“I don't see why you even like her,” said Lila. She took another drag and passed the joint to Minh. “She's a bitch.”
Minh sighed and began smoking. “She is not. I don't know why you hate her so much.”
“She's so fucking smug. Like she's the queen of the entire campus. Like, just 'cause she's rich we're all beneath her or something.” Behind them, the party rumbled on. The two had separated themselves from it 30 minutes ago. Easier to have an actual conversation.
“How much time have you spent talking to her? She is nice. Just because she's rich doesn't mean she is not nice.”
“It means she's never had to work a day in her life. Not like we've had to work. She just fucking coasts.” She plucked the joint from Minh's fingerprints and took another puff, leaning back to stare at the stars.
“That's not true.”
Lila stared at him for a moment, then laughed. “You're such sheep.”
“All of you guys. Men, man. You see something you want to fuck, and it doesn't matter how horrible they are, you start rutting.” She giggled.
“I'm not rutting,” said Minh.
“You're totally rutting. Like a sheep. Baaaaaaah.” She doubled over laughing.
“You're terrible,” said Minh, scowling. “This is why I need to be high to talk to you about this kind of thing.”
Lila wiped tears from her eyes. “Nah, that's because you've got the emotional maturity of a wastebasket. Opening up is good for you.” She pushed herself to her feet. “And if you've gotta be wasted for that, I'm gonna try to snag some beer. Don't killed without me, loser.”
She walked into the house, leaving Minh to finish off the remains of the joint. He stared at the lawn as he smoked. It was a nice lawn. Manicured to perfection, green as any advertisement, with a solitary tree rising up from the center. The tree was perfect too, with strong branches and full leaves. It was a kind of lawn he'd never had. He'd always had to be content with dead grass and dirt.
Should they just leave? There wasn't much point in staying. He'd only come because he'd thought Isabel would be here, but hadn't seen her so far. He sighed. It would have been better to stay at home, or go to the docks with Lila, and not have to deal with all this freaking noise. Well, this way there was free weed and beer, so it wasn't a total waste.
He frowned. Did something in the yard just move? It looked like something was crawling around the base of the tree. Did the Weston's have a dog? He hadn't seen anything in the house or porch that made it seem like they did. Maybe it was a squirrel. Whatever it was, it was avoiding the light. It slunk through the shadows, just outside of the porch bulb's glare. It seemed a bit bigger than a cat, and moved like it was pulling itself through a thick sludge. Sometimes it would stop and shudder, like it was trying to shake something off its back.
«Hey there,» said Minh. He knelt and crept forward. Whatever it was paused. «Hey, I'm not going to hurt you. You wanna come here?»
It shook, and a shriek tore through the air. Something flashed towards him, and the world went black.
Samuel lifted the cup to his lips and grimaced. Shitty beer. They always had shitty beer at parties like this. But he was strapped for cash, and if tolerating shitty beer at shitty parties with shitty people was what it took to get drunk these days, so be it. He wouldn't care about flavor after a few more. So he drunk it in one gulp, trying not to taste it, and went for a refill.
As he was about to drink, something bumped into his shoulder. The plastic cup fell from his hand and clattered to the ground, splattering his pants and shoes with warm beer. He spun around and saw a short woman looking embarrassed.
“Fuck, I'm sorry man,” she said. “I'll try to find some towels.”
Samuel shook his head. “Don't bother, it's fine.” He slid off his shoes and socks. “I was planning to do the laundry tonight, anyway.”
She stared at the legs of his booze-soaked jeans. “You sure? I mean, that can't be comfortable.”
He shrugged. “I've had worse. It doesn't bother me.”
“Um, alright,” she said, reaching for a cup on the counter. “Well, can I at least get you a refill?”
“That'd be fine,” he said, smiling. She filled the cup and passed it to him.
“You a student or what? You look a little old for it, if you don't mind me saying.” She didn't look older than 20, with dark skin, short, curly brown hair, and bloodshot eyes that darted around the room as she spoke.
“I'm a freshman. I just started a little late.” He stuck out his hand. “The name's Samuel.”
She shook it and laughed, then grabbed two cups from the counter. “Lila. Short for Lilac, but nobody calls me that except douchebags. Nice to meet you, man.” As she spoke, she began filling the cups. “Listen, if you don't have anything else going on, and friend and I are hanging out back. Wanna join us?”
Samuel thought for a moment, then nodded. “Alright.” He drained his cup and refilled it. “Lead the way.”
They threaded through the house. Pushing past the drunk students was like crawling through mud, but finally they made it to the door. At one point, someone in a black hoodie slammed into him and tried to grab his arm, mumbling something. Samuel wrenched away and darted past him.
He got to the porch and found Lila already there, looking around.
“Where's your friend?” he asked.
“He was here when I left. Fuck, I hope he didn't wander off too far.” She stepped out onto the lawn. “Minh! Minh, where the hell are you?”
