[Story Exchange] Unch's Halloween story
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: United Chavdom of Little Britain
It had been a long day. Mike pulled the duvet over himself, and turned off the light on the nightstand. The neatly arranged bedroom plunged into near darkness, the fuzzy outline of the expensive modern furniture slowly fading back into view as Mike’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. The faint noise of Central London crept in, infusing the room with its gentle roar.
Slowly, very slowly, the weight of the duvet melted away. The warmth surrounding Mike’s body intensified, in an agreeable way. The volume of the traffic increased slightly, its timbre morphing subtly into a more organic, pleasing sound. Mike opened his eyes to find himself laying on a white sandy beach, the warm tropical sun beating down on him from a perfect blue sky. Crystal waters gently lapped at the sand in front of him. Turning to his left, he observed the beach curving around, bordered by a forest of palm trees. In the distance he could see some brilliant white wooden gazeboes basking in the sun.
He was suddenly startled by a gentle giggling from behind him. He quickly turned to see a young woman, in her late teens or early twenties, with flowing shoulder-length brown locks smiling at him. She was very attractive, dressed in a bikini with light sarong around her waist. She let out another cute laugh, and beckoned him towards her.
Mike scrambled to his feet. The woman turned away and began to scamper across the sand, still giggling in an alluring way. Mike took chase. Although she didn’t appear to be moving very fast, Mike was unable to catch-up with her - a 10 foot gap remained between them. No matter how hard he pushed, she remained out of his grasp. The effort of running across the sand was sapping Mike’s strength, he started to feel every step, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, nothing. There was nothing supporting the weight of his right foot.
Mike fell forwards, his arms flailing about, but there was nothing to break his fall against. He could feel every grain of sand against his skin, but it seemed to flow like water. He clawed desperately, trying to find something to pull himself up. Then he felt it. On his ankle, a hand gripping tightly, pulling him downward.
The young woman was still about 10 feet in front of him, standing still, watching him suffer, with the same smile on her face. He tried to call out to her for help, but sand flooded into his mouth before he could make a sound. Gritty, salty sand. He tried in vain to spit it out, but it only made things worse. The hand below was still pulling him deeper and deeper. Mikes head was now nearly submerged, he held it back, desperately trying to keep his face above the sand. All he could see was the perfect blue sky as the darkness of the sand oozed around his field of vision. As darkness enveloped him and the pain of suffocation pushed outward against his chest, he could still hear the her laugh, it was different now - deranged, inhuman.
Mike coughed and convulsed violently in the bed as he awoke from the nightmare. He could still feel the sand in his mouth, the sand on his skin, and in his eyes. After the initial panic subsided he groped for the light switch on the nightstand. As his eyes adjusted to the light he checked himself, and under the duvet for sand. There was not a single grain. Everything was how it should be.
It took hours for Mike to calm down enough to fall asleep again. He had no more nightmares, but he awoke to the buzz of his alarm, feeling as tired as when he went to bed.
Mike stared out of the window of his office. Below, the citizens of London’s Golden Mile financial district scurried about like ants. The scene offered a distraction from the groggy, tired aching that had been the mainstay of his morning. He turned back to his desk, and back to the work that he had been neglecting. This was a crucial time in Mike’s career and he needed to rise to the challenge. He’d carefully engineered this opportunity, and he wasn’t about to let a minor bout of insomnia take it away from him. Sifting through the papers on his desk, he realised he was missing a report.
“Must still be in Steve’s office.“ he muttered to himself.
Mike stepped out of his office and into the main open plan office. As he turned to walk towards the office in the far corner of the room he made eye contact with Chris who was sat at his desk in the middle of the room. Chris glared at him, but Mike chose to ignore it and look away.
Mike had always been jealous of Steve Davidson’s office. It was larger than his and had a better view. For the first time he entered it without any such thoughts. The office was just as it always was. Steve’s suspension on Friday afternoon was sudden and unexpected. Steve’s suicide the next day was even more unexpected. No-one had yet gone through and removed his personal items. Mike glanced across to a folder atop a large metal filing cabinet, he was sure that was the one he needed. As he approached the folder, the door of the office slammed shut.
