I heard a scream in a dream and it woke me from my slumber. I tried to shout for my son but it only came out a mumble as sleep slowly released me from its dreary grasp. I felt the cold of the night snuggling against my right foot; apparently, I had lost a sock again in my nightly tossing and turning rituals that were supposed to be restful.
Slipping my foot under the blankets that had been shoved to the bottom of the bed I turned on my side and noticed the clock read 4:44 in the morning as my eyes closed. A slowly dissolving impression of the red numbers glowed behind my eyelids as I tried to fall back into sleep.
Teetering on the edge of sleep I felt the blanket pull back from my foot. I was too engrossed in watching phantoms of dream fold in and out of existence before my closed eyes that I brushed it off as a piece of a dream that was taking shape and welcoming me. That’s when I felt the sharp pinch against the bottom of my foot. I sat up in bed instantly awake.
Something thumped against the wooden bedroom floor at the bottom of the bed. I sat listening to the silence of the night for a minute. Slowly I began to hear something breathing, almost wheezing, coming from the darkness in the room. Fearing it was me and I was losing my mind I held my breath, yet the breathing sounds continued.
I reached over to the nightstand and turned on the bedside lamp. Something squealed and I heard something small with claws scurry under the bed. It didn’t quite have the same sounds as a domesticated pet, which wouldn’t have been the case anyway as I didn’t have any in the home since my Labrador Max had passed away months ago. In my mind, I decided that it must be a raccoon or some sort of opossum that somehow found a way inside.
The longer I sat there and let my eyes adjust, the more I began to creep myself out. What if it was rabid? Did I get bit? How the hell do I get out of bed now with it under there? I could hear it under the bed as it moved around. I was still trying to work out if I should jump from the bed like they tell you to do if your car is ever in contact with downed power lines when I heard it ripping into the cloth of the mattress and box springs.
A new sense of danger overtook me as I imagined a rabid raccoon tearing up through the bedding below me and attacking. I hopped out of bed and ran through the open door, slamming it shut behind me and locking the little bastard in my bedroom.
Turning on the hallway light, I found the flashlight in the towel closet and made my way to my son’s room. He was still quietly sleeping, his favorite nightlight spinning on the dresser and throwing lighted animals across the walls and ceiling.
I quietly closed the door behind me and checked his window to make sure it was closed and locked. I dropped softly to a knee and shined the flashlight under the bed only to see an army of creatures hiding under there. Luckily they were just toys and I made a mental note to have him clean his room later today. The closet was also a disaster area of toys and clothing, but there wasn’t anything alive in there. I crept back to his door, slipped out without waking him, and closed his door behind me.
I felt strange wearing only one sock, so I pinched a piece of it between my barefoot and the floor and lifted my foot out of it, which reminded me that I might have been bitten. I leaned against the wall and lifted my right foot to check the underside of it. There were no bite marks and no blood, but I could feel a small cut that hadn’t quite made it all the way through the skin. On my way to the bathroom, I stopped at my own door and put my ear to it to listen. I couldn’t hear anything and after a few seconds made my way to the medicine cabinet and poured some hydrogen peroxide over the bottom of my foot in the bathroom.
As I stood with one foot hanging over the edge of the bathtub to dry I thought about my next course of action. I could call my ex-brother in law who was an exterminator, but it was very early and he was a little strange anyway. Fearing it would turn out to just be a rat or something small and not wanting to have to listen to him inflate his own ego at my expense I decided to take matters into my own hands.
My first thought was the shotgun, but that was in the bedroom with Mickey Mouse the Rabid, plus, I mean, that might be a little bit of overkill. Hard to tell your six-year-old son why you killed one of his favorite cartoon characters with grandpa’s shotgun. What I needed was a long stick and maybe a box. I dried my foot off by stepping on the bathroom mat and made my way down the hall to the kitchen, then to the connected garage.
I grabbed a shovel, hesitated, then put it back and took the rake instead. I didn’t really want to kill it if I didn’t have to. I found an old box with some Christmas lights in it and dumped them out. On my way out I remembered how it had torn into the underside of the mattress and changed out the cardboard box for a large plastic storage bin with a lid.
Making my back inside, I juggled all my equipment to the bedroom door and listened again. Silence had settled over the house. I clamped the flashlight in my teeth, transferred the rake to the hand holding the plastic bin and slowly turned the doorknob. As the door opened, I half expected the rat or raccoon to come charging at me, but nothing came rushing from the darkness beneath the bed. I closed the door behind me as I sat the plastic bin down and popped the lid off. As I started towards the bed I realized just how exposed my bare feet felt and glanced over at my shoes. In my head, I was still weighing the pros and cons of taking the time to put them on when I found myself partly stepping into them. So much for that debate.
The sound of shifting fabric pulled my attention from the black abyss beneath the bed to the top of it. Something slowly stirred the blankets, pulling them towards the center of the mattress. Not understanding what I was seeing I flipped on the light switch next to the door. As the room brightened, a muffled squeal came from the bed. Something yanked harder on the blankets, hard enough that it was followed by the sound of fabric being torn.
