Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Adam Bates
Wrayven popped open the car door and climbed out, pulling the collars of his coat up against the pelting rain with a grimace of dislike. Usually he liked rain, but not on a job. Especially one as important as this. He checked his coat pocket for his leather gloves, found them, pulled them out and put them on. He then checked the gun holster under his left arm. Habit dictated this more than anything, he was never without it. He casually closed the car door and turned for the building. The front of ‘Cortswood flats, Bellhouse Lane’ was significantly run down. A set of double doors atop a wide flight of eight steps, stood looking beaten and on the brink of surrender. The left doors window boarded up with what seemed to be graphitised ply-wood. several windows either side of these doors were either closed against the elements or boarded up. Barricaded, he thought, was a better suited word given the area.
He mounted the steps and looked above the door to read the flickering sign above, the ‘ood’ of the name ‘cortswood’ had flickered its last and sat in darkness. Also, some local comedian/vandal had crossed out the ‘rt’ of the same word and on the wall above, written ‘ck’. Highly hilarious, he also thought…for someone with the mind of a ten year old.
Lowering his vision and ridding him of these thoughts, he spied the buzzers for the flats and reached out for it. Before even touching it he realised the thing was broken and of no use at all any longer. Little it mattered anyway upon reaching for the door. He noticed the lock had been smashed, leaving the door closed but not locked. Anyone could simply just walk in and out without first buzzing for admittance. What did he expect in a place where he had been sent to do dirty work on a drug dealer/murderer? Roses and smiling children? He didn’t think so. He hooked his fingers behind the door handle and pulled it. The door admitted him with a piteous whine even it seemed above. He stepped in.
The first thing he noticed was the smell. The smell of unwashed things and unwashed people. The stale smell of piss and sweat hung in the air, almost visible it seemed. The second thing he noticed was the mess. Bottles littered the hallway, even as far as Wrayven could see, a few needles and toys. In one instance, there sat a cuddly toy bear with syringes sunk into it. The mixture of the two clashing items and worlds made him shudder. It stared sightlessly at him, watching his smooth movements with a malicious eye, everything seemed to be watching him. The third thing he noticed was the entire lack of sound, utter silence. As if he were a black man entering a clan rally. Like there had been shouting and maniacal screaming before he intruded. Like some western cowboy entering an unfriendly saloon. Just before he thought he had gone deaf, he heard the door clang shut behind him. Now he was truly in the saloon. No outside sound penetrated the walls. Not even the dull patter of rain hitting the window on the outside of the door. And finally the signs and graffiti. One sign read ‘welcome to Cortswood House’ while one directly above it in the same blunt script read ‘there is nothing for you here’, which made Wrayven frown slightly, confused and intrigued.
“Well isn’t this a little strange?”, he muttered to himself under his breath. “Something has changed.” Frowning a little more.
It was the graffiti which convinced him he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Well, he was sure he WAS in the right place, but sure in the same instant that he was now many, many miles from his car which should only have been maybe eighty feet away. The graffiti. One read, “crossing worlds for the first time?” and then below it, “Go back, go back, go back.. “ and “see the door, where does it go? Out to the world, where time doesn’t flow”.
That one reminded Wrayven on the children’s programme playdays, although he was sure it was a bus.. not a door. One outrageously actually read “Drink Starbuck’s coffee.. It’s literally out of this world.. Nyuknyuknyuk.. “ But mostly it was another which made up Wrayven’s mind. It was written entirely in a black, dirty-yet-posh, scrawl and filled nearly the entire wall opposite him.
“WELCOME TO THE WORLD BEHIND THE WORLD, THE WORLD WHERE THE DARKNESS PLOTS AND CONSPIRES WITHIN THE FURTHEST CORNERS, WHERE THOSE FOUL ENOUGH TO GRACE THEM EVOVLE AND MAKE PLANS TO REACH OUT AND WARP ALL WE HOLD DEAR. WELCOME TO THE COLD, HEARTLESS SOUL OF CORRUTION, POISON AND THE KING OF ALL KINGS.”
