Aiden’s coughs became even more violent. The finger twisted and squirmed, pushing its way through his teeth. As the second knuckle passed his lips, the finger writhed like a worm. With a final cough, it flew through the air and hit the ground with a wet slap.
Strings of muscle and flesh trailed from the end of the finger. For a moment it laid still and Teri allowed herself to hope that all its movement had been caused by Aiden’s shaking. Then the finger started to twitch. It moved, rocking back and forth until the pad was resting on the tiled floor.
The finger contracted, scrunching up and then releasing. Contracting again, it moved across the floor like an inchworm. It was headed right for the shadows. The roiling darkness had calmed, like it was waiting for the finger to move to it.
Aiden coughed again, and his eyes fluttered open. His body wasn’t shaking anymore, he was waking up and trying to clear his lungs.
“Easy, Aiden,” Teri said.
Aiden tried to speak but ended up dry heaving instead. Teri and Morgan rolled him over onto his knees in case he did throw up. He got his hands underneath himself and pushed. As soon as his head got off the ground, he looked forward and saw the finger making its way across the floor. With a scream, he leapt back and pressed his back into the wall.
“What the heck is that?”
Teri and Morgan shared a look. Neither of them wanted to be the one to tell Aiden.
“You kind of coughed it up,” Max said. Teri was glad she wasn’t the one to break the news, but Max might’ve been able to do it a bit more gently.
“What?” Aiden asked before dry heaving again.
The finger inched along, moving out to the edge of the circle of light.
“Should we try to stop it?” Morgan asked.
“You’re welcome to touch it,” Teri said. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Morgan took a hesitant step forward but then stopped. Any one of the four of them could’ve reached out, or stepped on it. Instead, they were frozen as it got closer and closer to the shadows. The darkness started to move again, but not the chaotic twitching of before. Now it was pulsing evenly. The motion was smooth, like waves lapping at a shore. Or like a heartbeat. Or like something breathing.
A thin trail of slime glistened behind the finger, catching the light from the last working bulb. The nail of the finger scratched the edge of the darkness. Then the first and second knuckles disappeared. Then the finger vanished, leaving only the strands of flesh hanging off the end. The bits of muscle were suddenly slurped up by the darkness like blood-soaked spaghetti.
Teri let out a shriek as every light in the bathroom snapped on in an instant. She realized she’d been gripping Aiden and Teri, her fingers biting into their arms. Her pulse was racing and she couldn’t get a breath.
The finger was gone, the only trace of it was the trail of fluid still on the floor tiles. The four of them remained frozen, crouched against the wall, for another minute. Then without needing to say anything, they ran. They ran through the halls and down the stairs. Crashing through the nearest door, they didn’t stop until they reached Aiden’s car. Teri was still buckling her seatbelt when Aiden threw the car in gear and peeled out of the parking lot. Nothing had tried to stop them, but they still felt like they were being chased.