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The Choir

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They said I should write it. They said it would help. Help what? Help them understand? Its not like anyone would believe me.

It all started when I was very young, probably around eight or nine. I’d get sick pretty often, not like a cold but like a full-on flu. My parents did everything they could to keep my fever down and help me cope through it. Medicine didn’t help much after a while. I missed a lot of school because of it, but I was always able to catch up. It was only elementary after all.

Now being sick, throwing up and all that, it sucked, but that wasn’t what was weird about it. The weird part were the dreams.

I’d be sick for about a week at a time, but I’d always have the same dream, just one dream just one time during the week. I don’t remember any other dreams just that one but only once not like once a day or anything.

I’d be at the top of an old staircase that descended into darkness. I had to go down it, I couldn’t help myself like there was something down there I had to find. Once I was down, the stairs would disappear, leaving me in the darkness. No big deal, dreams do that, but then things would get odd.

My eyes would adjust and I could begin to see the walls of the room. It smelt heavily of rust and something else. I looked at the three walls in front of me, I’d never look behind me. I’d notice a small box on the floor right in the middle. As soon as I’d notice it I’d hear a little melody play. It was a music box.

The unnerving metal melody would fill the little steel room and I’d simply sit and listen, what else could you do when you are alone in the darkness with no way out. Then the music would stop with a ping like music boxes do when they just run out of wind. This was the part I didn’t like, not one bit, worse than the sickness, I’d take the sickness for twice as long if I didn’t have to have this dream along with it.

The walls would start to bulge out all over in random parts. Then those bulges would slit open with little splashes of a dark ichor. They were eyelids. The smell of rust would fade out leaving more of that other smell. That suffocating smell that I never smelled before in real life. Then limbs would start coming out of the walls, squirming like they were trying to get out. They would bleed some dark fluid from where they connected to the steel like it was cutting at them around the base, not wanting them to get out.

After that, veins would emerge from the walls and start pulsating. It was an alien pulse just one after the other, not the two part pulse of a human heart. My legs wouldn’t be able to move. I’d be held down to the steel, like my bones were beginning to merge with it. Then the mouths would come out. The varying sizes of lips would push out of the walls and spit out the black sludge. When they did that I could see the sharp teeth inside them. Then the eyes would all look at me at once. Then came the screaming. They’d scream all at once, one pitch merging with the others in a hell-like harmony.

I couldn’t cover my ears. I couldn’t shut my eyes I’d just suffer in the middle of the room, paralysed while the walls pulsed and squirmed along with the screaming in horrendous unity. Then I’d feel something inside me move as if I wanted to scream too. Then I’d wake up, usually followed by throwing up in the pail next to me.

That was my life. The dream would come one time during the week I was sick, always just before I’d be alright enough for school again. This would happen every month. For three years…

I’d gotten used to the dreams. I’d know they were coming, so I’d prepare for them. I would have my bucket at the bedside and I’d wait for sleep to finally reach my sickly body. One night when I was nearly ready to graduate from elementary, I had this idea. I’d change what would happen in the dream, you know lucid dreaming and stuff.

I’d feel the dream come over me. I’d smell the steel and that other smell. Then the music box would start. That weird little steely melody that I’d never heard outside of the dream. I knew the paralysis would happen so I clamped my hands over my ears and shut my eyes tightly. Think of something better, green grass, sunlight, flowers. I tried to picture something in my mind but nothing was happening I could still smell the room and I was starting to feel the room start to move under me. It was happening again, but if I couldn’t stop it at least I wouldn’t have to hear or see it. I held my ears and shut my eyes. I didn’t want to see it or hear it, never again…

The screaming never started. I knew it was still there I could smell it. That suffocating unknown smell, but it was quiet. I could feel myself able to move, not the normal paralysis. Maybe it was different, maybe it worked. I thought maybe I’d look, just for a second and see if it was gone or different or anything. Oh god why did I look.

I slowly opened my eyes. It was right in front of me within four inches of my face. I jumped backward from the thing, sliding backwards in the black ichor. I looked in horror at the thing. It was huge, at least three times my size, made of flesh and steel, bulging out from the wall like snake or a growth. It pulsated with the walls and dripped the slime from all the mouths around it. It had huge eyes, I don’t know how many, just chaotically over its rounded front. The eyes all stared at me for the longest time. I’d never seen this thing before, it was like a manifestation of what the walls were just stretched toward me. I was terrified, I didn’t know what it wanted, didn’t know what it could do. With the size of its mouths it could bite off any part of me, or just crush me with its sheer mass, but you can’t do that in a dream, right? It was still a dream, right? Could it… could it kill me… here? I sure as hell didn’t feel like chancing it, I just wanted to get out of here.

