I know this is cliche, but I have to say I’m what you’d call an average Joe. On Sunday nights I watch football with my buddies during the season. More often than not you’ll catch us at the bar. Sometimes we have one too many drinks and start talking shit to the guys there for the other team. Sometimes we get bored and decide to call it an early night, if none of the games are nail-biters. The group changes on occasion. I’m almost always there, though. Sometimes one of my pals gets into a relationship and his new girl thinks watching The Great British Bake-Off is more interesting than football. It never lasts too long, though. By the end of the season his ass is firmly planted on the bar stool next to the rest of us. I get into all this, not because I think we’re gonna become bosom buddies, but because this is how it all started. One night at the bar.
See, to understand the story you’ve got to know a few things about the type of bar my buddies and I frequent. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall place. Real out of the way. We like it better than any of the chain joints, seeing as we’re close to a college town and at the other bars you get Frat dudes. Noisy pricks don’t have any business talking football and are just there to eat junk food until they pass out drunk in the bathroom. Not really our thing, y’know? So, we go to this little sports bar. It’s not too fancy, but you can get a good beer on tap and sometimes they’ve got a pretty young thing behind the bar servin’ up cold ones. Most importantly, though, is that the owner is always there. On a few occasions someone got too rowdy and he pulled ‘em aside. And that was the end of that, no more ruckus. I’ve never been on a night where the old man wasn’t sittin’ in a booth in the back, keepin’ an eye on things. That is, not before that night.
It was a cold night, can’t remember exactly when it was. Sometime during football season, I guess. Though I had been known to frequent the place after the season had ended. Anyway, the wind’s really tearing through my coat as I walk over to the bar. Don’t seem to remember any of my pals comin’ with me. I’m sure they all had somethin’ better to do. Lord knows I shoulda had something better to do myself. But I’m a stone’s throw from a drunk, I guess, so I’m heading to the bar. The wind is blowin’ something fierce and I got this weird uneasy feeling in my gut. Not sure why, I just remember thinking I couldn’t wait to get a few beers in me so I’d warm up and my stomach’d settle down. I’m probably a few yards from the front door when I notice it’s swingin’ on it’s hinges. This stopped me in my tracks for a split second, but y’know, I wasn’t too worried about it. Figured it was just some jack ass leaving the door wide open after he’d come in. I figured one of the staff would come over to pull the door to, or I’d get it once I got there. I was just nearing the door, hand out to grab the handle, when a little voice inside my head said to just turn around and walk away. I frowned at this, What’s got you thinkin’ that way, Jack? I shook off my heebie-jeebies and let myself inside the bar, pulling the door shut behind me.
– – –
The smell hit me first. It was like walking into a drunkard’s insides. And I would know, I’ve had enough alcohol in my day to send my insides coming out. There was beer everywhere. The floor and wall were tacky where the stuff had dried, but there was something else in there, too. Something darker, and it left me with a feeling that something more sinister was going on. It was right about now I wish I had turned around, called the cops, and headed home no worse for wear. But it was cold outside and I was figuring that one of the taps had burst, coating everyone in beer and causing a mass exodus from the joint. Really cleared the place out, far as I could tell, because I didn’t see a soul. I was happily living in naivety, so, I stroll over to the bar counter hoping that someone is leaned down back there cleaning things up.
