Bathed in the Light of it [A Short Horror Story]
The steady mechanical whir of the handheld industrial vacuum cleaner bellowed out from within Vincent’s shaking, thickly encased right hand. The sound and the power of the thing was enormous. As it roared, it slurped and gobbled, ingesting every moment great torrents of that vicious, dully glowing filth and slime. To Vincent, of course, this monumental uproar was merely a delicate hum - the brunt of the violent clamor being subdued readily by the thick, orange hazmat suit that encapsulated his entire body.
From the small, semi-translucent boxed out screen set in front of Vincent’s watery, bloodshot eyes, he could barely make out his companion moving slowly through the gracefully flowing muck that lay all around them. Globbing and bubbling all across itself, just beneath their heavily insulated, thick orange feet; the strange, dull ochre slime oozed and frothed enthusiastically - hissing and spluttering before the two men's eyes, great torrents of steam gusting forth from the larger bubbles when they finally rose to high and exploded.
Suddenly, the intercom device within Vincent's helmet crackled alive, and the familiar, buttery voice of his interim companion burst forth in its usual, excitable style.
“Holy shit, Vince. If this isn’t hell, I don’t know what is. How you doin’?”
“Doing alright, Craig,” Vincent responded, and after a brief moment. “And this is Purgatory, bud.” He said, cracking an unseen smile, and a wink. “Hell don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Sure, sure, Vince…” Craig trailed off, a steady display of static crackling over the silent, live air. Until finally. “But do we?”
Just as those words had passed over into Vincent's suit, the machine in his hand suddenly kicked. Bucking and sputtering smoke, the vacuum shook with the sudden excess load of delicately radiating slime and muck that had managed to flow subversively into its open and welcoming nozzled end.
“Fucking Hell!” Vincent roared, mashing the large, green button on side of the device boldly labeled ‘emergency pressure release’ wildly with his thickly encapsulated left palm. As he hit it, the device gave a morbid groan, before sputtering one final bout of tarry smoke, and continuing to whir.
“Is that something they do in purgatory, then, Vince?” The delicate crackle of Craig's smooth, butyraceous voice eliminated throughout Vincent’s cylindrical, bright orange plastic helmet one more time, a dim chuckle clearly hiding somewhere behind the surface of his words. “Try and blow your Goddamn hands off?” He finished with his ubiquitously curtained smile.
“Well, maybe not.” Vincent slowly responded, his ragged, dry voice sounding someone muffled in his own ears. “But what they do, do… is eventually let you out.”
“The consummate optimist, eh Vincent?” Came Craig's crackling again. As he turned his whole body as to get a better look at his determined companion.
“It is what it is, my man,” Vincent answered back, his head turned low, him seemingly determined to perfect his sucking technique. “We did what we did, and now, we have to pay for it.”
“But like this?” Craig exploded back, the static from the speaker unit next to Vincent’s head momentarily setting his teeth on edge.
“Hey.” Vincent returned somberly. “You signed up for this shit, just like we all did.” Vincent looked suddenly towards his companions back, the stark black letters spelling out that familiar moniker, Alabama County Corrections, standing out in brilliant contrast against the orange plastic hazmat suit on which they were drawn. “I’m just glad for the company.” He continued quickly, looking suddenly down and away from Craig’s violently orange, thick plastic back. “I just hope that you being here now, doesn’t mean that up there, it’s getting worse.” Vincent aimed his thumb quickly at the ceiling above them as he spoke.
“Oh, I’m sure it is, pal.” Craig returned cheerfully, the static from the speaker weaving itself in and out from between his airy, lighthearted words. “But hey.” He continued in that odd, almost chipper tone. “At least you’re almost done, right?” Vincent grunted a response, wondering if he had mentioned before how long he had been down here? “What’s left, three weeks?”
Caught off guard, Vincent responded in truth. “Three weeks.” He confirmed, still flabbergasted by how Craig could have known. “Did one of the guards tell you or somethi-?” But before he could finish, Craig was already cutting him off. “Man, three weeks to go. You must be going crazy right about now, huh bud?” Craig had turned to look at Vincent now, that glossy, waxen film in front of his eyes nearly giving way to reveal the visage of the man held within. “You were in Kilby for decades, weren’t you?” Craig scoffed and turned back around as he said it. “You must be fucking clamoring to get this bid done.”
All at once, Vincent began to laugh. The sound of it was strange and muffled within his thick, orange encasement, but God did it feel good. How long has it been, since he had laughed like this? He did not know, but man did he enjoy it. Stifling a small, wet cough, he smiled. “You better Goddamn believe it, Craig.” Was all that he bothered to say.
“So what the Hell is this stuff, anyway?” Craig asked out of the blue, the vacuum in his heavily gloved hand whining and chugging as did. Vincent laughed, nonplussed by the absurdity of the question. “Boy, how do you not know?” Vincent roared back, a hacking cough blurting forth as he yelled. Vincent cleared his throat delicately and then continued. “You didn’t read the brochure, or bother to ask any fucking questions?” Vincent’s mouth was agape in bewildered amusement, as he stared vaguely in the direction of the man.
