"I had a friend named Jerry,
Whose face was kinda scary.
He took my soul,
To make him whole,
I should have been more wary."
You know, it’s funny how we forget the things we were afraid of as children. As adults, we write it off as the overactive imagination of a child. Nightmares that stick with us and become as real to us as anything else.
As a child, maybe four or five, I used to have repeating nightmares about this strange creature that would sit at the edge of my bed or lean over me and just stare. It was always just staring. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming until my parents would run in and turn on the lights because, I swear to god, that thing was always there even after I woke up. It only ever went away when the light came on. We tried everything to make the nightmares stop. We moved furniture to make sure I wasn’t just seeing the dark silhouettes and bringing them to life, we saw doctors who gave me a prescription for a sleep medication, I watched the peppiest feel-good cartoons before bed... Everything.
Nothing worked until one day the dreams just stopped. There was really no reason for it. We all just assumed that I grew out of it. Though, I suppose, it could also be due to the birth of my sister.
I had wanted a little sister for as long as I could understand the concept and I had been so happy when my mom told me that she was pregnant with a little girl. After she was born, it was really hard to sleep at all let alone have any nightmares. All she did was cry. Nothing would console her. Stories made her scream until she got sick. She would hit my mom or, when she got a little older, she would clamp my mom’s mouth shut when she tried to sing to her. Holding or rocking her would piss her off to the point that she couldn’t breathe she was crying so hard. The only thing that seemed to help was if she was left alone in a dark room without sound.
By the time we figured this out, I was really too tired to dream about anything at all and, when I finally could get a decent night’s sleep, the nightmares were gone. Poof. Instant cure.
So we forgot about it.
I don’t think it was until I was in my junior year of high school that it was brought up again.
Now, something you should know about my sister. She was always just a little creepy. We just assumed that was part of her personality. It wasn’t that she did anything creepy by itself but it was just a feeling you got around her. That something was off. She was a girly girl and would run around in dresses and flowery hats. She loved animals, cats especially, and, on paper, she was as cute as a button. But there was always that feeling. Like that prickly feeling you get before going into a dark room or that makes you race through the house as you turn out the lights after a scary movie.
She had tons of imaginary friends that she would name after famous characters and movie stars and, of course, one of them was always her boyfriend. The one that stands out most to me, and maybe that’s just because of recent events, is someone named Jerry. It was the most confusing because he didn’t really fit with her other imaginary friends. He wasn’t from any kind of movie that we knew of and, when we asked her, she confirmed that he wasn’t. He also was the only male imaginary friend that was never ever her boyfriend and yet, he was also the only one that didn’t disappear. She was talking about him well into elementary school, far past the point where it was normal to have an imaginary friend.
When talks of taking her to see a psychologist started taking place, she stopped talking about him. Just like that. Though, when she thought no one was looking, she would sometimes make faces like she was listening to someone or reacting to something someone said. I would sometimes catch her mouthing words as if talking to herself as well. It was all very strange. Regardless of those few remaining ticks, she appeared to be normal and so we left it alone. After all, lots of people talk to themselves or think out loud. No big deal.
A few years went by, I was in high school and my sister was in her first year of middle school. She hated the bus, since she wasn’t a very social person and the bus was too crowded and loud for her. So she would often stay at the park near the school until I could come and pick her up since the middle school let out a little earlier than the high school. She was always kind of disorganized and would often leave things in my car. I didn’t mind since I wasn’t the most organized person either.
She loved to doodle on everything and, after several pairs of pants were sacrificed to her art, my parents broke down and bought a sketchbook and drawing pencils and pens. She fell in love. I don’t think I saw her after that without that sketchbook and pencil case.
Until she forgot them in my car one day.
We had been running late and she was frazzled. She hated being late. So when she rushed out of the car that day, she completely forgot about her treasures. I didn’t even realize until I was grabbing my own things out of the car. I was still a little early so I wasn’t in as much of a hurry so I let curiosity get the better of me. I knew it was probably an invasion of her privacy but, I mean, I was a sister so, it didn’t really matter to me. She was a good artist and I had to see what she created. Imagine my shock when every page was filled with images of some freaky emaciated being and some messed up rhyme. Every single page. I didn’t know what to think.
The whole thing gave me an uneasy feeling that’s really difficult to explain. I felt as if I had seen the creature somewhere else before. I often read scary stories online with pictures like this and I wondered if maybe she had seen the image on a webpage that I had left open. I was mortified. Had I given my baby sister nightmares with my carelessness? Was she suffering, as I once had, from night terrors because of something I had done?
I quickly shut the book and put it back where she had left it, deciding that I didn’t want to take it in with me. I had an important test that day and I didn’t want to bring the sketchbook and the feelings it gave me with me. It would be distracting enough as it was without it being within reach. Not that it made a difference. I tortured myself for the remainder of the day with the fear that I had somehow harmed my already strange sister.
It was the rhyme that sparked my memory and alleviated my guilt, in the end.
"I had a friend named Jerry,
Whose face was kinda scary.
He took my soul
To make him whole,
I should have been more wary."I had never heard the rhyme before and I would have noticed it if she had said it out loud. We had shared a room for as long as I could remember and we did practically everything together, even when her imaginary friends had been around. But I did recognize the name. So that was Jerry. I had been in the middle of my test when I made the realization and I felt myself deflate like a loosed balloon. Thank God! I mean, it was still super creepy but, leave it to my sister to have an imaginary friend that was made of pure nightmare fuel. At least I hadn’t been the cause.