Mike turned to see Chris standing in front of the door, scowling at him.
“Oh do come in Christopher” he said sarcastically.
This angered Chris even further.
“Already moving in? The guy’s body isn’t even cold in the ground yet.” Chris seethed.
“Life carries on. The world doesn’t stop just because some silly sod decides to top himself” Mike said flippantly.
“You fucking bastard! You evil fucking bastard!” Chris raged.
“You fucking killed him, your stupid fucking scheme cost him his job, and it killed him!” he continued.
“Bullshit! He was not up to the job. The guy was obviously mentally ill, it was probably going to happen eventually regardless.” Mike countered.
“Besides, it wasn’t just me, it was our scheme. It wasn’t like I held a fucking gun to your head!” he added.
Chris’ anger exploded inside of him and he charged towards Mike, grabbing him by his shirt.
“You! You fu-” he began to shout, but he was cut off by Mike sniffing loudly.
“Jesus Christ Chris! Have you been drinking?” Mike exclaimed.
Chris loosen his grip slightly.
“You’ve been drinking haven’t you? Go home. You’re a fucking mess!” Mike ordered.
Chris tightened his grip once more.
“He’s got a wife and a daughter away from home at university. What about them? Don’t you ever think of them?” Chris growled through his teeth.
“Go home Chris. Go Home. That is not a fucking request!” Mike ordered again.
Chris let go, turned and walked out of the room. Mike crept up to the door and peered around into the main office. He could see Chris storming out, knocking over the coat stand as he yanked his jacket off of it. Mike smiled inside. The public outburst would work in his favour if he had to deal Chris later.
The rest of the day was a struggle for Mike. Sleep was a constant seductress. He eventually gave up at the office at 8pm, taking some paperwork home in the vain hope that he might be able get somewhere with it. He wasn’t home long before he gave up altogether and retired for the night.
Mike sunk into the large comfortable executive chair. The warm morning sun poured into the room from the large windows behind and to the right. It was his chair and his desk, but Steve’s office. He swung around to check the view behind him. Instead of the grey office buildings and bustling streets of London’s Golden Mile that he expected, was an amazing vista of the Thames, it’s unnaturally clear waters sparking in the sun. The view was one he had long coveted since he attended a meeting at Canary Wharf tower at the start of his career at the firm. Now it was his. The strange transformation did not unsettle him, even the sight of distant snow-capped mountains that simply couldn’t have been there.
Something snatched Mike’s attention from the window behind him. A subtle feeling that something was not right, even in the mixed up world he found himself. It was a primeval feeling that heightened his senses and quickened his pulse. And then, he latched onto it. He could hear an alarm. It was quiet, almost ethereal, but as he focused his attention on it, the ringing grew louder. He walked quickly across the room to the door an opened it. There was not a single soul in the main open-plan office. The place looked as if a tornado had been through it. Paper was strewn throughout, while the furniture lay in chaos. The alarm was much louder now. Mike felt a sudden sense of urgency. Clearly, people had tried to leave in a hurry, and Mike felt he should do the same, and so he ran across the room towards the red emergency exit door dodging around the knocked over chairs and fallen filing cabinets.
Bursting through the emergency door, Mike’s vision was overpowered by a bright sun. The light was no longer pleasant and gentle, it was now harsh and painful. Shading his eyes from the sun, he realised that the door had somehow led him from the 5th floor straight onto the street. The street was in ruins, where there were once office blocks, there was now rubble. The road and pavement were criss-crossed with fractures, some growing to gaping fissures. About 100 yards down the street he could see a lone figure, a woman - the only sign of life on this once bustling street.
Mike called out to her. “Hello?”
Treading carefully, Mike started towards the woman.
“Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”
Hopping over a slightly larger crack, he tried once again.
“Hello? Can you hear me? What’s going on?”
As he moved closer, Mike could see that the woman did not have her back to him as he had first thought. She was wearing a long blue strapless dress and had her hair up.
“Hey! Over here!” He waved his arm, while continuing his cautious progress.
“Hey! What’s the matter with you? What are you doing?”
