This July, my mother turned seventy. She and I don’t get along too well, and that’s putting it lightly. In fact, we hadn’t spoken for two years. Regardless, seventy is a big number, so even if she was a cruel, manipulative bitch, I decided I owed her a visit.
So, I stopped by her house on a Saturday afternoon. I assumed she’d be home. Where else would an old, widowed woman go? I brought a card along with me. It said something about the “light of a mother shining back the darkness.” Bullshit, of course. But they say it’s the thought that counts. That and I slipped a fifty inside the card. She’d probably appreciate that more.
Anyway, when I pulled up to my mother’s home in the boondocks, I began to worry. Most of her land was covered in dense forest, but she also had a short lawn just before her porch. Only, this time the lawn was a foot high. Honestly, I didn’t expect the old bag to mow the lawn herself, but she could’ve at least hired someone.
I groaned to myself. No, I couldn’t expect her to take care of herself. Her memory had taken a turn for the worse not long after dad died. Her math skills weren’t much better. Last time we met, I set up her finances so utility payments would just come straight out of her bank account. So long as she remembered to buy food, she’d be fine. “Hm. Maybe not,” I said to myself.
My mother’s car was in the driveway, but when I knocked on the door, I got no answer. “Mom,” I called. “Mom, it’s your son.” Still nothing. Naturally, I got to feeling like the world’s shittiest son. And I felt…sad. Yeah, even for her. Bitch or not, she was still my mother, and I let her die alone.
I tried the door, and, to my surprise, it was unlocked. Without hesitation, I barged in. At once, the most dreadful smell washed over me. It stung my nose and dripped down the back of my neck. I had never experienced the scent before, but I knew immediately it was the smell of rotting flesh. Something had died in there, or someone.
“Mom,” I called as I stepped over a pile of unopened mail. Again, no answer. Shutting the door behind me, I continued into my mother’s house. I tried to follow the stench to its source, but I could not. The whole building reeked.
So, I covered my nose and wandered. All the shades were drawn, and none of the lights were on. However, in the background, I heard the drone of a television. My heart skipped with hope. I dashed into the living room, where an old-timey soap opera was playing on the tube. Yet, the couch was empty. Where the hell is she? I thought.
Next, I headed upstairs. Perhaps she was in her bedroom. “Mom?” The floor creaked as I climbed the stairs and inched down the hall to her bedroom. Except for the whir of the TV, the house was still and quiet. I stopped outside her room. The door was ajar. With a cautious hand, I pushed it all the way open.
Once more, the room was empty. I walked in and set my hand on the bed. Although dusty, it was neatly made with not a single wrinkle to speak of. Past the bed was a small nightstand. Several pictures decorated the nightstand. One was of me as a young boy. I couldn’t have been more than six. We laughed and hugged each other. We were happy. Oh, how things had changed. I picked up the photo and smiled. Just as I did, a door slammed shut somewhere down the hall.
“Hello?” I said. “Mom, is that you?” No answer. I walked back into the hall. All the doors were closed. I took a few steps. “Hello?” My heart throbbed. “Hell—?” The bedroom door shut behind me.
That was all I needed. I had seen enough horror movies. You didn’t need to tell me. I was getting the hell out of there. I bolted down the stairs, straight for the front door. Yet, as I pulled on the door, it would not open. I yanked and yanked, but it was jammed. “Shit shit shit,” I said.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black silhouette sweep across the hallway and into the kitchen. I paused. It was then I noticed the TV had gone quiet. In its place, I heard a slow, raspy breath. “Who’s there?” I asked, half-hoping no one would answer. One step at a time, I crept towards the kitchen. All the while, I muttered to myself, “It’s nothing. It’s nothing. It’s nothing.” And when I finally poked my head into the kitchen, I saw it truly was nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief. Still, I had no desire to stay there. I whirled around, back towards the door. As I did, I bumped straight into my mother.
I screamed. My mother made no reaction. “God,” I said. “What the hell? I’ve been calling for you.” She smiled. Her skin was pale, grey, and wrinkled, but no worse than the last time I saw her. As far as I could tell, my mother was alive.
“I’m glad you came,” she said. She stared past me with foggy, brown eyes.
“It’s your birthday,” I said.
“Ah, so it is,” she said.
“I know we haven’t talked in a while, but you’re seventy,” I said. “I figured I’d at least keep you company. I brought you a card, too.”