“What the fuck?” Slipped out of my mouth before I even realized I had said it.
As soon as I spoke, all movement and sound stopped. I could feel it under there, waiting for me to make the next move. If that was the case, it wouldn’t have to wait long.
I grabbed a handful of blanket and tore it off the bed. In the middle of the bed was a ragged looking hole. I was both confused and a little scared as I stared at it. Something was moving within it, but I couldn’t see what it was. Around the hole were little pieces of frayed fabric from the blankets and the sheets. I looked down at the blanket in my hand and saw large pieces missing from the middle of it.
A shiver of fear raced up my spine. Something in the back of my mind was screaming that this wasn’t safe. Fight or flight was battling for dominance in my head as I stood in shock, waiting for my brain to decide what to do next.
From the hole in the bed came a raspy voice, “Stupid man. Stupid, stupid man,” It was almost a whisper, like someone talking to themselves.
Fear came crashing down around me then and I panicked as I slammed the rake down on the mattress, aiming for the hole with the metal tines. Whatever was in the mattress shrieked and pulled itself further into the hole. I kicked the mattress, trying to slide it off of the box springs and knock the thing loose, but it must have been inside both because the mattress just spun a little on the bed without budging in the middle.
I used the rake and pushed hard against the mattress and again the creature shrieked as I felt the mattress push back. It was definitely inside both the mattress and box springs. Grabbing the mattress in my hands, I lifted it and flipped it off the bed and against the wall as I jumped back and got ready to swing with the rake.
I could see its face then as it hissed at me. It had bloodshot eyes with silver snake like pupils, a nose that was a mix between human looking and a wet pigs snout, its skin hairless but wrinkled and aged. The creature’s ears were large and rounded at the top, yet pointed at the bottom. Atop its head was a sock, my sock. At first, I thought steam was rising from it but then I could smell the stench of something burning, something rotten burning.
The creature pulled back into the box springs and I heard it thump against the bedroom floor. Out of reflex I swung the rake at the bottom of the bed in case it was coming at me, but nothing emerged.
I put my foot against the box springs and pushed with all my strength and the whole bed slid across the floor. Before I had time to ready the rake the creature darted out from under the bed, headed not at me, but towards the door. It had covered itself with some makeshift cloak, torn from the fabric of the blankets.
I changed my grip on the rake and brought it down as hard as I could. The Tines missed the creature but managed to punch through part of the blanket and nail it into the hardwood floor. As the coverings slid off the creature I could see the rest of it then. It stood about a foot tall and had a humanoid body, yet still could run fast on all fours. It did have claws, but also wore some sort of clothing of its own. Ragged, ripped, and maybe decaying looking? It’s hard to say, but I do know it also carried something that looked like a scythe. Again it shrieked as if in pain as smoke started to lift from it.
I tore the rake out of the floor and was prepared to knock the hell out of it when it got to the door and realized it was trapped. Instead of finding itself trapped, it launched itself into he air, grabbed the doorknob and turned as it kicked off the wall and the door opened. I took a swing with the rake but it was already dropping to the ground and I missed.
When it hit the floor, it paused in the hallway and said, “Lincoln.” My heart stopped in my chest when I heard it say my son’s name. Something primal overcame me then and I lost the desire for a weapon, the rake tumbled from my grasps as I reached for it with my hands, fingers ready to dig into its flesh and tear it apart.
“No!” I raged as I dove for it. The creature easily avoided me as I crashed into the wall between it and my son’s room, flailing with my hands to grab a hold of it. It laughed then as it swung the scythe at my arm with such quickness that my reaction only came after it had pulled it back, turned, and was running away.
I grabbed my arm with my hand and felt blood. I watched as the creature stopped at the end of the hallway and turn back towards me. “Lincoln, Lincoln, coming for, stupid man,” it sneered, before disappearing into the dark of the living room.
I slowly got to my feet, grabbed the rake off the bedroom floor and started for the living room when I heard the front door open. As I entered, I flipped the light switch and saw that the front door was standing halfway open. I scanned the room as I made my way towards it but nothing moved or seemed out of place. I shut the door and locked it.
Standing with my back to the door I waited for the creature to jump out from behind something and take off running towards Lincoln’s room. Nothing happened at first, but then I smelled it, that stink of something rotten burning. I knew it was still here! As I raised the rake up, prepared to swing for the fences, the stench got stronger. I looked down and saw the cut in my arm smoking. The pain blossomed then and I bit back a cry as I dropped the rake and gripped tight my arm.
From the dark of the hallway I heard a bedroom door open, I screamed and felt my legs give out, collapsing to the floor as phantoms of red and black danced behind my eyelids. I tried to shout for my son but it only came out a mumble as sleep slowly took me in its dreary grasp.