The Butcher of London

I was sitting wretched in a penny sit-up, my hands and face caked with the dirt of the day—reflecting the filth this place sees me as. I was one of many who died to the beast of social class. I was nothing to anyone who had a full belly and more than a handful of pennies in their pockets. I am nothing.

The air was stagnant despite the number of bodies that chose to fill this place. My hands lay face down across the roughly cut wooden table. A candle placed every few feet or so illuminated the scars on my skin and the caked-in dirt under my nails. A cough would echo through the area, overshadowing small conversation tired men were having to merely stay awake, as for just a penny, you were not allowed to sleep here. In fact, someone would periodically saunter around the rows of tables and be sure to wake anyone who did fall asleep.

For a penny, you got a dingy roof held up by decaying brick walls, kept only semi-warm by the bodies that paid for the privilege of inhabiting it. You wanted to sleep?—well that would cost you two pennies, and you’d gain the luxury of becoming part of the great mass of men and women sleeping standing up, with only a rope to lean over supporting all of your weight. I’d sooner piss on the pennies and use the same rope to hang myself. Is this really the life I live? Murdering myself for the privilege of surviving? Surviving was a strong word at that.

Lost in my own thoughts, a man sat down next to me, placed a bag down on the bench between us—an empty burlap sack that appeared empty. The man sat almost perfectly upright, and was wearing a nice coat and long-brimmed hat. His eyes were shaded and just in the corner of my sight, but a smile was all too apparent. I ignored him. I paid my way in here to relax, not to make small talk.

“You look awfully tired, my boy.” The man spoke in an unfamiliar way—something about his accent. It was comforting, charismatic even, but somehow disconcerting.

I slipped a small glance to him before refocusing on the few inches of wood grain in front of me. “We are all tired.”

He gave a low, cadenced chuckle. “A penny can buy you a bench and a roof. You might think a handful could buy you a better life, wouldn’t ya?”

I didn’t want to respond, but he persisted. “Didn’t you hear me, friend?”

I felt his hand grip my left forearm before my eyes shot to it. His hand was black as night—covered in coal? I looked into the man’s eyes, or rather the place eyes would be. The shadow and dim lighting covered them. I could see only small specks of light reflecting from the glossy wet spots on his face.

“Get your hands off me. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I want to rest, not talk.”

The stained yellow teeth appeared in the dark like a wound being cut open. He clacked them together once before letting go and facing forward. My heart was as uncomfortable as I was, beating practically through the buttons on my coat, but I couldn’t get up or move away. He seemed like the type to cause a scene.

“What brings you in for the night?” I decided to ask, most likely to my future regret.

His hand reached into his left coat pocket and pulled a small pipe from his coat. He packed it full of tobacco; the smell was unmistakable, and honestly a refreshing change amongst the sweat and soot that permeated this building.

“The night brings me in.” He pulled a match and struck the pipe, the flash briefly illuminating a face, pale white, contrasted by the black coal color that reached up to his neck and ears. He had angular and sharp features, including a rather pointed, crooked nose. Scars littered his face in no discernible way. I was almost so distracted by catching a glimpse of the strange man that the answer to my question didn’t sufficiently shock me as it should.

“I’m sorry? The night?” I attempted to regain what little composure my mind had to afford.

“Yes. It gets cold. Needed a place to rest.” He gave a slight exhale as smoke filled the air around him, almost hanging in the spaces the light chose to settle.

“Oh, of course. I’m sorry. I’m weary. Long day. Long life.” My voice trailed as it neared the end of my thought. The space around me had gone quiet. It felt as if I sat alone in an empty room with the strange man. The candle flame flickered.

“Life is a struggle, a fight. For some, the fight is lost at birth.” He grinned, his pipe clutched in his jaws.

“What are we to do? It can’t be changed. Like you said—lost at birth.” I let out a small cough. The taste of sickly mucus filled and coated my tongue before swallowing it back down.

“You lost this fight, absolutely.” He took a long drag of the pipe. “But suppose you start another?” He let out the smoke, causing the candle to flicker, almost fade. “Become Goliath.” His smoke filled the space in the air that was illuminated by the wisps of flame in front of us. It hung, lingered around us.

I had no idea what in the hell he was talking about. A tickle in my throat welled up. Just before I leaned into my abrasive wool coat, I heard another cough erupt a few rows back. I leaned to peek at the man fighting a coughing fit. Some patted him on the back, some scooted farther away.

“A struggle…” His voice lingered like the smoke as I watched the man continue to cough, stand and choke on his own lungs. No help was offered, only one of the men that kept us awake to grab him by his flailing, grasping arms and drag him out. In-between the spaces well lit by the poor flame, I could see the bright red crimson running down the man’s white shirt as he was being evacuated from the space.

Was it another disease? A new one? I wouldn’t doubt it. I couldn’t doubt it; it seemed like every other day a dead body was being dragged out of alleyways and factories. We, the wretched squalor, were not only disregarded by those that thought themselves better than us, but by the entire world, as it seemed to be trying to expel us with a horrid miasma. My sight lingered on the door the sickly man was dragged out of, watching the heavy wood sway and slam shut against the metal frame, echoing a call throughout the quiet interior. If it weren’t for the man sat next to me exhaling another cloud of sweet sickly smoke I might have never refocused.

“It’s like the world wants us dead. Like the stars want us dead.” I said, my thoughts fleeting, tremors running up my hands.

