It’s my first time in the Deep Creep.
I’m scared as hell.
It’s not the ‘real’ Deep Creep. I mean, we’re above Floor 21. But they’ve taken us to a lonely part of the north wing. The more we walked, the more and more Creep there was. At first you could feel the humidity from all the moisture that the Creep produces, not to mention its, uh, ‘body heat.’ My pants literally melded with my legs as the moisture glued them together. Then the Creep started to get thicker, piling on top of itself as it grew along the hallway floor into those colonies that dad warned us about. I mean this was a legit serious situation and we had a full team of Security, all with those wicked flamethrowers strapped to their backs. That should tell you something about how worried they were about this part of the tower.
Still, I didn’t really get stressed until we got to the end of a hallway. It was just a dead end with a single door, but there was this pale red light that hugged both sides of its frame from overhead. Lowered over it was the metal shutter used to close rooms during a Lockdown. You know, to keep the Creep out. Abbot nodded to the door before talking. ‘”This is what we call The Red Room. In actuality it’s an apartment with a series of rooms, each of which is saturated in Creep. That’s partly the result of natural development and partly the result of the Science department stimulating growth here. There’s a singular purpose as to why we encourage that much growth in this room, and that is because it is to test you to see whether or not you can stand up to the paranoia and hallucinations that the Creep evokes.”
At the time I thought he was trying to scare us, but the look on his face made me think twice. “There is a legitimate danger to this room, which is why we’ve brought along a full Security compliment. Should you get into danger, we hope to be able to pull you out before you’ve suffocated to death.” Abbott tapped at a keypad on the wall and a slamming rattle echoed into the hall as the shutter lifted. My eyes went to the handle and suddenly I felt like time was just screeching to a halt. The commander gestured to the door. “You will each enter alone. You will each spend a half hour within the apartment. Finally, you will each activate a hidden sensor that has been secured within. It looks similar to the Pocket Space Generator, albeit a dark color. It is hidden somewhere in the room and must be activated. Afterward, only listen for the sound of the red door when it opens. That is your time to come out.”
He left the convo hanging like it was just that simple and after that we were called at random. A few people had to go in before me, but I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I had to wait for my turn. I mean, it was kinda’ weird just sitting around outside. At first I tried to joke around with Tommy but that red light just creeped me the hell out. I think the first half hour was the easiest, since we didn’t know what to expect. Actually, yeah, it was pretty chill. There we were, all camped out in the hall like we were on vacation or something. We talked and of course it was all about what could be inside. A lot of the new recruits were just like me, wondering if the commander was just trying to psych us out or something.
Thing was, the whole time, Abbott looked like he was on edge. The Security members he had with him weren’t playing around, either. These were big guys, like, Floor 1 sized giants, and none of them relaxed or even tried talking to each other. The commander kept walking down the hall and back to the door, eyeing us, then saying something real quick to some of the Security. Once in a while he’d check his tablet, but every time he’d go back to the red door and just stare at it, like he knew something was coming.
I don’t remember exactly what I was saying to Tommy when it happened. I was probably talking about something stupid, like what flavor of gum I like most. All I know is I was looking at him one second then flying onto my feet the next. A scream pierced the hallway and suddenly all of us were backing away while Security moved to the front. Abbot held out a hand, holding them back while he withdrew his sword. Somehow its orange light was comforting, probably because I knew it could cut through anything that would try to come through the door. The commander checked something on his tablet then gave the team a hand signal. We all tucked back down onto the ground while Security eased up but, nothing was the same after. I couldn’t joke about gum after hearing that scream, and it was a long ten minutes until I saw Abbott move to the door. He’d barely opened it before a guy I don’t know well, I think his name’s Hershel, literally jumped out into the hall. He was breathing super heavy and his skin was about as white as the paper in a book. Immediately one of the guys from Security had a blanket around him while they took him down the hall.
So, not all of the team reacted like that. I’d probably even say that most didn’t, and nobody else ever came back out as bad as Hershel. But what stuck in my head was his look when he hit the ground. His fingernails were carving into the carpet and his eyes… just when he looked up he stared right at me and… it was like he was trying to scream but nothing would come out of his mouth. He just gasped and heaved while he was trying to pull himself forward, and the way he was looking at me… I felt like he was burning something into my soul.