He’d now got close enough to see her face clearly, she was crying. The heavy black make-up around her eyes was running down her cheeks. The woman looked familiar, but Mike couldn’t place her.
“Are you okay? What’s happened?” He asked.
The woman finally responded, although it was just as a slow turn of her head down to one side. Mike followed her gaze. A few feet behind her was a man in a suit, laying face down on the concrete. The motionless body lay with its feet towards Mike so its face could not be seen, but what was as clear as day was the large metal pole protruding from its back.
The woman let out a piercing anguished scream that startled Mike. The sound echoed around the desolate street. She turned her attention towards Mike, her eyes now full of anger. She let out another scream, more terrible than the one before. This time though, the echo was not allowed to dissipate before another, more distant scream joined it. Mike quickly turned to see the source. There she was again, standing atop a small mount of rubble on the left side of the street, the same woman in the blue dress. How? Another scream joined the echo chorus. Mike swung around 180. Another clone of the woman stood on a burnt-out car on the other side of the street. Mike turned back towards the original woman. Her deadly stare had not faltered, but now there was the additional gaze of several clones that had appeared behind her.
Fear wrapped itself around Mike like an anaconda in a death hold. He was paralysed, the terror crushed him with the most excruciating mental pain he’d ever experienced. The world was as still as it could be. Suddenly, the stillness was broken by a single slow, deliberate footstep by the prime blue dress woman. It wasn’t much movement, but enough for Mike to know what to do. He turned and immediately threw himself into a sprint. As he ran he could hear the growing sound of footsteps, bare feet on asphalt, hundreds of them. He dared not look behind, and kept going as fast as he could, dodging cracks and the debris that littered the street.
Suddenly, without warning, Mike found himself approaching a great gaping maw in the ground, it was about 10 feet wide and run along the entire width of the street. Momentum and survival instinct hurled Mike’s body across the craggy dark void. He reached out to the other side, but it did not come. Mike found himself falling into the dark pit beneath him, down, down until he finally hit the pillow with great force.
Just as the night before, the room was exactly as it should be. With his heart trying to beat its way out of his chest, Mike let out a sigh of relief. Then it came to him. That woman, she was the same as the one on the beach. Who was she?
“This is fucked up!” he muttered to himself.
He looked at the alarm clock - 01:13. He still had chance to get the night’s sleep he desperately needed. But once again, he just could not get comfortable, he struggled to migrate from a gentle doze to a full slumber. Finally, the irritating twinge in his bladder pulled him away from any chance of sleep. It was no good, he needed a piss.
There was enough moonlight filtering through the skylight to illuminate the small en-suite shower room without switching on the light. Mike shuffled in, lifted the toilet lid, and relieved himself. A cold feeling enveloped the back of his neck, he felt as though he wasn’t alone. He turned his head to look behind him. Nothing. He continued, but a growing sense of dread welled up inside him. He turned his head to look again. Still nothing. Finished, he turned quickly to dart straight back for the safety and warmth of the bed. He half expected to be pounced upon, but still there was nothing there, the bedroom beyond the the door frame lay empty, and still and the inky darkness in the shower cubical was... BANG!
Spoiler (click to toggle):
Slammed against the glass of the shower door, she stared at him. Where her eyes should have been were two black voids, and yet he could feel she was looking directly at him. The girl who had been haunting his dreams was now there in his shower pushing against the door. Her hair was now a tangled mess that partially obscured her face. Her skin looked pale and flaccid. Red rags draped across her body.
And she had no eyes.
For seconds or maybe minutes, Mike stood frozen in fear. Her jaw suddenly dropped and a hideous scream filled the small bathroom. It was like the sound of a thousand mothers wailing for dead children. Mike stepped back fumbling for the light cord. He found it and nearly tugged it clean off. The blinding light came on, and she was gone. No trace.
Stumbling backwards out of the bathroom, Mike demanded answers from his now absent tormentor.
“Who are you? What the fuck do you want?”
“She is my daughter, Mike.” came the unexpected answer from behind him.
Mike instantly recognised the hollow, haunting voice as that of Steve Davidson. He whirled around to face it, but there was no sign of Steve in the bedroom.
