Short Story – Night of the Tendrils

Last night I was pretty randomly inspired at about 1 in the morning while lying in bed trying to get to sleep to write something. So I got up, turned on the computer and sat in my reading chair and wrote something. And this is what came out:

WARNING: There is a bit of cursing and adult themes in here. Only proceed if you’re sure you can handle it.

The Night of the Tendrils

Lizzy lay alone in her bed, looking up at the blackness before the ceiling. It was so dark in the basement apartment she’d recently found for herself in this new city. A place of fresh beginnings. She thought she’d try her hand at acting. “I could do that,” she thought. “No need to keep up the pretenses from living at home. I won’t know the people, and when I know them more, they’ll know me as the actress, and my reputation won’t be ruined. I could do that.” She was smug. Acting was no place for a quiet writer/drawer of a girl. But she wanted to try it anyway.

She laid there in the quiet dark, listening to her new roommate and his girlfriend in his room, whispering to each other in the dark. She wondered what they were saying. Not that it mattered, or concerned her. The girlfriend had been hesitantly friendly and the roommate was almost as quiet as she was. The fact that he was a guy and she was a girl and they shared the basement suite was awkward in itself, since they were strangers and not friends. Not yet, at least, she thought. She rolled over and tried to bury her head under the covers of her sheet and blanket combo, but the fake pillow didn’t let her relax.

She’d forgotten to pack a real pillow and had had to stuff a pillow case with shirts until she could find a real pillow somewhere for sale. She really needed to go back to that grocery store again. But where the hell was it? New cities are confusing. Her dad told her his dad would be proud; her instincts told her she should be proud, but it just wasn’t enough. She needed real comfort. And not just the kind offered by a soft, gentle pillow, though that’d certainly be a good start. She shut her eyes to the blackness, only seeing more blackness behind her eyelids. Or maybe her eyes rolled back into her head when she shut them, she’d hear that when she was younger but never been able to figure out if it really happened. Whenever she tried to open her eyes quickly, they caught up with her and she’d be staring at herself in mirror again feeling very foolish. So she tried to shut her eyes and think of things other than her lumpy pillow.

All of a sudden, she rolled over again. And looking up, saw the black. Again. Her roommate’s room was quiet now though. “Maybe now I can get some sleep,” she thought. She laid there and stared at the blackness some more.

Thick, black-green tendrils began to shroud her view. They oozed from the ceiling and the wall, twisting and turning, poking their beady little heads this way and that, reaching and crawling down the pale yellow walls of her little room. Lizzy just laid there and stared.
“What the fuck!?” She jumped out of her bed and the tendrils latched onto her arms and legs. She felt them pulling her upward. They felt cold, and oddly soothing in the warmth of the apartment.
“Don’t let them get you!” Her roommate’s girlfriend was in the doorway now.
“It’s a little fucking late for that, don’t ya think!?”The tendrils began pulling her harder, stronger. She grabbed for her chair, but they melted that. She grabbed for her little side table that was actually a cardboard box, but the tendrils burned that up. Her books, cell phone, bracelets, money, wallet, all of it, gone. Just burned. She couldn’t believe it. Until the tendrils started getting warmer. Then she could definitely feel where that heat was coming from.
“They’re getting hotter!”
The roommate’s girlfriend (who we’ll call Alex) began ripping at her night shirt, a wild look in her eyes. “And so am I,” she taunted.
“What!?” Lizzy couldn’t believe her ears. She was hanging upside down from the ceiling – which wasn’t that high off the ground – and the only person around to help her was a sci-fi/horror version of an S&M freak!? What the hell was going on here!?
Lizzy fought to grab one of the tendrils which were now burning through what little clothes she had on and beginning to sting her flesh.

Alex was slowly sauntering around the room, watching and ripping at her own clothes, tearing them into a tight, all-white but very revealing two-piece. She was indeed getting hotter. She had flames in her eyes and at the tips of her fingers to prove it.

The entire ceiling was pasted with this green goo, and dripping the toxic sludge everywhere, burning holes in the floor, in the bed, in the sheets, in that damn fake pillow. Alex almost got hit with a piece but she dodged it just in time, jumping onto a chair over by the desk and sitting down slowly on it as if someone who thought they were at a strip joint was watching. She slowly bent herself down and over, letting the tight bits of cloth come up even higher, revealing a tuck of skin here, a round, firm feature there. She swung herself around with the actual help of some of the tentacles, onto the back side of the chair, where, sitting on the top of the back, she spread her body out flat, horizontally balancing in mid-air, the tendrils now peeling back the layers of cloth she’d left on her body, and her writhing in joy and agony at the strands of fire she felt against her skin.

