I love creature features. It seems like everything’s already been done so when I had this idea for a crazy different kind of monster I had to write it. Happy Halloween!
The pipes leaked. Cement surrounded the moisture, locked it in. Despite the cracks in the foundation the little brick house once held a classic charm. Its basement now filled with mold and decay.
“She left me.” He sat rocking on the steps. He moaned to himself like a child. His once happy home turned into a prison.
He imagined the first day they moved in. The light in her hazel eyes glowed so bright he thought they would live there forever. She went to work tending the gardens, digging and planting as her wild hair swayed in the breeze. A laugh turned to dust in his throat.
“My green thumb is mostly brown.” She had smiled at him in the warm sunshine. She knelt in the flower bed weeding around what few plants grew from her efforts. Dirt collected under her fingernails, but that was part of her charm.
No matter how terrible she was at gardening, he loved her for her passion. She refused to give up even without a single healthy stalk.
He never believed she would give up on him. The memory turned cold. He coughed in the musty air. The damp basement surrounded him. He stomped up the stairs, into their bedroom. The sheets lay wrinkled, awaiting her return.
Her warmth would never heat them again. The soft touch of her skin disappeared like a dream leaving him to his lonely nightmare. He scratched his scraggy black beard. The pain in his chest grew every day.
“I just can’t do it anymore.” Images of her packing her things clouded his eyes. His shoulders slumped. He knew it was his fault. He didn’t try harder. He never cared about anything as much as she did.
The long-lost cries of a tiny kitten bit his ears. He grimaced and refused to walk into the living room. There a stray had become their baby.
Always an animal lover, his wife brought home any lost or injured creature she found until it was reclaimed or they adopted it. Even their dog accepted his role. He stood watch during feedings, kept orphans warm at night.
He shook his head. The damn dog didn’t even like me. Still, he missed the barking, the nudges away from his wife. A canine adversary who loved her enough to make up for what he lacked in emotion and expression no longer stood watch in the little brick house.
“Damn this place.” He kicked the night stand. He grabbed the mattress and flipped it onto the floor. He snatched the lamp off the dresser and smashed it on the hard wood floors. Panting, he cocked his head at the mattress.He picked up a corner and dragged it down the stairs. The stench of the litter box still mingled with the earthy air. It made him laugh.
All his dreams had been destroyed by that box, a stupid cat pan. He went to the laundry room and scattered the contents on the floor. Feces and urine spilled out with the grains.
His soon to be ex-wife’s miscarriage broke her heart, but the death of their cat destroyed them. A fetus doesn’t always grow into a baby, he thought, trying to convince himself he had no hand in its destruction─but the cat─the damn cat was another story.
He sucked in the disgusting air. His lungs turned black with mold. His denial turned the brown of his eyes jet black and spread. His hair clung to his shoulders uncombed.
“I need you to start cleaning the little box so I don’t get toxoplasmosis,” she had said as soon as the test turned positive. He never minded her straightforward manner. She told people what she needed instead of asking because she had known too much disappointment in her abused childhood.
Instead of letting the remorse kill him, he grew bitter. For three months he put off cleaning the box. The damn cat box. He hadn’t meant to. With a baby on the way he worked more. The need to provide a stable environment took over. His wife napped so much he felt the need to make good use of what time remained.
Now his time belonged to no one else. He stewed in the knowledge of what happened. Resentment and bitterness took hold. His hands twitched to destroy.
He envisioned kicking the cat. “The dumb thing ruined it all.”
Their sweet kitten grew and grew. It meowed a bit, but he didn’t know it would protest releasing its bowels all together, waiting for fresh litter.
“How didn’t she catch it?” He gritted his teeth.
The once playful kitten became lethargic, its body infected. Mats developed around its crusted red anus. It refused to clean itself. Why didn’t she yell at me? he wondered.
It was as if the pregnancy took over his wife’s brain. She went from attentive animal lover to baby-obsessed-planner overnight. Her dog remained by her side and snapped at him whenever he came near, but the cat drifted away and she didn’t even know.
He punched the solid wall. A ripple of pain shot through his knuckles. They bled and he stared at torn skin.
Her tears still danced through his mind. When she found the kitten cold on the floor, it broke his heart to see her pain. She cried out and hugged the lifeless body to her chest. It was too much for her. She withdrew entirely. The fear in her eyes mixed with anger, but she didn’t blame him out loud.
He never knew how to handle her emotional breakdowns. Her tears and isolation belonged to another realm. I left her alone, he thought.
The darkened house whispered to him. The musty walls spoke of new ideas. Good. She deserved her pain.
For the first time since she left he found comfort.
She cramped. She bled. She never said anything until I found her passed out on the bed. The stress took its toll.
