A cup of tea rested in one hand, and a half-bitten biscuit in the other. More biscuits lay on the table over a small porcelain plate, the kikimora taking one more upon finishing the last. Each sip and each bite were lazier than the last, taking her time as if attempting to stave off the fact that she’d have absolutely nothing left to do if she were to finish. Brooming, cleaning, anything she could’ve done had already been done, most of it not even by herself. With the harsh winter settling in outside, even a simple stroll became prohibitive, leaving her with barely a way to entertain herself.
Her hands ached for labor. The idleness ate her inside out.
Her eyes widened in expectation. Hearing Michael call her, she began to wonder what she’d be able to do for him. Her master, though after the years their relationship had turned into almost an unofficial marriage.
“Yes?” She answered, seeing him come through the door in a jacket too heavy for indoor use.
“Sarah still isn’t answering her phone. I need you to watch the house while I go check on her.” He said, Katherine’s expression returning to disappointed boredom.
“With that storm getting so close…?”
“That’s why I want to check on her. That storm isn’t gonna be doing her any favors in the middle of nowhere if something happened to her.”
“Then I’ll go.” She said, drinking all that remained and standing up.
“You really don’t have to.”
“Nor do you.” She answered, stern and commanding in tone to look at him dead in the eyes. After a few seconds, her expression mellowed into a simple sorrowful smile. “You’re making yourself do everything. It’s already a sunday and instead of resting, you want to get stuck in a storm. I’ll take care of it, alright?”
“I’ll go with you, then.”
“What’s the point then, if you’re not gonna stay and rest?”
“I don’t want to make you go out there alone, Kate.”
“Ah, but you somehow were completely fine going out alone on your own, no?”
With a sigh to himself, Michael let his shoulders drop.
“Alright.” He said. “The last I heard of her was three days ago, so… be careful out there.”
“I will.” She smiled.
The relative warmth within the car escaped in the blink of an eye, and a howling wind greeted her. The snow squished under her boots, and as she closed the door she looked in curiosity to see the trail the car’s wheel had made. A rural expanse lay before her eyes, with the ground forming a layer of white and the storm approaching leaving the sky as a dark gray. She’d be lucky to return before it hits.
Her feet marked the ground with each step, approaching the front door of Sarah’s house. Once there, she knocked, but received no response.
“Sarah?” She called, knocking again to find the same lack of answer.
She stepped aside to the window, only to find the curtains closed. She found a gap inbetween the curtains, but after leaning forward to spy through, she saw nobody inside. A sigh escaped her; chances were Sarah was not home, Lord knowing what happened to her. On the way back to her car, she stopped by the door and turned the handle. Though expecting it to not budge, her eyes opened wide.
It was unlocked.
“…Sarah?” She called again, stepping in. Other than the door creaking closed behind her, no noises greeted her.
With the door closed shut, the howling wind eased down to a muffled humming sound. In front of her lay nothing but an eerie desolation, with a silence which allowed her to hear her own steps in full clarity. She walked through the living room to end in a hallway, then arrived to the kitchen. Katherine found nothing, leaving no clue as to the why or how of Sarah’s disappearance. In fact, for a few days of inactivity, it seemed exceptionally well cleaned and organized.
Going further down the house, she crossed the door into the next room. Crude stills and homemade equipment littered one side of the small room, with a few barrels neatly stacked onto each other on the other side. Though a door stood at the opposite end of the room, it only led out the house; Katherine concluded Sarah was not home. Reasons as to why eluded her, but she could do nothing about it.
She heard something. A drop hitting a puddle. It came from the barrels. Walking over, she saw the puddle underneath a barrel stacked on two others. Though at first she thought it was the barrel leaking, she saw the strange thickness of whatever it was that dripped; some manner of goo, or slime.
It moved. The puddle slid away out of sight, shocking Katherine enough to take several steps back with an aghast expression.
The chill running down her spine had decided for her that it’d be wiser to leave than to investigate. Without a second thought, she turned back and walked the way she came from, shooting glances in all directions, though still finding nothing. Back to the kitchen, back to the hallway, and back into the living room, mere curiosity made her walk over to Sarah’s bedroom. As she expected, nobody was inside, and even the bed looked tidied up.
Stepping back into the living room, she headed to the door and twisted the handle. It did not budge. Twice and thrice she tried, each more vigorous than the last, but it only confirmed her fears: It wasn’t malfunctioning. It had been locked, and the key was gone. She turned about and scanned the scenery, though in all places she’d have imagined the key to be, she found nothing.
She brought her hand over her pocket, but felt it empty. She did the same with the others, only to figure she had forgotten her cellphone on her car. After a quick glance, however, she saw Sarah’s phone. Wasting no time, she rushed to grab it and dial Michael’s number.
While waiting, a thought crossed her mind. Was it really right to bother Michael like this, after almost forcing him to let her go alone? She shook her head. This was neither the time nor the place to worry like that.
Then, she heard him pick up.
“Michael?” She said. “It’s me. I ca–“
She noticed something. A white noise. She couldn’t hear Michael’s voice, or anything else for that matter, only the buzzing of that indescribable noise. A frown spread across her fretful face – now of all times it had to malfunction? But as she brought her phone forward to inspect, she saw something coming out the speaker. Strange tendrils, writhing like a dozen spider legs attempting to get out. In reflex she threw the phone away, suppressing a scream while taking a step back.
The phone broke on impact with the wall, falling to the ground in several pieces. From each part, the same type of tendrils began to grow, writhing towards each other; a sight paralyzing Katherine in horror. The parts tied with one another, slowly pulling themselves together yet not regaining the old form, instead remaining a wriggling mass of flesh and decaying plastic and electronics.
When a far bigger tendril came out and slapped the ground towards Katherine, she snapped from her horrified trance. Whatever it was now slowly pulled itself towards her. Fear and panic settled in as she crept back till she was up against the front door. She tried once more to open it, to no avail. Stepping aside to the window, she struck it with her elbow, but the glass would not break.
