The streets were deserted.
“Where was everyone?”
“Where had they all gone?”
That was what had gone through my mind 3 years ago, as a coat drifted off into the wind, as if it was searching for it’s owner getting caught on a lamp post just as it was starting it’s quest…
The electronics store nearby had a TV playing reruns of a science show which was talking about matter, anti-matter, and the start of the universe.
It was a full moon that night…
Back when the world changed in an instant…
The Christmas lights were still up and I was just going home with a group. I think that was my family…
Back when I still needed someone around me…
A family of birds cooed from their nest, almost like they pitied my loneliness.
In a week, the city was a husk of it’s former self; blackouts started around 7 to 8 hours after everyone disappeared and after more than one and a half days, there was no electricity at all. From then, the nights were pitch black until I learned to make fire. Of course, I had matches and torches but those were only used in case of emergencies.
It was odd though.
Sometimes I would see things in the dark.
Things darker than the pitch black I was in.
I had to live in the same dark as those shadows.
My paranoia didn’t help in that matter.
Every night, I heard voices. At least, I thought I did.
It wasn’t the kind of noises animals would make.
No. These voices were too coherent and intelligent to be just a bunch of animals.
Then there was that… thing.
Every night, as the darkness finally came down upon the world, I would see a shadow follow me. Only, this shadow wasn’t attached to me. It was too far away for that to happen anyway. I would see it on top of a distant building at times. Sometimes it would be somewhere outside the town.
The only constant was that it kept it’s distance.
At first, I thought it was another person, but soon, it was obvious that It was something else.
It was watching me.
I knew it.
If It even existed.
Back in the old world, when there was electricity and other people, I used to leave the radio playing at night to keep the paranoia at bay. If I didn’t, my brain would give a monster to every noise that went bump in the night. With the radio, I could just make believe that it was just another sound from the radio. That was if the music from the radio didn’t drown out any other noise.
Then one day, everything changed.
That day, I left my home for a supply run and everything went as it normally would…
But on that day, around 3 years after the coat drifted onto the lamp post, despite how tattered it was, it finally found it’s freedom. It followed the breeze, floating down to the road landing in front of a girl who looked to be around my age.
After 3 years, I finally met another human.
We caught up on what happened to us over the years and who we were before over the next few days.
She said her name was Steph. She was barely a year older than me and lived pretty far away from where we were right now. Apparently, the place where she was staying didn’t have all that much in terms of resources leading her to leave the safety of her home to search for someplace with a better reserve of food and water. On top of that, her mother was here when everyone disappeared.
That’s why she was here.
Searching for her mother and for a place where she can survive.
She knew now that there was no chance of the first ever coming true.
It was her mother’s coat, the one that was on the lamp post.
There was a picture in one of the pockets to confirm it.
There was something off though. Despite coming all this way for her mother, she couldn’t remember what she looked like. That wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in normal circumstances, I mean, 3 years is a long time and you could forget a face no matter how important that person may have been, but what really confused us is that she couldn’t recognise her mother in the photo.
She may not have even understood that it was her mother’s coat if the photo didn’t have her in it.
She couldn’t recognise her own mother’s face on seeing it.
Almost like time was washing it’s hands of any trace of her existence.
And now, Steph’s alone too.
Still, her being there kept the shadows at bay.
Over the months, we began to trust each other more.
We began to open up to each other more, but then again, we probably would’ve done the same with knives behind our backs considering the fact that we were, for all we know, the last humans on Earth.
Still, our memories of people we knew before they disappeared were fading at an unusually fast rate.
We tried writing it down but, over time, they began to go missing.
The world was washing it’s hands of them all…
The world was washing it’s hands of them all and we were forgetting them…
I think eventually, we ended up falling for each other.
That’s when she told me what she saw through the window.
It started one night when she began screaming at the window in the middle of the night. She’d been looking like she hadn’t been getting much sleep for the past few days but she just brushed off any questions about it. Today however, there was a fear in her eyes I hadn’t seen yet.
She was paralyzed from fear.
Usually, when I spook her, I usually get one right to the gut… she’s more of a fight type of person, I’m more flight…
The fact that she was frozen in fear told me that this was terror in her eyes.
She finally started talking after calming down.
From the description, it was the same figure, only it started much closer than the one I saw.
She could see it stare down at her from a distance.
