to do it. Maybe they’ll even figure it out at some point.
Dean felt his limbs grow more responsive, so he reached out a hand to Len. “Never mind, but thanks for the drink. Mind giving me a hand up?”
Len and Diana both nodded, each grasping a hand and pulling as he stood up. “Thanks. Name’s Dean. Now, where the hell am I?”
Len swung his arms out wide. “Welcome to Belenga. We’ve summoned you to aid us in a task.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Indeed, I’m telling the truth. We have great need and you were summoned here by a device that our ancestors made” -Dean watched Len pull out an odd looking, something, from his pocket- “at the beginning of the time of peace. Will you aid us?”
Dean looked over the group. They looked worried but expectant, as though he could solve their problem. Hell, maybe he could. “I can try. What’s the job and what’s the pay?”
Len looked surprised. "You would require payment?"
"Hell, yes. It's not like I volunteered to be here."
Len sighed and pulled a purple bag from his tunic to shake it, creating a metallic noise. “This is the pay. As for the job…” he turned away and waved for Dean to follow him. The other two trailed behind him, and all Len led them down a flight of stairs. Then another. Once they approached the third set of stairs, Dean stopped. “Hey, how far down do we have to go?”
“These are the last stairs,” Diana assured him.
“As long as you say so.”
When they started walking again, Dean took a moment to stealthily smooth his hands along his pants. Relief filled him when he felt the knife in his front pocket. Always best to have a weapon and not need it...though saying boo might make these kids pass out. The lump in his rear pocket told him his wallet was still there, too. Not that anything in it is likely to be useful right now, he thought and chuckled.
He patted the upper pockets of his field jacket, which he remembered emptying that morning, then slid his hands into the larger bottom pockets. The shape in his right pocket made him physically relax. He pulled it out, pressed in a pair of buttons, and slid his hands apart. The metal click made Len turn around and look at him. “What?”
Still clearly nervous, Len nonetheless faced him. “What was that noise?”
Dean gave him a hmph. “It’s my Gerber, see?” and held it out for him to examine.
“They’re just tongs.”
“What? No, they’re not. Look, do tongs do this?” Dean pressed the buttons back in and slid the jaws in and out of the handles.
Derel stared at the tool. “Amazing.”
“I know, and that’s just one of the things it can do,” Dean replied, placing the tool into his pocket and moving to follow Len down the final flight of stairs.
Derel fell into step behind them, matching his stride to Dean’s. As they reached the bottom stair, he eased closer to Dean and slipped his hand into the pocket with the tool. At that point, a searing pain flared through his hand. He screeched and tried to pull away, but the pain in one finger forced him to move his hand back to where it had been.
"You're an idiot. You know that, right?" Dean asked Derel without turning around. Derel felt his injured finger and hand being pulled out of and away from the pocket. The young man looked down to see what was biting his finger. To his shock, it was the small pair of tongs that belonged to Dean. Unfortunately for him, Dean was holding them and stopped to look back over his shoulder at the gaunt lad. "Be glad that wasn’t my knife or you'd be short a finger. Try to pick my pocket again and see what happens. Got me?"
Derel nodded agreement, not wanting to anger the man any further.
"Good," and the pain increased briefly once the pressure clamped onto his finger let go. He directed his next comment toward Len. “How much further? I want to get home, if that’s even possible.”
“It is, I’m sure,” Len said, though his tone sounded more hopeful than confident to Dean. “Our goal is in this room.”
They entered a dusty room filled with empty shelves and a few books on tables, along with a box on a pedestal. Len walked over to the box. “Here it is.”
“It’s a box.” Dean leaned in and took a moment to examine it. “With a keyhole.” He stood up to face Len. “Where’s the key?”
“We do not know,” Diana admitted.
“What’s in the box, then?”
“We also don’t know that,” Derel answered.
“Then what the hell DO you know? Because I know I was dragged here against my will and I know I’m getting angry,” Dean seethed. Then he decided to throw in something extra, knowing they would have no idea where it came from. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Oh, he would have given a pretty penny to have a camera to capture their faces at that moment. They looked terrified, which was the least they deserved, and he decided to have some more fun with it. He snatched up the box and dropped it onto the ground.
"Be careful with it!" Len cried out.
Dean stomped on the box with his work boots instead, only to have it skitter out from under his foot. He picked it back up and looked it over. "Huh, no marks. Tougher than it looks. Guess it's time for something different."
He pulled his pocket knife out and flicked it open with a single finger, the blade locking in place with a click. The trio watched while he tried to use the blade to pry up the lid to the box. While it was narrow enough to fit in the gap, the tip wouldn’t give him any grip to force it open, and the sharpened edge wasn’t firm enough to let him leverage it open. After realizing that the blade's tip was too large to fit into what appeared to be the box’s keyhole, he closed it, put it back into his front pocket, and reached into his jacket pocket.
