It came closer to my leg, lurching forward with one lashing from its razor-sharp tongue slicing at my skin, close to my groin, as I prayed I’d still have my manhood intact when this was over. That is, if I even survived this mess I was in. It seemed to enjoy the possibility of feasting on my tender flesh; it liked “that area” more than all the others. It was as if it were getting off on tasting my balls. Its tongue licked my bare skin as I waited for my own death. Then I forgot myself, accidentally hitting play on my Cassio. I could hear her singing in my ears, knowing everything would be alright. The end of my life may come, but something about her was how she sounded like she could fight for me with her tenderness, anger, and love of a good guitar riff. God help me; if this was my last moment on earth, I could make myself at ease. Even as the pain grabbed me unrelenting pain.

In a time before cell phones, TikTok, YouTube, or Snapchat, there was just MTV blasting out your favorite tunes. Shows like 120 minutes and Headbangers Ball were at the top of their game, showcasing rare music in rock-in-roll, alternative music. It was often the local Quonset Hut with some clerk at the local wearing hemp and burning Jerry Garcia Incense. If it wasn’t your local music scene, like bands that my friends were all in. Guys that really got it formed a band called the RASH SCRATCHERS. They’d open for more extensive and badass local bands that opened up for big acts like LIVE, Dave Matthews Band, often named after words you’d hear about in a Psychologist’s office like “Paranoid Love Sick,” you know, really fuckin’ cool bands.  

At least, that was in the 90s when I was a teen living in Akron, Ohio. A town everyone called AE-KRON when it was just pronounced like AK-RUN. In later years, we have basically been known for Lebron James. However, those in the know remember DEVO, Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders, and in recent years The Black Keys. Yeah, we have some fun stuff. 

I tended to go by what my friends listened to or recommended, and if my friend Krista didn’t like it, I didn’t listen. When I was in college, it was no different. I discovered I liked Tori Amos, but only after hearing Spark for the first time. Before that, I remember breaking up with my girlfriend, that was really into Tori Amos, and I spent the entire afternoon throwing her CDs in the air and shooting them with my hunting rifle. 

I was into British rock bands, but not your typical simp for Oasis. I enjoyed rare groups that three people had probably never heard of. The rarer the band, the cooler they were to me. Granted, as a dad of three little girls, I have long since forgotten those days of yore. When the world was a bit different. A time when you had to actually research things about bands the hard way. People spread rumors about artists back then. There were no social media to create rumors until they canceled everyone you thought you liked.  

I was nineteen when I discovered I loved PJ HARVEY. I was living in some little dorm in some shit town at the time on a track scholarship. No, not some fantastic sprinter that played football in the fall and only ran track to “keep in shape” no, I was your dorky long-distance runner. I swore to god that the longer the race you ran, the uglier you were. I was pretty ugly, too, back then. Scrawny, weepy dark brown hair and freckles that seemed big and small covered my body. I looked like a reversed version of the galaxy. My skin was pale, and acne filled my cheeks. I had one girlfriend until I was nineteen, when everything changed.

I had started a job at some shitty company in Cleveland. It was cool because I worked in security. Please don’t ask me what the hell the company did. Although, I got an idea later ; but still never understood the purpose of what they did. There were rumors of course, information quickly shoved under the rug by big brother payouts. All I knew was I got paid pretty decently to come in, sit at a big round desk with a swivel chair and listen to my cd walkman. Yes, kids before Spotify, Amazon Music, or Apple music, where you have millions of songs at your fingertips, there was the Non-skip cd walkman. It was all the rage when it had first come out. It was geared towards skater punks or active teenagers and cost a couple of hundred bucks before cheaper versions were made. 

So, I sat in this dump of a museum-type building, DULCE LABS. There was glass all around me, so any bum walking the street that saw me either ignored me or put on a show for me. I once saw a guy shit in the middle of Carnegie and wipe it on the glass. Yeah, fuckin’ gross, right? I often would get people banging on the glass to come in. Mostly crazies or druggies. Sometimes, if I was feeling particularly empathetic, which wasn’t often, I’d buy weed from one of the guys, and we’d smoke it in the lobby while he warmed his toes in the below zero winters. I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me to recall his name now, all these years later. I don’t remember it.

