Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
Deep breath, I thought to myself turning the key. The door swung open. Nothingness, well, at-least not until we unloaded all of our furniture. For now, it was just an empty living room leading into a kitchen, with a bedroom on the left and a hallway with two bedrooms on the right. The house was entirely devoid of history, aside from an ancient coffee maker that the previous owner left sitting on the counter.
“It has that new house smell,” I chimed looking at my wife Sarah who was holding our six-month-old, Emma, in her arms.
“You mean old person smell? You know the last person to live here was eighty years old. I feel like I’m visiting my grandma” she retorted.
Good to see her sarcasm survived the move.
Getting everything set up wasn’t very hard, probably because we didn’t have much to move. Even though the house was small it wasn’t easy buying the place; between Med-School and taking care of the baby, this was an exhausting ordeal.
Everything was moved in but that didn’t stop the house from looking any emptier. A bed, Emma’s crib, and a couch were the only things we had. Oh, and a small box television set that we only watched movies on. Sarah insisted it was because T.V was for peasants, but ironically the real reason was because we couldn’t afford it.
I decided to go in the kitchen and make some coffee; the caffeinated potion that kept me alive these past few years. “I’m making your favorite. Want some?” I asked looking over the counter.
“I know, you know I hate coffee,” Sarah responded, sitting on the couch.
“What you put extra dirt in this time?” She said jokingly.
To a degree she wasn’t wrong, I was using enough coffee powder to keep me up for days, but that was kind of the idea. Pouring the black liquid into my mug I couldn’t help pondering that a man died in this kitchen. After drinking his morning cup of coffee no less. Swallowing the bitter concoction, I tried shaking the idea out of my head. It was no use, however. The sour liquid began to turn into a nauseating, poisonous mass sliding down my throat.
We had just put Emma to bed and decided to watch the old Blade Runner movie. Sarah insisted we watch it again before seeing the sequel.
“Be right there,” I answered gulping down the rest of the venom as if trying to swallow those morbid thoughts along with the drink. I sat down on the couch and we started watching the film.
“Shit,” I exclaimed face-palming.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah inquired, a confused and equally worried look on her face.
“I have a shift tonight, I have to go or John is gonna kill me,” I sighed getting up from our newly moved old couch.
“It’s cool we’ll watch it another time,” she said pulling out the DVD
I grabbed my keys and made my way to the door.
“Yeah,” I responded looking back towards the couch.
“Pick up some air fresheners on your way home, I was serious earlier,” she said pinching her nose.
“Top of my list,” I smiled, grabbing the doorknob.
“Have a great day at work! God knows you did last night. It’s just sad the only time we get alone is usually at three in the morning.”
I looked back at her and raised an eyebrow in confusion. When I came home last night, Sarah was asleep. We didn’t even say a word to each other.
“Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I haven’t seen you that energetic and crazy in a long time,” she said, with a small grin lining her face.
I looked at her with an even more perplexed expression.
“Stop messing with me, there’s no way in hell you don’t remember last night. I know I do,” she giggled.
Am I just not remembering? How many things have I forgotten? A thousand questions flooded my mind. The coffee I had just drunk bubbled in my stomach until it rose upwards. The septic mixture of bile and sludge built in my chest rising to my throat. I swallowed, forcing the vomit back down. I probably just forgot.
“You caught me,” I smiled softly, gripping the door-knob so tight the color drained from my knuckles.
“Are you okay?” Sarah asked, genuine concern in her voice.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just wondering if John’s face can finally reach tomato shade when he sees how late I am. Last week, he was pretty close,” I chuckled, opening the door. “See you when I get back, if I survive,” I smiled, as I walked out the door, closing it quietly behind me.
I chose to forget what she said. Her words had floated silently through my ear and into the back of my mind, with all the other memories I deemed best not to remember. They sat there fermenting and growing like a parasite in my brain, waiting for the right moment to drive me into madness.
