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When I was twenty four, my older brother died.
At the time, I was working as a customer support guy at a major internet service provider on the Canadian West Coast. That was my stand-by job while I tried to figure out what I really wanted to do with myself. At the time, I had no idea what would enter into my life, both through my brother’s death, and the wires.
I had gotten home that night, made dinner, and was relaxing with some of Netflix’s crime documentaries when I got the knock on the door. It was two police officers with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our national police service). One of the officers was an older black woman with frizzy hair tied back, and the other was a bald Asian guy who looked to be in his early twenties. My brow furrowed with confusion as the older, female officer asked if I was Robert Fellows, brother of John Fellows, and I nodded that yes, I was.
“Officer, what is this about? Has something happened to John?” I asked. I was getting worried, and it clearly bled into my voice, because I could see a reaction in the officer’s face. It looked pained, like she had something to say but didn’t know how to say it. I glanced at her partner – same deal with him. In the few brief moments before she spoke again, I felt my heart drop within me. Something had happened, and whatever it was, it was bad.
“Mister Fellows, I think we should sit down. Can we come in?” I nodded, walked them into the living room, and sat down on the couch while they pulled up some chairs to sit in front of me.
It had happened about three hours before the police arrived. John was heading home from the office where he worked as a Human Resources manager. The way they described it, I could picture it so vividly in my mind, because it was part of his usual routine. John would have been driving home in his Mazda, humming along with the show tunes playing from his phone on the dashboard. Once he got home, he’d quickly change into his casual clothes and head out to see a movie. That was something he loved doing, both by himself and with me – he was a massive film buff, just as I was.
Except it didn’t play out that way this time. Just as he was approaching the bridge leading from downtown to the rest of the city, a drunk driver came out of nowhere and slammed into the driver-side part of John’s car at over a hundred and fifty kilometers an hour.
John died on impact.
As the police described what had happened, I tuned everything out. I found myself not caring that they had the driver in custody and were charging him for what he’d done and that he’d likely spend decades in prison, or anything of the sort. My brother was dead. That was what mattered. That was what the reality was. I finally, after what seemed like an eternity, looked up at the police officers. I could tell what my face looked like based on what I saw in theirs. They looked as though they were hurting; empathizing with me on a physical level. After a moment of silence, the younger officer spoke.
“There are services available for victims of crime. You can get in touch with those services by calling this number,” he said, handing me a crisp-looking business card. I nodded and absent-mindedly dropped it on the couch next to me. The older officer said they would keep in touch with me about the progress of the driver’s court case, and I distantly heard myself tell them that I’d appreciate that. And just like that, their visit was over. I showed them out, and then closed and locked the door behind them.
Then I cried. I broke down, tears flooding down my cheeks, my heavy heart wanting to shrivel up and die inside of my chest. I took my face in my hands and fell back against my apartment wall. I slid down until I was sprawled out on the floor. I stayed that way for the rest of the night, eventually sobbing myself into a deep sleep.
In hindsight, I wish I’d have kept it together enough to notice what was happening in my house. The wires in my kitchen and living room were moving of their own accord. Stretching, tightening, loosening; dragging themselves towards me. I wish I had noticed that, but I didn’t.
John was gone. My best friend; we were as close as a pair of brothers could be. I’d looked up to him his whole life, and he looked after me me for most of mine. He would walk me home after school when I was young, always interested in how my day was. When I was old enough, he’d let me tag along with him and his friends. He always had time for me and what was going on in my life, supporting me in everything I felt I had to do. And then, when Mom and Dad died, he took care of me, moving us into an apartment and working ungodly hours every week to provide for us.
He was my brother, he loved me, and he was there. What more could anyone ever ask for? Even now, especially after all that’s happened, I can remember one thing he said to me when I was a teenager. It was just after we saw our parents buried. We were walking through the cemetery back to the car when he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and looked me in the eye and said “Robbie, you know I’ll always look after you, right?” I nodded, kind of understanding in a superficial way what he meant. It was true, though. He always did, no matter what.
It’s what happened after John died, though, that changed everything. It was the wires, you see. The wires, so long and black and thick and thin, writhing around like a horde of snakes. Alive, and hungry. Always hungry.