I haven’t been there since the night I discovered my love for Polly Jean Harvey. You know there are moments when you know that if you had taken a different path, your life would be incredibly different? For instance, you could be dead or rich, living on a yacht in the south of France. Forks in the road, as my grandpa would term it. 

This, however, was one colossal fuckin’ fork in the road!

I recall it like it was yesterday; I had arrived early to work because I had already been up that afternoon before noon. It was my best friend’s graduation party from her early college program. One of those programs where you can go to college and get high school credit. So while I was slaving away in the evenings at this shit security job, my friend had already earned her bachelor’s degree. At the same time, I was still a college sophomore debating on whether I wanted to kill myself or get the shitty Liberal Arts Degree.  

Hindsight is twenty-twenty, they say.  

So, I arrived that afternoon around three. Most of the office was gone because it was a Saturday. Most of the staff only worked till noon then the building shut down by four. I clocked in, ran to the restroom, and put on my fake police uniform. It was all black, and in Yellow on the front, it said SECURITY. So any dumb motherfucker that tried to mess with me had to face Big Jon. Yes, sorry about that. My name is Jon. Although now I’m called Babe, Hon, or Daddy, Jon is my name. Although I was not an armed security guard. I was given a stick to use in my defense, and a button to push under the desk in the lobby in case shit hit the fan.

I said goodbye to Eddie, the guy that world day shift, and as he locked up the building, I settled in with my cheese, crackers, and a big gulp.  

Most of the later afternoon was quiet. It was a warm February day, and when the sun went down, I noticed the mood was shining over the building. I mentioned it was made of glass. It was actually pretty at night. I could also see all the city lights and the stars when things settled in on the city. 

I pulled out a cd my friend Krista made me. Yes, she made it for me. So in a time before playlists on Spotify, you could burn music yourself onto a CD and create your own playlist that way. It was fucking time-consuming, so the fact someone would do this for you was the highest of honors. Krista wasn’t my girlfriend, and we had never dated, but we had known one another since we were three and a half. 

I put the cd in my Cassio and sat back, closing my eyes. My eyes were closed for about three minutes when I heard something near my desk. I opened them and looked over the circular-shaped desk. 

I didn’t see anything, but the monitor on one of the computers in front of me was no longer on.

Not too strange; it often happened because whoever paid to have them installed never had any maintenance done to keep them running correctly. 

I looked around, taking one of my headphones out of my ear. I picked up my big stick and went to do my rounds. Whenever the monitor went out, it was my job to walk into every area in the building to check on things and ensure there were no intruders.  

Labs were on the sixth floor, and I was not authorized to go in that area. I was also told that if anything happened in that area, to lock the area and leave immediately. That was the only protocol that I was aware of that sounded menacing. As far as I knew, they were a research facility that did cosmetic testing under the DULCE. I was never privy to what type of cosmetic research, but I imagined something with monkeys or chimps like in those movies.  

I learned later it was no such thing.

I went towards the elevators and went up to the second floor. I smelled something strange when the elevator doors opened to the second floor. I walked out into the glossy hallway floor that had been mopped before the cleaning crew left. I took out both of my headphones now and listened. Something was coming down the long hall toward me, but I couldn’t determine what it was. I couldn’t see anything either. Finally, a bird flew out and over my head.  

I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed it came in through the parking garage elevator. I continued my rounds of the large building and returned to my round desk.

I sat eating Snyder Barbecue chips while I stared at the computer monitor. When I looked at the sixth monitor, I noticed it was back on. I was there for an hour when I decided I needed to get up and stretch my feet. I had some songs blasting in my ears – a mix of New Age and alternative rock. Krista had very unusual taste in music, but I usually enjoyed most of the stuff she sent me back when I lived in the dorms. I looked forward to receiving her mixed discs as the only thing worth looking forward to back then. Between work and school there wasn’t much else.

I stood, taking my headphones out of my ears; I looked around. It was eerily quiet for a Saturday night in the city. Not one single car had gone down the street. I didn’t see the usual homeless guys trying to get me to give them money or let them in to cool off or warm up, depending on the weather. I tried not to let myself feel too uneasy.

The building moaned, and the electricity went out. I walked over to the monitors, and everything was off. I looked out the window and realized not one city light was working. Not even one public transportation vehicle either. It was the cliche’ ghost town at that moment.

