Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
It was a phone call that finally drew Gaspard away from the thing that lay on the table in front of him. The intruding ring of the wall mounted phone woke him from his terrified trance, and freed him from the position he had froze in. He didn't take his eyes off of the thing, though he was sure it was dead. His hands fumbled around on the wall for a second before they found the receiver, and he brought it to his ear.
It was Cassidy Brown, who Henri had told to man the phones. “Gaspard? I've got your wife on hold here, can I transfer her to your line?” Her American accent surprised him a little; he'd never heard her speak before and had just assumed that she was French.
He answered in English. “Yes, please. Thank you.”
There was a short click, and then his wife's voice bled through the receiver “Allô, Gaspard? J’ai entendu parler de l’explosion. Tu travailles?” her French was not the best, and it made him chuckle. She was English, and they had met when they both started studying at Université Paris Descartes almost eighteen years ago now.
“I'm working, yes. We have all the survivors here, it's a nightmare.”
“What time will you be home? Margot is asking for you.” She sounded relieved to be able to speak in English.
Gaspard smiled at the mention of his young daughter's name. “What's she still doing up? It's very late.”
“I can't get her to go to sleep. She's insisting that she waits until you come home. I keep telling her that she's going to be exhausted in the morning but she won't stay in her bed!”
As Gaspard chatted to his beloved wife, he took his eyes off of the creature and instead focused on the cuts on his fingers. He didn't want to look at it; he was scared. Talking to his wife was making him just a little bit less so, and he found his racing heart beat steadily slow down until it reached its normal pace. In the short time he was staring down at his fingers, the thing on the table behind him began to stir.
First, it opened its eyes, allowing them to adjust to the bright light that was shining above them. They blinked, slowly due to the crisp nature of the eyelids, and glanced around the ceiling. Its fingers began to uncurl, stretching out with a crackling sound that sounded like the very fire they'd burnt in. Gaspard turned round at the noise, and then dropped the phone. It bounced for a second, swinging against the wall on the spiral chord before hanging limp.
“Gaspard? Honey?” The voice was distant, and Gaspard was focused on the rising monstrosity that was growing in front of him. The thing had pulled itself up, and was staring directly ahead at the wall in front of it. Its skin was slowly stretching across the whole in its chest, pushing the protruding ribs back into place. With a sudden ferocity, its head snapped round, and it laid its eyes on Gaspard. Those eyes locked him in place as his wife continued to call his name down the phone. He couldn't move.
The thing's skin continued to grow and stretch across its injuries, and the same intestines that Gaspard had sliced open spilled out of its body as it pulled its legs off the side of the table. They landed in a wet pile of the cold stone ground, and the stomach quickly followed. The little chunks of meat fell too, and one continued to roll once it had hit the ground, stopping when it hit Gaspard's shoe.
It stood deathly still, eyes focused on Gaspard, who didn't dare move.
With a sickening crunch, the thing took a step forward, the bones in its legs straightening out as it did so. They were no longer looking burnt; this was no longer a deceased little girl. It was a thing. That was the only word Gaspard had to describe it as it took another step towards him. It seemed to be growing in not only strength, but height, as it once more stepped forward. Now face to face with the thing, Gaspard realised he was no longer staring into the eyes of a little girl, but into the eyes of his father.
The skin around the thing's face was still blackened and bloody, but it was unmistakably his father's face. Gaspard started to tremble uncontrollably, his heart beat racing.
“No,” He managed to say, his voice cracking “No, no you're dead you're dead you're dead.”
The father-thing's mouth curled upwards in a rigid movement that tore the skin around its lips. A fresh trickle of blood leaked from the corner of its top lip and ran down his chin and face. Crimson red, like the blood Gaspard had seen the day he fought back at his father.
A distant memory he had tried to bury, something which had happened in his teens after years and years of insufferable abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, found its way to the surface of his mind. That night had started out with a smashed wine bottle and ended with a body splayed beneath the balcony. Gaspard had recounted to the police that his father had gotten drunk and simply fallen in a haze, but the officers had been responding to noise complaints from the neighbours for years now, and new the extent of his father's alcoholism. They knew his father hadn't fallen by accident, yet they filed it as such. Gaspard had been forever grateful to them for that, but now, his father once more stood in front of him. The air was filled with the scent of cheap liquor and as the father-thing let out a deep breath, Gaspard's nostrils flared at the smell of stale cigarette smoke.
“You're dead,” He repeated, his voice small and audibly weak “I killed you. You're dead.”
The father-thing continued to smile, ripping more and more skin off of its face. The ripped skin pulled back to reveal the rows of sharp, pearly white teeth that Gaspard had sliced his finger on, and the father-thing's mouth opened inhumanly wide; wide enough to consume the now sobbing French man's head whole. Gaspard tried to scream, but the teeth had already pierced his vocal chords before he was able to. Blood spurted across the wall as the father-thing clenched its jaw down on Gaspard's neck.
Two floors above them, Jed continued to scream at the top of his lungs. “THE LITTLE GIRL STAYS WITH ME!”
Gaspard's wife continued to shout down the phone line, her tone growing increasingly more worried with each word.
“Honey? Gaspard? Are you okay?”