“You are quite something to think you are important enough for this cosmos to acknowledge you in the slightest.” His words dragged out slowly, like he wanted me to interrupt him. I don’t know what I would interrupt him with. My mind felt hazy; it felt farther than it had ever before. “But you could be truly seen, by those stars you deem your executioner.” He spoke with the pipe gripped in his jaws. 

This man spoke as if he knew something no one else did. He seemed proud of it. I sighed deeply trying to catch some breath that had left with the dying man and leaned into my hands, my elbows resting against the rough table before me closing my eyes. 

“You talk as if you know, stranger.” I spoke purposefully and mumbled into my hands.

He tapped his dirt-filled nails across the wood grain like a chittering insect on the hunt. 

“These eyes see through so much. Little bitty puppet. I can see your strings.” He smiled a toothy grin that cut through the shadow like a blade through soft skin. “Wonder who is gripping onto those frail little strings?” He stopped himself. “Or maybe not a puppet—a pig waiting for the butcher’s knife.”

His voice was punctuated by a cacophony of coughing men. Hacking and gagging simultaneously amongst the building. My stomach rose to my throat. My head spun as if I had been drinking all night. Nauseating pain shot from my temple down to the base of my neck. Within the dark of my closed eyes, spots of light began to erupt, breaking the black. Despite the pain, it was beautiful. I didn’t want to open them. It felt like floating in the night sky, out beyond the clouds. My stomach turned violently, my eyes shot open at the sudden upheaval of my insides and I gripped my mouth as if that would stop it. I tried to overcome the feeling. After a moment that seemed like many, it passed.

“Sick of being the pig, aren’t you?” my eyes lazily dragged over to him as he spoke just as calmly as he had when he first sat down.

“What are you talking about? Have you lost your mind?”

He pulled in another long breath of smoke. As he responded it came pouring out like a dragon eyeing a new piece of glittering gold. “Want to feel what it’s like to be the butcher?”

My stomach reeled. My arms began to ache from shoulder to fingertip as if they were covered in boiling oil, like my skin was being cooked. My eyes flashed around the room looking for anyone to help. Barely standing, I tried to call out, but all I could manage were grunts and groans.

The small embers of lights that illuminated the surrounding tables were going out, as if some hideous demon was going around blowing them out swiftly. I could hear shifting in the dark, swift ends to screams snuffed out quickly. The man still sat, pulling in more of his pipe.

I grabbed hold of his jacket, intending to demand answers, but again, I couldn’t. Nothing but a warm liquid flooded from my throat, cascading down the front of my chest. I released him to try to cover my mouth, but far more came erupting out with a sickening pulse. The black liquid tinged with the bright red crimson of my being poured out over the dam I made with my hand and the resulting pain brought me to my knees.

My grasp tightened at the stranger’s coat as he calmly stood up and, with a flick of his boot, kicked me free of him. He leaned down to show me that pale white face running a black as deep as the void I felt consuming me. Another damned smile crept along his face before he took two long steps out of my sight.

I was left with only agony—my mind splitting open and a song of coughing and pain surrounding me.

A sharp pain started at the tip of my chin and slithered into my stomach, with a crack and a sickening squelch from within me. Starting at my jaw, I felt myself bifurcate. My tongue went loose with no jaw to keep it in my mouth, my viscera spilled across the loose gravel before moving like living snakes, latching onto anchor points and other writhing bodies in the dark.

In the bloody split I could see snapping ribs rearranging into teeth. My eyes followed, but my brain felt as if it was long lost. A scream so deep that would make the devil flee escaped from me—not from my throat, but from the new mouth gifted by the pain.

Between each horrid mutation, images flashed of starlight, of distant globes floating in the void, dead cities and rotting populace, screaming denizens of space and time unknown. The pain reached its peak and emptied from me in the form of another deep guttural scream. I felt like a blade against a throat. I felt power.

My eyes rolled back into my skull, tearing themselves from their homes with a quick snap. Shadow was all I was offered, shadow and the sickening sounds of my flesh becoming something alien, a heresy to life, beautiful. I could feel myself being dragged along by the length of my guts—my new means of locomotion?

In the black of my own thoughts I witnessed the screams and shouts of the populace not only in this wretched place, but from all of London. It didn’t take long before I had new eyes to see from. Pair after pair gave me new sight to see the horrid perfection I had been granted. I took from man what had been taken from me—life.

My body was not mine anymore; it was a mere vessel of the cosmos. No control would be had. I merely got to watch, lose myself as more and more pigs were added to the pile, merging flesh with flesh, bone on bone, and mind on mind. I reveled in it—a beautiful spectacle of ancient cravings I had not known, primal and unrelenting. 

I become we. We became more than what we were as individuals. Feared, the Butcher of London comes knocking to reveal the truth you all know yet refuse to show. 

You are nothing.

The Gloam: Chapter 1,


The only thing I learned down in that tomb they called Site 112 is that I—we are nothing.

The rain beat down hard across the cement as the team’s boots entered the soundscape of millions of droplets. Illuminated by flood lights painted over the grey and blue hues of cold ground, the six of us moved through the open air towards the massive bunker door implanted into the side of the mountain. The rain cascaded down our gasmaks, creating a deafening torrent across our hazmat suits.

As we approached the massive metal door it groaned open like a hungry beast waiting to ingest us. The locking metal spokes, the teeth, the inside of the maw, and the single freight elevator at the back its throat.

As we all entered the elevators, I heard our commanding officer Lt. Auger call out, “Weapon and gear check.” 

Her voice echoed through the comms in our ears, a muffled undertone suffocated by her gas mask. I wiped the rain from my mask and checked my M4. I pulled the magazine and looked at my reserve ammo count on my vest. Slid it back into the weapon, pulled the slide back to chamber a round. Letting it dangle on its sling I pulled my sidearm and did the same. I was checking through my vest when the comms buzzed.

