Posts Tagged ‘short story’

After 70 years of heroic battles and unfavorable odds, he sat before the fire. Hands stiffening with arthritis and scars covering more of his body than not he held his cape as tears welled up in his eyes.
He couldn’t even remember all the fights, all the hard-won battles anymore. At some point, it all became a blur as time stretched a haze over a life spent saving others, saving the world.
He tossed the cape into the fire and watched it burn.
“Maybe this world wasn’t meant to be saved.” He whispered.


Have you seen a willow weep?
I have. I’ve watched as her branches and leaves shuttered in the breeze, sobbing for help.
I’ve heard the wail of agony as the wind cut through her, felt the sting of her lash upon my face as the demons that dance in the shadows of her sorrow lashed out, hoping that they could bring fear back to this valley.
I am not afraid of them, but I am afraid. I’m afraid that you will lose sight of hope when the night grows dark, and give in to fear. I beg you, don’t do it! Yours may be the last fear they need to lay claim to this place once more, for, with this breath, they now have mine.

Frankie sat on the bed in the dark. Her left hand softly stroking the top of Maeve’s head as Maeve pretended not to notice until her fingers stopped, then she pushed her head back against Frankie’s fingers to get them to keep stroking again. To Maeve, this proved her genius as a canine, for she believed that not even Frankie realized what was happening and had no control over her left hand when she manipulated the auto pet function so perfectly.

As if reading her mind Frankie’s fingers froze against her scalp. Fearing she had just been caught by a psychic human Maeve tilted her head back and looked right at Frankie, tongue hanging out of one side of her mouth as cute as she could manage.

Frankie wasn’t looking at Maeve, nor was she looking at the cell phone in her right hand that she had been messing with for the last hour. Instead, her gaze was trained on something outside the window in the distance.

From the second floor bedroom, Frankie had a good view of the houses on the other side of the street. She thought she had seen something move from one house to the next. Still staring into the night she killed the light from the cell phone and placed it face down on the bed. Across the street, she saw two figures dart out from the shadows of a house and across the street in her direction.
“Shit.” Frankie softly cursed herself for spending so much time messing with the phone in the dark. The light from the screen was faint, but in this powerless world, any light was a beacon to those up to no good.

Maeve silently got off the bed as Frankie slid to the edge and grabbed her jeans. As Frankie slipped her feet into the pants and pulled them on, Maeve moved towards the doorway of the bedroom silently but stopped before she got to the doorway. She tilted her head to listen to the darkness downstairs.

Earlier when Frankie and Maeve had found the house, they had cleared it and left all doors inside the home open so no one could hide within or sneak in unheard. Frankie joined Maeve and placed her left hand on Maeve’s back. The hair on her back was down and for a second Frankie let a little hope take shape that they were going to move on to the next house. That hope died the moment she heard them rattle the doorknob.

The hair on Maeve’s back rose under Frankie’s fingers but she didn’t bark. Frankie ran a hand over her reassuringly and they both waited. The only other exit was the back door, but the stairs ran right next to the front door and it wasn’t worth taking the chance of being caught from behind if they tried to run for it.

Frankie stepped back slightly and Maeve shadowed her movement. They both jumped a little when the glass shattered downstairs. Maeve started to move forward but Frankie snapped her fingers and Maeve stopped, stepping back beside her once again.

They listened as someone unlocked the door and opened it. Whispering filtered up to them from the stairs, “It was a girl, a blonde, I swear to God.”
“I get her first. You had that old bitch last week.”

Frankie exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding with a little annoyance, a little anger. In the dark Maeve looked up at her, waiting for a command.

“No,” Frankie told her. From downstairs the whispers immediately stopped but she could hear them moving towards the stairway. She stepped out to the head of the stairs and waited for them. From below, they looked like two silhouettes in the dark. The moment they saw her, Frankie let out a little yelp and jumped back into the bedroom.

She snapped once and Maeve moved to her side as Frankie slammed the bedroom door and snatched the shotgun up that was leaning against the wall beside the door. She could hear them scrambling up the stairs now, close to the top. They were coming in a hurry. Perfect, she thought.

She raised the shotgun to her shoulder, flicked off the safety and held the barrel about navel level, ready to swing it up when her target presented itself. As the two reached the door she took one step left to plant her feet in a firing stance, left leg slightly ahead of the right, shoulder length apart.

