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Cuosp Humanya

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I have to tell somebody what's happening to me. Oh God, I don't know what to do. I want to tell my friends, but they're not my friends anymore and...

I know it's nearly Halloween! Bugger that! I don't care how stupid it sounds, it happened.

It started out fine a few days ago. My friends and I had a late lecture. It ended at about seven, and you know, it starts getting dark around seven. It is October after all. We were doing this thing, just for a laugh... We'd decided to wear our costumes to the lecture. It was the last lecture we'd all have together before the big night and, well, there's no rules against wearing a costume to the uni lectures, so that's what we did. Colin came as a zombie with a blackened eye socket and peeling skin. Katie was a vampirate (a vampire pirate), and I'd put together a fortune teller's costume out of all my sister's old clothes. They were pretty flimsy, though, and...

Why am I telling you what we were dressed as? It's barely important.

Oh, no. Wait, yes, it is important. Hang on.

So anyway... the lecture went well, we had a laugh, and afterwards we decided to go to the pub together. We don't have our varsity pub any more, so we have to go to The Hog's Head. It's mostly frequented by scowling old men. We tried to get a seat as far away from everyone else as possible. The trouble was, it was crowded and we didn't have our usual seats. It was nearly impossible to get to the bar because, again, the place was just full of old men. I wasn't having a good time, and my flimsy costume was starting to make me feel self-conscious.

I told Katie and Colin I'd like to walk back, thinking we could walk together, seeing as I share a house with them. But they fancied staying for a bit longer because they could get cheap drinks after 9pm. So I said I'd walk back alone.

"Fine," Katie said.

She didn't have to tell me to stick by the roads. It was a rule everybody knew. If one of us was walking home alone, we had to stick to the roads. Unbeknownst to them, however, when I walked alone, I took a shortcut through the underpass. Yes, it was a stupid risk and a lot of people had been stabbed there in the past, but... I don't know, I never felt unsafe doing it. Actually, nobody had been attacked there for a whole year since they put up those mirrors at either end.

So, I left The Hog's Head and started walking. The temperature had dropped by several degrees and there was a wind starting to kick up. I tried to ignore how cold I was and sang under my breath as I walked. Did singing make you more likely to be attacked or less likely? I didn't know.

Turning the corner, I suddenly realised – I'd left my coat in the pub! No wonder I was so cold. I must not have noticed because of the costume, I don't know... It was warm enough in the pub, but not out here. I didn't go back for my coat, though. Either Colin or Katie would bring it back for me.

Then I went down the stairs and reached the underpass.

That was when things started to get strange.

The thing about the underpass is that it's nearly always full of litter and broken bottles, but it's well lit and, for the most part, free from graffiti. I think it has something to do with the coating on the walls – some wipe-clean laminate stuff to discourage vandals. The last graffito I'd seen was an arrow pointing at the floor with the legendary 'PARK HERE'. A surprising amount of homeless people have taken to sitting in that spot.

But evidently, someone had had a field day with their Halloween orange glitter hair and body spray, because the walls were covered in it. All over the underpass were the words 'CUOSP HUMANYA'. I didn't recognise the language, but something about it made me uneasy.

I looked behind me in the mirror. Nobody on the stairs. I turned back and gazed down the length of the underpass. No one in front of me.

Suddenly, the urge struck me to write on the wall. I've always wanted to do that, deface something, even in a small way, but I've never been brave enough. I was always too scared of getting caught. But tonight, there was nobody here to catch me, and the wall was so covered in graffiti now that one little scrawling from me wouldn't make any difference.

I took a big black marker pen from my uni bag and wondered what to write. It was funny. I couldn't think of a single thing. 'Rachael woz ere', maybe.

Finally, I made my mark. 'CUOSP HUMANYA'.

I looked at it through the fog of my own breath. That'd do! I was feeling quite pleased with myself for being so rebellious. I was even feeling warmer.

As I put the pen back in my bag, I frowned. Actually, I was... much warmer. Was it because I was in the underpass? It was sort of underground...

Oh God...

I'm sorry. I know I said I had to tell someone about this, but just remembering it makes me feel so horrible...

I started getting really hot. I mean, boiling, sweltering, tear-your-clothes-off hot. Remember, I was in a flimsy thin fortune-teller's costume, and it was October! It was basically night time. The sun had certainly gone away, so I just stood there, sweating like crazy, trying to work out where this heat was coming from. Even the breeze that blew up and under my skirt was more like warm breath than...

Oh God!

And that's when I saw him.

A guy appeared at the end of the subway, the end I would have been walking towards. He was dressed like a homeless man – bundles of layers, woollen layers, fingerless gloves. I could see the tips of his fingers were stained, maybe from rolling cigarettes. But he didn't have a bag and he wasn't wearing anything on his head. What I could see of his head... was horrible.

He'd been stabbed in the face.

No, not the face, in the head. When he turned around and around on the spot, I could see the knife had gone right through, and his long hair was shining and wet from the blood. He turned around once, slowly, so I could see it, and then he just kept spinning and spinning with his long hair flying out.

His face was stained just like his fingers.

I ran back the other way. There was a scream stuck in my throat as I hurtled up the stairs. The heat intensified. I confused my own pounding footsteps for footsteps behind me and the scream finally found its way out. I stumbled up the last stair and kept moving and checked behind me; he wasn't there, but I still kept running. I went across the main road that the underpass nestled beneath, barely noticing the honking cars. I tripped over my skirt and fell, tasted metal, then got back up and ran with my stupid bag thumping against my legs...

By the time I reached the supermarket by my house, I had to catch my breath, so I stopped. I took great heaving gasps.

It was cold again.

Oh God, I was so glad for the chilly night. I was so glad I'd gotten away.

For about an hour, I hid in the supermarket, pretending to browse the crisp aisle. Eventually I did buy something, thinking that the danger must have passed. In that hour, I'd partly convinced myself that it'd been some sort of Halloween prank or weird hallucination. But that didn't stop me ordering a taxi for the short journey to my front door. I thanked the driver, tipped him double and let myself in. I still had my key. Thank Christ I hadn't dropped it. Inside the house, it was warm and homely and smelling of soup. It was so wonderful to be inside, I almost wept.

Colin and Katie weren't yet back, so I put the TV on and waited. They were not going to believe what I had to tell them. But they were out ages. It was nearly midnight when the front door finally clicked and opened. I smiled and got up to say hello.

I froze.

There he was. Standing in the hallway. The torn, stained, bleeding face. The wet hair.

I screamed out loud.

"Woah," he said, smiling at me. I saw rows of nasty yellow teeth. "Sorry, I should have shouted to you. You left your coat at the pub."

He was holding my coat, and now he chucked it to me. I didn't catch it. My hands were covering my mouth.

"What's the matter?" Colin said.

Katie stood behind him, a look of concern mottling her torn, stained, bleeding face.

I don't know what to do. I haven't been downstairs since they came back. I haven't eaten. I haven't even changed out of my costume. But I'm starting to realise what's happening. When I go online and watch a video, they all have that face. When I look at my friends' profiles on Facebook, they all have that face.

The Cuosp Humanya face.

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