“Seriously dude,” Jacob slurred. “I was up there, up on the stage and … and … there was this one chick that was totally into me. She was like, so into me that she was damn near having an apoplectic attack.”
“Of course she was,” Saul sighed and lightly pushed Jacob’s face away. The last thing he wanted was another nose full of alcohol soaked breath. “Then tell me this. Why are you going home with me rather than her?”
Jacob flopped his arm over Saul’s shoulder and playfully slapped his face. “That’s ‘cause we’re bros man. I could have said, ‘Hey babe, let’s head back to your place and I’ll give you a private show,’ but I didn’t. I looked at her, and I thought to myself, I thought nah,” he said, drawing the last word out far longer than he needed to. “And do you know why? It’s because I thought about you man, all alone in your place, with no social life and no midnight visitors to bring the party, ya know? I told myself, ‘this chick is hot, like smoking hot man, but I can’t go with her ‘cause my little bro is all alone and he needs someone to come and cheer him up.’ So instead of having the night of my life, I decided to call you and … and … go home, or something.”
Saul looked at Jacob and laughed. His right eye was doing that twitchy thing that it always did when he was really drunk, and every time he stopped talking, a small bead of drool started trying to escape from the corner of his mouth. Getting up on stage to dance? That was pretty standard behaviour for Jacob. Being so good that he impressed someone though? That was an obvious lie. Jacob had been proficient at ‘dad dancing’ since his teens, but anything other than that was way beyond him. And as for the hot lady? Well, there were probably plenty of hot ladies in the club, but in this state, it was more likely that he’d struck out too many times and drowned his sorrows in whatever was on discount than that someone was actually interested in him. That he called Saul also meant that he’d tried to get a taxi back, but the driver had refused to take him due to his current state.
Saul didn’t mind though. When he was younger, he’d been fostered by Jacob’s parents, the Robinsons. Living in a small town where the people hadn’t progressed since the 1920’s, he was an instant outcast. Case in point, to the other kids in school, he was the kid that was so bad that his real parents didn’t want him. It didn’t really matter to them what the actual truth was, all that mattered was that he was different, and that made him an easy target. The experience had made him withdrawn and, no matter how nice the Robinsons were, he rejected their affection without a second thought.
Jacob, seeing that Saul was struggling to adjust, started watching him at school. The moment that he realised what was going on, he marched straight up to the bullies and beat the living Hell out of them, all the while yelling things like, “You leave my little brother alone,” and, “If I see you wusses come within ten feet of my brother, I swear to God, you’re gonna wish I was going this easy on you again.” Now, Jacob was two years older than Saul, and he was definitely expected to know better than to start administering vigilante law. In truth though, it was the best thing that he could have done. From then on, Saul got to hang out with Jacob and the other cool kids. Not one person dared bully him again after that, even after Jacob grew up and left. Most importantly though, Saul had gained a big brother that would never let him down. So, as far as Saul was concerned, if his big brother needed a ride home at stupid-o’clock in the morning, it was the least that he could do.
“Hey Jay,” Saul said. Jacob let out a quiet mm-hmm in response, and Saul continued, “How come you can still say words like apoplectic when your slaughtered?”
“That is because I am freaking awesome.”
Saul laughed again. “The car’s just around here.”
“Wait. I gotta piss first,” Jacob replied, and started fiddling with his fly.
“Whoa there. You can’t just … couldn’t you have done that before you left the club?”
“I did. But I have decided to perform an encore.”
“Well, you aren’t going in the middle of the street! Look, there’s public toilets across the road from the car park, OK? Just hold it until then.”
Jacob grunted in response and tried to roll his eyes, but stopped trying to undo his jeans and let Saul guide him across the road. When they reached the open door to the public toilets, they were greeted by two things: a framed certificate declaring the toilets to be gold star rated in 2005, and a stench that made it clear how far their quality had dropped in the years since.
Inside, they were like pretty much every other public toilet in a fifty-mile radius. There was a single, long urinal running along one wall, with its once shiny colouring now stained with a mix of greens, yellows and browns, and its one drainage hole partially blocked by a mix of soaked toilet paper and a chocolate bar wrapper. Opposite that sat three cubicles. The first one had no door and no toilet, but it did have a tidy little printed sheet that read ‘out of order’ sticky taped to a yellow ‘wet floor’ stand. The middle cubicle was shut, but the third one was wide open, revealing a seat-free lump of porcelain that was only a couple of steps up from a hole in the ground. On the far wall sat three small sinks and an electric hand dryer, all of which had been redecorated by a number of local teenagers with marker pens, too much time on their hands, and illegible handwriting.
Jacob nodded towards the final cubicle and said, “You should take that one.”
Saul shook his head. “Jay, just do what you need to so that we can get going, yeah?”