Shit. I walked towards the front of the building and ensured the doors were manually locked. I took out my flashlight to make my second rounds for the night. As I walked towards the stairs, given the elevators were not working, I ran up the first flight. A generator usually came on for the next few floors, but more seemed to need fixing. It didn’t come on at all.

I got a stupid thought. With the cameras, security, and everything off, I could sneak into the sixth floor and see what they hid up there. When would I ever get the chance again? What can I say? I was a stupid nineteen-year-old with a ton of time to kill. This would be another eight hours, and with no electricity, there wasn’t even a monitor to stare at.  

I went up the twelve flights to get there, and when I saw the door to the floor open into a small lobby with a nicer vending machine than the one I had to use- I was totally game. I walked over to look at the goodies inside of it. I shook it a bit, and some Doritos fell to the bottom when I did. I swiped them up quickly and opened the bag. I looked ahead at the two giant steel doors. AUTHORIZED CLARENCE ONLY was written on both of them. I’m authorized, clarence, aren’t I?

I put another bunch of chips in my mouth and opened the doors. There was a red blinking light on the walls, which I assumed was for emergencies like this one. The city would get the power back on quickly, and my time here to investigate would be short-lived. 

I put the bag of chips on a desk that was there as you walked in. There was another set of doors when I got in, and I turned my flashlight toward them. It was hard to see them without it because the doors were painted black. I smiled, a bit too excited for words, and tried to open the door. It didn’t open. I looked at the wall seeing there was a place you had to slide a card. I wondered if my security badge would work for this area too.  

Swiped it, and whoosh. The doors opened slowly in front of me. There must have been enough electricity back up to use the swipe card. The air inside the lab was incredibly cold and I saw gas masks on the walls inside and an area to disinfect yourself when you went in or out. I put on one of their gowns and masks. I was stupid, but not that stupid. I didn’t want to bring any diseases out into the world.

I hit the switch to pour down disinfectant on me. It was weird, but I felt like I was in a movie. I walked into the lab between some plastic curtains and depending on where I walked, there was now some light that looked glow in the dark that glimmered on and off. I looked ahead of me and could see some small cages. Two of them had rats nibbling on food in a tiny bowl. They didn’t look weird to me. I walked further, and as I slowly moved into the lab, I noticed it became darker. What the hell was in here?

I started to smell something that made me wish I wasn’t smelling it. Curiosity still gripped me, and I kept moving into the lab, eyeing my surroundings with my limited vision. 

BOOM, something hit the glass near me, and when I shined my flashlight near it, I noticed something that looked like a Baboon. Only, its face had more of a kangaroo look and a muzzle like a dog’s. It was eyeing me with red eyes, and while it didn’t look particularly menacing, it seemed hungry. I felt bad for it being in here all by itself. This Baboon Dog.  

“Sorry buddy, what are you anyway?” I asked, looking at it. Then I saw something that looked like shit behind it smeared against the wall.

I chuckled. “It was you making that smell, wasn’t it?”

Knowing I couldn’t do anything about it at the time, I figured the lab crew that worked weekends would clean it up and feed the poor creature. I felt terrible for it but was secretly glad it couldn’t get to me. 

I moved away from that cage and then eyed another cell. There was a couple with nothing inside the glass cages, which made me happy. It was sad to see the animals in those cages. Then I got closer to the back of the laboratory. There were several enormous cages. They were all made of glass, and all looked as if they had things inside them.

I approached the cage closest to me and saw a large furry hand hit the cage. I stepped back, accidentally turning on my cd player. Some rock music blasted into my ears, startling me once again. I quickly hit the pause button on the player and backed away. I could no longer see what was in the large glass cage. Then my eyes turned toward one another. As I walked towards it, a motion light came on. There in front of me was a man wearing all black, sitting with his back turned towards me in a chair. This was weird to me. Was this guy real? There was no way they were keeping a guy in this cage.

Wouldn’t that be a crime?

“Hey buddy, do you work here or something?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if he was an employee that maybe accidentally locked himself in here. It was too sinister to me that he should be here alone in the dark like a lab experiment. 

The man did not turn to look at me. I thought maybe he couldn’t hear me behind the thick glass.