When the first guy burst through the door she leaned into the weapon and raised the barrel in one smooth motion as her finger squeezed the trigger. He never knew what hit him and the buckshot lifted him off his feet and tossed him sideways against the door he was still in the process of throwing open. Frankie didn’t wait to see him land, she racked another round into the shotgun as she pivoted on her left leg and brought the barrel around to the second guy who was trying to stop his forward momentum. He didn’t have enough time. The roar of the shotgun lit up the room a second time and his face melted along with part of his skull as it painted the hallway behind him.

Frankie looked back at Maeve who was simply watching the first guy. She chambered another round in the shotgun and then moved to the first guy who was wheezing badly and gurgling. Frankie removed the knife from her belt and punched it into the side of his neck before twisting it and removing it in three swift moves. Within seconds he was dead.

Frankie cleaned the blade off on his clothes and sheathed it before engaging the safety of the shotgun and sighing.

“I’m not blonde,” she told Maeve. “Guess we have to find a new place to sleep tonight.”

Maeve whined knowingly as Frankie gathered her backpack and jacket. She also retrieved the cell phone and tossed it in one of the pockets. After she shrugged into the bag she pulled the bedding off of the bed and sort of spread it across the doorway and hallway that was glistening with blood and pieces of skull.

There were a lot of things her 17-year-old self had to learn in the short time she has been alive, but listening to her dog lick someone else’s blood off of her paws was something she only had to hear once. It wouldn’t happen again if she could help it.

Frankie and Maeve stood in the living room, listening to the night outside the open front door. When they both felt it was safe they left the house and made their way out into the dark night, sticking to shadows as much as they could.

He couldn’t take his eyes off of her face as he slowly lifted the front of her shirt.
Her eyes were closed, a mix of anticipation and excitement clouded with a bit of shyness seemed to wash over her.
He felt for the edge of her bra and gently peeled it away, the soft fabric not giving him much of a fight.
As he leaned closer she arched her back towards him. His eyes still on her face he felt her nipple brush against his lips as a moan broke the seal of hers.
He started to open his mouth when a something long and slimy pushed out from her nipple, brushed past his lips, and darted into his mouth. He reflexively gagged and tried to pull away but it slid deeper down his throat, pulling him to her like a tether. He tried to look down but could see nothing as his face mashed into her bosom. When he tried to nash his teeth together it simply slipped between them like a string, only to grow inside his throat. His breath was stolen as he tried to claw at her with his hands. Each time he raked his fingernails down her skin she shivered and moaned as she cradled the back of his head with her hands and whispered, “Thank you.”
He bucked and tried to pull free, but the only thing that moved was the pile of bones beneath her bed.
The shadows outside pushed against the glass of the window as they watched.
One of them scrawled in the condensation, “Beautiful.”

Is this fiction? Maybe. Or maybe once upon a time, I was a shadow. Maybe now you know why you sometimes catch me glancing at your chest. It isn’t perversion that drives me to do such things. It’s preservation.

Family Trip

Posted: August 1, 2017 in Stories, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Every year was a hard fought battle to get as many family members as we could to go on at least one camping trip. Everyone would try to figure out the best weekend to make it happen so that those who didn’t have the days off could request them off far enough in advance. We’re talking four and sometimes even five generations of probably one of the world’s most chaotic and fun families to ever walk the earth.

This year was going to be a little different. Instead of packing cars and trucks and heading to the nearest mountain range or beach in California, we had won tickets to Japan.

There were some who couldn’t make it work, and a couple that dropped out at the last minute, but in the end, we arrived. Two grandparents, a couple aunts, one uncle, a handful of cousins, and their young children all landed safely in Tokyo and then dragged our luggage to a waiting bus that drove us to a small town called Onjuku in the Chiba Prefecture that rested on the eastern coastline of Japan.

The trip took us through some beautiful landscapes, all dotted with colorful signs, none of which any of us could read except for the occasional little round white sign with numbers inside a red circle that we all assumed was speed limit signs. There were also large round mirrors on metal poles at certain intersections so you could check for other traffic merging along with you. I don’t remember seeing one stop sign.

