The story I’m telling you today is about my friend. My one and only friend. I’ve had him since I can remember. He’s always been there for me. He’s a good friend, really. He’s fun to talk to, he has tons of awesome stories and he always has some useful advice for when I’m feeling down. He’s never given me his name, so I always call him "Grandpa in the closet."
From what I recall, he looked pretty unremarkable, though it was always dark when I saw him, so I can’t recall much detail. An old man with a roundish face, grey hair and a grey beard of stubble covering the lower parts of his face. He had kind, dark eyes. Looking back, I guess the best way to describe him is as the stereotypical sympathetic grandfather. The kind of old man that isn’t grumpy or constantly bitches about how the “young ones” are doing everything wrong and how everything used to be better in his time.
I mean the kind of old man who greets you on the street, always seems to have a smile on his face and is always full of jokes, awesome stories from his youth and the occasional useful life lesson. Needless to say, he didn’t strike me as harmful, not in the very least. Had I been my current age of twenty, I would’ve found it odd that he seemed to appear out of the darkness of my closet and would sit by my bed in the night. I would’ve had my questions about why he appeared around 3 AM to wake me up every night and talk to me, and I would’ve been unnerved by why it never wanted me to put on the light. But I was only seven by then.
I used to enjoy those conversations. He was always full of interesting tales and funny jokes, and when we were really bored, he always had a few riddles for me to solve. Back then, I was never scared of either of them. Every time I went to bed, I looked forward to being awoken by the man. He was my best friend back then. I was always a lonely kid, you see. I was never picked on or bullied or anything. Hell, in the beginning of my school days, I was asked by girls and boys from my class to come play at their place or vice-versa like any other kid. But every time they would ask their parents, those grownups seemed in a hurry to get their children away from me, giving me a cold glare in the process. This was strange, because being a pretty close-knit, Christian village I lived in, everyone seemed to know each other, and everyone often visited each other. The only ones being left out were me and my family. I often wondered why they did that, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t need any friends anyway. My one and only friend came out of my closet at night.
Another peculiar thing (well, once I learned the whole story it made a whole lot of sense) was that my parents never discouraged my obsession with what most other parents would stamp as an imaginary friend. I don’t remember them ever lecturing me that I should get out more and start making real friends. Quite the opposite actually. As far as I can remember, they were fascinated by my stories about the kind old man, asking me strange questions about how I felt in his presence and asking me specific details about our conversations. They often encouraged me to talk to him and seemed overjoyed that I was taking a liking to my mysterious visitor.
Over the years, however, things started to change. When I was older, fourteen I think. By then I was already longing for friends on the outside for quite some time. Problem was, I was dangling at the bottom of the school’s social ladder. I was obviously a weird kid. Having no computer or other forms of social media or interaction with “healthy” teenagers or anything to prove me wrong I still believed my Grandpa in the closet was as real as could be.
I had my doubts one time, one night when I asked him if he was real. He replied by simply picking up a random object on my desk—I believe it was a pen—and placing it next to my pillow. When I woke up that morning, the pen was still there. That was enough proof for me that Grandpa in the closet was real and not some result of lucid dreaming. Nonetheless, I started asking my parents why none of the other grownups in the neighborhood seemed to want me to interact with their children, questions they usually dismissed in a most briskly way with answers such as, “Because they aren’t worthy!” or, “Does it matter? You don’t need them!” Had I heeded their words, I have no idea how things would have ended now. But I do know that one innocent family would’ve been spared from a terrible fate.
That time, there was a new boy in my class. He had just recently moved into town into a house very close to school and was a bit of an outcast, knowing no one, being an eccentric dreamer and coming from a family of non-Christians. Why on earth a family of non-believers decided to move to a Christian community was and still is beyond me. Being an outcast myself as well, I would often hang out with the new kid. Let’s call him Tom, shall we? Tom and I got along well, and we soon became close friends. One day when school was over, I decided to ask him if it was fine if I slept over at his place. He happily agreed, and we started talking about what we could do. Multiple suggestions surfaced, such as watching TV until after bedtime, or playing games until late. When he phoned his mom, Tom proposed it and she seemed fine with it, so with me not having a cellphone we decided to wait for my mother to arrive to ask her if I was allowed to come.