“I want us close down there, understand?” Her green eyes even managed to pierce through her rain-spotted mask. 

We all gave a decisive nod and a “Yes ma’am.”

Her black rubber gloves moved along her weapon, checking it as she continued to speak.

“As I was told, there are no expected survivors on sight. Regardless, keep steady and don’t fire unless absolutely sure.”

The elevator hitched, the lights flickered.

“This is a containment breach. Asset 11-b1 has broken out of its cell. We aren’t sure about other assets being released. So are to assume the worst. Move quickly and quietly, find asset 11-1b, and contain it by any means necessary.”

She took a deep breath, as if to calm herself. That scared us the most.

“The asset is considered to be extremely volatile. I have been instructed to shoot on sight. Do not attempt to communicate with it. We don’t have much to go on in the way of threats, what it can do. I was just given a brief description of it. Three meters tall, a humanoid posture, digitigrade footing. Eyeless and covered in a thick oily black chitin. Tendrils along its back that are believed to be used as sensory organs. Try to keep your minds clear.”

Her voice at the end dropped, as if concerned. The elevator doors opened to the sterile white lobby of Site 112.

The talk stopped as we moved into the white room, weapons up. It was nothing but a lobby. A bathroom door to the right and locked door going into the elevator to the different levels.

We saw no signs of bodies.

Auger’s eyes connected with Blaine and Wesley with a hand pointing to the restrooms to clear them. There was a slight whisper from the comms. 

“Abbot, get on the lobby computer.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he moved behind the counter and sat in the rolling chair.

My eyes darted from corner to corner, weapon down but finger still hovering over the trigger guard. After just a moment Wesley and Blaine exited the bathroom with a fairly loud “clear.” We all somewhat relaxed, and could then hear Abbot’s tapping on the keyboard.

“Ma’am any other loose assets in the facility?”

Auger’s eyes looked as if she hadn’t thought of that. 

“I’m not sure, Gates. But we deal with it bit by bit. The higher-ups only told me about the one. So I hope that’s the only issue going forward.” She looked back to Abbot. “Anything?”

He spoke without stopping the keystrokes. “I have limited security footage. Nothing current. The cameras seem to be down throughout the facility, some door access as well. The system is a mess, Ma’am”.

Auger looked at the four of us standing waiting for an order and then back at Abbot. “Alright, Fredericks you’re staying here with Abbot. There are two floors below us. Wesley, you’re with me. We’re going down one floor.” 

Wesley moved promptly over to her side.

“That means Blaine and Gates, you are going to the sub level.”

We both gave verbal confirmation. In truth, I was happy. I’d much rather be with someone I knew well. Wesley only joined our squad a month or two ago. He’s gotta be talented to make it into the squad, but not knowing him well would give me another variable to deal with. Blaine and I had fought alongside many times. It comforted me knowing he was going with me.

“Abbot, keep us updated as best as you can. Let us know if you find anything relevant to the asset. The rest of you, let’s move.”

The four of us moved towards the sealed door as the tapping of a keyboard ended with a decisive click. The door hissed and slid open. The hallway wasn’t more than 10 or so meters, with a stairwell door on the left and an elevator straight ahead. We all piled into the elevator. Auger pushed both buttons. B1 and B2. The doors closed and the elevator shifted as it took us on our descent. 

Only a moment passed before it dinged and opened. There was a stark difference from the floor and the sterile white, untouched lobby. The lights were barely on and flickering. All of our guns went up as Wesley moved into the room. Before Auger followed she shot us both a look—the kind a worried parent might give. She exited the elevator. As the doors closed, mine and Blaine’s weapons lowered.

Blaine was checking his master key, the underbarrel shotgun on his M4. He was always a fan of being able to use it whenever he could.

“Let’s make sure to stay focused.”

Blaine only responded with a half chuckle before looking up at me.

“100% all the time. We got this.”

The elevator dinged again, sounding warped and distorted. The doors struggled to open.

Blaine and I moved through the opening hall quickly, rifles up, our eyes darting under the thin layer of protection.

Every door we passed—closed, requiring more clearance than either of us had. We came to a double door. A large sign above the door said “subject testing.” The text was in blue, contrasting with the surrounding white of the walls.

I pushed on the door. 

“Sealed. See if Abbot can get it open before using your key?”

The sentence that indicated restraint on using his favorite tool seemed to sadden Blaine, but he gave me a quick nod of approval.

“Abbot? It’s Gates.” I could hear a slight echo from Blaine’s comms.

“What’s up?” He said, almost mockingly.

“We are outside subject testing, sub level 2. Any access from there?”

It was only a second before the comms clicked back.

“I have none. Auger asked me the same about administration. I can barely load up security footage from more than a day ago.”

“”It must be Christmas,” I whispered before I answered the comms. “Understood. You made Blaine happy.”

“Have fun. Over,” he said quickly, knowing how much the master key meant to him. With one quick concussive shot the middle lock burst open. I entered first, followed quickly by Blaine. 

The room was massive. It was a circle, desks and computers lining the walls, some still on and working. The center was raised, on it an inner circle of desks. In the center was an almost glass aquarium, but with no water.

We skirted around the room, clearing it before regrouping to search for anything that could give us a leg up on the situation. We both imminently started digging through papers, working computers, anything. The sound of us rummaging echoed through this almost hollow feeling white room. It felt like an eternity before I stumbled on to something.


