Tendrils

It is a warm night in a small city. A gentle breeze winds down stucco streets and flusters the flags left over from the festival. After an entire day of celebrating, the town has fallen silent. This late at night, the soft glow of orange lights dazzle a doozy city and only but a few people are awake.

Her strained thin eyes open. Her head is throwing a fit and begs to return to sleep. But she can’t. Her friends are all fast asleep in the apartment. She feels a sick squirm in her stomach that persuades her to get up and throw up in the nearest toilet. The puking doesn’t help as she doesn’t realize what she ate during the festival. Only wanting to get back into her snug home, she leaves the apartment. On her way there, she can’t help but feel this insatiable hunger. She coughs and doesn’t notice the small string of black goop that comes out.

A bartender exits and locks the doors to his pub. A tall, gruff, but handsome man, he adorns his light coat and begins walking home.

“Hey, you.”

The sound of a woman alerts the bartender. She’s in the pub’s dim alley, and the night does little to illustrate her face.

“Hello? I’m a bit lost and wondering if you can help.”

The bartender is tentative. If she’s who he thinks she is, she’s the woman he saw at his pub celebrating the festival. She was especially beautiful and no doubt caught his eye many times earlier tonight. In the back of his mind, he is still wondering where those shrouded strangers took her.

“Need some help?” He says a bit timid.

The woman makes a slow walk out of the alley. Orange streetlights illuminate her as she steps out of the dark. It’s her.

“What’re you doing here?” He says smiling.

The woman smiles back and latches around the man.

“Whoa, easy there miss.”

His muscles are strong and lean. He’ll do nicely. Looking up, she reaches and pulls the man’s head closer to hers. The man relents, but it’s too late. Her eyes release tendrils that burrow into the man’s own eyes. The woman kisses the man to prevent him from screaming in pain as the worms dig into his brain. Finally, the woman drops dead with hollow eyes. The man rubs his eyes and looks around. He wonders what he should do tonight.

A sanitation worker spills his bucket and gets water in his shoes. Annoyed at now having to work in wet socks, he curses, forcing his superior to shut him up. As the city needs to be functional by morning, workers need to clean up late at night. It’s a thankless job, and most of the workers have a great disdain for the festival as a result. Sweepers and cleaners rush to finish in the dim night.

“Orville! Tobi! Grab your buckets and clean up that mess on 32nd Street,” The superior yells.

Orville and Tobi both nod, grab their cleaning gear and run together to their destination. Barely adults, they haven’t seen a shower in a long while. It’s not their fault, they can’t even afford new clothes. Though Tobi has a hole on the bottom of his right shoe, Orville hasn’t had the luxury of socks in a long while.

“You know Tobi, first thing payday, I’m gonna get myself an exclusive night out at Gaston’s Diner.”

Tobi gives Orville a disappointed nod of the head.

“Orville, I’m not gonna keep helping you bandage your feet again.”

Orville’s feet are swollen and in constant pain. They keep Orville up at night and Tobi can’t stand the smell it creates. The doctor recommended Orville wash his feet more and start wearing socks again. So far, Orville does exactly none of those things. It took Tobi enormous amounts of effort to bring Orville to the doctor. He’s still trying to find a way to convince Orville socks aren’t all that bad.

“Then I won’t keep lending you my books,” Quips Orville.

“Fine! They’re not even that good.”

That is a lie. Tobi loves reading Strange Other World Tales. He especially enjoys the scantily clad Scorpion Lady depicted on a certain page. Orville himself does not read because he himself does not know how to read. He mainly collects books for their covers as despite his shortcomings he happens to be an avid collector.

Arriving at 32nd street, Orville runs down a direction to start cleaning without Tobi. Angered, Tobi decides to do the same in the opposite direction. All the while neither noticed the bartender following them. Choosing a random direction, the bartender heads up to talk to one of the boys.

“You know, Orville, I wish you’d just start listening to me. You always ignore everything I say and I’d wish for once you’d use some common sense! It’s like you don’t think at all, you idiot!”

Tobi waves his mop in violent streaks. His buckets swashes and spills but Tobi does not notice the mess he is making. He refuses to look at Orville and starts yelling louder and louder for Orville to hear him. The bartender approaches the boy silently, getting ever so closer.

“I’m fed up with you, man. I’m fed up! Next time, find someone else to take care your sorry butt!”

Annoyed at a lack of response from Orville, Tobi turns around to yell at Orville’s head on. There’s nothing he can do as he sees the tendrils force themselves down Orville’s unflinching head. After a short while, the bartender falls to the floor as Orville’s eyes his next victim.

“Oh my god”

Orville screeches and comes racing towards Tobi. Orville shouldn’t even be able to run that fast, not with those blistered feet. Tobi remains frozen in fear. Orville arrives, holds up a flailing Tobi by the neck, and releases tendrils into his eyes. Tobi’s body stiffens as Orville’s goes limp.

A short while after, the sun comes up and life returns to the city. As people crowd buses and trains trying to get to work, a lone sanitation worker comes home decides to read his friend’s book.

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