Although I offered the card, she did not take it or even notice it. “Company,” she said. “That’s all we want.”
Shaking my head, I set the card on her kitchen counter next to a stack of pots and pans. “Look,” I said, “We need to talk about the smell. It’s awful.”
My mother grinned. “We like the smell.”
“Like the smell? How can you like—wait. Why do you keep saying we?”
Her smile faltered and she dropped her head. A look of confusion and concern passed over her face as her wispy eyebrows pinched together. Then, just like that, my mother’s grin reappeared, and she lifted her head. She took both my hands in a ginger grip. “It keeps me company,” she said.
“Now you’ll keep me company too.”
“Mom, what is it?” I said.
“Oh, you’ve seen it already,” she said. She tightened her grip.
“Are you feeling alright?” I asked.
“I’m feeling wonderful,” she said. “And soon you will too.”
I laughed a nervous laugh. “You don’t seem wonderful,” I said.
She squeezed my hands tighter until I winced. I tried to pull away, but she would not let me. “Yes. Wonderful,” she said. “Why, I could just lose my head.”
My mother’s lips stretched into a crooked smile. But the smile grew wider and wider until it ripped through her skin. Blood flowed from the broadening grin and dripped down her chin. When the scarlet smile reached from ear to ear, the top of her head fell back to reveal her gaping, black throat. And from out of her open maw crawled four shadowy tendrils.
“Jesus Christ!” I shouted. The tendrils shot forth and latched onto my neck. I struggled against my mother’s hold, but she held me firm as the black arms crept towards my mouth. Just as I felt their cold, slimy touch on my lips, I kicked my mother in the gut. It was enough to push her off me.
I leapt over my mother, or whatever she was, and headed towards the door. I tugged on the doorknob again and again, for all the good it did me.
“You can’t leave,” my mother said. She walked towards me with a calm and level expression. “You’re ours now.”
“What did you do to my mother?” I asked.
“I’m still your mother,” she said, taking a step towards me.
“No, you’re not,” I said. “What did you do?”
My mother closed her eyes and froze. Then, from around the corner of the kitchen, I saw two inky black hands. “She was alone,” a deep, gravelly voice said. The hands slipped back behind the wall. “I gave her company,” the voice said.
Once again, my mother opened her eyes and walked towards me. A slit opened across her lips and her head peeled back. Before she could grab me, I ran back upstairs. But that’s probably exactly what she wanted. Or rather, what that creature controlling her wanted.
If I could not run from my mother, I would try hiding. So, I ducked into the first room on the right. It was the guest room. Immediately, I looked around for a place to hide. Under the bed maybe? Behind the curtains? I groaned. They were both terrible hiding spots.
While I considered what to do, the closet door opened. A young man with tattoos and short, brown hair rushed forward. On his arm, I noticed several needle tracks. I raised my fists to defend myself, but the man opened his palms to show he meant no harm.
“Whoa whoa whoa,” he said in a hush. “What are you doing here? You gotta get out of here, man. That lady—”
“That’s my mom,” I whispered.
“Not anymore,” he said.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Me? I thought this place was abandoned. I came here to toke up. Next thing I know, I’m trapped in here with her and that thing.”
“How long have you been here?” I asked. The young man looked around nervously. He didn’t answer the question.
“They’ll be coming,” he said.
“My mother was following me,” I said, still in a whisper. “I don’t know where she is now.” I turned towards the door, anxious to leave.
“Have you seen it?” the man asked. He scratched his neck nervously. I shook my head. I didn’t want to know about “it” either. I just wanted to know how to get out. I turned towards the door, away from the strange junkie. But he continued talking. “It’s like a shadow with tentacles that reach out to grab you and…and it’s face. It’s crooked face.” The man grabbed my wrist. I pulled my arm away, but he pulled it right back. “If you see it,” he said, “Run or else it’ll turn you into that lady.”
“What does it want?” I asked.
The junkie closed his eyes. His face contorted into a tense knot of wrinkles that expressed both pain and sorrow. “More,” he said again, voice deeper. “More.” His mouth split and gaped open just like my mother’s. He tugged my arm to pull me closer while tentacles poured from his mouth. With my free hand, I punched the man under the chin, so his jaw slammed shut on the tentacles. He shrieked in a shrill, metallic voice that stung my ears.
