I wrote this when I was around seventeen which is half of my lifetime ago. I enjoyed rediscovering it, and whilst it needs a good edit, I think it’s often nice to acknowledge to one’s self just how much one has evolved and changed as a writer. I’ve not edited it too much, but just corrected some things I’ve grown to dislike over the years. I hope you enjoy, and that you’ll take it easy on youthful, exuberant, brash me.
Wrayven popped open the car door and climbed out, pulling the collars of his coat up against the pelting rain with a grimace of dislike. He checked his coat pocket for his leather gloves, found them, pulled them out, and put them on. He then checked the gun holster under his left arm, acknowledging the weight, then casually closed the car door and turned for the building. The front of ‘Cortswood flats, Bellhouse Lane’ was significantly run down. A set of double doors atop a wide flight of eight steps stood looking beaten and on the brink of surrender. The left door’s window boarded up with heavily graphitised ply-wood. Several windows beside the doors were either closed against the elements or boarded up up entirely. Barricaded, he thought, was a better suited word given the area.
He mounted the steps and looked above the door to read the flickering sign above; the ‘ood’ of the name ‘Cortswood’ had flickered its last and sat in darkness. Also, some local comedian/vandal had crossed out the ‘rt’ of the same word and on the wall above, written ‘ck’.
Lowering his vision, he spied the buzzers for the flats and reached out for it, but before even touching it he realised the thing was broken and of no use at all any longer, and looking at the door noticed the lock had been smashed, leaving it mildly ajar. Anyone could simply walk in and out without first buzzing for admittance. What did he expect in a place where he had been sent to do dirty work on a drug dealing murderer? Roses and smiling children? He hooked his fingers behind the door handle and pulled it and the door admitted him with a piteous whine even it seemed above. He stepped in. The first thing he noticed was the smell; the smell of unwashed things and unwashed people. The stale smell of piss and sweat hung in the air, almost visible. The second thing he noticed was the mess. Bottles littered the hallway, and as far as Wrayven could see, a few needles and toys, too. In one instance there sat a cuddly toy bear with syringes sunk into it. The mixture of the two clashing items and worlds made him shudder. It stared sightlessly at him, watching his movements with a malicious eye. Everything seemed to be watching him. The third thing he noticed was the entire lack of sound, utter silence. Like there had been shouting and maniacal screaming before he intruded. Like some western cowboy entering an unfriendly saloon. Just before he thought he had gone deaf, he heard the door clang shut behind him. There was no outside sound penetrated the walls, not even the dull patter of rain hitting the window on the outside of the door. The signs and graffiti seemed almost to move, one sign read ‘welcome to Cortswood House’ while one directly above it in the same blunt script read ‘there is nothing for you here’, scrawled in a jagged mess.
“Well isn’t this a little strange?”, he muttered to himself under his breath. “Something has changed.” He frowned a little more.
Something told him he wasn’t where he thought he was. He was in the building, but something was wrong. He felt distorted, alien, uncomfortable. The graffiti. One read, “crossing worlds for the first time?” and then below it, “Go back, go back, go back…” and “see the door, where does it go? Out to the world, where time doesn’t flow”.
That one reminded Wrayven on the children’s programme called Playdays, although he was sure it was a bus, not a door. One outrageously read “Drink Starbuck’s coffee. It’s literally out of this world.” Something echoed within him, some deep resonance, like a dream, and he looked up and saw it then. Etched in to the ceiling, massive, leering down at him.
“WELCOME TO THE WORLD BEHIND THE WORLD, THE WORLD WHERE THE DARKNESS PLOTS AND CONSPIRES WITHIN THE FURTHEST CORNERS, WHERE THOSE FOUL ENOUGH TO GRACE THEM EVOLVE AND SCHEME TO REACH OUT AND WARP ALL WE HOLD DEAR. WELCOME TO THE COLD, HEARTLESS SOUL OF CORRUPTION, POISON AND THE KING OF ALL KINGS.”
The king? The king of all kings? Where had he heard that? King of all drug pushers? He felt something, a nagging and uncomfortable pull at the back of his head. He unclipped the strap of his spring clip and felt the gun ease out a little bit, easy to pull in any circumstance now, especially with speed like Wrayven’s.
