(Late) Short Story Saturday: SMILE

           Because this is an eerie piece, I decided to not post it in the middle of the night on Saturday, and instead to do it on Sunday. Also, Part 2 of The Other Side is delayed so that I can do better planning. So here you are, my new short story SMILE

           It was going to be a good day. The sun was up and beaming in the very blue sky, the workday was over, and she was going back to her apartment to finally watch this Jessica Jones show that Sarah had been raving about. It was supposed to be very dark and realistic and grungy. That was basically her entire queue of shows anyway. As long as it stayed clearly in the realm of fiction, unlike that last weird show about serial killers that Sarah had talked about, she would be glued to her laptop for the night.

She walked along the bustling city street until she saw a cab coming. She raised her hand. The taxi stopped, thankfully, but not before someone walked by her, saying only one word:

“Smile.”

Continue reading “(Late) Short Story Saturday: SMILE”

The Machine by Gabriel Penn

blackwingedgabriel:

THE MACHINE IS BACK.

Well, really, it’s just a repost of the original story. But you all should read it anyway. It’s my favorite thing that I have ever written, and one day I want to do another one. Sequel or prequel, I will not say.

And, as always, please vote for me in the contest.

EDIT: Rape scenario in part two. Not intensively described but it is there. You will understand the reason it is there by the end of that chapter, I promise.

In case you missed it last night.

The Machine by Gabriel Penn

The Machine by Gabriel Penn

THE MACHINE IS BACK.

Well, really, it’s just a repost of the original story. But you all should read it anyway. It’s my favorite thing that I have ever written, and one day I want to do another one. Sequel or prequel, I will not say.

And, as always, please vote for me in the contest.

EDIT: Rape scenario in part two. Not intensively described but it is there. You will understand the reason it is there by the end of that chapter, I promise.

The Machine by Gabriel Penn

The Eyes: Part Two

[LINK TO PART ONE]

          “I… really am… crazy.”

          “Yes, Mr. Jones,” replied the woman with her Russian accent. She tilted her glasses at him. “That’s why I’m here. I am here to help you.”

          The man in front of her was a middle-aged man. He wasn’t the kind you would expect to see in an insane asylum. He looked like one of your well-to-do sort of people –rotund, balding gray hair, light scruff that made it clear that he’d only been here a short time. He was the sort of man you’d expect to be seeing running a meeting, not sitting in a straight jacket here in front of her, grinning sardonically, head tilted forward as though he were a vulture staring at its meat.

“You really can’t help twisted,” he replied with a bit of a chuckle. “Not this kind. Some of these people, you know, they’re really not so much crazy as they are tormented. You dig deep into their past, you know, find some trauma that they had as a child or something that fermented and you work with that, but me – I don’t have anything like that.”

“No, sir? You just woke up crazy one day, no real reason?”

“Oh, I didn’t wake up like this. Something caused it – or rather someone.” He looked down in the way that a spiritual man would’ve looked up after saying “God”. “And that can’t be helped,” he continued. She shrugged it off.

“Well, let us get down to the bottom of it, then. What is it?”

“What is what?” he asked, still smiling. “My story?”

“Yes,” she replied coldly.

He leaned back in his chair with a chuckle. “You want to know how I got nuts, huh?” He nodded. “I can tell you. I can tell you all about that.” He took a deep sigh before he began.

“I was your average businessman. I had a trophy wife, some kids, a big house, a church I went to every Sunday – I lived the American dream. I was, shall we say, successful. I did a few shady deals every now and then. Most people do unless you’re one of those few who really make it to the top all by themselves. Wish I was like them, although they disgust me a bit inside, too…”

“Your story, sir,” the psychologist interrupted.

“Woman,” he yelled, “I will get to that!” He sighed and leaned back. “Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes, moral businessmen. They’re not the main point of this. There was one day that started it off. A crazy goon had just gotten out of prison. It’s all over the news and such at this point, telling people to stay inside and as always the people who own a few guns in the county have it good. You always expect it to be someone else who gets the problem. But it was yours truly this time.

