Slimebeast

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With my mom and her boyfriend away for the weekend, the tasks of housesitting and keeping an eye on the family dog fell squarely on me, the 26 year old tenant and son who probably should've been out of mom's basement at this age. It was comforting to know that despite my abject failure in the "adult world" - after dropping out of film school to follow an ill-fated dream of opening my own food truck -  and now being stuck with a minimum wage video game sales job, that my mother still trusted me to not burn the house down nor allow our beloved mutt to starve to death.

I had somehow managed to snag an entire weekend off, unheard of in the cruel world of retail, and was looking forward to a few days of nothing but watching movies and loafing around on the internet. Not that I didn't normally do these things on the weekend - But now I had an entire, uninterrupted 72 hour stretch to gleefully piss away.

Mom had sighed and rolled her eyes when I had told of her of my plans earlier in the day. "Why don't you spend a bit of time looking for job openings? Or maybe checking out some online courses? Regardless of the glory it's brought you so far, the video game store isn't going to be around forever Ethan." I snorted. At least we both knew where I got my biting wit. "Mom, I've told you a million times - This is just a little grace period, and once I've saved up a bit, I'm going to do all of that stuff! I just need some time to clear my head." She shook her head, a somewhat pained smile crossing her lips.

She was looking more worn out these days. The first bits of gray had developed in her thin hair. Deep laugh lines formed around her mouth, her cheeks looked sunken. Crow's feet sat at the corners of her blue eyes. Mom was only 53, but she looked older. In my weaker moments, I often guiltily wondered how much of her seemingly rapid descent into old age was caused by the stress of worrying about me. "You've been 'clearing your head' since the food truck got reposessed last year - Why did we ever think a 'round the clock fish and chips dispensary would be a good idea in a place like Forest City?" "It takes time for true visionaries to be appreciated - Fin City was just too ahead of its time."

Mom laughed, but I couldn't help noticing the disappointment beneath her veneer of lightheartedness. "Just remember to let Braxton out, and feed him every night. Love ya kid." She kissed me on the cheek, a ritual I had yet to escape even at 26, and trotted out the door as Steve honked the horn. I waved a last goodbye to my mom as she hopped in the van, and they were off to Maine. Though I suspected their trip would be nowhere near as enthralling as video games, Yakuza films, and the occassional thumbing through PornHub.

I plopped down on the couch in the living room besides Braxton, the canine I was dutybound to for the next three days. Though I could never be described as a particularly amibitious or detail oriented person, there was no arguing that I loved this old pup. Taking care of him was about the one thing I COULD be counted on to do. Braxton was a small dog, tinier than even a typical housecat. He was mixed breed - A mix of chihuahua and dachsund to be precise. He had sharp, perky ears, and large brown eyes that overtook most of his diminutive face. He was an old man of 10 now, and just like my mom, the signs of age were creeping up on him.

Braxton's sandy coat was speckled with grey, and his eyes had begun to cloud with cataracts. He was still bouncy and full of life, however. Any time he heard the rattling of a bag of treats, or the click of a can of soft food being opened, he bounded into the room at full force. However, he was also a big fan of laying around doing nothing. We got along fine, in short. With Braxton's head resting on my thigh, I flipped the TV on, and searched Netflix to see which crappy horror film I'd be surrendering the next 90 minutes of my life to. I settled on some no name junk, starring no name actors, with an aggregate rating so low I knew it would be entertaining riffing material.

When Mom and Steve had left, the clock read 10:30 am. 12:00 pm rolled around, and the credits for the b-movie schlock I'd chosen crawled across the screen. Braxton looked up at me with his milky eyes. It was about time for him to be let out. I scratched behind one of his perky ears before getting up to make my way to the kitchen. Any dog would be lucky to have our yard - an expanse of green grass, fenced and backed up directly into a thick but small collection of trees that couldn't quite be called a forest. Shrubbery lined the fence which led into the small forest, and Braxton LOVED exploring in between the shrubs and the fence itself.

Forest City was a town that people who use those types of words would probably describe as "quaint." A small village in Pennsylvania surrounded by woodland. The kind of place with a cutesy little main street, where everybody knows everybody's name. Nothing interesting to a basement dwelling dweeb like me, but I could see the appeal to certain people. And especially to Braxton. There were always squirrels and chipmunks darting around, and something interesting always seemed to be lurking just beyond the tree line.