Made contact with an unknown entity through The Veil. It returned multiple times on separate occasions. Wasn’t overtly hostile. Not sure if it even knew we were there. Its presence did seem to provoke some adverse reactions in some of the newer staff. One even went as far as to mutilate their eyes with a pen.  After that incident we only have had senior staff working around it and only short intervals to be sure.

We were able to lead it to containment. It absolutely senses our presence, even without obvious sensory organs, other than perhaps the tendrils coming from its back section. Once in containment it just stood in the center of the cell. Not moving. No sound. Nothing.

Our first test to gain a deep tissue sample was a failure. The dark chitinous plates that cover its body  made such a thing impossible without a powered drill. I fear such a device may startle or aggravate it.

“Anything?” Blaine called out from across the room.

“Yeah, this thing is 100% not terrestrial. Look for something about The Veil. It’s mentioned in this report. It’s some kind of device, I assume on site.”

Blaine started to search through his pile of discarded papers and documents. Just as he started, the lights turned off with a loud hum. The sound of his papers stopped. I lifted my weapon.

“Flashlight isn’t turning on,” I heard Blaine in the dark, immediately trying to switch my shoulder flashlight on my vest. It just clicks, nothing. Same with the comms, nothing.

“Fuck, comms aren’t on either.” 

My mouth felt dry as I said it. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as if it was echoing in my gasmask. Apart from that, I heard the occasional sound of mine or Blaine’s hard boots stepping against the tile floor. My eyes started to settle in the dark as shapes were starting to be visible. I could see Blaine.

“You see me?”

“Yeah, back to me.” He shuddered as he directed me. I heard another footstep. Heavy, slow. Couldn’t be more than 10 meters away. Our guns went to our shoulders.

I felt like I could hear both of our hearts stuttering in unison. Every shape in the dark felt like a threat. We rotated, scanning and trying as best we could to see everything.

“Gates, did you bring any light sticks?” Blaine whispered as low as he could.

I lowered my weapon and started to search my vest. I did. I had five on my lower vest. I slid one from its home and snapped it quickly against my leg. I threw it to the center of the room, illuminating us in an eerie green glow. That’s when both our guns raised tighter to our shoulders and fixated on the form just on the other side of the containment cell.

Its vaguely humanoid form was distorted by the low light and layers of glass. A low groan filled the room, like a rumble that felt like it shook my bones.

I glanced at Blaine. His gun was up but his eyes were drifting. His composure faltered. Even through all the gear, I could tell it was getting to him.

There was a loud weighted clang like that of metal on stone as the creature took two large gated steps around the cell. I took a step back and almost slipped off the raised floor. Blaine stood still.

The creature’s large, almost cocoon-like silhouette moved along on its beastly legs laggardly. The rumble filled the space within my gas mask along with my hyperventilated breath. Its form made little sense. A head with no features. No arms seen. Blaine still hadn’t moved. I hesitated to fire.

My head flashed with pain, a piercing migraine that reached into my neck. I stifled vomit.

“Blaine. Hey.” I tried to grasp his attention as calmly as I could, but he didn’t break his stare.

“Fuck Blaine! Look at me!” I couldn’t hold back the panic anymore. It got him to turn his head to me, and I saw that tears were running down his face. I heard the creature take another step towards us. 

“We need to leave. You understand?” I said, beckoning him with a hurried motion. He started to stumble towards me as a sickening sound filled the air. Wet stones rubbing together, a sickly sliding of flesh and chitin. The cocoon silhouette grew in my periphery. Eight armored tendrils unfurled from its back, leaking some liquid across the dimly lit floor.

The creature was feeling, moving things around as it kept its slow pace. Blaine’s eyes had moved back towards the thing as it metamorphosed into something else in front of us. His gaze once again fixed to that horrid point.

I took a step forward to try to grab Blaine by the back of his vest, but as I did, one of the tendrils cracked like a whip and moved across the floor in front of Blaine, cracking and shattering the tile.The rumble oscillated as I backed off.

I had to deal with odd things—violent things—in this squad, but nothing like this. I knew they wanted me dead, but this thing? I didn’t know what it wanted at all.

I raised my rifle tight against my shoulder. It moved closer to Blaine, but its featureless face fixed on me the entire time.

It dwarfed him as it closed the distance, his eyes staring up at it as it started to wrap him up with its armored appendages. I wasn’t just going to watch. I squeezed the trigger, aimed for its head. I had to. It’s tendrils moved like lightning, covering its face as the rounds skipped and chipped chitin from them. The rumble turned to a hiss as it stumbled back.

As the last round in the magazine left the barrel, I was already grabbing Blaine by his vest and dragging him away. With my free hand I dropped the magazine out of the weapon, still trying desperately to drag Blaine with me. He was fighting me. Struggling.

“Blaine shake it off. Focus. Please!”

He turned and lunged at me. He was like some sort of zombie, his eyes still filled with tears.

“Let me be.” He said in an almost choking voice.

With my eyes fixed to his I didn’t see the tendril wrap around his waist. It pulled him from me and pushed me forward. I landed on my face. 

I fought to get my rifle out from underneath me, rising to one knee as fast as I could. By the time the new magazine was in and the slide snapped the round in the chamber, the creature was gone. It left as quickly as it came. 

The lights flickered on. Immediately I felt tears running down my cheeks and Abbot in my ear shouting.

“Gates, Blaine. Respond!”

“Contact. Blaine was taken. Tell Auger! Get them both to me. ” I could hear my voice crack.

“I haven’t been able to contact them, Gates. ” I could hear the frustration in his voice. My heart dropped along with my rifle.