“He had my sister. She had him call me up, thinking maybe some money would convince him, I guess. But he was a psycho, and didn’t care about the money. He wanted that moment of fame where everyone knew about him. But I listened. I loved my sister, and I wanted to make sure she was safe. I brought the money to the location, all alone, no cops. I was desperate. I put my life over my sister’s at that point, very moral of me. The morality did me no good, as I found two cronies waiting out near my car when I got back. I got sucker-punched, and I woke up with your average long, frizzy-haired wide-eyed psycho staring me in the face.

“He told me to paint a sign of all things, it was like one of those really confusing nightmare sequences you have but barely remember in the morning. But I was desperate, and so I did what he said. I grabbed the paintbrush and began painting some words. I’ll never forget the words: ‘the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.’ One of those weird cryptic things. I wrote it with red paint, which made it look even worse. I don’t know what he was thinking, but after all, he’s crazy, right?

“I did what I didn’t think was right at the time and sent a signal, secretly dialing 9-1-1. He wanted attention and he was going to get it. But I got the sign finished, and just as I was about to speak, I felt the cold barrel of a gun at the back of my head. Trembling, I asked him where she was. That was when he smiled at me. ‘Didn’t you notice? Didn’t you notice your own sister?’ he asked. That was when I noticed the color of the paint. Blood red. It was human blood. I’d been painting the sign with her blood.

“It was at that moment, that all the things I’d learned in church didn’t matter anymore. I knew perhaps it would be better revenge to watch him rot in jail, but I wasn’t about to let that thought stop me. I took what I remembered from my karate as a child, took the gun from his hand and unloaded half the clip into his brain.

“And at that moment, I realized I had enjoyed that. I had enjoyed wiping his existence from earth, and I hadn’t minded sending him straight to Hell for what he had done. It was fun. I almost wanted him to come back to life so I could do it again and again. And then, out of nowhere, I had a voice commanding me to take out the anger on the cops, the asylum workers, everyone who should have been doing their job better and set this monster on the electric chair. They all deserved it, the voice told me. And I didn’t argue. The voices, they took over.

“When the cops came, it was me they had to deal with. I began using the rest of the clip to fire at the cops. When I was finally brought in, I was saved by way of the plea of insanity. It was correct, after all. Sanity is a very fragile thing. It’s like an egg. You drop that egg for a second and it’s…” He made a motion simulating an explosion. “…it’s gone.”

“And that is why I’m here. I dropped the egg, and I’ve never regretted it.”

The psychologist leaned back in her chair and relaxed. “How very interesting. So you believe these voices lead you on?”

“Yes, I believe they did,” he responded casually. His voice tone didn’t sound insane. It sounded calm, almost disturbingly so.

“You wouldn’t, perhaps, have heard voices in your head before this, would you?” she asked.

“Save my conscience, no.” His smile showed only in the corner of his mouth now.  “But that’s not what you should be worried about. There’s something else here, in this asylum. There’s a presence, and it’s going to start killing the inmates in this building very soon.”

“Sir, you do not have to kill inmates to make me listen to you,” she answered calmly.

“I didn’t say it was me,” he answered. His face contorted oddly as he said this.

“Sir, if you have the name of a would-be killer, it would be smart to say who it is. There is great confidentiality in this room, no other inmate will know who told us. You will be safe.”

“I’m telling you, it’s not a person,” he restated, “It’s a presence.” He leaned in close. “Do you believe in spirits, madam?”

“No, I believe in what I see, and unless you show me one in the flesh I will not give it a second thought.”

“That is very unfortunate. Because that means you will never see it coming, and by the time you realize it’s not your psycho regular patient, it’s going to be too late.”

She tipped her glasses back fully onto her nose. She frowned slightly. “Sir, please do not threaten me. It will only make this harder on both of us.”

“Oh, I’m not threatening you,” he said. “I’m warning you. Be careful. You don’t want to find… it.”

She bared her way through the final parts of this interrogation. As she left, cackling laughter filled the halls. She turned to her patient, who was sitting as calmly as could be, eyebrows raised slightly in amusement, perhaps in an “I told you so” sort of manner. She shook a bit as she walked out quickly.

As she left the asylum, she noticed once again the Madonna statue that stood affront the asylum. It had originally been put there to keep the more religious patients calm, make them think there was an presence guarding them, but it only served to cause a freak-out among the ones who thought they were the devil incarnate. She smiled at such ridiculousness, but they were crazy, after all. Some had even claimed that it had tried to kill them.