I was so relieved that I told her about it when I picked her up from school later that day. I knew she would probably be upset that I looked in her sketchbook but I thought that maybe she would feel better if she knew how worried it had made me. A sort of “Serves you right”. She didn’t. She didn’t even seem to be mad. She just sort of gave me this strange look as if she was suddenly very afraid.
“It’s not real!” She told me. “It’s just a thing I like to draw!”
She seemed desperate to make me believe that it was nothing. She spent the rest of the drive home trying to make me forget it. I couldn’t see what the big deal was and I told her as much. I tried to tell her that the drawings were good, even if they were a little scary, and that she shouldn’t feel bad for drawing Jerry. That he was just an old imaginary friend. She latched on to that so quickly that I couldn’t help but feel more confused. After that she kept repeating over and over that it was just imaginary and that I should drop it.
I could tell that it was really bothering her so, even though I was worried about her behavior, I let it go. I tried to, anyway, but the nagging feeling that I had seen the creature before just wouldn’t go away. That on top of the fact that my sister, who wasn’t afraid of anything, had actually seemed scared that I had seen her drawings.
I asked my mom if she had ever heard of the rhyme before later on that day. She said that she hadn’t but she did remember hearing about the creature. I was once again surprised. My sister told me everything when we were little but I couldn’t remember her ever describing Jerry to me. Even though it was silly, I was kind of hurt. Actually, if I think about it, my sister never really said anything about Jerry. She would only mention that he was there or ask if he could come with us when we went places but she never said what he looked like or where he was from or anything else like she did with her other imaginary friends.
It wasn’t until my mom explained that I had been the one to describe him that the dread began to set in. She said that I had only ever called him the Bad Man but she said that the description fit. She suggested that I must have talked about him to my sister when we were younger and that’s how Jerry had come to life. I couldn’t remember doing anything like that but it had been a long time ago when Jerry made his first appearance and I supposed that I could have. Though, I had no recollection of the Bad Man. All I remembered was that I had night terrors and, even then, I’m sure it’s just because my parents told me I had.
But, I let it go again. If my mom wasn’t worried about it, there was no reason for me to bother with it. I had school to focus on and all of the other worries that came with high school life.
I probably wouldn’t have forgotten about all of this if my sister hadn’t called a few days ago in hysterics.
We are both out of school now. I have an apartment on my own and a steady job and she is living with her boyfriend while they both work their way through college. She’s not usually one to call. She prefers to text and, even then, contact with her is infrequent since I moved to a different state.
Suffice to say, when I actually got a call from her, I was already on edge. Hearing her frantic speaking only amplified it. There had been a small fire in her apartment. Not enough to cause much damage. A few clothes and miscellaneous items had burned and she will have to repaint the walls of her bedroom and replace the floor but no harm had come to either of them. I was awash with relief and couldn’t understand why she was still so upset.
Apparently, her sketchbooks and journals had all been destroyed. I knew that she had always been overprotective of them but, they were just books. She was alive and unharmed. She wouldn’t let it go though. She kept saying that it was over. Everything. She said he was free. I figured she was in shock or something. She wasn’t making any sense. Going on and on about Jerry and how he was starving. She said that she had locked his soul away in the drawings and now they were gone. I thought she was just trying to mess with me. I’m a big chicken and she delighted in making me watch scary movies or telling me scary stories. I was convinced that she had remembered that I had looked at her sketchbook and was finally getting back at me. The longest running jump scare ever.
I got her off the line, laughing it off. I told her to try again next time and that it was good to hear from her. I told her if that she really had been in a fire that I was glad they had doused it in time and that everyone was okay and then I hung up. Ridiculous.
Even so, I left my bedside light on that night. I wouldn’t admit to her that she had gotten to me but I’m sure we both knew that she had. Fucking Jerry. I shook my head and went to sleep.
He came to me that night. Even if I was sure it was just a nightmare brought on by the memory of those drawings and my sister’s frightened phone call, it had been so real. He didn’t come near the light but just stared at me from the shadows near the door. I could barely see him but I knew he was there.
He came again the next night and the night after that as well. It’s stupid, I know. I know I’m just letting her get to me. It’s been days now and I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep between work and the nightmares. Last night was the worst still. We had a bad thunderstorm, which is fine with me since I love thunderstorms and the lightning only made the room brighter, making that creepy bastard disappear with each flash. However, the lights went out around dawn. It wasn’t all that dark in my room by then but there were still enough shadows for him to move closer to the bed, to crouch near my nightstand and grin that face splitting grin at me.
“Hello, my name is Jerry,
My face is kind of scary,
I need your soul,
To make me whole,
You should have been more wary.”Was all he said in a gravelly whisper. Then he opened his too wide mouth at me and laughed as if he had already won. As if he were already dining on my soul. Then he was gone.
The lights are still out and it’s getting darker. I don’t know what I’m going to do. This was my rent check and I really don’t have a lot of money to get a hotel in a different part of town. I think I’m going to have to dip into my savings but... what am I going to do? I can’t just stay in the light forever.