It’s about 7:15 pm. Lizzy should be back any moment. Sophie waits, patiently panicking under the few ratty blankets she could find, still not sure if she is feeling too hot or too cold. The power has been out for days at this point and the makeshift fireplace in the corner of the vacant warehouse gasps for life. The blue, white, and yellow ambulance lights from outside distribute harsh, makeshift fairy lights against the large window to Sophie’s right. Candlelight flickers, casting her ill-proportioned shadow across the towering white walls. She’s been sitting on the hard, concrete floor, quietly reading the same sentence in her book for the past couple of hours, occasionally looking up in response to her heightened senses- the leaves rustling on tree branches outside, the slight ring of the bell on a cat’s collar as it scratches its ear, the faint dripping of water from the leaking faucet in the bathroom. Lizzie left to search for cans of food in a local shop some time ago. Lizzie should be home by now.
Sophie has been worried for Lizzie’s safety from the moment they left. Sophie expects that she will look up to see the monster standing in the shadows, an onlooker haunting her imagination. Sophie shudders at the thought, cautiously backing herself into the wall adjacent to the only door in the building. In the distance, she can hear the shrill shriek of a woman, but just as quickly as it came, her voice is lost as it roams into the mist of wind and ash.
They had only narrowly escaped the exhibit a few days ago. The snarls and grunts of a creature digging into its next meal echoed along the length of the white walls, only to be interrupted by blood-splattered paintings. Lizzie’s the one who noticed the door that was only slightly ajar. The strong wind shot ash through the crack and left it to pile a few feet away. Lizzie quickly took Sophie’s hand in her own and pointed to the door, while simultaneously bringing her finger to Sophie’s gaping lips. Sophie swallowed a lump fear, gulping as it traveled down her throat. Her eyes darted between Lizzie, the door, and the long stretch of hallway that the creature’s noises seemed to follow. A dark shadow crept taller and taller along the walls in the distance. Sophie squinted her eyes, calmly reasoning to herself why the shadow would begin growing at such a rapid pace. Then, she heard it. The noises. The slurping noises ceased andwere replaced with breathless grunts. The creature was coming closer. Lizzie had followed Sophie’s gaze and with a swift pull of her arm, jolted Sophie back into reality. They ran. Quietly. Breathlessly. Faster than they’d ever run before. Until they got to the door. Sophie turned around, one last time before closing it behind her. That’s when she saw it.
It stood in front of her, staring her down with its dark, red eyes. A long, slit tongue crept between its lips, revealing several rows of sharpened, pointed teeth. Large blobs of blood dripped from them, creating a red pool beneath the creature’s hooves. Its lean body inflated and deflated, synching with its breath. The creature’s ribs showed through its stretched translucent skin, marking speckled dark blue veins beneath the surface. Sophie watched in horror, sweat saturating what was left of her tarnished shirt. The creature parted its lips further, demonstrating a devilish smile. With a final tug, Lizzie pulled Sophie through the door, and slammed it shut.
The sound of the heavy metal door creaking open wakes Sophie from her thoughts and she hears the gentle sound of soft feet slapping across the concrete floors with small pit-pats. Lizzie’s footsteps echo throughout the first level of the warehouse, reverberating off the harsh surfaces and becoming louder as they approach. Sophie’s heart thumps harder in her chest, as she struggles to catch her breath, and she try her best to quietly gasp for air like a fish blowing gentle bubbles underwater.
Sophie slips her face back into the coarse pages of her book, pretending to be absorbed in it’s contents. She’s scared to look at Lizzie. She fears that she will turn her face up to meet Lizzie’s eyes, and they won’t be there. Just two hollowed carvings where their kind eyes used to sit. The smell of the pages provides brief comfort as she is hit with nostalgic memories of library adventures with Lizzie.
“Hey.” The voice sounds like an imagined figment wading in the heavy air. Sophie’s eyebrows furrow together, creating tension in her forehead. It hurts, but she can’t look up. She can’t address Lizzie. Not yet. She wants to be sure it is her and not the same monster from before. If she could strain her ears enough, she could still hear its heavy breaths. Sophie listens to the floor creak beneath Lizzie’s weight as they slowly come closer, “Hey.” The voice comes from above Sophie’s head this time. Slowly, Sophie lifts her head. The creature’s scaly red skin clings to its body as it hovers over her slumped figure. The creature’s eyes tear into her flesh, as her skin is ripped apart, baring nothing but her soul. Its mouth opens, hungrily and Sophie backs further into the wall, her spine beginning to crack against the straight edge of it.
“No!” She sobs into the thick air. She tries to swallow it into her lungs, but it stays outside of her body. Sophie closes her eyes, if she blinks hard enough, maybe she can convince herself that this has all been a dream. Everything. The ash, the monster, the dead, half-eaten bodies that line the streets. She misses home. She misses Lizzie. She dreams of their early mornings when they would watch the sun rise from their warm blankets, and drink tea. Sophie’s ears are met with the deafening silence. Slowly, she unclenches her eyes and glances to the floor where two bare feet anxiously stand. She squints in the candlelight, but she can tell Lizzie’s eyes are darker than normal. The skin around their eyelashes looks puffy. They look tired. The corners of their mouth weakly reach towards their eyebrows and Sophie mimics the movement with her own lips. Slowly, she feels their hands reach out toward Sophie’s face.
Their hands feel hardened and cold against Sophie’s scaly, dehydrated skin. She feels the tiny bumps begin to spread from the surface of her arms to the top of her scalp. Their arms firmly wrap around her, cocooning her in overwhelming safety. Sophie’s nose presses against the gentle fabric of their shirt and Sophie breathes them in as she wrap her hands firmly around their back, suddenly aware of how hungry she’s been for this moment. Sophie feels as Lizzie presses their mouth to her ear, sending chills down her spine. Their words are soft as they trickle into Sophie’s ears, “I love you.”
A Queerativity Tale is a Queerativity original story updated by a new Queer Artist at the beginning of each month. If you are interested in writing an issue for A Queerativity Tale, please email [email protected] or fill out the Get Involved Form.