We drove through little towns that looked like they had been movie sets built to look like small 400-year-old villages, untouched by modern roadways or manufacturing, save for the one shiny brand new NTT phone booth in the center of town that was encased in tinted glass and looked so out of place, it almost seemed like someone made a mistake in placing it.

When we finally made it to our hotel in Onjuku, we all split to our separate rooms to unpack and agreed to meet back in the lobby in an hour. The rooms were small, but very much westernized for our comfort. When we gathered in the lobby a short time later everyone had a different idea of where to go first. We all quickly agreed that dinner would be a good idea once we realized we had little kids in tow as well as grandparents who get grumpy when not fed. My cousin Anna and her husband Michael went to go talk to the receptionist about local restaurants. None of us spoke Japanese, so before long they were standing at the check-in counter pantomiming spooning food into their mouths as the lady looked at them with a mix of terror and amusement on her face.

Another cousin, Michelle, decided that she was tired of the receptionist acting like she couldn’t understand what they were saying and started to storm over there but I grabbed her arm and begged her not to.

About ten minutes later we were all being ushered back onto a bus that took us out of town and into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean. Not sure if our driver even knew what was going on we all enjoyed the scenery and tossed the smallest kids back and forth between us.

We arrived at a restaurant that was built out from the cliff face, part of it sitting on stilts above the water. Across the small road that ran past the building itself was just a wall of the mountain that had been covered in cement to prevent mudslides during heavy storms. As we shuffled inside, the smell of food brought smiles to even the most jet-lagged of us all. We were seated at a long banquette table that ran along the outermost wall where you could look out over the ocean and the beach below. The wet sand below us looked so inviting that even Jimmy commented that we should just camp out down there with a bonfire and some beer. The waitress overheard part of the conversation I guess and said, “No beach, beach in Onjuku,” and shook her head as she wandered off.

“Maybe it’s sacred or something, I saw a lot of Shrines around here on Google maps.” I offered.

“Yeah, so sacred they built a restaurant over it.” Replied Michelle as she rolled her eyes.

She had a point.

Our grandfather decided this was a good time to announce that he wasn’t hungry and wasn’t going to order anything, which brought a silent but felt glare from our grandmother. We all quickly looked away and stared intently at the menus. I spent a second trying to figure out if there was anything labeled, “Cooked beef, just for you dumb ass Americans.” There wasn’t, but they did have the menu items listed in English under the Japanese spelling.

Without any kids to keep me busy asking what they wanted, or a spouse arguing about ordering anything at all I found myself staring out the window.

The ocean looked so calm and peaceful, all the way to the horizon. The green-blue water sparkled with sunlight and the beach below glistened.

Anna leaned over and said, “Strange isn’t it?”

“Strange?” I asked as I looked over at her. It always kind of took me by surprise that she was the one cousin who could always kind of catch me daydreaming and knew where my heart was at any given time.

She smiled, “No waves.”

She was right, there wasn’t a wave in sight, not even on the beach, just a sort of small little mess of water lapping at the shore. It reminded me of being at a lake.

I let my gaze wander to some of the old pictures on the wall. One showed the restaurant as seen from a boat. The ocean was just below it and made it look like it was almost floating. I glanced back out the window and craned my head a little to look at the stilts under part of the building that I could see. They had barnacles attached to them and looked wet. The skin stood up on my arms and a chill ran up my neck as I looked back out to sea. Everything still looked the same. Calm.

I concentrated hard on the horizon but it was just a naturally darker shade of blue, nothing seemed strange about it. But it felt different now. It felt ominous.

When the waitress came back to our table and began taking orders I wanted to ask about the picture and the barnacles, but also didn’t want to be the idiot at the table who thinks the sky is falling and is wrong. When she asked me for my order I motioned her closer before pointing out the window and asking, “Can we go down to the beach after we eat?”

She started to answer as her gaze followed where I was pointing, but the answer died on her lips as her eyes widened.

“I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.” She said and almost ran into the kitchen.

Everyone looked at her puzzled as she disappeared through a swinging door and turned their attention back to me. I was already standing up and said, “Get your shit, we’re leaving.”

Uncle Craig replied, “Calm down. What was that about?”

“’No beach, beach in Onjuku.’” I quoted our waitress and then said, “but that’s a fucking beach!” I pointed out the window and watched as it registered.