A large sliding glass door in the kitchen emptied directly into the back yard. I slid it open and ushered Braxton out. He immediately gave chase to a particularly threatening looking house sparrow. I opened the fridge, looking to fix myself a snack, when I heard a knock at the front door. I groaned. Interacting with people other than takeout drivers had NOT been part of this weekend's intinerary.

I glanced out the window near the front door, to give myself an idea of what I was dealing with, before rolling my eyes. It was our next door neighbor, Mr. Hutchins. Well by next door neighbor, I mean "only neighbor." There weren't any other houses around for a mile or two. Hutchins was a notoriously crotchety old geezer, and I assumed he was bothering me with some complaint about Braxton. Like most old people, the joy had gone out of Mr. Hutchins' life, and the only way he could entertain himself at this point was to complain. Dealing with his whining was as much a part of our lives as brushing our teeth.

I opened the door prepared for a pointless argument. "What's up, Mr. Hutchins?" I hadn't even looked at him when swinging the door open, and was caught off guard when he didn't immediately launch into an angry tirade. Gradually, my gaze met his. He wasn't wearing his trademark thick rimmed glasses, and he was staring at me. Something wasn't right.

Whispy gray hair still covered his liver spotted head. He still wore a bristly mustache under his lumpy nose. It was in his eyes. The way he was staring at me. He seemed focused. Like he was studying me. There was an awkward silence. "Is there something I can help you with?" The silent treatment wasn't really doing it for me. "Hey, Mr. Hutchins, wake up!" I had raised my voice a bit. He didn't have dementia as far as I knew, so I didn't get what was going on with this act. "Braxton hasn't even been making any noise. I just put him out." A smile began to cross his lips.
 
"How are you, may I come in?" This caught me off guard. Unless he had somehow heard about my plans to jerk off and eat pizza all weekend, which I'm sure were the talk of the town, there was no reason for the old bag to want to come inside. And then his face. His eyes. Something was off about them. I just couldn't place it. His grin seemed to grow a bit bigger as he awaited my reply.

"Is everything okay...?" I trailed off, confused by his odd request. "The phone is not working. Someone is looking at it. I need a phone." I glanced over and noticed a phone company van in his driveway. He definitely had someone there looking at it. But something in the back of my head was just screaming at me not to let Mr. Hutchins in the house, beside the fact that I couldn't stand the old fucker. His rationale for coming in seeemed like a weak excuse. I lied. "Our phone's down too. Must be a neighborhood problem." His grin seemed to fade. "Can I try? Anyway?" The additional request came out stilted, like he didn't expect to have to say it.

"It's definitely down man, sorry." I began to close the door in his face. His gaze never left me, and the smile returned to his face. "Have a good day." Once I had closed it, I slightly drew the curtains of the window nearest the door, and peered out at Mr. Hutchins. He was still standing there. Staring at the door. After a few seconds, he glanced towards the window, as if he was looking for something, and sauntered back to his own house. I drew the curtain tight, not wanting him to be able to look in. The whole exchange gave me the heebie jeebies. Mr. Hutchins had been uncharacteristically calm. Pleasantly wishing me a nice day was so beyond his usual repertoire of screamed demands about Braxton. And I was still stuck on the weirdness of his eyes. Before I had time to ruminate too much, Braxton was scratching at the back door.

I let Braxton in, and began a game on my PS4 with him by my side. Hours later in the midst of having ethnic slurs lobbed at me by 11 year old Call of Duty players, it hit me - Mr. Hutchins' eyes. They were the wrong color. During our brief exchange earlier, his eyes had been a deep emerald green. Mr. Hutchins had blue eyes. I had been face to face hearing the guy complain for almost my whole life. I wouldn't miss something like that.

Or would I? Had I really ever cared that much to remember the old man's eye color? Could somebody's eyes even change color? He normally wore thick glasses - Perhaps the lenses had obscured the actual color all this time? Was "changing eye color" some weird side effect of being an old miserable prick? Whatever the issue, he had clearly wanted to get into the house.  I could convincve myself that maybe I'd misremembered his eye color, but the whole exchange weighed heavy in my mind. Thinking about Mr. Hutchins to this degree was definitely NOT something I had planned to devote any significant chunk of my time to this weekend. I figured it could just be chalked up to a senile old man being old and senile, and resolved to give him a pass on the weirdness for now as long as he left me alone.