“We only want what is right, Mike.” Steve added from behind Mike.
Again Mike turned to face the voice. This time he could see the source. Steve stood sombrely in the doorway of the bathroom, his suit ragged, and his arms hung lifelessly beside him.
Mike continued to back away from the figure.
“But you’re dead!” he protested.
“Very astute.” Steve droned. He paused and then held out his hand.
Mike had no clue what to do. “I-I don’t understand. What is going on? How can...”
Mike backed into the bed and lost his balance, toppling backwards onto the duvet. Quickly he sat himself up. Steve’s hand now held a large black cobra. The snake was angry, hissing and writhing with malice.
“Oh no!” pleaded Mike, but it fell on deaf ears.
With one fluid motion, Steve tossed the snake at Mike. Mike felt its tail whip the arm he shielded his face with. Struggling, Mike writhed about in the duvet, tearing himself free, and then as quickly as he possibly could, he launched his body away from the bed onto the floor. Quickly, he scrambled to his feet, desperately clawing at the wall.
But the room was empty and calm. Mike flicked on the light. It had just been another dream. As the whirlpool of confusion dissipated in his head, he became aware that he was soaking wet, the bed too. The unpleasant scent of urine filled the room. Mike cursed to himself. These were the most important days of his career and he was starting to fall apart.
[ Part 2 Follows ]
"It's like a new pair of underwear. At first it's constrictive, but after a while it becomes a part of you."
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: United Chavdom of Little Britain
By the time that Mike had showered and had cleaned up the bed, it was time to go to work. Yet again, he’d been robbed of the rest his body was crying out for.
The veil of dread and paranoia that had shrouded him the night before was still covering Mike as he sat down to his desk. He felt as if he had been relentlessly watched all morning. He was sure he caught a glimpse of Steve’s daughter on the tube train and outside the coffee shop. He had to reassure himself that it was all his imagination so he headed back to Steve’s office.
Steve’s office had been disturbed since the day before, someone had started to clear it out. On top of the desk was a small cardboard box with Steve’s personal stuff. Mike picked up a framed photograph that was resting on top. The photo was of Steve, his wife and daughter sat at a bar on a white sandy beach. Steve’s daughter looked exactly as she had in Mike’s dreams, in particular she was wearing the same bikini and sarong as in his beach nightmare.
Mike picked up the next photo, it was Steve’s daughter standing with a young man in a tux, probably a prom photo. She was smiling happily, wearing a familiar blue strapless dress and her hair up. Mike started to freak out.
Breathing slowly, Mike tried to get a grip of reality. He’d been in Steve’s office a million times, he’d probably just subconsciously picked up Steve’s daughter’s image. Hell, Steve was always blabbering on about his daughter, and how proud he was of her. It was one of the things that irked Mike all the time. It all made logical sense. Mike felt slightly better.
Stepping out of Steve’s office, Mike noticed that most of his colleagues were gathered in the centre of the office. As he approached, he could see one woman was sobbing, being comforted by another.
“Oh Mike! Have you heard?” asked one man.
“Heard what?” queried Mike.
“About Steve?” the man responded
Mike gave a blank expression and shrugged his shoulders.
“Steve died last night.”
Mike didn’t know how to respond, this was very unexpected.
“Oh?” he said.
“Yeah, no-one knows how, or what happened, but we were told this morning.” the man continued.
“Jeez” Mike muttered, walking away before he could get drawn into a conversation.
He walked back to his office and stared out of the window. In the building opposite he could see Steve’s daughter pressed up against the window staring at him with those black eyes. A blink later and she was gone.
Mike was unable to function for the rest of the day. At every turn, she was there watching over him. He could see her reflection in his computer screen watching over his shoulder as he tried to work. When he went to the toilet, he could hear her bare feet slapping against the tiles of the restroom floor.
All day the question remained, gnawing away at the back of his mind. Who or what killed Chris?
It was very late when Mike got back to his apartment. He’d avoided going home for as long as he could, eating out, and then staying at a small wine bar. All the time, feeling watched, and catching fleeting glimpses of his female tormentor. He had considered booking into a hotel for the night, but he resolved that he would not be beaten by some petty weakness. His first action was to turn on every light and close every curtain. The seduction of sweet, sweet sleep was not enough for Mike to consider going to bed just yet. Some television to calm the nerves first seemed a good idea.
