Black Petals Issue #91, Spring, 2020

Everything Echoes
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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Hole in the Somewhere-Fiction by Richard Brown
Everything Echoes-Fiction by Todd M. Guerra
Exit to Dove's Tail-Fiction by Ken Goldman
I Dream of Fire-Fiction by Matthew Penwell
Living Doll-Fiction by Carl Hughes
Angelika's Tough Decision-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Cat-Fiction by Chris Alleyne
The Demon-Fiction by Misty Page
The Run-Fiction by Thomas Runge D'Amore
We Are the Monsters We Seek-Fiction by Karen Heslop
Brother of Mine-Flash Fiction by D. C. Plump
New Terror-Flash Fiction by Denis Alvarez Betancourt
The Flapping Thing-Flash Fiction by Robert Masterson
The Clown Loved Cherry Lipstick-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Ganymede-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Space Probe RH 120-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Buffoon-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Just Another Day in My House-Poem by Tom Davidson
Blue Bell Hill Beast-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Plum Island-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Thing in the Woods-Poem by Loris John Fazio

91_bp_everythingechoes_aknott.jpg
Art by A. F. Knott 2020

Everything Echoes
By Todd M Guerra

He wakes up, shaken out of slumber by the same dream that has been haunting him for the past three weeks. The basement of some old building; lit sporadically with some old form of neon lights, adding a sickly green glow to the walls. The hallways are lined with doors, one door after another, seemingly endless. He follows them along the corridor which bends at a ninety degree angle every fifty feet or so, the third and final section painted a deep red with various indecipherable scratchings. He reaches the end: a large room, at least seemingly large; the lights are out here. He can see the outline of the doorway and reaches into his pocket for his lighter. Flick. Flick. Flick. No flame springs forth from the lighter, and the mystery of what is in the room remains. He doesn’t know what’s in there, but he knows it’s not good and yet…

He needs to know.

He wakes up next to his wife, Elizabeth. Wonderful, sweet Elizabeth. The night air is cold, and he swears he can almost see his breath. He gets out of bed to use the bathroom and takes a peek into his sons’ room. They are both asleep, Mark and Michael, their snores almost in rhythm. He is comforted by the sight of their sleeping faces, but he’s suddenly anxious and can’t place why. He feels like someone is watching him, but a quick glance around the room reveals nothing. He decides to check on his daughters and makes his way to the other side of the house. He stands in the doorway of their room; they are also asleep but do not have the snoring problem that his sons do. His oldest, Riley, has left her reading light on again as she is known to do. He hears a voice telling him to come in, steps into the room, and makes his way towards the light. He doesn’t recognize the voice (but at the same time he does) and as he’s not the lightest stepper, he accidentally wakes up his younger daughter, Joanna.

“Love you, Dad.” She says, without opening her eyes.

“Love you too, honey.” He turns off the light.

What is in that room?

#

He wakes up in the basement again. The sickly green walls greet him, the doors mock him and he’s even beginning to pick up a smell to the place. It isn’t a pleasant smell, somewhere between rot and sweat. He is growing tired of this dream, but also growing accustomed to it. He follows the path he’s become too familiar with, but this time pauses shortly before the final turn into the red hallway. He wonders if one of these doors leads to a way out. He pulls on one knob, it feels sticky and wet, locked. He moves onto the next one, also locked. The third door is locked as well but jiggles more than the other two. He gives this one a good tug, the wood holding it shut breaks loose and a body wrapped in plastic falls out and onto him. He screams, but the sound is absorbed by the walls. He pushes the body off and screams again when he recognizes the plastic-covered face as his own. Elizabeth’s voice appears and echoes around the basement, she sounds concerned and calls out for him over and over again. He answers every time, but his calls refuse to penetrate the walls of the basement. She doesn’t hear him and continues to call for him. He runs frantically down the hallway trying each door as he passes them, but none of them open.  He notices that the last door before the red hallway is distinctively different than the rest. He stops running and stares at this one, noticing scratches running down it. There are a half dozen locks on this door, and a crude drawing towards the bottom. He puts his hand up to touch the scratches as Elizabeth continues calling for him, she sounds like she’s weeping now. His heart almost stops when he realizes the scratches match up with his fingers. Elizabeth cries out again, wondering what he’s done. He screams again, and again his scream hits the walls and falls dead to the floor. He follows it down and begins to weep, holding his head in his hands. From this angle he recognizes the drawing on the door: it is a rough outline of his house.

He wakes up in his recliner while a Real Housewives of Wherever episode plays in the background. Elizabeth is sitting on the couch staring at the TV but not actually watching it. He calls out to her but it is ignored. He wonders what he’s done to piss her off this time and gets up to go work in the garage on one of his projects. He hollers for Mark to come and join him and gets no response. He figures he must be out with his friends or playing a video game or something and pays no mind to it. He enters the garage but can’t remember what it was he was working on last, his pile of projects looms over him like a thousand-year-old tree. It seems like too much to ever finish, too much to even start; he wonders why he keeps adding to it. There is a picture hanging up above his workbench of his youngest. He was the son he and Elizabeth didn’t think they’d have. They thought they were done after the first three, but God had other plans and ten years after their third child was born, along came Michael.