Looking at the creature again, she saw it had only reached the dead middle of the room in its slow advance. She ran around it to escape into the hallway, then the kitchen, and finally the distillery. She ran to the back door and rammed her shoulder against it, but it too would not budge. Letting out a frantic howl, she continued to pound on the door in frustration; there was no foreseeable way out.
That ‘thing’ still followed her. If she wanted to find a way out, she’d need more time than it’d grant her.
Then, her eyes opened wide, realizing something.
She ran back, passing the kitchen to arrive to the hallway. There she saw the creature, slowly making its way towards her. Ignoring it, she made her way to a door within the hallway and turned the handle, to find it unlocked. Storming inside, she arrived to the storage room.
The lack of illumination and windows left her blind for a moment, having gotten used to the light from the other rooms. Widening her eyes in an attempt to see better, slow but surely she came to identify all around her; items on shelves and stands which would not aid her at all, label-less containers of questionable origin and condition, contraptions and machinery she cared not to identify, and an axe. Yet, the axe was not what she looked for, wishing to stay as far away from the creature as she could. After a few seconds, she found it by the corner:
Two propane tanks joined together with straps to carry it as a backpack, a hose extending from them, and a grip ending in a lengthy tube.
‘For the ice’, she could remember Sarah saying. It felt like the Sarah in her mind was already desperately attempting to justifying it.
“Crazy bitch.” She muttered, picking it up and putting it on with no second thoughts.
The ‘thing’ had already reached the door. Too strange, too alien, freezing Katherine in place; the phone fragments had already disappeared, giving way to a bubbly mess of eldritch colors, of strange shades of violet both dark and light. An aberration of rotting flesh.
A second tendril formed from the shambling mess, slapping the ground to pull itself towards Katherine faster than before.
Katherine let out a stream of flames towards the creature. Upon contact, it let out an ear-drilling shriek seemingly high and low pitched at the same time, as alien in its sound as it was in appearance. It shook and writhed, set alight, continuing its screeching as it attempted to escape, yet slowly its movements and noises slowed down to a halt. In flames, it remained immobile. Dead, hopefully.
Looking aside, she saw an extinguisher next to where the flamer had been. She took it and doused the flames, then stepped over the smoldering carcass to depart to the living room.
Granted the luxury of time, she began her search for the front door keys, only to find them over the coffee table. A loud of sigh relief escaped her lips. Quickly walking over, she extended her hand to grab them, only to freeze with hesitation as her mind was flushed with paranoia.
The keys weren’t there last time she checked. Sure there’s been many times in the past where she found lost objects in places she had already looked, missing them on the first pass. But after what happened with the phone earlier, Katherine could no longer mistake her caution for dementia – at least, not entirely. With maid instincts screaming at her about the potential danger, she slowly raised her flamer and aimed at the keys. It didn’t look like they were on anything terribly flammable, be it cloth or whatnot, just the glossy marble of the coffee table.
With one quick tap, she released a puff of flames – without delay the keys emitted a sharp cry. The fright was enough to make Katherine flinch and step back as the keys shuffled about, still screeching before falling to the ground. Wasting no time, she took to torching it with renewed vigor, only halting once certain that the vermin had truly died.
She let out incoherent gibberish and mumbling through her teeth, frustration growing on par with fear. Some other way out had to exist.
Her eye twitched as a smirk attempted to surface, a cathartic idea popping into her mind: Escape through brute force.
Returning to the storage room, she rushed impatiently to test the authenticity of the axe she had seen earlier against the heat of her flamer. Confirming it not to be an imitation, she took it and departed once more to the front. The Indignation intensely burning into a single focus, the barrier to her freedom, Katherine shouted with unbridled fury as she swung her axe against the door. It struck and embedded itself. Splinters tore apart as she pulled the axe back out, showing her a clear sign of progress and with that she prepared herself to begin hacking away at the door.
Immediately on impact, tendrils materialized where it struck and entangled the axe. With a solid pull, it stole it from Katherine’s hands, who helplessly stumbled back in fright till she fell sitting on the ground. Nothing before could prepare her for this sight, as the once wooden door discarded its form, warping into an eldritch array of color and form. At a loss on what to do, she crawled back until hitting something that was distinctly not wood. Swiftly craning her head up, she found the slanted satyros eyes of Sarah staring down at her, face unfazed by the door.
“…Sarah?” She asked, paranoid and fearful, slowly crawling away from the satyros.
Sarah didn’t answer, keeping an eerie smile as her skull seemed to fracture, unnaturally deforming underneath the skin on its own. Katherine’s eyes shot wide open, breathing heavily and her heart beating hard enough to feel like it’d burst out of her chest. Seeing Sarah’s skin then rupture as her head opened like a giant maw from which an ungodly mess of tendrils, slime, and fleshy appendages squirmed forth; an inarticulate howling emanated from the cavity. Taxed with labored breathing, Katherine crawled back till she hit the wall.
Then, the horror took a step forward towards her.
Putting pressure on the trigger, Katherine’s screaming was drowned out by jet of flames and that of ‘Sarah’. The imitation howled and wailed in agony, just barely keeping its humanoid figure as it distorted into a mass of fetid flesh. To great dismay it began lumbering forth, only to suddenly break into a sprint. Katherine was trembling, terrified that it’d charge her, but instead she saw it heading straight to the door leading outside.
Smashing itself against the spiraling mass that was once a door, the horror broke through it with ease and escaped outside. Katherine stared from where she sat, hearing the howling grow distant as the roaring wind flooded into her ears. From the corner of her eye, she could see the ‘door’ shards had begun to move. Wasting no time, she rose to her feet and walked over, to then torch down each fragment as she saw it. With the last one burnt to a crisp, she crossed the threshold to the outside; a bit farther away she found the creature, lying dead in the snow.