Mike flicked through dozens of channels before settling on a documentary about a man trekking in South America. The beautiful vistas and the symphony of the rainforest soothed Mike’s frail nerves. He decided that he would like to try such a trek for himself someday, it would be the adventure he’d longed for for some time. Perhaps one day, he could relent from his steadfast pursuit of his career long enough to actually enjoy life.
His train of thought was derailed by the commercial break, obnoxious car insurance adverts assaulted him. He flicked through the channels until he found something that wasn’t a commercial - one of those cheesy police camera shows. The greyscale image of the infra red camera showed an aerial shot of a Land Rover speeding along a long straight road. The narrator explained the situation:
“This driver, running from the scene of a supermarket robbery ‘gone wrong’, thinks that he can lose the police helicopter by turning off his lights. This not only proved to be a futile gesture, but also a fatal mistake.”
Mike watched the Land Rover attempt to dart across a crossroads only for it to be sent spinning through the air by a giant truck crossing its path. The scene on the screen changed to a medium sized living room.
“It’s not just on the roads where night-vision cameras can prove to be a valuable crime-fighting tool.” The narrator continued.
A greyscale man entered the frame, wearing a hoodie and baseball cap, his back to the camera. The man walked towards the back of the room.
“This career criminal had been terrorising homes in South Nottingham for over a year before this infra-red footage was used to identify and convict him.”
The man suddenly stopped in his tracks before slowly turning to face the camera. Mike stared at the screen in disbelief. The man was Chris, and he was staring directly at Mike with black eyes. Chris slowly accelerated forwards, approaching the camera, holding his gaze on Mike. When he was close enough to fill the screen, Chris reached out towards Mike, his hand exiting the screen and grasping the bottom bezel, he began to pull his head and shoulders out of the picture and into Mike’s living room. Mike cowered on the sofa and let out a scream of terror.
The scream woke Mike instantly. There was a car chase through a busy city street playing out on the TV screen. Mike was covered in sweat and his heart was threatening to explode in his chest. Without any thought he leapt off the sofa and ran down the corridor to the apartment entrance, scooping up his keys and wallet on the way. He frantically fumbled at the locks on the door and once free, swung the door open, slamming it against the wall. He raced outside towards the stairwell, without even thinking of shutting, let alone locking the door behind him.
After bolting down the stairwell, Mike burst into the underground parking garage. The lights flashed, and the locks clicked on a silver Audi. Mike ran across, jumped into the car and peeled out of the place as fast as he could. Emerging onto the streets of London. He had to get away.
Driving through the sleepy streets of suburbia eased Mike’s mind somewhat. The bright lights of the city had been overloading his fragile senses, but this place reminded him of his childhood, happy and safe. Mike could feel himself calming down. The late night DJ on the radio purred about lost love or other such nonsense. All these frightening dreams made no sense to Mike, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a nightmare. He certainly hadn’t had one since he was a kid. He placed a hand to his temple, in a feeble attempt to ease the pain in his head. He’d been under far more stress than this in the past and he’d never had such a terrible time of it. It made no sense.
One of those 1980’s power ballads that irritated Mike began to play, but strangely he found it quite relaxing. The thought disgusted him a little, but he’d take any comfort he could get, no matter how cheesy it was. His thoughts turned to his journey, he’d been driving for a little while now and would soon be driving out of Greater London, he didn’t particularly want to end up half way across the country. He resolved that a 24 hour service station where he could get some sleep, and, more importantly, that would have people around would be best.
The song started to break up, gradually torn apart by static. Mike fumbled with the stereo trying to change the station, but he’d never been able to work the thing, so he just switched it off.
“Don’t you like that song Mike?” asked an emotionless voice in the passenger seat.
“Shit!” screamed Mike, gripping the wheel unnaturally tightly.
Steve Davidson sat in the passenger seat, back straight, but arms limp, staring solemnly ahead. “You didn’t think that you could run away from your responsibility so easily did you?” he asked, his voice eerily hollow.
