Brad enjoyed taking walks at night. He did so every evening on the weekend, standing on his porch, admiring the waning light of the evening sun.
He took a deep breath of the cool, late summer air, nothing more perfect then that moment he spent relishing the silent solitude and the smell of the earth. He stepped off the porch and started down the forest path with a confident stride. The path was a well worn dirt trail that started behind his house in the countryside and lead through the dense pine forest that surrounded his property, eventually leading back to his home in a loose circle.
The only sound on the trail was the song of crickets and the low whistle of wind through the trees. It was much too hot to go outside during the day, but night was perfect with the clear sky, nothing in the way of the soft light of the full moon against the dark blue, velvet sky.
All went well until his usual route was cut off by an enormous tree which seemed to have been ripped out of its place by a recent windstorm. It was safe to assume so from the sight of the roots caked with moist, black soil. Its trunk was so thick and its branches so wide and so many, that maneuvering around it on foot was out of the question.
Brad let out an irritated sigh and glanced around in search of a possible detour.
Off to the right was a much older path, much narrower than the main trail and half-obstructed by tall weeds. He hesitated for a moment before taking another look at the downed tree in his path.
"I might as well. I can always turn back if it doesn't lead anywhere," Brad muttered to himself before setting down the neglected side route.
The weeds stung his legs with every step. He now understood why nobody had traveled down this path, the trees were so close together that almost no light got through at all. He could only just barely see a few paces in front of him. It was a while before he realized that the woods were now dead silent. All he could hear was his own breath and his movements through the grass.
After a while, Brad seated himself on a dead log to catch his breath. He cursed under his breath as he picked ticks off of his legs leaving small red welts. His legs itched horribly all over, he was just about to turn around and head back when he heard a faint rustling in the brush.
At first, Brad had dismissed the sound as a raccoon making its rounds until he heard it again, closer this time.
Brad stood up, his eyes scanning the woods.
Whatever was out there was drawing closer to him, its footsteps growing more and more distinct with the rigorous quivering of the leaves. His heart was pounding in his chest, every instinct screaming at him to just run away, yet he stood transfixed, listening for the thing in the woods.
Just then, a dark shape leaped out and into the clearing, sending him stumbling backwards onto the log with a startled yell. It was only a raccoon.
The little animal rushed off into the blackness of the woods that fell silent yet again. Brad had his hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat slowing down to normal. He couldn't help but laugh at what just happened.
“Wow, how lame was that?” He said to himself, “All that over a raccoon.”
He started to make his way back home when he was stopped dead by the sight of a bizarre figure standing in his way.
The thing had a shape vaguely like a person's, but everything was off. The thing's limbs were long, lean, and muscular, and it sat crouched on the ground, as if ready to pounce. The moonlight glinted off its slick, gunmetal gray skin covered in warts, like that of a large toad.
Its face was just as alien as the rest of it with its amber-colored eyes spaced far apart and focused on him; the pupils were a narrow, oblong shape and shone with a sinister intelligence. Its mouth was wide and hung up as the thing breathed, letting out a sickening, hoarse croaking sound. It had not nose or ears to speak of, but small openings in their place.
Brad heard himself let out a scream as he stepped back in a panic, his eyes glued to the frightening creature.
"What the hell are you?!" he said, his voice quivering with obvious alarm. Brad's heart nearly leaped out of his chest as he watched the creature slowly rise up on its legs, its face illuminated by the little moonlight there was.
He swallowed down the bit of terror he felt, and slowly approached the being in caution. His heart was racing faster than ever, his chest felt as if it'd explode at any moment. His breath caught up in his throat, and his limbs stiffened with swelling numbness that came from the sight of the... thing.
He slowly raised his arm to touch the top of its head, when it suddenly let out a massive roar, and spray of a burning liquid all over his face.
The next few moments were a terrible blur for Brad. He blindly stumbled about, shrieking in pain as the liquid scalded his face.
He shoved the thing aside and bolted down the path. His vision had returned after a few seconds, but everything blurred into vague, unrecognizable shapes and all he could hear was his own screaming and the rustling of the underbrush.
