This one is a revamped version of something I wrote back in college. Is Stuart going crazy or is he already there?
“I think I’m crazy”, says Stuart. “I really think I’m losing my mind.”
The red mist is still there when Stuart opens his eyes, swirling, rising, flowing, morphing as if it has a mind of it’s own – as if it were a sentient being of which the laws of the universe need not apply.
Stuart blinks hard, no doubt trying to will away the dense cloud that hangs thick in front of his face. As he sits in his chair, he reaches out, waves his hand like he were searching in the dark for a light switch he’ll never find.
“Yeah, definitely losing my mind.”
A loud noise echoes from somewhere deep within his home. A dragging, slithering sound that seems to be coming from a few feet in front of him, but somehow from both sides and above him as well. Stuart continues to sit, a little shaky and on edge as the sound abruptly stops, like the thing that made it has blinked out of existence.
“Who’s there?” says Stuart, directing his question in no particular direction.
“Oh, nobody important,” echoes a voice, unknown and harsh to Stuart’s ear.
Startled, Stuart springs out of his chair and stands bolt upright, a cold sweat breaking out on the back of his neck. His hair clots with moisture; from the mist or the sweat he can’t be sure. His beard begins to itch as a tingle shoots up his spine. Again he repeats his question, this time a little more unsure.
“Who’s there?” Another agonizing moment of silence passes. The mist pushes itself around Stuart in calculated in and out motions, like a lung filled with blood trying to breath after a terminal wound. “I-I have a gun so don’t come any closer,” Stuart adds, his knees shaking uncontrollably as he retreats ever so slightly back to his chair.
A sinister laugh echoes through the red, fading in and out of Stuart’s hearing, each laugh coming from a different direction in the living room like a possessed sound system with a mind of it’s own. The mist ebbs and flows in time with the laughing until it stops, silence again sweeping the room. And then…
“You’re funny,” booms the voice. Stuart spins, the voice making him jump as it speaks directly into his ear. Stuart is trembling now, his knees weak and his body shivering as if the room has just dropped tens of degrees in seconds. “You don’t even own a gun,” chuckles the echoing voice as it fades out again. “You’ve never even seen one before, so why are you lying?”
“I-I’m not. I do have a gun and if you don’t leave I’ll have to use it.”
“Use it? You don’t even know what’s going on here. You have no idea if you’re losing your mind or if this is all just a bad dream. Besides, how can you shoot something that isn’t really there?”
Stuart, now on the defensive as he scans the room as best he can, begins to creep forward, hesitant and clearly rattled. He can barely see two feet in front of his face as the mist blocks his vision from all sides, a thickness seeping in that slows Stuart’s movements ever so slightly.
“For all you know you died and went straight to Hell,” says the voice. “We all know that’s where you’re headed anyway.”
Stuart continues his slow creep around the living room, searching for the origin of the echo voice. He keeps his hand in front of him in case whatever is in the mist decides to reveal itself. What he’d do if that were to happen is anyone’s guess.
“You’re getting warmer,” goads the voice. “Warmer. Cooling off now.” The voice taunts Stuart as he bumps into the chair he was just sitting in moments before. Stuart looks down, confused at how he arrived back at his original starting place. “Has anyone told you you’re bad at this?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” mutters Stuart. “This isn’t real. None of it is,” he adds, unsure.
“That’s what they all say. But believe what you want, you can’t stop what’s going to happen. You’re warm again by the way. Getting hotter by the second.”
Stuart takes another wavering step away from the chair when…
The voice now comes from just behind Stuart as he lets loose a yelp of fear. He spins around, bolts for the kitchen doorway that’s just barely visible through the swirling red. He rushes through the mist, tries to push it away like windshield wipers trying to clean a spatter of blood after a particularly nasty hit and run. He throws his hands out in front of him, tries to feel for where he’s heading, but before he can get his bearings – SLAM! – Stuart runs head first into the kitchen wall, blood spurting everywhere from his nostrils and mouth. The crimson liquid falls away from his face in pulsing trickles but is lost to the red before it hits the ground.
“Aww, poor baby,” laughs the voice. “Serves you right for running around like your head’s cut off.”
Stuart notices that he cannot see his feet through the mist as he pinches his nose and wipes the blood from his mouth. He reaches out again, only barely recognizing the area of the kitchen he’s in. He feels his way to the counter. Slides his hand over the marble, curiously untainted by the colored mist, then grabs a nearby roll of paper towels. He’s about to rip a sheet off to clean himself up when he feels a tug at the bottom of his pants. He looks to his feet, still invisible in the red when…
“Going down?” booms the voice.
Suddenly, Stuart’s legs are violently ripped backward from beneath him. He loses his balance immediately, the top half of his body falling forward, his face smashing against the counter on the way down. He tumbles to the floor limp, another gush of blood spewing from his already blood stained mouth. Stuart doesn’t move, the fall knocking him out cold for the moment.
The echoing voice only laughs, now level with Stuart’s crumpled body splayed face down on the floor.
“Get up you lazy sack of bones!”
The kitchen trembles with the sheer force of the voice. Drawers rattle, hanging pots clang, walls creak and all at once, the mist thickens; the red encloses around Stuart even more than before.
Stuart opens his eyes.
“Better,” says the voice. “Don’t make us ask again. Now stand.”
