“Layers Part 5” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 5” by Kaine Andrews

Part V

I turned away from the portrait of a happy family, slinking past the couches with all the hair on my body standing straight up. They’d never bothered me before, and whatever logic remained in this hellhole said they wouldn’t… but after the television, I wasn’t certain that things here were going to go 100% according to the script. Something was different this time. Maybe because I was actually here, instead of just visiting in my sleep. Maybe because what was waiting for me had gotten impatient and greedy, or maybe it was just stronger.

Once I was past them, creeping into the hallway, I lowered my guard. Just a bit, but enough that I felt I could breathe without sounding like a broken teakettle. I glanced back over my shoulder, not surprised when I saw that Mom and Dad’s heads weren’t visible over the top of the couch, and I couldn’t see Sis sprawled out on the other one. They’d vanished.

I was okay with that. One less thing to worry about, at least for now. What was coming was worse than their eyeless stares.

The crying was louder back here. I knew where I was supposed to go – the door at the end of the hall – but still wanted to put it off as long as I could. Wanted to make sure there were no other nasty surprises. Besides, I had to follow the script; I was sure if I tried to beeline it, something would stop me. I had to check the other door first.

I laid my hand on the doorknob to the left and pushed the door open a crack. The crying intensified for a moment, a brief period where it seemed like it was coming from right in front of me. Then it receded, as though falling down a long well.

The door opened on a walk-in closet. A blue plastic bowling ball bag sat in the corner, the outer layer peeling and flaking. A long brown coat that looked like it was last in style sometime during the flapper era, reeking of mothballs and stale cigars, hung above it. A pair of battered cardboard boxes, the edges cracked outwards and yellowed with age, sat on the shelf above. One was a Monopoly set; the one on top was the old Parker Brothers Ouija board. Some people might have taken that as a bad sign; I figured the family had worse supernatural crap to worry about than a plastic planchette and a mass-produced particle board alphabet.

I pulled the door shut and turned back to the end of the hall. The crying was obviously coming from there. I moved towards it, feeling like I was walking through water rather than air. Something beyond the door was radiating something, an aura deadlier and more poisonous than radiation. I couldn’t let it stop me. She needed me.

I reached the end of the hall and pushed the door open. Even though I knew there was nothing to fear – at least, not right now – I still winced as the door rebounded off the wall, and kept one eye to a slit as I scanned the room beyond. Just in case.

The room beyond was a bedroom. The shag carpet continued, though it looked less walked on in here. To the left was a smooth wall, a recessed and half-open door beckoning at the midpoint. Ahead was an old-time slot machine, neon glass, chromed buzzer on top, polished level to the side, almost begging to be pulled. The lights were dark, and a thin layer of grime over the windows said it hadn’t been used in a long time, probably even longer than the television out front.

To the right was the bed, and as I came into the room and turned my attention to it, I saw a shape squirming in the middle, underneath the thin brown blanket that was otherwise without blemish, pulled perfectly up against the gleaming white pillows. The crying became louder again, very clearly from the bed.

I walked towards it, grabbing hold of the blanket’s loose edge on the right side of the bed. The image of myself in my head was that of a bad magician attempting the tablecloth trick, as I whipped the blanket away and let it fly into the corner. It crumpled there like the discarded flesh of an uncleanly killed animal, revealing the layer beneath.

There was an indentation in the bare mattress, right in the middle where the shape had been before I pulled the blankets away. The crying seemed to be coming from that same spot. I reached out and placed my hand on the mattress, feeling the smooth fabric cool against my skin. Sliding my hand towards the indent, even as it was rising to the same level as the rest, I felt the heat coming from it, as though a body had lain there not long before.

The crying stopped as I pulled my hand away. I glanced over my shoulder, to the half-open door. As I stared, the door wobbled in the frame, as though something had passed by it with a gentle nudge. The crying started again, coming from the room beyond. I backed away from the bed, taking a deep breath.

If there was any consolation to be hand, it was this: It was almost over.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 6, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy

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“Layers Part 4” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 4” by Kaine Andrews

Part IV

Mom and Sis didn’t seem like it mattered to them one way or another that there was a gangly loser standing in their doorway, one who was trying to scream and had the reek of fresh urine hanging about him. Dad noticed, though. It looked like it was what he wanted because I could see the hard lines in that face go smooth, then contract in the other direction as his lips pulled back in a smile. His teeth were missing; only ragged gums and a flopping, greenish thing. Beyond that I guessed was his tongue.

As one, they turned away from me, rotating their heads towards the ancient television. Dad stopped smiling. My lungs unlocked enough for the shriek to slip past my lips and allow me to take a ragged breath.

The reprieve was short-lived. There was a solid thunk from the direction of the entertainment center, followed by the distinct hum of old technology powering up. A moment later the house was filled with a test tone cranked up to almost deafening levels. I screamed again, this time actually getting one out, but nobody could have heard it over that noise. Covering my ears, I looked over at the television and saw it was displaying one of those old Indian Head title cards in grainy black and white.

That was new. I’d been expecting a different sound, thought I might even have been prepared for it. Was hoping for it, really. That was the easy part, the only part that didn’t make my teeth grind and my heartbeat turn into a techno beat.

