"Patterns" by Alexander Hay
"No, you fool! Not that one with the ghastly, lurid pattern. Show me another!"
The young shopworker was taken aback by the scarred old man's burst of anger. He coughed a little to regain his composure (he was a professional, after all!) and hid his annoyance.
After all, this was his personal favourite out of all the mid-price range rugs they sold at Discount Carpet Galaxy. (“Five minutes off Junction 6 on the M25.”)
Those colours! Those wondrous, delicately rendered patterns! It was a big hit with older ladies, wannabe hipsters, and young families. On a certain level, the young man took this as a personal affront.
"Err, OK?" he grimaced. "What might Sir like instead?"
"Anything without a pattern. You heard me? No patterns. Not even subtle ones. A plain carpet, if you don’t mind! In fact," the old man frowned as he pointed, "that shag pile there."
It was plain, grey, and drab, the shopworker thought. The colour of wet Wednesdays and boring afternoons in Autumn. Still, the customer was always right, or whatever nonsense they kept droning on about during team meetings.
“I’ll have it,” the old man sniffed and glowered as the shopworker heaved up a rolled-up copy of the rug, balanced it upright and precarious in his trolley, and radioed for someone to help his customer get it in the car.
Money changed hands, and the transaction was complete. Over tea, other staff would later note how brusque their customer was, and how agitated he seemed when he went near anything with a pattern. Still, these were strange times. No one had got through them unscathed.
But as the old man rolled out the new rug on his floor back home, he sighed. That nice young man hadn't deserved that. He was only trying to help. There was a heavy throb of sadness in the old man’s chest; a reminder why he had been so alone all these years.
And yet... there was still that thing they sent to get him all those years ago. It hid in patterns, merging with them, only to rise, shimmering with malice, from the carpet it had lurked in.
The curves and floral swirls twisted and peaked into claws and fangs and spiked, lashing tails. A stench of burnt ozone, and the prickle of static in the air. And the eyes... Boiling scarlet balls of hate, as the thing utterly perverted the second and third dimensions by its very presence.
His wife died before he could kill it. He briefly remembers holding her as she faded, soaked in blood, even as the thing writhed nearby in its death throes. Never again.
The old man cautiously trod on the rug in his socks. It felt soft and comfortable. Almost soft enough to take the memories away.
Back at the warehouse, the shopworker pondered his customer. What had gotten into him?
But then he stopped. Had the pattern in that carpet over there... moved?
“No,” he thought. “That’s just my imagination!” It had been a long shift.
Behind him, the pattern moved again.
Alexander Hay is a writer, academic and researcher currently lurking in the shimmering carpet fibres of Northern England. His previous credits include the Sleep Podcast, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Nature's Futures and various dodgy music magazines. He can be found promoting himself shamelessly on Twitter: @Alexand40457338
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