Squatting before him, surrounded by buckets of black liquid that smelled an awful lot like blood, was a creature that Grady could barely comprehend. It was a twisted mound of lumps of flesh and bone that only vaguely resembled a living thing. It had black, pulsing roots that split the floors around it to make way to branch out. It seemed to be moving even when still, like it was constantly fighting to hold it’s shape, if you could call it any one shape. It was already facing him with a manic grin that literally split his face and eyes that made his blood turn to ice. They stared at him, each bigger than his fist, blacker than the pits of hell but with a glint of intelligence and insanity shining from deep, deep within them.
It laughed as Grady froze in place, stricken with a mortal fear he couldn’t believe possible. The world started to fade from around him, leaving him only able to focus on those eyes, and the laugh that could rend bone from flesh with it’s hidden terror. It was a laugh that resonated with immense pain and guilt. The creature cackled and chortled, making every hair on Grady’s body stand and causing the air itself to tremble as it’s tumultuous notes bounced around the room. The world had nearly faded but this Detective was well versed in mental combat and fought his way back. When he was back in control of himself, he noticed one monstrous, segmented claw was dipping into the buckets and spreading the viscous, foul liquid on the wall. The creature spoke.
“Oh, this one is special.” it rasped. The voice was like teeth tearing at meat and bone and breaking at the same time. “Let’s see what it can do.”
Mostly out of habit, but also a bit out of morbid curiosity, and a strange compulsion he couldn’t place the origin of, Grady opened his mind to try and touch the creature. He thought better of it and tried to back away before he made contact but the creature pulled him in. Grady immediately let out a blood curdling scream, a wail of such agony his throat ruptured and bled from the inside. His mind was torn apart, every nerve in his body exposed and alight with insurmountable pain. He felt his body melting and reforming and melting again. Through it all, there was the desire to paint this wall a very specific color. Dark red, like dried blood. No, not like it, it needed to be dried blood. There were only waning seconds of lucidity left and Grady seized one to wretch himself free of the monster’s mind. He returned to himself and the monster seemed still now, the light in his eyes gone and the ceaseless claw stilled. Grady was moving before he even thought about it, sprinting across the room.
In one swift action he pulled a knife from his belt, swung it at the rope attached to the paralyzed naked man, cut it, and had the man over his shoulder, making a break for where the steps had been, hoping they’d returned. They had. He bounded up them four at a time and barreled across the main room and through the front door. He was talking to the police station on his cellphone before he left the porch and didn’t stop running until his legs gave out and his lungs burned in protest 10 blocks away. There he collapsed, put the man on the ground, and smiled as he heard cars begin to arrive. The cops wrapped both men in blankets and tried to get a story out of them.
The naked man was in tears, though he couldn’t remember anything. After a few minutes he could only relay that he was out for a smoke (though he didn’t remember on which day) and then the detective had carried him out of that old house. He couldn’t stop crying and shaking and eventually they took him home with three men to watch over him until he could give remember something and produce a testimony.
Grady felt an unusual calm. He couldn’t quite believe what had just happened, but again found it easy to push out of his head. He shivered against the cold and told them all the story with his horse, shredded voice, from the trail of mushrooms and disappearing stairs to the monster painting the wall. He even invited them to go look for themselves if they wanted proof, but he wasn’t sure if it was dead or not so he wasn’t going back without a really big gun and a few other cops. The other detectives were used to his crazy stories about entering killers minds, usually it was something about how they viewed themselves as the hero, not as a hideous blob of flesh. But they took him at his word. Grady wasn’t a liar. On his way home, Grady felt a little accomplished despite the strange circumstances and mind-bending horror. He’d saved that man and stopped the killings.
In the passenger seat, he chuckled to himself. He didn’t know how he did it, but he had beaten that horrible creature and was alive to tell the tale. He wanted to figure out what happened but pushed the thought out of his mind and laughed again, this time out loud. It didn’t matter. He stopped the killings, saved a man, and was on his way home. Maybe he’d take the day off and do some of that painting he’d been putting off. He chuckled, harsh and unpleasant, drawing strange looks from the driver, but that didn’t matter either. He’d do some painting today. It would be fun. He had a very specific color in mind.