Her breath visible in the air served as a reminder that she had managed to get out. Though the risk of those little fires growing and consuming the house existed, Katherine felt it a risk she’d be willing to take if it meant not going back. Sighing in relief, she began rummaging through her pocket for her keys and walked over to the car.
Just as she was about to open it, a chill ran down her spine. Taking a step back, she looked at the car carefully. Though she saw nothing out of the ordinary, her gut feeling told her otherwise. Instead of ignoring it, she walked around to see the other side of the car.
She spotted it. Goo, leaking from the side mirror. The same substance she saw inbetween the barrels. She raised her flamethrower, and at that moment as if it had spotted her, the goo retracted back out of sight.
It had copied the phone.
It had copied the door.
It could’ve copied anything within the car, if not the car itself in its entirety.
With her flamethrower aimed squarely at the car, she spent a few seconds in a near-catatonic state of inactivity. Nothing crossed her mind, nor did she do anything other than blink, ignoring the harsh wind pulling and pushing her hair.
And with a deep breath, she let loose the flames. Upon contact, a maddening howl came forth, like a chorus of a hundred alien voices screaming out in unison. Katherine kept the stream going, covering the car from front to back, shriek continuing on and on. The windshield then broke, tendrils punching through like a person attempting to escape. So too did the front window on her side break, along with a few others by the same means, with the chassis of the car distorting and deforming. Seeing the fire which started able to continue on its own, Katherine stopped and took several steps back, seeing the pyre consuming the vehicle with an expressionless face.
“Michael had bought it for me…” She whispered to herself, voice monotonous and devoid of emotion.
The creature deformed further, losing strength and lowering to the ground, till the shriek lost its strength. From where she was, she saw how not all of the car had changed; some parts remained as they were, untouched by the corruption. Caught it in the middle of assimilating the car, perhaps?
It did not matter anymore. Her only means of escape was now a hardly-cozy bonfire. Looking up to the sky, it was clear that the weather would only worsen further. Had she not lost her car, the storm would still catch her on the way back regardless. Walking back would be suicide, and it didn’t help that her phone had also been in the car.
Her gut feeling had been correct. There was something up with the car, although as she stared at the sky, she wondered:
What if it had followed her home?
What happened to Sarah could have happened to Michael. The mere thought left her feeling hollow. It may have happened to her. So beautiful a house, assimilated too.
And they lived in the middle of nowhere. Far, far away from the nearest city. Lord knew what would happen if that thing got anywhere near so many people.
Or perhaps it already did, and only now it got to the rural areas. No way to tell.
Well, it wasn’t like she was gonna get out of there to find out. Looking back at the house, it was either going in with whatever lurked inside, or freezing to death. Perhaps both, if she didn’t find a way to block the now doorless front.
Her fate was already cast in stone. Now, it was either leaving it alive, or getting rid of it for good.
Gripping her flamethrower tighter, she headed back inside.
Barely a flame remained inside. Though crossing the doorway led the wind to be muffled, the living room had grown cold. She glanced all around, cautiously aware that the creature could be anywhere.
It could be the curtains. It could be the furniture. It could even be the walls or the ceiling. There was no reason why it couldn’t even be all of them either; as far as Katherine could figure there was nothing that goo couldn’t turn into. If she wanted to be absolutely sure that it was dead, she’d need to torch the entire house down.
She walked over to the bedroom and peeked inside. Like before, it all was pristine clean and tidied up. Her mind began to wonder, and after a quick glance about, she found a little porcelain vase over the drawer. With the tip of the flamethrower she pushed it off the edge, shattering against the ground.
From the floor, the strange goo returned as if slowly materializing out of nowhere. It converged on the vase fragments, swallowing it but with each piece still visible in the transparency of the slime. Though unnerved, Katherine watched intently, seeing the individual fragments pieced back together by the slime. Assimilation or repair, she cared not to figure out its intentions any further; she pulled the trigger against it, showering it with fire.
As the slime writhed, Katherine ignited the bed in her wake. The furniture followed, and all that could be set alight, with surreal cacophony echoing throughout the halls. Forced to cover her mouth and nose with her sleeve in a futile effort to protect against the noxious smoke, she headed out to the hallway. Crossing it into the kitchen, she reached the still and barrels.
Without delay, she set alight all she could find. Even that which could not catch fire, she attempted to torch down, unable to prove it an imitation or not.
When all had been left ablaze, she heard a strange bubbling sound. It came from the still. She immediately imagined the contents boiling with all the fire around it, but figured it impossible. There had not been enough time for it to reach that stage.
The metallic surface dented outwards with a loud thud. A punch from within, as if, startling Katherine to step back with her flamethrower at the ready. Another punch followed, and another, the still shaking more violently with each passing second.
A mass of purplish flesh tore through the metal, followed by the rest of it storming out of the still. Gigantic in size, a flesh puppet of indescribable horror roared out, stamping its appendages against the ground hard enough to make the house shake. Her scream stuck in her throat, Katherine turned tail and ran away with a petrified expression.
She crossed the door to the kitchen and slammed it shut. Spotting a nearby cabinet, she scrambled to prop it up against the door as the abomination’s heavy steps rang closer. The creature struck against it, nearly punching the door and cabinet enough to walk right through. Katherine blasted a stream of fire against the creature, causing it to shout in its alien manner and scurry back as it was set ablaze.
Katherine heard its heavy steps retreating further and further back. However, they soon came to a halt before beginning anew. Her heart skipped a beat – knowing it had to be charging straight towards her she quickly ducked to the side behind one of the tacky granite countertops.
As expected, the psychotic mass of slime smashed through the wall, sending brick and debris flying in its path as Katherine covered her head, missing her just barely. So much momentum it had, that it continued on to smash against the other wall of the kitchen in the same destructive manner. It did not stop, running forward and breaking through the front’s wall, leaving Katherine stupefied.
