Here is my September entry; a short story I came up with based on some amalgamation of ideas presented in Stephen King’s story “1408” and Euripides’ The Bacchae. I like the idea of a person’s descent into madness being the result of external forces, especially because you can always turn a story like that around and see other’s reactions to a person who may or may not be on the same plane of reality anymore. My apologies for any spelling or grammar errors, but it is late and I need some sleep.
Emily wasn’t sure what was worse; the constant changes, his smiling face, or the continual clicking of his tongue against the roof of his mouth. That dry, snap-like noise that he made as if he were some kind of metronome. It wasn’t the kind of thing that would normally bother her, but this wasn’t a normal kind of situation.
She barely even noticed the guy when he first came into the library. She was busy poring over her ethics book, getting ready for her test later that week. She looked up for a brief moment and saw him at the far end of the library, smiling and looking directly at her. She didn’t think much of it and assumed he was smiling at someone near her.
She put her head back down and kept reading. But after a few minutes, some random flash of light caused her to pick her head back up. This time the man was standing just a few feet away from her with his mouth closed and that same smile on his face. Emily could definitely tell where he was looking this time. He was staring straight into her eyes. She didn’t know what it was about his smile, but she became immediately uncomfortable. She gave him a quick “hi, I’m busy” smile and put her head back down.
She tried for a brief moment to get back to reading, but she couldn’t. All she could do was think about the man. She could feel him still standing there, his presence demanding her attention. She let out a slight sigh and picked her head back up. “Yes?” she said with a hint of annoyance layered in.
The man didn’t say anything back, he just kept smiling and staring at her. Emily couldn’t tell if it was the man’s greasy black hair, his slightly wild eyes set in deep, dark sockets, or his strangely heavy and rhythmic breathing, but she no longer felt safe, despite how many people there were around her.
“Do I need to get a librarian or security over here?” She spoke a little louder than she typically would for a library, but she was hoping to attract some attention from the other students. It didn’t work. Instead, the man’s lips parted and his smile extended to its full length. His teeth weren’t well cared for; they were deeply yellowed and caked in plaque from meals past. His teeth were separated by small gaps and, in some places, they overlapped each other.
His mouth was opened enough so Emily could even see his tongue. She wished she hadn’t though, because the moistness of his mouth made her instantly feel ill. It was in that moment that the man touched his tongue to the roof of his mouth and started making clicking noises.
He seemed as though he were keeping a rhythm, but he wasn’t holding on to it well. He had the semblance of keeping a beat yet he would be slightly too fast or too slow with each beat. The lack of timing was instantly starting to get on her nerves. Emily was about to ask him to stop when she noticed the first change.
One of the bookshelves behind the man switched from a plain metal rack to an ornate wooden shelving unit. It didn’t even make a noise or take the time to change shape; it simply went from one thing to another in an instant.
Emily blinked several times, as if the problem were her eyes. The change was unsettling and she couldn’t even trust whether she saw or just hadn’t realized it was always there. She would have kept staring at the bookshelves, but the clicking brought her back to the immediate problem; the man in front of her.
“I don’t know what you want, but if you don’t leave in the next couple of seconds, I’m going to call security.” Her voice had raised a few decibels more than the last time. She wanted to get the attention of as many people as she could. She wanted someone to get involved. She just needed someone to look up. No one did.
Instead, the clicking continued and the changes became greater. More metal racks changed into wooden shelves. Some had trees growing out of them that touched the ceiling, some were carved directly out of wide tree trunks that merged perfectly with the laminate floor and tiled ceiling.
Emily felt herself starting to panic. She shut her eyes tight and took a deep breath. None of this is happening, she told herself. It’s obviously a dream. You’ve been in here for a long time studying and you’ve just had too much. So in a second, you’re going to open your eyes, wipe the drool off your books, and go take
Her self-assurance mantra was cut short by the realization that the clicking hadn’t stopped. It snapped her out of her own head and brought her back into the terror of the situation. Determined to find some help, Emily reached into her purse on the seat next to her and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed 911, put the phone to her ear, and stood up to meet her opponent eye to eye.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“Hello, I am here in the student library on campus and there is a man here threatening me. He hasn’t attacked me yet, but I think he might. Can you send an officer to help out, please?”
“Hehe,” the responder’s voice went from professional to mocking almost instantly, “Sure, sure. We’re gonna get you set up real quick. Don’t you worry about nothin’. Don’t worry about nothin’ ever again…”
The phone lost all power instantly and the battery began to heat up in her hand. Emily shrieked and tossed the phone onto the desk. It melted through the middle of the desk, catching it on fire along the way. The phone dropped to the ground and sank through the floor. The desk she had been sitting at, as well as her books, burned away within seconds as though they were all made out of flint. She looked over to the other seat to grab her purse, but found the back of the chair slamming down on the seat, crushing her purse and everything in it. The chair back raised a few more inches and Emily noticed small, sharp teeth protruding out of it in multiple rows. The chair continued eating her purse, although without a throat, the pieces of her purse and it’s contents just kept falling to the ground.
