Joe was standing, partially in shadow. The light slashing his body in half, adding to the sense of mystery. He grinned and it looked like it was only coming from one side of his face. It was not an inviting grin at all. He deliberately placed a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, in the same fluid motion flame danced forth and kissed the end of the tobacco drawing from the brown leaves a burning eye. As the smoke plumed, nothing moved, the red became the pupils of the lenses of his dark glasses, somehow less terrifying than what actually lay behind them. Smoke vented between his teeth and he spoke in quick low tones. “We knew it would come to this,” there was a sense of the enigmatic, the charisma sparked from him. “This is where it ends.”
There was silence, no one responded. Just the gentle pull on the cigarette. The soft light flared showing grizzled jaw line and hair. Handsome features that had pulled from grin to serious expression. One that meant business. Joe heard a noise from the front of the house, his ears twitched and in a flash the expression was gone, he gulped so hard the smoke crashed into his lungs. Sputtering and gasping as he indignantly belched for oxygen. The door was opening. Shit she was home. He ditched the glasses – the fantasy shattering before his very eyes. No longer cool and suave. Just Joe, the guy who was supposed to have quit smoking living a fantasy where he was remotely dangerous. This was a lie.
“Hi, I’m home!” The voice of his wife permeated from somewhere getting closer, “managed to get off early for a change!”
Joe quietly came through the back door holding his breath so he wouldn’t breathe out smoke filled smell and locked it shut. He crept to the bathroom, only breathing out when locked inside. He then frantically washed his two fingers where he had grasped the cigarette, trying to remove the stench of cheap tobacco. If he could get to the coffee machine and manage to swill some round some his mouth, he might be able to dampen the scent of it.
Needless to say, this ploy did not work. He would be sleeping on the sofa, again. “Well shit,” Joe sighed.
The rain had been pouring for many hours now. The puddles grew bigger, just enough to reflect the yellowing moon in them, distorting the image into a maw of yellowed misshapen teeth. Joe was not sleeping well, he tussled and turned underneath the blanket, finally settling. There was a low moaning that did not cause him to move, not even twitch a muscle. Ironically in his dream he was playing the part of one of those chiselled men on television, the ones he pretended to be when he caught his reflection in any surface. Fantasising that he was the object of desire and want from women and the cause of absolute jealousy in men. Some kind of rough James Bond who would save the day. Often, to complete this illusion, he would suck in his stomach to make him look more washboard than close to six months pregnant.
The smell or rotting caused a twitch at his nostril, even overcoming the rancid nature of his breath when he slept. His eyes flicked open, unfocussed at first. That was until he glanced over and processed what was in front of him. The pale face was at odds with anything he had seen before. It looked bloodless, skin hanging, more a sock loosely moulded around a skull. Eyes dull and glazed, not moving. Staring. All the while the jaw moved silently save the clack of enamel on enamel.
He bolted upright, this was not how he pictured it, normally, in his mind the villain was more human. He would come out with a quip that would perfectly encapsulate the situation. He peddled backwards. Trying to reach further back into the sofa.
Joe shrieked, he lost control and the smokey grey of his boxers clouded to charcoal at the front. This movement excited the creature that had risen from all fours. Joe ran, bare feet slapping the tiles, creating a xylophone of skin and ceramic. His heart was pounding. He wrenched open a door and slammed it closed, trapping the thing in the living room. The hallway was filled with the sound of frenetic scratching, like a dog wanting to be let in. “Joe, pleassseee,” a high-pitched whine sounded.
He knew the voice; it was well known to him but distorted. The shape of the face, although different was familiar, it threw him. Shit it was Pete, Pete his fucking line manager. That dick head, all now changed and different. It rubbed him up the wrong way that he was there in the first place. This was not fair in the slightest, this prick had caused his own demotion at work and now he was here.
“Joe…” the hurt and the longing in the voice was like that of a lover trying to force someone to remain faithful and together the arms leaning forwards, lost in the daydream Joe had no idea how that thing had made it into the hallway. The love and desire from Pete for something other than a cuddle was palpable. The paralysis only survived a moment, then adrenaline and various powerful hormonal reactions kicked in.
Joe vaulted backwards as the quickly shambling Pete thrust himself forwards. Joe measured the distance, always ensuring he was at least out of arm’s length and did a mental scan of the room.
His mind clicked into drive and he remembered the ornamental poker (they never lit a real fire) and raced to it. The power surged into his hand and he cracked a smile, despite being in just some underwear, he reimagined himself as he had been earlier that afternoon. No more delusions this was the real thing. He grinned, gaining confidence. Pete stepped towards him. Moaning and groaning. This would-be sweet vengeance. He leapt forward, promptly slipped and fell, poker slamming tip first into Pete’s stomach.
There was a sweet smell of rotting fermenting food and the clawing hint of shit. Joe felt bile rise and choked it down. Pete was doing something he did not expect. Pete was screaming. Joe, rationality dissipating hit him again and again until a decisive swing to the head sent Pete, or what was left of him crumpling to the ground.
The thundering of his mind and blood rushed through his body, he could feel the fat in his stomach and thighs pound with each beat. Still, he had done this, and he should be proud. He had protected his own and done something decisive. He had won, he had beaten the bad guy. He was elated. He ran up the stairs to his wife. She would love him; be proud of him.
She was there. Joe could sense something was amiss; she smelled like Pete; she was changed like Pete. Changed into something inhuman, immoral, tainted. His blood thickened and he wanted to weep. She began wailing and clawing at him in a mad frenzy garbling something but making no sense.
Joe knew what to do. He had no choice. He ended her misery, but it was hard, messy. By the time he finished he was out of breath and, though dark, could feel the ichor and remains of his wife slowly drying on his body.
He sat in the living room for a while. This was the best thing really. He had to take a stand. He loaded up anything he could make into a weapon and clicked on the radio, there was nothing of note. He left the house.
Some hours later inside the kitchen. The radio was still playing. A news bulletin. If Joe had been there, he would have double checked the door to ensure it was locked. “Homeowner is believed…” static hissed briefly, “killed wife and her lover in rage, ” static again, “undergoing psychic evaluation…”