There’s an image that I keep pushed away in the back of my mind. Occasionally, it makes its way out and I can see that horrid face once more. My limbs go numb and I can feel my throat begin to tighten as every grotesque detail can be seen in my mind’s eye. No matter how hard I try to suppress it, there’s no way to fully forget pure evil.
I raised my children by myself. My wife had passed away in a car accident. She had been hit by a drunk driver running a red light. My daughter, Elizabeth, was seven at the time, and my son, Nicholas, was only four. To this day, the greatest challenge I faced in my life is having to tell them that their mother wasn’t coming back. Even the day after the funeral, they walked around the house expecting her to jump out from behind a curtain like she was just playing hide and seek the whole time. Perhaps it was due to their young minds being unable to grasp the loss of their mother at the time, but I feel that they just didn’t want to believe it.
After I received her life insurance, I decided that we needed to move to a different part of our neighborhood. I wanted the children to still attend the same school and have the same friends, but I couldn’t stand the bad memories I had in that house. Hardly a night went by when I didn’t cry myself to sleep with my hand feeling the empty spot beside me. It took a few months, but we eventually adjusted. Sometimes when they were playing in the backyard, I would catch myself staring at my wife’s portrait on the mantle above the fireplace. A smile would cross my face and I would feel a tear run down my cheek. At this point, I no longer cried from sadness, but from happiness. I’d finally accepted that she was in a better place and our lives were going to get better.
All of that changed the day I saw it in the woods behind our house.
When we switched houses, we moved into one on the edge of our neighborhood. It was in a cul-de-sac directly across from one of my children’s friends. Not only was it a great social location for them, but I also desired a small bit of isolation for myself. I would still have my own companions over for a drink, but I did enjoy just sitting on my back porch watching the birds fly around the trees in the backyard. The trees went on for what seemed like eternity, giving me a feeling that I was ruler of an endless domain that started in my backyard.
One day while I sat in my chair with a bottle of beer in my hand and a book in the other, I heard Elizabeth call from the edge of our lawn. When I asked her what she wanted, she turned to me with wide eyes and a trembling hand outstretched and pointing towards the woods. I strained my vision to try and find what she saw, but was unable to. I rested my book and drink down on a nearby table and walked across the grass to meet my daughter. I placed a hand on her shoulder and pulled her close and did my best to comfort her.
“What has you so scared, darling? Is there a fox or something out there?”
With her head still buried in my side, she shook it violently and continued to point. I followed her finger until I was staring at a large oak tree about ten feet from the edge of our lawn. The leaves scattered among its branches had changed colors, and a few of them littered the ground around the trunk. Beneath the roots that sprawled across the dirt, I spotted a hole. I had noticed the tree before, but never expected that there would be an animal living underneath it.
“Honey, I can’t help if you don’t tell me what’s wrong. Now I’m going to ask you again, what is it that you saw?”
Elizabeth took in a deep breath and spoke with fear grabbing at her vocal chords.
I looked up from her and stared at the base of the tree. A hand covered in flawed, gray skin slowly reached out and clawed at the earth outside of the hole. Long, yellow fingernails scratched at the dirt until they dug deep into the damp soil. Now with proper grip, I heard the creature let out a deep groan as it began to pull itself from the hole. As more of its limbs came into few, I took notice of how frail this thing appeared. I watched the thin muscles of its arms flex under its sickly skin to pull itself further out the hole, revealing itself from the darkness underneath the tree. This unearthly creature lifted its head in the Autumn sunlight, giving me the first glimpse of its face. It had sunken eyes and cheeks, causing the skin to be pulled tightly against its skull. Its bloodshot eyes would disappear from view as cracked eyelids slowly blinked. Greasy lumps of dark gray hair hung over the sides of its face and down the nape of its neck. The individual vertebrae of its spine pressed under its skin, shifting in a grotesque fashion as the body moved.