He took a deep breath and began to proceed into what he would later refer to as a bad acid trip. Tip-toeing as lightly as he could, he proceeded on to the ground floor landing to be greeted by yet more flickering lights and ominous graffiti. Spiders spun webs in dark, dank corners where Wrayven thought even the bravest of men wouldn’t put their hands. Glass littered the floor, sparkling in a puddle of what was either urine or cider, hard to tell the difference in the dim and with the smell of dirt in his nostrils, but he thought he could hazard a guess at the former. The lift buzzed menacingly, as if it contained a thousand angry, oversized wasps ready to torture anyone stupid enough to disturb them. Its call button stared out, an insane leering eye, slick and perverse, and under the steady malevolence of that lunatic glare he abandoned keeping the gun in its holster and pulled it, keeping it left handed and low by his hip. He wanted nothing more than to be out of here. He couldn’t make sense of this. He thought of all the zombie movies he had watched over the years and what most came to mind was the one in the hotel with firemen in it. Rec. He realised he was mentally waiting for a zombie old woman to come hurtling at him. Was it another place, or was it just the strangeness of the building that made it other-worldly? He believed the former with all of his brain, but wished for the latter with all of his heart.
His main concern was the entrance. He wasn’t sure if it would re-open to let him out where it let him in. A moment of panic hit him as he thought what if it won’t let me out at all? A door is a door is a door.
“The games still runnin’ boy,” his father’s voice spoke up in his head. “It’s a sixty minute game, plenty of time to go!”
Wrayven now thought of this as a hopeful way of saying ‘Yup, it’s only early and we’re already screwed…and there’s loads of time left to fuck it royally’, but, of course he never told his father that. He decided to let be what could be. Worry about the door after the job is done. If something shitty is gonna happen, then something shitty is gonna happen. He might as well get the job done before that shitty thing reared its ugly head.
To the right of the lunatic lift, a flight of stairs rose into a surgical white light. He headed for these stairs at pace, wanting to be out of the dark, to be out of the smell. At the base of the stairs he stopped and scanned up them. He thought he could hear faint mumbling, and he realised he hadn’t expected there to be people in here, although he knew they lived here. The light beamed down from many overhead bulbs that lead a path across the ceiling and turned the corner atop the flight. Wrayven checked the safety was off and took tentative steps up the first few. Normally he wouldn’t flinch even once at a flight of stairs but something about this place scared him. It scared him. He was glad no one was around to notice that, especially Kayla. She would laugh. He nearly laughed at the thought, albeit nervously. No, that wasn’t fair. She would never mock him for showing fear. He felt he was right to be scared here. If he didn’t freeze (as he had been trained to avoid) he thought this fear may well save his life as well as others. It had before hadn’t it? Yes, it had before.
He proceeded up the stairs and reached the top where it turned to the left, revealing another landing. A man sat, head in lap mumbling something that Wrayven couldn’t make out at this distance. He was filthy, and if the stench wasn’t wrong, he had been sat there long enough to shit where he sat. He crept closer, the man didn’t move.
“Oranges. Apples. Grapes.“ the man was saying to himself. Over and over. “Oranges. Apples. Grapes. Orangesapplesgrapes.”
Wrayven thought about approaching the man through fear, keen to secure his mind that everything as normal here, but this man was crazy; he had the smell, regardless of the shit and muttering. Wrayven backed away to the stairs and took them. Two more desolate, startlingly lit stair cases, and dim, demonic landings later he reached the door of his intended target. If this was indeed the same building he had meant to enter, that was. He pressed his ear to the door and instantly felt a vile nausea flow through the pit of his stomach to the back of his throat, and forcing himself to swallow down the bile with a shudder, persisted and heard nothing. Then he gladly pulled away from the sickening door. Upon trying the handle, Wrayven found his skin squirmed under its touch, but it twisted and opened. Careful to not make a sound, Wrayven pushed the door slowly with his right hand while keeping the gun ready in his left. A dim, red glow emanated from a room at the end of a lightless hallway. Three doors in a row along the hall to the left were closed. Wrayven felt the sickness rising in his stomach again as a smell of rotten meat filled his nostrils. He wondered if his target was already dead, or maybe he had a corpse here, he was a murderer after all. Either was plausible. Putting his right hand to his mouth and proceeded down the hall, Wrayven stepped in something wet. He avoided thoughts of what it was and passed the three left hand doors and reached the blood red room at the end shortly after, almost breathless from the stench. Peaking his head around the door, he took in the shocking view before him. It reminded him of a horror film, where you finally get a full body shot of the demon in the basement, the demented clown in the sewer, or the alien sneaking through the ducts of the ship, the zombie behind the door. Where a lone guy (they’re always alone aren’t they?) goes out to fix something they REALLY need fixed to get back to earth/home/out, but don’t think to take anyone else with them. And what do you say while you watch them? What are you MEANT to say while you watch them? You say “Don’t go in there, it’s obviously in there, you idiot”, but they don’t listen. They can’t hear you, it’s only a film. Like a lamb to the slaughter they go. It occurred to Wrayven at this time that he was very much alone and that this was that moment, the “don’t go in there” moment. This would be his death scene, here is where the money is and what everybody comes to see. If somebody had been standing next to him saying “don’t go in there” to him at this exact moment, he would have been like the guys in these films, he wouldn’t have heard any of it. That’s just the way it goes isn’t it? “Hey guys, thanks for the money. Hope you enjoy the rest of the film.”