I could’ve known the answer. I think in my heart I already knew. But I was still disappointed when my mother answered with an absolute, “Not in a million years!” grabbed me by my arm, pushed me into the car, got in herself and drove away not even giving Tom as much as a second glance. Naturally I was pissed. I just didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let me have this one chance to finally make another friend. I protested the entire ride home, until my mother shut me up with the threat that I’d be in for some punishment if I would say one more word about it. That evening, the atmosphere during dinner was different.
My mother was awfully quiet and seemed much more focused on the food than anything else. Whenever I did the same, I would find her exchanging looks with my dad or glaring at me in silence, only to quickly resume her dinner once she noticed I was on to them. My father was very touchy, and would yell at me for the slightest things, such as not eating with a knife and fork, or accidentally spilling some sauce, things he otherwise wouldn’t even notice. But there was something else. Something in those looks they gave each other.
They were scared of something…
That night, I did something I shouldn’t have. I ran away. I was going to spend the night at Tom’s house and there was nothing my parents were going to do about it. I waited until my parents went to bed, dressed in the dark of my room, sneaked silently downstairs and exited through the front door as quiet as possible. My father’s snoring could be heard even downstairs, indicating that he was still asleep. As for my mother, even if she was still awake, the snoring would’ve definitely blocked out the sound of my sneaking. It seemed to be a success. No one in the house had noticed me leaving, I was sure of it.
But when I looked back to my house, I noticed something strange. The curtains of my room were open, while I remember them being closed when I left. But what really unnerved me were the two furious eyes looking down on me standing there in front of the house. Despite the fact that I shouldn’t have been able to see two eyes in the darkness that was my room, these eyes seemed to illuminate themselves. I don’t mean they gave off light or seemed to glow, it was just that they seemed completely unaffected by the darkness and therefore easily visible. Like a white spot on a black background. I was paralyzed. A few seconds passed as the eyes peered into my soul in cold anger, until strength returned into my muscles.
Suddenly, I bolted. With speed I never imagined I would possess, I ran away from the house, away from my parents and away from those cruel, frightening eyes. I believe I was already halfway to Tom’s house when I finally stopped running. I could feel goose-bumps on my skin, and it was a warm night in August so I knew it wasn’t because I was cold. Were those really Grandpa in the closet’s eyes? Those eyes that normally seemed so kind and understanding, how could they be like that? They weren’t just angry, they were, well the best words I can use to describe it is inhuman. Like an enraged rabid beast about to strike. But who else could it be? It definitely wasn’t my parents, I would’ve noticed when I snuck out.
I was still thinking about this incident when I arrived at Tom’s house. I noticed the whole place was dark, save for Tom’s room. Part of me was afraid I might wake up his parents, but it was either try my luck or go back home, to my room. To those eyes…
So I took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
To my relief, it was Tom who opened up. He was surprised to see me, but when I told him what I had done, a mischievous grin appeared on his face. He told me his parents were at a party and wouldn’t come home for a few more hours. He happily let me in and I followed him to his room. For hours we amused ourselves with video games and internet. I knew what a computer was, but I never possessed one so I had the best time of my life just trying out all of its features and going across YouTube. We had a great evening. When his parents arrived, we quickly turned everything off and went to bed, Tom having put a sleeping bag for me on the ground. We decided we would explain my presence to his parents tomorrow. We didn’t really think it through that much, in retrospect it was even stupid and silly. But we were young teens, and young teens sometimes do stupid things.