It was about time to feed Braxton, and once he had gulped down his food, he was yet again unleashed upon the back yard. Dusk had begun to fall over the trees, causing them to cast crooked, eerie shadows over the house. Once Braxton had been released, I glanced over to the fence and noticed something. Mr Hutchins, standing in his backyard, leaning slightly over the fence into ours. His eyes were locked on Braxton, who was traipsing around the yard. He looked up and caught a glimpse of Mr. Hutchins, and bounded over to him. I was about to call Braxton back, realizing how much Hutchins absolutely loathed dogs. Instead, Mr. Hutchins reached his hand out and began to scratch Braxton's head.

I was absolutely shocked by this. We couldn't go 48 hours without Mr. Hutchins threatening to call the pound on Braxton. What was up with this change of heart? Even from afar, I noticed something on Mr. Hutchins' face as he pet my furry friend - That expression of STUDYING I had seen him using on me earlier. He was staring at Braxton with deep intensity, and even from this distance I could see his toothy grin growing wider.

Not sure what to make of this, I called Braxton back. He lost interest in Mr. Hutchins and walked back into the house. Mr. Hutchins simply stared at me blankly from afar, clearly upset I had interrupted his love session. I slowly slid the door shut and turned to venture back into the living room, but I could feel his eyes on me through the glass.

The rest of that day was just as uneventful as I'd planned, consisting mainly of junk food, more movies and more video games. As I settled down for bed, the weirdness of that old geezer had almost slipped my mind. At about midnight, I awoke to Braxton whining. He needed to pee. I wiped the sleep from my eyes, and stood up with a groan. As I was about to open the sliding glass door, I froze. Outside,  on the other side of the fence in his backyard, was Mr. Hutchins.

Though he was bathed in darkness, the moonlight illuminated him just enough to see him standing there motionless, and staring over his fence into our yard. A thought crossed my mind - Was he waiting for me to let Braxton out again? To stare at him, or pet him, or jerk off to him or whatever?

I made the decision to snap on Braxton's leash, and walk him through the front door to piss on the lawn. When we returned, I peered through the back door again. Mr. Hutchins was gone. I noticed a light on in his house through our dining room window, and pulled back the curtains to give myself a better view. Our houses were designed similarly, and I could just see over the windowsill into his living room through our dining room. Despite having just been standing outside, Hutchins was fast asleep in his recliner. What the fuck. I was too tired to even process it, and passed out myself shortly thereafter.

When I awoke the next morning, the strange events of yesterday felt like an odd dream. And I never thought I'd consider anything involving Mr. Hutchins to be "like a dream." I cracked open an energy drink to pick myself up, and gazed out the front window. I froze. Sitting in Mr. Hutchins' driveway was a huge white van, with a colorful phone company logo plastered on the side. The repair van had never left. Unless he'd had a slumber party with the phone repair guy, this was NOT right. I contemplated whether it was worth calling the cops or my mom or anybody. The mental hoops I'd have to jump through to justify this weirdness were becoming increasingly difficult to deal with.

My phone rang before I could make a decision. It was my mom. "Just checking in honey, making sure the house is still in one piece." "Well I'm having a hard time making breakfast in the remnants of our kitchen - the fire lasted the whole night." She laughed, and I could almost hear her shaking her head. "Braxton has been good? No issues with Mr. Hutchins?" I was unsure what to say. I felt like SOMEBODY should hear whats going on. This situation kept getting stranger. On the other hand, I was tired of feeling like I still relied on my mom to take care of me.

I was the one she was trusting this weekend to dump a can of gelatinous beef into a dog's food bowl once a day, so I could handle this mystery with Mr. Hutchins too. "Nah, he's been pretty quiet for once. Uneventful couple days so far. I hope Maine is as thrilling as you guys predicted." She laughed again. "To a couple of old fogeys like us, it certainly is. Well, I'll let you get back to those weird old movies you like. Call me if you need anything. Love you." We hung up as I resolved to go check on Mr. Hutchins. I let Braxton into the backyard, and made my way over to Mr. Hutchins' front door.