What threatened to freeze him now was utter bewilderment and confusion. Like the sight of 9/11 in New York. It had rendered him stupid as he caught his first glimpse of it through the window of the local Powerhouse store near his home. There was smoke and fire, scrolling headlines filling the varying sized televisions facing out towards the high street, and he’d watched them fall. This was something like that. If it hadn’t been such an amazing, impossible sight, the fear would definitely have scared the hell out of him and rooted him to the musty carpet of the hall like a blade of grass. It was a vision of
horror that greeted him. Strewn body pieces lay across the floor. They seemed
dry and individual, like an untidy network of islands in Thailand, spread on the battered, seventies carpet that sprawled out languorously like an ocean across the room. To the left, and facing away from the door where Wrayven eyed the scene, was a sofa, a green, furry thing that looked as though it had seen far too many years of use, and probably far too many gruesome deeds. Upon the sofa was the back of a head. A scarred head, messy hair clung in random lumps, leaving burnt alleyways of skin through a black forest. A grizzled hand reached up to scratch at the thickets of hair with nails beyond the length of sanity, easily three inches long, gruesome and dirty. Claws, not nails. The sound of the scratching made Wrayven feel worse as the nails tugged through it. Wrayven envisaged large pieces of flaky skin coming away with the nails and nearly retched. But, where the true amazement lay was in front of the freak on the sofa. What the freak which he knew was most definitely his target, and now thought of as Reptile from the Mortal Kombat series.
In front of Reptile was a swirling miasma of red and green, and in it was a face and body. A face of utter disgusting properties. A single tooth grew from a tumorous, swelling of a nose. Above it, one of the eyes filled with incandescent rage and cancerous evil, bled a thick, yellow curd down a hollow lucent cheek. Through it he could sense hideous black teeth, some rotten and some long and sharp, fortifying a tongue of disturbing length. The creature on the sofa listened in rapt attention to the hanging evil-genie-like presence in front of the fireplace.
Whatever it was, it seemed angry. Commanding. Reptile seemed to be almost grovelling. For what seemed like an age, Wrayven stood and looked on at the spectral thing in its red and green mist. The truth is he had only been there for maybe a minute. What if it could see him and it reached out with an equally ugly, deformed clawed appendage and psnagged him into the other. Other what? World? Dimension?
Wrayven decided to back out into the hallway and wait. He backed out slowly so as not to draw any unwanted attention to the shadows of the hallway. He listened to the words. They were words of slick, guttural grease that seemed to slide out of the monster genie’s mouth like saliva or vomit to land on the grovelling deformity on the sofa’s head and into its ears. The servile tone of Reptile’s replies was enough to sort out the question of who was in charge. Not that it had ever been in doubt; it’s always nice to have the facts, though. One word repeatedly came from Reptile. Was it a word?
After a couple of minutes the guttural talking slowed and the genie said something Wrayven COULD understand. In English.
“Remember, he wants all three. Find them at any cost.” Wrayven could hear the words dribbling, dripping. Reptile didn’t reply with words, this was no question, he just croaked his assent. Then they spoke something together in the alien, vomit language. Some sort of hail? Like the Nazi seig heil?