She clicked her car keys. It madea faint “beep” as she headed toward her Alfa Romeo Montreal. As she did, she heard something, like footsteps on pavement. She turned around. She could not believe her eyes.

It looked as though the statue had tilted its face, ever so slightly, in her direction. That was enough talking with crazies for the day, she imagined, it was time to head home and get away from this nonsense. She began walking towards the car when she heard it again.

She turned around to see it had moved from the platform to the ground. She yelped, but perhaps it was some trick of one of the patients, which was honestly just as terrifying, as it meant one of them was out of their cells.

She walked backward towards her car, punching in the number on her phone as quickly as possible for the local police. She kept her eyes forward, looking out of the corner of her eye to make sure the numbers were correct. She kept another arm at the level of her eyes to ready herself for anything.

The phone rang. A voice answered it. “Hello, please state the nature of the emergency.”

“Yes,” she answered frantically but still quietly, “this is Dr. Genrich from the Jersey Sta…”

That was when she realized… she had taken her eyes off the statue.

She looked up.

It was a foot from her, hand raised towards her throat.

She screamed and rushed into the car, slamming the door behind her.

“Ma’am?” the operator asked.“Hello? Can you hear me?”

The statue was at the car door now, looking as though it was about to open the door. She screamed and put the car in reverse, getting out of there quickly.

“Yes,” she said into the phone, “Dr. Genrich from Jersey State Asylum. There’s something on the grounds, a patient, something, I don’t know. Send backup.”

She looked up again, seeing it having appeared in the driveway, its mouth open unnaturally wide as both arms reached for the car. She screamed again, driving around it with incredible reflexes.

“Send backup now!!” she yelled into the phone.

She sped out onto the road, looking back. She looked forward and then back again, hoping, praying, it wasn’t as fast as a car. But it stood there, looking as upset as a statue could look. One hand pointed down, the other hand pointed towards her. It stayed in that position each time she looked at it.

The next morning she had come in bright and early. She had nothing else to do. She had been having fitful nightmares the previous night. What had the statue meant when it had pointed down? Could any of this religion crap be true? She rethought that… stuff, not crap. She didn’t want to offend Him if this God really existed.

She was in a session with a patient who was normally very vegetable-like. He didn’t really respond to anything, just continually muttering repeated unexplainable phrases, including occasional references to him being cold no matter how they changed the temperature for him. He’d apparently murdered some couple, claiming to be a demon in human form. What nonsense, she thought.

But now something had changed.What was normally just the average cell was now spattered with blood and writings. She wasn’t really paying attention to the wall, trying to get her mind off of it and pay attention to her patient.

“How are you doing this morning?” she would ask him.

However, this time he looked at her with a face that clearly showed recognition. She raised an eyebrow. He was foaming at the mouth, but his words did not sound insane at all, even though they should have.

“Clara,” he said, in a voice that did not sound like his regular voice at all, “The beast. The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. Please don’t…”

At that point, he returned to his insane ways. His regular, high-pitched voice returned as he spewed what would normally be random phrases. This time, however, they were not random. She remembered them from her days in church as a child, long before she had become an atheist.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” he said, “Do not let the sun…”

She joined him. “…Go down while you are still angry, and do not give…”

He finished, sitting up in his seat wide-eyed. “…The devil a foothold.” He stared at her. “There is still time for the unbeliever.” He appeared deadly serious as he yelled the next words. “Don’t give him a foothold, Clara!”

She looked puzzled. “I don’t.”

“No, no!” he exclaimed. “You do! You do!” He tilted his face, his expression earnest. “It’s here! It’s in the room!” He whispered, “It’s with us!”

She stepped back and observed the walls. Above a bloody pentagram were the words: “The beast that ascendeth”. She wondered, had Jones said something to a fellow inmate?

She rushed from the cell as she heard his yells to her.

“Clara!! Don’t give him a foothold!!” he screamed. He heard a light sobbing from his cell.

She was sitting down with the head of the asylum now. It was a small room, a small glass window to her right.The head of the asylum, a big and bushy-mustached young man, sat down at a very large desk with his name on the front. Meanwhile, she sat in a smaller chair in front of him.

