As he opened his front door he left the weight of the world at his doorstep. He did this every night, he removed his jacket and shoes almost simultaneously leaving them to lay where they fell, he retrieved his cigarettes from his jacket pocket and slapped his wallet down on his kitchen table. He did this ritually whenever he arrived home, and this time of year opening his door he would be welcomed by a burst of warm air, escaping its vacuum like the opening of a tomb. He left his heating on all day for this sensation, though his mother would try to dissuade him, as if there was a limited amount of warmth in the world, and by heating an empty house he is leaving someone else cold. If this was the case, it would make no difference, he was a selfish man.
He slumped on his sofa as his jacket had slumped in his hallway, his television was on before his rear and sofa cushion made contact. He lit a cigarette and inhaled like a new born baby, this was the beginning of his night and pretty much the sum of it. This was David’s life, work, then oblivion, through his own choice. He was single and blissfully so, he had no friends of substance and could turn his back on everyone in his world, and do it with a sense of entitlement. Some people travel the world broadening their minds or pursue elaborate love stories full of whimsy, others would engage in multiple carnalities, taking it where they can and having an enormous sense of pride doing so. David did none of this, whether he desired any of it was a secret even to him, he would bury his head in the sand and take pleasure where he could. A takeaway, a great movie, a cigarette. He convinced himself that this was enough, and expectations as low as his you could say he was content, as so few people are.
David lived in a small two bedroom semi-detached house, his job was banal but the pay was sufficient, especially in the present climate. He didn’t need a housemate but he had a spare room and he thought it would alleviate any sense of loneliness he might experience, though this was purely precautionary, he never felt lonely, he usually welcomed it. His house would make noises late at night, pipes would gurgle and floorboards would creak, David had a knack for terrifying himself. With a housemate, another soul in the house he could account for the strange noises and put his overactive imagination to rest. Robert was the name of this housemate, at least it was Robert on paper, in the flesh he didn’t deserve a name, it was a fictional entity occupying and fortifying itself in an otherwise empty room, as far as David was concerned. Odds are that two people sharing a small house would on some occasion cross paths, but this was not the case, it was artful how they avoided each other. David’s paranoia would convince him that Robert was upstairs plotting and scheming, and all the while hating David’s guts with such a passion that it would occupy every minute of his day. This kind of self obsession was not healthy thought David while he put his logic into perspective. These revelations would prevent any kind of conflict between the two, this and the fact that Robert was completely oblivious to David’s septic tank of a mind.
David’s night was so far going to plan, or lack thereof. He was limp, draped across his three-seat sofa, his legs resting on the arm at one end. Flat on his back with his head laying to one side, positioned perfectly for optimised television viewing. This is what he liked to do, he felt his stress drain from his body like water leaving a sponge, and in its place he felt warmth and a comfortable giddiness. The idea of being so relaxed and irresponsible gave him a shiver of excitement. He smoked like a burning tire yard. He could hear that Robert was stirring, the ceiling was thin and it swelled and flexed with Roberts movements. This was the extent of his relationship with Robert, he would hear footsteps and know he was home, no footsteps and he wasn’t. This was all David cared to know about his illusive co-inhabitant.
One hand firmly gripping his television remote and the other pressed to his lips as he inhaled smoked, he effortlessly scanned the hundreds of T.V. channels available to him, he didn’t require much in the way of luxury but he needed his satellite dish and all the distractions it had to offer. An abundance of drivel and nothing of substance, this suited him fine, he didn’t need to think tonight. He channel surfed for sometime until he came across an unscheduled news broadcast, ‘must be important’ he thought to himself, important enough to interrupt a popular soap. He could imagine the armies of elderly viewers in uproar. The headline read ‘Unexplained Phenomena Across Britain has Nation in Awe’. The news loved the word ‘Awe’ David thought to himself, but he was intrigued, unexplained phenomena so rarely made it to prime time viewing, it was usually the responsibility of reclusive and more disreputable journalists. This was a real Newscaster with what seemed to be real concern on his painted face. David sat upright, at some effort to level his head and his understanding of the broadcast, the Newscaster was mid report when David tuned in but the gist was that the public were not be alarmed.
‘Get to the point!’ David said aloud. The Newscaster disappeared and footage replaced him, not the best footage, it answered nothing, just groups of people in different places, gasping and ‘awing’. One such clip was in a busy marketplace, were the mob had surrounded what appeared to be nothing, but they were all transfixed, some waving their hand through the empty space, as if watching a 3d movie and trying to catch the optical effects. The Newscaster began to narrate;
‘The phenomena seems to have appeared overnight across the country, currently there are 3611 cases reported’.
‘What has been reported so far?’ David said to the television screen immediately aware of how silly he would appear to an onlooker.
