A Very Strange
I’ve shot my best friend in the head three times. I’m not writing this out of regret, even though I’m so, so sorry for what happened. I’m writing this to tell you that I didn’t kill him.
Michael was never aggressive by nature, although he was in the army for a while. Unfortunately during his glorious call to duty his sweetheart-since-high-school had decided that waiting around was no fun, despite her assuring him otherwise. He was discharged in September, and came back as a single man.
On October 1st we moved into an apartment together, and from that point on everything went down a shit-slicked hill. Miss High School Sweetie did a real hatchet job on the guy. He wasn’t himself. He seemed demoralized, downgraded, depressed. But most of all he was frustrated.
It was about then that he started taking up a pretty taboo activity. One I didn’t stop him from doing. I should have, but ... well, listen: I just couldn’t bring myself to blame him. Okay? I was the one who put the damn idea in his head.
“You just need to fuck as many other girls as you can,” I had told him. We were hanging out in the living room of the apartment after he had told me about all the arguments, texts, tears, and how he felt like he’d be single forever.
“What the hell, man,” he said. He was downcast, his brown eyes black under the shadow of his brow. He was holding a red stress ball I’d recently bought for him and he started pumping it in his hand.
“It’s simple as that,” I said.
“So ... just have sex? With random girls?”
“Exactly. You’ll feel way better. Remember when I broke up with Heather?”
“Fucked a ton of chicks after that. Felt like a million buckerinos, my Muchacho.”
“You serious ...” He switched the ball to his other hand. Pump-pump-pump.
If I’m honest, I hadn’t fucked a ton of chicks nor did I really know if it would help. I’d only heard that it did from a guy at work, and I didn’t even know if that had been true. But it was the best advice I had. And I really did want to help my Muchacho.
“Dude, just pick up,” I said. “You got a bunch of money from the army, right?
“Women do anything for money.” And had I said that in a different way, the way I’d meant to say it (that women prefer to date guys with money), then maybe I could have prevented all the strange terrors that would visit us, right there and then. But in the heat of the argument I was more focused on sounding authoritative and that’s just how it came out.
“Trust me,” I went on. “A million buckarinos.”
He stopped with the ball. “But if people just do things for money ... doesn’t that make us base?”
“Make us what?”
“Base. You know, like, no honour. Animalistic. Kant said that —”
“Oh, Jesus, here we go —”
“Kant said that sex is an appetite, and that if it’s done for the sake of itself then it’s a degradation of human nature.”
I took a deep breath. I hate Kant. “Mike, people are animals. They fuck around and it’s no big deal. Look at the disgusting shit you find on Pornhub. Rape fantasies. People pissing in each other’s mouths. Look at TV — can’t have just a mystery anymore, can we? Nope, we need murder-mystery, and let’s show everyone the gore stuff, too, so you gotta watch the bullet go right through the guy’s fucking brain and out the back of his skull in slow-motion. And look at your little Sweetie,” — I pitched my voice into a wavering falsetto — “Oooooo, Mikey, I’ll waaait for you! I’ll waaait!”
“Shut up ...”
“Fuck her, man. Fuck it. There’s no honour anywhere. And we’re all just animals. So just do what makes you feel good.”
His dark eyebrows raised and for a moment his face carried the innocence he had in his younger days, in grade school, before the army. “You ... really think I should?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I think you really should.”
He squeezed the ball so tight that it disappeared inside his white-knuckled fist. He looked out the balcony sliding doors where a red autumn sun was setting.
Weeks rolled by and he brought home all sorts. Thick, thin, brown, beige. I knew what he was doing, and I think he knew that I knew. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say they must have charged a lot; they were all gorgeous and a few times I’d spied him hand wads of enough fifties that it had to be close to a grand. Not exactly what I had meant, but I let it slide; that’s basically what I had told him to do — and damned if I didn’t feel relieved that my macho lies were actually working. More importantly he stopped using the stress ball, and he was smiling and laughing at jokes.
After the third visit, though, I brought my wireless webcam into the living room and positioned it on a shelf between a stack of Mike’s old university textbooks — just as a precaution — while Mike watched me from on the couch.