Stuart blinks a few times, his face still smashed up against the tiles of the kitchen floor. He rolls over onto his back as he coughs up a gob of red mucus. Stringy strands of it drip from his mouth to the floor, and as he wipes it away he sees something move in it, some writhing, twisting thing that looks like a—
Stuart gasps, all of the air from his lungs suddenly rushing out of him like a punctured air mattress. His throat constricts. His heart skips a beat. He tries to cry out in pain but doesn’t have the wind to make a sound. His hands instinctively go to his throat as his eyes bulge and roll into the back of his head. He reaches out for anything he can find to help pull his convulsing body up off the floor. He claws and grabs for the counter only feet above him. Grasps the handle of the nearest drawer instead. Is able to heave himself up, and as he does, struggling with all his might, the world begins to pulse from red to black and back again as the lack of oxygen slowly takes his consciousness away. Finally, Stuart manages to get back on his feet, the blackness giving way to the scarlet mist. He coughs up more and more red mucus, coating his hand in its slick consistency as his throat opens up and the crimson tainted air rushes back into his lungs.
“When we say get up,” echoes the voice, “you listen. Got it?” Stuart, still sucking in air like a man on his deathbed, nods weakly. He holds his throat and wipes more of the stringy saliva away from his blood-covered lips. “Good.” The voice lets this answer linger as it draws out the word. It reverberates through the room, through Stuart himself like a low, pulsing hum of a subwoofer cranked to eleven.
As Stuart’s body returns to normal – or as normal as this situation allows – he leans forward on the counter, his breathing finally evening out. “What do you want?”
A shifting chuckle as the voice rings the kitchen. “Oh, nothing in particular. We’re just having some fun. You like fun, don’t you, buddy boy?”
Stuart rips off a sheet of paper towel. Wipes the remaining mucus from his mouth and hands. Spits another glob down the drain next to him. “Not this kind of fun. What do you want?”
“You’ve already asked that, but since you’ve been so cooperative thus far, why don’t you open that drawer in front of you? See what’s inside.”
Stuart hesitates. “And if I don’t?”
With a yelp of pain, Stuart slumps over the counter, his throat constricting again. His hands claw at his neck as he tries to somehow rip his esophagus open by force, like anything he’s experiencing right now is something he can control let alone understand.
“You really have a short memory don’t you? Must we do this again or do you think that this is all still some made up thing in your head?”
Stuart gasps as his throat opens. He breathes heavy and immediately grabs the drawer closest to him. Rips it open with all his strength to reveal—
“Good. You’re learning,” says the voice. “Now take it. It’s almost time.”
Stuart snatches whatever is inside the drawer, lowers it to his side, his entire body trembling like a dead leaf in the wind. Now in the red mist Stuart cannot see anything from his waist down, can barely make out the counter he was just leaning on. He grips the object in his hand tight. “Whatever you want me to do with this, I’m not doing it. Kill me if you have to but I’m not using it.”
“Oh, I don’t think you have much of a choice,” chuckles the voice. “Besides, at what point did you think you were in the drivers seat for this one?”
As the voice fades away, Stuart hears a familiar sound coming from the living room: the slamming of the front door, the unmistakable click-clack of high-heeled footsteps, the same voice he’s heard for years now finally coming home after a long days work…
“Stuart? You here?”
“Don’t,” Stuart pleads, the red mist now enclosing even further around him, cocooning him in layers like a second skin that cannot be shed. “Please.”
“Please what? We’re in this together. We’re just releasing what’s already inside of you – what you truly are. No need to get all upset about it.”
Stuart cannot move, can barely even blink, and as the high-heeled footsteps make their way to the kitchen, he knows what the mist wants, what the voice has been pushing him to do.
Smiling, Stuart’s wife enters the kitchen, a red blob of color in the dense mist. Her shape becomes more and more defined the closer she approaches. “Stuart? You okay?”
Stuart doesn’t respond. He’s trying his best to hold in the sudden urge that has taken him over, the primal urge that now flows through him as if it were his one and only purpose in the life he’s lived; the real reason that he was put on this Earth to begin with.
“Stuart?” His wife is now almost completely visible through the red as she reaches her husband, just now sensing that something is off about him. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
Stuart is now trembling, shaking uncontrollably as he tries to stop himself from what the mist is about to make him do – from what he is about to make himself do.
“Do it,” says the voice.
“No. Please. I can’t,” Stuart mutters.
“Do it!” rumbles the voice.
“Who are you talking to,” says Stuart’s wife, confused. She looks over her husband, eyes him up and down, and when her gaze finally drifts towards the object Stuart holds in his hand, she takes a cautious step back. “Wh-what’s going on? Stuart, why—“
“DO IT!” barks the voice. Stuart’s wife doesn’t hear the order, nor see the mist. She doesn’t understand why her husband won’t respond to her, why, as he closes his eyes and raises the object he holds, he seems to almost be crying.
“Honey, please. I don’t understand.”
“Take her! Do it now!” booms the voice one last time. “We need it! We need it!”
Stuart’s wife tries to turn, to run, but it’s hopeless. The knife gleams brilliantly in the red as it easily slides between her ribs. She barely makes a sound, only stares at her husband of fifteen years, confused and hurt as she collapses onto the floor, dead before she hits the ground.
The silence is deafening as Stuart opens his eyes. He lets his gaze fall to the floor. Gapes in horror when he sees what he’s done, stifling the scream he so desperately wants to let free. The red mist is long gone. The voice, for once, is silent. All around him the kitchen is as it always has been, spotless and in order, the only difference now is that there’s a dead body on the floor and a murderer standing above it.