It’s as I’m walking over there that I notice something that honestly freaked me out, the old man wasn’t there. I don’t guess I so much noticed it then, more like it finally hit me. Not a soul in sight. Not even the soul that always sits there, in the back. Not altogether too odd, he’d vacated his seat before, but this time his shape wasn’t there. Normally he’d only just left, leaving the imprint of himself in the well-worn cushion of the booth until he returned. But it didn’t look like he’d ever sat in the booth in his life, so he must’ve been gone a long while. What’s goin’ on here? My thoughts were racing as I got closer to the bar, trying to process all the things my eyes were seeing. Every single one of the taps had blown off at the end, leaving nothing but some leftover beer dredges plopping down. What in the Sam Hill caused that? I was feeling mounting dread, thinking about what could’ve caused such destruction to my beloved taps, when I heard it. My stomach fell straight through my feet and I swear I almost screamed. Something was dragging across the ground. It was a labored sound, slow and methodic. I looked around to try and see what was coming up from Hell to take me back with it, when I noticed the newest addition to the bar tenders, a pretty little piece named Sandy, pulling herself slowly around the bar toward me. Just talking about it brings it back, too real. She’s got her mouth open, but all that’s coming out is this soft gurgling noise. Her limbs are all wrong and my stomach starts churning looking at her. The worst part, though, the part that really makes my skin crawl, was that her eyes were missing. Those eye sockets were trained right on me, though. I s’pose she heard me come in and had figured I would wander over to the bar. Good thing she couldn’t see me, because my face would’ve given me away. The only way I figured out she wasn’t a Hell-Beast is she had this one tattoo on her shoulder, a bright pink flower big as my fist. I saw that and that’s the only reason I didn’t bash in her skull right then.
Anyway, Sandy’s dragging her broken body slowly toward the sound of me thrashing around in terror and I’m doing my best to figure out what I should be doing. I finally settle on calling the cops and I start searching myself all over for my cell phone. I’m not doing a really great job at finding it, seein’ as I’m shaking like a leaf and I’ve got half a mind to run screaming like a little girl all the way home. Sandy’s almost to me when I pull out my phone and dial 9-1-1. I put the dispatcher on speaker phone, just so we’re all clear on what it is I’m doing.
“Hello, 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
“Hi, uh, my name is Jack. I’m at a local bar and it seems I’ve stumbled across a horror movie.”
“Hi, Jack. Can you be a little bit clearer about what your emergency is?”
I’m stumbling for words to describe what’s going on, as you might imagine. So, I say the first thing that my eyes fall on, “There’s, uh, there’s beer everywhere. I mean everywhere. That’s not all, there’s, uh, there’s something in the beer. Something dark and it looks sticky.” The reality of what I’m seeing hits me hard. I start breathing in, sharp, jagged breaths.
The emergency operator must have noticed my deteriorating mental status, “Jack, can you tell me if there’s anyone there with you?”
I nod, glancing toward where Sandy is. She’s almost to me, but her head is cocked to the side, like she’s struggling to listen to our conversation. “Y-yeah. Yes, ma’am. There’s a woman here, one of the bartenders. Her name is Sandy. She, well, I think she’s gotten hurt.” I almost laughed at myself, then. You think she’s hurt, do ya? Congrats on that one, Sherlock.
“Jack, do you think you can tell me where you are?” I nod, prattle off the name of the place, tell her to send help in a hurry. Tell her I don’t know who all else was here, but based on the looks of Sandy they’re not doing so hot. The operator, for her part, is keeping it together well. I guess that’s their job, keeping calm in the face of crisis. If I was a trained dispatcher, then would I be able to stay calm in this particular situation? I suppose I was going into crisis mode, losing myself in thought, when Sandy started moving again. It took me a second to realize why this was so completely and totally terrifying, y’know, besides the missing eyes and broken body. Sandy was gnashing her teeth at me now, instead of gurgling. She looked like she was getting faster, too. Despite my better judgement I bolted. Left that poor, broken woman on the ground and slammed the door shut behind me. I stood there in the biting cold waiting on the ambulance, or cops, or whoever the dispatcher had sent me. I’d honestly forgotten I was still holding my phone during all this, still patched into a call. That is, until she made me nearly jump out of my skin. “Jack, is everything still alright?”
The shock of her talking took a second to recover from, “Y-yeah. I, I uh went outside. I couldn’t be in there anymore.” I think Sandy wants to eat me.
“Jack, the woman that was with you, Sandy, is she still ok?”
“Yes ma’am, she’s still breathing, anyway.”
“Is she outside with you? If she’s injured she should stay where it’s warm.”
“No ma’am, I left her inside the building.” Because she wants to eat me.
