Cold air surrounded Mark as he walked, hunched in his raincoat traveling north on 3rd Avenue. He passed restaurants, clothing stores, a dry cleaner and a shoe repair shop all closed up for the night.
Mark was alone. No one else traveled 3rd Avenue at this time of the night. He wasn’t afraid of being alone. He rather liked it. He didn’t have any responsibility to anyone else. No wife, or kids or dependents. He didn’t even have a pet. There was no one he had to take care of, and no one to take care of him.
The moon followed directly above shining full and bright. He walked these streets every night, it was familiar. He could navigate it with his eyes closed.
Tonight was different. The air felt heavy and Mark could swear he heard his name being called as the wind blew. Then he heard it coming from behind him, footsteps.
Mark looked around as he walked, listening through the sounds of HVAC systems humming and cars a few blocks away, to the sound of unseen footsteps. It started as prickles at the back of his neck, then it made its way down Marks back to his feet.
The sound and pace of the unseen footsteps sped up with the beat of his heart. Mark walked faster, the footsteps followed faster. Smoke rose up from underground cellars, limiting Marks vision. Marks breath quickened and he started to sweat.
He was almost home. He only came out to call his mother from the pay phone to wish her happy birthday. He didn’t want or own a cell or home phone. He didn’t call anyone, except his mother on her birthday, so why pay for something he wasn’t going to use.
His feet weren’t moving fast enough. He willed them to go faster. Then he started to run. He passed dark garbage filled alleys on either side of 3rd Avenue as he ran. Glancing around wildly to see something, anything. There was nothing, only footsteps running behind him. They-It was getting closer.
Mark reached his building, ran up the stairs, threw open the heavy metal and glass door and ran down the hallway to the elevator. Mark started to calm down. The brick walls of his apartment building felt safe after navigating the vulnerable street that was 3rd avenue. His heart started to slow down and his breath became steady.
After pressing the button for the elevator, the sound of the front door of the building closing started Mark towards the stairs. Nervous panic swelled in his stomach and stifled any noise that tempted to escape his mouth. He flung the heavy white door to the staircase open and froze.
The creature that stared at Mark was hideous. It’s head was big and one big green eye shone on the right side of it’s head. A mouth with three rows of sharp yellow and green teeth dripping with slime was right underneath the eye. The body was that of a human man except for the hands. Instead of a hand with five fingers, a lumpy slimy three prong claw with sharp thick black nails took its place.
The creature growled. It sounded like 100 rusty nails being dragged down a chalkboard. A foul gut wrenching smell escaped the creatures mouth and a tongue as red as oxygenated blood lashed out at Mark.
Mark ducked and rolled out of the way of the creature’s tongue. It must have been reflex because Marks brain shut down when he opened the door to the stair case. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and his un-athletic body squirmed and wiggled it’s way from the lumbering creatures grasp.
It lifted it’s think arm and came down on Mark, but Mark was faster. Instead the creature grabbed hold of Marks raincoat and pulled. Mark grabbed the railing with his left hand and tore off his raincoat with his right. The ear piercing sound of the creature’s growl filled the stair case.
Mark escaped his raincoat as well as the creature and started to hop up the stairs two at a time. Get to my apartment was all Mark could think about.
The creature reached out a thick arm and caught Mark’s right angle and pulled him down the stairs. Erasing any progress Mark made by ditching the raincoat and scrambling up the stairs.
Mark released a sound that came from deep within his gut as he grabbed the air for something, anything to hold on to so he could get away. A mixture of a cry, a scream, a yell and a holler. It was a low sound. A man’s sound.
The creature flipped Mark on his back, ripped the sweater he had on, revealing a bare skinny chest and held him down tightly against the stairs. The one eye smiled at Mark, as the mouth and the three rows of sharp yellow and green teeth parted to reveal the tongue. The tongue licked Mark from his stomach up to his shoulder. Where ever the tongue met with Mark’s skin, burned and started to melt leaving raw flesh. Mark started thrashing and screaming. Nothing filled his head but screams. Nothing came from his mouth but wails. Nothing came from his gut but panic. He thought of nothing. No one, not even his mother. All he did, all he heard were screams. His screams.
The creature slowly, lowered its mouth to Mark’s stomach and sunk its teeth in Marks soft fleshy skin.
The dream ended and Mark woke up.
Sweating profusely, Mark furiously kicked the thick blue comforter and sheet off himself as he jumped out of bed. The white T-shirt and shorts he slept in was drenched with sweat. He scanned the room trying to figure out where he was.
He was home. He was in his bedroom. Never before had he experienced such a nightmare. Fear remained in his gut as he went to the window, opened it and stuck his head out. Mark inhaled as the cold wind beat against his face. He needed air. His breathing slowed and his heart stopped trying to tear itself from his chest.
Feeling foolish, Mark went to the bathroom, stared at himself in the mirror and shook his head.
“Come on Mark, what’s wrong with you. Get it together. You had a bad dream. “
He turned on the faucet and let the water run down the drain for a few seconds before he scoped up a handful of cold water and splashed it on his face.
Placing both hands on either side of the sink, Mark started to tremble. His legs were not steady and they threatened to betray him.
That’s when he felt it. A burning sensation that increased with every breath, coming from his abdomen.
Mark inhaled fast and deep to steady himself. The pain grew to include his chest, shoulder, neck and head. One by one, his entire body started to feel like it was burning. His mind started to fail him. He no longer could think clearly, the pain was too great.
Mark doubled over and cupped his right hand to his stomach, the starting point for the pain and grimaced. He felt something warm and thick flowing into his hand. Mark felt around his abdomen, searching for the source of the liquid, when his hand slipped into a hole. Mark’s eye’s widened in horror as he slowly lowered his eyes to meet his hands. A hole the size of a tennis ball was missing from his stomach.
Blood and guts rushed from the hole where Mark’s hand just slipped inside his body. Pain, fear, disbelief, confusion, and loss of blood overwhelmed Mark as his mind saw black and his body collapsed on the cold tile bathroom floor.