For the next month, I tried to live with my grief. It was hard, though. It was so, so hard. Most days I just went through the motions in this dull, numbed daze. It was like I was disconnected from myself, on the outside looking in. I didn’t feel much aside from a hard ache in the core of my chest. As for my concerns? Nothing mattered. Nothing was important. I didn’t give a shit about movies, or trying my hand at screenwriting, or any of that. I didn’t care about planning out my future, figuring out where I wanted to be in ten years. Those things had occupied my mind so much until John’s death. Now, they didn’t.
That was how things went for a while. The hours, days, and weeks eventually bled together into this vast, endless and indiscernible soup, and I lived my life accordingly. I was pulled into my boss’s office at work about a month after John’s death.
“Look, son,” he said, his middle-aged eyes full to the brim with barely hidden disappointment, “I understand what’s happened to you has been hard. But you need to pick yourself up.”
I sat there slumped in the chair, staring at him. I was wearing clothes that were unwashed and that had been slept in for the past five days. I was unshaven and hadn’t showered for at least a week. I listened to him tell me that if I needed to, I could take time off. That wasn’t the only thing, though – he stressed that with me falling behind on my work in some areas and outright not meeting expectations in others, if things didn’t change, it was either take the time off or get fired. I wanted to tell him what I really felt – that I didn’t really give a shit if he fired me or not. I didn’t, though. I mumbled in acceptance, and an hour later I was back home for the first day of my impromptu vacation.
That night was when it all really started.
I went to bed the moment I got home. I was asleep less than fifteen minutes later. When I woke up, I was in pitch darkness, and tightly – tightly – bound with what could only have been electrical cords.
When I say ‘electrical cords’, I mean stuff like computer power cords, HDMI cables, headphone wires – that sort of thing. Wires. I blinked and tried to get my bearings. I soon figured out that it was all real. I wasn’t asleep. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t a dream. It couldn’t have been. I tried to move, but I couldn’t, as I was too tightly constricted. My heart started to race as fear seeped in, and then more so as that fear turned to terror. The wires, slick and smooth, roamed across my skin, making it crawl. They tightened and loosened in perfect rhythm, as if they were a living, breathing organism. I felt my breathing become heavy and frantic. I wanted to do anything to get away; I wanted to scream at these things to get away. The wires’ grip tightened, almost as if in reaction to my thoughts. As the pressure grew and grew, I finally screamed. In pure terror, I screamed, desperately hoping that it would somehow make a difference.
Then I woke up.
I shot up in bed, drenched in sweat. I glanced around my room, my eyes wide open. After a few moments, I realized – there was nothing constricting me – I was fine. It was just a dream. Dropping back onto my bed, I took in a deep breath and then exhaled just as deeply. “Great,” I thought. “Now I’m having nightmares. Just fucking great.” I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, grumbling angrily to myself as I closed my eyes.
But I didn’t get to sleep again that night. I couldn’t. I didn’t fully realize it until morning, but my subconscious must have. The marks on my body that I ran my fingers across as I laid awake were no marks at all – they were grooves. The same kind of grooves that’d be there if you were tightly bound with cord.
But I hadn’t noticed this until the next morning. That night, I just laid there. I laid there and thought of John.
The next day, I walked. I needed to get my mind off of John, off of the nightmare I’d had, and the mysterious grooves in my skin, so I went downtown and just walked. I found myself strolling through a run-down part of town, mostly abandoned. The grassy area was full of untended weeds, and sticking like a sore thumb out of them were large, abandoned structures. Catching sight of a particular building – a tall, block-shaped one whose face was marked equally by graffiti and burn marks – I felt intrigued. There was just something about it – I don’t know how else to describe it. As I stood there, I noticed this stray cat – cute little thing, pure black – trotting on over to the building. I cracked a grin watching it. As it slipped into the building, I decided that it might be fun to follow it – see where it was heading, that sort of thing. So, me being the person I was, I jogged on over to the building.
Ten minutes later, I was stomping through an upper-floor corridor. It turns out the building was a burned down hotel – an old one too, probably from the fifties. The air smelt of smoke and age, and the walls were dilapidated and broken apart. I had to be careful and watch my step, lest I fall through the ground to a quick and untimely death.