Abbot acted like it was nothing and while Hershel was getting help, the commander was already calling up the next member of the team. I kinda’ just sat in a daze and time kept rolling even if I couldn’t notice it. I was just… I dunno’. I kept staring back at Hershel as he took drinks from his bottle of water, but he avoided looking at any of us for the rest of the time we were there. Anyway, I was so out of it I didn’t realize my name‘d been called until Tommy elbowed me in my ribs. I snapped him a look until before I realized everyone was staring at me. It was my turn. Abbot already had the door open.
“Cadet Coleman,” he said as he gestured toward the door. I couldn’t see anything inside. It was like the open jaw of a monster and I was about to step inside. Tommy gave me a pat on the shoulder and wished me luck which, I mean, of course I appreciated it. Still. It was my time to go.
Did I mention Hershel never came back to the program?
I stare into the darkness as the door clicks behind me. The sound is kept company by the endless darkness that fills my vision when the light from the hall vanishes. It’s got me freaking out already and my hands are already shaking by the time I grab my flashlight. The click when it comes alive explodes in the quiet as a halo of light burns away parts of the darkness. I flip the light back and forth, spying out the room as quick as I can, but the first thing I notice is that this place is huge. Like, I’ve talked before about how big my apartment is compared to people that lived on the lower floors. This is something else though, something bigger.
I’m staring at what had to have been be the living room, once. There’s a couch facing a television and two big, comfy looking chairs on either side. At least, once upon a time they were comfy. Now they’re slick with Creep juice and the light reflects off their surfaces. The tv’s been hit by something and there’s a big crack across the top right, which probably happened because of some panicking rookie. It really only has my attention for a second as I try to keep cool, but I can feel my breath struggling to get out of my lungs as I take a few steps into the black. The next thing I notice is a desk and some drawers against the wall. I have to find that sensor before my half hour is up, so I slide along over there. Literally, the floors are slick and I can already see drips of moisture falling in long strings from the ceiling.
When I get to the desk I feel pretty psyched that they gave us gloves, because the amount of juice on the drawer handle is thick. I slide open the drawer and take a look Inside. There’s some papers scattered around with a bunch of numbers scribbled on them, but nothing I think looks too important. I slide it closed and move to the next drawer, but struggle with it for a second. It fights me as I try to get it open so I grab the handle with both hands and yank it. I nearly strip it out of the desk as I tear at it, then feel my heels sliding on the ground. I’m about a half second away from screaming as I feel my body tumbling backward, my back slamming into the slick goo that saturates the carpet. My breath accelerates as I quickly sit up, the back of my clothes wet with Creep gunk. Worst is that I can feel it on my skin along with short jolts of electricity that dart through my neck. It’s something I’ve felt before, whenever I’ve actually touched Creep. It has an effect on you, but I don’t know how strong the effect is if you haven’t had direct contact. This is just the moisture so I hope it can’t be too bad. Shaking my head, I step back to the desk, while the whole time my hands are prying the wet sweatshirt from my back.
I have to shake it off as I inspect the drawer, though I’m already kinda’ keying into the fact that Abbott probably didn’t hide the sensor someplace this easy. Of course I can’t be sure so I’m forced into searching every last inch of the thing. Again, it’s just more paper. They’re moist and on the verge of falling apart but for some reason I decide to be gentle with them. I mean, I’m sure the next cadet will want to read these, right? I’m joking to myself to keep calm while I replace everything and close the drawer. My light glides around the room but doesn’t show much. Well, besides the fact that for the first time, I’m getting a really good look at the walls. They’re just caked in Creep. It’s sliding down from the ceiling and piling together along the edges, clumping together into colonies that I know I have to stay away from. At least, if I want to stay alive. I make a promise to myself to stay away from the edges if I can possibly do it because, I mean, I just don’t want to be the cadet that gets themself killed because they stepped into a pile of Creep.
The light keeps traveling until it freezes on the far wall, where my eyes find a door. It’s like I can’t take a step without sucking wind and force my legs to move, ‘cause even crossing short distances in here is terrifying. The problem isn’t the Creep so much, since I’ve had plenty of experience being around it. At least, I don’t think so. Combined with the darkness though, with not knowing where I’m going, it’s all really just… okay, I’ll say it. It’s scary as hell.
