Title: The Men in Black
Genre: Horror, Short Story
Summary: They linger in the shadows, men dressed in black, hungry for what they no longer have. Violent and quick, they take what they need, like a nightmare version of the tooth fairy. But it’s not always easy, humans can be stubborn creatures.
Main Characters: Lassiter
Disclaimers: All things Psych owned by Steve Franks and the USA network.
Author's Note: Written for the spook_me Multi-Fandom Halloween Ficathon 2012.
Monster Prompt: Men in Black
Total Word Count: 4,748
Detective Carlton Lassiter stumbled, knees buckling under the weight of exhaustion. Body heavy with fatigue, he felt as though he was on his way to his own funeral and not his empty apartment at 3 am, bed so large – and empty – he could disappear and pretend the last three days had never existed.
Deaths, violent enough to turn even Lassiter’s stomach, had kept him working almost three days straight; stubble itchy, suit wrinkled, armpits smelling like Sunday’s leftovers. If it hadn’t been for the Chief insisting he go home, Lassiter would have worked himself into an exhausted heap, too tired to pick himself up off the floor, someone else’s boot a comfortable pillow.
Feet dragging, he continued his way along the footpath to his apartment building’s entrance, the distance seemingly too great. A wave of vertigo flowed over him, through him, tilting his body, stopping him instantly. Taking a long deep breath, Lassiter waited for his balance to return, for his strength to catch up to the rest of him, strength that had abandoned him hours earlier. Physically, he was running on empty, caffeine the only thing keeping him going, his movements automatic.
Something shifted in Lassiter’s peripheral vision, snapping his head to the right, legs pivoting, his body turning, instinct searching for a threat.
Nothing but manicured shrubs and an empty footpath highlighted by a glaring street light.
Knowing that he should never ignore his natural instinct, Lassiter waited, mind patient, body tired beyond belief. A gentle breeze brushed against his cool flesh, a shiver caressing his spine. He felt as though he were in a badly dubbed horror movie. If that idiot Spencer was playing another one of his stupid practical jokes, he was going . . .
Sudden movement amidst the shadows, a human figure stepping forward into the light, body language eerily calm. Dressed in black the man stood still, arms hanging by his side, fingers unnaturally long. Head bald, face pale, eyes beady, lips too thin, the man smiled. A smile so ugly, it turned his face into something hideous, something from a child’s nightmare; a face only a mother could love.
Too tired to play games, Lassiter said, “Can I help you?”
A second man, so similar to the first it was almost unnerving, moved out of the shadows, stopping beside his companion. Twins, both men suffering the same deformities, an ugliness that seemed to cloak them, drown them.
They waited silently, calmly, patiently; for what Lassiter didn’t know, wasn’t sure he wanted to know. They watched him, eyes unblinking, pupils growing larger, the white of their eyes disappearing. Nerves already frayed from exhaustion, Lassiter lost the last of his patience.
Drawing his weapon, Lassiter raised his right arm, stepped back onto his right leg and moved his body into a defensive position. Slow to think, he hesitated; it was a second too long.
They moved quickly, too quickly. So fast, Lassiter quickly lost track of them. The shadows came alive, swallowing him whole. The air around him disappeared, making breathing impossible, thick cotton filling his lungs. A cold hand, damp with something that felt so wrong, touched the side of his face. Lassiter flinched away, turning toward the touch.
Hoping that he’d fallen asleep at his desk, Lassiter closed his eyes and counted to . . .
Something slammed into his left side, knocking him off his feet, down onto his knees, forcing what little air he had out of his lungs. Another blow, across the back of his shoulders. Grunting in pain, Lassiter pushed away, moving as far as he could from the threat, trying to buy enough time to prepare himself for the next blow. Time didn’t wait for him. Before he could stand, before he could raise his weapon, something picked him up, his feet no longer touching the ground, body no longer vertical. Lassiter struggled to regain his equilibrium, voice refusing to work, unable to identify himself as a police officer.
