Rating: Adult for horror themes
Fandom: EverymanHYBRID, gen
A/N: I had thoughts. Passing familiarity with the show is recommended, but you can get an overview of it on their wiki. Set after Alex.
Alex hears scratching in the night. He's not sleeping, even though it's been weeks since he got more than a few patchy hours and longer since he felt safe at night. Nobody's sleeping. Evan didn't go home, level-grinding at the original Bioshock instead even though Alex knows Evan's beaten it; the screen casts saturated light and shadow, glinting off the knife at Evan's hip.
The sound broke on Jeff's TV, but Jeff's playing a Decemberists CD that Jessa made him. It's about the hundredth stupid repeat since they crashed (after a few hours of trying to call Vince's home number, Evan getting bitchier and more ridiculous, Jeff clenching and unclenching his fists, until Vince finally picked up and swore at them) and the thousandth since Jessa disappeared. Alex hopes she's just gone, smart enough to skip town, and that she isn't...
Alex rubs Sparky's hackles where she's sleeping beside him. The bandages make whispery noises and Evan whips around, putting one hand on the hilt of his knife.
For a moment, Evan's eyes shine red, but it's probably just the blood as his avatar gets murdered by a Splicer.
"Sorry," Alex says. "Uh. Sorry?"
Evan blinks, his expression clearing, and he plasters on a big game-show smile. Alex remembers watching that one fucked up show as a latchkey kid, and a puppet with teeth too big for its face. He's glad when Evan stops.
The noises come, scratch scratch scratch. It sounds like it's coming from inside the walls. Maybe it is. Crawl space.
Sparky stirs beneath his hand, rumbling her little sleep growls.
"Save points," Evan says brightly. "They're a beautiful fucking thing."
Since he isn't sleeping, Alex sits up and puts his back against Jeff's dresser. Funny how fast he got into that habit. He glances at Jeff, finds that thousand yard stare that creeps him out, and turns to Evan instead. Fuck knows Evan seems more prepared for this monster shit than anybody else.
"Do you hear that?" Alex asks.
Evan raises an eyebrow. "Emo bitch music?"
Jeff doesn't tell him to fuck off. Jeff doesn't say anything. Alex shouldn't feel that sting of disappointment. Earlier tonight, it’d felt like Jeff was back with him for a while. Now... well, it’s just him and Evan.
"No," Alex says. "Listen," and then, as the rat-scratching increases, "that. That there."
Tilting his head, Evan listens. Even Sparky doesn't listen that hard for a squirrel. His whole body is like a tuning fork. When he glances at Alex again, it's a different look. It's not a 'you're my buddy's brother and I'm gonna watch after you' look, and Alex feels a flush of pride. He's 16 now, he's not some kid. He's gonna carry his own weight.
"Good ear, man," Evan says. "Might be a fire somewhere."
And that fast, the moment's gone. Alex blinks. "No, I. What?"
"What?" Evan shrugs at him, and picks up the controller. "Don't you hear those sirens?"
It's just Alex's mind playing tricks on him. Evan would know, wouldn't he?
Still, paranoia or not, Alex isn't going to sleep with the scratching in his ears. He throws the blanket off and sits up, automatically putting his back against the dresser. Funny how fast he picked up that habit. Though he feels exposed, he scoots across the floor until his knee bumps Evan's. The knife rests in the space between them.
"When you bite it, it's my turn," Alex says.
Evan scoffs. But when he gets killed, he hands Alex the controller.
Neither of them go to bed. They beat the game, and Evan just pops in Alan Wake. It's better than being alone.
It's not the first time Alex dozes off in algebra, but it is the first time he wakes up screaming.
They take him to the guidance office. They call his mother. (It rings and rings.) The counselor asks sincere questions like "is there anything going on at home that we should know about?"
Alex wants to laugh in her face.
Trees cast moving shadows against the window shades in the office. Alex watches them, and tries not to scratch his arms.
"Okay, Alex." His mother leans on the kitchen counter, her expression serious. "What's this about?"
"You fell asleep in class?"
"That isn't like you." Shaking her head, she says, "And I don't appreciate that lock on your door, young man."
"While you're under my roof, your landlord gets to look around once in a while. Make sure you're not running a meth lab or something." Mom's mouth purses. "Oh, honey. It isn't drugs, is it? Your brother's friends, I swear to God--"
"It isn't Jeff's fault. Or Evan. Or Vince." After the fact, Alex thinks to add, "And I'm not doing drugs."
"You'd better not be, or scaring your math teacher will be the least of your problems. I'm just--"
Something white crawls across the floor behind his mother.
She continues talking; Alex freezes solid inside. He wants to grab her and throw her behind him. He wants to run from the house in pants-pissing terror. He wants Evan and his knife. "Mom," he says, wheezy and quiet as a nightmare where he couldn't scream.
She doesn't hear him.
The thing from his room, it doesn't attack her. It moves in the full sunlight of the kitchen windows like a hallucination and then it's gone, leaving Alex trembling. He locks his arms around himself, forces the shaking to stop.
"Mom," he repeats, louder. "Mom. Mom! I'm not feeling too great. Can you maybe yell at me later?"
That finally gets her to put the brakes on. She frowns, then lays the back of her hand on his forehead. He doesn't even try to dodge it. "You do look peaky," she says. "I think you picked up something from your brother. He's certainly been quiet."
