The first of these I wrote after getting home from a late-night movie after 2am. (A rarity for me. I really love my consistent 9:30-11:00 bedtime range). The second was my morning writing. I’m curious if there’s any difference based on when I write. I’m trying to experiment with ways to create horror in bright light instead of darkness, and in interesting not-stereotypically-‘spooky’ settings.
As he reached their door, Byron heard a buzz building behind him and turned to see the first fluorescent tube at the far end of the hallway growing brighter. Suddenly, it returned to normal. Byron continued staring for a moment, then turned back around. The buzz again and he spun immediately. The next tube, flaring white. It peaked, then faded back to normal, just like the first. Right away, the third tube, just before the elevator did the same, and right as it peaked, the next one started, then the next when that one was halfway done. The second to last started, just a few metres ahead of him, hitting the peak in seconds and holding while the buzz scraped up in pitch and became a whine. The tube right above him flashed straight to the peak whiteness of the others, then continued growing rapidly brighter. Byron tried to block the light with his arm, which worked for a moment, but moments later the whole hall seemed to be filled with hollow white light and the whine tumbled down pitch again, becoming a groan, and then an almost human-sounding scream. Byron shut his eyes, but even through the lids could see the light continuing to grow with the sound. He could even feel the sharp brightness pressing into his skin, squeezing him and needling him. The pressure focused on a few spots, and then the unmistakable grip of a clammy hand locked around the forearm he was still holding up. He wrenched his arm down and the grip vanished, but he could still feel it. Like the sting that remains after something strikes your flesh, but not hot like a sting. More like the cold that sometimes slides down your back in moments of fear. Byron flailed his arm until he found the wall to his left and followed it the last few steps to the door. While he fumbled the key and the doorknob, the sounds started to undulate, first on a regular rhythm, then becoming more irregular, mixing and riding between pitches. It sounded like a voice attempting to figure out how to get itself around language for the first time. The key refused to go into the lock and by now all Byron could see was white light. He put his hand back on the wall and felt his way past the door to the continuing side, which should have stopped inches later at the corner of the hall’s end but kept going. Fuck. Keeping his fingers on the wall, Byron reached his other hand he hoped across the hall, fingertips flailing for purchase that eluded him. A tight spot in the dead centre of his stomach flared, tightening as he reached, as his first hand almost left the wall. He pictured the hallway, he’d walked it dozens of times by now, and knew he must be inches from the other side with his second hand, that if he simply let go of the side he was touching, he’d be on the other instantly. Instead, he just kept stretching toward it, willing his fingers to grow that little bit because he just knew somehow letting go of the wall entirely would end badly. The half-voice continued straining for speech, so that Byron kept imaging he heard actual words. It was coming from all around him, but getting closer and closer until it spoke directly into his ear, whispering more almost-words until he couldn’t hear anything in his own head. Finally, he pulled back and launched himself across what he was sure would be a great void and slammed full force into the opposite wall, stunning himself for a moment before shaking his head a little and realizing the light was gone. His eyes darted to each fluorescent tube in turn, watching for several moments as all of them shone down on the hallway in a perfectly normal manner. He turned once more toward his own door, in front of which a white, humanoid shadow hunched for just a moment, then disappeared in a blink.
2. “Silver fox in the building.”
Byron rolled his eyes at the sound of someone jogging up the hill behind him. He shifted his position to be right in the middle, and the steps ran past him on the left almost into a tree, dammit. But the steps were carrying a true specimen of a man.
“Hello, neighbour!” Byron whispered to himself. The butt drew his attention first, looking like a raven could perch comfortably on it, but the legs were really something. Built, but clearly through real use, not body building shit. Imagine having those wrapped around you… Byron watched the jogger’s progress, wondering if he might even be from the building. There weren’t that many other places around that he could be living. Even that’s a stretch. He probably wouldn’t be caught dead in this craggy nest. Sure enough, Dump Truck turned and rounded the cul-de-sac in front of their building up ahead to return to civilization. Byron sped back to his non-observing walking pace and stepped immediately into the glare of winter sun on wet pavement on the crosswalk in front of him. Squinting and moving to both sides to see if he could get out of it, then just pushing forward, his mind took a few moments longer than the lump of ice in his throat to recognize the shade of the white light, which dropped the ice into his stomach. He turned all around him. Everywhere white. He could feel the ground beneath him, the winter air around him, the warmth of his breath through his mouth, but could see nothing. He continued inching in the direction he thought he’d been walking. Maybe if I can get to the building? Tiny step by tiny step, crouched down for fear because just like with the distance of the wall the other night, he didn’t quite trust the world around him was—
The sudden physical awareness of the car’s presence and then sight. All at once. Back.
“Are you…. ok?” The voice of the man driving the car. Icy blue eyes, white hair cut well, a beautiful suit.
“I’m… I was…” I imagined it. “I thought I was… going to pass out.”
“Oh, my.” Byron stood, slowly. And finally reached regular standing height. “So…. are you… alright now?” came that whisky-toned voice again.
“Yes, I’m fine.” Byron said. “Thank you,” he added, after a beat.
“You live in our building?” Byron blurted. He’d just gotten enough sense back to see where the car had been coming from: the road that comes out from their parking lot at the top of the hill, with nothing else but abandoned businesses and empty lots for a block and a half in the other direction.
“Up the top of the hill here? Yeah. I’m one of the owners. There are only four of us who—“
“—live in the building, I know, we’re one of the others.”
“Oh, you’re Wilson Hererra.”
“Oh you are married. We weren’t sure. Because it was just him on the strata papers.”
“Yep. He bought the place, and lets me live in it.”
“What, like a pet?”
“No.” Byron laughed, “that’s just… sorry, it’s just a joke we have, about him being on all the paperwork.”
“Oh.” The man said. “Well, there you go. Welcome to the building…”
“Byron.” the man nodded, then gestured to himself, “Michael.” And with that he pulled away and Byron continued walking, thinking about those eyes all the way through the front door and up the elevator and home.
“Silver fox in the building.” he said to Wilson (who was cooking in his boxer briefs and an apron), after giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Ooooh!!” Wilson intoned.
“One of the other owners. He knew all about who we were.”
“Awww, sweetie.” Wilson mocked, “you’ll have property owners to flirt with again. I know you’ve missed that.”
“Excuse you, I flirt almost exclusively with property owners now.” Wilson froze for a moment, then turned his head to face Byron and slowly broke into a wide grin.
“Shit. I straight up forgot.” And he did a terrible, wonderful, gay man’s version of a touchdown dance for a few moments, until a fleck of grease leapt out of the pan and hit the small of his back, making him turn back to breakfast with a startled “Ah, fuck!”