The calm was sickening. My breathing became all I could hear. I had no idea what was on the other side of the door, or if anything was still there. Panic set in while I tried to decide whether whatever was out there had left, died, or was just waiting. What if it was just waiting for me to move and make a noise, alerting it that I was still alive? Subtly, I turned my ear to the door, and, just as quickly, I regretted it. The stunted breathing that I heard was only made more frightening by being punctuated by a slow dripping that could only be the blood beginning to pool underneath the door.
Locking the door didn’t bring me the relief it should have. The click of the deadbolt hitting the frame made me imagine that thing would reach through the metal and grab me. My feet slowly backed away, but my gaze never left the entrance. Every second I expected the door to come crashing down and bring my death with it.
A small voice behind me asked, “What was that, Ryan?” Natalie’s voice was quiet and shaking. I turned and saw her standing beneath a beam of light streaming from a fixture in the ceiling. Smeared makeup tore at the beauty of her face leaving dirty trails from the corners of her eyes. Her lower lip trembled as another tear ran down her cheek.
The shock on her face reminded me of why we had become so close. Almost a year ago, I began to notice how Natalie would sometimes limp into work with bruises carefully buried beneath layers of foundation. Months went by with more makeup covering her body. Every time I consoled her, the story was the same; he was suspicious of her, but that only showed he loved her.
One cold December day, she didn’t arrive at work. There was no call, and I instantly regretted not doing more to help earlier. I convinced human resources to look up her address, so I could check if she was ok.
Natalie answered the knock on the door. There was no makeup; her eyes were swollen from crying, but there were no fist marks. She wouldn’t tell me what happened, but said, “He’s gone, Ryan. There is no way he will ever bother me again.” A few short weeks later, mornings in my apartment were graced by the scent of Natalie preparing eggs and toast.
"Ryan! What was that?" snapped me back to the pumping station.
I stammered, “I don’t know.” I took Natalie in my arms and pulled her close. “Whatever happened to him, I pray for his soul.” Pausing while an explosion rattled our hideout, I asked, “Is this what you saw on the news?”
Natalie deliberately formed her words, taking care to find the right words. “The news said it was riots. With how it looked, I thought this going to be another protest like the Rodney King uprising.” I saw Natalie shake her spine from top to bottom as she said, “But that man was nothing like that. He wasn’t just mad; he was insane.”
I countered, “Something about him doesn’t strike me as insane. There is something bigger going on here.” Pausing, I considered stopping there, but I cautiously continued, “There are no cases of insanity I’ve ever heard of that cause things like this. There are some that can cause you to hurt yourself, but none make you go after other people like that… thing… did.”
"Wait. So what are you saying?" She broke from my hold, asking, “Do you think he was what the news was talking about? Oh God, if it is, that means there are more than just him!” Her face betrayed the horror she felt. “Ryan, we’ve got to get to the radio in the break room.”
As we sprinted to the break room, the cold metal walkway echoed our path around the room. The radio crackled to life, breaking the silence with perpetual static.
“Damn! Try another,” Natalie urged.
I scanned from station to station, not finding anything: static, upon static, upon static. Flicking it to AM, I prayed to any god I could think of. Static. Silence. More static. Suddenly a voice broke free from the radio, crying to be heard. “…this began. All I know now is that this is bigger than anyone told us before. I’m locked in the studio, but I don’t know how long I’m going to last here. I can see them beneath my window. It’s awful. Those things are eating someone. Literally. Those things are ripping him apart. These aren’t people anymore. I don’t see anyone who is normal outside. If you can hear me, stay inside! Find something to protect yourself with. You’re going to need it.” A banging sound on thick glass became a metronome to his speech. “I’m not going to last much longer. I know that there is nothing more I can tell you now. This is KBRT’s final broadcast. I’m not going down without a fight. Stay strong. Survive, for me.” A sharp crash preceded the most horror inducing reality radio I had ever heard. Screams and snarls emanated from the stereo as Natalie covered her mouth in terror. A loud crack brought the now too common static that had taken over the airwaves to our radio.
I caught my mouth agape, not knowing what to say. This moment brought me to the realization that there was no rescue coming. We were alone.