Categories > Original > Horror

A Dry Place to Sleep

by sopwith 0 reviews

Two escaped convicts search for a place to hide in the woods. They find one, but perhaps it's a little too perfect...

Category: Horror - Rating: PG - Genres: Horror - Published: 2010-05-27 - Updated: 2010-05-27 - 2098 words - Complete

Jack Phinney smiled as he gazed into the lake, hypnotized by the twinkling moonlight upon its surface. His tall, well-muscled frame lay stretched on the damp ground, and a lit cigarette glowed in his hand. Three bags full of groceries sat on the dirt next to him, and a fourth, containing clothes, formed a pillow for his shaved head. The summer weather was perfect, the evening had been great, and he wanted to savor every minute of it.

“Y'know, it'd be a crime to stay cooped up indoors on a night like this.”, he said.

“A crime like stealing cars? Or drowning some guy?”

“You're just not on board, are you, Bo?”, Jack replied.

The black lake was small and surrounded by densely clustered trees. Massive hills, outriders of the Appalachian mountains, stood impassively in the distance. The sky was a glittering blanket of bright stars, and the shiny roof of the Chevy Lumina, which Jack himself had driven into the lake only 5 minutes before, was disappearing nicely, becoming one with the nighttime scene.

The only blemish in the picture was Bo, a balding, gangly man dressed exactly like Jack - in standard issue orange coveralls and black boots. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, hands clenching as he watched the car sink.

“Settle down. Morning count don't happen for 2 hours. They don't even know we're gone yet. And thanks to this, there... “, Jack gestured at the vanishing roof, “we're 100 miles away.”

“Maybe someone noticed him missing.”

“The guy in the trunk? No one's gonna find him for months. Far as leaving, we'll do it once the car is gone. Jesus, man... you ain’t cut out for this. If you weren't my cousin I'da never took you along.”

Jack's peaceful mood vanished as his mind revisited the night's events. Wriggling through the hole in his cell after months of work. The mad scamper across the courtyard and over the wall, through the carefully studied hole in the patrol coverages. The ambush of the fruity-looking guy outside the grocery store. And worst of all, babysitting the stuttering, stammering Bo, who clattered around and stumbled over his own feet at the worst possible times.

The roof of the car slipped beneath the surface with a salvo of bubbles, and Jack reluctantly climbed to his feet. The morning sun was approaching, and the eastern horizon had turned to a dark but unmistakable blue.

“Alright, Bo. Let's do some hiking. You're gonna wish you relaxed a little while you could.”

They set off, skirting the shore of the lake at first, then plunging into the enveloping forest. Jack pushed himself and Bo aggressively, following the bank of a river as it guided them upwards, towards wild and mountainous terrain. Dawn became full daylight, then slowly turned into afternoon. The trees thinned a little, but remained dense enough for the two men to hide easily when, on one occasion, a plane buzzed high overhead. Conversation was light, focusing mainly on how long they would hide in the woods and who among their acquaintances could be safely contacted.

After an eternity of marching through dead twigs and clutching undergrowth, the men found themselves near the base of a steep cliff. The temperature had dropped, and the shadows in the woods grew longer as the sun began its descent.

It was Bo who broke the silence. He was coated with sweat, and his exhausted stumbles had become more frequent as the day ground on.

“It's cold up here. We're gonna have to make a fire no matter where we stop.”

“It ain't that cold! Come on, now. We're doin' good, but we don't wanna get spotted.”

Bo opened his mouth to reply, then froze, his eyes widening.

“Look...“, he hissed.

A cabin stood in a clearing, only fifty feet ahead. The building had seen better days, with a sagging roof of sun-bleached red slate, peeling walls, and a faded red door which stood slightly ajar, revealing a thin sliver of darkness within. White flakes of plaster coated the soil nearby, and the windows were filthy and opaque, revealing nothing of what waited beyond.

The colorful house contrasted starkly with the barren dirt of the clearing, where only a few withered shrubs had attempted to claim some territory. Even the neighboring trees seemed to grow outward, always away from the cabin.

Jack paused, then moved into the open space while signaling for Bo to follow. The air was silent, absent of birdsong or the rustling of small animals.

“Hello?”, Jack called.

There was no reply. With that, he pulled the door open and the two men entered the darkness beyond.

The interior consisted entirely of one small, dimly lit room. It was devoid of furniture except for 3 thin mattresses, lying on the floor next to the back wall. Each mattress was loosely covered by a sheet which resembled white tissue paper. The floor was a light green linoleum and surprisingly clean. In fact, the whole room was nearly immaculate – there were no cobwebs on the white walls and ceiling, no insects, and no dirt.

“What the hell's this?”, Bo asked. He was bouncing his knuckles on one of the window panes, which weren't made of glass at all, but a thick, rubbery plastic.

“Dunno. Insulation? It's warm in here. Maybe it won't break like glass would.”

A gust of wind nudged the door, closing it softly. Shadows engulfed the room, and the smell of mold, faint but unmistakable, began to permeate the air.

Bo walked over, pushing at the door ineffectually.

“Hey, help me with this. Let's go somewhere else. Hell with this place, man... this house is off.”

“You'd rather stay at the Holiday Inn?”, Jack asked, popping the door open with a firm shove. “No-one's here. It'll be alright for one night at least.”

“What if someone comes?”

“Then that sticky door'll wake us up. You ever sleep in the woods before? You don't wanna sleep on the ground if you don't have to. I'll get the bags.”