“Muchacho,” I said, as I fidgeted with the little round device, “I want this here. Cool?”
“Well, if you’re going to be hiring ... sporting gals ...” I turned and shot him a sly grin, and I saw his face flare up red, “... then I want to make sure nothing goes missing. These are strangers you’re bringing into our place, right?”
He scratched his head. “Yeah.”
“And if you’re going to keep strangers as bedfellows, then it’s a good idea. You should get one, too.” I finished adjusting the book just so and then walked up to him with my hand out. He looked away in what was maybe shame, hiding behind his long, dark hair.
“Look,” I told him. “I don’t care. You made rent fine. And it’s making you happy ...”
He nodded, letting a small smile show.
“Don’t worry, It’s cool,” I said, and I put my hand out a little farther. “Just animals. Right, Muchacho?”
He chuckled, and we slapped palms.
Eventually the visits became less frequent, and I can tell you that none of the girls stole a thing. I have to say I altogether forgot about that little camera in the living room ... until after he brought home Carmilla.
When she had arrived Mike swung open the door and she just stood at the doorway, looking at us with an expectant smile.
“Hey, come on in,” Michael said, and then he gave a quiet laugh. “You don’t have to worry about being polite or anything.”
“Thanks,” she said sweetly, and she stepped inside.
Straight away I didn’t like the look of her. She just looked ... unwell. She was a ghastly pale, and skinny as if she hadn’t eaten for days. At first glance you’d think she was a cadaver fresh out of a coffin if it weren’t for her walking and her darting green eyes. The only word I can think of to describe this woman is ‘ghoulish’. And yet ... at the same time she was incredibly, bewitchingly pretty. Her hair was coal-black, tied into a thick braid which was swung around her neck and ran all the way down the front of her chest. She had a fine jaw and noble nose. Her grey batwing-sleeved shirt hung lazily onto her lean shoulders and the opening for the neck was wide, giving her a decidedly sultry look, and though her breasts were small they were perky.
She introduced herself as Carmilla as she shook Mike’s hand, then she shook mine. Her fingers were god-damn icicles on my skin, which was another odd thing — the day had been abnormally warm for November, as it had been for much of that autumn ... it must have gotten much, much colder, then, by the time of her arrival.
As I released my grasp on her hand I suddenly caught sight of her green eyes. She was glaring at me with lioness intensity. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t look away from that emerald, huntress’s gaze. I don’t mean that figuratively — I literally could not pull my attention off of her.
She blinked serenely and then turned to Mike. I felt a great sense of release and I have to tell you that I put one hand against the wall to steady myself at the sudden sensation. Then she made a waving gesture with one bony hand. “Sorry for asking, but, ah ... well, I have to ask you both — do you guys go to church? My family is religious and if even a word or a hint got out ...”
“Nope, no, no,” said Michael. He nodded his head towards me. “He’s totally cool, too. Neither of us are anything. Both atheists.” He looked her up and down. “Are you —”
“No.” And what she said next was spoken in such a cold, hushed tone that it sent a shiver crawling up my back to the top of my head: “I hate God.”
Mike shrugged and proceeded to other formalities. It was at the tip of my tongue to tell him this wasn’t a good idea. As I told you, everything about this woman just seemed strange and out of place, but most of all was that look she had given me ... it was as if she had some kind of power. Forbidden, satanic power. Some old knowledge not meant for others. Had I known then what I know now, I would have rushed Mike and I out of there in all of ten seconds. But I write this all after the fact. I didn’t have the time to reflect, and the rational mind is as much of a performer as the stupid mind is a trickster. You’re being an idiot, it tells you, what you’re thinking is ridiculous. I’d recently read an article online which claimed women’s sexuality is often demonized. Maybe that was it. Maybe I’d been over thinking things. And she was very pretty, even if it was in a strange, sort of Gothic way.
But before I could really reflect on all this they marched into his room, closed the door. I went into my room, still in a sort of hazy confusion, and started up my computer to play some games as I usually did while Mike conducted his activities.
