D.J.Umber – The Eclipse – P.7
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Happy reading – or not, cause this is horror.
The teacher finally let us out to play. I could hear the playground calling my name, begging me to come out. But Miss Anders insisted we finish our math work first! So much time wasted…
The monkey bars were my favorite. I climbed and swung, always getting a feeling of being above it all. To be higher than anyone else, to stay up there, even after the others gave up and fell back to earth. Jimmy liked to play chicken, tried to kick me off the bars while holding on. He lost, again. I climbed on top of the bars and stood there, feeling good in my victory, enjoying the breeze. That’s when I began to notice – something was wrong.
The air felt different. The wind blew one way, but the dust moved against it, circling in strange loops, as if clinging to things in thin air. No one else seemed to notice. They were all looking at the sky, even Miss Anders.
Why are they all staring? That’s when I looked. It felt weird to see it – the moon had partly covered the sun, with more of it turning dark by the second. The others oohed and awed, like they were hypnotized by some grand display. I remembered Miss Rochester telling us about it, something called an eclipse. To me, it just felt wrong and gave me goose bumps. And I was more worried about the ground. The dust was still moving in weird ways, forming into hollow shapes that moved and walked like invisible people.
Someone screamed. I looked to see Miss Anders, trying to run in her high heels. The other students seemed to ignore her. Only Miss Rochester reacted.
A figure lunged at Miss Anders as she ran, long narrow shapes extending towards her from its arm. I jumped down from the monkey bars and ran at it, thinking it was just a bully pulling a prank on the teachers. Why doesn’t anyone see it? Why are they so focused on the moon?
I charged, head down like a bad football tackle and slammed him to the ground. It definitely felt like a person, somehow invisible. I got on top and started pounding him with my fists. It wasn’t the first time I’d fought an older bully, but this time felt different. He wasn’t fighting back. I just kept hitting him, and all he tried to do was get out from under me.
I don’t know how long it lasted but the next thing I knew, he was gone. My fist passed through where he’d been and hit solid ground. He’d disappeared as if he’d never been there at all.
A few feet from me, Miss Anders stood looking at the scratches on her wrist. They were deep and dark with blood. The veins beneath her skin turned a sickly black color as it crawled up her arm. As she looked at herself, confusion and horror showing on her face, she began to… fade? The taint under her skin grew longer, taking in her whole arm as she became less and less visible. The veins reappeared from under her shirt, going around her neck as they spread to the rest of her body. I didn’t know what to do.
Miss Rochester stood dumbfounded, mouth agape, looking as confused as I was.
Then it was over. Miss Anders had faded into thin air, right in front of me. The bully had somehow vanished as well. And Miss Rochester’s biggest complaint? That I had dirt all over me! She started asking if I’d been fighting!
“Yes! You were standing right there! Didn’t you see it?!” She didn’t care. I was sent to the principal’s office. They wanted to know who I’d been fighting and refused to take ‘They were invisible!’ for an answer. When I tried to explain, I got detention. Dang it!
The next day was weird. By lunch time Miss Anders hadn’t shown, so I asked Miss Rochester if she was sick. “Miss Anders? Billy, who are you talking about?” No one could remember her, not even the other students. And Jimmy and Lauren were missing too. No one remembered them either.
I tried telling them what had happened, but Miss Rochester told me to stop making up stories and sent me to the principal’s office, again, for lying. I got detention, again, and my parents wouldn’t believe me either.
That was several years ago. Now I’m in high school. I’ve watched several solar eclipses since then, studied them, talked to scientists about how they affect the human brain, but I never found an explanation for what happened. I don’t know how or why, but I’m pretty sure it was all a hallucination. I mean, seriously, ghosts that only appear during an eclipse? And no one else saw them? Yeah, definitely a hallucination.
Today would be a good day, I just knew it. Sarah, a friend from the freshman class had asked me to meet her for a private picnic after school. This would be our fifth ‘not-a-date’ hangout this month. As I drove out to meet her, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d forgotten something. Food, blankets, stolen beer, condom just in case… yep, got everything.