“So what seems to be the matter?” he asked, his hands folded in front of him.

“Sir, I believe there is a murderer in this asylum.”

“Certainly,” he admitted. “Many murderers find themselves here. What’s the issue?”

“No, sir,” she explained. “There is a murderer working in the asylum, slaughtering the patients.”

He leaned in close. “And you know this… how?”

She also leaned in. “There was blood all over one of my patient’s walls. That was no simple cut from the wrist that made that much blood. Someone is dead, and multiple patients are telling me the same. And I found one of our new ones…” she paused. “He had a gash across his neck. He’d been bled out.”

“You’ll have to show me the patient,” he said in clear serious tones. “I’m amazed this has gone on without our immediate knowledge. I’ll get the police involved, we’ll find our murderer man in no time.”

“That’s the thing, sir,” she said. “It’s not human.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Pardon me?”

She leaned in close, her eyes wide, their noses almost touching. “Sir, do you believe in demons?”

He remained calm. “No,” he said, pushing her face back with a finger, “But I do believe in overworked psychologists. Just yesterday we had police investigating our Madonna coming to life, and there was nothing. I think you are very good at your job, but you may need a break. Please, take the week off.”

“Sir, but…”

He put a finger up to his lips.“No, trust me, Clara. You deserve this. Take the week off, please. We’ll get this figured out.”

She left the asylum that day, looking at the statue. It didn’t move. She sighed and drove home.

Upon arriving home, she dialed a number she had been given by an inmate before she left. He was a little kooky in the head, talking about people rising from the dead and such and how the whole world was going to end soon, but he did have one thing right – the number for a local reverend. He’d originally given it to her to attempt to get her “saved”, but now it was time for something else.

The phone rang for a bit before she heard a scratchy, tired voice on the other end.

“Hello?” asked the man.

“Yes,” she began, “is this Father Croce?”

“Pastor Croce,” he corrected, “but close enough. What’s the matter? Who is this?”

“This is Clara Genrich from the Jersey Asylum. I am calling to see if you do exorcisms.”

“An exorcism?” He chuckled lightly. “Sounds intriguing,” he replied, “but that wasn’t exactly in my training. People hardly believe in demon possession nowadays. It is real, though, you can trust me on that one.”

“Oh, yes, sir, I believe in demons now.” She paused. “I used to be an atheist. I don’t know if I’ll believe in your God just yet, but I believe in them.”

“Yes,” he said, “occasionally there is faith by sight.”

“I’m just wondering,” she asked,“if you could do one tomorrow at the Asylum? There’s been some crazy things going on, maybe you could, I don’t know, bless the asylum or something like that, anything, but soon.”

“Why are you so…” He paused. “Someone’s dead, aren’t they?”

She was quiet.

“Yes,” she said. “He was… one of my patients. He’d given me your number before he died.”

He sighed. “Jonathan. He’s the only one who would know that. I’d heard he’d been put there recently. He was a good guy before he… you know; went nuts.”

She nodded. She knew he couldn’t see, but she felt it right to do so.

“Will you be there tomorrow?”

“No,” she admitted, “I’ve been put on leave. They think I’m insane, too.”

“I don’t.” His voice sounded very soothing. “I can come over there in the morning, probably early. I’ll let them know your suggestion, and if they agree, they agree.”

“Thank you. How much…?”

“Money’s no option. Jonathan was a great camper back when I was a counselor there at the summer camp. I might as well do something besides his funeral.”

“Thank you,” she said.

She hung up.

He awoke from his slumber. The alarm clock glowed its red numbers in the darkness. 3:00. It was morning. He looked around at the inside of the house, smiling deviously. They wouldn’t be expecting this one. He checked himself out in the mirror. Not a bad body to choose, either. He laughed to himself.

He checked around for knives, guns, something to help in his plight. He would kill them all. If the virus spread, people would be flocking to churches, and that was a definite no-no from the one below. He would be seen as a hero, or rather, the one who’s body they stole would be a hero. And hopefully, if he kept this gig up, they would never learn of a way for him to be removed.

He found a knife – a butcher knife. Perfect for slicing necks. He grabbed the keys to this human’s car and turned them in the ignition. Well, this was a terrible vehicle. How on earth did this human get from place to place? Classics may have looked nice to human eyes, but they weren’t always much to drive in. He made his way to the Asylum.