‘Scientists have no ideas as to the appearance of the phenomena so far and the unrelated locations seem to be sporadic and seem to follow no pattern’ As the Newscaster spoke the footage switched between several locations of people doing exactly the same thing, looking like gawping morons. An image appeared on screen of what seemed to be a black dot on a white background, the Newscaster proceeded to explain the artists impression;
‘This is what the public are seeing, unfortunately our cameras and indeed any camera we use seems unable to film it. The ‘orb’ is about the size of a golf ball, completely black and identical in every location. It seems to have no mass, and is undetectable by any other means than sight, its gives of no heat or cold and has no electronic resonance’.
David was now intrigued, despite the most ridiculous artists impression he’d ever seen, he just knew that one of the news crew took a black marker to a piece of paper and told them to run it. It was times like this when David wished he had someone to correspond with, but you cant have all cake and no shit he thought, he’d happily take consolation in his television friends.
The news report was over and ’Eastdale Street’ the much loved soap resumed its banality. David has learned over the years, and much due to his pessimism not to trust anything anyone and especially the news has tried tell him, though intriguing the most interesting headlines turn out to be hoaxes, nothing interesting ever really happens and this fact remains for David even tonight. He would sleep like any other night tonight, indifferent and blissfully ignorant, like he did the night before, and night before that.
Work was a routine for David, unchallenging and always the same but there was an undercurrent in the office today among his work colleagues, a term he hated to use because of its inclination that he had some connection to these people, however little and insignificant it was he didn’t want to be associated with them. Chatter around the ever clichéd water cooler and emails sent two and thro. People that would never watch the news but miss their children’s birthdays to catch the latest instalment of ‘Eastdale Street’ were now talking about the ‘Black Dot’ phenomena. David humoured himself, he could imagine the pearls being exchanged, theorems and prophetic ramblings offered by Geoff and Julie no brain. The call centre was a busy place but David kept to himself, in a corner of the office, he had a window as distraction, a view of a car park, part of a betting office and a dive of a public house called ‘The Lamb’. He often thought ‘The Mutton’ would have been more suitable, watching the drunken women pour out of the doors like a sailors play thing, fishnets and cleavages longer than his arm. Though the view was nothing to write home about the office was three stories up, so David felt a slight omniscience while watching the dregs from his tower.
So far he had avoided any participation of the office gossip today, the only ‘work colleague’ in ear shot of him was Stacey, he positioned himself behind his partition like an ostrich with its head buried, safe in the knowledge that if he couldn’t see her, then she didn’t exist. He could hear only her voice, and it was angelic. The sort of voice that would conjure images in a lustful male, images of a beautiful, voluptuous figure with perfect skin and lustrous hair. Her voice could cradle one to sleep or arouse one from it, this was the reason her phone rang the most, clients asking to meet her and in some cases arrange intimate encounters, married or not. Today hiding was not enough, David’s daydreaming was interrupted by Stacey. She lent on his partition as he raised his head from his arms panning her body from waist to face, slowly and intentionally as to imply his distain for her, but she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, he knew this, and his distain went unacknowledged. Stacey was a beast, thrice David’s mass and half as tall, she had grease paper skin, ever damp and stretched thin due to its overcapacity, limbs like custard filled cellophane bags. Her eyes pointed both east and west, never to meet at north. A mouthful of golden teeth that had their own agenda, and each wanted to escape her mouth, as if they had little noses of their own and couldn’t stand the stagnant coffee breath emanating from her gullet. Her hair was that of an electrified hippy, matted and brittle like candyfloss. David took an immediate disliking to this woman, and he knew how shallow it was to feel this way, but if his morals were ever in doubt an image of Stacey would tell his morality to take a hike. She begun to speak and already her breath hit his nostrils.
‘Dave!’ (He hated to be called Dave) ‘Did you see the news last night?’
He shook his head, while turning away to face his monitor.
‘About those black dot things, you didn’t see it?’
‘No!’ he blurted.
‘It’s so weird, one minute I was watching my soaps and the next the news came on, and I was like, what happened to Eastdale Street and then I was like this is really weird’
Her telephone voice could pass for educated, but without her headpiece on her chuckles became cackles and her dialect became that of an imbecile.
‘I told you I didn’t see it!’ David snapped, in an attempt to distract her from her trail of thought, and hopefully return her to her desk, she usually had the attention span of a housefly.
’Well what happened was’ (It didn’t work) ‘These black dot things appeared all over the place, I saw one at Primarni, and my friend has one in his back garden. Nobody knows what they are, and I tried to take a photo of one with my phone but nothing came out, its really weird!’ She could ramble like this forever.