I can hear the soft sound of squelching beneath my feet as I step over the moist carpet, with each step feeling like it’s sinking into the ground. My eyelids are pinned apart as I get closer to the door and I feel my palm shaking as it flattens against the wood. At the same time that I start to push forward on the door, all the breath leaves my body. With one big gasp I shove my way through and practically burst into the next room.
For a second I’m left confused as my light shoots back and forth while I spin, desperately scanning everything around me. Still, it’s not too bad here, even if there are no windows anywhere to give you some comfort. Even seeing the black skies from the rooftop is preferable to being in this darkness, where the Creep feels like it’s crushing down on you from every side. The worst part is the way it feels like it’s breathing, with its splotchy skin trembling and exhaling as the muscles underneath shiver. The walls are alive and moving with veins that pump beneath the skin, something I notice as I light them up. I’ve… never seen that, ever, even when I had to fight Creepy Sally. It’s like I’m walking inside of some giant’s lung, and I can actually hear as wind breathes out of the walls.
I’m in some sort of dining room, though. The tablet’s set with dishes and placemats, like people were getting ready to eat before the Creep struck. Now the chairs have tendrils of muscle wrapping up their legs and the dishes have shallow pools of saliva building in them. That’s not really the depressing part though. When I lift my light I catch a portrait with it. It’s a big painting hanging above the opposite wall with what you’d call a standard family unit. I mean, there’s a dad, a mom, a boy and a girl. There’s even a dog in the painting to make you feel that much worse, and it’s one of those things that reminds you this isn’t a game. People lived here a long time ago. They might have even died here. The worst part of the painting is the Creep, though. It’s formed a thick layer over the paint that’s damaged the material, so their faces looked twisted and black from rot.
As I turn to my right I find a staircase. I’m assuming Abbott wanted to hide the sensor in the most annoying place possible, so it has to be upstairs. My legs hesitate but end up forcing me along, carrying me to the first step. It creaks under my weight and the noise echoes forever into the darkness. Then I take another step, moving upwards again. The wood beneath my feet bends and complains as it aches under my legs, and all I can do is keep my light focused on the top of the stairs.
Knocking raps my ears and I flip around and gaze into the room below me. I’m trapped halfway between floors, unsure if I should continue, as I listen for any more noises. The flashlight searches around, lighting up different spots in the dining room but finding nothing. So, with the pace in my chest starting to pick up, I turn around to continue my climb.
My gasp is almost a scream when I see the wall at the top burst to life with a red hue. My eyes are pinned to the sight until, after what feels like forever, the light dies away. “Maybe… maybe it’s a light from the sensor,” I whisper as I try to take another step up. My shoes are practically filled with concrete and every new step I take feels like I’m about to break through the stair boards. The wall above waits for me and gets closer with each step, until finally I can see onto the second floor.
As I settle onto the next level I’m confronted by a hallway. The door at the end is cracked slightly open, like it’s calling for me to enter, and even if it’s not far it feels like it’ll take eternity to cross in the dark. There are two more doors on my left but they’re both closed, so I decide to take my chances with the open room first. Might as well get it out of the way, right?
It feels like I’m walking through an ocean as I force myself forward and struggle just to take steps. My legs drag while my breath comes in shallow explosions, while my ears fill with the sound of my heart as I start to reach toward the handle. My fingers are inches from the door when they seize up at a noise, and I feel my body clutch up as my breath comes to a stop. There’s a rumbling inside and the door shakes as a deep moan passes out into the hall. Instantly I yank my hand away while I try to make sense of it, realizing it sounds like wood heaving beneath a heavy weight. My feet pull me a step backward and my eyes become saucers as the door start to groan and swing open, revealing a dark bathroom infested with gigantic Creep growths spilling down the walls.
My light covers every inch of the room before I step foot inside. As I rest my hand on the doorframe I feel the material give beneath my fingertips, the wood kinda’ disintegrating under the pressure. I pull my hand back and stare at the frame, wondering if the whole room could collapse if I’m not careful. It’s narrow inside, and I’m sandwiched between a bathtub, sink and toilet. No matter where I turn something’s right in front of me and I start to feel my breath racing as the darkness crushes down around me. I’m trying to keep cool while I spy the inside of the tub, which is just… ugh. It’s a mucus infested mess overflowing with saliva and Creep growths that bubble right over the edges. Small tendrils probe through the air and I twist to keep away. When I do, my hip bumps the sink and I spin around, my eyes finding the mirror and, inside, my reflection. Alongside the shadow of someone else’s. I stifle a scream as I spin again, my light doing cartwheels as I try to find the dark intruder.