The king? The king of all kings? Where had he heard that? The king. He didn’t know any kings. He highly doubted this was referring to the king of Spain or Tolkein’s king of Gondor. Or maybe it referred to Stephen King, the writer? Or maybe King’s character ‘The Crimson King’? Was it just the ramblings of a drunken hobo with a pen? It was possible but it was so coherent. So thought out! He felt something, a nagging, uncomfortable pull at the back of his head. He thought he would proceed with caution and stay alert. He unclipped the strap of his spring clip and felt the gun ease out a little bit, easy to pull in any circumstance now. Especially with speed like Wrayvens.
He took a deep breath and began to proceed into what he would refer to later as ‘ a disturbing Oz’ and occasionally David Bowie’s “fucked up labyrinth”. He isn’t aware he mentally calls it these already. He does nonetheless. Tip-toeing as lightly as he could he proceeded onto the ground floor landing to be greeted by yet more flickering lights and ominous graffiti. Spiders spun webs in dark, dank corners where Wrayven thought even the bravest of men wouldn’t put their hands. Glass littered the floor, sparkling in a puddle of what was either urine or cider, hard to tell the difference in the dim and with the smell of dirt in his nostrils but he thought he could hazard a guess at the former. The lift buzzed menacingly, as if it contained a thousand angry, deformed wasps ready to torture anyone stupid enough to disturb it. Its call button stared out like an insane leering eye, slick and perverse. Under the steady malevolence of that lunatic glare he abandoned keeping the gun in its holster and pulled it. Keeping it left handed and low by his hip. He wanted nothing more than to be out of here. He couldn’t make sense of this. He thought of all the creepy zombie movies he had watched over the years and what most came to mind was the one in the hotel with firemen in it. Quarantine. He realised he was mentally waiting for a zombie old woman to come hurtling at him. Was it another place, or was it just the ‘alien‘-ness of the building that made it other-worldly? He believed the former with all of his brain but wished for the latter with all of his heart. His main concern was the entrance. He wasn’t sure if it would re-open to let him out where it let him in. A moment of panic hit him as he thought “what if it wont let me out at all?”. Or it could open somewhere different entirely, unlikely but it was best to keep all possibilities in mind. A door is a door is a door.
“The games still runnin’ boy!”, his fathers voice spoke up in his head. “It’s a ninety minute game, plenty of time to go!”
Wrayven now thought of this as a kind of hopeful way of saying ‘Yup, its only early and we’re already screwed.. and there’s loadsa time left to fuck it royally.’, but of course he never told his father that. He decided to let be what could be. Worry about the door after the job was done. If something shitty was gonna happen, then something shitty was gonna happen. He might as well get the job done before that shitty thing reared its ugly head.
To the right of the loony-lift, a flight of stairs rose into a surgical white light. The way its rays lit a small portion of this landings floor made him think of a stairway to heaven or at least hell’s hospital wing. He headed for these stairs at pace, wanting to be out of the dark. To be out of the smell. At the base of the stairs he stopped and scanned up them. He thought he could hear faint mumbling and almost flinched back. He really hadn’t expected there to be people in here, although he knew they lived here. The light filtered down from many overhead bulbs, across the ceiling and turned the corner atop the flight. Wrayven checked the safety was off and took tentative steps up the first few. Normally he wouldn’t flinch even once at a flight of stairs but something about this place scared him. It scared him! He was glad no one was around to notice that, especially Kayla. She would laugh. He nearly laughed at the thought, albeit nervously. No, that wasn’t fair. She had never mocked him for showing fear. He felt he was right to be scared here. If he didn’t freeze
(as he had been trained to avoid)
he thought this fear may well save his life as well as others. It had before hadn’t it? The battle of Judas Range was the scariest moment of his life, yet the whole experience had been exhilarating. Eight minutes of blood fuelled shooting that seemed like at least a day. Cars afire, women and children gunned down, the city had been reduced to anarchy for months before it fell although the shooting has lasted mere minutes. Adrenaline had coursed through his veins, stoking up his reflexes, speed, agility and imagination like a train driver stoked the engine of his beloved steamer. His heightened reflexes had saved his life that day, avoiding a bullet aimed for his chest, and another that nicked his ear as he rolled aside it. He looked on that moment as being touched by god. How he had cried.