I pounded on the door. Nothing. The old crab was usually up by this hour - And there was no chance he hadn't heard me either. As previous rows over Braxton's barking indicated, his hearing was quite impeccable. I knocked again, and was still greeted with silence from the house. I shrugged. I could already feel my interest in these goings on beginning to wane. I'm the kind of person who likes instant gratification - There was something fishy going on here it seemed, but if the answer wasn't going to hit me in the face, I wasn't really willing to probe all that deeply. Maybe something had happened to the cable guy's van and he had to leave it at Mr. Hutchins' before it got towed.

Not entirely satisfied with this rationalization, but also unwilling to spend my entire day on Mr. Hutchins' front porch, I slowly walked back to my house. As I made my way into the kitchen to let Braxton in, I caught a glimpse of a figure slipping away from Mr. Hutchins' fence. So the old bastard was awake after all. Probably ignoring my knocking. Asshole. I assumed he'd been petting Braxton again. What was his sudden obsession with the dog he'd hated for the last 10 years? I ushered Braxton inside, hoping our interactions with Mr. Hutchins could be kept to a minimum for the rest of the weekend.

A couple of hours later while immersed in yet another shitty Japanese gangster flick, I glanced out the dining room window into Hutchins' living room, and was a bit confused to see him sitting, eyes closed, in the same spot in his living room as the night before. He sure loved that moldy old recliner. I still hadn't heard the phone repair van pull away.

I couldn't shake the lingering weirdness of the last 48 hours, but ended up falling asleep mid-movie anyway.

I awoke with a start. Groggily, I checked my phone. 1:00 am. Fuck. Braxton hadn't been out for hours. He probably needed to piss big time. I had fallen asleep in the late afternoon as the sun was still barely setting, and thus I had awoken in pitch darkness. I guided myself to the living room light with my phone and flicked it on, freeing myself from the oppresive dark. Through the slightly drawn curtains covering the living room window, the night seemed exceptionally black. Even the moon seemed to be hiding.

I noticed Braxton was no longer laying with me, as he had been earlier. Instead, he was parked right in front of the back door, and i wondered how long he'd been impatiently awaiting me to rise from my impromptu slumber. "Sorry buddy." I scratched his ear and let him outside into the shrouded back yard. At least I had managed to feed him before I passed out. I was still 2-0 on remembering to do that. My stomach grumbled, and I decided to grab some food. I rifled through the fridge, and parked myself on the couch with a plate of cold pizza. No sooner had I sat down than I heard a scratching behind me.

I turned, puzzled, and saw Braxton already pawing at the door to be let back inside. In 10 years, I'd never seen this dog finish a trip to the backyard that fast. Everytime Braxton was let outside, it was an excursion. Nonetheless I slid the door open, and Braxton meandered inside. I reached down and scratched his back, but he didn't seem to acknowledge me. No wagging tail. No enthusiastic licking. He just stared at me, with those enormous eyes. He seemed spooked. Had he seen something in the yard? Was that why he was demanding to be let in so fast?

 I suddenly noticed his lips - There was a small trickle of blood out of the corner of Braxton's mouth. Had he been hurt? An altercation with another animal? I hadn't heard anything, though our walls and windows were relatively thick - The sounds of a forest at night will drive you insane if you don't stifle them somehow.

I picked Braxton's tiny frame up and examined him. He seemed unhurt. But the intense look never left his eyes. He continued to stare at me as I plopped him down on the couch. I walked back to the kitchen and stared out the back door. The massive yard looked to be empty, though I could only see a few feet in front of me in the dark. Maybe Braxton had gotten his hands on a squirrel or something. I slid the door shut and turned back to the living room. Braxton was still staring at me from the couch.

I flicked the lights off, turned on the TV and sat down beside him. "It's gonna be okay old man. Whatever spooked you out there is all gone now." I said, as I stroked his head. His gaze never left me, and 25 minutes into our movie he was giving me the creeps. Something felt wrong, and that phrase should've been the slogan for this entire odd weekend. I stared back at his face, and a strange realization crept over me as I heard a faint whimpering and weak pawing at the back door. Braxton cocked his head and looked past me, and I leapt off the couch, guided by the light from my phone's flashlight, and headed into the kitchen.

