The Columbus summer had been a hot one, and in David’s Arena District apartment it was exceptionally sweltering. Even though night had fallen, the two east-facing windows did little to offer much in the way of relief. He could hear the thunder in the distance and had made a point earlier of stepping outside to see the on-coming storm. The thick black clouds were so prevalent even in the night sky that David couldn’t help but think it looked like something in a poorly written summer blockbuster. Any second, he laughed to himself, space faring ninjas would drop from the sky and declare war on humanity, or hot wings, or worse, his gaming console.
The storm clouds had looked as if an army had been gathering and was threatening to march upon the clear lavender sky. They swirled and raged, lightning shooting vein-like hieroglyphics across the clouds. The light from the electrical discharge had allowed him to get an occasional glimpse at the heart of the tempest. Its inky darkness seemed to denote an even darker intent. Perhaps, David thought, he had been reading too many scary stories.
He scanned his apartment looking for anything to eat while waiting on the slow moving front to arrive. After taking a quick inventory he saw that he had five empty soda cans, a two-day old pizza and what appeared to be the remains of take out chicken in the fridge. Honestly though, at this point it was hard to tell what it was originally. David made his way back to the living room where he noticed the light flashing on his voice mail. With his curiosity piqued, he took the short three steps to the device and hit the play button.
“Hey David, its Dina. I need to come over and get the rest of my stuff, when is good for you?” said the female voice on the first message. David quickly hit the button marked ‘Delete’.
“Never, Dina. Never is a good time,” he said. Even as he said it, he realized there was something wrong with his voice. How is it possible that it still hurt this much, he wondered. The next message picked up his spirits a little.
“Hey man, wanna game a little bit later tonight? Hit me up!” The voice belonged to his best friend Nick. Nick had been doing his best to take his mind off of Dina leaving him. David knew this wasn’t an easy task and he appreciated him for it. Some gaming may be just what he needed to get his mind off of everything. Glancing at the clock, he saw he had a few hours until he’d hook up with Nick online, so that meant he had time to kill.
He wondered if he should watch a movie. The Blu-Rays were all neatly lined up on a shelf, alphabetized and sorted by genre making it easier for him to see what he had to watch. They were also covered in a thick layer of dust, as was everything in his otherwise obsessively ordered apartment. If it wasn’t for the empty food containers, one would never know he lived there. The truth of the matter was since Dina left a week ago, David could hardly call what he had been doing ‘living’. He grabbed his copy of his favorite sci-fi movie and popped it in the player. This usually cheered him up. Throwing his body on the couch, which sank ever so slightly under his weight, he grabbed the remote and turned on the television. Static.
“Why would there be static? Even if the cable was out, there’d just be nothing, not static,” he said to no one in particular. He sat for a moment as the glow from the TV bathed the apartment in an eerie blue and white luminance. It reflected off the windows and his computer monitor, which caught his attention.
“Ahh, the internet, my old friend,” he said, and noted that maybe talking to himself was quickly becoming a problem. He moved his mouse and the familiar desktop appeared. As he began the process of launching his favorite forum, his monitor also filled with static. At the same moment the streetlights outside went out and thunder sounded, this time far closer than it had been previously. He shuddered for a moment before launching into an expletive filled tirade at the cable company, the electric company, and for no particular reason, the weatherman. He continued staring at the static on his monitor in disbelief. This just doesn’t happen. Monitors just go dark when they stop working.
David continued to stare and although it almost slipped his notice, he began to see something flutter on the screen in front of him. If he had not known better, he’d swear the static was… moving? But that couldn’t be. Then as if to answer his doubt with a counterpoint of its own, the static started to coalesce. It began to take a shape that made the hair on his arms stand up.
David leaned in closer to the screen, and he saw the shape of fingers. Then a hand. Finally an arm. David rubbed his eyes and as he was doing so, the hand lurched out of the monitor and grabbed his throat. David gasped and tried to pry it loose, his mind swirling about him, his very senses threatening to take leave of him. He could no more budge the tight iron grip around his throat than he could change the orbit of the full moon above him.