Only then did she realize what its intentions were. She jumped to her feet in panic and gave it chase to the outside. Confirming her fears, she found the creature shoveling the snow with its gargantuan appendages, throwing it all upon itself in an attempt to extinguish the flames.
She could not allow it.
Stepping out into the snow and the chilling wind, she made a mad dash towards the creature. In range, she shot her flamethrower its way; it groaned and shouted ever stronger, stopping to crawl towards Katherine, who gave it no respite. The creature stood still for a second, then jumped towards her; Katherine let out a gasp, throwing herself aside and just barely dodging the flaming mess of flesh and slime, to then stand up and keep on torching it down.
The creature stood up and slowly turned to Katherine, but did not move. Katherine stopped, staring it down as it did nothing, till the abomination reared what semblance of head it had to the sky and let out a deep, ear-splitting shriek, forcing Katherine to drop the flamethrower and cover her ears. Afterwards, the beast fell forward, lifeless.
Heavy panting. Sweat beginning to freeze. Warmth felt towards the burning house.
It was far from over.
She went back inside. The living room had already been filling up with the smoke coming from the bedroom. Walking over to the kitchen, she saw her makeshift barricade with a few flames already, though she still burned it in its entirety to be sure. Past the gaping hole in the wall, she peeked into the room with the stills to see it all up in flames, nothing left to burn. Now, it was the turn for the kitchen.
The voice shook her to the core. Michael’s, coming from behind. She turned, to find him waving away the smoke as he crossed the hole on the front door’s wall, coughing his lungs out.
“Michael…?” She whispered to herself.
“Kate, what the hell happened?!”
He came closer, but relief turned into fear for Katherine. The images of ‘Sarah’ turning into that creature came to her mind, and it did not help that she was unable to even call him. He had no reasons to be here. She didn’t torch down the living room; maybe that thing had changed appearance when she wasn’t looking.
“That’s close enough.” She said, making him stop in stupefaction by pointing her flamethrower at him.
A ‘thing’. It had to be, but part of her refused to believe. Perhaps it really was Michael. He worried too much, so perhaps he came on his own. She couldn’t tell. It was too stressing for her to even think properly.
There had to be a way to prove him an imitation or real.
The phone. Did it not split into numerous parts when it broke? And yet, all those parts turned out autonomous, reforming.
The idea came to her mind, a possible solution. Looking around in the kitchen, she found what she needed: Two knives, and a porcelain plate. She walked towards them, flamer always pointed at Michael, and once next to them she tested each with a puff of fire. She picked them up, walked to the table, and left a knife and the plate before stepping back again.
“Blood.” She said.
“Get some of your blood on it.”
Michael stood silent, staring at Katherine with a look of disbelief and stupefaction in his eyes, though soon he slowly walked to the table.
“Are you su–“
“DO IT!” She shouted, shaking her flamethrower.
Michael kept quiet. He took off his jacket, then rolled up one of his sleeves. With the knife, he made a cut on his arm, and with the other, he gathered from the trail of blood ensuing onto the plate.
Once enough had gathered, he left the plate on the table and held onto the wound. With a gesture of Katherine’s flamethrower, Michael stepped back, and Katherine stepped forward to the table. Katherine brought her knife to the little fire at the front of the flamethrower, heating up the tip as thoroughly as she could, end still pointed at Michael with paranoid gazes shifting from the knife to him.
“Kate, what’s going on?”
She did not answer.
Figuring it hot enough, she brought the knife towards the blood. A certain fear took hold in her, the fear that her paranoia may be true. It had been multiple times already.
It could be right again.
With a deep breath, she lowered the knife onto the blood.
The heat of the knife made it sizzle, emanating a small trail of vapor. Nothing else happened.
A loud sigh in relief escaped her, dropping the knife over the table and lowering her head. However, when she glanced at the porcelain plate again, she kept quiet for a few seconds as it all properly sank in. The stress of the situation had taken over earlier, leaving her to only now understand what she had done. Over the table lied Michael’s blood, by her action alone. She had spilled his blood, forcing him to do it himself at flamer-point. Her eyes widened, her jaw began shaking, her hands let go of the flamethrower which fell to the ground.
“No…” She whispered, slowly bringing her hands to her head. She raised her eyes to Michael, seeing him raise his hands towards her and step closer in great worry, yet only fixating her eyes upon the blood drenching the hand he had held his injury with. “No… Michael…” She sobbed. No longer did she hear the crackling of flames, no longer did she feel the chill of the wind, nor the scorching fires around her.
“Kate…” Called Michael, approaching her. However, she did not answer, locked in her own mind. “Kate!” He called again, grabbing her shoulders and finally getting her attention. “I’ve known you for a long while. I know you’re not normally like this. You must’ve gone through awful, awful things. There’ll be time for anything later, but now we have to leave.”
Swallowing her sobs, Kate nodded her head.
Michael let go, and walked back to the front. Katherine took the flamethrower back, and after glancing around one last time, proceeded to torch down the kitchen. All that she could find, flammable or not, faced with a shower of fire.
When she walked back to the living room, she saw Michael with a confused look, yet he did not ask. He patiently waited as Katherine burnt down all corners of the living room, smoke thrown about by the wind.
With all the furniture set ablze, Katherine walked out the house, finding Michael staring at the smoldering carcass on the snow. Michael saw her finished, and the two departed to the car.
She took off her flamethrower and sank into the seat, hugging it over her thighs after closing the door. When Michael got in and closed the door, the viscious winds could still be heard, signalling the storm to start. Katherine stared without expression, mind wandering about now that it found refuge from that which she accepted would kill her. A strange sensation.
“Kate.” He said, turning the engine on.
“Can you… Can you tell me why you were burning Sarah’s house like that?”
