[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]
Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space–sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.
The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.
But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.
The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.
She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.
She opens her front door.
The hallway is empty.
She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles–or whatever the hell you call them.
Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?
She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.
She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.
She hasn’t gone deaf.
Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.
–Everything okay? it says.
–Why you in your robe? Locked out?
–Stop talking to me. Monster. (more…)