Emily lost her ability to rationalize her situation anymore. All she could do was stare at the insanity around her. She turned her head to look at her own chair, only to see it hungrily waiting for her to sit down. She watched it for a brief moment, uncertain of whether she should try sitting down again or not, but before she had the chance, her chair dashed at the chair eating her purse. The purse chair yelped like a dog and ran forward. There were no tables in the library anymore and the floor was now a mix of laminate and soil. The purse chair continued its run, but stumbled on a student that had been sitting four rows ahead of her before all of this began. He was now lying face down on the ground with his chemistry book attached firmly to his face. Emily couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead, but she didn’t even have time to think about it as her chair leaped over the man and brought its face directly down onto the purse chair. Splinters flew as her chair devoured the other one.
Emily tried to take a moment to think, but the clicking just kept bringing her back to “reality”. Another student began to walk between the few feet of distance between her and the smiling man. Emily’s eyes shifted focus from the chair-eating chair and slowly drew up towards the student’s face. She surveyed the woman’s conservative clothing that covered what was a very firm and tight body. As Emily’s eyes drew up, she saw a large pair of breasts hidden under a thick sweater (which seemed an odd choice for the summer), and a neck covered in brown and red feathers. When she finally looked straight at the woman, she realized she was looking at human female with a robin’s head.
The woman continued to walk, but turned her head toward Emily. The cold, black eyes stared back at her, never breaking contact as the woman continued her march forward. She kept walking past Emily’s right, turning her head to face Emily as she went. The robin’s head has turned fully backwards to continue its stare at Emily as the woman diligently walked between two bookshelf trees.
Emily snapped her head to the left as she heard the low, breathy sound. She found her face was inches away from a human-sized fox wearing a police officer’s uniform. It would have seemed almost cartoonish to her, if it weren’t for the disturbingly realistic features on it’s face. The nose was wet, the teeth were bright white, and the mouth was drawn back in a sinister smile.
“Yeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhh…”, it continued, “I’m gonna take care a you, just like you asked me to, lady. Just as soon as I get a piece of that hot chick over therrrrrrreeee….” The fox darted past Emily, sprinting toward the bird-woman. As it did, it lifted a dull, rusted axe over it’s head. The fox got between the bookshelf trees and continued its pursuit of the bird-woman. Suddenly, the trees slammed shut against each other. Emily couldn’t tell if it simply closed, or if it crushed the people between them, but she wasn’t sure it even mattered anymore. Her attention was inexplicably drawn to something different even farther to her right.
She turned to see another male student. This one seemed to be the only person left sitting at a chair, but he wasn’t studying. He was leaning forward and weeping. He sobbed and moaned down onto a photograph he was holding. His tears poured onto the picture and he didn’t seem to be stopping.
“She was so young… Just so young…” His voice was cracking and frail. “She could have stopped it, she could have done something.” The man continued to cry onto the picture and stare down, but his wrists turned to the picture outward toward Emily. Given his position, he shouldn’t have been able to turn his wrists very far, but he continued to turn them as they each gave a loud crack as they popped out of their joints. He stopped when the picture was fully turned toward Emily.
For the first time since the insanity began, Emily produced a reaction. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened. She couldn’t believe she was staring at an antique black and white photograph of herself. She was wearing clothes that suggested the picture came from somewhere just before the 20th century. Her own eyes stared back at her from the photo and terrified her. She wanted to scream, but found she couldn’t.
The man continued his wailing and moaning. “She should have made it stop. She COULD have made it stop!” The man’s voice began to raise and Emily thought for a brief moment that the picture of her went from a stoic face to one that was smiling. It was too much for her to bear so she began to turn around. Before she could face completely forward again, the crying man was standing directly in her face. “YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO MAKE IT STOP!!!!!” He screamed. He pulled his head back and threw it forward violently, attempting to head-butt her with the full force of his weight behind it. Instead, he disappeared the moment he was about to make contact with her forehead.
Emily felt the scream well up inside her throat. She took a deep breath and prepared to let every last ounce of terror come shrieking out of her. Just as she was about to let her last vestige of sanity slip, she heard the clicking again. It drew her back, just as it had always done. She turned to see the smiling man standing exactly where he had been the entire time, clicking and smiling away. Things continued to change around her and the world continued its slide into dementia, but all she could do now was stare back at this man. She began to realize everything was happening because of the clicking. The snap of his tongue on the roof of his mouth started this confusion and that it wouldn’t stop until he did. He had control of this situation, him and his rhythmic clicking. All she had to do was reach out and make him stop. All she had to do was wrap her fingers around his neck and strangle him until the light faded.
But she didn’t want him to stop anymore. She didn’t want it to end. She had heard the clicking long enough and had come to realize the beautiful symphony of sounds within. For the first time since the man had walked into the library, Emily began to smile with him and she began to dance.