by S. E. Mabson
I said it wasn't real...I wish it wasn't.
|As a kid, I never liked the dark, and I still don't. It wasn't because I used to sneak and watch horror films my mom told me not to. Or because my senses were always heightened after watching one. So, I noticed every branch scratch against the window, every creak in the floorboard from midnight bathroom breaks. And of course, it wasn't because my older brother enjoyed, no he loved, to torture me. He especially romanticized a good jump scare during this prime scare time. No, it was, is, none of those reasons. Ok, who am I kidding? They played a huge part in that fear. Let's be real, what kid doesn't stare at the door or window after a scary movie. Heck, adults do that. The real fear-terror, no the intense dread, yeah that's it dread, comes from experience.
I've heard what lurks in the shadows. I've smelled the stench of death and life that dwells in the darkness, tasted its thick aroma. I've seen its illuminating eyes shining through, deciding what to do with me, yet never showing its face. I'm scared of the dark to this day and forevermore because my brother just had to have immortality.
"Greg, when are you going to let me see this secret project thing you got down there in the basement?" I walked over to the basement door and reached for the doorknob.
"Apocolypse," Greg, my twin brother, whose back is turned to me, pushed a button on a small black remote over his shoulder.
"Huh?" I put my hand back in pocket at the sound of the lock clicking.
"You can see the secret project thing in the basement when the apocalypse hits. I don't want to be the one to kill you after you see it. I'll let the zombies do it."
"Sarcasm has always suited you, little Greggy." He turns around, holding the bowl of cereal he just made. He didn't respond, just glared over his bowl. Me, being the jokester I am, held my hand over my heart, clenching it in mock pain. He smirked, and we both laughed. "Seriously, man, I want to know what you're doing down there."
"Why are all your answers so short they make no sense." Greg rolled his eyes and sighed.
"You do know what immortality is, don't you."
"Yeah, that doesn't tell me what you are doing in the basement."
"I'm doing immortality. Trying to unlock it, to be exact."
"Riiiiiiiiiiight. You win, I'll drop it."
"I knew you wouldn't understand."
"Immortality isn't real, Greg. Outside of God, angels, demons, and fantasy, anyway." He shrugged and pushed the button on the remote again. The door opened, and he stepped down the first two or three steps then looked back at me. Greg had left the door open, and boy, was I hoping it was an invitation. I was itching to see what he was REALLY working on. He nodded. It was a simple nod, but a full contractual agreement with an NDA attached was signed when I nodded back. He smirked and continued down the steps, and I followed. There was something odd about the smirk on his face, though. It wasn't the kind of smirk you give when you're about to prove you're right about something. It was more like when you knew something the other person didn't. I couldn't help but feel like that something was, well, nothing good.
I have to admit his laboratory was pretty decked out for a basement lab in a middle-class house. Did I mention we were teenagers then? Greg was into all the sciencey stuff; I always knew that, but this was pretty epic, though. I guess he could tell by how I was rotating in slow motion with my mouth frozen in mid "WOW!"
"Oh yeah! When did you become a mad scientist and why am /I just now finding out?" He laughed so softly; I almost didn't hear him."If immortality were a real concept available for us mere mortals, I'd totally believe you were unlocking it in here." Greg just shook his head and rolled his eyes.
"It is real and I am unlocking it in here. Maybe. I haven't really figured that part out yet."
"Prove it." No brother can withstand the 'prove it' challenge. Let alone a twin. He walked around the corner and stopped in front of a door.
"Warning, what is behind this door will give you nightmares. wooooo woooooo." we both laughed, but I got the feeling he was only half-joking. "So, I kept seeing this weird looking creature in the alley behind Carine's When I took out the trash, but it never seemed to notice me. So, naturally, I tranqed it and brought it back here one night. I was able to identify it with a book from the library. It has many names, but truthfully no one really knows what it is or how many there are. They seem to need the darkness and, of course, their immortal." I stared at the doorknob, unsure whether it was wise or not to open it. "You can open the door; it's in a cage."
"Do you hear how crazy this sounds? And where did you get a tranq gun?" He shrugged his shoulder, smiling with his eyebrows raised. "of course, you're not going to tell me."
"If you are too afraid to open the door, you could just shut up and listen closely. You'll probably be able to hear it moving." Another challenge. I'm sure you can probably guess what I did. I opened the door slightly and saw...nothing. It was pitch black, with a small patch of light shining in from the door. It wasn't enough to see it through. I could smell it though. I've heard people compare smells to death, I understand that now. The smell seeps through your pores, begging for an embrace as it explores through you. I pushed the door open a little wider and still couldn't see much, just a bunched up figure of what could maybe be a monkey. It's back was turned, but I could vaguely see the bones of his spines bulging out, covered scarcely in dark hair.
"Did you catch a caveman?" I laughed, then gasped, widening my eyes. "Someone in the city has a time machine! Please tell me it's you! Is this how your unlocking immortality? Time travel?"
"I wish. I'm trying to figure out what makes this creature immortal and recreate it. No one even knows how to kill it."
"So, what I am hearing is I get the room to myself when you become a mutant, and I have to kill you to keep you from eating the whole family."
"It means when you turn into an old Quasimodo, I'll still be young and sexy." We shoved each other laughing until he froze. I followed his gaze to the creature. His eyes, bright yellow eyes, stared unblinkingly at us. They were so bright it blurred the rest of him. I backed toward the door. The bright lights moved closer. I backed into the wall. "Scared?"
"It's in a cage."
"When was the last time it ate?"
"Oh, crap! I forgot to feed it! I didn't look for it in the book I checked out."
"It looks angry."
"You can only see its eyes."
"AND ITS EYES ARE ANGRY!" At this point, my brother has run to retrieve the book. Me? I'm apparently glued to the floor stuck in some kind of trance. I couldn't look away. The sensors in my brain sent sweat signals to my hands, my forehead, and basically, everywhere else—my brain also sent signals to my muscles to shake lightly at first. Those eyes. Those bright yellow eyes. They continued stalking forward, and my muscles shook harder, faster. What my brain didn't send was a signal to my feet, telling them to run. The creature was close enough now; the doorway shone a light slightly across one side. It stood upright, but its knees bent backward. His leg and arm were not hairy like its back. In my head, I registered it as the result of a human and werewolf making a baby that's just didn't come out quite right.
"It eats raw meat!" Greg rushed into the room, holding the book, and stopped right next to me. "How did it get so close? Did you let it out?" I didn't even answer. I couldn't. My mouth was too dry and brittle to move and my voice was cowering in the corner of my voice box. Looking back, my best guess, that sucker was strong. Strong enough to get through whatever little cage my brother has. It was waiting. Patiently waiting. For what? Food, I guess. There's that smell again, brushing against my face, soaring through my nostrils. Was it sniffing me? I don't even know; my brain signals were so jumbled up the rest of my body couldn't comprehend. I was malfunctioning...fast. Am I even breathing? My heartbeat was probably near explosion; it was beating so fast. Its eyes were glaring into mine. So close, I could reach out and touch them without extending my arm. If I could move it, that is. The man beast stood perfectly still, just staring me down, then turned away from me. I collapsed to the ground, chest heaving trying to catch my breath. I didn't even care I was halfway into a panic attack; I was just glad to be breathing at all again. Too glad. The feel of air soaring in and out of my lungs again was euphoric, so much so, I lost complete track of the creature. But Greg didn't.