001. If Only… Aric Coppola

The air fills with a caustic silver mist. The milky walls ooze and pulse. She needs to close her eyes, but the clamps prevent it. If only she could blink. If only she could shut out the needles piercing her stretched skin. If only…

She knows that they are listening, they are always listening. If only she had done the same.

She watches as their hands slide around, up and down, across. So many elongated fingers and serrated nails. A pungent taste of sanitized mildew. She needs to vomit, but the barbed-harness prohibits it. Its talons stretch deep into her esophagus, gashing her intestines.   

A gargled scream and a sharp crack. The fleeting silence is welcomed. She senses her time is near. 

If only she hadn’t made that turn. If only she’d stayed the course and followed directions. If only… 

The digital numbers click upward. The sticky blackness of night fog and neon pastes her damp skin. A sharp, high-pitched, chortle startles her. 

She sees a shape, not a shape, a form without form. 

“Who’s there?” she asks.

The nozzle slips and knocks the gas cap to the ground. The tinnish sound echoes across her face like a razor-blade.

She squints through the haze as the gasoline pools around her tattered sneakers. Stuck, she listens to another strangled chortle.

“I can see you! Stop playin’ around!”

It approaches. It has legs. Many legs. More than she can count. A scream grows in her bowels, but fails to materialize. Her hand shakes violently as she extends it.

Vaporous streetlight paints across a face, a human face like her own, but it’s not human. Its cavernous mouth filled with sharp emptiness. It’s something else. Something wrong. 

A searing jolt of electricity floods her eyes. Blinded and weightless. Time stops but the pain goes on. It grows inside her like a fetus. Expanding its calloused tendrils and tearing her entrails. Another flash of light: her eyes open. Alive, yet incapable of life.

A muffled scream and a sharp crack. A door slides open: A door that isn’t there. The hands slide around, up and down, across. They pause and dissolve. 

She needs to scream, but that isn’t what she wants. 

A shadowed silhouette twists through the door like an angry serpent and vanishes past her vision. The silvery mist now so thick that nothing has dimension. Visibly invisible.

She hears the snap, but doesn’t feel it. Her eyes peer into the cloudiness as the silent screams spill out from her lungs. She moves but not of her own volition. The light invades her mind and the past eludes her grasp. Everything is lost. As it slips away a final thought: 

If only she hadn’t taken that turn. If only she’d stayed there: beside them. If only… 

It is then that an alien howl escapes from within her and the world goes black.

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