Fetid breath brushed across his face, gagging reflex working overtime. Another odour, this one so familiar. Decomposing flesh, so strong, so overpowering, Lassiter feared he was going to throw up. Nausea rolled through his stomach, bile rose into his throat and then he was flying, body thrown and he waited for the impact.
Worse than he had feared, body introduced to stairs, soft flesh meeting a solid surface, gun falling from lax fingers. A yelp of pain was all Lassiter could muster, his breath non-existent. Eyes snapped shut against tears of pain, back arched, brain screaming at him to get up, Lassiter rolled downward, stopping face down on the footpath. Knowing he couldn’t wait for the pain to ease, Lassiter pushed up onto hands and knees, breath returning, deep ragged breaths.
He had to stand up.
His back felt as though it had been broken in two, legs numb, knees weak. He had to get up. There was something above him, hovering over him, reaching for him. Fingers, still unnaturally long, gripped his ankle, digging into flesh. Like a fish caught on a hook, Lassiter was reeled in – sudden and quick – toward the thick shrubs, disappearing quickly from sight.
He had to get up.
Shadows, shapes no longer human, drifted around him, above him. Whispers, words he couldn’t understand, a language unknown to him. A sudden weight on his back, the pain expanding, knees gripping his sides, holding him in place. The odor so bad, Lassiter gagged, and his eyes watered. He couldn’t move, couldn’t push up against the weight and with sudden clarity, Lassiter understood; he was paralysed with fear. This thing on his back wasn’t human, the shadows, the two men dressed in black . . . they weren’t human. He was sure of it. How do you fight something that isn’t human? Lassiter didn’t know, but he had to try.
Taking a deep breath, Lassiter calmed himself long enough to think, to feel. If it weren’t for the pain, the smell, he would simply wait until he woke up from a nightmare. A soft touch against the back of his skull, spreading, an abnormally large hand gripping his head, turning it to the side. He could feel the grass – still damp from the afternoon rain – beneath his right cheek. He could see the front entrance to his apartment building through the shrubs, a safe haven he hadn’t been able to reach.
Footsteps, high heels clacking on the cement footpath broke the silence. He hesitated, not wanting to involve another person, a death on his conscience, if only for the fleeting moments he had left to live. But the choice was taken from him. Long fingers – the flesh clammy – covered his mouth, pressing down, keeping him silent. Lassiter watched, the fear twisting his gut, as more shadows broke away from the dark corners of the building, dozens of them. He screamed – a need to protect and serve – the sound muffled, not loud enough to make a difference. Fingers dug into his cheeks, drawing blood, a message to stay silent. Ignoring the warning, knowing that death was on its way, Lassiter screamed, trying to send his own warning to the woman.
Her death was quick, violent. Lassiter had seen nothing like it before and never would again. A gnashing of sharp teeth, claws, her body ripped open, bleeding to death within seconds. So quick, she couldn’t have known what was happening. Lassiter was at least grateful for that. He could only hope that his own death was that quick.
Why wasn’t he dead?
They had killed her without hesitation. He could see her face now, short red hair, small birthmark on her pale forehead. Marjorie Wentworth. Apartment 12. She made him chocolate cupcakes every second Saturday. Lassiter closed his eyes, anger spreading, overriding the fear.
Why hadn’t they killed him?
Pushing upward, the pain in his back snapping at him, biting painfully, Lassiter struggled to get free. The hand clamped over his mouth pulled away, allowing Lassiter to turn his head, seeing what was above him. A fist, unnaturally large, split the air, moving at a speed that was too fast for Lassiter to avoid. He registered the pain exploding inside his skull, then nothing.
The smell of something putrid brought Lassiter back to his senses, the smell so bad it would wake the dead, much like a rotting corpse resting in an overflowing cesspit, so much like his mother’s Sunday roast. Worried the smell would actually kill him, Lassiter held his breath, not wanting to take another; death by odor would be gut wrenchingly slow. Bad enough that his brain felt as though it were leaking out his ears. The pain, on a scale of one to ten, a – not exaggerated – three-hundred and twenty-four. Skull ready to explode at any moment, Lassiter wished it would hurry up.