“Let’s go.” He said as he swooped little Mason into his arms. My cousin Jimmy grabbed his son James as Anna grabbed her and Michael’s daughter Emery. We all were headed towards the door when the manager came out from the back with some other workers and they all looked out the window as the waitress pointed.

“We all need to leave, right now!” I said.

The manager squinted out the window but then turned to us with a huge smile on his face, “It’s fine, tides only. You eat?” He motioned for us to go back to our table. By this time some other customers were looking at us and back at them, curious as to what was going on.

I pointed at the picture, “Tides don’t change twenty feet or more!” I turned to push my family out the door.

I didn’t grow up near the ocean and was only half convinced I was right when the manager raised his hands’ palm up and said, “Old picture. No siren, no problem.”

There weren’t any sirens going off and I guess coastal towns would all have early warning systems in place for tsunamis.

I looked at Michael who just shrugged and said, “I’m ready to leave, we’ll find another place to eat.”

The manager turned to calm some other customers that were starting to ask what was going on. We all looked at each other and Alex asked, “So are we blowing this bitch or staying?”

I turned to look out the window but the same peaceful ocean sat out there, nothing had changed. There was no rushing wall of water that was about to wipe out half of mankind hovering above the restaurant.

I shrugged my shoulders in defeat and we all started making our way back to our table as Michael stood a little more defiant, “I still say we find another place or come back tomorrow.”

Anna replied, “Babe, it’s fine,” And ended the debate for good.

We all filed back into place at the table and the kids went back to playing with the chopsticks and using the chopstick holders as faux mustaches. I stared out the window trying to tell myself that I was only imagining that the dark line of the horizon was getting bigger, closer, or both.

“Knock that shit off.” I looked over to see Michelle staring at me.

I conceded, “Sorry.”

As we sat waiting for our food I used my finger to smear a line where the beach met the water on the window, then without moving, I closed my eyes and counted to thirty. When I opened them there was a bigger gap between where the smear was and the water line. The water was receding, and a hell of a lot faster than any tide could change.

I looked around to signal the waitress, but she was nowhere to be found. A minute passed and then the manager came out of the kitchen looking a lot more worried than he had previously. I waved at him when he looked at me but his gaze went right over my shoulder.

I made my wave bigger and caught his attention. I watched as his worried look melted when he focused in on me and a forced smile spread across his face as he hurried over.

“Do you have evacuation plans in case we do need to leave?” I asked him.

He nodded, but there was panic in his eyes.

Out front, three small buses pulled out of the parking lot and took off down the road out of sight. Alex jumped up and shouldered past the manager on his way towards the kitchen. Half the restaurant guests followed him with their eyes and turned heads. The doors swung shut behind him and then immediately burst open as he came right back out, “They’re gone!” he said.

All hell broke loose then. People grabbed their belongings and headed towards the doors, one girl screamed, which did nothing but add haste to people who were already running over each other to reach the exits. Some of us started to do the same but Michael told us to just wait and stay calm. He pointed out that there were only two other buses in the parking lot when we got here so all the buses were now gone.

I turned to look and could now see quite clearly a wall of ocean far out in the distance, the wet sandy beach below us had grown as well.

A little hand grabbed mine and squeezed. I looked down expecting to see one of the younger family members but instead found a girl of about four years of age, fear stretching her eyes wide as her bottom lip trembled. I told her, “It’s gonna be okay.” As I looked around to see if anyone was looking for her but everyone was still trying to push and shove their way out the front door. When I looked back down she was shaking her head slowly the way children do when they know you’re lying and are scared.

I asked her what her name was but she just gripped my hand tighter and bit her bottom lip.

“Time to go.” Uncle Craig proclaimed and we all made our way to the exit. Outside there were about fifty people all trying to figure out the best course of action to get to high ground. The road ran along the cliff face in front of the restaurant and although it did have some elevation to it in places, as far as we could see it didn’t rise any higher than the restaurant roof. Across the narrow road was a cutaway section of mountain that had been cemented over to prevent land and mudslides. There was a metal ladder bolted to the side of the mountain but the bottom ten feet were blocked by a metal door that was padlocked. There were a handful of people beating at the lock with fist-sized rocks.

