Upside Down And Backward

Mr. Backward has killed Wendy. That's the only explanation for all this blood. Blood on the walls, blood on the floor, blood on the ceiling if you can believe it. Great spatters of crimson against the blue wallpaper with yellow flowers. I am trapped inside a Jackson Pollock painting, and across the room… beneath the gargoyle arch… Mr. Backward reminds me of a Picasso.

Wendy is afraid. I tell her nothing is going to happen to her, but even I don't believe that at this point. I hold her close, and my eyes search the room. Wendy's canopy bed… the stuffed animals and the insane amount of pillows… God, she's still like a little girl. Deep down inside, she's innocent. I can't let him get to her.

"I'm right here!" I call out as I speed through Wendy's living room. A scream erupts from the bedroom. I rush to the door and break it down with my shoulder. Wendy screams again as my eyes move around the room. The gargoyle leers down at me, but other than that I see no cause of her anxiety.

I pull into the driveway near midnight. Frantically, I fumble with my phone but there's no answer. The last thing I heard was Wendy's scream… then nothing.

"Hey, I'm on my way over." My concentration is locked on the road as the phone rests in its holder. "Oh my, can't get enough, Mister?" Wendy replies in her come-hither southern drawl. I laugh. She doesn't know what's been happening, and for the most part I want to shield her from it. So many people I know have been dropping dead around me tonight, but the last thing I want is for Wendy to know she's in danger. "Ooh, hang on, our town is on the news!" she follows that with a shush. I tell her not to watch, that just looking at the security photo of Mr. Backward might be enough to attract him, but a shriek stops me mid-sentence.

I can't think of anywhere else to go. Wendy lives across the river, and I couldn't get much farther from all of this without going someplace totally foreign. I need to know my surroundings… to keep on even ground with Mr. Backward. I'm not even sure that's possible, anymore. Plus, if he's after everyone I know, then the girl I've been falling in love with is certainly near the top of that list.

Shit. Tim's already dead. I can't believe I'm even thinking it, much less that it could even be true. Like the others, he's been cut to pieces… left for me to find… I already knew who was responsible, but the flash of Mr. Backward's rearranged face through the darkened window make it plain. I want to scream at him, to ask why he's doing this to them… to me… but the lights of a car pass and he is gone.

"Hey, Tim!" the thankfulness in my voice can't be hidden, "Glad to hear you're home!" A wave of relief washes over me as Tim's nasal nerd-voice comes through the phone. "What's up, bro? Have you seen that photo on the news? What's up with that?" I laugh nervously, "I know what you mean, it's fucked up. We have to figure this out. I'm coming there, now."

Seven houses, seven corpses. Seven… Oh, God…

I jump into the car and peel out of the driveway, bothering the neighbors. Their porch lights flick on, one by one, as I roar down the street and out of the development. I can't worry about them, now… I can't worry about the umpteeth noise complaint from Mrs. Grassley. If the note is even close to being true, I have to get in touch with my friends before the backward man from the Lab pays them a visit.

If there's any answer at all, it's voicemail. Of course. Nobody's answering, and this could be the most important call of their lives! I stand in front of the message, smeared on the wall in my dog's blood. I read it over and over again, and all the while the phone is ringing with no human answer.


Feeling refreshed, I step out of the shower and wrap myself in a towel. It's more force of habit than anything else, since Wendy's gone. Truth be told, if she WAS here, I would've left the towel anyway. Strange, how habits take control of us sometimes. As I step into the bedroom, I freeze. A series of red smears now mark the wall. The scent of copper is heavy in the air, and a small, furry corpse lies at the foot of my bed.

Wendy heads home after an hour or two of messing around. I want to say two hours, she'd probably say thirty minutes. I can't get over how perception plays such a factor in our reality. My dog Chuck barks a goodbye to Wendy as she drives off, and within moments I'm in the shower.

"They'll have security tapes," Wendy says, reassuringly, "They'll find out who it was." I rest my head on her chest and in this moment I've never felt more comfortable and safe than any other point in life. "You're right," I close my eyes a bit, "You're always right."

The receiver drops from my hand, and all I can think about is how clichéd that moment was. Profession Dern would've hated that. He hated anything that happened as you'd expect it to.

"Dern is dead." The words smack me straight in the mouth, and all I can do is stare, dumbfounded, as Wendy reclines on the bed. She sits up, concerned, and I just shake my head. "What's wrong?" she asks, her voice as sweet as ever. "Professor Dern is… someone must’ve broken into his lab…" I can't bring myself to tell her any more than that. "We're showing some video around and we'd like you to come in and take a look," the man, probably a University Cop, drones through the phone line, "There's some kind of upside-down and backward guy on the footage. One of your friends is trying to remember where he's seen him."

The phone rings. Of course. I'm all for ignoring it, but the jarring noise has a visible, negative effect on Wendy's libido. It's quicker if I answer, then get them off the line. "Hello?!" I demand, frustrated. "Sorry to bother you, Sir. I was directed to call you. Do you know a Professor by the name of Oscar Dern?" I let out a sigh. The old man never fails to intrude on my private life. "What's he want, now? Is there a problem with the Facial Recognition experiment? Let me guess, it's been extended again!"

Wendy kicks off her shoes and raises one foot in the air, stopping inches away from kicking me in the crotch. "Boop!" she chirps. I laugh. "I missed you!" I pull off my necktie and work the buttons of my shirt. "I've been in the lab all day with that old madman. 'Do you recognize this face? This one? Rearrange them until they look right to you.' He's going to dive me crazy with that shit." Wendy's already free of her blouse and skirt as I'm working out of my sleeves. "You haven't lived…" I give her a couple soft kisses, "… Until you've had people numbing sections of your brain like they're playing Operation."

Wendy points to the box and gives me a curious look. "What'd ya get?" She obviously thinks it's for her. I smirk and pull the mask from its container. "It's a vintage Halloween mask, from the old Hackwards movies. You know, 'He kills them in reverse' and all that. I wore it for Dern last time we did his little tests. I don't think he thought it was funny." I hold the item out to Wendy, but she recoils from it. "I never liked scary movies. I don't like scary things." she whispers. I put the mask away, and for the briefest moment I feel like I'm in the lab, unable to recognize the strange reversed features upon it. "You like scary things!" I finally respond, shaking my head as if in a numbed haze, "What about your gargoyle mirror?"

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