I stood motionless in complete and utter shock. I could no longer hear the birds chirping or the wind in the leaves. The only noise I could hear was its thin and raspy breathing that croaked out of its throat. My daughter’s hand had gripped my shirt and squeezed it tight. I could feel her shaking me as if she was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear her. My ears soon filled with the piercing shriek that erupted from deep inside this creature as more of its body became exposed in the sunlight. As it continued to scream, the body shook violently and limbs moved unnaturally.
To this day, I’m not sure what made me grab my daughter and run, but I’m thankful that something finally made me move. Before I knew it, I was inside and had slammed the door shut. I turned the deadbolt and threw the latch at the top of the door. As I kept my eyes trained at the edge of our lawn for it to crawl onto the grass, I yelled at Elizabeth to go grab my gun from the drawer in my nightstand. She left and soon returned with the weapon grasped firmly in her hand. I took it from her and quickly disengaged the safety. I cocked it and stood at the ready to unload every single bullet into this hellish monstrosity. As I stood guard, I instructed my daughter to call the police tell them to send officers out here.
Two squad cars arrived in less than ten minutes. It was no coincidence that I bought a house within close proximity to the police station. As I followed two officers towards the edge of the backyard, all three of us with our weapons drawn, another stayed inside with my daughter. Although they approached the tree without much hesitation, I kept my distance knowing what lurked inside that dark hole. With their weapons trained on the opening, one of them retrieved the flashlight from his belt and flashed it inside. What they found was… nothing. They stuck their flashlight all the way inside until they could see every inch of that burrow. There was nothing inside of it. There wasn’t a single trace of something ever being in there.
The first thought that jumped to my mind was that they would think I was trying to stage some kind of hoax. However, they simply told me to keep an eye out for the creature again and to call them if I saw it again. They also recommended that I keep a camera on me on the off chance that I could snap a picture of this thing. After comforting my daughter, they left us alone in my house. To this day, I’m convinced that they remembered my wife’s death a few years prior and thought it best to not try claiming that I was running a prank on them. They probably figured that I had had enough trouble in my life and that there was no need to fake something like this.
The next day, I went down to the hardware store and bought bags of cement. Little by little, I shoveled the mixture into that hole until it spilled from the opening onto the ground.
Four years passed without me ever seeing any sign of it. Whenever it reared its ugly head again, it was in a way I had not even imagined.
My daughter had just turned eleven, and I permitted her to have some friends over for a sleepover. I took the trouble to push all the furniture in our living room to one side and made a large area for them to put their sleeping bags down. I told Elizabeth that I wanted them to sleep inside because there had been sightings of coyotes around the area, but she didn’t seem to buy it. She knew the real reason why I didn’t want them outside at night, and she didn’t disagree with that one bit.
While I spent the night with Nicholas in our media room watching a movie, I would occasionally hear the girls laughing or letting out a playful scream. I tried telling myself that the screams were only due to some stupid game, but my mind tried telling me that something else could be the source. After the movie ended, I carried my boy upstairs and tucked him into bed. Afterwards, I peered from the railing of the stairs at the girls asleep on the living room floor. They had arranged themselves such that they were around a toy lantern. With sleep pulling at my eyelids, I retreated to my room and fell asleep.
The next thing I knew, I was awoken by the sound of glass hitting the floor and Elizabeth screaming. Instinctively, I grabbed the gun from the drawer in my nightstand and ran down the stairs. As I bolted into the living room, I noticed empty sleeping bags scattered around the floor. It didn’t take me long to find the girls clustered into one corner of the room with a lantern shared among them. The sickly yellow light emitted by the cheap bulb illuminated the fear on their faces.
“Elizabeth, what the hell happened down here,” I asked as I stared at the broken window. Whatever had broken it had done so from outside.
I was met with only the sound of crickets chirping in the night air. I turned to the girls in the corner and found them all pointing out the window. It was at that moment that an overwhelming sense of dread filled my body. I felt the urge to vomit as my mind raced to the only conclusion: it had come back.