“Hello, do you work here? DO YOU NEED HELP?” I yelled and banged on the cage.

He tilted his head up but did not look at me.  

“Are you locked in there?” I asked again. 

The man still didn’t move, and I felt extremely creeped out. Suddenly, my walkie-talkie began to turn on, and I heard static. I was alone, so I wasn’t sure who would try to talk to me. Then I thought it was maintenance trying to reach me to check on the building. 

As I was staring at the man still in the chair, I didn’t immediately notice that I was being felt up by something. Suddenly, I felt my leg being grabbed, and when I turned around, a tall beast-like animal stood in front of me. It had opened the cage door next to the man. It was tall with pointed ears like a jackal. It had black eyes and teeth. I barely felt my leg being grabbed again as the creature in front of me grabbed a giant tentacle wrapping itself behind me and snapped it in half, eating the part it had seized.

I backed away again and hit the side of the cage with the Baboon dog inside.

I saw it change from looking sweet to completely insane.

I ran towards the other part of the lab to where the man had been sitting. He could help me.  

He was no longer there.

I fell backward to the ground, realizing I had made a colossal mistake. The creature that looked half jackal and half bear was now fixated on the giant tentacles that seemed to come from the back of the laboratory.

I got up as best as possible, grabbed my walkman, and left the lab. I didn’t bother to disinfect my body; I just ran, shutting and trying to lock the doors behind me. I kept running until I got to the two big doors, I grabbed my Doritos off the table, thinking if I needed to, I could use them to fend off creatures if they escaped. I mean, who didn’t love Doritos? 

I ran down the stairs to the lobby as fast as my feet could. I went to my desk and picked up the phone.

I was going to call the head of my security company. I knew that those doors wouldn’t hold them all for long. Incredibly, that big bear thing or that Baboon Dog.

For the love of god, what had tentacles? My brain was trying to wrap its head around it when I looked at the wall behind me.

A man was standing there in the dark. I thought about the man I had seen in the lab. I realized it was the same man.

“Hey, are you alright?” I asked him.

He didn’t respond.

Instead, he just kept walking toward me slowly.

I stood there, feeling as afraid as I was in that lab.

The man stopped halfway, tilting his head as Michael Myers did in those Halloween movies. I gulped, knowing that something was way off about this guy.

I went to ask him again if he was alright, but my voice cracked and squeaked like I was going through puberty again.

I heard something fall to the floor behind me and turned my head for only a second to see that it was one of those tiny rats that seemed to be carrying something that jangled like keys. It stood up off the ground and then ran away into the dark.  

I turned my eyes back to the man that was in front of me, to find him, you guessed it- gone.

Where the hell did he go? I was beginning to think I didn’t need to be so concerned for him. 

I turned around in a full circle, remembering my flashlight, only to realize I had left it in the lab. There was some light from the moon shining in the lab as it had grown pitch black outside from the city blackout. I began to think I needed to get out of there, but I also needed to call for help. I didn’t know where the man had gone and feared what he might do.  

I scrambled to get to the phone on the other side of my desk. When I did, I realized the line had been cut.  

This was turning into the worst night of my life. I looked up to the front of the building. My only luck would be escaping out of those front doors.

I ran towards them and went to unlock them when I realized I no longer had the damn keys. I looked around and then remembered that damn rat. It had picked up something that jangled like keys- AS IN MY KEYS! I put my head in my hand and tried to think of how I would get out of this mess I was in. 

That is when I felt something behind me. I knew what it was. The thing with tentacles was now wrapping its body around mine. I was afraid to turn around, and when I did, the fear inside me did not disappoint.

There in front of me was a vast-eyed creature that looked like it had the head of a ball sack. I’m sorry, that is the best description I have. It really looked like that. This thing’s mouth had sharp teeth in a round circle, and when it opened, I saw a neverending series of mini saws rearing to lash and cut flesh. It tucked its tongue with a smaller tongue at the tip of it near my face and licked my cheek, taking a sliver of my flesh with it.

The tentacles it sat upon excreated a foul-smelling odor as it did. I nearly died from the smell and part of me wished I had. 

It tossed me against the glass of the door and pushed me into the glass windows. I couldn’t move and my breathing was so shallow from the shock of this thing.