As I sat there, alone in my room, I ... How do I put this?
I started to yearn for her. Okay? It made no sense, we hadn’t even exchanged more than a few words, and right from the first scene I hadn’t liked the vibe she gave. But now I found myself picturing her naked, her firm breasts like two ripe peaches and her pointed nipples tasting like black cherries. I craved her sighs of pleasure and her honeyed breath on my chest. Thinking back on it it’s absurd, and I know now that it came over me against my own will. I have no doubt now that whatever hypnosis those domineering eyes cast on me had a part to play in what happened, and why Mike refused to talk about it later.
Outside, the wind sang a one-note song, and I felt that song resonate inside me. I started tapping my foot, stared up at the ceiling, just waiting for Mike to do the deed for no other reason than it would be done and I could make sure everything was fine.
I waited ... waited ... waited ... tapped my foot, listened to the wind. The sun had set about an hour ago and now the tall pines outside my window looked grotesque; jagged, vicious things, doused in night-blackened ink. They danced their own danse macabre, swaying and trembling, as that wind blew clouds in at a speed so fast that they carried a sense of annihilation with them. They covered up the full moon and blotted out its light with a careless ease that was somehow appalling.
Finally it began.
It started with the typical muffled clunking and giggling. Then the grunts and gasps that mark the beginning of such lusty affairs. Soon, however, the sounds that came from that room gripped me with such sharp fear that I’m ashamed to say I found myself paralysed — the exact same stiffness of the body that you get waking up from your worst nightmare. I knew about all kinds of kinky weird stuff, stuff that can sound dangerous if you didn’t know; choking, slapping, S&M ... but there was ... there was bellowing.
Yes. A low, phlegmy growling. Then came snarls and wet hisses; crocodile-like sounds that no human mouth could ever reproduce. And then I heard Michael cry out — literally scream — and that jolted me right out of my statue-state.
I stumbled out of my seat and rushed to my closet. I opened the door and pulled a box down from the top shelf. Mike hadn’t known I had it in the place, but it was a gift from my father and I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy shooting it every once and a while at a range. And today I felt that my target practice would come very, horribly important.
I heard Mike again — a shriek.
I tore the lid off the box and grabbed the Smith and Wesson. As I thumbed the crane out and checked the chambers my hands were slippery with sweat and my pulse hammer-ticked in my temples. Yes, it was loaded. And yes, I was ready to shoot it if I had to.
Was I ready to see my best friend lying in a bloody pool of blood on the sheets? And was I ready to see whatever thing was in there, rending his flesh off his bones with black, finger-long talons?
The rational mind disappeared backstage. All sorts of scenarios raced through the eye of my imagination like a film on fast-forward — scenes of gorgons, hydras, chimeras; demented monsters from my childhood I never expected to see beyond tabletop and paper. Now ...
More clunking. More growling. Mike groaned. A shout of shock.
No time. I opened my room door, gun in hand. Nothing before me but darkness, and the light from under Mike’s door casting a patch of yellow on the hardwood. I saw shadows flit and skip across the yellow light granted by the door crack. Movement — bare feet thumping on hardwood. Then Mike murmuring in what sounded like a sort of agreement. Then nothing. Nothing at all. There was only the whistling of the wind against the windows, and the thumping of my heart so high in my throat I felt like I could reach in there with my fingers and touch it. I was scared out of my mind, and perhaps that numb fear was how I got the courage, or foolishness, to open the door.
Dread grew inside me like some kind of spreading shadow.
I saw Michael laying on his back on his bed, wide-eyed, his face a frozen rictus of pure shock, his bare body white as the crumpled sheets covering his legs and hips. No splashes of blood, thank God, but he certainly didn’t appear to be breathing ... I assumed the worst. The woman was nowhere to be seen at all, though her clothing lay scattered around the floor.
I leaned over him. “Mike. Mikey! Hey!” I slapped his cheek a few times to no response, just that hollow gaze fixed upwards. It was then that I caught the bark-and-leaf scent of November air which prompted me to look over at his window.