‘Really Stacey? That does sound weird, but I’m really busy at the moment, can I talk to you about it later, maybe during lunch?’
‘Yeah, a group of us were going to grab some Panini’s and lattes and then go to ‘The Lamb’ if you wanna tag along, we were gonna have like a proper discussion about it and stuff, you know like… Question time!’
‘That sounds great Stacey, I’ll meet you in there.’ Patronising Stacey was no challenge, she seemed to have no concept of it. He had no intention of going, honestly the pub scared him to death.
‘Coolio, I’ll see you there babe!’ David shivered whenever Stacey called him babe, he felt saturated by it. She returned to her desk, giddy and blissfully ignorant. David resumed cradling his face in his arms atop his desk.
Lunch couldn’t come quicker, David had managed to feign an illness to his superior, thus avoiding Stacey’s questioning as to his whereabouts and un-drunken latte at ‘The Lamb’. He fled home and didn’t dare look back. His house welcomed him with its warm embrace and this time while it was still light outside, not one to avoid work he found this a little disorientating. Shoes and coat on the floor he grabbed his cigarettes, slapped his wallet down and head towards his sanctuary. He noticed a luminous yellow post-it on the wall by the angular stairwell, this stopped him in his stride and he moved in for inspection, it had only the word lookand a crudely drawn arrow on it, the handwriting was that of Roberts and the arrow pointed toward the centre of the landing. David followed the arrows direction and noticed something strange, a black golf ball sized orb. He recognised it from the child’s etching he’d seen on the news last night, and it was, pretty much how it was portrayed on T.V. It was about chest height and perfectly still, the edges were slightly blurred and as he touched it he felt nothing, nothing at all, it could easily have been mistaken for a shadow on his retinas, from looking at a light bulb.
‘Fuck Me’ he said as the edges of his mouth turned up to form a smirk. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, he now empathised with the morons he’d mocked the night prior. He observed it for a good twenty minutes or so, occasionally swiping at it and every time unsatisfied, he wanted to clasp it and toss it around like a ball. He even walked into it, until the orb rested somewhere around his heart and lungs, but still no sensation at all. Eventually the slob in him wanted to leave the orb and retire to the sofa, but part of him feared that if he took his eyes of it, it would disappear. But then he thought ‘so what?’ if it disappears then it disappears, what use is it anyway, he couldn’t touch it, couldn’t photograph it, he had no one he wished to share the phenomena with. He even considered knocking on Robert’s door and asking him what he thought, but decided against it. And with this he returned to his slovenly ways. He filled his lungs with smoke and clicked his remote compulsively, all the while aware of his uninvited guest, lodging at the base of his stairs and how inanimately useless it was.
Months had passed since the ‘Black Dot’ phenomena had imposed itself on the world. Aside from scientists and a few fanatic cults the world had become numb to it, the media and water cooler chatterers had lost interest. Some considered themselves privileged to have an orb in their homes, some creating shrine like displays around them and others even charging admission to see them, as if it was their property to exploit. People’s unattractive faces had appeared on tactless magazines, stories of how they had an orb resting on their now deceased loved ones pillow, or lucky devils having not one, but two useless orbs squatting in their domiciles. David was as indifferent about the phenomena as anyone, maybe more so. He would occasionally glance it as he would a fish tank on his way to his sofa, apparently Robert was the same. Initially Robert had friend after friend visiting David’s house to view it, the whole time David wondered how someone so solitary could have so many friends, and eventually the visits made him uneasy, an invasion. It soon stopped to his satisfaction and all returned to normal, the orbs now accepted as the norm.
David worked as he had always done, half-heartedly. He was thankful to have received no more invitations to lunch with Stacey, to watch her cram her face full of saturated fats and the occasional carrot stick. Gorging herself and then paying recompense to her gluttony with a root vegetable, as if it were a magical cure to obesity. There’s no cure for ugly he would often think to himself, at his desk, while listening to her seductive telephone manner. He felt that it was deceitful, someone so unattractive speaking the way she does, in the tone that she does to clients. Her voice promising what she could never deliver, and David would sit at his desk, day after day listening, feeling conflicted and somewhat betrayed. She was obviously one to bare a grudge, she hadn’t so much as spoken to David since he missed their appointment, and this suited him, or so he thought. A small part of him, deep down, missed her attentions.
Occasionally he would overhear her, and the local gossips mentioning orbs that they had discovered, for example an orb on the ground floor of the building, the warehouse level. It was situated between the gentleman’s lavatory and a fire exit, noticing something that small and black was no easy thing, some hide in the most inaccessible places. One thing that had occurred to David was that all the orbs were at ground level, and it turns out that the entire world is populated with them, not just the UK. This of course made no difference, they still had no part to play, they were equally as useless in Texas, Turkey or Timbuktu.
