by Rick McQuiston
Larry yawned lazily as morning fatigue hindered his movements. He paid it little
attention however as he ran his clammy palm across his cheek and sighed drearily as it met with three days worth of stubble.
This too, he decided could wait, promising himself between yawns that he would shave that evening.
“Morning Buddy.” The shaggy mix breed hardly moved. Larry could only
tell the dog heard his greeting by the small tufts of hair above each of its eyes that shifted slightly as the dog’s
eyelids raised. “Can see your as awake and alert as I am this morning.” Again, barely a response.
He began humming the new tune he’d been working on. A catchy number in E
and F Minor. Just needed a smoother bridge. Maybe he’d force feed it to the guys at the next practice. His eyes caught
a glimpse of the dusty owl clock dangling silently above the overworked microwave. It displayed seven twenty- five boldly
as if taunting him about being late for work. He grabbed his jeans and sprinted towards the messy bathroom. Mr. Cupple would
have his ass in a sling if he was late one more time.
Seven- thirty came much too quickly as did seven thirty-five. Seven- forty finally
saw him heading towards the door. Buddy took little interest in his owner as Larry shouted “see ya later Bud.”
The dog rotated to its right side slowly and promptly drifted back to sleep.
Larry did notice something else as he was moving towards the door…a reflection
in the microwave glass…leering at him. A malevolent face full of hatred and evil stupidity. Several mutated eyes blinked
in grotesque unison, each a foul mirror to a dark and obscene soul.
“Morning butthead,” Larry quipped to the monstrosity. He had begun
to think that it wasn’t going to show up this morning as it had so many other mornings. “Hate to see you too.”
He tapped on the glass and the thing scowled as if trying to destroy its tormentor with its violent expressions.
Seven forty-two and the kitchen door slammed shut, knocking down a bless this mess
sign that hung nearby.
The morning D.J. on WZAP babbled on and on about an overpaid celebrity who’d
recently parked his Porsche in someone’s front room. And to make matters worse, his cheap radio barely got any other
stations in, so he was forced to listen.
“Johhny Topaz of People and Money fame claims his foot simply slipped off
the brake causing his 911 to careen …blah, blah, blah.” He clicked the radio off.
Up ahead, the light switched from green to yellow followed immediately by red.
Directly underneath the light, as if dangling by an invisible chain, were three
disembodied heads. Each bore a faint resemblance to the aliens in a recent horror
flick Larry had rented, although these were unquestionably uglier. All three glared down at him as his Toyota gradually came
to a stop. Bloody droplets drifted down in a sickening sprinkle onto the hood of the car.
“Do you assholes mind?” he yelled out the side window. “I don’t
have time to hit a car wash this morning.” He then realized that a man and woman were staring at him from their neighboring
car. Feeling foolish, he quickly rolled up his window and looked straight ahead, hoping to minimize his embarrassment.
Sometimes he would forget he was the only one who could see the “appearances”
as he dubbed them. Been that way since he was a kid, especially the first time. He was nine, maybe ten, in the grocery store
with his mom. His mind was alternating between the homerun he’d hit the day before and Susan Bannert. Then the face
appeared. A noxious, corrupt face. A face which oozed foul excretions from every orifice. A face which situated itself between
Crispy Cups and Corn Flakes. A face whose bloody eyes bore through Larry like a drill through Styrofoam.
His mind initially rejected it as a hallucination. A hideous and unwholesome
result of too many Hershey bars or too many horror movies. But the face didn’t
vanish as hallucinations do when one’s eyes are blinked and the mind cleared. Instead it tilted its deformed head to
one side as if pondering how to get at its observer.
Several hours later, Larry found himself wedged tightly underneath his bed. His
Mom had chased him around the store with him screaming at the top of his lungs. Fatigue reflected on her face as she pleaded
with him to tell her what was wrong.
The memories choked his mind. He remembered how it took nearly two days for him
to leave the sanctuary of his bedroom.
Dr. Thantan helped little, due to the fact that he simply could not stop the visions
from coming. He merely helped Larry understand why he reacted the way he did but not how to accept it, probably due to the
fact that he did not believe Larry any more than anyone else.
Almost three months had passed before he witnessed his next appearance. An enormous
entity, roughly twenty feet high, which clung precariously to the side of the Metro building near downtown. Glistening with
slime, its nauseating form seemed to be headless, a great unfinished painting of horror. But Larry noticed it did have a head,
one which writhed as its appendages did. Two clouded orbs gyrated rapidly in all directions before eventually focusing directly
on Larry. His dinner turned in his stomach like a blender. He sank back in his seat, trying to put as much distance as possible
between it and him.
Why had no one else seen it? Why was he being singled out?Because they’re
not real. It’s just your overactive imagination. Yes, imagination. He eventually accepted this, although partly because
the other option was much less pleasant.
Time eventually allowed him to ignore the appearances somewhat almost as one would
instinctively look away from a burn victim or an excessively obese person. That’s not to say that there weren’t
times when they would bother or even startle him, but overall he learned to handle it well. Life’s responsibilities
took center stage and diluted the episodes substantially. When a ….thing…. would show itself, Larry would just
shrug it off and concentrate on what he was doing.
The Toyota hummed along the road as he began to feel at ease with the upcoming
work day. He noticed a large clock in front of Kant Bank. It displayed the time with a heartless reality. Eight twenty-two.
Hardly enough time to cover the distance between him and Mr. Cupple’s annoyed stare. His foot depressed the gas pedal.
He gave the octapod creature, which was splayed out near a mailbox, little notice.
“Don’t have time for your ugly butt,” he mumbled to the car’s interior, feeling a small sense of satisfaction.