I can hear my breath and my heart in sync inside of my ears, both of them racing as I try to force myself to calm down. “You’ve been in this before Jackie,” I say, bending over and holding my knees while the light stares off at the floor. “It’s just the Creep playing games with you. Nobody’s really here.”
I shoot straight up at the sound of my name and my light explodes into the hallway. “Who the hell is out there?” I squeak to no answer. “Is this part of the test? Is someone in here with me?” That’s the thing. I don’t know if the Creep is supposed to know your name or not. I don’t even know if it’s supposed to be able to talk. That spill I took downstairs must have gotten more of the juice into my system than I thought because this is almost as bad as the first time I ever decided to just grab a handful of the Creep to see what would happen. That voice might even make it worse.
“You’re hallucinating,” I tell myself as I inch into the hallway and light up the nearest door. “Nothing can happen to you if you stay calm. The Creep only reacts when you get too scared. It can’t do anything to you if you stay cool.” I stand in the darkness for a long minute as I regain my breath, then move to the door nearest the bathroom. For a second I shut my eyes and think about anything else than where I am. Home, with mom and dad, with all their weirdness, would be preferable. Better yet, a dance party with Allison. I’d even take a conversation with Tommy right now.
If nothing else, thinking about them helps me keep my head straight. While my pulse is relaxing I turn the door handle and watch it slow arc inward, like it’s giving me permission to step inside the room. It’s almost completely abandoned, with just a desk in the corner and an old bookshelf nearby. I explore the shelf first, scanning the covers but finding no books I recognize. Plus they all look like they’re about to crumble into dust, so I leave them alone. After a few more minutes I’m able to convince myself to head over to the desk, a soft thud breaking the silence as my feet move across the floor. It’s not until I’m standing right over the desk that I realize all the drawers have been removed. I came over here for nothing.
My scream comes uninterrupted when I hear the door shut behind me, my eyes running to the entrance while the rest of my body locks up. This has to be a setup. One of Abbott’s men has to be in here, or at least my hallucinations have to be super out of control. What I know is that I’m frozen in the middle of the room, but that doesn’t look like it’s keeping the walls from moving. They’re trembling and coming closer and it’s not because of the Creep. There’s something darker than the darkness there, and somehow I force myself to switch off my flashlight so I can get a better look. Everything goes dark but I can make out these figures standing in a row against the walls, and they all watch as my breath stops and my muscles completely stop. The beat of my heart is so intense my ears feel the drumming and pressure as my pulse starts to hammer out of control. It feels like my chest is going to burst open as I see the Demons raising their hands, their faces lighting up in pairs of red eyes, like lasers cutting through the black. In one motion they all stretch out toward me, then begin to push against the wall, like they’re ready to pry themselves free. Finally my heart feels like it’s about to seize up and I dash for the exit, grabbing its handle and throwing the door open. My feet give out and I fall into the hallway, spinning around and flashing my light into the empty room behind me. Nothing is moving. Nothing is there.
The halo of sad light explores the hall but everything looks normal or at least, you know, as normal as a Creep infested hallway full of paranoia induced hallucinations should look like. I’m trying to be funny, but I’m not laughing. My forehead ismarinating as sweat comes down in waves and I can feel drops anchoring on the tip of my nose. The only noise in the hall is my breath as it pounds its way out of my lips, but I’m still frozen. There’s a long minute before I flash my light at the one door still closed and realize I still need the sensor and that there’s one place left to look.
It takes a second before I’m able to control my body again and another minute before I can get myself worked up enough to approach the final door. It’s not like there’s anything different about it, but it feels like there’s something behind it, like something dark is seeping out from the cracks. It creates a tingling in my skin that explodes as the noise of each step I take explodes in my ears. All of this is making my breath race but I snap to reality when I find myself in front of the door. My hands are drenched with sweat and can barely turn the handle, but the door cracks open with a groan before it curves away.