Dean flicked his wrist, making Derel flinch at the sharp snikt sound. Len watched him open the small set of tongs he had used earlier, only to see him use his fingertips and thumbs to pull even smaller tools out from within the tongs’ handles. While he watched as Dean worked through each tool, he noted that the tools were actually attached inside the tongs’ handles. The summoned one was apparently in search of a particular tool that would allow him to open the box. After a couple of moments, Dean slipped a thin tool into the small opening and twisted. It gave a small click, and a gap appeared in the box’s seal.
“Is there nothing your tool can’t do?” Len asked as he stared on in amazement.
“Well, I’m still here, so there’s that,” Dean answered in a flat tone. "Let's see what's in here that's so important that you pulled me to...wherever the hell I am."
"I've told you, this is Belenga and you were summoned by the device our ancestors created," Len said.
"Yeah, I don't really care. Let's see what's in here...the fuck?" He glared at them. "Are you kidding me?!?" he yelled.
Diana began speaking. "Sir, please, don't be so angry."
Len stepped in front of her, holding out the clinking bag to Dean, the odd device still in his other hand. "We honestly didn't know what was in it. Please, take your payment and go."
Dean snatched the bag and shoved it into his pocket. "Go where? You idiots dragged me here...to open a fucking box of what looks like weed-"
Len stammered, "We had need…"
Dean finished his shout. "Where am I supposed to go?!"
Derel had a terrified look on his pale face. He yelled, "Home!" and lurched for Len's device.
Dean wouldn't have guessed he was that quick, but the movement startled Len, who yelled, "NO!"
Derel pressed his thumbs down into the top of it, yelling, "Bakhomus!", and Dean's world went dark.
/ / /
He heard a familar voice from what sounded like a distance. "Dean? Are you okay?" A hand gripped his shoulder and gave him a gentle shake. He slowly opened his eyes and found himself on the ground, looking at a brown boot. Shifting his gaze upward, Dean saw the hand belonged to Walt.
"Ah, shit. What happened to you? I thought you were taking a leak and coming back, but it’s been over an hour."
"I"m not sure," Dean answered, shifting to a sitting position before Walt helped him stand. "Weird damned dream, then you woke me up."
"Well, you had me worried. I was about to call the cops," Walt said.
"Sorry, don't know what happened," Dean replied, shrugging his shoulders. He froze, noticing a weight in his left pocket that wasn't there before.
"What's this?" He cautiously slid his hand into the pocket, searching until he felt soft fabric. With a look at Walt, he pulled out a purple bag. Slipping his fingers into the small opening, he spread it and looked inside to see what appeared to be several yellow metal coins.
"Oh, man. That shit was real?" / / /
I hope everyone enjoyed this one shot, the idea came up in a channel discussion and wouldn't leave me alone. Now that it's out of the way, the next chapter about Karen, Harvey, and the Bel Air should be ready within a day.
Comments, feedback, and questions are welcome, plus you can check out a few exclusive posts over on coldfireknight and join my little discord for early peeks at Storyverse stuff, like the updated model of the Bel Air or first view of a Reaper heavy fighter.
"The Root of all Evil" (Fiction)
My life was a mess, I couldn’t keep a job. I was suffering from depression and anxiety. I was barley functioning as a human being, things were looking so dark at that point I thought about ending it all. I had just been released from yet another go nowhere job and was at home one evening when I got a phone call. I put out a lot of applications online at least 15 a day, so it wasn’t abnormal for unknown numbers to show up on my phone, but this wasn’t just any number. This call would be what got me where I am today, which is barricaded inside of a house with hostages, surrounded by U.S. marshals and S.W.A.T.
Let me explain, my name is Calvin Greer and I’ve had horrible luck my entire life. I guess you could say it started at birth, my father, the prize winning pig he was, had major and I mean major drug problems. I don’t mean in and out of jail typical asshole junkie dad shit here, this guy was robbing coke dealers and trading it for guns which brought him right back to his drug of choice “Money”. Now I know what you’re thinking, as addictions go having a money addiction aint that bad of a deal. That would be the case, if you knew what to do with the money, this genius was a gambler and lost it all putting himself so far in debt he could never get out. He owed hundreds of thousands to the type of people you don’t want to owe a dime.
They burnt our house down and took the insurance money but that didn’t even begin to cover what he owed. On top of that he’d wronged a lot of people over the years so the streets wanted him dead. Ultimately he left us stranded in a homeless shelter and vanished for a while.
