John hated the eyes on the ceiling.
Bulbous… yellow… staring eyes.
There were dozens of them, all set amidst a criss-cross of moist, pulsing muscle tissue. None of them blinked but they swivelled, each movement creating a loud suction sound. Many of them were watching him; too many for him to be comfortable. Though in truth any eyes would be too many because John knew they shouldn’t be there in the first place. He knew it as clearly as he knew he needed oxygen to breathe.
Eyes should not appear on any surface that isn’t a face.
That was a fact.
That was normal.
That was human.
Another eye moved, the motion dislodging a clump of pus which dropped onto his shoulder; a disgusting reminder of how little in this world was human.
John shuddered, pressing a rusty pipe to his chest while dragging his eyes across the rest of the room. There were no eyes on the walls, instead they were an amalgamation of worn bricks, rusted metal and dark flesh. Sticking out of the corner nearest to him was a single, emaciated arm; long enough for the nails to rest on the tiled ground.
It was only the wall he currently sat against that had no grotesque additions; what it did have was a large window, covered in dust and peppered in cracks.
John had been glued to this window for… Hours? Days? Weeks? He didn’t know, there was no way to keep track of time. The sky never changed; it was always a murky brown streaked with grey clouds. No sun and no moon. For all he knew he could have been living here for months, alone apart from the small critters he’d been hunting for food.
And the monsters outside.
Growls broke through John’s thoughts and he blinked up towards the window, forcing himself onto his feet. He gritted his teeth as his weight shifted onto his broken ankle, using the pipe as leverage until he could comfortably look outside, focusing on the moving shapes below.
The demons were spread around, idling like cats in the sun with the occasional one stalking around or striking at its fellow. Long-limbed creatures with brick-red skin, their heads like giant rat skulls. Body and head were both covered in scales, occasionally giving the faintest shimmer as they moved. Just the sight of them made his knuckles grow white, remembering the way the pack had chased him into the building, only stopped because they couldn’t open the fire door he’d entered through. It hadn’t taken long for them to lose interest, having found easier prey to target, but they still lingered around. John wasn’t sure if he had stumbled onto a nesting ground or if the vicious animals were waiting him out, but he was struggling to find a way to escape… a way to get back.
His eyes went down to his left hand, where amidst the dried dirt and blood was a lightly scratched wedding ring. The dull gleam of gold started to ripple the longer he stared at it, feeling a trail of moisture running down his cheek. John tried blinking back the tears, balling the hand into a fist and pressing it against the glass as he looked outside again.
One of the demons was watching him.
He blinked again, head tilting to the side as he tried to focus. There was too much distance between them for him to see the eyes, but John was certain that the head was pointed directly at him. This demon was set slightly apart from the rest of the group, and the more he watched the more he realised it looked quite small. The skin seemed worn and bunched up in places, and a particularly thick lump was bulging from its left side. Everything about this creature seemed… off.
As if it heard him, the demon suddenly cocked its head. Shivers ran up his spine and his fingers gripped the pipe more tightly; his instincts were starting to tell him to run but curiosity made him linger, matching the demons gaze. The bizarre staring contest continued a few moments longer.
Then the demon moved.
John jolted back, stumbling and crying out in pain as his ankle twisted. Regaining his balance, he looked out of the window again. There was no mistake, the mishappen demon was crawling towards his building at a fast pace, looking up every so often as if to keep track of him. None of them had ever acted this way, they always hunted as a pack. But none of the other creatures even twitched in his direction; this one appeared to be operating solo.
Come on John, calm down. So what if one of these fuckers suddenly caught sight of you? There are three floors between you and them, and at least another three above you. Plus, none of them can open the door. This one may be acting weird but that doesn’t mean it’s any smarter than the rest of them. It can’t get in… it can’t get in…
John took another glance at the ceiling eyes, unnerved to see every single one of them turned towards him. He shook his head, limping out of the room.
It was a long hallway, hollow and bleak with streaks of flesh and hanging limbs. Slowly he made his way towards the stairwell at the far end, leaning over the railing and staring down at the shadow covered steps.
If the demon had found a way to get inside, then this was the only way to reach him. The benefit of being in this building was that it was in very good condition; any structural damage was made up for by the horrific body-parts, making the place as secure as it was nightmarish. Sound also travelled well here, so he would be able to hear the door slowly creaking open, scraping against the tiles before the weight caused it to snap… shut…
Every sound he had thought of was echoing up the stairs.
The demon was inside.
He took a deep breath, raising the pipe in one hand as he leaned forward, feeling his heart thumping painfully against his chest. The beats grew louder and louder, syncing up with the growing sounds of footsteps until he saw the demon awkwardly crawling up, it’s progress slow; it seemed the creature wasn’t used to going upstairs on all fours.
John stepped back, eyes flicking upwards to the next floor. He knew the layout of this place, there were plenty of places to hide and even with his limp he could put up a fight. All he had to do was put enough distance between them and he had a chance to get through this. With that train of thought he began to move upwards, hesitating only to check how far the demon had moved.
