09 June 2011

A Ruined House

(the following story has been submitted to MicroHorror)

The rubberized suits creaked and chafed. They'd assured us our viewports would not fog over. The shoulders felt too heavy. I adjusted my helmet continuously, fearing subtle slippages.

"Commander, I need to spit."

"Hold it in, Lisa."

The house had its own pulse by the time we arrived. It glowed weirdly. A deadly haze permeated the place, a rank cloud with bits of crumb-like debris floating in it. If it touched our skin, if we managed to breathe it... we didn't exactly know. They said we wouldn't want to. We focused on our breathing instead, which now sounded too loud.

Its insides hoarded weird wreckage without any order, strewn like kelp across the floors, but all still identifiably domestic in nature. A half-liquidized assortment of cooking pots littered one room. A shattered toilet at the end of a hall, spewing shit. Rotted foodstuff, old sheets, and torn cardboard boxes.

There was one thing yet alive in there, or that looked alive, which I pointed out. A discarded bundle of grapes lay just inside a broken china cabinet. They still looked ripe and edible, except where the skin on one grape had ruptured and filled in with purplish, pulsating sores. The bunch felt unreal, plasticized like a toy, through the grip of my gloves. I pondered over it for some time, fascinated at its sadness, until the commander urged me on.

I never fully saw the origin of the plague-- only a reddish glow and a greasy, meat-like presence-- though I did identify the infected room. I only knew it for certain by the man sprawled backwards across the bed, writing wordlessly in agony. He had no protective suit, and his feet had disappeared into the head of the bed. He was that crumb-like debris in the air, ejected from somewhere else by the plague-bearer. His face had grown puffy, his eyes and veins bulged. I found a pair of glasses on the other end of the room that I tossed to him, but I never knew if he could even put them on anymore.

Our commander entered with another, hauling the long tubes of the cleansing pump. The iridescent antidote sloshed inside the tank hauled by a fourth member of the crew. Struggling on their knees, they fitted the nozzles into some orifice under the headboard, plugged the thing with it, and switched on the machine.

It didn't like that. A horrible roar pervaded the house. Everything shook in delirium. I vaguely recall hearing the commander shout, "Lisa, get us more energy!" or something else in a panic.

But the thing had gotten to me. My legs did their blind best to carry me from that room. I remembered retreating from horrors under my bed as a child, but all the beds sat too low to permit our bodies in these suits. When I finally collapsed at the doorstep, I spied with terror from the corner of my eye a single crack threading its way down my visor.

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