The Opalesque

📅 Published on January 28, 2021

“The Opalesque”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
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: 9.00/10. From 14 votes.
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I don’t know exactly how this story started. It was already in motion well before I became aware of it. My involvement in it began with Christian and Philip: Christian, who was always late, and Philip, who was always early.

Those two were part of our same friends group, but as you might expect they often passed like ships in the night. It was even a joke that they were the same person, like Clark Kent and Superman, and that’s why you never saw them in the same room together. Obviously they weren’t, and in fact we routinely hung out with both of them at the same time, but if either of them brought that up we’d just accuse one or the other of being a paid actor hired to throw us off the scent.

So the night of the dinner party, the night of the attacks, it wasn’t any surprise to anyone that we were several hours in and Christian wasn’t there yet. Nor was it any particular surprise when Philip announced that he had an early morning ahead of him and was heading home. He was always the first one to tap out of any social gathering. It was really convenient, honestly. He clearly felt no social stigma about declaring that he’d had enough, and it freed the rest of us up to leave whenever without being the one who bailed out early.

Phil said his goodbyes, and then it was just the five of us: me, Hamish and Charlene, and Silvio and Abram. No one there was the kind to make me feel like a fifth wheel, but I definitely knew that I was the only one there not coupled up. I was just thinking that maybe I should call it an early night and follow Phil out the door when Christian showed up.

He entered with his usual gusto, banging open the door and loudly declaring, “Now it’s a party! Friends, you won’t believe what I’ve found!”

“Is it a watch?” Silvio asked pointedly. “We finished the dinner party over an hour ago.”

“Ah, you only finished the dinner part. Now we’re at the party bit! Anyway, we both know you didn’t set a place for me.”

It was true, Silvio and Abram had not. We would have made room for Christian at the table if he’d been there on time, of course, and certainly he would have gotten food, but there really hadn’t been many leftovers as it was. We all knew he was never going to be there to eat it.

“As an apology for my tardiness and an attempt to win my way back into your good graces, I have brought wine,” Christian said, producing two bottles from a bag slung over his shoulder. “And another gift which I discovered on the way here, but which I will only unveil once I have had a chance to properly set the scene.”

Silvio accepted the bottles with a nod of thanks and carried them over to the bar. “I assume you’d like the first glass from your gift?” he asked as he uncorked the first bottle.

“Well, I’d hate for you to think it might be poisoned!” laughed Christian. “I’m merely demonstrating that I wouldn’t give you anything I wouldn’t drink myself.”

Silvio passed a glass over to Christian. He sniffed it, sampled it, and declared it good. “Fit for my hosts!” he boomed. “And as you can see, no unexplained rashes or foaming at the mouth.”

“The two classic signs of poisoning,” said Charlene.

“Well, I’ve never been poisoned, so I’m only guessing. The point is: drink up, friends!”

Silvio poured glasses for us all and handed them around.

“Only six?” asked Christian. “None for good Philip?”

Silvio cocked an eyebrow at him. “Is this your way of saying that you’d like a glass for each of your personalities? You still only have one mouth.”

“We’re different people!” Christian protested. “As you’ll see shortly when he gets back from the bathroom, or wherever he is.”

“Uh-huh,” said Hamish. He made air quotes with his fingers. “‘Phil’ left just before you got here. As if you didn’t know, totally-different-person-than-Phil.”

Christian looked confused. “Okay, no, but seriously. He’s really not here?”

“You know you two run on different schedules,” Charlene said.

“Right, yeah, but his car’s still outside.”

This revelation was met with confounded silence from all of us.

“Huh,” Charlene said after a moment. “Maybe he was just getting ready to leave as you pulled up, and you just didn’t see him in the car?”

Abram got up from the couch and crossed to the front window. He peered out, cupping his hands around his eyes to block out the light from the living room.

“No, Christian’s right,” he reported. “His car’s still there.”

We all got up to look, as if we might see something different. Sure enough, Phil’s car sat in the yard with everyone else’s, still and silent. We could see no sign of movement inside.

“I’m going to go make sure he’s all right,” said Abram, putting on his shoes. The rest of us followed suit, curious to see what was going on. Armed with our cell phone flashlights and our glasses of wine, we traipsed out into the night to see what our friend was doing.

I don’t know what I expected. To see him changing a tire, maybe, or taking a nap in the backseat. Certainly he had to be somewhere in the vicinity of the car. Where else would he go? We were easily twenty miles outside of town. The house was surrounded by acres of woods. The nearest neighbor was at least a mile down the road.

And yet the car was empty and still locked. I peered inside just in case, but saw nothing more than a coffee cup in the cupholder and a sweatshirt folded up on the passenger seat. There was nowhere for Philip to hide inside the car, even if he’d had any reason for wanting to do so.