I barely made it to the hospital on time. My work was easy enough but the late hours mixed with my supervising physician John McAllister breathing down my neck every chance he got didn’t help my psyche. He was one of those fifty-somethings who probably got alcohol poisoning in high school but swears to have found Jesus. He would just as soon tell you the good word as he would burn you at the stake.
I got off work at two A.M. My eyelids felt like they were weighed down by anchors. I had to get home. The parking lot was a sea of vehicles but I somehow found my car. An old 1985 Toyota Supra I inherited from my dad. Whew homestretch, I thought taking out my keys. One of the reasons we bought the house we did was because it was closer to the hospital. Before it took twenty minutes to get to my apartment, but now it took around five.
Before I could leave I heard something below my feet. I froze and listened.
A low growl emitted from underneath the car.
Whatever was under there wasn’t happy, but I was nothing if not curious. Placing my keys on the hood, I leaned over to peak into the dark void beneath. Two black eyes met mine in the darkness.
I shined my phone’s flashlight into the black expanse, shedding light on the creature, its black eyes reflecting the light back at me. “It’s ok, boy,” I said reaching my hand toward it. The growling grew louder, but I kept reaching farther until I felt its fur. “That’s a good boy,” I said stroking its back softly.
The growling eventually subsided as I coaxed the animal out from underneath the car. Blood soaked my hands, poor thing had cuts and scratches on its chest. I pulled off my jacket and wrapped it around the German Shepherds back and stomach knotting it in place to help stop the bleeding.
I carefully picked up the dog as it whimpered. “It’s, ok, It’s, ok boy almost there,” I whispered placing him on my passenger seat. I drove to the nearest pet clinic as fast as I could, the blood on my jacket already becoming more and more visible the longer I drove.
Thankfully the dog hadn’t been bleeding for too long before I found him under my car. It only took some stitches and a whole lot of liquid to get him stabilized. He had no chip or any way of identifying that he had an owner, so I did what any rational new father and homeowner would do and decided to take him in. Before I left, the vet explained that he must have gotten into a fight with a wolf. She said it was the only explanation that made sense because of how deep the gashes were. A lot of wolves will wander around the woods surrounding the city, so this didn’t surprise me too much.
On my way home I stopped by the supermarket to pick up pet supplies. I bought all the essential dog stuff, and an air freshener. Driving back I tried not to think about how much all this cost me on top of the clinic visit.
When I pulled up to my new house it had to have been five A.M, but for some reason my next door neighbor was wide awake standing in his yard, staring at me. He had piss yellow eyes and a perpetual scowl. With shaggy white hair and a long curly beard. He looked like a mix between Santa Claus and my second removed drunk uncle Steve.
“You just moved here?” he asked behind the line of bushes that marked the intersection of our properties.
“Just moved in today,” I said forcing a smile, but it couldn’t be more obvious I was creeped out by the man. “Did you know the last owner?” I asked.
“That old fucker was a piece of work, can’t say I’m sad he died,” he scowled “But it’s good to see new blood” he declared forcing a full smile of sharp, shiny white teeth. He paused for a moment rubbing his long fingernails over each other as if he were sharpening cutlery. “There’s something I need to tell you since you’ll be sleeping one hundred feet away from me. I’m a killer.” His face was dead serious and his cold yellow eyes tore into my soul.
For a few brief moments, all I could feel was the cool breeze hitting my skin, before the loud thumping of a heartbeat brought me back to reality. I was holding the dog. He was perfectly still but his heart pounded so fast I could feel its pulsing beat on my skin. He was afraid.
My strange new neighbor continued his deathly stare, and I wondered if I should call the police. His serious expression gave way to a booming laugh that echoed to the end of the street. “Scared you for a minute there didn’t I?” he said, holding his chest like he’d gone for a long run. His face turned back to a blank stare. “I served in Nam. It’s funny how many people you can kill overseas, and when you get back home they call you a patriot, but if you kill someone on home soil it’s murder. When I got home my wife was the only thing that kept me from myself, my true self. When she died I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t trust myself around my own children. So I moved here,” he said staring off into space.
