The door slammed shut. Mike held himself up against it, breathing heavily. He was in a near panic, sweating, shaking, and fumbling for the lock. It slid into place with a satisfying “click”.
He could hear the scraping and thumping as that thing crawled closer. It wasn’t very fast, but there were so many of them, and they were relentless. He had seen first one, then two, then ten, then… Well, he had lost count shortly after they had begun claiming victims in the double digits.
He knew the door wouldn’t hold for long. They were large, larger than a man, with long segmented bodies huge pincers and piercing, almost human eyes. He had heard the screams of their victims, screams of such despair and terror, he knew that they weren’t just dying; their very being was being consumed.
A horrible death was a bad enough fate, but knowing that only pain and madness would be waiting for him once he died was far worse. He had to stop them from devouring his soul. Mike knew something they didn’t. In the safe he now stared at on the far side of the room, was a gun. And not just any gun, but a .357 magnum, with hollowpoint shells. Mike had seen this particular gun used to shoot melons once, and there was little doubt in his mind what a round from it would do to a living thing.
He scrambled across the room, slipping on the loose shag carpet that barely clung to the hard wood floor, nearly losing his balance, and sliding into the waist high, dark metal safe with a bang.
The scraping outside the door grew louder. Mike fumbled in his pocket for the slip of paper that bore the combination for the lock. He was shaking and sweating, which caused the ink to smudge. Was that a one or a seven? His mind raced. He had to get that gun before they got inside.
The lock was a dial combination lock. Mike hated this kind. He could never remember if they went left-right-left, or right-left-right. One thing he did remember was to turn the dial several times before trying the actual combination. He decided that he needed to just try, regardless of how right he was.
He turned the dial clockwise to the number nine.
The door gave a resounding “BANG!” as one of the things slammed into it. Mike flinched violently, dropping the small piece of paper onto the floor. He stared at the door for a few seconds in terror. He could see the shadow of several of the things moving about just on the other side.
The handle moved slightly, accompanied by a strange sliding sound. Mike realized one of them was fumbling with the handle. His panic returned anew. He knew they were evil and deadly, he did not know they were smart.
Images of the man-sized, insectoid beasts filled his mind. He could see them swallowing peoples’ minds, rending their bodies and feasting from their fear, digesting the very things that made them human.
He looked down and reached for the piece of paper. His horror multiplied. The tips of his fingers pushed the paper as he was grabbing for it, shoving it under the safe.
“NO!” he screamed. Mike planted his hand over his mouth. The grappling and scraping outside the door became more determined. Soon, it was replaced by a rhythmic slamming of something hard against the door. By the third slam, the wood of the door has started to noticeably give under the hammering assault. The hinges loosened slightly, and there was mild sound of cracking as either the door or the frame began to go.
Mike tried to calm himself. What was the combination? Maybe he could remember. 11, 23, 81. He was pretty sure that was it. He tried turning the combination slowly. His hands were trembling. He tried counter-clockwise, clockwise, counter-clockwise. As the final turn was completed, his heart leapt in anticipation of the click that should herald the opening of the lock.
Mike let out a frustrated, guttural shout. “Fine” he whispered to himself. He spun the dial around three or four times in both directions, hoping that one would be the correct way to “clear” the lock for another try. He tried again, this time clockwise, counter-clockwise, clockwise. Still nothing.
The door splintered some. Wood bent into the room as one of the panel cracked and split. It wasn’t broken through yet, but it was only a matter of time. Mike tried the combination twice more in each direction. He tried, vainly to substitute other numbers, trying 12, 23, 81, then 11, 22, 82, and a number of other disappointing failures. Each failed attempt brought silence from the safe’s lock and another loud split in the door.
He had long since passed desperate, trying everything from spinning the dial as fast as he could to kicking the safe.
One panel had broken free of the door, allowing the creatures beyond to peer through at him. There came a low chuckling sound. Mike grew cold. They were laughing at him. They knew he couldn’t get away, and if they knew what he was after in the safe, they seemed confident that he would not reach it.
Mike screamed in rage and fear. He grabbed the top of the safe and shook it for all he was worth. It barely budged, but he did manage to knock a pencil holder from the top. He watched the pens and pencils roll around on the floor. Sudden inspiration hit him as one of the things chuckled and peered at him. Mike picked up a pencil and looked at the eraser. Maybe, if he was lucky, he could buy the extra inch he needed to reach the piece of paper with the combination.
He laid down on his front and turned his head so he could just see the paper. He gingerly held the pencil between his middle and index fingers and slipped the pencil slowly over the small piece of paper.
One of the creatures let out a triumphant hiss. The door was sufficiently broken for it to reach a limb through to try and break the lock. Hard chitin slammed against the metal of the door handle as the beast beat at it to gain entry. Mike’s fingers slipped, he dropped the pencil.
Fortunately, he was able to grab it again easily enough, and then slowly, with great effort, managed to pull the note out from under the safe. He was pretty sure he had the combination now. 11, 22, 81. He tried it once counter-clockwise, clockwise, counter-clockwise. No luck.
He tried it the other way. A mix of relief and dread washed over him. The safe clicked, and Mike turned the handle as the wooden door’s locking mechanism split under the relentless pounding of the insect monster on the other side. The handle clanged on the floor as mike opened the safe. Inside he saw the shining chromed handgun.
He could hear the slither as the creatures slinked up behind him. Without bothering to look, and barely controlling his shaking limbs, mike opened the cylinder and slipped a single round in, then slammed it shut and cocked the hammer.
He turned to face one of the creatures square on. It glared at him with a malevolent, sadistic glee. Its breath was horrid and rank, and Mike could hear the muffled screams of it’s victims as their souls slowly digested in its bowels.
Mike lifted the gun, and defiantly shouted in its face.
“Try eating this you bastard!”
The room shook with a powerful “POP!” as the large caliber gun fired. The creatures behind the first hissed in anger as a loud thump filled the room.
The first creature in line slumped. He was denied his meal. The group turned and slinked away in search of other victims as Mike lay on the floor, a small hole in the right side of his head, and a much larger one where the hollow point bullet had exited .
A smile cracked his broken face, and Mike was triumphant in his death, having denied the beasts a meal, and spared himself the torment of dying horribly.