We were all waiting to see what other people were going to do as well as debating if we should take off down the road, but no one really knew which way to go. I looked back down at the little girl who still had a grip on my hand and noticed she was just staring up at me, not looking around for anyone.

She had neck length brown hair that was parted in the middle and ran down past her chubby little cheeks on both sides, framing her big brown eyes and soft nose. There was something almost familiar about her, but I didn’t remember seeing her on the bus that we came in on or at the hotel earlier.

I looked up at the nearest group of strangers and asked if anyone knew where her parents were. A couple of people looked up only to turn their attention back to their own conversations and arguments.

Cheers erupted across the street and we all turned to see the gate swing free of the ladder as people started to climb up it. Others rushed over while the owner of the restaurant held his hands up in front of them trying to warn them in Japanese.

“That’s too many people,” Grandpa said and halted us as we all sort of shifted in the direction of the ladder.

A solid line of people started climbing their way up as the group below pushed in harder. Someone in the crowd called out for help, but it went unanswered as they fought to get to the safety the ladder promised.

Halfway up the 200-foot ladder, a lady screamed for the person below her to wait but he climbed over her, followed by others. I don’t know if she slipped or if someone nudged her out of the way but she fell a hundred feet to the ground, and no one even turned to look where she landed.

“We need to do something, we can’t just stand around here waiting,” Michael said.

“That ladder is our best bet, once we let everyone else go ahead of us we can help mom and dad up and carry the kids.” Uncle Craig offered.

“It’s too many people, Craig,” Grandpa argued.

Just then the snapping of bolts could be heard and we all turned our heads to see a section of the ladder jolt and break free on one side flinging people off. Those with kids tried to shield their eyes but you couldn’t stop them from hearing the screams, as well as the impacts those people made when they hit the asphalt.

Those around the base of the ladder dispersed, some going the way the buses had brought us in and a larger group following the restaurant owner as he waved and yelled in Japanese. When they started to pass our little group Jimmy asked a couple of people where they were going and finally, someone answered that the owner had said there was a path up the mountain just down the road.

We were all snatching quick glances out to sea and taking notice of how much closer the wave was but no one wanted to admit it. Alex grabbed little Mason and put him on his shoulders when Michael did the same with Emery, and although James demanded to be allowed to walk himself, Jimmy still snatched him up and put him on his shoulders as little James protested out of principle but didn’t put up any real fight. I noticed then that the little girl had let go of my hand and looked around to see if I could spot her but I couldn’t.

We all started to fall in with the group moving down the road towards the promised path up the mountain but something in the back of my head told me something was wrong. I glanced back at the restaurant and then sighed and pushed my way past a group of people to head towards it.

“Where are you going?” Anna called out. I shouted over the heads of the people between us that I needed to make sure the little girl didn’t go back inside. She frowned as people started to push her and the rest of the group along. I promised to be right behind them and then turned and shouldered my way back towards the restaurant.

As I got closer to the front doors I noticed a trail of something that led from the roadway into the restaurant, it looked like something had been dragged along. As I swung the door open, the smeared trail turned to blood across the tile and I saw then a woman sitting slumped against the wall, a trail of blood falling from the side of her mouth, her legs were all twisted wrongly and my stomach dropped at the sight.

“Help me.” She pleaded when she saw me. I knelt down next to her and tried to figure out how to help, but I didn’t know what to do. She tried to cough up the blood that was slowly filling her lungs but only managed to get a couple little bubbles of blood to form before she closed her eyes and was gone.

I stood up and checked the rest of the restaurant but didn’t find the little girl. As I made my way back to the dining area I knew I had made a mistake. The wave of ocean was towering now and moving fast. I could see it growing before me.

I felt my leg tremble when I realized there was no way I could outrun it, even if I knew where to go. I sat down at the table we all shared only a short time ago and stared out the window. I could see the veins of green and blue in the water, the seaweed that had been sucked up into it and churned now like a snow globe after being shaken.

A hand reached out and squeezed mine and I jerked my head around to see the little girl sitting opposite me, tears streamed down her full little cheeks now. Somehow I knew she wasn’t real then, like a solution that you have been searching for hours just finally and mysteriously reveals itself to you.