The office begun to stir, everyone moved to the backroom in waves, ending with Stacey dislodging herself from her seat and then thundering after them for fear that she should miss anything. David was alone in a large room full of ringing phones, he’d never seen the office so empty, it was ideal, he had the sudden urge to shed his clothes and lord himself around the room naked. But he was intrigued, and before he knew it he found himself with the crowd, on the tips of his toes trying to catch a glimpse over a sea of heads. The odour was overpowering, so many sweaty bodies wedged into such a small room, he found himself questioning his own scent, and whether he contributed to the stench. He tried breathing only through his mouth but he convinced himself that he could taste the air, almost chew it. Eventually he noticed a small television that everyone had surrounded and on it another unscheduled news report. It was hard to hear anything over gasps and hums but from what he could make out it was black dot related, he pushed forward, sidling and worming his way in. The headline read ‘Black Dot Activity’ but that was all, he listened and shushed the mouth breathers around him.
‘Five months to the day since the black dot phenomena appeared, something has occurred. At 2:17 pm simultaneously across the country, the orbs began to change size. Eye witness reports describe the orbs swelling and shrinking repeatedly, this continued until 3:46pm when the orbs halted, now five times their original size.’
The gasps heightened and a ‘wow’ was heard indistinctly from the room, David had no doubt that it was Stacey, she whose opinion should be heard and valued above others. As soon as the report ended and the T.V. resumed it’s scheduled programme of ‘Bargain House Hunt’ the room dissipated and everyone was back at their seats, back to answering phones, forwarding emails and idol chit-chat. David returned to his desk and continued to imitate a hard worker, all the while counting the seconds till he was free again.
His journey home was a trial, with interest reignited in the phenomena the streets were claustrophobic, it was a festival turn out without the euphoria. David would pass at least twenty-seven orbs on his journey home, he would count them on his bus route, one orb positioned dead centre of the road, passing through the front of the bus and gliding down the isle, almost boastfully having not purchased a ticket. Originally the tally was at twenty-seven, but now that the orbs had grown it was more like forty, some more obvious than before. People had gathered round each of them as they had done half a year ago when they had invaded. David couldn’t fathom the fascination, the obsession even. They were pointless before and remain frustratingly so, the only differences now is that they occupy more space and obscure more views.
The bus turned a corner to reveal another crowd, this one more dispersed than the others. In the centre was a billboard attached to a plank being swung from side to side keeping the onlookers at bay, when the signpost paused for breath David read the slogan scrawled on the side of it; The End is Nigh. A cliché if ever he saw one, he hoped it was ironical, his faith in humanity was already hanging by a molecule-thin thread. The bus stopped a few metres away to let passengers of and on and as the doors opened he could hear the sign-bearers ranting.
‘Back! Get away!’ His speech was fractured as he swept back and forth with the post. ‘The darkness is coming, one orb at a time, and it is happening right now, under our noses!’ David suddenly felt sympathy for the lunatic, he caught sight of the prophet and the expression he wore. His eyes were wet and swollen, like he’d been crying for days, and as he pleaded his mouth quivered, like a child about to cry but refusing to do so in front of his peers. David could have cried himself, he couldn’t stand to watch this poor man going through such an ordeal. As the bus doors closed he tried to forget it, but he knew that he would think about him again and the memory would depress him unbearably so. He was not the first fanatic since the phenomena began, and he will most definitely not be the last, but it has never been so close to home for David, he wasn’t capable of dealing with this sort of thing, and it would tear him up inside.
Home was his shining light and passing through its front door was cathartic, its warmth embracing him like a lover, he could have fallen to his knees as the door closed, but he resisted. He noticed the intruder by the stairwell, now swollen and sinister. David begun to despise it, he threw his fist into it contemptuously, it was now big enough to envelop his hand, he kept his hand there for a few seconds before giving up and dropping his arm to his side. The futility of it lead him to wonder how big this thing would get? If it would continue to grow? And what if the fanatic was right? Being the accomplished procrastinator his thoughts immediately turned to ‘So what?’ and ‘Worry about it later!’ He also contemplated his dinner options as he retired for the night.
The house was old and in pain, expanding and contracting like dry muscles, pipes like tired veins and clogged arteries, gurgling and spluttering like a sliced throat. These noises kept David awake once upon a time, but now he couldn’t sleep without them. He had on occasion felt drowsy overhearing a kettle boil or the dripping of a tap, somewhat like ‘Pavlov’s Dog’.