My mother, god bless her, was a saint. She saved every penny and stacked every dime working herself ragged till we were able to get into an apartment of our own. She did the best with what we had and it worked for us, until it didn’t, times got hard hell years got hard but eventually things got better. There was only one problem, momma had an addiction to, no not drugs or alcohol, and before you go getting all perverted no it wasn’t sex. She was addicted to my dad, she loved him so much she would do whatever it took to find him, and that’s exactly what she did.
I was 10 when we found him, he had been shot and left for dead in Nevada, I’m pretty sure you can guess where. She saw his face on the news and we were there at the hospital the next day, flash forward 7 years and the old man just couldn’t help himself. Don’t get me wrong, he tried, he held down a job for 3 or 4 years before shit went crazy all over again.
This time was different, I’m still not completely sure what he did but suddenly we came into a lot of money. I mean millions, we had the big house on the hill, new cars, the newest clothes, if you could buy it we had it and it was amazing. I was 17 about to be 18 and had lived my whole life up to that point dirt poor. To be millionaires literally overnight was mind blowing. I didn’t know how to act so naturally I went a little wild. I won’t weigh you down with all that, but trust me it was awesome.
Exactly 4 years later there was a knock at the door, I don’t think anyone was ready for what was on the other side of it. I swear it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room when it opened, there standing in the doorway was a little girl. She couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old, she was wearing one of those old fashioned dresses that made her look like a living doll. Her skin was a weeping discolored mess of prune like flesh, her eyes were oversized protruding yellowish orbs that darted around the room looking at all of us one by one. As bad as all of that was, the thing that really freaked me out was her hair, it was done like one of those child beauty pageant contestants, something about that just disturbed the hell out of me.
Then she spoke, her voice was booming and somehow ear piercing at the same time, the sound of it sent waves of pain through my brain and brought me to my knees. ”Your obligation has not been fulfilled, the contract is void. Your blood is now indebted.” I watched my father being dragged across the room by things I couldn’t see, he screamed and fought as much as he could until he was floating in the air just a few feet from where that thing was standing in the doorway. She raised one hand and made a fist, my father’s body crumbled like a piece of paper. I could hear his bones snapping and crunching under the pressure and with one last flick of her wrist, it was over, his body exploded and coated the room with his blood. My mother died of a heart attack right there in the living room, suddenly I was alone and as I found out a few days later back to being dirt poor, not a penny to my name outside of whatever cash assets I had on hand or hidden away which wasn’t much.
My life took a downward spiral after that, therapy and medication left me in this weird funk that kept me out of focus kind of just stumbling through life. Getting through the next few years would be tough I bounced around for a while till I was able to land a job at the airport cleaning rental cars, from there I got an apartment but that didn’t last long. The company sold its contract and the new owners didn’t want any convicted felons working for them, oh the felony thing is one of those details I fast forwarded through, besides it’s a horrible story. In any case after that I was living in my car for a while until it got stolen one night while I was working through a temp service. There’s a few more ups and downs but I’m sure you get the point by now.
I’d hit rock bottom, there was an eviction notice on my door and no sign of a dime rolling my way to pay on a single thing. Then my phone rang, an almost familiar sounding voice snapped me out of my daze. “Hello Mr. Greer, we recently reviewed your application and would like to offer you a job.” After a brief conversation, I agreed to the terms of the contract and I was told someone would be here to pick me up the next morning.
I don’t think I slept a wink that night and by 6 a.m. someone was knocking at my door, opening it I was greeted by a short old man with a bulging pot belly and long grey hair. He looked me over and grunted to himself before gruffly asking, “Are you Calvin Greer?” once I assured him I was we were off.
The old man turned out to be a talker, he started chatting me up once we were on the road. “So uh, Cal if you don’t mind me asking, have you ever done one of these before?”
Judging by the lingering aroma of weed in the van I could tell this was going to be a fun ride and before I could respond he dug in his shirt pocket and pulled out thumb thick spliff that seemed to fog up the van as soon as he lit it. “The name’s Teddy by the way, you smoke?” he asked passing it to me, smiling to myself I grabbed it and took a hit. Holding it in for a few seconds, I noticed the taste was almost sweet, it coated my mouth with a citrus flavor that reminded me of grapefruit. Choking and exhaling I chuckled and passed it back, “Wow that’s good, but what do you mean, done one of these? I thought this was a job.”
Teddy laughed at me before taking another long pull, “Oh it’s a job alright, just not the kind you’re thinking of.” passing me the blunt he exhaled a cloud and chuckled, “I’ll tell you like I tell everyone who tries this, in the end no one wins, just take the money and shut the fuck up, it’s not worth it.”