Upon reaching the asylum, he looked up at the Madonna statue. She looked down at him disgustedly, but it wasn’t allowed to do anything this time, and it knew it. He laughed the cackling laugh that he’d done for that stupid psychologist earlier. No time to send shivers down her spine now.

He watched the door as it opened in front of him. He tiptoed through the halls, so not to wake up the patients as he went by. The lights began to flicker as he passed down the hall as stealthy as a black cat under a new moon. He passed by patient among patient until he found one in particular. He smiled a great, big, awful smile as the doors opened in front of him.

He walked in slowly and distinctly, putting his feet in places so as not to make a sound.

“Cold,” the patient murmured, “So cold.”

He chuckled to himself, realizing how soon that would be reality for him. He pulled the knife from his human shell’s pocket, raising it high in the air above him. Suddenly his victim’s eyes opened. His laugh had awakened him. The patient almost yelled before he placed his shell’s hand over the patient’s mouth. The patient’s eyes grew wide as they watched the knife come higher and higher.

“Yes,” he whispered to the patient. “You know me. And you’ll soon be wishing you’d done a better job of convincing her.”

The knife swung toward the patient’s neck. Suddenly a bright light came from the hall. The lights had turned on. He stopped the knife a centimeter from the patient’s neck.

“Dr. Clara Genrich,” said a familiar voice from behind him. It was that praying man she’d been talking to on the phone. He should have convinced her not to call!

He spun around, hiding the knife.“Oh, Pastor Croce!” he said with her voice, “You’re here very early, in fact. That’s not quite as early as I meant.”

“Why are you here?” The praying man asked raising an eyebrow.

He stared ahead, and started to speak before that despicable man interrupted him.

“I already know. You’ve let him gain a foothold, and I’m here to remove him like poison from a wound.” He drew a sword from his side and pointed its hilt in his direction.

“Fool,” he replied, “You can’t defeat me with physical…” It was then that he saw what was engraved on the sword – a cross. He screamed, his voice mixing with his shell’s voice. The demon began babbling in an angelic tongue and screaming obscenities in three earthly ones, one of them being English just to spite this man of God.

“I command you to come out of him!” yelled the holy man.

He… she… screamed.

**

Pastor Croce watched as the demon convulsed and yelled. He was surprised only a few of the patients had woken up. Perhaps they were used to nightly screaming. The demon looked straight into his eyes. He noticed the eyes had turned pure black.

“You’re going to have to work harder than that, saint!”

The lights shut off. When they turned back on, the possessed woman was gone from her regular spot. He looked around. The lights shut off again. When the lights returned once more, they began to flicker. The pastor looked around quickly, trying to remember that demons were not allowed to possess believers; but terror them, that they could do.

He looked to his right and saw the outline of her body. The lights flickered for a moment. She was smiling; her eyes still dark as night. She cackled before the lights turned out again. She was gone when they returned.

He began praying quickly now.

“The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit…” he heard from his right.

“Shall make war against them…” he heard from his left, far down the hall.

“And overcome them…” he heard from in front of him.

“And kill them!” he heard from behind.

He whipped around, ripped a bible from his coat. She wasn’t there. He held it high. “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ…”

“No!” he heard her yell. He was flung to the ground, the wind knocked out of him as she began screaming in his face, clawing at him, punching him. He put the bible in her face. She screeched, falling backward and clanging into the cell door. After recovering, she started to move unnaturally, crawling up the wall and above him, her outline nearly covering the flickering light. Her head spun around towards him, as an owl’s would. She cackled, a giant tongue coming out of her mouth.

“You may be able to fight me, saint,” she exclaimed, “but you cannot fight us all!”

The patients all around him began to open their eyes. Their cell doors slid open as they walked out, eyes black.She laughed, they all laughed. In the flickering light their bodies became unnatural, supernatural horrors, cackling and walking towards him, hands outstretched to murder him. He looked around, as the psychologist slowly drew the knife and began to let go of the ceiling she clung to.

She dropped towards him as he pulled a gun from his bible, launching it into her heart. She grabbed her heart with both hands, allowing him to dodge the knife and fling her to the ground. He lifted the bible again.