Outside, limply pawing at the sliding glass door, was Braxton. Inside, sitting on the couch, eyes burning a hole in the back of my head, was Braxton.

My mind went numb, attempting to process what I was seeing. The Braxton outside looked weak, and hurt. I noticed his back right leg was bent at a funny angle, and he appeared to be bleeding from his side.

Too concerned for the dog I loved to worry about the fact that he was already inside the house, I quickly opened the door and gingerly picked Braxton up. He whimpered as I held him in my arms. I grabbed a hand towel that was hanging near the sink, and wrapped it around his side. What the fuck happened to my dog out there?

Braxton's cloudy eyes were getting hazy, and before I could really understand the magnitude of potentially losing my beloved pet, I remembered - There were currently two Braxtons in my house. I slowly turned and shined the light of my phone towards the Braxton on the couch. A sickening feeling formed in the pit of my stomach as I remembered the odd realization I'd had about this dog that looked exactly like my dog, before the wounded Braxton had distracted me. The Braxton sitting on the couch had deep, emerald green eyes.

For a moment, we stared at each other. The silence was maddening, and all that surrounded the dog in the living room was an inky darkness that existed right outside the circle of light that my phone formed. What the fuck was sitting on my couch? It smiled.

"Braxton" never broke his gaze from mine, but a massive grin slowly began to form across his mouth. Dogs' mouths were not meant to smile. I realized that in this moment. It looked so alien, so incomprehensibly WRONG. A rictus of pearly, human teeth shone brightly in the light, and the skin on "Braxton's" face began to tear as the smile grew wider. A thick black substance leaked from the torn corners of his mouth, and his bulging green eyes.

The creature opened its mouth, and spoke. "Whatever spooked you out there is all gone now." It was my voice. The exact words I'd said a little while ago when I let this thing inside. After it had hurt the real Braxton. "It's okay old man. It's okay old man it's okay old manit'sokayoldmanit'sokayoldman." An incessant chattering erupted from its mouth. Like it was practicing repeating the phrase. Grin growing ever larger, the diminutive monster on my couch lurched forward. I had a bad feeling about what was going to happen next.

With a sickening pop, very large, veiny HUMAN arm popped out of the dog's paw as flesh sloughed off. More thick black discharge sprayed out of the creature as the new appendage emerged. Out of its back, another arm with a burst of pus sprayed forth. I was now staring at a bizarre amalgamation of my dog and a person. I was too petrified to even react. The flesh of its stomach distended, and what I quickly realized were long, twisted legs began to form. The stretched out features of Braxton looked as if they were about to burst, now pulled over this too large body. Its neck snapped next, and Braxton's toothy grin was now on the side of a lump growing out of the top of its torso. With a wet tear, a dark green eyeball popped through the flesh on the monster's neck, and locked squarely on me. The creature made a clawing motion, pulling itself forward on the couch. It was coming towards me.

That snapped me out of it. I grabbed the wounded Braxton, the REAL Braxton, and took the first kitchen knife I could find out of the sink. I rushed out of the kitchen and up the stairs backwards, afraid to turn my back on the thing. It cackled maniacally as it skittered off the couch, an odd mixture of Braxton's barking and my own human words spewing out of its mouth. Holy fuck it was fast. I didn't want to think how fast it would be once those legs fully developed. I darted into my bedroom, and locked the door behind me as the shapeshifter pulled its way up the stairs. I flicked my light on, and tried to think of a plan.

I had been waiting my whole life for a moment like this. To take on a monster. But even years of watching low budget horror and cheap sci-fi hadn't prepared me for the sickening reality of my situation. I set Braxton, swaddled in a dishrag, down on my bed. He was still breathing, though his breath had grown sharp and stilted. "I'm sorry buddy. I just... Fuck." Suddenly, a loud bang against the bedroom door. It was here.

I had no choice but to fight. "Too. Fast" Came a crooked voice from the other side of the door. I looked down and saw four spindly, clawed fingers feeling around under the crack of the door, reaching out to caress me. "Just.. Let me. Seeee." The words sounded strange and labored. Less like my own voice. Like somebody trying to learn English for the first time. I realized what it reminded me of: Mr. Hutchins, yesterday. After I had told him he couldn't come inside. He had sounded like he had a hard time forming the words to express his displeasure.

