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The He of the Night

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I had just fallen asleep on the perch, listlessly and dreamlsesly wandering through a subconscious terrascape. I don't know how long I had been asleep before I woke up, but it felt like years. I realized with a start that I was cold all over, and turned over to inspect the curious issue. I looked around for my younger brother, but not finding him or the blanket, I decided it was best to go looking. I climbed down the ladder to the first floor, only to find the whole place deserted. I go looking in the bathrooms, in my mom's bedroom (which is where I thought he'd be, but oddly that's deserted too) and find nothing.

Stumped, I decide that they were all outside enjoying some marshmallows or something. I doubted that they had a fire pit, or even any marshmallows, but tired and alone and out of other options I had no choice but to go outside to check out what was worth checking out.

Seeing the emptiness of the night made my heart plummet. There wasn't anything. It was all quiet, a bad kind of quiet. You would normally hear crickets, and maybe the breeze, but out here it sounded like the heart of a canyon, if that canyon the edge of the universe.

It was the sound of nothing. The trees stood as still as if they had been cast in silver paper, immortalized in one moment. The moon shone unwavering, the beams like frozen rivers of mercury. It seemed to me as if I was alone in the entire world.

The feeling began to make my head spin, and before I knew it I was on my hands and knees in the ground, looking sordidly at the course gravel beneath my bare legs. It stung, as it dug into my flesh, but that didn't matter.

Where are they? I thought to myself. The silence continued. The stinging of the gravel assured me that this strange and horrible situation was not a dream, and my long and complicated conscious thoughts slowly unraveled as they came to realize the totality of dreadfulness emanating from situation they were in.

Against my better judgement, I turned to the supernatural. Was it possible I had been displaced in time by some force? My mind wandered back to a Stephen King movie I remembered watching, called The Langoliers. In it, a plane had accidentally flown through an aurora-esque anomaly and been displaced in time. However, in contrast to the drab colors of a 1980s film, my situation seemed much more desperate.

The crunch of gravel behinod me sounded off like a cannonshot in a void, pinning me to where I knelt. The gravel stung harder as I forced myself to remain absolutely still.

The crunching resumed, and drew closer. This time it sounded like bones being gnawed in half. It was more a snapping than a crunching, really, like the quasi-solid, organic mass of a femur being clipped in two.

Like a tank made out of moonlight, running over skeletons.

I slowly turned around, my mind ordering a complete and total cessation of thought.

Ten feet tall, thick as a tree. He wore tattered old jeans, stained brown-reddish from the knees down. An old blue hoodie, in the same condition as his jeans, but with a lot of small holes around his torso, like he had been shot about the same place a lot by a small-caliber pistol, or sprayed by buckshot from a distance. His face was obscured by long, black hair that hung about down to his nose. His lower jaw was missing, and his tongue and various other mouth-veins and muscles hung limply down out of his skull. He carried an ax, stained with blood that had some brown hair stuck in it, making loops that I can still picture in my mind.

And the most terrifying thing about him was how still he was. I know it was a dream, but nothing can be that absolutely still.

He took a step toward me, moving easily and making no sound besides the crunch of his bare feet on gravel. And the drip of his ax.

He just kept walking up to me, step after step, moment after eternal moment, walking smoothly, fluidly, not lurching or jerking or anything of that sort. He almost sauntered up to me with that ax in his hand, and I just stood there. I bet I would have just stood there, looking at his face, trying to see facial features, if something hadn't distracted me. To that something, I am still eternally grateful.

I looked to my side, and fell over on my back. This prompted me to get up, and once I was moving, there wasn't anything stopping me.

I can still remember feeling my heart racing and my feet aching and the edges of my peripheral vision blacking out so that I could only see the trees in front of me as I ducked and weaved through the woods, trying to find my way onto a road or into a ravine or someplace, anyplace, where he couldn't follow. I couldn't hear anything above the beating of my heart and the crunching of branches and the very real sound of my desperation whispering go go go as fast as you can, or he'll find you. He'll catch you. It continues on like this until I find either the house again, which I hide in, a small abandoned shack filled with a few corpses I don't recognize, or I actually find someone. They're usually brewing tea and acting normal. I get inside, they call the police, and there's somebody else there that I recognize. An old girlfriend, maybe, or a friend, but never anybody that disappeared at the house. Which ever ending my mind chooses, it always ends the same...

And the way it ends I'm either having a surreal chat with somebody I know while I wait for the authorities to come, or I'm propped up against the door staring at some corpses, hoping he doesn't find me, or I'm trying to fall back asleep, feeling insane, in that same bed on the perch.

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