He proceeded up the stairs, reaching the top where it turned to the left, revealing another landing. A man sat, head in lap mumbling something that Wrayven couldn’t make out at this distance. He was filthy and if the stench wasn’t wrong, he had been sat there long enough to shit where he sat. He crept closer, the man didn’t move.
“Oranges. Apples. Grapes.“ the man was saying to himself. Over and over. “Oranges. Apples. Grapes. Orangesapplesgrapes.“
Wrayven tried to approach the man but something warned him to leave it, this man was crazy, he had the smell, regardless of the shit and muttering. Wrayven backed away to the stairs and took them. Two more desolate, startlingly lit stair cases and dim, demonic landings later he reached the door of his intended target. If this was indeed the same building he had meant to enter, that was. He pressed his ear to the door and instantly felt a vile nausea flow through the pit of his stomach to the back of his throat. He forced himself to swallow down the acrid bile with a shudder. He persisted and heard nothing, then gladly pulled away from the sickening door. He tried the handle and his skin squirmed under its touch. It twisted and opened. Careful to not make a sound, Wrayven pushed the door slowly with his right hand while keeping the gun ready in his left. A dim, red glow emanated from a room at the end of a lightless hallway. Three doors in a row along the hall to the left were all closed. Wrayven felt the sickness rising in his stomach again as a smell of rotten meat filled his nostrils. He wondered if his target was already dead. He was a drug addict. Or maybe he had a corpse here, he was also a murderer. Either was plausible. He put his right hand to his mouth and proceeded down the hall and stepped in something wet for his troubles. He avoided thoughts of what it was and passed the three left hand doors. He reached the blood red room at the end shortly after, almost breathless from the stench. Peaking his head around the door, he took in the shocking view before him. It reminded him of a horror film, where you finally get a full body shot of the demon in the basement, the demented clown in the sewer or the alien sneaking through the ducts of the ship, the zombie behind the door. Where a lone guy (they’re always alone aren’t they?) goes out to fix something they REALLY need fixed to get back to earth/home/out, but don’t think to take anyone else with them. And what do you say while you watch them? What are you MEANT to say while you watch them? You say “DON’T GO IN THERE YOU FUCKIN’ RETARD! IT’S OBVIOUSLY IN THERE!”, but they don’t listen. They cant hear you. Its only a film. Like a lamb to the slaughter they go, trot, trot, trot, splat. It occurred to Wrayven at this time that he was very much alone and that this was that moment. The “Don’t go in there” moment if this was his film. This would be his death scene. Where the money is and what everybody comes to see. If somebody had been standing next to him saying “Don’t go in there” to him at this exact moment, he would have been like the guy’s in these films. He wouldn’t have heard any of it. That’s just the way it goes isn’t it? “Hey guys, thanks for the money. Hope you enjoy the rest of the film.” SPLAT.
But let alone that thought a moment if you will, for what threatened to freeze him now was utter bewilderment and confusion. Like the sight of 9/11 in New York. It had rendered him stupid as he caught his first glimpse of it through the window of the local “Powerhouse” store near his home. Smoke and fire, scrolling headlines filling the varying sized televisions facing out towards the high street.
If it hadn’t been such an amazing, impossible sight, the fear would definitely have scared the hell out of him and routed him to the musty carpet of the hall like a blade of grass. It was a vision of
horror that greeted him. Strewn body pieces lay across the floor. They seemed
dry and individual. Like an untidy network of islands in the Bahamas. Spread on the battered, seventies carpet that sprawled out languorously like an ocean, across the room. To the left and facing away from the door where Wrayven eyed the scene was a sofa. A green, furry thing that looked as though it had seen far too many years of use.. and probably far too many gruesome deeds. Upon the sofa (as Wrayven saw it) was the back of a head. A scarred head, messy hair clung in random lumps. Leaving burnt alleyways of skin through a black forest of hair. A grizzled hand reached up to scratch at the thickets of hair with nails bordering on the unmanageable. Easily three inches long, gruesome and dirty. The sound of the scratching made Wrayven feel worse as the nails tugged through the clumpy, mismatched hair and burned skin. Wrayven envisaged large pieces of flaky skin coming away with the nails and nearly retched. But, where the true amazement lay was in front of the freak on the sofa. What the freak (which he knew was most definitely his target and now thought of as “Reptile” from the Mortal Kombat series, the one from that shitty online series ‘legacy’?) was looking at.
