's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" The Bleed "

Submitted by Scott Denk

On this day began the fall of man.

It began at dawn. Little, bright red, shrimp-like creatures were flying through the air, each was only about an eighth of a centimeter long, and seemed so insignificant that no one thought anything of them. They drifted lazily in little clouds, with more slowly streaming out of various cracks in the ground to join their brethren in flight. Barely taking notice of the passerby in my tiny town, the miniscule creatures would occasionally land on the townsfolk, stopping only a few seconds, as if inspecting something, before again taking to the air. Upon closer investigation, they were found to be wingless, instead having a single feather-like growth that stemmed from their center, which they used to drift in their clouds.

They became something of a tourist attraction in the town, with people stopping by to gaze at the slowly growing clouds of red. They began to be known cherishingly as “blood vapors.” However, I was not inclined to believe they were as harmless as they seemed. Where did they come from? Why were there so many in so short a time? I saw that they were growing in forces, and how, in just a few hours, the streams began to come thicker and faster out of the ground, as if the land itself was bleeding. They began to bunch closer together in their swarms as the concentration of the organisms rose, but no one seemed to pay it any mind.

Paranoid as ever, I gathered up eight people and told them to meet me at my home. I intended to gather supplies, so I made my way over to the local grocer. While there, I overhead a shopper’s worried rant to a fellow patron. He was talking about how his daughter had accidentally stumbled into one of the clouds while playing outside, and had come out the other side with a nosebleed. The shopper seemed concerned, and hurriedly left the store. After making my purchases, I went to the storefront window, about to leave, when I saw a peculiar scene.

The man from earlier was holding a little girl, his daughter, no doubt, and shaking her, as if she was out of her mind. He screamed her name again and again, but she didn’t seem to hear him, instead staring at him with wide, blank eyes. A thin trickle of red ran down from her nose. Nearby, a red cloud of the things drifted slowly near ground level, oddly remaining a fixed distance from the girl. Suddenly, she turned from her father and ran into the swarm. She raised her arms up as if in a dance, but the creatures surely were too small to lift her, even with their great multitude. However, lift her they did, bringing her higher and higher, while her dad screamed hopelessly below, while everyone watched, silently entranced, up past the tree line. Just when it seemed she would be carried away forever, the cloud dispersed, and she fell with a sickening crunch on the pavement.

I woke from my paralyzing trance to the sound of screams. All around me, people were running and diving for cover as more of the swarms came down upon the store, surrounding the innocent in a thick, choking fog, entering every hole in their face: their ears, their noses, their mouths, making all of it bleed. I was able to escape amongst the trees next to the store unscathed, and from their made my way back to my home, where everyone was already waiting for me. We sealed all the holes we could find in the home, and we locked all the doors. The creatures became like a tidal wave of blood, so concentrated and widespread they were. As we gazed outside the last window, we saw them, like great veins in the sky above, and wished silently to outlive the storm.

The nine of us, all together, sat uncomfortably in the house around the single television. The others were inclined to come up with crazy theories and ridiculous nicknames for the phenomenon outside. In our group, however, there was one name that always stuck: the bleed. As we sat around the television, we saw on the news that all over, there were people trying to fight back with pesticides, but the bleed was resistant to all of them. This led us to believe that it was either an insect species with a built up resistance, or something non-animal entirely. Frank believed that they were not of this world, but no one liked to believe Frank.

We also saw on the news how they formed into great masses, forcing their way through barriers with the sheer weight of their billions of tiny bodies, breaking down doors to find each and every tasty morsel inside. No one wanted to believe it was possible, until the first attack. We were awoken with several crashes on the door.

Despite all our efforts, and after barricading the door behind a thick wardrobe, some of the bleed was able to leak in, and got into the minds of three of us before we could escape onto the second floor. We decided to tie them up and keep them confined alone, testing to see the effects that the bleed would have on their minds without the influence of the great swarm outside. Their noses leaked red, but it was not blood. They complained of headaches, talked about killing themselves, begged to be let free, but their blank stares and wide smiles kept them closely watched and tied.

Eventually, as we all should have guessed, one did escape her bonds, and crashed past the barriers and out one of the windows, falling into the red void outside and letting the bleed in. I was barely able to escape into the basement with three others among me, closing the heavy metal door tight and in doing so losing all of the others to the bleed.

Penny, whom no one really liked, claimed she had found a way to fight the bleed. She said that she had found the answer while sitting and watching the three tied. She had found that through willpower, she was able to do what no pesticide could, and had actually cleaned all the bleed from Frank’s mind. We hadn’t believed her, and had left Frank tied up just to be safe. Not that it mattered much anyway; Frank and everyone else were lost to the bleed. It felt like months went by before the crashing and roaring above us faltered. Annoyed with her raving, Matt, Dan and I made Penny go up and check out what was going on.

She came back with great excitement on her face. She claimed that the swarm had greatly dissipated, now spread thin as it searched for more victims. She was then able to clear that from the house with the power of her will alone. Skeptical, we followed her up the stairs, and found everything as she said; none of the bleed was left in the house. Still unsure, we decided to just board up the windows and doors again and resume our solitary lives.

Then the bleeders came.

The bleed was using the bodies of its victims, whether dead or alive, as walking nests, and they shambled around like drunks on the front lawn. Trying not to catch their attention, we agreed to a code of silence. However, we were sabotaged by Penny’s rants, her narcissism making her, and the house, the bleed’s primary focus. The bleeders began ramming against our barriers, with each hit shedding more and more of the bleed, until it formed a heavy fog around our home.

I regret to say, but I probably should have believed Penny. Maybe she was right. Maybe I shouldn’t have sat idly by as Dan and Matt screamed at her, calling her a freak and kicking her out through the barrier and into the bleed. We watched as we were proven wrong, as she held back the bleed with her will, as the bleed darkened and fell around her. But despite all her willpower, she could not keep back the bleed, not all of it.

The bleed used her. It used her body to break down the very barrier through which she was thrown out. It entered into the home, swarming around me, enticing me with sweet whispers. Penny stood before me. I shouted my regrets and apologies to her, but she could not hear. The bleed had blocked her ears, had blocked her eyes. All that was on her face was the unmistakable trail of red from her nose, and the dead-eyed stare. She grinned wide at me. I couldn’t look away. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to have silence, and blindness. Take away the awful whispers and the awful visage. I must have it. I must have silence. All I have to do… is bleed.