“The thing…” She sighed, exhaustion both physical and mental showing in her voice. The car moved, their trip back home beginning. “The thing could change form.”
“The thing burning outside?”
“There were more of them. I don’t know how many.”
The engine stopped. Michael stepped off the car and closed the garage, though Katherine remained in the car staring aimlessly. With the garage clanking shut, her ears felt the comfort of the dreadful storm outside silenced, a welcome sensation after so many a deafening alien screech. She took a deep breath and opened the door, getting out with her flamer still tightly in her arm.
The violent storm left the car covered in snow. When she closed the door, a pile fell off the top of the mirror. She spent a few moments looking at the state of the car, a state which could’ve been avoided.
“We oughta call the cops.” Said Michael, approaching her.
“I don’t know.” She answered monotonous, still staring absently at the car.
“Huh? How come?”
“It got Sarah. It’ll get the cops too.”
Michael kept quiet, only blinking towards Katherine with a blank expression. His eyes then slowly turned to the car, staring absently as he let it sink in. Then, he took a deep breath.
“You must’ve been out there for too long. I’ll get you some tea to warm up, alright?”
Before even allowing her the opportunity to say no, he walked out the garage. In truth, Katherine did not feel in condition to even make a simple tea anymore, let alone insist to spare him the effert. After a second of absent-mindedness, she walked out of the garage in slow steps.
She arrived to the living room and sank into the sofa, flamer hugged tighly over her thighs. It seemed part of her now, feeling naked without it, granting her a sense of security. Michael had gone to the kitchen, and through the calmness of the house she could hear him to his thing. It felt strange, having to adapt back to the uneventful life back home, to the laziness she had despised and yet now seemed to cherish.
All she had to do was sit and rest.
Her eyes shot wide open. Her heart skipped a beat. A gasp threatened to escape. She jumped to her feet and put the flamethrower on herself, and ran as quickly as she could to the garage.
Once she got there, she took a lengthy look at the car. The mirrors, the chassis, the wheels, every nook and cranny while walking around it. The snow had begun thawing, but she saw nothing. She kneeled on the groud and looked underneath the car, and only saw the melting snow dripping to the ground.
That wasn’t snow.
It was the same slimy substance she had seen dripping from the barrels.
For how long had it been there? Must’ve been since before they headed back home. The trip from one house in the middle of nowhere to another certainly took its time, even moreso with that storm. What did it do? Did it assimilate the car yet kept its disguise? Did it remain as a slime throughout the trip? Did it latch onto Michael’s clothes after sneaking through? Hell, did it assimilate him without her knowing? Too many questions, none with answers.
And it had followed her back home. Her refuge, and Michael’s. The jarring realization that what she believed over still continued almost made her heart cave in, knowing what manner of stress and suffering could follow.
The slime rushed away, snapping her back to reality. Realizing what her inactivity caused, she slammed her fist against the floor while gritting her teeth. She could’ve torched it down, and now Lord knew where it escaped to.
She heard an engine. Unmistakable. Sarah’s car.
The thing could imitate a phone and its functions. It could imitate a car, so why not its functions too? Petrified in place, she heard it arrive and stop, to then her the door opening and closing shut.
“Michael!!” A voice shouted as someone furiously knocked on the door.
Sarah? Or a thing? Was Michael the real Michael anymore, or a thing too? It had been the real him when she checked, but if it latched onto his clothes and waited till Michael was alone in the kitchen…
Michael’s steps rushed to the front door, unlocking and opening it.
“Michael, what the hell happened to my house?!” She stormed in.
She couldn’t tell who was who. Real? Fake? One or the other, or perhaps both? She had to test them before drawing any conclusions, but it didn’t help that she was outnumbered two to one.
“I thought you disappeared! What happened?!” Said Michael.
“What do you mean what happened?! I went on a trip, what the fuck else?!”
“You didn’t answer your phone for days!”
“Because I forgot it in my house! I didn’t think it’d be so important that I’d ever need to turn back to get it!”
She left the garage and avoided the living room as the two argued, sneaking past to arrive to Michael’s room. Fixating her eyes on a drawer, she walked up to it and opened it, seeing inside Michael’s pistol.
How things had reached this point, perhaps she’ll never fully understand.
“What about that thing outside your house?” Asked Michael.
“I saw it. I don’t know what it is, though the way it looked reminded me of the slime I found.”
“Slimes don’t look like that!”
“Neither did the one I saw. Brought it home for a bit, but I left it where I found it before leaving. Kate saw a lot more, didn’t she? Where is she?”
Katherine keep quiet in absolute focus to the muffled conversation. It didn’t quiet her fears one single bit. Too many factors to consider. Was she an imitation? Was the imitation just speaking what Sarah’s last moments must’ve been? Was she real, yet with the creature clinging onto her without her knowing? On her clothes? Or, God forbid, in her bloodstream? And if she was an imitation, it only made it creepier that it’d seek her out.
Her paranoid thoughts only wasted time. She took the gun and closed the drawer, checking it to find it loaded with the safety on. She needed control of the situation, and neither Michael nor Sarah, assuming either were real, would take too kindly to her methods.
Michael most likely left the kettle on the fire. He’d need to return to the kitchen, and surely Sarah would follow. Now with a flamethrower and a gun, Katherine rushed back and arrived to the kitchen, to then hide behind the door.
They approached, argument following with them. Their steps drew closer and closer, till he saw Michael entering the kitchen, unaware of where she hid. Then, Sarah. Immediately she kicked the door shut out of the way and jumped out with a shout towards Sarah. As the satyros turned in surprise-turned-horror, Katherine struck her in the head with the butt of the pistol. Knocked almost unconscious, Sarah fell to the ground.
“Kate?! What are you–” Michael attempted to ask, only to be silenced by Katherine pointing the pistol at him.
