Categories > Movies > Re-Animator

Harum Scarum

by DrWorm 1 review

Sometimes the best defense is to be offensive. Meg and Herbert have a less than pleasant encounter while Dan is conspicuously absent.

Category: Re-Animator - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama, Horror - Published: 2005-12-15 - Updated: 2005-12-16 - 2312 words - Complete

Harum Scarum

The house changed dramatically when Dan wasn't in it. She had told herself, at first, that she was just being silly and that all houses seem a little different in the absence of their owners. /Megan/, she had said to herself in her sternest of inner voices, /you are acting like the 'fraidy-cat little girl at a slumber party who can't sleep because of all the ghost stories she's been told/.

It was just a house. An old house, to be sure, with all the creaks and creepiness that houses seem to gain naturally with age, but still just another house on a block that was lined with its similarly-designed brethren. The change she observed was a psychological one, brought on by her own emotions and fears. Of course it was; it couldn't be anything else. She sat idly in the driveway, her motor off and her fingernails beating a neurotic pulse against the steering wheel, and argued with herself in the privacy of her own head in the firm, no-nonsense tone of pure logic and denial that educated people use when their senses are telling them something they are sure cannot be right. It's Dan's house, really/, she rationalized. /He was there first. West is really renting it from him. /And-and--well, it's not as if West is even all that scary! The shrill desire to laugh began to swell just below her diaphragm, and she hastily covered her mouth with one hand to suppress the kind of giggling fit that left a person aching. /He's probably not even taller than I am! There's nothing threatening about him!

And the house couldn't possibly have changed, really changed, since he came here. It couldn't have.

Dusk had settled a grey pallor over the features of Arkham, turning the bright autumn features of the town into a leering, brooding landscape. Halloween was approaching, and paper skeletons, plastic spiders, and garbage-bag ghosts decorated the porches and trees of many homes in the neighborhood. During the day, these macabre effigies seemed almost cheerful, while at night they were barely visible in the dark and so were inconsequential. But as the sun began to set and twilight stretched and lengthened the world's shadows, the open mouths on the pumpkins became gaping maws and the jaws of errant skulls evoked less of a grin and more of a sneer. The scenery was turning against her, she realized, while she sat in her car and let herself become frightened.

Meg ripped the keys out of the ignition and tumbled out of the car door, stumbling slightly as she sought to find her balance on the gravel driveway. /I'll be damned if I let that little smartass scare me/, she thought furiously as she slammed her car door shut, determined to face the problem of the little monster head-on.


She found him sitting at the kitchen table, eating a tomato sandwich and leafing through an antique textbook featuring the myriad diseases of the eye. He didn't look up when she entered the room, and did not even acknowledge her presence until nearly two minutes had passed and she was still standing patiently in the doorway.

"He's not here," West finally announced languidly, pausing to flip a page and examine one of the more colorful illustrations.

"I know," Meg answered, trying hard to keep her voice steady even as she berated herself inwardly for needing to do so. "I actually wanted to, well...­ talk to you."

At this revelation, Herbert set his half-eaten sandwich down on the plate and looked up, his expression carefully neutral. "Did you?" He asked noncommittally; though his voice pitched it as a question, he clearly didn't care what her answer was, or even whether she chose to answer him at all. His dull, simple courtesy upset Megan for reasons she felt powerless to articulate; his attitude of studied apathy toward her was overpoweringly condescending, seeming to wring the true feelings of helplessness from beneath her veneer of solid capability. Still, she felt obligated to soldier forward despite the ugly Gordian knot of fear that had twisted in the pit of her stomach.

"Yes, actually." Meg gave him her best apologetic smile, though it was tempered by the inherent dislike that was blatant in her eyes. "It's about your renting the house with Dan... "

"Is it?" He interrupted with the flash of an equally false and brittle smirk. "I thought it might be."

Meg sighed and decided to drop the pretence of politeness. "You know I don't want you living here." Her eyes flickered to the pattern on the linoleum-tiled floor, uneasy with the prospect of resting for any length of time on West's features.

"I had gotten that feeling from you, yes." He seemed to stare through her, and though his words were civil some part of him, Meg felt, was openly mocking her. "However, I'm afraid that this house is exactly what I was looking for." He rested his hands on the table's edge, threading his fingers together with an exaggerated gesture of idle nonchalance. Meg's memory spontaneously regurgitated an elementary school rhyme: "This is the church; this is the steeple; open the doors and kill all the people."

"Look," she said, trying to take back some semblance of control over the situation. "We're both adults, and I'm sure we can find some way to settle this."

West smiled at the sentiment, a nasty, twisting leer that contorted his features and reminded Meg of why she'd found him disturbing in the first place. "Somehow, Miss Halsey," he drawled, his voice practically oozing contempt, "I don't find it very 'adult' of you to come here to order me out of this house just because you feel threatened."

Glaring, Meg shifted her feet and reached out a hand to grasp the nearby doorjamb. "You don't threaten me," she declared and her words sounded sullen and whiny to her own ears.

"Oh, don't I?" He stood, the legs of his chair squealing across the floor as he pushed it back from the table. Thin, orange light from the setting sun trickled in through the kitchen window, burning their immediate universe with cool flames that licked the wallpaper's peeling edges without damaging them in the slightest. "Miss Megan," he said with an exaggerated, childlike seriousness, "I think you hate me."

Meg crossed her arms defensively, hugging her elbows as a sudden draft of chilly air made her shiver. "I barely know you," she protested weakly. Herbert shrugged and took a step forward.

"A misdirection, at best." He made a show of examining the dirt beneath the fingernails on his right hand. "It's all right. I think you would have hated anyone who showed up wanting to rent this house with Daniel."