I don’t know if was the weed or what but Teddy had a real odd way of talking a lot without saying much. Taking another good hit, glancing out the window for a second I realized we weren’t in the city any more, but there was no way we had come that far that fast, my head started spinning and suddenly I could hear Teddy’s voice telling me to wake up. Rubbing my eyes and sitting up I see Teddy standing outside the van about to open my door, “That shits not for beginners.” He chuckled pulling it open, “Probably should have warned you, but no harm no foul. Were here safe and sound, good luck bro, just remember what I told you and hopefully I’ll see you for the trip home.”
Getting out of the van I found myself looking at a nice little two story house, the walls were made brick that had been painted a deep green that nearly matched the surrounding area. There were six other houses on the street each identical in build but painted different colors, grey, yellow, red, blue, white and black, somehow the entire day had passed it was dark now and I could see lights on in all the houses. On the mailbox to my left I noticed my name on a white envelope taped to it, as Teddy honked his horn and drove away as I grabbed the envelope. Inside was a letter that read:
“Hello Mr. Greer, The house you see in front of you will be your home for the next 365 days. In this time you will be compensated 5,000 dollars weekly for the duration of the job. Food, clothing, and shelter are provided there will be scheduled events that take place weekly at first and becoming daily as time goes on, you are free to opt out at any point terminating the contract and forfeiting your compensation. That money will be divided by the remaining participants, you will have limited access to internet and cable television as well as the freedom to move around the area. You will not be allowed off the property until you either opt out or finish the job.”
The only other thing in the envelope was a pair of keys, walking up to the front door I noticed there was a number painted on the frame 70. Stepping inside my jaw dropped it was identical to the house my parents died in, slowly backing out into the yard I stood there staring at the house. There was no way this was happening, that house was at least three times this size and yet when I looked inside it was all there. I should have opted out right then, god knows I thought about it, but I would be going back to nothing, I needed that money. Patting my pockets for my cigarettes a found what was left of the blunt Teddy was smoking and a note with STFU written on it. I laughed and grabbed my smokes and realized I didn’t have a lighter, “Great” going back inside that house was a nightmare come true, when I closed the door I could have sworn for a split second the knob was covered in blood but as I glanced down at my palm there was nothing there. I could smell my mother’s perfume hanging in the air flashbacks of pool parties and wild nights on the town flooded my mind for a moment followed by that horrible sound I spent years trying to forget.
It was coming from behind me, the wet crunching of bone shattering, tearing through flesh and the wheezing gasps for air. Out of reflex I spun around to see an empty room, everything was gone, I wasn’t in that house any more, the floors were a dark polished wood now and the walls were a sandy tan, in the room to my right was a large leather sectional sofa positioned around a huge flat screen television. To my left another room that led to the kitchen. Upstairs was three bedrooms and a game room decked out with every video game I could think of and a few I’d never heard of, this place was fantastic, and when I found the bar I forgot all about the weird flashbacks and poured myself a drink. Looking around the place I found the closet in the master bed room filled with brand new clothes and shoes, all in my size. Walking around getting a feel for the house I kept looking for cameras, but I never found any, after an hour or so of looking through everything there was a knock at the door.
I didn’t say a word, as quietly as I could I made my way to the door just in time for whoever it was to knock again. Looking through the peephole I see a tall thin woman with medium length brown hair and glasses. “Who is it?!” I barked out still watching, she stepped back slightly surprised and smiled. “I’m Paula from the blue house, I saw you getting dropped off and thought I’d come say hello before the others show up.”
When I finally opened the door Paula smiled and held out her hand to shake, there was something odd about her and not in a cute quirky way either, something about the look in her eye was unsettling. Not trying to be rude, I shook her hand and invited her inside. She stepped through the doorway and paused looking around the house smiling to herself before speaking excitedly, “I knew it, all the houses are completely different. Looks like you got the best one, do you know anything about the job?”
Something about her made me laugh a little, “No, not really, I’m Calvin by the way.” She smiled still looking around until she spotted the bar, the smile vanished and she looked me straight in the eyes, “Can I please have a drink?” something about her sudden mood change felt genuine. “Sure help yourself.” Before I could finish talking she was headed for the bar. Picking through the bottles she raised up an untapped bottle of Makers mark and kissed it before peeling away the wax and pouring a cup. I watched her sniff the drink breathing it in for a second with her eyes closed before finally taking that first sip, “Holy shit, that’s so good. Oh my God I thought I’d have to go a whole year without it, thank you so much. I’ve been here a month now and no one has alcohol, if I were you I wouldn’t tell everyone about this, those guys will be here every day trying to leach off you until you run dry.” She smiled taking another sip, I hadn’t noticed till then that she was covered in tattoos from her neck to her knuckles and she was gorgeous.
