By Jamie Grefe
Floyd and I had unloaded the last of the furniture from the van into the garage, thirsty . . . oblivious. The returned tables, lamps, and chairs were stacked in the far corner, right where she had told us to put them. There was a door in there, led inside. I grabbed the key from under the mat, where she told us it would be. We were itching for that complimentary drink. It wasn’t everyday that you could enter your boss’s home when she wasn’t there.
“Freshly squeezed lemonade in the fridge, boys,” she had told us, “help yourselves when you’re through with the load.”
It was a beautiful house, clean, but stunk--sour milk or bad eggs. We should have turned back right then and there. How were we to know, though?
“Probably the old hag’s dirty laundry,” Floyd said. “That or her leftovers.”
“I hope it’s not her lemonade.”
Down the hall was the kitchen. All of the cupboards were white. I grabbed two plastic cups from the dish rack by the sink, Floyd went to the refrigerator for the lemonade pitcher. The refrigerator door opened. Floyd must have swung it wide on his way down. Just like that, he was skittering backward on his elbows, pushing away, and pointing at the fridge.
That’s when I saw it, too--can almost still see it now.
It was a fleshy ball of earlobes, eyelids, puckered lips, and fingers all blotched together in a ball. The fingers, thin and pink, curled down, dangled from the middle rack, each one tipped by a clear, sharp nail. The thing huffed slow like it was sleeping or something. Eyes shot open.
“What the--,” but Floyd would never finish that question. It happened quick. I dropped the blue cups to the floor, heard them bounce, skid around my feet. The thing was chomping on Floyd’s face, gnawing, digging into him, while his whole body shook and writhed. It was snarling, biting . . . and those nails . . . I couldn't help it, started to cry.
I grabbed a kitchen knife from the dish rack. Flustered, didn’t know what to do, threw myself on top of Floyd, shut my eyes and let my arms go to work, stabbing up and down, harder . . . harder. When I snapped out of it, the only thing I could see was the knife sticking out of Floyd’s mangled face. What was left of his face was broken with bloody holes, torn skin, flesh-puddle of goop. The thing was gone.
I scrambled to my feet, and there it was--the other one.
I felt lunch lurch up my throat, took steps back, skin prickling. The thing was seven or eight times the size of what was in the fridge. It was ambling down the hall, a flabby mass of plump toes, a giant blob of fat, covered in curly brown hair. Some kind of wild animal, I thought, or worse.
My back slammed into the open fridge, must have bumped that lemonade pitcher too hard. It slipped down beside me and spilled all over the floor. I couldn't stop screaming, gripped the knife like a sword. The hairy thing pounced almost all of it’s body on Floyd’s chest--those toes, hair like fuzzy feelers, sniffing at his remains. Then it came out of his mouth.
Three long fingers rose from Floyd’s open mouth. The little thing had been rooting around inside his skull. That heap of earlobes, lips, eyes, and fingers, slid up, stretching and ripping open the lower part of his face, and stared at me with all those eyes blinking fast. I wanted out, imagined running right past. But, just as I was about to dash, a strange miracle of sorts happened.
See, that lemonade had been making its way across the kitchen tiles and just made it to the tip of one of the fat one’s hairy toes that still touched the ground. With that little brush, as liquid hit skin, I heard a squeal like the shriek of a pig.
It was the lemonade.
Toes twitched, hair stiffened. The big thing tried to scuttle backwards, away from the liquid, tried to balance itself atop Floyd’s body, was too clumsy. I reached down, picked up one of those plastic cups, threw, and knocked it right in the middle, or thereabouts. The thing tottered, slipped, and fell right smack into the spilled lemonade. When that thing hit the lemonade, it began to bubble, the rank odor tripling in stench, hit me hard. Puke flew out of my mouth. Under all that hair, I saw fleshy bubbles form and pop, fizz and pop. Something was happening. It was swelling, was gonna burst. I heard the little one start to make the most awful weeping sound. It’s eyes turned to me, sets of lips parted to reveal sharp white teeth, and it flew up. I stuck my arm out and watched it dive right into the outstretched blade. I spun, rammed the thing into the open fridge, slammed the door to muffled squeals.
I bolted, ran back down that hall, out into the garage, into the van. I just sat there for a second, trying to breathe, trying to wonder what had happened, just rocking back and forth. I thought I heard something explode, splat from inside the house. Didn’t matter. Floyd was gone.
When I told them, they ridiculed my delirious imagination, even tried to pin the disappearance of Floyd on me. His parents left town two months later after the tabloids picked up on the story. People in suits kept me under watch for a while. I told them all what I saw, took a lie detector test. I told them about the lips and toes, about Floyd, the knife, and about the lemonade, how it saved me. They never found Floyd’s body or any trace of those things. There never was a crate, they told me. My boss, a pillar of the community, denied everything.
I ran away two months after that, without Floyd.
It was summer.
Jamie Grefe lives and works in Beijing, China where he clutches his Craven A tin with a grip of steel. His written work can be found here: http://shreddedmaps.tumblr.com