No response. She walked towards the tree in the center of the lawn. Samuel followed, scanning the grass. He looked up when he heard Lila scream.
“What the fuck!” she said as he rushed over. She was kneeling, staring at the base of the tree. It was smeared with blood. Mixed in chunks of trembling black goo. As Samuel watched, they slid through the blood, towards the center of the stain.
Lila looked pale. “Minh!” she called, standing and spinning to look at the yard. “Minh, can you hear me?”
A scream came from inside the house.
Isabel figured she must have been the only person in the school who didn't drink. It seemed like the entire campus had come out for the party, and they were all hammered. She'd wanted to just go see a movie, but Rachel and James insisted that they come here. “The party of the year,” they'd described it as.
She sighed. This whole thing was stupid. They'd only just arrived, and already Rachel and James had been sucked into the crowd while she stood on the outskirts, sipping a Coke. A man in a red t-shirt and cargo shorts approached her, sporting what was supposed to be a grin. “Hey,” he said. “Wanna dance?”
“No,” she said, and started to walk away. He followed her.
“Come on, this is the best song. Just one dance.”
“I'm not interested,” she said. “Leave me alone.”
“It'll be fun!”
“Fuck off,” she said, and poured her coke on his head.
Gaping at her, he snarled “fine, fuck you,” and stormed off.
It was the first of what she knew would be many such encounters. She didn't know what Rachel thought was so great about this kind of thing. There were a lot of things she thought were fun, but getting drunk, vomiting, and hit on by creeps wasn't on the list.
She wandered towards the fridge, hoping they might have something to drink besides beer. As she approached she saw something odd. Someone in the kitchen was kneeling on the floor. It looked like he was vomiting, but nothing was coming out, and there was nothing around him. The veins in his neck were bulging. As she got closer, he began to convulse. Thick, black liquid dripped from his mouth. He tried to catch it and shove it back in, but more kept pouring out, covering the floor, making a puddle that oozed out. A friend grabbed his shoulder and said something, but he didn't respond.
The liquid covering the ground twitched and tremble, and Isabel fought back the urge to vomit. What the hell was going on? A bad drug reaction? A bigger crowd was beginning to form around the man. More people tried to talk to him, but he didn't react, just kept miming coughs and trying to grab the liquid. He fell forward, planting his hands in the puddle and beginning to smear it across the floor. Isabel wanted to look away, but she couldn't.
People were beginning to yell now. The man's skin was becoming a mottled grey. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he looked up, gurgling as the liquid poured out of his mouth. It looked like he was trying to speak, but the emesis blocked the words. Someone grabbed him from behind and pulled him, turning his head to the side. The fluid kept dribbling out.
Someone yelled. The puddle on the floor was moving. It was beating in time, like a heart. Isabel gasped and covered her mouth. The liquid pulsed higher and higher with each beat. People were backing away, scrambling to get as far from it as possible. The one holding up the vomiting man tried to drag him back, but couldn't.
From behind her came a scream, accompanied by a wet smacking noise. She turned to look and immediately regretted it. In the center of the living room a large, person-shaped blob was pulling itself across the ground. It left a trail of gray slime behind it that squirmed outwards. More people were screaming now. They scrambled to try to get away. As one man ran by, the creature reached up and wrapped an arm around his leg. He fell, and the creature enveloped him. For a few seconds, you could still see his silhouette struggling to escape, before it stilled. The creature continued forward.
Finally the vomit came. Isabel doubled over and wretched. This couldn't be real. She was asleep, and this was a nightmare. She'd been drugged somehow. The creep from before had slipped something into her drink and she hadn't realized it. It would be over in a second. She would close her eyes, and when she opened them everything would be normal.
Someone slammed into her from behind. She sprawled to the floor, and was kicked in the leg. More people rushed by her. There was barely time to duck out the way before a foot landed where her head had just been. The party had devolved into chaos. The man in the kitchen was lying on the floor in a pool of black liquid, not moving except for his mouth and tongue, which lapped at the puddle. The creature in the living room had snared three more people, and was drawing them into its bulk. More people lay on the floor, black liquid pouring from their mouths.
She pushed herself to her feet. This wasn't right. It was a hallucination, a dream. It couldn't exist. She felt the urge to vomit pushing itself back up, but forced it down. Escape. That's what she had to do. She had to find a way out of here.
The creature swung its head towards her. She froze. Could it see her? No, that was impossible. It didn't have eyes, it didn't have ears, it didn't have any way to tell where she was. But it was still moving towards her. Somehow, it knew she was there. She turned to run, but slid in the puddle of goo and fell to the floor. Before she could stand back up, something wrapped around her leg and began to pull.
Growing up in a rough neighborhood, Lila seen her fair share of gunshot wounds and dead bodies. She liked to think that she was used to that sort of thing, that it didn't bother her the way it did other people. But looking at the thing in the living room, all that went away. She felt like a little girl again, staring at her brother's brains leaking out of his skull.