Heart beating painfully against his ribcage, Lassiter opened his eyes, darkness so black he feared he’d gone blind. He waited, for something, anything that would give him an indication of where he was. He moved his hand, fingers resting against a wooden floor.
Not an alien UFO then.
Thank fuck for that.
It was possible it could have been his imagination, seeing things that weren’t real, sleep deprivation working overtime. Not aliens but a group of disillusioned kidnappers, asking for a ransom no one would be willing to pay.
Lungs screaming for relief, Lassiter had no choice but to take a breath, gagging on the smell. Stomach rolling, brain turning to liquid, Lassiter listened.
A deafening silence.
Wait . . .
A scraping noise, something dragging across the floor, the smell getting stronger, thicker.
Lassiter flinched when a warm, wet, puff of air painted the side of his face, something dripping onto his flesh, burning his skin. A whisper, so close, dry lips touching his forehead, “You have what we need.”
He didn’t want to know.
He had to make a decision. Die here or fight back.
Decision easily made, Lassiter struck out, left fist colliding with something hard, unyielding. That was stupid . . . and extremely painful. He clenched and unclenched his fingers, massaging the pain away. He needed a plan, something uncomplicated because at the moment, his brain – like Swiss cheese – couldn’t and wouldn’t get past the old and trusted, ‘hit them and then run like hell’ option.
Putrid breath still washing over him, Lassiter began to think. It was agonizingly slow, the process painful, thoughts trying to make their way through a brick wall. Light bulb refusing to light up, Lassiter resorted to the obvious. He got up and ran.
Fell flat on his face, vertigo too much for his brain to handle, balance gone to shit, body hitting the floor hard. Somewhere behind him, a small, throaty chuckle. It was laughing at him, amused by Lassiter’s attempt to escape. Lassiter didn’t think it was that funny.
He had to test the waters, see how it would react if he did manage to make it to the door. If there was a door. He couldn’t see a damn thing. Lassiter got up on hands and knees, stomach threatening to erupt, brain beating an ugly rhythm, and began to crawl forward. His body tilted slightly to the left; he’d feel like an idiot if he only managed to crawl around in a circle. Feeling a weight in his jacket pocket, Lassiter paused. Unsure of what it was, he reached into the pocket with tentative fingers, anxious of something biting him, fingers taken off, leaving nothing but bloody stumps.
An object so familiar, so comfortable in his hand; his Glock service pistol. But why give it back to him? It couldn’t have been stupidity on their part. Perhaps it was a lack of knowledge, unaware of what a gun is, what it could do. It was possible they removed the weapon from the scene, unwilling to leave anything behind, victim disappearing without a trace. It didn’t matter, he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth; would get his head bitten off if he did.
It took a moment – brain working at a more sedate pace – for Lassiter to realize that he may still have his cell phone. Searching his jacket pockets, this time with more confidence, Lassiter found it.
Such an idiot to assume otherwise.
Broken pieces fell through his fingers, playing a bad drum solo as they hit the floor. Breath caught in his throat, Lassiter waited, fearful that he was about to become dinner. He would make a disappointing meal: skin and bone, gangly limbs.
He was nobody’s dinner.
Without pause, fingers wrapping themselves around the handle, forefinger finding a full grip on the trigger – safety be damned – Lassiter drew his weapon. He turned his hips, pushing upward with his legs until he was upright. Balance all shot to hell, he had to take a chance. Left hand supporting the right, legs braced, Lassiter took aim and fired off a shot, so loud it left him grimacing in pain, headache exploding.
Of course he did.
Still couldn’t see a damn thing.
A rush of movement to his left told Lassiter the location of his abductor – whatever the hell it was. He turned toward the sound, firing another single shot.
He’d missed again.
Lassiter held his breath, grateful for the momentary lack of smell, and waited. It didn’t take long, a few seconds, and then a soft groan followed by a grateful thud as his attacker fell to the ground. With a sigh of relief, Lassiter allowed the air to escape his lungs. His heart beat wildly, out of control, an anxious moment.