Keeping the sights on him, Katherine grabbed Sarah by the neck of her jacket and dragged her to a corner. Afterwards, she stepped off to the opposite side of the room, gesturing with her gun at Michael to stay on Sarah’s side. Though reluctant, Michael complied.
“Kate?” Asked Michael, to receive no response.
Not ungluing her eyes, Katherine opened the drawer behind her and rummaged. Going by touch alone, she took out three knives and stepped forward to place them on the table in the middle of the room.
“Are we… Are we really doing this again?”
Katherine nodded, backing off. Like with the drawer, she reached for a cupboard and touched around, finding a little pile of porcelain plates. She took out two, left them on the table. Then, she placed her gun in her belt, taking now the flamethrower with both hands. With a puff of fire onto the three knives and the plates, she confirmed them real, and so she took one knife for herself before backing off.
“I saw slime dripping off the car.” She said. “Blood. Now.”
Michael pursed his lips, though after a moment of hesitation he took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeve. He took a knife and a plate, took a deep breath, and made a cut. Blood began to gather on the plate, and once enough, he placed it on the table.
“Now Sarah.” She said. “Use the other knife.”
Stress reflected in his expression, he left the knife and picked up the other along with the remaining plate. As he approached Sarah, she grunted in pain and disorientation, rubbing where Katherine had hit her.
“What’s going on…?” Asked Sarah, only to see Michael reach for her with a knife. Her eyes opened wide and she raised her arm to shield herself. “What the hell are you doing?!” She asked, to then see Katherine with her flamethrower pointed at the two.
“I know it sounds strange, but I need a little blood from you.” Said Michael, almost a beg. “It’ll only be a cut. Please don’t make it harder than it already is.”
“Blood?! What for?! The fuck are you people high on?!”
Katherine took her pistol again, and pointed it at Sarah, silencing her with an aghast expression forming.
“I’m not taking my chances.” Said Katherine.
The silence led to an oppressive atmosphere, stress building up to a crushing extent.
“Are you… really going to shoot me?” Asked Sarah.
Katherine’s grip on the trigger tightened, as Sarah saw.
“I mean it.” She muttered, gritting her teeth.
Sarah stared on, but soon sighed before rolling up her sleeve, calming Katherine enuogh to put her gun away. She suppressed a shout and winced in pain asMichael made the cut, then waited till he gathered enough. Once done, Michael stepped to the table and left the plate, gestured to step back by Katherine’s flamethrower.
“Not even a bandage, huh…” Muttered Sarah.
Katherine brought her knife to the front of the flamethrower, heating it up as she shifted glances from it, to Michael, and to Sarah on the ground, both staring silent.
Heated up enough, Katherine stepped to the table.
“First you, Michael.”
Impatient, she placed the tip of the knife on the blood. It sizzled like before, doing nothing at all. Michael closed his eyes and let out a sigh in relief. With a nod aside from Katherine, Michael stepped away from the satyros.
“Now Sarah…” She said, heating up the knife again.
“You people have gone nuts.” Said Sarah.
“I know what I saw in there.”
“And that’s my flamethrower… You were the one who burned my damned house down, didn’t you?”
“I know it was Sarah’s house. Yours, I don’t know yet.”
Heated up enough, she brought the knife over the blood, but hesitated to press it. Her hand shook, her lips pursed, she swallowed in stress, remembering only what abomination the ‘Sarah’ in the house had turned out to be and her transformation. That blood in front of her could be merely pretending, ready to jump out screeching as soon as she touched it, and so would the satyros in front of her.
She brought the knife down.
But rather than reassurance, it only brought her further paranoia, dropping the knife and gripping her flamethrower tighter.
“Then where is it?” She asked, paranoidly looking in all directions. “It must’ve been assimilating everything it could while I wasted my time here…”
“Who are you even talking about?” Protested Sarah, standing up.
Katherine, visibly shaken, immediately pointed the flamethrower and frightened Sarah, though soon came to her senses and pointed it elsewhere. Nothing in the kitchen that had not yet been tested was reliable anymore. Perhaps not even their clothing.
A squishing sound. The three turned silent, a giveaway for each that all heard it.
“It’s coming from the living room.” Said Michael, all three turning to the closed door.
“What is?” Asked Sarah in almost a whisper.
“I don’t know…”
Katherine slowly walked up to the door, flamethrower always held high. She didn’t want to open it. Sweating from both physical and mental exhaustion, she felt the door a barricade against what lied behind it, even if it’d not serve much as one. A sense of security from keeping it shut. However, she forced herself to grasp the handle and turn it, with the door slowly creaking open.
Something the size of a man stood behind it, of slime and goo with colours so alien just like the various things she had torched. Katherine screamed in fright, seeing it not even a meter away from her smiling so eerily with its uncanny form of that like a melting, rotting human. So did Michael gasp in fright, while Sarah kept silent with eyes open in horror. Katherine attempted to step back, only for her desperate movements to cause her to fall back sitting. No time to crawl back, Katherine grasped the flamethrower and pulled the trigger, only for a minuscule poof of fire to escape. Again she pulled, only letting out a puff again, and on the third pull, nothing happened. Shaking and messing with, nothing helped; it was out of fuel.
The being advanced. It had no legs to move with, its bottom half a solid mass like a skirt, leading to a squishing sound as it moved. Katherine let go of the flamethrower and backed off further, desperation visible in her horrified look, till her flamethrower’s fuel tank hit the wall.
“Wai–” Attempted to say Sarah, only to be interrupted by Michael grabbing her and pulling.
“We gotta go!” He shouted.
Katherine then rummaged around her belt, dread and terror leaving her movements an uncoordinated mess. The creature kept on advancing, completely still in posture with its hands held together in front, eerie smile never erasing. When it moved past half the room, Katherine found her gun and pulled it out, pointing it at the alien being.
