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Science Fiction Horror Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Paul was walking towards his car when he noticed his neighbour across the street was just getting into hers. God, she’s weird, he thought. For the three years that he and Emma had lived in their house, they’d never spoken to her. 

Emma would be home soon so Paul was going to the grocery store to pick up supper. It was Friday and neither of them felt like cooking. He got in the car and started it just as the woman started backing out of her driveway.

She left the house multiple times a day and was only ever gone for a short amount of time. Paul had never counted how many times she left in a day but he initially guessed about ten when he and Emma noticed after they moved. They liked to wonder about what she was doing. Maybe she only smokes in the car, they hypothesized. Or maybe she’s going into town to get takeout. Maybe she has OCD and her compulsion is driving.

Then they got their dog, Stella. When she was a puppy and Paul had to take her out at all hours, he noticed that the woman left throughout the night too. Then their ideas started getting more and more outlandish. Maybe she’s a drug dealer or an assassin. Or maybe she’s an alien. Whatever it was, she was strange. 

She lived with a man who appeared to work Monday to Friday. During the Summers, he would get home from work and mow his lawn every other day or so. During the Winter, if it snowed, he would immediately shovel the driveway. She never went outside, only to walk to and from the car. Other than that, nobody ever saw them. Even during the evenings, when most houses had glowing yellow windows as signs of life and activity, their curtains remained drawn and it seemed like there was never a light on in the house.

As they got to know their other neighbours, Paul and Emma would try to casually slip the strange couple, especially the woman, into conversation. But anybody they talked to had never met or spoken to them. 

Paul waited for her to start driving away before he backed out, put the car in gear, and started after her. He rounded the same corner she’d disappeared behind and found a lineup of cars waiting for a school bus to finish dropping some kids off. He was stopped behind her and, even after three years, couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing on her frequent trips. 

The bus finally began to pull away and the lineup of cars began to move. Paul asked Siri to play some music. 

They passed the convenience store, then the exit for the bypass. Then the cemetery. With every destination they passed, Paul could feel his curiosity bubbling. He’d joked to Emma that one day he was going to follow her and solve the mystery, and here he was doing it inadvertently

He felt a grin spread across his face as he pressed the Bluetooth button in his car and waited for Siri’s helpful bmmm.

“Call Emma,” he said.

“Calling Emma,” Siri replied as he followed his neighbour past the hockey rink. The phone rang over the car speakers as they drove past the new apartment buildings when Emma picked up.

“Hello?” She said.

“Hi, what’s up?” Paul asked. 

“Just on my way home. Are you getting supper?” 

“Yeah, but you’ll never guess who I’m behind.”

“Who?”

“Weirdo across the street,” Paul said.

“Oh, really? Did you figure out where she’s going?” 

“No, but I’m gonna keep following her,” Paul said with a laugh.

“Oh my god, Paul don’t actually follow her. That’s so weird.”

“I’m not gonna like, follow her follow her, but I’m probably gonna find out where she goes. She’s probably just addicted to scratch tickets and going to get some from the gas station,” he said as they approached the traffic light to go toward town. 

Town, including the restaurants and grocery store where Paul was going, was to the right. Left through the light would take you to Kent, which was just old houses and farms.

“Oooh, we’re coming up to the light. Which way is she gonna go?” Paul said.

“Oooh, I don’t know,” Emma said, mimicking his sarcastic tone. 

Paul signaled right just as the woman, to Paul’s surprise, signaled left.

“Hey, she’s going to Kent,” he said. 

“Maybe she knows somebody out there.”

“But why would she go at all hours of the day and night?”

“Maybe she’s got a secret lover,” Emma joked.

“But she leaves when the guy is home too!” Paul said as they slowed to the red light.

“I don’t know, maybe he’s cool with it.”

“Yeah… maybe… But I doubt she’s going to bang her super-not-so-secret boyfriend twenty times a day!”

“You never know!” Emma said. The light turned green.

“No… you don’t,” said Paul, switching his signal to the left. Now he was in it. He had to know. “I’m gonna keep following her.”

“Paul! Don’t! She’s gonna call the cops or something.”

“She’s not going to call the cops,” Paul said, passing the sign for Kent. “And besides, it's not like I have no business over here. If somebody says something, I’ll just say I was on my way to Ted’s.” Ted was Paul’s friend from work and occasionally he and Emma would go there for drinks.

“She probably doesn’t go to Kent all the time,” Emma said. 

Paul rounded the corner where River Road turned into Route 315 and the speed increased. Paul let the neighbour create a gap between them; he didn’t want to be too conspicuous.

“Maybe not, but still! Where she goes will be a piece of the puzzle that is this woman’s weird life. Oh, she’s turning into Miller’s Trail!”

Miller’s Trail was the unofficial name of a wooded area with a stream that ran through it. People liked to walk there and Paul and Emma took Stella there occasionally.

“Don’t follow her in there!”