I bolted to the back door and threw it open. As I ran out into the yard, I yelled at the girls to call the police. My bare feet slammed onto the ground as I sprinted full force towards the forest at the edge of our lawn. By the time I reached the edge, the ankles of my sweat pants were soaked with dew. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I hollered my daughter’s name. The only response I received was my pain stricken voice echoing back at me. I took in a deep breath and prepared to call for her once more when I stopped.
Crawling under a bush just a few feet away, I saw its face for the first time in years. In the milky glow of the moonlight, it slowly clawed at the ground and pulled itself out from under the bush. With each small movement of its appendages, I could hear the cracking of joints and dry leaves scratching against its leathery skin. This thing had taken my daughter, and I wanted nothing more than to grab it by the neck, strangle it, and slowly feel the life leave its body. The only problem was that I couldn’t. As much as I wanted to, I found myself unable to move. Compared to the burning hatred I had for this creature, my fear towered over that and kept my movement at bay.
Slowly, its mouth opened to reveal pointed, stained teeth. It let out a heavy breath, causing the air around me to suddenly be filled with the horrid stench of rot and decay. As I pulled my shirt over my nose, it began to make a noise. It started as a guttural rumble from deep within the creature. Soon enough, it escaped into the air as a deep croak. This progressively became louder as the noise underwent a grotesque transformation into an ear-piercing shriek. I could feel my eardrums screaming for relief, causing me to throw my hands over my ears. This did little good as the noise still managed to find its way into my head.
When the noise finally stopped, I lowered my hands and opened my eyes. It was gone. There was no trace that it had ever been there. The ground underneath the bush showed no signs of anything ever being there. I found myself unable to look away from that spot. I’m unsure how long I stood there. It took three police officers to shake me back to reality. When I was finally able to break my gaze from that bush, I screamed. I fell to my knees and erupted into a fit of hot tears and screams. I pounded at the ground and grabbed the grass. I expected the officers to try and bring me back to my feet, but they let me continue.
It was nearly a week before they found her body. She was almost a mile from the house, deep in the woods. Although I could not bring myself to go out there to view the crime scene, I was given a description of the area later that day. They found her under a thin layer of dried leaves, with her torn and stained clothes tossed around.
She had been violated…
My little girl, my little eleven year old girl, had been raped and tortured by whatever the hell this thing was. It took her innocence, her purity, her very existence…
The funeral was one of the hardest days of my life. While everyone else cried in the cold November rain, I stood silent and unmoving while starring at the small coffin. All the despair I felt had left my body with the tears I cried for days on end. No matter how much I wanted to cry, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. My tear ducts, like my heart and soul, were empty.
I’ll still visit her gravesite on her birthday. Other than that, I can’t bring myself to look at her name engraved in that cold stone. There are no pictures of her anywhere in my home. The sight of her face brings me to my knees and leaves my eyes red with hot tears. I still have pictures of my wife, but this is different. When the drunk driver who killed her was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, I had felt closure.
Elizabeth is different. That creature is still out there. The thing that killed my daughter and violated her is still prowling somewhere in those woods. Elizabeth’s pictures are neatly packed in a box upstairs. Until the day I find and destroy that thing, I can’t stand to look at her face. I feel that I let her down by not attacking it that night. My fear got the better of me, and it still haunts me to this day. It’s not a guarantee that I would have been able to stop this abomination, but at least I would have done the best I could.
Nicholas has grown up. He went to college and got a degree in mechanical engineering. Soon afterwards, he found a girlfriend and eventually got married to her. They had a child a few years later. To this day, I don’t let my granddaughter, Elizabeth, come to visit. I fear that it will rear its ugly head once more if it knows she’s here.
Sometimes, when I’m lying in bed at night, I think I hear something in the woods. It’s always faint, and almost to the point that I think my mind is playing tricks on me. However, I’ll listen closely and make out the words that this creature is uttering with its deep, raspy voice…
“Comus rape, Comus break.
Sweet young virgin's virtue take.
Naked flesh, flowing hair.
Her terror screams, they cut the air.
But no one hears her there.”