It was wide open.
No way. No fucking way. We were on the fourteenth floor. A drop from that height would kill — no question.
I raced to the window in a panicked frenzy. I leaned out into the unseasonably warm night, peering down at the darkened ground where anything would land from a fourteen-storey drop out of Mike’s window. What I saw was beyond anything I could have imagined.
The clouds had blown passed that vapid eye of a moon, and its silver light revealed a skinny, naked woman I knew well from the thick braid of hair that swung in the wind. The effect of the moonlight made her pale skin easy to see, illuminating it to an almost glow-in-the-dark quality. But she wasn’t dead on the ground. No. She was quite alive and agile ... on the wall, not ten metres away from me. She was crawling down it, face down, with her black braid flowing and whipping in the whistling wind. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadows. But I kept looking, and it wasn’t any trick. I saw the bony fingers and toes grasp the corners of the bricks, and move downwards quite quickly, just as a lizard runs along flat desert. When she got near the bottom, she vaulted off and to the ground, then skittered away on all fours, under the blackened evergreens and somewhere beyond.
My hands left me. The gun fell to the floor. I didn’t even hear its impact. I almost passed out right then. I felt the world stretch out in front of me, and for a moment I felt like that big starry sky before me could suck me up and away into some other, forever-place. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t pass out, but maybe it was because I subconsciously needed to attend to my friend.
I clumsily picked the gun up, almost dropping it once again, then stuffed it into my pocket. My mind spun around and around like some fucking merry-go-round of horrors. What in the name of God was going on? What the hell had I just seen? I turned to face my friend, and rather than thinking of how I could revive him I was already thinking of what I’d say for the eulogy.
My mind took another blow right then.
He suddenly sat upright and pulled the covers of the bed over his body, still pale as paper. I was caught by the wild look in Mike’s eyes, a hint of ...
“What — hey!” he shouted. “What are you doing? No seriously, what the fuck are you doing?”
“S-Sorry, man. Mike, I —”
“Get the fuck out!” He tossed a pillow at me.
I stepped back. “Mike, that g-girl ...”
“Yeah, what? She left. Get out!”
I was unable to find any more words at that simple retort. She left. As if it was that simple.
But what about those noises?
I retreated slowly back to my room in a delirium, doubting my sanity. Had I seen what I saw? Really? I told you I almost passed out; maybe the realm of dreams mingled with reality, then. Maybe I’d played too much D&D as a kid, this nonsense of warlocks and witches and weird women scampering down perfectly vertical walls. And maybe those noises came from another room in the complex, the room below us. Why not? We lived in a cheap place where you were always hearing all kinds of wacky shit, and in point of fact we’d filed two noise complaints on the people below us for playing movies way too loud. You could hear the gunshots and revving engines and booming explosions clear as day.
That was it.
Oh, and by the way, let’s say I called the cops: “Hello! ... Yes, a woman crawled down the side of my apartment building ... Huh? ... What exactly was the crime, you ask? Uh, I heard her growling, officer. Like a crocodile! But I didn’t see what they were doing, actually.”
Yeah. Sure. Then they’d come, alright. They’d come with men in white ... there’d be a white duck cloth coat ... leather straps pulled tight, brass buckles fastened ... then a long walk down a dim corridor to a room with a barred window.
The rational mind, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back. Give it a hand.
There was such sweet comfort in denial — though despite my self-convincing I was still totally terrified. Of what, exactly, I wasn’t even quite sure anymore. I stared at the ceiling all night, lost in my thoughts. Confused. Unsure where my true beliefs resided. But I think, more than anything else, I was just glad Mike was fine.
But at about 2 a.m. I heard Mike stomp into the washroom across the hall. I shut the door and I could just barely make out his murmuring:
“Fuck ... Oh, fuck ... Fuck ...”
The morning came fast and although I hadn’t slept a wink I felt well enough now to check up on Mike. I knocked on his door. “Muchacho?”
From beyond the door: “Huh?”
“Yeah, but ... dude, I’m tired as ass ... Lemme sleep.”
