Projection

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


A horror story; a normal man with a secret double life.

Submitted: April 13, 2018

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Submitted: April 13, 2018

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After filling its stomach, a foul rodent slithers from the sewers and stretches out beneath the blazing sun. Daylight beats against its damp fur; it scurries to and fro in a frantic frenzy. The rat skips from the curb to the road, too enamored with its wild thoughts to notice the world around it. Its tail flicks at the earth and its nose snaps towards the sky. It runs in circles, over and over, twitching and twisting, until everything comes to a halt. The rat is rolled into the pavement by a passing policeman’s tire.


I watch the scene unfold over the rim of my mug. More vehicles flicker past the café and a warm stream of coffee trickles down my throat. I place the cup down and watch the small corpse wither out of existence. A sense of superiority reigns over me for a second, but then I humble myself and sigh. It’s sad really, I think to myself, such a simple creature with such a simple mind?it’s no wonder they all suffer a similar fate.

 

 

Men with stiffened collars and women with coiled hair both rhythmically rap against their keyboards with spidery fingers. The clock beside my cubicle ticks and numerous papers are flipped and folded throughout the office. Information fills my mind and then flushes away as the numbers change by each and every passing page. I know some are unhappy with this sort of repetition, but I find it unwavering. I also know my colleagues, on the other hand, thrive on gossip and any sort of discrepancy they can sink their fangs into, but I find those types of things bothersome.


A hand claps against my back and a hearty voice rings behind me: “You should all take some notes from Jack, here!” I turn and find my boss gripping my shoulder in a congratulatory manner. “He doesn’t try to be the best and he sure as hell ain’t the worst! He does what he’s told, and for that, he’s just what we need in this company! Keep up the good work, Jack!”


He shoots me a thumbs up and walks on his merry way. I can feel some eyes pierce against my image but I can’t help but let a smile crease across my lips. My friends impressively nod in my direction. A light, bubbly feeling starts to swell inside me and I leave my work in a pleasant mood.


I light the stove and prepare a plate of omelets?using my own renowned recipe. To drink, I wring some lemons for a fresh glass of lemonade. The kitchen fills with flavorful scents that swirl and whirl through the thick airy night. I place my garnished meal on a wooden platter and grab the bronze key from the rack by the cellar door. I descend and unlock the room tucked in the back corner. I enter, dinner in hand, and smile at my pet. It lies there, on its bed in the center of the room, slowly turning its attention to me.


“Please,” it whimpers, “please let me go…” I close the door behind me and present the tray. I unbolt the leash around its neck and stroke its grassy hair.


“I made you some dinner,” I warmly explain, “I know how much you don’t like the other food I give you, but, tonight, you get to be treated like royalty.” It tries to speak but I fill its mouth with a spoonful of supper. It gulps on chunks of egg and stuffs itself with lemonade. Its fragile body pumps the gourmet meal through its system. I kindly smirk as I detach its other restraints.


I wash the blood, pus, vomit and excrement off its body and I clean its bed back to comfort. I freshen everything with some spray and carefully let my pet stroll around the room. After it tires out from whining, I put it back in its bed and wish it sweet dreams, sealing the room up after I leave. I roll into the comforters of my own bed upstairs and blissfully drift into a pleasant slumber.


In the morning, I make my breakfast and then serve my pet as well. When I finish checking up on it, it begs to leave as I lock the room back up. I shake the hands of my colleagues as I enter work and we make plans to eat out during our lunch break. We work casually, salivating over our plans, before leaving to catch a quick bite at a nearby deli. I tell them a funny joke and they laugh in unison; they continue on and we go back and forth whittling a tale that forms a stream of laughter. We return to work giddy and force ourselves to focus to finish the day. I go home and check on my pet, cooing its wiles with important reminders. I leave, wish it goodnight, lock the door and return to bed.


The cycle continues. Regular days pass with sweet memories of my friends flourishing. I experience a plethora of wonderful times and it inclines me to treat my pet with better care. There have been times in the past where I’ve been mean to it, but, lately, I’ve been making sure it’s as comfortable as possible. All goes well with my job; all goes well with my social life; all goes well with my pet. Love is tossed towards me and I reflect that love onto others.