However, Sarah escaped from Michael’s attempts, elbowing him in the stomach. “Don’t shoot! Stop!” She shouted.
The creature stopped in place. By Sarah’s words, if only out of pure absolute confusion, Katherine stopped herself from pulling the trigger.
She could not believe it. The creature had stopped. It wasn’t doing anything anymore, only staring with those unnerving eyes, if they could even be called so. Stupefied, Katherine could only shift quick stares from the creature to Sarah, and back. So too Michael remained dumbfounded, silenced.
“Back off.” Said Sarah.
Surprising Katherine even more, the creature complied. Once at the dead middle of the room, it withdrew and remained in place by the doorway.
“W… Wha…” Asked Katherine, gun still pointed out of petrification.
Sarah stepped closer to the table, to then look at the creature before returning her eyes to Katherine. “What did you see in my house?”
“S-Slime… thing… imitated things, imitated you… Attacked… Mutated…”
With a frustrated sigh, Sarah pulled a chair and sat down. “So that’s what it was. It probably saw you as an intruder, then…”
“I found this thing a couple days ago. I won’t pretend to know what it is, but… it must’ve gone back to my house after I left for the trip.”
Still heavily panting, Katherine lowered her gun. “I thought it killed you…” She said. “Why did it try to kill me…?”
“It’s not trying anymore. Must’ve realized we’re friends.”
Her heart calmed slightly, though still beat with greater intensity than ever before in her life. Staring at the creature, in the peaceful and calm manner it stood despite its unnerving appearance, she could see it in all its detail. A slime, though so thick in consistency and opaque that it seemed an amorphuous mount of molten flesh. The alien colors she had been used to were present; purple in its great majority, with details in a bright yellow shaped like eyes all around her. Sure its form was humanoid, seeing her as a woman dressed in a long skirt, though still deformed enough to confuse it at first sight. Even after the good look she took, the creature’s smile still served to unnerve her, as if it lacked any emotion at all.
Then, Katherine sighed out loud, moving her head back and closing her eyes.
“You owe us an explanation. A good one.”
“Fine…” She ranted, corssing her arms and resting them on the table. “Found it at the shore of a frozen lake when I was driving, around a week ago. I thought it was a slime, but looked strange. It was friendly though, even if not really that talkative, and it followed me so I took it home; maybe it got lost or something. When we got home it started going around learning the place, but when I was trying to figure out what to do with her, who to contact and so on, it started… cleaning the house.”
“Cleaning…?” He asked, only for her to shrug.
“I had a trip to go to at that time, though. It didn’t look any lost or hurt back when I found it, and with how strange it was, I figured maybe it was some manner of weird wild slime. So, I drove back and left it there, and it didn’t look too bothered about it either. From there I left for a few days, but realized too late I had forgotten my phone home.”
“You could’ve still called from where you were, though.”
“Like I’m going to remember the clusterfuck that’s your phone number or Kate’s, with how I barely even call you. Without your numbers saved on that phone, I couldn’t do anything.”
“You’re fucking clumsy.”
“Not clumsy enough to torch a fucking house down, though.”
“With Kate going when that thing was in your house? How else would you expect her to react?”
“Oh right, that thing remembered where I lived… Huh…”
“…It went back to your house? Even after you left?” Asked Michael.
“Looks like. Hey, Kate.”
Having spaced out, Katherine blinked repeatedly. “Eh?” She asked.
“Was my house way cleaner than usual?”
Her mind ran circles on and on, disoriented, leaving her to take her time in remembering. “…Yeah, it was.”
“Then it did.”
“That fucking thing…” Muttered Michael. “Maybe if it didn’t go back to your house–“
“Hey!” She answered, bashing him on the arm. “She still cleaned for me and didn’t even ask for anything in return. Treat it with some respect!”
But then Sarah noticed Michael wincing, suppressing a grunt of pain as he held his arm.
“…Wasn’t your other arm the one that got cut?” Asked Sarah, worrying.
“Ack, both. First one was when I got Katherine out of there.”
Without a word to add, Sarah grimaced in sympathetic pain.
“Bandages, bandages…” He said, stepping away.
Michael left the kitchen, and Sarah impatiently followed out. Katherine had watched all transpire, and with the ‘slime’ in front of her, in the silence which resulted her mind had begun to wander.
The door had been unlocked, back then. With how Sarah forgot her phone, she must’ve also forgotten it open. Or the thing invited her in. What else did it do, however? It locked her in, and when she tried to call Michael, the phone had turned out to be the ‘thing’. Now it barely made sense; later on she clearly saw the creature able to shift its shape into something that could run at a respectable speed, and yet the phone crawled towards her so slowly.
What was it trying to accomplish? Certainly not get rid of it. Frighten her?
‘It probably saw you as an intruder, then…’, she remembered Sarah saying. An intruder. A robber, perhaps? Was it trying to frighten her?
Invite her in, and make her go through horrors before being allowed to escape, never wishing to return to a seemingly empty house?
But she burned it to a crisp. Its howling, its shrieking, its pained movements, it all came back to her.
The keys to the door. What was its purpose? Another trap to frighten her, or the thing making it easier for her to leave? Had it been unlocked on its own, she’d have grown extremely suspicious compared to finding the keys on her own and opening it.
But she found them to be the creature, and burned them to the ground.
Instead, she started chopping down the door. What could have the creature thought upon seeing that? Destroying the house, perhaps what she now believed home, or at least her own intent on doing so, regardless of the door being the creature or not.
And then, the ‘Sarah’ she saw. No wonder it’d be the one the creature aimed to duplicate, if it was the owner of the house. What it aimed to do, she knew not; she burned it to the ground before long. What would it have done? Subdue her? Frighten her enough to run? Perhaps worse things, as the ‘intruder’ had been burning her alive.
And she did the same with the car, assimilated, surely to capture her. The car Michael had bought for her, with everything inside, burnt to the ground.