I put the thought out of mind. Whatever it is, it’s too late now. I turned down a dirt road leading to an open wheat field where she wanted to meet. Her vehicle was up ahead, a blue pickup truck. There were a few houses in sight but only the Stevenson house was close enough for anyone to see us. The Stevenson’s were a retired couple and spent their time on the front porch, on the other side of the house from us. No one will see us, probably. Looking at Sarah, I figured that even if they did, it would be worth it. I was certain we’ll be left alone, even if we stayed all night.
Sarah sat on the hood of her truck waiting for me, shoulder length blonde hair loose in the wind, with a snug top that showed her features quite well and left a narrow gap between her shirt and jeans. The almost stereotypical Texan outfit pretty much confirmed my suspicions that tonight would lead to something, as she would normally never dress like that. We laid out the blankets and got comfortable. With the tall wheat all around us, we were well hidden from the world.
Eating, talking, flirting – it was fun. Then the mood changed, and I knew it was time. Now or never! I put my hand around the back of her neck, pulling her in for a long deep kiss. In moments I was on top of her, not sure who was kissing whom. Then she hesitated, as if afraid to go any further.
I opened my eyes, trying to gauge her reaction and my next move, but I could barely see her face. When did it get this dark? Sensing my hesitation, she opened her eyes and gasped.
“Oh my god, look at the sun!” She insisted, pointing up at the sky.
Really?! You couldn’t ignore that for a few more minutes? I rolled off of her and looked at where she was pointing. An Eclipse? A chill ran down my spine, but I refused to let it bother me. It’s just another eclipse. I’ve watched so many of these things since then. It was a stupid hallucination, nothing more! I’ve never told anyone about it, not since I changed schools. I figured I might tell Sarah someday, if our ‘friendship’ were to become serious, but not yet. [_ Oh well. If she wants to watch it, then fine. Maybe it will put her in a more willin- I mean, more romantic mood _].
We laid there, holding hands as the moon overlapped the sun. Meanwhile, I jogged my memory of the eclipse patterns. If I remember right, this should be one of the longer ones, a total eclipse.
The sun was half covered. The wind shifted, carrying a stale dusty smell and the sounds of the wind howling through a rocky canyon. What rocks? There’s no rocks or canyons around here! A distant scream from the direction of the house, followed by two blasts from a shotgun. What the hell?
I sat up, looking in the direction of the gunshots. “You hear that?”
She nodded, obviously worried as she griped my hand even tighter. Two more blasts. Another scream, louder, closer this time. We both stood up, looking for the source of the sound.
“What- what is that?” She pointed at something across the field.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The ghost – if you could call it that – walked towards us through the field, blades of wheat shifting aside as others passed through it, like it was only half there. A dry dusty moan emanated from it as it lifted an arm towards us.
Hell, I beat you once. I’ll beat you again! I ran straight at it, arm cocked for a knockout blow. I vaguely remembered that it had been just a hallucination, and I might look the fool punching empty air. But I didn’t care. Hallucination or reality, I will have an answer!
I threw the punch, my entire weight behind it, and felt a sharp pain in my fist as it connected with something solid, and that something collapsed. After wincing form the pain, I opened my eyes to a sight I could never have imagined.
The ghost materialized, like whatever shroud had been hiding it were being peeled away. The thing couldn’t be human. Its body was shaped like a human, but shriveled, dry and crusty. Like someone had been mummified without the wrappings, a dried empty husk. Eye sockets held shriveled eyes, as patches of hair clung to what was left of its skin. Shreds of old clothes hung from its body, a dry and cracked leather belt loose around its hips.
The husks chest had caved in, its ribs shattered where I’d hit it. It swung an arm at me, slow and clumsy, as I jumped back. As it overreached and began to lose balance, I stepped in for another punch. I connected with the husk’s skull this time. It went down hard, but somehow I felt certain it would not stay that way.
I took a moment to look at my hand, a splinter of bone sticking out. Fortunately, it was from the husk’s body, not mine. I yanked it out, then looked at Sarah. She looked confused, but ok. Then it began to hit me. [_ It was real! But what- how? ] Behind her, another husk moved through the wheat. [_Fuck it, questions can wait!]