Feeling the bile rise into his throat, Lassiter leaned over, vomiting onto the ground. Bagels and coffee, not long digested, splashed against his shoes, the bottom of his trousers. When he was done, he stood up, body swaying as he wiped the spit and bile from his chin with the sleeve of his jacket. A few shuffling steps and his balance – damaged beyond repair he was sure – returned.
Time to leave; escape . . . if he was able.
Morbid curiosity was a nasty thing; an ugly compulsion to move toward danger instead of away from it, wanting to see what had threatened him, what had wanted to kill him. Lassiter took a step forward, gun still raised, still too dark to see. Fear crept along his spine, reaching into his skull, telling him to run.
One-step at a time until he found a solid wall, following it to a door. Unlocked. They may have been violent, quick to kill when they wanted to be but stupid. Surely not. Maybe they hadn’t read ‘Abduction for Dummies’. Not one to complain, gift horse and all that, Lassiter opened the door. A corridor lit by a dim light, enough to allow him to see where he was, where he was going.
Instead, he turned back. Pale light spilled into the room, highlighting the . . . he didn’t know what it was, didn’t want to know. It lay in the middle of an otherwise empty room, tiny beneath the huge black coat, face covered by a too-large hat. Lassiter stepped back into the room, his body hesitant, afraid that it would get back up, a Jason Voorhess wanna-a-be.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Lassiter moved forward, internal voice screaming colorful vulgarities, stopping when he was close enough to touch. Not normally an idiot, Lassiter knelt down, reaching out with his left hand, fingertips brushing against the brim of the hat before snatching it away. It wasn’t as bad as he thought; dead features not nearly as frightening or as ugly as they had been alive. Finger pushing against the skull, Lassiter tested it for life, his own heart pausing, waiting.
Again, thank fuck for that.
He could kill them.
Returning to the doorway, Lassiter allowed his training to take control. He stepped into the hallway, gun sweeping to the left, then right, searching for any threat. Nothing. A moment to take note of where he was. The corridor stretched out to his left, six doors – numbered ten to fifteen – on the right, windows painted black on the left, faded red carpet beneath his feet. At the end of the corridor, a door, exit sign above it. An abandoned hotel, away from the public. Very private, screams heard only by those held here.
With his balance still wobbly and his shoulder against the wall for support, Lassiter began to move, gun kept at the ready; he wasn’t going to take any chances.
The light flickered, stuttered.
Off. On. Off. On.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Lassiter waited, patience lacking, body beginning to shake; fear and anger colliding.
He felt them before he saw them, shadows coming up behind him, around him, in front of him. Human figures dressed in black. Faces ugly, teeth sharp, they smiled at him. Predators, ready to kill, Lassiter their next intended victim.
But he was no victim, he would fight back, kill as many as he could . . . before they killed him.
Heart beating like a ping pong ball on crack, Lassiter shot the one closest to him, bullet entering the skull; if it worked for zombies, why the hell not. The others paused, shadows shimmering, slow dancing to an unheard tune.
A breath against the back of his neck, damp, sticky, caused Lassiter to turn. His stomach dropped at the sight of normality: blond hair, blue eyes, and a set of teeth straight out of an orthodontist’s handbook. Then it smiled, teeth becoming sharp, eyes turning black, morphing into something that should only exist in the mind of a Wes Craven nightmare.
With a voice like nails on a blackboard, it said, “You have what we need.”
He still didn’t want to know.
“And we want it.”
Lassiter fired his weapon, bullet entering the thing’s skull, black matter exploding out the back. It fell, black coat billowing around its body, hitting the floor with a sickening thud. It wasn’t getting up again. The others hesitated; time stretching, the seconds passing ever so slowly, unsure what to do next. Words whispered to one another. A shove and a push, one of them stepping forward, not volunteering of its own free will. It too fell when Lassiter shot it.
Dumb as shit. They had to be. Pack animals too eager for a kill.
They outnumbered stupidity, not enough bullets to kill them all, something they might figure out . . . eventually.