“What do we do, Gates?” Abbot pleaded.

“I’m falling back to you. “


The seals on my helmet hissed as I pulled it up from my neck. The 311D series pressure suit was bulky and clumsy out of the water. I walked through the automatic door, out of the airlock. The room was empty except for five spaces along the outer wall to help don and doff the suits—without them they looked like butcher’s hooks, which gave the whole room a much more morbid feeling. Or maybe that’s just me.

Getting the suit off had become easy over the decade I have spent coming back to this research base. The base is on the edge of a tectonic instability in the Pacific Ocean that left a massive fissure deep beyond the ocean’s floor. A great place to be, not ominous at all.

Being free of the suit lifted a massive metaphoric and real weight off me. My feet sloshed through the inch or so of water that I had dripped across the metal floor, crossing the room towards the door out of here.

The sounds here are always some form of creaking and moaning—all this pressure will do that. But after years, you kind or ignore it. Only the out-of-the-ordinary sounds stand out after that point.


My heart started, fast and rapid. I was uncomfortably aware of its speed. I sat still next to the door, my hand hovering over its release. I held my breath waiting for it to either happen again, or for my heart to get out of my ears. After a few moments, nothing followed the tap. There were no other sound besides my heavy, anxious breathing.

I let my hand off the door release. As it slid open with a heavy metal clunk against the frame, my mind refocused. Calm down, you’re hearing things.

The locker room was just as cold as everywhere else in this station, much less pooling water though. It was filled with rows of stand-up lockers. Only five of them were ever in use. As the funds for our station dropped off, we went from a large group of people to a mere skeleton crew.

I removed my thermals I wore under the suit in exchange for a black t-shirt and the “Void watchers” jumpsuit. I wrapped the top half of it around my waist. There were so little people on the Beholder station that there lacked what most would consider “leaders.” So, the crew didn’t always follow the uniform code.

“How was your walk, Winston?”

Hearing the familiar voice of Raff was a good way to shake me out of the cage in my head.
I turned to look at him at the exit of the locker room. He wore his jumpsuit like mine, except it was covered with stains. Working as the station’s engineer came with the added benefit of extra filth.

“It was fine,” I said, with a half-hearted smile.

“What’s the problem?”

I didn’t want to tell him. Psychological issues down here where a big threat to everyone’s safety.

“Just tired is all. Walking around in that suit with bad hydraulics wore me out.”

He did something that was in between a sigh and a chuckle.

“Is your suit causing problems again?”

He took a few steps in and sat on the bench facing me, arms resting on his legs as he leaned forward. I always feel like I’m being interrogated.

“Yeah. Ever since the fall it’s unreliable at best. Input delay and even had some joint feedback.”

All of our suits were especially made for the individual. The inner sleeve fit us as tight as possible without constricting us. So we have to use them, despite issues.

“I’ll go take a look tonight after dinner, see if I can resolve the issue.” He gave me another smirk and pat my shoulder before getting up and walking out.

I felt my body relax a little as he left. I didn’t have any problems with Raff—or anyone on The Beholder for that matter. But ever since I fell 20 or so meters down the rift, they have been treating me quite differently. Every conversation will turn into an uncomfortable situation rapidly if I act even a little “off.” I can’t fault them for it. I don’t remember much from the incident. I must have rattled my head hard inside the suit and lost consciousness.


I jumped up at the sound. But before I could react, I heard static and Helen’s voice over the intercom.

“Winston, come to Dock 3 immediately.”

She sounded angry. Why does she need me at the dock? It doesn’t matter. I stood up, stretching my arms outward with a deep sigh, and walked out of the locker room, closing my locker on my way out.

The halls connecting each individual module of the base were bare and rusted severely. The floors were mere metal grates that were hell to walk on in bare feet. The connectors were meant to be replaced every year or so, but most of the base’s connectors had gone unchanged. Due to this, most were worn down. The old logos were gone or near gone, and there was a strong smell of stagnant water that was caught in the crevices of the tubular structure.

Passing the cafeteria, I glanced over and saw everyone but Helen sitting down together to eat. The little moments together helped with the feelings of isolation greatly.

After a few stairs and a ladder, I made it to Dock 3. A large pool of water sat in the middle. It was, as the name suggested, a place to dock our mechanized workers . The one docked now was clearly beat to hell. Wires pulled out of airtight metal plates that were seemingly bent back. The control center in the middle was surrounded by 8-inch reinforced plexiglass—plexiglass that was now cracked. Helen was on a step stool adjacent to it surveying the damage.

“The fuck happened to number 3?” I honestly couldn’t hide the surprise in my voice even if I wanted to.

She sighed heavily as her shoulders dropped in defeat.

“I was hoping you would be able to tell me.”

The tone was accusatory. If the tone wasn’t, then the glare over her shoulder was .

“How could a person do that kind of damage? You think I did? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Well it was fine last night. It was docked since then .” She stopped working and threw some kind of spanner on top of the toolbox that was rolled just a few feet behind her. The look she was giving me was like I had just told her some God-awful truth.

“Why do you think it was me? And why the fuck would I want to hurt these things? They are meant to survey the ocean floor and the abyss mouth. What would anyone on this station have to gain by destroying them?” My lungs felt empty after that barrage of words. It felt like I hadn’t talked that much in a month.

She took two steps down off the step stool, dabbing some sort of grease or hydraulic fluid from her arms with the bottom of her t-shirt.

The room felt airless. I remained silent. The sound of clanking metal is all I heard as she dug through several shelves of the toolbox.