“Hell, I’m a fucking lifer, guy. Just like you.” Craig shouted back, the speaker by Vincent's ear hissing uncomfortably as he spoke. “All I had to see were those cots, and the line that said three months until freedom, and I was sold and signing, baby.”
Vincent only smiled. He supposed it made sense. It’s not like his decision had changed - from the first moment that he had heard about the program when they blasted it over the intercom, back in the prison yard - to the day he finally got ahold of the contract, and he read what it was exactly that they really wanted him to do.
“It’s waste,” Vincent called back finally, a soft touch of incredulous wonder still lingering in the depths of his gruff, strangely muffled voice. Stifling another small, wet cough, he continued. “Nuclear waste.” He finished, with a brief, involuntary groan.
“Well, that explains that!” Craig called back cheerfully, as he guzzled up another heaping portion of the softy glowing, brown, mud-like slime with gusto.
Vincent could only shake his head and wonder. What had he thought the damn suits were for then? But before he could ask him, an alarm sounded - somewhere high above their heavily encased, orange plastic heads. Red lights began to shine all around them, and as if all at once, there was a new voice booming out in Vincent’s already addled, thoroughly discombobulated head.
“There has been an emergency!” The voice boomed, clear and piercing as a bell, rung high out in the dead still of a sleeping night. “Evacuate the area at once!”
“Oh fuck.” Vincent groaned immediately, looking desperately around himself, and finally pinpointing the door. “Come on, Craig, the door’s here!” He shouted, coughing and spluttering wildly as he did. “Craig?” He shouted again. But somehow, the man was nowhere to be found.
“There has been an emergency!” Boomed the loudspeaker again. “Evacuate the area at once!”
“Oh fuck,” Vincent muttered under his breath, and looked around himself one last time, shouting his companions name as he wheeled. Until finally, he just ran.
The smooth press of the electrically powered contamination room doors slid thuddingly closed behind Vincent as he began to immediately throw the thick, orange plastic HAZMAT suit from his ragged and time-worn limbs. As he disrobed, that tangled web of nozzles that hovered just above him began to spray, cleansing him, and the air around him diligently as it’s mist began to cover the entirety of the small, stark white room.
As the program finally finished, the doors on the other side of the cube suddenly slid open, revealing behind them about half a dozen men, each of them wearing their own thick, plastic suits, and wielding strange, gun-like devices - each with a generous, rubber tube leading from their aft, to a canister held on each of the rubber men's substantial, thoroughly protected backs.
Vincent watched them cautiously as they stood there, staring wide-eyed at the gruesome sight that had been now placed before them. The man was thin and ghastly. This pallid expression was underscored by the delicate sheen of misted red specks that clung softly to his hollow cheeks and danced openly upon his prematurely graying eyebrows and beard. His skin was paper thin, gaunt and peeling. His hair, losing itself from his scalp even as they stared in horror, in great, tumultuous tufts. His eyes were a burnt, misty crimson - so bloodshot that they were nearly drowning to the point of absolution. As they stared at him, he suddenly started - brought forth all at once from the stupefied daze that he had been set to tarry within.
“Wait!.” Vincent shouted, his eyes wide and full of manic pain. He held out his hands in front of him, pleadingly as he shouted again. “Wait!” He pointed back towards the doors. “He’s still in there!” He screamed, nearly throwing himself at the double doors as he bellowed. “We have to get him out.”
The small party dazed in horror as he continued, flailing his emaciated limbs one after the next against the thick, durable metal of the clean rooms shimmering, double doors. As Vincent flailed, a great whooping explosion echoed forth from within his delicate, nigh ruined lungs. As if by the work of some unseen apparition, a brilliant, crimson streak suddenly appeared across the surface of those shining, metal double doors.
“Burn him. Now!” A female’s voice ordered markedly from behind the small squadron of men.
The flames were brilliant and devastating. Like the breath of some great, wicked dragon - bent on the destruction of man, more concerned with his untimely demise than even with his own hoards of treasure and gold. The torrents of fire arched and roared across the small, clandestine room, filling it up - entirely.
When they were done, Vincent was gone. Every trace of him, the suit, his bones... Even his teeth had simply melted to powder under the devastating power of the flames.
“It’s getting stronger.” One of the still suited men mumbled, more to himself even than to his murderous comrades, as he stifled a small, brief cough.
They all look around.
“I mean Christ.” The man spoke again, untroubled by the feeling of their gaze as it stabbed itself determinedly into his dense, thickly rubbered bright blue back “Did you see his eyes?”
Image found on Pixabay.com
The story you just read was written by me, Matthew Munsey @matthewmunseyart
This is the second edition of both of these pieces, hopefully finally error free for your reading pleasure!