“Jack, I know that this is difficult to deal with, but can you move to a window so you can keep an eye on her until the paramedics arrive?” She wasn’t chastising me, just giving a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Judge-y bitch. “I, uh, Sandy’s giving me the creeps.” Silence. I guess there’s not much to say to a coward that won’t stay with a dying woman. In my defense, I was becoming increasingly convinced she wasn’t dying. This was solidified when I heard the scratching on the door, and the gurgling again. This time it was more like messy speech and I was beginning to catch what I thought might be words.
– – –
I was considering burning the place to the ground with the monster inside when the ambulance pulled up. A man got out of the passenger side and approached me, “Jack? We’re here to help out. Are you injured?” I shook my head, pointed at the door. “I don’t think it’s safe.” I was whispering, my voice hoarse. I realized then that I was crying. How long had I been crying? It felt like tears were frozen to my face. I can tell you now that some of them had, it hurt like the dickens when they melted. As the paramedic approached the phone in my hand crackled back to life, “Jack, I’m going to hang up now since it sounds like help has arrived. Will you confirm that for me?” I croaked, “Sure. The cavalry has arrived.” With that, the dial tone came over the phone’s speaker. The first EMT nodded and patted my shoulder, “Jack, why don’t you think it’s safe to go inside?” I shook my head at this, couldn’t he hear it? The scratching sound had been so loud before they’d gotten there. I stopped and waited for a minute, I was going to let him hear it for himself. Moments passed. Now there was nothing. I opened my mouth to respond but there were no words, nothing I could say to express my terror. Who would believe a man that was sobbing out in the cold? I was probably going crazy. Then the second EMT hopped out, having parked the ambulance. It was aimed away from the building, ready to throw into drive and speed away. “Where’s the injured woman?” He was ambling toward us, as he’d had to park away from the front entrance to the building. He’d had to do this because there were so many cars out front. Funny I hadn’t noticed that while I was standing out there. Before the first EMT could respond, I whirled around and pointed at the door. “Alright, let’s go check on her, then.” He said, heading for the door. I, being the chicken-shit that I am, bounded away toward the ambulance. I was not going to be next to that door when they opened it.
What happened next is no more clear to me now than it was then. I had just gotten to the driver’s door of the ambulance when I heard one of the EMT’s scream. This added to my urgency and I scrambled into the driver’s seat, only then checking the mirrors to see what was happening. The ground was slowly changing colors, turning all dark like the inside of the bar. Except now I knew it wasn’t beer. I could only see one EMT, his hand on the radio on his shoulder. I imagine he was calling for help. I know I would have. I watched as he took a step back, throwing his arm out behind him for balance. Then I saw her, grotesque and writhing as she lunged at his neck. I wasn’t close enough to see details, but she tore into him so quickly. Teeth tearing off pieces of flesh. I didn’t watch long, realistically it probably took me 30 seconds to turn the key in the ignition and gun it away from that place. It felt like a friggin’ lifetime.
– – –
It occurred to me about an hour down the road that I was driving a stolen ambulance to God know’s where and the people that should’ve been driving were now definitely smudges of red in the snow. This was alarming mostly because I was fairly certain there wasn’t a soul in the world that would believe that whopper of a tale. So I did something a bit rash and drove the ambulance to the nearest lake. Sent that thing straight into the depths. Like I said, probably not the smartest move, but even after hours of driving I was running on adrenaline and fear. Not gonna lie to you, I’m still afraid. After I dumped my stolen set of wheels I walked home, packed up a bags worth of essentials, and skipped town. I had an aunt that lived two states over, so I gave her a ring and she said I could stay with her until I found a new job. Told her I’d been laid off, corporate downsizing and all that.
I don’t go out much anymore. I haven’t been to a bar since that night. The smell of beer sets my stomach to churning and I break out in a sweat. Worked out alright, though. I met a nice girl at a local house of worship (needed something else to do on Sundays). She’s mighty sweet and she puts up with me when I call her in the dead of night. I almost always wake up from a dream where Sandy is crawling across the floor toward me, sniffing her way over. Wouldn’t be so bad, ‘cept she keeps getting closer. I have a bad feeling in my gut about it. ‘Specially since last night, when I called my girl, she described Sandy to me. Then she screamed.