Some Kind of Monster (Excerpt) by Tim Waggoner

Chapter 1

Running, running, running ... Feet pounding, chest heaving, heart thud-thud-thudding so loud behind her ribs that she feels the vibrations throughout her body. There’s fear, of course, a great jangling of nerves, molten fire surging through her veins, a frozen knot buried beneath her breastbone. Her senses are heightened, so razor sharp that their input hurts. There’s almost no light here, but still she squints her eyes. The only sounds come from her, but they are deafening, hot spikes driven into her ears. She feels lightheaded, almost dizzy, and nausea twists her gut, making her feel as if she might projectile vomit any moment.

But strangely she feels joy as well, heady exhilaration, and even though she’s more terrified than she’s ever been, maybe more terrified than anyone’s ever been, she laughs, a joyous sound, tinged with an edge of hysteria. Her laughter sounds crazy to her, and she wonders if she’s on the verge of insanity, her mind shattering into thousands of glittering shards, like a piece of fine crystal dropped from a great height. If she is going mad, she wonders if it matters. She wonders if she cares.

This place is dark, a realm fashioned entirely of shadow. Even the air she breathes feels dark – heavy in her lungs, a cold weight that she can’t seem to rid herself of. The space is cramped and narrow – some kind of corridor, with ceiling and walls. There’s barely enough room for her to run without crouching, and she has to keep her arms out to her sides, fingers brushing the glossy obsidian surface on either side to prevent colliding with them. To make matters worse, the corridor isn’t straight. It bends, twists, turns, so abruptly that every time there’s a change in direction she stumbles, a hip or shoulder slamming into a wall. She loses her balance, nearly goes down on her knees or falls flat on her face. And if that happens, if she stops running, even for a second, it will be over. She can’t allow that to happen. She has no illusions of escaping what’s coming for her, and she really doesn’t want to. But she does want to make the chase last as long as possible, to draw it out, make it last, squeeze every ounce of terror and excitement, take it all in, feed on it greedily until there’s nothing left. Then and only then will she allow herself to slow down and be caught. Only then will she surrender.

She feels the thing pursuing her, senses its presence like a great rush of wind moving through the dark corridors, an elemental force, implacable and inescapable. She hasn’t looked back to see if it’s visible at all in this gloom. Not only can’t she afford to pause and glance over her shoulder, she fears that she could see the thing that’s chasing her though this maze, and if she does, she’ll be so overwhelmed by the sight that she won’t be able to keep running, will only be able to stop and stare, awestruck and disbelieving as it falls upon her. She will look at it, yes, but only at the end. Not before. Besides, not seeing it adds immeasurably to the terror, allows her imagination to consume an endless variety of grotesque images exuding menace and dark grandeur. As long as she doesn’t look, it could be anything, but at the moment she faces it, it’ll be only one thing, and no matter how magnificent and terrible that thing might be, it will become real, and reality never lives up to one’s imagination.

She hears a sound then. It’s masked by the slap-slap of her footfalls and the huh-huh-huh of her breath. Soft and insidious, the sound slithers its way into her brain, forcing itself to the forefront of her consciousness. It reminds her of a parchment-dry autumn leaf skittering over cold concrete, or a frigid wind whistling across a desolate snow-covered field. This is not language as she knows it, and yet ... there is intent in this sound, a message of sorts. Two simple words.

HUNGRY.

MINE.

She knows this is the voice of the dark thing pursuing her, expressing its desperate, almost frantic need. The words are simultaneously gratifying and horrifying, a declaration of love from one who adores, a hunting cry from a ravenous predator.

Shapes begin to move within the shadowy depths of the walls, and their black surfaces grow lighter. Images coalesce, pictures of people and places, dozens of them, as if she’s being shown snippets from different movies. She recognizes them, and despite their differences, they have one aspect in common. Each image features her. Different times, different ages and circumstances but her, always her. She does not welcome this development, finds no fascination in it, no comfort. In their own way, these images are far more threatening than the dark force hunting her. She wants to look away, wants to close her eyes, shut out these images, deny them, prevent them from fully registering on her consciousness and worming into her brain. But to accomplish this, she would have to squeeze her eyes shut, and she would have to slow down considerably to keep from smacking face-first into a wall when the corridor takes a sudden turn.

So she keeps her eyes open and allows the images into her mind. Her second birthday party, when she had strep throat and only Daddy, Mommy, and Grandpa Jim came. They bought her an ice cream cake because they thought the coolness would feel good on her throat. The high school homecoming dance when she was sixteen and she had her first kiss with Bobby Ortega on the gym floor in the middle of a slow dance. Neither of them had much practice with the art, and they knocked their teeth together with a loud, painful clack. But in the end they managed to find each other’s lips, and while it wasn’t the best kiss she would ever have, it was definitely in her top five. Well ... top ten, maybe.

She catches another scene out of the corner of her eye, and she turns, can’t stop herself. She sees an image of herself as a little girl. She’s wearing a light-blue dress, and an adult is holding her hand. The picture isn’t large enough to show much more of the adult than a hand – old and wrinkled – and a scrawny wrist that disappears into a white shirt sleeve inside a brown suit jacket. The adult is leading her toward a casket. An open casket. She knows exactly when and where the scene took place. How could she forget it? After all, in a very real sense, it’s why she’s here now, why she runs so fast.

Why she wants so badly to die.

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