Perchance: Part V is the fifth chapter in the ongoing Perchance serial. In this chapter, Joe encounters the dangerous nature of the island, warping unreality into something horrific and inescapable. Click here for the previous chapter.
After a sizable dinner of roasted boar out at the stone table, the four had returned to the Lodging, just as they had the night before. In their own ways, they celebrated Joe’s gradual progress at perceiving the interior. Settling down, the strangeness of the situation seemed to settle outside of Joe’s purview, achieving a state of unquestionable normalcy. As he looked out one of the many windows at the setting sun, he reflected on how suddenly happy he felt. In great part, this feeling of completion stemmed from Sandra’s acceptance; together, they felt no longer like marooned survivors, lost in the wind-tossed oceans that surrounded the island.
Almost immediately as darkness won out against the daylight, a spectral fog began to roll up from the ocean and down through the evergreen jungle. “Do you see that?” Joe enquired to anyone behind him. Sandra and Mo had already departed for the night, but Cal sat up on the invisible steps, sipping a cup of coffee that had become visible in her hands.
“The fog.” Joe pointed out the window.
“It’s not really fog. Don’t worry about it. Just come away from the window.” She rested her coffee cup on the landing and took a few steps down towards him.
“Why can’t we go out at night? Is there something dangerous? Sandra seemed to indicate that there might be some danger here.”
Cal continued moving towards him, making contact with the faded, wood planks of the floor. “It’s for the best that you don’t find out.” She took him by the shoulder. “Sandra trusts you, doesn’t she?”
“I think so, yeah. I trust her.”
“Do you trust us?”
“I would trust you more if you told me what the fog-that-isn’t-fog is.”
“Look outside.” He returned to the window, but she held him back. “Don’t go any closer.”
Outside, the fog had expanded but remained low to the ground. Nevertheless, something had changed. The moonlight faded as it came closer to the fog, and the outside crawled towards him like wet paint, draining in shades of gray-violet nothingness. Joe heard a thumping noise, as though
As though someone was knocking softly on the pane.
The knocking grew louder
And louder –
He stopped breathing –
And louder still. The knocking
Came closer and closer,
Until it wrapped itself around him;
It pierced him,
It became his own heartbeat.
No, that’s what it had always been,
His own heartbeat.
He felt like he wanted to run,
Like he wanted to crawl,
Away from the fog,
Into the fog,
To scratch at the floorboards madly, to double over in fear. He felt himself falling,
The same sensation one feels when balancing on the edge of sleep.
He was spinning.
Cal’s arms yanked him around towards her, away from the foggy mirage, and in the flashed blur of his pirouette, for a moment, Joe thought that he saw the eyes, the ringed eyes. Cal’s arms caught him, stopping him face-to-face. Yet, even as he stopped spinning, her outline flickered, replaced by a thin, gangly, unearthly silhouette.
Joe blinked. Once again, he felt the overwhelming sense of normalcy return to him, but not to the degree that it had before.
“Trust me on this: don’t go outside,” she insisted. “Go to bed.”
Joe could not sleep. He sat upright in his bed, having shifted from side to side without success. His mind stirred, without hope of comfort. The chandelier had gone dark above him hours ago. Moonbeams embossed the dancing shadows of the window panes upon the floor, crisscrossing lines as frequent as cracks in concrete. Sometimes, if Joe did not know any better, there were some shadows that could not be attributed to anything at all, a darkness that tore slowly into his very eyes, from nothing and nowhere.
And the house creaked. Just as he was about to settle down, some new sound stepped or growled from just beneath him or just behind him.
Something was coming. It was done waiting. His heartbeat grew louder.
And then, in time with the beating of his heart, Joe heard footsteps on wood. He dismissed the sound. Like every other noise, it was likely nothing more than the house’s shifting rafters.
He ignored them. He waited, leaning forward, crawling to the edge of the sheets.
Against the door.
He heard someone crying. Just as he was about to call out to the trio upstairs, he heard someone speak, pleading desperately.
“Please let me in. It’s coming. They’re coming. Don’t leave me out here. I don’t want to die alone. Please, I need your help.”
Joe sprung from the bed, the pleading voice growing louder, more manic, more afraid. He attempted to look through the window nearest to the door but saw nothing outside. Still, he could hear the person pleading.
“Please, please, please, I don’t, I don’t want to die alone out here.”
Joe’s hand fell upon the door knob. “You were given one instruction, Joe,” he muttered to himself, trying in vain to stop himself. “Don’t open the door.”
“Please save me.”
“I’m coming!” he shouted.
Joe threw the door open, bracing himself for whatever might be on the other side.
In front of him, nothing could be seen.
He took a step forward, taking care to avoid looking out at the fog. He stood in the doorway.
To the right, nothing.
Nothing to the left.
Peering just around the upper edge of the door frame, above him, checking in a fit of sudden terror,
Hanging from the ceiling,
He saw nothing.
Joe was backing into the Lodging, when he heard someone running up behind him. They grabbed him by his collar, dragging him inside and throwing the door closed. Keeping himself from falling, Joe began to apologize. “Listen, I’m sorry. I know that you told me not to open the door, but I,” he turned around.
Two bulbous, glowing eyes drifted towards him.
Click here for the next chapter…