|(c) Can Stock Photo / knorre|
F is for Funghi
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After recording five minutes of the treadmill he worked his way back to his equipment and finished setting it up. After establishing a five minute loop he flipped the switch to start the replay. Static hissed from the speakers and he adjusted the gain to blanket it. Faintly he heard the recording of the treadmill coming from the speakers and he twisted the volume dial all the way up, filling the basement with sound. They were out of sequence, the two separate sounds coming a split second apart, agitating the creatures around Nadine. Large thorns and assorted other piercing and cutting objects sprouted from their slender bodies and he hurriedly adjusted the speed of the replay to synchronize the two different, yet similar, sounds.
The creature closest to the speakers drifted towards the recorded sound, gathering around the twin speakers to dance in time with the steady thrumming. Slowly he turned the volume up, blanketing the sound of Nadine’s treadmill, drawing even more of the creatures to the speakers.
With a path cleared to the treadmill he raced over and got Nadine’s attention. Her eyes were bloodshot, her breathing came in ragged gasps, her hands grasping the bars so tight her knuckles looked like they were about to break through her skin.
“You can stop,” he said, motioning to the creatures that were now gathered around the speakers.
She shook her head silently, determined to see this to the bitter end, and he pointed at the speakers, turning her head against her will until she could see what was happening. She stopped then, that brief pause causing a flurry of activity to wash through the creatures who quickly settled down to continue dancing.
“We gotta get out of here, can you walk?”
Nadine nodded, took two steps off the treadmill, and collapsed into his arms. Holding her close he raced to the door and slipped through, closing it behind him, muting the recorded sound of the treadmill.
On this side of the door the basement was clear of that invading creature. The concrete block walls still white, but as he watched a faint pattern of darker lines appeared, growing thicker and darker with every passing second. All around them the pattern spread out across every available surface, those searching fingers of night reaching out from the other side of the wall where Nadine’s workout room was.
“We’ve gotta get out of the house,” he said as he lowered her to her feet.
“No! We can’t,” she replied, panic flashing in her eyes, “I can’t go outide.”
“We can’t stay here.” He pointed at the growing lattice work of searching vines that were racing across the walls around them, trying it seemed to block their escape.
He grabbed her hand and dragged her towards the narrow stairs, the walls to either side were already covered, small tendrils of night growing from the surface, reaching across the space to create a barrier. He plowed through the narrow vines, ripping and tearing his way up the steps as panic rushed through his body and his heart thundered in his chest.
They had almost made it, the faint glimmer of the door only inches away from his fingertips, when Nadine’s hand was ripped from his.
“No!” he screamed as he turned back to see her vanishing into a vine packed maw that slowly retreated down the steps. He tried to follow, intent on saving her, her screams muted by a dense layer of tentacles that lashed out at him with razor sharp thorns, laying open his cheek, slicing through the flesh of his arm as he raised it to protect himself.
He retreated, falling back into the kitchen, the image of Nadine vanishing into that squirming morass burned into his mind. Sure, she was a pain in the ass at times, but she surely didn’t deserve what happened to her. For the first time in a long time he was overcome by sadness. It was a sensation he hadn’t felt since his mother died when he was a child.
On its heels followed another, more familiar sensation, that sense of finally being free. It reminded him of when he was released from prison the first time, finishing a 2 year stint for burglary. It was a lightening of the spirit that put a spring in his step.
Nadine was no more, and as he thought this he heard the steady thump of the treadmill in the basement. They had gotten what they wanted and as he looked around the spotless kitchen he realized he was truly free for the first time in his life. She had money in the bank, more than he would ever need, and as her husband he had access to it.
He didn’t need to stay here any longer, he could move on with his life, never work another and life a live of leisure. Pushing himself to his feet he worked out what he would have to do to get access to her cash. Her bank card was in her pocketbook still sitting on the counter, and he knew her pin number.
It would be a piece of cake to drain her account over the next few months and set himself up wherever he wanted to go. The world was his and as he crossed to the counter he realized the steady thrumming in the basement had stopped.
Had she worn herself out?
It started again and he smiled, let her run herself to death if that’s what she wanted, he was getting out of this place. As he searched through her pocketbook he didn’t hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs beyond the basement door. Nor did he notice the vines emerging from the walls around each door and window. He was focused on more important things as the door behind him swung open with a faint squeal he’d always promised her he would fix.
He did feel the icy hand on his shoulder, the sensation of something spreading across his chest and back, and when he spun around Nadine was waiting for him. But it wasn’t really Nadine anymore. It had her face, and her body, but what lived in the depths of her eyes was anything but the soul of the woman he’d married. It was an alien thing that lived in her gaze, watching him with a cold indifference.
He felt the tentacles spreading across his chest and back. Climbing his neck and spreading out around his head, probing his lips, his nose, and his ears as a sweetly sinister voice whispered in his mind.
“Relax, this will only take a moment.”
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