“In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave these people!”

The people screamed and howled.

“In the name of Christ!” he repeated. The cross on the front seemed to almost shimmer in the darkness.

The people fell to the ground, unconscious.

Croce let out a long sigh. He wiped the blood from his face. He pulled out his phone, clicking some buttons and putting it to his ear.

“9-1-1?” he asked. “I’ve got a dead body down here.”

The police were on the scene soon, some crime scene tape was laid out, and officers flocked everywhere. It was probably the most unusual night of Croce’s career to date.

“Well,” said an officer, “We can barely make heads or tails of the security cameras, but it was clear that the killing was in self-defense.“ He chuckled. “That was pretty intense down there for a holy man.”

“Yeah,” Croce agreed. “Definitely that. Wasn’t expecting her at all.”

“Nobody expects crazy,” admitted the cop. “And sometimes they aren’t as crazy as they seem. One of them didn’t even walk out of his cell when all that was happening. He vouched for you by the way, in his weird way of doing so.”

Croce shook his head. “Oh, really, one stayed in? How’s he doing?”

“Cold,” said a man in his cell. There was dried blood behind him, still not cleaned from the earlier day. The words and the pentagram hung behind him as he lay on his side, shivering. And his eyes… there was something about his eyes…

“I feel so cold…”

The Eyes: A Short Horror Story

These walls can’t hold me.

Speaking of the walls, they’re very protective… for the ones walking in the halls rather. They want to keep people from seeing me. They say I’m insane. They tell everyone I’m insane, but I’m not. I’m cooped up with all the crazies, but I’m not like them at all. I know a lot of them say that, but even they know I’m not insane. They remember why I came here in the first place. I wanted to help people; that’s all I ever asked. I wanted to tell them about it, to protect them from the thing that’s got me stuck in here! But I guess that’s not happening anytime soon. But when I do get out of here, everyone’s going to know.

They say I’m insane, but I’m not. I know I’m not. Please, you seem like a good listener, let me tell you. What I’m going to tell you sounds… insane. The story is, but I’m not. Hell, I’m just the messenger. So let me send a message: none of you are safe, not anymore. 

It all started at a local seminary that I was going to for the year.

At first, it was nothing. It was the local bug, and everyone gets it around fall. It’s not a big deal, really. Some sniffles here and there, headaches maybe, and then you’re all done. Some guys get really up in arms about it – really being a baby if you ask me – but it’s nothing unusual. At least it didn’t use to be unusual, until the unusual happened.

The sickness was worse than the regular type of sickness. A lot of guys were being stuck in their dorms it was so bad. The poor kitchen was going crazy with all the deliveries that they were making. The on-campus doctor had the same reply to everyone. “Go see the hospital in town,” they’d say. A few would listen, most wouldn’t.

It was just an odd pandemic until one kid… one kid… he just got sicker and sicker. He never got better, and he died about a month into the sickness unexpectedly. Poor guy, a lot of guys loved him. He was so energetic until he’d gotten sick. He’d been a little cranky, I thought, but I didn’t see this coming. He wasn’t that sick, I thought. Nobody did. He’d literally been complaining about how cold he was fifteen minutes before they found him cold as death under, like, fifteen blankets. I exaggerate, but you get the idea. I was at his service the day before everything happened. Everyone was blaming everyone – the family blamed the doctors, the doctors blamed his roommates, his roommates blamed the doctors, it was vicious.

I was lying on the pillow that night with tears down my face. I loved the heck out of that guy. Why do people have to die so young? What did they ever do? My roommates who didn’t know him as well tried comforting me, but what did they know? Questions plagued me till I went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning a little later than usual, no biggie. I looked at my alarm clock. This was weird. Why hadn’t my R.A. woken me up? We had a small part of time set apart to read the bible, pray, so and so. Good things, all of them. But he was gone, and he would’ve normally woken me up, reminded me of why going to sleep before midnight was important, which I would never pay attention to back in… those days. And now he wasn’t here. Maybe he’d just forgotten, I thought, didn’t want to bug me today of all days. I understood.