Tonight the house’s whale song didn’t seem to cut it, something was different because he found himself awake, and abruptly at that. As his eyes sharpened and he recognised his ceiling he noticed an unfamiliar sound, the welcomed house noises were still there but another had thrown a spanner in the works. David pinpointed the sound and it was that of water pouring onto the floor downstairs, he sat up, pulled his duvet aside and pivoted until his legs were touching the floor, its was freezing he thought to himself. He threw on his dressing gown and opened his bedroom door in one motion, the cold hit him hard as he did so, the air seemed frozen and he found that breathing required much more effort than usual.
He hesitantly moved down the stairwell and could hear the sound getting closer, but the poor lighting had revealed nothing to him. As his feet left the carpeted stairs and slapped on the tilled floor he found his leg sliding out from under him and loyally his body following, he hit the floor hard, made full aware of his entire body weight. It took a second to realise he was wet, and what he had slipped on was obviously making the noise, but it wasn’t water. Too dark to see he lifted the liquid to his nose and immediately pulled away as its pungency hit his receptors, sour milk, rotten fruit, year old fish, he couldn’t place it, but it was definitely unpleasant, his gag reflex had assured him of that. He rubbed it between his thumb and fore-finger, it was viscous, like wallpaper paste and as he pulled his fingers apart it refused to let either finger go, forming gooey strings. His confusion subsided as the sound of the liquid hitting the floor ceased, as the silence returned the cold hit David again, the liquid must have been a few degrees short of freezing, his instinct to escape it kicked in and he righted himself at some effort, stabilizing himself he slid towards the closest light switch. As he flipped it the light blinded him for all of a second, he turned to face the puddle only to realise calling it a puddle would be an understatement. The entire ground floor was flooded at least two inches high with what seemed to be a clear liquid, and the source of it became apparent to him as the last few drops fell. They fell from the ‘Black dot’ now the size of a beach ball.
As light filled the room David’s mind became clear, not of the phenomena’s purpose but to its baleful intentions, it sent shivers down his spine in a way the freezing air emanating from it couldn’t. The atmosphere was palpable, electric, the orb twitched and jerked as if ten-thousand volts were passing through it, and as it became more violent the temperature continued to drop, the liquid all around rippling in unison with the orb. David clutched his arms and could now see his own breath, he couldn’t move, both paralysed and intrigued by his fear, he had never experienced terror and struggled to understand the sensation. His innards felt heavy as they sought escape through his throat, his skin tingled as it became gooseflesh and his nerves felt a new sensation that they would try and approximate to being cold, but David’s brain knew it was something different.
David now a fixture of the house was nothing more than a nervous system, trying to process what befell him and though the orb seemed to settle he felt that this was the calm before the storm. He pulled up his left knee hoping his foot would follow, but it refused, at first he thought that the unknown liquid was holding him there but this was not true, he tried again but was too late. The orb pulsed like it was about to explode, so erratic that it became a blur, it coughed up more of the mucus, not as steadily as before but as if it was vomiting and had only bile to offer. suddenly it stopped, something blocked the flow and then proceeded to make its own way out of the portal, as it did the one lit bulb began to flicker causing a strobe effect heightening David’s horror to the point of his heart contemplating ‘calling it a night’. David was offered brief flashes of what was coming through, as much as the light bulb would allow him, at first he saw what seemed to be more liquid pouring onto the ground but the sound was different; it thumped rather than slapped the floor tiles. It piled under the orb to then spread under its own weight, occasionally moving of its own volition reaching around and feeling its environment. David struggled to make sense of the mass, it was mainly pink with red and white colourations, it was neither liquid or solid but both, as solid sections would form it would tear at itself like melted cheese on a pulled slice of pizza. It bubbled creating cists and boils that would grow larger or burst, jets of puss-like liquid would solidify mid stream to form flailing tentacles, all the while growing and spreading across David’s hallway, to David’s feet. The amorphous mound begun to spike at places, like bones growing instantly under skin, causing the flesh of it to stretch and in some places rip, as these limbs formed the rest begun to expand rapidly. He realised now that whatever the orb was giving birth to it was something sinister, and the liquid that proceeded it was its amniotic fluid, and the feeling in his gut told him that this invader was to be the end of him, if not the world.
So close now to David that he could feel static from the abomination and with the light still flickering and temperature dropping he tried to tell his body to about turn, he tried to avert his gaze but couldn’t take his eyes of it. His eyes focused on one part that had begun to spasm and tear a small hole in itself, as the hole widened it let out a high pitched noise, first a squeak, then a squeal and as it tore got louder. It sounded like a balloon being deflated while somebody stretched the mouth-end, eventually it erupted into a terrifying howl, loud enough to shatter glass let alone David’s eardrums, the noise forced him to act and with the last of his strength he turned, ran to his front door and fled into the street, beads of sweat and tears on his face he kept running until the chilling scream seemed not so personal, not directed at him.