Come in.

He chooses to ignore the voice (so, so familiar…he can almost place it) and realizes that he misses Michael, but he can’t pinpoint why. The garage suddenly feels like a prison; the windows cease to exist, and the walls feel closer than they did a minute ago. He wants nothing more than to escape this room and—

Come in here, there’s no walls in here.

He screams for someone, anyone to hear him. He can’t even hear himself scream and—

I hear you.

The voice is getting louder and harder to ignore. He runs to the door and nearly rips it from the hinges as he makes his escape from the garage, once back inside the house he sees that Elizabeth hasn’t moved an inch and the house feels cold, feels empty.

He can relate.

It’s not empty in here. Come in. (he sounds almost desperate)

Who. The. Fuck. Is. That? (it’ll come to you)

He looks around the house for the children but all he finds are notes that they’ve left and will be back later. He tries to call his one of his friends, but it goes to voicemail. He feels something in the pit of his stomach, some feeling that has been nagging him for a while but hasn’t fully revealed itself yet. There is a plate sitting in front of his seat at the dinner table and as he sits down he realizes what the feeling in his stomach is.

He starts to look forward to bedtime.

#

He wakes up in the basement again. It’s starting to feel like he’s been having this dream for his entire life. He knows the layout by now, there is no need to rush so he takes his time walking through the first hallway, checking it out in detail. This section has a number of doors that are either missing or half open, but none of them lead anywhere (there) and he realizes these are storage rooms. He looks in as he walks by, the first one is full of random children’s toys. Nothing recent, they appear to be all from the mid to late eighties. The next open door has light coming out of it and he feels a tinge of excitement until he looks inside; a movie is playing, one of those grainy Super 8 films. He recognizes it as a Christmas from his childhood. More specifically: a Christmas Eve. They were at his mother’s house in the film, his family. He watches the film and sees his children opening presents and laughing and thanking whoever gave them that one. God, how he missed them. He feels a tingle at the back of his neck and turns around to find nothing there. A faint laughter begins at the end of this hallway and echoes its way towards him.

Get over here.

The voice. The laughter grows louder and is joined by a guttural sound as if the source was starting to choke on something.

Come on, I don’t have all night. (we’ve been doing this forever)

This is new, he’s never laughed before. The laughter grows in volume and it—

Laugh, choke. Laugh, choke. Laugh, choke. Choke, choke, choke. Laugh, laugh, laugh. What’s so goddamn funny? Come into the goddamn room. YOU NEED TO COME IN.

—was almost deafening now; he screams for it to stop but his mouth can’t produce sound now. He thrashes around, kicking everything he sees, hoping (but knowing) something (none of these) ends up being the source of the laughter (good luck with that).

Suddenly everything goes silent. He realizes he is drenched in sweat and starts to run towards the first corner. He’s thankful that the laughter has gone away, but that fades quickly when he realizes that his footsteps don’t make a sound either. He turns the corner and stops immediately as he sees Joanna at the end of the hallway in chains, violently shaking and screaming.

Only there is no sound.

He screams (silently) that he is coming to save her and runs as fast as he can. He sees a shadow creeping in from the third hallway, something is coming. He runs and runs, as fast as he can, but doesn’t seem to be making any progress; it’s as if he’s running on a treadmill, but without the mechanical whir. She’s crying now, and blood is running down her arms from the struggling against her chains. He yells silently again, he’s coming. Hold on. He’ll be there. His lungs burn as he keeps running and failing to reach her, and he watches helplessly as five dark fingers envelope her and her face contorts in pain. Tears stream down his face as he watches his little girl ripped apart by the shadow of claws. Suddenly he’s able to make progress towards her but with each step the shadow rips another piece away.

He finally reaches her just as the last piece of Joanna is taken by the shadow. He reaches out to grab what’s left and slips on the viscera left behind, and sound comes rushing back as he slams into the wall behind her. He falls to his knees, overwhelmed by the sound of fluorescent buzz and the beating of his heart. He looks up to see the source, the shadow, a dark figure, eating chunks of his daughter but the hallway is too dark to get a good look at it. He can’t tell how much of her is left; the floors are painted the same color as the walls. It’s all red.

Deep.

Bright.

Red.

As he loses consciousness a familiar sound taunts him: the voice is chuckling, and he can’t wait to see him.

#

He wakes up in his house again, this time back in his bed. He gets up and leaves his bedroom to find his family screaming at each other. The sound is deafening. The furniture is all missing from the house, so their voices reverberate around the house and he can’t even tell who is saying what. Something feels off here, but he can’t place what it is. Someone is missing. Joanna. How could he have (RIPPED) forgotten about her (APART)? His wife sits cross-legged on the ground as the children go about things seemingly unaware of her. One kicks the wall while yelling something, another walks aimlessly around the room staring at the ground and the third has their hands reaching towards the sky. He cannot hear what they are saying and can’t tell who is doing what, just that they are there and no one sees him and no one is happy, this is not how happy people act.