“Uh look, Paula is it? Can you please tell me the hells going on here, what are we being paid to do exactly?” she took another sip then refilled her cup. Walking towards the door she paused and smiled at me again, “Live, not to be cryptic or anything but that’s what they want you to do as far as I can tell. Stay here for a year and they’ll pay you to do it. I’m not sure why, Fred from the black house says this is some sort of game, I’m not sure I believe that though. If you ask me I think it’s an experiment, who knows, who cares? In the end we all get a big fat check and its back to the real world.” Finishing of her drink she thanked me for it and left.
I spent the rest of the night smoking and playing video games until I fell asleep, when I woke up I could hear people talking and the sun was up. Getting up and going downstairs I could make out two voices coming from just outside the front door. A man and a woman were arguing back and forward about what they should have brought, shaking my head I didn’t bother asking who it was I just opened the door catching them both off guard. “Oh hello, I’m Christine and this is Glen were from the yellow house, you wouldn’t have happened to see our son Eli around here have you? He’s been snooping around this place since we got here and we didn’t want him surprising you.” I told them I hadn’t seen anyone except Paula and they both gave me an odd look then Glen leaned towards me and uttered under his breath, “People like her are dangerous, I’d watch it around her if I were you.” With that they walked away talking to one another. An hour later I stepped outside for some air and saw a big white van in the middle of the street, there was a speaker mounted to the top of it and almost as soon as I noticed it a voiced boomed out from it, “Today’s event will take place in 3 minutes, you must remain inside your homes for the next 72 hours, if you fail to do so you will be penalized, today’s event is worth 5 thousand dollars, good luck.” A timer started counting down over the speaker, I stood there watching the curtains being closed in every house, not knowing what was about to happen I rushed inside and watched through the window waiting to see what was about to happen. When the timer hit zero o was expecting some amazing spectacle but nothing happened at least not at first, eventually the air around me started to warm up, it was barely noticeable at first but after 45 minutes I was dripping sweat, after 2 hours I thought I might pass out it got so hot I could see heat waves in the air and just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore there was a loud metallic clank and cold air came pouring through the vents.
This went on for the entire first day and by nightfall I was starting to regret doing this. The temperature finally stabilized at 70 degrees and stayed there for the rest of the night, around two in the morning I started to hear someone running through the house, I lay there in bed listening to whoever it was right up until I heard them racing up the stairs. I rolled out of bed and rushed into the hall and froze in place, there standing at the top of the stairs was that horrible thing I’d seen kill my parents, its sickly bulbous yellow eyes locked onto me as its mouth stretched open releasing a swarm of what I thought were fly’s at first till one of them landed on my arm and bit into me. It looked like a tiny person with wings and an oversized mouth, its skin or maybe scales, who knows, was a reflective greenish black and when I say those little fuckers pack a punch, the bite took a chunk of flesh the bastards were trying to eat me. I swatted one and then another and another but the hallway was filling up with them I turned and bolted back into my room slamming the door shut then jamming everything I could get my hands on in the cracks to keep them out, that worked for a few seconds then they started coming through the vents. Rushing to the restroom I closed myself inside and started filling the tub with water while I franticly searched for anything I could use to swat them away. I could hear them buzzing outside the door the sound was so loud there had to be thousands of them, spotting a straw on the floor I remembered an old cartoon and prayed it worked as I scooped it up and dove in the tub submerging myself completely under water and breathing through the straw.
The door burst open and those things blotted out the light, it was suddenly pitch black in there but the straw was working, after a few minutes they fluttered away and I sat up relieved. Gasping and wiping water out of my eyes I heard the worst sound I think I’ve ever heard in my life, a girlish giggle coming from the doorway. Slowly turning I saw her, that same horrible little wrinkled wretch of a creature grinning at me, her oversized mouth filled with protruding half rotted teeth. She lunged at me in the blink of an eye and I jolted back slamming the back of my head into the wall and slipping in the tub, the second I got my balance she was gone. I sat there with the back of my head stinging fully clothed sitting in a tub of water, no sign of the bugs or the girl. Once I had on some dry clothes and was sure the house was empty tried to get something to eat, in the hall leading to the stairs there’s a floor to ceiling mirror I hadn’t paid much attention to until I walked passed it.
I don’t know how to explain it but there was something wrong with my reflection, tiny differences, like the scar on my cheek wasn’t there and my hair seemed darker but I wrote it off and headed for the kitchen. I stood there looking through the fridge and came up with a sandwich and a cold beer then sat down to watch a movie, about half way through I started to hear a tapping sound coming from the window. As long as it wasn’t that girl I thought I could deal with it, I was so wrong. Yanking back the curtain revealed something I wish I could erase from my brain, what I can only describe as a shaved ape was pressing its greasy, splotchy pink naked body against the glass and that tapping sound I mentioned, let’s just say you don’t want to know.