As David passed the corner of his cul-de-sac and as his home left his sight he halted, feet first and his torso a split second after almost sending him into the tarmac. It had suddenly occurred to him that whatever had just happened was most likely happening everywhere, and as the night began to fill with the cries of his neighbours his thoughts were reinforced. He exited his cul-de-sac like a mouse leaving its hole. As he edged onto the street he scanned left to right, he couldn’t remember any orbs being on this street and this knowledge, as soon as it occurred to him, helped him on his way. Not knowing what to do, or where to turn he picked to go right, it felt more comfortable to him, like his brain was heavier on the right-side.
Usually a brisk walker he found it took more effort to slow down and shorten his strides, he kept moving for about thirty seconds before he sat down against a wheelie bin. The stench of the bin didn’t register for him, what he considered foul before was now irrelevant compared to the horrors that his brain was still trying to process, this is why he fell rear-end first into number 24’s garbage bags. His head dropped into his hands and he began to sob, and as he cried the pleas and screams of victims filled the night sky, becoming more desperate and regular. He could hear the screeching of tires and crashing of vehicles, smashing windows and even an explosion or two, and as the devastation heightened the street lamps fought for a few seconds before dying.
Without the street lamps orange glow it was the moons chance to shine, and it illuminated more than David had expected, he looked at the stars in an attempt to lose himself but this was ceased as number 24’s front door swung open and its owner fell out of it. David paid no attention to his neighbours and avoided eye contact as he passed them on the street. He always hoped to avoid pleasantries, and the occasional embarrassment suffered when he would (on a good day) look to make eye contact, say hello and then not have it reciprocated. Number 24 was one of these neighbours, he recognised him, even though he was crawling on his hands and knees, red faced and foaming at the mouth, terrified for his life. He called out for help, David stood up but refused to approach him. Neither of them knew each others names but this didn’t seem to matter, fear is universal, and the desire to help someone in need should be instinct. But David froze as he had done in his home, even as the man rose to his knees and begun to plead, eyes huge and glistening, fixed on David as his gaze was fixed on Number 24. David shook his head slightly, not enough for Number 24 to notice but enough to convince himself that he will not approach that house, his eyes mimicking the desperate man. Number 24 held his arms out towards David like a baby to its Mother, took in a deep breath and then screamed at David;
‘Help me! Plea-’ Before he could finish the word a whip of pink flesh flew out of the doorway and wrapped itself around Number 24’s mouth, quick as a flash it tore at his jaw, pulled it downwards and ripped it away from his skull. Though it was fast it wasn’t clean, his tongue was the last thing to leave his neck, leaving a squirting red pulp, framed by a shirt collar and upper row of teeth, brilliantly white against the crimson.
David backed away as he sympathetically clasped his chin, his heartbeat now hitting his chest like a piston, it begun to hit harder as Number 24 was dragged into the darkness of his home. Gurgling as he disappeared he’d left a trail of blood and gore along his garden path and welcome home doormat. David ran, as he seemed to do best.
Numb, David wondered aimlessly, now joined by other hysterical victims, bouncing of each other like marbles, some falling to the ground and others curling up into foetus’s, cradling their children, ultimately giving up. David empathised and considered joining them but his delirium had a drive of its own. He selfishly shunned those that clawed at him for help, accepting that he could do nothing and it was now every man for himself.
He witnessed horror at every turn, shapeless nightmares, now huge and morphing into fantastical shapes, impossible to fathom and truly disturbing to behold. He had avoided their attentions so far, scuttling like a rat, but kept watch unable to avoid the massacre; women ripped apart, men impaled and raised to the air, children drowned in the monstrous flesh. He had no tears left to shed, and whether or not he cared anymore his body had taken over for self-preservations sake and due mostly to luck he had escaped his inevitable demise so far.
David realised that he had been heading towards his workplace, instinctively perhaps, and having nowhere else to go he went with it. He remembered that the orbs, though plentiful, resided at ground level and his office was on the third floor. It made sense to him to climb.
The top floor of ‘Dunwich House’ the building that housed David’s workplace was now in sight, obstructed by only a few shops on the high street, not far at all as the crow flies, but for a rodent avoiding confrontation the journey was much more arduous. David had mapped most of the orbs on his route to work in his head, he knew their locations like the back of his hand, but he couldn’t see through walls, and he could feel the cold as he passed by doorways, hear the churning of monsters forming inside the buildings.
David hesitated turning even the smallest corner, the alleyways he choose to navigate were dark, and in some cases pitch black due to the power being out. He would bump into likeminded others in the darkness but their meetings would be brief and each time his heart would stop, and each time he felt his heart growing more exhausted. David decided to take the last stretch on the high street, it was a straight sprint and if his memory served him right there was no orbs to detour him, not on the street anyway. As he peered out of the alleyway he welcomed the moonlight, he stepped out of the shadows and joined the mob on the high street, some of which were looting. What a time to loot, David thought to himself, and part of him hoped for their ends met.