Well, he certainly sounded like himself. It was at the tip of my tongue to ask him if he knew anything about Carmilla’s absurd departure, but by then it somehow felt pointless. I had spent all night convincing myself it had been some kind of nightmare. Not to mention I myself was ‘tired as ass’. I went to my bed and fell asleep almost as soon as I flopped down onto it.
When I woke up in the evening, he was still in his room, with no signs that he had left.
The things that happened during the following week were weird, to say the very least. I was so completely confused that I had no idea exactly how to handle it. And even though I write this now with full knowledge of everything, I don’t think there was anything I could have really done, anyway.
Mike never left his room, except during evenings, and I started feeling very afraid to speak to him. I’d watch him float out of his room, zombie-like, his eyes fixed on the beyond, pumping his red stress ball faster than I’d ever seen; it was just a blur of red and flesh-tone. Any of my greetings or questions were met with a blank stare.
The first thing he’d always do after emerging from his room was go to the fridge. He always seemed viciously hungry. He’d attack any and all of the food in there, including mine without permission, and one time he threw himself onto a near-whole pizza — ate the whole thing in all of a few minutes. Every night I’d hear him rummaging through the pantry pretty violently, knocking over cans and bottles in his search for food (messes which I had to clean up, since he didn’t). The worst part of this though were his trips to the bathroom after his gorging, where I’d listen to him heave it all back up. Every time. His figure grew wiry, too. All the muscle he’d gained from the army shrunk and clung to his bones like taut rope.
After the first couple days of this he became noticeably distracted by his mouth. He’d rub his jaw with the heels of his hands and tongue the sides of his cheeks compulsively, or he’d put his fingers in there and start probing. Once, shortly after his nightly feasting, I watched him in disgust as he ripped a bloody molar right out and tossed it into a corner of the living room.
Well, that fucking did it. That night I stood in front of the doorway to his room, stubborn for some kind of answer to that little display and all my other questions. He just shoved me aside with a strength I never knew he had. He told me to mind my business, then slipped into his room with a slam so hard that the knob broke clean off.
Towards the end of that week he began to actually speak ... but it was senseless babbling. Things about how he “knew” and “understands now” and he’d make these harsh hissing sounds and click his tongue, and sometimes I had a genuinely hard time distinguishing if I was hearing him or some kind of big bug.
The next night was when I pulled the gun on him. I had my cell clenched in my hands ... and still ... still I couldn’t believe what I was about to do. It was too unreal. To call an ambulance and tell them your best friend is going crazy, that my Muchacho since grade-fucking-eight is losing his marbles, just felt like such ... betrayal. And not only that, but maybe that I had toys in the attic, too, based on what I’d seen — or thought I’d seen — that fearful night.
Just as I started dialling I heard him crying in the washroom. He’d been in there for about an hour already.
I placed the phone down for the time being, overcome by pity, worry — and yeah, I’ll admit it: pure denial. And maybe something else. Maybe hope that I could make one more shot.
I approached the door where his loud, braying sobs came from. The door was locked.
“Mike? Mikey, man ...”
As if to respond he ran the faucet. I heard sputtering and hocking and groans of pain. There wasn’t any gagging, though, like so many times before. Just that groaning and spitting. At first I really thought he was going to puke. But no retching came.
More spitting. More groans. Then two faint clinks.
“Mike!” I hollered. “You okay!? Come on!”
No response. Water running. Splashing.
“I’m going to call an ambulance. Okay?”
pthink! ... thwink! ...
I turned to go back to my phone and that’s when I saw his room. The door was wide open. I caught sight of a colour on his sheets in there, a colour you never want to see on bed sheets.
There, in a large pool of blood, was a collection of his teeth. Canines, molars, some frontals.
My lips twitched in disgust as I wondered, Just what kind of sickness does he have?
I looked all around, hoping to find some clue, some hint — anything — regarding his strange affliction. He had blankets pinned to the wall above the window with thumbtacks to create makeshift curtains. Behind them I could see additional boards of cardboard taped up against the panes. The room smelled sour and earthy, with an undertone of body odour. His pillow had crusty brown stains of dried blood, there were clothes all over the floor, and his desk was a cluttered mess with a bottle of Tylenol carelessly knocked over.