His comments shocked me, but I kept a cool visage. “Well, I should be heading in, this guy has some healing to do after all,” I said looking down at the dog in my arms. “It was nice meeting you, Mr…?”
“Call me Mr. Rodgers,” he said his glinting yellow eyes glaring at the dog in my arms.
“Nice meeting you Mr. Rodgers, I’m Tom. If you ever need anything I’m your man. Don’t be a stranger,” I said, shifting slowly towards the door.
He didn’t say a word, just smiled and peered at me as I went into the house.
Well, that wasn’t weird at all, I thought walking into my new abode. I could barely see but I carefully placed the dog on the couch. The emptiness of the house took on an eerie nature in the darkness, so I turned on the light.
I poured my new companion some water and food. Then I placed his bed next to the couch.
“You’re safe, there are no wolves out here,” I whispered scratching behind his ears. He gazed back at me, patting his tail on the couch.
“Night boy, if Sarah doesn’t freak I’ll see you in the morning”
I stretched out my arms and yawned as I walked to my room.
What a weird day.
I grabbed the knob, but before I could open the door I heard a loud crashing sound.
Oh God, what now?
Turning around, I saw the dog limping from the couch towards me with his tongue hanging out. It took him awhile, but finally, he made it to the door and sat down. He just stood there looking at me.
“C’mon, you don’t want to sleep in there,” I begged, but his soft expression pleaded back at me. He looked down at the door and whimpered softly.
“Ok, I’ll let you sleep with us,” I said opening the door.
Even in his wounded state, this gave the animal a rush of adrenaline as he jumped on the bed curling into a ball at Sarah’s feet. She was fast asleep, probably wiped from the move. As quietly as possible I closed the door and got into bed, falling into a deep slumber instantly.
“You got a fucking dog!”
I guess I don’t need my alarm today.
I sat up to see Sarah playing with the canine and being licked furiously.
Ok good, she isn’t mad.
“Yep, He needed some help last night, wouldn’t feel right dropping him off at the shelter,” I responded wiping my eyes.
“That explains the bandages”
“So…we can keep him?” I asked, putting on the most innocent expression possible.
“Yes, but only on one condition”
“I get to name him,” she stated, still petting the dog.
“Fine by me” I sighed, rolling out of bed.
With that, my morning ritual of coffee making began. The hot beverage still seemed like poison, but I drank it anyway.
Time never moved normally in this kitchen. I could see the days rolling past, one cup of coffee at a time. Weeks, months and finally four years hastily took me by surprise.
A lot changed, and many things stayed the same. Ridley was the name Sarah chose, and he definitely had a favorite. Even Emma didn’t interest him.
My life took on a pattern beginning with coffee and ending with the yellow-eyed man. Without fail, every night he would stand in his yard when I got home. I almost looked forward to it in a strange way. The more we talked the less strange he seemed. He had some interesting secrets, and no, one of those didn’t include him being an old children’s T.V show host.
He had a strange fascination with Ridley, always asking me if I knew where he was, or if I knew how he was injured. I thought nothing of it.
Besides, when I came home I knew exactly where Ridley would be, curled up next to Sarah.
I got my Medical license, but still worked at the same hospital, John McAlister found new ways to torment me.
Last year my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He had her golden blonde hair and blue eyes. We named him Max. Our little home started to look a little less empty.
Ridley took a liking to Max and would always sit by his crib for hours on end. Watching me closely when I walked by.
That brings us to today, I had just come home from work. Mr. Rodgers, however, was not standing in his yard.
I thought about going to bed but my curiosity got the better of me.
I walked into my neighbor’s yard the dead grass pulling at my feet.
Maybe he took a day off from being creepy. Why is this so odd?
Making it to his walkway I could tell something was wrong.
His door was wide open.
Standing in front of the old decrepit house I could feel my stomach churning. Not a single light was on. The darkness of the entrance beckoned to me. Without thinking I took one step into the void, and then another.
“Mr. Rodgers!” I called into the darkness.
My eyes began to adjust.
