The Station

Contributor: James Wolanyk

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It was just a matter of time until they got him. They were weak, scrawny little things, covered in sores and clambering over one another to get a look at the prey. They gnashed their teeth in mismatched rows and giggled with horrible, slurping fits of joy. It sounded like something was caught in their throats, like undigested meat festered between their jaws.
He had never seen them before, but he was certain they had seen him.
“Believe me, I know it sounds crazy,” he would tell his wife.
For the first few weeks it was funny. She almost thought it was a scare tactic to get the kids in bed. But they were five and six years old, hardly able to stomach the details that he recounted. He spoke of nauseating things.
“And they ate everything. They save the pancreas for last because they can taste the insulin.”
He wished that he could stop hearing their cackling, and the scratching of their paws on the carpet and between the walls, and especially the screeching and thumping when they cannibalized one of their own. They were hungry, and there were hundreds of them.
“They said that my corpse could feed them for years,” he trembled that night, burying his face in the blankets as his wife lay beside him. He couldn’t turn off the light. They were there.
Darkness was where they thrived. Their best chance to get him was when he stared at the pallid glow of a computer screen. They circled in the blackness of his peripheral vision like coyotes, disguised by the light, waiting until his bloodshot eyes snapped toward them before they retreated. They would skitter along the ceiling and in the fridge.
He had to shower with his eyes open.
“I can’t take my shirt off,” he whispered, his back pressed to the sink. He grabbed his wife’s shoulders. “Every time you close your eyes, they get closer. They never sleep.”
Standing outside with his gun didn’t do anything. They waited in the shadows just beyond the porch light’s watchful gaze, snickering, taunting him to wander into their domain. He swore that beady black eyes caught the glimmer of the moon every so often, like droplets of ink among the night. Squirrels and stray dogs screamed out when the creatures became hungry.
When he ran on the treadmill, they lurked in the nooks and crannies of the basement, listening to the wheezing of the machine and the exhausted gasps of their prey. They crawled behind boxes of antiques and discarded lamps. They rummaged through trash-bags full of old toys and tore apart dolls in hopes of finding one made out of flesh.
“I don’t know how much longer we can keep this up,” he sobbed that night.
She took the children and left for her sister’s house – it was a hundred miles off, and he hoped she could make it there.
Rain streaked down the window panes. He waited in the bathroom with his shaving razor and a towel, unable to do anything but hit his head against those tiles. Nothing could overpower their laughter. The vents and ducts rattled with their presence. They tapped on windows and sliced glass with their jagged nails. Crawling, biting, snapping creatures with a constant hunger. He was safe within his bleach-white fortress.
He wasn’t the first to fall, and he wouldn’t be the last.
Thunder rattled the house.
“Please don’t,” he said.
More laughter.
“I’m begging you, please. Just stop.”
All at once, it ended. The pitter-patter of their nails against metal and wood faded away. Their giggles and shrieks disappeared. Beady eyes gave way to the night once more.
He stepped out of the bathtub. For a moment he stood still, listening, praying that their fun had run its course. It was done.
Tap-tap-tap. He undid the door locks, all seven of them, and wandered into the hallway.
It was quiet once more.
Something fizzled. Something popped and whined, and blackness filled the house. Thunder shook the floorboards. It was the first time in years that the power had gone out.
It was also the last time.

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