Monster Mash Blog Hop 2014: Ravenous Creatures

Monster Mash Blog Hop 2014: Ravenous Creatures

 In creeps the night

on soft silent feet, like a cat

on swift velvet wings, like a bat

     to kiss corpses and bleed moonlight

 

Toil and trouble. That’s what Halloween meant for Hazel Abbott.

Especially this year. The employees hadn’t shown up. The delivery van hadn’t been fueled. And the orders hadn’t been prepped.

Had to hustle to make the thirteen floral deliveries before the citywide trick-or-treat parade began at five. Arrived at the final stop fifteen minutes before four. A potted black orchid for a patient at the Briarwood Asylum.

Desperation hung over the ancient brick building like a pregnant storm cloud. The flag hung impotently from its rusty pole. Place stank of piss and misery. Something rotten about it. More than just the stench.

A grizzled security guard buzzed her past the pair of smirking jack-o-lanterns stationed at the front door and into a jarringly colorful reception room presided over by orange crepe streamers, yellow scarecrow garlands, and black bat banners.

She gave the desk clerk the patient name and waited for directions. Swore under her breath the order she’d written up was for the ground floor but the tag said otherwise.

The longer the desk clerk searched through patient charts, the more doubt gnawed on her consciousness. A centipede scurried across the counter and she smashed it with the heel of her hand. Hated bugs.

Guard went back to his post.

Clerk went into his supervisor’s office.

She went to the emergency exit plan taped beside the elevator.

Figured out the location herself and headed there without waiting for assistance or permission. Stomach growled on the way. Strange because she’d wolfed down a turkey sandwich an hour ago.

Stepped onto the third floor and was greeted by the fragrance of fresh feces. Almost lost her lunch. Grabbed the railing along the wall to steady herself.

Couple cleansing breaths and she hurried down the hallway. Paused long enough to squash a cockroach scurrying about in the shadows. Room was at the end of the hall. Door closed. Knob locked. Shit. Shit. Shit. Wanted out of here in a hurry.

Could leave the orchid in the hall and call it good. Perk of being a business owner was the freedom to bend the rules as necessary. And at the moment, nothing was more necessary than getting out of this nuthouse. Pronto.

Leaned against the wall, took a couple more cleansing breaths, pictured herself walking back to the van,  nice and safe. The intestinal cramping eased up some. Mind cleared up too. Weird. Hadn’t felt foggy beforehand. Just nauseated.

Don’t go.

Tried the door again and this time the knob gave. Inside, the room was dark, the shades pulled and the light off. It was quiet and blessedly fresh smelling.

Got down to business and spoke the name on the order form. “Itzak Gravelle?”

Not the name she remembered jotting down on the tag. Strange name. Thick on her tongue. Slick on her lips.

Don’t scream.

Closed her eyes against the agitation. Opened them to see a man in front of her, close enough his breath ruffled the orchid petals.

Tall. Lean. Dark. Yet pale. Ghostly almost. As if transparent. Or a projection.

Whole thing was probably a joke. Take a black flower to the psych ward on Halloween. Good one. Ha ha ha.

Don’t move.

Screw that. Assuming this freak was Gravelle, she was going to give him the orchid and get the hell out of this shithole.

And the bossy little voice in her head better shut up. Right now. Didn’t have any patience for theatrics.

Still had to contend with the annual parade and after that, a costume party.

Don’t …

She shoved the orchid into his chest. “I don’t have time for your head games. Here’s your delivery. Have a nice day.”

His fingers brushed hers as he reached for the plant.

An earwig crept out of the soil and onto her sleeve. She swatted at it and the pot slipped from her hand, shattering at her feet. She bent to clean up the mess, grumbling when a sharp edge of broken porcelain scratched her palm and left a wet red trail in its wake.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, out loud this time.

Got to be kidding. But she kept from flinching when he crouched beside her, put his mouth to the scratch and kissed it – that was a kiss, wasn’t it? And kept from screaming when he showed her the unmarred skin where the wound had been moments ago.

She lifted her face to his. “What are you?”

“Hungry,” he said, avoiding her direct gaze.

Didn’t know what he meant but didn’t intend to stick around and find out. The delivery was done. The door was open. She was free to go.

Security alarms shrieked down the sterile hallway.

She stepped closer. “What are you? Besides hungry?”

Patients started shouting.

He retreated into the darkness. “I am nothing until the hunger is sated.”

Windows started cracking.

She took another step. “I’m all out of granola bars, pal. You want help, start talking.”

Furniture started rattling.

“I haven’t fed in three months and without nourishment, I am powerless to protect you or defend myself.”

“Nobody can survive that long without food.”

“Your blood tasted of curiosity and knowledge. My nature cannot be a mystery to you.”

Footsteps echoed in the stairwell and elevator cables groaned.

She shoved up the sleeve of her sweater. “Only take what you need to escape.”

His fingers curled around her wrist. “Are you sure you can trust me?”

“Nope but by the sounds of it, neither of us are getting out of here. Unless we work together. I’m hoping that if I donate blood to empower you, you’ll return the favor by protecting me.”

He bent over her arm, bit down, and drank. When he was done, he looked up, her blood smeared on his mouth, and said, “Now we can walk out of the room and away from the facility.”

“Won’t they recognize us?”

“No,” he said, disappearing into the air and transforming into a beetle at her feet.

Shit. Why did it have to be a bug? Bit her lip, held back the scream, and bent to scoop him up. Dumped him into the orchid pot and went out into the hall.

The stairwell door opened. The elevator bell rang. The hall was flooded with frenzied security guards and patients. None of them looked at her.

Rushed for the stairs. Raced through the deserted reception area, past the vacated guard post, and into the parking lot.

Terror struck, then. Swift as encroaching fog. Sharp as jagged teeth. Dumped the orchid pot on the curb, ran for the delivery van, and peeled out of the parking lot. Steadied her nerves with the confidence she’d kept her end of the bargain.

Made it back to town safely. Busied herself with the parade of candy and children. Moved on to the costume party. Held court as a wallflower, serving punch and cookies. Until a beetle scuttled across the orange and black checkerboard tablecloth.

Clapped a pumpkin printed napkin over it, took it outside and tossed it under the shrubs. Faced the full moon, awaiting certain punishment.

It came in a rush of creepy crawly things swarming toward her but before it reached her feet, the horde turned into a carpet of nightblooming flowers.

A warm breath caressed her neck like a silk scarf. “I am in your debt, my evening primrose.”

She smiled in her heart, turned into his dark embrace, and opened her mouth to let the night creep in.

 


Written for an indie collective titled: In Creeps The Night.