I’m staring at a bedroom. The bed is just soaked with saliva and all the sheets are a wet mess. The nightstand is practically a small pillar of Creep, and the walls are just piles of colonies growing on top of each other. I can hear the room wheezing as orifices in the Creep wall breath outward and with gusts of humid air that glues to my skin. My feet stick to the floor as juices linger on my shoes and stick to me with every step, a sick squelch coming with every move I make inside the room. There’s something else, too. My light was a pale yellow until five seconds ago but now looks like it’s filtered through a red haze. It’s one of the most common signs that you’re in a deep part of the Creep and it happens on the lower floors. Still, it feels ten times as terrible while I’m there in the bedroom, surrounded by the thickest Creep buildup I’ve ever seen. Even the ceiling looks like it’s about to give from all of the buildup and tumors I can see sagging from above.
As I step inside I check the door behind me because, I mean, of course. I don’t need it closing on me again. Well, if it ever really did close on me in the other room. I’m slowly walking the edge of the room, my hands going over the dresser. Nothing’s there except more pictures. Each one of them has at least the husband and wife, and some of them have the kids. All the pictures are decaying, like I’m staring at the corpses of this family. Their smiles are staring at me from behind black rotted masks. It’s grim but it just gets worse when my search of the drawers comes up empty. I’m not sure how long I’ve been in here, but I know I want to get out. I just… I have to get this done. When I look toward the bed I realize if the sensor’s anywhere in this room, it’s either somewhere in the nightstand, or buried in the mattress. Not wanting to risk the nightstand first, I shuffle the pillows and covers around. It’s obvious they’ve already been searched since the covers are a mess, so I’m not the first Scavenger with this idea. Of course I find nothing.
Giving up on the bed I look at the nightstand. More than half of it is buried in Creep and tendrils are wrapping their way up the edges. I mean, I can still see the drawer at the top, but as I reach my hand out I pause when my fingers start shaking. I can remember seeing people grabbed like this when they were close to the Creep and I don’t have any weapons on me. I know the Security team’s outside but… that’s a long run up the stairs. At least, it feels like it.
The force I use to swallow is enough to make me gag for a second and I turn away, heaving as I struggle to breathe in the thick, humid air. I take as big a gulp of it as I can, turn, and force myself to yank open the drawer. My heart’s drumming in my chest as I look over the edge and stare into the dresser.
And there it is.
My wrist jerks downward and I scream as a pulpy tendril wraps its way up my arm, dragging me to a knee. With my free hand I grab at the top of the dresser, squeezing the edges as I try to keep myself from collapsing onto the ground. I can feel splinters digging into my skin and my fingernails cut into the wood while the Creep pulls at me so hard that I can feel my arm bone about to jerk out of the socket.
“Help!” I’m about to scream when my mouth is suddenly covered shut. My eyes shoot open as what feels like fingers stretch across my lips and along my chin. Suddenly the humid, hot air of the Creep is passing over my ear as another hand walks its way down my arm. I struggle but I’m captured in the grip of the tendrils and this person’s arms, and no matter how hard I try to pull free, every struggle just makes it seem like my arm is going to sever itself from my body.
“You interest me, Jackie,” the creature says, holding my head back to him, his chest rising and falling with his thick breath. “I have word you would like to know what Angels are. I hope we might find out together.”
A kick of air blasts across my face and suddenly I’m free, my body flying backward as I pull myself from the Creep. I collapse onto my side with my body drenched in the moist juices of the room. At the same time I feel something in my hand, metallic and round. Like a Pocket Space Generator. It forces a scream from me that’s both terrified and relieved, and I slam the top of the device. A red light bursts from it as I yank myself off the disgusting floor, my fingers shoving into pulpy muscle and soft mucus as I force myself out of the room. As I explode out of the door it seems like the hallway’s stretching out to my right, growing longer and longer so that no matter how many steps I run I can never reach the end. But suddenly I’m flying down the stairs and there’s a door of light that’s burning so bright that I feel like I’m running into the sun. I hit the exit with so much speed that I rocket out and into the main corridor again, sliding along the ground as I come to a halt, the entire team jumping around me to see if I ‘m okay.
Abbott’s voice calls them off as he tears his way to the front of the crowd. “Everyone back!” he screams, his gloved hand grabbing me by the arm and hauling me to my feet. “She’s covered in Creep! Security!”
Two of the guards are all over me in an instant, their blankets swiping down along my body and squeezing the excess juices off my face and neck. I can feel as they rip the sweatshirt and pants off of me but I’m not exactly in the right mind to care about modesty. The next thing I know I’m being led away in my delicates with double blankets draped around me.
That was when the blackout hit.