In front of ‘Reptile’ was a swirling miasma of red and green. And in it was a face and body. A face of utter disgusting properties. A single tooth grew from a tumorous, swelling of a nose. Above it, one of the eyes filled with incandescent rage and cancerous evil, bled a thick, yellow curd down a hollow, lucent cheek. Through it he could see hideous black teeth, some rotten and some long and sharp, fortifying a tongue of disturbing length. He saw all of this even though he knew it all to be hidden behind those full, sensuous lips. The lips had the sexy pout of a disturbing Marilyn Monroe figure, alluring. Wrayven thought this was their magic. The creature on the sofa listened in wrapt attention to the hanging ‘evil-genie-like’ presence in front of the fireplace.
Whatever it was, it seemed angry. Commanding. ‘Reptile’ seemed to be almost grovelling. For what seemed like an age, Wrayven stood and looked on at the spectral thing in its red and green mist. Or maybe it was ‘Myste’, somehow he knew it was. No reason, he just did. The truth is, he had only been there maybe a minute. He thought not even that. Maybe forty seconds? Little did it matter. What he cared about was if the thing could see him. What if it could and it reached out with an equally ugly, deformed talon and plucked him into the other. Other what? World? Dimension?
Wrayven decided to back out into the hallway and wait. He backed out slowly so as not to draw any unwanted attention to the shadows of the hallway. He listened to the words. Words of slick, guttural grease that seemed to slide out of the monster genie’s mouth like saliva or vomit to land on the grovelling deformity on the sofa’s head and into its ears. The servile tone of Reptile’s replies was enough to sort out the question of who was in charge. Not that it had ever been in question in Wrayvens mind. Always nice to have the facts though. Always one word came from ‘Reptile‘. Was it a word? Maybe in some fucked up language.
After a couple of minutes the guttural talking slowed and the genie said something Wrayven COULD understand. In English.
“Remember, he wants all three. Find them. At any cost.” Wrayven could almost hear the words dribbling, dripping onto freak-boys head. It didn’t reply. This was no question. ‘Reptile’ just croaked its assent. Then they spoke something together in the alien, vomit language. Some sort of hail? Like the nazi ‘seig heil’?
Wrayven didn’t have time to question it as there came an almighty sucking sound, and he stepped back into the room. With a visceral pop, the red/green miasma disappeared leaving the room in darkness. Except for a lamp glowing dully next to the sofa. The thing still sat there, unmoving. Seeming to talk to its self. Wrayven wondered if when he shot it and looked at it, if it would be human at all. He most certainly had been told it would be a person he killed today. Wrayven crept in but not quietly enough it seemed. The reptile things head swung round, revealing a rather human (if scaly) face with a broadened nose and eyes as black as coal. Its skin a cracked, weeping mess of open sores and scales. He believed there was a disease some were born with called Icthyosis, that made the skin hard and scaly. But by all accounts this guy was forty! They nomally lived for a week or two. Its mouth came open as it looked at Wrayven, revealing rows of needle-like teeth. It started to stand, but before it even got halfway up, Wrayven opened fire. Regardless of how long it should have lived as a baby, Two sharp reports meant two bullets in its head, equalling one dead murdering freak. One pounded through its right eye, and Wrayven saw a stream of blood squirt out of the back of ‘its’ head. The other tore through the forehead and Mr. Reptile toppled and slammed into what Wrayven judged would be a coffee table when he rounded the sofa. As he went around the sofa he put another bullet in what should have been/was Mr. Mark Deanne’s chest just in case. He pointed the gun a little longer and then sat on the sofa. Nausea swept through him like a tidal wave and he vomited on the floor and on the thing/mans feet. He was again aware of the vile stench in the room. As his eyes cleared he took his head out of his hands and looked at them. They shook a little but they were his, and that steadied him a little. Then he looked between them to the coffee table