She knew what it looked like.
It was humanoid but not human. There was something off about it’s appearance, something that made it impossible to describe. It was like our language was not enough to explain just what this this looked like.
She didn’t even know why she was afraid when she saw it, just that she was.
No logic behind it.
“I know it isn’t real,” she said, “I know it. That’s why I kept quiet about it for so long… but now… it… it just looks so real… There’s something after me. I just know that it is. I just didn’t want you to think I was crazy and leave me behind… I’m damaged goods without that anyway… I’m sorry, I should’ve told you before. I-”
“I’ve been seeing something in the distance too,” I said, interrupting her, “Don’t worry about any of that. If anything comes up, we’ll take care of it together.
I said that to reassure her.
I’m not sure if I believed it myself.
By the end of the month, we learned that she had become pregnant.
Over the next seven months, we formed a routine and I managed most of the work while she still insisted on helping out. By the end of that time, she had given birth.
It was a little girl.
On that day, we made a little promise to each other that we would stay together no matter what happened to take care of this kid.
And the thing came closer to where she was every night, her fear only got worse.
In a few months, something in her was rejecting that image or thing completely or trying to get her to run as far away from it as she could so much so that it was affecting her physically. She would have coughing fits, sometimes even coughing up blood in the middle of the night.
At that point, we could do nothing but hope she would get better.
None of us had any clue as to what medicines could help or what could be causing it.
It had been a month after Helen had been born and it was starting to show up in our home, at least according to her it was.
She had been seeing more frequently, even during daytime.
Her coughing fits now happened more frequently too.
She said that she had been seeing it inch towards her.
Every little motion.
Eventually, she said that it had been standing behind her… almost at a point where it can reach her.
According to her, the past few days, it had been hovering near her, maintaining it’s distance.
She thought that it’s a timer to her end…
I thought that she was just getting a bit too paranoid about this.
After a few hours, night fell.
I put the baby to sleep while she stayed up, staring off into the distance. She kept mumbling to herself about the thing. “It’s coming” was the basic gist of what she kept mumbling about…
Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and…
And then she just stops.
To me, who was just trying to sleep, this felt jarring. At least the mumbling was white noise but this, there was nothing.
Another coughing fit began.
I started to get up to get her some water. I couldn’t sleep anyway.
Then, almost as soon as she had started coughing, a scream pierced the night.
Helen started to cry.
I got up to see a ghostly arm wrap around Steph.
I saw the thing that was following her.
And the thing… It looks like her… a vague resemblance, barely anything but it was there. It’s a distorted version, almost beyond recognition… but I still recognise it as her… but still not her.
It wasn’t… anything.
Just a mass of… something… that vaguely resembled Steph… somehow.
That was when it all came back to me.
I had seen these things before.
I had first seen those monsters on that day.
The day when everyone disappeared.
There were probably thousands of them… maybe even millions… They appeared as they held onto the person… I knew what happened after that.
I couldn’t let that happen.
Not to her.
I rushed to her side and tried to pry the arms off of her, but then she stopped screaming. There’s a blank look of emptiness in her eyes.
She had given up already.
The fight hadn’t even started.
She looked at the crying child.
“I couldn’t see you grow up, Helen…,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes, “I’m sorry…,” then she turned to me, “Just let me hold her one more time…”
“Don’t give me that! I’ll get you away from this and you can hold her any time you want! Just hold-!”
“I don’t have any time left!” She said, breaking down, crying, “Please, just let me have this one last wish! I don’t wanna go wi-…”
I look at my hands, confused as to why I was reaching out into empty space, grabbing at air. I turn around to look at Helen.
She was quiet, sleeping soundly.
“Hey, any clue where your mother went?” I asked her, half-jokingly, quiet so as to not wake her up. Still, there was a gnawing sense of dread in my stomach I just couldn’t understand, “I mean, her clothes are here…”
They were just there, lying in a pile like she had just vanished.
I thought to myself, “Where the heck did she run off to?”
I looked to the door and saw a mass of something I can’t explain. It was the same thing I saw in the distance all those years ago but I can’t tell what it was…
All I know is that it scared me to my very core.
I began to have a coughing fit.
I covered my mouth with my hand and after a solid minute, the coughing stopped.
I looked at my hand.
Written by Antony Jitto Kachappilly for Metamorphose