As I walked, I started to wonder what the hell I was even doing there. it was stupid, and dangerous. What if I fell, or got hurt some other way? I was in the middle of nowhere, and no one knew where I was. This was fucking ridiculous. Well, that was that. I was on the verge of leaving to go home, but then I heard it. I heard the music.
It sounded like a faint, but beautiful song, consisting largely of buzzing. Recalling that ‘music’ now I can’t help but shudder and want to lock myself in my closet, but somehow, it sounded so utterly beautiful in that moment. I found myself walking, then jogging, then sprinting towards that music. Up a flight of stairs, through two apartments with broken walls to another corridor, then down another hallway. Turning down the hallway, then into an apartment. To this day, I’m still not quite sure what I was expecting. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I actually wound up seeing.
What I saw was something from another world – it had to be. It was a writhing, endless mass of wires. All black, all connected and entangled; entangled so much that an army could never hope to untangle them all, even if they had a hundred years to spare. The wires pulsated; loosening and tightening in unison. They even grew thicker and thinner like snakes do when they breathe. I stood there, frozen as the memory of my nightmare floated into my conscious awareness. My mind took that into account and tried to somehow make sense of what I was seeing. As I stared at them, it dawned on me what they reminded me of – a horde of snakes. A giant mass of black, electric snakes. Staring at these things, I felt dread creep into my heart. This was wrong – against nature. This shouldn’t exist. As that realization crept into my mind, panic arose within me. My heart began to race again and I felt sweat drip from my forehead as a mad, desperate, overwhelming desire to run began to consume me. Finally, I acted on that desire. I swung around and took off toward the door.
But it was no longer there.
It had been replaced with a wall of wires, moving and ‘breathing’, as it were, with their loosening and tightening and thickening and thinning. It finally clicked – this wasn’t the apartment building. It was somewhere else. Somewhere different. I don’t know how or why, but I felt it deep in my gut.
I felt trapped, constrained, separated from everything and everyone I knew. I felt rise within me a desperate panic – what was I going to do? How could I survive? After a few brief moments, I couldn’t help it anymore. I screamed in a mad panic.
At that moment, I think I got it’s attention, because immediately the wires shot out and wrapped themselves around me, drawing me into its mass. Panic consumed me as I fought and thrashed about mindlessly, my heart slamming into my chest over, and over, and over again. I felt tears run down my cheeks and sweat stream down the length of my face as the living wires coiled around me and sucked me in, deeper and deeper into their mass. Their grip on my body grew tighter with every passing moment – to the point where I knew if they got any tighter, my bones would surely snap.
That wasn’t the most horrid part, though. They felt truly alive, almost as if they were this massive set of snake-like animals. The wires felt smooth and slick as they traversed across my arms, legs, face, and throat. I tried to control my breathing, but I couldn’t – I was in such a panic that I was hyperventilating. As I thrashed and fought, I heard myself sobbing vigorously. I felt so helpless, and I did feel like I was going to die there. Then… God… then I heard it.
It came into my ears as I felt that presence from my nightmare approach. It was whispering, of a voice that couldn’t be human and in a language that no human mouth or tongue could ever hope to produce. But it was there, in my ear, speaking to me. What it said to me, to this day, makes my blood run cold.
What it said to me – whispering closely, so closely, as if it were a lover’s mouth just millimeters away from my ear – was, “You can come to be with us, and there you can join our mass.”
I screamed wildly, completely out of control as raw terror overtook me. All I could think before I blacked out was, “John, I love you.”
You can imagine how surprised I was when I woke up in my bed. It was evening, and for some reason I was thinking of John. Somehow, he was stuck in my mind, the way he’d be when we’d parted ways after an evening of socializing with each other. It was odd, but I didn’t concern myself with it because I had more pressing issues to attend to.
I glanced around frantically, wondering what the fuck was going on. It couldn’t have been another nightmare, because I was still dressed in the clothes I wore out that day. I jumped out of bed and moved over to the window, pulling the blinds open. It was dark out, the night lit up by the city lights and the moon in the sky. Okay, it was night. Great. But I wasn’t going to stick around to admire it.
Something was happening. Something horrible. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had to get out. I decided I’d leave the city, move up north into the woods, then figure out what to do next. The woods, where there’d be no fucking cords or wires.