Once at work, he decided to try and be as quiet as possible. He was four minutes
late and he didn’t feel like hearing Mr. Cupple’s rhetoric about punctuality.
“Did you kick up the heat?” asked Josie. Her baby blue eyes were framed
perfectly by her strawberry blonde hair. Larry stammered for a reply which wouldn’t make him sound too stupid.
“Umm..yeah, it’s hot in here.” Not exactly smooth but sufficient.
“I turned the heat up,” announced Mr. Beath. “Better for my allergies.
Aren’t you a little behind this morning, Larry?” His left eyebrow raised slightly.
“I’m just getting my morning cup of coffee, sir.” A small delay
in the response raised Larry’s hopes that the big boss man wouldn’t be sore at him for being late, but it was
not to be.
“Well, make it snappy. I don’t pay you to get drinks…or be late.”
Larry exhaled heavily as Mr. Beath sauntered down the hallway. So much for a quiet
Looking over the day’s truck schedules, he mentally mapped out the day’s
work. Lunch came quickly, largely due to the workload, and two o’clock was not far behind. The day was moving along
smoothly for Larry and his mind was gradually shifting towards dinner, a beer and more beer.
Three twenty-five was the time when Emery, Mr. Cupple’s scrawny assistant,
made his unwelcome showing at the door. “Larry, got that new equipment straightened out yet?” His coke bottle
glasses raised and lowered with the movement of his tiny mouth. Larry felt like throwing a wrench at him.
“On it right away, Emery.” He thought the twerp looked kind of stupid,
standing in the doorway glaring at him, completely unaware of the arachnid-type thing that dangled a mere three feet above
his oversized head. It sent down a slimy tendril which grazed Emery’s shoulder.
“Good. Mr. Cupple wants to see you at four sharp in his office. Something
about backorders from last week.” And with a quick one-eighty, he was gone. Larry slumped into a nearby chair.
“Sometimes I wish I could control you assholes,” he mumbled to the
dangling creature. It merely cocked its head to one side and hissed.
Mr. Cupple’s office door loomed ahead, daring Larry to open it. God, how
he hated that office. Reluctantly, he placed three timid knocks on the large, oak door. No reply. Again he knocked, this time
with slightly more force. Still no answer. A glance at his wristwatch confirmed the time, three fifty-eight. Well, he was
early. If anyone could appreciate that it would be Mr. Cupple. But why wasn’t he in his office?
Mrs. Teamont sat placidly at her desk with her usual blank look, tapping away at
her computer. She was oblivious to his presence.
“Is Mr. Cupple in?”
She hesitated from her tapping only long enough to answer in a robotic tone.
“Mr. Cupple wasn’t feeling well after lunch and asked not to be disturbed.”
She then resumed her secretarial duties.
“But he wanted to see me at four o’clock,” Larry retorted, irritated
by the prudish redhead’s attitude.
“Not to be disturbed,” she replied without a glance.
Fine. So much the better. Now he wouldn’t have to meet with him. He’d
worry about it tomorrow. He strolled back to the docking bay thinking about five o’clock.
The ride home was blissfully uneventful, completely void of traffic or, more importantly,
appearances. Buddy was sprawled out not more than six inches from where he had been that morning. He lifted his shaggy head,
acknowledged Larry’s return and promptly dozed back off. Got to get a younger dog.
The remote control felt good in his hand but the stock market wasn’t kind,
it showed a two hundred and six point drop for the day. A lame eighties sitcom, which used to be funny fifteen years earlier,
clogged another channel.
He finally settled on channel eleven news. Gwen Winsett’s beautiful face
stared back at him. She was his favorite newscaster. He hardly noticed that the volume was practically off. As he pressed
the button to increase the level he nearly choked as Severen Industries came on the screen. Yellow crime scene tape swung
in the wind across the front door, the same front door he had passed through only an hour earlier. Numerous police cars were
scattered around the front entrance as
Officers were taking notes and talking with people including Mrs. Teamont who was
showing some emotion for the first time.
“A Mr. Henry Cupple was found murdered in his office earlier today. His secretary,
Theresa Teamont, discovered the body and immediately phoned the police. Apparently, he had been decapitated.
Sergeant Milanski of Beachwood Police said it appeared his head had been bitten
clean off. No trace of it has been found nor were there any signs of forced entry. Mrs. Teamont…”
Larry clicked the television off. He stared at the blank screen. The thought that
Mr. Cupple could have been in that condition when he was knocking on the door made him feel like throwing up. Could that door
have been the only thing separating him from a similar fate? He felt a cold shiver run down his spine.
Then the phone shattered the silence.
A cool, raspy voice was on the other end. “Mr. O’Hara?”
“This is Detective Alad from Beachwood Police. I’d like you to head
down to the station if you would for a few questions. There’s been a murder at your place of employment and I understand
you were one of the last ones to see the victim… a Mr. Cupple .”
“He wanted to see me in his office but I was told he wasn’t feeling
well,” Larry replied nervously. But then he realized he had nothing to hide, he didn’t kill him. “I’ll
be there in a half an hour.”
“Thank you Mr. O’Hara and the line went dead.
With a sandwich in his hand, he headed for the door. Out of habit, he glanced at
the microwave. Butthead was not there. “Good,” he said to himself. “Not in the mood for that shit anyways.”
The doorknob was in his hand when the thing in the microwave reflection viciously
tore out his throat. And at that same moment all over the world, evil, corrupt things made their appearances before they attacked.
Copyright Rick McQuiston 2004
McQuiston has been writing now for several years and have
recently been starting to submit some of his work. He enjoys
anything that is horror related and his biggest influences are Stephen King, Charles L. Grant and F. Paul Wilson. He lives
in Warren, Michigan with his wife, daughter (who is also an aspiring author) and his son.
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