Any words this thing couldn't directly copy from somebody came out with a struggle. It wasn't used to having to talk for itself. Why did it want to see me? Before i had time to think, a veiny and clawed hand shot through my door. A lone green eye appeared in the freshly made hole. Without even thinking, I dashed forward and plunged the knife into it.

The creature let out a horrific screech, throaty and phlegmy. I drew the knife back, now covered in that same thick black bile from before. The monster began beating on the door with all its might, and splintered chunks of wood flew in every direction.

I was a fucking failure to the very end. In my attempt to fight the thing, I'd just pissed it off. I looked for something, anything else to defend myself with as the last remnants of the door shattered. My only barrier against the creature, gone. Even in the dark of the hallway, I could see it's legs had almost completely formed. It stood taller than me, even in its twisting, hunched state.

As it slithered through my decimated doorway, my head began to spin when I saw its face. Braxton's grinning, mutilated visage still hung on the side of it's neck, and the creature was still covered in patchy, matted dog hair. But it's face. Other than one pus spewing, eviscerated eye, it looked like me.

Veiny and fleshy, maybe not a definite lookalike yet, but getting there. I saw the outline of my jaw, the shape of my nose.  I was now looking at myself in some kind of deformed flesh mirror. Flesh Mirror. That would actually be kind of a bitchin' name for a horror movie about this thing. "Attack of the Flesh Mirror." As the flesh mirror shambled towards me with its two grinning faces, I wished I WAS watching a movie.

The creature immediately swung at me with its sharpened claw, knicking my arm and opening up three long cuts from which crimson blood flowed freely. I clutched at my wound, as it took another swing. This time, I ducked out of the way, and the flesh mirror knocked over a shelf of mint condition He-Man figures I'd just purchased. "You motherfucker!" I yelled. "I JUST completed the Evil Warriors!" I never claimed to be a man with my priorities straight. The flesh mirror responded by wrapping its spindly fingers around my throat, effortlessly lifting me off the ground.

I swung futiley with the knife, unable to muster the energy to make anything more than minor nicks and cuts on the creature as the life was squeezed out of me. "Over. Over soooooon." It cooed to me, like it was trying to calm down a cranky child. As it held me there, staring into my eyes, it began to shift further. The bulbous head that had only beared a vague resemblance to me a moment ago was now beginning to look like an exact copy. With a sickening squirt, another green eye popped out next to the one I'd stabbed. Pearly white teeth slid in place with a squelch in the gaping hole that was morphing into my mouth. A more sharply defined nose began growing from the center of the head, and I could even see my scraggly facial hair forming around the cheeks and chin.

It had to study you in order to take your form.

This was what it wanted all along. To stare at me. Examine me. Memorize me. Well, at least I had an answer for "Mr. Hutchins'" sudden fascination with Braxton. The pressure the flesh mirror had on my throat never loosened. Everything started to go black when I heard a weak bark from the bed. It was Braxton. He had risen from his makeshift bandages, and now yipped angrily, with what little strength he could muster, at the flesh mirror.

It would not take its eyes off me, but it addressed Braxton. "Dog. Lucky dog. Quiet." Braxton responded by using the last ounce of energy in his tiny body to leap forward, and clamp down hard on the creature's side with vice-like bite.

Though Braxton was a lapdog, his sharp little teeth still hurt like hell. When that dog wanted to eat something, his bite was extremely hard to pry open. The monster squealed in pain, and loosened its grip just enough. I fell to the ground, slowly regaining my wits, and slipped through its slimy legs. I turned back and the flesh mirror had Braxton by the throat. I had never seen the creature express an emotion other than eerie giddiness, but it looked at Braxton with pure hatred as it strangled him with viscous black fluid flowing down its veiny side. I couldn't let my old buddy go like this. Still gripping the knife, I raised from the ground and plunged it into the back of the creature's head. It let out another sickening yelp, and dropped my canine pal. I scooped Braxton up, and stabbed the creature several more times in the back of the head, until it fell to the ground. It made a disgusting gurgling, wheezing noise as it struggled to get up, and I knew killing it would be a lot more difficult.