I started towards her, but was too far away. The thing grabbed at her, missing as she backed away. Then she stumbled over something, tripped and fell before I could get there. It followed her to the ground. She screamed as it gripped her leg, boney fingers clawing at her thigh. I punted the thing off of her, wishing I’d been just a little faster. Sarah’s leg was already bleeding from the clawing it gave her, a shallow but nasty looking gash. It would need stitches but wasn’t life threatening.
“I think it’s time for us to go” I told her, pulling her to her feet. We started toward the cars, then froze. Three more husks were between us and the vehicles, shambling towards us. I went right, pulling Sarah along by the arm. We ran along a tall wooden fence, as I tried to come up with a plan, thinking back to my ‘hallucination’ during elementary school. We don’t have to outrun them, I realized, just outlast them. They’ll only last as long as the eclipse, just like before!
Sarah could barely keep up. Her leg bled from the running, leaving a trail of red stained wheat wherever we went. My hand wasn’t much better. It had throbbed at first, but now the pain felt more like a burning. I could still move it, control it, but the hot feeling made me worried. And the sensation was slowly moving up my arm.
I checked the sun, wishing it would hurry up and disappear. It was only half revealed as the moon kept moving. Any moment now! Come on, damn you! Hurry up and vanish!
We turned the corner of the fence, stopping dead in our tracks at the scene before us. The Stevenson’s were on the ground in front of us, torn to bloody pieces, a pair of husks elbow deep in the bodies. Sarah gasped in panic, and tried to scream. I covered her mouth, trying to muffle the noise. It didn’t work. The husks turned, moaning that dry dusty wail of theirs.
I ran, pulling her along with me towards the house, thinking we might be safe inside. But as we got closer, it’s wasn’t a house, but a hazy image of black rock, roughly shaped like a house.
“There! We’ll climb on top, and wait them out!” And where the hell did that rock come from? Isn’t that where the Stevenson house use to be? I ignored the thought and pushed her up the side. Looking back, the husks were closing in, and I quickly scrambled up behind her.
The husks jumped and scratched, slowly finding grip points to make their way up. More than once I had to stomp on their hands to keep the down, crackling dry finger bones every time. Eventually, they gave up and went searching for easier prey. I figured we were safe for the moment, and looked out over the landscape.
The creatures seemed to be everywhere – stalking through houses, the open road, farm fields beyond. Nowhere was safe, but something else also seemed wrong. The entire world looked like a hollow image, a hazy illusion covering the world I knew.
“Billy, what do we do now?” She sounded scared, not that I could blame her for that. You’d have to be crazy not to be.
“We wait. When the eclipse ends, they’ll disappear. That’s how it happened last time.”
“Last time? I think I would have remembered something like this!” She was at her breaking point. I could hear it in her tone, see it in her face. She started ranting in that high speed voice only a scared girl can do, about how it wasn’t possible, just a dream or someone’s bad idea of a joke.
“No, you wouldn’t, and won’t.”
Suddenly, I remember the wound on her leg. It had only happened minutes ago, but now looked rotted, black veins spreading beneath her skin. The memory of Miss Anders came back to me, what her wound looked like, just before she disappeared, exactly the same. No! Not you too. At least she hadn’t noticed it herself. It would’ve been the last straw for her.
“Oh-my-god! Look at your hand!”
It had stopped bleeding, but there was no scab. The burning sensation was still there, the flesh rotted and festering, black veins crawling up my arm and into my shoulder.
“It’s alright,” I insisted, while trying to think of something convincing to say. “We’ll go to a hospital when this is over.” …if we don’t vanish first. The sun was almost completely visible, only seconds left!
The world faded faster. The land turned to hot sand, the sun no longer a bright ball of light, but dark crimson-red like dried blood. The buildings seemed to disappear, boulders of black rock remaining where they’d once been, just like the one we’re standing on! I realized. Even the sky looked different. No clouds or planes or stars, just a dark red sun emerging from behind the moon. Worst of all, the husks weren’t vanishing.
No, no, NO! This is all wrong. You’re supposed to disappear! The sun was finally visible in full, the moon no longer covering it. The eclipse was over.
In the sandy fields below, a little girl ran for dear life, two of the husks pursuing her. She was fading into nothing; the creatures did not. Sarah was still there, beside me, not vanishing at all. The infection from her wound was spreading. The gap between her shirt and jeans showed black veins crawling up her abs.
