Chapter 11 - Stay In The Dry
In the short time since Robert and Amelie had returned home, it had begun raining, normally an unremarkable event, especially in England. Not today; the man standing in the porch attested to this fact. His tongue darted in and out of his mouth, small actions, yet frightening all the same. It would have looked rather pervy if it hadn’t been for the earwigs darting in and out of every facial orifice. A slug emerged from his left nostril, slithering its way across his lip and giving the man a lop-sided moustache, all very Hitleresque in appearance, especially as his dark hair had flopped forward over his forehead and was stuck slick to his skin.
“What the..” was all Robert could muster. Gathering himself together he strode over to the door for a better look. Surely he was seeing things, he convinced himself. Then he recognised the man. He was the last one Trevor had hit before succumbing to his catatonia. How did he get to the farmhouse so quickly, he wondered? Must have clung to the Land Rover, it was the only thing that made sense.
“Stay away from it!” Amelie cried.
Robert held his hand up to silence his wife. He stared closely, mesmerised by the activity on the man’s face. He’d seen less creature action on a compost heap. How was this man even alive? As all of this raced through his mind, Robert noticed the man’s face was changing. The lips widened in a slow smile, and kept on widening impossibly. The mouth was being drawn open, revealing row upon row of amber coloured teeth.
“Fuck!” Robert exclaimed quietly. Hearing a low thud behind him he turned around and saw Amelie laid out on the floor. She must have fainted, and yet Robert was powerless to help her, mesmerised as he was by the sight at the door.
Turning back, his attention held in fascinated horror, he watched the teeth pulsing rhythmically in waves as the muscles that held them in place expanded and contracted as if performing dental Pilates. Fucking shark teeth, he cursed to himself. If he’d any biological training at all he would have known that these were not teeth at all, but chitinous protrusions that populated the radula of a snail or slug. What he was seeing were more like hundreds of misshapen fingernails on an elongated tongue that behaved like a steel file, designed to scrape surfaces clean.
The menagerie-infested stranger walked up to the door and licked its surface using this foreign, obscene-looking apparatus. The screech was horrendous and put Robert’s teeth on edge, at the same time the sound brought Amelie around. She shook her head in confusion, wondering why she was on the floor. Robert stepped backwards and fell, landing next to his wife. Together they watched as the tongue-like extrusion cut through the glass as if licking butter. The man’s eyes showed no emotion at all, appearing to bulge slightly out of their sockets while swivelling back and forth in rapid movements, scouring the hallway before peering deeper into the house and eventually the kitchen. Finally, they locked onto the couple lying on the floor.
Robert, never one to fear much, especially something he couldn’t comprehend, scrambled to his feet and raced back to his study. He dragged Amelie behind him in his desperation to keep her safe and away from the threat. Retrieving his keys from the desk’s top drawer, he unlocked the gun cabinet. Momentarily gazing lovingly at the pair of Purdeys in the cabinet, his hand went past them and picked out the Mossberg 500 he kept for special occasions. He pumped it empty of the usual shells he kept in it. Of course, he knew it was illegal to keep a loaded gun in the house, but so were the slug cartridges he loaded instead. Needs must, he thought, a satisfied smile emerging fleetingly. If this doesn’t stop the bastard, then nothing will he thought to himself.
“Stay put and keep this door locked,” he ordered, rushing out of the room and down the corridor towards the front door.
He stopped quickly, almost slipping over on the loose Indian carpet runner. The stranger had already entered through the front door, literally through it; using the rasping mouthpiece it had made a waist height hole through which it had slithered. Robert knew it slithered in because that is what it was doing right now, avoiding the carpet and using the tiled floor for purchase. Seeing him, it stood erect again and just stared. Its radula had retracted back inside the mouth and now the man looked relatively normal. Robert’s brain was screaming at the impossibility of what he was seeing, momentarily forgetting the shotgun in his hands. All of a sudden he raised it and, aiming at the man’s head, pulled the trigger. The heavy slug created a greater kick than ordinary pellets and because of Robert’s inexperience it only caught the man a glancing blow to the side of the head, nevertheless spattering black ooze all over the walls. Even the glancing shot Robert had inflicted would put a normal man down, but not so this one.
Tough little bastard, aren’t we, Robert mumbled, pumping another cartridge into the chamber. This time he was ready for the recoil and let loose another shot, this one spot on the money. The head exploded, the black substance spraying the pale cream walls all around the stranger.
The headless body collapsed where it stood and began to writhe, as small, dark creatures oozed through the skin, the body deflating with their departure. Robert stepped back in terror and watched the black ooze collecting into a single mass and sliding back towards the front door and the safety of the wet outside. Only then did he notice that the floor itself behind the stranger was pooled with rainwater. It had always been a problem with the front door; every time it rained, in conjunction with a southerly wind the water would make its way into and down the hallway. Damn, he thought he’d fixed that problem. Robert had the distinct impression that this assumption had very nearly cost him his life.
What was left of the body still writhed in small movements as things under the skin struggled to make their way out to join the escaping slime, while small, dark insects seemed to coral straggling small bits of black ooze to join the greater mass on its way outside.
Stepping carefully over the remains of the man, Robert followed the sludge mass from a safe distance but it just seemed to dissolve away into the grass and mud.
I am never going outside, never, ever, ever again, he decided in that moment. His hands shook with the slowly subsiding adrenaline. He took his finger away from the trigger, frightened that he would accidentally pull it in his funk. He stood there breathing deliberately slowly in an effort to kill off the last effects of adrenaline before he dared to go back and check on Amelie.
On his way past he peered closely at the broken body with its flaccid, bloodless, colander-like skin covering and watched a few stragglers still writhing their way to freedom. As far as he could tell, slugs and earwigs seemed to be helping each other out; the earwigs were using their pincers to encourage the slugs into a single direction: the door. Robert had seen wood lice seemingly co-habiting with slugs in the garden, some sort of symbiotic relationship no doubt, but this was unusual, at least in his experience.
Going into the kitchen, Robert grabbed an open bag of cooking salt and started spreading it over the stragglers. A sense of satisfaction warmed his blood as the slugs dissolved into a bubbling mass of green slime.
The liquid seemed to shimmer unnaturally and he studied it more closely. There seemed to be something wriggling inside it. Before giving any thought to his action, he touched the surface, transferring the liquid to the tip of his finger. Immediately he knew this was the wrong thing to do, the slight tingling sensation it created causing him urgently to wipe the liquid on his trousers.
He knew something was very wrong. Almost immediately his vision started to blur, something like a floater wriggled across his vision causing him to gasp in fear; the rims of his eyes became irritated with an itch he couldn’t sort without risk of clawing his own eyes out. He let out a low, terrified moan and dropped the salt bag and stood up. Raising the shotgun and pointing the muzzle under his chin, he told himself he had to do this or become one of them. Urging himself on he tried with all his might to squeeze the trigger, but knew he had failed as his trigger finger went slack and the gun clattered to the floor as he lost all control of his hands, as well as everything else.
Copyright © 2018 David Kingsley Roberts