“What the fuck,” she said. “Jesus Christ, what the fuck is that thing?”
The living room was empty except for about 15 people. They lay on the floor, black goo dripping from their mouths. In the kitchen, a massive glob of the same goo was squirming across the floor. An unconscious woman was stuck in it, slowly being sucked in. In the back of Lila's mind, she realized it was Isabel, but the thought didn't register in the rest of her brain. Nothing did, except he urge to scream. She swallowed it.
Samuel was already moving. He sprinted to the kitchen, grabbed Isabel's arm, and began to pull. She didn't budge. “Come here!” he yelled at Lila. When she didn't move, he yelled again, “I need your help!”
What the hell are you doing? The thought came from deep within her mind. Just standing her like an idiot? Yes. She couldn't just stand around. She had to do something. Stepping past the bodies on the floor, she raced to the kitchen and grabbed one of Isabel's arms. They heaved back, and for a second nothing happened. Lila gritted her teeth, braced her feet, and pulled with everything she had. There was a slow sucking noise, and Isabel began to slide out of the beast. Her body thudded to the floor. Samuel scooped her up and ran to the back door. Lila followed.
“Do you have any what the fuck that thing is?” she managed to say.
Samuel shook his head. “No idea.” He looked through the door and cursed.
“It's coming this way,” he said.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“No. Hell, that thing's fast.” He squatted down and slung Isabel over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. “Let's go.”
They rushed to the gate by the side of the house. Lila tried to open it, but it was stuck shut.
“Stand back,” said Samuel. He lashed out with his foot, kicking the gate twice, but it still didn't budge. A groan came from behind them. The monster had rounded the corner.
“Climb over the fence,” said Samuel. “I'll pass her up to you, and climb over myself.”
Lila nodded and scrambled up the gate. Samuel hoisted Isabel upwards. “You have a good grip?” he asked. She nodded. Samuel let go, she fell back. She crashed into the ground, Isabel landing next to her, and popped back up to her feet. Samuel was already almost over the fence. Before he could swing his foot over, he was yanked back.
“Fuck!” yelled Lila. She rushed to the fence and thrust a hand out. “Grab on!” When he had a grip, she began to pull back. Nothing happened. She braced a foot against the fence and pulled harder. Still nothing. She jumped, grabbed his color, and yanked downwards. There was a popping noise, and the two of them tumbled down.
“You alright?” she asked.
He nodded. “I think so. Come on, let's run.” There was a cracking noise. The gate began to shake. Samuel threw Isabel over his shoulder and ran. Lila followed.
The front lawn was empty except for a few people standing by the sidewalk, ogling the house. “Get the hell out of here, you idiots!” yelled Lila. “It's coming!”
“My car's just down the block,” said Samuel. “Come on.”
They sprinted towards a red Honda. Samuel unlocked the door, placed Isabel in the back seat, and hopped. Lila jumped in the passenger's side. The car roared to life. Slamming down on the accelerator, Samuel shifted into drive, and they tore down the block.
Ahead of them, the creature had crawled into the road. Samuel swerved, but the creature lashed out. It grabbed one wheel, and the car twisted. There was a ripping noise. The Honda spun across the lawn, smashing into a tree, taking a chunk of the creature with it. Samuel reversed the car and tried to rush in the other direction, but the creature hurled itself forward, blocking their path. Samuel didn't have time to turn before they collided.
The car smashed into the beast and ripped through it. They were racing at the house, and Samuel swerved and braked before they hit it. When they had slammed into the creature, they had ripped it in half. One part lay on the lawn, still. The other was in the road, thrashing and beating the concrete. The lower half of a body was sticking out. The creature screamed, turned to face the car, and rushed forward. Before it could get halfway it stopped. It quivered for a moment, then began to melt. The goo dripped away from its body, pooling around it. In two minutes, it had completely dissolved, leaving only the body of a person. Even from the car, Lila could recognize it.
It was Minh.
J-17: Are you alright?
ND-01: I'm fine, but we might have other problems.
J-17: Such as?
ND-01: There's more than one of them.
J-17: How many?
ND-01: I'm not sure. One activated on the west side of town, crashed a college party. Civilian Affairs is working on a cover up now. It's going to be difficult, a lot of people fled before we could get our hands on them.
J-17: Damn, alright.
ND-01: We've done sweeps and figured out four areas where they might be others. We've already sent in teams to deal with them, but there could be dozens we haven't picked up. We need more resources.
J-17: I'm not sure how much they'll be willing to put into this. They think it's a waste of time already.
ND-01: Fuck that. Show them the pictures, show them the files, let them see how much of a waste this is. Convince them. Doctor the numbers if you have to.
J-17: They're pretty dead-set on moving forward with this Israel thing.
ND-01: Israel's a dead end. We both know that. This right here is what's important. Do what you have to, get us what we need. Don't fuck us on this one.
J-17: Alright. I'll see what I can do.
Part One: End | In Its Purest Form »