Upon realizing it had been spotted, this horrendous looking freak let out a pig like squeal and detached itself from the glass leaving an ogre shaped wet spot behind. It stood there staring in at me, it didn’t seem to have a neck and its eyes were these big black orbs that were so far apart they were nearly on the sides of its head, its mouth if you could call it that was abnormally wide and drooped in the corners releasing a river of what I hoped was just spit. The rest of its body looked like it was made of chicken skin, it hobbled around making that pig noise for a few seconds before it shambled off vanishing into the woods.
“Jesus Christ, what was that, please tell me it wasn’t doing what I think it was doing.” I said out loud to myself shaking my head, I didn’t look out of a window for the rest of the night. The next morning rolled in and I couldn’t have been happier, walking down the stairs I was hit by a smell that instantly made me gag, the only thing I could compare it to was, a septic tank stuffed with road kill. The stench was so thick I swear I tasted it, looking around the house was clean, I searched for close to an hour and couldn’t find where it was coming from. The smell was so bad it killed my appetite so I just sat there on the couch covering my nose till it finally went away. There was no rule against opening a window for air but the second I did, I regretted it, an ear piercing alarm sounded and every light in the house started flashing until I closed it. I did my best to move on with my day watching movies and playing games occasionally cleaning up just to pass the time, then I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye. At first glance I thought it was a rat, I would catch glimpses of them from time to time throughout the day but never got a good look at one till I went to the restroom.
I was standing there doing my business when I heard bubbling coming from the toilet, glancing down I saw a pair of eyes looking up at me from the drain. I was midstream there was no stopping now so I didn’t, I almost laughed at it till it came flying out of the toilet chomping at a needless to say sensitive area. Now I don’t know about you guys, but having some weird toilet goblin attacking my junk wasn’t high on my list of life goals, I pissed all over the place trying to get back and when that thing landed on the floor in front of me I nearly lost it. The creature didn’t look anything like a rat, it was a lot closer to a deformed really hairy spider with the biggest fangs I’d ever seen in my life. It made this clicking sound that made my eyes water and it reeked of that foul stink that had flooded the house earlier in the day.
It moved incredibly fast, crossing the floor between us in seconds I did the only thing I could think of and kicked it as hard as I could sending it flying through the air and splattering against the wall. Before I could celebrate my small victory a searing pain surged through my foot. The same foot I kicked the thing with was now covered in tiny brown and black quills that were pulsing pumping some sort of toxin into me. “Holy shit!” I screamed as the pain intensified, without thinking I snatched out as many of the quills as I could only to have a few of them lodge themselves into my fingers and palm, it was an insane situation that was about to get a lot worse. The restroom walls started to ripple like waves across a pond as they shifted between a calming white to a neon green then melted away. I could feel the inside of my skull rubbing against my brain, my eyes felt itchy and dry while my tongue seemed to swell causing me to drool uncontrollably. I couldn’t feel my legs but I could feel myself walking or maybe floating through the house, an overwhelming wave of panic crashed into me when I saw the couch turn into Cerberus and come racing towards me all three heads snarling and snapping at the air as my legs carried me up the stairs. I could hear it coming but my body stopped in front of the mirror, I watched in complete terror as my own reflection tore itself apart devouring itself only to be regurgitated and repeat the process. I felt bile rush up the back of my throat and my stomach cramped as I heaved spewing a wiggling mass of snakelike creatures with human faces that cried out “We’re free!” as they splattered on the floor and quickly began to slither away.
I tried to scream but all that came out was a garbled mash up of words that made no sense, the intense growling got closer and vibrated through me, my body moved faster than I thought possible nearly giving me whiplash as it raced down the hall and into my room slamming the door closed behind me. I could see myself bracing against the door but it was almost as if I was outside of my own body watching this happen to someone else. The door quaked and the wall shook from the impact of the hellhound slamming into it, just as the wood splintered and exploded sending me flying across the room everything stopped. I was hanging in mid-air seconds from slamming into the wall, I could hear the ocean or at least that’s what I thought it was, shifting my attention to the wall I saw it rippling just like in the restroom only it wasn’t changing to a neon green. Instead it had a reflective surface and the instant I locked eyes with myself in it time went back to normal and splashed through the wall winding up downstairs on the sofa in front of the T.V.