That was when it spoke. All the mouths spoke at once in different pitches but the same words. Some voices were all different, some small, some deep, some broken, some raspy. The black would drip out of them every once and again with the words.

“Don’t you like it?” The thing questioned in its many voices.

I tried to look away from it, but all the hands that protruded from the walls pointed back to it. I really didn’t want it to get any closer. It didn’t seem to move when I looked at it. I forced myself to look at the disfigured thing. It twisted its front slightly to one side as if to question.

I dared respond, “I.. I… like what?” I trembled as I stared into the huge inhuman eyes.

“Our music, of course,” The mouths spoke as they all started to turn up in grins. It was even more horrendous when it smiled, oh god why did it have to smile.

“No… no I don’t want to be here, I just want to go home. What are you?” I blurted out, trying to get back up, to jump out of the dream, anything.

“Aww,” the voices groaned as it hung itself lower, never looking away from me. “He said you would like it."

I could feel the final wall behind me. The one I didn’t look at, I sure as hell didn’t want to touch it either so I stopped moving back.

“As for what we are,” the thing smiled again and opened its eyes wider. The legs and arms of the walls started to wiggled and the room’s pulse got faster. “We’re the choir!” The voices almost yelled, and the hands and feet stomped the walls in applause. It should have stopped there. That was a good point for a dream to end right. In dreams this much movement would usually end it, right? But it didn’t.

It wasn’t looking at me anymore as its attention was on the applauding hands. All the movement quickly coated the entire floor with the black ooze that was soaking stickly into my pants and covering my hands.

I asked one more question, I didn’t know if I wanted to hear the answer, but if I was going to be trapped here I might as well. “Who… who said I’d like it?”

The applause stopped dead. The thing twisted unnervingly fast to look at me with wide eyes. Almost instantly it rushed up to me. I thought I would be killed or worse whatever would happen in this place. It stopped a few inches from my face and its mouths all smiled at me.

“Derrik, of course.”

I woke with a jolt. I didn’t throw up this time, though. I just sat up against my headboard with my arms around my knees and shook. My pajamas were drenched in sweat and I just stared at my dark room, not wanting to go back to sleep. Never wanting to sleep again.

High school started, and I inevitably slept. I wasn’t getting as sick anymore. I’d get the normal colds that everyone would get, but that was it. I didn’t have the dream anymore. Life was finally good for me through high school. Since I was able to be at school more I made friends, I did my studies, I’d be able think about my tests instead of what might be there when I slept. Eventually, I even forgot about the dream.

Five years passed, and I was graduating high school. I was happy, my family was happy, even my mother came into town to see me. She and my father had divorced when I was young and since she didn’t have the money to care for me I was taken in by my father.

My friends and family sat among me and in the stands, smiles on their faces at this great day. Our principal spoke into the podium.

“And now, they’ve practiced all year for this. Please welcome! The CCS Choir!”

That word. The memories of the dream started to rush back into my head. I shook my head, trying to stop it. It was a great day, I didn’t want to think about that now. I could see it and could smell it. Then one word. Derrik.

I felt nauseous, luckily we’d already finished going across the stage and would go home shortly. I didn’t pay much attention to the song, my head hurt. The girl next to me asked if I was okay. I forced a smile and told her I was fine. I should be fine, it's not like I was sick, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me.

After they finished, I walked to meet up with my family. That name resonated in my head. Derrik, Derrik, Derrik.

I hugged my family like every other student did, and as I let go of my mom the question slipped out off my tongue.

“Mom, who’s Derrik?”

Her eyes changed, they looked scared like I said a bad word in a public place. She looked around nervously.

“Who told you?” she asked me quietly.

I looked at her confused, “No one told me, I don’t know. Who is he?”

What did she know that would make her act like this, I’d never seen her this way.

She brushed her graying hair to the side and looked toward my father, “Mark, would you mind if I drive him home this time?”

My father nodded, it had been at least four months since she’d seen me so he had no problem with it.

As we drove, just me and her in the car, no one spoke a word. Then she broke the silence.

“You… weren’t an only child,” she mentioned softly, keeping her eyes on the road. I looked over at her.

“You had a fraternal twin,” she took a deep breath to compose herself.

I quietly breathed out the name, “Derrik…”

She nodded, “You and him were really close, you were the perfect brothers, but…” She took a breath before continuing. “When you both were three something happened. Derrik he, he went to bed one night in the bed you two shared and...”

I could see tears starting to well in her eyes. “He just started to scream. We woke up right away to try to help him. His eyes were shut, but he kept screaming, this blood-curdling scream,” she couldn’t hold the tears any longer.

“We tried to wake him, we… we tried everything we could. I had your father take you to our bed and stay with you while I watched over him so you could sleep,” she sobbed. “There was nothing I could do, he wouldn’t respond, he wouldn’t talk, he couldn’t wake up! He just kept screaming!”