Another laugh tries to bubble up. Alex bites his lip and nods. Inspiration strikes him and he asks her, "Could you pick up some orange juice from the store?"
Get out of the house until I can be sure the monster's trapped again.
She gives him her crooked smile. "The things I wouldn't do for you boys."
"I know, Mom." Run and don't come back. Take Dad with you. "Thanks."
She pushes his hair back from his forehead. "I love you too, baby."
When she doesn't move to go, Alex leaves first instead. He waits on the steps, out of her sight, and watches her pull out of the drive with his heart beating so hard in his chest that he's dizzy. Then he sprints to his room and double-checks the chains. They're in place.
The fucking monster is loose in the crawl space.
He goes to find Jeff.
They hunker down in Jeff’s bedroom for planning, the three of them sitting on the bed so they can watch the door. Sparky is with them, because Alex tripped on her on his way to Jeff. Fucked if Alex is letting that thing eat his goddamn dog. Their weapons, which are mostly Evan’s weapons, are spread on the carpet in front of them.
The scratching is louder. Alex pulls his knees to his chest, so his feet aren’t dangling exposed for an under-the-bed monster to grab.
“We should burn the house down,” Evan says.
“We’re not burning the house down,” Jeff says, just as fast. “Jesus, Evan, think for a minute.”
“Might kill it.”
“Yeah, and then it might come after us on fire.”
Crossing his arms, Evan looks sullen. He runs his thumb over the edge of his knife again and again, a restless motion. “It’s not a zombie. Zombie protocol is different. Anyway, let’s go kill this bald bitch," a sidelong glance at Alex, "before your mom gets home. I promise arson will be the last resort.”
“I’m reassured,” Jeff snarks, and for a minute he sounds like he used to. Then his eyes settle on Alex, and he looks grim again. “Alex, take Sparky outside and wait.”
“Dude, no way.” Alex hitches his thumb at the wall connecting their rooms. “That thing was eating me. I’m not gonna wait outside if you’re killing it.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Alex sees Evan smirk.
Jeff sets his jaw. “This isn’t a game. This thing is fucking dangerous--”
“Oh yeah?” Alex asks, sardonic, and pushes his shirt sleeves up. “Gee, I had no idea--”
“-- and that’s all the more reason for you to--”
“--I’m sixteen, you douchebag--”
“--don’t want you in this any more than you already--”
“It’s after me anyway! I’m in this as deep as you.”
“No,” Jeff says. “Slender Man's not after you.”
“Yet,” Evan says to nobody in particular. “Probably just a matter of time, though.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Jeff snaps. “Alex isn’t going to be in this like us.”
Quietly, Sparky begins to growl.
His face burning like he’s by a bonfire, Alex gets off the bed. The scratching, the scratching feels like it’s inside his head. “So what, we’re playing your monster is tougher than mine?”
“That isn’t what I’m saying,” Jeff says.
“So what are you fucking saying?” Alex picks up one of the knives. Its hilt is awkward in his grip, clumsy and unfamiliar, but he likes it. “I don’t want Mom and Dad to end up like Jessa.”
Jeff rocks in place like he’s been sucker-punched. “Don’t you say that about her,” he says, after a long few seconds. “She isn't dead."
“Wow, all right.” Evan gets up, putting himself between them. “Put the rulers away, guys, we’ve got a bigger problem here. Don’t go splitting up and making an easier target, okay? If it’s in the walls--”
The lights go out. It’s daylight, but the shadows fall darker inside their house.
Something darts across their doorway, low and fast. Its claws scrabble over the wood floor. Sparky keens, a rising awful noise that Alex has never heard, and she cringes back against the wall to hide. But she went for the monster before, she wasn’t afraid at all...
Scraaaaatch, like nails on a chalkboard, like brakes shrieking over a wet road, and then the wall crashes outward. That thing hits Evan in the chest, taking him down so hard that the floor shakes. Its eyes are wet and dark and they go on forever. It slashes at Evan’s face, at his throat, and Evan is laughing and laughing as he tries to stab it.
Alex feels his knees lock up, and he stumbles when Jeff gives him a hard shove towards the door. He tries to look back at Jeff’s face, but Jeff is already turned towards Evan and the monster. Jeff doesn’t say anything brave or smart or funny as he kicks the monster in the side; his boot sinks in, and the smell makes Alex gag. The monster screams, a garbled noise that’s worse for being almost a word. It whips around, its claws ripping open Jeff above the knees. Jeff doubles over the injury and the thing hits him again, across the belly, and the momentum flings him into the dresser. Things break, god, let that be the dresser’s cheap clapboard.
Alex thinks of the femoral, and then he thinks of Jeff dying, and he wants to tell them no that no this isn’t right no no no.
And then he hears their mom’s car in the driveway.
Alex doesn’t think, he just tears out of the room. Down the steps, his bare feet sliding across the floor like wind-sprints, and no no the door can’t open his mom can’t be attacked by this too, and then he sees what’s at the bottom of the steps.
Now Alex hears the sirens. Now he hears the static. Now he hears everything.
Now He hears everything.
Evan screams upstairs like a warcry. A key turns in the door. Alex tries to stop himself, misses two steps and collides with the wall and keeps going into --
He waits like a tear in the world, terrible and patient and wrong. His hands that aren’t hands, His face that isn’t, His arms