An updated, leaner and crisper version of this story is available in the anthology “A Quick Bite of Flesh” from Hazardous Press, on Kindle or Paperback.


I’m about to do a very stupid thing.

I know it’s stupid. I know it. But I don’t think I have a choice anymore. And I have to do it now, while I have the nerve and the will. While my hands are still steady.

I’m sick, I’ve always been sick. Some days are better than others. When I was young, my parents prayed that it might just be a precursor of the onset of epilepsy, but the seizures never came. I just…can’t trust myself.

I see things. On some days, I can hear them and smell them too. I should say that I used to see them. After being on every possible combination of pills three doctors could come up with, I thought we’d finally found the right chemical key for my misfiring brain. It’s been six years of stability and relative normalcy, trading a halfway house for a tiny studio apartment, a collection of mostly tolerable side effects, and a steady job. I realize this probably sounds dull for most people, but I cherished every moment of that achingly simple monotony.

It went bad all at once.

Friday morning, I awake from the first dream I’ve had in years. A vivid phantasmagoria of colors and sounds, and begrudgingly leave my perfect and sterile clean apartment for the short walk to work.

I notice it as soon as the elevator opens, the unearthly stillness and silence in the heavy air. The front door of the complex is hanging open, unlocked and swinging gently, the faintest trace of smoke drifting inward in the damp breeze. Outside, the wide streets are empty and bare. My mouth is suddenly dry and I rock back on my heels, cresting a crippling wave of panic and déjà vu.

This particular hallucination, the quiet and the smoke and the emptiness, was always my most frequent; I haven’t had it in six years but the familiarity of it stings. I shut my eyes tightly, and jab my hand at the panels of chipped buttons. Moments later I am on the top floor, walking half blind the path to my door with practiced familiarity. Once inside I sit on my bed, gripping tight the handle of my cane, eyes closed, breathing slow and steady. Focused. Calm. Clear. I open my eyes.

I can’t be outside like this, I know this. I was hit by a car when I was homeless, wandering dazed into the street, while my fevered mind saw only emptiness. I’ll need a replacement hip before I’m forty. I can hear the slivers of bone grind a little with every labored step. I call my boss, and leave a terse message, apologizing for being too ill to work today.

I hold my breath as I open the one tiny window in my studio. It’s so close to the building next to me, I can almost touch its brick wall; I can’t see the street from this height and angle, but as I strain to lean out the window, sounds of yelling and a few whining engines drift up to me. The pall of unearthly quiet is broken, and I feel a great sense of relief, knowing that my episode is over.

I am counting the pills in orderly columns on the table, proving a fifth time to myself that I have taken my daily regimen, when I start to hear the screaming. It builds from far below; riding the struts and supports of the tower until it seems to emanate from the bones of the building.

An hour later the sounds seem like they are right outside; horrid, terrified, inchoate clumps of half formed words and pleas, punctuated by wet, ragged shrieks and heavy muffled thudding. The breathing and relaxation exercises aren’t helping, and I’m gripping the edge of my bed, soaked in sweat. The idea appears fully formed in my mind: I need to barricade the door. I struggle to suppress it. It would be like giving up; all progress I’ve made would be for naught if I entertain the notion that the episode is real.

But the screaming…this is a new one for me.

There’s the shuffle of movement outside, and the knob of the door twists violently and shudders against the deadbolt. I try to cry out, but my throat is parched and only a dry croak comes out. The door starts flex slightly as heavy blows land on the outside, and a mad, gibbering chorus of voices spits out a strange nonsense of broken syllables.

It only takes me a moment to decide now. I burst to my feet and throw all my weight into the bookshelf, crashing into it with bright white bolt of pain. It topples slowly, leaning at first like a tree and then smashing to the ground. On top of the bookshelf goes my desk and chairs, my hip screaming with each step. I collapse again on the floor, grasping for breath, and listen to the pounding subside and the horrid voices retreat.

That was two days ago.

They come back every day and scratch at the door, whispering in that vile gibberish. Sometimes I allow myself to think I can recognize the voices. The phone is dead, and the power is out. When I lean out the window and yell for help, the only answer I get is the occasional shriek or ululating babble.

When I was younger, when I was at my worst, my episodes would last for hours at most. I am at a loss. I have very little food left and the water pressure has already dropped.

Lying in bed in the late summer heat, in a moment of near total silence, the inevitability of it occurs to me. If I stay, I’ll starve. What happens to me on the other side of the barricade only depends on how sick I really am.

