Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
THE FEAR KEEPS US HERE
THE FEAR KEEPS US HERE
By Daniel Skye
Stanley Bellinger would periodically get up from the sofa to stoke the logs on the fire with a wrought iron poker.
The power kept cutting in and out, and the heater would click off every time the power went. So Stanley was depending on the roaring fire to keep him warm through the night.
Just past the red brick fireplace was a set of tall, narrow glass sliding doors. Every so often, Stanley would walk around to the doors and peer out. He wanted to see how much his back was going to be suffering after he shoveled himself out of the driveway tomorrow. The last storm they had, Stanley threw his back out shoveling all that snow.
And that was just fourteen inches of snow. This was a mountain. Every time he looked out the glass doors, all he could see was white. More than two feet of snow had accumulated, and the weather stations were predicting another six inches before the storm let up. Before Stanley lost his satellite signal, the local news said this was already a record snowfall for Long Island.
The local authorities had issued a mandatory curfew. They didn’t want anyone driving in these conditions until the storm passed and the trucks had a chance to plow and salt the roads.
You’d have to be bat-shit crazy to drive in this weather, Stanley thought. If he opened those sliding doors and stepped outside, the snow would be up to his knees.
Stanley returned to the sofa, watched the orange flames dance from the wind and listened to the wood crackle and hiss. This was not how he wanted to spend his evening. Staring at the fire was akin to watching paint dry. He was trapped indoors and needed something to occupy his mind before cabin fever set in.
When Shelly was still around, they’d play cards or a board game to pass the time. Or they’d just sit and talk while they rode the storm out. Stanley secretly loved it when they lost power. Shelly would break out her candle collection and Stanley would make a fire. It created a romantic, intimate atmosphere. They’d sip wine by candlelight and cuddle by the fire to keep warm. They’d discuss their futures, or rather, discuss Shelly’s plans for the future.
One of those plans included eventually finding a new place to live. Shelly didn’t care for how secluded the property was. There wasn’t a house in either direction for a quarter of a mile. And with the tall hedges out in front, the driveway was barely visible from the road. They had an alarm system, but that wasn’t enough to put her mind at ease.
And one of the systems biggest faults was that during a power outage, the alarm system would deactivate. It would only reactivate once they regained power.
But the alarm system wasn’t what concerned Stanley. It was the thought of moving. Stanley felt perfectly at home in their spacious, luxurious six-bedroom, three-bathroom Hamptons palace. Stan earned that house.
Stan worked in Hollywood as a movie producer, which was why the living room was adorned with framed movie posters. Shelly had framed them herself with museum glass so there would be no glare from the lights.
But Stanley worked his way up from the bottom. He started out as an assistant for various producers–kissing asses, fetching coffee, answering phones, jotting down messages, polishing screenplays, and polishing cars, too.
Now people were fetching Stanley’s coffee and taking his calls for him. But it wasn’t pride or ego that stopped him from moving. And it certainly wasn’t a money situation. They could easily afford another house of equal grandeur. But Stanley had grown attached to his palace in the Hamptons.
It brought him back to something his father had said years ago: “The fear keeps us here.” In other words, the fear of abandoning your comfort zone. It’s what keeps people grounded, stationary.
Sure, Stanley would jet off to California for meetings and casting calls and film premieres. But when it was over, he always had a place to call home. He could always return to his comfort zone.
“The fear keeps us here.” That’s what Stanley’s father had meant. At least that’s what Stanley chose to take away from it. It could have just been incoherent ramblings. Stanley’s father used to say a lot of things that didn’t make sense. He was suffering from dementia and would often mutter bewildering profanities like “cock burger” and “donkey fuck.”
But Shelly didn’t share her husband’s sentiments. Shelly warned him about that property. She said it was an easy target. And Stanley told her she had seen one too many home invasion movies. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen in the Hamptons,” Stanley assured her.
But all the guarantees in the world could not convince Shelly to stay. Not after Stanley told her the truth about his affair.
They had been divorced for almost a year. Shelly tolerated a lot over the years. She tolerated Stanley’s immature attitude, the way he laughed at inappropriate situations, his lack of self-awareness, and the way he’d always hog the remote and chew with his mouth open.
She even dealt with the PS4 and the movie posters that made her living room resemble the lobby of a movie theater. But what she couldn’t tolerate was his infidelity. Stanley had slept with his secretary. And it was eating him up inside. He had to confess. Deep down, she knew something was wrong. He wore his guilt like a wristwatch.