Cobwebs lined the supports above. Bottles of liquor and vodka were strewn across the floor, and a particular half-drunk bottle sat on a dusty countertop to my left. A small static silhouette stood in a doorway in the corner.
The aged wooden floor creaked underneath my weight as I crept closer to see what created the strange shadow.
Ridley was standing at the door. He didn’t move.
“What are you doing in here? It’s time to go home”
The creature just stood there with an unblinking stare, before running back into the darkness.
I ran to the back of the house, each step causing the wooden floor to cry an unearthly scream. The door opened up to a small hallway, which in the darkness appeared to stretch on for miles. At the end, I could make out a small room. I froze in place halfway to its entrance. I could hear something, a light dripping sound, that’s what it was.
Squinting I found the source of the noise. Long pointed nails dug into the top of the doorframe, while liquid dripped from them flowing down until it fell off an old wrinkly wrist.
I stood in shock for a few seconds before realizing that he was staring at me. Nothing was visible of the figure, aside from a pair of bright yellow eyes that illuminated the pitch black doorway.
The top of the doorframe broke as Mr. Rodgers pushed himself forward using it as leverage.
“I found your dog!” Mr. Rodgers said walking into the hallway, shaking Ridley’s collar in his hand.
“Where is he?” I asked hoarsely, taking a step back.
“Can’t you see? He’s right here,” he yelled throwing the collar at my feet.
“Do you want to know how my wife died?” he asked, his lips parting to show his teeth.
“You…you told me she died in a car accident,” I stated taking another step, almost out of the hallway, ready to sprint towards the exit.
“No!” he screamed running towards me at a breakneck pace before stopping suddenly in-front of my face.
I should have run but I simply jumped back into the main room of the house petrified by the old man’s agility. Even though he couldn’t be younger than seventy-five I stood no match for his speed.
“I lied to you Tom, I lied,” he whispered placing his hand on my shoulder digging his claws into my skin.
“I…I used to drink Tom. I used to drink to keep the demons away,” he paused as a tear rolled down his cheek, his nails digging deeper.
“They were too loud. I couldn’t stop them, Tom. Her brakes failed,” he stated rolling his eyes in his head till they faced mine.
“I broke her brake pedal. I didn’t leave because I felt grief, I left because I was ashamed that it brought me pleasure killing her.”
“I killed my neighbor too, I put silver in his coffee. An innocent man Tom!”
What the fuck is he talking about?
“But none of that matters now,” he said letting go of my shoulder and moving his hand to the side of the wall. “Because I’m dead,” he grinned flipping on a light next to the door.
Mr. Rodgers body lay in the center of the room, his blood soaking into the old floorboards. A small silver knife stuck in the man’s chest, glinted in the light.
My head pounded with intense pain. I was dreaming, this didn’t make sense. My stomach ached with nauseating intensity. Falling to the floor I gagged breathing in heavily between dry-heaves.
I’m going insane. A dead man is lying on the floor and simultaneously standing in front of me.
I mustered all my strength and slowly picked myself off the ground.
“Where’s Ridley,” I asked once more.
“He’s right here! I already told you.” Mr. Rodgers shook his head, looking at the ground.
“I might as well just show you, you’ve been such a great sport thus far.” His face melted like rubber under fiery heat. His arms shrunk and twisted. His whole body soon collapsed into a large lump of goo on the ground. The monstrous pile of bubbling biology turned and took shape into that of a dog, Ridley. While it had the shape of the animal its skin was that of a man, with patches of fur around its misshapen body. Mr. Rodgers yellow eyes bulged out of the thing’s head, before shrinking into small black orbs.
Ridley walked towards me panting. He licked my hand, his odorous breath seeped into my nostrils; it smelled like rotten eggs. The fumes awakened something in me as I breathed them in deeply. All the thoughts in the back of my head cracked open like a spider’s egg and forced themselves to the surface of my consciousness. A monster had taken the form of an innocent animal, and I had left it home with my wife every single day. Nothing but this creature’s death mattered now, not even my life.
I stepped away from the “dog” towards Mr. Rodgers body.
