Ready for something a little tense? Maybe even a little spooky? Well too bad, here it is.
Don’t let it touch you. That’s what the old ladies always told us. Don’t let it catch you, don’t let it touch you.
It didn’t matter how fast I ran, I could always hear the footsteps behind me. It was a thud and a splat, like a bag of wet garbage being dropped in succession. One after another, they came down again and again. In the pitch black of night, it was hard to keep my feet going one in front of the other. Staying upright was hard, keeping my eyes forward was harder.
The street was empty. In this part of town it was all half-built shopping malls and empty lots. Only the occasional car lit up the roadside patch of dead-grass in front of me. When the street lit up, my heart would fill with hope, only to be flattened each time as 3am drivers sped right by. No one was going to see me die.
They said it chose bad boys that became bad men. As a mother’s tale it was sound. You didn’t brush your teeth, you didn’t wipe your ass, it would come for you. We were supposed to fear it for life. It didn’t end with your trash chores, the absent father and the abuser could suffer as well. Except they never did, and then bad boys forget.
It was close now, I could smell it. It was an odor like rotting eggs drowned in settled mud. I had to fight back the urge to gag. All I could do is push harder.
The sound of another car approached. I made the decision, and split off into the road, almost falling to my face as I did. I ran to the middle of the street, and waved my arms as the bright lights of the car’s high beams centered on me.
I saw it, before I closed my eyes. It was a silhouette then, the car lights turning it into a creature of shadows. Then I saw nothing, and my body clenched as I waited for the car to run me over.
There was a loud honk, and the screeching of tires. Then the honking continued on into the distance, and I opened my eyes and turned to see the red tail lights of the car escaping into the night.
Did they not see it? Were they blind, or was it invisible. Maybe I was just mad.
Another footstep gave me no time to ask further questions. I ran across the street, passing into the lot of a public storage company. It was dark at this hour, with only one light hanging over the gate to the property.
I leaped it, my pants catching on the barbed top, before I yanked myself free and fell to the other side. I ran deep in, hoping to lose it in the process.
There were billions of bad men. Why would anyone think they were the one at risk? There was an answer though, not one I wanted to recognize. It wasn’t just bad boys who were hunted, it was our bad boys. I thought I was one of billions, but I was one in a dozen, the few boys to survive and continue to be around.
Of them, I was the worst. Melrose had a business, CJ was a pastor, Eddie was working two jobs to feed his twins. Then there was me.
I slowed down. My breath came in desperate pants, my lungs were burning, my legs ached. It was a dead end. Some idiot thought having a U shape in the garages was a brilliant idea, and now there was nowhere else to go.
Coughing, I shuffled to the deepest storage unit, and fought with the lock on it. I tried to ignore the whumps growing louder behind me, and the acrid smell that was filling my lungs with every breath. My eyes were watering, and I was covered in sweat.
“It isn’t fair,” I mumbled. There was no way to break in with nothing but my bare hands, “It isn’t fair.”
It was right behind me, I could feel a heat coming off of it. Did it want me to turn around and look at it? It made a gurgling noise, the sound of a man’s last breath.
It struck me across the back of my shoulders, the blow throwing me into the corner between two units, twisting me until I was facing out toward it. My legs buckled and I fell with my back against the wall.
The skin looked like green boils sliding down it in waves. It was wider and taller than any man, but still shaped like one. But unlike any man, the flesh was fluid, like an endless fountain of the bile and blood that it called a body, spilling in undulating waves. It kept coming, and the longer I looked, the more my stomach tried to crawl up my throat.
Both of its arms extended until they hit me in the stomach, and the bile-flesh flowed there, spilling over me. It was warm, strange, terrifying.
It wasn’t fair. Melrose was running his dad’s business. CJ grew up in the church, his uncle cared for him, taught him until he had a congregation of his own. Eddie’s mom remarried after his dad died. I was just the child of another bad man, couldn’t it see that? Didn’t it know I had nothing? I had to take everything to even get as far as I did.
The creature was shrinking as it poured itself over me. The weight built up around my legs and waist. It was a crushing and smothering sensation, the heat and mass. It was becoming hard to breath. No matter how much I fought against it, the force of the flow would just knock me back, pin me to the wall.
There was no escaping it, that was what they said. Don’t let it touch you, don’t let it catch you. If it gets you, you become it.
“I’m sorry!” I shouted into the night. Tears were burning my eyes, “I didn’t mean to hurt her, I’m so sorry, don’t do this!”
I kept shouting it even as the terrible flesh built up around my neck, and I knew it would suffocate me. I was yelling, but I was thinking more. They were excuses, sure, but I thought of them as additions.
I didn’t mean to hurt her, but she swung at me first. I’m so sorry, but this ain’t my fault. Don’t do this, I don’t deserve it.
When it first spilled down my throat, I wanted to retch. Not even that had enough force to counter the flow and the force. It kept coming, it filled me, the sweltering heat over my whole body.
There was something inside its shrinking form. I blinked away my tears. It was a man, pale brown skin locked inside the fleeing bubbling mass. Tears were streaming down his face as he took in panicked breaths, the mass no longer choking him. His familiar eyes were locked on me as he cried, they were just like mine. They were my father’s eyes.
The old ladies always told us, don’t let it touch you. Don’t let it catch you, or you will become it. It will imprison you, and you will become it.