Cool air buffeted Jack as he stepped outside, causing him to realize how stuffy the cabin really was. He grabbed the bags, brought them inside the house, and closed the door. The light had grown weaker, twilight fighting unsuccessfully against the surrounding forest and thick windows.

Jack peered through the window. The pane was so thick that even picking out individual trees was difficult. Instinctively, he touched the glass. It was slightly warm and really did feel like rubber. He frowned.

“We'll be alright. I doubt anyone's found the car yet. We'll sleep as long as we like, then think about what we're gonna do.”

“Yeah...” Bo's reply was barely coherent. He lay sprawled on one of the mattresses, already half asleep as the rough sheet beneath him crackled like newspaper.

“Damn, but you're like a kid on a long car ride. Lord knows why I took you along.”

But Jack's own eyelids were heavy, and drowsiness began to cradle him. The cabin was warmer than ever, and the moldy scent, earthy with a tinge of carrots, was back and increasing in strength. He stripped to his boxers and collapsed on the mattress in the far corner. Within seconds, he was asleep.

Sometime later, Jack was awoken by a loud hissing which would not stop. His body begged him to go back to sleep, but with a struggle he forced his eyes open and dragged himself to a sitting position, mouth wide open and drooling. It was nighttime, and only the barest trickle of moonlight pressed its way inside the house. The smell of vegetables saturated the room, so thick that the air itself seemed to resist Jack's every move.

“Mold. Bo… mold...”, Jack's voice was ineffective. In his mind, it did not even sound like his own. Bo was a dark, unresponsive lump on his mattress. He was only ten feet away, but the distance was insurmountable.

Jack slowly turned his head, looking around but barely comprehending what he saw. The entire floor was flooded with over an inch of water, and a rectangular bulge protruded slightly from the wall directly above Bo. The protrusion was three feet wide and three inches tall, the wall near each edge splitting apart wetly like the skin on an overripe banana. A similar bulge extended above the empty mattress, and a third began to loom above Jack himself. As his mind awoke, his blank expression changed to a look of stupefied curiosity, then to revulsion as the bulges continued to expand. Stark terror burned through the last of the drowsiness.


This time, Jack’s voice was loud and nearly normal. The yell cut through the atmosphere in the room, but Bo remained oblivious, his silhouette expanding and contracting gently with each sleeping breath.

An odor of burnt plastic tinged the air, mingling subtly with the ever-present smell of mold as the hissing sound grew slightly louder. Jack finally noticed the source; the grocery bags near the door were collapsing, bubbling noisily in the liquid which coated the floor. The nearest bag emitted a low 'pop', and a more familiar fragrance, that of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, blended itself with the scent of the cabin.

Jack had seen enough. He sprang upright and ran towards Bo, his bare feet burning each time they splashed into the liquid on the ground.


He grabbed Bo by the collar and began slapping him across the face, hard. Bo’s eyes opened slowly, his mouth flopping senselessly like that of a baby.

“Gwaaaaaaa… ggaaaa”

Bo's eyes began to focus, and Jack released him, allowing the still-limp body to flop back to the mattress. Moving purely by instinct, Jack burst towards the door, lowered his shoulder, and crashed into it with overwhelming force. But there was no satisfying crunch as muscle burst through aging wood... only a dull impact which sent him reeling backwards, as though he had run into a padded wall.

Jack barely retained his footing. His head was covered in cold sweat, but the burning in his feet had grown into a raging inferno and they no longer balanced him properly. Jack did not want to think about what was happening to him. He could tell well enough from the bags next to the door, which had collapsed into a bubbling, unidentifiable mass, from the color of the liquid, which was darker than before, and from the coppery scent of blood which had begun to add its own influence to the aroma in the room.

He staggered back to the door and began fumbling with the handle, only dimly aware that the handle itself was now a mere rubbery black bump, no more distinct than the bulges which he had seen emerging from the wall. His legs gave way, and Jack crashed into the acid, landing on his chest.

The pain took over, assaulting Jack with such force that his body and mind became numb. From his position, he was able to see the mattress where he had been sleeping only minutes before. It was nearly gone... dissolving peacefully into the same liquid which was dissolving him.

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaa! What’s this? What’s this?!”

Jack focused on the screaming. He watched as Bo’s silhouette made a futile attempt to scale the wall, using the limp and slippery protrusion above his mattress. Shadowy feet hopped up and down in a frenzied dance as waterlogged chunks of plaster slid off in Bo's hands.

“Useless...”, Jack whispered.

As he faded into unconsciousness, Jack could see that the bulges still grew and had begun to resemble new mattresses, covered with a thick white ichor...

Several hours later, the morning sun flew high over the forest. The wind was gentle, the temperature mild, and the sky an unbroken light blue from one horizon to the other. A great opportunity for someone to get out of the house and hike, hunt, or explore something new.

Even the forest clearing seemed cheerful, the cabin within standing out proudly from the drab landscape which surrounded it. A red roof, with slates so shiny and tightly fitted that they resembled the scales on a snake, tapered crisply above spotless, white plaster walls. The windows were clean but opaque, revealing little of what lay beyond them.

A lone deer dashed into the clearing, dust flying as she skidded to a stop. She glanced around nervously, then froze as she craned her neck at the building. In reply, the bright red door of the cabin popped slightly ajar, revealing a thin sliver of darkness.
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