“Look, ever since you had that accident, you have been acting off and I—”

I cut her off. I didn’t want to hear anymore.

“I’m off? Ever since that fall I have been treated like a fucking threat to you and everyone else here!” I took a breath and relaxed my volume a bit. “Like I’m insane. Like I’m trying to hurt any of you. You know what it feels like to be treated like that? For merely being unlucky enough to have a bad fall.”

She stopped rummaging through the tools and looked at me, hunched over the toolbox.
“Winston. Its five of us down here. We only have each other. Your story doesn’t make sense. The guard rails are ten meters from the edge. You’re telling me you slipped and got flung ten meters?”

Her tone was giving me a headache, but she had a point. I couldn’t tell her how I fell. And I was afraid saying that again would only reinforce my apparent insanity.

She stood straight up, putting one of her heavy boots on the edge of the step stool. “Go get dinner. I got a lot of work to do here.”

I felt rage in my throat. But I took the not-so-subtle hint and walked out of the dock.

I decided to skip dinner. The walk to my room wasn’t far, and I didn’t want to handle the feeling of being uncomfortable and trapped by mundane conversation. I turned the handle and swung open the large heavy bulkhead door to my room. It was the exact same as everyone else’s. The most we could do to give it some of our own character was pictures or posters, or a few personal items. The only thing I had on the wall was a picture of a lake. It wasn’t my picture, wasn’t where I grew up or anything, I just remember seeing it in a store and enjoying it. I decided to take it down here with me. Several of the team have made fun of me for it—how I’m surrounded by water and the one thing I chose to bring with me was a picture of more water. I don’t think about water though when I look at it. I think of a cool breeze. A calm day. Trying to explain that has been largely pointless. To them, the picture was meaningless. I sat at the edge of my bed, exhausted. I just wanted to close my eyes and escape all of this.


I sprang up at the now all-too-familiar noise. My ears ringing, I took a step out of my room and stared into the hall. I saw no one else coming from the cafeteria to investigate. Am I just hearing shit now? Maybe they are right. Maybe I am losing my mind. Hell, I couldn’t even explain their accusations away. I had no idea how I fell down the trench. I was walking, then I was falling. It was instant, like a punch to the gut. One second you can breathe, the next you can’t. I just remember the turbulence, the sudden shift in direction, clawing for anything to stop the descent.
It just felt like I had blacked out when I came to.

I tried again to sit at the edge of my bed. Letting my head collapse into my hands, trying to calm down. What am I supposed to do? I still had months left on my stay here.

I felt a wave of nausea hit me. It was like I dropped five stories. My stomach went into my throat, the room melted into a spin. I fell onto my back and tried to breath deep through it, gripping the sheets of my bed as if that would stop the rotation.

“Please stop. Please stop.” I kept mouthing under what little breath I had. Begging to anyone that would listen.

Each breath felt like a relief. The spinning was slowing to a stop. On the last big breath, I closed my eyes, grounding myself. When they opened, the lights were off. The place was quiet, except for a distant tap on the outer hull echoing through the base like distant thunder.


Why were the lights off? The only time they all get turned off is if we are working on the electrical. I could see the dull pulse of the red warning light seeping through the tiny spaces of my bulkhead that was inches from secure.

Standing up was surprisingly easy given the feelings I was just battling. I guess it could have been adrenaline. I felt cold, a bit out of breath, but oddly spry—like I could sprint a mile.
I took a step or two from my bed to the bulkhead and swung it open slowly. The creaking of the hinges filled the silent space. The hallway was dark except for a few of the pulsing emergency lights illuminating six foot or so intervals with dark red light, the same lights I saw creeping into my room.

My bare footsteps echoed as I progressed. The cafeteria was empty. Did I pass out? Has everyone gone to their rooms? The table was littered with old food trays. Mold consumed what scraps were there, chairs were knocked over. What is happening?

I moved back down the hall to the barracks, turning toward the direction of the docks.


I spun around to confront the noise, my bare heels scraping on the metal grating as I took an involuntary step back. At the end of the corridor, barley out of the red hue, I saw a figure—a nightmare—peeking around the corner. My knees felt weak. I could barely take one shallow breath. I felt knots in my stomach, my limbs grew cold. I wanted to call out, but something in me told me not to. I took another step back.

It peeked further out from around the corner. I could make out long fingers that gripped at the wall’s many uneven surfaces. Hands like massive spiders, tips of fingers creating scraping noises that filled my ears. Its face didn’t look real. It had a low set mouth, a constantly moving tongue that ran across triangular teeth jutting out of the jaw that almost appeared as bare bone, and two large eyes sunk into its skull. It’s deep dull blue flesh contrasted off the dull red that washed over the entire creature. The back of its head seemed to inflate with each disgusting stuttered wheeze of a breath it took, each one sounding like a mocking laugh. I took another step back.

It hunched forward, bringing its torso low to the grate coming out from around the corner fully. It walked on its hands. As more of it appeared, I could see that its legs were just a mass of writhing tendrils. Starting near the waist, they wrapped and contorted around one another like a forest of seaweed, each one’s movement seemingly independent of the rest. Some gripped and moved it along the ground as others aimlessly floated, as if in water.

It dropped open its mouth to let out a broken gurgle. As it reached out with one of its long, lanky arms, across the metal grating it tapped three times synchronously with its breaths of mockery. My skin crawled. Sweat beaded down every inch of my skin. Each step backwards it followed suit, as if in time with me. I couldn’t—wouldn’t—turn my back on this living mockery of life.

