I used to see him often. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say him, more like…it. Then I moved away, to another state, another city. I don’t see it anymore. Not physically, though it creeps through my mind in its swooping, slinking way. High up in the air one moment, then sliding across the ground the next, over and over and over, its limbs propelling it forward. The mere thought sends ice-cold shivers running down my spine. It used to watch me, but it can’t anymore. At least, I don’t think it can. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, to wake in the early hours of the day when the sky is still dark, and look to my window to see those eyes, those teeth, see it smile that awful smile. I hope I’m dead before that day arises. I hope I’ve seen the last of that monster.
When I was little, I lived in a small suburban neighborhood. It isn’t the kind you’re probably thinking of—big, white, uniform houses all lined up in perfect rows with green lawns and two garage doors. No, my neighborhood was much older. It was built sometime in the fifties and every house looked different, but most had started to fall apart. The people living there were hardworking and honest for the most part, and their long, hard lives showed on their faces. No one really talked to anyone else. That was one of the only things I didn’t like about that neighborhood. My mother always said the neighbors just liked to keep to themselves, that they had nothing very important to say, anyway. Looking back on it now, I think they did have something important to say. Something very, very important.
I saw it for the first time when I was eight years old, during the summer. It was very hot that season, unusually so compared to all the summers I’ve had since then, so I’d stayed inside most the morning. Then, after lunch, my father hooked up the sprinkler we used for our garden in our backyard. I excitedly got into play clothes and rushed outside, into the blinding sun. Those were the days, those innocent days in the sun where I played without a care. I had no idea I would soon be missing them.
So, I was outside, running and laughing and jumping through the cool spray of water…when I saw it. At first I didn’t notice it—it was just a rustle in the bushes. Then it was the crack of a branch and I looked up. Something…something dark moved through those leaves. Something as black as midnight, yet it shimmered when the sun hit it. It ran--or galloped, to this day I'm still not sure what to call it—from a small forest behind my house, leapt over my neighbor’s fence, and disappeared from my view. I was curious, so I chased it.
The pavement burned my feet, but I didn’t care. I watched, along with a few other neighborhood children, as the creature swept in and out of the shadows of trees, making its way down the street. It was large, probably about eight feet tall if it stood upright, though it never did. Instead, it stayed hunched over, its hind legs curled up at its sides, the knees protruding grotesquely past its torso. Large, white, curled claws grew from bony feet and long, slender fingers. Its arms were gnarled, the joints bulging under twisted muscle and skin. Skin that was black and rubbery stretched thin over whatever bones the beast had. It caved in at odd places and almost looked as if…it were rotting. Still, when it crept through the sun, patches glistened gray and blue, as if it were made of some kind of foreign glass.
Then there was its face. The skin was the same, stretched over an oblong oval skull that jutted out in the back. Its eyes were sunken deep within its head, large and round and hollow. They glowed a weird white-yellow; one I’m sure doesn’t have a name to this day. Really, it wasn’t even glowing. It was more of a pulsating, ever-present light that seemed to come straight from some nonexistent soul deep within the monster’s core. It always seemed to smile. Its mouth was stretched, like its skin, far across its face.
You know the expression, “grinning ear to ear”? It was literal in this case, each corner reaching each side of its face, where ears would have been if it had any. Within this smile were two rows of pure white teeth, long and sharp. In fact, each tooth was so long, it could never close its mouth. The sharp tips just clacked against each other as it skulked around, waving its head slowly from side to side, as if sniffing something in the air. I use to find this silly, since it had no nose. Now the thought terrifies me.
We kids just watched it in a sort of dazed amazement, never having seen something like it before. I suppose I thought it was just some species I had yet to learn about in school—I wish that’s all it had been. Then our parents called us back inside for dinner and we grudgingly obeyed, not wanting to get in trouble. I’m not sure about the other kids, but I never quite forgot about the creature I’d seen. I got preoccupied with other things, sure, but its image was always in the back of my mind. Burning there, waiting for me to remember it late at night while I tried to drift off to sleep. It got its wish.
That night I was lying in bed with my covers pulled up to my chin, despite how hot I was. The nightlight across the room barely gave me comfort from the thoughts of ghouls and ghosts hiding in my closet or under my bed. Then the beast’s image slipped into my thoughts. I gripped the covers. It hadn’t scared me before, yet I’d been mere feet away from it. But now, after having the image sit in my mind all day, my brain registering its unworldly appearance, I started to fear it. It was bad, I knew that now.
Then I heard a tap. I froze. Another tap. I didn’t dare move. Then there was another and another and another. It was at my window. I could hear its long claws scrape across the glass, hear its razor-sharp fangs as they clicked together…I could hear its breathing. Heavy, husky, in and out, in and out. Finally, I could no longer bear it. I tore my eyes from my night light and gazed through the dark room towards my window.
It smiled when it saw me. An impossibly huge grin that split its face in two, white teeth glistening with saliva, gleaming eyes seeming to pull every fear from my conscious and unconscious to the surface. I screamed. By the time my parents rushed into my room, it was gone, no traces of its existence left behind. They said it was just a nightmare.
It wasn’t just a nightmare.
I never saw it in the daytime again, but I saw it every night. After a week I stopped screaming, I just cried silently in my bed. Then, after another week, I stopped crying. It knew I was scared; I wasn’t going to give it the satisfaction of seeing me tremble. It wasn’t until it found the lock on my window that I was truly terrified. I’ll never forget the clunk the lock made when it had been moved for the first time in years, or the waning screech of the window as it slid open, or the heavy breathing at my bed side. I’ll never forget those eyes as they gazed at me from beyond my covers. It knew I was scared. It thrived on that.
It wouldn’t leave me alone. Everyone says I went crazy, but I didn’t! It just wouldn’t leave me alone! I hardly ever slept, my hair started to fall out and I always looked tired. My parents put me here, in this “psychiatric hospital”. It’s a nut house, that’s what it is! I’m not crazy! It’s been years-- years. The nightmares still happen when I do sleep, so they keep me here. I suppose I like it better this way, though. After all, the monster can’t get me here. You know, the funny thing is… I can’t even remember where I use to live. I can’t remember the state or the city… I can’t even remember… the country.