And when he told her, she packed her bags and was out the door and on a plane to Chicago that same night.
Shelly had hired the best divorce attorney money could buy and got half of Stanley’s assets in the settlement. But that wasn’t what pained Stanley. He’d give all his movie money away for one more day with Shelly.
The wind howled viciously. Sixty-mile-an-hour gusts hammering against the windows. The fire was starting to blow out, so Stanley lifted himself up from the sofa and stoked the logs with the poker and crumpled more newspaper to feed to the flames.
Stanley could hear a soft din over the harsh winds. It was coming from outside.
It wasn’t knocking. It was tapping.
Someone, or something, was tapping against the glass sliding doors.
He heard a loud bang and dropped the fireplace poker, the pointed end nearly impaling his foot. It sounded like a baseball being hurled at his windows. He walked around the fireplace, over to the slider, where he stood in the awe. In the center of the glass was a huge spider web crack.
With all that snow blanketing every surface and no outdoor lights, it took a second for Stan’s eyes to focus and adjust. Through the glass, he saw what looked like tentacles.
Dangling tentacles of an unholy creature that seemed to reach down from the sky. The tentacles extended from the eaves of Stanley’s roof and rested in the white snow below. Stanley didn’t know what they could be attached to. He didn’t want to know.
The tentacles raised themselves from the ground, looking poised to strike. They whipped and lashed through the air, striking the glass again and causing the crack to spread.
Stanley gasped. There was no one to call for help. 911 would connect him to the local police, who would not be able to reach him in time. Not in these hazardous conditions. They hadn’t even started plowing the roads yet.
And even if they could reach him, what would Stanley tell them? If he called them and started frantically spouting off about monsters and tentacles, they’d think he was a drunk, a loon, a crank caller. They end the call before he even had a chance to convince them.
The tentacles struck the glass a third time and the cracks spread from top to bottom. The tentacles rose again, hanging in the air for the briefest of moments, almost staring back at him through the wall of cracked glass. All it took was one more blow for the glass to shatter.
Three long, snake-like tentacles crept inside the house, crawling across the hardwood floor. Their movements caused them to bulge, the way muscles bulge when an arm is flexed. Stanley, biting his lower lip to stifle a scream, inched away slowly. These were no ordinary octopus tentacles. These were something straight of a low budget horror or Sci-Fi flick Stanley could’ve seen himself investing in.
These tentacles had eyes, and mouths, and teeth. They rose and seemed to sniff the air, as if they smelled the fear emanating from his body. Stanley ran around the red brick fireplace and grabbed the poker from the floor.
One of the tentacles crept around the fireplace and Stanley brought the fireplace poker down with force, piercing its grey exterior. He retracted the pointed end and the tentacle drew back. The others rose to meet his height.
One went straight for his face. It got a hold of his glasses and ripped them from his face. It took his spectacles between its needle-like teeth and snapped them in half with one bite, then gulped it down like it was swallowing a piece of candy.
The other tentacle struck, nearly taking a chunk from Stanley’s head. Instead, it took away a mouthful of his jet-black hair. The tentacles danced around as Stanley jabbed and swung at them with the wrought iron poker.
The wounded tentacle–the one oozing yellow puss–returned and coiled around the poker and snatched it from Stanley’s hand, flinging it across the living room. The wrought iron poker shattered one of Stanley’s glass movie poster displays and fell out of reach.
Stanley grabbed a long, jagged chunk of museum glass from the floor. And when the next tentacle went to strike, Stanley stabbed it through the bottom of its mouth. It sagged to the floor and went limp.
Before its brothers–or sisters–could retaliate, Stanley was ascending the staircase. He reached the master bedroom and locked himself in.
Shelly was concerned about being out in the middle of nowhere, but she was also vehemently against guns. And she had won the argument when Stanley suggested getting one. Defenseless, Stan’s eyes searched for an escape route.
He glanced up at the rectangular skylights that should have been buried in snow. But both skylights were painted over with a grey, lifeless texture. This was the source of the tentacles. A creature larger than anything that should rightfully exist. This massive, monstrous abomination had engulfed his entire rooftop.
The skylights shattered from the enormous pressure they were enduring, and the glass rained down on him. Two more tentacles came slithering in. They coiled around his ankles, snatched him off his feet, and sucked Stanley up through the hole in the skylight.
His screams and cries for help were short-lived. It took less than two minutes for the tentacles to devour him. In that time, the only name he screamed out, the only person he cried for, was Shelly.