Mute Discussions of Government Intrustion

Submitted into Contest #219 in response to: Write a story that includes the line “I think someone’s listening/watching.”... view prompt


Horror Suspense Fiction

The clunky air conditioner churned behind his head as he took in the words he was reading.

“I think someone is listening.”

Scribbled out in shaky, thin lines, the words on that ragged scrap of paper made Gail quickly bring his gaze up to the man who had handed it to him. He was terrible to look at. He was pale white all over his naked torso and arms, the only article of clothing on his body was a pair of grey sweatpants. His face was skeletal, like some had tried to shrink wrap it. His eyes were sunk so far into his skull that the flickering, buzzing light above him cast deep shadows over them, making them appear as huge and vacant sockets. His beard and hair were thin and dry, wild in every direction. He reeked of death.

“Bill…” he started, but cut himself off when the skeletal man, Bill shot a finger up to his lips. Gail saw every inch of atrophied muscle tighten like taut rope through skin. The eyes, shadowed over, became visible as Bill craned his head down and forward, staring up across his own forehead at Gail. 

Play it smart, Gail.

He quickly turned over the paper and, with his fingers in a fist and his thumb pressing down on them, mimed clicking a pen. Bill, still tense, stared at him for a long moment. Gail saw any number of possible scenarios flash through his own mind, many of them ending with Bill, this human shell, tearing him apart with a profound viciousness. What happened instead was Bill doubling back into his apartment, stumbling over something that audibly cracked under his weight, before ducking into the kitchenette.

Gail looked down at what Bill had stepped on.

It was drywall.

Chunks of drywall littered the floor in gratuitous amounts, some in small piles in the corner but most just laying where, Gail surmised, they had initially fallen. The walls were littered with indents that were small enough that a human fist may make them. The larger holes worried him more however. They looked as if Bill had swung something like a chair or a bat with force enough to puncture the wall and had then started twisting and stirring it until they more closely resembled gaping wounds; gouges made by weapons a human body. The thought put Gail on guard enough that a sudden flash of movement in front of him sent him into a full body clench.

It was Bill again, holding a pen out to him. 

Gail took it and wrote his question.

“How long? When did it start?” 

Bill stared at the words for a long time, swaying on the spot enough that Gail feared he might see the man collapse, but such an event did not occur. Bill instead took the pen back and hurried back to the kitchenette, tiptoeing over the debris littering the floor. 

Gail was standing halfway in the front hall of the apartment, the door shut, and he could see more now. The windows were covered over with sheets, producing middling light through them that illuminated the utter disaster that was Bill’s living space. Broken furniture, chairs, tables, and something Gail couldn’t even begin to accurately describe were strewn about haphazardly among broken glass and a lighting fixture, oddly ornate and fine looking. The thing looked like it had been pulled out of the ceiling and had dragged part of it down with its frayed wires. Gail took a breath in through his mouth to avoid the smell, then let it out slowly. 

Play it smart Gail.

Bill reappeared again, holding a large piece of paper that had one of the top corners ripped away. On it was everything Gail needed to know.

“Been going a month. Worked at auto shop when guy came in. Tall. White. Grey slicked back hair. He drove a black Corolla. He said it was antifreeze trouble. Said he wanted me specifically. I asked what the problem was. He said I shouldn’t be on that website. It got heated after. I got fired. Never met the guy. No idea how he knew about that site. Been seeing people around outside. Blocked windows. Neighbour played music to loud. Told him to fuck off. He’s gone. They’re listening to me. They can hear me talk. Please help!!!”

The letter was written with a rapidly descending lack of grace and penmanship, but Gail got all he needed from it. He spared Bill a quick, sympathetic glance and then turned the page over to write his answer. Bill shifted from one foot to the other, wringing his bony hands one over the other as he breathed heavily through his mouth. When Gail handed him his answer, Bill snatched it away and poured over it.

“I know some guys who will keep you safe. I can’t tell you who they are because they need their privacy. Get what you need, and we’ll get right on going.”

Bill did not move, did not breath, at least not audibly. Gail just watched him as he began to shake all over, shaking his head around on his thin neck so furiously that Gail thought it might fall off. When Bill lunged forward, the only thing that prevented Gail from screaming was the quick realization that Bill was crying into his chest. “Thank you.” Came his muffled voice. He was off him just as quickly and hurrying to what Gail assumed was his bedroom. When he was out of sight, Gail pulled his phone out and began responded to most recent text.

Status of Subject #38?

Subject is displaying clear signs of extreme paranoia, anorexia, and general emotional instability. Proceed?

At your discretion.

Gail put his phone away and reached behind himself in the same motion. He pulled out a handgun as he began to approach Bills room. The gun was strangely bulky, with a cover over the hammer. He raised it up as he picked his head around into the room. He saw Bill on his knees, his back to the doorway recklessly shoving junk and clothes into an overflowing suitcase. He might have felt pity over that sight, Gail thought, if this hadn’t been number thirty-eight.

Since it was number thirty-eight, the only thing Gail did for Bill was aim the gun and pull the trigger. Bill sprawled forward over his luggage when the bullet blew the back of his head out in thick chunks of bone and meat. Gail left as soon as the body stopped twitching. He didn’t want to deal with the smell. It wasn’t his job anyway.

He put the gun away and stepped out into the apartment. The apartment beside Bill’s opened and a man stepped out. He was tall, white, and had his grey hair styled into a shiny slick back. He had a wide, toothy grin in his face. “Fasted one yet, right?” He was struggled not to laugh between his words. Gail just rolled his eyes. 

“It just means we’re doing our job right. No use lingering on it.” Gail turned without waiting for a response and started striding toward the stairwell. He could feel the grey-haired man grimacing behind him before rushing to catch up. “I can enjoy my work if I want to.” He said. “You can too you know.” Gail didn’t respond outside of sighing. This guy was going to be the death of him.

October 08, 2023 03:57

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Meli Mangos
21:16 Oct 15, 2023

I like the way you describe the characters right off the bat. It is a great way of showing and telling. Like this line; "Gail saw every inch of atrophied muscle tighten like taut rope through skin." You're telling us his body condition is poor while also showing us what it looks like. Your imagery is great. I can picture the apartment as you describe it. I think you should find a better way to identify the hand written notes and the texting from regular text. I did audibly gasp at the ending, I wanted this to end happy! I am a little conf...


Cade Holter
21:52 Oct 15, 2023

Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you liked the story overall. To answer your question about the end, I’ll be honest and say I didn’t know at the time of writing what exactly Gail and the Grey Haired Man are meant to be. I’ve come up with then being part of the MKUltra tests, but beyond that I don’t have much to offer in terms of an explanation. Take care and thank you for your comment!


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