When I was 15, I lived in a quiet neighborhood in the southeast corner of the town of Middleboro in Massachusetts. It was a relatively young neighborhood and I had been living there practically from the day of its opening in 1996 after moving in from Boston. Most people from Southie, like myself, couldn’t even dream of getting out of that damn place, not on bar tips alone. The only reason my family could finally afford it was because of my dad’s new job at his accounting firm. Not six figures, sure, but still he was making decent money.

No more than a hundred people have been living here for the past decade, so I never had to deal with problems you’d hear about from most city kids. Bright car lights consistently trailing past the window, the pungent odor of the rushing sewers, an occasional neighbor telling that old drunk down a block to fuck himself, that sort of thing. But here it was just so… different. Beautiful. Serene even. Spring was the first season I got to experience in our new home and it proved to be a warm welcome into the new setting. Thick woods that surrounded literally every house around the loop sported a natural palette filled with glimmering lime greens and the subtle, yet attractive, orange of pine needles. Not to sound like the stereotype of the suburban American dream, but I don’t think an hour passed by when I didn’t hear the brief song of a bird in the trees above.

Of course, not everything was perfect, I mean why else would I be telling this story. Sure, everything was just fine and dandy for a little while, but all good things come to an end I guess. 8 months in and I knew something was just… I don’t know… off. Unsettling even. It was January 17, 2006 when we first saw it. After working tirelessly for hours, shoveling waterlogged snow off our lengthy driveway, my dad came bounding through the door—I’m surprised those sorry excuses for legs could keep him up this long.

“Ho-lee shit, Kev, you have to get outside. Right now,” he panted.

I looked up from my laptop, and which had had an empty word file open for the past three-and-a-half hours.

“Hold on a sec dad!” I blurted on instinct. “Just to uh, finish this paragraph—“

“Your work can wait bud, just for a little bit I swear,” he threw his hands to his knees coughing slightly in between breaths, looks like the adrenaline could only last for so long.

He led me out a few hundred paces into the woods behind our house. Of course it just so happened to be negative fuck-all degrees outside, and trust me, the frozen branches snapping back every few feet did not help.

The white, hazy, blur started to clear out of my eyes once I realized that we had come to a stop at what appeared to be a large clearing. Of course, who I was I to tell I couldn’t see shit.

He jabbed his elbow into my side and jerked his head towards the clearing.

“Kev, look at this.”

I blinked once or twice before finally lifting my head and allowing my jaw to slacken at the sight. What appeared to be a cluster of bogs had connected as one unanimous body and had completely frozen over. Patches of faded greenery sprouted from a few medium-sized spots, creating a relatively small circle akin to a roller rink before expanding into another plot of land we couldn’t even see from where we were standing. A natural mirror reflected the darkened blue sky, even capturing the faintest appearance of the crescent moon.

“Don’t get to see stuff like this in Southie, am I right?” my dad laughed, one hand clasped to his forehead in disbelief.

I didn’t answer, and continued to crouch down to wipe away the snow at my feet. Pockets of air were trapped in a frozen prison as columns of individual bubbles that were just shy of reaching the surface. I laughed softly to myself while taking time to admire the stream of air I could see in front of my face.

That’s when I noticed. I looked across the bog to see a distant patch of thin trees… and… something seemed wrong with them. They looked perfectly normal but I could tell something was… off. I squinted only to notice a pair of small, pale eyes dimly illuminating the trunks.
I froze in place and looked in fear at the shadow I saw follow them, trailing behind like a small creature, but it was definitely not something I’ve ever seen.

I pushed myself up and told my dad, “Dad, dad, w-we need to go now,” I turned back to the trail we came from and began to tug on his hood.

“Dammit, Kev! Watch it! Now what the hell is the matter with you?” He snapped. Then he turned his head back towards the clearing and saw those eyes, I knew it. In my fit of desperation, my heart started to pound in my chest as I noticed the figure was a good twenty feet closer than it was before. I didn’t need to say anymore before me and my dad got the hell out of there. We ran as fast as we could, ripping up any mounds of snow that got in our way. Even through the loud snaps from the sticks we constantly stepped on I could hear my dad hyperventilating ahead of me.

We dashed up the side stairs and tore the door open before flopping into the hallway. My mom had no idea what the hell was going on, and we were in no mood to explain it to her. That night we locked up every door and window to our house and went to bed as early as possible. Unfortunately, nothing we did helped. Well, not me anyways.

While my dad was able to shrug the whole thing off in just a few days, I was never able to get that thing out of my head. For the next week or so, I was plagued with passing glances of something standing down the hall when I turned my head and a black mass swarming out of the cracks of my closet at night. Every now and then I would wake up to faint whispers of something that didn’t at all sound, well, human. Hissing calls that seemed to be beckoning me out of my bed, filling my head with horrible things that I knew weren’t true.

