JIMMY by Tyler Davis
Water. Wet. Breathing. Nothing. Drowning.
When Ellie’s brain hit the fourth word of realization, she snapped awake. Disregarding the fact that her vision was pitch black, she was instead laser focused on taking in as much oxygen as she possibly could, and didn’t stop until her lungs became so full they felt stretched to the point of bursting. Once the suffocation issue had been solved, the next one on her checklist, calmy titled “What the fuck is going on?”, was the predicament she had now found herself in. She went from a parking lot to blindness in the same amount of time it takes to blink. Around her wrists hung something metallic and rusty, (or so she had hoped), clinking lazily against whatever cement or stone floor they had kept her chained to. What the floor was didn’t matter, since it hurt like hell and was a lot colder than it too. She could still feel her clothes, damp and sticky against her pinkly pale skin, which she acknowledged with a thank you to God, but that was about it. Gone were her phone, shoes, and the ring she had worn on her right middle finger. It was fake, only worth a dollar less than what she paid at a five and dime, but it sure did leave a mark on aggressors and assholes who tried to get grabby. At this point, she didn’t know what to do.
Yell, is what her brain immediately instructed, and without a second opinion from logic or calmness, she let out a squeal, failing to muster anything loud or really threatening out of her voice box. Nothing but a silent echo came floating back from the abyss. Her teeth became glued, and her lungs had begun calling and crying for oxygen once again, but this time, not for a lack of. A second squeal, this one less shrimpy, escaped its prison in her vocal chords and came flying back at the goliath of quiet. The sucking of oxygen at a deadly rate continued. It finally started to settle in her mind, that just maybe she was screwed. With all her might, she issued a last spat of noise. This time it wasn’t the letters h-e-l-p that came out but instead a guttural blend of a roar and tears. Once again, the only response back was unfiltered silence. Not even an echo. That was that. Wherever she was, there was no going back. Her head dropped slumpily, her shoulders sagged with defeat. She was about ready to start praying.
Go figure, she thought to herself, as the idea of even laying out her wishes and wants to God would be denied, as her whole life she had been a good Catholic girl like her mom had wanted, only she had the mind of an atheist the whole time. When she took the sacred bread in her mouth when she was eight, she didn’t feel a sliver of the so-called ‘Holy Spirit,’ but now she had hoped he had been there and had ever since. Thoughts and people had begun to spring up. Ma and Pa, her sister Courtney, and her little pup Beaker, who would bark his ass off anytime she came home. Even Tom. At the imagined sound of Beaker’s little barks echoing through her cranium, tears began to flow. One, then two, then a steady stream of droplets. With them came a last ditch kernel of survival, that maybe John was left alive in the parking lot and maybe would send someone to help.
Unless he did this, but he wouldn’t, wou—
“You done now?” Its voice drifted out from the void, causing both a bubble of hope and fear to burst in Ellie’s heart. “I don’t wanna have to toss more water on you.” Ellie had tried to say something, her mouth opening with an ill gotten smack of dry spit, but nothing had come out.
“Good, I like ‘em quiet.” The cold slaps of feet rang out in the darkness, and they grew closer and closer, inching slowly towards Ellie.
Slap! Slap! Slap!
Then came the laughter. A childish giggle, one frothing with glee.
Ahaha! Hehehe! Haha...
She started struggling. Shaking. Squirming. Pulling back and scooting until she felt her back hit a wall. Its fingers hit like an invisible tidal wave, the freezing power of its fingertips spreading out and taking control of her body. Her arms going from squirming to still. Her kicking legs, making contact with nothing but air, slowly petering out to an unwilling paralysation. There was only the sound of breathing at first, odourless spurs of breath landing against her check, turning the blobs of sweat down to an icy negative degree. Its fingers still rested on her forehead, the tips laced in a crusty layer. It wasn’t until they began to move that she felt the nails. They were sharp, and not from a lack of care. Poised perfectly pointed, all in precision and purpose. She felt as they scratched down to her forehead and ticklishly through her eyebrows, stopping, curling around the thing in front of her eyes. For a second there was a pinch of light pushing through a crack in the blackness, but it didn’t last long, as the red tips of his fingers blotted it out. The breathing had begun to grow faster, this time from its end, and it was an excited punch of lung-crazy puffs. Then in a fell swoop, the dim light beyond the blindfold came pouring in like a gift from god. It stepped back quickly, trying to fall back into the darkness in which it came. She on the other hand was blinded once again, but this time it was acceptable. Finally, some light.