It had no eyes I could see in the dark, but it had holes above its mouth with small hair-like bristles. I heard something behind me and realized that the glass window directly behind me was beginning to crack from the force this thing had against me.

It pushed and pushed until it had unzipped my pants – eating the pants right off of me.

I watched wide-eyed as it slid me to the floor, curling its long tentacles around me to hold me on the ground while it sniffed my lower region. I could only hope for my manhood to remain intact as it licked and ripped at my flesh.

It seemed to grow very excited by my smell. If only Teresa in Freshmen Victorian Lit had been as keen on my lower region.

I heard a scream, and as I felt it hurl my legs in front of me, nearly cracking them as it sniffed and licked at my body, I heard my walkman kick on. I was now not focused on the pain so much as on the voice in my ears. I cannot explain it. It was the only thing keeping me from thinking of my impending death.

PJ Harvey was singing WE FLOAT as this menacing creature tormented my body. I could no longer open my eyes as I knew if I saw it, then the pain would become real. I felt like one of those people that pay someone to walk on their back with heels to feel alive.

I had my eyes closed, feeling the pinch of my skin, the prodding of my loins by its intrusive mouth. I nearly lost it from lack of breath. The pain was only getting worse and I could feel the blood from being skinned alive. It peeled layer after layer of the skin on my upper thigh away.

Then as soon as it started, I felt it stop and drop me where it was. I opened my eyes to see it recoiling into the dark. Something had caused it to be afraid. Great. What was waiting in the dark that would soon be after me, too?

The music was still playing in my ears when I went to stand up. I felt like I had been crushed, and all the bones inside my body were now dust. I was alive, and I did not have any broken bones. I managed to try and stand while I slipped and fell on my blood. I was bleeding, and the music was still going in my ears when I hit the pause button. The room had grown quiet now. I watched the dark, waiting for the next intruder to look for me.  

It didn’t take long. Several “monsters” came running from the door leading to the stairwell. I panicked, trying to get out of the way when the glass above me suddenly shattered. It caused an uproar among the monsters as they seemed confused about what that sound had been. Then I saw someone approaching the thing that had nearly licked me to death using a cattle prod. I looked at it as it began to back away from someone standing in the dark.

The Baboon Dog was now next to me, trying to run away but kept stepping on the glass covering the floor. The cattle prod was used on the Baboon, and he recoiled in fear.

There were at least several things that resembled demons from a horror movie; one had scales, and the other was the man. He stood there wrangling the creatures back towards the stairwell. Then as they went back in, the door shut on them.

The man came over to me, still holding the cattle prod.

I saw him smile at me. Then he used the cattle prod on me. I soon blacked out.

When I awoke, all the creatures were back in their cages.  

I realized, to my horror, I was in a glass cage. The man had put me in his cell. I looked down at the front of the cage where it was labeled. It read PURE SOCIOPATH. 

It didn’t register at first, then I thought about why he might be in this cage. What had he done? What were they using him to create?  

I saw the lights all come back on. The man had an ashen face and jet-black hair. He didn’t talk he put his index finger to his lips, and simply told me to SHH as he backed out into the night.

I pulled out the Doritos I had in my pocket and ate them, they were crumbs now, but it was better than starving. I hit play on my cd player and dissected each song verse. I thought how cool it was. Krista had made this playlist to get me through a boring night at work. In reality, she got me through a near-death experience. 

I was only there a few hours before one of the laboratory assistants saw me and rescued me.

I had to sign papers, and I was let go and never allowed to come within a mile of the DULCE LABORATORIES.

Trust me – I didn’t want to.

I did wonder about the PURE SOCIOPATH. Where had he gone? I had no doubt that he had found a way to create a new life outside of that glass cage. I hoped he was far far away. I had a feeling, though, he wouldn’t be far. He wasn’t done with me yet. There was a playful look in his eyes when he left me in that cage, as if he was saying he’d see me again soon.

Perhaps, perhaps not. Years passed and I grew up and got a job in Austin, Texas. I forgot my misspent youth. Yet, I always remembered PJ HARVEY. I think she saved me that day. If I hadn’t had her music distracting me. I have no doubt I’d be dead from the horror.

So thanks, PJ. Thank you for getting me through.


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