MACKENZIE'S COTTAGE: Part 5 (scroll down for parts 1,2,3 & 4)
I jumped as Marty nudged me in the back.
I twisted round to face him. His emerald eyes were glassy with fear. He shouted something at me and pointed to the floor, his words drowned out by the inhuman shriek that reverberated around the small passage. Following his shaking finger with my eyes, I looked down at the bare boards beside the staircase.
A crack, no wider than an inch, was snaking its way with ever increasing speed across the floor. As it gathered momentum, travelling faster and faster, it opened wider and wider. Edges sharp and jagged like teeth. Something wet and and liver-coloured pulsated just beneath the surface, and I realised seconds too late that the crack was heading straight towards Johnny.
I cupped my hands around my mouth and bellowed.
But it was impossible. The scream of the splitting timber was too loud.
Lightning flashed, and whether it was this or some deep-buried sixth sense rearing its head, but Johnny looked down. His face seemed to melt, elongate, the colour blanching from his skin leaving him with a pasty grey pallor, his eyes dark as coals. He grabbed at the doorframe and actually raised himself up on tip-toe as the crack ran between his feet, as if this would somehow elevate him from the floor.
The crack stopped at the threshold of the cottage.
Heavy ringing silence fell over us like a shroud, even the wind seemed to have lost its strength. Then with an unbelievable explosion of sound the crack widened. Johnny's legs spread further and further apart, until his buttocks were hovering just inches over the gaping hole beneath him. A huge tongue, glistening and wet, slowly unfurled like a snake from the crack. When its tip was about four feet up in the air, it froze, almost as if it were listening. Concentrating. It whipped round sharply to the left and with frightening speed the tongue wrapped itself around Johnny's torso.
Johnny screamed. The cords on his neck bulged, ugly and red. He let go of the doorframe, clenched his fists and in a wild frenzy started to punch at the tongue, an involuntary shriek of disgust bursting from his lips every time his knuckles sank into the dark liver-coloured flesh, spraying moisture.
"UGH! PETE HELP ME! UGH! MARTY! MARTEEE! UGH! GET THIS FUCKING THING OFF ME! UGH! PLEEESE HELP ME!"
But we didn't help. We couldn't. We just sat there paralysed on the stairs, watching as the giant tongue squeezed the life out of our friend. Listening as Johnny's screams echoed around the cottage. Watching as the tongue dragged him crying and struggling into the dusty mouth of the crack. Watching as the jagged wooden teeth snapped closed with a resounding slap of timber.
Johnny was gone.
I don't know how long me and Marty sat there, speechless, staring at the empty floor before us as if Johnny would suddenly appear again, like magic. It felt like hours, but was probably only minutes. My jaw was aching where I had my teeth clenched so tightly together, my knuckles were bone white from gripping the step beneath me so hard.
"Shit." Marty said. His voice small and strained.
I nodded, too frightened to open my mouth and answer incase the scream that was bubbling up inside me burst forth. I knew if I started to scream I wouldn't stop.
Marty began to cry. But he was laughing as well. Huge sobs of body-shaking laughter, tears streaming down his cheeks.
I stared ahead in silence, out of the open doorway, out into the darkening afternoon. Out into freedom. I let my gaze drop to the floor, measuring the distance from the bottom of the stairs to the threshold. It was barely four feet. No distance at all really. A mere forty-eight inches at the most.
"We can jump it," I said. I wasn't aware I had spoken out loud until Marty turned towards me. He cuffed snot from his noise, wiped a hand across his eyes. "Huh?" he said. "Jump what?"
"That," I said, standing up on the bottom step. "We can jump it...easy. I bet we can jump from here to the door easy, without putting our feet down once."
Marty shook his head, eyes wild. "No. I don't think so. No way. No. No way. You saw what that...that...thing...did to Johnny."
"Yeah, but we won't have to put our feet down, touch the floor. It won't know." I paused, looked deep into Marty's green eyes. "What else do you suggest? Sit here until the stairs open up and swallow us too?"
Mart sighed - a huge sigh of disheartenment. He nodded. "Okay."
The bottom step was just wide enough for the two of us to stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Marty slipped his hand into mine, it felt ice cold but I clutched it gratefully.
"After three." I said.