The Cancer in the Walls

📅 Published on January 16, 2022

“The Cancer in the Walls”

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 8.80/10. From 5 votes.
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Growing up with asthma was always a little challenging, but having a dad that smoked two packs a day made it even harder.

Mom would always chastise him for the bad habit, and he would always claim that he would go cold turkey.  It was a cycle with him.  One week on, the next week off.

Eventually, it made her just leave altogether, and I only saw her on weekends.

It made it even harder since we lived in a rundown trailer park east of Seattle, so when he did decide to light one up, that meant finding clean air was nearly impossible unless I wanted to go outside and freeze to death in the early morning air.

He smoked so much that it literally made the wallpaper peel and then turn a sickly yellow and brown.

In fact, had I not developed lung cancer, I think he would have kept smoking until the day one of us died.

But when I got the diagnosis, and the doctor asked me if anyone in the family smoked, I saw his face go white as a sheet.

I hate to say it, but for me, cancer was a golden ticket to a better life with dad.

His guilt drove him to buy me whatever I wanted, and I took full advantage of it.

New phone, new shoes, new iPod, you name it, I got it.

I didn’t care what he had to go through.  I figured my pain was reason enough for my selfishness.

It went on like that for five months as I took my rounds of chemo and plugged him for every penny he had left.  Even after the cancer was mostly gone, he still wanted to make up for all the mistakes he had made along the way.

That all changed in August, though, when he filed for bankruptcy, and I found myself on a bus to stay with Mom.

As much as I hated my dad, I also didn’t want to leave him.  Something had changed in those few months, something I didn’t realize I would miss until it was gone.

Mom was staying with Aunt Beatrice in Seattle in a sleazy apartment downtown, and the first thing that I noticed when I got there was the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke.

I started coughing profusely the minute I got inside the small cramped space, and it felt like the walls were closing in.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, it ain’t that bad!”  Aunt Bea snapped.

I went to the toilet and vomited, trying to keep my head from spinning any more.

Mom came in a few minutes later to check on me and rubbed my back gently.

“I’m sorry, sweetie… it’s only until your mom gets a job then we can get out of here,”  she told me.

I gave her a weak smile and told her I could handle it.

The next few weeks showed me that I was wrong about that.  If I thought Dad’s addiction was terrible, Aunt Bea had him beat by ten miles.  There wasn’t a moment that lady didn’t have a cigarette in her hand.

It got so bad that I couldn’t even make it to school I was so sick.

I hated that woman.

Mom taught me never to wish ill will on anyone, but if anybody deserved it, Aunt Bea sure as hell did.

One particularly humid day, I tried to get up early and cook Mom some pancakes, and Bea was standing on the balcony on her fifth cigarette.

It wasn’t even a quarter to six.

“That’s going to rot your teeth out,”  I told her as I searched for the pots and pans.

Bea whipped around and flared her nostrils at me.

“Why don’t you learn to keep your mouth shut?  I ought to give you a piece of my mind!”  she snarled.

“Are you sure you can afford to spare that much?  You might wind up brain dead!”  I snapped back.

I instantly regretted the words, and Bea slapped me across the face.

She took out her cigarette from her mouth while it was still warm and maliciously dug it against the front of my arm.  I cried in pain as she held it there until it had burnt out, and then she shoved me back across the room.

“You need to watch your mouth.  If it weren’t for me, you and your mom would be out on the streets!”

She stormed off to her room, and I crawled up against the wall and curled into a ball.

I shook and cried for a moment longer as I stared up at the brown stained walls, wishing that life could be different for me.

That was when I saw something move there amid the cascade of stains and dried paint.

It shimmered and slid across the wall, like some kind of wet splashy oil moving across the borders of the old peeling frames.

I stared at it for a moment longer, rubbing my eyes and trying to make sense of the phenomenon.  When I let my vision adjust, the swirling colors had stopped altogether, and I found myself staring at the same old dull texture as nothing had happened.

My mom entered the room a moment later, wearing a shabby dress and placing earrings on as she hastily got ready to go.

“Aunt Bea got me an interview at that little diner on South Palm.  Wish me luck, hun!”  she squealed with delight.

I don’t even know if she noticed I was just standing there in a fog.