Lizzy almost screamed, but a pile of sludge fell on her face. She became more preoccupied with that than screaming. The ooze seared the flesh on her face, scarring the skin and piercing her muscles below. She thought she’d never see the light of day again. She couldn’t remember feeling this much pain. The agony went beyond her threshold for pain and left her reaching for ways to comprehend what was happening to her face. She ripped and tore with her hands at her face, stopping only when it began to hurt, and when she stopped, the tendrils were gone, and she was lying on the floor beside her bed, holes and all. She looked around and found Alex had turned on one of the lights in her room, on the desk. She was now sitting in the chair, trying to cover her now naked body with what was left of her clothes. Most of them had burned. Lizzy looked around and saw that she’d torn off bits of her face as well in her fit to rid herself of the ooze. When she could, she looked around some more.

“You can use some of my clothes in the cardboard box there, those are dirty anyway. Or the clean stuff in the drawers over there.” She pointed to the open doors of the closet, where most of the dresser had been burned away by flying bits of sludge and the occasional impact of a tendril or two. But now there was nothing but smoke and ash and steam.
“Thanks.” Alex didn’t move. She was too timid even to say more than that.
“What the fuck were those things?” Lizzy tried to stand, and decided sitting was fine.
“I don’t know. But Dave’s-” She trailed off.
“Dead!?” Lizzy wasn’t surprised, those things almost killed her, only she’d just met the guy.
“No, he’s asleep. He didn’t hear us, didn’t notice the whole thing when they came in to our room. Well… his room. But he didn’t even flinch.”
“Weird.” Lizzy decided to look out the doorway and see if she could see any damage to the rest of the apartment. She couldn’t. There was nothing out of place. Even the door to Dave’s room was locked, as usual. She didn’t know why he locked it, but he did. “Well, take my clothes from that dresser over there, we can split the couch or something. It’s tiny, but I”m not getting back in that bed. It’s torn to hell anyway.”
“That’s going to be a little weird… no offense…”
“None taken I-”
“…just with us not knowing each other and all.”
“-perfectly understand.”
“Ok. Well I guess it’s alright then… You’re not a lesbian, are you?”
“I’m tired. How about you?”
Alex grinned heartlessly. It was enough. “Alright.”
“You get changed and I’ll be out there. It doesn’t fold out, but it’s soft enough. So long as you don’t mind the noise it makes when you move on it. It’s killer when you’re trying to watch a movie, but it might be alright once you’re asleep.” Lizzy walked out into the living room, toward the sink in the kitchen area. She tried dowsing her face in water, but that didn’t help. She found a dish towel that still looked clean and drenched it in water. Then she wrung it all out, and left it damp. She wrapped it around her head, tied it in the back and left an opening where her eyes were.

Alex came tentatively out of the bedroom, now clothed in a large T-shirt and some boxer shorts. Lizzy couldn’t help but sigh. She liked those clothes, and now they had little holes in them. But Alex did look pretty in them, despite the ordeal they’d just been through. She trudged herself over to the couch and stood there for a moment. Lizzy came over, took off her sludge-covered shirt and shorts, or what was left of them anyway, and since she wore boxers and a sports bra anyway, she laid down on the couch and waited for Alex, who laid down next to her. On their sides, they both looked out at the blackness in the living room, fearing another attack, but feeling strange comfort in the body of a stranger. Lizzy sighed and closed her eyes, sliding her arm up and over Alex’s middle. Alex paused for a moment in her breathing, then continued, and let her hand follow Lizzy’s arm to her wrist, and her hand. Their fingers intermingled for a few brief moments, and then they were asleep. Peacefully, calmly, they slept together in the warm living room, Lizzy letting the cool dish towel on her face sit against the skin on the back of Alex’s neck. “Maybe it’ll cool her down a bit, calm her, or something,” were her last thoughts before she slept. Maybe she had to care to sleep.

The next morning, Lizzy was awoken by Alex’s frantic rattling of her shoulders.
“Lizzy, Lizzy, oh God, Lizzy!”
“mmmMRRAAA…. What!?” She wiped here eyes and slowly peeled off the bandage.
“It’s Dave, his room’s covered in that green stuff, there are holes and smoke and little sparks everywhere. And he’s… he’s… he’s GONE!”

Lizzy looked from Dave’s doorway to Alex, “Well, good fucken’ morning, world!”

Let me know what you think in the comments.

2 Responses to “Short Story – Night of the Tendrils”

  1. Creepy story. Hope any potential room-mates you share space with don’t have similar predilections. Welcome to Canada; Vancouver is a lovely city and you’ll have a good time acquainting yourself with its mysteries and secret places. Keep a notebook on hand to record your impressions as a stranger in a strange land. Some good material comes out of a sense of loneliness and alienation. Just ask Paul Auster. First thing: get a library card. And then grab a copy of Knut Hamsun’s HUNGER. And, as a companion, Paul Auster’s collection of essays THE ART OF HUNGER. But, mainly, keep writin’ and postin’…

  2. Has a bit of Cthulhu vibe going on. Are you going to try to make this into a short film? I think it could be pretty good.

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