Lassiter fired his weapon, the creatures stumbling over each other to get out of the way, felling three more.
The light flickered.
If he couldn’t see them . . .
His chest ached with fear, heart pounding hard enough to crack a rib.
They had stepped back, keeping their distance. No longer confident in their ability to take him, shred him open, innards all over the floor. Taking the opportunity given to him, Lassiter took his own step back, pausing to see what they would do. Heads tilted at an angle, as though confused, they watched him.
They struck hard and fast, knocking Lassiter off his feet; head bouncing off the floor, carpet too thin to soften the blow. Something tore at his side, ripping him open, nails scraping against bone, his scream so loud. Clenching his jaw tight against the pain, pulling air through gritted teeth, Lassiter waited for the final blow.
Blood everywhere, his white shirt quickly turning red.
Above him, ghostly shadows hovering just out of reach. Foul breath ghosted over his face, making breathing difficult. His body shook, shock quickly setting in.
Fingers, claws digging deep, gripped his ankles, pulling him, dragging him back into the room. Lassiter held onto his gun, not willing to let it fall from his fingers. Nails raked over his body, making their way upward, tugging at his clothes, biting his flesh; searching for what they wanted, needed. Something licked at his wound, sandpaper against raw flesh. Lassiter breathed through his nose, harsh breaths, quick, urgent, an attempt to control the pain. It didn’t work.
They moved back into the shadows, hiding in the corners of the room, patiently waiting. Still slow to think, even more so now, Lassiter finally understood. They were associating the light with death, keeping them back, forcing them to wait until it was dark. Dumber than shit, they could have just turned the light off.
Light still on, Lassiter rolled onto his side, wound brushing against the floor. Sure that he would fall flat on his face if he stood up now, Lassiter crawled to the doorway, each second an eternity, waiting for the light to flicker off. Waiting to die. Blood dripped onto the floor, a broken tap in need of a fix, leaving a trail. They moved with him, shadows dancing across the walls.
In the hallway once again, Lassiter sat up, back against the wall and pushed upward. His legs trembled, knees threatening to buckle beneath him. He wasn’t going to die here. Not like this. Shoulders against the wall, he began to move, feet shuffling, knees weak. He felt lightheaded, ready to faint.
The light flickered, hesitating before finally deciding to stay on.
The corridor began to spin, an out of control tilt-a-whirl. Closing his eyes, Lassiter stopped, taking a precious moment to gain control. If the light went out now . . .
Things were finally going his way. Feeling as though he’d just tempted fate, Lassiter waited for ‘Murphy’s Law’ to bite him in the ass. Waited for the light to go out. It flickered, snapping off then back on again. It was his cue to leave. They stuck close, drifting along the corridor, matching his every move with one of their own. He could see the exit at the end of the corridor; feel the cool night air drifting across his skin. He was so close.
The light went out.
The exit sign glowed, green letters urging him on.
Lassiter ran, stumbling toward the exit, each step bringing him closer to freedom. Pushed from behind, he fell forward, chest slamming against the floor, air fleeing deflating lungs. He’d gotten so close. Defeat staring him in the face, Lassiter rolled onto his back and raised his weapon. Barrel finding the skull of the closest shadow, Lassiter pulled the trigger. Black liquid splattered across his face, burning his skin.
The light came back on, brighter than before. The shadows fled, cowering in the corners, waiting patiently for their turn. Pushing up onto trembling legs, Lassiter began to move backward, small tentative steps, not stopping until he could feel the solid door against his back, feel the heat of the neon sign directly above him. About ready to pass out, Lassiter gripped the door handle, turning it, blood soaked fingers making it difficult to open.
Sudden darkness when the light flickered off. They were coming for him. He could hear them, like the wind through the trees, leaves brushing against each other. Lassiter cursed; his voice loud. A slap across the side of his face, his teeth biting painfully into his cheek. The door opened, an incredible piece of luck, sunlight pouring into the corridor. Lassiter fell backward, back hitting the ground, weeds softening his fall. They stood in the doorway, unwilling to come any closer.