I became a nervous wreck. My classmates told me that I was scribbling disturbing images into my notebook as if I were sleeping with my eyes open, my teachers gave me detention after I drew blood from another student after clawing them across the face for calling me a name. At home was even worse, not only did my parents treat me like a worthless piece of shit and scream to my face ‘what the fuck is the matter with you’ tears welling in their eyes as they hurled dishes onto the floor, but every time I looked at them, I saw that thing standing right behind them, watching me. Taunting me.

One week after that my mom told me… my mom told me that my father had killed himself. I didn’t know what to think. Remorse, regret, pain, sadness, joy… all of it just kind of, went away. Like it’s not like those things weren’t there it’s just that they were replaced with this heaviness this guilt that hung in my chest like a block of lead. I spent my nights holding her hand at the empty kitchen table as she wept into her sleeve. By then, I didn’t even want to know how he did it.

One night she furiously finished wiping her nose and decided to go to bed a little early. She was just done for the night. I sat on my couch lifeless for a few minutes before pulling my computer onto my lap and opened a random subreddit to keep myself occupied. At around 11 it shut down, despite the battery indicating that the device was completely charged. I angrily smacked the side of the monitor with my palm as all of the lights shut off.

No. Not again. Not fucking again. I prayed to myself, biting my lip and lifting my legs into an upright fetal position on the cushion. The night sky was actually lighter than the light inside my house so I could still distinguish one inky black shape from another.

“He didn’t tell you did you?” a low whisper hissed from across the house.

“What I showed him that night?” another came from the adjacent doorway. I tried to scream but remembered my mother upstairs and cut it down to a frantic whimper.

“S-shut the f-fuck up. W-who are you?”

“Ah, ah, ah,” a taunting voice came from the other corner of my couch, slightly different from the other two. “Not who, really. More of a what.”

I didn’t really know how to respond to this thing so I held my legs tighter as my breathing became heavier and heavier.

“But it doesn’t matter now,” it remarked. “Because soon enough, I’m going to break you… just like your father.” My eyes flew open and my hands began to tremble.

“Nothing but a fragmented memory in the proverbial wind,” it cooed from my tabletop.

I cupped my hands around my ears and tried to block them out as best as I could, but they burrowed into my ears, making me shake with their every breath.

“There’s no point,” it retorted from my chair at the table. “No matter how hard you try…”

Its voice jumped to the seat right next to me.

“You will never get rid of me.”

Silence. I sat there shaking viciously in utter silence. I frantically darted my eyes around the room for a source of light, for I didn’t dare move from where I was, but all I could see was black. My fingers clenched harder around my shoulders. I sat there awake in silence for the rest of the night.

Nothing happened after that for about a week or so. Though, I was never fully alright from the events that occurred that night, I tried my best to hide them from my family as we had time to heal after the death of my father. After a family gathering, I dragged myself up to my room and sat down, legs spread apart at the edge of the bed. I looked around for a minute before opening the bottom drawer of my nightstand and withdrawing a gift from dad. I stared at it with a blank expression before throwing my head up to the sound of footsteps outside. Throwing on my coat, I pulled the collar tight and began trudging slowly towards the sounds.

After several long, quiet steps I found myself on the shore of the bog opposite to where my dad and I stood on out first outing out here. The crisp air nipped at the tips of my ears as a soft wind blew by, carrying some of the snow off of the icy floor. I looked around for that thing I had seen the first time, but to no avail. I decided to man up, grow some balls, and find this damn thing, if that was even possible. Although something else may have just found me first.

As soon as I touched the tip of the ice, I heard a loud rustle from a nearby shoreline. I quickly found cover behind a rock jutting from the shallow end of the bog and watched a man stumble out of the trees, clutching his arm in his jacket. My eyes widened in terror as I recognized the man as my father. He slipped and crashed hard on his right leg, letting some black object slide out of his jacket pocket. As soon as he realized his mistake he scrambled over to the thing and held it against his body. He stared at it intently for a few seconds as if reading something on it, and held it up to his temple. Oh fuck that’s a g—BANG!! His brains exploded out the side of his head and his body violently threw itself upon the ground. I sat clutching my hand to my mouth as my dad, my own dad, laid dead right in front of me. I could taste the tears pouring down my face.

The blood that had pooled underneath his fractured skull suddenly began to flow in an irregular direction, as if it were heading straight for me. Tainting the clear ice as it passed, it began to hiss as its trails met.