Wrayven didn’t have time to question it as there came an almighty sucking sound, and he stepped back into the room. With a visceral pop, the red/green miasma disappeared leaving the room in darkness, except for a lamp glowing dully next to the sofa. The thing still sat there, unmoving, seeming to talk to itself. Wrayven wondered if when he shot it and looked at it, if it would be human at all. He most certainly had been told it would be a person he killed today, but orders had been wrong before, but never like this. Wrayven crept in, not quietly enough it seemed. The reptilian thing’s head swung around, revealing a rather human, if scaly face with a broadened nose and eyes as black as coal. Its skin a cracked, weeping mess of open sores and scales. He believed there was a disease some were born with called Icthyosis that made the skin hard and scaly, but by all accounts this guy was forty, and the afflicted normally lived for a week or two. Its mouth came open as it looked at Wrayven, revealing rows of needle-like teeth. It started to stand, but before it even got halfway up, Wrayven opened fire. Regardless of how long it should have lived as a baby, two sharp reports meant two bullets in its head, equalling one dead murdering freak. One pounded through its right eye and Wrayven saw a stream of blood squirt out of the back of its head. The other tore through the forehead and Mr. Reptile toppled and slammed into what Wrayven judged would be a coffee table when he rounded the sofa. As he went around the sofa he put another bullet in what should have been Mr. Mark Deanne’s chest just in case. He pointed the gun a little longer before letting it drop to his side. Nausea swept through him like a tidal wave as the stench of the thing hit him. He rupped his eyes and face, and as he took his head out of his hands he looked at them. They shook a little but they were there, and that steadied him a little. He looked between them to the coffee table and saw something that nearly made him bring up whatever was in his burning stomach. A baby. Half eaten. Wrayven and the ‘genie’ had obviously disturbed the human-lizard during its evening meal. Wrayven retched, took a few deep, painful breaths and looked at the target’s corpse to his right. He considered himself a pretty stable guy and could withstand a lot, had seen a lot, but this was close to breaking point. Mr. I-was-human-now-weird-lizard-thing’s corpse had lay half on the coffee table and half on the carpet below it, but it had slid now to the floor and lay, eyes glazed, staring up at the ceiling.
Wrayven kicked at the foot that lay next to his, expecting the scaly freak to not be dead. He then routed through Mr. Deanne’s stained jeans and found his wallet. In the wallet there was little; a driver’s license with his lizard-like, greenish, mouldy face on it. Wrayven wondered if the police that stopped him would think “yep, mouldy, fucked up, lizard face. That’s definitely you on your I.D. please go about your baby-eating business.” There was also a key, which he took, and a card for a hotel somewhere in greater London. He took that, too, but he wasn’t sure why.
This evil mess had to become just a memory, so woodenly he started working his way back to the front door of the apartment. Every part of his being wanted to sprint out of here but he didn’t, he stayed composed and reached the door, went out and closed it and used Mr. Reptile’s key to lock it. Slipping the key back into his pocket he made for the stairs, where lightly and rapidly he descended them onto the landings again, moving quickly. When he reached the landing with the muttering man on, he noted that he was gone. where the? he thought, surely he hasn’t moved. Why was it so hard to think that a bipedal human such as the man had been, was unable to get up and move? but he was so messed up, Wrayven’s mind informed him, he was loopy-fucking-loo! Wrayven ushered it to the back of his mind when he eyed something else. Not wanting to be caught in that lunatic stare of the elevator ‘call’ buttons again, he stepped up the pace even more. Never looking back, he now flew all the way down, taking the last set two steps at a time.
Wrayven stopped in the last hallway again just to see the graffiti which had mesmerised him upon entry. They were all there which assured him he was still far from safe in this sickly world. He looked at all of them, they were the same.
Wait, no they weren’t.
Nearly all of them were the same, except the “Go back, Go back, Go back…“, which had changed to, “Come back, Come back, Come back…“. His eyes widened at this (if they could get any wider), and he backed away from it slowly, then picking up pace he turned and bolted for the door.
He pulled it and it didn’t move.
At first he thought he was locked here, and his mind raced, calling up all kinds of things; imagining zombies piling out of the elevator now to come and eat him and tear out his innards, yards from safety. Mr. Reptile’s scaly face pushing into his flesh. It’s all oranges, apples, grapes he thought. He didn’t know what he meant, but he knew it was true. Oranges, apples, grapes. And then
“Push!” he cried, “Push it, you fuck!”
it went outwards as easily as it had when he came in. Wrayven fell face forwards and landed flat on his front at the top of the outdoor steps in the rain. Relief flowed through him and he wondered at the stupidity of the zombie thought. He rolled onto his back and wondered if he had ever been so happy to experience such shit weather, and lay there.
“You okay there mister?” a little voice spoke. Wrayven looked around, rolling onto his hands. A little girl no older than eight, on a pretty pink bike (stabilisers and all) looked up the steps at him with curious eyes. He wondered if the freak had been alive, would he have eaten this girl? Was this what Reptile preyed on? Wrayven was sure it was.
“Yeah, I’m okay, kid, ride on along now,” Wrayven replied, rolling back onto his back. At least he had rid the world of that monster. The little girl gave him a winning eight-year-old smile that he never saw and rode off, content with her good Samaritan deed of the day.
That’s when Wrayven took out Mr. Deanne’s driver’s license again to look at.
“Oh, my fuckin’ god.” His eyes wide, looking at the card. ‘Deanne, Mark’ it read ‘August 12th 1969’.
There was no monster on here, but a normal, quite handsome man.