I want to believe with a sudden desire I am just ill, simply and profoundly ill. The sureness of it wells up in me, and I feel suddenly awake and lucid. I need a doctor, surely, but soon the hallucination will lift and my mind will heal. I just need to break through this.

I need to go outside.

I remove the bookshelf slowly, rotating it away from the door gently to rest with the other furniture. This is right, I assure myself. This is healthy. I turn the deadbolt, put my hand on the handle, and try to suppress the rising terror in my guts. I give it a little pressure.

Outside, I hear a dry shuffling and a low rising murmur of unfathomable voices, and my surety drains from me, leaving only cold and naked horror in its place.

My hand is on the door.

I’m about to do a very stupid thing.


7 thoughts on “Barricade

  1. The vague, uneasy ending is a nice touch. I also like how he’s schizophrenic (maybe)…it makes you wonder. Adding little facts about his past, such as how his episodes were when he was younger, being homeless, etc, as the story went on was good too.I personally hate it when past, present, and sometimes the future is all in its one seperate part, instead of being interspersed throughout. Well done.

  2. I had posted this Sunday night creepypasta idea some time ago. You did it beautifully I might add. My hats off to you.I had another idea for you to draw some inspiration. First, read this very short wiki article about a place in Japan where people go to kill themselves very often: of ideas spring from that. Perhaps there’s something preying on people there? It draws them there and then feeds off their souls. Perhaps a story about one person going their to kill himself and encountering such a being/creature would be good? Maybe he’d want to live after encounter it and try to get away? Or, maybe all those people were persuaded by unknown forces to go there and kill themselves. etc etcJust a thought.

  3. His mental issues are unimportant.By that, I mean, while it’s important to his character, I don’t see it as important to the overall story. In fact, I interpreted it as merely coincidental. What I’m thinking here is zombies.No, seriously. The impression I got throughout the whole thing was that it was zombies. Yes, the narrator is unbalanced and has issues. But I think zombies fit pretty well.Think about it. He goes out and all is quiet and still. The door is hanging open, when it should usually be locked and he can smell smoke in the distance. Smoke obviously signifies some sort of fire nearby. The streets are empty. This scenario is one commonly presented in zombie tales, whether it be movies or stories. Like the Dawn Of The Dead remake, for instance. What do you see ten minutes in? Virtually empty streets, cars and buildings on fire. That’s what I pictured.When his “episode” finishes, the first thing he hears is people yelling and “whining engines.” Then screaming. Then people pleading, shrieking, and omnious thudding outside his door. The screaming and whining engines fit a chaos scenario where zombies are walking about and people have no idea what to do. The pleading and shrieking outside his door fit the frightened cries of people looking for a haven, a safe place to escape from the undead horde, and the “thud” could signify the fact that they weren’t able to escape.”Shuffling” is commonly used to describe the way zombies move, and the violent twisting of the doorknob, the pounding on the door, then later the scratching at the door, along with “that vile gibberish” could be seen as zombies trying to gain entry, with the “vile gibberish” meaning their sad, hungry moans for flesh. Sometimes he can recognize them because they could be the zombified forms of other tenants in the building. And the “occasional shriek or ululating babble” would fit the sounds the undead try to make, but cannot. He’s about to do a very stupid thing because he’s about to walk into the waiting jaws of the hungry dead.On top of all that, barricading oneself is commonly associated with the zombie scenario as well. Indeed, in most zombie movies, you’ll see the protagonists barricade themselves somewhere (a house, a mall, a military base, etc) and even zombie literature, such as the two Max Brooks’ books focus on the importance of proper barricades.That’s how I read it, anyways. That this guy had a history of mental illness/instability is coincidental, for on this one morning, what was commonly his hallucination has become reality, along with that which most don’t think possible: the rise of the dead.I’m probably wrong, though, and looking WAY too far into this. What helps me with this thought — or rather, gives me comfort that I’m not looking too far into this, is the fact that your story “Before” seems to have a hint of zombie in it, as well, so that tells me the subject matter isn’t something you’d shy away from. One thing I liked about Before was how the “zombies” were used purely as a background, never something seen or heard, but simply discussed and known. In that way, it struck a chord with me concerning this story and its possible relation to zombies. Again, they only play a background part.

  4. Phased Weasel

    Nearly perfect short story. I discovered this site very recently thanks to Kris Straub’s review of net horror (Scared Yet), and I’m quite glad I did!

  5. Anonymous

    This is pretty good shit but I just wanna take a moment and say this a great example of how to write mental illness in horror lol.

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