Rating: R (overall)
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin, others
Character/s: Morgana, Merlin, Arthur, Mordred
Summary: Merlin can feel something has gone terribly awry with his magic.
Warnings: horror tropes and clichés, inspired by movies, creepy imagery.
Word Count: 1009
Prompt: #223 Suspense Month - Why are you doing this to me?
Author's Notes: Modern day AU. Watch out for all the clichés and the nonsense ;) This fic was inspired most of all by the movie It Follows, though it's not a straight up AU of the film, I did work with the main premise here.
The smell of winter, crisp and cold filters in, mixing with the flowery scent of Morgana's perfume inside her car. It helps Merlin to ground himself, get a sense of familiarity back in the midst of fragmented memories and the cobwebs in his head. His skin itches, he rubs at the back if his left arm, turning the skin pink. Something nside his body wants to break free. A scream he has to choke. Taper off.
He squirms in his seat, trying to get comfortable but he can't find his place, his own body feels awkward, like it's a cage. He avoids Morgana's inquisitive gaze, by trying to focus on the song playing on the radio. What he can't avoid altogether is the overwhelming need he has to run and never stop. Never look back because he is afraid of what he might find at his heels.
He presses down a button opening the passenger's seat window completely. The early morning breeze caressing his face. Outside the sky is grey and the streets empty, almost bare trees stand on the side of the road like they are born from the pavement. Their roots spreading over and across the city. His eyes land on the rearview mirror, the image he finds is unwelcome. A lone figure, chest caved in and translucent skin, following the car, stoping when they do. His fingers dig into a hole in his jeans making it bigger, pushing and pulling the worn fabric apart. Nails scraping the patch of skin he just uncovered.
Merlin closes his eyes.
His face gets numb from the cold, his lips raw from his teeth gnawing on them. He's tired, so tired. And he's been watched. He can feel it.
"Merlin? Are you all right? Are you even listening to me?"
He slowly turns toward Morgana, her voice slowly coming through, he hadn't realized the world had gone mute. He stills. They're outside his house already. "What? Um, yeah, yeah. I just. I think once I take a nap everything will be better. Things will get back to normal." Merlin knows his words are jumbled, messy like his thoughts. He picks at his skin again, leaves a mark. Hopes that if he repeats things will be fine they will be.
Morgana reaches out causing him to flinch, her face scrunches up in worry and confusion, she retreats. Her hands fall in her lap, the glittery nail polish she's wearing attracts his attention. Reminds him of shattered glass, of luminous magic escaping through fingertips, of kisses and bloody mouths. Teeth ripping flesh. Black and silver tinted poison coursing in his bloodstream.
The dark night dusted with brilliant stars. Even in the cover of beauty horrible things can happen. He's a witness.
"Merlin, what happened to you? I- You know that I'm always there for you, that's what friend are for, but I'm worried. You sounded off this morning on the phone and-" she stops, laughs without a hint of humor . "You weren't even wearing shoes. You're acting odd."
She's right. Morgana picked him out on a corner, biting his nails, looking from side to side and never crossing the street because the other side had hidden secrets. She brought a blanket she pulled over his shoulder and a pair of slippers.
He realizes there is nothing but hollowness when he answers, "I'll be fine."
"Are you sure? I could stay."
"I am. You can go Morgana, I can handle it. Don't worry. I'm probably coming down with a cold. I swear I'll be fine. I promise to call you once I'm up."
Morgana doesn't let him leave until she's trapped him in a hugged and squeezes so hard it's hard to get air in, and while the hug doesn't have the effect she was looking for, he can appreciate it. Pretend nothing is really happening. He loops his arms around her, closing his eyes ignoring the silhouettes etched on the back of his eyelids, dark, menacing.
He fiddles with his keys finally getting the door open, when he makes the mistake of looking behind him, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. Across the street there's a tall figure, moving swiftly like shadows painting across the trunks of the trees. Its eyes are vacant and cold, limbs outstretched reaching for him.
The door slams shut behind him, his feet taking him up the stairs as fast as they can.
He barricades himself in his room, dreading the moment the door flies open and the shadows catch up with him.
His room is oppressive. A trap. He wasn't thinking, now he sees it. Anything can come in through the windows, slip underneath the door in the shape of invisible smoke, rising up in the shape of his worst fears. His blankets asphyxiate him, he's running hot, as if a fever is burning him from inside out. His eyes sting from lack of sleep. He might be going mad. This can't be real. He kicks off the blankets pooled around his legs, falling face down on the floor with his mobile clutched tight in his hand. He moves to lie on his back, bringing the phone up to his face.
The red light is blinking he's got three new unread messages. Mordred. They're all from him. His stomach churns.
I didn't meant to.
I really am sorry. Please, please forgive me. I'm sorry.
Each message is a punch, a stab wound, something violent he can't escape. He's been marked already. He can't hide. This is happening. He wants to scream, kick something, become a destroyer and wreck everything in his wake. The question of why this happened to him and its irony doesn't escape him.
Why did you do it?
He doesn't get an answer this time.
Merlin couldn't stay still for a minute longer. He passed his mother on his way out, smiling at her, in a way he hopes came out as real, not as the painful grimace he feels stretching his lips.
At night the streets are as empty as they were in the morning, lightened by flickering lights. His neighbors dog barks, a growling angry sound, that sends him on edge. Makes chills run down his spine. He picks up his pace, his footsteps taking him away. He looks back and they're back. The shadows, dark figures with sharp edges, stalking, coming dangerously close to him. Hiding in the trees, mimicking the rustling sounds of fallen leaves, the whistling of the winds. Their voices anything but human.
Ten minutes later he's frantically knocking on the front door of the Pendragon's, abusing their doorbell. All he can hear is his breathing and their raking. The atmosphere gets colder around him.
Arthur opens the door, his face goes from annoyed to bewildered. Merlin stares back once more. They're everywhere. They're trying to talk to him. They're begging, asking him for a way into his world. He presses both hands against his ears.
"Merlin, I know you're a strange person, but this is downright--" This time Arthur's voice fades, drowns in their screaming. Any other time Merlin would've shot back with sarcasm. Arthur is the last tangible thing in a fading world, fraying around the edges.
"Is Morgana--? Please."
Merlin stumbles forward and Arthur catches him before he falls, keeps him upright. "You're sick. I think you're sick. Come one. I have to--"
The rest of Arthur's rambling fades away. Merlin holds onto him. There is a dark figure looming over Arthur.