I checked my arm. It had spread on me as well, already across my chest and to my other elbow. The skin where the bone got me was completely rotted, dried out and beginning to wither before my eyes. This doesn’t make any sense!
Sarah looked at me with pleading eyes. “What’s going on? Where are we?” She grabbed my shoulders, shaking me in desperation. “What the hell is happening to us?!”
On the sands below, husks chased and tackled the people who remained. They tore into them, savoring the feel of living flesh. They weren’t eating them or anything like that. The husks just tore into them, bathed in their gore, as if they were addicted to the feel of it. But we’re here too. How long till they tear into us?
Sarah noticed her leg and panicked. She gripped it, as if her hands could serve as a tourniquet, trying to stop it from shriveling. It was happening so fast we could see the change from one second to the next. The rest of her body was completely infected, the black blood reaching her arms and neck. Only her face remained, expression begging for help.
“Billy, what do-” She coughed and spat out something. Sand? Even her cough sounded wrong, like her throat was too dry. I wanted to help her, but couldn’t think of anything that might actually help. I hugged her, thinking it might be some comfort, and saw my own arms in the process. My left was a dried shriveled thing that I could somehow still move. Judging by how fast the other was changing, it had only minutes left.
Sarah was trying to say something, but sounded like a dry wind. She looked like a dried corpse, somehow still moving. She wailed, hitting me with her shriveled arms in frustration and fear. Then she turned, leapt off the rock and ran out across the sand. I ran after her, knowing that if I lost sight of her, I’d never be able to tell her apart from the other husks around us.
She ran past one of the creatures. It glanced at us and went back to chasing another victim, a man who wasn’t fully decayed yet.
Sometime later, I wasn’t sure who I was following. Is that her? Or is she that one? Maybe this one? I wouldn’t have recognized her even if she was right in front of me. Would I even recognize myself?
My voice was gone, my body aching like a bad sunburn, devoid of all other feeling, yet somehow I could still control it. The sun is so hot! As if I were too close to a massive bonfire, every minute of every day and… night? It’s been hours, maybe a full day since the world disappeared. It should’ve been dark by now, but the sun remained at high noon, same place as before.
I found some shade and curled up there, not sure what to do. In the distance, I saw the husks abandoning their victims. The bodies had decayed beyond recognition, looking more like unwrapped mummies than corpses. The idea that they were fresh corpses seemed almost laughable. Slowly the new husks rose, as if glad to have survived… Then they realized how different they’d become, their screams emerging as a dry dusty wind howling between the rocks.
I’ll just wait it out. This can’t last long, right?
How long has it been? Years? Decades? I don’t have any way of measuring time. The sun’s always at high noon in this place, cooking me like burnt jerky. The shade from the rocks, what little I can find, is barely any relief at all.
I tried to leave. I picked a direction and walked… and kept walking… This place is endless. I cannot escape the sun, or the sands. Eventually I found another shady spot and lay there. Then I realized the other torture of this place – there is nothing to do, nothing to distract you. Hunger and thirst are a constant ache, despite being dead.
Am I dead? I can’t seem to answer that one. I should be. Everything about me says so. No pulse, no blood, yet somehow I’m not. I tried eating the sand once, tried to escape the hunger. Nothing, not even a dusty feeling in my throat. A single drop of water would feel like heaven, if only I had some.
But there is one faint hope. Every time the moon rises from the horizon and goes near the sun. I know and hope, each and every time, that the eclipse might happen. The other husks seem to hope for it as well. Whenever the moon rises they stir, watching, all of us intently waiting for that crucial moment. If it would just pass over the sun, then we could escape and finally feel the world again…
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D.J.Umber – The Eclipse – P.7
When the moon covers the sun, then the damned will come out to play. The memories never made any sense, and no one else remembers any of it. Almost convinced it never happened, that it was all a hallucination, Billy is finally moving on with his life. As a star in the high school football team and an escalating relationship with his girlfriend, his future is looking bright. But during an afternoon date, the Eclipse begins again. As the darkness spreads, Billy is forced to confront reality – the events he witnessed so long ago had been very real, and it is all about to happen again.