What I saw on his computer monitor caught my curiosity, though. You’d think any sane person in his position would be browsing medical articles or self-help blogs. Not so. There were about a hundred Google tabs open and the currently open window was a Wiki article on a certain Romanian prince, second son of ‘The Dragon’. I couldn’t help myself glancing through the rest of the tabs. I scanned through a bunch of the headlines: CAIN’S BETRAYAL, CAIN AND LILITH, LILITH’S CURSE ... there were unofficial accounts of fratricide, enslavement ... blood pacts, for fuck’s sake ...
On and on it went, article after article, these weird and morbid legends. I shook my head, trying to keep my mind moored in reality, and then I caught sight of his stress ball next to the monitor. It was torn to all hell, with distinct half-circles where his nails had apparently torn in about an inch deep.
Suddenly a thought crossed my mind. I sprung into motion and ran to my bedroom. I frantically opened up the file on my computer named NOV 3 and loaded the video from the webcam. That was the day Carmilla had visited.
This’ll prove it, then, I told myself. If any of that shit’s real, this will prove it, this will prove it, this will prove it ... all those god-damn stories about it ...
I watched the short scene through ... in pure disbelief. I grew so cold watching that footage that I thought I’d see steam escape my lips as I breathed.
I knew at that moment, as hot tears filled my eyes and guilt wracked my heart, that I had to get my Smith and Wesson. I could not let the thing I was living with leave ... and do who-the-fuck-knew to innocent people.
I grabbed my gun out of the closet once more, and right then the bathroom door burst open with such force I jumped nearly out of my skin — almost dropped the damn gun, too.
Mike came out and then he just stood in the hallway — a hunched, elongated version of his silhouette against the kitchen light behind him. His arms were longer. His legs were, too. His neck was almost double-length. He turned to me and his eyes blazed orange in the dimness. I could just make out the outlines of his face. It was skull-like.
My eyelids were peeled back so far I thought my eyes would pop right out. “Mike, man. Come on. Let’s go to the hospital. Muchacho. Huh?”
He just stared up at me with head tilted way down, that ‘Kubrick glare’, that crazy kind of look Gomer Pyle does in Full Metal Jacket. Mike’s terrible eyes burned into me from under his brow like the smouldering ends of two lit cigars. He took a long breath inwards, a sound like an old man’s death rattle.
I raised the gun, my strong hand had a firm high-up grip on the handle, and my other hand’s palm on the side of the grip with both thumbs forward. Look, I knew how to use a gun ... but the sights twitched left, right, left again. They would not stay lined up in my shaky grip.
Mike let his breath out slowly, and the sound of it was not unlike that growl I’d heard on that night, when he was in his room with Carmilla.
My knees trembled, my heart thundered. “Mikey, I’m v-very s-scared of you right now. If you don’t t-talk to me or — or let me g-go ... I’m going to sh-shoot you. You hear me? Mike?” But I wasn’t talking to Mike. In my heart I knew that because of what I saw in the video, the proof of my worst fear. He was something other, now, a creature whose form and mind existed for one sick purpose.
He took a step forward. It shook the hardwood under us. And now he was in the light, cast from my room behind me.
He was totally naked. Fresh blood was all over his lips and he wore an unending grin. He opened his mouth. And when I say opened, I mean stretched open. I literally heard his jaw unhinge —
— and his tongue lolled out of a dark maw where wet, gleaming fangs protruded.
The tongue, a spongy thing, had not just dropped out of his mouth; it was at least a half-foot long and unrolled. It came to a narrow point, and saliva, thick and foamy, coursed all down along it. His mouth stretched even farther and was now a panther’s yawn ... so wide I could clearly see the ridges at the inner-top of his mouth, and the back of his wet, mucoid throat.
What happened next happened in about ten seconds.
I shrieked so hard I tasted blood, and I pulled the trigger.
