Gladys was passing a wall. She passed some odd graffiti, a mess, a mosaic of dull yet highly visible swirls and curves, on the wall. It caught her eye, and she found herself stopping to stare at it. She quickly found that she could not stop, that she was suddenly searching for something. For what? She didn’t know, at least not what to call it. She just kept staring.
She stared and stared, even when it became too horrible for her to stare anymore, even when she had begun to see things she knew she had not been searching for.
Was it for three minutes, hours, or days? It didn’t matter. She couldn’t move, so it was horrible all the same. Her eyes watered profusely.
She kept staring, until at last she could feel her fingers start to twitch and she realized she was almost able to move again. When she could, she immediately brought her hands to her head and ran off screaming.
She went on like that, hands to head, screaming with nearly unnatural endurance, running blindly down the dark streets.
She bumped into a man, a nice man, a tired professor, who caught her by the shoulders.
Frederick told the slightly wrinkled, slightly plump brunette to calm down. When she didn’t, he told her again and kept doing so until he saw how large her pupils had become, too large, much too large, even for this hour.
He drug the woman, whose screaming was fluctuating like a passing ambulance siren, to his apartment to keep her safe until the paramedics arrived.
When he let her go, she stopped screaming but still made shrill, random yelps and ran all about, bumping into things, sometimes beating them as well. She look as if she was about to cry. Several neighbors banged on his door, demanding an explanation for the noise or else they were calling the cops. He showed them the hysterical woman and asked for their help. They all went back to their rooms and called 911.
The woman, after running into everything else, ran into him and started beating him with her fists. He stopped her by grabbing her wrists, and then he saw her knuckles. They were protruding through the skin.
Like Wolverine. No. Not like Wolverine. Not like that at all.
Because her knuckles were torn through the flesh. With her fingers flapping like strips of fabric, it looked as if someone had pushed her fingers towards the palm with enough force to rip skin and tendons.
He realized what had been hitting him was bone, grizzled, bloody bone.
He panicked at the sight of her bare knuckle bones and shoved her into the broom closet. Once he had his back against the door, she started screaming again. His hands felt wet. He looked down and saw blood and tiny bits of muscle.
He realized it was dribble from her knuckles. Scared to leave the door, he wiped his hands on the wood in disgust.
The woman started beating the door. She screamed, but it had a gurgling sound. Frederick tried his hardest not to urinate when the gurgled sound became accompanied by a mixture of hissing and spurting.
What’s in her throat? What sort of foul bile is filling up her throat to make a sound like that?
When paramedics finally came, no change had come from the sounds of the woman beating the door or her gurgling. Frederick’s legs had started cramping from holding him up against door. When they grabbed her, her lips were purple, but other than that she was clean. Frederick only caught a glimpse of the small splotches on the floor before looking away and closing the door.
When they restrained her to the rescue board, she weakly kicked her heels against it, but that was all.
A week later, he was in a used book store. He usually liked it there because it was quiet and soothing, and after a week of nightmares about the woman, he needed soothing. Today, though, it was very hot and humid. His brain was becoming muddled with the heat.
The books blurred as he scanned their spines. He wiped the sweat off his brow and suddenly found a book that he could see clearly. It was red, and its title was written in Russian with bronze lettering. He couldn’t read Russian, but the way the light struck the letters intrigued him. He picked it up and started flipping the pages.
No words were written in the book. It was all pictures. Vague ink sketches that didn’t look like anything, concrete or abstract. He thought he saw something in one of the blots, but it disappeared. He started looking for it in the other drawings. He couldn’t pin it down. He kept seeing it in the corners, along intersections of lines, and in the valley where the pages met the spine, but he couldn’t never pin it down and look directly at it. He got mad and kept flipping, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards, trying to find what he missed.
His fruitless search frustrated him. He got a paper cut on his finger and almost threw the book across the room when a few of the pages slipped out of his fingers’ grasp.
He stared at the picture staring back at him. He knew that in the mesh of crisscrossing and curving pen strokes was what he was looking for.
His eyes traced every line on the page, but he could not find it. He knew it was there, but he could not see it, nor could he take his eyes off the maze of black. He kept staring and searching.
Then his search was derailed. He began seeing other things, things he knew he wasn’t searching for. He could not say exactly what they were. They just stabbed him. The images were poisoning him. They filled him with despair and hate. The lines built shapes that started a wildfire behind his temples.
He didn’t want to keep staring, but he couldn’t turn away. He couldn’t move at all.
A slew of images came into his mind as he sat there. Was it for three minutes, hours, or days? It didn’t matter. It was horrible all the same. His eyes began watering.
He was forced to keep staring until, at last, he could feel his fingers start to twitch and he realized he was almost able to move again. When he could, he threw the book across the room and ran screaming out the door.
The images were all he could see as he ran. They were all he could think about as well…and, for a second, the woman. His horror tripled when he realized that these images must have been what distressed the woman so much.
A car swerved to miss him as he bolted across the street. He didn’t see it or hear it. He just kept going on like that, running and screaming, until he ran into a bench and fell over it. He didn’t feel it as his wrist broke, but he didn’t get back up, either.
He felt an odd sensation in his face, like a pulling, and the evil images seemed to be swirling feverishly, like bees.
Leave me alone! he cried out in his head.
The images spoke now.
Please… he thought.
You have seen us, too much of us. Now we must have your eyes.
Take them! Take them and stay away from me!
He started bawling.
Gladys was in a coma for a week and a half. When she woke up, doctors were baffled, as they were before when she was brought in. When she first arrived, they thought she had some kind of psychosis or was suffering a kind of mental breakdown, mostly because they had no idea what else to say of it. They had never seen anything like it before.
Now that she was awake, there was almost no sign that anything was wrong with her. Her hands had healed perfectly, and there was no trace of the unidentifiable bile that they had to keep draining out of her throat so she wouldn’t drown.
The only thing wrong now was that her eyes were bleeding. It wasn’t serious, just a few slightly ruptured blood vessels. They would heal on their own. She said she couldn’t feel it and that she could see just fine.
When she awoke, the TV was on, and it was showing the news. The top story was about a man who was found dead and sprawled out on the street with his eyes removed perfectly, not even a spot of blood to be found around the where they used to be.
Feeling queasy, she asked a passing nurse to change the channel.
Written by Santo Tigris