Prompt: You’re a private investigator, someone has paid you to keep tabs on their teenage son after noticing increasingly strange behavior from him, what you find out is… disturbing.
“Disturbing behavior, how?” I ask Mr and Mrs Green, sitting at their kitchen table. Morning light falls through the small window over the sink.
“Well, you see…” Mrs Green starts, but Mr Green lays a hand over hers and she quiets.
“He’s been talking, a lot,” Mr Green says, “but to no one. Not like an imaginary friend when he was young.”
Jot that info into my notepad. “So he’s just talking in an empty room?”
“Yes,” he says, nodding. “Standing, usually, and just talking. It’s not English, though, not any language we know of.” Mrs Green shakes her head, looks down at her lap.
“What’s it sound like, this language?”
“Spanish, maybe, or French or Latin… Something very old.”
“All right, and is he home, your son?” I close the pad, slip the pen through the top rings, and slide it into my pocket.
“Uh huh,” Mrs Green says. “He always is… Upstairs in his room.”
They start to stand but I put out a halting hand. “No need to get up. I don’t want it to seem like an attack. I’ll be respectful, okay?”
Both sit and nod. Mrs Green mouths: “Thank you.”
I stand at the kid’s closed door, ear against the wood. Quiet, but subtle whispering… Familiar gibberish. Fast and mumbling. Can’t make out one word from another, if they’re words at all. Nothing like any of the languages Mr Green said. But I figured as much, knew what I was getting into before I even knocked on their door. The PI bit ol’ reliable in these situations.
Wrap my warm hand around the cold doorknob.
What’s in there isn’t their son; hasn’t been their son in a long while. Years, maybe. They descended eons ago, slumbering away millenniums until recently deciding to wake up. Take initiative by swapping out kids insides for their own amorphous form. Kid’s not the first, not the last either. Without looking, I can see the dozens of addresses and phone numbers in my notepad from all the other parents I’ve yet to check out.
Turn the knob.
Push it open and frost stings all open skin. What once was their son stands among ice stalagmites nestled between harsh gray-blue fungi spiraling from unseen crevices. Icicles interwoven with honey spores hang from the ceiling. His white eyes empty, jaw torn asunder, revealing an maw of frayed layers whirling down into somewhere far too small. At the needlepoint bottom, something opens, something sickly yellow and green lightyears away takes a gander at my ugly mug.
I withdraw the skin-bound book from my back pocket, the rune-laced stave from the other.
Greet it in the same language not meant for human tongue, and step inside.
I don’t close the door behind me, but it closes anyway.
Read the previous prompt, “Fodder For the Flames”
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