Inky spots danced around her vision, slowly giving way to the hellscape that lay within it. There it was. A man. Lit up by a single bulb of bright hanging from the middle of the ceiling. She couldn’t see his eyes or face, but what she did see was all she needed too. It, now a he, was white. Not Caucasian, but a pale so white that the lightbulb could have potentially given him sunburn. He began to move in the dark, clothed only in an undergarment as tight as his skin and equally coloured. With a prance and sway he had stepped out and away from the lightbulb, slipping into the shadows with ease, his little laugh still echoing.
“What do you want?” Ellie croaked, easing into her burgeoning anxiety. The only response she got was his excited cackle. Her eyes darted around wherever the hell she was trying to find the ghoul of a man, but what they found was nothing. From what she could make out, the walls were grey with splatters of pollock painted stains, ones that bleed a distinct crimson colour. The floor also had its fair share of the tramp stampy stains, but it also took the colour of muted cement. A bucket sat under the ceiling light, with wet splashes painted both on the ground where she sat and where the bucket lay resting. But right outside the farthest reaches of the light prodded a pair of shoes. Black converse to be exact.
John. Pooling at the soles of the shoes was a future stain waiting to happen. A ruby puddle of life.
“You were so pretty when I found you,” the ghoul whispered out from the shadows. “Standing by the car.”
She didn’t need his retelling of her own date, as it came to her without his help.
John was a friend from work. She was the bartender at the bar on East Street named Christian’s Inferno. He was the drink mixer, and hint after hint he finally worked up the nerve to see if she wanted to hang out. They had planned to go to some overpriced and over praised Italian restaurant with bread baskets that were far from bottomless, but plans had changed. Gone was the need for a dress, instead she was clothed in her favourite pair of black jeans and ball cap. They found themselves in the parking lot of a run-down burger joint, sitting on the roof of a beat up seventies AMC Rebel, a gift from his grandad. He was picking out a fry each one at a time, popping them in with pristine pace.
“I can’t believe you actually worked up the nerve to ask me out,” Ellie joked, poking him with the straw of her drink.
“This is a date?” John asked with a truthful obliviousness that Ellie found too cute.
“It can if you want it to be.”
“What about Tom?” Ellie bit her thumb. Thinking about Tom wasn’t something she did when he left for business trips every other week. When he came home with a new unnamed number in his phone, stinking of booze, scaring her half to death when he disappeared without telling her.
“Tom is… not around right now.”
“You guys broke up? John questioned, munching down on his fries, getting some ketchup splattered on the corner of his lips. Ellie giggled at this, wiping away the ketchup with a crumpled napkin.
“Try to keep the food in your mouth,” she chittered. She decided to ignore John’s inquisitive comment, and laid back, staring up at the night sky, empty without stars. The noise of a rustling bush began to reach their ears, but they were too ignorant to notice.
“You think there’s anything out there?” she asked.
“What, like aliens?”
“No, squirrels. Yes aliens,” Ellie gave John a slug on the arm, giving birth to a corny dumb smile on his face.
“Well, there has to be. It’s scientifically il-probable that there isn’t life in the universe outside of our own.”
“Calm the nerd talk, I can only take so many big words at once,” Ellie said, which gave John a chuckle.
“What about the supernatural?”
“You’re really full of questions tonight.” John finished off the last fry, and tossed the container out into the bushes.
“Is that your answer?”
“Okay, the answer’s no.”
“Why not?” The bush began to rustle more and more, and then stopped with the abrupt slinking of someone leaving
“‘Cause Ellie, the only monsters in this world are people like—” Ellie had still been eyeing up the sky when John’s answer was cut off by a thump and a cry.
“What the h—” was what she said before coming face to face with a crowbar.
