Sunday, May 8, 2011

21/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by Sea of Love by Cat Power

The TV screen was black. The set was on, there was power, but the news just stopped. Melissa clicked through more channels. Black, static, colored bars, an infomercial selling a countertop grill.

"...just three easy payments of twenty-nine ninety-five. Order now!" said a fleet-tongued voice-over. Melissa stared at the TV transfixed, exhausted. Then there was another thump, another something impacted on the side of the building. She jumped with start. She looked over at her son laying down on the bed, looking up at her. He looked over to the window. The curtains were closed and Melissa had pinned up several layers of sheets, hoping there was no way they could look in, but she knew it wouldn't really keep them out.

She went over to the bed and sat down, muting the TV. Her son crawled into lap. She stroked his hair absentmindedly, then laid back, and curled up with her son in her arms. She faced the window watching.

Hours passed. More thumps against the skin of their aging high-rise building. Muted screeches. Scattered gunfire. The people in the next apartment had an argument over whether or not they should stay or try to make it to the parking garage. Several times, she could hear the scraping and scratching of claws against the concrete, metal, and glass. Melissa debated getting up and making a meal, but she was too nervous to eat, and her son was sleeping.

Then there was a loud crash in the corridor. Melissa bolted upright, shaking. She picked up her son and walking into the living room. A man screamed frantically. Thumps and bumps and those unholy fingernails on chalkboard screeches. She walked to the door as quietly as possible. More screams and screeches, then a low thrumming. It was calling others to feed. It was about to complete the kill. Melissa went up on tiptoes and slowly peered through the peephole.

One of them was out there. A neighbor she didn't know personally was swinging at it with a baseball bat with one arm. It had already bitten off the other and blood was rapidly draining into the carpeting. Then the neighbor collapsed, adrenaline no longer sustaining him. The something, naked and covered in blood from face to abdomen, raised it's arms, tightening the flaps of skin between it's hands and feet, and let out a loud, long screech, and thrummed some more. Melissa's son covered his ears, and started to cry again.

The something lunged toward the fallen neighbor--he pointed his bat at it, but the something pulled it out of his hands and threw it against the wall before biting the neighbor's throat so hard that vertebrae cracked. Then it plunged it's claws into the neighbor's chest, cracking the sternum and leveraged open the rib cage. It thrummed some more, then bent down and started sucking up organs.

Melissa stepped back quietly, her heart beating so fast it felt just like a constant fluttering vibration. Tears started to flow down her face. Her son reached up and touched her cheek.

"Why are you crying?" he asked.

"Shh," she whispered, "you have to be absolutely quiet."

She tiptoed back into the bedroom, closing and locking the door noiselessly. There was even more noises coming from outside the window. She desperately wanted to see how bad it was out there. She sat her son on the bed and told him not to move. Then she went to lower corner of the window, next to the air conditioning unit, and lifted back the layers of fabric an inch. Dark forms moved by in the sky. The other buildings were covered with the creatures. Suddenly one of them crawled past. Melissa gasped, but realized it hadn't seen her. She froze in place and held her breath. She could see it's chest. There was a tattoo over the left pectoral muscle. It depicted a panther encircling a sword, and the words, Never Surrender. The something's chest heaved with every breath, and with the intense exertion of flight and feeding. It moved to the right somewhat, find new purchase on the wall. Melissa could clearly see the pulsing veins and arteries in the wing flap as sunlight came through the thin flesh.

Then the TV unmuted. Terrified, Melissa turned around to see her son with the remote.

"Turn it off!" she hissed as quietly as she could. Her son suddenly looked scared. "You haven't done anything bad honey, just turn it off!" He started pressing buttons, and the volume went up. "No!" Her son started bawling. The creature scraped against the window, turning, listening. Melissa ran to the TV to turn it off, leaving the curtain to flutter.

The something let out several loud rapid screeches. It scraped at the window, trying to open it. It was focused on the corner Melissa had been looking through. She scooped up her son, and hugged him, and tried to calm him. She bent low and peeled back the opposite corner of the curtain ever so slightly. It was trying to push it's claws into the metal sash. Another creature floated down to the window on a draft of air. It landed on the slight lip of concrete wall in front of the window. It turned and looked at her. It's beady black eyes bore into her, then it's mouth opened, revealing shredded dental work--it's mouth bleeding from ripped apart wires. One of it's teeth dangled from a wire. It screeched loudly and angrily. She jumped back from the window, and walked backwards to the middle of the room. Her vision got spotty, her breath rapid and shallow. She lost sensation in her hands and feet and face. She cradled her son closer.

Then the airconditioning unit began to shake. It was being wrenched from side to side. Metal groaned and scraped. Then a 'plunk', and the airconditioner began to slide back. Melissa ran into the bathroom, slamming the door shut. She turned on the light. The lights flickered and strobed before coming on. She locked the door and put her son on the floor. She grabbed the shower curtain rod and tried to pull it free, thinking it might bolster the door.

There was a loud crash and several screeches. Furniture was thrown around. More screeches. Melissa turned off the light, but the creatures then ran straight for the door. There was hard thump against the door and a loud crack of wood. Melissa braced the door with her body.

"Get under the sink!" she hissed at her son. He stared at her in the dim blue light of the nightlight that was permanently plugged into the wall by the sink. Another hard thump that almost knocked the wind out of Melissa. "Get in the cupboard and close the door--do you hear me?" Her son nodded but didn't move. "Get in the cupboard and close the doors, sweetie--" Another thud and more cracking. "Get in and don't come out until you hear human voices, okay?" The boy opened the door and crawled in next to the spare rolls of toilet paper. "Close the door, and don't make any sound." She paused, looking at his little face, so scared, so young, so helpless. "I love you," she said, then closed the cupboard door with her foot.

Claws came through the door and splinters of wood hit the mirror over the sink. Light came in. She saw the faces of the creatures in the mirror. Their mouths dripping saliva meant for her. Something pierced her back. She concentrated on not screaming. She hoped that they would drag her body away to eat it, so that her son wouldn't see her eviscerated remains when he emerged.

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