{Exclusive Halloween Fiction} The Bleeder by Steve Stred

The Bleeder

Steve Stred

Cale started bleeding at 10am.

March 15th, 2020.

He didn’t notice it at first.

The skin pulled apart near the crook of his right elbow. A thin separation almost imperceptible to the naked eye.

He sat at his desk, in his cubicle, entering data while cursing his boss in his mind. The asshole had dumped over thirty missed files on Cale’s desk, frantically explaining that if this wasn’t entered the data would be skewed and the firm would be a laughing stock.

He left before Cale could reply, left before the blood found a seam that it could exploit and pushed through.

Cale’s alarm beeped, reminding him to ‘back up and save’ his work. He glanced at the clock on the computer – surprised to find it was almost lunch. Returning to the task at hand, his forearm slid as though something had been spilled. Looking, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw a thin coating of blood on his skin and on the desktop.

Grabbing some Kleenex, he dabbed at the suspected spot where the blood would’ve come from and wiped the desk clean. He didn’t see how the opening in the crook had expanded, didn’t see how when his fingers danced across the keyboard the small dot on his arm opened and closed as though a little mouth had begun to develop.

Lunchtime came and went. He’d completely forgotten about the blood until he returned from the sandwich shop. It had been cold enough to warrant his jacket as he walked to the deli and ordered a turkey and bacon sandwich. He ate without any urgency, happy to be out of the office and away from his wretched boss.

When he returned, he was momentarily alarmed when his jacket stuck to his arm as he took it off. Pulling, his skin stung but then the jacket let go and slid off. He examined the inside of the sleeve, finding it to be coated in dark red, the fluid not having made it through to the visible side. He knew it was stained, but that could be washed out to some degree. Or he’d just get a new jacket. He didn’t care either way, he had no affiliation to the jacket, no sentimental attachment.

Turning his monitor on, he sensed something crawling across his arm.

Examining, he saw blood flowing from the quarter-sized opening and spilling over onto the desk.

He pushed back in his chair in alarm, banging against the filing cabinets behind him. Somebody from across the sea of office cubicles called out for ‘whoever is making that noise to keep it down. I’m on a call here.’

Cale flexed his arm, straightened it, looked as the quarter-sized hole appeared to expand in size. Something pulsed within the red gaping space, more blood pumping out and splashing his pants.

Alan, whom normally he hated as he always smelled like B.O., approached him and looked concerned when he saw Cale was bleeding.

“Dude! Are you ok? I’ll get the First Aid Kit.”

He ran off before Cale could tell him that it was ok, that it wasn’t much blood.

But that wasn’t true, was it?

The opening had expanded again. Even as Cale grabbed around his elbow with his left hand and squeezed, ‘elevate and apply pressure,’ he remembered from that snoozer First Aid Course he took. But did it work for something like this? He had no idea.

He felt lightheaded, tried to find his chair but his legs gave out. He fell back against the wall, slid to the floor. The lights flickered and he was certain he heard someone scream, but he wasn’t sure. What he was sure of was that the hole had expanded again.

He could feel the skin below his elbow pull away from his upper arm. His fingers slipped off the skin he’d been putting pressure on and he felt a jolt as he was now pushing against bone.

My bone?

What a ridiculous thought it was, but Cale sat there wondering what he was holding as a geyser of blood burst out of the gaping wound.

Alan returned with the kit, just as Margaret was calling 911 and people had formed a circle around the lifeless body of Cale. From where Alan stood he could see that his co-worker was already dead.

Guess I can put this away, he thought, turning and taking the First Aid Kit back towards where they had it hanging in the lunchroom.

Alan started bleeding at 12:15pm.

March 15th, 2020.

He didn’t notice it at first.

The skin pulled apart near the crook of his right elbow. A thin separation almost imperceptible to the naked eye.

Steve Stred

Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.

Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.

He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.

He is an active member of the HWA.

He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred

You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred

You can visit Steve’s Official website here

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