“Maybe he got an Uber?” Abram asked uncertainly. “We all drank some at dinner. Maybe he didn’t want to drive.”

It seemed unlikely. None of us had seen him call for a rideshare, and surely if he had he would have waited inside the house with us and left when the driver arrived. Still, no other option made any sense at all, so I slowly began to talk myself around to believing it.

Then Hamish said, “What’s this on the ground?”

We all gathered around to look. He was near the trunk of Phil’s car. His flashlight was focused on a patch of grass three or four feet across. The grass seemed oddly shiny and dark at the same time, like oil had spilled on it.

Hamish crouched and swiped a finger carefully across a blade of grass. A long, sticky strand stretched between his hand and the grass as he stood back up, snapping only after it was a foot or more in length. Hamish made a face as he inspected his finger.

“Ugh, that’s gross. Feels like snot.”

“Disgusting, Hamish,” said Charlene, but his attention was still focused on his finger. He rubbed it against his thumb, then sniffed it.

“Is that blood?” he asked.

“Blood doesn’t stretch like that,” Silvio said.

“Yeah, but look at this.” He held his fingers out as we crowded around. Beneath the slimy coating, his thumb and forefinger shone red with what looked all the world like blood.

“But what would it be from?” Abram asked. We all shone our lights around, looking for the source of the blood and goo.

Silvio gasped. “Phil’s under the car! Phil, are you all right?”

He knelt. An instant later he screamed, falling over backwards and scrambling to get away.

“Silvio! Silvio, what is it?” Abram demanded, but I had already seen what he had seen. Phil’s hand was sticking out from under the car. But Phil was not under there. The hand ended halfway down the forearm in a ragged, bloody stump. The severed end glistened with a thick, gelatinous goo. The rest of Phil’s body was nowhere to be seen.

The next few minutes were chaotic. There was shouting, screaming and running. We all went for the house, which was good because it kept us together but we were definitely in each other’s way. I’ve never truly understood panic as I did in that moment. I knew what to do, knew that I should be calm, but that tiny detached part of me could only watch as I fled like a frightened animal.

I got myself back under control once I was inside and there was a wall between me and whatever had happened outside. I called the police and told them what we’d found. They assured me that the house was the safest place to be and recommended that we all stay together for safety until they got there. “Lock the doors,” they said, as if we hadn’t done that the instant that Abram’s heels had crossed the threshold.

“Okay, the police are coming,” I told everyone as I hung up. They’d obviously all been listening to my half of the conversation anyway, but I felt the need to say something. “They’ll be here soon.”

“How soon is soon?” asked Silvio, his voice rising. “Someone murdered Philip! They cut him up! And we never heard anything!”

Abram pulled Silvio close and held him as he shook. “It’ll be okay. We’ve just got to sit tight. We’ll be out of this soon.”

“Philip won’t!” Silvio sobbed. No one had any response to that. We all just listened to Silvio cry.

Hamish crossed to the fireplace and picked up a poker. He looked at us almost sheepishly. “Better than not being armed at all,” he said.

Charlene cast a doubtful eye over the remaining implements, an ash shovel and a brush. “I’ll just stand behind you, then.”

“Are the windows locked?” Christian asked. “How about the back door?”

“I think so,” Abram said. “They should be.”

“I’ll go check,” said Christian, and left the room. We heard him moving around, followed by a sudden shout of surprise.

“Christian!” I shouted, leaping to my feet, but he was already hurrying back into the room. His eyes were wide.

“This is nuts, but I swear I just saw Phil’s face at the window,” he said. “What if he’s not dead?”

“Someone tore his arm off,” Charlene pointed out.

“Yeah, but that’s survivable. Look, I don’t know. All I know is as I turned toward one of the windows, I saw a face staring in at me, and I swear it was his. I shouted, the face vanished, I came back in here.”

He paused. “I want to open the back door and see if he’s outside.”

“No way,” said Silvio. “No. No way.”

“He might be alive,” Christian insisted. “And if he is, he needs our help. I’m not stupid enough to open the door by myself and let some serial killer in to hack everyone up. I want you all to come with me. And if you’re all against it, then fine, we pretend I just imagined it and we never open the door. But I want to look. I don’t want to leave him out there.”

Silvio was already shaking his head again, but Abram spoke up first. “If there’s even a chance, we should look. We were fine when we were out front together. We can afford a quick look out the back door. And if we can still somehow save Phil, we have to try.”

“I’m not going,” said Silvio.

Christian nodded. “Stay here with him,” he said to Abram. “The four of us will go look. We’ll be right back, either with Phil or with the knowledge that we couldn’t have helped him.”

Hamish, Charlene, Christian and I made our way to the back door. We let Hamish lead since he had the only weapon, but once we entered the kitchen the rest of us armed ourselves with knives.

“Where did you see him?” I asked.

