Yesterday, just for fun, I decided to try out a "chain" story. I tossed out a random prompt and hoped for the best. Now that it has gone over so well and seems to have been such a success, I can openly admit that I really thought that this would flounder and die.
I know, not a very optimistic attitude. Not only did it go over well, but some very talented authors lent their skill. So, my thanks to Mark Tufo, Greg Carrico, Jerry McKinney, Lori R. Lopez, G. Elmer Munson, Christine (like Cher or Madonna...just Christine).
I want to thank all the participants (follow the links to their pages and check out their stuff if you are just hanging out with nothing going on), and also all of the folks who came and in checked it out, commented, or even sent an email saying how much you enjoyed this little diversion. Who knows...I may make this a monthly feature.
So now, I give you Two-Fifteen. (I just named the story after the date it was created.)
Jerry walked in the house and froze in his tracks.
It could have been from the weather…that would have been the easier explanation as the thermometer plummeted to zero. A blizzard of near epic proportions was approaching the area. But no, what froze Jerry in place was the silhouette of his wife; something wasn’t quite right as she stood with her back towards him staring out the kitchen window. Well…that and the fact that she was standing in a pool of blood.
The door softly snicked shut as a muffled rattling sound welcomed him from the hallway on his right. The house should have been empty. His wife should have been at her mother’s for the night.
He trapped the air in his lungs, holding it in to listen for more signs that someone—or something—awaited him around the corner.
Another rattle. Pills in a plastic bottle bouncing on floor tiles.
The gurgling, sibilant hiss told him more than he needed to know. At least one of them was in the bathroom.
They were expecting him.
They couldn’t have known. Someone must have talked.
Only Tom and Alistair knew he’d be here. The glowing time on his wrist mocked him. 2:07 AM. He exhaled and reached into his pocket. It was going to be a long morning…if he was lucky.
She did not move, standing rigid. Her shadow cast down across the growing pool of crimson at her feet.
She turned her head a fraction as her arms dropped off the counter and hung listlessly at her side.
Jerry’s hand slid out, unfolding the lame pocketknife he had carried since childhood, a gift from Gramps. Beth would call him a geezer, saying nobody carried knives in their pants anymore except crooks and repairmen.
Times had changed. Sure they had, but there were always those little emergencies in which you were glad to be equipped. He held the three-inch blade before himself. Okay, it did look pretty lame. But when Beth turned around, his stomach dropped into his shoes and he was very glad to have something sharp between them.
Her face was smeared with blood like the floor. Only…it had changed. The features had transformed into something else, something horrific. She—or it—wore Beth’s clothing and Beth’s hairstyle. The face…well, he would never forget it as long as he lived. He wasn’t sure how long that might be under the circumstances. Perhaps minutes or less since the creature who used to be his wife had taken a step closer.
“Don’t move!” he warned.
The sleepy buzz he felt a moment ago had worn off quick. His head ached. And he still didn’t know what was in the bathroom.
A trickle of blood flowed from the corner of Beth’s mouth. She looked like she might smile at any moment if there were any color left to her skin.
Jerry looked down at the .38 he held in his hands. He’d only fired it once and hoped he’d never have to do it again. Today might be the day his hopes were crushed.
Another sound from the bathroom scared Jerry so much that he nearly dropped his weapon. He stepped back as Beth started to slide to the floor. He didn’t want to wait for them to come back to the kitchen, but he couldn’t bring himself to walk past his wife. Jerry was stuck.
“What are you?”
“Why…I am your wife,” the thing gurgled as she held out her arms.
That rattling noise was still coming from the bathroom. and it was getting louder. Jerry brought the pistol up to shoulder height.
“No, you are not my Beth,” he muttered through a stream of tears.
“Kiss me, my darling.” The thing stepped forward and smiled, a row of teeth that looked as though they had been filed to points jutted from the thing’s blackened gums.
Jerry closed his eyes and fired. The crack of the bullet leaving the gun sent a sharp pain through his head, but that was nothing compared to the high-pitched shriek that emitted from the monster in front of him.
Jerry opened his eyes and almost smiled when he saw the thing on the ground with a bullet hole in the middle of its forehead. That is until he remembered that the thing had been his beautiful wife of fifteen years; the woman that rubbed his back and held his hand when they walked on the beach.
Panic took the place of sorrow as Jerry realized that the sound from the bathroom had suddenly stopped.
Jerry froze in a bubble of fear. He looked down at the dead thing on the floor again and noticed that the corpse had begun to melt. It had deteriorated so much that it was hard to tell where the blood ended and the liquefied flesh began.
He turned away, feeling the dinner that Beth had prepared earlier trying to make its way back to the surface. He clamped his hand over his mouth to stop the nausea. As he turned, he spotted movement at the front of the hallway. A glimmer caught his eye as something slithered along the floorboards making its way to the living room with growing speed. He raised the pistol and tried to take aim at whatever it was that was approaching him.
He pulled on the trigger and braced himself for...nothing. The pistol clicked, but nothing happened. He suddenly wondered if his mother had had any children that lived as he recalled telling Beth that he would only put one bullet in the gun, ‘just for safety’.
In the same moment that the thing on the floor decided to hurl itself into the air and rush towards Jerry’s face, he remembered the pocketknife, extended and still clasped in his other hand.