 

 

I walk into work after a lunch break and find my boss standing in my cubicle. His face is stern and his eyes are piercing. Before I can ask what’s wrong, he starts to yell. His words shoot through me with harsh intent. I made some mistake at my station; some numbers had been logged incorrectly. Everyone in the room listens with their faces turned away. Hard letters and sharp tones are tossed in every direction; his lecture lasts a lifetime. He stomps off and I start making amends at my desktop. I click away and reschedule my day knowing that I now have to stay late.


“That was kind of a dick move,” a friend whispers once our boss’s door closes, “are you okay?” I smile to my friend.


“It’s fine!” I pleasantly respond, “I made a mistake and now I gotta deal with it.” My friend was taken aback by my nonchalant reply.


“I don’t know how you do it,” they say, “if that were me, I’d be pissed. You’re always so calm when stuff like this happens.”


“It’s nothing, really,” I shrug, “I guess it takes a lot for things to bother me.” My friend shrugs back and walks away. My keyboard clicks beneath my fingers, steadily, even as the office grows quieter and the night rolls in. My eyes are fixed on the screen. My feelings stay static; my emotions are under control.


I snap the cellar door open, then slam it shut. I grab the toolbox and unsheathe a rusted wrench. I lift it above my head and hammer it down onto the thing in my basement. It screams and I break its jaw. I pound against what little meat is left and drain the blood out of it. It writhes and cries; arching its back and croaking after every swing and puncture. Its face is my superior’s face and I deform it with the end of my tool. Its fierce eyes stare so I render them blind. Its hard face grimaces so I beat the scowl away. Odors exhale and bones splinter; fingers split and blood pools. I strike and slash and batter and bash until the thorns in my head are plucked away and driven into this tattered and torn journal entry.


I breathe sharp breaths and the air smoothens out. My tools are returned and the cellar door is locked. I prepare a cold boiling bath and rub its suds and bubbles against the stains on my skin. I dry myself with a purple towel and lie in bed. I stare at the ceiling, reviewing over the thoughts in my head. I pinpoint my current emotion. I feel relieved, I think, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.


After a peaceful night of slumber, I make myself a small breakfast. After that, I check on my pet, only to find the flies picking at it. For a second, I just stand there before a wave of realization flushes over me. My mind feels fragile and fuzzy. An anxious stress slithers over me as I start to panic. I wasn’t prepared for this to happen, I think, I’m usually more prepared. I didn’t think this pet’s time would be so short. Fear forms and I focus on what must be done next. It needs to be taken care of?that was obvious?and then the room needs to be cleaned. And after the room is ready, then my pet needed to be replaced.


The weekend comes. I bury its body with the others in the back. I scrape human remains off the cellar floor. Everything spins around me and my body can’t stop convulsing. The basement room is empty and hungry. I break into sweats at the thought of its void. My mind blacks out every now and then; I end up in strange places. I stalk the streets with brash intentions. I need a new pet, I tell myself, over and over, I need a new pet now. I grab some man as he passes me in the moonlight. The element of surprise is stronger than his strive to struggle. A chloroform towel is swiftly stuffed against his nose. His dead weight strains my back as I carry him away. I tie metal chords around his body, strapping him to his new home. A fresh new pet is welcomed. The weekend goes.

 

 

I arrive to work as I would any other day, dressed in the proper attire and holding the proper attitude. Colleagues greet me as I arrive, they tell me about their weekend and then ask all about mine:


“I had to bury my pet,” I remark, slightly sulking, “but, I was able to get another one. It’s getting used to the house right now.” My friend pats my shoulder for support.


“That’s rough,” he says, “it can be hard losing a pet. But, I’m glad that you were able to get another one. At least that’s some silver lining.”


I agree and follow him into the office, then return to my daily routines, rarely getting off track or distracted. Lunch arrives and I eat with the others, partaking in light small-talk. After revisiting my desk and finishing the day, I walk along the sidewalks to my home. I casually look around, then return looking forward. As I pass by a bus stop, I glance at the bulletin board strung up against its back wall.


I stop. I look back and shudder. There’s a missing person poster with a familiar face on it. I stare at it, ignoring the name or any other information on the paper. Instead, I gawk at it in disbelief. I gather myself and walk away, pretending like I hadn’t seen it or knew anything about it. My head starts to pound and my veins pulsate with heavy pressure. The sky skews sideways and the ground spins beneath my strides. I need to make it home.

 

 

Its tired eyes flicker on after I enter the room with its food. It twitches and grunts as it slowly awakens. This is the first time I came down here since the weekend. Being in this room calms me down; I have the upper hand here. I approach and it starts to struggle.