“No, no, no,” Jacob replied, and he started herding Saul towards the open door.
Drunk he may be, but Jacob was still both bigger and stronger than Saul. On top of that, Saul was also well aware that any attempt to dig his heels in at this point, metaphorical or otherwise, would likely result in Jacob falling over and hurting himself. Rather than add that complication to the evening, he chose to let his brother move him to where he wanted him. Once he was inside the cubicle, Saul opened his hands towards Jacob and asked, “Now what?”
“Now, you shut the door, and you make sure you lock it so that no one walks in on you. It’s totally for your own protection and definitely not because I can’t go with someone watching.”
“Fine,” Saul sighed, and pushed the door shut. He slid the lock across with a loud click, and waited. Outside the cubicle, he could hear Jacob shuffle his way back across the room and giggle.
“Hey, Saul. Do you remember how Dad used to have that voice? Before we’d go on a trip, he’d put on that accent like he was an American game show host, and he’d say, ‘Now Saul, you know how you are on long journeys, so you march yourself back in that house and you do a number two right this minute. I am not cleaning that off my car seats.’ If you’re driving me home, you better go now, so that you don’t shit yourself on the way.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” growled a voiced in the cubicle next to Saul. “Can’t you just do your business and get out of here?”
Saul groaned as he heard Jacob stumble his way noisily back towards the cubicles. He should probably step in now before things escalated, but he wasn’t sure what exactly he could do that wouldn’t make things worse. So, instead of trying to intervene, he closed his eyes and lent back against the far wall of his cubicle, waiting for things to run their natural course. If he was lucky, Jacob would just hurl a few insults and get bored.
“What’s that?” Jacob huffed, and banged a fist against the closed door of the middle cubicle. “You say something?”
“Kids in my day,” the voice replied, completely unperturbed, “did what they needed to and got out. There was none of this mothers meeting crap.”
Saul could hear Jacob shuffle about outside the cubicles, his hands scraping against the doors as he said in a mocking tone, “Yeah? Is that right? You want me to do my business? That what you want? Alright then … here we go …”
Jacob went quiet and, after a moment, the silence was cut by the sound of liquid pitter pattering against wood.
“You filthy …” The man in the cubicle roared. He audibly yanked some toilet paper from the dispenser and, after presumably putting it to use, started noisily buckling his belt. The lock to his door clicked, and the door slammed open.
“Nice shoes man,” Jacob laughed. “Watch out for the puddle.”
“Get over here you little …” the man growled. There was a small splash, and he added, “God damn it.”
Jacob, still laughing, pushed his way into the now empty cubicle, and shoved the door shut. “Hey, Saul, you should see this floater man. I think the old guy’s incontinent or something.”
A series of loud bangs rang out against the door, accompanied by the sound of the door slamming against the framework as Jacob tried to hold it shut against the force. “Get out here. Come on,” the man shouted. “Come out here and … what the …”
Saul opened his eyes and dropped them down to the floor just outside the cubicle door. The old man had fallen and was wheezing heavily. “Is he having a heart attack?” Saul squeaked. He made a grab for the lock, but before he could slide it open, the old man’s body slid out of sight, jerking sideways like it had been yanked away by the ankles. Saul frowned. He opened his mouth to question what had happened, but his voice was cut off by the sound of something slapping hard against the single strip light in the middle of the room. The impact shattered the light tube instantly, and drowned the room in darkness.
Saul’s heart started pounding erratically in his chest, and he suddenly became aware that Jacob had stopped laughing. Panic rising, he placed his hand against the cubicle wall and gave two quiet knocks, trying to let his brother know that he was fine. He heard Jacob take in a sharp breath, and a single, quiet knock came back in reply. Sighing inwardly with relief, Saul concentrated on taking deep, forced breathes, as he tried to stop his heart racing.
Skrip. Skrip. Skrip.
The sound cut through the silence like a knife, beating a slow, deliberate rhythm that bounced around the old building. It was a strange noise, like someone was swallowing spit intentionally loudly while ripping sheets of corrugated cardboard. Something in Saul’s head screamed that they needed to get out of there. Fight or flee. It was a primal response to potential conflicts, and Saul’s brain had clearly decided that flee was the best way to go. Without knowing what was out there though, that was easier said than done.
Saul knew what he needed to do. He swallowed hard and slowly lowered one hand to the floor, but before he could drop his eyeline low enough to see under the door, he felt something warm start to run over his fingers. In an instant, his clean hand snapped over his mouth, muffling an involuntary whimper. The liquid was thick and clung to his skin, leaving behind a sickening, iron laden smell. Even in the dark, Saul knew what it was.