He screamed at the stain as it darkened in the shadows of the basement. He stomped down the stairs, but his foot slipped on the last step and he smacked his spine on the hard edges. His back popped when he sat up. He felt his head. His life slipped away from him and he grinned.
The moldy walls hummed. He went to their cement bunker and licked. The taste revived him. His body sang.
His teeth hit the hard surface, but he continued licking until they bled. He pressed his body against the walls jabbing his fingers into the cracks. His skin split. He drank the putrid hate that came from each spore. It became nectar for his misery.
The taste awakened new ideas. Happiness is a lie. I must make them see. Everything breaks down. Everything molds over eventually.
He licked the crevices clean. A burp erupted from his bowels. The stench surrounded him. His skin vibrated.
Mold mingled with his blood and pushed through his pores. It grew over his body until he laughed. The cool sensation brought him peace. No fire or love could match the eternal pleasure of the hatred in his heart.
He despised anyone who could smile. Especially the woman who abandoned him to the mess he caused.
He waited. Her favorite author was coming to sign books at the library and it laid a perfect trap. The damp confines of his concrete basement kept him fresh. His molded frame expanded until he could rest against the walls like a shadow, like toxic emptiness.
His deformed frame still afforded him his eyes. Those dark windows scowled. The time came and he fled his home as night covered the sky with its sinister tricks. He crept in the shadows, kept to the city buildings. From one concrete barrier to the other he avoided the night crowd. His body flattened against the cool surfaces. When a gap appeared he moved.
He reached the library through the back alley. A stray cat hissed from the dumpster and he froze. Its matted orange fur reminded him of his misdeed. A shiver rushed through him, but no remorse came.
Instead, he opened his mouth and growled so deep that no human could hear. Particles of his sickness drifted on the air. The cat clawed at them, but breathed in his concentrated mold. It gasped and wheezed. It ran off coughing and sneezing.
He slid around the building and spotted her at her car, the woman who left him: his wife.
She dropped her glasses and bent down to pick them up. Always clumsy, her hair blew in her face and stuck to her lip gloss.
A sandy-haired man with a strong jaw picked up her glasses and handed them to her.
“Thank you.” She smiled. Hope lived in her eyes.
The mold grumbled.
“I’m Nilo.” The stranger held out his hand and she shook it. They walked in together talking about books.
The mold waited. It had nothing but time. No stars poked through the cloudy sky. It preferred it that way. The decrepit recesses of this being relied on its nothingness.
Time sat. Eventually a rumble of voices neared the entrance. The doors swung open and she walked out─still talking to Nilo.
The mold held steady.
Moaning and coughing, the alley cat returned to do his bidding. It cried over the passing bibliophiles. It called out in agony. No one stopped or even looked but his wife.
She turned. “Do you hear that?” She tilted her head and bent down.
Nilo chuckled. “Sounds like cat. I’m allergic.” He sighed. “But I always wished I wasn’t.”
“That’s too bad.” She followed the sound away from her new acquaintance. “Thanks again for sitting with me.”
He watched her go and waved. “I guess I’ll see you.”
She turned the corner and neared the cat. Slowly stepping forward she held out her hand. “Are you okay little one?”
The cat gasped and fell over.
“Oh no.” She fell to her knees and patted the soft fluffy body. “Not again.” She cradled the head in her hands. Tears glistened faintly on her cheeks. Her hair covered her face.
The mold laughed, low and deep.
She turned. She squinted in the night.
The mold blew its deathly spore onto the air and she inhaled, unaware of his presence. She sniffled. She coughed. Then she clutched her chest and gasped.
The mold slid forward, reconfiguring before her. Not human, but still alive, it blocked the distant glare from the streetlights. “You never blamed me. But you should have.”
She stared at its gaze and gaped with recognition. Her face paled. Her lungs filled with moisture.
It could feel them drowning her. It marveled at the power of her pain.
“Hannah?” Nilo called.
Footsteps shuffled around the building and the mold drifted back to the concrete. It waited. It smirked.
Nilo found Hannah’s body and stooped over it. “Somebody help!”
The mold growled. It let out his deadly particles without moving. The air aided his attack.
Nilo drew a shallow breath in his panic. He drew another and another. He bent over Hannah’s body, choking. The moisture took over his lungs. It spread.
The infection grew and the mold glared. It released his grip on the brick building. High from killing, the mold gazed on his work. Two lifeless bodies lay contorted, faces bloated. New mold spread over their faces, grew down their arms.
It slipped away. Back to the basement, the mold returned.
Daylight would come. It was never kind. Its brilliant glare would try to heal him. It clung to its new form, relished it.
It waited. The night would return and there would be more: more naïve women, and more heroic men who needed to be reminded of life’s pain. Agony awaited them.
The cement confines protected the mold. It expanded. It thrived. The cold desire for death continued, and the pipes leaked.