I quickly brushed my teeth, got a shower, put some clothes on, and headed out to class. That was when I noticed something odd as I walked past my R.A.’s room. The door was open, which was already odd, and his stuff was all over the place like he’d thrown it around in a mad rush. Weird. So he was still here?

“Nick!” I yelled. “You forgot to wake me up, bro.”

No response.

“Bro? Hey bro, I said…” I pushed open the door fully.

There was no one in sight. His bed was messy, which was never the case, as was everyone’s in the dorm. He’d left in quite a hurry apparently, even more than I’d thought. Everyone had, which was really odd indeed. Everyone was groggy in the morning, and I doubted everyone had woken up late. Was it daylight savings? I checked my phone. No, that had been two weeks ago. So what on earth happened here?

I walked around the hall. Everyone was the same, beds undone in a mad rush, things scattered, like some sort of campus-wide fiasco had just happened and I had been left behind.

Had I? This would happen to me, I thought. But that means that literally everyone ran out and forgot about me! What punks, I thought, who does that? I thought these guys were friends, and now I find out they’d leave me behind in a state of emergency!

I picked up my most important possessions – bible, laptop, and some Neil Gaman books – and rushed out of the room as quickly as possible. The basketball court down the hill was where everyone met in case of an emergency, so that’s where I started to head towards that end.

I launched out of the door full speed towards the basketball court, which was about a one-minute run when on as much adrenaline as I was at the time. I hadn’t checked my phone, but I imagined there were multiple texts from friends who, if they hadn’t remembered to get back to me probably at least sent me a warning text. But I didn’t have time to check; I was in a panic, after all!

I made it down in record time, but after I caught my breath, I realized that there was something wrong. There was no one at the basketball court. Literally, there was no one, not even a trace of anyone’s existence.

I checked my phone with shaking hands. There were multiple texts from Nick.

GET OUT HERE! Sent an hour ago.

GET OUT HERE NOW! Sent an hour ago. A lot of texts like that up until the tone changed twenty minutes later.

Nvm don’t get out here its hell! Stay in! Sent forty minutes ago.

Stay wher u r bro don’t come out! Sent forty minutes ago.

Prayn I c u l8r but plz wake up! Sent twenty minutes ago.

That was the last text. I looked around me, blood pumping fast. The air was so still you could hear a pin drop. My body shook, partially due to the fact that I hadn’t grabbed a sweater and partially due to the realization that I was alone. I was completely alone. What had happened? Where was everyone? I dropped the phone, then scrambled to pick it up. I dialed the three numbers anyone would dial in this situation. The phone rang for a bit, every ring feeling like an eternity. Suddenly I heard a voice:

“911, please state your emergency,” it said.

“Yes, please, there’s no one here, they’ve all just disappeared…”

I heard a human voice and my shaking hands dropped the phone again. I turned around. Maybe I wasn’t so alone after all. My face lit up quickly, hoping I could get an answer.

From the phone, I heard the “911” lady trying to talk to me, but I didn’t go for it. 

I was stupid.

“Hey!” I yelled to the person, who I now saw as a silhouette in the doorway of one of the large dorm buildings next to mine. He walked, stumbling a little, closer towards me, and once he got out from under the door.

It was Jeff’s roommate. He looked tired as anything, but he was probably sick, too. He had a doctor’s mask on, the kind they were handing out during that whole swine flu thing, so all I could see on his face were his eyes. I ran up close to see him.

“Rick!” I yelled. “Hey, where is everyone?”

He was silent, he lifted his head toward me real slow like, and I saw his eyes. His eyes! They continue to haunt me even here in this asylum! They were glazed over, like a film covered them. He looked straight into my eyes, but there was nothing. There was nothing in those eyes! There wasn’t a soul at all. I shuddered. I’m not crazy, I’m just telling you it was. But I still tried to pretend I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing.

“Rick!” I snapped my fingers in front of his face. “I know you’re still sad, but I need you to talk to…”

He was munching something hard underneath the mask. It sounded like a gumball… or something. Probably hard candy, I thought.

“Hey,” I asked, “You got candy? I could use some.”

Red spurted on the front of the mask.

Gross, I thought. But what I was about to see would not only be gross, but stay in my memories – the eyes, and this.

A bit of something slipped from underneath the mask. It hung loosely from his bottom lip. At first, I thought it was gum, and then I saw what it really was.