Even now in the darkened prison she felt a throb in her head where the crowbar had left its mark.
“Your little friend put up a nice fight,” the ghoul called out again.
“Don’t you talk about him,” Ellie spat, with a sudden burst of bravery that surely would slip away at a moment’s notice. The ghoul giggled some more, purring loudly.
“Brave little one you are.” He stepped into the light again, right in front of Ellie. She tried to push through the wall she was already chained against, but it was no use. She was eye to eye with him now. His face was empty, the definition of a John Doe, but it was covered in scars, ones that spread all over his cheeks and scalp. His eyes, a blackened red, peered into hers. His smile was cheek to cheek, a perfect maw filled with glittering teeth.
“Wanna play a game?” he questioned, his eyes begging like a hungry puppy’s. Ellie’s face straightened, and her lips glued together. The ghoul twisted his head with an inquisitive twist.
“Come on,” he begged. “It’s not a hard question,” he purred again, wrapping his clammy nails around her face.
“I guess you leave no choice but to make you play anyway,” the ghoul’s eyes snapped into a sinister glee, his smile slowly disappearing. Sliding into the darkness with his giggle and gaggle, her cuffs popped off her wrists with a jittery hop. Without a beat, Ellie took off towards the body that she hoped wasn’t John. Snagging the body by the ankles, she dragged him out and into the light, and for sure it was him. The black converse, navy blue jeans with cuts in the knees, a black shirt with the bar’s name scrawled across the chest, and his stupid black denim jacket he refused to take off, even in the dead heat of July weather. What was missing was something he could never take off, even if he wanted. Where the features of his face should be was an underlying mix of blood, muscles, and his baby blues.
“Fuck!” Ellie fell back, scooting away from the faceless John, covering herself in his pooled blood. Taking a breath, working up the confidence to crawl back over to the corpse, Ellie closed her eyes for a second.
A light snapped on, and Ellie’s head spun directly in its direction. A new light appeared, one over a set of wonky wooden steps that looked seconds away from collapse. A door at the top, a deteriorating door that had at one time been painted a light yellow, now scratched away and faded into an unrecognisable brown. Something, maybe the ghoul, maybe more, slipped through the doorway, his trailing tittering clashing with the empty slam of the door eclipsing shut.
Ellie had seen her fair share of shitty horror movies to know that basement steps were a living being of plot contrivances and death, but right now she had no other choice but death by stair or death by psychopath. She figured death by stair would be less painful, so she took that option, making a mental promise to John that she would send someone back for him. Pushing up off her palms and knees, she stumbled through the muddy light and up the stairs. Each step increased in squeaking and shakiness with each step that put pressure on it. It was a godly miracle that not a single step caved in, bringing the whole thing down with it. She was about halfway up before she noticed it. Not him, but John, or at least what was taken. Nailed to the door, a warning to all, a face lay resting lifelessly, all the way down to the scar tissue. A nail right through the forehead, a dripping trail of bloody residue dripping down off the chin skin with an unnerving drip. A fresh kill.
Ellie almost stumbled backwards, clinging for dear life to the railing that had a one hundred percent fail rate, but she remained clung and the stairs remained standing.
1, 2, 3. Breathe. In and out. In and out.
Her arms flexed in stress, pulling Ellie’s sweat drenched face and borderline lifeless body up the stairs at a snail’s pace, bringing her face to face with John. Tucked inside his mouth was a curled up slip of paper, but Ellie was taken over in waves by a crippling deluge of paralyzing nausea. Staring into the eye sockets, she took a second calming breath.
1, 2, 3. Breathe. In and out. In and out.
She raised her hand, which was teetering right and left, shaking with earthquake level tremors. Plucking out the paper slip and unfurling it. Her pupils danced along the chicken scratch of sentences:
How do you do?
Want to play a game?
What’s it to you?
Hide and seek
You find me
Or I find you
But there’s rules to th-
She strangled the paper with a forceful frustration. She didn’t want rules. She didn’t want to play a game. She just wanted to leave.