“What the fuck do you want from me?” shouted Mike, half angry, half terrified.
“Only what’s right.”
“What the fuck do you mean? I don’t understand! Tell me what the fuck you mean!” demanded Mike.
“What is right.”
“Stop fucking saying that! What do you mean?” Mikes voice was filled with desperation.
“You know Mike. You know.” the hollow voice continued.
“I don’t fucking know! Why are you doing this to me?”
Steve turned his head slowly towards Mike, his face still devoid of emotion “You did this. You did this to yourself, and you did this to them.” Steve’s glance moved toward the back of the car.
Mike glanced in his mirror, he could see that there was someone in the back. He turned his head to see. There, slumped across the back seat on either side were Steve’s wife and daughter, lifeless, decomposing. Dark, formless eyes stared into the nothingness. Mike was frozen for a moment, staring as the orange glow of the street lights glided over their lifeless bodies.
“No... No!” shouted Mike defiantly. He turned away, concentrating on the road ahead again. “This is not my problem, this is not my responsibility. You lost, I won. I won because I’m the best. It is not my fault that you lost. That is your responsibility, not mine”
“If you can’t accept your responsibilities Mike there is only one way to go.”
“Damn right Steve. There is only one place I’m going, straight to the top!” Mike said feeling his natural aggression and confidence return. He turned to Steve again to complete his battle cry “Straight to the fucking top, arsehole!”
“Unfortunately not, Mike.” came the ghostly reply.
Steve turned his vacant attention to something in front of him. Mike caught a glimmer of light in the corner of his eye and turned to the road again. In front of him a vast orange fireball slowly rolled up the street towards his car, engulfing the street signs, and telephone poles in it’s path. The flames were accompanied by the distant thunder of a hundred thousand angry hooves.
Mike’s foot hesitated on the gas peddle, but reasoning kicked in and he continued course and speed.
“I’m not scared!” Mike protested loudly. The sounds grew louder as the fireball continued it’s approach. “You’re not real. You’re just a figment of my imagination. A momentary weakness.”
The defiance aggravated the fireball. Its shifted dramatically in hue, becoming deepest red that Hell could offer. It was now a hundred times more angry and violent before. Mike paused his protest, gathering all the courage he could find.
“This is just a dream!” he continued.
The fireball let out a hideous roar, it sounded like Armageddon - the explosion of all the anger in the universe, and the desperate cries of a billion dying souls.
Mike tried to continue, shouting over the noise. “And dreams can’t hurt...”
The realisation hit him. He glanced at the passenger seat, but it was empty.
Instantly, the fireball retracted into the distance, becoming a small steady red light in the darkness. The cataclysmic roar continued to grow louder, but it’s pitch shifted, it lost it’s complexity, it lost it’s menace. A bright light suddenly flowed into the car from the driver side windows.
Mike violently awoke. His car was filled with the brilliant light of the approaching truck’s headlamps, the bellow of its horn, and the screech of its tires as its driver desperately tried to brake.
The fabric of time took on a syrupy consistency. The driver’s side of the Audi began to crumple and fold like aluminium foil. The side window shattered, hundreds of glass droplets rained horizontally in front of Mike’s vision and against his face. The airbag began to slowly bubble up from the steering wheel. He could feel his body weight shift, his limbs no longer under his influence.
Mike sat through the symphony of twisting metal and splintering glass. A new, different feeling welled up inside of him. He considered it intently, it was regret. There were so many things he’d done that he knew he shouldn’t have and there were so many things that he would never get to do.
He was sorry.
One final grinding crunch in his neck made all that irrelevant.
"It's like a new pair of underwear. At first it's constrictive, but after a while it becomes a part of you."
Dark Cat of the Sith
I really enjoy this story. The character development is great; you really get a sense of who Mike is at the same time as you are realizing that you don't really want to know who Mike is because he's kind of an asshole. I love the way we start to see him slowly break down as he's haunted. And I absolutely love the ending line Overall, excellent story, made me creeped out.
I also enjoyed this story, very well written, and the plot is great.
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