“I won’t, I won’t. I’m going to turn around and go get supper.” Paul said as he drove by the entrance for the trail.

“Ok. Thank you. I’m just stopping for gas then I’ll see you at home. Love you.”

“Love you too,” Paul said as he turned into one of the side streets to turn around. 

“Bye,” Emma said before hanging up. Paul completed his U-turn and turned back into the 315. Ok, so she goes to Miller’s trail. At least some of the time anyway, he thought as he approached the trail’s entrance again. But the woman’s SUV wasn’t there. That’s weird, he thought as he drove by, craning his neck. Where’d she go? 

That's when he saw the light reflect off of something hidden in the bushes. What the fuck? he thought. She hid her car? Did she do that all the time? Had they been there at the same as her and just never crossed paths? Did she ever cross paths with anyone? He took a deep breath.


In for a penny, in for a pound. 


Paul pulled into the nearest driveway, backed out, threw the car into drive, and raced back to the entrance as quickly as he could.

The main trail was a large loop and you could go left or right at the beginning. No matter which way you chose at the start, there was a large hill you had to walk up that had been mostly cleared. The stream skirted around it and passed underneath the 315. If Paul was fast, he might be able to see which direction she walked.

He pulled into the parking lot and jumped out, running to the fork in the trail at the bottom of the hill. His eyes darted back and forth between the paths, looking for signs of movement.

On the left trail, he saw a flash of movement disappear over the top of the hill. He started up the trail after her but stopped. What am I doing? He thought. This is a little too intense. You’re going off the rails here.

He turned to go back to his car when his eyes happened to settle on the hidden SUV and he stopped. He couldn’t help but wonder again at how many times they’d been there while she was somewhere in the woods. And why did she hide the car? In for a penny, in for a pound.

“Fuck it,” Paul said as he turned back toward the trail she’d taken. Emma would be mad at him, but the curiosity was overwhelming. “Curiosity killed the cat,” popped into his head. And satisfaction brought it back, he thought.

He jogged up the hill as quietly as he could. But, when he reached the top, she was gone. “Fuck,” he said under his breath. He started down the trail, walking fast. He decided that he would walk for a few hundred feet and if he didn’t find her, he would turn back. 

He was scanning his surroundings but didn’t see anything. He was about to turn back when he saw it in the mud. A fresh footprint heading into the woods. It had to be her.

He started into the woods in the direction of the footprint, his mind racing to think of an excuse if he was confronted. He felt compelled to know what she was doing, possessed by the mystery. Satisfaction brought it back.

He wove through the woods toward the stream, careful not to make too much noise on the leaves underfoot. 

Paul stepped around a tree and there she was, standing stock still at the edge of the stream, about sixty feet away. He couldn’t see her face, just her blond hair tied back in a ponytail. He ducked behind a tree. Fuck, I didn’t see her in time. There’s no way she didn’t hear me, he thought.

But he didn’t hear anything. He peeked around the tree. She hadn’t moved. She was still standing there, exactly as she had been when Paul first saw her. Then something dawned on him. If she doesn’t know I’m here now, she’s gonna when she’s finished doing whatever she’s doing and leaves. Now what?

The woman jerked and made Paul flinch. Then she jerked again. She doubled over as if in pain and it looked like she was heaving, like she was about to puke. What the fuck am I watching? 

The woman snapped back to the position she’d been in, standing perfectly still. But now, something was moving in front of her, it was pink and wiggling. What the fuck is that? 


Then a chill rolled down his spine and his body prickled with realization.


It was a tentacle, or at least that’s what it looked like. And it wasn’t pink. It was white and coated with blood. It was coming out of the woman’s mouth.

Paul’s hand shot up to his mouth as the woman doubled over again and the tentacle writhed towards the ground, stretching and reaching. It slapped against the ground, leaves, and dirt sticking to the wet probing limb. The only sound in the woods other than the stream was the sound of the rustling leaves.

As the tentacle revealed more of itself, he could see it growing thicker and it was being coated with more, darker blood. 

The woman’s body began to jerk and twist. She turned sideways so that Paul could see some of her face. Her mouth was stretched to the limit like a snake swallowing something too big. 

Paul’s legs grew weak and he sank to the ground, watching the grotesque display. His stomach protested, threatening to vomit, but he forced it back.

His neighbour’s mouth began to tear at the edges, like a Glasgow smile and blood began to run, dripping onto the ground in a growing stream. Like a seam ripping, her cheek tore to the edges of her jaw and the tip of a second probing tentacle emerged from her cheek.

Paul began to hyperventilate as the woman stood up again, her nails digging at the tear in her cheek. The fingers seemed to find their mark in the tear and began to pull, allowing the tentacles more room to wriggle.

Her hand pulled harder and harder, and blood spurted and gushed while the tentacles writhed and groped for something to grab onto. 

The woman’s stance finally broke and she stumbled, her torso twisting and spraying blood across the leaf-covered ground. 

