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Man in a Welding Mask

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My uncle Martin was always a pretty tough, stoic guy. He worked as a corrections officer for a while, and took me hunting and all that. He even taught me how to shoot his Colt 1911 when I was ten.

All my life, I’d never known him to be superstitious; he wasn’t even religious. Whenever anyone asked, he always said he “didn’t believe any ‘dogmatic bullshit,’ but back in 2012 something really rattled him. It was on a Saturday night, first weekend of October when I got a text from my uncle reading “ANSWER THE PHONE”

So I called his number and I heard his deep, gravelly voice quivering with shock. It was clear from the background noise he was driving, and driving fast. I asked what was going on, and what he said stuck with me. He said he was scared, and he was coming over to tell us about it.

He rolled up at my house ten or so minutes after he hung up. My dad and I went out to greet him and I saw that his truck was beat all to hell. The windshield was cracked and the hood had a massive dent with some of the flame red paint chipped off. My dad asked if he hit a deer, and that’s when Martin dropped the bombshell. I can still remember the conversation pretty clearly; it’s stuck with me all this time. My dad got him a beer to calm his nerves. Uncle Martin swallowed half the bottle in one gulp before he started to speak.

“I was driving home from a ribs joint in Greer when this guy jumped out in front of my truck. I hit the horn a couple times but he didn’t move, he just sort of stared ahead of him. I swear he must have been on drugs.”

I asked Martin what the man looked like, my dad asked if he ran the guy down.

“He was wearing a welding mask and a really dark pair of pants,” Martin said, “His skin didn’t look right, it was pale enough you could sort of see through it.”

“Must have been a meth addict,” my father said.

“And this fuckin’ stranger just walked towards the truck, not saying anything and I just sat there working up the balls to just run the crazy son of a bitch down since he wasn’t gonna get out of the way.”

That was when I noticed my uncle’s hands were still shaking.

“The guy got close enough and I could see he was toting a three foot piece of metal pipe. He was waving it in front of him like a billy club.”

“Was he a robber?” I said, and my dad sort of held his hand in front of me so Uncle Martin could continue.

“So I just slammed the gas and drove forward, and the crazy fuck actually leapt onto the hood of the truck and started bashing the windshield! He just kept at it no matter how fast I went. Finally, I just jerked around to the side of the road and that threw him off. I just kept on driving, going a bit over the speed limit because I sure as hell would take a ticket over letting that nut catch up to me.”

He and my dad had a couple more beers. My dad offered to pay for the repairs to the truck, should the insurance company not believe this. That’s where the whole mess should have ended, but whom or whatever tried to get to uncle Martin showed up again. It was in winter of the next year and I’d mostly forgotten about the whole thing. I was working on a paper for school.

And out of nowhere, my dog Ash leaps off my bed and runs to the back door, going positively apeshit barking. He was jumping around in a yapping blur of black and white fur while I turned the porch light on, looking for what the hell ever set him off.

Then he stepped in front of the round window on the back door.

Just like my uncle said, it had the general shape of a grown man and it wore a welding mask, its only article of clothing aside from a pair of absolutely filthy looking denim work pants. They were unbuttoned and hanging loose on the thing’s lanky frame, exposing translucent white skin, shiny like those latex gloves doctors wear.

Beneath that thin layer of skin was sinewy muscle, plainly visible and the same deep, sickly purple color you’d see on rotting pork. And as it stood there, I could see with every breath in its chest, pulsing and contracting, its veins pumping some oily black substance.

Then it balled its hands into fists and started pounding at the window, the window shattered on the second blow. I scooped Ash up in my arms and made a break for my dad’s room, locking the door behind me. Cursing under my breath, I grabbed the .380 pistol from the nightstand as I called the cops on the cell phone in my other, shaking hand.

Then I heard glass break, then the door swinging open. I peered out of the room, racked the slide and blind-fired the gun at the creature until it clicked empty. I must have hit it because I heard the most god-awful sound immediately after the second shot. It was a cacophonous, strained screech like a goat being slaughtered, accompanied by heavy, staggering footsteps away from my position.

My ears were ringing from the gunshot as I waited, and waited. When I worked up the nerve to leave the room, Ash ran back in as fast as his little terrier legs would carry him while I followed the blood back to the door. It hung open on its hinge, the glass on the floor glittering in the moonlight.

I reset the door on its hinges and locked it back, and then I went into the dining room and hauled out a couple chairs to barricade the door, just in case.

It was an hour or so when the cops arrived with my parents. Whatever the hell broke into my house was long gone when they arrived, and I could tell from their faces they didn’t entirely believe me, but I could tell my dad did. His face went paper-white when I told them.

They took photos, made a plaster cast of one of the footprints they found in the snow, and then they sort of just hung around the house for a while. I couldn’t have made it through the night if it weren’t for mom. She stayed with me until the sun came up, making coffee and staying in my room, trying her best to calm me down while Dad spoke with the police detective.

We moved to Kentucky soon after that. My uncle and I kept in touch until he died back in 2015. I found out from mom. She just told me his son found him in bed like he was asleep, without any other specifics. I was more than a little curious, so I did some digging.

It turns out his death was ruled a homicide. Deep bruises all around his neck, the article said, like he’d be strangled. They don’t have a suspect named, but I know it was the man in the welding mask. It must have been after my family or something, I don’t know.

Every once in a while, the few friends I kept in touch with back in South Carolina will tell me a friend of theirs or a friend of a friend saw the man in the welding mask. I feel guilty every time, like I’m putting them in danger.

What the hell was it?

Credited to Gloriolio

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