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For thirteen years, my life has been a frustrating illusion. No matter how hard I looked or how many times I'd ask, I would never fully understand what was happening around me. Today, I finally have a full picture, and I wish I stayed ignorant.
Let me describe my life to you. My name is Mary Burnham. I'm from a small town in Massachusetts that isn't on any map. It's an old, decrepit dockside town that was almost completely destroyed by a fire in the 1930s and still hasn't completely recovered. Our economy is based almost entirely on fishing, with only a small amount of money coming from tourism. The town makes money off people interested in the shady events of our past. The native townsfolk despise the tourists, but they never say anything. They all need the money.
The smell is unimaginable, and no matter how long you live here you never get used to it. The stench of rotting garbage, decaying buildings and fish fills the air constantly. I feel as though I may have undersold the fish smell. It's overbearing. Fresh fish, rotting fish, live fish, dead fish, the whole town stinks of fish. It doesn't just come from the dockyards. Every factory in this town and all the local restaurants in this town are completely based on fish. As you can imagine, we have a pretty bad problem with stray cats.
I've been told that, for the most part, I look fairly normal for a teenager girl, but I wouldn't know. I don't have many friends to compare myself to. The one thing people tell me is abnormal about my face are my eyes. They are larger than normal, glassy, and have a dirty yellow tint to them. My pupils are less like circles and more like straight lines, and I never seem to blink both eyelids at the same time. Apparently, abnormalities like mine were very common back when the old gold processing plant was still active. The factory was allegedly a front for a massive bootlegging outfit, which would explain the constant birth defects around that exact time. I'm one of the last people in our village to suffer from it.
I never felt like I fit in, but I've never been bullied. When people in this town don't like you, they tend to keep it to themselves. Everyone is so introverted they almost seem lifeless. Like zombies. Something about this town makes people act like that. Incredibly cold, downright emotionless. It's like all the life had been sucked out of them.
The only person I know who doesn't act like that is my father. His friends call him "Brian." He has never been emotionless - that's the problem. He's a nervous wreck, riddled with anxiety and fear. Growing up, it wasn't rare for me to come home from school to find my father pacing around in a perfect circle in the living room, rubbing his hands together and muttering to himself.
Let me make myself absolutely clear, my father is a wonderful parent and there is no doubt in my mind that he loves me dearly, and I'm not telling you any of this to disparage him in any way. I never understood why he always seemed so frightened, why he would yell at the drop of a hat or why he seemed to break down and hide in his bedroom for hours on end, but I've always been sure he had a good reason.
You'll notice I said "his" bedroom. My mother doesn't sleep in the same bed as my father. He always told me she had a rare condition (when I was younger, he used to just say she was "very sick") and that she could never come out of the attic. Even as a child, I never thought this made sense. Especially since there were eight locks and a metal bar keeping her inside. If she was so sick, why would you need to lock the door?
At night, I would see strange things that I couldn't make sense of. My father would walk upstairs with a bucket of fish heads. He'd go up into the attic, and I would hear the sounds of a struggle, loud banging noises, and some kind of animal growling.
Dad never wanted me going near the attic door. Every time I came close, he would yell at me to get away. One day, while he was at work and I was home sick, I heard a loud growling noise coming from the attic door. I tried to ignore it, but it grew louder and louder, eventually morphing into some kind of roaring or barking sound. I went up to the attic door, and I knocked on it. Whatever was making the noise let out a loud roar in response.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to peek through the keyhole. At first, I saw nothing but an empty room. But something jumped up and roared at me. I couldn't get a good look at what it was, just the eyes. Yellow-tinted, glassy eyes, just like mine. I fell back and screamed, and in response, the creature seemed to give out a confused snort. Then, the growling stopped.
For the thirteen years I've been alive, I have never gotten to see my mother in-person. She has never spoken to me, never hugged me, and sometimes I wonder if she would even recognize my face if she saw me. The only interaction with her that I've ever had came in the form of the little lunches she would make for me. It was the same thing every day, PB&J sandwiches with the crust cut off and a small carton of milk in a paper bag. She would leave these little white cards inside that said "Mother Loves You" with a little heart right next to it.
This had been my life for over a decade, and I was tired of it. I was a smart child. I was well-read, I got good grades, and I didn't like being lied to. I didn't like not knowing things. It was annoying to me to just have to accept something I knew wasn't right.
One day, I had finally had enough. My father had to leave for work early, leaving me all alone. I was supposed to be heading to school by now, but I had no interest. Today, I was finally going to see my "mother" in person. I had to know what was hidden behind that door.
There were eight locks keeping the attic door tightly shut, and a metal bar. I highly doubt my father ever thought I'd be smart enough to unlock them, but I did it easily. The hardest part was that metal bar - not because it was complicated to remove, just because it was so heavy. But once all the trappings were gone, opening the attic door was easy.
There was no light in the attic, and all the windows had been boarded up. There was no light source anywhere. I took a flashlight with me. The attic was sparsely furnished and in a state of serious disrepair. Holes and cracks in the walls, a dripping roof with several buckets laid down to catch falling water, and garbage littered all over the place.
What caught my eye was a large pile at the end of the room on top of what appeared to be a cheap air mattress. It was a huge wad of something covered in a large blanket. I approached it slowly and carefully, tip-toeing the whole way there. My hand shook so badly. As I stripped away the blanket, I could barely stifle the scream I almost let out.
It was some kind of monster, and the second I removed its covers it woke up. It shuffled to its feet and stared right at me. It was the size of some kind of Bigfoot creature, but it had scales, fins and webbing all over its body. It looked more like a bipedal fish than a mammal. It had those yellow, glassy eyes I saw and everything.
I let out a loud shriek and ran away. The creature belched out a lazy growl and began to follow after me. Its movements were slow, lumbering, and casual. It was in no hurry to catch me, and I didn't want to imagine what would happen when it did.
There was nowhere to hide downstairs. I had to make a mad dash for the kitchen and crawl inside the pantry cabinet. The creature followed behind me. It knew exactly what room I was hiding in. I could hear loud crashing noises and the sounds of things being shuffled around and falling. I was sure it was looking for me. I began to cry softly to myself, trying my hardest not to even breath.
I opened up the pantry door slightly, knowing it could mean my death. I saw the creature, but it wasn't even close to me. It was digging around inside the refrigerator, knocking things to the floor and making a huge mess. I shut the pantry door and prayed the creature wouldn't kill me.
I heard the creatures footsteps barrelling towards me. I bit my lower lip, stifled another scream and hoped it would end quickly. The pantry door was ripped open, and the creature lowered itself directly to my level, looking me right in the eyes. That's when, in a gurgly, growling voice, it spoke to me.
"Get out of there."
I did as the monster said, clumsily stumbling out of the pantry. I turned to face the creature, it lumbered over me, looking right down at me. I was so scared. I was sure it was going to rip me limb from limb, feast on my insides, rip my head off, any number of gruesome scenarios.
Instead, it grabbed my hand and placed something inside of it. A brown paper bag. In it's deep, growling voice, it spoke again.
"You're going to be late for school. Get going."
The creature shuffled away as I stood there in awe. It stomped its way back up the stairs and into the attic, slamming the door shut behind it. It was gone, and somehow, I was still alive. I looked down at the paper bag it gave me and opened it. Inside was a PB&J sandwich, a small carton of milk, and a little white card. With a shaking hand, I reached down and grabbed it, looking at the writing on it. The writing was sloppy and made in haste, and it was clear from the smell and the bleeding of the ink that it was fresh.
It said "Mother Loves You" with a little heart next to it.