An hour later, I was packing my bags, and I was finally ready to leave. I packed in the bathroom, because I didn’t want any of the wires in my apartment to see me get ready. I know, that sounds batshit crazy, but can you blame me after what I’d been through?
Like I said, I had no idea what was going on. My heart was pounding furiously, powered by raw fear and anxiety, as I tried to plan out how I’d survive all of this. Why was this happening to me? What was this living mass? All sorts of questions, running through my head. In the end, I silenced all of them and got back to packing, hoping that I’d be able to slip out, unseen.
It was no good, though. I was so focused on packing, so focused on getting out, that I wasn’t thinking coherently. If I had, I’d have known to thoroughly check my bathroom, and if I’d done that, I’d have noticed a thin charger cord for my electric razor peeking out of the bathroom cupboard.
The wires got to me just as I reached my apartment door, a backpack slung around my shoulder. First it was my phone cord that shot out and wrapped itself around my ankle. Then my computer cords – somehow extended to a great length – and then all of my phone cords and TV wires shot out of their respective rooms to entangle themselves around my arms and body. I immediately began to fight wildly in a terrified frenzy, hoping against all odds that I could get the hell away from these things and survive. I needed to get out, I needed to free myself, and the more time that passed, the more panic consumed me. Before long, I heard the whisper of the wires’ presence in my ear – “The mass, the mass. You will join our mass”. It got louder and louder and closer and closer. As I struggled, more wires – coming from seemingly nowhere – shot out to wrap themselves around me. Soon, I was on the ground and covered from head to toe in them, as tightly wrapped as one could be. It felt like pure hell, like I was in the grip of some monster from a campfire story. I didn’t know what these things were, and I didn’t know how to fight them. The more I struggled, the more they overpowered me. I had no idea what to do, and that only fueled my panic.
In the midst of my fear, my breathing heavy and rapid and my bones feeling like they were about to snap, I noticed something.
My surroundings were starting to blur, shift, and change. My apartment walls seemed to flicker, and in between the flickering I saw a brightly lit, yet dark, mass of writhing, snake-like wires. At this point I was going on pure animal instinct, fighting like mad while sobbing viciously, thoughts of being consumed by this thing filling my mind and paralyzing me with dread.
Then… then, my God. My saviour… my amazing, wonderful, saviour spoke to me.
“Robbie,” John’s voice spoke to me, from the deepest reaches of eternity, “you know I’ll always look after you, right?”
Something happened, then. The all too close whisper of the wires turned into a terrified and agonized shriek. I closed my eyes in pain because of the shrill closeness of the shriek to my ears. It was because of the pain that I didn’t notice the wires uncoiling themselves and withdrawing from me. By the time came to and opened my eyes, there were no wires anymore – at least, none wrapped around me.
I saw him, too. Shakily pulling myself up to my feet, I saw him standing in front of me, just as if he had never died. Just as if he had come over to watch a movie with me. He was smiling softly, with warmth in his eyes.
“Don’t worry about the mass,” John said softly, “they won’t come after you anymore. I won’t let them. I love you, you know.”
I wanted to respond. I wanted to run over and hug him. I wanted to do a million things, but I couldn’t, on account of me blacking out immediately after he spoke to me.
What’s the rest of the story? I woke up the next day, in bed, feeling warm and safe. I went into work with clean, freshly ironed clothes and a strong work ethic. I felt like a million bucks, and I acted like it too. Life was back on track, and my grief had vanished. I loved my brother, and he loved me. Even now. Even after his death.
That was five years ago. I finally got my life together and got into screenwriting, an old dream of mine. Now I’m part of the writing staff for a small-league Canadian medical drama. Not anything huge, but it pays the bills.
Life is good, for the most part. I’ve even met a special someone, who I hope’ll end up my wife sometime in the next few years.
I still dream about them. About the mass. The wires. I still dream about them, and in those dreams… in those dreams, the whispers come to me. They whisper that it won’t last, that someday… someday, they’ll have me.
Something else has happened recently that I find troubling. At various points, I find it hard to think of my brother. At times, crazily, I can’t even remember what his face looked like. In these moments, I feel a wave of terror and vulnerability wash over me, and I think of the wires. Wherever they are, I picture them writhing and sliding over each other in a gigantic, uniform mass.
I try not to believe the wires.
I try not to.
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