You may remember a while ago I wrote a horror story on Twitter that went a bit viral. It’s this one:
You guys know I’m also a martial arts instructor, huh. I’ve been running my classes online during this pandemic. But something weird has happened.
— Alan Baxter (@AlanBaxter) April 8, 2020
Well, I wrote another one. This didn’t go quite as popular as the last one, then again these things rarely do. But so that it doesn’t get lost in the annals of past Twitter, I’m archiving it here on my blog again. I’ve transcribed it below, or you can read it on Twitter following the tweet thread as I originally wrote it:
We had a zoom meeting/class today, all the senior international instructors. It was good, some people up late at night, some up first thing in the a.m. But then something weird happened.
— Alan Baxter (@AlanBaxter) May 17, 2020
We had a zoom meeting/class today, all the senior international instructors. It was good, some people up late at night, some up first thing in the am. But then something weird happened.
I was in my study at home, some were in their schools, others in their lounge rooms, bedrooms, etc.
One guy, J, was somewhere in his house that just had a plain white wall behind him and a small window to his left. It was early where he was in Europe, so the window was bright with morning sun.
As we were chatting and going through some moves, I saw something on the wall behind J. A kind of dark set of wriggling lines. I paused, moved closer to my screen to check, but it was gone.
We carried on, then I saw it again. I wondered if it was a spider running in and out of shot from above.
I stopped and stared at it. Bigger now. It was about the size of child’s open hand. I moved closer again for a better look. It wasn’t spider.
Maybe a bit like a sea anemone, only with really thin appendages, and it kind of writhed. And it was jet black. If it wasn’t moving, it would be easy to mistake for a weird crack in the paintwork.
“Hey Al,” one of the others said. “You okay?”
I realised I’d been staring hard at J’s screen, so all they saw was my intense close-up.
I glanced around at the others – about a dozen of us were there – and they had all paused, confused looks on their faces.
“Sorry,” I said. “Hey, J, what’s that on the wall behind you?”
But as I said it, looking back to J’s tile on my screen, I couldn’t see it any more.
He looked behind himself anyway, of course, then back. “I see nothing,” he said. What could I do? “No worries,” I said. “It’s gone.”
Maybe it was a weird resolution glitch or something.
We got back to it, and I tried not to pay too close attention to J’s screen. Then I saw it again. I ignored it a while, but it persisted. So dark it was somewhere beyond black, gently undulating its dozens of filament arms.
“There!” I said, unable to stand it any longer. Just looking at the thing made me feel… uncomfortable. “J, behind you now!”
He frowned, and turned around. But the way he moved put him between the camera and the thing on the wall, and I couldn’t see it any more. When he turned back it was gone.
He shook his head, giving me a look. “Very funny, brother horror writer! Stop trying to freak me out.”
“Sorry, dude,” I said. “I really saw something though.”
We carried on and the thing came back. I didn’t see it appear, but suddenly it was there again. I ignored it, resisted the urge to say anything. From the corner of my eye, I saw it wriggling gently, like hair in a soft current.
I tried to continue ignoring it, but it started to grow. By the time it was at least as big as a side plate, the long, writhing filaments reaching out from the wall behind J, I couldn’t bear it any more. “Behind you, J!”
He made an annoyed face. “Enough, please! We’re trying to train here.”
He didn’t turn around and it kept growing, the size of a dinner plate now, the tendrils maybe a foot long, questing out across the space between itself and J.
“Can’t the rest of you see anything?” I asked, getting agitated now. How could it be a digital glitch? But what the hell was it?
A dozen frowning faces looked back at me. Some of them leaned closer, I guess trying to get a good look, but the thing was so obvious, the size of a car wheel now, and protruding forward from the wall.
The tendrils began thickening and whipping more urgently, wrapping around each other, then flaring out again.
The rest of the people watching made confused faces or shook their heads. How could they not see it? “You okay, Al?” one asked. “Too much whisky, eh?” another said.
“J,” I said, “Please turn around, man. Just look!”
His shoulders slumped and he rolled his eyes. “Fine!” And he turned around. He was looking right at it, the thing was so big I could see it all around him.
The thickening, frantic arms strained forward for him. There could only be a few inches between the tips of them and J’s face.
He raised his arms to either side and shook his head, then turned back to face his camera.
“Al, you’re not funny,” he said, just as several of the reaching tendrils wrapped over his head and around his neck.
The reaction was instant.
Everyone watching jerked back from their screens, eyes and mouths wide. They all started talking over one another and pointing, but I couldn’t make out any words over J’s screams.
The night-black tendrils wrapped tight around his head and neck, slid over his shoulders and around his chest. He slapped and clawed at them.
The light from the window to his left illuminated that side and showed them to be glossy, almost oily.
Everyone was shouting and moving frantically left and right, in an attempt to do something, anything. But we were all thousands of kilometres apart, different countries, on different continents. And J just kept screaming.
The black appendages tightened, we saw his skin depress with their contraction, squeezing the flesh white. Then they covered his face further and some tips disappeared into his mouth. His screams became gargles, then gags, then silent, desperate struggling.
J rose up, lifted from the ground and carried backwards. I’d been so focussed on his struggles I hadn’t noticed the main mass of the thing had grown to cover most of the wall.
As it dragged J back into itself, his struggles weakening, the spread continued, getting faster. As it began to cover the window, the morning sunlight was blocked.
After a few seconds, J’s tile in the meeting was a silent black rectangle. And we all sat staring at it, trapped in lockdown, continents apart, unable to do a thing.