For a split second I thought it had all been in my head, right up until I saw one of those toilet spider goblin things watching me from the hallway. It scrambled away making that stupid irritating clicking sound as I tried to get up off the sofa. Now any sane person probably would have called it quits after all that but I had nothing to lose, without this job I was homeless. The lingering pain in my foot stuck around for most of the day, things didn’t pick back up until late in the afternoon. I was lighting a cigarette on the stove, when I saw something that shouldn’t be there, it was a door, I had been over every inch of the house and that door wasn’t there before that moment. I may be a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them, I didn’t care what was behind that door and I wasn’t going to find out, I got my smoke lit then turned off the burner and limped back to the living room and turned on the television. There were no news stations no local broadcasts from what I could tell there were only movie channels but while I was searching for something to veg out on I noticed an aux channel and decided to check it.
It was a live feed from the yellow house, I could clearly see Glen sitting at the kitchen table talking to a young boy who I figured had to be Eli. There was no sound but the conversation looked intense, Glen was banging his hand on the table and judging his movements I’d say he was probably yelling. The boy didn’t look as if he were paying attention to anything he was talking about and after a few minutes he threw up his hands and stormed out. Christine walked in a few seconds later and the camera switched to Eli who was in his room searching for something. After a quick search he pulled something from under the bed, his back was to the camera so I couldn’t get a look at what he was doing but he turned and looked directly into the camera and held up a white sheet of paper with “Help me” written on it. The feed switched again back to the kitchen but Christine and Glen weren’t there, the feed started switching between rooms literally looking for them until they were spotted in the main room. They were both kneeling in front of a man I hadn’t seen before, he was short and thin with a bald head for some reason I couldn’t see his face, everything else was clear and visible on the screen but when I tried to focus on him it almost looked like he didn’t have a face, just a blank surface with two black dots for eyes. He handed Christine a knife then motioned to Glen, she rose to her feet and stood there looking down at him, I almost couldn’t watch what happened next. Glen tilted his head back and she carved something into his forehead then when she was finished she handed the blade to him and he repeated the process on her. The screen flickered and the man was gone, they both flew into a rage and started wrecking the room, the camera switched back to Eli’s room, he’d barricaded himself in and was trying to get the window open. I watched him trying everything he could think of to shatter the glass but it wouldn’t break, in a matter of seconds his parents were banging on his door. It didn’t take long to force their way in, Christine was the first one in, she rushed him, Eli did everything he could to dodge her but when Glen got involved there was nothing he could do.
Glen pinned him to the ground while Christine stabbed him over and over, I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. I watched in total disbelief as they tore their only child apart and ate him, when they were done they stripped out of their clothes and had sex in his shredded remains. The feed stopped there, I didn’t know what to do, I paced around contemplating opting out then I remembered the phone in the kitchen. It was one of those old-school rotary phones but there was only one number on it 7. Picking it up and dialing I stood there waiting, it seemed to take forever but eventually someone responded.
“Hello Mr. Greer, how may we assist you?” for a second I didn’t know what to say, my mind went blank and when the voice called out again I snapped out of it. “Something just happened at the yellow house, you need to get someone over there right now!” there was a long pause and I could hear typing over the phone. After a second the voice spoke again, “We have noted your participation, thank you for reporting. Can we help you with anything else?”
“Help me with anything else, are you listening to me, I just watched those people kill their son! You need to send someone right now!” there was another long pause before the voice responded. “We are aware of the situation Mr. Greer, thank you for your concern, have a nice evening.” The line went dead and I was left with this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, hanging it up I walked to the bar and poured a drink. Nothing happened that night, well almost nothing, around midnight I could have sworn I saw my reflection watching me from the bathroom mirror. It was only for a split second but I know what I saw, the next morning was quiet I avoided the television and played video games all day hoping I could just make it through. No such luck, I heard a crash from downstairs dropping the controller I jolted to my feet and rushed to get a look. I moved slowly listening for any signs of someone in the house, when I got to the kitchen I found the mystery door open and the fridge had been raided. I grabbed the biggest knife I could find and started searching the house again but before I did that I shut that door and moved the table in front of it. I looked everywhere I could think of and came up empty, walking back up the stairs I heard another crash from the kitchen followed by a low grunting, I spun around in time to see that neck less, naked shaved ape, frog man looking fucker come charging out through the hall.
It stopped at the bottom of the stairs making that gut churning grunting sound while licking its lips and staring at me, the first thought through my mind was this thing was about to eat me, then it did something that let me know its plans were so much worse. It uh well, it started humping the air and grunting as its junk scraped the floor leaving a snail trail. I wanted to puke but I kept it down and got up the stairs as quickly as I could, the grunting turned to a high pitched squeal and it came thundering up after me, as I raced passed the mirror I felt a pair of hands grab me and literally snatch me off my feet. A freezing cold shockwave of pain rolled through my body and my tongue went numb, I couldn’t see for a moment but I had to get up that thing would be on me if I didn’t. Staggering and stumbling, I got to my feet just as my vision cleared, a loud thump from behind me made flinch and I turned to see that creature pressing itself against the glass.