I made a mad dash for the kitchen, flicking on as many lights as possible as I went. I felt Braxton's sharp and labored breathing against my chest. He had lost so much more blood when the creature had choked him, and his windpipe was likely crushed. Once in the kitchen, I slowed my pace to a walk as I realized it was curtains for my oldest friend. Even with the threat of the flesh mirror looming, I couldn't toss Braxton aside like trash. Tears welling in my eyes, I opened the sliding glass back door and softly placed Braxton on the grass of the yard. His favorite place. His sandy fur was matted with blood, and his back leg had been twisted even worse in the scuffle. His throat looked bent and crumpled as a result of the creature's tight grip. I cradled his head, and scratched behind his pointy ear just the way he liked. "You saved me buddy. You're a good boy." He softly licked my hand, and the light was gone from his milky eyes.

I could've run. I could've hopped in my car and gotten the fuck out of there. But the flesh mirror had killed my fucking dog. After doing a piss poor imitation of him, I might add. I wasn't letting this one go. I made my way back into the kitchen, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I wiped the tears from my eye as my heart throbbed in my ears.

I began rummaging through the junk drawer -The next logical step to use against something you can't stab to death, is fire. Casting aside pairs of scissors and rolls of tape, I pulled an old zippo out of the drawer. It flickered. Once. Twice. The flame held on the third try. Now I was cooking. Before I could really formulate a method of which to effectively use it without burning the house down, I heard a cacophany of voices from upstairs, along with the wet dragging sounds of the flesh mirror slowly making its way into the living room.

The sight of the fleshy abomination that rounded the stairwell and entered the living room will never leave my mind.

The creature was much larger than before, a tangled mass of half formed faces and spindly limbs. A fleshy lump on its chest called out in the voice of Mr. Hutchins "I need a phone."Whyare youdoing that. don'tdontdontdontdont." I guess he hadn't been asleep in that recliner after all. From above one of its arms, a double chinned man rambled. "Here to fix your phone. Fix your phone. Fixfixfixfixfixfixfix." Braxton's grotesque neck-face yipped and barked endlessly. The face that was halfway to perfectly imitating mine spit out its slurred words under the thick waterfall of black liquid gushing from its eye. "Its okayitsokayitsokayitsokay."

It seemed the fight that Braxton and I had put up, interrupting its imitation of my appearance, had confused the flesh mirror. It now appeared to be mimicking multiple people AT ONCE.

Other faces I didn't recognize spoke as well. Children whined for their toys. Nervous women asked what was wrong with their husbands. A drunk man demanded another drink from an unseen bartender.

Each voice was perfectly imitated, repeating phrases like a skipping vinyl record. Individually they'd all sound perfect, if somewhat awkward. Overlayed, spit out all at once by this monstrosity of skin and ooze, the voices created a hellish chatter that was completely maddening.

It was almost as if the flesh mirror was rifling through its closet, and couldn't decide which costume to wear. So it put them all on at once.

Nonetheless it shambled towards me, and though the dozens of faces were different, they all wore a similar expression: One of absolute malice. This thing wasn't fucking around anymore.
I had been so enraptured by the grotesque menagerie that I had forgotten all about the zippo. A lifetime of watching and reading horror fiction failed me again, as waving the zippo's tiny flame back and forth did nothing to impress the flesh mirror. Weren't monsters supposed to be scared of fire?

It swung clumsily with one of its many limbs, and knocked me backwards into one of the cabinets, slashing my chest in the process. Though the sheer mass of flesh it was now carrying had considerably slowed the flesh mirror's speed, it still hit like a fucking freight train.

The searing pain I felt in that moment will never leave my memory. This was a whole dimension of hurt that I never knew existed. Blood gushed out of the slash marks across my torso, which luckily were not deep enough to expose any vital organs. They still hurt like all hell, and I knew the bloodloss could get to me fast. The flesh mirror continued to make its way towards me, moving at a snail's pace. It seemed to have distracted even itself with the massive conglomerate of voices and personalities. Had I somehow fucked up its mind when I stabbed it in the back of the head? Did this thing even have a brain?

I was starting to get woozy. I needed to think of something. I glanced to my side. The cabinet I had been flung into had crashed open, its contents now littered the floor. Beside me was an aerosol can of cooking spray. This was my last chance, or I'd be joining Braxton in the afterlife.

I held the lighter in front of the cooking spray, preparing to unleash the spray and flick the lighter in one smooth motion. The flesh mirror had reached me at this point, inching the mushy head that was once morphing into my own close to my face.