I open the can of meat and scoop a spoonful. I forcefully slide it into its mouth and it starts to choke. After the third attempt, it finally accepts the food. After it finishes eating, I put the can off to the side and sit beside its cradle.


“Are you going to kill me?” It weakly asks.


“No, I’m here to take care of you.” I respond calmly, “You are my new pet.”


“Who are you? What do you want?”


“I like to adopt stray dogs that wander the streets, canines abandoned by their owners.” It folds its face into a queer expression.


“I have a family,” it explains, “They love me and they’re going to find me.”


“Only unloved and uncared for things end up in this room.” I reply.


“What did I ever do to you?” I stay silent. “Please, let me go. I won’t call the police, I promise. I’ll do anything. Let me see my family again.”

“No one cares about you.” I tell it. “No one’s ever been rescued from this place.”


“They probably looking for me right now.”


“There aren’t any posters up.” I say, “Nothing’s changed since I found you.” Its eyes swell and droplets trickle down its chin.


“That can’t be,” it sulks, “that just can’t be…”


“Lucky for you, I don’t have to care about you, in order to care foryou.”


“What are you talking about?”


“You’re going to be here for a long, long time. I’ll make you that you won’t die.”


“Please…”


“You will be a wonderful pet.” I stroke its scalp and start to leave the room. It spits and screams, trying to both break free and to convince me to let it go. It yells uncouth words and cries lamentations. I bid it sweet dreams and lock the cellar door with a heavy motion.

 

 

Not long into my work day, my fingers stop typing. I try to continue but my muscles are too wound up. A thought had been swimming around the back cavity of my mind and whenever it surfaced, I froze. I finally move my fingers, not to input any numbers, but to look up missing person reports in the area. I quickly scan through the rows upon rows of photographs and then turn off the monitor impulsively.


I stand up and saunter to the lounge, which, by this point, is empty. I recline on the third chair I see and attempt to relax. I stare ahead, intently watching the coarse wall in front of me. I regain control; I expel the bad thoughts; I continue to gaze forward.


“Are you okay, Jack?” A friendly voice asks. I refuse to look in their direction. I try to speak but my mouth stays shut. They approach. “Hey, it’s okay, I’m here. You can talk to me if something’s bothering you.” Their hand grazes against my arm as they sit down.


“I did a bad thing.” I say suddenly. I flick my eyes in their direction and they tilt their head, concerned out of both curiosity and compassion.


“What bad thing? I won’t tell anyone, I promise.” They sit beside me, their fingers now lightly lying against my knee.


“I took someone else’s pet.” I admit, sulking, “I found them wandering and I didn’t know it had an owner. And now there are missing posters around where I live.” My friend pats my leg.


“You should give them a call and explain what happened. Then just take the pet over and-…”


“You don’t understand!” I hiss in a hushed tone, “They’ll hate me and maybe sue me or get me in some sort of trouble and then everyone will think I’m a thief. Everyone will think mean things about me and call me all sorts of names. I can’t have that happen.” I start to ramble over the consequences and the friend gently strokes my spine. My nose stays aimed in front of me, but my eyes linger by this friend.


“Don’t be hard on yourself,” they say, slowly standing up, “You just gotta do what you think is best.” They look away. “Look, I gotta go back to work, okay? We can talk about this at lunch.” They step away. My thoughts feel short-circuited; something swells up, from my stomach and up towards my throat. Like a quick reflex, my neck snaps toward them, nearly choking on the words that start spilling from my lips.


“Am I crazy?” I ask, “Is there something wrong with me?” I stare into their eyes, asking the most serious question I might’ve ever asked anyone in my life. My eyes lock onto theirs, focusing on the valleys within their irises. I am lost and confused with the path my life is leading, I think to myself, I can’t say that everything I’ve done is good. I watch the wrinkles on their face fold, desperately craving for an answer. They hesitate then reply.


“Yeah,” they smirk and shrug, “but everyone’s a little a crazy?that’s what makes people great.” I look at them, lightly nodding my head.


“Okay.” I respond. Their body curls around the corner and, after a short self-contemplation, I follow to return to my desk.