Are they crying? He can’t tell. He feels like he should care if they are crying.

Everything is out of focus and he feels the tingling on the back of his neck again. He turns around to see the dark figure from the basement in his house, arms open, beckoning him. He turns back to his family, wishing he could go to them. A phrase begins to become clear in the cacophony, repeating over and over again.

Come back.

He turns back to the figure. A low rumbling comes from it, a rumbling that begins to sound like words, words that are also repeating.

Come in.

Oh, it’s you. There you are.

#

He wakes up in the basement, surprise, surprise. He’s not doing this again.

No. No. No. No. No. No.

Yes.

No.

Yes.

Nonononononono.

Yesyesyesyesyes.

This is exhausting.

Yes it is.

You’re not getting me.

Yes, I am.

(RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPED APART. REMEMBER THAT?)

#

He wakes up at home.

Is it home?

The house is mostly empty. Other than the dinner table, there is nothing but ashes now. Ashes, or snow. He decides it doesn’t matter as he takes his seat and stares at the dinner plate left out for him. It’s empty. (that seems fitting)

It’s snowing inside the house. But, if it’s ashes, do you say it’s “ashing?” He decides that doesn’t really matter, either. Ashes or snow, it’s cold in here and he’s alone with an empty plate for dinner.

Alone. He can’t figure out if he’s happy about that or not.

She was ripped apart because of you.

Imagine what happened to the other ones. (I’d rather not)

He notices something on the plate. Something red. A tiny dot, which quickly grows in size. Then another. And another. Something red is dropping onto the plate. Nothing but snow/ash is falling and yet drops are landing on the plate and picking up speed at an alarming rate.

He knows what this is. The real question is where is it coming from, but as soon as he asks he loses control of his body and his head slams into his dinner, breaking the plate.

Such a shame, that plate was a wedding present.

#

He wakes up back in the basement again, though unlike the previous times he is already in the red hallway. He turns to his left to go back to the other hallways but finds a wall. There is now only one. This isn’t the only thing that’s different, the lights are brighter this time around, he can see the entire hallway. It’s definitely red.

Deep.

Bright.

Red.

The walls are red. The ceiling is red. The floor is red, though the floor is a darker shade. The doors are all gone. There is just the hallway, now.

And the room.

The hallway is illuminated, up until the doorway to the room at the end.

Come in.

He knows who is in that room. There’s no tingle on the back of his neck this time. No one is watching him anymore. Or, rather, they are…but from the room. From in front of him now.

Come in.

He takes a step forward.

Elizabeth’s voice begins to echo around the hallway. She is telling someone about him. He wasn’t sure who, and her voice keeps cutting out. The echoes come quickly and repeatedly, which makes it even harder to understand what she was saying.

He takes another step forward and the echoes stop; her voice became clear as day.

I miss him.

He pauses. What was he doing?

Come in.

He takes another step forward and one of his son’s voice begins to echo around the hallway.

I need you, Daddy. (me?)

He stops. It’s too bright in here. Too RED. The red feels like it’s burning his skin. His son screams and the sound is abruptly torn away. (was that Mark?)

It’s cold out there. Come in, please. (I’m tired)

He takes another step. (I think that was Michael, it’s so hard to tell)

I can’t do this without you, Dad. (You don’t need me)

This time it’s his daughter. He has trouble placing which one until he sees the stain on the floor. He is overcome with sadness as visions of her (BEING RIPPED APART) floods his mind.

Or was that Riley? (it’s so hard to tell)

You won’t have to think about that in here. Come in. Hurry.

He takes another step forward and it feels like he’s caught fire. The darkness at the end of the hallway is practically pulling him in now, he takes another three steps forward. He is close. 

Come home. (I thought I was)

He falls onto one knee, as if he were genuflecting.

Come in.

He looks up to see the dark room, he was only a step or two away now.

Come home.

All that was left was the room, there was nowhere else to go. The echoes of his family’s voices begin to fade, they were behind him now. He looks at the doorway to the room, the darkness inviting him to join it; he feels the relief coming out of it in waves. It’s blissful, it feels like relief, like joy, like—

Like the first time he kissed Elizabeth.

Come home. (I am)

He stands up. (am I?)

Come home. (she is my home, they are my home, why aren’t I home?)

He takes another step forward.

Yes, yes, you’re almost here. You’re going to love it in here.

He takes a look behind him before he enters the room. The hallway is still there, but something has changed. (I don’t know where home is anymore)

Come home.

What is different?

Come in. You have to.

There’s something at the other end of the hallway.

Don’t kid yourself. You’re going to enter this room whether you like it or not.

He knows this. What is at the other end of the hallway? It looks almost like—

Come on. You belong in here with me.

It’s—

Come home, please.

Yes, that’s it. That’s what it is.

Enough. It’s time to join me.

He takes another step.  

End.





Todd M. Guerra is a longtime writer who will take this thing seriously one of these days. He is, as Doctor Octopus once described Peter Parker, 'brilliant, but lazy.' He lives in Dayton, Ohio with his wife, children and way too many pets.