Christian indicated one of the windows. “He was right there. I was walking this way when—”

“Look!” Hamish cut him off, pointing the poker at a different window. I swung my head in that direction just in time to see a face disappearing into the darkness. It was poorly lit and I had only barely glimpsed it, but it might well have been Phil. There had been something wrong, though. He had seemed almost to glisten, like an oil slick. I thought about the dark slime on the grass and wondered how badly hurt he was.

“Is he okay? What’s he doing?” asked Charlene.

“I don’t know,” said Christian. “Back me up. I’m opening the door.”

We nervously took up defensive positions as Christian turned the handle. The door opened, letting in the cool night air. Outside was dark and quiet. Even the bugs seemed to have gone silent.

“Phil?” Christian called, taking a step onto the back stoop. “Phil, say something if you need help.”

He paused and we all listened, but heard nothing. Christian took another step outside, raising his cell phone light high. “Philip!”

“He’s not there,” Hamish said. “I don’t know what you saw, but—”

There was a sudden skittering of feet, and then the window smashed. Something huge, jagged and opalescent smashed its way through. It stood as tall as a small horse, with legs like a praying mantis and a shell like something from the deep ocean.  As it scrabbled frantically inside, two of those serrated legs dug deep into Hamish’s shoulders. Hamish shouted, swinging frantically with the poker, but he was inside its grip and couldn’t get a good hit.

“Help me!” he cried, but I was frozen by what I saw on the creature’s shell. It was lumpy and misshapen, the shiny surface raised into smooth protrusions that looked strikingly like various animals. In the middle of them all, staring at me from less than a foot away, was a human face. It was unmistakably Phil’s, sticking outward from the hard shell of the creature as if it had been shoved into a wet mold.

The creature hissed. A rank vapor rolled outward from it, stinking of rot and stinging the eyes. I fell back, coughing, and as I did so the mouth on its belly irised open. Its entire underside was one tremendous mouth, ringed with row upon row of slicing, sharp-edged teeth. It contracted its forelimbs, dragging Hamish closer, and he screamed again.

Then Christian was there, grabbing the poker away from Hamish and smashing blow upon punishing blow down onto the creature’s shell. The thick surface resisted the first two hits, but on the third strike a ragged crack appeared. The creature hissed again, filling the room with that horrible stench, but Christian continued to pummel it.

Charlene, emboldened by his success, began to stab at it with her knife. Her slashes skidded off the shell, so she switched to striking at it from underneath, stabbing it in the soft grey tissue of its mouth.

I struck it one good blow in the mouth with my knife, but it jerked as I hit it and pulled the knife away from me. I nearly tried to grab it back, but the gnashing teeth dissuaded me. Instead, I seized the nearest limb and wrenched it upward, off of Hamish’s shoulder. I could feel spines tearing into my palms, but I ignored the pain and shoved as hard as I could until I saw Hamish twist free.

Unwilling to lose its meal, the monster lunged forward, dragging its entire bulk into the house. It knocked me over, pinning my leg beneath it. The wet slime engulfed my shin. The teeth began to dig in. I felt myself being drawn under.

Before I could be dragged beneath it, Christian stabbed downward using the poker as a spear. The shell, now spiderwebbed with cracks from the repeated blows, shattered beneath this final assault. Whatever the poker struck beneath the protective carapace must have been vital, for the creature collapsed almost at once.

I tried to pull my leg free, but the teeth threatened to flay my skin and instead I called for help.

“Get this thing off of me!”

It was Abram and Silvio who rushed to my aid. To the aid of all of us, really. We were all bleeding, coughing and panting from exertion. The encounter had taken less than half a minute, yet I felt as if I’d finished a triathlon. Abram and Silvio had barely had time to get to the kitchen doorway before it was all over.

They lifted the monster’s body, allowing me to slide free. They brought towels, bandages and antiseptic. They wrapped my hands, Hamish’s shoulder and a dozen miscellaneous injuries that Charlene and Christian had suffered. They were simple, important tasks. They gave us something to focus on. They kept us from having to think about what had happened.

Eventually, though, everything was cleaned and bandaged, and a dead monster still lay at our feet. Ichor dripped from its wounds, mixing with our blood and its horrible thick saliva to make a spreading puddle on the kitchen tiles. And the face of our dead friend still stared sightlessly up from the creature’s side.

“What is it?” Abram finally asked. It’s not like he thought any of us would have the answer, but someone had to say something. “How could…where did…what is it?”

“What do you think this means?” Charlene asked, gingerly touching the image of Philip’s face.

“Exactly what we already knew,” Hamish said grimly. “Philip’s gone.”

“You don’t think maybe—” Charlene started, but Hamish cut her off.

