Fiction: Inhale

Creative Commons photo.

This is a fiction piece I wrote for The Molotov Cocktail’s fiction contest they regularly do. In this case, the contest was Flash Monster for Halloween 2020, with the prompt being to include a monster of some kind. My entry did not win or receive a shoutout. As usual, instead of going the submission route, I’m just going to blog it.

Here is my entry:

I awoke with a gasp of oxygen in the basement, my savior long gone. 

The basement was unfinished, but there was a woodworker’s table from one end of the wall to the other. Circular saws, jigsaws, mallets, power drills, screw guns. It was a mosaic of creation and destruction. A half-started coffee table was upside down, two of its legs missing.

Across the back wall was a pegboard with more tools, hammers, a box cutter, pliers, duct tape, screws, and a handsaw. Above the pegboard was, “Hunter’s Workshop.” Seeing that made me want to scoop out the yellowish-brown itching to bellow out. I tried to grab one of the tools, but I was too weak. Instead, I went to the stack of lumber in the corner. My hunger drove me in stumbling steps like I would eat the termites if they were there. Anything to get out of here.

I didn’t know when I last ate. I didn’t know anything prior to waking in Hunter’s basement. My name was like a rock at the bottom of a well I couldn’t reach.

As I knocked over the lumber pile in my stupor, the smell of the basement had a harsh sweetness to it. Despite everything, that smell felt familiar and comforting, but I didn’t know why.

I moved up the wooden steps, slow, like I could only crawl and had to savor each step, gripping the banister for help. Above me, the house seemed quiet. Being in the basement, I couldn’t tell if it was light or dark, but now I saw only darkness as I pushed through the wooden door, nervous like a kid who’d sneaked downstairs to play with dad’s toys. 

Behind me, wood beams fell to the concrete floor. Hunter would hear that; he would find me and try to stop me. But in those moments, the mind shelters itself, tunnel-focused on the oddest things. Hunger consumed my thoughts, even as I worried about Hunter. 

He wasn’t the only thing to worry about. An alarm went off somewhere above me. It was a repeating piercing noise. Maybe I tripped a line in the basement in my chaos, and it alerted Hunter. Or it was something else. Maybe help would come. 

I saw the front door, but the stairs beckoned me, moaned under my feet. I had to find Hunter. As I came around the corner in the hallway, I couldn’t see anything. The darkness was a hazy fog, but I felt with my hands along the walls; it must’ve been a house with low ceilings because my fingertips licked at the stucco ceiling. 

The first bedroom I saw had a pink bed, with a pile of stuffed animals at the front. Along the ceiling, I could feel the glow stars she’d once plopped on there with the help of Hunter. I plowed through the animals and smothered the occupant of the bed. I couldn’t help it, I was delirious. Her little throat seized up, as her lungs knocked on a door that wouldn’t answer. It was over quick enough for me to move on.

In the next bedroom was a smaller version of Hunter’s workshop, plastic though. I avoided it, staying by the walls and smothered the occupant of the bed. This one took longer, and I could hear the coughs, and the gasping chokes. But I was hungry, and Hunter did this, not me. That sweet smell in the basement had turned to an acrid beef smell, with notes of copper and metallic. It was also familiar. I lingered, taking in the musk, as the covers seemed to melt into the little version of Hunter, like he was hiding tight from a ghost.

Back in the hallway, I saw what had to be Hunter, given his age, and a woman in pajamas with a yelping dog at her feet behind him. Fear painted ugly shadows on their faces. She covered her face, as if trying to hide her fear of me. It wasn’t my fault.

I tore through them, with the help of the lumber from the basement, ripping and clawing and squeezing their flesh, but I missed the dog. The dog scampered away to the stairs. 

As Hunter was taken to the ground, his arms at his face, too, as if he didn’t want to see me, he cried out for names I didn’t know. I moved passed them to the bedroom, and went through the window, bursting out in time to see the help come. More sirens. More lights. Hoses aimed in my direction to try to put me down. I gasped for oxygen along the grass.

I ignored them, and was at the next house, breathing in the wood paneling, and feeling stronger again.

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