Saul stared at the gap under the cubicle door, trying desperately to decide what to do. Should he stay put? Should he chance running? Should he try to check on Jacob? His eyes were beginning to adjust to the dark now, and seeing the blood start to slowly creep into the cubicle was clouding his mind. Then, something else slid under the door.
Saul’s body moved on instinct, and he found himself leaping back onto the thin rim of the seatless toilet, while the rest of his body pushed hard against the wall. Phone, he thought, and fumbled in his pocket for his handset. He unlocked the screen, and immediately began to panic again, worrying that the light would attract whatever was reaching into his cubicle.
But the thing didn’t react. It just kept reaching and twisting around in front of the toilet. Saul continued to stare. It was hard to make out in the dark, but whatever the thing was, it appeared to be long and string-like, similar to a jellyfish’s tentacles but with a thick, tear shaped nodule at the end. A set of sharp, thorny ridges, thicker by far than the things body, ran up part of its length. His curiosity temporarily overriding his fear, Saul slowly turned the illuminated screen of his phone towards the writhing shape.
The instant the light touched it, the tentacle reacted violently. It flailed about and slapped against the inner walls of the cubicle, leaving behind disgusting looking patches of blood, then whipped back under the door and into the main room. Realising what he had done, Saul froze. Please don’t come back, please don’t come back, he thought, the words repeating silently in his head like a mantra. The seconds dragged on, and Saul struggled not to picture the tentacle rearing up outside his door, waiting to slip back in and drag him away like it had with the old man … but nothing happened. The thing did not creep back under the door, it didn’t try to wrap itself around Saul’s leg, and it didn’t haul him to his death.
Yet still, that continuous beat echoed around the room.
Skrip. Skrip. Skrip.
Saul held his breath and tried to concentrate. His hand shaking, he managed to type a brief text message that read, ‘Trapped in toilets near Lando Club. Something out there. Think someone dead. Send police.’ Saul hit ‘send to all contacts’, and immediately realised his mistake. He had no idea if whatever was out there could hear.
Within seconds, the familiar sound of Jacob’s message tone rang out. It was one of those short, built-in melodies that make you answer your phone because they’re annoying more than anything else. Saul’s eyes went wide, and he yelled, “Jay! Run!”
Saul pulled the lock across and yanked the door open in one movement. Without daring to look out into the room, he turned right and made a beeline for the toilet entrance. He made it two steps before a tentacle whipped around his throat like a bolt of lightning, coiling tightly and crushing his windpipe along with the scream that he tried to let out. The instant shot of pain caused Saul’s legs to give way, and he fell to the floor, where the tentacle slid off and another one snaked its way around his body.
Skrip. Skrip. Skrip.
Desperately, Saul ran his thumb over his phone screen, activating the torch function. The light hit a nearby tentacle, and it recoiled and snapped away, leaving behind a wet glob of smoking flesh. Letting himself cling to the thin slither of hope that the creature’s aversion to light offered, Saul pushed the feel of the tentacle wrapping around his body out of his mind. He ignored the spiked ridges cutting his clothes and flesh, and twisted his wrist, angling the phone screen towards his captor.
But his hope died quickly.
The light did indeed cause the thing to react, but rather than loosen its grip, the tentacle instead tightened around him. When that didn’t kill the light, another tentacle whipped over Saul’s chest and thrashed violently against his hand, loosening his grip on the phone. It then wrapped itself around the handset and flung it away.
Saul’s head fell to his right, following the flight of his one potential weapon, and watched it land in front of the open door to his brother’s cubicle. Inside, Jacob lay slumped against the toilet, a tentacle wrapped tightly around his body, binding his arms in place before curving upwards and into his mouth. Jacob’s eyes had glazed over, and his body was shaking under the pressure of whatever the thing was doing to him. Thick pools of blood pumped out of the open tip at the back of the tentacle, and with each pulsating glob, the thing shuddered. After a moment, the one visible ridge on the creature’s side cracked and fell to the ground, where it quickly started to contract and shrink. Within seconds, a smaller, ridgeless tentacle slithered out like a baby snake. The thing that had killed Jacob did not seem to notice the torch light at all.
They’re carrying babies, Saul realised. The light must hurt the babies. Once they’re born, the adults don’t react.
The tentacle around Saul’s body tightened again and his body arched up. He tried to cry out, but all he could manage was a muffled grunt as the nodule that formed the thing’s head forced its way into his mouth and started to slide down his throat. As it neared Saul’s stomach, he dropped his head in defeat, and his eyes came to rest on the old man. He was scrunched up like a used drinks carton, and torn chunks of organs hung limply from his mouth.
Seeing what was to come, Saul closed his eyes and waited to feel the hard suck of the monster’s mouth as it drank him from the inside.
Skrip. Skrip. Skrip.