Skin. It was skin.

I shuddered, backing up. His eyes! They were following me. Now I knew what was wrong with his eyes!

Rick’s body stared straight at me, and suddenly I fell to the ground while backing up. It let out a groan, and I rushed around the building, desperately trying to get my backpack back on my back. I was trying not to make so much noise, as there might be more of them, but there was no other noise but mine. It groaned louder, moving faster than I was expecting toward my location.

I had to kill it. Those eyes! They were burning into my mind with every second. His eyes, his eyes! I had to kill him, and fast. I searched my backpack ferociously.

I could hear the sound getting louder. How close was it? I looked around. Not here, not here, but close!

I tried my best to unzip my backpack as he came around the corner. Footprints heard in the grass, and then a groan. I rushed around the building, quiet as I could, to where I knew it couldn’t get fast.

I scurried through the backpack. A bible? No. It was all books! What was I thinking?

The groans were getting louder. I wasn’t sure if it was just Rick’s body anymore.

That was when I saw was a garbage dump! Now wasn’t the time to worry about how I smelled, I thought, you know, with life being on the line. I hopped in there, watching to make sure it couldn’t see.

I kept searching, as the groans got closer. I stayed as quiet as I could, hiding behind the garbage can. What else was in this stupid backpack? I couldn’t dig through the trash; it would be able to see me.

My hands grew sweaty, my blood pumping so hard I was sure it could hear me now! There was no hope. I kissed the bible quickly. Now I just prayed for a fast death.

The thing heard my prayers and came closer, excited groans coming from its throat.

I squealed with delight. I saw the one thing I had kept missing in the backpack due to its black color and the fact that it was in the shadowy part of the backpack. It was my large, thick laptop!

I waited for it to come close.

All was still but my beating heart.

The groans stopped. I heard footsteps coming closer and closer.

My heart throbbed through my ears, and no attempt to stop breathing so loudly as I was could stop me from doing so.

I saw its eye peek over the wooden fence that guarded the garbage cans. My inside shuddered.

I smashed it in the face with my laptop. It screamed and fell to the ground. I kept on smashing it into its face as it gurgled blood, its fingernails scratching into my skin. During a quick break between hits, it grabbed onto my arm and bit deeply. I howled in pain and punched its face back down, smashing its face until it stopped screaming.

Once it had stopped, I looked at its mangled face. I had literally beaten it to the point that its head had caved in. That was impressive to me, but all I could do was laugh at this point, soaked in blood.

That was when they found me. An armored car came around the building, which was already odd, and then, even stranger, out stepped two men in bomb suits, pointing guns at me.

“I’m alive!” I screamed. “I’m alive!”

One put his hand over my mouth and threw me into the car.

“Stay in there!” he yelled. “Don’t try to get out!”

The other one got in the car and slammed on the gas pedal as the other one just barely hopped inside in time, slamming the door behind him. The one in the passenger seat ripped his helmet off. It was a police officer; his cap had been hidden underneath the helmet.

“You’re the last one,” the driver said. “You’re lucky. It’s a pandemic out there.”

“My brothers!” I yelled. I tried to open the door. The cop shoved me back in my seat as I tried to resist.

“Your friends are dead!” he yelled back. “They’re all dead! We searched everywhere, kid, and you were the only one we found alive. I’m sorry.”

I sat back in my seat, mouth agape. I put my head in my hands and began to sob. It would be the last time I ever did.

After a long time of driving, the cops began to tell me all about it. The dead rising had started there, at the institute. They were going to bomb the town, blame it on a Korean missile that got lucky. I was in too much shock to argue.

I’m not crazy, you see. They put me here, gave me a different name. I overheard them saying I would start talking if I was let out to see my parents, and nobody wanted a panic right then. So I’m legally dead. But I’m not crazy, I still have all my wits about me, and I’m not going full psycho and always trying to escape like everyone else. I understand. But it’s hard to stay sane in this place.

They don’t normally allow mirrors and stuff in here, but I saw myself today. I’m sick, they’re saying, but it should be nothing. My shivers don’t feel like “nothing”. But for a brief instance, I saw myself in a reflective surface. I saw my eyes.

My eyes… dear God, my eyes!