No wonder the creature had turned into that gigantic mess from the still, if at that point she was torching Sarah’s house down in all its entirety. It was no longer an intruder, it was one destroying her home.
And she succeeded, despite the thing’s attempts otherwise.
It turned worse, as when Michael arrived, she forced him to injure himself. And she did the same thing, not before hitting Sarah so hard in the head to almost knock her out.
She did it.
She did it all.
The guilt pounded against her head on and on. The pain turned unbearable, enough for her to bring her hands to her head in agony.
What will it be after today? Sarah will be left homeless for a long, long while because of her. Sarah alone would not be able to rebuild it with her finances, and even if Michael helped, both would be left with so little. Anything they’d have wanted to do, anything they’d have been saving for, gone because of her.
What would Michael and Sarah think of her? They’ll hold a grudge. They’ll not display it, and will even try to reassure her, but she knew that deep beneath the kind words she might get, there’d be nothing but scorn. What else would Sarah think, after she burnt down her home and all within it, all items of value both financial and emotional, some irreplaceable? What else would Michael think, after she burnt down the car, the anniversary gift he got for her? What else would both think, after her mistake costed them all their life savings, if not more?
Her fingers pressed harder on her head, gritting her teeth as it all crashed on her. It’d all follow her to the grave. Even if all had been magically solved, nothing would be forgotten. Burning down their belongings, holding them at gunpoint, drawing blood from them, it all was too great a series of events, and it’d all be remembered every time they saw her for the rest of their lives.
A sob escaped her, one she had so dearly attempted to fight back against. The slime in front of her, it did nothing. Why? Sarah had told her to back off, but Lord knew what it’d do otherwise. It was holding back for sure; to have the one who tried to kill it in such horrible way, burning alive, is there anything else it’d feel other than killing intent?
There was no way to make amends. No way to redeem herself. Nothing she could do to improve things. Nothing.
She was a miserable failure, bringing nothing but misery.
She was supposed to check on Sarah, and returned with all that destruction behind her. How can she even be trusted to do any task, now? Even if there was a way to make amends, who’s to say she’d not mess it up? Nobody had answered the door, and when she peeked through the window she saw nobody inside. She could’ve left. Why did she have to enter? Why did she have to investigate? It was a dead giveaway that Sarah wasn’t there, why did she have to keep searching like an idiot? It could’ve all been avoided had she just left there and then. She didn’t have to do anything, in fact; she didn’t have to open the door, and it’d all have been fine. She’d be home with Michael beside her and Sarah arriving, instead of the mess she’s in with Michael and Sarah looking for bandages.
They could have died. She could’ve burnt Michael alive, when he arrived so suddenly. She saw ‘Sarah’ turning out to be a thing, and it was only her unwillingness to believe him an imitation that made her consider testing him.
And yet, because there was nothing she could do, she’d look lazy and unrepentant. What could she do, if she couldn’t even trust herself to do any task anymore after what happened? What task would she trust herself to complete, if checking on a person ended with so much destruction?
It had to be a nightmare. What else would it be? For her relatively calm daily life to turn like this, how else?
There had to be a way out.
There had to.
To escape the nightmare, to show her regret, to make amends. A way had to exist.
Opening her eyes, she saw past the blur formed by her tears what she had left on the ground.
She immediately discarded the idea, but it felt so tempting. It was calling to her. She didn’t even empty it on the slime when she had the chance, it had the ammunition still within. She couldn’t unglue her eyes. It hypnotized her. It filled her with dread, and yet, it also gave an eerie feeling of release by just thinking about it. The lesser evil of various choices. To live with herself as a failure and bring yet more misery to all around her, she could not bear it. What if something similar happened, and she ended up killing Michael? Or Sarah? She couldn’t trust herself with any task, could she trust herself with anyone’s safety anymore? Was she a danger to those around her?
She had to end it. Her pride as a maid demanded it. To remove all threats to her master, to eliminate any failure, and to serve him.
To her last breath.
Though hesitant, with the side screaming to take it fighting against the one screaming not to, she took the gun. Though her grip shook uncontrollably, she brought the barrel and aimed it under the chin towards her head. Though her absolute fear had made her finger stay away from the trigger, she pushed through and laid his finger upon it. Then, she began squeezing.
“Kate, you didn’t get injured back there, did you?” Said Michael, entering the room with Sarah, both with bandages and alcohol on their hands. However, once Michael caught glimpse of Katherine, he froze in place as one of the bandage rolls fell to the ground.
“Kate, no!” Shouted Sarah, both her and Michael attempting to make a mad dash towards Katherine.
It was too late. Too far away were they to stop her from pulling the trigger.
But one of the creature’s tendrils lunged forward right before the gunshot.
A month had passed. The snow had long begun thawing, grass allowed to grow once more to slowly replace the white with green. Katherine stared at the scenery before her, sitting on a great wooden support without a thought crossing her mind. Blank minded. The easing season left her to wear less clothing than the dreadful winter at her leisure, though not only her outfit had changed, but also her cheek which now sported a scar running upwards.
Her peripheral view then caught something on the ground. Turning her eyes, she saw the glint of the sun’s mild reflection on the semi-liquid surface. A slime, purple with a few yellow details here and there. The one who had almost caught her back in Sarah’s house, and now approached her ever so slowly. Without reaction nor flinch, Katherine watched till it arrived up to her. It moved to the end of the support, surrounding it, sinking into the ground underneath it, and remaining in place.
A rattling noise made her turn her head the other way. Another slime had appeared by the other end of the support in the same manner, though the rattling came from a third one, one Katherine saw carried an old can with nails, and a hammer.
Katherine sighed, breath visible in the air, and took the bucket and hammer. She then stood up, and with her weight no longer on the support, the two other slimes proceeded to lift it. “We’ve got work to do.” She said, departing to the ruins of Sarah’s house with the creature.