She wiped her tears with her sleeve as she continued, “I stayed with him all night, he never stopped. Then at about 5 A.M. he finally did. He made no more sound. no scream, no breath, no pulse.” Her breath quivered, “His heart stopped. The hospital had no idea what happened, they’d never seen it before. His heart just simply stopped...”

She was quiet for a moment after that.

“Things just went worse after that. I lost my job, and your father and I would get into fights. We were upset, we were in mourning, we didn’t get much sleep. You started getting very sick and we just couldn’t bear the thought of losing you too.”

She took a shaking breath to calm herself.

“The only thing we agreed on was to not let you know. You couldn’t take the loss of your brother in your condition, so we did all we could to... erase him. We hid away all of his things in the attic and brought you all new things, whatever you wanted we got you. We never spoke his name and eventually you stopped asking. We would just say things like, ‘oh you must be talking about that movie’ or something whenever you’d talk about him.”

She looked me in the eyes with her own eyes red from tears. “I know it was wrong! But we had to keep you safe. We had to keep you healthy, we couldn’t lose you too,” she sighed. “Eventually, after the lies, the pain, the fighting. Me and your father went our separate ways.”

It was quiet. I didn’t know what I could say. I didn’t know whether to cry or yell or ask something. I had a brother, and he was just gone and I’d never known? “I… I need some time to think,” I said, not looking at her as I left the car to walk into my father's house. What else was hidden from me? Did I really know anything at all?

The next few days of summer I just sat at home. All I could think of was Derrik, who was he and what happened to him? Why did that thing know him? I played some games, but it was just a way to burn time, I was numb. Mourning for the brother I never knew I had.

I layed in bed, just staring at the ceiling. Eventually, sleep took me. It was a familiar dream. I saw the stairs. Those old stairs. I walked down them; I remembered the drill. I was 17 now, I wasn’t scared of things like I used to be when I was young. I knew what was to come. The music box would play. Was that a song I heard when I was a child, what we heard? Once the box started, I kicked it into the wall in rage. It pinged against the metal wall but never broke, just rolled back closer to me.

“Skip the crap Choir! Show your self!” I shouted at the wall. The room shook and the wall bulged outward to meet me. Those eyes and mouths emerged from the sides of the flesh-steel monster and it looked up at me. Its front was as big as my chest now and I wasn’t scared of him anymore.

“What did you do to him!” I shouted, pointing my finger at it. It opened its eyes and looked at me inquisitively while it licked the black sludge off its lips.

“My, my how you’ve grown,” the Choir’s voices spoke.

“Fuck off! I’m not here to play games with you, whatever the fuck you are!” I screamed at it, slamming my hand into the side of it. I can’t explain the feeling as I felt the soft parts of its indent around my hand and the harder parts show resistance. The thing moved to the side from the impact, so clearly it did something.

It turned back to face me with a very different look in its eyes. They had anger in them, not the unnerving wide-eyed happy-like look of usual.

“You should mind your manners, human,” the mouth spoke in a much deeper tone that made the room tremble slightly. I wouldn’t be intimidated by it like I was as a child though, no never again.

“It's my mind, I’ll do what the fuck I want!” I shouted at the monster. Its mouths grinned at me. Then they all burst out laughing. It was an unnerving laugh made of all the voices and echoed in the room while the arms and legs in the walls wiggled in unison.

Then it looked back at me with similar angry eyes.

“I’m afraid you are wrong,” the thing charged into me at an angle, slamming me into the left wall. I felt my body hit against the steel and the wet sludge drip onto my skin from the limbs. I coughed as I lost my breath in the impact. It… hurt. It shouldn’t hurt, this was a dream. The hands on the walls grabbed onto my shoulders, arms and legs pinning me against the wall.

The thing looked me in the eyes with a toothy smile in its mouths, “I won’t kill you, because he’s here, but I will remind you that we will not tolerate your insolence.”

The arm holding my right arm extended, bringing my arm up beside the monster. The arms were too strong to fight against as it pulled me. Then a mouth on the side of the thing extended out and bit into my arm. I yelled in pain. I felt the teeth sink into my skin with little resistance as the black sludge dripped into the wound, causing it to burn like fire. My arm twitched, it was a pain like nothing I’d ever felt, this wasn’t a dream, this was something else. My cocky attitude from before was gone and replaced by a new-found fear. A fear for my life.

I looked into the many eyes of the metal-flesh monster and took a breathe out to recompose myself from the pain in my arm. “Alright… alright. Choir, what happened to my brother,” I asked respectfully of the pulsating mass as to not enrage it further.