“No. Look at all the rest of these. Squirrels, cats, that one looks like maybe a fox—these are what it’s been eating. It kills them, and then somehow presses their face into its shell. Look, the smaller ones are less distinct. It’s been growing as it eats, working its way up to bigger and bigger things. The impressions of the small animals have been stretched out as the shell grows. The bigger ones, the ones it’s only been able to get recently, they’re perfectly clear. And Philip….”

He trailed off, not needing to finish. Philip’s face was as clear as if it had been sculpted. He was gone, like everything else depicted on the creature’s shell.

“But why?” Silvio asked. “What does it get out of taking impressions of the things it eats?”

“Mating ritual, maybe?” I suggested. “Animals have all sorts of weird ways to attract mates. This would show how proficient of a hunter it was, so that—”

I stopped abruptly. Christian’s face, normally ruddy and animated, had gone slack and turned a sickly pale green. “No, no,” he muttered. “Mates. Of course.”

“What?” I asked.

He looked around at the shattered window, at the wide-open room. “Everyone, quick. We need to get to a safer space.”

“But it’s dead—” Abram started.

“Now!” barked Christian. Abram jumped, alarmed.

“Is the living room good enough?”

“Somewhere without windows would be best. Somewhere we can all fit.”

Silvio was shaking his head. “It’s an open plan. There’s nothing like that.”

“Anywhere where we can turn the lights off and hide, then!” insisted Christian.

“What’s going on?” I asked plaintively.

“I told you I found something on the way here. Come back to the living room, I’ll show you.”

We all followed him in a tight herd. Christian retrieved the bag that had contained the wine and reached inside. He pulled out a smooth, gleaming white pearl bigger than my fist. Oily rainbows flickered across its surface as he held it up for our inspection.

“Is that a pearl?” asked Silvio.

“I thought it was. Not a real one, obviously, but something manufactured, maybe. I found a cluster of them on the side of the road on the way here, nestled up against the trunk of a tree. I thought maybe they’d fallen off of a truck. There certainly wasn’t anyone else around to claim them, so I took them.

“But we know now, don’t we? They’re not pearls.” Christian walked over to the fireplace and set the pearl down on the bricks. Kneeling next to it, he raised the poker over his head and swung it downward, impacting the smooth sphere with a resounding crack.

The pearl smashed open. A thick grey liquid oozed out into the fireplace. Among the brittle shards, something moved. It was about the size of my cupped palm, with jagged legs and a smooth, shimmering shell still unmarked by any protrusions. It was the creature we had fought, wrought in miniature.

Christian crushed it brutally with the poker. He grabbed his bag and upended it, dumping out five more spheres. Again and again he brought the poker down, shattering the shells and destroying the tiny creatures within.

“Mates,” he said in between blows. “There’s no such thing as one of something. Nothing’s unique. Everything that lives, breeds. We didn’t find the only one. We just found the first.”

“But you found its nest,” I offered.

“I found a nest. What are the odds these are the only six eggs? And if these were laid in a clutch, the one that we killed, the full-grown one, probably had siblings, too.”

He stood, his murderous work done. “Assuming that one was even full-grown.”

Just then, blue strobing lights washed through the room. Through the front window, we could see a police car outside.

“We need to get them in here,” Christian said, striding to the front door. “They have no idea of the danger they’re walk—”

As he opened the door, a creature took him in the left shoulder with a hooked forelimb. It spun him around and dragged him out backwards, dropping its bulk across his torso and driving him to the porch with a sickening snap. Christian’s legs kicked twice and went still.

I heard the confused shouts of the police, followed rapidly by gunshots. The creature on the porch jerked from repeated impacts before collapsing over what was left of Christian’s body. Even as its life drained away, I could see the shell slowly rising, molding itself into the beginnings of a head-sized lump.

There was a scream from outside. It was followed by more gunshots, then another scream, this one more intelligible.

“Get it off! Get it—”

Then there was nothing.

I would like to say that I made a considered plan, that I decided that the creatures outside were probably occupied and it would be safe to make a run for it. I would like to say that I urged my friends to join me.

The truth of the matter is that something snapped in my mind, and I ran. I had seen too much that night, and all I wanted was to be somewhere where I never had to see anything like it again. Hamish and Charlene ran with me, I know. I know this because I heard Charlene screaming Hamish’s name, and Hamish simply screaming, as something massive dragged him off into the night.

I do not know if Charlene made it to her car. I don’t know if Abram and Silvio were safe in their house. All I know is that I got to my car and floored it out of there, spitting chunks of dirt from the yard as the tires dug for traction. I hit the road and never looked back. I didn’t stop until I was all the way back home, at which point I collapsed against my steering wheel and wept.

I called, of course, once I was myself again. I tried all of their phones. I don’t know what I would have said if they had answered, but it doesn’t much matter, as none of them picked up.

Abram, Silvio, Charlene—I know where they are. They’re all out there somewhere in the woods, their faces pressed horribly against the inside of an opalescent shell.

Rating: 9.00/10. From 14 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards

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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