and saw what nearly made him bring up whatever else was left in his burning stomach. A baby. Half eaten. He and the ‘genie’ had obviously disturbed the human-lizard during its evening meal. Wrayven retched again, took a few deep, painful breaths and looked at the targets corpse to his right. Mr. I-was-human-now-weird-lizard-thing’s corpse had lay half on the coffee table and half on the carpet below it, but it had slid now to the floor and lay, eyes glazed, staring up at the ceiling. Wrayven kicked at the foot that lay next to his, expecting the scaly freak to not be dead. He then routed through Mr. Deanne’s jeans and found his wallet. In the wallet there was little. A drivers license with his lizard-like, greenish, mouldy face on it. Wrayven wondered if the police that stopped him would think “Yep, mouldy, fucked up, lizard face. That’s definitely you on your I.D. please go about your baby-eating business!”, he doubted it. He frowned and checked the back. Normal. Put it in his own pocket. Little else in there. A key, which he took. And a card for a hotel somewhere in greater London. He took that too, he wasn’t sure why.
He had to get out of here. This evil mess had to become just a memory. Just like Judas Range. He then got up and started working his way back to the front door of the apartment. Every part of his being wanted to sprint out of here, but he didn’t. he stayed composed and reached the door. Went out and closed it then used Mr. Reptile’s key to lock it. Slipping the key back into his pocket he made for the stairs. He lightly and rapidly descended them onto the landings again, moving quick. When he reached the landing with the muttering man on, he noted that he was gone. where the? he thought. Surely he hasn’t moved. Why was it so hard to think that a bipedal human such as the man had been, was unable to get up and move? but he was so fucked up! his mind informed him. he was loopy-fucking-loo! he ushered it to the back of his mind when he eyed something else. Not wanting to be caught in that lunatic stare of the elevator ‘call’ buttons again, he stepped up the pace even more. He never looked back, just all the way down, taking the last set two steps at a time.
He stopped in the last hallway again just to see the graffiti which had mesmerised him upon entry. They were all there which assured him he was still far from safe in this sickly world. He looked at all of them, they were the same. Wait, no they weren’t. NEARLY all of them were the same, except the “Go back, Go back, Go back.. “, which had changed to “Come back, Come back, Come back.. “. His eyes widened at this. An he backed away from it slowly then picking up pace he turned and bolted for the door. He pulled it and it didn’t move. At first he thought he was locked here. His mind raced, calling up all kinds of things. Imagining zombies piling out of the elevator now to come and eat him and tear out his innards, yards from safety. Mr. Reptiles scaly face pushing into his flesh. Its all oranges, apples, grapes he thought. He didn’t know what he meant, but he knew it was true. Oranges, apples, grapes. And then
“Push!” he thought, “Push it you fuck!”
it went outwards as easily as it had when he had came in. He fell face forwards and landed flat on his front at the top of the outdoor steps, in the rain. Relief flowed through him and he wondered at the stupidity of the zombie thought. He rolled onto his back and wondered if he had ever been so happy to experience such shit weather. He lay there.
“You okay there mister?” a little voice spoke. He looked around, rolling onto his hands. A little girl no older than eight, on a pretty pink bike (stabilisers and all) looked up the steps at him with curious eyes. He wondered if the freak had been alive, would he have eaten this girl? Was this what he preyed on? He was sure it was.
“Yeah, I’m ok kid, ride on along now.” He replied, rolling back onto his back. At least he had rid the world of that monster. The little girl gave him a winning eight-year-old smile that he never saw and rode off, content with her good Samaritan deed on this wet day.
That’s when he took out Mr. Deanne’s drivers license again to look at. “Oh, my fuckin’ god.” He said under his breath. His eyes wide, looking at the card. ‘Deanne, Mark’ it read ‘August 12th 1969’.
There was no monster on here, but a normal, handsome man.