"Alright, fill me in, what happened?" Penny put her hands on her hips and looked from face to face. She had situated everyone around her little home, each one negotiating the colorful clutter with meticulous caution. Trav and Ruby took up most of the couch while the others found themselves awkwardly placed on a collection of mismatched chairs.
Matthias looked from face to face. The fog was draining from his mind, but had left him with a glaring gap. What was he doing in Penny's home with these people? He had a vague memory of meeting Ben and Cas downstairs, and of them being upset, but not why. They'd run up the stairs and brought Trav with them but... then what? Something about a fire escape?
"There's..." Ben began, his voice wavered. His dark eyes darted as though he too was asking what they had just witnessed.
"The door was gone." Cas filled in for her husband. She arranged little Amber on a chair, passing her a barbie from a purple, child's backpack. Amber peeled off her puffy coat to reveal her princess dress over a sweater, though she lacked her pointy hat.
"Right!" Ben agreed, thick brows furrowing. "The door and windows were missing."
"Missing?" Penny's tone wasn't disbelieving yet, but she looked concerned. Strangely, Matthias didn't find this information odd. His mind latched on, drip feeding him a few glimpses of a lobby overcome by darkness and stone-grey walls.
"It was like someone came in the night and tore down the original wall to put up a new one without any exits." Ben stared at his hands, a look of deep concentration on his features. Was he forgetting too, Matthias wondered.
"And it was freezing." Cas agreed. Once her daughter was settled she turned to her husband. Matthias noticed for the first time... or maybe he already knew... that Ben's ankle was bleeding.
"The smell was aweful." Ruby chimed in.
Don't forget the black stuff, Matthias wanted to say, but he wasn't sure where that thought had come from.
"And there was this... black stuff. Like mold." Cas filled in as if she had read Matthias thoughts. She knelt and tugged off Ben's heavy work boot before she peeled his pant leg up. He hissed as she pushed his sock away to reveal three slim slices all the way around his ankle. Like someone had taken wire and worn it against his skin for several hours. The blood was already clotting a deep, wine-red against his dark skin and black leg hair.
"Wait... what happened?" Trav asked. He looked as baffled as Matthias.
"I... the door....I was late for work," Ben tilted his head. His eyes grew distant, as though the fog that had wrapped around Matthias' mind was reaching him as well.
"What are you all talking about?" Penny demanded. "Ben, what happened to your leg?"
"I don't... black ropes?" He looked down at his ankle as though it belonged to someone else.
"Wait!" Cas sprang up and fished in her pocket, producing her phone. "Here. I took a video." She hit a few buttons and held the screen up for everyone.
Matthias leaned in and squinted. It only took a few seconds for everything to snap back into clarity. His memories of the lobby had been scooped out of his mind by invisible hands, but now they poured back in, flooding Matthias with a rush of panic. Reaching blackness, missing doors, spreading evil. He had to fight the urge to dart to the window and pitch himself out as images of the black powder creeping across his ceiling overwhelmed his mind. Once again she remembered it all. His encounter in his apartment, and then in Trav's.
YOU ARE READING
Matthias is a struggling writer finally able to move into his first solo apartment. He's thrilled to have a place free of roommates and siblings, even though the building is decrepit and is inhabited by an odd assortment of people including an intru...