Bea came out next, glaring at me to be quiet about our earlier little encounter and following Mom out of the apartment without a single word.

Once they were gone, I turned my attention back toward the wall, still trying to make sense of what I had seen.

I moved the couch gently out of the way to touch the texture, noticing that the spot where I had seen the colors moving was wet like it had recently been painted.

As I moved my hand across the wall, I felt something slide against my fingers, and I recoiled in surprise, a grey slime dripping from my palm.

I shook it away and stood up, realizing that the same abnormal behavior I had seen on the wall was happening again and this time with greater intensity.

The pool of brown, dark and blotchy colors slid down off the wall and onto the floor, forming a sizable gelatinous mass near the couch as I scrambled away.

I held my breath, nearly having an asthma attack as the sludge grew more significant still, slithering its way toward me and then stopping midway through the living room.

I found myself frozen against the wall, looking down at the endless black hole that was now straight in front of me and then watching as something pulled itself out of the slime.

It moved up through the air, a menagerie of unformed shapes and colors searching for structure as I saw it reach nearly seven feet tall, bulky and uncontrolled.

As the form took shape, I saw arms stretching out and an empty rib cage, an ethereal skeleton from the darkness.

I ran toward the door, desperate to escape.  Delirious and scared, I reached for the handle as I heard a voice whisper my name.

The half-made face was staring at me with no eyes, its jaw and mouth nothing but further pools of slime spilling out onto the floor.

I screamed.  I opened the door and made my way downstairs, trying to escape it.

As I made my way out to the streets below, I stopped in my tracks and thought of Mom.

She would be done if she came home with that…thing in the apartment.

I did the only thing I thought made sense and asked the super to call the police.  I stayed in the apartment lobby until the police arrived alongside Beatrice and Mom.

“Julian!  What’s going on??”  Mom asked frantically.

We waited downstairs as the police checked the third floor.  I lied and told them that someone had broken into the apartment.  But less than thirty minutes later, they returned and told us that nothing was out of place, nor was there any indication of forced entry.  They left and gave me a soft warning not to make a false claim like that again.

Once we were alone in the apartment, Beatrice snubbed her nose at me and remarked, “Figures a brat like you would pull a stunt like this.”

I turned to mom for support, but she was just as furious.  “I was in the middle of an interview, Julian!  You can’t be doing things like this!  I’m not like your dad, and you can’t just have me at your beck and call!”

That stung more than the cigarette burn had.

I went to my room and slumped on my bed.  I wanted to cry, but I was so out of breath that I was sure I would have to have a breathing treatment if I did.

Instead, I just stayed in bed and stared at the walls, trying to decide if I was going crazy or not.

That night I found out.

I didn’t even bother to try to go to sleep.

I just stared at the walls, trying to determine what this monster wanted with me.

Once it was so dark that I could hardly see the hand in front of my face, I decided to muster up the courage to confront the demon.

“Show yourself,”  I whispered cautiously to the wall.

This time it wasted no effort to step out from the dark stains near my closet.

It had the shape and structure of a tall, sickly man, but in the darkness, I couldn’t see anything else.  Only that it was filled with shimmering holes in its body, and when it spoke, it sounded like a rasp.

“You have something…something that does not belong to you…”  it answered as it lurched forward toward me.

I tried not to shiver as I pulled my blankets over my trembling body.

“I…I don’t have anything!” I told the being.  “But whatever it is, you can have it!!”

“Are you certain?”  it asked as its mouth opened wider than I thought possible.

“Sometimes the things we do not want…are the things that are most valuable to us.”

I looked at its strange unformed body, its peculiar stance and deadly eyes and realized that there was something familiar about it.

It reminded me of the sickness I had carried for half a year.  Whatever this being was, I knew that its reason for being here was more than to frighten.

“Are you…are you asking me what I want?”  I mouthed, trying to make sense of the riddles it spoke.

“Your body was once wracked with disease.  Now, all that fills it is hate.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

But what did this bizarre monster know of such things?

“You don’t scare me…I’ve laughed death in the face.  And I don’t care if I die,”  I told it bravely.

Its laugh was ragged and hoarse.

“If you are so brave, then speak your heart’s desire.  I can make it true.”

I considered its offer for a long moment.  This had to be a dream—a lack of sleep and sickness taking its toll on my body.