She saw the revelation in my eyes and squeezed my hand reassuringly. I looked up and asked about my family, “Will they make it?”

She nodded slowly and smiled.

“Good,” I said and turned to watch the tsunami rush in towards me as the restaurant began to shake.

“I love you more.” She said and I turned as tears and a sob burst from me. She was no longer the little girl.

“I love you too mom.” I managed to say before the window next to me imploded and the abyss took me home.

The moon hung in the black abyss of the night sky like a glowing sickle of pure innocence. The night blooms around my legs stretched all the way to the tree line, a tree line that sat like the edge of madness, taunting the most courageous to enter. Even the moonlight dared not penetrate that darkness, where the wildest of nature’s creatures stalked and murdered, some for far more sinister reasons than nourishment alone.

I stood there in the clearing, letting the sights and sounds of the night slowly strip me of my worries when I felt something land and cling to my shoulder. A shiver ran up my spine as I quickly shook it off, only to feel it settle again on me and whisper, “Don’t be afraid.”

As I turned my head I could see her. She was a faerie of the night, only about two and a half inches tall but every bit the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. In the moonlight her wings flexed slowly, showing dark purple patterns with silver highlights. Her skin was a soft pastel of lavender. Her eyes blinked slowly and I was surprised by how big and bold they were on such a tiny creature. They were eyes you could fall in love with. Her smile somehow seemed almost too perfect with her delicate yet welcoming lips sitting under the most perfectly and gracefully sculpted nose. Her cheeks full yet somehow seductively defined as well. With the back of a tiny hand resting against her cheek, she looked back at me, unflinching.

She wore no clothing as most faeries don’t and I could see her perfect shape as well. The way her raven colored hair hung around her neck and down the front of her was to keep it from tangling in her wings during flight and had nothing to do with modesty. One breast was exposed to show the darker colored nipple, my gaze followed the bare skin down to her bare hip and when she noticed where my eyes were heading she brushed her hair back to the side and let me see all of her nakedness. The Fae also have no body hair.

I could smell her then, the scent of sweet pea overtook the fragrances of the night and I closed my eyes as I breathed her in. I found myself whispering, “You’re beautiful.”

I asked her name then and she motioned for me to look forward so she could speak into my ear. I really didn’t want to look away but I did and she answered, “Somnifera.”

I felt something on my earlobe then and thought it was her hand but when I reflexively turned to look I saw her tongue disappear back into her mouth as she grinned at me. She motioned again for me to look ahead and I did as a small breeze came across the meadow. I don’t know if I shivered from the chill or from her pushing up against me and whispering, “Kiss me.”

I slowly lifted my hand palm up to my shoulder and she stepped onto my little finger. She reached down and grabbed my index finger and pulled it up towards her. She folded her wings against her back and her hair danced across my knuckles as my fingers delicately wrapped around her tiny frame.

I lifted her to my lips and let her kiss me then. I felt her push against my fingers and slowly opened my hand. I let my lips part and teased the tip of my tongue across where she had kissed me, soaking in the experience. I felt her hands against my lips, so lovingly caressing me when another voice spoke into my ear, “Open your mouth for her.” And I did. I couldn’t even think of stopping myself. Somnifera climbed inside my mouth then and I could taste her finally. She tasted faintly of green apple and I felt my body stir with excitement when I felt her legs slide to either side of my tongue and she lay face down upon it, her flesh tasted of what I imagine perfection to be. I tried to move my tongue cautiously yet intimately as well. I felt her tiny nipples harden against my tongue, I felt her need grow in the way she was grinding against my taste buds and I couldn’t help but silently hope to taste her release. I’m sorry, for these sins I know are not natural but you would never understand how absolutely wonderful seduction with beauty is. I hope you never do.

Because after she finished she parted my lips and climbed out. I remember how the world turned then, how dizziness overtook me as I crashed to the ground. I remember how she landed upon my lips as I lay there, how she looked at me so longingly as the poison coursed through my body.

I remember feeling them all as they landed upon me in a breeze that triggered déjà vu, all staring with those big beautiful innocent eyes, waiting for me to die so they could begin their feast. As my eyes close now I can hear the silence in the forest all around us and I understand why the other creatures keep to the shadows. It isn’t the moonlight they fear, it’s the Fae.

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.