I ran out of the room and back towards the staircase. Mother was waiting for me at the base of the stairs, a smirk on her face. Behind me, the junkie strode forward. Flanked by the two of them, I hopped over the banister onto the ground floor. But the man and my mother stalked after me.
I ran to the backdoor. Not to my surprise, it was jammed. I went to the window and tried with all my might to lift it, but to no avail. Closer now, my mother and the man laughed. They closed around me. With nowhere left to go, I ran for the nearest door. It led into the basement. A trap. And they knew it. I ran down and then stood at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for my mother and the man to come for me. Instead they smiled and slowly shut me in the dark.
The blackness was thick. It was like someone had dropped me at the bottom of an abyss. Even the air felt dense enough to choke on. It pressed down on me until my shoulders slumped and I wanted to curl into a ball. I fumbled around for a light, but for every moment that passed in blindness, my pulse quickened. And soon the seconds turned to minutes.
At long last, I found a pull cord at the center of the basement. I switched on the light with hopes I could scan the basement for an escape or something to defend myself with. Yet, the light shone on me and me alone. At most, I could see only a yard in front of me. The darkness was an impenetrable wall.
It was then I heard an ominous noise like the crackle of distant thunder or the gurgle of a drowning man. The sound circled around me while a figure shifted in the darkness, its body black beyond description. I spun around to get a good look, but as soon as I tried, the figure disappeared, and the sound faded.
Cold and clammy, my hands shook. I tensed them into fists. “Come on,” I said. “Come on you piece of shit!” However, as I spoke, fog poured from my lips, and a shiver ran up my spine. None of this was normal for a balmy summer day. Something unnatural was in that basement, and I was beginning to regret my words.
The quiet lingered for well on a minute, but it could not last. From out of the darkness, I heard a coarse, metallic scream. Then a black silhouette of a creature stepped into the light. Its body consumed the light, so that it appeared without depth or dimension. In place of arms and legs, it had long tentacles that slithered across the floor. Worst of all was its face. The creature had a crooked, white smile that cut across its head, and bulbous, white eyes without pupil or iris.
I froze, my mouth unable to form words, my throat too shocked to scream. But the creature crept closer until its fetid breath swept over me. It latched onto the lightbulb with one tendril. The heat of the bulb made the creature’s skin steam. Yet, as the tentacle curled around the bulb, the glass broke and sprayed across the floor. Once more, I was bathed in utter darkness.
By now I had regained my senses enough to run. As I bounded upstairs, the creature’s steely laughter echoed all around me. Yet, the door was held in place by my mother and the man. They joined the creature in its laughter while it crept ever closer. I beat my fists against the door and pushed with all my might. The door jostled with each push and then slammed shut again. I looked back. I could not see the creature, but I could hear it cackle just a few feet away.
Fueled by fear and desperation, I bashed against the door, pushing back my mother and the man. Unfazed, they laughed even louder. Before they could get up, I ran to the kitchen to find a knife, but to no avail. And there was no time to waste. My mother was already making her way towards me. She reached out her arms as her smile lengthened across her face.
“Sorry, mom,” I said. I grabbed a pot from the kitchen counter and bashed her across the head. She fell with a bloody dent in her head. Next came the junkie with a tortured scowl on his face. I struck him twice in the eye until he collapsed with a gaping wound.
However, when the looming shadow slid out of the basement, my mother and the junkie snapped back to their feet. Where once thick streams of blood gushed, their wounds filled with undulating shadow. My mother and the man limped towards me. Their heads cocked to the side to mirror the threatening creature behind them. As all three of them neared, the creature’s white smile sliced deeper into the corners of its face. Both my mother and the man copied the smile. Then, when they were just a few paces away, their heads unfolded. Tentacles burst from their throats.
I raised the pot to defend myself. But in my heart, I knew there was no way to defeat all three of them. I wasn’t even sure I could defeat one. So, I turned to the back window. I hit it again and again until deep cracks spread through the glass. After a third strike, the window shattered. Sunlight poured in, making the creature hiss and coil in on itself.
Without a look back, I jumped through the window and into the backyard. I ran to my car as fast as I could and got the hell out of there. I drove for hours, not knowing where to or why. When I finally made it home, I crawled into bed and wrapped myself in blankets. I just wanted to put the day behind me.
And don’t you give me shit about abandoning my mother. As far as I’m concerned, she died a long time ago.