Subcutaneous Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 22

“What the fuck?” he screamed. “What did you do?” As I think about it now, I was still screaming. I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted to push myself off the bed, but I was too afraid to move. “Get me down!” Jake’s eyes bulged from his skull, but he couldn’t seem to move his arms or legs. He twisted his torso, trying to pull himself down from his lateral position on the wall. As I watched with horror, the pieces of paneling began shaking and rattling in their places, pulling apart at the seams. Fingers reached through the cracks, pale and sickly fingers that moved along the gaps. They crept their way to him, searching and clawing with their dirty fingers. There were so many that I couldn’t keep track of them. “What is this?  What did you do?” They had him now, their nails digging into his skin, pulling and tugging him back the direction they had come. Jake was screaming uncontrollably now, and the cracks in the panels opened up more. I couldn’t see anything in the blackness between the pieces of wood. I didn’t want to, and yet I couldn’t look away. The fingers were full hands now.  They gripped his wrists, his ankles, his hair, any piece of flesh they could get a hold of.   “Fiona, please!” But what could I do? The hands pulled and yanked, tugging with increasing force as they took their prey. His skin split, his blood oozing down the wall and splashing onto the carpet. The paneling opened wider, but it still wasn’t a large enough space for a body to fit through. The hands devoured him, sucking him into the wall with one quick motion that sprayed fluid throughout the room. As quickly as it had opened up, the wall closed. The panels snapped back into place, pulling themselves back with a force that shook the room. Where Jake’s blood had touched the wood or the carpet, it soaked in and disappeared like it had been pulled through by a vacuum on the other side. By the time it was done, it was as if Jake had never been there. I couldn’t scream anymore. I only knew that I had to get out before whatever had dismembered Jake got to me. I scrambled off the bed, my bare feet flying across the worn carpeting. I barely touched it with my toes, worried that it would suck me in as well.  I grasped at the front door, but the knob wouldn’t turn.  Finally remembering that Jake had locked it, I flicked the latch and raced down the stairs. “Mrs. Pritchett!” I screamed as I banged on the door that led to the back apartment on the first level. There weren’t any lights on, but I didn’t know where else to go. I had to get her out of there. “Mrs. Pritchett!” The door creaked open. Mrs. Pritchett stood there in her nightgown, her bare feet on the linoleum. The dim glow of a television danced on the wall behind her. I couldn’t handle the calm expression on her wrinkled face. “You have to get out of here! There’s...There’s something in the walls. I don’t know what it is, but it ate Jake. It might come after us, too! We have to go.” I was beyond frantic. My heart beat so loudly in my head that I could barely hear my own voice, and my vision was quickly tunneling. The landlady smiled slowly, a straight row of yellowed teeth. “Come on in, dear.  Have a seat.” “No. No! We have to get out!” I tried to grab her arm, but the old woman didn’t budge. “It isn’t here, dear. I promise. Just come in.” She opened the door wider and waved me into the kitchen. An old fashioned table took up the center of the floor, the kind with the chrome around the edges. I plunked into an uncomfortable chair and held my head up with my hands. “I don’t think you understand.” My eyes rolled toward the flowery wallpaper near me. Mrs. Pritchett was busy putting on a kettle. She selected two mugs from a cabinet so high she could barely reach it, and then she dug some teabags out of a tin on the counter.   Her slow movements were driving me mad. How could she be so calm about this?  There was some sort of…thing…in the walls. It wasn’t the time to be making tea.   Eventually, she sat down across from me and put a mug in my hands, followed by one of those bearshaped bottles of honey. She stirred her tea with a spoon for a minute before looking up at me. Her wrinkles piled up at the corner of her mouth as she smiled. “He was an asshole, wasn’t he dear?” *** By the next day, I had moved downstairs. It wasn’t the nicest apartment, with the library and everything, but it had spacious rooms, big windows, and access to the wraparound porch. Mrs. Pritchett had even kept the rent the same, even though a place like this could have earned her one heck of a price. It came furnished with beautiful pieces I never could have afforded on my own. I felt a remarkable calm compared to the night before. I sat in the window seat with a hot mug of coffee and watched the “For Rent” sign swing out on the front lawn. The landlady had explained everything to me, and I understood. The place I had right now was open for anyone who thought they might be comfortable there. The apartment upstairs was absolutely for singles only.