One side of his body jerked backwards and he hissed that same crocodile-hiss I’d heard a week before.
It was bad form, though, and I missed my target — his head. Instead I caught him in the shoulder. There was a toonie-sized entry would just above his armpit, but ... its edges were glowing just the same way the edge of paper burns.
He lunged at me. I placed another shot — but missed — and before I could line another up he was too close. I raised my hand to cover my face and then hot pain shot through that arm as he pressed his fangs into the flesh of my wrist. His mouth was hot. Not warm, but hot like near-boiling water.
Adrenal strength came. I wrenched him off of me, and the pain was amazing as he took a big chunk of my flesh with him, leaving behind thin fish-line strands of reddened drool. I was glad to find that I still had hold of the gun. I pressed it up to his forehead with one hand. No time for form. No time to adjust footing. With another blast of the barrel his head jarred back behind a plume of ash — not blood, but ash — and he stumbled backwards, arms out, groping and tripping like a boxer just after taking the KO punch.
Form. Footing. Focus. I managed to put another in his head by pure luck.
He collapsed to the floor and let out an agonized bellow of rage. He kicked his wiry legs and bucked his hips as his wide, fanged maw and slithering tongue produced words of such alien abnormality that a swarming wave of repulsion came over me. I couldn’t pronounce them if I tried — I doubt I can even write them out correctly. It was an odd assault of harsh hisses and clicks and plosives: “THLYXIA!! ... KTH INXGAAL!! ... KTH ERGH XZLYIT!!”
I pointed the gun at his head once more, hesitated, then pulled the trigger for the last time. This time I didn’t hear any blast, my pulse in my temples was hammering that hard.
He went silent, still. No blood. Just those glowing entry wounds and ashes floating all around. Repulsion came over me again as I gazed upon his limp form, seeing the way his flesh rippled in irregular, grooved patterns around his neck and underarms; a weird cross between spinal bone and fungal growth. I was about to pull the trigger for the last bullet ... just to make sure ...
But my adrenaline thinned out, and the pain in my bitten arm began to throb. Rills of blood dripped down my fingers and to the floor.
That’s when it occurred to me.
I rushed to washroom to clean myself up, hoping it wouldn’t be too late. I thought maybe if I could wash it out ... clean it with bleach ... something ...
I had to make a huge effort to steady myself when I got in there and saw the sink. I breathed long, ragged breaths, desperately trying to keep my eyes from rolling back.
The last thing I remember seeing was the sink basin stained with watery blood, and the rest of Mike’s teeth caught in the drain.
My mind drifted to a dark other-place, a place made of flesh, bone, and sinew, where savage things live without breathing, and drink from endlessly flowing red rivers.
Do I need to tell you that when I woke up Michael’s body was gone? Do I need to tell you that when I woke up the wound on my arm had closed up, neat as you please?
And maybe there’s a realm of darkness out there, beyond our little bubble of the universe. Maybe things visit us and prey on us in ways we refuse to believe. Maybe when I lay there in that washroom I dreamed of it ... maybe it wasn’t a nightmare, but a vision ...
I’m going to try to kill myself, now. It’s the only way. If my nightmare is true, and if that thing Mike became was real, then there’s no fucking hope for me. Maybe there’s no hope for anyone, you know? They’re still out there. Mike and Carmilla. All because of one bad fucking idea, one chance-misunderstanding. Don’t you think that’s crazy? I told Mike we’re animals. But exactly what can turn us into monsters? And at what point do those monsters visit us?
I’ve been pumping Mike’s tattered stress ball as I think of those questions and others, fighting back terror, and waiting for tears that never come. I have a feeling that other people are going to find out very soon. I hope this will at least prepare them.
And even still, it’s difficult for me to actually put down the crucial piece of what happened, what assured me beyond all doubt that Mike was doomed. I’m sure you’ve already guessed. Of course it lies in the footage from the webcam.
On the night of the recording, Michael and I had spoken to and even touched Carmilla.
But when I watched the recording, I saw Mike and I greeting an empty hallway, talking to thin air, and shaking the deathly-cold hand of nobody at all.