Something slithers in the night. You flash your light on it, only to see two glowing orbs staring silently back at you.
“Shouldn’t be out here,” Jeg says, “Bayou ain’t safe.”
“Bayou ain’t shit,” you say. “I’m bagging a big one.”
But gators aren’t the only thing in the bayou.
The tall swamp grasses shift, and you turn to look as something moves in the water. It makes a splash that attracts your light. A scaley hide swims away.
“Damn,” you mutter.
You slowly scan the murky waters and notice a dark shape writhing under the surface. You point.
“Hand me that rod, I want to see what we got over here.”
The boat moves closer and you take a tool to prod at the shape about five feet out. The rod slows as it enters the darkness. Whatever the darkness is, it moves closer to the boat.
“A fish?” you ask. “Hand me the net.”
You take the net from Jeg and pull it through the water and when you come back up with it, a black, viscous gunk is tangled in the net.
“Sure ain’t no gator,” Jeg says.
You shrug and the black gunk begins to jump around in the net, like living sludge. You shout in surprise and throw the net down, but it already knows your scent. The sludge falls on deck.
“What the hell is that stuff?!” Jeg shouts.
You try not to panic. The gunk spills from the net and begins to slither over to Jeg.
“Hey!” Jeg shouts. “Hey now!”
You pull your knife, completely shaken. Your heart rate increases and you’ve started to sweat. You’ve never seen anything like this before. Jeg is backing up towards the motor. There is no place to go though.
“Goddamn it, do something!” Jeg says.
But the boat rocks. Something knocks against it hard, and you turn back to see the black gunk, crawling up out of the water and onto the boat. Knife raised, you slash and cut at the gunk. It pulls itself back together, whole again. A sickly stench is wafting from it.
You’ve never smelled this before, something pungent, rotten and water-logged. If someone asked you what a corpse at sea smelled like, you may have said, just like this thing.
You wonder if it’s a mold or fungus. It doesn’t matter thought because Jeg begins to scream.
“Get it off! Get it off!” he screams repeatedly.
The sludge climbs onto his boots and then his legs. You shine your light on Jeg and grow cold as you see the sludge beginning to crawl up his torso. Jeg swats at it but it only sticks to his hand. He can’t get it off.
“It’s alive. It wants me!”
The gunk is bubbling and rising. It crawls over Jeg, searching for an orifice. Jeg cries out in pure fear but not because of the gunk. He’s pointing behind you now, his eyes wide.
You turn and see the sludge had not only crawled up the front and sides of the boat, but was now bigger and reaching out to you with a rotting Human arm, covered in slimy black ooze. Inside the gunk were parts of several bodies—all decomposing.
Now it wants you.
A chilling scream turns you back. Jeg’s eyes are black and sticky with the gunk. Blood is running down his cheeks. He screams and begins to claw and tear at his flesh. The gunk will not let go. It begins to fill his ears and mouth.
There’s nothing you can do. You back away from the oncoming slime and Jeg collapses, gurgling now as black ooze rushes down his throat. You can see his body convulse and spasm.
You dare not touch him.
“Jeg,” you say. “You have to fight it.”
But the black sludge is on the boat and slithering closer. It stops just a few feet away, as if relishing your fear. You wonder if you should jump; jump and swim away, risking the gators. It would be better than dying to whatever the black ooze was.
You were decided. You stand and quickly turn to jump, but someone grabs your arm.
“Don’t leave me,” gurgles a choked voice.
You slowly turn to look back, though every bone in you warns you not to. You knew this cliché moment would be your last. You turn anyhow.
It’s Jeg. Jeg is behind you and has your arm. His skin his pale and his veins are black and prominent. Shiny, dark liquid squirms back into his ears and nose. You try to pull away, but his grip is like iron now. You try to move, but look down to see the sludge is on your boots, sticking to you, holding you.
“No, no…just let me go, please, Jeg.”
But instead, he smiles and says, “We are not Jeg anymore.”
Then, a black sludge gushes from his mouth and you scream as it knocks you back into the water. The black ooze envelops you. It enters you through every orifice.
This is your last memory.
You rise from the swamp, eyes black as night.
You are not yourself anymore.
Hi i'm Mercury, a Black American, dark fiction writer in Southern California. I narrate and produce my own audio stories.
I have been in the anthology Blood in the Rain 3, published by JitterPress and in Gypsum Sound Tales’s Colp Magazine.