Her eyes widened. "What?" With his eyes glittering beneath the thick lenses of his glasses, Herbert took another step forward, slowly and gently as if he was aware that a sudden movement might startle her into bolting back out the door and down the drive.

"It's understandable," he said, his voice low and almost soothing, except for an underscoring of sliminess that made Meg want to gag. "You're afraid Daniel will lose interest in you."

She blinked and, instinctively, her hand went to the base of her throat, tightening the collar of her jacket. "Are you out of your mind?"

"No. Oh, no." He smiled again, gently placating. "No, I'm very sane." His gaze seemed to drift over her shoulder and into the darkened dining room. "You're simply the kind of girl who can't deal with having any kind of competition." He dragged his eyes back to meet hers. "It's painfully obvious."

Meg laughed hoarsely, feeling small and false in front of the strange, pedantic figure of Herbert West. "You think...­ you think I see you as competition? For Dan?"

His eyes narrowed. "Oh? You don't see it?" He reached out and grabbed her wrist, pulling her forward so quickly that she lost her balance and would have tripped over his feet had he not caught her and held her tightly, his fingertips vanishing within the folds of her oversized fall windbreaker. "Because, from where I'm standing," he growled with a touch of bitter importance, "I see a man who could easily get tired of waiting while some spoiled little bitch--" He shook her sharply, back and forth just once, and Meg winced as her back teeth clicked together jarringly. "--can't quite make up her mind."

"It's not like that!" Meg cried, pushing her palms against Herbert's chest. "Let go of me, you creep! Dan loves me! You just wouldn't understand." She squirmed wildly. "Now let... me... /go/!"

His eyes widened, and he looked genuinely surprised at her vehement need to be set free from the hold he had on her. "Why?" He asked curiously, stifling a small chuckle. "Do you think I'll hurt you?"

"I wouldn't put it past you," Meg glowered, too emotionally turmoiled to bother with anything except candid honesty. She was highly aware that they were locked in what could almost, from a distance, be perceived as an embrace, and it didn't make her feel the least bit comfortable. Her answer made him laugh, and that didn't help to quell the sudden skittering of her heartbeat, nor did the odd movement of his fingertips as they slid to the flesh of her wrists, idly trying to soothe her but instead making her slightly nauseated.

"Oh, I wouldn't hurt /you/," he smiled unconvincingly. "Dan likes you. It would be a selfish, empty gesture on my part if I tried to hurt you."

"Somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better," she snarled, trying to jerk her hands away; but Herbert tightened his grip and pulled her closer.

"Now this is interesting," he whispered, his breath ricocheting off of Meg's cheeks in distasteful little puffs. "I know I can't be the only one thinking about how this might look if precious Daniel walked through the door right now."

Meg gritted her teeth. "You're disgusting."

"Am I?" He drew her closer, snaking one assertive arm around her waist. "I'd surmised that this kind of situation was a common one." He tipped his head to one side. "The new roommate and the not-so-faithful girlfriend?" Meg opened her mouth to issue a stern correction and was horrified when Herbert surged forward and sealed his lips over hers. He kissed her roughly, tangling his free hand into the hair at the base of her skull to keep her from pulling away as he flicked his tongue over her front teeth. Meg felt her mind go dull with surprise and revulsion; she noticed, numbly, that though West was not shy about putting his tongue into her mouth, he stopped short of initiating the pulsing, pumping mimicry of coitus that she had become accustomed to with Dan. Her hands pushed weakly against his collarbone and she hummed high, little shrieks down his throat until they broke violently apart; as she stumbled backward, she felt one of his hands slide down her chest, beneath her coat, to cup her breast and give her nipple a painful tweak. She gasped and squeezed her eyes shut as he laughed.

"An interesting experience," he said after a moment, his tone of voice abruptly benign and contemplative. Meg wiped the involuntary tears of stress from the corners of her eyes to see Herbert cleaning traces of her lipstick from his mouth with the pad of his thumb. "But not, I think, one that I'd care to repeat." He flashed her another nasty smile. "You don't taste very nice, Miss Halsey."

"You're a bastard." She hugged herself and turned her head away from him to look into the living room; she could see the front door from where she stood.

"Yes," he answered mildly. "And you are no longer welcome in this house when Dan is not here."

She tossed her head and flipped her hair behind her ear. "I have a key," she said coldly. West's eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared.

"Then I would suggest that you resist any impulse to use it." His entire demeanor had become stiff and formal, just as it had been when she had first met his eyes unexpectedly on Dan's doorstep; he was as cold, humorless, and unidentifiably disturbing as he had been that night when he had pulled Dan's ad for a roommate from inside his suit jacket.

"You¡¯ll be sorry," she said, feeling weak and pathetic in a way she had seldom experienced; the muscles in her thighs shook, limp and watery, as she backed out of the kitchen and strode with an odd, hiccupping sidestep toward the front door. "You'll be sorry," she repeated as she fumbled with the doorknob, though she knew he was no longer able to see her. "You little creep. I'll make you sorry." She threw open the door with a gasp and tumbled onto the porch, slamming the door behind her.

"Dan doesn't really like him," Meg declared defensively to the empty evening air in the bitter tones of a very sore loser as she wrapped her coat tightly around her upper body. "He just needed someone to help with the rent, that's all." She paused momentarily, staring off into the distance with glazed, unhappy eyes. Then, abruptly, a crow cawed shrilly from its perch in one of the nearby trees, startling her out of her reverie and making her feel silly for trying to justify her situation when there was no one else around. She hopped nimbly down the porch steps, vowing to herself that the next time she and Herbert West met, she would have the upper hand by any means necessary. One of her tennis shoes hit a stray rock and sent it flying into the grass.

She had less than one week to live.
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