The mouths smiled. “Why don’t you ask him?” they all responded and looked toward the back wall. The wall that I never looked at. I slowly turned my head to the wall. I felt the arms holding me loosen their grip and let me move freely.

There was a large steel door. It never pulsed or moved or had hands coming from it. The one solid steel thing here. I would never have thought the one almost normal thing would be the most unnerving, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. The choir was silent, I think it returned into the walls. The door started to slowly creak open, then flung open wide.

All I could see in it was black, but as I looked closer, I could see movement, a lot of movement like hundreds of something moving around. I took a step back. Then a pale white hand grabbed near the bottom of the doorway and guided itself through it. The hand was attached to a tall, gangly humanoid that crawled out of the doorway into the room. It had no hair and I couldn’t see its face as it faced the ground and felt around, moving unnaturally. It stood up. I saw the elongated fingers and toes on its pale skin that wrapped around its deprived slender frame. It was like it hadn’t eaten in its entire life, so unhealthily formed that it shouldn’t even be alive. It turned its face towards me. It towered at least a head taller than I and had a human mouth, if a human mouth was extended four inches into the cheeks. It had no eyes, just smooth pale skin where they should be, like on the rest of its naked, unhealthy-looking body.

The thing twitched and held its arms around its body in an almost hug, danging its hands in front. It spoke in a weak, sickly voice like it had been screaming for a long time before.

“Brother… is that... you?” I started to tremble. No this, this can’t be, how could? I stared in horror and the creature as it twitched and swayed side to side.

I uttered that one word I was most scared would be answered, “D-Derrik?”

The creature smiled huge and unnaturally in its deformed mouth as it slowly twitched and staggered closer to where it heard me.

“It’s… been soooo long… brother,” it rasped, reaching out its elongated hands towards me. “Let me… seee you.”

I kept just out of its reach as it felt around the air for me.

“What… what happened to you, Derrik?” I asked him as I looked in one part horror and one part agonising sympathy for the creature. It followed the sound of my voice and found my shoulders with its hands. I froze, fearing the worst as the tall, gangly creature followed around my arms and chest with its fingers.

“You’ve… gotten… so big,” it wheezed as it moved its hands closer to my head. Its fingers were long enough to wrap from the front of my face to the back of my head, and I had no idea how strong this thing could be. I also didn’t want to startle it in fear of what it could, do so I stayed very still. The wound in my arm still burned.

“The Choir… it took me in…. It always liked my…. voice,” it smiled as it started to run its fingers along my neck, smiling with its oversized pale mouth.

“You… have a strong… throat… probably a strong….. voice... too...” he half whispered. Then he clamped his hand around my throat. I was being strangled and tried to jerk backwards away from him. “You… should… join the choir,” it wheezed as it proceeded to drag me towards to door. I fought to push away from him, but though he was inhumanly bony he was strong. I tried to breathe as I was pulled towards the blackness inside the door. I tried to fight him, tried to hit his arm, but I wasn’t strong enough to beat him. My vision was starting to blur from the lack of air. Was this the end, would I end up just like him, locked away in this hell? Suddenly, the walls shook.

“DERRIK!” the Choir shouted from all the mouths in the walls. The creature dropped me immediately and staggered into the corner of the room, trembling with its elongated arms wrapped around itself. I rubbed my throat and I saw him twitch in the corner, not looking outward, like a child who’d been sent for a time out.

“The Choir cannot use him anymore,” the voices whispered around us.

The creature twitched and shook in the corner, mumbling to himself, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry.”

A hand from the wall grabbed Derrik by the skull, lifting him up into the air. Then with a twist it threw him into the ground in front of the door like a rag doll. He crumpled and slid on the black ichor off a ledge just inside the doorway, disappearing from site. I had no idea if he was still alive, or as alive as whatever he was could be. The door slammed shut.

“Now it's time for you to leave,” the wall's voices spoke in authority, and from nowhere the stairs began to appear over where the door was. I held my injured arm and rubbed my throat as I walked up the steps towards an opening where I just saw light.

Suddenly, I heard the door violently slam open and swing against a wall from beneath the stairs.

“DON’T! LEAVE ME BROTHER!” screamed an inhumanly shrill voice. My blood ran cold as I tried to run up the stairs. I looked back and saw the thing that was once my brother chaotically clambering up the stairs toward me on its hands and feet. I ran up as fast my legs could carry me from the creature and jumped into the light as I heard the sounds of limbs on steps right behind me.

I woke up in my bed, shaking. I knew now, I wish I didn’t. I would have been fine never knowing. I tried to lay back in my bed, but my body felt sore. I felt something wet on my arm. I tried lifting the blankets with my left arm and turned on the lamp on the side of my bed. On my arm were unnatural, bloody, jagged teeth marks.

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