My heart was already beating through my ribcage, and now it seemed as if it would rip through my skin. I could feel sweat beading down my forehead, pooling in my eyes. As it slowly reached forward with its other arm, it tapped again across the gratings and began pushing its body forward.

Tap…tap..tap… in between each heavy fall of its extended, bony digits. Its bear trap of a mouth hung low, breathing in my fear. If I stood still, it did as well. Just staring, breathing in deep and slow. Its eyes had no pupils, but I still felt its gaze fixed on me. I felt my stomach churn and my head splinter with pain.

I kept backing up down the hallway. My bare feet and my own excessive breathing were all I could hear—all that took my mind off the horror in front of me for split seconds at a time.

My back hit the ladder that led out towards the docks, the red illumination seemingly parting in the presence of this creature. Only so many feet away from me now, I could see the deep ridges that ran across its pale body. Geometric, pulsing with a bioluminescence that was drowned out by the pulsing red light.

Tap…tap…tap… Its fingers spoke again. The hand reached towards me. I could hear its skin stretch taught, a sickening cracking as it lurked its hand forward. I took in a deep breath to try to yell as the red warning lights shut off, leaving me in a void of nothing. Not ambient light—nothing.

The normal overhead lighting flipped on. It revealed the same as the dark—nothing. The creature that stood only a disturbingly long arm’s length away was gone. There wasn’t a sign of it. The breath that had collected in my lungs for the scream was let out in frustration as I slid down to a fetal position, my back against the ladder. I struggled to get air in my lungs. They burned like hell.

Maybe I am losing it. Maybe I fucking lost it a long time ago. Days blurred down here. Everything blurred down here, like being underwater with your eyes open. I can’t stand this place anymore. Maybe this is its way of rejecting me, pushing me out like a bad organ.

After what felt like minutes I stood up. Deciding to find and talk to Raff—or anyone honestly. He would be in bed by now, so I headed down the corridor to the bulkhead next to mine. Still trembling, I knocked.
My legs felt weak, rubbery. My eyes lazy, dragging. No answer. I knocked again and shouted, “Raff wake up. I need to talk to you.” My voice cracked weakly. Despite the struggle to even achieve the low volume it did, my voice still echoed down the corridor.

Nothing. I knocked again, hoping he was just in a deep sleep. Still my heart rate increased. Noth—tap…tap…tap…

I stumbled back on my heels. My heart pounded in my ears, surrounding me with a cacophony of white noise, drowning out anything else around me. Even with the siren call of my own blood in my ears, I heard a word. Whispered and deep.


It sounded as if it came from beyond the bulkhead, from the other side of inches of steel. It couldn’t be Raff.

I got up to run as my vision faltered. Black consumed the edged of my periphery. Fireworks of white stained my sight. I fell forward, head and chest scraping against the metal.
It took all I had to stand up again. Lifting my head up from the floor, behind me the bulkhead swung open calmly.
I stood and faced it, swaying as if I was on a capsized boat. I waited for the nightmare to wonder out after me, but nothing came out. I took a few shaking steps towards it till I got to the edge of the bulkhead.

The room was perfectly lit. Not a mystery, not a horror could escape me in this light. God, I wish they had. The metal floor was bent downward like something had burrowed into it. The bed Raff had slept in was covered in blood. Worse—skin, nails, teeth. Fingers and bones were left strewn about the red-stained sheets. I could feel vomit rising into my throat. I spilled it all out against the metal grating.

What the fuck is going on? This can’t be real. I turned to move down the corridor of bulkheads, slinging each one open as vehemently as I could. My body was scared of what I would find, but my mind needed to know.

All but Helen’s room was the same. Exactly so. The blood, the body parts. The metal floor ripped up into the maintenance spaces. Helen’s room wasn’t touched, as if nothing had happened. Her room gave me hope that there was someone still around. My mind felt like it was unraveling. I needed something anything to ground myself. I prayed to whoever would listen that she was alive.

It took less than a minute to get to the docking bay at a full sprint. When I got to the top of the ladder into Dock 3, I could hear the same tapping that accosted me through this sea base.

Across the pool of water where the mechanized working drone was hanging, I could see Helen on her knees, hitting her head over and over against the metal wall.

“Helen?” My voice felt as if it barley carried.

Her ritual didn’t stop. Tapping continuously. As I moved away from the ladder and around the pool I could see blood pooling under her, smearing on the wall where her head was being struck.

“Mother called them home.”

Her voice didn’t sound right. It carried through the tension in the air effortlessly and felt as if it hit me in the stomach.

I got to the corner of the pool, now only maybe 20 feet from her. She looked away from me as a child might from a disappointed parent. Up close I could see the grotesque nature of her being. Her skin was taught and torn in some places, revealing pale white ridged skin underneath. She moved away from the wall, and I could see a pile of teeth laying in the recesses of the floor.


She ignored me and started to drag herself across the floor towards the pool. Her legs looked broken out of places. I could see things writhing under her plastic-like skin. As she got to the edge, overwhelming anxiety came over me.

I’m alone.

She heaved repeatedly until gore poured from her stretching distended mouth into the dark blue canvas of water. She slid into the water and floated there, lifeless. Tears ran down my face. I couldn’t be alone, not now. I need help, I need to know that this isn’t real. I’d rather be insane.

As her body started to sink, hands reached up out of the depths to pull her down. The water’s color changed to a soft teal glow as the hands wrapped their bony fingers around her mangled corpse to drag her deeper.

I fell back, at this point not being able to stop the tears. I didn’t know what to do. My eyes faltered again, my vision lazy. My body flashed cold and my stomach turned as all of what I had inside came out at once.