Convinced I was talking to an illusion, I said, “I want to be free.  I want to get away from here and get back with my dad…at least there, I could do what I wanted.”

“I could give you that freedom…”  the monster snickered as it swirled toward the door.

“All I ask is for your hate.”

I paused and felt my mouth go dry.  Such an odd request.  How could I say no?  My mother had always taught me that I needed a pure heart.  Was this thing offering to cleanse my soul?

“Take it then.  It’s yours,”  I said without hesitation.

I shook and swayed as the creature’s shimmering body opened wide and seemed to grow larger with each passing second.  One of its long slimy appendages reached out toward me, and I flinched as it covered my skin.  It felt like a vacuum was slowly sucking away at the edge of my nerves.  I thought for sure I would pass out or that the dream would end soon.

At last, it released its grip on me, and I lay down on the bed like a limp doll, exhausted from whatever it had done to me as it seemed to ebb and flow across the room with extreme pleasure over the meal I had apparently offered up to it.

The creature moved toward the wall again, pushing its body against the tapestry as it whispered a final goodbye.

“You may find freedom the heaviest burden of all to carry.”

At last, it disappeared from sight.

I stood in confusion for a moment longer, confident it would return to terrorize me again.

As I settled down on my bed, though, I did feel different.  Something was gone inside my heart.  I didn’t feel… well, anything anymore.

I smiled and relaxed in bed and closed my eyes, confident that the paranormal encounter would somehow make for an exciting conversation at breakfast in the morning.

I sprung out of bed a few hours later, eager to seize the day and see if the odd wish I had asked for had any chance of coming true.

“Mom, you’ll never guess what I dreamed about last night,”  I said as I walked into the kitchen.

The room was silent, though, and for the first time since we had arrived, I noticed that the smell of smoke was nowhere to be found in the house.

I moved toward Aunt Bea’s room to wake her, her door slightly ajar and shouted, “Hey, rise and shine!  We have church today.”

Bea didn’t respond.  I moved over toward her, shook her to wake, and then realized her body felt cold.

I pulled back the blanket and found her whole backside seemed to be ripped apart, shredded like thin sheets of toilet paper.  It smelled burnt.

I screamed and ran to Mom’s room.

As I stepped into the dim lighting, I already knew that something had happened to her as well.  I will never forget that sight.

Her body had literally melted against the twin bed.  Nothing but a pool of skin and muscle was now scorching the carpet where she had once laid.  Dark oil splotches covered the room, a testimony to what the monster had done.

I screamed louder, my breath going out as I stumbled to the carpet and reached for my inhaler from my back pocket.

But as many times as I used it, nothing seemed to refill my lungs except more panic and desperation as I cried in exasperation.

The official report said Beatrice had killed my mother by roasting her alive in her room and then committing suicide, but I know that was because the examiners didn’t know what to make of any of it.

Dad came the next day to take me back to the trailer park.  He was staying with a friend now, working two jobs to make ends meet.

“Hey kiddo, good to see you…”  he said as he came to pick me up.

Tears welled in my eyes as we left Seattle.  This was what I had wanted, wasn’t it?  To be free?

I knew that the monster had granted my wish, given me what I thought I wanted.  But now, as we made it back to the rundown recreational park, I felt even more hollow than that creature.

We made it inside, and I told him I would go wash up for supper.  My nerves still rattled from everything that had happened.

When I got back out, I saw that dad was sitting and watching tv, drinking a beer and smoking a Marlboro.

“I thought you said you quit,”  I told him in frustration.

“Sorry, hun…this is the last one.”

I balled up my fists and closed my eyes in frustration.

When I opened them again, I saw a gentle shimmer on the east wall of the trailer.  My mouth was dry and ragged as I felt my breathing increase.  No.  Not again.

“Julian?  Are you okay?”  Dad asked as I called my nerves as the movement on the wall disappeared from sight.

“No, Dad…it’s fine…”  I told him warily as I went to my small room.

I didn’t say a word to him about it after that.  And the creature never made another appearance.

The cancer came back, though, and this time the doctors told me it’s probably going to stay.

I told my dad that I was okay with having a death sentence.

Honestly, that’s because I know now that there are far worse things to endure.

Rating: 8.80/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kyle Harrison

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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