He was safe.
Letting his head fall back, Lassiter took a deep breath, pain hugging his side, refusing to let go. He had to get up. The effort too great, he slumped back to the ground, deep ragged breaths. If he didn’t get up . . . bleeding to death was not an option, not after what he’d just gone through. Rolling over onto hands and knees, Lassiter took a moment, gathering his strength, willing his body to keep going, just a little longer. He watched, memorized as droplets of blood fell to the ground . . . his blood, a small puddle forming.
You’ll bleed out, die here, if you don’t get up.
A human form stepped out into the sun, dressed in black, eyes dark, teeth sharp. It waited, as though sensing its prey was on its last legs. As Lassiter crawled forward, it moved around him, stopping in front of him, pausing Lassiter’s movements. Holding his breath, Lassiter closed his eyes and waited, expecting a bone-breaking blow across the back of his skull. Instead, a gentle touch, fingers grazing the top of his head, a tremor of fear rushing through his body.
Make it quick. Fast and painless.
It stepped aside.
Don’t ask questions.
Just. Get. The. Fuck. Up.
It took every ounce of strength he had – seconds dragging by excruciatingly slow – to get up onto his feet. His body swayed, trying to decide which way it wanted to fall. The first step was the hardest, the next a little easier, each step after that getting him further away from the shadows. Sure that he had made it a safe distance away, Lassiter stopped, curiosity once again getting the better of him and turned around.
A run-down hotel, business dried out years before, the L shaped building debilitated. It looked tranquil enough, the horror inside no longer visible, a nightmare Lassiter would never forget.
Shadows moved, taking human form, black coats and black hats. They paused, legs still, arms by their sides, fingers still unnaturally long. They watched him, some with fear, some with a morbid fascination. One of them stepped forward.
Lassiter raised his weapon.
It smiled, nodded and began to move away, feet hovering a few inches above the ground before shifting once more into a shadowed form. The others followed, shifting and changing, drifting away, exaggerating a safe distance. Lassiter blinked. They were gone, just like that. They’d thrown in the towel. They had outnumbered him, could have taken him easily. It wasn’t like a martial arts movie fight scene where the bad guys waited politely for their turn to attack. Why hadn’t they attacked him as a single unit?
Dumber than shit?
He didn’t know. Wouldn’t know.
Shoulders slumping with exhaustion, body riddled with pain, Lassiter looked for a way out, a way to get home; large bed still waiting for him.
So close to the door he’d just escaped through.
Probably broken, vandalized.
He had no choice, couldn’t walk back to town, unsure of which direction to take. He could die out here, body never found, bones basking in the afternoon sun. Strength wanning, Lassiter made his way to the payphone, gaze resting on the open door, searching for moving shadows that may have stayed behind. They were all gone, as though they had never existed. Perhaps denial was the best thing, a way of pretending it had never happened. If he thought of it too often, had too many nightmares, he would go bat-shit insane.
Lassiter reached the payphone in one piece. Body about to drop, he lifted the handset with his left hand. Raised his right, pausing when he realized he was still holding onto his weapon; a death grip so tight his knuckles were bloodless.
He could hear a dial tone.
Thankfully not vandalized.
Too exhausted to be surprised.
Juggling the handset between chin and shoulder, Lassiter used his left hand to dial 911, wondering how in the hell he was going to explain what had happened. Plenty of time to think of something, a lie to explain away the bodies lining the corridor in the old motel. He heard a voice on the other end of the line asking his emergency. Lacking the strength to go into detail, Lassiter simply stated, code 3, officer down. He dropped the phone, his own legs collapsing beneath him. He had done the majority of the work. They could do the rest. Finding him wouldn’t be too difficult. He would stay here, rest, heart pounding in fear, worried the shadows would change their minds and come back for him.
Glancing down at his blood soaked shirt, Lassiter pulled his suit jacket out of the way, revealing the injury. He’d had worse and survived. He would survive this, he was certain of that.
There was one other thing he was certain of; never again would he sleep with the light off.
Master Fan Fiction List