The burning sensation on his face grew worse with every passing instant, and he was sure that it was spreading down his neck, eating up his neck with its aggression.
His vision was starting to finally clear up, though his eyes still stung horribly and watered from the pain. After what felt like an eternity, he could see the outline of his house coming into view.
He was exhausted and his mind was clouded with panic. His every breath came with a sharp pain as he staggered up, like a drunkard, to the door. He fumbled with his keys for several agonizing seconds, in a hurry to grab a hold of the right one. He finally opened the door and rushed into the bathroom to check out what the creature had done to his face.
In the mirror, he saw the right half of his face covered in a thick, glossy black fluid that pulsed as it slowly spread across his face. He splashed it with water, but to no avail. His heart was racing even faster, he frantically tried to pry it off his face with the help of his nail, feeling the strange oily substance that rubbed off on his hands as he pulled and pulled, but the black material adhered fast to his face. He paused to look at his hands; all he had accomplished was getting it on his fingers. He let out a scream as it began to devour more of the sight of his skin.
He tore off his clothes and threw them on the bathroom floor. Another glance back at the mirror revealed that the stuff had traveled down most of his neck and was beginning to take over his chest. He stepped into the shower and turned on the hot water. It only seemed to encourage the mysterious thing to take over more of his flesh, and faster.
“No.. no… no…. no! No! God no!”
Brad cried out as he pulled at the black mass quickly spreading down his chest. The stuff stretched as he pried at it, but no matter how hard he pulled it would just resume its shape. It felt like tar in his wet, quivering hands.
He fell to his knees in the shower, he could only watch as the black mass started enveloping his hands. Thin tendrils of black sludge snaked over his fingers, threading themselves under his fingernails. For a few seconds, he was nearly blinded by pain as the sludge under his fingernails swelled and dug deeper into the foundations of the nails. He watched as the nails fell out, one by one, as the sludge now completely covered his hands. There was another surge of pain as pointed, jet black claws burst out of the roots of his fingernails. He could see small trails of dripping blood amongst the glossy black of the slime.
He shut the water off. He staggered out of the shower and looked one last time in the mirror.
He cried out in panic as he saw the reflection of his face, now almost completely covered; staring back at him.
His mind overwhelmed, he felt light-headed. The world around turned once again into an indistinct blur as he collapsed on the floor like a rag doll.
The black mass quickly spread over his back the second he hit the ground. It was spreading faster than ever. In mere seconds, it completely covered his back, legs, and feet.
He laid there on the floor, now completely covered. A few moments passed with nothing happening, Brad was beginning to think it was over until blinding pain coursed through his entire body.
His body was twisting itself into a different shape. The muscle and bones in his legs and arms stretched and grew, making sickening cracking sounds as the ligaments and joints were forced into different positions.
All he could here was his own screams and the sounds of his body contorting itself into an alien shape. His face deformed itself; His nose drew back into his face, leaving two thin slits. His fingers grew long and thin. His feet bent and contorted until they started to resemble those of a large toad.
The pain was indescribable, unlike anything Brad had ever felt. It was at that moment that he thought he would die. Eventually the pain became too much, he felt himself losing consciousness….
He was losing himself…. He was going…
He was gone. He let out one last cry of terror and pain before falling into blissful, heaven-sent unconsciousness.
The creature awoke some unknown time later. Still groggy and disoriented slightly, it slowly climbed to his feet.
It glanced at the mirror; staring back at him was a truly deplorable creature. Its oil-dark skin was slick and marked with countless small, irregularly shaped warty growths and shone a deep metallic blue in the light. Its eyes were large; amber colored and had narrow slit pupils. It opened his mouth to reveal a row of small, needle-like teeth that were the color of sandstone.
He pressed his webbed hand upon the glass. Somewhere, deep within the recesses of the creature’s mind, Brad was crying out, begging to regain control of what used to be his body.
The creature paid no heed to this voice. It shambled out of the bathroom and went over to the back door and swung it open with such force that it was nearly torn from its hinges.
The cool early morning air swept over its skin. The sun had not yet risen.
The creature stepped out, and disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding woods.