With a suave aggression, she took grasp of the rusting doorknob, throwing all her weight against the door. It flung open, carrying her with it. Tumbling out, she landed face down on a shag rug that screamed in need of a vacuuming. Pushing herself up, she didn’t take in her surroundings as keenly as one should, as a door sat behind a kitchen table that had gone unused for years. But what really tickled her attention was the flashing of red and blue lights piercing the screen door. There wasn’t even a morsel of thought in her brain as to how they had found her, but she didn’t care. Instead, she charged headfirst towards the door, disregarding the new layer of home she wound up in. Her eyes didn’t notice the kitchen, an empty space of memory long gone. A single picture hung above the stove. Two adults, male and female, were standing with their hands on the shoulders of a little boy and girl. Their faces were scratched out, and the boy’s mouth twisted into a frown that was commonplace on his face. The girl was smiling, and just as chalk white as her saddened brother next to her. It wasn’t the only picture. On the fridge hung pictures of the girl. A framed one sat on the dinner table, the glass sporting a splintering crack. But Ellie wouldn’t care to notice, even if she should have.
The call came in too late to make things easy. A drive-through worker, frightened to the point of pissing his pants, saw it happen from the pull-through window. Two adults, young enough that they still considered fast food a high end date, beaten and kidnapped in the parking lot of the only local Smelly Belly Burgers in Morrison Town. The call was passed on to Mory Wilkinson only minutes before his shift ended.
“Chief, you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Wilkinson whined as he paced after Chief Ron, who had just given him the heads up his night wasn’t over.
“No, I’m not kidding.” The chief didn’t turn, didn’t stop, and just kept moving, hoping that Mory would give up and go do his job.
“Chief, my shift is over in ten minutes.”
“No,” the chief chittered. “Your shift will be over when you get out there.”
“There’s plenty of other g—”
“Look,” the chief stopped and turned face to face to stare Mory down. “Stop your whining and do your damn job. Mitchells is dealing with a hit and run and I have paperwork to do, which leaves you to deal with this.” A folder was shoved with a little force into Mory’s chest. “Everything you need is in there. Now please, get out of my face.”
The chief strolled off in a huff, leaving Mory with his tongue in his cheek. He sighed, slapping the folder in his hand. He waited to look through it until he was seated in his squad car. Inside it detailed the situation vaguely enough that Mory would still have to pull people in for questioning before making a guaranteed arrest. He had the license plate, the identity and home of the owner of the beat-up shitstain of a car that had driven off with the couple in the back. The address was 276 Ickle Road.
Right in the boonies. Shaking his head in thought, he shifted the squad car into reverse and pulled out of the station.
Ellie came crashing through the screen door with enough noise to wake the devil. She hit the outer deck with a death-dealing crack, but it was absorbed completely by her spongey adrenaline. A squad car sat outside, with Mory leaning against it. When the crashing echo of her brutal charge echoed through the swampy surroundings, Mory shot to attention and came rushing over.
“Ma’am?” He came stumbling up the deck steps, bending over to help her up. “Ma’am, are you—”
Ellie pushed past him, tunnel visioned into making her way out of here.
“Ma’am!” Mory called out again. Ellie didn’t stop and she just kept moving through. “Fuck,” Mory muttered under his breath, making chase after her. “You wanna tell me what’s going on here?” She spun on her heels to stare down the officer
“We have to leave, before he…” Ellie trailed off.
“Before he, before who?” Mory questioned. “Listen, miss, there’s an easy way to do this. If you wanna leave, we can leave. Just please calm down and—” Mory stopped when he saw that Ellie had frozen not because she needed to check her mind or was tweaking, but because there was something else. Someone else. Crouching on the low hanging roof of the ill-gotten home. His perfectly sharp smile twisted into a toothy frown. His nails gripping on the edge of the house. His crimson red eyes peering down in disbelief.
“You broke the rules…” he whispered. Mory slowly turned and looked up at the ghoul waiting above him waiting to pounce. Mory snapped his hands to the gun strapped on his side but there was no chance, the ghoul was too fast. He descended down onto the officer, smashing his face into the wooden deck with a sickening crack. He pulled his head up by the hair, slamming down again.
