It took the children first. Few of them lasted the first week, fewer the next. It dug deep into their flesh and then suddenly, without warning, split apart their skin and ravaged its way out. It never once told us what it wanted or why it was here, but people came to their own conclusions. A punishment from god, a being from the astral plane, an incursion from foreign invaders. Some people figured it didn’t matter and kept silent, that or they died, either way they’re better off than the rest of us. My mother, now more wound than woman, has been in her bed for a week. She’s begun shaking in her sleep. I don’t think she’ll be with us tomorrow. It’s for the best. Continue reading
Last year I landed myself a job working with a waste management business underneath a tower in Central London. The place had security teams, government enforced recycling standards, representatives for each company in the tower, the lot. One day the manager of a sushi chain-store in the tower visited our office to have a word with my boss.
“You’re not replacing anyone are you?” he asked, laughing under his breath.
“Oh no, we’re opening a new store in Tower 50 so we’re having a bit of a training day today. Got to make sure everyone’s prepared and all that.” replied Susan.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to do it when the shop’s open?”
Susan exhaled quickly.
“Believe me I’ve tried that before, but they just get in the way. Some of them have never been in a kitchen before bless ‘em. Anyway, I’m in a meeting all day today so Anne will send them down later, just make sure they know where everything is OK? Like the different bins, the fire exits, all that stuff.”
“All right, I’ll put my best men on it.”
The next few hours were that of a typical work day, mostly just sitting in my office signing documents. At around about 12 I stepped out to get some food with my coworker, John. When we walked out of the tower we heard a loud crashing noise coming from the sushi place, but we put it down to the trainees being a bit clumsy and we didn’t think much of it. We got back an hour later and found Anne tying up rubbish bags outside.
“Hi. You alright there?” I asked, approaching her as she stood by the shop’s closed entrance.
Judging by her reaction you’d have thought I had a hole in my head.
She continued tying up the bags, but faster.
“Sorry! Can’t talk, very busy right now.”
This wasn’t fair. Anne had been left in the store with what could have been 10 recruits, most of which had no relevant experience. She had to teach them all how to both make Japanese food, and how to behave in the food service sector in the busiest part of the country. What a mess.
I asked her if she needed any help carrying the bags. Might as well have, we were heading back after all. John bent down to pick up one of the bags, and for a moment he held one of them in his hand.
“Nope! That’s fine! Just documents. Management asked for them to be destroyed discreetly so I’ve just gotta drop them off. Thanks though!”
Anne clenched her fists tightly around the knots of the black bags then lifted them haphazardly above her waist and set off around the corner.
“Don’t know what her problem was, not like we’re gonna go through her bank details or something.” remarked John.
At 6 o’clock I was all but out the door when Susan came sprinting in to the office, her face in abject worry.
“Did anyone come in today? Anyone?” She spoke franticly, like her words were outpacing her.
“Because there’s no one in the shop and Anne was meant to close at 9! It’s like she’s just disappeared.” She caught her breath.
I shook my head in confusion.
“I don’t think anyone came in today. I did see Anne at lunch though, she was taking documents to be destroyed or something. But I haven’t seen the recruits or anything, and I’ve been waiting here all day.”
I logged off the computer as I heard John’s footsteps on the metal stairs outside.
“You haven’t seen anyone from the shop have you John? Anne’s gone missing apparently.”
Susan was still stalking our office, trying to put two thoughts together about how she’d managed to lose 10 employees.
“No, I’ve only seen Anne. She was messing around with some double packed bags earlier, documents or something. We were gonna carry the bags out for her but she seemed pretty adamant about taking them herself. Is that something the company usually does? John asked.
“What? No…why would we need to burn documents?”
“Yeah, didn’t think so. Had to have been something else, those bags were way too heavy.”
I pulled on the picture frame with as much force as I could muster, but it still was impossibly heavy, as if frozen in place. I turned around and punched the mirror repeatedly, but it didn’t even flinch, let alone shatter. I ran into the living room and saw my grandson Owen sitting on his couch, watching TV.
“Owen! Owen it’s me, your grandfather!”
Owen paid me no response, his attention firmly fixated on the TV.
“The TV! That’s it!”
I walked to the end of the room and ran at the TV, bashing it with my shoulder. Nothing. I tried again, throwing myself at the TV as my legs left the ground. Static appeared on the TV as a cable fell out behind it. A brief look of confusion appeared on Owen’s face as he stood up and approached me. I shouted as loud as I could in Owen’s face.
“Owen! It’s your grandfather! Don’t you remember me? Remember me Owen!”
An overwhelming feeling of warmth encompassed me as my grandson passed through me. He was fixing the TV.
“You can’t forget me Owen! Don’t forget me Owen! You’re the only one left!”
Everything began growing around me as my grandson walked back to his seat. I looked down at where my feet once were to see that I wasn’t shrinking, I was descending into the floor.
In one last pathetic attempt to garner his attention, I punched the floor repeatedly as my waist descending into the darkness.
“Don’t let me die again Owe-” my face was almost fully submerged.
Owen looked down at me in disgust.
“Fucking neighbours. Shut the fuck up down there!”