I have to make a run for the knife. I thought advancing towards the body. I ran faster than I had ever run before, each step was an eternity. Jumping I reached out to grab the knife out of the corpse. A mangled fleshy hand grabbed my leg mid-leap, slamming me to the ground. Blood coated the side of my face, fragments of the wooden floor stuck to my cheek. My vision was blurred but I could see the monstrosity pulling my body closer, and closer to itself. The warped hand was thick with a wet slimy substance that soaked through my pants and dripped on the floor. It was connected to an irregularly long arm protruding from a shaking cocoon of veiny skin and blood.
Adrenaline rushed through my body as I clawed at the hardwood floor sending splinters up my fingernails. The beast’s unnatural strength dragged my body back until I was facing its ungodly mass of tissue. The pulsating puddle grew until it loomed over me. Its arm cracked and broke as it shrunk, becoming part of the figure forming above.
“Trying to stab your best friend Ridley?” the carnal atrocity sputtered above me, sending saliva and bodily fluids spilling onto my face. The creature had pearly white teeth that shifted in its moving warped body. Two holes formed where its eyes should have been.
The arm had disappeared into the monstrosity and my leg let free with it. This was my chance. I stood up slamming my fist into the misshapen mouth from which it spoke. My fist cracked the creature’s teeth, but it still stood unmoving. Though injured the creature’s mouth curved into a tilted smile that quickly opened up and grabbed my hand sucking it into itself. My arm was fully constricted and all I could feel was the loud thumping pulse of a heart. The sound of bones cracking bounced off the walls as the figure fully took shape. A hand formed around my arm gripping tightly.
I looked up and saw its morphed figure. Mr. Rodgers’ large yellow eyes slowly filled the empty sockets like egg yolks being squeezed into a bowl. Ridley’s snout jutted out of its face, if you could call it that. It had my height, my legs, and my arms. Something else that resembled an arm was coming out of its chest, it was perfectly smooth and liquid dripped off of it. It pulsed uncontrollably with the beat of what I assumed was a heart in the creature. It slowly shrunk back into the things chest. “You’re going insane Tom,” The creature said in my voice as it swung its other hand down on my arm, snapping it at the elbow. I shouted in pain as it flung me out the door into the walkway.
My body flew through the air before crashing into the solid ground. I landed on my back, the force of the fall hit squarely between my shoulders forcing all the air in my lungs to be expelled in a quick exhale. My body slid shortly thereafter before rolling down three steps causing my head to slam into the ground. Blood dripped from my face as I tried to pull myself up the steps. I didn’t even have enough strength to climb them. My body was broken.
Laying on the concrete I took a jarring breath that rattled my ribcage. I could see my own legs walking slowly towards me. I raised my hands to fight but it was no use. It picked me up again and pushed me to the ground behind the bushes.
“You’re losing your mind. You’re a fake, you aren’t real. I’m the real Tom. That’s not your son in that house,” it said pointing over the brush. “That’s my son.”
A light flicked on in the house. Sarah had probably woken up from hearing my scream. I drew a breath to yell, but the monster’s leg crashed into my chest breaking at least eight of my ribs.
I tried to breathe, but that only caused my chest to further collapse. My sight was fading from pain but I could see “him”. It had fully taken my appearance, even as far as mimicking a small scar above my left eye I obtained after crashing my bike at the age of twelve. It was like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else who resembled you perfectly. A dark shadow that would follow you as you walked away from the reflection, a darkness you think you can control. Except now my reflection was controlling me.
It towered over me with a slight grin signifying victory. “Stay right here,” it growled walking towards my home.
Sarah opened the door and waited for me with Emma in her arms, while “I” strolled up to them. I could see their mouths moving but it was too quiet to make out. When it arrived at my home, it promptly locked its lips on Sarah’s while stroking her shoulder firmly. Its eyes were open staring at the bushes, staring at me while it embraced her.
I choked as my lungs filled up with blood. All I could do was watch, while my wife was caressed by a monster
CREDIT : TimedMistakes