Greedy Bastards!’ It was strange to hear his own voice, he’d forgotten how to speak amongst the carnage.
He wanted to sprint but couldn’t muster the energy, as he approached his building he passed a large plated glass window. It was a supermarket, usually lit up, advertising its wares twenty-four-seven, but tonight it was jet black inside. The windows seemed a mile long, and as David approached the end he heard the pane behind him crack as a hooded youth swung a metal pipe at it.
‘What are you doing?!’ The youth didn’t answer, he was having the time of his life.
‘Don’t you see what’s going on? You’re going to die! Your parents are going to die! Everyone is going to…’
Before he could finish the yob swung one last time, as his stroke landed the glass along the entire supermarket stretch burst, sending shards of glass into the street and the teenagers face, this was immediately followed by a sea of pink flesh pouring out onto the high street. More abomination than David had seen all night. The youth’s shrieks were muffled as the creature filled his mouth, throat and then lungs with its putrid mass, before it reached his stomach the boy was torn in half from the inside, ripped as easily as paper, if only so cleanly.
David had fallen backwards as the glass had forced him to do so, he sprung to life, straight back on his feet he sprinted to ‘Dunwich House’ until his lungs were burning coals. He could hear the exotic mutilations behind him as he flew, their death rattles begged his attention, but he was fixed and they were done for.
It hadn’t occurred to him that with no electricity the keypad on the front door was inoperative. He pressed the buttons frantically, 4-7-3-9, 4-7-3-9. He stopped took a deep breath and steadied his hand, this time entering the code with surgical accuracy when it eventually hit him. He backed away from the door as if it had betrayed him. As the terror of the high street approached ‘Dunwich House’ David had to act, so he moved to the nearest ground floor window and pressed his face against it. It was black, but it seemed still. He looked for something solid, searching the ground he found a large stone, then stood back and launched it at the glass. As it shattered he expected to hear alarms, but this was not the case, the building was dead. Making a glove with his dressing gown he batted away the odd shard of glass, covering his face with his other arm, he did this until he was positive that he could make it through without getting cut. Making it there, and avoiding all the horror along the way it seemed ridiculous to fear the broken glass, but he still did, and carefully made his way into the building, all the while aware of each piece of glass and where it now lay.
As he landed on the office carpet his feet welcomed the comfort, he had left his home wearing only socks, that now hung of his feet in threads, bloodied, the pain of running on tarmac and cobbles shoeless had only just hit him as his toes caressed the carpet fibres. He had never been in this office before during his six year stretch at the call centre, but the layout was the same as upstairs and so he knew which way to turn, the inner doors were all locked so he had to smash more windows on his journey to the stairwell.
Finally at the top floor, he broke into the final room, his workplace. It was only three stories high but the air already seemed cleaner, and the smell of photocopiers and computer monitors was a welcome scent. He head to his own desk hoping to be comforted by it, the familiarity might help his heart rest, and as he sat on his chair he felt heavy with burden that slid down his body like slime until it fell to the ground.
After a few minutes of unwinding, he sat up and pulled open his desk drawer, he felt around with his hands until he found a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, he placed a cigarette in his mouth, ignited it and inhaled. As the nicotine hit his brain he fell back in his chair and let it hug him, he almost felt guilty taking such simple pleasures while the world outside was being butchered, nevertheless he indulged. Mid cigarette he pulled himself up out of his chair and paid attention to his third floor view, there was nothing to see, the occasional fire surrounded by darkness and above, a beautiful star filled sky. Brain and body exhausted he blinked, then blinked again, until eventually his eyes gave in and he passed out.
David dreamt of waves hitting a shore. He opened his eyes, momentarily ignorant of his situation, this was until he noticed the strip light bulb above him and the jolt of his reclining office chair aligning him upright and almost throwing him forward. As the memories of the night previous flooded his brain, he cursed his sleep and the deceit of his dream, it offered him calmness and safety, as if it were teasing him.
The office was bright, the sun was jarring and cooked his face through the large window pane of the third floor office of ‘Dunwich House’ Now totally recalled of his situation he sprung to life. He could no longer hear a civilisation being mutilated, no screams, or glass breaking, or cars crashing, in fact he could hear waves sweeping and crashing. He stood at some effort and moved towards the window, keeping his line of sight towards the sky he slowly paned down, first seeing the tops of buildings until he had no way of avoiding the ground. His breath was cut short as he witnessed a sea of flesh, waves of gore and slime tumbling and sliding over itself. At least one storey high the earth had been flooded, drowned in the monstrous pulp. It was like waking up after an overcast night to witness a snow covered morning, except this wasn’t snow, this was manifested horror. On closer inspection David could see corpses floating like leaves, the flesh would occasionally pull a body or two under or seem to tear at their limbs for pleasure, dismembering them and flailing them about. It was a relief to see birds in the sky, some would rest on the flesh, pecking at it until the mass would peck back.