“I want to go home.” I mumbled under my breath over and over. “I want to go home.”


My eyes flashed towards the sound, and I instantly felt cold. A weight fell across my body, pulling me down. The only thing I heard was gasping breath. I gripped at myself, digging my fingers into my legs. I tried and tried but I felt nothing enter my lungs. I fell back against the metal floor. The jolt shifted my eyes again, towards the black and cold. There was a small bit of illumination across my face. I saw a pane of glass in between me and infinite black. Small particles drifted by me. I was in my suit. Falling.

“Oxygen gone. Oxygen gone. Oxygen gone.” The automated woman’s voice repeated in my ear.

I felt the same three taps across my suit. I attempted to turn, but I was too weak. I caught glimpses of things moving through the black. A faint teal glow would precede them.
Each gasp hurt my lungs. There was nothing else but panic. Seconds felt like minutes as my vision’s periphery was being consumed by black. As my sight left me, I felt a dropping sensation and a hard thud. The seals on my helmet hissed as something pulled it from my suit. I gasped hard as my vision started to come back. I couldn’t move. The weight of the suit made it impossible in this position. I craned my head back towards the dry dirt below me. The creatures from my mind, the ones that accosted me through my own dying fever dream, moved through the dry dirt towards an obsidian black obelisk. Its edges were impossible to define—it struck my head like a migraine to stare at. I tried my best to move, my body so weak I couldn’t even reach the emergency release on my chest. As oxygen flooded my body, more and more panic came with it. Thrashing and moving to escape this metal cage was all I could focus on. In the midst of my struggle, I felt the ground tremble. I looked back again at the obelisk. Tears were forced from my wide eyes. My body went limp, and my breath calmed.


Stay Inside

Lifeless, empty but ever expanding. I feel it all through the halls. The floor creaks and cracks as if it were hundreds of years old, but I bought it no more than a year ago. I woke up every morning to the sounds of my wife and son—laughing, happy. All those noises slowly faded to silence. Happy doesn’t live in this house anymore.

The pictures I hung of my family are reminders of what I can’t see anymore. Not as if I took advantage of freedom back then. I was distant, cold at times. As things started to worsen outside, inside things were rotting, falling apart. The world fell apart. It was one thing after another. First, we were “strongly advised” not to leave. Now, choosing to walk out a door is choosing to walk into your own death. It’s the world we live in—lived in.

As things got worse, I closed off rooms. Boards and nails, ripped from furniture and cabinets. They weren’t needed. Dark hardwood that would hide shadows that spilled across it. White walls that seem to amplify the dread in the room. The emptiness inside of the house—inside of me. I had nothing left besides the walls. When I was the only one left in the house, when the rooms with windows began to be more dangerous to me, I feared them. I feared them like I feared everything that was happening outside these walls.

The plague sunk its teeth into the people. The coughing millions had gone quiet. They were ignored by most and refuted by the idiocy of the loudest until it was too late. Now I sit alone. The white walls slowly grow duller as time wears them down to a sickly dark yellow that only serves as a reminder of the filth I can’t escape. Boarded windows block the light, block anything from getting inside.

Things start to meld together when remaining in the same place for so long. Home should be just that—home. But after weeks and weeks, it becomes the stomach of the world that swallowed your life whole. I am being digested by a massive creature that has warped our reality into frailty and erosion, pieces falling off as the virus breaks us down.

It started with something that seems simple now but was then so complicated. “Stay inside,” “distance yourselves.” After years of this there were less and less people, less and less reason to leave our houses. The phone stopped ringing, then the phone lines didn’t work at all. The mass burnings of the bodies lasted so long that the smoke pillars reached higher than any skyscraper and blotted out the sun for months. The weather started to match the feelings of those left—cold. The looting, assaults, and murders would all steadily increase as basic systems shut down. With less people came less noise. Cities became graveyards, each building a tombstone. I sit in the same place clutched in anguish of the reality of this existence. Nothing is right here. Nothing feels right anymore. It is much easier to cope when you can’t remember when it was right. Like a foggy memory of playing as a child. You know it happened, but its blurred, barley there. Is the blur saving me? Distorting the parts I wouldn’t like?

When the ground started to give way, it bled for all the pain we caused. I do not mean a flood of water. No, the ground bled. Thick crimson fluid oozed from the soil. It became ankle-deep and we tried our best to carry on. It became waist-deep, and children would go missing beneath the viscous liquid. I could hear those on the floors below me being taken by it. Praying, screaming for help. It became neck-high and started to birth horrors from the flesh and corruption that is laced within the strata. The fault lines cracked like bone—a disgusting crack heard around the world, echoing through empty buildings. Primordial things older than knowledge found their way to the surface.

I peeked. You can’t help yourself when it sounds like the earth is splitting open like a dead man’s skull. You have to look. I wish I didn’t. I wouldn’t have seen the creatures being birthed from the liquid below me. Some grew large like a plant reaching into the sky, blooming spores into the atmosphere that would consume those who dare breathe in the open air. Others walked along the Earth’s soaked crust. Wandering through, not attacking. No. They never attack. Their mere sights attack our minds, tear them apart from the inside. Death would be preferred. Day in and day out we do our best inside. Today, I am losing my best. I want to rip off the boards to the warped landscape and embrace whatever it is. My end? A blank canvas?—What’s the difference? It would be much better than this. This place contorts like a body in the throes of pain. My mind is lost to me like my reality. It lies in the other room, far away from me. Far away from this hell that was birthed. This place is not ours anymore, isn’t recognizable anymore. I am not me. I had to stay inside.