I tried to think of something cool to say. After all, these had the potential to be my last words. "This one's for Braxton!" "Eat flame, bitch!" "Hasta la vista, baby!"

All I could muster was an enraged "FUCK YOU!"

As I released the stream of cooking spray and flicked the lighter, the flesh mirror responded, in a garbled, monstrous imitation of my voice. "FUCK YOU!"

The makeshift flamethrower had worked. A burst of fire blasted the flesh mirror. A horrendous scream of pain escaped its mouth, as it tumbled backward away from me. I slowly rose to my feet, my head spinning as blood seeped out of my chest and my back throbbed in pain. I held the makeshift flamethrower in front of me. The flesh mirror's crude imitation of my face was bubbling and crackling under the glowing flame. I continued spraying as much of the flesh mirror's veiny form as I could until the aerosol can ran dry. The burning, fleshy lump released countless, inhuman cries of agony as it cooked in my kitchen. I slumped to my knees, crawled past it, sitting back first against the front door as the flesh mirror wailed.

A disgusting stench filled the air, burnt flesh and that black liquid. It seemed oddly familiar somehow.

The flames were still going strong, but the flesh mirror seemed to be fading. It had ceased thrashing around, and its shrieks had dulled to a murmur as its skin crackled.

Suddenly, it rolled over. Two of it's melting, gangly limbs landed palms down on the ground. The burning flesh mirror was attempting to lift itself up. If the flamethrower hadn't worked, I was well and truly fucked. At this point, all I could do was stare as the creature attempted to stand.

It raised its "main" head, the one that had begun to look like me, and met my eyes with that hate filled stare. With one final, rage-fueled scream, the smoldering heap of skin threw itself forward, and swung a dripping, clawed hand at me.

It collapsed to the ground just short making contact. It was too weakened to finish the job.

The room had finally become quiet. I looked down and saw that the blood leaking from my chest had no signs of slowing. I slumped forward once again, my vision getting hazy. I slowly pulled my phone from my pocket. Would paramedics get here in time?

The flesh mirror's reeking corpse was still burning behind me, and I figured it wouldn't be long before the entire house went up in flames.

I dialed my mom's number, hoping she would pick up. I just wanted to tell her I loved her, and that I was sorry she ended up with a disappointing son that somehow managed to get murdered by a shapeshifting monster while housesitting for a weekend.

I pulled the front door open and crawled through it as mom's phone rang. Miraculously, she picked up. She sounded groggy. "Ethan..? Wh..What time is it? Are you alright?" I could barely even form the words. "... mom. I... I love you. I'm sorry. Braxton. The .... the house. Everythiinggg..." My words were slurring. I involuntarily dropped the phone as my other hand rested on the doorknob

Maybe I could make it into the street. I heard my mom yelling through the receiver, though I couldn't quite make out what she was saying. I was tired. As I pushed the door open, I remembered why that hideous smell seemed so familiar - The burning flesh mirror smelled EXACTLY like our fish n' chips house special at Fin City. No wonder we went out of business. I chuckled to myself as everything went dark.

I came to in a hospital bed. Evidently my mom HAD called the cops from Maine after our phone conversation, and they found me passed out in my living room in a pool of blood. Thing is, I was alone. I immediately asked the doctor what the authorities had done about the "thing." A puzzled look crossed her face as she told me that the animal that had attacked me in the house had gone before the authorites arrived, and that I probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't. They were under the assumption that it had been a bear attack, though they were baffled at how a large bear could've gotten into the house with seeming ease, and why the animal seemed to have lost interest in me after mauling me. They would probe me for more details once I'd been awake for a bit.

 I had a million questions. What about the burned carpet? The black ooze the flesh mirror had bled everywhere? How the flesh mirror managed to escape without burning the house down, and why it spared my life are beyond me. Maybe it thought I was already dead. I wondered where it could have gone.

But I put those thoughts on hold when the doctor said my mother was worried sick about me, and asked if I'd like to see her now that I was finally awake. I excitedly agreed, and the doctor ushered my mom into the room. She was ecstatic to see me - Her emerald green eyes lit up with joy, as her toothy mouth turned into a too-wide grin. I screamed and screamed.