It was still dark when I woke up. I noticed immediately that something was off since I didn’t have to go to the bathroom and neither did I have some kind of terrible dream. I just woke up without a reason, and what was even stranger was this: you know that when you just woke up you are still sleepy. Your brain is still half-asleep, so you feel sluggish and your reaction speed seems to have dropped by half? I didn’t have that. I was wide awake. Something else was also off: the room was unnaturally cold for this time of the year and for some reason the atmosphere had completely changed. For some inexplicable reason a heavy feeling of dread filled the room like smoke, invisible but easily felt. I knew something was off, and I realized I was scared.
That’s when I turned my face towards Tom’s bed to look at his digital alarm clock. My eyes quickly glanced over it, registering that it was four minutes past three. That’s when my attention was shifted to something else. Something that wasn’t supposed to be there. A shadow in the corner of the room, next to Tom’s bed. I could vaguely recognize a human shape, though any other features were concealed by a pitch black darkness that seemed unnatural. The only thing that I could clearly make out were his eyes. They were self-illuminating, two angry orbs with pitch black irises surrounded by white. And a voice I recognized vaguely as that of my Grandpa from the closet, but with none of the warmth and humor it usually had.
“You're awake. Good, I want you to see this.” That’s when he took one step towards me and entered the bright ray of moonlight entering the room from a window without curtains. What I saw couldn't possibly be the friend that I trusted for so long. Had he always been like this and had this hideous form simply been concealed by the darkness? Or was he truly capable of changing shapes?
His skin was colored a sickly pale, with dark bags underneath his angry eyes. His friendly smile had changed into an angry, teethed growl, his teeth pointy like that of a shark. His hands had sharp claws and were balled into angry fists as he glared at me first, before slowly turning towards Tom. His scowl turned into the most inhuman smile I have ever seen. It was much too wide for any human being. It looked as if the skin itself all the way to its ears just split, revealing even more fangs and a much bigger mouth. I was paralyzed with fear as he lifted Tom out of his bed by his head, needing only one hand. Tom looked at me, grinning. He was smiling.
He kept smiling as the… monster put him down on his feet again and placed both his hands on his head. He didn’t bat an eyelid as the beast sunk the claws of both its hands into the flesh of his scalp. And I will never forget the sight of Grandpa in my closet ripping the still smiling Tom’s head in two, the boy’s toothed grin splitting in two as blood covered the floor and nearby walls. All the while the monster kept looking at me silently, its eyes now filled with malicious glee.
When the dead body of Tom dropped on the floor, the dull thud it produced somehow reawakened my muscles. I jumped out of my sleeping bag and with tears in my eyes ran down the hallway. On my way towards the stairs, I noticed the lights downstairs were turned on. I figured Tom’s parents had returned, so I increased my pace while I already started crying for help. But when I arrived at the bottom of the stairs and peeked into the living room—I wish I hadn’t. Both of them were sitting on the ground in a pool of blood, every bone in their body broken and twisted into impossible positions. At several points, bone could be seen sticking through the skin indicating it had been done with brute force. And the most disturbing was that while their bodies were facing away from me, their heads had been twisted around 180 degrees directly facing me. They were looking at me, that same smile on their faces that I had also seen on Tom’s face.
That’s when my stomach finally gave in. I vomited up a mix of my last dinner and the many snacks and coke I drank together with Tom. After that, I bolted towards the front door. It was locked, but luckily the keys were still in the keyhole so all I had to do was turn it to open the door. I was greeted by fresh air, the scent of summer, a welcoming breeze… and my parents. They were just standing there in front of their car, the engine still running. The sheer nonchalance with which they said, “Let’s go home,” was something I’ll never forget.
I learned my lesson though. I’m a good friend now, I’ll never run away from my beloved Grandpa in the closet anymore. He’s a good friend, really. He’s fun to talk to, he has tons of awesome stories and he always has some useful advice for when I’m feeling down. He just gets a bit jealous sometimes…
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