He didn’t stop until Mory’s face was a bloody play-doh mess of broken bones and salty tears. Ellie tried her best to pry open the driver’s door of the cruiser but there was no point. The door was locked and the window was almost unbreakable, thanks to her ill-fated arm muscle. The ghoul rose from the body, snapping his back straight.
“You broke the rules…” he sang at her.
“I don’t want to play, just let me go,” she yelled back slowly edging away from the car. The ghoul came charging, knocking down Ellie as she tried to flee.
“Gahhh!” His sharpened nails latched onto her hair, pulling her to the ground. Ellie had screamed in pain, but it didn’t travel far. The ghoul straddled her body, pushing her wrist in the muddy grass. Ellie’s head shuddered back and forth, trying to keep the ghoul’s line of drool spooling off his lips from plopping down onto her cheek.
“You were going to leave,” the ghoul gurgled. Ellie kept quiet. “Don’t leave me, I’ll care for you. I’ll never leave, unlike Tommy boy,” his eyes took a shine similar to that of a scared toddler.
“I heard your whole conversation with your side boy,” the ghoul began to laugh. “Dirty, dirty cheater.” The ghoul smiled, his brow furrowing into a V.
“Please don’t go, they always go. They always leave. Why do they always leave!” The ghoul’s voice shattered into a screaming, grabbing onto his temple. Ellie took this opportunity.
She thrust him off of her, sending him slamming into the cruiser. Ellie took off back into the house, slopping through the watery dirt. The ghoul giggled.
“Now it’s your turn to hide.”
Ha… ha… ha.. haaaa…
Charging through the house, she didn’t take a chance to look around it again. The ghoul was coming. She heard him, cackling and pounding on after her. Yelling her name.
“Come back, Ellie!” She couldn’t go back. With muddy footprints trailing behind her, divulging and spreading the brown goo through the threads of rug. There was a door at the end of the hall, the same hall that had led to the basement. She was praying, hoping she could hide. Compared to the door for the basement, this one was a stroke of pure genius. Its pink paint wasn’t faded or scratched away, but instead it wore a fresh skin. The doorknob was still shiny, with a wafty smile of polish wafting right off it. She tore through the door, slamming it behind her, succumbing to the darkness of the room. She could barely make out forms and figures. There was a bed, and a dresser maybe. She couldn’t tell, but the gap from the bed to the floor was big enough to fit a child, and hopefully an adult. Ellie stumbled through the black, only hitting herself on a hidden object twice. Diving under the bed, she closed her eyes and clenched her fists. His voice came flowing through the door.
The doorknob rattled.
The door slowly opened.
You wanna story? Daddy buried mommy because mommy was a dirty, dirty cheater…
Ellie didn’t know whether she would die of fear or the feelings of guilt bubbling up.
Sis was just like mom. So, so caring. So understanding...
She could hear him crawling around, with a pitter here and a patter there.
Daddy didn’t like her so much. Reminded him too much of Mommy…
So he buried her too…
“It’s your fault, Jimmy!” he would always tell me...
And then he buried himself…
Come on, Ellie, I won’t leave you like he does, and you won’t leave me like they did…
I won’t let you…
His hand shot into the space between the bed and floor, digging his nails into Ellie’s arm. Her scream was piercing. On all fours, he dragged her out and into the middle of the room.
“This was her room, and now it can be yours,” He stretched his arm up to something in the darkness, and from it came illumination. Now she could see. The box of guts in the corner. The girl on the bed with a little bit of stuffing coming out of a loosely sewn together arm. The spread of pictures of a girl. Still little and blonde, even smiling. He brought the nail of his index finger to Ellie’s throat, dragging it vertically, the feeling of splitting flesh and pooling blood sticking under his fingernails. Ellie’s eyes spread wide, her breathing becoming static. He brought up his second hand, hooking all his nails into the split, slowly peeling back the skin like a birthday gift.
“See you in the morning,” the ghoul whispered, raising a pair of scissors, and unspooling a ring of thread. “You’ll never have to leave again.”
Tyler Davis is a New Jersey writer who cares less about the real world and more about the fake ones he dreams up in his cracked imagination, and frankly doesn’t care if anyone reads his insanity, but secretly would love it if you did.