“Where am I?” as I uttered those words they echoed and amplified till they were so loud it gave me a splitting headache, when the echo finally faded I realized I was still in the same house but everything was opposite, I’d gone through the mirror. It’s not as cool as it sounds, its actually pretty freaking horrible if you ask me, the mirror doesn’t reflect the whole house, so I was trapped in this small section of hallway with empty unending darkness to either side of me and I wasn’t alone. It started as whispers echoing in from somewhere out there in the pitch black, then it was a shadow that would pass through the hall at high speed knocking me down every single time. Then it showed itself, I half way expected to see a mirror version of myself and I honestly would’ve preferred that to what I saw, I don’t know if any of you are comic book fans but it looked a lot like the “Silver surfer” without a face, its body was constantly changing. One second it would be the size of a child the next an adult shifting between male and female the entire time, it didn’t speak as much as put words in my head it only said two words “Be Still” then it was gone, I can’t begin to tell you how long I was standing there but eventually the creature left and the mirror thing came back to throw me back through the reflection. When I hit the ground on the other side I didn’t waste a second thinking about it I rushed down to the kitchen, found a hammer and nails then made sure the mystery door would never open again.
When the 72 hours were finally over the kitchen phone rang and I was told I could leave the house now. The first thing I did was step out the front door and breathe as deeply as my lungs would allow. I couldn’t help but stare at the yellow house waiting for Christine and Glen to step outside, but they never did. After a few minutes I saw Paula headed towards me with a huge smile on her face, “Hey Cal how was your first event, anything good happen?” I didn’t know what to say, shaking my head and chuckling to myself I looked around the street, “Did you see what Christine and Glen did to Eli?” Paula stepped back and gave me an odd look, “No, how would I have seen that, what are you talking about?”
I told her all about what I’d seen on the aux channel and she didn’t believe me, I thought she would change her mind if I showed her the channel but I’d forgotten the feed went dead after so when I tried to show her it was just a static filled screen with aux in the top right corner. After that I didn’t want to tell her about everything else that happened, it would just make me look insane. She smiled at me and touched my shoulder, “Look Cal, I know the first few days here are kind of weird but you should really try to get some rest, staying up all night can’t be a good for you.” She gave me that smile one last time and headed out, I didn’t think about it until she’d left but how did she know I had been staying up all night? Had she known all along about the channel? Was she watching me? Paranoia is a hell of a thing, I spent the rest of the day looking for cameras, maybe I had missed them the first time around but after a thorough search I didn’t find a single thing.
There wasn’t another event for days, then on a Thursday morning the white van was back. The speaker crackled to life and the announcement was made, “For the next 168 hours you are to stay inside your homes this event begins in 5 minutes. This will be a group event, will the white and blue sectors please report to the green sector. The black and grey sectors are to report to the red sector and the yellow sector is in isolation. You now have 4 minutes, this event will be triple pay for the week phones will be disabled and there will be one food delivery mid-week good luck.”
As soon as the announcement was over there was a knock at the door, while I wasn’t looking forward to another event, I was more than happy to have people with me at least I wouldn’t have to go through it alone. Opening the door I saw Paula standing there with a tall guy that looked like a Duck dynasty reject, he smiled a big goofy smile and extended his hand. “The names Jack, looks like we’re gonna be roomies for a while, I claim the sofa.” I could see Paula rolling her eyes as Jack let go of my hand and found his way over to the sofa area, she smiled and gave me a hug, “Don’t mind him, he’s an idiot.” She whispered in my ear stepping passed me rushing upstairs to find a bedroom.
Jack called out to me as soon as the door slammed shut, “Hey green guy, where’s the toilet, I gotta take a mean one.” I looked over to see him at the bar pouring himself a scotch and looking around the room, when I told him where it was he took his drink and hurried off, a few seconds later Paula came back downstairs with a big smile on her face.
“Jesus Cal, who’d you have to screw to get this house, the blue sector’s a dump compared to this place.” As she walked passed me headed for the kitchen I couldn’t help but notice something was different about her, she wasn’t thin like before, somehow in a week she’d become curvaceous in all the right places making it hard to keep my eyes off her. Once she’d disappeared around the corner Jack’s voice startled me out of my gaze, “So, what’s the issue here Greenie, what’s wrong with this place?”
Turning to face him I spotted him back at the bar refilling his drink, before I could respond Paula stepped up behind me and whispered in my ear, “Have a drink with me.” Jack looked at the two of us then smirked and took a seat on the couch.
While the timer counted down the final seconds before the event, I watched her pouring our drinks, as she handed mine to me Jack stood up and raised his glass, “Here’s to you Greenie, shit’s about to get weird.”