“Hello?” Judy called into the night. Her brow furrowed at the now pressing silence as she looked from side to side. The parking lot was dimly lit, revealing an entire level completely devoid of cars. There had been an echo of her own footsteps in the garage, but a discordant sound had rung out, breaking her reverie.
“So what made that noise?” She thought to herself, feeling her heart rate increase. She was facing the stairwell, the only part of the garage with adequate lighting, but even this felt unreliable as lights blinked in the night.
Judy had frequented this parking lot for years, alone and with friends. It was attached to her favorite shopping center and she knew the area well, in all hours of the day and night. But never had she felt such a feeling of wrongness enter her mind.
“How many years have I been walking through here, and nothing has ever happened. Nothing.” She thought, standing there in her coat and favorite weekend attire. It was a twisted feeling, a dreadful chill deep within her gut.
The silence continued as if waiting for her to move, daring her to brave the insecure terrain. She reached inside her bag, hand reaching in for a small spray can of mace.
“Can’t be too prepared, can you.” She thought, feeling less fearful. At the same time, she pulled out her cell phone, finger swiping open the screen. It had only been a few seconds between her hearing the noise and pulling out her phone, but Judy felt an entire day might have passed between heartbeats.
“Oh, this is stupid.” She said out loud and stepped into the stairwell. It was empty of course. Thinking her nerves had gotten the best of her Judy hurried up the stairs. The click of her heels echoed around her, and in the night a car passed, bass vibrating with dull thumps.
On the final step leading to the second-floor landing, Judy froze mid-step. An eerie clicking noise filled the air around her, buzzing uncomfortably in her ears. She looked around, trying to make out where the sound’s source was coming from, but it seemed to press in from all sides.
“Hello?” She called again, voice breaking through the din. “Hello? Who’s there? Can I help you?”
The buzzing continued, causing waves of goosebumps to run up and down her arms. She willed her body forward, understanding that if she just moved on, the buzzing would no longer be her business. Through the cement doorway, she saw her sedan parked a few stalls away, waiting for her.
“Don’t do it.” A voice inside her said and she froze. Judy had never been one to fall prey to paranoia or jump at her own shadow. Yet her instinct had flared to life, making her heart leap into her throat.
Something moved in the shadows beyond the doorway. She heard it scrape against the ground. Not the sound of a shoe upon cement, but a sound more organic like sticks crackling against a stone. And then the smell hit her, a wet and rotten odor that almost made her gag.
She swiped a thumb against the glass of her small phone screen. all the while keeping her eyes on the doorway. Branches continued to scrape on the cement, moving closer to the doorway.
He finger pressed a nine, then a one. She shook violently as her ears picked up ragged breathing, ungodly breathing. It reminded her of a time when she had been at the bedside of her dying grandmother. Judy had been a young woman at the time, barely fifteen. She had held her mother’s hand to the last moment, hearing her chest rattle with the intake of uneven breaths.
“It’s the death rattle.” She had heard her mother say and had felt a wave of fear as suddenly her grandmother stopped breathing, her chest falling with the last vestiges of life leaving her.
Now that death rattle sounded outside the doorway, filling her with dread. In her hand, she heard the tiny ring of an open line through the small speaker.
“Pick up. Pick up. Pick up, please.” She thought, unable to take her eyes from the view of her car. The breathing was right outside the doorway, just steps away from her.
In her hand, the line clicked and a voice came over the speaker. “Hello? 911, what is your emergency?”
Judy would have raised the phone to her ear, she would have opened her mouth to say she was stuck in a parking lot with someone stalking her. But she couldn’t.
Something stepped into the light of the stairwell. Something not of her world. Long fur-covered legs stepped awkwardly into the light. In place of two feet, two cloven hooves clicked against the ground. Where human knees bent forward, taking on the weight of the body, muscular thighs twisted backward. A torso of white human flesh, covered in what could only be tattoos bent down to allow for the rest of the body to duck under the doorway. abnormally long arms reached around the wall, elongated human fingers gripping at the cement.
Judy felt the phone leave her fingertips. The smooth surface gliding over her skin as it fell to the earth. She tried to scream, she tried to back down the stairs but couldn’t. Her body was paralyzed, shaking with terror.
The creature twisted a supple neck as an utterly horrific visage turn toward her. Grimy hair grew from a ghost white scalp, falling to the thing’s shoulders. And a face, a face straight from the depths of hell looked down at Judy.
“No.” Was all she could say as the creature lowered its face towards her.
Eyes opened, revealing large dark eyes. But they were in the wrong spot, everything was in the wrong spot. The eyes were set deep into the jaw, where a mouth should be. A rattling breath came from the creature, from the top of its face. A wide semicircle spread from ear to ear, arching up over the forehead. She saw its teeth, horse-like and shining in the fluorescent lighting.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” A small voice came from the still falling phone as it collided with the floor. Judy would never hear the sound of another human voice again in her life, and she realized because it was about to end. The screen shattered as it bounced away from her down the stairs.
The creature’s mouth opened even wider and it brought both hands out before it as if to pull her into an embrace.
“No,” Judy said again, feeling the air leave her lungs.
The fluorescent lights of the stairwell went out, plunging her into darkness.
And she screamed.