 

 

I cry a little as I pound my fists into my pet’s tender body. I break some of its fingers out of anguish and rip out some of its hair. I scrape some food against its face then spread out onto my own bed. I breathe, gulping in the air and exhaling pints of stress. My head hasn’t stopped aching for nearly a week and the posters never stop spreading. Before I leave for work, I always make sure to remind my pet that its previous owners don’t care.


When I sit at my cubicle, I shuffle through the posters I stripped from the streets. I shred them and return to work, days behind on logs. Some coworkers notice my apparent sweating?some snicker while others sympathize. Before I leave to go home, they always make sure to ask if I’m okay.


The boss’ voice is hoarse and cold. My name is synonymous with failure and disappointment. A few other workers follow his lead. For each sneer, I slam my bat against the bones of my pet. For every evil eye, I carve a nasty word into its flesh. Posters multiply and the pile of stringed paper thickens.


I walk into my cubicle and my calendar is filled with callous chants. My chair is unhinged and loudly sighs with every depression. I hear a few silent cackles across the room and steadily work. I constantly cave and lose track of time and reality.


At lunch, the few friends that I have left sit with me. They talk gently, trying not to make the situation any worse. I stare at some people across the room who leer in my direction every now and again. I remind myself to keep things bottled up. It’ll all get better once I make it home.


“Don’t worry about them,” someone says, “they’re just pathetic, okay?”


“Yeah,” another one chimes in, “we all know they just have meaningless lives and like to project their stress onto others.”


“You’re better than them,” they tell me, “you don’t deserve to be treated like that.”


“You’re too much of a nice person, Jack,” they say, “you really don’t deserve any of it.”

 

Time blurs together. I hold a phone up to my ear to talk to a client and then smash a hammer against the thing in my basement. I cycle through series of delusions, unsure of where I am and what time it is. I tell my friends I am thankful for them and call my pet worthless. I coat soft comforters around my body before bed and break a few bones before breakfast. Posters line the streets, some serpent-like stress strangles the air out from my neck. I panic at work. Worried eyes flicker and my hands choke my pet. I tighten my clasp and breathe deep and gasp, fear and panic clad with a mind full of frenzy and madness. I watch the fires of life struggle in its eyes, dancing to and fro and I laugh at its suffering.


I chop up the dead pet and place its bits around the town. I walk forward and backwards, pacing the lengths of the sidewalk. I return home and act like nothing happened. It’s all a dream, I convince myself, there are no pets and no problems. I lay my head back and slumber, tossing and turning all night from nightmares.

 

 

I wake up and brew some coffee. As I lift it to my lips, a radio station describes the scattered remains of some man found in several dumpsters. I leave the house and see morose figures peeling away the missing person posters. I enter work and smile at everyone that passes me. I sit at my cubicle and look at my computer. I stare at my reflection through the black screen and cry.

 

The radio states they have matched some evidence on the body with a strongly suspected culprit. I stand up and walk to my boss’ office. The clock ticks slowly. The radio says the police are on their way to apprehend the suspect. I close the door behind me, looking straight into his eyes as sirens start to sound closer and closer.
 

“Jack Hanson,” it says, “what do you want?”


The next thing I know, I am on its desk screaming. My lungs empty the pain I had never been truly able to let out. My fists raise and I batter in its head. I yell with a vicious rage and attack it with every tooth and nail I possess. I release a blood curdling cry that pierces my own ears and waters my eyes. Blood trickles down its tidied suit and scars curve around its skin.


The office door is caved and the police rip me away and drag me out of the office. I can see the collective wild and confused stares surround me. My friends’ hearts sink upon looking in my direction and I hate them for so easily betraying me. I resent them all and their eyes and their thoughts. I manage to break away and scream. I run at the first person in front of me in a blind frenzy. Everything goes to chaos as the people around me panic and flush out the doors. Sounds ring in every direction, almost to the point of no sound being heard at all. I hear the muffled orders that the police yell. I continue pounding my arms against some abstract thing. I laugh as I mutilate the smiles they all once tormented me with.


Then my chest starts to churn. My body goes into shock and my limbs fall numb. Blood leaves my body as my pets all escape at once. The room spins and the overhead lights burn. A pistol exhales smoke and I struggle. I struggle until nothing in my body seems to function anymore. No one reaches down to help me; they just watch. They look at me like I’m some pitiful thing, some lesser being with some lesser capacity for complex emotions. The world turns black as they roll me away from the garish stench of the sun.

 


© Copyright 2019 Franklin Rayeski. All rights reserved.

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