To accept death was a strange sensation, but David had accepted it. Only twenty six, full of postponed intentions and ideals delayed, for fear of disappointment and the lack of drive others of his generation seemed to thrive on. David had resented this in his fellow school leavers, but now they were probably dead, or soon to be and he felt the twinge of shame as he revelled in this. Retiring to his desk for the final time he smoked a cigarette, possibly the last cancer-stick (now irrelevantly named) he ever would and found his mind awash with contemplation.
First he thought of Robert, he didn’t know whether to feel guilt. Guilty that he fled his home without the smallest consideration for his housemate, asleep in his tomb. Maybe if their relationship was better, if they had spoken to each other for more than two minutes at a time, bearing each others company enough to hand over and receive the rent each month. As he reminisced about their situation his guilt alleviated, Robert would have done the same thing! he thought, and If Robert had made the effort things could have been different. Making excuses as usual David found himself at a conclusion; Fuck him! He was an arsehole! A firm atheist, now was the time to think his thoughts without a sense of karma, or holy recompense being visited upon him. David toyed with the idea that maybe he was pure evil, surely this trail of thought is not that of a morally healthy person. But it didn’t matter now.
Next he thought of Stacey. He imagined scenarios of her death, with a grim satisfaction. Inevitably she had already perished being obese and if nature had taught us anything, its that only the fit survive, well survive longer than the gluttonous among them as the case may be. He could imagine her last words being in a text message, or spoken in the same lazy way. OMG! WTF! Even now this thought made David shiver, and welcome humanities end. She was probably trying to film the beast on her camera phone as it devoured her. He felt that he should mourn her, but he couldn’t stomach the thought, plenty of good people had died and she was not worth his tears, a precious commodity to someone so heartless.
Finally and unexpectedly he thought of the tearful Prophetic he’d pitied a few days ago, this lifted his spirits. The thought of the Prophetic as his suspicions were validated, welcoming the monster with a smile and outstretched arms, this time with tears of joy streaming down his face. In the end he was right and maybe some of the onlookers had remembered his rants in their final minutes, hating themselves for dismissing him as just another lunatic. There was every possibility that the Prophetic had held up billboards before, claiming the End is Nigh while reading into an unfortunate falling of letters in his alphabet spaghetti, only to strike it lucky this time in the worst possible way.
David hadn’t realised he was smiling, and it was gone as soon as it had arrived.
The office chilled as each minute passed, similarly as David’s death grew ever closer. He approached the window for one final survey examining the pink sea, this time fearless and objective. Terror no longer significant he pondered the creature or creatures as to it’s purpose, it was clear to him that they wanted this world for their own, but he couldn’t understand the biology of the beast. They invaded as individuals but now seemed to form one giant being, a being that was undecided on its true form, constantly morphing, shifting so erratically that whirlpools would form.
David was fascinated, astonished by its relentlessness. He noticed something new, the primordial ooze performed a new trick as it swelled in places forming egg like sacks, only to give birth to new life, unipeds, bipeds, quadrupeds, even tripeds. Creatures so complex that it was difficult to define, a lottery of random creations leaving him anticipating the next oddity and in a morbid way it was beautiful to behold. This was the beginning of new life, the new occupiers of planet earth and humanity going the way of the dinosaurs. Unexplainable and incomprehensible, just as a comet ended prehistory, humanity was not meant to understand its end and the harbinger of its extinction.
David heard the writhing against the office door, claws and teeth gnawing its way through the brittle plywood, nothing left to do he awaited it in an almost meditative state. Somewhere else the last few of his species were probably fighting to survive, hidden in underground bunkers or skyscrapers but this was not David’s fate. He was to go like most of the world, insignificantly, but he was calm. He took comfort in the fact that he was now experiencing the end of the world. The way he saw it was to be at the beginning or the end was important not lulling in the middle, and the fact that he had no one to miss him was irrelevant if there was nobody left to miss anyone.
He took one last look at the sky and wished for the sun to come out, this was London he thought and to be overcast was better than rain. But it would have been nice to die on a sunny day. The office door buckled and split in two, the flesh poured in and David refused to face it not averting his gaze from the sky. This was his final fuck you as the monster wiped his consciousness from existence.
© Copyright 2016 Daniel Mullaney. All rights reserved.
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