She slammed hard into a small tree and the first tentacle wrapped itself tightly around. Paul couldn’t help but start to scream at the horror in front of him. Whatever was in there, was trying to pull itself out.

There was a squelching crack and the woman’s head burst open with a fountain of blood, the top half of her skull hanging on by skin and tissue. It lolled against her shoulder, revealing the tips of more blood-covered tentacles. Paul wanted to run, but he couldn’t move. He was frozen with fear.

The tentacles squirmed. They slid out of the opening, one by one, and managed to wrap themselves around the tree. 

Paul watched them flex with effort and the tree began to bend with the weight. The woman’s body seemed to be fighting to stay upright.

The tentacles began to swing the body violently, trying to free whatever was still in the body.


!!! KAAAARCH-ELSSSSHHHHH !!!


The woman’s body bifurcated. The entire mass crumpled to the ground into a pile of flesh and guts, blood running down the bank and into the stream. 

There was silence for a few seconds before Paul vomited. He looked up at the destroyed body and saw something writhing in the gore. Something white.

The tentacles began to reach across the ground and pull themselves slowly out of what was left of the woman’s body, writhing against the dry rasp of leaves. The tentacles were dragging a large white mass behind it like an Octopus. 

It stopped at the edge of the bank and turned. Paul couldn’t see its eyes, but he could feel them on him. It stared at him for a few moments before the white, octopus-like mass, slipped into the stream. Paul slowly got to his feet, staring at the spot where the thing disappeared. 

The stream began to ripple. Something started rising out of it where the thing had gone under, water running off of it. Paul thought it looked like the top of a sea anemone, with fleshy white fronds standing at attention. It continued to rise out of the water, the fronds tapering into a white stalk, about as thick as a tree. 

Paul began to back away as it continued to reach out of the stream. Ten feet. Fifteen. Twenty. Paul started to scream and turned to run out of the woods. He had to tell Emma. He had to contact the police. The military. Anybody.

He made it out of the woods and back onto the trail and began to sprint back to the car. Paul couldn’t help but look over his shoulder. He stopped in fear and awe, trying to catch his breath. The anemone-like thing had stopped rising. Now it towered above the trees.

After a few moments, the fronds began to vibrate and the air above them began to wave, like heat coming off asphalt on a hot day. A throbbing, low, menacing whistle filled the air. Dark clouds took shape above the thing at incredible speed and billowed away. It looked like those time-lapses of a storm forming.

Paul, terrified, heard his phone begin to blare in his pocket over the pulsing whistle. It was an alert. He pulled it out with shaking hands.


SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT: SEVERE STORM AND TORRENTIAL RAIN IMMINENT. SEEK SHELTER


He tried to call Emma, but there was no service. He looked skyward. There was nothing but dark, ominous clouds as far as he could see. They burst open and rain began to fall in torrential sheets. It would never stop raining.


* * *


“For God’s sake Paul, WE HAVE TO GO! PLEASE!” Emma sobbed as she stood at the door, holding Stella in her arms. The car was packed. They only had three-quarters of a tank and a jerry canful, but it would have to do. 

“I know, I’m ready,” Paul said with a sob as he took one last look around the house for anything they might need. 

Paul had told Emma what he’d seen, that there were probably thousands of them living inside humans and who knows how many more of those anemone things. She was speechless when he told her the story, but she believed him. No one else believed though. He thought if they acted fast enough, maybe they could stop whatever those things were.

Paul told Emma how he thought they’d been here for a long time, growing whatever those rain-making anemones were, biding their time. He went to the police but they told him to take his conspiracy theories elsewhere; they had a natural disaster on their hands. He didn’t know how to contact the military.

It had been raining for two days straight. Before the power went out and their phones died, they had learned it was raining over every square inch of the planet, confirming Paul’s theory. Those things were everywhere. It never would stop raining on Earth.

 Paul opened the door, and they rushed out into the rain. They weren’t even sure where they would go; most of the roads around them were submerged in rushing flood waters or washed away entirely. But they had to try. 

They ran through the ankle-deep water to their car. They backed out of the driveway and looked at their house for the last time. They both turned to look at their neighbour’s house across the street. The man’s car was still there. How many times did we wonder? they both thought before driving away.

August 12, 2023 02:28

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3 comments

19:37 Aug 12, 2023

Hell yeah ! This is wonderful. Completely captivating I felt like I was there with Paul watching what was happening. There are some slight similarities between our stories this week lol but mine is more tongue in cheek. Loved this, this should be a winner

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19:39 Aug 12, 2023

Ps in last paragraph you left out the word no in no one

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C. Charles
21:10 Aug 12, 2023

Oh wow! Thank you so much! I will check your story out! I submitted this pretty late; finished just in the nick of time so I definitely still have some edits to make, but thanks for the catch! Hopefully I get them in before it’s approved- if it’s approved lol

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