The shadow that was left behind my father’s corpse began to mutate and stretch into an oddly skeletal figure with horrifying features. Its arms’ tendons split up to the elbow and seared, bloody sinews connected it to the figure’s concave torso. Strips of black tore from the shadows and enveloped the body in a sort of decrepit shawl that seemed to fuse into its sides. Its head had no mouth but caved in into two deformed eye sockets that seemed to have no end. Deep in the centers lied two small, glowing, pearlescent eyes that lit the icy breath as it began to speak.

“I told you,” a gurgled voice emanated from its head. “broken.”

I scrambled back as the blood began to stretch onto the first blades of grass, holding tears back as I stared into its hollow eyes.

“But you know the funny thing is… I wasn’t even the one who had to do this,” it cocked its head to the side and extended a ‘hand’ towards me. “You did that on your own,” its voice had become more of a vile hiss.

“N-no,” I mumbled as I tried to avoid the amassing pool in front me. “No, goddammit, no! You’re not pulling this shit with me!” I screamed.

“Don’t you get it?” its voice had begun to change. “He hated you.”

“I hated you,” my father said.

I tried to say something but the words wouldn’t come. The blood was sliding up my legs now. Thick and murky with the pungent odor of rotting flesh.

“Do you know what kind of shit you put your mother and I through? How much of a goddamn disappointment you became?!” he screamed.

“No dad, please don’t do this to me I swear I−"

“­You wouldn’t let that fucking fantasy go so you made damn sure to drag us all down with you, well congrats, son, you succeeded!”

I couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing. There was no way this was real. Dad wouldn’t think of me like that. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t make him do that, Jesus Christ what did I do?

At my chest.

“You were nothing to me Kevin!” the figure slowly rocked towards me, a thin smile ironing its way across its face.

I didn’t fucking do it.

It’s clenching my throat now.

“Fucking nothing!” the flesh on its face tore apart with a loud ripping sound, forming a bloodied, sadistic smile.

No, no, NO, I did NOT kill my father! I did not do this!

It was creeping down my throat and into my eyes. Everything was going a deep red.

Its voice became a crude mesh of my father’s and its own. “Without me, you are nothing,” its smile widened as drops began to fall from its mouth. “And when I’m through with you… I… will be everything.”

“I made you up,” I muttered. “I made you up, I made you up, you aren’t real dammit none of this is real.”

The figure’s face tightened and wrapped its bony fingers around my neck, I could feel it break skin. “We’ll see.”

I opened my eyes, and suddenly it was gone. All of it. The blood, my dad, everything. Except the figure, which was standing alone, lurched over with its body poised low to the ground.

It froze for a moment, and his pale eyes rolled through their deep sockets until he was looking straight towards my face.

“You shut me out.” It murmured. “You think I care?!”

Its grip tightened around my windpipe as it wound up its arm before it slammed me into the rock-hard ice below me, knocking frigid breath from my lungs upon contact. Could have sworn I heard something crack. Whether it my ribs or the ice itself it really fucking hurt. I struggled against its hands and slid my neck out from between its fingers, leaving red, bleeding streaks along my neck and shoulder. It felt so goddamn painful but I had to keep moving. As I sprinted back through the blackened woods, I heard the frenzied screech of whatever that damn thing was blast through my eardrums the entire dash back to my yard. Fuck looking back, I ran as fast as I could to get to that door, and threw myself inside to the safety of my own home. I sat alone in the dark for hours, clutching my wound with my hand. A small price to pay to finally move forward… without him.

Now that it's gone, I'm not quite sure what to do. I can't believe I'm saying it but that thing kept me pretty damn busy for the past few months. You know just- whatever, I'll find something. With or without... him... I just gotta learn to move on from here on out. You know, this thing may be useful for one hell of a piece when I get back to school. I'll do it for him. His name, on the bottom, everything. Now you may not hear from me for a while because, to be real, what else is there to say? The end. Case closed. Game over. Game... over....

Hold on. There's... one small thing I need to take care of first.

The seductive warmth of the metal meeting man truly is a wonderful thing. Truth is I can't get enough of it. As a matter of fact, I think I can go... deeper. Shit. A few drops got on the rug, and it's only a matter of time until these open crosses drain me out. So... I should probably hit submit before I take some rest. But hey I got a few, don’t I? Few minutes to admire this old paperweight? Yeah… I think so. Meekly wiping off the last bit of blood off the end of the barrel, I’m laughing as I clasp the polished oak wood grip and flip it into my left hand. On the upper face reads a message in sludgy, black, pen marks.

To Kev,

Everyone’s gotta get their shot one day, so, I hope this’ll be yours.

Love, Dad ;)