The demon was no longer crawling, instead standing upright on two legs and walking as comfortably as any human.
It took everything John had not to yell out in surprise, nearly dropping the pipe as it clattered loudly against the railing. The demon looked up and John turned, hobbling up to the next floor as fast as he could. His breathing became ragged, gasps undercut with whimpers as pain spiked up his leg. Footsteps followed him, already far quicker than his own as he ran higher and higher.
Turning a corner, he caught his toes on a step and sprawled to the floor, the sudden force making him bite his tongue. His mouth filled quickly with a strong metallic taste. Glancing back, John saw a cold, shrivelled leg laying there on the end of the step. Choking back an upsurge of bile, he glanced back down the stairs. He couldn’t see the demon, but he could hear it; there wasn’t much distance between them now. Even as he forced himself to his feet, he knew he needed to buy himself time.
His fingers wrapped around the dead leg, throwing it down with as much strength as he could muster before turning to continue fighting upwards. An audible thump told him that he had hit the demon, unable to resist a “Ha!” of triumph as he heard the creature grunt loudly.
As he progressed to the next floor, a small part of his mind thought about the grunt.
About how it sounded more like a human voice than the animalistic sounds he’d heard from the other demons.
And how he was certain that voice had just said “Shit”.
John had reached the top floor, another long hallway full of doorways. He knew that he should aim for the rooms at the far end, as they still had some cupboards and furniture he could hide behind, but he was already out of breath and wracked with agony.
Limping towards the nearest doorway, John sunk down into the corner of a room almost completely covered in moist flesh. He didn’t even care about the sticky sensation seeping into the back of his shirt, clutching the pipe to his chest and trying to breath as quietly as possible. Footsteps soon sounded in the hallway, claws scraping along the tiles until they halted very close to his room. John screwed his eyes shut tight, biting his lip while the pipe shuddered in his trembling grip.
It’s going to kill me… I’ve got nowhere to go… I can’t run… I’m sorry my love…
John’s eyes flew open at the woman’s voice, flickering all around the room expecting to see someone there.
But he was alone.
Alone apart from the demon.
He hadn’t imagined it before, the demon had spoken.
And it knew his name.
“How the fuck d-”
A hand flew to his mouth as he tried to cut off his own words, already hearing the footsteps starting again. His instincts told him to get up, to stand and fight back like he was planning to do. But as the demon slinked through the doorway, turning its skeletal head to look directly at him, he felt his body growing stiff. Every nerve grew numb, and a damp warmth began spreading along his inner thighs.
The demon stopped in front of him, crouching down until they were at eye level.
“You are John Taylor, right?”
Its mouth didn’t move. For a horrible moment he thought the voice was going straight into his mind, unable to do anything except nod slowly. The demon then wrapped a clawed hand around the upper and lower jaw, pulling them apart to reveal a human face nestled amidst the bones.
John’s own jaws opened and closed, letting out a few tiny squeaks as he tried to process what he was seeing; even the ceiling of eyes wasn’t as disturbing as this. But, before he could get any words out, the demon-woman thing moved a hand towards the thick lump on her side. She pulled apart a roll of skin, reaching a claw inside and pulling out… a letter.
A small, yellowed letter slightly crumpled and dulled with age.
The letter was held out to him, John blinking dumbly as if she’d just pulled out a three-headed kitten.
“This is from your wife, Emma.”
Hearing his wife’s name broke the paralysis. Still shaking, with the occasional glance up at the face within a face watching him, John took hold of the letter. The moment his fingers wrapped around the paper she let go, standing up and turning to leave.
“Wait!” She looked back at him, patiently waiting as he struggled to ask “W-who… who… who are you?”
The room grew silent, both parties watching each other intently.
“Jen. My name is Jen.”
And with that, she stepped out into the hallway.
John stared after her.
Then he set down his pipe and looked down at the letter, seeing his own name on the front in Emma’s familiar, untidy scrawl. His heart fluttered and he set to opening the envelope, trying not to rip the paper.
The ink blurred as salty spots dropped onto the page, his head bent down close to the trembling paper, shoulders heaving up and down with the force of his sobs.
Jen stopped at the sound, looking back at the doorway with a small smile playing on her lips. She prised apart the skin at her side, flicking through the three other letters tucked inside. Then she pulled the jaws of the demon head together again, looking towards the sound one final time before dropping to all fours and crawling down.
Also available on itch.io – https://anmanarrative.itch.io/demon-skinned-postwoman-episode-1-emmas-letter
So this is the first entry in a series called Demon Skinned Postwoman (might change the series name later, let me know what you think), don’t know how long this series will go on for but I’m hoping to release new entries at least once a fortnight (once a week is ideal but that’s being optimistic).
This was quite tricky to get into the flow of writing for (mostly because I always struggle with beginnings) but I’ve always liked the idea of introducing the protagonist through another character’s point of view so I decided to give it a go. Already started the second part so it shouldn’t be long until that’s released.