The arm pulled him slightly toward the monitor and then casually tossed him back. David’s body hit the wall with an audible thud and he heard a wet snap. It was suddenly hard to breathe and his vision had filled with stars, the outskirts of that very same star filled vision tunneling into darkness. His breath hitched, and the air was redolent of burning ozone.
With his diminished sight, he continued staring at the arm protruding from the monitor. It had taken a hold of the top and a second hand joined it in its arrival on this plane of existence. It gripped the bottom. Slowly, miraculously, a head struggled its way into the blue and white light of David’s apartment. This was followed quickly by a torso, then legs. In a matter of seconds, there was a full figured something in front of him. It was shaped like a man, but it was unlike anything he had ever seen. It stared not at David, but through him.
Its eyes were completely black, reminding David of the eyes on his sister’s dolls when he was growing up. The being in front of him had an almost translucent quality to it, with shimmering shades of tangerine and white-hot blues. The edges of the creature’s body seemed blurred, almost as if it was constantly in motion even when still. When it slowly cast its eyes downward to observe its body for the first time, angry sparks of static lanced out causing outlets to pop and light bulbs to rattle and then begin to smoke.
Terror gripped David’s heart. He tried to crab walk away from the entity, his efforts rewarded with the harsh reminder that he was already against the furthermost wall of his apartment. The bitter irony sat heavy upon his chest as he realized he had only wanted an electronic distraction for the evening.
Still the figure before him did nothing. In fact, it was acting as if it was shocked at its own existence. It seemed angry that whatever had awoken it had done so rather unceremoniously and coldly, casting him into a starkly inferior reality.
Lightning now broke the velvet darkness of the storm clouds directly above him. The creature seemed to be listening to the lightning as it tilted its head, the superheated plasma above a lens through which it could focus its consciousness. It was a conversation only it could hear. Even if David had been inclined to participate, his ears were full with the pounding of his own heart.
He attempted to coerce his legs to move in any direction, but it was as if they simply didn’t work. He pushed his body back against the wall but could not get up, could not move, could hardly even breathe. Terror had gripped him so completely he was scarcely sure where it began and he ended. David let out a whimper and immediately wished he could have it back.
The entity’s attention was now squarely focused on the cowering thing in front of him, its sepulchral eyes now sinking heavily into David’s heart. The ghost of every childhood terror he had ever known now returned to visit their awfulness upon him.
David’s hands desperately searched the floor for a weapon. He found a full can of soda, unopened. How it had gotten there wasn’t important at the moment. It wasn’t much of a weapon, but it was better than nothing. David hurtled the can at the creatures head. It simply went through the being. The can exploded in a fizzy reminder of how hopeless the situation had become on the wall behind it. The entity blinked in and out of existence when the can went through him. Its existence had been violated once more, and David had the distinct impression it wasn’t happy.
It took two agonizingly slow steps toward him, almost as if it was dealing with having mass for the first time. Its right leg struggled to lift itself momentarily. Whatever personal struggle the creature had with gravity was quickly overcome, as he reached down for David’s face. His steel-like hand clenched around David’s jaw. Once more David felt as if it could squeeze diamonds out of coal if it wished. However, the final squeeze that would have surely snapped his jaw never came. Instead, a green and blue mist began to emit from the arm of the entity. Slowly it started to crawl over David and poured out atop his helpless body.
“What are you?” David asked. No answer came. Instead, the mist seemed to take on a life of its own as it gripped the core of David’s consciousness. His body spasm and jerked. His limbs flailed independently of any thought. The mist began to let go and return to the entity. As it did so, David’s corporal form began to evaporate into a stream of zeros and ones. Very quickly, all that was left were his clothes. The entity stood. It then answered David’s question like it had just heard him speak, as if time and space were simply playthings for the creature that it didn’t comprehend yet. Its voice had a hollow emptiness to it, with an odd electronic hum woven in between the syllables accentuating its lack of humanity. Somewhere in the nothing, David heard the response.
“I am evolution,” it said. The creature then turned its empty eyes back to the monitor and returned to the Internet from whence it came. The night was still young and the lightning spoke, promising that it had many more places to visit before the storm ended.