Doing the only thing I could think of, I lurched towards the television, probably looking like some poor man’s impersonation of Frankenstein. I took one hand away from my ear, instantly regretting it when the sound clawed into the canal and ruptured my eardrum. I felt something leaking out and dribbling on my shoulder. The pain was bad, but at least the sound was deadened.

I reached out and shoved the television, rocking it on the little rubberized feet a bit. It was heavier than I expected. I shoved a second time, harder, and it tipped over, landing facedown only a couple of inches from my foot. I heard glass shatter, but the sound kept going. I don’t know what else I’d expected; things were built like tanks back then, and breaking the glass wasn’t liable to trash the speaker.

I did the next thing that came to mind, grabbing the power cord that snaked out of the back of the unit and yanking it as hard as I could. It came loose in a shower of sparks. For a moment I hoped they’d hit that obnoxious carpet, catch fire, and burn the whole mess down. Preferably complete with Mom, Dad, and Sis.

I wasn’t that lucky. Whatever toxic chemicals they used to pour on the carpeting in the way back when, meant the sparks barely singed it. The lightshow ended a moment later with a loud popping noise from somewhere deeper in the house. The living room dimmed a little. I guessed a fuse must have blown or a breaker was tripped.

Either way, it put things back on track. When I took my hand off my other ear, I heard the sound I’d been expecting. Faint, coming from further back, down a hall past the family couches.

Somewhere back there, a baby was crying. I had to find her. Even though I knew what would happen when I did, I still had to try.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 5, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy

“Layers Part 3” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 3” by Kaine Andrews

Part III

The inside seemed pitch black when I was standing on the porch, but as soon as I stepped through the doorway a fey half-light seemed to brighten the room. It was like watching someone turn a dimmer switch from completely off to about one-quarter on.

The living room – at least, that’s what I guessed it was, from previous exposure and the layout of the place – was on the small side, maybe eight by eight. The walls were fake wood paneling to go along with the fake log style on the outside. They’d even gone so far as to put in loops and whorls, as though there were limbs that had been lopped off in the process of flattening the boards. The effect might have worked if it wasn’t so obviously repeating. The effect it did manage to give was dozens of faces screaming in pain or snarling in rage.

To my left, next to the door, there was an entertainment center that was probably as old as I was. Huge, oak or mahogany, housing a television that had probably last been used to watch the Kennedy assassination and was liable to give you cancer and a permanent squint if you actually tried watching it. Beside it was a behemoth device with burgundy carpeted sides, a gold-latched lid and a skeletal metal extrusion on the top. I assumed it must be a radio, or maybe even a record player.

The floor was also frozen in time; pale green shag. As I always did when I came here in my sleep, I found myself wondering just what had possessed people back then, that led them to think something that looked like a tie-dyed bear was murdered and stapled to your floor was the height of fashion.

Across from the television were a pair of vomit yellow couches, cocked at 90-degree angles from each other. The cushions looked a little worn, but not to the extent they needed replacing just yet.

Everything was clean. Almost too clean. It looked like Donna Reid might have come through five minutes before I got here for a final cleaning session just in case I decided to give the room the white glove treatment. The stale air and the scent of rot said otherwise, though. No one had been here in a very long time.

No one alive, anyway.

Sighing, feeling spiders creep along my back and burrow into the back of my skull, I turned back to the door. Everything beyond the porch had gone still, silent and dark. Someone had put the world outside on permanent pause. I’d expected that, too. Knowing what came next, I pulled the door shut.

It fell into place against the jamb with a sound far louder and more final than you might expect. It sounded like stone closing against a tomb. It didn’t even make me jump, though. It was the least of my worries.

I took a deep breath, not relishing the taste of the air or the way it made my chest scream in rebellion. I wished I’d brought my aspirator, but knew it would have somehow gotten lost. I wasn’t supposed to have it, after all. I hadn’t changed anything else; why fight to change that?

I turned, preparing myself.

The couches were no longer empty. On the larger one, directly facing the television, were a middle-aged couple. Mom was wearing a green pantsuit, her blonde hair coiffed into a half-flip, her face looking plastic with the amount of makeup she’d caked on. Dad was wearing tan slacks, a white shirt that looked a little too crisp and a blue and green striped tie that was loosened. His hair was brown, graying at the temples, and cut military style. His face was hard, tanned and lined with the look of someone who worked outside a lot. She was almost rail-thin, probably chasing the Twiggy look, while he was at the stage where he was starting to run to fat, but with a thick layer of muscle hidden underneath.

On the other couch was a girl, maybe seventeen or so. She had her mother’s body and fair skin, but her father’s hair. Not much makeup on this one, just a hint of lip gloss and a little blush. An almost shapeless purple dress preserved modesty in a way that seemed out of place given the 1960’s style of everything else in the place.

All three of them had empty sockets where their eyes should have been. They should have been blind. If they were even alive at all. I’d never seen any of them take a breath.

That didn’t stop them from turning their heads in unison, pointing those eyeless holes in my direction. The feeling of spiders creeping across me got stronger, almost maddening. It didn’t matter how often it happened, didn’t matter how ready I thought I was, it was always the same.

I tried to scream, but my locked lungs could only produce a thin wheeze.

It wasn’t that there were corpses sitting here, or even that their eyes were gone, or that they were facing me. It was that feeling, like when someone stares at you from across a crowded room.

Eyeless or not, they were seeing me.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 4, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy